Eddings, David: Belgariad series; Malloreon series

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.

So there.

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.


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  1. I am enjoying the recent spate of reviews. Have you read McKinley’s Sunshine yet? I didn’t believe it when I read that she had written a vampire novel. I read it last night, obsessively. It works. Even though I had nightmares all night.

  2. Thanks! I should have said that I’m caught up now, but I was trying to get to bed (the last thing needs a re-read before I talk about it, but I thought I’d been done with it by this point). I should remember, in the future, that it doesn’t take as long as I think to write them up when I’ve thought about the books for a bit afterwards.

    I haven’t read _Sunshine_ yet. It’s moderately high on the pile. I’m hearing very contradictory reports on it–it seems to depend on what people think about the protagonist. I’m definitely interested to see her do first-person, which I don’t think I’ve seen her do before.

  3. I was in a similar mood when I picked up The Redemption of Althalus a couple months ago–just give me something simple, quick, and escapist–and the fact that that didn’t turn out so well has me firmly convinced that I don’t want to go back and do a re-read of Belgariad or Mallorean. ‘Cause I really was sort of fond of them, way back when, and more willing then to ignore the lunacies and simple wrongnesses that you point out, and I’d like to retain an echo of that fondness, at least.

  4. Well, I have no doubt that by the time of _Redemption_, the quality of Eddings’ books had dropped several orders of magnitude–but yeah, I wouldn’t risk a re-read if I were you.

  5. I’m not sure how much you should take this with because my tastes have diverged significantly with Kate’s in the past (for some reason I feel more confident that Trent would like it — not sure why), but I’ll second the rec and say, go read Sunshine.

    It actually motivated me to write something.

  6. Beauty is also in first-person, but I’m not sure McKinley’s used it since, even in short fiction.

  7. I remember your review, Aaron, and it’s one of the reasons it’s currently moderately high on the pile. I’m not sure what’s next–probably something in paperback to easily take to getting my car’s oil changed.

  8. Is it? Goodness. I guess that just shows that it’s much less vivid to me than either the Damar books or _Spindle’s End_.

  9. I’ve been eyeing Sunshine on the New Releases pile in the local store for weeks now, and the positive word of mouth here might actually get me to pick it up sooner rather than later.

  10. Trent: there’s been negative elsewhere, though. =>

    Excerpt online if you haven’t already seen it.

  11. 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
    The same is true of Dune.

  12. FS, I’ve never read _Dune_–I tried once when I was a teenager, I think, and just wasn’t interested. I think I’ve probably missed my window for liking it.

  13. I disagree with FS’s comment about Dune — those families were established for the usual reasons, not with any single long-term justification event in mind. The [SPOILER] had a long-term breeding plan, but that’s different.
    At any rate, I’m not sure why you would think Dune has a window. The protagonist is a teenager, but it’s not a YA book, and it certainly isn’t one of those books where you have to be young and uncritical to get past the plotting or prose. I’d have expected you to like it as “SF in a mannered society”.

  14. Because I found it really boring when I tried, I get the impression that most people read it when they were teenagers, and it has this air of fanboy-fervor about it?

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