|Can I finish Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series? A rant.
||[Nov. 30th, 2007|09:57 pm]
The final book in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series was recently released, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to read it. I've borrowed a copy and it's sitting here with me now, but after reading just a few sentences I find it difficult to continue, because I know that the ending that I want is not going to be the ending that I get. The ending that I want is the ending where Richard, the "hero" is revealed to have become that which he fought against in the first novel.
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-unproductive people, and through the virtues of capitalism, moral clarity (This is evil! That is good! There is no gray, EVER!), rugged good looks, incredible intelligence, and master-like skill in any project he attempts, Richard is able to convince this society to revolt against their evil government. How does he do this? Why, he secretly carves a statue of two supermodels looking vaguely noble.
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
Terry Goodkind Richard Rahl is a wonderful role model. I think the final book is going to end with more of Richard speechifying for page after page (we're talking ten-page chunks of text in which there is nothing but Richard talking. No narration at all. Just speechifying about how one has to live their lives for themselves.)
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/2006/08/goodkind-parodies.html , including excerpts of the crazier moments of the series. Moments like Kahlan the beautiful heroine threatening to throw her sister BACK into a pit full of men who had previously gang-raped her to full insanity, or a bunch of nun-types being raped by a giant demon in an evil ceremony, or when she decides to offer soldiers the opportunity to leave a battle and then track them down and kill them one by one afterwards for desserting, or when Richard rips a man's spine out through his stomach. Great moments, all.
2007-12-01 04:57 am (UTC)
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.
But they have souls. lol
No no, they have MORAL CLARITY.
Please, let's not to confuse our excuses for characters behaving stupidly.
2009-08-16 12:07 am (UTC)
You all lack the moral clarity to properly understand the position of Richard, he stands between barbarism and civilization. Their society emphasizes the glorification of the weak and sickly. Each man must find his own way forward and disregard everyone else, for they will only drag him down. Ultimately, it is our own choices which shape our future...-shot-
thank goodness, that idiot is dead
2010-09-23 08:00 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed your criticisms of Goodkind
far more than his last three books.
I haven't read ANY of this series but I have read Ender's Game and I really liked that story. Please don't tell me that Orson Scott Card is all sucko now too!
is great. I even enjoy the first three sequels, although by Children of the Mind
you start to see Card's personal beliefs and politics begin to color the story. There's a strange kind of stereotyping and racism involved in it.
But then Ender's Shadow
and that whole series came out, where we learn that there's no greater accomplishment for a
fourteen year old girl
woman than to have babies, and that fertilized embryos are YOUR CHILDREN! and you must protect them from evil super-geniuses who don't appear to have much sense. Then there's a whole bunch of really simplistic war scenarios he comes up with, although all I can remember right now is that the key to the world is occupying Thailand and India or something to that effect. It was all just very naive and childish.
Last I heard however, he'd written a book about how a bunch of Conservative Republican Military Commandos fight off the EVIL LIBERAL ARMY that attempts to take over America.http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Orson-Scott-Card/dp/0765355221/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t
Again, it's too bad, cause I've really liked a lot of Card's work, but in the last ten years or so the guy has been completely whacked out of his gourd, judging by his books.
Having actually read Empire, I'd point out that it's a criticism on political polarization, and he's not much less critical of the conservatives than he is of the liberals.
The commandos aren't really "Conservative Republican". They're basically just in favor of keeping the country united. Simple soldiers who don't really get the politics behind the orders.
The "Liberal Army" is pretty riddiculous though. Combat Mechs are complete crap. Tanks are designed for LOW target profile for a reason.
Anyway, at the end, it's revealed that
(The whole thing was engineered. By a guy ostensibly on the "conservative" side.)
2007-12-05 03:26 am (UTC)
Sorry to but in, but I just wanted to comment. I have only read the first two Ender books and though I enjoyed them, I saw the sexism in the first book (though the story was enoughto keep me involved for book two). As a young-teen girl in the pre-buffy era, I was pretty used to it- but it did turn me off of his books. The decline dosen't surprise me all that much. Make me sad for the waste of a talented writer, but doesn't surprise me. I'm glad now I didn't waste my time in reading them.
2010-09-23 07:55 pm (UTC)
Card and Goodkind
I actually found all the Ender series quite good, but every other work of Card's I couldn't get into. The first Bean book was good, but the rest simply falls apart. I think you cannot call the later Ender books as racist as the message is anti-genocidal and about the love a character develops as he delves into a new culture. This is not racism but is more likely a reflection on the experience of most Mormon missionaries. They whether tossed into a new language or simply teaching their same language in an area not too far removed from their home (say AZ versus TX) end up loving the people they serve even if at the end of it they may have more questions about their faith than when they began. (Honesty requires believers to admit they do not "know it is true." I did serve and believe and experienced uplifting experiences that buoyed my faith, but I had none that would count as "knowing".)
The problem with Goodkind's creation is that while he constantly denounces faith of any kind which he originally seems to take aim at Catholocism, he continues denouncing all that he believes is faith. This hits prophets, collectivism, and ultimately religion which ironically is the first target of collectivists. I often wondered initially if Goodkind was an athiest as his writing was quite often prosaic and I had to wonder if he was intentionally lampooning faith. He may have, but he seems to not recognize when his writing is boorish. Had he avoided sermonizing, his works would have had the 'art' that he seems to love. Instead he tread a path that many cannot resist doing when they abandon faith: attacking those who remain behind. If you compare the deterioration of the books with his sermonizing, you can see the works degrade as he indulges in ever more of it until the last book is downright unreadable. The spin-off book was much better because there was little sermonizing.
Now I am looking for a new series to start that doesn't deteriorate. Who knows when the next George RR Martin book will be out?
2007-12-01 05:03 am (UTC)
Sword of Truth, Moral Objectivism and other fecal matter
Well, it's obvious that since you don't agree with Terry Goodkin/Richard Rahl, that you are an evil person, and we don't have to pay any attention to anything you say. Especially the screams you're likely to utter as you are horribly slaughtered in the most painful ways possible, and which is clearly something you richly deserve for doubting TG/RR's words of wisdom.
You do realize I'm just kidding, right? ;-)
I made it to (I think) the fourth book, before the bullshit TG was spewing made it too difficult to tolerate while reading. The fact that anything Richard and his beloved wife desired to do was, by author's fiat, the absolutely, positively, very best thing in the world that could ever be done in the history of a clearly already very screwed up world got to be very annoying and boring, very quickly.
I found myself eventually hoping to read that Richard had tripped as he was coming down one of the many marble staircases that seemed to be everywhere in his world, and that he'd broken his freaking neck and/or possibly ended up impaled on that incredibly powerful sword he owned, and which he never seemed to be able to figure out how to use properly. Unfortunately, that never happened. ;-(
I stopped reading the books, but I never ceased to be amazed that they remained so popular despite the fact that if we ever had an actual leader like Richard Rahl, pretty much everyone would be screaming about the seeming capriciousness of his rule and looking to have his head on a pole. The major reason I'm glad to hear that TG has finished the series is the realization that no more trees or electrons will have to die in order for his idiocy to be read.
Well, I'm finished ranting now, so I'm going to go back and start lurking again. Thanks for the (good?) news about the series.
And thanks very much for the fic you've been supplying us.
2007-12-01 05:25 am (UTC)
Re: Sword of Truth, Moral Objectivism and other fecal matter
Well one thing is that the reviews for his books (on Amazon anyway) have reflected the steady decline in quality. Naked Empire is at about 2 and 1/2 stars, which is insanely low for such a popular fantasy series. When it comes to a fantasy series it sometimes seems like you could just write the same story again and put "Book 2" in the title (coughBELGARIAD) and people will eat it up with a spoon, so he must be doing something wrong to get such low reviews.
2007-12-01 12:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Sword of Truth, Moral Objectivism and other fecal matter
"When it comes to a fantasy series it sometimes seems like you could just write the same story again and put "Book 2" in the title (coughBELGARIAD) and people will eat it up with a spoon, so he must be doing something wrong to get such low reviews."
But the Belgariad and it's re-incarnations are just pure fun.. . They even came up with a silly-enough-to-be-true reason for the duplication. And now I'm trying to picture the chaos a snarky, self-aware prophecy could have caused on Buffy. rotf
2007-12-01 03:40 pm (UTC)
On Reasonable Objectivists
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
I used to participate in the newsgroup humanities.philosophy.objectivism, and many of the self-styled Objectivists (or "students of Objectivism", as some of them insisted) were very much like how you describe Goodkind(*) -- apparently thinking that those who disagreed with them were evil -- MUST be evil -- and deserving of death. Their arguments were often pathetic, and clearly more motivated by base emotions than the "clear identification of reality" as they claimed.
But there were a few who claimed to be Objectivists and were reasonable people nonetheless. These people had taken to heart the very Objectivist principle "that critical and logical thinking was extremely important, and that one could not believe in something because of fear, hatred, desire, or anything else." These people would, I think, say that it was right for Richard to *hate* the pacifists (or at least to despise them), but wrong to *kill* them. The need for critical and logical thinking applies to moral evaluations most of all, and there is a great difference between "deserving to be killed" and "not deserving to be saved." It would be hateful (they'd say) for someone to insist that Richard stay and defend people who will not defend themselves. But Richard's actions show that his moral evaluations come from his emotions rather than his intellect -- he has concluded that they deserve to be killed based for no other reason than that he hates them. He may have Objectivist sympathies, but he is not (they'd say) an Objectivist.
Personally, I'd rather read *your* end to the series than Goodkind's (based on your descriptions -- I haven't read the series at all). But I doubt even my "reasonable Objectivists" would write it your way. It seems to me that even they would have the Objectivist aesthethic, where art is supposed to portray heroes to us, and where villains are to be shown as the evading fakers of reality that they truly are. Personally, I like a story that makes me *think* about right and wrong -- to "check my premises", as the Objectivists like to say. Yet I don't think I've ever met an Objectivist who thinks that it's good to show how a man who starts with good principles and intentions can still go bad. (Well, maybe just one....)
(*) BTW, "Goodkind" seems like the wrong name for an Objectivist. It should be "Goodstrong" or "Goodlogic" or maybe "Goodbenevolent". "Kindness" is taken as a code word for *altruism* -- one of the primary evils of the world (per Objectivists).
Apologies if this is too long. I thought it might shed some insight into why I never liked the series in the first place.
I was recommended The Sword of Truth
by an acquaintance. At first, I didn't know what to make of it. Obviously a lot of people liked it, and after a few pages I tentatively classified it as light-hearted casual fantasy. Even so, the protagonist was so lifeless he couldn't even be described as wooden, the world-crafting laughable, the villain worthless by any account. Worse still were the germinating seeds of Goodkind's insanity. Back then, I didn't recognize them for what they were, just that he seemed to devote a chunk of text to a scenario nobody in their right mind could fail to laugh at.
Which scenario is that, you may ask? I am glad you may asked.
"My beloved brother who shares with me"- he pounded a fist to his chest "the tragedy of losing our own mother to fire! Fire took our mother from us when we were young, and left us to grow up alone, without her love and care, without her guidance. It was not some imagined enemy from across a boundary that took her, but an enemy of fire! She couldn't be there to comfort us when we hurt, when we cried in the night. And the thing that wounds the most is that it didn't have to be."
Tears, glistening in the sunlight, ran down Michael's cheeks. "I am sorry, friends, please forgive me." He wiped the tears with a handkerchief he had handy. "It's just that only this morning I heard of another fire that took a fine young mother and father, and left their daughter an orphan. It brought my own pain back to me and I couldn't remain silent." Everyone was now solidly back with him. Their tears flowed freely. A woman put her arm around Richard's shoulder as he stood numb. She whispered how sorry she was.
Perhaps as bewildering as it was cringe-inducing, especially if you read it in context (which I'd rather not quote, considering the sheer text mass involved). But to anyone who's not pig-ignorant of the world outside the city, the idea of a preindustrial society in which fire doesn't equal life itself
would be... well, "preposterous" is too kind a word by far.
A voluntary refusal to use fire? I'm sorry, Mr Goodkind, but are you shitting me? Steel and iron, protection from enemies, food and ale, brick and light and heat... no other source existed for them. People would be handing over not a luxury utility, but their only means of survival and sustenance
. There's a reason
we still have fireplaces in our homes even today, for the mere psychological need for comfort we still derive from its presence.
This a single detail only. I mention it not as a silver bullet to the heart of the book; it's not. If that was the only thing I found objectionable about The Sword of Truth, I'd be perfectly happy to let it go. But it does show, even then, how completely out of touch with his setting (not to mention reality) Goodkind was even then. I could go on for ages about the bizarre naming conventions of the story, and the bestiary, and other things as well, but I shan't. What I mentioned above is what stuck in my memory.
It happened, coincidentally, during a speech. I found that rather fitting. :D
I just realized this sounded rather accusatory. Just to clarify, I'm not attacking anyone who liked the book. A lot of stuff I like that fall under light-hearted fantasy can't really be defended as high art; it's not supposed to be. What I did want to do is explain why I felt Sword of Truth was, honestly, too dumb to enjoy even as a diversion.
Reminds me of *shudders* Anne Rice. *spits* Just swap political and philosophical wankery for porn, and bad porn at that.
She started off with a light hearted half decent fantasy/cop drama, which descended into a pit of soft porn, Mary-sueism of the highest order, and just plain bad writing.
If you want a laugh, go to Amazon.com and read the reviews for her last couple of books.
Ha! I had a friend at work tell me about Goodkind. We were comparing awful books. I had just offered up Glen Cook's Angry Lead Skies. Ya gotta understand I love Glen cook as an author... I particularly love his Black company books... but Angry lead skies was just mind bendingly awful offal.
My friend counters my submission and offers up one of Mr Goodkinds books(I forget the title offhand)
I go "huh?"Having never read it. He proceeds to explain it to me.
He tells about how the main character is a Marty Stu to beat all... and how the author has basically gone from being a simplistic light read to a through and through wackjob.
I of course go out and buy a couple of the books and about die laughing reading the stuff.
Okay.. okay... the setting is clearly a more primitive and supposedly more epic time... and people are talking and weeping and being moved like characters out of the Illiad.. but holy crap.
On the Wacky radar Mr. Goodkind has registered as being on the far side of pluto and accelerating to toward the star system that bizarro world is situated in.
Do what people have done with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. Read it, mourn the butchering of perfectly good characters and then write fanfiction that is infinitely better.
The most disappointing part of that was I read about 4 chapters of a supposed spoiler leaked copy (which was really fanfic), and it was better than the real thing when it hit shelves.
Tack on Rolling's "Nanny nanny boo-boo! Dumbledore's gay! I got you to care about a gay character!" and the series was obliterated. Not that a gay character ruins a book, but such a snarky and cowardly announcement after she had sold every copy she could? Well, if she said it at book two or three, then she has principles. Otherwise it is just petty.
Mac, you so have to post this on the literarysnark community.
2007-12-02 09:06 pm (UTC)
That website link is pretty funny, Thanks for that. Be careful reading Goodkind, I'm convinced that his writing will drive you insane with too much exposure. I guess we'll all know if you've gone mad when Evil Xander of See Noir Evil starts a fifty thousand word speech with "Don't You See..", and everyone agrees with him by the end.
Ugh, please be careful.
2007-12-02 09:47 pm (UTC)
Sword of Truth, Objectivism
I really enjoyed Wizard's First Rule. I enjoyed each subsequent book less and less because Goodkind forgot what it meant to be an author as opposed to a philosopher. When he eventually started in with Randian monologues, I finished that book, and didn't pick up the next one. I think many authors forget that actions speak louder than words, and that plot is to action, as monologue/narrative is to words. Don't preach to me, give me a scene and show me!
Wizard's First Rule was decent in that respect, even for showcasing some of Objectivism's core tenets, such as its focus on critical thinking as opposed to emotion, and Richard's time in captivity. I think your ending to the Sword of Truth series would have been fantastic; what can drive the rational protagonist to become the despot he initially fought against? This somewhat echoes the quote:
"It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea."
~ Robert Anton Wilson
As for Objectivism, it isn't so bad really. It's unfortunate that extremists convey such a bad image. I'll second the "On Reasonable Objectivists" post in this regard. Really, Objectivism at its heart consists of one assumption, and one choice: the Objectivist assumes the existence of an objective reality, and they choose to survive in it; all else follows from the assumption and the choice. These core principles are repeated many times in the Sword of Truth series; too forcefully, and too often unfortunately, but that reflects poorly on its author more than the philosophy.
Charity and welfare are not considered evil in Objectivism, but forced charity is; Atlas Shrugged opened with a scene where Dagny Taggart, one of the heroes, invited a drifter to share a meal with her on her train. Objectivism's views in this regard are actually Libertarian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian); coercion of free-thinking individuals is the only true evil.
Ultimately, Objectivism is an individualist philosophy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism), and it's unfortunate that even Ayn Rand herself forgot that towards the end; fortunately, there was a split in Objectivism, and David Kelley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Kelley) founded The Atlas Society (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atlas_Society) to spread a more reasonable Objectivism. Stay away from Leonard Peikoff and his followers in the Ayn Rand Institute for the fanatical extremists they are.
It's also somewhat ironic that you mention Stephen Hawking as a counter argument to Libertarian/Objectivist ideals; Hawking actually does support himself, and so is a poster-child for their principle that even the disadvantaged can thrive in a selfish world given the right work ethic.
2008-07-30 04:53 am (UTC)
Re: Sword of Truth, Objectivism
He supported himself because he lived in a society that saw human life as worthy of fostering; in the Objectivist society that Goodkind advocates, the knowledge required to cope with Mr. Hawking's physical disadvantages simply would not exist because he would be perceived as defective.
I think Goodkind's principles are being misconstrued here. He isn't saying all charity is bad, and all people should be able to support themselves, but that mindless, slavish charity is wrong. This, I agree with. As he has said, is it right to give everything you have to someone who would just as soon slit your throat for it? Of course, it is right to give to those less fortunate, but in this world, perfectly capable people weren't working because of the system. I think what Goodkind was trying to say is that there should be a healthy balance.
There was also the question of Richard killing the pacifists. This could be argued either way. However, in the given instance, in which the 'pacifists' were protecting the Imperial Order, aka murderous bastards, I do think Richard was justified in killing them. They saw what the Order had done to their people, what did they think, that all the evil would just disappear if they wanted it to?
In actual fact, the values held by the Order are rather contradictory in themselves, which I think was Goodkind's purpose. They say that this life is worthless, and everyone should be looking to a good afterlife, yet they also say that everyone who is more fortunate should be giving to the less fortunate, so they can have a better life. If there is no point to this life but to look to the afterlife, then why give to others so they can have a better life? If that made any sense at all. They also say that the individual is worthless, and everyone should work for 'the greater good', aka everyone in the world, but what is the entire population of the world, but a huge bunch of individuals? If 1 individual is worthless, then how are a hundred individuals any less so? And why should a rich man give to a poor man? That poor man is just another worthless individual, with no more right to live than the rich man, and anyway this life is apparently worthless, so what's the point? Their whole system of values is corrupt.
I also disagree with a point that a few people seem to have brought up. This is the point about the good characters, mainly Richard and Kahlan, doing everything perfectly. This is not true, as is shown in numerous instances throughout the text. What about Richard's mindset of not eating meat as a balance for the killing, which he slavishly abides by, throughout the first 8 books? This almost causes his death, and he turns out to be very wrong. There is also the incident in which Kahlan touches Richard with her power, believing him to be Darken Rahl. Although Richard manages to get around this, this was a definite error on her part. Also, in the last book, Richard is quite unaware until the last moment that the Book of Counted Shadows is not the key to the Boxes of Orden, but that the Sword is. If he did everything perfectly, why would everyone have been going around in circles, seeking a book that was useless?
Personally, I quite liked the 6th book, Faith of the Fallen. Some people may scoff at the fact that a mere statue moved so many people into rebellion, but we must remember, they had been exposed only to carvings and pictures of ugliness and human worthlessness in the past, and this statue was profoundly different. Also, these books are set in an era in which people's beliefs, tendencies and lifestyles are very different from our own.
Books I did not like include Temple of the Winds, which was cliche, and the Pillars of Creation, in which Jennsen thoroughly pissed me off.
There has been some mention of Richard's so-called 10-page speeches, which some people don't seem to like. This is, in fact, one reason I like the books, because they make you think, and analyse/challenge beliefs and values. If you don't like this kind of thing, and just want action, I recommend Anthony Horowitz or Matthew Riley.
Lol, and just for interest's sake:
Favourite characters: Zedd, Gratch, Rachel, Giller (poor bastard), Shota, and, I shouldn't be liking a main character, but, Richard.
Characters I didn't like: Jennsen, (she kept getting in the way!), Jeddadiah, who was a player and a complete jerk, (if there's one thing I can't stand, it's bad people pretending to be good), the Slide guy, who was just weird, and all the sisters who betrayed people trying to help them escape Jagang.
2008-07-30 04:55 am (UTC)
They're not being misconstrued. All charity is bad. It's never presented, ever, as a good thing. People who want or need charity invariably turn out to be armed only with their hatred for moral clarity. We never see veterans who've lost limbs and are unable to work because of injuries suffered fighting Richard's wars or enacting Richard's terrorism.
2008-09-22 04:25 am (UTC)
>In actual fact, the values held by the Order are rather contradictory in
>themselves, which I think was Goodkind's purpose.
It seems to me that his purpose was to paint all religion and all leftist-type social thought as a slippery slope that will end in the Imperial Order, which is of course ridiculous.
The really sad part is, just about every time, Richard made the right decisions. If any person or group of people, pacifists or otherwise, is actively protecting or otherwise aiding someone doing something evil, they are guilty of complicity and worthy of the same punishment as the people they are protecting. Likewise, any society such as the Imperial Order, combining all of the worst facets of communism and Christianity with none of the benefits of either, would definitely deserve to be utterly destroyed.
Problem is, such scenarios are far too removed from reality to actually exist in the real world. I don't know of any peace protesters who would actively seek to protect jihadi terrorists who had been caught red-handed. Communism, for all its faults, has still managed to produce two strong (if not entirely stable) nations able to rival the technological, economic and political power of the USA. And organized religion, for all its much-maligned crusades and witch hunts (which produced only a minuscule fraction of the death toll of atheist butchers such as Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot) and the inflated perception that it is antagonistic to science, has carried the light of civilization and progress throughout history and continues to do so today.
The first known use of realistic perspective in art during the Renaissance was a Crucifixion fresco painted on a church wall.
Trigonometry? Originated with the heavily-religious ancient Greeks and preserved through the Dark Ages by Muslim scholars.
The number zero, a foundational principle of modern mathematical thought, enabling both computing and the development of calculus? Another gift from Islam.
Modern medicine? Sprang from the work of Louis Pasteur, a Christian.
Physics? Names such as Isaac Newton (Christian), Albert Einstein (Jew), and Max Planck (Christian) spring immediately to mind.
Printing? Well, we all know what the first book Gutenburg used his press to print was...
Computing? Charles Babbage. (Christian)
Television? Philo Farnsworth. (Mormon)
Stereo sound, and also the hearing aid? Harvey Fletcher. (Mormon)
Genetics? Gregor Mendel. (Roman Catholic)
The transistor, arguably the single most important invention of the 20th century? Julius Edgar Lilienfeld (Jew)
...I could go on, but you get the point.
The real wall bangers for me in Naked Empire were different from what most people describe.
1: The whole "eating meat is good" thing. A massive retcon, since it was already established way back when that eating meat has an objective effect on Richard: it makes him sick. Objective effects from objective causes are completely independent of a person's belief about them, aren't they, Mr. Goodkind?
2: The society of the "Naked Empire" being described as unbelievably primitive and backwards, technologically and culturally speaking. Look at the USSR: despite massive, rampant corruption that eventually brought the country down, it was a technological powerhouse that rivaled (and even exceeded, in some cases) the United States, and it was known for its strong and often beautiful cultural contributions. Now here we have a society that's managed to make strong collectivism actually work, without all of the USSR's rampant corruption, and they've been protected from conquest by the outside world for millenia. They should have invented electronics by now and be living in skyscrapers! There's no good reason why they shouldn't have been the "advanced culture" they claimed to be.
3: The ending, in which Richard gets his beliefs straight, and then is promptly taught by his magic how to mix up an impossibly complex antidote, with no research or knowledge of chemistry whatsoever that we're aware of. This looks nothing at all like Objectivism or rule-based magic, and everything like classical descriptions of divine revelation, which flies in the face of everything Richard believes in. What exactly was the moral of this story supposed to be again?
2010-09-23 08:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Reasonable actions
Goodkind's communism didn't exist in real life? Try reading "To Destroy You is No Loss"http://www.amazon.com/Destroy-You-No-Loss-Cambodian/dp/0963220519
These things were graphically done in Cambodia and Laos.
Even so, those Goodkind fails because a central tennent of Communism is Athiesm.
His brutality does reflect real occurences in human history, but he gets the pieces wrong. Christianity has the Crusades, but the Crusades were, to me, a tiny piece of the history of Christianity and pales next to Stalin and other totalitarian leaders.
2009-08-19 03:38 am (UTC)
OK, Richard, shut up now so I can stab you to death! For I, Doctor Evil McCommunism are unstoppable!
2008-04-16 09:44 pm (UTC)
You put all my thoughts beautifully to text. I also hope beyond hope that he realizes his "evil" nature. I thougt I was the only one who had caught on to those lines in wizards first rule...I'm in the process of reading the last book, but I'm not moving swiftly through it. Mostly for the same reasons you speak of.
2008-07-17 01:44 pm (UTC)
I started reading Wizard's First Rule in 5th grade (I think) I really liked it a lot. I got all the way up to finishing Faith of the Fallen and then I lost interest. But lurking around this place has brought to my attention that I apparantly didn't really pay that much attention. I almost want to go back and read them again, but then I don't really want to. Oh well.
And for the record, sort of off topic, no series should stretch more than say, five to seven books and that's assuming that it was PLANNED that way from the beginning. I'm loking at you Robert Jordan (RIP) and Terry Goodkind.
Well, that was enjoyable. I haven't read the series myself, but I know enough to side with the other people who have commented: You should write your own take on the last book. Doesn't have to be novel-length, by any means - just enough to get the idea across in appropriately striking fashion, wrap up the story (who would stop him?), and generally do it all better than post-"Fallen" SoT could.
Maybe with a dozen-page monologue on not becoming the monster you're struggling against for good measure.
(And incidentally - this one's for everybody - PLEASE don't judge all supporters of the Iraq war by his example. We're not all like that! :-( )
So, I'm curious -- did you ever end up reading this? I'm sure you were spot-on in your prediction for the finale. I stopped reading this series right after Faith of the Fallen.
I eventually did, but it was not easy. Suffice it to say, it ended even more moronically than I expected, and came nowhere close to what I was hoping (with futility) in this post.
The morally satisfying tragedy you describe, though, would've required Goodkind to be aware of the kind of story he was actually writing.
And, apropos of nothing in particular, "Kentucky Fried Evil"--and I trust a Goodkind reader to guess what inspired that phrase--desperately needs to be a band name.
2009-09-14 07:42 pm (UTC)
That would be the point I gave up reading this drivel. Not only was there Kentucky Fried Evil, it went on for about 1/10th of the book.
I enjoyed myself reading bits of it to friends for a while, but eventually even that got boring. It wasn't as if I expected the series to be great, the characters are too bloody dim-witted, non-stop, all the time, every time, ridiculously so; I just didn't expect it to have a scene about a chicken very clearly projecting evil (wouldn't that be moral clarity? At least it knows where it stands...) and defecating on a corpse, written without ANY sense of irony whatsoever.
2009-08-19 08:43 am (UTC)
I never saw him kill any pacifist (read) or whatever but I did find faith of the fallen to be stupid and uncreative drivel. I almost threw that book out! Also Nicci was just redundant, and that husband/wife political non-sense added NO Depth to the story but was just an added side line filler. Useless imo. I thought many of the books had them but I guess it can give more depth to the world they lived in.
I thought I was the only one who compared the Imperial order to china, but the imperial order was "Evil" Yeah so much for in depth, this is just black and white wrong or right bullcrap after i'd say book 4 or 5 Idk I read the last one it was a happy ending I'm just glad it's over and I don't think I'll read another of his books / series again. Robert Jordan on the other hand... While not as much action, I'd enjoy seeing more of his books, it's too bad he's dead.
2010-03-03 06:33 pm (UTC)
It seems odd that, of all the glaringly terrible parts of The Sword of Truth, you'd choose to focus on this. For me, it's not an issue of politics, though I agree those are definitely there, but of the fact that Terry Goodkind is an awful writer. No seriously, maybe three or four books in the series are actually worth reading. The rest of them are just badly written.
I happened to like Faith of the Fallen, but that and the first one are really the only ones I'd consider to be 'worth reading'. The rest have good parts in them, but as a whole they're too riddled with plotholes and idiot balls to be interesting. Not even well written idiot balls. The 95% of the characters are just too dumb to live, and pretty much all of the conflict in the stories post book one can be traced to that.
2010-08-08 06:30 pm (UTC)
I liked parts of all the books but there were parts that made me really want to stop reading, there was something that made me keep on reading idk what. Most of the values I could agree with but there were a few that I strongly disagree with such as the killing of people that didn't want war. The your either with us or your really evil and your trying to kill us. It sounds like they the main characters don't like people who think different then they
2012-05-06 11:35 pm (UTC)
your an idiot. he's not a republican.his philosophy is that of objectivism. you know Ayn Rand. but then again you're just a socialist democrat who's only means of communication is by using the "F"-word as many times as possible, and refuses to do any type of research before you speak. typical.
2012-12-24 05:05 am (UTC)
Honestly, I strongly disagree with this. I saw these novels as both an insight into Objectivism (of which it has converted me, lol) and human psychology. The point of objectivism is quite simply remaining objective and unbiased when making decisions. You can't go through life thinking "That kid was a delinquent, therefore all kids are gangsters" or "my religion taught me that people who aren't like me are evil" when those people are only trying to live their lives and not threaten you, or your "society" whatsoever. And I have to say, if you found it hard to believe half the shit in those books, research some random cults & religions while you're at it. People WILL believe anything through either fear or doubt.
The main problem with Objectivism, though, is that it's impossible to remain completely objective about everything all the time. I feel like these novels address that perfectly with using the concept of free will. The point, however, is to admit when & where you were wrong, check yourself, make the proper ammeds and move on hoping to do better next time. I will also point out that the passage in which Richard kills pacifist protestors, you will (hopefully) remember that Richard was dying, he needed the cure that was in the hands of the man those people were protecting & that same man had just kidnapped his wife. Do you seriously think you could remain objective in that scenario?
2014-08-30 10:32 am (UTC)
I've not read goodkind, but I more or less agree with everything said in the article.
I just wanted to point out, I don't think the notion of evil pacifism is such a stretch. Goodkind's reaction to it is clearly absurd, but consider those who wanted England, face, Poland and other countries to simply 'submit' to the Nazis because 'war is bad.' I would consider that 'evil pacifism.'