Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In Defense of Doanldson

I am going to put it right out there and admit, I hate the Covenant series. The ridiculously antagonistic so called hero of the series really gets on my nerves. His existence is like nails on a chalkboard and I can honestly say that I will never recommend the book to anyone I know … if they are looking for traditional heroes. Ones that are the epitome of what we consider heroes. The testosterone loaded male whose gorgeous face and charismatic persona makes girls want him and guys want to be him.

If, however, you are looking for something a little bit different then allow me to introduce Thomas Covenant or ‘Tommy C’ as I have affectionately come to know him – a selfish, whiny coward who lost two fingers and his whole life to leprosy. I’m not gonna lie, as much as I hate this series, Donaldson has done something brilliant here. He intentionally corrupts one of the most long-standing symbols in fantasy: the "our world" individual who is transported to another world. Typically the “our world” individual will be transported into a new world, come to value whatever he learns there, be a hero and save the day, and then returns to the original world a better person for it.

Not our boy Tommy C, he gets pulled into a new universe, refuses to believe anything and therefore feels he is not responsible of the world is destroyed. His lack of control of the white gold (his wedding ring) and his bottomless well of self-loathing, confusion, cynicism and rage endanger his friends even as they battle Lord Foul for nine books. He is not satisfied being reluctant to take part in a grand adventure, but is also entirely unwilling to participate or even believe in the reality of his circumstances. This is the brilliance of the Donaldson’s series, that the other world traveler/hero is so crippled in every sense of the word that he is not in any way the man you’d want call when you needed help, not even to borrow a pen. This in effect leaves the reader completely unsure of who to root for, the bad guy or the bad hero. (I chose the bad guy). Tommy C's not even an anti-hero. I'm gonna create a new category for future reference myself and nominate Tommy C as the first bastard-hero.

Can Donaldson be considered a major author? I’m not sold on that because I feel that to be a major author, you have to do more than just be different ... you actually have to write well. But I do give him serious props for going against the grain and challenging the typical practices of fantasy.

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