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Book Report: The Crystal City

Like many people, I read Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son(New York: Tor 1987) and went nuts for the world of Hatrack River and Vigor Church. I was eager for the next in the Alvin Maker series, and if Red Prophet (New York: Tor 1988) wasn't as good as the first book, I have no recollection of being disappointed. Prentice Alvin (New York: Tor 1989) was magnificent. And then, well, Orson Scott Card wrote a bunch of lousy books (which, in 1989, I would not have believed possible). And then he wrote a lousy Alvin Maker book, Alvin Journeyman (New York: Tor 1995). OK, not lousy. Heartfire (New York: Tor 1998) was lousy. Journeyman just wasn't very good. So anyway, when I saw that The Crystal City (New York: Tor 2003) had been published I didn't exactly go right out and buy it. Which is good, because it was dreadful, and I doubt I'll ever want to read it again. Back to the library it goes, but it leaves behind it a question: Is it good to recommend Seventh Son to the uninitiate, knowing that it will eventually lead to people reading this crap? Or is it better for people not to bother reading two (or possibly three) really good books just because the story is incomplete, and the only way to finish the narrative is to plow through three or four books of no value at all? I mean, if you want to read the beginning of Edwin Drood, at least you know that there is no ending--that's better than a bad ending, right?

Redintegro Iraq


I was sufficiently disappointed by Alvin Journeyman that I stopped looking for the sequel, and didn't even know Heartfire existed.

I think I'd still recommend the first of the series, and recommend that readers stop after the third; things aren't perfectly resolved by then, but it's a reasonable stopping place. (I wanted more for years, but wasn't thinking "dammit, what happens the whole time.)

I know some people who were very upset about the Alvin Maker books because they read the first one not realizing that it was the beginning of a planned seven-book series, nor that most of the series hadn't yet been published.

Sorry to hear that Card wrote some lousy books; I haven't read anything of his in years, but I always assumed the ones I wasn't reading were good, 'cause I think I've liked nearly everything of his I've read.

The general question (whether to recommend early books in a series even if later ones aren't as good) is a difficult one. I feel somewhat the same way about His Dark Materials; I loved the first one, but thought the second and third weren't nearly as good, but the first one isn't really complete in itself. Hard to say.

I haven't read the Alvin Maker series, but I had a similar experience with the Ender series. Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead were excellent, but Xenocide left much to be desired, and Children of the Mind was almost unreadably bad. I tend to recommend to people that they should just read the first two, and skip the last two.

The first two books of the Bean series were good. I haven't read the third one yet, but I hope it will live up to the first two.

I have a lot of trouble stopping in the middle of a series, if I liked the first one. I agree that Children of the Mind was nearly unreadable, and it was clear from the first two or three chapters that I wasn't going to enjoy finishing it, but I did.

Heck, I read Gd, Emporer of Dune all the way through. Heck, I read Heretics of Dune all the way through.

So, assuming that other people are like me, I hesitate to start them on a series that ultimately will provide more annoyance than satisfaction, for a total negative hedon flow. On the other hand, people aren't actually like me ...


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