I have a confession to make.
I, um, well,
I voluntarily re-read David Eddings.
Oh, all right. This month, I re-read The Belgariad and The Malloreon, of my own free will and with other books available.
In my defense, I must say that I was so stressed out earlier this month that I could not cope with anything new or in the least demanding. And they’d been mentioned by some unexpected people in the discussions about favorite books (kicked off in my LiveJournal and spreading to Usenet from there). So when I needed something mindless and comforting, they naturally came to mind.
[ I do occasionally post book-related things over in my LJ; if you don’t want to wade through all the personal stuff for the book talk, you might find this “ memories list” useful. ]
Positive things first: there is a certain charm to the narration, especially early in the series. They’re well-worn and familiar, flowing right past my eyes in a soothing manner that required the minimum number of synapses to fire. I like many of the characters, though reluctantly in some cases.
Negative things: last time I read these, several years ago, I appeared not to have noticed how incredibly abhorrent this universe is. It is, in a nutshell, a universe where history is deterministic not chaotic, where genetics is destiny, and where race and gender impart immutable personality characteristics. It’s a universe where one can meaningfully talk about establishing families over thousands of years, just to produce a destined individual with specific characteristics who will do a particular thing; where the whole point of ten long books is to restore the purpose of the universe (the universe has a purpose!); and where the worst kind of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” crap appears to be uniformly true. (The only slogan button I have says “Men are from Earth. Women are from Earth. Deal with it.”)
It’s a good thing that I didn’t have to engage many brain cells for these, because otherwise they might have melted in disgust.
They did prompt me to think a bit about prophecy, specifically whether a deterministic universe is required. I don’t think so, at least not for all prophecies. Some are really just instructions or if-then statements, such as the one in Curse of Chalion, or possibly Will’s wyrd as quoted below (he interprets it as if-then, anyway). Some are self-fulfilling, and gain their interest from the debate over what role is played by free will or chance. It’s only a subset of prophecies that require a deterministic universe, and I think most authors (wisely) don’t make an issue of it, or leave the prophecy’s mechanism vague enough that the readers aren’t forced to wonder. (Someone must have written stories exploring prophecy and the many-worlds hypothesis?)
So I did actually get a teeny tiny bit of thought out of re-reading Eddings, once my brain was capable of it again. And now I know I won’t ever read these again. I guess you really do learn something every day.