It is always curious to see fantasy authors who don't consider themselves to be fantasy authors. Case-in-point: Terry Goodkind. The former landscape p...moreIt is always curious to see fantasy authors who don't consider themselves to be fantasy authors. Case-in-point: Terry Goodkind. The former landscape painter has told us how he isn't a fantasy author in every interview he's ever given:
"The books I write are first of all novels, not fantasy, and that is deliberate; I'm really writing books about human beings."(1)
"To define me as a fantasy writer is to misunderstand the context of my books by misidentifying their fundamentals."(2)
"The stories I'm telling are not fantasy-driven, they're character-driven, and the characters I want to write about could be set in any world. I'd like to address a broader audience."(3)
""What I have done with my work has irrevocably changed the face of fantasy. In so doing I've raised the standards. I have not only injected thought into a tired empty genre, but, more importantly, I've transcended it showing what more it can be . . ."
Then the interview usually devolves into a discussion of Ayn Rand and 'the meaning of art', just in case you missed the pretension of declaring fantasy books 'not fantasy!'
The guy certainly has a chip on his shoulder, but it makes me wonder whether he has actually read any fantasy. He doesn't seem to realize that the things he claims separate him from fantasy are fundamental parts of how modern fantasy works. A novel that's fundamentally about character interactions with a magical setting? How droll. Goodkind doesn't reinventing the novel; he doesn't even reinvent the fantasy novel, he just twists the knobs to get a little more steam out of it.
Michael Moorcock critiqued Tolkien as a false romantic, which is rather apt considering that his love story takes place almost entirely in absentia (prompting Peter Jackson to infuse some extra loving with a hot, elven, psychic dream sequence). Most fantasy authors rectify this by having the girl come along for the journey. Goodkind likes to keep the separation for much of the story as our hero tries to seek her out across a continent (though she is often just in the next room! Oh! What a tragic coincidence!)
Actually, after the first time it's just an annoying and painfully artificial way to try to hold off the conclusion for another hundred pages. It's a good thing Terry doesn't have to rely on magical or artificial means to keep his stories fresh!
The rest of the time, the hero finds the girl and lovingly transfixes her on his mighty sword. No, really. I'm not sure why these authors always end up feeling as if they have to dump their sex fetish issues at this particular juncture: "Huh, I dig BDSM. Maybe I should confide my fantasies in a book for mass publication".
I cannot think of a single female character in the entire series who isn't either raped or threatened with rape. If you want to give me an example of one, remember: I'm counting magical psychic blowjob rape as rape. I wish I never had the opportunity to qualify a statement with 'don't forget the psychic blowjob rape'.
I don't mind actual BDSM literature, but I'd rather have my own reaction to it than be told "isn't it totally dirty and wrong!? (but still super sexy, right?)" Porn for porn's sake is fine, but remember, Goodkind isn't some escapist fantasy author, these are 'real stories about real people' so he has to act like his magic porn is somehow a reflection of real life.
Goodkind's books are cookie-cutter genre fantasy, but the first few aren't that badly done, and if you like people narrowly missing one another, bondage, masochism, rape, and dragons, it might work for you, but the series dies on arrival part-way through, so prepare for disappointment.
If you are enjoying the series, you should probably avoid reading any of his interviews, as he rarely misses an opportunity to claim that he is superior to all other fantasy authors, and never compare him to Robert Jordan, because
"If you notice a similarity, then you probably aren't old enough to read my books."(4)
Goodkind truly lives in his own fantasy world if he thinks his mediocre genre re-hash is 'original' or 'deep'.
Then again, I've never met an adherent of Ayn Rand who didn't consider themselves a brilliant and unique snowflake trapped in a world of people who 'just don't understand'. The Randian philosophies are also laid on pretty thickly in his books, but at least he found a substitute grandmother figure to help him justify his Gorean sex-romp as 'high art'.
All in all, he's just another guy who likes to hear himself talk. Despite what he says, nothing separates his work from the average modern fantasy author, and like them, his greatest failing is the complete lack of self-awareness that overwhelms his themes, plots, and characters.
Guilty pleasure of mine. Not a great book, but with a modicum of humor and a rather amusing portrayal of Lwaxana; who is, of course, the best characte...moreGuilty pleasure of mine. Not a great book, but with a modicum of humor and a rather amusing portrayal of Lwaxana; who is, of course, the best character in the fandom.
Lowry's book is a piece of nationalist propaganda, using oversimplification, emotional appeals, and dualistic morality to shut down her readers' minds...moreLowry's book is a piece of nationalist propaganda, using oversimplification, emotional appeals, and dualistic morality to shut down her readers' minds. More troubling is that it is aimed at children, who don't yet have the critical faculties to defend themselves from such underhanded methods.
Unsurprisingly, Lowry adopts the structure of the monomyth, equating a spiritual journey with a moral one. Her Christ-figure uses literal magic powers to rebel against his society. This rebellion and the morality behind it are presented as 'natural', to contrast with the 'abnormal morality' around him.
Lowry doesn't seem to understand that we get our morality from our culture, it isn't something in-born that we 'lose'. This is the first hint of Lowry's misunderstanding of the human mind. She assumes her own morality is correct, and then builds her story to fit it.
She also makes the character act and think like we do, despite never adequately explaining how he came up with such unusual notions. It's the same trick many historical fiction authors use, leaving us scratching our heads as to why a Fourteenth Century French peasant speaks like a second-wave feminist. I'd suggest that Lowry falls to this fault for the same reason they do: she has no talent for imagining how others might think differently.
Lowry's book ends with the standard nonspecific transgressive spiritual event that marks all monomyths. Since the book is not a progressive presentation of ideas, it does not suggest any conclusion. Instead, the climax is a symbolic faux-death event (symbolic of what, none can say). Confusingly, Lowry later redacts the ending in the sequels, undermining the pseudo-spiritual journey she created.
Though some call this book 'Dystopian', it's closer to the truth to say Lowry borrows elements from the Dystopian authors, attempting to combine the spiritual uplift of the monomyth with the political and social deconstruction of the Dystopia. What she doesn't recognize is that the faith of the one conflicts with the cynicism of the other. She draws on ideas and images from many other authors: Bradbury, Huxley, Orwell, Burgess, but doesn't improve upon them.
These authors created novels that reflected the world around them. They based them on the political events of the times, presented with realism and careful psychology. Though they presented the struggle between the individual and the society, they portrayed morality as grey, and suffering as the result of individual human faults, not political systems. Lowry doesn't realize that the best way to critique Fascism or Communism is not to present it as 'evil', but to simply present it as it was.
But Lowry's world is not based in reality, it is symbolic and hyperbolic. Instead of writing about how poverty makes the world seem small and dull, she has the characters magically unable to experience life. Instead of an impersonal government, she presents a sort of evil hippy commune.
The only political system it resembles is a school, which is a neat little trick to get the kids interested. The idea that 'school=unfeeling totalitarian hell' is not an uncommon one, but it's one I'm surprised teachers would support. The book also suggests a creche, but lacking similarity to any real-world system, it doesn't work as a political criticism.
Lowry creates this artificial world to suit her purposes, but it is not a symbolic exercise like 'Animal Farm'. We understand that the pigs of animal farm are symbolic, because there are no talking pigs. Lowry's world is more insidious, since its oversimplification is hidden. She builds an artificial world to support the dualist morality that she's pushing. She presents the same knee-jerk fears about euthanasia and abortion that people use against Women's Rights or Health Care.
Worse than these Straw Man arguments is the fact that she never deals with the economic causes of totalitarianism. Tyrants don't just rise up and take control by their own force of will, they come into power because of the socioeconomic situations that surround them. Lean times produce strong, fascist leaders while profitable times produce permissive, liberal societies.
Strong, centralized leadership simply doesn't self-propagate in cultures where everyone is clothed, fed, and housed. The Holocaust was socially about some ideal of 'change' and 'purity', but it was economically about the transmission of wealth from Jews, Poles, and Catholics to Germans (and more specifically, to those Germans who had elected the new ruling party).
The atrocities of war are, for the most, part committed by normal people to other normal people. By presenting the power structure as 'amoral' and 'inhuman', Lowry ignores the fact that people will willingly cause others to suffer. Painting the enemy as 'evil' and 'alien' is just an unsophisticated propagandist method.
She contrasts her 'evil' with the idealized 'goodness' of emotion, beauty, and freedom. This is nothing more than the American dream of 'specialness' that Mr. Rogers was pushing for so many years. We are all special, we are all good, we all deserve love and happiness. Sure, it sounds good, but what does it mean?
Where does this 'specialness' come from? If it is just the 'sanctity of human life', then it's not really special, because it's all-encompassing. If all of us are special, then none of us are. There's nothing wrong with valuing life, but when Lowry presents one mode of life as valuable and another as reprehensible, she ceases to actually value humanity as a whole. Instead, she values a small, idealized chunk of humanity. 'People are good, except the ones I don't like' is not a moral basis, nor is it a good message to send to kids.
If the specialness is only based on fitting in with a certain moral and social guideline, then Lowry isn't praising individuality, she's praising herd behavior. The protagonist is only 'special' because he has magic powers. His specialness is not a part of his character, it is an emotional appeal.
The idea of being a special individual is another piece of propaganda, and its one kids are especially prone to, because kids aren't special: they are carefully controlled and powerless. Giving a character special powers and abilities and then using that character to feed a party line to children is not merely disingenuous, it's disturbing.
There is also a darker side to universal specialness: giving a child a sense of importance without anything to back it up creates egotism and instability. Adults noticed that children with skills and friends had high self-esteems, but instead of teaching their children social skills and knowledge, they misunderstood the causal relationship and tried to give them self-worth first.
Unfortunately, the moment unsupported self-worth is challenged, the child finds they have nothing to fall back on. Their entitlement didn't come from their skills or experiences, and so they have nothing to bolster that sense of worth. Instead, any doubt sends them down a spiral of emotional instability.
A single book like this wouldn't be the cause of such a state in a child, but it does act as part of the social structure built to give a sense of worth without a solid base for that worth. People like to believe they are special, kids especially so, but being a remarkable person is not a result of belief but of actions. If the book had informed them, then it would leave them better off, but giving them a conclusion based on emotional appeals does nothing to build confidence or character.
Many people have told me this book is good because it appeals to children, but children often fall for propaganda. Children develop deep relationships with pop stars, breakfast cereals, and Japanese monsters. This does not make them good role models for children.
Feeding 'specialness' to kids along with a political message is no better than the fascist youth programs Lowry intends to criticize. The obsession with individuality is just another form of elitism. It's ironic that people in America most often describe themselves as individuals when pointing out the things they do to align themselves with groups.
But banding together in a community is not a bad thing. For Lowry and other 'Red Scare' children, any mention of 'communal' can turn into a witch hunt, but we all give up some personal rights and some individuality in order to live in relatively safe, structured societies. There are benefits to governmental social controls and there are drawbacks, and it's up to us to walk the line between the two. Anarchy and Totalitarianism never actually exist for long: we are social animals.
It's not difficult to understand why Lowry is so popular, especially amongst educators. The message she gives aligns perfectly with what they were taught as kids, from Red Scare reactionism to the hippy-dippy 'unique snowflake' mantra. These ideas aren't entirely misguided, either. It's good to recognize the benefits of difference and the dangers of allowing other to control our lives.
If a reader believes that fascism and socialism are inherently wrong and that their own individuality is their greatest asset, they will likely sympathize with Lowry's work. However, this doesn't make the book honest, nor beneficial. One of the hardest things we can do as readers is disagree with the methods of authors we agree with ideologically.
It makes us feel good to find authors who agree with us, but this is when we should be at our most skeptical. Searching the world for self-justification is not a worthwhile goal, it simply turns you into another short-sighted, argumentative know-it-all. 'Yes men' never progress.
Lowry is toeing the party line. She does not base her book around difficult questions, like the Dystopian authors, but around easy answers. She doesn't force the reader to decide for themselves what is best, she makes it clear what she wants us to think. Her book is didactic, which means that it instructs the reader what to believe.
Even if her conclusions about Individuality vs. Community are correct, she doesn't present arguments, she only presents conclusions. Like rote memorization or indoctrination, she teaches nothing about the politics, social order, economics, or psychology of totalitarianism or individuality. The reader is not left with an understanding, just an opinion.
The baseless 'individuality' of the book lets the reader imagine that they are rebels--that they are bucking the system even as they fall into lock-step. By letting the reader think they are already free-thinking, Lowry tricks them into forgetting their skepticism.
She is happy to paint a simple world of black and white, and this is likely the world she sees. I doubt she is purposefully creating an insidious text, she just can't see past her own opinions. She writes this book with a point to make, and makes it using emotional appeals and symbolism. She doesn't back it up with arguments because she doesn't seem to have developed her opinions from cogent arguments.
In the end, she doesn't show us that the structure of this society is wrong, she says nothing poignant about individuality vs. community; instead, she relies on threats to the life of an innocent infant. Yet nowhere does she provide an argument for why communal living or the sacrifice of freedoms for safety must necessarily lead to infanticide.
In politics, making extreme claims about the opposing side is called mud-slinging, it is an underhanded and dishonest tactic. It works. Arguing intelligently is difficult, accusing is easy, so that's what Lowry does.
She is another child of WWII and the Cold War who hasn't learned her lesson. She quickly condemns the flaws of others while failing to search out her own. Even after the Holocaust, there are many racist, nationalist, violent Jews; conflict rarely breeds a new understanding.
America condemned the faceless communal life of the Second World, and yet America created The Projects. We critiqued strong governmental controls, but we still have the bank bailout, socialized medicine, socialized schooling, and socialized charity. America condemned the Gulags and Work Camps, and yet we imprison one out of every hundred citizens; far more than Stalin ever did. Some are killed, all are dehumanized.
As a little sci fi adventure, the book isn't terrible. It's really the pretension that goes along with it. Lowry cobbles together religious symbolism and Dystopic tropes and then tries to present it as something as complex and thoughtful as the authors she copied. Copying isn't a crime, but copying poorly is.
Like Dan Brown or Michael Crichton, she creates a political pamphlet of her own ideals, slaps a pretense of authority on it, and then waits for the money and awards to roll in--and they did. Many people I've discussed this book with have pointed to those awards as the surest sign of this book's eminent worth.
Award committees are bureaucratic organizations. Their decisions are based on political machinations. This book is a little piece of Nationalism, and so it was lauded by the political machine that Lowry supports. The left hand helps the right. If awards are the surest sign of worth, then Titanic is a better movie than Citizen Kane.
What surprises me is how many of those who brought up the award as their argument were teachers. If a politically-charged administrative committee is the best way to teach children, then why do you take umbrage when the principal tells you that bigger class sizes (and fewer benefits) are fine? Listen to him: doesn't he have award plaques?
The other argument is usually that 'kids like it'. I usually respond that kids also like candy, so why not teach that? Some people also get angry at me for analyzing a book written for children:
"Of course it's not a great book, it's for kids! If you want a good book, go read Ulysses!"
I prefer to give children good books rather than pieces of political propaganda (even if they agreed with me). Children can be as skeptical, quick-witted, and thoughtful as adults if you give them the chance, so I see no excuse for feeding them anything less.
Kids aren't stupid, they just lack knowledge, and that's a fine distinction. It's easy for adults to take advantage of their naivete, their emotionality, and their sense of worth. Just because it's easier for the teacher doesn't mean it's better for the child.
When we show children something that is over-simplified, presenting an idealized, crudely moralizing world, we aren't preparing them for the actual world. If you give a child a meaningless answer to repeat, he will repeat it, but he won't understand why.
Why not give the child a book that presents many complex ideas, but no rote answers, and let them make up their own minds? If they don't learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff and form their own opinions early, in a safe, nurturing environment, what chance will they have on their own as adults?
In all the discussions and research regarding this book, I have come across very little analysis. It's especially surprising for a book with such a strong following, but there aren't many explanations of why the book is supposed to be useful or important.
This lack of argument makes sense from a political standpoint, since there is no reason to analyze the worth of propaganda: its worth is that it agrees with society and indoctrinates readers. Analyzing it would defeat the purpose; political diatribes do not stand up to thoughtful attention.
Perhaps someday someone will create a thoughtful, textual analysis of this book that will point out its merits, its structure and its complexity. I've gradually come to doubt it. I never expected when I wrote my original review of this book that it would garner this much attention.
I still welcome comments and thoughts, but if your comment looks roughly like this:
"You should read this book again, but this time, like it more. You think you're smart but you aren't. You're mean. Lowry is great. This book won awards and kids like it. It's meant for kids anyways, why would you analyze what its about? I bet you never even read the sequels. Go read 'Moby Dick' because you are full of yourself."
I've heard that one before. If you do want to comment though, you might check out this article; I find it helps me with presenting my ideas.(less)
It can be really difficult to critique a work like this. Calvin and Hobbes stands as perhaps the greatest strip ever, along with grandpappy Peanuts an...moreIt can be really difficult to critique a work like this. Calvin and Hobbes stands as perhaps the greatest strip ever, along with grandpappy Peanuts and the bizarrely inimitable Little Nemo. Of course, as a child, I never knew that Calvin was a man who thought heaven was a lottery or that Hobbes was the father of rational political philosophy. However, truly great children's literature should never be inaccessible to adults. If it is, then its popularity amongst children stems merely from its ability to mesmerize their ignorance.
It was not only the philosophy of Calvin and Hobbes, not only the many levels of both meaning and humor, it was the exploration of reality itself; sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. One thing that many grownups seem to forget is that the world is vast and strange and that, often, the only way to come to terms with it is to strike out (in one's own idiomatic style) and have a bit of adventure. There can be no complacency in this world. Not in a world of dinosaurs, spacemen, and cardboard boxes of infinite technological capability.
I suppose I should mention the beautiful and evocative art for a moment, which had a sense of movement, gesture, and impressionistic reality that never failed to jump-start the mind just enough to get it going without limiting the open philosophical questions that we could never quite answer.
I think there must be something to be said for any strip where the most memorable moments were those of inaction and silence. It shows that Watterson expected a lot out of his readers, especially children, and that when we did the work of connecting the dots for him, we were really doing something invaluable for ourselves.
I guess Watterson is off living with his family now, and painting landscapes. I have an idea why he left. Gary Larson, too. I often wish they were still here to help us through these strange and difficult times. Whenever some new horror of inhuman humanity crops up, I want somewhere to go where I can laugh at it, where I can see the big picture, where everything isn't so simple.
In Watterson's comic, it was always the world that was impossibly wide, complex, and unfair. The only simple, rational part--the only important part--was you.
With Crichton, it is always a gamble whether whatever strange and new idea has latched onto will overcome his overbearing personality. His assurance t...moreWith Crichton, it is always a gamble whether whatever strange and new idea has latched onto will overcome his overbearing personality. His assurance that science will always go wrong makes for easy potboiler plots, but you do get the feeling that if he were a caveman, he would mistrust a sharpened stick.
Crichton's sensationalism and misuse of scientific concepts has made him untrustworthy as a guide on any serious issue, but in the case of runaway dinosaurs, we do not need to heed his warnings about the 'dangers of cloning'; we can simply enjoy an idea that was ridiculous before Crichton ever touched it.
At least we are spared the author's libelous personal attacks in this book. If you have a plane ride and a love for dinosaurs, pick it up. The movie's better, though.(less)
Gary Paulsen writes in only two emotions: fine and vomit-y. Someone may want to tell him that there are other ways to provoke a response in a reader t...moreGary Paulsen writes in only two emotions: fine and vomit-y. Someone may want to tell him that there are other ways to provoke a response in a reader than going right for the gut, so to speak. This book could have done with some fear and suspense, perhaps some gratification, depression, or joy. I do not mind a tragedy, nor do I balk at watching the man beaten down. I am a fan of Chekhov's.
If your idea of suspense is mosquito bites on your nipples, meet your Stephen King.(less)
People often forget that this series is what innovated our modern concept of science fiction (up until Neuromancer and The Martix, at least). Dune too...morePeople often forget that this series is what innovated our modern concept of science fiction (up until Neuromancer and The Martix, at least). Dune took the Space Opera and asked if it might be more than spandex, dildo-shaped rockets, and scantily-clad green women. Herbert created a vast and complex system of ancient spatial politics and peoples, then set them at one another's throats over land, money, and drugs.
Dune is often said to relate to Sci Fi in the same way that Tolkien relates to Fantasy. I'd say that, as far as paradigm shift, this is widely true. Both entered genres generally filled with the odd, childish, and ridiculous and injected a literary sensibility which affected all subsequent authors.
Few will challenge the importance of Star Wars' effect on film and storytelling in general, but without Dune, there would be no Star Wars. Princess Alia, the desert planet, the Spice, the Bene Gesserit, and Leto II all have direct descendants in the movies. It is unfortunate that Lucas seems to have forgotten in these later years that his best genius was pilfered from Herbert, Campbell, and Kurosawa.
Though I have heard that the later books do not capture the same eclectic energy as the first, Dune itself is simply one of the most original and unusual pieces of Sci Fi ever written. Read it, Starship Troopers, Ringworld, Neuromancer, and Snowcrash and you'll know everything you need to about Sci Fi: that you want more.(less)
This fanciful retelling of "The Land that Time Forgot" would just be a passable (if fun) story if not for the truly remarkable artwork on every page....moreThis fanciful retelling of "The Land that Time Forgot" would just be a passable (if fun) story if not for the truly remarkable artwork on every page. Gurney's imagining of his new and strange world carries a depth and weight that, to be trite, truly transports you there.
Portrayed as a travelogue of a shipwreck survivor on the island of Dinotopia, Gurney successfully captures the feel of early century sci-fi tales which, even today seem only just beyond the realm of possibility. It seems that the only area positively affected by a little scientific ignorance is that of the visionary futurist. Of course, it was not as difficult for Gurney to look back and imitate this method, though it is not a very familiar style for modern readers, anyway.
A competent draughtsman who plied his imagining of ancient Egyptian rituals and architectural recreations in the pages of National Geographic, Gurney's style evokes the travelogue of a naturalist (which is, happily enough, his story's frame), so that the sometimes indulgent fantasy or unremarkable characterization may simply come off realistically as the effect of an occasionally unlikely (or overly likely) world, or of a character's view of it. If only Gurney had the tenacity of Baum, as he has already escaped the pointless silliness.
Perhaps the greatest gift of Gurney's as a combined author/illustrator is that he lets you forget what you know and allows you to believe in what he has created.(less)
All fantasy is symbolic. Magic itself is almost purely a symbolic literary device, lending philosophical meaning to events and objects. Our hero wins...moreAll fantasy is symbolic. Magic itself is almost purely a symbolic literary device, lending philosophical meaning to events and objects. Our hero wins because he is moral and good, yet we as readers know that force or morality or personality is not the deciding factor in mortal combat. So the hero wields a sword, and that sword's magic becomes a symbol of his moral might.
He can defeat ten other men at once because his is a sword of Truth, or Justice, or Faith. His glowing armor represents a righteous power, as does his shining helmet. Even the castles and cities develop moralities and personalities, evident by their tallness or their crumbling walls or sturdy gates. Like the weather in Gothic tales, physical objects adopt emotional and ideological power.
Unfortunately, these symbols can only be as powerful as the ideas behind them. Most fantasy gives us simplistic 'us vs. them' tales concerned primarily with right and wrong. And since the tales operate primarily by symbol, right and wrong are not considered or debated, but clash against one another, black and white, until the one the author prefers dashes the other to the earth.
The ideals of bravery, righteousness, chivalry, love, and virtue survive the nationalistic epic poems that inspired the fantasy genre, ensuring that almost every fantasy world and story resembles the next. Likewise, 'evil' continues as a theme, because it is easier to believe in evil than to believe that anyone might disagree with your own personal opinions.
What is remarkable about Planescape is that it acknowledges this inherently symbolic form of storytelling without falling to biased simplicity. Why stop at good and evil? at righteous and greedy? Why not expand the symbology to include various and sundry views?
Hence we have cities and castles that do not represent dead metaphors like 'good and evil', but rather give us tangible representations of paranoia, cruelty, haughtiness, force of will, madness, lust, ennui, artistic drive, and the sublime. Why should a sword of bitter sorrow bite less deep than one of justice?
Planescape draws from many older traditions of literary symbol, including the more fanciful epics, the metaphysical poets, the self-searching existentialists, modern authors like Calvino who blur idea and reality, and other texts concerned primarily with questioning and exploring our ideas of humanity.
In other settings, one often must play the hero, or sometimes the reluctant hero, because there is no ideological journey for the disenfranchised, the self-serving, the cowardly, or the incompetently well-meaning. Planescape leaves room for many paths, many ways and ideas. It does not destroy the possibility of the monomyth, which plays out in almost all other fantasy novels or settings, but it refuses to allow the monomyth to be an escape or an end in itself.
That may be the most remarkable aspect of the setting: that power and expansion are no longer viable goals, but unlike Paranoia and Call of Cthulhu, neither is death the ultimate endpoint. Rather, one is encouraged to develop something more ultimately satisfying than either extreme: a full and unusual life.
At my middle school, there was a yearly book drive where everyone would bring in boxes of books from home and...moreThe first Piers Anthony book I ever read.
At my middle school, there was a yearly book drive where everyone would bring in boxes of books from home and all the kids could go buy books for a dollar. I would always buy anything that had a dragon or a knight on the cover. That's how I got into Piers, Dragonlance, Eddings, and all that other Junior High stuff. Not to mention Conan.
I got this book there, and needless to say, as an eleven-year-old, Anthony was hilarious. Especially in these early books, which had not yet become the endless list of fan-suggested puns and ephebophilic anti-sexuality that are his current fare. His early works are fairly amusing and harmless; even his penchant for escapism is toned down considerably.
Of course, looking back upon him, one cannot but blanch at his stilted prose, Mary Sue protagonists, puerile humor, and even more puerile sexuality. I know he does have some adult fans, and truthfully, I'm glad they're inside reading the latest Xanth novel instead of out in the world somewhere, voting.
I think the best thing a survivalism book can do is help to redefine your connection to the natural world and your reliance on the human. Unfortunatel...moreI think the best thing a survivalism book can do is help to redefine your connection to the natural world and your reliance on the human. Unfortunately, even reading this book as a child, I found it to be too fantastical to be entirely enjoyable. Though George trades in Paulsen's vomit for pleasant fancy, this book at once made me want to go out and live such a free life and convinced me that such a thing would be impossible.
I read many such books as a child, and also experienced in television and film the way that life was supposed to surprise you with a sudden adventure. So I took long walks. I wandered the woods alone. I called for spirits in the river. I searched the earth for baby falcons to raise. But I never found that magical friend, that spirit, that strange and mystical adventure. Hell, I never even found anyone interesting to talk to.
The sad thing is that I still search, still look and hope, and every time two lifelong friends meet by chance at a brook, I feel betrayed. The fantasy of art has, even in its most minute dimensions, been betrayed by sallow mundanity.
So it seems again I fall to the doom of loving and hating books. Loving the world they represent, but hate failing to find it.(less)