Friday, March 04, 2005

David Eddings, The Belgariad (Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician's Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, Enchanter's Endgame), early to mid 1980s.

Read whilst in Cuba.

After returning, I reread the Mallorean (Guardians of the West, King of the Murgos, Demon Lord of Karanda, Sorceress of Darshiva, Seeress of Kell), 1987ish-1992ish.

So. Why reread Eddings? I reread for the Belgariad for the umpteenth time whilst in Cuba. It was something light and fluffy for the trip that I knew that I'd enjoy, and the books were ones I'd not cry over if I lost. Part of the point of the trip was to turn my brain off for a space, after all. I reread the Mallorean upon my return because I wanted to remember the end of the story.

So. A few thoughts about Eddings?
David & Leigh do some things very, very well. The books are funny and light, and they often do get to thinking about some slightly interesting issues--why religion can overwhelm rational thought in some people, for instance--although the issues get too far short a shrift, and are vastly oversimplified. These books are good pulp, and that alone is enough to make me happy.

My one criticism is far from new. Like all series of this length, or like authors who spend too much time with characters that are all basically the same--I'm thinking of Heinlein, here--the characters lose individuality as the series progress. The characters, more and more, all start to act in the same ways as one another, and they tend to start speaking exactly like every other character. Different people sound different, and they act differently. Let's remember that, authorial folk.

The one thing that I'd point to that's done beautifully throughout both series is the way magic works in the books: "the will and the word." The sorcerer gathers his or her will for an action, and then speaks, calling for the action to take place. The action is typically something that isn't hugely possible in an ordinary sense, and makes noise audible to other people capable of magic. The sorcerer has to understand how to do what he or she wills done. This conception of magic is simple, but strikes me as fairly profound, because it concisely captures our desire for magic and how it should work.

At any rate, the books aren't as spectacularly novel as Tolkien's oeuvre, or Lewis's Narnia, but they offer a fun world in which to spend a few hours. I like going back there from time to time, but this time--while I enjoyed my time there--I don't really feel as though I'm likely to want to go back. I'm going to have to think about why that is.