I've read a fair few books with decent fight scenes but none stick to mind. The ones that do stick to mind weren't decent fights but were brutal or tragic affairs. For instance in one book the protagonist is killed by the superhuman bad guy via getting his skull cracked by the bad guys bare hands. He achieves victory only by a psychic trap implanted into his brain when the already dying bad guy tries to possess his body, but realizing that he's tricked kills the hero and thus kills himself.
One fight that does stand out off the top of my head is the battle with the snow dragon Igjarjuk in the Dragon Born Chair. The way it ends was unforgettable, not because of how the last dragon in existence is killed but because of who kills it.
Iboga chose not to fight, to allow himself to evolve. He had the wisdom to abandon the actions of war when he knew they would no longer serve him.
Last edited by Allankles on Feb 6th, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Gender: Male Location: South Africa,
under the bed.
One of my favourites:
"Slightly taller than Conan and much heavier, Ball-pteor loomed before him, a daunting image of muscular development. His mighty arms were unnaturally long, and his great hands opened and closed, twitching convulsively. Conan released the hilt of his imprisoned sword and fell silent, watching his enemy through slitted lids.
“Your Head Cimmerian!” taunted Baal-pteor. “I shall take it with my bare hands, twisting it from your shoulders as the head of the fowl is twisted! Thus the sons of Kosala offer sacrifice to Yajur. Barbarian, you look upon a strangler of Yota-pong. I was chosen by the priests of Yajur in my infancy, and throughout childhood, boyhood, and youth I was trained in the art of slaying with the naked hands – for only thus are the sacrifices enacted. Yajur loves blood, and we waste not a drop from the victim’s veins. When I was a child they gave me infants to throttle; when I was a boy I strangled young girls; as a youth, women, old men, and young boys. Not until I reached my full manhood was I given a strong man to slay on the altar of Yota-pong.
“For years I offered the sacrifices to Yajur. Hundreds of necks have snapped between these fingers-“ he worked them before the Cimmerian’s angry eyes. “Why I fled from Yota-pong to become Totrasmeck’s servant is no concern of yours. In a moment you will be beyond curiosity. The priests of Kosala, the stranglers of Yajur, are strong beyond the belief of men. And I was stronger than any. With my hands, barbarian, I shall break your neck!”
And like the stroke of twin cobras, the great hands closed on Conan’s throat. The Cimmerian made no attempt to dodge or fend them away, but his own hands darted to the Kosalan’s bull-neck. Baal-pteor’s black eyes widened as he felt the thick cords of muscles that protected the barbarian’s throat. With a snarl he exerted his inhuman strength, and knots and lumps of ropes of thews rose along his massive arms. And then a choking gasp burst from him as Conan’s fingers locked on his throat. For an instant they stood there like statues, their faces masks of effort, veins beginning to stand out purply on their temples. Conan’s thin lips drew back from his teeth in a grinning snarl. Baal-pteor’s eyes were distended, in them grew an awful surprise and the glimmer of fear. Both men stood motionless as images, except for the expanding of their muscles on rigid arms and braced legs, but strength beyond common concept was warring there – strength that might have uprooted trees and crushed the skulls of bullocks.
The wind whistled suddenly from between Baal-pteor’s parted teeth, His face was growing purple. Fear flooded his eyes. His thews seemed ready to burst from his arms and shoulders, yet the muscles of the Cimmerian’s thick neck did not give; they felt like masses of woven iron cords under his desperate fingers. But his own flash was giving way under the iron fingers of the Cimmerian which ground deeper and deeper into the yielding throat muscles, crushing them in upon jugular and windpipe.
The statuesque immobility of the group gave way to sudden frenzied motion, as the Kosalan began to wrench and heave, seeking to throw himself backward. He let gor of Conan’s throat and grasped his wrists, trying to tear away those inexorable fingers.
With a sudden lunge Conan bore him backward until the small of his back crashed against the table. And still farther over its edge Conan bent him, back and back, until his spine was ready to snap.
Conan’s low laugh was merciless as the ring of steel.
“You Fool!” he all but whispered. “I think you never saw a man from the West before. Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man – like this!”
And with a savage wrench he twisted Baal-pteor’s heard around until the ghastly face leered over the left shoulder, and the vertebrae snapped like a rotten branch.
Conan hurled the flopping corpse to the floor, turned to the sword again, and gripped the hilt with both hands…."
Conan the Wanderer
“Shadows in Zamboula”
Hmm... Off the top of my head, one of my favourites is the climactic duel between Galen Marek and Darth Vader in The Force Unleashed novel. It has great a description of both the action and what's going through Galen's head. I like it as it's Galen confronting the man who stole his childhood and made him into a weapon, and soundly defeating him.
Luke Skywalker vs. Brakiss in Jedi Under Siege is pretty good too. I think it strikes a good balance between showing Luke as a skilled, powerful Jedi but without making him look over-powered, or down-playing him so his opponent has a chance.
Don't remember the sequence as such, but yes I can tell you the most liked fiction character.Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series(: From book 1, I knew that there was more to his character than J.K. Rowling was letting on. I liked him then because he was different, and he seemed misunderstood, and I could relate to that. He became my absolute favorite character for forever in book 7, when his full story was revealed. I cried so hard when he died--I had to put down the book and collect myself before I could continue reading. Then when I read about his past with Lily, I felt for him on such an emotional level, I started bawling all over again. There are tear stains in my copy of Deathly Hallows.
I guess he's my favorite character overall because I've always felt like I could relate to him. People always judge me without knowing my full story, much like how I predicted it would be with Severus. When we learn of his heartbreak, love, pain, and sorrow, I felt like I could relate to him even more, because he seemed so real. The fact that he spent his years risking his life to protect the son of the woman he loved (and the man he hated) make his character eternal. His love is so devastatingly touching, even though he never got the happy ending he deserved.
1 year ago
Just read 'The Lion' by Nelson DeMille and it has excellent hand to hand fighting sequences as well as descriptive knife fighting. It is part of his John Corey series of books (the first is 'Plum Island'), which are highly enjoyable reads and he is probably my favourite DeMille character.
For authors that can consistently churn out rousing action scenes, these are the best that I have found.
jack higgins (i.e. harry patterson)
kevin randle and robert cornett
Not as consistent, which does not make them a bad author, but they are not as consistent in writing rousing action scenes as the above, but, still, they have churned out at least one rousing action scene in the books they wrote.
sir arthur conan doyle
c. walter hodges
robert e. howard
j. r. r. tolkien
And a couple of tips.
(1) I have found that men are better at writing action scenes than women.
(2) I look for authors that are some sort of ex-military. For whatever reason they seemingly write better action scenes than most civilians.
Any and all fights written by David Gemmel, specifically the throwdown between Skilgannon and the resurrected Decado in The Swords of Night and Day. Also any scene where Logan turns into the Bloody Nine in Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy.
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Skilgannon was an awesome character and I especially liked the 'button swords' he used. The problem (good problem), is that you can never really tell who was the best sword-fighter he created because they all are written as experts in their own time.
Certainly you would have to factor in:
Chareos the Blademaster (Quest for Lost Heroes)
Tarantio (Dark Moon)
Kysumu (Hero in the Shadows)
Bane (Midnight Falcon)
Tenaka Khan (The King From Beyond the Gate)
There were probably many others of course but those are the ones that have stayed with me as other great sword-fighters of his. If you are especially fond of sword fighting in books I would suggest 'The Last of the Renshai' by Mickey Zucker Reichert, which I find more descriptive with the actual sword skill and discipline.
R.A. Salvatore is known in the fantasy/sci-fi community for his intricately woven fight sequences, generally involving swordplay. I can't disagree, having read a lot within those genres. His most enduring creation wields dual scimitars, so there's fertile grounds for that sort of writing.
I've actually grown a bit tired of action in and of itself. I tend to gloss over the details of fights in novels and focus more on the dialogue, internal thoughts, and development exposition. Fights appeal to me that have personal meaning not just in unspoken subtext but explicit in the writing. Like, an artfully plotted sword technique is boring to me. A fighter imposing his will on a crowd, or having a metaphoric or spoken battle with the villain during the fight, is more immediate and forceful.
I relish in the hero/villain confrontation where their ideologies collide in thoughts, not necessarily in violence. The speeches before the fighting breaks out. Holmes/Moriarty, for a classic example. I like some of that in my fights.
Gender: Female Location: When in Doubt, Go to the Library.
I'm going to have to put "The Princess Bride" on the list, for two action sequences.
1. The man in the black mask v Inigo Montoya on the top of the Cliffs of Insanity. Witty wordplay, suspense, humor - "You seem a decent man, I hate to kill you," "You seem a decent man; I would hate to die."
"You've been doing very well, my friend, but there is something you don't know." "What's that?" "I... am not left-handed"
2. And of course, the epicly epic Count Rugen [the six-fingered man] v. Inigo Montoya. "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
"Offer me gold." "YES!" "Jewels." "OF COURSE! You shall live like a prince!"
"I want my father back, you son-of-a-*****!" *slays*
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
Gender: Female Location: When in Doubt, Go to the Library.
Oh, and I forgot the "Battle of Wits" with Vizzini, and the iocane powder.
"The most important rule of war, after 'Never go in a land war against Asia, is to never trust a Sicilian when death is on the line! A-Hahaha! A-hahaha! A-Ha....!" *falls over dead.*
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
I haven't read any R.A. Salvatore books but I've definitely heard of the author. I agree to some extent with your opinion about action in books, some of it is just for the spectacle, but I think that it does in some way go towards a purpose - as well as defining a character. Gemmell for instance has used specific and different weapons almost to add variety to the characterisation of his characters. You have Druss the Legend with his axe 'Snaga', Skilgannon with 'The Swords of Night and Day', Waylander the Assassin with his ebony crossbow etc.
I do still like a good fantasy story without the action, but the author has to be able to provide some wonder or excitement that somewhat fills in the gap, because a story without any consequences or danger just becomes average. Doesn't have to be related to fighting, it could be a disaster about to happen, an amazing/frightening discovery, or just an imaginative adventure with likeable characters. I remember reading 'The Dark Moon' by Julia Gray last year and it was amazing and didn't rely on action because the story and characters were just captivating.
Well, a lot of Salvatore's characters happen to dual wield, but he throws enough variety into it to work. It was indeed fascinating to really think through a couple of his more elaborate sequences. He allowed himself some creativity in his last creation as well...she wields a staff that can break into 2 or 4 pieces, with flails extending on the ends, giving her multiple configurations in any fight. But usually I just sort of read for general meaning during the fights, following the flow of the battle but not individual sword thrusts.
I agree with your point, though. My tastes have started to lean more toward intellectual thrillers than straight action in movies and TV, and I suppose my reading preferences are following suit to an extent. Still, I enjoy Drizzt...I suppose at this point it's mostly just escapist pleasure, though it was once more (when I was younger), and he does hit some really great set pieces occasionally with his action.
"The Daemon lied with every breath. It could not help itself but to deceive and dismay, to riddle and ruin. The more we conversed, the closer I drew to one singularly ineluctable fact: I would gain no wisdom here."