The Wizard of Cai by Gary W. Feather

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Lester Curtis
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The Wizard of Cai by Gary W. Feather

Post by Lester Curtis »

I kind of wanted to like this story better, but . . . all those short, choppy sentences really got monotonous and went a long way towards ruining it for me. Varying the rhythm of the story would have improved it greatly.

A couple little things struck me as being out of place, too: the use of the word "Okay" by pre-Christian-era Chinese, and a description of a fighting technique as compared to 21st-century standards.

Some of it was funny, though. That helped.
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Re: The Wizard of Cai by Gary W. Feather

Post by Robert_Moriyama »

Jaimie wrote:I agree with Lester. There was a lack of description that made it difficult for the reader to immerse himself within the story. The author was so focused on the plot that he neglected pretty much all other aspects of writing. What does an ancient Chinese city look like? Are there pigs and chickens about? Are the dwellings straw huts or slanted roofed buildings? Is the sun shining? Does the air carry the scent of human excrement or jasmine? What time of year is it? Are there trees? Does dust rise up from the feet from walking on dirt roads or are the streets cobbled?

The lack of description also applies to the characters. A flurry of names assaults the reader and it’s difficult to keep track of who is who. Using foreign names makes it worse, since our English-speaking minds don’t automatically absorb the unfamiliar words. Only Hao has a distinctive personality. Everyone seems to be a caricature, which, I’ll admit, is often a hallmark of sword-and-sorcery fantasy. But I’ve never heard anyone claim that it made good writing.

All in all, the story seemed rushed. The author spent no time to elaborate on anything. The plot was simplified and streamlined with no surprises or depth. I would treat this story more as an outline and work from there.
I think it helps to be familiar with wu xia movies -- 'kung fu' flicks, the sort of stuff that the Shaw Brothers used to churn out, and later the 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' genre with magic thrown into the mix... There is a lot of shorthand involved, archetypes (wise master, brave but sometimes comical student, greedy official, bullying official / guard / soldier, etc.), and the setting is just sort of there: mainly rural, with officials living in mansion-like estates, peasants and lesser types in smaller and flimsier structures, open air markets with, yes, live small animals for sale... Like a Western movie, where it is assumed that you have some idea of what a ranch hand does, or even how the guy in the flashy clothes who hangs around the saloon playing cards makes his living.
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