Tad Williams is a name anyone even moderately familiar with SpecFic is familiar with. He’s been writing huge tomes for many years. His books are always well received and loved by his numerous fans, myself among them. Another reason why Tad Williams is an important genre author for me is because his are some of the first epic fantasy books I’ve ever read, and loved. I enjoy Williams’ books so much, I have yet to actually FINISH any of his series. You see, when I really, really enjoy an author’s books, I never want them to end, so I almost never actually finish reading them. That’s weird, I know… but lets be a little honest with ourselves, here. What do you really expect from an SFF reviewer if not “weird”?
When I think of Tad’s books, the first thing that springs to mind is how masterful his pacing is. His books tend to be on the longer side, but there’s never really a dull moment. Things always move forward at a very natural pace. Whether he is developing the world, or the characters, or the plot, or all three, something is always happening, and that something is always interesting. That’s contrasted to many authors who write long books, where portions of their books will be dull or slow. Williams’ never has that problem, and that’s one of the many reasons why I always know I’ll enjoy what he writes.
Williams also always challenges his readers, which I truly appreciate. His epic fantasy tends to take place in sort of pseudo European settings with royalty and castles, clashing cultures and power struggles. However, mixed in with all of this are intense interpersonal developments that readers take part in. All of his characters grow and develop so much as the plot progresses. The person they start out as is never the person they end as. This is how good authors should write, but very few manage this as well as Williams. Furthermore, the character development intermixed with the plot development and (often) political struggles can make readers feel very invested in the world and books, almost abnormally invested in them, and that’s truly wonderful. When something happens to a character, it also happens to the reader.
This can, at times, be uncomfortable. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, I think the hallmark of a good author is their ability to make the reader squirm a bit. His worlds always have a dark, uncomfortable edge to them. There are always plenty of misunderstandings, and each character has a dark side. With the plot twists and misunderstandings that fly around his books, as well as the personal development and incredibly compelling viewpoints he uses to tell his stories, readers are in for a real treat. You’ll feel frustrated, uncomfortable, and happy – but most importantly, you’ll feel challenged.
Recently, Williams has taken a left turn away from epics and huge books that take place in the hinterlands of epic fantasy. Now he’s working on his Bobby Dollar series, which is a completely different tone from his other books. This, however, just shows what an incredible author Tad Williams really is. It has to be hard for authors to take that step away from the sort of books they have been so invested in in the past. He’s not only decided to write a different style book, but he’s done it just as well as any of the other books I’ve read from him that I’ve loved so intensely. Bobby Dollar is an incredibly fun series that also manages to be deceptively layered and nuanced. The tone is lighter, but there’s a noir, darker edge that appeals to many readers. However, despite the different tone, everything that I love about Tad Williams’ style is there. It’s layered, nuanced, with a vibrant, challenging world and plenty of internal development and conflict.
That’s what is so amazing about Tad Williams. He challenges readers. He pushes us past our comfort zones and turns something that might be fairly typical into something that is 100% his and only his. He transforms his characters as he writes, and in the process, he transforms his readers. He’s a solid author with books that it is impossible to dislike.
He’s Tad Williams – THE SpecFic powerhouse author and one hell of a nice guy.
I got onto the Williams train with the Otherland series, and then starting reading backwards and forwards in his oeuvre.
The first epic series I ever read was Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I think I’ve read that series about a million times. I love it. I kind of bounce around his books, too. The good thing is that he’s constantly writing so there is always something new to discover.
I love Memory, Sorrow and Thorn too. Reread it last year after recommending it to my daughter, and found it still just as engrossing as the first time round. But I think The War of the Flowers is my favourite (though the main character gets a little trying). It’s so inventive, and such a departure from traditional fantasy.
You know, The War of the Flowers is one I still haven’t read, but I’ve heard from lots of places that it is amazing. I need to fix that.