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Showing 21-30 of 130 reviews(3 star). See all 3,563 reviews
on December 7, 2001
There is so much to be said against The Lord Of The Rings that it shouldn't be worth the effort. A book that, judged by conventional standards, contains so many appalling lapses of taste and so much coarse vulgarity really ought, by now, to have faded from sight.
From many points of view, it has dated badly, and its aesthetics and politics are now so odd that you might be forgiven for thinking, as Peter Jackson's new trilogy of movies rapidly approaches, that its appeal, after all, is one of a delicious period piece.
But all judgements have always been confounded by this extraordinary book. It ought to be too long, and too pointlessly abstruse, to command wide popularity; it is not a book for children, and yet not a book for adults either; its style is too elevated for popular literature, but too coarse for "high" literature. There is no reason on earth for anyone to like it, and there are plenty of readers who still think that the judgement of JRR Tolkien's first publisher - who was surprised when it started to look as if the book might make as much as £1,000 - was much sounder than the people who, in the past 50 years, have bought more than 100 million copies of the book.
However, by now, The Lord Of The Rings is unarguably a part of English literature. Contrary to popular belief, 100 million readers can perfectly well be wrong; but the continuing life of the book cannot just be ignored. It is just there, massively.
But, in many ways, it is just awful. It is amazingly humourless, and Tolkien knows it - over and over again, he writes " 'Come, master Pippin!' Gandalf laughed" - a very bad sign, all those laughing wizards. You don't have to be politically correct to be mildly alarmed by some aspects of it. Apart from Eowyn, the women in it are not madly significant, or allowed to do anything much. There is Galadriel, who stays at home being Wise; there are Goldberry or Rose, who stay at home being Patient Helpmeets; there are Lobelia Sackville Baggins and Shelob, who stay at home being completely ghastly.
It is an appallingly naïve fantasy of good and evil races; mostly, the good people are tall and blond and speak Nordic or Celtic languages, and the bad ones are dark and hairy and talk a sort of Persian - those guttural dwarves are allowed a sort of virtue, but it is rather grudging in tone. Sam Gamgee is a loyal retainer of the most frightful variety, still "Mr Frodo-ing" away and knowing his place 1,000 pages in; basically, he is Dickens's Sam Weller, and Tolkien couldn't even be bothered to change his name.
Tolkien probably knew as much about language as anyone, but it would be fair to say that his interest stopped at grammatical inflection. The Lord of the Rings, by ordinary standards, is just badly written. Great swathes of it are in a sort of Ben-Hur biblical: "And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them... until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords..."
There are endless mock subtleties of the "It seemed to Sam that he saw..." variety. And there is, too, that infallible sign of a really bad writer, the overuse of the word "suddenly". Everything in The Lord of the Rings happens suddenly, dozens of times a chapter. And yet it is one of those very rare books that confounds all objections, all standards, and which in the end may make its own standards. Nobody, I think, has ever produced anything with the imaginative density and intricacy of the book. The reviewer's cliché is, for once, apt here; he really created a world.
The power and resonance of the book come in part from an ethical debate that is much more adult than one remembers - it is haunted by the cruelty of its age, and is not, in fact, just about the alternative of Good and Evil, the elves and the orcs, but largely about the possibility of becoming evil through the best intentions. It is really about slow corruption, and is at its finest in the portraits of Saruman and Denethor, characters who it is not difficult to parallel in 20th-century history.
But its claim on real greatness comes from the sense of huge, half-glimpsed vistas of history and language, the illusion (which may not be an illusion) that its author knew exactly the languages each of its characters would have spoken and understood the events of ancient history that lead all of them to act as they do.
In a realistic novelist, writing about a real war, this would be a remarkable feat of intelligence; when you consider that Tolkien invented absolutely everything - the backstory, the languages, the geography - it quickly becomes almost incredible. At some point, the critics and the literati have to admit that they were just wrong, and, by now, it is probably time to start considering his extraordinary flight of imagination as one of the key works of modern literature.
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on December 5, 2001
Only three stars??? Only three stars for what is according to millions of people the greatest series of books ever written???? Damn right. I actually would have only given LOTR one star were it not for Tolkien's obvious talents as a writer not to mention the beauty and completeness of the world he has created.
LOTR is very much a series you either love or you hate and as such, it falls flat for me. Technically, there is nothing at fault here. Tolkien's prose is often beautiful, switching fluidly between light whimsy and stark passages in the style of an ancient history. Middle Earth is such a wonderfully real place that even non-fans such as myself must take notice and appreciate what Tokien has accomplished with his work. Unfortunately, I find the characters for the most part flat and lifeless. All, with the possible exception of the hobbits and Gollum (who are quite entertaining and interesting) are simply archetypes drawn from the mythological hero's journey, given loose flesh and free reign to talk in long, listless passages about Middle-Earth's painstaking history. There is a dreadful lack of femininity, the female characters all relegated to extremely minor roles. Reflective of the time it was written, the books seem to be all for the notion that a woman should be seen and not heard. I've heard people talk about the depth of characterization in Tolkien's work, but really, there's not one truly believable character in here. Reading it is like watching a movie with fantastic sets, costumes and script but terribly wooden actors. I had to force myself to finish all three books.
I would reccomend the series, as obviously so many people have found something great in it whereas I have not. It is, as with most things, a matter of opinion. I will however caution you against the huge barrage of five star reviews that you see as you scroll down the page. LOTR is not the greatest piece of fiction ever written, not even close to something like Ulysses or War and Peace. In my opinion, its not even the greatest piece of fantasy fiction ever written. It is however, a fine history of events that never happened and a great atlas of a world that never was. Don't let your expectations get too high and you may be surprised.
The movie looks pretty damn cool though...
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on November 22, 2001
While the Hobbit is not necessary to read before reading the Lord of the Rings, it is definitely a helpful setup. The Lord of the Rings is much more in depth, descriptive, and more entertaining than the Hobbit, but it also includes several references that only one who has read the Hobbit will fully understand.
The Hobbit is the story of Bilbo Baggins and his journey away from his comfortable home in Hobbiton and across Middle Earth in order to defeat the Dragon Smaug. Bilbo travels with 13 dwarves whose homeland has been taken by the evil dragon, and their journey is aided by the wizard Gandalf who has chosen Bilbo to join the dwarves in their quest. The Hobbit is a fairly simple story in which Bilbo and his new friends encounter many dangers and hardships along the way, but most importantly, it is the story in which Bilbo finds the Ring that will eventually be the centerpiece for Tolkien's subsequent classic.
Read The Hobbit to enjoy a quick story that will give you the background and introduction to Hobbits and Middle Earth that will make reading The Lord of the Rings much more enjoyable.
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on November 21, 2001
I had read dozens of fantasy books as a young adult, but never read the one that started it all, "The Lord of the Rings." With the movies coming out and the prodding of my father (who can't get enough of Tolkien), I decided to delve into Middle-Earth.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The characters are fairly one-dimensional, the story is not all that interesting, and nothing happens as a result of the main characters. The fellowship moves along on their quest, but don't seem to do anything.
The book's strength lies in the encompassing nature of the world that Tolkien has created. A long history of all the denziens of Middle Earth exists and you get the feeling that Tolkien may be more interested in the past of his world than the current story of Frodo and the Ring. The number of races (elves, hobbits, orcs), their interrelations, and their place is all of interest, but not enough to keep me interested in Frodo's dull quest in which he takes no action.
Because the book ends without resolution, I will continue to read the trilogy and hope that Frodo becomes a more active character as he seems to try to become in the last chapter of the book.
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on November 4, 2001
Despite its staggering length and dreary descriptions of every leaf, Fellowship of the Ring has a certain fairy-tale sheen and epic sweep that make it readable for all. The Two Towers, though, is mostly for diehard Tolkein fans.
The first 200 pages or so climax with a huge battle for Helm's Deep, but for most of that time we have to endure the stupefying company of the warriors of Rohan. These beefy blonde Nordic guys have NO sense of humor, and drone on endlessly about their ancestry (who CARES?) when they're not indulging in soporfific courtesies. I always feel uneasy around these hulks--I expect to see swastikas appear on their shields at any moment. Tolkein was channeling the Viking types immortalized in coma-inducing epics like Beowulf and Lord are these fellows boring!
However, hobbits to the rescue! At one point we switch to Merry and Pippin, and once they appear, the story moves again and we can enjoy characters with human foibles. These two doughty halflings endure capture and torment by orcs (goblins, who are much more entertaining than the ski-instructor types) and then wander into the world of the ents. If you thought tree-hugger Tom Bombadil was weird, these creatures will get you howling with laughter. They are tree-shepherds (I'm not making this up) and they more or less look like trees, but they go around saying things like "Hm. Hroom" and drinking lots of water. Later on, they turn out to be pretty tough, bringing down a whole walled city in minutes. Treebeard is their leader and he's right out of some Saturday morning cartoon show.
The second half of the book brings us back to Frodo and Sam, and their journey to Mordor. They team up with Gollum, who was much creepier in The Hobbit. Here, he's a whiny reptilian nuisance and we must conclude that Frodo is an idiot for trusting him since anyone can tell he's up to no good. When he sells out his companions to a gigantic spider, we're not surprised. Tolkien manages some wonderful descriptions in this part, of the suffocating, foggy, wet, evil weather in Mordor (sounds like Long Island in the summer). The spider Shelob is a hoot, a creature who needed to wait for computer generated graphics.
Again, most of the text is filled with dreary step by step schlepping from place to place, with tedious descriptions of EVERYTHING. There are superb moments (the orcs boiling out of their hiding places like swarms of ants, the disgusting marshes) and as anyone with half a brain knew, Gandalf returns (and he is the BEST character of all). The scene where Gandalf humiliates the evil wizard Saruman is worth the price of admission. And the slinking, cowardly Wormtongue is a great creation--if Tolkein hadn't written this in the 1940's, I'd swear he was based on Henry Kissinger.
So enter at your own risk. Some exciting scenes, lots of sludge, basically a bridge from Fellowship of the Ring to The Return of the King. Not for anyone with arachnophobia.
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on October 30, 2001
THE TWO TOWERS was more enjoyable than I remember THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING being. There's more action and intrigue, and the thickening of the plot was enough to want me to read THE RETURN OF THE KING as soon as I was finished. There's much good to say about this book, but its two flaws are more interesting.
The first flaw is endemic to Tolkien. Its what I think of as the "eagles drop out of the sky" problem. Too often, Tolkien paints his characters into seemingly inescapable situations, only to be rescued by some new, external force. I was most annoyed by this by rescuing eagles in THE HOBBIT, but the problem re-occurs, albeit to a lesser extent, in THE TWO TOWERS. The problem here is that the characters rely on un-foreshadowed luck rather than their wits, or some element introduced earlier in the book (or series). This problem is especially acute near the end of the book, where a hobbit humbles a giant spider that apparently has been so formidable for years than even armies of orcs had been at its mercy.
But the ending has other problems as well, not the least of which being the missed chance for Tolkien to fool the reader into thinking that Frodo, one of the main characters, is dead (until the next book). We think that for a few pages, but the book ends, serial-like, with Frodo's friend Sam realizing that he's alive. Not only do we miss the suspense generated by Gandalf's apparent death at the end of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, but the ending seems too unresolved, even for a middle book.
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on October 11, 2001
I know that I'm in quite a minority, but on re-reading "The Fellowship..." in anticipation for the film, I'm finding it quite dull. (And I'm someone who loved "War and Peace.") Don't get me wrong: the story of "The Lord of the Rings" is fantastic, and Tolkien has my undying admiration for the magical world he has created. But his writing is not -- to me -- particularly interesting. There are far too many topographical passages, along the lines of "Their way wound along the floor of the hollow, and round the green feet of a steep hill into another deeper and broader valley, and then over the shoulder of further hills, and down their long limbs, and up their smooth sides again, up on to new hill-tops and down into new valleys." And then there are the historical passages: "Under [the mountains] lies Khazad-dum, the Dwarrowdelf, that is now called the Black Pit...Yonder stands Barazinbar, the Redhorn, cruel Caradhras; and beyond him are Silvertine and Cloudyhead: Celebdil the White, and Fanuidhol the Grey, that we call Zirakzigil and Bundudshathur...between their arms lies the deep-shadowed valley which we cannot forget: Azanulbizar, the Dimril Dale, which the Elves call Nanduhirion." And on and on and on. Sorry, folks, but I can't get into it. If that makes me a philistine, so be it. If the above sounds good to you, by all means, get this and the other Tolkien books and join the millions of fans around the world who love them.
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on September 15, 2001
Yes, this book is lush with descriptions and originality - originality, I'll make myself clear here, in its day.
The world of Middle-earth is rich and fantastic - again, I must say, in its day. Tolkien have done a truly marvellous work. What, then, is my problem with this Father of Fantasy, you ask?
Look at it this way, Tolkien created a new language, a world full of creatures that have become a model to the modern fantasy. But when it comes to characterization and persona? It drops down like a rock.
Elves, by all and every mean, are all-knowing and all-wise; they are forces of good, they never make a mistake, they are immortal - practically, they're one step away from being divine. Orcs and other so-called evil villians, on the other hand, are evil, savage... etc. It's a world of black and white, and that's my point. There's no twist, no intrigue, no whatever that adds depth we readers wish to see from modern fantasy authors. Aragorn, for instance, is a rightful heir to the throne, a skilled Ranger, and so forth. But does he have any flaw in character? No. And everyone knows well how boring and unlikeable a perfect character is.
The way he wrote it is out of date; it may remain popular and a favourite in others' minds. But not me.
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on September 12, 2001
Lord of the ring is somewhat like many other big-thick books in the fact that the first few hundred pages almost put you into sleep. In fact, I almost abandoned it a few times before I was over the 300th page. The story is very slow going, though the fact that the details sort of put up to it, though I still have no idea of why the 50 pages of mentioning about hobbit's names and family which has almost nothing to do with the plot. I can name a few books that balance the story very well, so that it keeps excite you up and down through out the story and not bored you to death(ie. foreverwar, hyperion, hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy).
There are also many poems(songs in the story) through out the novel, which make no sense to me and seem to have to do nothing with the plot. Maybe because I simply don't understand poems, but that's just my opinion, no one is good in everything. Sometimes after half of the book(around 350th page), though, the story really picks up, and you start to feel as a part of the journey.
The end cuts off as if you're only went through 1/4 of the story, which gives me hope(also make me feel stupid that I went through 500 pages for this) that the other two books would be good since the beginning as less background has to be told. In general, the plot is very good. However, I don't really like the idea of a big gap between good and evil, though that's not the case for the main character(if you know the story around Warhammer 40k, you would know what I mean.....everything has an evil-side in it). On the course of adventure, the main character would either meet good people OR bad people.......
Anyways, it's a great book if you can pass through 300 pages of snail-moving story. For me, the fact that 1/3 of it is pretty good, I will give it a 3 stars though I've heard a lot of good things about this trilogy. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a good book(just not great) and I'm looking forward for the other two(and hope that they won't put me to sleep as the first).
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on April 18, 2001
Though I have personally never read a fantasy book such as,"The Hobbit", I have somewhat enjoyed what I've read so far. At first I believed after much reading I have come to see new aspects in the story. The way that the author describes the setting made me feel as if I was marching through the woods on the adventure. During the dwarves adventure they come into contact with many obstacles such as goblins on the search to capture them, eagles coming to their rescue, and huge spiders with venim dripping from their mouths. Every step from the opening of the story onward is a great adventure. Within the woods fo the Misty Mountains one never knows what may be lurking around them. This book is truly a fantasy written novel. With goblins, dwarves, elves, hobbits, and wizards, one can only imagine the fantasy it brings. Although as unrealistic the story may seem, I found myself hping for Bilbo the hobbit to save the dwarves through each adventure. I recomend this book for suspense and mystery. Hoping that the dwarves will find their dragon and get the gold in the end, I read on!
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