View Full Version : POLL: Reading Ed Greenwood
Mon, 28th Oct '02, 8:20pm
So, I was surfing Amazon the other day, and was cruising through some book reviews for Forgotten Realms books. At some point, I began looking at the reviews for all of Ed Greenwood's books.
To put it bluntly, most people think he is a terrible writer and is not worth the six or seven dollars spent on his books.
Although I agree with the fact that his writing style is a bit - er - lacking, generally his books are still at the least an entertaining read.
What are your opinions on the creator of the Forgotton Realms?
This poll contains 1 question(s). 12 user(s) have voted.
You may not view the results of this poll without voting.
Poll Results: Reading Ed Greenwood (12 votes.)
What do you think of Ed Greenwood's Books? (Choose 1)
* Oh My God! Mystra is soooo hot!!! - 0% (0)
* The Best! They should be mandatory high school reading! - 8% (1)
* Decent. His style is lacking, but his stories are entertaining. - 83% (10)
* Terrible! How did Greenwood ever get a publishing contract? - 0% (0)
* Elminster must die!!! - 8% (1)
Mon, 28th Oct '02, 10:34pm
Not even close to literature, but most of us drop our standards on escapist literature pretty low... Especially for FR. There's also the fact that, like it or not, he's the only one writing about some of the most interesting stuff in FR, so you don't have much choice but to read him if you want to learn about that. But there are many other, better authors writing for WoTC... Just check the FR books listing on SP.
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 12:49am
Trust me, Taluntain, I know -- I own most of them and have read them all many many times! Besides, it is not just about literature - it is about aesthetics, too. Anyways, I am just checking out what others think about the books of the more prolific FR novelist and creator
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 9:57pm
Well, I disagree with both of you! While, admittedly, I started reading fantasy books just recently, I thought that Greenwood's El books were not only entertaining as fiction, but a superior example of lifelike characterization and plot weaving, to the point that I read all four of his books, cover to cover, scarcely being able to put them down. His ability to create his character, Elminster, to be bigger than life, with a personality that, quite simply, leaps off the page at you, should not be understated. I thought his books moved quickly plot-wise, his characters, in general, were very memorable, and, while Greenwood may not be viewed as a literary icon in your eyes, I can most definitely say that his writing made quite an impression on me. Waiting on #5!
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 10:02pm
Well, Spellbound, I would have to agree with you - his Elminster books are his finest work, but have you ever looked at some of his other books? Perhaps the Spellfire series - just one big circular chase scene. THere are good things in there, but he tends to be a little overblown in his characterization. Still good escapism, though!
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 10:16pm
The more fantasy (and more varied) you read, the less you appreciate Greenwood. I suppose that if you're new to the genre and start with Greenwood, you don't have anything to compare it to, and since it's not really bad, must think it's great. But wait till you read some more stuff from different authors. There are very few true Greenwood fans out there for a reason. That doesn't mean that we don't read him, though. ;)
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 10:28pm
I'm curious....what is it, in your view, that's so sub-literary about his writings? I'm sure, as time goes on, I'll read other authors' works that I find as interesting, if not more so than Greenwood's. But I compare his work to other general fiction that I have read, and I don't see the shortcomings that you've alluded to. Can you elaborate? :hmm:
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 10:39pm
The general style and the overstuffing of most of his novels with sex, simply because sex sells. (And no, there's no denying this one. He admitted it himself, though not in so many words.)
Basically, he writes what TSR and now WoTC told him people want to read, and what sells the most. So he's like 99% of female characters in his novels... All too eager to give. Only that he charges you for it. Good thing paperbacks are cheap. :shake:
[ October 29, 2002, 22:39: Message edited by: Taluntain ]
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 11:06pm
Hmmm, I do indeed enjoy reading about sexual escapades, but I hadn't made the connection of this common theme in all of the fiction that I've been reading lately -- how could I have missed that?
Sex in a novel does indeed sell, but I thought there was more to his work than just that....I was comparing his work on writing quality, ability to hold a reader's attention, etc. Your thoughts?
And, no, I'm not touching the "women too eager to give" remark, though I did note a touch of that. :shake:
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 11:19pm
I've never read any of Greenwood's books, but I always enjoyed his "Ecologies" and "Tomes" articles in Dragon Magazine. He is the creator of the FR too!
I would like to check out the Elminster book series...I remember seeing them in the bookstore, but I never picked it up...
Tue, 29th Oct '02, 11:22pm
Well, I'm no literary critic, but I've read enough books to develop a feeling that quickly tells me how high I should rate a book... It's very easy... You just start with all the obvious quirks. With Greenwood, there's a whole fill of those. Unbelievable characters (yes, even for fantasy - practically all women El meets anywhere he sooner or later has sex with. How realistic is that?), shaky plot, and most of all, awful predictability. I've read very few of Greenwood's that wasn't highly predictable. His language isn't anything to write home about either. Just some of the things I can remember on top of my head...
Wed, 30th Oct '02, 12:50am
Ditto to all of the things Taluntain just said - Sometimes you just get tired of hearing about Elminster's escapades with the opposite sex. Personally, I feel that his characters remain largely undeveloped - they stay static for the entire story - although they may learn secrets about themselves, this knowledge does not really change them in any way. Also, his heroes are too infallible and his villains too predictable.
As for his style, well, he could certainly invest in a new thesaurus - it is just the same words over and over and over again.
Still - he is entertaining at the very least.
Wed, 30th Oct '02, 4:24am
Elminster is Greenwood's version of James Bond, with a personal diety added in for spice. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on how much you enjoy B movies.
Mon, 4th Nov '02, 6:13pm
There was an interview with Ed Greenwood in a local magazine not too long ago and he said that he wrote approximately one book every two days. He spends all his weekends and evenings writing and scribbles a bit during slow hours at the library where he works. So I'd be amazed if he *didn't* use the same phrases over and over in new combinations. Actually a lot of writers who aren't nearly so prolific end up doing that by about their tenth novel anyway. And as for the sex, well, that's a common problem with SF and fantasy novels in general. The male protagonists have sex with every female in the book who isn't obviously a villain, sometimes with most of them at the same time. Once I thought this was a combination of wishful thinking and over-identification with the protagonist, but having met a particular science fiction author that is infamous for this once, it occurred to me then that maybe men who don't have much sex think this is what male-female relationships are really like for other guys. Someone who spends every waking moment with a pencil in hand probably doesn't get laid much so can't write from personal experience... poor guys. Anyway. My point is that I suspect that he's doing the best he can under the circumstances. For books written in two days, they really aren't bad at all!
Mon, 4th Nov '02, 10:37pm
You sure you read that right? He gets 1 to 2 novels, tops, published by WoTC per year. And he wrote little that got published by anyone else. So if he does write a book every two days, it's just for his own amusement. But I really doubt he manages to write anything near book-worthy every two days. I'd say it's physically impossible as well. He's a librarian, after all. I presume he works in a library regularly.
Anyway, I read a lot of excellent fantasy that wasn't sex-centered. Pratchett, for example.
[ November 04, 2002, 22:40: Message edited by: Taluntain ]
Mon, 4th Nov '02, 11:57pm
A lot of what Ed writes, and has written, doesn't get published. Or at least it hasn't yet. In the article Sprite is referring to he did say that he manages to write at that prolific pace. But writting and publishing are certainly two different things. And I'm pretty sure that he (Ed) is also referring to a lot of his writing that gets disected into various spreads in Dragon magazine and various other places.
I think that, as a creator, there are very few who can match his skill and ability at present in creating an entire world. But for actual novel writing, he definitely could improve IMO. That said, there are a lot of people (including major fans) that will say the same thing about Tolkien - I know I'm going to take heat for this, but hear me out :p Tolkien's actual writing style (the prose) isn't that great, and by itself doesn't warrant the attention and fame his name has gained. It's *what* he wrote that makes him great: an entire world, complete from beginning to end.
Also, from the very beginning of the published life of the Forgotten Realms, TSR (and now WotC) have pretty much dictated a lot of the material. Originally, they also had the absolute final say in content as well. IRC some of Ed's first books were quite bastardized by the time they came to print.
Tue, 5th Nov '02, 1:01pm
They still have the absolute final say in what Greenwood writes for them. They tell him what sells the most, and he writes more of it. It's as simple as that. Every few years they actually let him write something that he wants and they know will sells less, just to keep him happy. Like now where he had the chance to sparkle up & finish the Shandril Saga. They still cut out a third of what he wanted to put in. :heh:
As for his ability to create worlds... Well, if you consider taking an existing idea and stretching it for very creative, then I suppose yes. But there's less than 10% of what could be called original in anything of his, it's mostly copying from dozens of various sources (primarily Tolkien) and reshaping it. Hardly anything to be very proud of. I respect the creators of Planescape who actually came up with a world so totally different that it doesn't feel like plagiarism of a dozen different authors. How ironic that Planescape never gained even a fraction of popularity that FR did. But, as the saying goes, people are generally stupid. Especially when it comes to recognizing good fantasy.
[ November 05, 2002, 13:03: Message edited by: Taluntain ]
Tue, 5th Nov '02, 3:17pm
I agree with the Tolkien observation. He's great at describing nature and putting together languages and history...But I always thought his descriptions of characters was a little shallow and lacking.
You never really feel like you're getting to know a character in Tolkien's books, you are always an observer being guided along on a tour. There seems to be a lack of richness and definition to his character descriptions. At least I've found that.
Tue, 5th Nov '02, 7:47pm
Hmmm, I have never really noticed that, Bel, I guess that I will just have to go back and read Lord of the Rings yet again...
But at least Tolkien has a vocabulary - you really cannot say the same for Ed, no matter how important and prolific his work has been. I am glad he created the FR, but I wish he had used one of the thesauri in his library.
(And yes, I still like reading Ed Greenwood)
Tue, 5th Nov '02, 8:01pm
As for Greenwood, I've only read his Elminster series and those books he wrote in the Double Diamond Triangle Saga (9 books less than a hundred pages each, written by a big mix of authors), and I found that in his description of Elminster he did a fine job, but that's it, he didn't seem capable of bringing any other characters to life, IMO. I agree that Greenwood tried too hard to stuff sex into his books, especially El in Hell, the book was like a fantasy-romance hybrid.
Tue, 5th Nov '02, 8:38pm
Not really about Greenwood...
Did you know that Polland has the gratest fantasy writer besides tolkien?
His name's Andrzej Sapkowski, and the book's pentalogy about warlock (wiedzmyn in original) Geralt. He wrote short stories about him too.
I don't know yet if he's better than JRRT or not, but trust me that I hadn't read such entertaining, dark, emotional and thrilling fantasy cycle.
Pity it was translated in German, Czech (luckily), Russian and Litvian only. Maybe You should push some publisher into it (some mailbombing?).
I swear you won't regret.
Tue, 5th Nov '02, 11:52pm
Back to the world creating thing...yes there is a lot that has been pulled from other sources. But that goes for just about any fantasy world I've seen in the last 15 to 20 years. In many respects, authors just take a Tolkien concept, make a few adjustments and then rename it. Even a lot of Tolkien's concepts came from other, often very old, sources.
By and large, I don't find most fantasy writers to be very original: the genre is defined by its setting. Occasionally there might be an added twist thrown in somewhere, but not much usually. And fantasy stories tend to stick to the 'romantic quest' theme: hero(s), conflict introduction, quest, resolution of conflict. Off the top of my head, the only truly original, contemporary major fantasy writer I can think of is Pratchett.
That aside, there are still very few that have been able to create an entire world on a detailed level. The majority of authors (fantasy and beyond) don't create detailed worlds, but instead create world settings - a concept. Depending on the author (mostly fantasy) they will then fill in details of very small, specific 'regions'. Not that this is bad - an author only requires those areas that they use. But the FR not only serves as a book setting, but also a game setting. Not to mention the fact that a vast amount of his material on the FR hasn't been published in any real form yet. And there's quite a bit that is published that isn't his - it comes from other authors.
As I said earlier, I don't think he's great. But, what he has accomplished is, I think, quite impressive.
Thu, 7th Nov '02, 8:51pm
I gotta jump on the Ed-hatin' bandwagon here. Sorry, but I've been with the Forgotten Realms from the beginning, and almost every one of the other authors is better than Ed.
I saw a "special edition" of Spellfire that had comments from the man himself in it. He said it was meant to be more of an introductory story for people new to FR, and introduce them to all the characters. He said that it wasnt' really meant to be in depth, but to cover as many established characters as possible.
Well OK, that explains a lot", I thought. So I gave him another chance and read the first Elminster book. My conclusion: Ed cannot write a good sustained story. Some of his bits were fairly entertaining (not great, but at times he can rise to adequate), but his characters are paper thin, and yes, nearly every female in Ed's stories is a ****. He doesn't have a grasp on the word "plot" yet.
In my opinion, he would be better off sticking to short stories or writing episodes for the pen and paper modules. Most of the other authors (Novak & Grubb, Troy Denning, Salvatore) are much better at making thier characters seem like real people, and interesting plots. Ed's characters come out with as much personality as a D&D character sheet, and stories as thin as his would be better if they were a lot shorter.
He doesn't flat out SUCK, and as Tal pointed out, there are some things in the FR that you won't find anywhere else. But there are so many FR books, why not choose some of the better authors rather than one of the worst?