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Author Topic: I finally read The Crystal City
Member # 1071

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I have unconsciously (ok, sort of consciously) been avoiding this book because I was rather disgruntled by Journeyman and Heartfire. Honestly, it's been so long since I've read either of them that I can't tell you why I had that reaction, but for whatever reason, I've been avoiding book 6.

Part of me is glad I did this. I've gotten over all the hype and spoilery discussions about the book here, and I've had plenty of time to mostly forget the first 6 huge chapters that I read online (posted here at Hatrack). Those 6 chapters had helped me in my avoidance...somehow. I'm glad I had a chance to forget all about it and start over again.

Because I loved this book. It was a good refresher to reread those first chapters, and they were different for me somehow. I got pulled into the characters...the story moved, Alvin moved, Arthur Stuart moved...well. I'm talking in elipses, so I'd better try to explain.

But I really can't. Why did I love this book and really not like the 4th and 5th? Here are some of my thoughts and you can tell me what you think.

  • I just need to go back and reread those books because I'd really love them if I read them now that I'm a little older?
  • Crystal City is just more action packed?
  • I didn't get attached to the characters in Heartfire? Like (what's her name?) Purity?
  • Crystal City spent some time heavily developing characters that I already love? Like Arthur Stuart?
  • The new characters in Crystal City are deep and complex?
Yeah. I suppose I'm an idiot because none of those reasons really explain my reaction to the book. And as I am not that articulate, I'll just stop here.
I can say that I loved it, that I recommend it, and that it was good enough to fill me with the urge to reread the series so I can get the whole picture in my mind again. That's a good book. [Smile]

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Orson Scott Card
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I'm not the best to reply to this, since the characters in Journeyman and Heartfire were all potent and powerful to me.


There is simply no avoiding that fact. I got halfway into each of them and said to Kristine, "This one isn't going to move the real story one inch forward. So I hope people like THIS story for its own sake."

If you read those books expecting to have the Alvin/Peggy/Arthur story advanced, then you were bound to be disappointed.

If you read them as further explorations of a fantasy world, without caring whether the main story moved forward much, then you were fine.

Crystal City, however, very much DOES get back on track. I made the conscious decision to do so. There was a plotline - about finding an existing "Crystal City" - that I kept trying to service until I realized that it was yet another digression, going nowhere, and if I didn't get on with the main story I would NEVER finish the series.

Perhaps Journeyman and Heartfire should have been like Grinning Man, a separate (and shorter) story that involved Alvin and other characters, but carried no expectation of relevance to the main storyline. (I can't help it that I think Grinning Man is one of the very best stories in the whole series, and I like Yazoo Queen a lot, too!)

But you could skip almost completely the events of Journeyman and Heartfire, and skip straight from Prentice Alvin to Crystal City and you would not have missed very much of the through line of the story.

At the time I was writing each of these side books, I was deeply immersed in the story and cared very much about it. I think the story of the near-rebellion in Charleston is moving; I think the story in Journeyman is fun (how do you keep Alvin Smith in jail?). They deal with issues that were and are vital in American history and American civilization. All of this very much belongs to the Alvin universe.

But I can't argue with readers who grow impatient with them as long digressions. That's what they are - IF your focus is entirely on the through line.

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Member # 7507

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I'm one of those jerks who skips pages if it's not talking about the characters I care about. I did terrible with these books I had been reading recently. The main character was dragged to the unknown enemy's camp to be a slave and then it jumps back to the other set of characters who are wandering around talking to kings and dukes or something. I wasn't paying attention [Big Grin]
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Member # 1071

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Hm. That makes sense. It makes me take a step back to see what kind of a reader I am. Am I impatient? Or maybe the questions is "Was I impatient?" You know, I don't know enough about writing or even my reading style to know the answer to this, but I have to admit that I feel guilty. [Blushing]

Like I said before, Crystal City made me want to go back and read those two books again to renew my relationship with the universe. Maybe now I'm at a point where that 'exploration' of the world that you talked about is just what I want. [Smile] Who knows?

Or maybe I simply have to admit that I'm impatient and that I only care about the end product...that could very well be the case. [Wink]

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Either way you bought the book [Big Grin]

(So shallow, Verai!)

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I actually liked Heartfire and Journeyman... maybe I'm just weird, though.
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Member # 7580

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When I read the Alvin series I went from book to book without stopping pretty much so I didn't notice too much of a stoppage although the Calvin line did annoy me at times. I actually enjoyed the extra characters (Verily, Purity, and the French guy (Jean-Jacques or something like that). Those two mentioned earler seemed to reflect the fact that Alvin really didn't know what he was supposed to be doing so he got caught up in other business.
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As for the page jumping thing i hear you on that, and even when something is getting heated and then i ahve to read about Calvin again (yelling Damn you card and your toying with my heart) i look at it like eating all my meat before i get my pudding, sure i was really getting into say the trial and didn't want to leave it but not three paragraphs in to the change i was hooked again and needed to know it all.
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