Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Precious Melange

There are some basic tomes that anyone who calls themselves a fan of a certain genre should read. Today, I explain why two particular books fit the description of being a classic. 

#34 – The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.
When I was in high school, I dated a guy who was very proud of the fact that the only book he had ever read from start to finish was The Hobbit. Obviously, I thought he was insane and couldn’t believe that anyone would ever boast about only reading one book. In retrospect, I can understand why. This book has everything a teenage boy could want – epic adventures, no icky girls to mess it up, and lots of cool characters and scenes. Quite a lot happens in this book and while I have read it before, it was long before the first Lord of the Rings movie and I didn’t remember much of it. Now, with the characters from Peter Jackson’s storytelling foremost in my mind, it actually made keeping track of characters a bit easier.

I will say that the book is far more charming than the movies. In the movies, everything portends doom. The dwarves are very serious. Gandalf is to be feared, Bilbo is always in danger. Gollum is terrible in his wretchedness. But in the story, everything is much more lighthearted. Gandalf is merely odd, the dwarves are not as dutiful, Bilbo is not just along for the ride, and Gollum is merely another character in the story. The tone of the narration is of a tale told round a fire at night, so that it is folksy and warm. Everything in the movies was so dramatic and resounding. Everything in the book is much more colorful and interesting. I was much amused that my daughter, having already read it, was a fan. This really is a classic of fantasy and if you haven’t read it, you should do so immediately.

#35 – Dune – Frank Herbert

In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.

I read this back in high school as well and it pairs nicely with The Hobbit because it is also a classic, but of science fiction. It does what good sci-fi should do, set up a different world, in a different time, with laws of science that differ from our own. It takes its time setting up the premise and more time really allowing the characters to make the changes necessary to get them through the arc of the story, which truth be told, is actually pretty basic. A royal house falls and from it, a messiah arises.

What killed me in this book were the names of things. Kwisatz Haderach. Bene Gesserit. Feyd-Bautha. There were a million of these damn things and none of them could be sounded out properly in my head. Thankfully, the main character is Paul, but he is also Usal, and Maud’Dib, and all sorts of other things. I get that names have to be exotic sounding, but can they be spelled in such a way as to make sense too? It is a solid read, but you will find yourself rolling your eyes at the pretention of it all. 

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