Skip to main content

View Diary: Sci-Fi Fantasy Club: Which Ugly SF/Fantasy Ducklings became Literary Swans? (140 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Certainly epic proportion stories, but even epics (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, lunacat, terrypinder, dandy lion

    must be about characters in order to be good fiction.  LOTR isn't about characters, it is about the world.  There is room for that, but that room is supplementary books that are textbooks of the world (like those books written about the technology of the Naboo fighters for Star Wars).  That is only one of my problems with his writing.  There are literally multiple page descriptions and dialogues that serve no purpose.

    In The Two Towers there is a three and a half page argument between Aragorn and Hama in which they don't actually disagree about anything.  Hama just keeps saying "we can't let you see Theoden while you are armed" and Aragorn says "don't touch my sword" over and over again.  Finally he puts it down and no one touches it.  The argument serves no purpose whatsoever except to add pages to the book.  The same scene in the movie?  Hama calls on the them to disarm, they do except for Gandalf's staff because Gandalf is a tricky bastard.  Much better.

    Another big problem I have is the inconsistency regarding the ring.  The supposedly pure evil ring able to corrupt anyone fails to corrupt two individuals at least that I can remember.  One is Tom Bombadil, who serves no purpose in the story but to distract and was thankfully cut when they were writing the script for the movie, and Faramir, who in the book feels no compulsion to try to claim the ring.  This severely undermines the threat posed by the ring itself and weakens the overall narrative.

    There are in all honesty only two things that I actually like better in the books.  One is the concept that there are forces of nature even more powerful than Sauron (the one I mentioned previously, however, still just annoys me).  The other is the hobbits returning to an enslaved Shire and leading a revolt against Saruman.  Again though, I feel this section was poorly written.  Tolkein is a wonderful conceptualist, but The Hobbit is really the only good thing he's written.  And Peter Jackson is doing better with that than him again.

    "There are no atheists in foxholes" isn't an argument against atheism, it's an argument against foxholes. - James Morrow

    by kirrix on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 09:14:33 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  I won't mount a sustained defense of the strengths (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, RiveroftheWest, CorinaR

      of Tolkein's work - it's too long since I read it.

      I'm not sure your repetitive three and a half page argument is a major flaw. Atlas Shrugged has a seventy page speech of turgid, tendentious propaganda, which knocks the reader into a coma. I happen to think the book just sucks, but I've seen it on several Best 100 Book lists.

      I'd have to reread that 3+1/2 page argument, to see what it added to the book. As I said, I think LOTR succeeds both in its very ambitious grand design, and in sucking readers into the experience of another world.

      I just figured Tom Bombadil came from a prelapsarian nature, and the ring couldn't touch him. I saw Jackson's first Hobbit movie, and thought he's losing Tolkein's vision, stuffing in too much of his own. But, as I said, I don't have a clear enough grasp of Tolkein's text to be certain of my arguments.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 11:14:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OMG Brecht! (7+ / 0-)
        Atlas Shrugged has a seventy page speech of turgid, tendentious propaganda, which knocks the reader into a coma. I happen to think the book just sucks
        IIRC, it was ninety pages in the mm pb version I read in high school.

        That was the didactic 90 pages that convinced me that ALL writers need good editors (b/c clearly she wouldn't stand for having her precious prose touched by someone so merely prosaic as an editor who knows something about prose style, not to mention good writing) and that The Fountainhead -- a much better book -- must have had a devil of an editor to wrestle her prose into something better than she was capable of writing.

        And I was still in high school when I had that epiphany.

        Needless to say, I never read another word of hers. Clearly she was incapable of putting them together in a readable manner.

        In other news, yeah, I'm with you: I loved LOTR and read it a whole bunch of high school. Maybe college too, although I think by then I was reading too much for classes to read much else. So...haven't been close to the text in decades.

        Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

        by Youffraita on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 11:33:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes. 'The Fountainhead' was a far better book - it (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ender, RiveroftheWest, Youffraita

          was kind of fun, mostly.

          As with Dan Brown, Ayn Rand's great success at selling poorly written books makes me wonder just what they have that does work. Maybe libertarians just like to identify with superheroes, and pretend that they're just like them, except for their tiny lives and minds.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 01:44:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Check Your Weapons At the Door (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ender, RiveroftheWest, CorinaR, Brecht

        I suspect that the reason why Tolkien devoted space to the irrelevant argument over Aragorn's sword in the Hall of Theoden is because it's the kind of thing that would occur in a Medieval tale, and because it is a point of knightly ettiquite that a Medieval audience would find important.  And Tolkien was a big-time Medievalist.

        And I think it does serve a purpose, albeit perhaps a minor one.  In the scene as written, (I'm going from memory here), Gandalf mediates in the clash between Aragorn and Hama, acting as the Voice of Reason and telling Aragorn not to be a butthead.  Having done so, when it comes his turn to relinquish his staff, Gandalf is able to say, in effect, "Hey, we're willing to comply with reasonable demands but this is stupid."  Hama feels like now he's being the butthead, and so he lets the wizard keep his funny stick.

        Contrast that with the way the scene plays out in the movie.  Hama requests that everyone relinquish their weapons.  Aragorn complies.  Gandalf refuses.  Now Gandalf is one looking like a butthead.

        Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

        by quarkstomper on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 05:56:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I have to agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, Brecht

      Because it seems to me that the fact I have been unable, in several attempts, to slog through LOTR means there is something wrong. Fans have told me that you must first read it when you are 14, and I missed this crucial deadline by several decades. As it is, LOTR takes you over the river and through the woods and across the creek and up and down the hills and through the woods again, until you are ready to scream.

      The short conclusion is that it is strictly plot-based, and I prefer character-based fiction.

      I have read and much liked The Hobbit, so it is not Middle-Earth that bothers me, it's just Tolkien's ponderous way of telling a story, and the peculiar and shallow characters he uses to tell it, that bother me.

      The movies were great, however, and I would like to go to NZ and see the beautiful mountains where they were filmed.    

      "You can observe a lot just by watching." ~ Yogi Berra

      by dandy lion on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 03:35:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tolkein forged a new kind of epic fantasy, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and his heirs have been playing with its possibilities ever since. There are writers who are trying to conjure up the same immense panoramas Tolkein did, of millenia, continents, and world-shattering wars between heroes and demons - and also to squeeze in fully developed characters.

        Alas, most who get anywhere near that end up with series twice as long as LOTR. George R. R. Martin might pull it off, with a series twice as long as LOTR, full of fascinating characters, that's actually worth reading from end to end.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 12:44:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site