New in bookstores: bite-sized epics

“Epic” delivers a nourishing fantasy meal for readers who don’t have enough time in their lives.

The curse of contemporary life: Not enough time.

It is a real challenge to find a few moments for yourself just to be still, to meditate, to inhale deeply.  But what if you’re a reader of epic fantasy? How do you fit a thousand-pager into your week? (I remember managing to do it with George R.R. Martin’s “Storm of Swords,” but it nearly killed me.)

You can’t simply give them up, can you?  They’re a necessity to life: The worlds constructed by Martin, or Patrick Rothfuss, or Jay Lake, or Neil Gaiman, or Carrie Vaughn, or Kelly Link are wonderfully interesting when our own lives aren’t. But they also require big, fat commitments of time. So what do you do?

Editor John Joseph Adams has hit on the solution in his latest anthology, “Epic: Legends of Fantasy,” published by Bay Area-based Tachyon Publications. If you haven’t heard of Tachyon, you need to check them out. They’re a great publishing unit doing an invaluable service — like Link and husband Gavin Grant’s Small Beer Press — to keep the work of some very fine writers in circulation.

In “Epic,” Adams gives us tales from contemporary practitioners of epic fantasy. Some of the names mentioned above are included — like Martin (his contribution, “The Mystery Knight,” is a story of Westeros that’s a good supporting piece to “A Song of Ice and Fire”); and Rothfuss (“The Road to Levinshir” plunges its narrator down in an uneasy, murky landscape).  But there are others here are well — like Robin Hobb (whose dragon series is worth picking up) and Ursula Le Guin and Vaughn and Brian Sanderson (who took on the project of finishing the late Robert Jordan’s “Wheels” saga).

It’s an excellent selection that gets us back to the point mentioned at the top of this post. How do you manage to squeeze in epic tales when you don’t have enough time in your life?  The answer is, you do the best that you can when you can. Or else you can turn to this anthology by Adams which, in a phrase I’ve used before, gives readers evocative stories delivering the full caloric load of a novel in half the time. You’ll come away from this fine edition feeling very satisfied.

3 responses

  1. Hey, two things — thanks for linking to my blog post. Also, you made a small error in your post. “Brian Sanderson (who took on the project of finishing the late Robert Jordan’s “Wheels” saga).” — His name is Brandon Sanderson. 🙂

    I agree with you, I enjoyed Epic, there was a great selection of stories in there from some wonderful authors.

  2. I need to drink a bit more coffee while I’m proofreading posts! thanks for catching that.

    “Epic” is a strange book — strange in a good way. All of the authors are known for phone-book-sized sagas, which makes it unexpected to find them gathered in an anthology. I thought your post worked really well.

  3. Nick, how true! Loved your admission that finishing Storm of Swards nearly killed you! I’m a voracious reader and yet I wittingly or unwittingly keep away from the mega-tomes. We can’t do everything: something’s got to give. I gave up TV and found it exceptionally rewarding, but my eyes are still drawn to shorter rather than longer novels. I’m clearly missing an epic trick, excuse the pun!
    All the best, OG&Bs

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