Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wizard's First Rule Chapter 1

We're introduced to a vine. Apparently it's killing a tree, it smells funky, and it has dusky variegated leaves. I'm going to make a wild guess and say this is an EVILLY EVIL vine: Pods stuck out from the vine here and there along its length, almost seeming to look warily about for witnesses.

… last time I checked, pods are not the same thing as eyes. They are basically seed containers, which don't really look at stuff very often. In fact, they're nothing like eyes at all.

And here we're introduced to Richard: Richard combed his fingers through his thick hair as his mind lifted out of the fog of despair, coming into focus upon seeing the vine. Either he has the attention span of a cocaine-fueled gnat, or he isn't very despairing. I mean, people who are actually despairing don't usually snap out of it because they find a funny-colored plant with eyepods. Or because they're grooming their L'Oreal hair.

He scanned for others, but saw none.

Does Goodkind mean other PEOPLE, or other VINES?

And he takes the opportunity to describe the scenery, which can be summed up as "autumnal forest." Trees are starting to turn red, the nights are colder, and so on. It's, well, nice that he's noting the actual season rather than having it be Generic Spring-Summer that never advances to anything else.

The oaks, being the last to surrender to the season, still stoically wore their dark green coats.

  1. I have yet to see a tree do anything in a less than stoic manner.
  2. And it's a little weird how he describes trees' leaves as "coats," rather than "crowns" or something of the sort.
  3. It makes the oaks sound like dark green furry animals.

Having spent most of his life in the woods, Richard knew all the plants-if not by name, by sight.

"I am a woodsy country person! Therefore I know everything about nature! I can paint with all the colors of the wind!"

With that, Richard launches into a very fragmented infodump - apparently when he was little, some old guy called Zedd would take him out herb hunting and would basically turn him into an herbal encyclopedia who's always trying to learn more. Wanna bet this will NEVER be mentioned again?

This vine, though, he had seen only once before, and not in the woods. He had found a sprig of it at his father’s house, in the blue clay jar Richard had made when he was a boy.

Ooooh! I'm excited by the prospect of finding out more about weird multicolored eyepod plant! Except… Goodkind isn't going to talk anymore about Richard's past experiences with it for a LONG time. Dammit.

His father had been a trader and had traveled often, looking for the chance exotic or rare item.

So is THAT where he got the eyepod vine?

People of means had often sought him out, interested in what he might have turned up.

… which sounds way cooler until you find out that they are out in the butt end of nowhere, and cut off from at least half the country. So who and where are these people of means?

It seemed to be the looking, more than the finding, that he had liked, as he had always been happy to part with his latest discovery so he could be off after the next.

File this under "interesting stuff that we will NEVER hear about again" because the character is dead and Richard is basically gonna forget about him soon. As it stands, Richard's dad sounds like kind of a hippie-dippie person, going off on random hunts for pretty things and leaving his little boy with a weird old man…. who takes him on long trips… alone… out into the woods….

From a young age, Richard had liked to spend time with Zedd while his father was away.

I'm sure we're meant to go, "Awwww, he's a little kid who learns from his elders and gets babysat by the kindly old man." But it sounds a little weird, especially since Goodkind mentions that he likes to spend time with Zedd WHILE his father is away. Not that he likes to spend time with Zedd period, but only when dad is gone.

Richard’s brother, Michael, was a few years older, and having no interest in the woods, or in Zedd’s rambling lectures, preferred to spend his time with people of means. About five years before, Richard had moved away to live on his own, but he often stopped by his father’s home, unlike Michael, who was always busy and rarely had time to visit.

Wanna bet that Michael is an evil bastard, since he doesn't like the woods, doesn't visit his wacky often-absent dad, and has rich friends?

Whenever his father went away, he would leave Richard a message in the blue jar telling him the latest news, some gossip, or of some sight he had seen.

So Richard goes out of his way to see his dad, and his dad can't be bothered to go say, "Bye, I'm off!" before jaunting off on another trip? What a loving dad.

It's even worse when you consider that apparently he put part of the eyepod vine IN THE JAR which his son would then stick his hand into. "Oooh, I found a creepy mysterious plant that can't be identified. It might be poisonous. I think I'll let my kid be exposed to it." It's official: Richard's dad is either a moron or a jerk. Or both.

And yes, I recognize the joke in "eyepod vine."

On the day three weeks before when Michael had come to tell him their father had been murdered,

I thought Richard was the one who was always visiting daddy and was soooo close to him, and Michael was the Evil Bastard who never visits or calls or sends Christmas cards. Unless Michael was the one who visited daddy a lot, and Richard is just trying to cover his ass and demonize his brother.

And the way Goodkind writes it, it's also completely devoid of emotion. This whole personal tragedy thing would make a lot more sense if RICHARD had been the one to stumble across his dad's body, and then had some sort of big emotional scene that would make us empathize with him from the start. And, you know, if he had done it in the PRESENT instead of a month ago.

You know, the Luke Skywalker thing when he finds his uncle and aunt? That is a really sad and touching moment, and it hits hard because we SEE Luke finding their skeletons, not wandering around a MONTH later. Instead he gets the news from Evil Bastard Brother a MONTH AGO, and he's obviously so grief-stricken that he's wandering around the woods staring at weird eyepod vines.

3Richard had gone to his father’s house, despite his brother’s insistence that there was no reason to go, nothing he could do. Richard had long since passed the age when he did as his brother said.

And this is portrayed as being yet another sign that his brother is an EVIL BASTARD, rather than as, I dunno, an attempt to protect Richard from the gruesome horrible death that daddy had. Anyway, Richard apparently went to the house, where other people kept him from seeing the body and having a Character-Building Moment.

But still, he saw the big, sickening splashes and puddles of blood, brown and dry across the plank floor.

Right, because puddles are usually filled with DRY stuff. I'm going to to go walk outside on puddles of dry mud.

Anyway, nobody talks to Richard except to give him sympathy, which seems rather pointless since Richard doesn't seem to really care. I mean he's supposed to be grief-stricken, but gets instant mood-boosts by looking at plants. Oh yes and apparently the townspeople were talking about MAAAAAGIIIIIIICC. As in, the not so subtle implication that Daddy was killed by MYSTERIOUS MAGICAL POWARZ!

Richard was shocked at the way his father’s small home had been torn apart, as if a storm had been turned loose inside.

I suppose all the mayhem is due to it being done by a Designated Villain, who couldn't possibly kill someone without ripping apart the house. I'm not sure why the FLOOR is intact, though.

And the Designated Villain must have stupidity of Eragonic proportions. I mean, if you're gonna kill someone while on a secret mission, why not make it look like an accident or natural causes, rather than doing BIG FLASHY ANIME MAGIC ATTACK so everybody will not only know it was murder, but MAGICAL murder?

Only a few things were left untouched.

Like daddy's collection of vintage romance novels.

The blue message jar still sat on the shelf, and inside he found the sprig of vine.

Ah, so that's where he saw it. Of course, he's going to pick up the mystery plant and stick it in his pants. Naturally.

It was still in his pocket now. What his father meant him to know from it, he couldn’t guess.

Yeah, obviously it could ONLY have been a message from daddy. Uh, maybe daddy just left it in there because it was a curiosity that he wanted Richard to see.

Or… maybe…. since it was one of the FEW things in the whole house that wasn't destroyed, and since Richard's dad was MAGICALLY MURDERED, the vine is actually a TRAP. All hail the brilliant brain of Designated Hero! He hasn't figured that out yet!

Grief and depression overwhelmed him, and even though he still had his brother, he felt abandoned.

Maybe I'm being an insensitive bastard, but he doesn't seem very depressed or grief-stricken, and he isn't acting lonely or anything. Somebody who is feeling those emotions… well, you'd expect them to act lonely/depressed/grief-stricken. Maybe that he'd rush over to Zedd and unburden himself, or stay with a friend of the family.

Instead, he's been dicking around for the past MONTH, apparently not doing much at all. And now he's just sort of ambling around randomly in the woods, on the massive assumption that a funny-looking plant must be a super-secret message that will lead him straight to daddy's killer. Because, you know, Evil Magical Murderers just sit there and patiently wait while the victim lays out clues.

Even though his father had often been away, sometimes for weeks, Richard had always known he was somewhere, and would be back. Now he would never be back.

Okay, that's… rather touching. Goodkind does way too much telling and not enough showing, but that is a fairly realistic feeling.

Michael wouldn’t let him have anything to do with the search for the killer. He said he had the best trackers in the army looking and he wanted Richard to stay out of it, for his own good.

Which actually makes sense. I mean, Richard doesn't seem to have any skills except memorizing herbs and meandering around the woods. Their dad was murdered by someone who was either magically adept or freakishly physically strong, which means that if Richard DOES bumble into them, he's going to get killed.

But since Michael is the designated Evil Bastard, this particular gesture is presumably meant to be a sign of his Evil Bastardness. It's happening again - I'm liking the villains and antagonists more than the Designated Hero.

So Richard simply didn’t show the vine to Michael, and went off alone every day, searching for it.

Evidently our hero is a real idiot, because he's forgotten that HE has the vine and he doesn't need to look for it.

For three weeks he walked the trails of the Hartland Woods, every trail, even the ones few others knew of, but he never saw it.

So you'd expect that he would either find something, or he'd start getting discouraged because he's spent a month out in the woods chasing a red herring. Meanwhile Evil Magical Murderer is probably a continent away, eating fried chicken and enjoying a nice cold beer because the Designated Hero is still looking for a plant.

The whispers haunted him with the feeling that he somehow knew something of why his father had been murdered. They teased him, tantalized him with thoughts just out of reach, and laughed at him for not seeing it.

"That's right, Richard. Now burn everything. Burn it to the ground!"

I mean... holy fuck. I may joke about other characters like Anita Blake being insane.... but this guy really is! HE HEARS VOICES AND DOES WHAT THEY SAY! NOBODY seems to be even vaguely concerned by the fact that he HEARS VOICES! Does Goodkind seriously not have a clue how incredibly creepy this makes his Designated Hero?

He had thought that when he found the vine it would give him some sort of answer.

So now he wants the vine to talk to him too?!

The whispers had stopped teasing him, but now they brooded. He knew it was just his own mind thinking, and he told himself to stop trying to give the whispers a life of their own. Zedd had taught him better than that.

Did Zedd also slip him some nice pills that would make the voices go away? Or… maybe Zedd IS one of the voices in his head! Maybe that's why Zedd kept babysitting him whenever daddy was away! Maybe that's why Zedd and he were always going off into the woods together!

Erm… are we really sure that the Designated Villain(s) killed Richard's dad? I mean, are we sure that the Voices In His Head didn't decide that daddy was onto them, and told Richard to kill him? That's our hero, ladies and gents - not only is he emotionally dead and completely insane, but he might be a murderer too!

Richard looked up at the big fir tree in its agony of death.

Will someone please tell Richard that fir trees don't have nervous systems, so they don't really feel pain?

He thought again of his father’s death. The vine had been there. Now the vine was killing this tree; it couldn’t be anything good.

…. the lojicks, they failz. Suppose that you find a plastic bag near a murder scene, and you later find a plastic bag on a dead animal's head. Clearly, the plastic bag cannot be anything good!

So Richard decides to do the first constructive thing he's done in this entire chapter. Having sat there drooling on himself Anita-Blake-style for ten minutes, he grabs the vine and starts yanking it off the tree.

That’s when the vine bit him.

So not only does the vine have eyepods, but now it has teeth too?

One of the pods struck out and hit the back of his left hand,

That is not biting. That is striking out.

Anyway, apparently the non-biting vine-thingy has left a thorn embedded in his hand, and for some reason Richard doesn't just tug it out with thumb and forefinger… possibly because the voices in his head tell him not to.

The matter was decided. The vine was trouble.

Gollygoshdarn, but we've got a genius on our hands.

At first surprised, he realized why and reprimanded himself for allowing his depression to cause him to forget something as basic as taking his knife with him into the woods.

See above remark. He lives in Generic MedievalLand, for crying out loud - it should be INSTINCT for him to bring some kind of weapon along, just in case. So he tries to pull out the thorn, only for the thorn to start DIGGING INTO HIS HAND. He even hurts himself MORE trying to get the little bugger out. And for that matter, how is the thorn moving on its own? If it were magically propelled I could understand it, but Goodkind says that it's "wriggling." Wriggling requires muscles. A thorn doesn't have muscles.

Strangely, this does not seem to upset Richard. A normal person would be shrieking, "HOLY CRAP, there's a moving thorn in my hand GETITOUTGETITOUTGETITOUT!"

But Richard just meanders over to a nearby bush and finds a medicinal plant, then dribbles its juices onto the injury. This is not going to get rid of the thorn; in fact, Richard thinks to himself that he can STILL FEEL the thorn DIGGING INTO HIS BODY. But apparently it isn't of great concern to him because he's gotten a natural painkiller on his ouchie booboo.

In fact, he is SO unconcerned that he's thinking about his imaginary friend: He smiled as he mentally thanked old Zedd for teaching him how the aum plant made wounds heal faster. The soft fuzzy leaves always made Richard think of Zedd. So Zedd is an imaginary green fuzzy Muppet? He's like a genial brother of Oscar the Grouch?

Richard squatted down and poked a hole in the ground with his finger, placed the aum in it, and fixed moss about the stem so it might regrow itself.

Um, is Richard a little unclear on how plants work? Like with roots, internal fluids, roots, stems, and did I mention roots? This guy is the worst woodland guide EVER.

The sounds of the forest fell dead still.

I'm not sure if this is technically incorrect or not, but it's a bizarre way to phrase it. Usually sounds don't go still, they go SILENT.

Richard looked up, flinching as a dark shadow swept over the ground, leaping across limbs and leaves.

So… a shadow is LEAPING? Or is whatever is making the shadow… leaping? I'm confused here.

Anyway something huuuuuge and reeeeed passes overhead, and all the animals go crazy and fly/run away. Being a bona fide genius, Richard decides that obviously a big red UFO is probably something Not Good. Let's all pat him on the back for his Sherlockian deduction.

Discounting his fears, he started running.

Wouldn't discounting his fears mean that he was standing still? Running is… something you do when you're scared.

He tried to think of what could be that big, that big and red. It was impossible; there was nothing that flew that was that large. Maybe it was a cloud, or a trick of the light. But he couldn’t fool himself: it was no cloud.

He lives in Generic FantasyLand. Generic FantasyLand has all sorts of bizarre and scientifically impossible stuff… because if it didn't, it wouldn't be a Generic FantasyLand. Suddenly I have the urge to bludgeon Goodkind with Diana Wynne-Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

Tree branches wet with rain from the night before slapped at his face as he ran through the forest,

Hold on, wait a second. If the trees are still wet in the middle of the day, then why isn't the GROUND wet? Dirt and moss are a lot more absorbent than LEAVES and BARK, and they're more likely to have water drip onto them, so if the branches are wet the ground should be all mushy.

Unless in this Genetic MedievalFantasyLand, water falls UP. That introduces a whole new host of problems.

Dappled swatches of sunlight teased him-to look up but denied him the view he needed.

So… the sun is keeping him from seeing what's above him? If so then running into the open won't help.

His breath was fast, ragged, sweat ran cold against his face, and he could feel his heart pounding as he ran carelessly down the hillside.

"I'm going to buy the last ticket to the new Twilight movie if it KILLS ME!"

he spotted the thing, far away and too small for him to tell what it was, but he thought it had wings.

…. just like everything else that flies, including machines. VERY helpful.

Anyway, Designated Hero just wore himself out without seeing anything about the UFO. So after having deceived his brother for the last MONTH, he decides that maybe he should tell him all about the vine and the UFO. Then he decides against it, because Michael will understandably be mad at him for doing all this crap.

Now that he was grown, he could laugh off his brother’s constant instructions, though he still had to endure the looks of displeasure.

Maybe his brother is displeased because Richard keeps laughing at him all the time, despite the fact that Richard clearly couldn't find his butt with a map?

He pushed aside his harsh judgments of his brother; today was a big day for Michael. Today he was accepting the position of First Councilor.

So his brother decides to support him by… spending the day hunting for funny looking vines that may or may not be involved in their daddy's death. Wouldn't it be a better idea to at least congratulate him on his new appointment? It feels like Goodkind came up with this on the spur of the moment and didn't really bother to flesh it out.

Michael deserved Richard’s support, he needed it; Michael had lost a father, too.

But since he's a designated Evil Bastard who annoys the Stu, I am sure that soon he'll be demonized again.

Anyway, that day there's going to be a ceremony and reception, there are going to be all the important people in the whole PROVINCE, and Richard is invited too. He's apparently only going for the food, and I'm betting he plans to show up covered in sweat, blood and dirt too.

In the spring it was wet and soggy down by the lake, but this late in the year it would be dry.

It's official: it rains UP in Generic FantasyLand.

We finally find out what Richard does for a living: he's a "woods guide," or basically somebody who walks people through the woods. Apparently there's also a boundary, but Goodkind doesn't tell us what kind of boundary it is - a wall, a forcefield, a human chain, or just a stick stuck in the ground.

However, people apparently avoid it, which is why Richard has a totally meaningless and skill-free job.

Most were traveling dignitaries wanting the prestige of a local guide more than they wanted direction.

So basically his skill-free meaningless job also isn't in demand for anything more than appearances. What is it about Sues and Stus? They're magically able to do anything, but their actual JOBS are total jokes.

Anyway, Richard sees somebody or something moving, and uses his stunning deductive skills to realize that it's a person.

Maybe it was his friend Chase. Who else but a boundary warden would be wandering around up here?

An idiot who hears voices and does what they say?

It wasn’t Chase; it was a woman, a woman in a dress.

Either that, or Chase has a little secret he's hiding from everyone.

What woman would be walking around this far out in the Ven Forest, in a dress?

Should women only walk out in the Ven Forest stark naked?

But then he notices a bunch of guys following her, and apparently dressed as Robin Hood. Apparently they're supposed to be sneaky like ninjas, but if Richard can clearly see them from so far away then they're doing a rotten job.

They were stalking her.

So she got a restraining order, and they had to turn over all the nude pictures, stolen panties and creepy phone recordings.

He knew immediately: this was the third child of trouble.

Is he talking about the woman, her dress, or the guys?

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