Summer School: Tolkien 101 Wrap-Up

Annnnd it’s a wrap!  Thank you for joining me for Tolkien 101 this summer.  Counting the announcement post and this one, Tolkien 101 stretched for 19 posts.  I covered The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, all nine movies based on Tolkien’s work, one computer game, Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories, and five nonfiction books.

It’s been a big three months.  no-angel is considerably bigger relative to The Lord of the Rings.

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Like the Wind by Justin Knight

My pick for this week is the recently released Like the Wind by Justin Knight.  Like the Wind is Knight’s homage to anime, a homage packed action and gore.  Like the Wind is the first book in a trilogy and features internal art (you can see some here).  Knight is the author of Praxis, Furman Simms and the Problem Princess, and Darkest Before Dawn.

Can’t Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.

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Review of The Dream of the Iron Dragon by Rob Kroese

“Don’t get me wrong, there are worse ways to go out than holding off a Viking horde with a railgun, but it’s not a long-term strategy.”

The Dream of an Iron Dragon has such a fun premise: 23rd Century humans (accidently) travel into the past and crash land in 10th Century Norway.  It is more a hard science fiction story than Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade or the quote above suggests.

The Dream of an Iron Dragon is a finalist in the alternative history category for the Dragon Awards and is well worth your vote.  Voting registration closes on Friday and voting on Saturday.

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Tolkien 101: On Fairy Stories

Fantasy (in this sense) is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent.

I made the mistake of thinking On Fairy Stories would be a quick and easy read and would make for a quick and easy post.  It is very short—just 23 pages—but it’s crunchy.  There is just so much there there.  It is really a remarkable essay, and it is probably the ideal third thing by or about Tolkien to pick up—after The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but before The Silmarillion or any of the nonfiction books about Tolkien.  It is quintessential Tolkien—erudite, elegantly written, humble in approach but aggressive in its thesis.

On Fairy Stories is available online for free or in bound form from Amazon and other booksellers.  I could say a lot about it—you could write a good book on just this essay—but I will try not to.  At 23 pages you should really go and read it for yourself.

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Ravencry is Another Grimdark with Hope (but mostly Blood)

I’m going to keep this short.  If you haven’t already read the first book in the series, Blackwing, (1) you’re crazy, (2) go read my review of Blackwing.  If you have read Blackwing, then I probably don’t need to do much convincing.  Ravencry is a work very much like Blackwing and equally as awesome as Blackwing but that builds on Blackwing and does its own thing.

Ravencry takes place four years after the victory over the Deep Kings in Blackwing.  Money is up for Ryhalt Galharrow’s blackwings and trouble out of the Misery is down.  But the Deep Kings have not been idle in that four year span, a god-artifact goes missing, and a new cult is in town.

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Tolkien 101: The History of the Hobbit by John Rateliff

Writing a post on John Rateliff’s encyclopedic The History of the Hobbit isn’t the problem.  The problem is writing one that doesn’t turn into a 3,000 word behemoth itself.  I will try very hard to keep this post to a reasonable length while dropping as many nuggets of knowledge as possible.  If you want more, well, the Kindle edition was still available for $1.99 last I checked.

Rateliff’s primary focus is Tolkien’s original draft of The Hobbit.  A full, heavily annotated copy is included.  The text itself is footnoted, and each chapter (there were no chapter divisions in the original draft, so according to the final book) is followed by a section digging into it.  Most notable perhaps are the notes on the etymology of various words Tolkien invented and comparisons with the Silmarillion as it existed at that time (quite different than what would eventually be published).  Rateliff also includes Tolkien’s occasional bouts of outlining, and notes the probable split in the drafting (Tolkien tended to work in great spurts in between academic semesters).

(For a spirited defense of Tolkien against the recent scurrilous charge of “truncating his creative palette” because he was “thoroughly immersed in modernism” and because “he wanted to be taken seriously and he knew there would be consequences for not walking the line,” see this post.)

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Rat Queens vol. 5 is a disjointed, hot mess

*Sigh*  This graphic novel is a hot mess.

The first issue focuses on Orc Dave.  It is interesting and good worldbuilding, but it is also repetitive and tangential.  Why include a flashback at what will be the beginning of a bound volume if it is only relevant to the rest of the volume in the tiniest way?  Why not save it until you are actually going to tie it to the main storyline?

But, to be honest, I would rather have read more about Orc Dave than the rest of the issues in this volume.

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