Tolkien Gestures: The Ones that Got Away

See, you all thought this was over but like a good Fantasy Genre author I can’t resist coming back for another nibble. This one final column will cover something I said I’d mention, and then never did, the books that were missing off the list, and why…

Down the Rabbit Hole: There was a huge subgenre that got largely missed, and that’s the Narnia/Oz/etc style – people from our world sucked into fantasyland. Probably the biggest reason that got dropped was that the majority of this sort of fiction is what we now call “Young Adult”, and, as with the big myth-cycles, I felt I was hardly challenging pre-conception of a genre riddled with myth-cycles and kids books if I stuffed a reading list full of them and then declared myself right all along.

But as I mentioned when talking about A Wizard of Earthsea, the capacity of the genre to be full of allegory fits the demographic really neatly. And when you look at say, Narnia, you get the double-whammy of both the growing pains, learning about the world plots the kids go through, plus the primer in Christian theology that comprises a lot of the background. Despite Lewis’ occasional heavy handedness, I always liked Narnia, although their “New Atheist” counterpart, His Dark Materials, remains a series I never finished as I could never get through the second book, and Pullman is even more smugly inclined than Lewis to show off how clever he is at throwing big theological ideas around.

I like Harry Potter, too. But enough of him is written pretty much everywhere on the internet!

Missing Big Names: There is also the issue of some big names in the genre that just got missed. Stephen Donaldson, Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, and several others didn’t get in for space reasons, mostly, and the aforementioned desire to weight the list towards more modern, and more different, books.

I did read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant back in my university days, in a rare foray out of the SF genre, and in some ways its responsible for some of my attitudes I’ve carried forward. For a start, I actually quite enjoyed it at first. I didn’t understand the idea of Deconstruction back then, but I do now, and Covenant himself if a nice example of a deconstructive hero, being refreshing unpleasant and whiney, but as the series wore on, the ideas became more threadbare and the writing more repetitive. I think if someone had deprived me of the books at the end of the first trilogy I’d be less down on the genre, but when you’re convinced to read a series on the basis of “this is as good as it gets”, and it disappoints in the end? Well, then you have a problem.

Robert Jordan, who I’ve never read, nearly made the list, if only because he still seems to be publishing after this death, which means that there must some serious demand for the contents of his notebooks, much like Frank Herbert or Tolkien. However, The Wheel of Time is now up to 13 books and still unfinished, which fills me with fear now, never mind a year ago when I coming up with the list in the first place!

The final name missing from the list that really should be there, for me personally, is China Mieville, whose Perdido Street Station I really enjoyed when I was leant it a few years back. Unfortunately I’ve since devoured his other two books – The Scar I was a bit cool on but I adored Iron Council – and whilst The City and The City nearly made it onto the list it didn’t quite.

So thats about it. The feedback thread remains here: http://www.thecomicforums.com/forum2/index.php?showtopic=175110 and any comments or other feedback is appreciated.

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