International Cat Lady's Reviews > The Last Ringbearer

The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Yeskov
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Apr 29, 11

Read in April, 2011

Absolutely brilliant! We've all heard that history is written by the victor. Well, imagine that The Lord of the Rings is a historical text written by the victors in the War of the Ring, and imagine that the absolute Good vs. Evil depicted in TLOTR is nothing but propaganda written by said victors to excuse/justify their acts. Russian scientist and author Kirill Eskov has written a brilliant reimagining of the War of the Ring (and the time following the defeat of Morder) from the point of view of the Mordorians and their allies.

In this brilliant tale, 'orcs' and 'trolls' are merely other races of humans, and the notion of referring to them as horned, clawed, evil monsters was merely a way of justifying the 'final solution' to the Mordorian problem. Gandalf and Aragorn are power-hungry, manipulative types, who will do anything to control Middle Earth. They come from the backwards, superstitious North where 'magic' allows them to rule the day, and they are threatened by the advances in science and technology (not to mention rational thinking!) coming from the land of Mordor, where an industrial revolution is burgeoning. They make a rather foolish alliance with the Elves (who are, in fact, scheming to control all of mankind) in order to affect their 'final solution.' The tale of The Last Ringbearer begins as the survivors of the genocide in Morder come together to form a resistance...

I read the English translation by Yisroel Markov (which can be downloaded for free). It's quite a great translation, although while Markov has an impressive vocabulary and is accurately able to express Eskov's wit in English, he has some trouble with the past-perfect and present-prefect tenses, so that every now and then the reader is reminded that this translation was not done by a native English speaker. I'm an English teacher, so this sort of thing jumps out at me, although it did not affect my enjoyment of the book. I would like to read the original Russian version at some point.

It should be noted that this book will make a lot more sense to those who have read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (or who have at least seen the movies). For someone who is unfamiliar with TLOTR, this book would undoubtedly be difficult to follow.
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message 1: by Andy (new)

Andy Wixon Hey, Jane, I know you well enough to respect you (well, up to a point, there's that whole BSG vs Dr Who issue to take into account) but still I have to say: Reality Check.

Five stars? Really? I downloaded this thing on your recommendation and even after only skimming through the first few chapters I'm getting a strong sense that this is junk.

Now I'm not saying that you can't do a good fantasy story which actually looks realistically at stuff like racism and propaganda and murky political choices, I wish people would do more of that kind of story and less of the plot-coupon-collecting let's-put-a-map-in-the-front-and-have-the-characters-visit-every-damn-place-on-it style of fantasy that clogs up so many bookshelves. I thought about writing something like that myself once.

But to put that kind of interpretation on Tolkien is just disrespectful. The implication is that LOTR is kind of simplistic at best and at worst actually racist in real-world terms (bad guys with black skins coming from countries with elephants, you know the usual stuff that gets trotted out). I think the Prof was specifically setting out to tell a story that did operate on the modern day political-social level, he was deliberately avoiding allegory and to turn LOTR into one on any level is just bad manners.

Also it may be just the translation but the book also seemed me to be kinda badly written with everyone in the Third Age of Middle-Earth talking like a blue-collar American from 2011 (another hallmark of crappy contemporary fantasy) - 'Sorry, but right now you're like a little kid, safer under supervision. Should
the Elves catch you, in fifteen minutes they'll know everything: how many in the group,
where headed and all that,' says an Orc, early on, while a bit later Gandalf - for crying out loud - says 'What the hell do they need it for?' I suppose you could argue that the clunky modern dialogue is an attempt to play up to the modern political realism and cynicism of the book, but, you know, it's still clunky.

The rest of it's not much better written with too many adverbs and the like (not to mention duff metaphors, chapter-long info-dumps and so on). I mean, there's much worse on the internet but thank God I didn't have to pay for this thing.

I am anticipating a response along the lines of 'read it properly before you diss it' but a) the concept seems to me to be fundamentally dubious and b) a quick look at the writing and dialogue has convinced me that the actual telling of the story is only borderline-competent.

So, in short - nothing against doing politically and culturally realistic and cynical fantasy, in fact I'm all for it, but, firstly, don't try to get cheap and easy name-recognition for your work by messing with the Prof and, secondly, learn your craft before unleashing a 260+ page book on the world (the second is probably aimed more at the translator, to be fair).

(Man, I've got a private class with a dude named Kirill this Monday. Hope it's not the same guy or that could be awkward.)

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