Reviewing these authors individually will require that I reread them.
There’s pretty much no fucking way I will do that, not for money, not for love. Not for ponies either; I don’t like ponies. Nor for ducks; I hate ducks.
Terry “Rape Squad” Goodkind
I read Sword of Tripe as a teenager. I stayed with it up to Faith of the Fallen. To this day I still haven’t recovered the sanity points I lost to this series.
Well, Goodkind just stole a bit more of my ability to reason. While looking up the year the first book in this series was published, I ran across this little factoid:
Goodkind’s first book, Wizard’s First Rule, was auctioned to a group of three publishers in 1994 selling it for a record price of $275,000.
A small sign taped to author Terry Goodkind’s computer declares, “Be Relentless”. Another one nearby warns “Expect No Mercy.” Whether the latter is a message to himself or others is unclear; it’s probably both.
Really all you need to know about Goodkind and his epic of raperaperape is covered right here, but I feel it bears mentioning that in the very first book there are literal rape squads roaming the lands. Okay, so they aren’t called “Lord Rahl’s Rape Squads of Rape” but they are there to hunt Confessors–who are all female–and this being Goodkind’s world, when men interact with women the possibility of rape rachets up to eleven. In each and every book, the hero’s love interest, Kahlan, is almost raped at least once. Sometimes twice. Inevitably other women will also almost get raped, threatened with rape, or raped outright. Women in positions of authority get raped; as a matter of fact they are gang-raped–on one memorable occasion, a queen is thrown into a pit full of rapists, and again I do mean that literally. Quoting from Sandstorm Reviews:
Kahlan’s half-sister, the Queen of Galea, has a breakdown (following a gratuitous gang-rape) and temporarily hands over the queenship to Kahlan, who promptly annexes Galea to Richard’s empire. When their half-brother Harold comes to tell Kahlan they are not happy about this annexation, and that Galea wishes to remain neutral in the war, Kahlan vows to destroy Galea, murder all its citizens and send her sister back to the rapists. Harold is then murdered by one of the wizards and this is treated as a good thing.
Back in my youth, I thought Kahlan was kind of cool. She came across as assertive, able to rule, strategize, and command armies. Cool. But at the time I missed the nuances of things like… this. That all the women of note in this series fight over the rights to fall on Richard’s dick, that their relationships with other women are at best poisonous and at worst murderous (should they be united, it’s only because they share a common goal of protecting Richard), and that very often they are quickly demoted, usually through sexual assault. The Mord-Sith, leather-wearing magical dominatrices, were all raped as children and made to murder their own fathers. I’m not sure if they were also made to watch someone rape their mothers, but that’s a distinct possibility and it’s been some time since I read these things. Despite all these, though, my true breaking point–the point where even the teenage me realized that enough was enough–was the statue of life. What is the statue of life, you ask? It’s the sculpture Richard makes despite knowing nothing about sculpting. It is… LIFE!1!!!!
Nicci’s gaze rose up the legs, the robes, the arms, the bodies of the two people, up to their faces. She felt as if a giant fist squeezed her heart to a stop.
This was what was in Richard’s eyes, brought into existence in glowing white marble. To see it fully realized was like being struck by lightning.
In that instant, her entire life, everything that had ever happened to her, everything she had ever seen, heard, or done, seemed to come together in one flash of emotional violence. Nicci cried out in pain at the beauty of it, and more so at the beauty of what it represented.
Her eyes fell on the name carved in the stone base.
Nicci collapsed to the floor in tears, in abject shame, in horror, in revulsion, in sudden blinding comprehension.
…In pure joy.
The two figures in the center posed in a state of harmonious balance. The man’s body displayed a proud masculinity. Though the woman was clothed, there was no doubt as to her femininity. They both reflected a love of the human form as sunsuous, noble, and pure. The evil all around seemed as if it was recoiling in terror of that noble purity.
More than that, though, Richard’s statue exised without conflict; the figures showd awareness, rationality, and purpose. This was a manifestation of human power, ability, intent. This was life lived for its own sake. This was mankind standing proudly of his own free will.
This was exactly what the single word at the bottom named it:
That it existed was proof of the validity of the concept.
this was life as it should be lived–proud, reasoned, and a slave to no other man. This was the rightful exaltation of the individual, the nobility of the human spirit.
Everything on the walls all around offered death as its answer.
This offered life.
Victor and Ishaq were on their knees, weeping.
This statute manages, in quick succession, to convert an evil sorceress to the service of good (though she still tortures people, but it’s for the good guys now so that’s okay) and introduce the concept of freedom and capitalism–or something–to citizens of an analogue communist empire. No I don’t know how the fuck an empire can be communist; you tell me. Goodkind’s grasp on political philosophies isn’t exactly what you would call firm. There’s also some troubling America-centric xenophobia going on, since the Evil Empire also happens to sport a few Islamic practices. In yet another interview, Goodkind produced this gem:
In World War II, in Japan, there were no deaths of Americans by insurgence, and the reason [for that] is because America, at that time, had the courage to crush those who were enforcing evil ideas. We may have had to kill a lot of people, but it was the only way to crush those evil ideas. And because we crushed those evil ideas, an entire culture in Japan grew up to create a great, noble, free people who have become an engine of freedom and an engine of economy in the world.
Hell, while we’re at it why not look at some of Goodkind’s book dedications. Most authors dedicate books to their loved ones, editors, whatever, right? Well, Goodkind does that and then some:
I would like to thank some special people:
And two very special people, Richard and Kahlan, for choosing me to tell their story. Their tears and triumphs have touched my heart. I will never be the same again.
– Wizard’s First Rule, Terry Goodkind
I thank the spirit of Richard and Kahlan, who continue to inspire me.
– Blood of the Fold, Terry Goodkind
Robert “Tug Braid” Jordan
Read first chapter of the first volume of Waste of Time. Gave up. Same thing with Christopher Paolini, now that I come to think of it. I pointedly shun Brandon Sanderson because he thinks Waste of Time is great literature or something and is now writing it. Spit. About all I really know about Jordan is that he wrote some thoroughly boring epic fantasy, ripped the shit out of Frank Herbert, and wrote a lot of “Egwene tugged her braid/smoothed her skirt/crossed her arms under her breasts.” Oh, and that his books are pretty sexist and may have its share of magic dominatrices, rape, and creepy gender politics.
Oh Eddings. I started where most Eddings fan stop: The Redemption of Althalus, a doorstopper about how Eddings’ stock rogue character gathers a bunch of people and saves the world with the help of a goddess in the form of a cat. It is, essentially, every other Eddings saga ever written condensed into one ginormous tome. At the age of fourteen or so it was enjoyable enough, which made me seek out Eddings’ other books: The Belgariad and The Mallorean. Imagine my surprise when I realized that both series are in every way identical to Redemption! The characters are shuffled around a bit and given different names, but… it’s the same goddamn cast, the same goddamn plot, the same lines of dialogue. The “find and replace” function was abused hideously.
It’s no surprise that Eddings’ endless copypasta was born of a cynical view of fantasy readers: cobble together some cliches, package them in an “epic” series and they’ll lap it right up–and he was right. Doubtless both Jordan and Goodkind arrived at the same conclusions, though in all fairness Eddings’ version was for the most part rape-free (albeit not completely) and certainly less raperaperape than either Jordan’s or Goodkind’s. There are some dubious gender things, and definitely terrible women-related tropes, and I can’t even give it a pass because I read it when I was younger; even in those days I never thought Eddings was great literature or even really very amazing. This is coming from someone who used to think bits of Weis/Hickman were swell and believe me that speaks volumes about Eddings’ lack of quality. As commenter Raz has pointed out, there’s also a heap of racism to go around, in a brand very similar to Lynn Flewelling’s: all the people who worship the evil god? Brown. In fact, Eddings had this delightful habit of characterizing human ethnicities in broad strokes–this nation is good at spying, that one is good at finances, and this one is mostly heroic. All the positive types were pale-skinned. The rest were varying shades of irrational, evil, and gullible. Maybe one day we can all chip in and send someone over to piss on Eddings’ grave.
I read Abercrombie’s the First Law trilogy and was underwhelmed. People raved how it subverted tropes and defied expectations, what the fuck ever, but you know what? I’ve already read Mieville and VanderMeer and the rest; you may think New Weird writers are pretentious and whatnot, but you only need to have read one page of Mieville to recognize the stunning lack of imagination in Abercrombie’s entire novels. I was monumentally bored. The only character in the entire miserable three-book deal I found remotely interesting was Glokta, the torturer, and then only in a snarky one-trick pony kind of way. He was the only reason I read the whole thing through.
Fast forward to me picking up Best Served Cold. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it’s the same damn characters! I don’t mean the ones who reprise their roles from the trilogy; I mean the new barbarian dude who is pretty much just like the barbarian dude in the trilogy. There are some extremely, extremely dubious race attitudes involved overall, since the Evil Empire in this series is inhabited by… brown people who, just like the ones in Goodkind’s epic, practice something that appears vaguely based on a xenophobe’s view of Islam. Abercrombie also likes to write sex scenes that go like this:
“Ah, wait!” He wriggled away, sitting up, winced as he fiddled with the skin at the end of his cock. “Got it. Go!”
“I’ll tell you when to go.” She worked her way forwards on her knees, finding the spot and then nudging her cunt against him softly, gently, not in and not out, halfway between.
“Oh.” He wriggled his way up onto his elbows, straining vainly up against her.
“Ah.” She leaned down over him, her hair tickling his face, and he smiled, snapped his teeth at it.
“Oh-urgh.” She pushed her thumb into his mouth, dragged his head sideways and he sucked at it, bit at it, catching her wrist, licking at her hand, then her chin, then her tongue.
“Ah.” She started to push down on him, smiling herself, grunting in her throat and him grunting back at her.
– Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie
I’m reasonably certain that this is meant to be funny or parodic but all I get out of it is “well that’s gross.” This is actually the best of it; there’s one in the trilogy that consists of almost nothing but “unh… ahhhhhh… ahhhhhhh” like you’re reading bad fanfiction porn. Exceptionally bad fanfiction porn. Try as I might, pit this against George R. R. Martin’s infamous “Myrish swamp” and “pink mast,” but I still can’t help but declare Abercrombie’s the worst written sex scenes ever. It’s the kind of thing from which you cringe, and then rub your hands on your jeans because even reading this makes you feel… stained.
Conclusion: They are all writers of turgid, insipid fantasy infected with varying degrees of gender- and racefail. You can’t “almost win” or “slightly lose” in a contest like this–all you can be is a total, utter loser. Abercrombie has pretensions of being deep and mature or something, Goodkind is an Objectivist, and and and. They all lose.