Friday, October 25, 2013

a Last Dark review on Sunday, perhaps

My buddy Charles is in the area for a conference, so I'll be hanging out with him and his lovely wife in Pohang for much of tomorrow. There may be photos after that outing, but there's also a very good chance that I won't be blogging anything until Sunday. So if I do review The Last Dark, Sunday's the earliest day that'll happen.



Surprises Aplenty said...

Kevin, I was thinking about the First Chronicles and seem to remember a lot of British Columbia placenames. Well, at least one: Revelstoke. I think there are more but it's been a while. Am I way off base with this?

I don't share your infatuation with the books, but I think I need to reread the first trilogy again. In my youth, I thought that his unbelief was simply a way to revive the old 'reluctant hero' cliche rather than a core feature of the book. Maybe I will become infatuated with it upon a second read.

Kevin Kim said...


I didn't know there was a Revelstoke, BC, but Revelstoke sure sounds like Revelstone, the Giant-wrought fortress-promontory that sits in the northwest corner of the Land in Donaldson's alternate universe.

Can't say I blame you re: not being as charmed by the fantasy series as I am. You're in good company: many disappointed readers find fault with Donaldson. They say he basically ripped off Lord of the Rings, or that he put his characters through too much hell, or that there was no reason for Covenant to rape poor Lena in the first book of the First Chronicles, Lord Foul's Bane. So yeah, I can understand people's disenchantment with Donaldson's work. It's not for everybody.

"In my youth, I thought that his unbelief was simply a way to revive the old 'reluctant hero' cliche rather than a core feature of the book."

Many observers call Thomas Covenant an "antihero" because his actions are, for the most part, exactly the opposite of the actions that a hero would take: the man is cowardly, dithering, and morally wretched. He's presented with a million opportunities to embrace his power and use it for good, but he spurns every chance that comes his way. In short, Thomas Covenant is decidedly not a likeable character.

But he becomes more likeable by the end of the First Chronicles, and he's a committed lover of the Land (and by extension, the alternate Earth) in the Second Chronicles, and by the Last Chronicles, he's spent thousands of years as a cosmic figure bolstering the Arch of Time, enjoying near-godlike omniscience until Linden Avery brings him back to his mortal, limited, embodied self (sorry for the spoiler).

I'm still ambivalent about whether a Final Chronicles even needed to be written. You may recall that the second part of White Gold Wielder was titled "Apotheosis." After you basically become a god, where can you go from there? The Wachowskis encountered the same narrative problem with Neo in "The Matrix": Neo experiences his Buddha/Christ fulfillments in the very first movie... then in the third movie he's called upon to be the self-sacrificing Christ again? It didn't work for me. You shouldn't overuse your Christ-imagery.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I'm in basic agreement with you. Donaldson's series isn't going to be to everyone's liking, and it may well be that Covenant, viewed either as "reluctant hero" or as antihero, just isn't that sympathetic a character.

That said, I enjoyed the series, even the Final Chronicles, because the whole thing was so meaty, religiously and philosophically speaking. Questions of fate and freedom, enlightenment and ignorance, madness and sanity, power and the strictures of power—these issues are all at play throughout all three Chronicles.