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The Darkness That Comes Before Mass Market Paperback – Apr 9 2004

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (April 9 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143012800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143012801
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.7 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #213,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.9 out of 5 stars
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book has garnered outstanding reviews and the author is being hailed as the heir to Tolkien.
I'm not sure that I see why. While this first novel has some original touches and nicely avoids good-versus-evil cliches, it doesn't really stand out to me. The worldbuilding is that of generic epic fantasy, with civilizations lasting thousands of years, emperors, dark lords, and multiple species; some distinctly Frank Herbert-esque touches of religious cults, killing words and Mentat-like trances add interest, but are not really well developed. (I do think the Sranc, murderous creatures perhaps best described as goblin-elves, are interesting.) Rapid POV switches between characters who are broadly sketched rather than vividly developed makes the plot not so much hard to follow as hard to maintain interest in.
Sentence-level writing is sparse, at times to the point of dullness; there is an overall lack of imagery, and though I applaud the author's desire to avoid infodumps I think readers may find the setting generally underdeveloped. While reading, I never felt drawn into the world; not only visual but sensory detail is largely lacking from what feel like rapidly sketched scenes.
The work shows potential, but not brilliance, in my opinion.
This will probably appeal to fans of epic fantasy; I don't think it transcends the genre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Voracious Reader on July 12 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought Bakker's "The Darkness That Comes Before" on a whim, and it turned out to be a deeply satisfying read, with three-dimensional characters, all flawed and harboring feelings of self-doubt, holding on to past anger and frustrations, yet trying to improve constantly. Although I agree with other reviewers who say that they would have liked to see strong female characters that weren't prostitutes, I feel that the women were still drawn up as three-dimensional human beings who fell into unfortunate circumstances but are doing their best to internally overcome their lot in life while at the same time searching for that one person whose love for them will transcend their situation.

Another extremely satisfying aspect of this novel is that Bakker attempts to show all characters and all sides equally. You get an impression of every single character's understanding of what is going on around them, allowing a detailed construction of the overarching story line, without feeling partial to anyone necessarily. His language can become sheer poetry at times, his conversations are realistic, all of his characters are desperately trying to hide their flaws and come out on the winning side of an argument.

Overall, a fantastically constructed, well thought-out novel, which deserves much attention. I will definitely be reading the other two books in this series.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ian Kell on June 9 2003
Format: Paperback
Wow, there's something in the water up in Canada, and US publishers are really missing out. Good thing for the Internet! Manitoban Steven Erikson, still without distribution in the states, has established himself as the penultimate epic fantasy writer of the day (except for maybe G.R.R. Martin). Now along comes 'The Darkness that Comes Before, an unequivocal stellar debut by Ontario native R. Scott Bakker.
All of the usual superlatives apply. Simply put, TDTCB is incredible, and any fan of epic or high fantasy should already have it on order. Bakker is an expert craftsman...his world is rich and believable, the characters godlike, and the plot constantly engaging and in motion. Toss in the requisite humor, flawed leads, sex and betrayal, and a true gem emerges from the fantasy morass.
Brief plot summary annotated from the book sleeve: Two thousand years have passed since Mog-Pharau, the No-God, last walked among Men. Now the Shriah of the Thousand Temples has declared Holy War, and untold thousands gather, determined to wrest Shimeh, the Holy City of the Latter Prophet, from the hands of their heathen kin. Among them, one man stands apart, a man who uses redemption to deceive, and passion to elevate and enslave... Anasurimbor Kellhus. Two couples, a barbarian chieftain and his concubine, a sorcerer and his harlot lover, share his trials and tribulations, each compelled by what they think they see: the possibility vengeance, the promise of redemption, the threat of apocalypse, or the hope of escape. As the violent fortunes of the Holy War transform Kellhus into an all-conquering prophet, they finally begin to ask: What is he really?
References have been made to Tolkein, but this novel is far more postmodern and machiavellian than LoTR.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By N. Finney on June 27 2004
Format: Hardcover
I began reading the book with high hopes - especially after reading some of the very positive reviews here.
Unfortunately, I've struggled to finish about three-quarters of the book, and have since stopped. I ask myself why - the writing is good, yes the rapid POV switches are bit irritating but everyone does them nowadays, the world-building was interesting, and so forth.
But I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters. And quite frankly when that happens, a book just doesn't compel. A really good writer interests you even in the 'bad guys' and the bit players.
And on a gender-specific note - I noticed that almost ALL the women in this book who are protagonists are [prostitute]. Even the old empress seems to have [prostituted] her way to her position. While many women throughout history used sex to advance themselves in a world where they had no power - not ALL of them did. Frankly, the insistence on [prostitute]in this book (and I suspect the future ones) is a mite disturbing.
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