Friday, February 21, 2014

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

   The Fellowship of the Ring is Tolkien’s first installment in the epic fantasy trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” describing a classic battle between good and evil.  For centuries, the One Ring has fallen entirely from all knowledge, following the defeat of the Dark Lord Sauron.  Now two millennia later, Sauron begins to rise again, while the ring has fallen into the hands of Frodo Baggins, bequeathed to him by his uncle Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who stole “my precious” from the creature Gollum.  All is cheery in the beloved Shire, but a darkness creeps upon the land from the South, from Mordor.  Frodo must travel to the Cracks of Doom to destroy the One Ring from whence it came to ensure the safety of all and the final destruction of the Dark Lord. A quest of innumerable proportions lies before Frodo, for such a small creature as a hobbit.  Along the way, Frodo and his companions will encounter deadly danger and excitement at every turn.  The ring has lived on, but will the world?

   Having seen Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of the Fellowship of the Ring before reading the book, I was quite familiar with the story, but I was able to glean much more from reading.  The book is incredibly descriptive and detailed, fully immersing the reader in Tolkien’s fantastical world, Middle-earth, a world he devoted most of his career to creating.  As such, Tolkien’s work is impressive: he created numerous languages, maps, species, and histories of Middle-earth.  He was a major pioneer in high fantasy writing, his name recognized nearly universally, and led the way for many fantasy writers following him, including: J.K. Rowling and her series “Harry Potter,” Christopher Paolini and his “Inheritance Cycle” series, and even “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” by Rick Riordan.  
    The popularity of this book is outspoken, as is the entire series as evinced by its 150 million copies sales estimate.  Overall, this book is fantastic and I greatly enjoyed it, although it is dense, somewhat difficult to start, and can take a long time to read.  As fantasy, this book is perhaps one of the best I have ever read, as it creates an amazing, quite indescribable world.  The characters and plot are deep, interconnected, with many surprises; all are developed and thought out extraordinary well, yet still leaves much to the imagination, and for readers to discover for themselves.  If you have an affinity for fantasy, this is the book for you.  If you’re interested, you’ll just have to read it.  

Also discover: The Hobbit, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, and The Silmarillion
In A Wind in the Door,  Madeline L’Engle opens her story with Charles Wallace Murry, youngest of the four Murry Children, stating matter-of-factly to his older sister Meg Murry that “‘There are dragons in the twins’ vegetable garden.’” The tale grows stranger from there, as they encounter Mr. Jenkins, the bitter principal at Charles’ elementary school, and less familiar foes, the Ecthroi who seek to “x out” people by draining out who they truly are through their farandolae, miniscule creatures that live inside every cell in the human body unbeknownst to us. Dr. Murry, Meg and Charles’ mother, soon reveals that  she has been studying farandolae and Charles’ subtly growing illness may be related to her research. With the help of an angel named Proginoskes, Meg, Mr. Jenkins, Meg’s sweetheart Calvin, and a farandola named Sporos must journey together through vast galaxies and tiny cells to save Charles Wallace as his illness grows deadly.
    Madeline L’Engle crafts a beautiful coming-of-age story from the perspective of Meg Murry, a teenage girl who (like many of us) is unsure of who she is. Within L’Engle’s quirky world full of fantastical biology and characters almost out of mythology, Meg not only finds herself, but finds out how each of her companions are unique and sacred. The whole host of characters act believably and their bonds with each other strike at the root of friendship and solidarity. Journeying with Meg & Co. to fantastical worlds filled me with wonder, but more importantly, L’Engles interpretation of ordinary life gave me a new way of appreciating everyday whimsy. L’Engle begins and ends the book with fantastical nonsense, but by the end of it, she’s made you fluent in her quirky language. 

     Lovers of this book will enjoy other books by Madeline L'Engle and would be interested in Neil Gaiman's writing as well, since both authors have unique and entrancing styles of narrating modern fantasy.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Native Son by Richard Wright

Personally, I found Native Son to be a little bit scary. Not in the ghost and goblins type of way, but how people will stop at nothing until they’re satisfied. This book really got you thinking about how psychotic people can get and how far people will go because of the situation they're in. At first I found it to be really boring, but later on I found myself reading page after page and losing track of time.

Richard Wright has a specific writing style which captures the essence of pure evil.
Native Son is about a black man in a white person world. It’s about discrimination and equality. It’s also based off an actual crime committed back in 1938, a man named Robert Nixon was arrested and then later (in 1939) executed for “brick bat murders”.