The Singing Sword, Jack Whyte
Sequel to The Skystone. Less historically interesting, and more plain fantasy sword-swiping and maiden/matron-groping.
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
Mind-numbing catalogs of whale types and sailing activities, descriptions of whale anatomy in overly-romantic terms. There is only a single meeting of the hero and the monster, and that is at the end; makes you miss the old "two unsuccessful encounters before final triumph" story. The actual story is stark.
Yet: this starkness is a testament to overwhelming narrative willpower, and that is impressive. Plus there are so many crazy little bits that I can't help liking it. Watch:
Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.
Le Comte de Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
Plotted in two dimensions, hero's power over time, many good books start high, say seven, drop quickly to one and remain there until near the end, when they rise to ten. That return feels amazing.
Monte Cristo is simpler: starting at ordinary five, we glimpse six then drop to one and stay there only a short time before heaving up massively to ten and remaining there for the last three quarters of the story. That long stay at ten feels mind-blowing.
What I like is how it's tempered. Unlike Frye's The Stars' Tennis Balls, a nominal God drives and justifies revenge, and the milieu validates it. Consequently, the punishment is not dementia. More simply, it's fun to watch the star Monte Cristo build up all the little pieces that will eventually act in concert to cause his enemies' overthrow, in many cases the enemy forced to hammer in the final nail himself.