of_the_woods: (school devil)
[personal profile] of_the_woods
On the recommendation of others, I picked up R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing trilogy a year or two ago and was impressed. We in modern times have trouble really understanding the mindsets of those medieval people who took part in things like crusades. They lived in a cultural paradigm sufficiently different from ours that we're tempted to dismiss them as more primitive, or fanatical. Bakker, as a philosopher as well as a novelist, manages to tell a story steeped in such that cultural paradigm where you understand that the people involved are human beings, intelligent, with varying degrees of piety, but for them a religious interpretation of reality isn't questioned, it's understood. In addition, the plot was tightly woven, the characters were well-developed, and the series itself was creative and original.

I picked up the first book of Bakker's sequel series The Aspect-Emperor. In general, it did not disappoint. It is, if anything, darker than the original, and it fleshes out elements of the world and its ancient history that were only alluded to in the first series. I want to state for the record that I liked the book and enjoyed it before getting to the thing that bothered me. The dust jacket had one of those review blurbs saying that Bakker is a "worthy heir to Tolkien." Nothing new there. Fantasy authors are constantly being reviewed in Tolkien's light. I thought it a bit odd because Bakker's world and Tolkien's are utterly different and I couldn't really see any reason why Tolkien would jump into a reviewer's mind. But then I realized that Bakker essentially lifted an entire plot thread from Fellowship of the Ring, plot point for plot point. And it wasn't even subtle. Not even a little. Even if you've only just watched the movies you would readily and almost immediately recognize the Pass of Caradhras, Moria, the Balrog, the Endless Stair, even the apparent demise of a "wizard figure" who doesn't actually die.

It's one thing when a hack like Terry Brooks basically rips off Tolkien for an entire book (Sword of Shannara) but it disappointed me that an author as otherwise brilliant as Bakker should do so. Perhaps it was unconscious, perhaps Tolkien has become such a literary meme that it's impossible not to allude to his works, but copying is not allusion, and his editor should at least have pointed it out.

Ah well. That part was just one plot thread among many, and for those who have read the brilliant prior trilogy, by all means pick up this new book.

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of_the_woods

September 2010

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