Monday, May 4, 2009

On "The Lord of the Rings" by J. R. R. Tolkien ***

If you're one of the three (or forty or two) people who's been following this blog for a year, you've seen a sudden dearth of book discussions. That's because the tome I was reading was The Lord of the Rings. I opted not to talk about each volume separately since Tolkien himself thought of it as a single novel. Spare judgment to the end, I thought. The Lord of the Rings is the first of ten books on a reading list of fantasy and legend, a genre I haven't read much of. Unfortunately, this wasn't the best start. I didn't care much for the movie version of Fellowship of the Ring and never bothered with the rest. The books were better--less violent--but still not something I can say I've fallen in love with.

About four years ago, I read Tolkien's The Hobbit. Although it wasn't my "type" of book, I admired his skill and craft. He had a way with telling a story, ending those chapters in the perfect spot to make you want to read on and speed through it. Not so much here, where chapters often ended in dead space. Dialogue was often atrocious, and the descriptions often seemed simply like filler. The plot was fairly predictable.

So why three stars? Because despite all that Tolkien does manage to do something very unique. He creates a complete world, full of its own history and legend, its own calendars and peoples. Few worlds have been so richly imagined and so wrought in such fine detail. Moments in this book shine--like when the hobbits return to their homes or when Sam and Frodo get stuck in a spider's lair. Had the entire work spoken to me as much, I'd have likely been able to rank it up there with The Hobbit as one of those works that entertains through and through, even if it doesn't speak to me personally.

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