Lord of the Rings
There's been some hipsterish backlash against these books in recent years, probably because of the success of Peter Jackson's adaptations about a decade ago. Suddenly the unwashed, semi-illiterate masses of the mainstream had heard of this trilogy and the man who wrote it! They might even… READ THE BOOK! Oh no! QUELLE HORREUR!
And I've also seen some talented people like China Mieville and Michael Moorcock whining about how much they hate Tolkien because he didn't subscribe to their particular philosophies. Honestly, it sounds kind of sour-grapey and a bit jealous.
Yes, I am aware that everybody has their own opinion, which is totally fine. If they didn't, there wouldn't be any point in snarking, would there? And yes, I am aware that Tolkien's work has some notable flaws, such as the technology disconnect between the Hobbits and the entire world outside of the Shire.
But I don't really care. I love this book, and I'm not gonna snark it.
Robert Jordan is an awkward kind of author. His books are too cliche and clumsy NOT to snark, but too well written to get a decent snark out of me. His technical writing is pretty decent, even though his symbolism is clumsy as hell (the bad guy's name is "Shai'tan"? Really?!) and the plot dies somewhere around Book 7. It only resurrects itself after another author took over the writing.
Which brings me to another reason I'm not eager to snark this: the final books of the series are written by Brandon Sanderson, using extensive notes and outlines that Robert Jordan left behind when he died. And really, Sanderson is a GREAT author. He's one of the few authors alive who can write giant doorstopping tomes without being boring or perverted. In his hands, this series is actually quite good.
Maybe someday I'll tackle a few of these giant books, but it would probably take me the rest of my life.
I am not going to snark this. Period. I'm not really a fan of the series, although I've read most of the books and seen about half of the movies.
And yeah, some things about it bug me. For one thing, Harry is a Gary Stu (at least at the beginning) - he turns out to be magical, have vast riches, is hailed as a hero for something he had no control over, he's the chosen one of a prophecy, deus ex machinae keep showing up for him, and the rules are bent into knots to accomodate him frequently. Now he does get less Stuey as the series goes on, but it doesn't wash away the taste in my mouth.
Also, a number of things in Rowling's works are, to put it bluntly, pretty obviously copied from other books from authors like Jane Yolen, Eva Ibbotson and JRR Tolkien.
But honestly, the books are not nearly bad enough to earn my wrath. They're far too well-written to get a decent snarking out of, and it's just not as much fun when you can't mock the author's bad prose, awful characterization and terrible plot twists.
But the main reason is: Potter fans are hardcore and scary and they would kill me if I tried.
Terry Brooks is usually the main name brought up when people mention epic fantasy that shamelessly rips off JRR Tolkien, partly because he was one of the first to do so. His debut novel The Sword of Shannara is infamous for being a shameless clone of The Lord of the Rings, complete with giant spiders, a Shire-like village, a dwarf "Rivendell," the mentor-dies-fighting-someone-over-a-thin-bridge-but-it-turns-out-he's-not-really-dead scene, an exiled King of Men, and a lot of other shit that is shamelessly ripped off from Tolkien.
But I have to admit, I kind of like the guy.
Unlike most authors who rip off Tolkien like McKiernan, Goodkind and Jordan, Brooks seems pretty honest about being derivative at the start, as many high-fantasy authors are. And he's tried pretty hard to distance his books since then from Tolkien's works - while he still has wizards, dwarves and elves, he's tried to reshape his fantasy world into something less reminiscent of Tolkien with a bunch of prequels and sequels. Think airships, nuclear holocausts and urban fantasy.
So yeah, I respect him for that. I also respect him because he spent a few years writing a NEW sequel to Sword, even though his editor told him that his crappy first draft would sell well despite being… well, crappy.
These books are a gift from the heavens for snarkers, because it's like snarking Troll 2. Open any page, and there's SOMETHING you can mock. They are overflowing with badness on every page, whether it's purple prose, unerotic sex or blatant Mary Sues.
She also apparently rips off a lot of stuff from Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series, which I have never read. And, well, it's pretty clear that she's an LKH fan. And she thinks the moon is a planet.
So if this series (and its spinoff series) are such a glorious cornucopia of snark bait, why am I not reading them? Simple answer: they are porn. I do not read porn. Even in the Anita Blake series, I skip past the sex scenes. And from what I've read in OTHER people's snarks, the sex scenes are half of the snarkalicious fun. Hint: penis thumbs.
And here's an extra something to blow your mind: the woman who wrote these books went to VASSAR, went to medical school, became a DOCTOR. The woman who is unaware that the moon is not a planet… is a licensed physician. And she actually EDITS the books by her husband, who is a legit writer of actual literary fiction. She thinks the moon is a planet.
You may now weep for the injustice of the world.
She doesn't know the moon is not a planet.
The Mists of Avalon
Fuck this book. Fuck this book with a rusty screwdriver.
I kid you not, when I first read this book, it enraged me SO MUCH that I threw it across the room. I have not done that with any other book in my life. NOT EVEN TWILIGHT.
Quick summary: this is (supposedly) a woman-centered retelling of the King Arthur legend, focusing mainly on his sister/lover Morgan le Fey, who is a priestess of the never-named Goddess on the island of Avalon. The main thrust of it is the clash between Christianity and the native Celtic paganism… which is indistinguishable from Wicca.
I could write a thesis about all the ways I hate this book. Basically the reasons can be summed up as:
- It's wildly popular despite being openly bigoted.
- It's a clumsy, hamfisted piece of shit that keeps hopping on a soapbox.
- The main themes are that Christianity is bad, 20th-century neopaganism is good, women are wonderful and strong (unless they're Christians; then they're stupid shrill harpies) and men are either emo wimps or rape-happy apes.
- It rapes actual Celtic myth and religion. Apparently picking up a book on Celtic beliefs, culture and history was too hard for her (you know, the ancient Celts had a whole pantheon), so she just made them all ancient Wiccans. Don't write a pseudo-historical novel if you're not even going to try to get it right, mkay?
I also don't care that people consider it a feminist classic. If you've read my snarks on authors like Terry Goodkind, Laurell K. Hamilton and Stephenie Meyer, you know I'm a feminist in the classical sense. I don't care if Mists allows you to get in touch with your "Inner goddess" (like Ana Steele?) or see how oppressive the patriarchy is, blah blah. It's a bad book in almost every sense of the word.
How is it bad? It's PREACHY. The entire book is a soapbox.
This is one of those books that tells us "Religion X is pure evil, Religion Y is all things wonderful." Christianity is depicted as an evil horrible religion filled with rapists, hypocrites, zealots and weaklings. ENTIRELY. Meanwhile, a vaguely Celtic form of Wicca is depicted as being full of strong, spiritual women and peaceful men.
This is, of course, total bullshit. If MZB were any LESS accurate, she would have dwarfs dancing abround a tiny foam Stonehenge.
Also, here's quick diagram of the complex and nuanced gender politics of this series.
|Peaceful and happy
to follow the women
hypocrites or cruel
I've heard some people claiming that because MZB shows the good and bad in both paganism and Christianity. Again, bullshit - she throws in a few Christians who aren't complete assholes, but depicts the majority and their entire religion as evil, evil, evil. A couple token "good" Christians don't make it fair or balanced.
If you reversed the religious/gender poles in this book, you'd get a particularly vile Christian book that would be vilified for being so full of hatred, its bigotry, and its one-dimensional characters.
So in conclusion: I shall not snark this because my hate for it is too intense, and I would probably end up screaming "FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU!" over and over. Thank you.
And as the final delightful note on this book: MZB has recently been revealed to be a sadistic pedophile who tortured and molested her daughter for a decade.