Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Power that Preserves (1977)

The Power that Preserves (1977) concludes the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. If you'e made it this far, you surely know what you expecting, giving you a grimly grim experience of grimdon. If you've enjoyed the series so far, you'll get more of what you expected, but even more so. If you don't like Thomas Covenant, then I can't fathom why you're even bothering. And if you're on the fence, this book will most likely knock you off the fence, onto your back, and kick you in the belly, just for good measure. This book doesn't believe in wishy-washiness.

After a week back in the real world, Thomas Covenant returns to the Land. Lord Foul has the world in a grip of eternal winter, a magical polar vortex. His army marches towards Revelstone, well over 200,000 strong. In desperation, the Lords call on Covenant once more.

After that, it gets grim.

When I was sixteen, I thought this among the best fantasy novels that I'd ever read. I'm not sixteen any more, so I can admit that I was wrong. What seemed cool and complex then seems rather contrived now. I'm not going to knock Donaldson for trying, for seeking to make a more meaningful fantasy novel. In many ways, he succeeded, but to get there, you need to go through an emotionally hostile work. The emotional and philosophic grind tolls you far more than the conclusion uplifts you. If you expect the nature of the book to fill your abstract needs, then like a food with costs more calories than it gives, gorging yourself only leaves you feeling emptier.

When I was sixteen, I read every word. On this read through, I skimmed massively. Any editor could easily cut half the words from this story without altering either the mood or the world building. Like they say up north, for what it is, there sure is a lot of it.