Friday, March 13, 2009

Big Books

I tend to shy away from big books— not big words, which I rather like, but big books. Since mom recommended Gone With the Wind, which I put off until the lazy days of summer after my eighth grade year, I have had a love/hate relationship with big books. As a youngster, I didn’t want to commit myself to the 1066 pages of GWTW, but once I got into it, I was glad that mom had insisted. Indeed, I wanted to read more fiction by Margaret Mitchell and was disappointed when I learned that she did not publish any other novels.

While I was in college, I read Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance, which was so long that the publisher divided into it two volumes. That, along with The Winds of War, taught me more about WWII than all of my history classes combined and remains on my “keeper” shelf. Bigger books can contain more ideas and more entertainment, so I do sometimes tackle a big book.

Science fiction authors often write a series of novels set in the same universe, and publishers, in hopes of attracting new readers, will package those books together in an omnibus edition, which often means a really big book.

I mentioned one of my favorite omnibus editions, Cordelia’s Honor, in a couple of previous entries. This single volume contains the two early novels in Lois McMaster Bujold’s award winning Vorkosigan series, and is still in print. Very few writer’s have as much to offer as Bujold does— her characterization, her world building, and her prose combine into very satisfying books. Cordelia’s Honor is a great place to begin reading her work.

Another omnibus published by Bean books is The Planet Pirates. I read this one some years ago, because I have enjoyed books by Elizabeth Moon and Anne McCaffrey. Although I managed to get through the entire big book, this book suffers from too many cooks in the authorial kitchen. Oh, and the cover is especially ugly. Fans of the authors (and there are three) will enjoy it, however.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have written numerous volumes together, and the omnibus edition of their Liaden trilogy, Partners in Necessity, goes together quite nicely. Putting their books into a pigeon hole isn’t easy. While set in another universe, this series is more about characters and their relationships with each other. I enjoyed this big book quite a lot, so I’ll call it science fiction romance, but that doesn’t quite describe it either.

Currently I am reading The Complete Ivory, which is an omnibus of a trilogy by Doris Egan. Thus far, it reminds me of Lee and Miller’s work— not a space opera, but a romantic comedy set in another universe. While not a “page turner” there is enough world building and sufficiently engaging characters to keep me making steady progress through these 896 pages.

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