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View Full Version : Thoughts on "Silver on the Road" by Laura Anne Gilman



Introversion
04-25-2016, 11:38 PM
I had (what is for me) a rather unusual experience reading this book, and I wonder if this is common for anyone else? This is possibly the first time it's happened to me.

I heard about this fantasy novel in a forum where suggestions were being tossed about for Hugo nominations. This work had many, many admirers who recommended it, so I thought I'd give it a try even though SF is more my thing than F.

As I began reading, I was charmed. I mean, I really loved it. The author's descriptions of people and places are vivid and believable.

Her world-building is revealed naturally as the plot unfolds, not in hard-to-digest info-dumps that take you out of the story. It's also an interesting mix of conventional American Old West and fantasy magic elements. Nice. I really liked this aspect of it.

I liked her protagonist, Isobel, a girl who's reached her sixteenth birthday, which is a big deal because it's her day of emancipation from the character nominally referred to as the devil, though he seems somewhat less than the Christian devil, and isn't portrayed as evil. "Iz" makes a bargain with "the boss" that she believes will grant her freedom, but of course (he's the devil, dummy!) has strings attached that she only vaguely understands.

Iz travels with an older man, Gabriel, who also made a bargain with "the boss" to mentor Iz. The two work pretty well together as characters -- they're both literally and figuratively "road companions", and there's no squidgy old-guy/young-girl romance stuff implied here.

Somewhere around two-thirds of the way through, I was getting impatient. Iz does a fair bit of navel-gazing about this role she finds herself having agreed to take, and feeling incompetent to do it, plus angry at how little of it was explained to her. Gabriel does a fair bit of inner dwelling on the unfairness of the same thing.

And, they keep doing that. Over and over. To the point where I began to eye-roll about it. By 85% of the novel (according to my Kindle Reader), I'd had enough. I just couldn't take it any more. I stopped reading. I don't actually care enough to finish it (it's clearly first of a series, so I didn't expect a conclusion in this novel anyway).

That's unusual for me. Typically, I either give up early (sometimes after just a few pages), or I finish. I can't actually recall the last time I abandoned a book so far into it. And more unusually, I didn't hate it -- in fact, I totally get why people want to nominate it. I just got... bored, and mildly annoyed? The plot was advancing but very, very slowly, and perhaps that was the final coffin nail? Distract me with by waving shiny plot-tinsel, and I'd skim the eyeroll-inducing dialogue, inner and not, to watch the end of the show?

Does this happen often for anyone else?

Filigree
04-25-2016, 11:52 PM
I haven't read this one, but I had the same problem with her Vineart trilogy. Great worldbuilding, interesting characters, a killer one-book plot stretched into three, and a whole lotta navelgazing. I finished all three but it was work to care by the end.

jjdebenedictis
04-25-2016, 11:53 PM
Not often, but it does happen. I've dropped a book at page 100 because the characters had just spent too much time tromping around in the woods. I almost did that to another book recently because there was a literally-60-pages-long conversation near the start of the book.

I kept track of this one year, and I usually give up on a book by page 10.

Filigree
04-25-2016, 11:59 PM
I'll go as far as the free sample on Kindle, or other sample text. No sample, no read...not even a library book. My reading time is precious and I resent when it's squandered.

AW Admin
04-26-2016, 12:07 AM
I think it was part of the characterization -- both her characters are fairly young, and Isobel matures a lot during the course of the book.

I loved it (http://floccinaucical.com/2015/10/laura-anne-gilman-silver-on-the-road/), and while I notice the character trait, it didn't bother me.

Introversion
04-26-2016, 12:11 AM
I do understand why many love it. I suppose we all have a subjective threshold for this kind of thing?

AW Admin
04-26-2016, 12:29 AM
I do understand why many love it. I suppose we all have a subjective threshold for this kind of thing?

Yep; and there's nothing that says we all have to like the same books, thank goodness!

Cobalt Jade
04-26-2016, 12:32 AM
Was there a plot for this book? It sounds like there wasn't.

benbenberi
04-26-2016, 06:12 PM
I haven't read this particular book. But I'm definitely familiar with the experience. Lack of dramatic urgency has caused me to drift away from numerous books over the years that I just put down and never got around to picking back up again.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was one that I felt guilty about for a while -- it contained all the elements that should have made me love it, yet about halfway through I realized I had literally no interest in what happened next. It sat on the shelf of my coffee table, waiting, for years until I finally sold it.

jjdebenedictis
04-26-2016, 11:23 PM
I've read one Tad Williams book, and although I finished it, I'll probably never read anything he's written again, because I was just about screaming in frustration at how slowly it moved.

But it had great characters and an imaginative fantasy world with stuff brewing in it that I was genuinely interested in. Everything was there for it to be a book I should love, but I just could not tolerate the pacing.

That's one book I wish I had given up on. Forcing myself to finish only gave me an aversion to that writer, which is a payoff that doesn't benefit anyone! :D

Introversion
04-27-2016, 06:51 PM
Was there a plot for this book? It sounds like there wasn't.

There definitely is a plot, but it's slow to develop. In the first half of the book, I was enjoying the scenery and character development too much to really notice how slowly.

- - - Updated - - -


I've read one Tad Williams book, and although I finished it, I'll probably never read anything he's written again, because I was just about screaming in frustration at how slowly it moved.

Not sure I've read anything by him other than "Tailchaser's Song", which I remember enjoying. For whatever reason, just have never picked up any of his other works.

Shadowflame
04-27-2016, 10:56 PM
I've read it and quite enjoyed it personally. However I do understand that frustration of it being unfocused mid-to-end.

I felt it was more of a YA story than adult and thats possibly why it fell off in the middle. The wanting to explain why/how the character comes to terms with her responsibilities was drawn out and I felt the ending suffered a little from that.

I'm btrying to get my oldest to read it as he's much more fluent with the YA books than I am. Then we can discuss pros and cons of the story

SillyLittleTwit
04-27-2016, 11:17 PM
I've read one Tad Williams book, and although I finished it, I'll probably never read anything he's written again, because I was just about screaming in frustration at how slowly it moved.


The big fault of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is the pacing. It's one of the high points of 1980s epic fantasy, but it really is slow moving.

I've heard his Otherland series is even slower, so I'm not going to try that any time soon.

On the other hand, Tailchaser's Song (think Watership Down with cats) is OK, as is Caliban's Hour (Shakespeare's Tempest retold from Caliban's Point of View).

AW Admin
04-27-2016, 11:38 PM
Was there a plot for this book? It sounds like there wasn't.

Silver on The Road has a very definite blot; it's in some ways a female bildungsroman, set in the Weird West.

I'm waiting, albeit less than patiently, for the followup.

In some ways, it's a foil/alternate take, on the female bildungsroman offered up by Naomi Novik in Uprooted, which I also enjoyed enormously.

Were I teaching pop lit still, I'd think strongly about teaching Uprooted, Silver on The Road and Scott Hawkin's Library at Mt. Char in a course on SF/F female bildungsroman.

Filigree
04-28-2016, 12:40 AM
That would be a good workshop.

jjdebenedictis
04-28-2016, 12:58 AM
Oh, hey, it suddenly sank in to me who this author is. I've read two of her Retrievers books, and yeah, they had the same problem for me--they were just waaaaay too slow-paced for my impatient tastes.

My brother, however, loves all her stuff and snaps up every book she writes as soon as it's available, so this is definitely a YMMV issue.