Does anybody recommend Donaldson?

Discussion in 'Stephen Donaldson' started by Lacedaemonian, Feb 23, 2005.

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    Lacedaemonian

    Lacedaemonian A Plume of Smoke

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    I have just started reading his first trilogy, but before I get too engrossed I wanted to get a little feedback from people who have read this series. Feel free to give me a short synopsis of the series as I know virtually nothing.
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    Lacedaemonian

    Lacedaemonian A Plume of Smoke

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    Clearly nobody does. . . :)

    Just read the opening chapters, and found it to be very heavy. The bitterness, depression and lonliness described in long winded but beautiful prose is suffocating. However, the hero Thomas wakes up in some fantasy setting and the heavyness is automatically lifted, and you can breathe again. I anticipate further heavy reading as the story continues. Perhaps this book will drive me to kill myself, achieving what Catcher in the Rye and Dharma Bums failed to do.

    Donaldson is clearly no Stephen Lawhead . . . . . . which is of course a good thing. :)
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    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    Oh.

    It's been about a decade since I read the books - my memory is not really very sharp. I do recommend it though - it did a lot of things which were rather brave and unusual in fantasy at the time, it has a darkness to it that is still fairly rare and the Land is a very powerful conception.

    It's basically about a man who has to be the champion and hero of a world he cannot really bring himself to believe in. Cool huh.

    Among our regular members, Dwndrgn, Foxbat and Littlemissattitude have all read and enjoyed the series - with any luck, the invocation of their names will make them stop by and tell you more.

    Cheers.
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    ommigosh

    ommigosh don't panic

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    I read the books ages ago and remember actually quite enjoying them. The heaviness/darkness/gloominess certainly does seem to put a lot of people off, but I was fascinated by the idea of the hero who most often refused to live up to the expectations and prophecies which others have about him.
    Donaldson described the Land and Covenant's state of mind really quite vividly, was really pretty inventive and could engineer exciting situations in his novels. All of these I found attractive too.
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    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    I did read the original two series - haven't read the latest spin-off + not sure if I will. My problem with this series was that I found the lead character so distasteful that I found myself often wondering why I was still following his story. I thought he was a whining wimp who deserved to die by about page 3, but then Donaldson might have struggled a bit for storyline during the next 3597 pages!This was not my favourite series by any stretch of the imagination, but it was well written... that's about as much praise as I want to waste on it. :eek:
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    Ashen Shugar

    Ashen Shugar Sun Lao Kostya

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    I found it so bad, I couldn't finish it. Hope you get more out of it than I did. Same reason as Mark - Tom needs a box of tissues for all his crying, and he is so sour I also wanted his death. I almost wanted him dead as much as the screaming girl on the Blair Witch Project which is saying alot for me. I can't even praise it moderately.
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    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    In my case, I simply don't believe in heroes of the typical fantasy mould and I strongly believe it is a dis-service to all to portray constantly unlikely creatures like Tolkien's Aragorn in a world where, all to often, the good-hearted may yet wind up like Boromir, to cite another Tolkien character. All our heroes have feet of clay. Covenant is a man of clay who may well become a hero despite himself. Certainly far more engaging for me.
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    Chimeco

    Chimeco New Member

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    I'd recommend reading him if you're not a "picky" reader. He writes a good story, his ideas are fresh (or were at the time), rich and interesting. I also have vivid memories of the land he created inisde his books. They were my first big read as a kid, about 18 years ago.

    I have to limit this to his "Land" series. The Illearth War, the Wounded Land etc.. DO NOT read his sci fi series. It'll leave you disturbed. I'm one of the unfortunates who did read his sci fi series, and can only say that anyone who can concentrate a whole slew of books on the topic of rape, and it's abstractions, should be put on some sort of watch list.

    Read his "Land" series.
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    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi there!

    I'd certainly recommend the T Covenant series. Howver like most users have said, it's not everyone's cup of tea with the central character having a house-sized chip on his shoulder. Having said this I feel this series is one of the landmark series in the fantasy genre. For me it's really a psychological study into the human condition with a fantasy basckdrop if you will and for that reason alone I find it refreshing because it's so different to the standard fanatsay fare one reads these days.

    Like some other people here, I read the books over a decade ago but have just compeletd Runes of The Earth, Book 1 of the final T Covenant quartet and quite enjoyed it!

    My thoughts anyway..:D :eek:
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    aurora1827

    aurora1827 New Member

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    I feel I have to jump in here to defend the GAP series, like all Donaldson's books, it's about psychology. Ofcourse, some things that happen are really awful, it's not a books for little kids, but it's the transformation of the characters that makes it unique, not the fact that D is unusually graphic and cruel to his characters.

    If you think about it, the three main characters start out as victim, bad guy and rescuer. They then change places as the story progresses, the bad guy becomes the victim and then the rescuer and the rescuer becomes the bad guy and then the victim. You get the picture.

    When it comes to fantasy, the Covenant Chronicles are unusual. The main character is an anti-hero and not very likeable, that's true. If you want heroic knights, good versus evil and happy endings, you've got the wrong author. These books are different. And because you can't trust the author - he might kill off Covenant and have the bad guy win, you never know what's going to happen, which is what makes them great.

    I would recommend both these series to anyone who have read a lot already and are getting bored with the same old stories. They are challenging, horrible, jawdropping books at times, but good just the same.

    By the way he's also written the series Mordant's need, which is not bad. Starts with a woman sitting watching herself in the mirror because she thinks she'll disappear. Then ofcourse she gets thrown into a fantasy world and all that.
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    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    As per aurora1827 and Knivesout's comments I enjoy the atypical "hero" who is ultimately flawed. I know this is fantasy we're talking about here but I like authors that don't sugar coat their work too much like Erikson and George RR Martin where nothing is really black and white and some of the more sympathectic charaters get killed off. After all, life's not a bowl of cherries either is it, so why should authors pander to "the easy way out" for readers either?

    I've read Mordant's need and really liked it but for me the T. Covenant series will be what Mr Donaldson is best remembered for, at least at this point in time. IMHO this is a landmark series in the fantasy genre and if not already, I firmly believe it will be recognised as a Fantasy Matserwork in years to come.

    I dind't really get into the GAP series that much as I'm much more of a fanatsy than Sci Fi fan...

    My two cents worth..:D
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    Polgara

    Polgara Polgara

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    I loved the Thomas Covenant series. I really liked it. I've not managed to get hold of mordant's need yet. I can't get one of his short story books, does anyone know where I can order it?
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    Foxbat

    Foxbat You can't touch me, I'm part of The Union.

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    Lacey - I posted in the Reviews section a while back if you want to look at my thoughts on the trilogies.

    Mordant's need I was not too keen on. Can't quite put my finger on a reason for that.

    Also, I stand firm with aurora1827 in defence of the GAP series. Yes, it is disturbing and very down and dirty - like getting grit in your eyes, but I think it's probably his finest work. He openly admits that the whole series is based on Wagner's ring Cycle but there are other parallels to be drawn with today's corporate powers and control which make it very relevant and worthwhile reading.

    Still, I recognise the fact that there seem to be as many dislike this series as love it. Such is life :)
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    Andyhug

    Andyhug New Member

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    Highly recommended

    Not only is there some beautiful writing in these books but the characters feel alive and they can truly surprise you.
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    Frey Slayer

    Frey Slayer Live Long and Hunt Freys

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    Just to throw in my 2 cents....

    I really really got into the series in college and pretty much tore through them all at once. Thoroughly enjoyed them. There are a lot of great concepts and scenes and you really **feel** a lot of things while reading them. I do recommend the series highly.

    HOWEVER......

    That was only after I had started the first one 2 or 3 times and stopped. I had a great deal of trouble moving past the rape scene near the beginning. To be honest I really had to just kind of blank that part out of my mind to move forward. The only reason I ended up giving it a chance was because of all the great things people had been saying about the series.
    So, I wouldnt run out and buy all the novels at once. Maybe borrow the first one from someone and see if you like it. Its a quick read, easy prose, not too long.
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    nixie

    nixie pixie druid Staff Member

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    Lord Fouls Bane is heavy going but worth it .The Thomas Covenant Chronicles get better with each book, but if your expecing run of the mill fantasy then these aren't the books for you.
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    littlemissattitude

    littlemissattitude Super Moderator

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    Well, it took me awhile to find this thread...

    I do definitely recommend the two Thomas Covenant trilogies - I read them pretty much straight through, and since I don't usually do epic fantasy, that's quite an endorsement, I suppose. I started the new one - the beginning of the third series - but I had too many things going on to read it out of the library (without it becoming overdue); I was also feeling a little depressed when I began reading it and it was just making things worse. But I will go back to it.

    I think the thing about Covenant is that Donaldson was able to make me care for the character despite the fact that he is basically a mess, psychologically speaking. The thing is, I prefer heroes who are flawed because, as JP referenced, they are ultimately more believable for me. I also have a dark streak about a mile wide (that I try not to show too often, as it tends to disturb people) and that part of the books appealed to that part of my personality.

    I read the first book in the Gap series, and part of the second. Yes, it was disturbing and that put me off at the time, but I've been thinking about giving them another try.

    I'll close with a recommendation for those who like fantasy and would like to read Donaldson, but don't like the darkness or some of the subject matter of the Covenant books. Give his two-book series a try. "The Mirror of Her Dreams" and "A Man Rides Through" are not nearly so dark as the Covenant books (although they aren't all sunshine and roses, either, by any means). The protagonist is a young woman who feels as if she is disappearing and can only feel real when she looks at herself in a mirror. She slips through a mirror at one point, and finds adventure in a world behind the mirrors, a world where mirrors are used to make magic.
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    Thadlerian

    Thadlerian Riftsound resident

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    I've just finished the first trilogy, and I would certainly recommend Lord Foul's Bane. The idea of this Covenant anti-hero is interesting, and he certainly lends the story a great amount of credibility.

    As for the other two, they sort of lost me. One of the intriguing questions is whether the Land is real, or just exists inside Covenant's head. Rather early in book two, Donaldson answers that question by letting other characters carry the narrative. That contradicts the possibility of the Land as a dream.

    From there on resting assured that the Land was real, I found the story turning into rather generic high fantasy; nothing I haven't seen before.
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    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    True but for the time it was written (late 70s) I still consider it a landmark series within the fantasy Genre, not that variants of this hadn't been tried before then.

    Will you be persisting with the rest of the series?
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    Thadlerian

    Thadlerian Riftsound resident

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    Yeah, eventually, I guess. But there's just so much other stuff I've gotta read in-between, it may take as much as a year.

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