Oh, Patrick Rothfuss, where do I even begin? Perhaps at the beginning.
Once upon a time, I was in a writer’s group with some kickass scifi/fantasy nerds. One day, one of these excellent people, my buddy Jonathan (who will eventually bring us a fantastic graphic novel about the anthropomorphic exploits of the Seven Deadly Sins – I’ll keep you guys posted), handed me a book and said, “There are no words.” I had a total Matrix moment and was all “But books are just words, man.” Then I caught up and understood and went about my day. Then I started reading this book and the world fell apart for a minute.
It was that good. There are, in fact, no words. But I’ve got to try because that’s my gig here. Urm, so, here goes: Take everything you love about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones and cut out all the bullshit. Take the good stuff that’s left and distill it down through a little bit dark, Joss Whedonesque, Quentin Tarantinoish, violent but beautiful and funny kind of filter. Then add obsessive lute playing, homeless starving orphans, drug addicts, mythical bad guys, some crazy demon spider monster things, unrequited love, and a dragon-lizard.
This will leave you reeling from an unreasonable amount of awesomeness.
So I read the book (The Name of the Wind, by the way, for titular clarity) in, like, a day. It’s a pretty hefty book. I may have laid out of work to finish it. Which I did more than once. (You can’t call out with “I hate my thankless, soulsucking job.” So fuck it. Call out sick and stay home and do what you love.) I immediately wrote an email to Mr. Rothfuss, telling him how mind-blowingly good his book was and that he had kind of fucked up the curve for the rest of the class and I felt like I didn’t have the chops to keep writing anymore, what with my face being melted by his greatness and all. And he wrote me back! A real live email, not a famous-guy form letter. He told me that no one’s going to write my stories if I don’t do it. And that we all need good books to remind us of that. Such a nice guy. Beardy guys are usually nice. Weird how that happens.
That all happened in early 2009. Book two in the series was supposed to come out that Christmas, according to the rumor mill at the Giant Evil Bookstore. So we waited and waited and Christmas came and went and we waited and reread book one and now it’s the end of 2010 and what the hell is going on?!? My nerds and I got agro. Meanwhile we’d been sustaining ourselves on Rothfuss’s blog and the fucking phenomenal graphic novel/picture book he put out (The Princess and Mr. Whiffle).
Long story short (or not) the second book (The Wise Man’s Fear) came out in March of 2011 and shot straight to the top of the NYT bestseller list. Hells yeah! I called out sick again to stay home and read it. And I forfeited my massive Giant Evil Bookstore employee discount to buy a signed edition from our local independent bookstore. Totally worth it, and I love that Rothfuss prefers to do signings and readings at small indie stores. Mad respect for that, sir; it’s important and means a lot. I tell you friends, in all honestly, and I don’t get to say this often: the second one was everything I wanted it to be. Just as good as the first. Not better, not worse. Just a seamless continuation. Which, judging by the few people who have been able to pull it off, must be hard as balls to do. I was so impressed. Usually I come out of a sequel wishing it was as good as the first one, or wishing it hadn’t been so good as to make the first one seem bad. But with Rothfuss’s books, it was like I had just turned a page. Brilliant.
And now I’m deep in the throes of waiting for the third book. Oh, the agony. The torture. But whatever. There are a lot of assholes out there who are giving the man guff about how long he takes between books. These are really long books, guys (according to Rothfuss, Name of the Wind is as long as Harry Potters 1-3, and Wise Man’s Fear is almost as long as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy), and they have to be written, edited, rewritten, reedited, typeset, printed, distributed, etc, etc. You can’t just yell at an author to sit down in front of a computer and expect him to turn fucking tricks for you. Just, you know, for the record. Also, Rothfuss is a busy dude. Raising a kid, trying to have a somewhat normal (on a bestselling author, famous guy kind of scale) life, and running a pretty great charity. Cut him some slack. Chill out. Read his blog. Cultivate some patience. It will be worth the wait.
But I guess the real reason I wrote this blog, besides trying to spread the tao of Rothfuss, is that little note he wrote me. He’s totally right. We need some books to be better than others. To shake us up, remind us why we love them. I’ve read so many books. So. Many. And I don’t know if it’s just that my brain can only store so much, or that they’re really all the same, but I tend to forget most of them as soon as I’m done. I read The Name of the Wind at that perfect time: I’d been bored for a while, even reading the classics. The important ones that everyone should have read, but everything that’s been written since then is based on them, so when you read them you feel like you’ve read them before? Sad but true. Like Tolkien. I love Tolkien, but there are so many books that have been written by rabid Tolkien fans that when you read his stuff it can seem old hat, and it’s really unfortunate, for Tolkien and for us. But the ones that are great, the ones you want to read over and over, the ones that you remember everything about – those are the books that matter. When you’re struck down by good writing, rendered entirely useless because you’ve been sucked into another world and don’t want to leave, when you get it stuck in your head like a bad song. Man, that’s a great feeling, isn’t it? And, at least for me, it happens so rarely that it’s stunning. So, yeah, go read the first two so we can all do a delirious happy dance together when the third one comes out. Info on Rothfuss’s books, charity, and his awesome blog are all at patrickrothfuss.com.