Friday, January 29, 2010

Lord Foul's Bane

Lord Foul's Bane

Lord Foul's Bane / Stephen R. Donaldson
New York : Del Rey, 2004
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, bk. 1
480 p.

He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, because he dared not believe in this strange alternate world on which he suddenly found himself.

Hmmm... I really thought I wrote and published a review of this last week when I finished it. It must have gotten lost, but I don't think it was very good anyway. Nonetheless, I don't feel like doing it all over again, so I'm going to be lame and just copy/paste what I wrote in my Goodreads account because it's not a short paragraph like other things I write there. Ready? Ok.

Dudes, this book is pretty bad.

So fantasy epics are fantasy epics, and they have to be allowed a certain degree of slack for hokeyness. But you don't get to name your evildoers "Lord Foul" and "Drool" without an eyeroll. Nor do you get to use adjectives (such as "wrong") as nouns, especially when the adjective has an accepted noun form (such as "wrongness"). Furthermore, using big words is nice, but one must fit them in naturally and with restraint because the word "chiaroscuro" is not so impressive the fifth time around and basically just makes it look like you're trying to hard.

But ok. Language issues aside, the main reason this book is frustrating is because it has all the great elements of an engaging, geeky fantasy novel (far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disg... oh, wait no prince, shut up Belle) but then it gets ruined by a main character so one-dimensional, unbelievable, and abhorrent that you hope he'll finally kill himself like he keeps thinking of doing.

See, he's got leprosy, and it's pretty crappy. But then he's summoned to this magic world, right, and he doesn't appear to have leprosy there. But instead of being kinda happy, he decides it's a dream and in order to keep his sanity, he has to feel sorry for himself and whine and yell at people so they don't think he's capable of anything because the minute he lifts a finger to do something useful, he'll forget he has leprosy and won't be prepared to handle it when he gets back to his real life. Yeah, it doesn't make any sense at all. Apparently the way to deal with leprosy is to constantly remind yourself you have it... even if you don't have it anymore.

Oh and he's a pacifist too. In the middle of the book after he saves the lives of his companions by killing a couple evil monsters with fighting skills he doesn't have, he decides killing is wrong, even to save the lives of he and his friends. God knows why. The explanation given is as incoherent as everything else having to do with this character.

It's not so much that he's "not a hero" because lots of stories make an anti-hero work. It's that his "anti" qualities are inconsistent, undeveloped and make no sense. And they're the only qualities he has. And nothing ever changes.

Right, so his magical superpower is self-pity, and even at the end when his travel companions and champions of good are being attacked by hordes of evil monsters and his magic wedding ring is the only thing that can save them, he decides to let them all die rather than embrace his power for 2 minutes to save the world. And he also doesn't want to kill, remember? He won't even kill the things that are described in the glossary as "creatures of pure evil." So in the end, one of the side characters with no distinguishing characteristics has to DO IT FOR HIM! The end. Then he fades away and wakes up in his real life and has full-blown leprosy once again, and we're supposed to be happy for him that he didn't break his stupid code or else he'd not be able to take care of himself anymore?

Ok. I'm done.

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