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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Joshua Hendrickson

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Everything posted by Joshua Hendrickson

  1. Easy--Big Brother in 1984. I know Big Brother isn't a character so much as the symbol of the rulers, so I could say O'Brien instead. Either way, Big Brother/O'Brien is the most terrible villain in all imaginative literature, for one simple reason: HE WINS.
  2. 1. THE SHADOW RISING. 2. THE EYE OF THE WORLD. 3. THE GREAT HUNT. 4. THE DRAGON REBORN. 5. THE FIRES OF HEAVEN. 6. LORD OF CHAOS. After that, they all become mixed bags. I would rank KNIFE OF DREAMS as number 7 and CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT at the bottom. I haven't read THE GATHERING STORM or TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT yet. I read the short story version of NEW SPRING and don't really have any desire to read the book version.
  3. Yeah, I remember my first read-through of TEOTW and how it completely sucked me in. It still works for me on subsequent rereadings. In fact, in many ways that first book is my favorite to this day, although all of the early books in the series are equally thrilling and inventive. Jordan's flaws as a writer, unfortunately, do tend to increase rather than decrease as the series drags on. But I'm still addicted.
  4. @ Vambram: apology accepted. Sorry if I "speak with authority", but I doubt if I sound any more or less "authoritative" than anyone else on the Internet. I just don't always feel like saying "In My Opinion" when after all everything here is mere opinion. And so what if I speak an opinion which may well be contrary to the opinions of others in this forum? That isn't "taking a shot," because there is nothing personal--e.g. directed by name at an individual--about it, unlike what you wrote. It's certainly fine with me if you don't care what I would put in my top 50. No one is asking you to care. But since you make similar remarks about your own choices for the best books, and my own response to those remarks was only to agree with your choice of Greg Bear (and mention a few titles), then perhaps you might consider that it is impolite of you to tell me that you "could [not] care less." There. I hope that was polite and respectful enough to maintain the truce. As for whether science fiction and fantasy should be divided: melding the two doesn't bother me, since so much of both genres blend together quite readily. Take STAR WARS, which is hardly hard sf, but as space opera partakes of fantasy quite liberally. Or THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, which reads like sword and sorcery but which is set in the far future and is based quite solidly on scientific principles. I will agree that lists ought to be separated for clarity's sake, even if individual novels aren't always so clearly delineated. It is true that the general public doesn't differentiate much between them, and that when they do they are frequently more likely to favor sf over fantasy as a more "serious" genre (if they are inclined to think either one is "serious" at all). For those of us who care about the genres, and who know how to categorize various fictions into hard sf, soft sf, speculative fiction, sword and sorcery, gothic fantasy, supernatural and horror, etc., lists ought to be by category as well.
  5. Like you, Vambram, I am not a "major authority" on anything. I'm sorry you felt the need to take a shot at me for no apparent reason. Was it, just possibly, my mentioning of books that you (shock!) haven't heard of? There, shot returned. Can we go back to our truce now? Thanks for mentioning Greg Bear--my personal favorite of hard sf writers. I would include THE FORGE OF GOD and ANVIL OF STARS in the top 50, and maybe QUEEN OF ANGELS.
  6. Well well. Another list, another controversy. I agree with most of the choices, though frequently not with the rankings. I suppose THE LORD OF THE RINGS is inevitably going to rank first, and I suppose I needn't argue with that judgment, but there are others with which I must argue. For instance, Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS is a good book, but it's really nothing compared with his SANDMAN, and I don't think his charming but lightweight STARDUST belongs on the list, nor his rather-too-contrived NEVERWHERE. I love HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY as much as anyone, but #2? Really? And it's hard for me to see Gene Wolfe's THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN so far down the list--Wolfe can write circles around just about anyone else on this list. I would rank Gregory Maguire's WICKED much higher as well. FOUNDATION is overrated. Niven and Pournelle's THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE is a deserving classic, but LUCIFER'S HAMMER is not. And, sorry, WOT fans, but WOT simply is ranked too high--its merits are great, but its flaws really ought to push it down into the bottom 50. What's missing, that I would include? GORMENGHAST, by Mervyn Peake. CEREBUS, the enormous 6000-page graphic novel by Dave Sim--a particularly egregious exclusion, considering that SANDMAN and WATCHMEN, also great graphic novels, make the cut, and the authors of those works would, if asked, absolutely not choose to exclude CEREBUS. Also, while 1984 deservedly makes the top ten, the great and influential (on both Orwell and Huxley) dystopia WE, by Yevgeny Zamyatin is ignored. Some older and less famous but no less influential books have also been ignored, such as William Hope Hodgson's THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLANDS and THE NIGHT LAND, and THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddings. Stephen King is well represented by THE DARK TOWER and THE STAND, but his masterpiece, IT, is missing. Of course, these lists being as subjective and inconsequential as they are, I should probably stop grumbling now and check out some of the unfamiliar titles that made the list.
  7. I won't be in that lynch mob. I think THE LORD OF THE RINGS is impressive, iconic, and unquestionably influential; Tolkien definitely created the fantasy mold of the 20th century. But you know, I don't love it either. I tried reading it once and got bogged down in the dull parts of THE TWO TOWERS. Years later I tried again and got through all of it, and enjoyed it, but I must say I have never felt any desire to read it again. THE HOBBIT, on the other hand, I read first as a kid and several times since, and have always found it charming. I have read parts of THE SILMARILLION but have no desire to read all of it. As for TWILIGHT, I wrote a research paper last year about the deeply conservative, prudish antifeminism contained in it. It is, IMO, the most pernicious piece of popular fiction around these days. It is definitely scary; no "kind of" about it.
  8. Thanks for the tip about Goodkind. I've never read Goodkind, never really wanted to, but then I knew nothing about the author. Now that I know that it's essentially a rip-off of the worst writer and most pitiful philosopher of all time, Ayn Rand, I know who not to read. So I suppose my own Most Overrated Book would be THE FOUNTAINHEAD, ATLAS SHRUGGED, WE THE LIVING, and everything else by Ayn Rand. This isn't directed solely at whoever I'm quoting, just anybody with their crazy ideas about TG in general and I'm not attacking anyone so I don't mean anything I say to offend anyone. Though it is in defense of TG and tSoT, so I'm not expecting too much forgiveness. :] It's really not essentially that at all. Is TG anywhere close the literary genius that is Robert Jordan? No, of course not. Is he the worst fantasy writer around for the past 20 years? Again, not even close. Yes, obviously TG likes Ayn Rand, obviously he incorporated certain beliefs of her philosophical approach of Objectivism. But if that's all it takes to be considered ripping someone off and making anything coming after it, by association crap, then oh noes, cause The Two Rivers is the Shire. And Moiraine is Gandalf. And Lan is Aragorn. And Fain is Gollum. Trollocs are orcs. The DO is Sauron....And I guess all the Forsaken would have to be saruman, just split into different facets. Which I guess would have to make Rand Frodo and Mat and Perrin Pippin and Merry and Thom Sam. Now obviously (I hope) I don't buy any of that. But that idea to me is just as ridiculous as yours towards TG and tSoT. So Mr. Joshua Hendrikson, I would advise not taking Chief91592 at their, I'm sure, very informed word and just trying to books out for yourself. You may or may not like them. But to discard them immediately based on a post by someone with an insubstantial (And very, very, very tired) accusation of plagiarism...Well I think you'd be doing yourself a disservice. Just my two cents. Maybe three cents, I don't know that works anymore. :] Thanks. But it isn't a question of plagiarism. Everyone has influences, and some writers have greater skill at incorporating those influences than others: for instance, Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan both are heavily influenced by Tolkien, but Brooks is less skilled at digesting that influence and transforming it into his own unique work than is Jordan (though I don't think Jordan is particularly good at it either). As a great poet (whose name eludes me for the moment) once said, "Bad poets borrow; great poets steal." It's not about that at all. It is about the influence of Objectivism in particular, which you do confirm for me. To me, Ayn Rand is the Dark One. I don't want to have anything to do with any writer who is influenced by her, if I can help it.
  9. I see some faves of mine popping up here: DUNE, GORMENGHAST, THE DARK TOWER. I won't defend these books: if you don't like them, you don't like them. They're not for everyone. But I will say that no one should pick up GORMENGHAST looking for a thriller. That's not what it's about ... although I do think the fight between Flay and Swelter is the best fight I've ever read in a book.
  10. Thanks for the tip about Goodkind. I've never read Goodkind, never really wanted to, but then I knew nothing about the author. Now that I know that it's essentially a rip-off of the worst writer and most pitiful philosopher of all time, Ayn Rand, I know who not to read. So I suppose my own Most Overrated Book would be THE FOUNTAINHEAD, ATLAS SHRUGGED, WE THE LIVING, and everything else by Ayn Rand.
  11. Perhaps the definition of anti-hero has to do with scruples. Rand and Batman and Spiderman all have scruples--they are not ruthless, and will not cross certain lines. Roland, however, is ruthless in his quest for the Dark Tower, and sacrifices everything to get it--with exactly the kind of results that he deserves. I won't throw out a spoiler for that story, but if you've read all the books in THE DARK TOWER and you know how it ends, you know what I mean.
  12. I think we need to define "anti-hero" because I just don't see Rand or Batman or Spiderman in that category. Roland Deschain, however, I think would qualify, especially as we get to know him in the first and the last books of THE DARK TOWER. To me a real anti-hero would be someone like Alex Delarge in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE or Humbert Humbert in LOLITA--not good guys by any stretch of the imagination but ones with whom we come to identify through the course of their stories. Tyrion in A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE might qualify as well. Of comic book characters, Rorschach from WATCHMEN seems to fit, and of course Cerebus the Aardvark from Dave Sim's incomparable graphic novel CEREBUS.
  13. So you think Lanfear isn't evil now, or just wasn't evil before, as Mierin, she drilled the Bore? In my book, a ruthless quest for power equals evil, regardless of what the person in question thinks of his or herself.
  14. "If youse be makins fun of me pronunskiashun, I'll be demandins an apologiky." --Popeye the Sailor Even with the glossary and several rereadings, I screw up pronouncing many terms. My first time through I thought Cairhien was "Kai-ruh-hayn" and read Nynaeve as "Nin-uh-vay." And it wasn't until my current (fifth) reading that I gave Tar Valon the proper syllabic emphasis. It isn't worth worrying about.
  15. Ah, the old question of theodicy! You know, if God is good why is there evil, and all the attendant complexities such a question implies. Really, presuming that there is a Creator (in the real world, not the universe of WOT) opens up a great big can of worms. It is so much simpler to go along with the idea that there is no greater meaning or purpose to life, even if that doesn't satisfy the majority of human beings and their need for self-importance. (Not that I lack that particular need, of course. I'm just perfectly content to make it up for myself, and don't understand why others seem to need to have it given to them by an imaginary deity.) Take a disc (well, a wheel), divide it into black and white halves (sound like any symbol we know?), and give it a good fast spin. It's going to look pretty grey. Of course, there really isn't much ambiguity in WOT and I understand that Jordan himself decried the idea of grey areas of morality, at least in his fictional world (if not in life itself, although anyone who doesn't accept shades of grey in real life is unlikely to tolerate them in art). So I doubt if Jordan intended to imply that the Creator "wasn't all that," any more than he expected us to doubt the moral stalwartness of Rand, Mat, Perrin, Nynaeve, Loial, Egwene, Lan, et al. Although ... once in a while Jordan was capable of giving us a grey shade or two, notably in the character of Ingtar, who remains my favorite minor character, at least from the early books, precisely because of that ambiguity. I'm reminded of the blurb from writer Orson Scott Card for TEOTW which praised Jordan for his "powerful vision of good and evil." I agree it is powerful, but it isn't very complex or nuanced or even terribly realistic. Card, a devout Mormon, is himself (at least in the one novel of his I have read, ENDER'S GAME) concerned with good and evil but certainly recognizes the ambiguities involved rather better than Jordan ever did.
  16. ive read that series, i liked it, but i was proabably a little to young by the time. has he written any other fantasy/scifi series? Oh yes, Wolfe has written plenty. THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN has five books in all: The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, The Citadel of the Autarch, and The Urth of the New Sun. There are two other series set in the same universe, called THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN and THE BOOK OF THE SHORT SUN. There are also shorter, stand-alone novels in the fantasy genre such as Castleview, Free Live Free, Peace, There Are Doors, and others. More recently Wolfe has written a two-novel sequence set in one of the most interesting, unique fantasy worlds ever created, whose titles are The Knight and The Wizard.
  17. Plot shields around major characters are certainly to be expected. For instance, as I recall, out of all the major and minor protagonists in THE LORD OF THE RINGS only Boromir and Theoden actually die, and of course Gandalf's supposed death in Moria was a red herring (even if it did serve the function of empowering him to overcome Saruman). But series like DUNE or GORMENGHAST or A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE show that you can incorporate the deaths of major characters and thereby enrich the story ... and I believe those are better works of fiction than WOT or TLOTR. Frankly, I wish Moiraine had been allowed to die a true and heroic death--not because I disliked her (I like her a lot) but because it would have leant gravitas and meaning to her sacrifice. The sufferings, dismemberments, and endangerment of major characters are necessary for story development, and it's good that Jordan included a good deal of this, but they don't often seem to have a whole lot of impact, though I am grateful when they do. As far as sexism goes, I think that the idea that Jordan meant for his world to be a reversal of the standard pre-feminist human society is correct. Our own world is only barely beginning to reverse the misogynistic standards of the past. By the future time of the Age of Legends, it would be logical to presume that true equality of the sexes had been achieved. After the Breaking, when only women have (or are allowed to have) awesome magical powers, it only makes sense that misandry and backlashes against it (i.e. Whitecloaks) would reign supreme. So all of that "sexism" is probably intentional, even if it does get wearying to the reader.
  18. Just because I like WOT doesn't mean it doesn't deserve criticism. I think a lot of WOT fans have a love/hate relationship with the series and its creator. We recognize that WOT is immense, complex, and impressive, but we don't think Jordan was the greatest writer (or even necessarily a good one) or that his creation is flawless. Flaws and all, I keep coming back to it....
  19. Far-future (or "ancient future") stories always fascinate me when they hint at the distant, misunderstood past. My favorite example of all time is from Gene Wolfe's THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, which is set, literally, billions of years from now. An old photograph depicts a man in armor with a golden mirror visor, holding a stiff banner, and standing in a desolate landscape. Our main character, Severian the Torturer's Apprentice, asks a curator to explain the picture, and the curator says that it's a man on the moon. Severian has a hard time relating that to the moon he knows, which is irrigated and forested. I really hope that Wolfe has some fans here; IMO, he's the best writer alive, regardless of genre.
  20. The first two or three books were written and published before the collapse of the Soviet Union, when everybody still naturally presumed "Mosk" and "Merk" were inevitably heading towards a showdown.
  21. Thank you for the apology. However, I see that you are twisting around my words with gross exaggerations. Seriously, give me an honest answer. If a person has been reading fantasy books for 30 years as I have, doesn't it make logical sense that said person would have at least have HEARD about Peake's trilogy if that trilogy was a very good and very well known piece of literature? I asked you a legitimate question, ... with some attitude behind the question, I'll admit, and in response I get little more than attacks against me by others before you, and then you yourself. Now I am being shown again why I dislike coming to the WOT General Discussion forums because of all of the hyper-critical posts that I read here. @Vambram: An honest answer about how you managed to miss something out there in the wide world? How could I know that? I don't know you or what you've read. Doubtless your bookshelves and mine have some contents in common and not others. All I can tell you is this: I read a lot of novels, and I also read a lot of books about novels, i.e. literary criticism. It was while reading one such critical tome back in high school (back in the 1980s) that I learned about Gormenghast (as well as most of the authors and works that I have since read and come to love). But I don't imagine that there are no good authors that I've never heard of. It is a strange, rather defensive claim to make, saying in effect that if you haven't heard of it it must not be any good. Look, I'm not here to fight with you. I don't mean to twist your words, but I can only interpret them as I read them. I don't mean to be rude or boorish. And opinions are like assholes: everybody's got one, and the bigger the opinion, the bigger the asshole. So I apologize once again for my assholish behavior, though not for my opinion, which is just this: no matter how good you or I or anyone else thinks WOT (or anything else) is, there's always something better. Except maybe for Shakespeare. I'm sorry you've never heard of Peake before. He's not that obscure, though. The books were published in the 1940s and 50s. Peake was a famous British poet and painter in his day, and he died fairly young of encephalitis. The books were never as popular as Tolkien's stuff but they did have a good run during the fantasy-friendly 60s, and have stayed in print. The BBC produced a four hour television miniseries adaptation of the first two (and most relevant) books in the trilogy back in the year 2000, I believe; Christopher Lee, Fiona Shaw, and Johnathan Rhys-Meyers were amongst the stars. Be aware that Gormenghast (as I have said in another post) is not sword and sorcery style fantasy, lacking magic and monsters; if that is the only sort of fantasy you have read (which I will not presume) then it is unlikely that you will have heard of it. All I can say is that he is out there, he has been influential on many other writers, and has an enduring (not to say cult) following. Truce?
  22. Yes, COT was terrible--boring and inconsequential. The nadir of the series. The only memorable moments from COT are those times when Aes Sedai and others sense the massive amount of the One Power being used at Shadar Logoth, leaving them all awestruck and uneasy. That was cool. Everything else ... uggh. Winter's Heart, on the other hand, I enjoyed ... or at least, I remember enjoying the Cleansing of Saidin and ensuing battle; quite thrilling, that. Yes, Gormenghast is "different." It is not at all akin to the sword and sorcery sort of fantasy that is so often taken for the whole of fantasy literature by some of its readers. No magic, no monsters. But there's incredible atmosphere, an epic sense of scale in the Castle itself, and the characters are of a very high literary quality. I for one think Gormenghast is a better fantasy than WOT or even The Lord of the Rings, but it is certainly not capable of enchanting as large an audience as works such as those, and in any case they are simply too unalike for a meaningful comparison. And yes, Steerpike surely is reminiscent of other ruthless villain types, but we get to know him in an almost Shakespearean way, the same as we do the other people in the story. By the way, the duel between Flay and Swelter in the first book is probably the greatest fight I've ever read in a novel. It is understood amongst fans of Peake that the third book in the Gormenghast trilogy is not as good as the first two; it's even weirder, and lacks focus. Peake was dying from a kind of encephalitis during the years he struggled to write it, and the strain shows. Like Robert Jordan, he didn't get a chance to finish his masterpiece.
  23. Didn't say anything of the sort. Just thought it was quite odd that you would use when it was published to make a conclusion on the "vast majority" not having read Gormenghast. Or even better questioning the quality of the work because you hadn't heard of it. As for me I thought the first two books were quite well done...third not so much. His descriptive style along with dark, surrealist influences really make it unique. So, you were one of the small percentage of fantasy readers that are still alive today whom have read Peake's books. Congrats. As to why I think I am qualified to determine whether or not a series is better than the WOT? Well, because I have been reading fantasy books for 30 years.. and because I have read books from several other genres, then it is safe for me to believe that if I have not heard of a fantasy book series, then the probability is very high that it ain't as good as Robert Jordan's WOT series. Oh my god. I was going to apologize for being an arse: even if my comment was relatively mild, it was still rude. And being a gentleman, I still will: I apologize for being an arse. But seriously--to equate your imperfect knowledge with perfect sight-unseen critical judgment? How arrogant and ignorant can you get?
  24. Materese, a reference to Mother Theresa? Not bad. Also a great example of the passage of time changing the meaning of things. Not just that our Mother Theresa isn't magical, but that she's immensely overrated as a human being ... not that truth has anything to do with legends.
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