Sunday, June 17, 2012

J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit

This month's book at my book club was Tolkien's The Hobbit.  I hadn't read the book since I was a tween so I thought it would be a refreshing reread of a classic that started the whole fantasy genre as we know it today.  So here are some grown up, more analytical observations of the book.

First, who was organizing this party?  Let's restore an ancient kingdom and steal it, and it's treasure, back from a powerful dragon using a group comprised of one third level wizard, twelve first level bards, and one first level thief.  Where's the cleric to heal them?  Where are the fighters?  At least one meat shield and one long range fighter.  Maybe a ranger or two to help them get through the wilderness without being on the verge of starvation all of the time.  Come on guys, expeditions of this magnitude take planning to succeed.  They seemed to be winging it right from the get-go.

Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let's focus on what is great about this book.  With this book and the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Tolkien created a modern genre based on epic legend and folktale.  Much of what has followed him is derivative of his work and vision in some way.  Even my two Clouded Skye novels blatantly borrow ideas from his work.

The songs and poetry in the book are actually good.  The first time I read the book as a kid, I skimmed those parts.  This time, they were part of the experience and added a richness to the story I missed the first time around.

The third person omniscient style is not normally my thing.  I usually prefer third person limited or first person.  Tolkien's use of the omniscient played out well in making the scope of the adventure feel large and world changing.

This is a book every fantasy fan should read.  Is it perfect?  No, it was the first of its kind, not necessarily the best of its kind.  But, it is still a great book and worth the time to immerse yourself into the world of Middle Earth.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Remembering Ray Bradbury

Yesterday, I tuned in to NPR and listened to a program where Sam Weller and others were remembering science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who passed away this week (Aug 22, 1920 - June 5, 2012).  He was most famous for his dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451 but wrote many others.  The only one I have read has been Fahrenheit 451 (I do plan to read some of his other works).  The book was well written and definitely needed in his time.  It still has relevance today.

One of the amazing things I heard on the NPR program was that When Bradbury was a child, he saw a horrific car accident and vowed never to drive an automobile.  Shortly before his passing, several scientists from NASA welcomed him with a driver's license issued on Mars and let him drive one of the mars rovers for a while.  The man who never drove a car on earth, wrote The Martian Chronicles and received the rare opportunity to drive on Mars itself.

He greatly influenced many through his writing as well as through his personal interactions with those around him.  He was a man that expanded our minds and, once stretched, they can never return to their original state.