Fantasy and Indoctrination: Rough notes on a few fantasy novels: part one

New Spring, The Novel:

The Wheel Of Time: In The Beginning – Robert Jordan (so the cover says)

(Lord of the Rings films and Terry Brookes Shannara novels got me hooked on epic, high fantasy – and no, I have no slight embarrassment about that. I think too much. Sometimes, I just want a novel that washes over me, where I can rest my mind and NOT think. Like looking at gardening magazines, or taking a hot bath, or a sauna, fantasy novels relax my mind – but only if they are well-written, and only if the content is not overly disturbing, or disgusting, of course, as it occasionally is; such as in this case.)

If Tolkien is the grand master of fantasy (I have not read him yet, sadly, but know his story-telling of course, and it is brilliant), Terry Brookes is one of his best, shining students. This novel, however, doesn’t remotely come close to the master or his protege, it seems to me. It reads like a book written for 12 year old pre-teen girls in a rich girls boarding school. I am now at page 111, and it seems to me there have been 96 pages of filler – very boring filler, at that. Dull, with a capital D, is the first thing that comes to mind, in describing this book. Extremely dull. Master of banality, maybe – not masterful fantasy, or even mediocre fantasy. D for dismal, as well as dull, I would say.

The character development is slow, plodding, and dull. The dialogue is pre-teen banal drama, and extremely dull. The setting is, at times, a bit more interesting, but rarely. Mainly it is absent, and thus, entirely dull. And the plot is plodding, and more like a barely moving bog, than a quietly meandering stream, much less a river.

Far worse than the dullness of the writing style, however, is the content. This is a book filled with feudalism and authoritarianism – and the ideology and mythology of feudalism and authoritarianism firmly upheld – with obedience to authority, knowing one’s place, pride of place, all-pervasive consciousness of status, class and caste, cheerily accepted arrogance of those in high places, and cheerily accepted condescension, if not disdain, for the common folk below. The ethos consistently conveyed is that hierarchy, inequality, feudalism, authoritarianism and elite rule are natural, inevitable, right and good – and so, an attitude of superiority among the higher classes is presented as natural, normal, right and good; and extra privileges, along with great wealth and great power, is to be expected for the elite, naturally, along with an attitude of superiority, because, of course, they are superior – as everyone rightly knows.

So yes, whether it was intentional or not, this book acts as a good system of indoctrination for rich girls and boys who are being groomed to rule over others – and for the lower ranks and classes to accept such inequality, hierarchy, and unequal power and wealth, as normal to life.

Wonderful! Let’s all return to medieval times, in the worst sense of that period, and return to feudalism! How grand that would be!

(And that is exactly where we are heading.)

And of course, fittingly, the book is also filled with infantile, or at best adolescent, ego games and power games, scheming and manipulation, by characters of all ages and levels of status, especially the “higher” classes, and this is also presented as natural, normal, inevitable, perfectly acceptable, unavoidable, intelligent behaviour, necessary and good. Machiavelli would approve, with a sly, sickening grin, as would Thomas Hobbes. Orwell and Jefferson would roll in their graves.

This book seems to be a “prequel” to the original series that was written by Robert Jordan, and presumably, and apparently, this book was not written by him, as he had died earlier. Hopefully, the original series, written by Robert Jordan, and not a team of writers using his name, is a far better quality of writing, far more engaging, far more interesting, and above all, is not steeped in the ideology and mythology of authoritarianism, feudalism, classism and elite rule.

(After this disaster of a novel, I will try the first book of the original series, and hope it is far better, in terms of both content and style.)

I don’t know whether I can finish the book. I hate not finishing a book, even if I strongly dislike it. But this book is both dismally dull, and thoroughly disgusting in its ideology. A book filled with obvious racist and sexist ideology, or chocked to the gills with graphic, gratuitous violence, would be no worse than this. It is not only dull, it is revolting.

Bring me some Dickens, or Ursula Le Guin! Before I throw up!

JTR,
March 5, 2020

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