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Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant Series

Jun. 4th, 2015 | 12:15 pm

“Well, I’m back,” he said.

That is the last line in The Return of the King, as many of you will know. It was also the moment when a 12 year old me said, “What do I do now?”

I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings all in a row back then, and those were the books that made me truly love reading. I liked to read before, but after Tolkien’s masterpiece I became ravenous for books, fantasy in particular. When I read that final sentence (said by Sam Gamgee, by the way), a huge hole opened up and I had no idea how to fill it. This was 1985, mind you; way before Amazon’s algorithms could recommend similar books, or a visit to SFFWorld.com could fill a to-read list, or a quick Google search could show you thousands of titles to choose from.

So there I was with no book to read and no way to find another except to look through the library’s shelves. I kind of miss those days actually. Searching the stacks was one of my favorite things, but I digress.

Eventually I went to the library at Park View Junior High School (go Cougars!), and this skinny seventh grader stumbled upon a book entitled Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson. I had never heard of the author, but the spine said it was a Del Rey book and it was book one of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Del Rey, a fantasy publisher, was known to me and this particular book was the first of a trilogy. Awesome, just like The Lord of the Rings! Once I confirmed that the school library had books two and three as well I was in. I now had Lord Foul’s Bane in my possession and I started to read it.

Just like The Lord of the Rings? Well, the protagonist has a ring which is a source of great power in the place he finds himself, but other than that? Not really. This main character, Thomas Covenant, could not be more different from Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli or any of them. It was a bit jarring at first, reading about this angry man who does something really awful within the first 100 pages or so, but I kept with it and absolutely loved it.

This book, a type now called “portal fantasy”, really appealed to my sense of wonder, as the main character is from our world and is transported to another, simply called the Land. Let me remind you that I was 12 and was just dipping my feet into the Genre (that’s right, I capitalized it), so many of these ideas were completely new to me. I would think about how cool it would be for something like that to happen to me. That in addition to Mr. Donaldson’s descriptions of the world he had created and its inhabitants had me hook, line and sinker quite quickly.

I flew through those three books. Of course I was too young to fully grasp everything about this very grown up story, but upon the 2 re-reads of the series (one about 10 years ago and one very recently) I noticed just how remarkable a writer Mr. Donaldson is. His prose is really quite lyrical, especially the way his characters speak. Although high action doesn’t happen very often, when it does it is very dramatic. I have yet to come across another author who stirs emotion quite like him.

After finishing that trilogy I read some other stuff, including the first 3 Xanth books by Piers Anthony and some others which I don’t really remember. Then while looking around a bookstore while on vacation in New Hampshire the summer between 8th and 9th grade (1987), I discovered the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. You can probably imagine my excitement. My birthday falls in the summer, so my parents bought me all 3 books as a gift. I still have those books today. They have been read 3 times and are not in the best shape, but they will always have a place on my bookshelf. The first book in the trilogy, The Wounded Land, remains one of the top 5 best books I’ve ever read.

Many years after finishing the Second Chronicles I heard that a Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant was in the works. I wondered how Mr. Donaldson would pull this off, but I had no doubt that he could. One of the remarkable things about him is his ability to make things so completely different among his series. All three Chronicles have their own distinct identity.

I've finished the Last Chronicles just a few hours ago, and I am so very satisfied with its ending. Mr. Donaldson has wrapped up this very important saga wonderfully, and I will miss Thomas Covenant, Linden Avery, the Haruchai, the Giants, ur-viles, waynhim, Forestals, and even Lord Foul and his ravers very much.

I have read hundreds of books, and have loved and been deeply affected by many of them. But no series stands closer to my heart than Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant.

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Stone of Tears Real Time Review Part 1

Dec. 10th, 2009 | 12:20 pm

This is the first of my "Real Time Reviews" in which I will talk about my feelings for a book while I'm reading it. I think this will work better for me as the events that take place will be fresh in my mind. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: There may (will) be some spoilers in this Real Time Review.

So I’ve started reading Stone of Tears, book 2 in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I’m roughly 200 pages into it, and much like the first book, Wizard’s First Rule, it’s merely okay.

I like the introduction of some new characters, and I also like the new antagonist, the Keeper of the Underworld who is trying to escape into the land of the living. But I also have issues with these two items.

The Keeper is trying to escape to the land of the living through a tear in the “veil”, which Richard (the protagonist) accidentally made while killing Darken Rahl in the first book. This veil is what holds the Keeper in the Underworld. The Underworld is where the dead go. It does not seem like a very good place, as this Keeper is an evil entity. The characters keep saying if the Keeper escapes, the dead will escape with him and all hell will break loose. Okay, cool. Sounds like something that should be stopped. I am totally on board with it. It is unclear to me if this Underworld is where all dead souls go, or just the bad ones. From what I’ve read so far it seems like it’s where they all go, but I hope I’m wrong. It seems a little depressing and bleak for people if they believe they go to a place of suffering when they die, don’t you think? Where is the motive for leading a good life? Maybe I’m getting a little too hung up on this, but I can’t get past it. I wish I knew the deal with it.

New characters. Always good when continuing a series. These new characters have a purpose which seems important. They are women who find young boys with the “gift” for sorcery. Those with the gift are born with it, and this brings danger. They must be trained to use this gift before it gets out of control and kills them. Again, cool. I am on board with this as well. But I liked these women a lot better when they were called Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. There are way too many similarities which I will not list here. I’ve seen many message board posts about this issue, but I thought at first people were talking about Goodkind’s Confessors being similar to Jordan’s Aes Sedai. I couldn’t find all that many similarities between those two other than Confessors and Aes Sedai are mostly women, and male Confessors = BAD. The same with Aes Sedai. But when I started reading about these “Sisters of the Light”, I realized that this must be what all that chatter was about.

Richard and Kahlan are getting progressively more annoying. They are in love. I get it. Enough with the lame-ass, mushy dialogue. Some of their talks remind me of, “No you hang up.” “Not until you hang up.” “But I won’t until you hang up.”

It makes me want to throw up on my shoes.

But there’s something that makes me like the story anyway. I see a good plotline buried in there somewhere, and I want to find out what happens. Maybe it’s the TV show that keeps me going with the books. Although I learned very early in my reading of the first book that the TV show doesn’t really follow the books much.

More later.

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The Warrior Prophet

Jun. 2nd, 2009 | 11:41 am

The Judging Eye, which picks up 20 years after the events in The Prince of Nothing trilogy of which The Warrior Prophet is the 2nd part, was released recently. So I am re-reading The Prince of Nothing to refresh myself, as I am wont to do. This is my 3rd time through The Warrior Prophet, and I can say in all seriousness that it gets better each time. R. Scott Bakker writes at a level I’ve never experienced before. His books are very deep, and each time I’ve re-read one of them I’ve picked things up that I’d missed before. They are also not easy reads. Bakker forces you to think, and just when you think you have it figured out, your mind changes. 

The lead characters in this book are extremely flawed; some have issues that would find them in prison for a very long time in our society. But Bakker has a way to make you like these characters anyway, and when they do something awful, you remember that you shouldn’t like them at all. But you know what? You can’t help yourself. Kellhus is a cunning manipulator who will do or say anything to further his own designs, but I find myself deceived time and again when I root for him to reach his goals. Cnaiur, the “most violent of all men”, is a raping murderer, but his scenes are so powerful as he slips further and further into madness that I can’t wait for his point of view to return. The Holy War, who the characters travel and fight with, is itself something impure. They fight for the God, but what kind of god would condone the ruthless bloodshed these fanatics unleash upon the “heathens”? Even though the Holy War is a farce, I find myself wanting them to defeat the heathens in the fantastic battle scenes which are some of the most gripping I’ve read.

The magic system in this world, called Earwa, is second to none. The sorcerors belong to certain “schools”, depending on what kind of magic they wield. Oh, yeah. According to the religion of the men in the Holy War, sorcerors are damned because they “wield the power of the God”. The Faithful shun sorcerors and think them unclean for what they do. But this doesn’t stop them from employing the Scarlet Spires, the largest school in Earwa. They know if they are to defeat the heathen Fanim people and their eyeless Cishaurim sorcerors, they will need to have a school on their side. It is believed by the sorcerors that they all must belong to a school. Otherwise you are deemed a “wizard”, a rogue who must be hunted down and killed.

I mustn’t forget about the Mandate Schoolman Drusas Achamian, who is one of the only truly good people in these books. His school’s most important task is to prevent the Second Apocalypse, and there are signs that this event is drawing nigh. This trilogy centers on the Holy War, and their attempt at conquest of the Fanim, and the rise in power of Annasurimbor Kellhus. But, in the background, there is something much more sinister brewing as the agents behind the Second Apocalypse gather strength.

This trilogy is not for the faint of heart. Earwa is a brutal, caste oriented place to live. If you are one of the have-nots, life is terribly difficult for you. The story is dark, violent, and at times depressing, but it is like nothing else and I love it.

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Caine Black Knife

Oct. 14th, 2008 | 12:30 pm

Caine Black Knife  by Matthew Stover releases today.  Do yourself a favor and order a copy from Amazon. 

You will not regret it.

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My First Blog Entry

Oct. 12th, 2008 | 08:44 am
location: at home
music: White Zombie - Thrust

You're reading this blog and wondering why. I know because I'm wondering the same thing.  Well, my name is Mike Dusseault, I'm 35 years old, and I live in Rhode Island.  This means that I'm a Red Sox fan, and I'm very angry at that underachiever Josh Beckett right now.  I'll get over it, though, because I know what he did for the Sox last year, and his playoff resume' is strong.

But I digress.

I originally started this blog (months ago) for a place to post my writing online.  You see, I am an aspiring fantasy writer and this seems like the best way for me to get people reading my stuff, right?  Well, I've been slacking in that department,  but I promise you that I will remedy that situation soon.  That would be the "Writings" part of the blog title.

I also think that I'll be posting "Random Nothingness-es" as well.  Hence the little Beckett rant. 

Hopefully you enjoy both.

I play in a dart league.  Does that sound lame?  Probably, but it's fun and if it weren't for darts, I would never have met my lovely wife.  So, go lameness!  Anyway, I was at darts Tuesday night playing tunes on the jukebox.  It was one of those cool ones that downloads and we had quite a few credits in there, so after I put in the usual suspects (Megadeth, Metallica, NIN and so forth) I was struggling for songs.  Then I saw that they had Mazzy Star.  Are you familiar with them?  they're a 90's alternative band with a female singer, very mellow.  So I played their biggest hit, "Fade Into You".  Apparently not the song to play while you're in a bar with a bunch of dudes.  Cries of, "What the hell is this?" and "My God, I think I'm gonna fall asleep" abounded.  There were also accusations as to who played the song, "Did you play this song, you gaylord?"  Luckily I escaped.  A friend of mine on my team knew I played it, and I was grateful that he didn't out me.  Lesson learned.  Who knew a song would cause such disruption?

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