Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oh Stephen Donaldson, you slay me (and my class)

The course of this blog is to be co-written by myself and Jessica Shaffer.

Let's face reality, Stephen Donaldson is to writing as the Guillotine was to Marie Antoinette. That is to say he isn't necessarily bad at what he does, but it tends to kill the spirit of whoever is reading it. We the readers see a wildly despicable anti-hero, being, well, wildly despicable. Jessica and I gathered a series of reviews, in an exercise that mirrored Amazon's book review feature. Here are some inklings of thought from the readers.

One reader states " There is no way around it, Donaldson's first Thomas Convenent book is terrible." Firstly, Covenant + Convent ( a living place for nuns) yields the spelling error of Convenent, as well as a funny mental image. My aim however, is not to belittle my peers, but more so to give their opinions a home. And what a way to start a process, the reader goes on to say "the first 30 pages read in one sitting gave me a headache, because I was forcing myself to move foreword." Doesn't that just sound like a book that you would recommend to all of your friends? "Oh I read this book the other day, the main character is a pessimistic leper with a serious tendency to swear hellfire and other sorts of balderdash!"... Oprah would be proud of these book reviews.

Alex L, another reviewer states "this book was not worth it. In the amount of time I spent reading it, I could have been ironing my socks or spending time at Jo-Ann Fabrics." I also often find myself at Jo-Ann fabrics when a poor book presents itself to be read. I hope you're sensing a pattern in the book reviews. (get it, pattern, Jo-Ann fabrics, hmm? hmm? yes you know its clever.)

Paul B loves Donaldson like Alex Rodriguez loves drug tests. In an emotionally evocative review, he accuses Donaldson of "poorly mimicking Tolkien." However, I feel as if Tolkien himself would roll in his grave had he heard His name and Donaldson's in the same sentence. Tolkien created a world, in every sense of the word. Donaldson crapped out the Land, and it's a steamer. When the stimulating force of your book relies on secondary characters to progress the story, you've got more issues than the economy.

The last of these glowing reviews is beautifully satirical. "In a bland setting with one dimensional characters, uninspired names, Dark Lords who seriously need to fire their speech writers ( be dismayed!) and a hero who is anything but heroic, Stephen Donaldson crafts '"one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time.'" This review made me emotional, the the authors verbiage was as potent as onions. He couldn't be more correct. Donaldson uses unclear and unimaginative compound names, Foamfollower and CaveWight are an example, as well as High Lord Kevin, the desecrator. I mean lets be serious, if someone were to ask you to perform a "Ritual of Desecration" how quick would you be to find anything else to do. Painting my cat or bathing my ceilings comes to mind.

So yes, almost 75% of my class submitted negative reviews, but were they really in err? Desperate Times may call for desperate measures, but the group consensus is that the times are not this desperate for a novel this disparaging.

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