Driving home from a conference, I was listening to the Coode Street Podcast with Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. They were discussing genre minutia, as they do, but in so doing brought up an interesting point about how genre relates to itself. Namely, they proposed the idea that a great deal of genre fiction looks inward. I took that to mean it responds to and manipulates tropes in such a way that only someone familiar with them can truly appreciate the attempt.
Often, when Joe Abercrombie is discussed in less glowing terms, it is because readers find the First Law Trilogy slow and unsatisfying. Over my many readings of the series I could never understand that reaction. I can’t claim that anymore. Reading The Blade Itself, at the depth and pace a reread requires, has allowed me to really understand the nature of the series better. And that nature is exceptionally inward looking. So much of what makes it compelling is a result of how it subverts expectations. To someone unfamiliar with the genre, The Blade Itself becomes asset deprived. Or, more clearly perhaps, it becomes somewhat exposed as a debut novel.
I would go on to argue that every novel he’s written since has become more outward looking. I could write an entire essay exploring this idea, but I thought it worth mentioning here. With that thought regurgitated for your delight, on to this week’s chapter…
[The Ideal Audience...]