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Chuck Wendig
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The Slow Regard of Silent Things: A Kingkiller Chronicle Novella

The Slow Regard of Silent Things: A Kingkiller Chronicle Novella - Patrick Rothfuss I'm not the biggest Rothfuss fan out there. I enjoyed The Name of the Wind a good bit, but felt a little disillusioned with The Wise Man's Fear when I realized how much of a Mary Sue Kvothe actually was. I still enjoy Rothfuss' writing, but I know a handful of people who adore his work. Me, I won't see the need to re-read the first two books in the series once the third one comes out. I don't think they have the depth that necessitates a re-read.

That's a long way of saying that I might not be the target audience of this novella. Rothfuss even mentions this in the afterword, where he says, basically, "If you didn't like this, it's OK. It's probably not your kind of book." He talks about how the story came to be, and how he felt like it didn't have any of the things that a good story was supposed to have. Despite this, the more he shared the story with people, the more they liked it, to the point where one of his readers said that folks who want stories have books written for them all the time; why not have a different sort of story who want those kinds of stories?

(As an aside, I ran across a quote by Caitlin Kiernan last week, where she was bemoaning the criticisms people lay on her for not writing books that were about story. Her response was, "Anyone can come up with the artifice/conceit of a 'good story.' Story bores me. Which is why critics complain it's the weakest aspect of my work. Because that's essentially purposeful. I have no real interest in plot. Atmosphere, mood, language, character, theme, etc., that's the stuff that fascinates me. Ulysses should have freed writers from plot." I guess that's fine and good if you don't read for story, but the last time I checked, that's what most people want out of their books.)

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is not, as Rothfuss notes, a traditional story. It follows the barest semblance of a plot involving Auri as she wanders around Underling, where she lives, for a week as she prepares for another visit from Kvothe. Mostly, the story is an examination of what it's like to live with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but we get a hint at why Auri is the way she is, and how she thinks.

As I started reading this novella, I got frustrated with the lack of anything happening. I found myself enjoying parts of it -- Rothfuss writes like a poet here, and while I was never wild about poetry in college, I like a good turn of phrase here and there -- but mostly I wanted something to develop. It never did, but as I kept reading, I became more critical of the narrative and the style. Some of Rothfuss' similes left me wondering (how does something "smell red"?), and I became a little annoyed with the way he kept writing with homophones. Later I realized this was a glimpse into Auri's mind.

Something else that struck me was how deftly Rothfuss managed to create atmosphere. It was easy to follow Auri's moods, since Rothfuss could shift the mood through the narrative directly. When Auri had a moment where she began to panic, it was easy to see it coming when she started rinsing her hands and feet, over and over again.

So, despite this novella not being an interesting story, it did wind up being an interesting read. It helped me realize why Rothfuss is popular, and why I like reading his novels, even if Kvothe is usually an insufferable twit. I can't really spoil anything for you, since nothing really happens in the novella, but if you already like Rothfuss' work, there's no reason not to check out this book.