Recently, I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading. I’ve been trying to kickstart my brain back into reading for the better part of this year (the newspaper subscription did help a lot with that, as did removing so much of my Internet access.)
I’ve looking for some new “fluff” animal books to read –fluff meaning, not exactly great writing, but animals are always entertaining and the covers are so pretty… you know which category I mean, anything directed at the Erin Hunter crowd. I am part of this crowd, even though I could never get into Warriors. I got sucked in with the Seekers series though.
But this post isn’t about the author(s) Erin Hunter, it’s about Kathryn Lasky.
Years ago, I came across the first three books in the Guardians Of Ga’Hoole series right before the movie came out. I was enchanted –by the cover, the characters, the story. When I did see the movie later on, I had the distinct feeling that the movie was an excellent adaptation of a great story, but that as a movie, it was kind of terrible, even though I loved it. I can’t explain it very well other than to say it felt like it would please the book fans but not be a good movie for anyone else.
But there was so much Ga’Hoole universe to explore (I haven’t managed to read the whole series yet) that even when I guessed correctly that there would be no more movies, it didn’t matter.
Sometime after that, Wolves Of The Beyond came out (or I discovered it then.) Was I ever thrilled! More ways to go into this world, this time from the perspective of wolves. The covers were gorgeous, and for once there were inside illustrations, which were so beautiful too!
And then… then I read them.
The characters and setting are compelling. This, in addition to the beauty of the books themselves, is what made the experience of reading them all the more infuriating. It’s been a while, so I don’t remember the specific scenes that bothered me, but I do remember the issue at hand (and the desire to throw the books against the wall multiple times.) And the issue was this:
Ok, as an example. Think of The Lion King. Outside of humorous scenes which I don’t count for these purposes, sometimes, the anthropomorphizing goes a little farther, such as when, after their father-son conversation, Mufasa gives Simba a gentle noogie –a very “human” motion with his paw, but masterfully mingled with very realistic animal-like frolicking in the grass. It’s a little touch that breaks the overall realism of the characters, and there are many like this, but they aren’t so bad that you can’t suspend your disbelief a little further for those few seconds.
But suppose during the scene of “everything the light touches”, Mufasa had stood on two legs and pointed at everything with his paw, before resuming his realistic quadruped demeanor, or if he came out of Pride Rock with an actual crown on his head. You’d be like what the actual f**k, right? The universe set some rules and then broke them. Why?!
In Guardians Of Ga’Hoole, there were many things that the owls could do that necessitated a good suspension of disbelief, but it was handled so well, and at the core, they always felt like animals being animals, just in a more fantastical setting. I could believe it. But in Wolves of The Beyond, the animals act very animal-like, until they don’t. And when the author doesn’t respect the universe they seemingly put into place, this drives me freaking nuts, especially if everything else about a story is wonderful.
I was unable to read past volume two, and was determined to give the books away. I hated them so much, that I momentarily contemplated throwing them in the trash (the horror!) but, in the end, I couldn’t do either. The books were well received by Lasky’s fans. I kept feeling it was on me to get past this and suspend my disbelief further from the start, but it’s hard because when you start to re-read, they act so feral, that you forget they’re going to up and get all anthro on you at times.
So, I haven’t touched them again for a while. And then, just the other week, Amazon threw this at me:
You know me and bears. And then I see that name –my heart sinks. After Wolves of The Beyond, her horse series came out. I was hopeful for it, thinking that maybe Wolves was a fluke. But as I recall, I might have read two pages on the Amazon preview and I don’t remember the reason, but I do remember wanting to punch my screen. So I didn’t buy them.
But bears are a little too much for me to resist, much like squirrels, so I bought the first one and, well… the issue of suddenly weird anthro stuff is still there. This time I was prepared, and I hated it but got past it (so far). I’m almost done with Quest Of The Cubs. I’m hoping I can enjoy the rest of the series, as I already have book two in my library, waiting for me.
It’s really odd to both love and hate parts of a writer’s work to this degree. But it’s entirely possible that this is a “me” issue rather than an issue with Lasky’s writing. After all, I can’t stand the pretentious tone I feel courses through Watership Down, as celebrated as it is, and it’s definitely a good book (or so I keep hearing.) Every few years I try again to see if I like it. But so far I don’t (I haven’t given up.)
I really want to enjoy Lasky’s work. I loved Ga’Hoole so much. So I am trying again. But it’s definitely a love-hate relationship.