What I learned from this book.
Don’t agree to read the book Robert tells you is the best book in the whole world ever just because he invited you over to watch the best film in the whole world ever (Close Encounters) and you slept through all but the first ten minutes.
You know you are going to hate this book before you’ve even opened it. You know you can’t read it out of guilt. Robert’s fifty. He can live with you sleeping through his favourite film.
But you take it home. Non-specific Catholic guilt syndrome, as my dentist informed me when I said I thought he was God. And you open it up.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that’s so consistently made me feel physically ill every time I’ve opened it.
The book starts off with detailed descriptions of the hero getting spontaneous leprosy. Now, as it happens, I know a fair bit about leprosy as I was intending, when I was little, to be a saint, and it’s just one of those things you have to come to terms with. One of the popular ways for saints to die is in leper colonies. So, at the age of eight or so, I did take it upon myself to research how I was going to get it, exactly what it was going to do to me and how I would die.
Unless there was a whole new advance in the way leprosy behaved, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a spontaneous sort of thing. Sure enough, when I doubled-checked my information, I was right. This book starts out twaddle and I have no doubt nothing is going to get any better.
What can I say. I skimmed through it. Pathetically inane made up world and ‘language’ to match. And it’s only one volume of how many? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.
Robert and I still see each other, but we are no longer close. Um. I guess I shouldn’t have said that thing about hobbits.
Update: Important information I have just gleaned about Stephen Donaldson.
(1) This was his first sortie into fantasy. Okay, okay, so you could tell just by reading the thing. Well, I thought this was interesting.
(2) The reason he picked leprosy as one of the themes was that he knew a lot about it as his father was a doctor in India for a long time. So accustomed to leprosy was he that when he described the creative process as being a combination of a ‘familiar’ and ‘exotic’ idea coming together, leprosy was the familiar one(!) But what’s the point of knowing all about leprosy and then having your character catch it spontaneously??? To make matters worse, why will we believe anything else he says about leprosy? I gather I’m setting myself up here to the argument that it is supposed to be obvious that you can’t spontaneously become a leper and that therefore it is permissable to make it up. So, go on. Sock it to me.