Video Game Wonder vs. Literary Yawn
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was an outstanding achievement in the world of video games, a jaw-dropping synthesis of story-telling, exploration, and gameplay. It was my first real dose of the world of the Witcher, and left me open to further experiences…so I tried reading The Last Wish, a collection of short stories by Polish fantasy writer Andzrej Sapkowski.
Nope. Just generic fantasy. Elves who are mysterious, live long lives, and spend time in forests: check. Dwarves who are grouchy, blacksmiths, and have a penchant for beards: check. When I realized there were at least no orcs (or orc-like race), I was already too disillusioned to breathe a sigh of relief.
Sure, you encounter these fantasy tropes in the game, but part of the beauty of the game is that you can play it how you want. I avoided missions involving these overused archetypes, and allowed myself the ironic fantasy that this game’s source material didn’t ‘borrow’ too heavily from Tolkein.
With The Last Wish, there is no escaping it. And that the stories never felt compelling didn’t do the set any favors. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen; it never did. From start to finish it read more like stories produced in a university creative writing class, rather than a polished, complete work, with a lovingly crafted world to support it. Perhaps I’ve just grown too coddled by reading the likes of Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, and Brandon Sanderson. I have seen what the top tier of fantasy is.
And it is difficult to enjoy a glass of watery Johnnie Walker Red when you’ve grown accustomed to that rich smoke of Lagavulin.