Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Do I Want to Read This?

Someone's gone and published an alternate "Lord of the Rings" from the perspective of Mordor. And they haven't even been sued by the Tolkien estate yet!

You can pick up a free download of it here.

So should I go to the trouble of reading this thing? To begin with, I found pretty much the entirety of "LOTR" to be barely readable. I really didn't enjoy it. I could care less about the roots of Elvish myths or the place-names of whatever. The books seemed to overflow with those. Furthermore, any story that can be summed up so completely as just "good vs. evil" isn't really that interesting of a story. I'd rather read "good but pursued via questionable means vs. evil but provides excellent dental insurance" any day. Nuance is your friend in literature.

So perhaps this book might rectify a bit of that? From the review:

In Yeskov's retelling, the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science "destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!" He's in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become "masters of the world," and turn Middle-earth into a "bad copy" of their magical homeland across the sea. Barad-dur, also known as the Dark Tower and Sauron's citadel, is, by contrast, described as "that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic."

Because Gandalf refers to Mordor as the "Evil Empire" and is accused of crafting a "Final Solution to the Mordorian problem" by rival wizard Saruman, he obviously serves as an avatar for Russia's 20th-century foes. But the juxtaposition of the willfully feudal and backward "West," happy with "picking lice in its log 'castles'" while Mordor cultivates learning and embraces change, also recalls the clash between Europe in the early Middle Ages and the more sophisticated and learned Muslim empires to the east and south. Sauron passes a "universal literacy law," while the shield maiden Eowyn has been raised illiterate, "like most of Rohan's elite" -- good guys Tolkien based on his beloved Anglo-Saxons.

The protagonist of "The Last Ringbearer" is a field medic from Umbar (a southern land), who is ably assisted by an Orocuen -- that is, orc -- scout, who is not a demonic creature like the orcs in "The Lord of the Rings," but an ordinary man. They're given the task of destroying a mirror in the elf stronghold of Lorien before the elves can further use it to infect Middle-earth with their alien magic. Meanwhile, the remnants of Mordor's civilization fight a rear-guard guerrilla campaign to sustain the "green shoots of reason and progress," in opposition to the "static" and "tidy" pseudo-paradise of Middle-earth under the elven regime.

Could be good. If nothing else, it's free!

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