The Reading Canary On: The Prince of Nothing

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

The Reading Canary: a Reminder

Series of novels – especially in fantasy and SF fiction, but distressingly frequently on other genres as well – have a nasty tendency to turn sour partway through. The Reading Canary is your guide to precisely how far into a particular sequence you should read, and which side-passages you should explore, before the noxious gases become too much and you should turn back.

The Prince of Nothing: Bakker’s Opening Salvo

Robert Jordan died recently. I (and a good number of other fantasy fans) had made morbid jokes about him dying and leaving The Wheel of Time unfinished even before anybody knew about his life-threatening illness, but now it’s happened. I am currently glancing nervously at George R.R. Martin and speculating about his cholesterol level, as he continues to be hilariously incapable of finishing off A Dance of Dragons, a book which he’s been working on for seven years and counting.

It is a sad fact that many fantasy series – especially those sold in brick-sized volumes – never quite end up finishing, and it’s heartening to see a series actually wrap up. One such recently-concluded epic is The Prince of Nothing, the debut trilogy by R. Scott Bakker. True to the conventions of the genre, it’s actually the first part of a significantly longer series, The Second Apocalypse – Bakker is currently working on the next segment, The Aspect-Emperor, which might be another trilogy or a pair of books. Nonetheless, The Prince of Nothing is a complete story in itself, although the individual volumes don’t stand alone particularly well. To borrow Gene Wolfe’s terminology, it’s not so much a series as it is a multi-volume novel: there’s a particular plot arc that begins in book one and is finished by the end of book three.

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