Friday, December 24, 2010

Richard Rahl Raised my Taxes.

I'm going to try and explain my seemingly quixotic quest to finish the Sword of Truth series, despite it being mostly unpalatable.. After watching the Television show, and rather enjoying it for what it was.. I was some what dismayed that it was canceled just as it seemed to be finding its direction. I felt the first season was padded considerably, and that the idea of adapting 1 book per season for an 11 book series was insane as the actors would age considerably in 11 years time.. So when the second season was announced along with the notation it would be adapting books two, three and parts of 4.. I felt they would be making a much better show. The second season was better, but it was the last.

In researching this series, I kept coming across references to how bad it was.. surely not I thought to myself, since the TV show was alright. And besides, so many of the people attacking the series spent the rest of their time exalting books from authors I can't stand.. Maybe it's just a difference of Opinion I thought. With that I made my first mistake. I set out and relatively quickly read the first 5 books in the series. There were a lot of differences between the books and the show.. but over all it was a decent enough adaption. I've read a lot of not so good Genre fiction, and considering these to be fair to middling, epic fantasy I decided to continue. This was where I made my second mistake. When I got to Volume 6 of the series, Faith of the Fallen, I realized just how accurate all of the reviews on the internet were. This is a book which you either like or you don't. But, I'd started the series, and spent a good bit of money buying it before I realized how bad the series really was..

After taking a few weeks away from Richard and Kahlan, I picked up Volume 7, Pillars of Creation. This book was a marked and drastic improvement on the previous. It featured new characters, and unveiled a considerable amount of background information about the Sword of Truth world. It began to drag towards the end when Richard and Kahlan showed up, and lead immediately into Volume 8, Naked Empire, and thats when the squealing brakes, and thundering blast of a train's horn begin to penetrate your inner Ear. By the time Richard is on his 3rd soliloquy on the nobility of the human spirit (so long as you agree with him 100%, and aren't a pacifist) you start to hear the screams of the dieing inside the cattle cars being pulled by that train that just wrecked. And so at this point, it ceased being a "read them because you paid for them" type of mindset, and became more of a "Read them just to see HOW bad they actually get" sort of mindset. Volume #8 is also the one where Richard and his half sister have a rather lengthy discussion on the right of hair to live on your head... yeah, I still don't get it..

The books never really get better, they go from being a generically plotted fantasy series to simply having no plot. Richard repeatedly falls of logical traps, at one time explaining that a group of people shouldn't hold him responsible for his fathers deeds, and follows that up by blaming that entire group for the deeds of one of its members. In this process he becomes every bit the dark lord his father was at the beginning of the first book. Even if he's doing it for more noble reasons than his father, the outcome is still basically the same. He murders pacifists for refusing to fight his enemies, He dispatches kill teams of soldiers into the heart of his enemy's lands instructing them to inflict pain on the civilian population and disrupt the supplies of the enemy force. What follows is debauchery and depravity as his soldiers rape and torch at will.

At the end of the series we wind up with "Woods guide" Richard, married to Mother Confessor Kahlan, living in the People's Palace of D'Hara.. ruling high and mightily over his subject empire. The problem with this is, that the books from volume 6 onwards, are essentially one long anti-government screed. So how exactly can Richard rule this massive empire without some form of government interference in peoples lives? Surely he must have a police force, and we've seen repeatedly he has an enormous military. How does he pay these soldiers he dispatches to slash and burn the Old world? Clearly when one is dealing with the concept of an entirely hands off, free market system, one needs to be conscious of the fact that infrastructure costs money. Palaces don't upkeep themselves, roads don't build them selves, armies don't just magically have full bellies. All of these sorts of questions would have, had they not even been answered but at least brought up, dramatically improved these books. Instead they simply became a case of "Richard is right, everyone else is wrong 100% of the time" and that was annoying and grating and I fail to see what anyone sees in these books which makes them so popular.

All in all my conclusion is that the television series was a dramatic improvement over the books. It kept all of the fun interesting bits, and with a judicious use of a black sharpie, redacted all of the crap that Goodkind padded the books out with and then tried to con people into thinking was actually a story. So It really is a shame that the TV series went away, had it have stuck around I doubt I would have actually read the books. My only solace is, Goodkind didn't make any money off of me.


Gabriele C. said...

The chicken that isn't a chicken but Evil Incarnate should have warned you. ;) I gave up two thirds through the first book any boy am I glad I did (I found a lot of anti-Goodkind stuff on the net later that confirmed my suspicions about the series).

Merry Christmas.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I think, as I said in the article itself, that it was purely contrariness on my part. People who liked stuff I don't like, didn't like this, so I became convinced I would like it... I wish I could say I've learned my lesson, but I doubt it.. After all I'm getting ready to start reading David Drake's epic fantasy series.. and the only name on the jacket is .. Terry Goodkind..