Monday, July 24, 2006

Stone of Tears - Terry Goodkind (BBHN)

Research purposes. That's my only excuse for reading this travesty of a book. It's not the kind of thing I'd ever pick up in a bookshop normally, but I've been very entertained recently by the Goodkind threads on westeros.org, which convinced me to part with two whole pounds of my hard-earned cash so I could see the train-wreck for myself...


Stone of Tears is part of the "Sword of Truth" series, currently running at about 7 books. From all accounts, what started off as some very average Swords 'n' Sorcery nonsense has now become a vehicle for Goodkind's Objectivist doctrine and right-wing politics. The author now even claims that his books are not "fantasy," and derides any of his fans who dare to enjoy the books for the wrong reasons - presumably the ones who prefer the wizards and leather-clad dominatrices to the long, long speeches about Freedom and the Nobility of the Human Spirit. Or the ones who just read them out of horrified fascination at their sheer awfulness.


The hero of the books is Richard, who is a True Hero in every clichéd sense. A simple woodsman with hidden powers, who turned out to be the son of the evil wizard dark lord, he is strong, handsome, deadly with a blade, with lightning-fast reflexes and awesome yet untapped magical power, irresistable to women and kind to puppies - and not a hint of irony in any of this. He is also the embodiment of heroic and noble values, particularly ones that fit in with Goodkind's own jingoistic and Objectivist views. Any potentially immoral acts committed by Richard are generally written off in "end justifies the means" terms, as Richard's cause is so righteous that everything he does is, by definition, the Right Thing.


Richard comes from the Westlands, where everyone is heroic and free. In the previous book, he travelled from there to the Midlands (yeah, I know) which is a loosely-aligned assortment of kingdoms, riddled with stupid superstitions, often feuding amongst each other and occasionally being overrun by evil goose-stepping dictators. To the east is an even more evil empire, where no-one is free and everyone has to suppress their individuality for the good of the collective... look at all familiar? Unfortunately this is about as subtle as it gets.


The plot is almost as bad as the setting. Some evil nuns want to kidnap the noble Richard, which separates him from Kahlan, his bride-to-be, on the eve of their wedding (oh no!); some dark forces are loose in the land and only Richard has the power to stop them; it has been prophesied that Kahlan will have to be executed to save the world; the evil Stone of Tears has been given by a wise wizard to a small girl for safe-keeping. And it's not just the plot that looks contrived and unnatural - there are all sorts of gems in the details, too. The totally unnecessary monster-sex scene where the evil nuns show exactly how evil they are by, er, consorting with demons; the overly specific plot-device prophecies ("I see Richard dying while wearing a red coat!" "Oh no! I'd better warn Richard never to wear a red coat!") and my personal favourite, the evil magic-draining artifact in the form of a small pewter statue of a wizard holding a crystal, obviously purchased from the local goth tat shop where they sell the unicorn figurines.


To be honest, I'm only halfway through the book, and I only got that far because I deliberately left all other books at home and have nothing else to do on the train. Really bad writing does have a certain appeal, and there are definitely some quality moments, but for the most part the book's just very boring and not even worth reading for the comedy value.


2/10

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

first visit. wanting to see if our tastes run in similar directions i chose the obvious. couldn't have been any better. i'll be back!

1:23 pm  
Anonymous Drakua said...

Dude...The @$%@ Is the matter with you? Aside from what you deem as bad plot, and poor writeing. Terry Goodkind can write superbly. His choice of words, and the story he wrote. Deals with real life situations, A fantasy novel, one can relate to. Not done a whole lot. I vote you be drug into the street, shot, and castrated. For your rant.

9:04 am  
Anonymous ragnar_rahl said...

Drakua, he might be wrong, but if you've understood anything Goodkind wrote, you'd know that vote of yours is not just wrong, but essentially suicide in principle.

10:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I think you should read the whole book before judging the the book. All the loose ends tie up in the end to make an interesting story. Second of all, if you don't like the hero archetype and the cliches that go along with it, well you just don't like fantasy books! That doesn't make the story or the writer bad, if taken in a fantasy context. It's like saying you hate the romantic cliches in a harloquin novel. When you pick up a romantic novel, you expect there to be romantic cliches! The people who read adventure books WANT to read about hero cliches. I think if you cannot review a book in its context then you are totaly missing the point! Fantasy has always been the fight between good and evil. Right vs wrong. Light versus dark. The righteous hero against the evil dark lord. That's what you have to expect. If you don't like it, that's all right, but try to be more constructive and contextual in you review!

6:58 pm  
Blogger Alice said...

Er. Have you actually looked at anything else on this blog? You may notice that I'm actually quite a fan of fantasy, and I just happen to think that Terry Goodkind is a very poor writer. And for what it's worth, yes I did finish the book, and no it didn't get any better. Sorry, and all that.

10:53 pm  
Anonymous Tad Ravenson said...

All I could ever say about this review is... You're an idiot that doesn't need to take a break from making leather goods in your mental clients home. No really, on a serious note. Your taste in books might be refined, but only because you've been raised to believe in the difference that is new politics. And about the "he traveled from there to the Midlands (yeah, I know)" comment. You've never heard of a writer taking a name or place and making it pertain to a fictitious but realistic setting for plot growth and a readers emotional relevance to a given area? Look at Lord of the Rings for instance! I tell you what mate. Write your own book then let everyone read it and let them tell you what they think. ...or are you scared? RIGHT WING POLITICS ALL THE WAY BABY!!

3:30 pm  
Blogger Alice said...

Oh yes, I remember the bit, where Frodo had to go to Birmingham. Come to think of it, I live in Mirkwood myself. I stand corrected.

As for the argument of "let's see you do any better!", do I really have to spell it out to you why that's utter nonsense? Goodkind is a professional writer, so in order to evaluate his skill, you need to compare him to other professional writers, not to random people off the internet. I'm pleased to say that there are many, many writers who write a lot better than our yearded friend here. Maybe you should try reading some of them.

2:47 pm  
Blogger Luke said...

Humorous review, no doubt. But, it is obvious your distaste for Goodkind is more politically motivated than it is an actual response to his literary style.

Maybe if you were able to finish a paragraph without taking a swipe at the evil, militant, jingoistic, right-wing, Ayn Rand conspiracy that Goodkind is perpetuating, then you could actually be taken seriously. But instead, you are illuminated as another simple political and philosophical tool.

3:33 am  
Blogger Alice said...

Oh dear me. So calling out someone else's biases makes one a simple tool, does it? I'm not sure I'm convinced by this, but if it's true, then that would make you a tool as well.

3:53 pm  
Blogger Luke said...

There is an obvious distinction between the way you and I are calling out another's biases: I am not reviewing a book and pushing it off as some sort of credible analysis of a novel.

I don't think me pointing out why your review shouldn’t be taken seriously makes me a tool.

8:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed completely, I've only finished the first book, and went looking online for review, because something this bad HAS to be a joke.

The Randist crap explains a lot, namely the shitty pretentious writing, rabid defensive fanboys, and main characters that manage to be morally offensive to everybody not wearing an iron cross.

9:02 am  
Anonymous Franz said...

I agree, Terry Goodking is living proof that publicity and profiling can pass off pigswill as literature.
Boring plots, filled with cliches, dude needs to choke on a reel of typewriter ribbon and die before we have to endure any more of his nonsensical drivel.

12:36 am  
Blogger Jeff King said...

I could not agree more that he is a poor writer. and it was pain to try and finish his book.
i regret ever reading it..
the story was good, it intrigued me but the way he writs dialog is horrible and gives me a headache.

but he got published and is successful so i praise him and admire that. i can only wish to achieve close to that..

1:33 am  
Blogger poopybear said...

humans have a free spirit and all who trespass in that holiest of all holy areas must be punished! The terrible communists and socialists must have their opinions quashed by way of secret police and gas chambers! The sacred words of Richard "Terry Goodkind" Rahl will ring across the land! Fat red haired protesting women's arms and heads shall be chopped off in one slash There shall be mass eating of the testicles of the communists BY the communists! Moral Clarity shall be enforced across the land by way of naked sculptures showing the nobility and freedom of the human spirit! Did I forget to mention moral clarity? Oh, I forgot to capitalize the last instance of it: Moral Clarity. There, that is better. Now my great lord, Holy Emperor Goodkind can give me the honor of hacking off heretic arms and legs and testicles. And ears, don't forget the ears, since yours are coming off. Cuz you just don't have Moral Clarity. You shall respect the royal slayer of the malicious protesters who ruin the peace with their hatred of Moral Clarity. Oh, and for a last word: Moral Clarity.








OK, lol, I was kidding

5:01 am  
Blogger Flartus said...

Ok, I know this review is 3 years old, but I just had to let you know I LMAO reading it. My partner's coworker is lending this series to her, and she's on book 4, but I'll be stopping w/#2. Puh-leez, these are such stupid novels. You've nailed so much that's wrong with them...but you made me laugh, which is even better. Maybe that'll make it easier to finish off this book, so I can move on.

2:03 am  
Blogger Megan said...

I started these books without any foreknowledge of the author, including his political opinions, literal motivations or what he takes in his coffee. Listening to the first book I started to have...misgivings? I should preface any further comments by saying that I love fantasy literature despite the fact that I'm sure that I disagree with the aforementioned tastes of many of my favorite authors. This has never been an issue, in fact, I've never been motivated to research the political motives of an author I was reading up until this point. So, (preface complete), I continue by saying that I tolerated the first book because people with similar literary interests recommended this series to me. And so, I find that for the first time in my life I've stopped reading a series- despite the fact that I've read a lot of terrible series before this one. During the second book I realized that my intuition while I was reading The Sword of Truth was correct- these are so obviously politically motivated that you could only enjoy the books if you agree completely with the author's politics. To me, that alone signifies failure on the part of the author. To my mind, there are two effective ways to communicate a political/social agenda through literature, namely, you either clearly state it in your opening paragraph and expand on that theory throughout your book (predominantly nonfiction), or you subtly imply/build toward the reader's understanding through situational fiction(A.R.). Terry Goodkind represents an ugly and ineffectual merger of the two styles- a blunt application of politics with a glaze of fantasy rhetoric. Upon reading these books I would hesitate to admit to enjoying either the genre or the politics, because they're both presented in such an elementary style. For lack of a better example I would describe him as the Alvin Greene of fantasy literature, as neither the genre nor the political party would want responsibility for his ineffectuality.

8:04 am  
Anonymous Nolany said...

You should really take it easy on right-wing politics. Whatever TG's political views may be, they are (presumably) not the main point of the series. Even if he's a NeoCon -
it's not really what's it about.
A friend of mine gave me the first one of the series - i never managed to have read it in my mother tongue - i abandoned it quickly. I recommend to start reading from the end - it pulls you in :)
I see all the weaknesses of the plot, it's schematic and predictable, Richard Rahl being Mister Perfect - but The Yearded One really has a gift with words.
Still, the chicken thing is unbeatable.

4:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You poor, stupid socialist.

6:46 pm  
Anonymous Jessica said...

It seems to me that bashing on Goodkind's books has become the trendy thing to do among the people in this group, and a (small) mob mentality has developed. Evidenced by the snarky dictionary you have on the site, it's become cool to make fun of the Sword of Truth stories. This creates a situation where people who read the reviews and comments and jokes here and then go to read the books will approach the books from an already negative standpoint. It clouds their ability to form their own opinion of the stories because they approach it with the sense that so-and-so said it was bad and makes fun of it, so if they think it's good or enjoy it, they must be a dork who has unrefined taste in genre x, therefore they must make sure they don't enjoy it. This, unfortunately, is just the nature of reviews of any kind - they always pose the danger to potential readers, viewers, etc. of different media of influencing their judgment on that media before they even read it, view it, etc. themselves - Essentially, they end up not thinking for themselves and just regurgitating others' points of views...it's a pretty standard thing us fallible humans do. Reviewing is one thing, though; I think having the funny dictionary and making it a point to exaggerate a distaste for the Sword of Truth books takes it a level further, but it is what it is. (cont'd...)

8:40 pm  
Anonymous Jessica said...

(...cont'd) That said, you have every right to think the books are horrible, if you initially approached the books with an open mind and formed that opinion of your own accord, based on your own ideas and tastes. I'm not saying anything said or done here is "wrong" or should be changed, I'm just making an observation about this "I hate Terry Goodkind and his books are stupid no matter what" phenomenon that's seemed to spring up on several fantasty-genre message boards. More than that, you make some very solid points about the cliche motifs and plot lines and the unskilled writing within the books. I think the writing's quite commonplace and unremarkable myself, it even makes me laugh out loud occasionally because some parts are so cheesy - but I thoroughly enjoy the stories anyway. Why? Because they're entertaining and, believe it or not, inspiring. The giant and diverse fanbase that the books have amassed are a testament to this. I don't come to the Sword of Truth books expecting to read a great piece of literature. (If Goodkind thinks that's what he's writing, he's deluded. From his interviews I've read, I think it's clear that he is a bit anyway.) However, again, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the stories. The philosophies contained within the books are very simple, but they're also age-old. There is a reason that the all-good hero is an archetype in our society - we love him and are inspired by him (I won't go into why, or this comment would be a lot longer than it already is).
My point in saying all of this is to let you know that there are people out in the world who are educated, who know good literature and good writing, who see the abundance of faults in the Sword of Truth books, but who aren't ashamed to admit that they fully enjoy reading them anyway. I have read all 12 books in the series, some of them twice, in consecutive order. And yes, a lot of them drag on and there are plenty of silly parts, but I stick with them anyway because I love the characters and I want to know what happens to them. I feel that, and I think this goes for a lot of people who start out by reading the first book like you're meant to, the characters draw readers in and get them hooked. And it does say something for Goodkind that he was able to create characters that so many people have come to care so much about, regardless of the fact that they're entirely fictional. The books from the series that you've reviewed on here were actually some of my least favorite, though I doubt that makes any difference to you. You may have liked it more had you started with book one, though. Anyway, you don't have to like the books. I'm not even saying that I disagree with your assessment and you should like them. I don't really care whether you do or not - I'm just putting this comment here to temper your review a bit, for any potential readers who see this page before they actually read the books.

8:41 pm  
Anonymous Jessica said...

I guess what I mean, in much fewer words, is that it's okay and understandable to not like the books - but it's also okay and understandable to like them. Just because a person enjoys them doesn't mean they're an idiot or don't know good writing. Take it for what it is: entertainment. I don't get why the whole thing is such a big deal to some people that they would spend a lot of their time being negative and making fun of it. It seems a waste of time.

12:47 am  
Blogger Gopikrishnan R said...

This series is a mess...It started off well..but the final few books were its undoing .

6:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love fantasy. I love dragons and wizards and archetypal heroes. I approached this series with every intent to enjoy it. by the end of the first chapter I could not avoid the fact that the writing is terrible. By three chapters in, I could not help but feel that the characters were one-dimensional as cardboard cutouts and I didn't like any of them. I sat through the whole first book, in order to give it a fair chance, and it only got more hilariously bad. I'm sorry, Goodkind supporters, you can call me a liberal communist if you like, rail at me in defense of your hero, but that doesn't change the fact that this series just objectively, blatantly, sucks.

10:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and this review, btw, is awesome. Seriously, all the glowing, positive reviews out there were starting to make me feel like I was in the twilight zone.

10:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the first of these books waaay back in the late 90's when i was a teenager, and I have to say, I really enjoyed them. I have restarted listening to them when I drive to work and i swear my ears are bleeding. The women only seem to get raped or have their breasts felt up. Nobody explains anything to anyone, they just strop off like teenagers. "Wear this collar or you will die as you can't control magic and you're already in pretty serious pain. The sisters want to teach you and save your life. I love you so much and want you to live so we can have babies and bunnies together in our magical palace" becomes a ramble of "I hate you, leave my sight, if you loved me you would do what i ask and never see me again" I understand the whole mord-sith business but it still makes no sense(to me)I have no empathy for any of the characters and don't care if they die or not. The last WOT book by comparison had me in tears because I believed I in the characters. I don't know anything about the author's political persuasion, so that hasn't influenced me. When i was younger, I really enjoyed them, they just aren't my cup of tea anymore. Perhaps they don't translate well to the spoken word, but I listen to lots of talking books when i drive. I wish I did like them still, as I have to keep listening just to find out what happens and i'm only on book 5!

3:16 pm  

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