Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster

A fantastic book. Very highly recommended. I know it's a kid's book and all, but it's worth the read, just to see how someone can think like this, discarding all our standard notions of where everyday concepts come from.

I'm also a dog lover, and Tock is wonderful.

This one goes to my nephew very, very soon, and I hope to be able to read some of it to him, or with him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Runes of the Earth, Stephen R. Donaldson

The Runes of the Earth
Stephen R. Donaldson

Apologies in advance for the spelling errors and typos that will inevitably appear in here. I'll do my best to avoid them, but...

I read some fantasy, some sci-fi, and some of whatever else seems like a good idea at the time. The books that have made me happiest in my life are The Lord of the Rings, Dune (just the first one, the rest are iffy), Neuromancer (and its associated relatives), and all 6 of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I am thrilled to report that there are more Thomas Covenant novels coming, and that the first of the new series The Runes of the Earth is extremely well written.

I will include no spoilers here. Suffice it to say that if you haven't read the first 6 books in the series, you need to. They are outstanding in their own right (I may be biased because it was my future wife who introduced me to them, but I reread them every few years, and they continue to hold up) and you need the background to know what is happening in Runes. Donaldson's writing is wonderful, full of vivid descriptions of the wonders of the Land, a world as fully imagined as Middle Earth, though not springing from languages, as Tolkien's world did.

The story is vast (I've read there will be 4 volumes in the Last Chronicles) and even the first volume covers all kinds of territory, from that which is familiar to readers of the first 2 series, to new places and events, and the changes that accompany the passing of vast amounts of time since the last series took place. Donaldson's world is amazing, and I'd go there in a heartbeat. To have the health sense that the Land's people possess would be worth nearly any price.

On a technical note, I have read that in the first books Donaldson deliberately misused certain words in places. Why he did that I don't claim to understand, but it was the only thing about the first books that ever bothered me. (Well, that and Thomas Covenant is an anti-hero of amazing proportion. It takes some serious time to decide you can stomach being around him, even in print.) In Runes, Donaldson's prose is wonderful, and he never misused any words that I noted.

I strongly recommend this book. If I have any reservation, it is only that it will be a long time before the series is complete. I turned the last page this morning, and I desperately wanted to pick up the next volume right away.