I started reading the entire Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson last year, starting with Lord Foul’s Bane and going on through to the end. I read the first and second Chronicles decades ago when they first came out, but I figured I should re-read them in order to get back up to speed before reading the last series.
I got as far as about the first third of Against All Things Ending, the third book of the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant last August. Then I stopped. I knew I wanted to get back to reading it, but just couldn’t bring myself to do so.
I figured now that everyone is self-isolating due to Covid-19, I would make a run at completing it, and then reading the last book, The Last Dark.
And now I’m wondering, why am I slogging through this?
I like the setting of The Land, and the inhabitants that Donaldson has populated it with. It is imaginative, and could be a cool place to visit (as long as the events of the series aren’t happening.) But I’m not a fan of Donaldson’s writing style. He repeats words like puissance and nacre more than I really need to see in one book, let alone a series. At least in the Last Chronicle he has stopped writing like a grad student trying to impress his professor. Nor am I really a fan of Covenant himself. To put it bluntly, he’s kind of a dick.
OK, spoiler alerts ahead! If you haven’t read the books and intend to read them, you may want to skip to the last paragraph.
I get it that he is afraid he may be going insane and falling into a pit of madness he may never return from, because he is a leper. He needs to retain his grip on reality, and being sucked into another world where everyone believes you are going to be The Chosen One (my term – Covenant is never called that in the series) and save them could certainly put anyone’s sanity to the test.
But he uses that to justify being a horrible person throughout the series. His first act after getting to the Land is being healed by hurtloam, a mud with healing properties. He then goes on to rape the girl who used it on him. And he doesn’t get much better from there.
In the second Chronicles he ends up dragging Linden Avery, a doctor from our world with him. They fall in love but everything between them, and nearly everyone around them, is so full of angst that it wears on you. You want some bit of levity along the way, but you don’t get it. He has a race of giants that inhabit his setting, and they are very good-natured and love humor but even these characters don’t lend any relief to the dark forebodings of the tale.
In the Last Chronicle, Linden is on her own, and the angst gets ratcheted up a few more notches. She is looking for her autistic son, Jeremiah, who is part of Lord Foul’s convoluted schemes. I am finding it very difficult to care about either Linden or her son as the story unfolds.
OK, spoilers over.
So, why am I continuing to slog through this? I have a need to find out how the story ends. Even if it isn’t a satisfying story, I need to know how it ends. I’ve sat through some truly awful movies, not even the ones that are so awful that they are good, but ones that I want the hours of my life back that I wasted watching them , all because I needed to know how the story ends. And I’m a completest. I like having gone through everything. (I tend to watch movie extras and read books about the settings in other books.) I guess I’m wishing that somehow Donaldson will pull off something really cool to make it all worthwhile. One can hope.