Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review: Terry Goodkind's "Wizard's First Rule"

I'll be the first to admit that I have, in some of my more bitter moments, been pretty critical of the publishing industry as a whole (please see "Print is Dead" if you don't know what I'm talking about). I regret to inform you, therefore, that Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule confirms all my worst beliefs of the world of published books.

I actually picked this book up months ago, when I was first getting back into my fantasy "kick." I was originally drawn to the book because it was the beginning of a massive series, The Sword of Truth, and I've been known to enjoy books that feature the same characters (although, with twelve books, each one at least two-to-three inches thick in paperback, he could take a lesson in editing from J.K. Rowling). I was also under the impression that the book had to have some redeeming qualities as they are currently producing a tv series based on the books. I also liked the fact that there seemed to be a strong female main character who did not exist solely to recreate some of the more pathetic of male sexual fantasies.

While the book seemed to start off promisingly with a fairly well-written chase scene, Goodkind's pacing throughout the book is extremely rushed and so improbable as to be distracting. His prose is stilted and seems to be intended for someone with an eighth-grade reading level. All of the main characters are extremely one-dimensional and flat: Ricard Cypher is tall and handsome, likes the truth, and dislikes riddles, while Kahlan Amnell is beautiful and has long, long hair, was raised in an Amazon-like setting, and is a powerful ruler with no friends. The relationship that springs up immediately between the two seems forced, and the accompanying discussions of what constitutes friendship are so redundant and repetitive as to be annoying.

This simplicity extends to the villains as well: Darken Rahl, the main antagonist, is evil, evil, and did I mention evil? There is a graphic torture scene of a little boy toward the beginning of the novel to convince the reader of just how evil Darken Rahl is--who could perform such atrocities and not be evil? The entire thing smacks of condescension on Goodkind's part, as though he doesn't trust his readers enough to rely on their understanding anything less than pure blatancy. (This is assuming, of course, that Goodkind himself doesn't function at this most basic level.)

I pushed through, however, determined to finish the novel as I had learned through research that Goodkind was a staunch believer in Ayn Rand's school of objectivism and I was curious how he would handle the philosophies. Unfortunately for both Goodkind and Rand, he man-handles her philosophies (which I'm not entirely sure they don't deserve--would this constitute blaming the victim?) as the book goes out of its way to show that communism is evil, evil, and did I mention evil? Hmm. Really? Communism doesn't work? No shit, Sherlock, but I'm not sure there are too many commie bastards lurking in the wings anymore.

In addition, Richard Cypher spends about two hundred pages of the book in a blatantly BDSM-relationship as he is forced to wear a collar with a leash and follow his mistress around, thanking her for starving him and beating him up with an agiel. It culminates with Cypher telling Mistress Denna that he loves her, and she proves she loves him, too, giving him her agiel which he uses to kill her. I'm sure Goodkind would argue that the book explores the nature of power and love, but I failed to find anything of interest and skimmed most of this section.

I won't delve much further into the book, as I'm sure someone out there in the world-wide web would claim that I "spoiled" it for him or her, but my advice to all of you is avoid this book like the plague. Don't read it--in fact, don't even think about reading it, just in case you might accidentally pick it up in a book store. If I were you, I'd also avoid the tv series, if only because it got horrible reviews--and it's based on this book, which I give a solid D.


Daniele said...

And if you do continue reading, his arch nemesis turns out to be a guy in love with the communist ideals who can control people's minds...In my defense I read them as brain candy and have no illusions about the author's talent or lack thereof. by the 5th and 6th books you really get tired of him blatantly hitting you over the head with his political philosophy, which is actually fairly reminiscent of Ayn Rand, now that I think about it. The worst part now is that I'm so far into the series, I don't want to have wasted all that time. I want to see Richard win. So I will forebear, even though I think he peaked with the second book. At least this way I have something to read on the train everyday.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I started the second book and just couldn't do it--it literally made me ill that Goodkind is purported to be one of the top fantasy writers today (and now has a TV series based on his work) and he's that bad of a writer.

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