In Wizard's First Rule, the old wizard Zedd mentions several times that evil people never think they are evil. They think they are doing that which they have to do, whether it's out of fear, greed, or the very best of intentions. An "evil" person believes they are the hero and that what they are doing is right.
Richard starts out as a simple woods guide, something which is repeated ad nauseum in the following books. He's a bright young man who bears a striking resemblence to the picture of the author on the back cover of the latter books, although he doesn't quite start out as the soapbox and Marty Stu for Terry Goodkind.
The first book, and indeed the first three or so sequels were all very enjoyable. Yes, the writing is somewhat simple, but I always liked that about Goodkind. I don't need flowery prose in a fantasy book, and will happily accept a more straightforward approach. I loved the themes that seemed to be woven throughout the first book especially, which seemed to be suggesting that critical and logical thinking was extremely important, and that one could not believe in something because of fear, hatred, desire, or anything else.
"People are stupid," the Wizard's First Rule states. "They will believe anything is true if they want it to be true, or if they are afraid that it's true."
This seems like a very poignant lesson, and makes sense as the first rule of a logical thinking Wizard. Don't go with your gut, go with your mind. Use your brain to evaluate what's going on around you and make your decisions.
So Richard uses this rule and goes off on his fantasy adventure. He gets the titular Sword of Truth (which has so little to do with most of the series that Richard often spends entire books without it), finds out he's the single greatest wizard in all the history of the world, finds out he's the son of the single most evil wizard in all the history of the world, finds out he's the grandson of the greatest living good wizard, falls in love with the extremely beautiful and extremely powerful Mother Confessor (who can force you to love her unconditionally with a single touch, which of course Richard finds a way around), defeats his evil father, befriends a dragon, befriends a group of tribalistic shaman types, defeats a bunch of evil spirits, outwits a witch (who is of course enamored by him), is captured by an evil dominatrix who falls in love with him (thereby freeing herself from her own servitude by letting Richard kill her), and does a whole bunch of other stuff too.
And that's the first book. Which I liked, despite the "holy crap, Richard sure is amazing" vibe you get in it.
Then comes book five, where Richard barely appears, and instead we get an EXTREMELY thinly veiled attack on the Clinton marriage in the form of Bertrand Chambor and his evil wife Hildemara, a scheming couple who subvert the truth and commit adultery. The whole book is this ridiculous exploration of a strawman political structure.
I thought it was a hiccup.
I was wrong.
Sixth book is Richard being captured by ANOTHER evil dominatrix, who also happens to fall in love with him. Only this evil dominatrix takes him to the land of "super-evil-communism" where the entire huge and highly populated country lives in the most unrealistic (until we get to book, uh...eight?) scenario I had ever seen.
This (Faith of the Fallen) is where Goodkind really starts to abandon his storytelling and begins to see himself as the preacher of Objectivism. Objectivism, for those of you who may not know, is the belief that reality is an objective truth, and that every man (it's almost always said as "man" not as "person", this despite it being created by a woman) should be focused on the pursuit of his own happiness. Charity and welfare (communism!) is of course horribly evil, and anyone who lacks the ability to clearly define the good or evil of any particular subject is someone who lacks moral clarity (and apparently, according to Goodkind, can be slaughtered en masse. We'll get to that.)
Ironically, objectivism is somewhat similar to communism. It sounds good on paper, but once you bring human nature and basic reality into account, it falls apart. What does someone like Stephen Hawking do in an objectivist society? Well you'll never know, at least not if you read Goodkind's books (I could never get through anything Ayn Rand ever wrote), because people who actually NEED help do not exist. Every person is supremely capable of supporting themselves and their families, if only they were attempt to do so. Anyone on public assistance due to a disability or sickness is a lazy faker. There is not a single actually injured or disabled person in the society.
So Richard comes to this place of perfectly-healthy-yet-lazy-and-unproduct
Oddly enough, this doesn't make for a bad read. I actually enjoyed Faith of the Fallen, especially after Book 5's Clinton Marriage in Soul of the Fire. But you have to ignore the stupid society Goodkind has created in order to enjoy the book. If you start paying attention to the world he's built, you can't help but notice the childish flaws in his arguments.
So let's fast forward a little. More books come out. Another book features Richard hardly at all, but focuses on his half-sister and her mistaken (I'm not so sure about that) belief that Richard is evil and the Imperial Order (the aforementioned evil communist society) is good. The book is mostly about Jennsen (that's the sister) realizing the importance of having MORAL CLARITY, and recognizing that evil is evil and good is good. Anyone with MORAL CLARITY will be able to identify the truth of whether something is evil and something is good.
Therefore if Richard, who has MORAL CLARITY believes something is evil, then anyone who disagrees with him automatically lacks moral clarity.
This brings us to book eleventy-billion, Naked Empire in which Goodkind decides that his evil communist society is not stupid enough, and so instead creates an evil PACIFIST society.
That's right. Evil pacifists.
Take a moment. Let it sink in.
The short setup is this: The first dumb society, the Imperial Order (evil communists) have found out that this Naked Empire (evil pacifists) exists. Being evil, the Imperial Order arrives to kill, rape, re-kill, re-rape, and basically be as sadistic as humanly possible to this Naked Empire. The Naked Empire (evil pacifists) decide the best way to survive is to poison Richard (wait, pacifists can poison people? Remember what I said about not questioning the world that's presented to you?) and then give him the antidote only if he'll help them.
Except he can't actually fight the Imperial Order to help them. Richard speechifies most of them into realizing they're all a bunch of hippie idiots (by the by, the Iraq War was just beginning when this came out, and there is not a single doubt as to what Richard is really talking about when he talks about fighting against those who "hate freedom."). He goes on and on for page after page of nothing but speech-text, and then later finds some other reason he needs to protect the city from the Imperial Order, and so decides that he'll have to fight to protect them even if they won't help him to do it. He gets his army of formerly evil-rapist-killer-re-rapers-re-killers (but they're better now, so it's okay) and orders them (did I mention he automatically became ruler of half the world somewhere in the last few books? Oh. Well, he did.) to defend the city.
So what does the Naked Empire do? Those dirty hippies start protesting! They lock arms and chant "No War!" and things like that.
So Richard chops their heads off. He kills them all. Slaughters them wholesale.
Here's a little exerpt.
" A plump, curly-haired woman took a step out from the others. Her round face was red with anger as she screamed. "Stop the hate! No war! Stop the hate! No war!"
"Move or die!" Richard yelled as he picked up speed.
The red-faced woman shook her fleshy fist at Richard and his men, leading an angry chant. "Murderers! Murderers! Murderers!"
On his way past her, gritting his teeth as he screamed with the fury of the attack begun, Richard took a powerful swing, lopping off the woman's head and upraised arm. Strings of blood and gore splashed across the faces behind her even as some still chanted their empty words. The head and loose arm tumbled through the crowd. A man mad the mistake of reaching for Richard's weapon, and took the full weight of a charging thrust.
Men behind Richard hit the line of evil's guardians with unrestrained violence. People armed only with their hatred for moral clarity fell bloodied, terribly injured, and dead. The line of people collapsed before the merciless charge. Some of the people, screaming their contempt, used their fists to attack Richard's men. They were met with swift and deadly steel."
So yeah, he kills a bunch of them. Richard. The hero. He kills a bunch of unarmed pacifists, because those who refuse to fight against evil (as Richard defines it, but of course he has MORAL CLARITY and thus cannot be wrong in his decision of who is good and who is evil) are just as evil as the evil itself.
It's at this point that I began to wonder. Could Terry Goodkind have really gone so far off the deep end? Could he really believe that having his main character slaughter peace protestors in a spectacularly violent fashion was a good thing? Was I, the reader, supposed to accept this as the hero?
Or was he doing the most clever bit of writing I had heard of in perhaps all my life?
What if Terry Goodkind was purposefully showing us, the readers, how a brilliant, earnest, and well-intentioned young man could transform into that which he had once hated? What if we were being shown the evolution of a true fanatical killer? What if this was to be the greatest lesson of all, where in the final book it is revealed that Richard is the true evil now, and that someone else must now stop him?
Would that be a mindfuck, or what?
Alas, I don't expect this to be true. Goodkind clearly believes the Objectivist bullshit he spews, and it's pretty clear he thinks
So I'm dreading reading the last book. Terry Goodkind, along with Orson Scott Card, was an author I once enjoyed quite a bit. Wizard's First Rule is still just a solid and fun read for me, just like Ender's Game is. But unless Richard is supposed to be a villain who doesn't realize he's a villain, I just don't know that I can stomach this final installment. I suspect I'll read it eventually, as I've already invested time and money into this series, and because there's a morbid curiousity in mean that wants to know just how crazy it'll get before it ends.
But if I do read it then my hope that Goodkind was just fucking with us for the last 7 books will turn out to be false. Instead, I'll be forced to use my MORAL CLARITY to realize that Goodkind could have written a very enjoyable series, and instead ruined it with naive political bullshit.
Finally, if you haven't read the books or never quite noticed all the ridiculousnes, you can find a lot of crazy stuff here: http://sandstormreviews.blogspot.com/20