I was browsing at the shrine to the “Twilight” vampire series at one the downtown chain bookstore that has a decent sci-fi/fantasy and poetry section and observed the aftermath of the Harry Potter books. I’ve never read these books, but I see people of all different ages and social groups reading them on the train (much like Harry Potter) that I wanted to flip through them. So I’m reading through parts of the four? one million? in the series when I hear two younger male voices to my left.
“Nah, man, that movie adaptation was lousy, and the way I pictured them, they just didn’t look like that in the movie.”
“Yeah. And they really left out major plot points. I kind of hope they don’t do any more movies because it kinda ruins my enjoyment of the books.”
I look up, and there are two boys, 17-19-ish in local college sweatshirts, jock builds and haircuts, and by all accounts just your normal teenage boys. So I ask–
“Are they any good? I’ve never read them, I’m more of a swords & sorcery type, but I see everyone reading them…”
They both became quite eager to tell me that while “her writing’s kinda spotty, the character interactions are amazing and the story’s compelling.”
The taller, scruffier, more jock-like one then says “Yeah. The Edward/Bella thing is awesome. I love all that girly stuff.”
The other one nods. “I’ve got all the High School Musicals on DVD.”
So then I repeat I’m not fond of vampires.
Says the tall scruffy one who loves girly stuff– “Well, they’re not as violent as the Anne Rice ones or as kinky and weird as the Laurell Hamilton ones. They’re good. It’s mostly romance and teen angst with vampires thrown in for adventure.”
I ask where these books rate compared with Harry Potter or Phillip Pullman, and they both go “Pullman,” without missing a beat. Then the girly stuff one says, “Of course Pullman’s way better. But these ones are good.”
Then the quieter one says “What kind of sword & sorcery stuff?”
I ask him who else he’s read, and he tells me the usual suspects (Robert Jordan, et. al.), so I say “Elizabeth Moon and Lois McMaster Bujold both have action-packed but character-driven sci fi and fantasy books with strong narratives,” and the he tells me he’s heard that Moon wrote some “Deed of Paks-se-something” (Paksennarion) series that he’s supposed to read.
I tell him that yes, he should read it, and that it’s Tolkeinish without being quite so dry.
“Is it epic? I love epic shit.”
I laugh and confirm that it’s epic.
The other one says “Man, I tried Tolkien but all that poetry and stuff, it breaks up the story and it’s kind of stilted and disjointed.”
I tell them both to read more fantasy, then go back later and they’ll enjoy seeing where ALL the basic themes for fantasy books come from.
The quiet one then says “Oh– so it’s like meta-fantasy, hunh?”
I nod. He looks at me again. “Elizabeth Moon?” I nod again. “Thanks.”
“Come on, dude,” he says to his companion, and off they saunter, directly to the sci-fi/fantasy section.
Anyone who thought Harry Potter was a one-off sensation is nuts. These two teen boys got all con-crit in a downtown Borders. I was so charmed and delighted I wanted to invite them home, make them tomato soup and grilled cheese, and say “Have at them, Boys,” while pointing at my bookshelves.
Although now that I think of it, I should have recommended the Patrick O’Brien series.