Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sword of Truth cuts

Warning: Spoilers included.

For years I've been a faithful reader of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. It began with Wizard's First Rule and ended with Confessor. In between I followed the characters through some very smart twists, turns, beautiful developments, and read them to life as complex beings in a multi-dimensional universe wholly created for the series.

And I loved every single page right up until the end of the series' last book: Confessor. There, in the last pages, his main character -- his hero -- goes off on a diatribe about God. Up until that very monologue, any spiritual references were to "The Creator" and "The Underworld" and the "Keeper of the Underworld". No God, no devil, nothing. Out of nowhere Goodkind's protagonist, Richard, uses "God" in specific reference to theological belief on several occasions in just two short pages.

What the hell, Goodkind? There was no God before your little rant! Why is there one now?

I can't even begin to fathom what the author was thinking the day he wrote those pages. Or what the editors were thinking when they overlooked it. Suddenly "The Creator" became "God" and no one notices. Except for me, and I still am pretty steamed over it.

For you see, until that very moment, Goodkind had done an impressive job of spinning a tale so thoroughly detailed that it was far more ideological than theological. It was a balanced statement about faith, politics, beliefs, free will, free enterprise, creative expression, capitalism, prophecy, education, magic... and an open mind could take it all in and come up with their own interpretations, their own significant and personal meanings, without feeling pressured to have chosen to side with or against the author. Goodkind had done that kind of good writing... where the author takes no sides in his work, just tells the tale as true to the characters he's writing about, and the reader can do what he or she wishes to with the subtle possibilities within.

But then, in this rant of Richard's at the end of Confessor, Goodkind makes a statement, and a powerful one at that. When Richard sends a group of people who blindly support an ideology bent on submitting themselves to a belief in the will of The Creator and a desire to utterly vanquish any who stand opposed to their beliefs (and support freedom of personal choice)... and then he calls that creator "God", he is making a pretty strong statement about his own beliefs of how religion and free will mix.

I found it abhorrently out of character for the Richard I had come to know and respect over more than 6000 pages of the series. I found it to read a bit redundant, as well. In fact, that whole section sounded like a petulant child throwing a temper tantrum.

And I lost a good deal of respect for the entire series because of it.

I saw all sorts of potential parallels in that series with possible references being drawn to economics, politics, party lines, Christianity -- including the Crusades --, Jesus, Satan, Democracy, Communism, Socialism, the occult, afterlife, ecology, biology, zen... just to name a few. And through it all, what I enjoyed the most was how well thought out it all was, so that I didn't feel like the author was drawing me in to agree with his point of view, instead maintaining a great story while remaining ambivalent in his statements. Until God showed up.

I felt that Goodkind punched me in the gut. I felt that the entire series was a ruse to lure me in and give me a sense of security that my own thoughts and opinions were protected and respected by him, only to have him then demand I make a choice to side with him or against him in the end. I didn't want to side at all! I wanted to see him end his series with the same strengths that had carried me through years of following his story line, contemplating his philosophies and analayzing his strategies and learning on my own and coming to my own conclusions about the challenges he presented me.

Yes, I realize that this is just a book, written to sell copies and make money. I realize that after all this time Mr. Goodkind could indeed be bored to tears with his own creation, and his rant could've been a finalizing touch to over a decade of work, through which he has more than likely changed, himself. But getting sloppy as a writer in the last few pages is not how you handle it. Unprofessional, sir!! It wasn't Mr. Goodkind's time to make a personal stand in the shoes of his hero Richard. It was Richard's time to speak, and I feel that Mr. Goodkind very cheaply stepped into his hero's shoes in Richard's stead.

But that's just my very heated opinion.

1 comment:

John Bonus said...

Hi Margo,

I didn't read the entire series but, what with his strong use of metaphors and illusory statements, I'm surprised that a restatement of his message in plain english would seem so offensive. I guess I'll have to check our his last book.

Or was this just a clever ruse by Mr. Goodkind? Has he been propping up this blog as a means of getting the word out about his last book and could it be that there is no "Margo Crawford" at all? Did he know that once you were properly positioned and issued your so-called rejection of his last novel that it would suck your innocent readers into reading his "Gospel"?

I feel like such a fool!

No seriously, good review, Margo. And BTW, I'm back after a 14 month break.