Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Appendix N fail - Thomas Covenant.

I recently found the Thomas Covenant trilogy at Goodwill, and since I had never read the books, picked them up.

The trilogy is regarded as influential in the fantasy genre, particularly for its archetypal anti-hero, or unlikable, unwilling hero in the form of Thomas Covenant. He is a depressive, divorced author suffering from leprosy, who is periodically torn from the modern world and tossed into the fantasy world of "The Land." Disoriented, full of doubt, and self-loathing (hence his nickname, 'The Unbeliever'), he is mistaken as a reincarnated hero from a past conflict.

And I can't get through these books.

Slogged through Lord Foul's Bane, and am currently about halfway through The Illearth War. Hile Troy and his small force are approaching Doom's Retreat for what is, at best, a delaying action. And Covenant is tagging after High Lord Elena in search of the Seventh Ward, a power that the Lords are not prepared to wield.

Gawd, these books are interminable reads.

I understand that Covenant is meant to be an unlikable character, and was prepared for that (I've read/enjoyed plenty of other anti-hero centered novels). But I find the writing turgid and melodramatic, and none of the 'good guys' to be engaging or sympathetic. I suspect that I need more context on Donaldson's influence or subtext, but so far this experience has moved far into the territory of books I "should" read, rather than I "want" to read.

Apropos, io9 just posted this article on the Rule of 50 for when to abandon a read.

So I'm setting Tom aside for a more attractive and relevant read. Perhaps I'll return to the trilogy, to skim through the rest of Illearth, and take on The Power That Preserves another time.

(Similarly, I've often joked that Harvard Lampoon's 'Bored of the Rings,' which pares down the LOTR trilogy into a single volume, while somehow not apparently losing any significant content, is the length that the original trilogy 'should' have been.)

Any similar observations, experiences or context?


  1. Like you, I tried to read the trilogy multiple times, because it was cited as influential and tremendous. I seriously was unable to continue reading after the stupid rape scene and skimmed from that point on. I found absolutely nothing about the books compelling, fantastic or even interesting.

    1. Thanks. It is disappointing when a 'classic' fails to meet the hype. I've fought my way through a few others just because of their status as such, only to finish with a resounding 'meh.'

      Yes, the rape scene is off-putting and the author could have used other means to advance the plot.

  2. Had a buddy who thought this series was the bomb. For me, it was just a bomb, I dropped it, never to pick it up again. Kinda like Sartre's The Plague.

    1. Ha - at least I made it through The Plague...