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Book Review: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I have finished reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy!!

It was very interesting to read something that I'd been told about since I was nine. I was surprised by some things... like how Tolkien doesn't write characters very well unless they are hobbits, and even those are kind of sketchy at times. Also, my best friend is such a huge Gimli/Legolas fan that I really expected there to be, you know, actual build-up to their friendship and a good deal of bromance. My friend always complained about how there wasn't enough Gimli/Legolas in the films, but my god, I think the films actually did it better.

I forget who said it recently... but I agree with the idea that Samwise, not Frodo, is actually the real hero of the trilogy. I also like Sam's ending the best, but I'll get to that.

Fellowship was extremely slow moving, and I was annoyed by characters acting illogically... not to mention the previously mentioned character-writing weakness. The Two Towers started off fairly slow, but then ramped up. I actually kind of liked the way he wrote non-chronologically, and instead followed one storyline before going back to the departure point and following another storyline. It made events less repetitive. I usually always write chronologically when I'm writing from multi-POVs, so it was interesting to see it done a different way.

I think Return of the King was probably my favourite book. It was pretty action-packed, and the characters were written the best in it. I had been warned that the ending dragged on, but it wasn't actually THAT bad. I actually thought it was kind of neat for Tolkien to include aftermath of everything.

And man, for a while there at the end, Sam is living the dream - getting to shack up with both his wife and his boyfriend!

I do think the ending was a bit of a f*cked up message though...and it may just be me interpreting things in a sort of twisted way... but to me, the ending just seems like a neon sign that says "Suicide is a good solution to your problems!"

Anyway, better lessons I learned from Lord of the Rings:
1. Don't accept presents from world-traveling family members unless you know the object's provenance.
2. Always make sure that your loved ones are dead before you start the whole grieving process.... we'll just tack this lesson onto the horror-movie lesson, and we'll just say "Always make sure that dead people are actually dead!"
3. Whenever possible, allow your enemies to kill themselves - saves you the trouble.

I'm going to eventually read the Hobbit, but I think I'm going to wait until all the films come out first. I kind of like seeing the films first and then reading the books - since seeing the films doesn't affect how I enjoy the book, but reading the book affects how I enjoy the films (if that makes any sense.)

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. I've gotten some suggestions on FB - World War Z, Snow Crash, The Night Circus, and Monkey Beach have all been suggested. As well, I've been recommended Karen Chance's books, but I'm not sure those are available in audiobook, so they might have to wait until I'm ready for a new paperback (I don't go through paperbacks as fast as I go through audiobooks).

Anyway, so far I'm leaning towards World War Z.


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 21st, 2013 06:37 am (UTC)
The films are great. The books not so much. Sure, the guy has a great mind, he did create an awesome world, but the writing really can't draw me in. I read it years ago when the first movie came out because I was curious and wanted to know what would happen.

I don't think I would have ever finished if it wasn't for the movies! Kudos to you finishing too! :)
Jun. 21st, 2013 06:48 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's the thing - the guy put an amazing amount of work into world-building, but then obviously wasn't actually the most gifted writer when it came to story-telling.

I'm not sure I would have finished if I were reading the books in paperback form. I think it helped tremendously that I was listening to audiobooks and getting other stuff done while I read.
(no subject) - kuhekabir - Jun. 21st, 2013 09:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Jun. 21st, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 21st, 2013 06:39 am (UTC)
I was just thinking today that I haven't seen a post from you in a while!

I'm kind of amazed that you hadn't read LOTR before now. But interesting to see someone's reaction seeing the movie first :)

When I read them as a teen, they were the best books ever! Reread them about 15 years ago and they were all right. I agree that Samwise is the real hero :)
Jun. 21st, 2013 06:46 am (UTC)
I actually wrote a post a few days ago, but then chickened out at the last minute and posted it only on private... it was about representation and how white-people's default setting was to only write about white people... and then it was also about how I'm a horrible narcissist. Anyway, yeah, after I typed the whole thing out, I was afraid it all sounded stupid.

I've had so many friends who were super into LOTR since I was a kid, that I always felt like I didn't HAVE to read it myself, because they just told me everything... which was why it was kind of weird to read it and realize that they had made it sound much better than it actually was! :P

But maybe you just have to read them when you're young... mind you, it seems weird to me that an eight year-old would sit through the books, so yeah, I should have really given more credit to my eight year-old friend who first told me about the books back when I was nine.
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:13 am (UTC)
Actually, I'd say sailing West is more like moving into assisted living than like committing suicide. Frodo and Bilbo don't die on the voyage--that's one image I think the movies skewed; rather, they "retire" to the one place in Arda where they can find some measure of healing and rest for what remains of their natural lives, at the end of which they will die peacefully and move on to the Timeless Halls, which are outside of Eä altogether. But that might be clearer if one reads The Silmarillion as well (and/or some of the amazing Tol Eressëa fic that's out there).
Anyway. Yay for having read listened through the books and at least somewhat enjoyed them! :D And I'll spare you the Dean = Samwise and Sam = Frodo meta that somebody's probably already written somewhere...
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:44 am (UTC)
Yeah, if the West is assisted living, Tolkien should have made that clearer in the book itself... because I just saw it as a trip to some version of heaven. But even as assisted living, it smacks as giving up to me. Mind you, I favour stories that end with people finding ways to live and find some measure of happiness WITH their scars, so maybe I'm biased. I do recognize that there's some message in there about saving worlds even though by doing so you yourself aren't fit to live in them anymore, and that can be a cool message too... so, yeah, it's just an personal preference, I suppose.

Dean has even gone as far as to quote Samwise, so yeah, I see it easily. Also, funny because like LoTR, Supernatural is told primarily though Samwise's POV in the end, and only very occasionally from Frodo's.
(no subject) - ramblin_rosie - Jun. 21st, 2013 04:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Jun. 21st, 2013 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 21st, 2013 11:15 am (UTC)
Aawww, I'm glad you enjoyed it. :) And I understand that Tolkien is not the most gifted of writers, but to me that is really really not the point. And I agree with ramblin_rosie, that the West isn't to me a metaphor for death - to me its more like a mertaphor for eternity or something. But then again, the entire concept of the West - of Arda and the Undying Lands - is expanded on in The Silmarillion, so you get a better understanding of what it is by reading those. I mean, Sam eventually goes to the West. He takes the very last ship, after Rosie dies. And Legolas and Gimli also go to the Undying Lands. To me it's a form of eternity; the only mortals there are Earendil (who becomes a star - "this is the light of Earendil, our most beloved star"), Tuor (who goes with his wife, the elf Idril) Bilbo, Frodo and Sam, (ringbarers) and Gimli, at the blessing of Galadriel. Suicide is just suicide. You don't go anywhere, and certainly not the Undying Lands (re: Saruman's death - he can never go home). And Merry, Pippin, Aragorn and Boromir all remain in Middle Earth.


Read the Night Circus! It's wonderful wonderful wonderful.

Edited at 2013-06-21 11:15 am (UTC)
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, to me the only way you get to the next life is by "ending" this life, so that's why it felt to me that deciding to go West was like a suicide. I'm not saying that ACTUALLY committed suicide, because obviously they didn't... I'm just saying that it seemed like a metaphorical suicide to me, and I didn't necessarily like that... which is why I liked Sam's ending the best, the fact that he only "left" to join Frodo after his wife was dead and his children grown.

Another vote for the Night Circus! Okay! I'm not sure what to read anymore - I was leaning towards World War Z, but then I saw the movie trailer and it was SO INTENSE that it scared me. :P
(no subject) - franztastisch - Jun. 21st, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Jun. 21st, 2013 09:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - franztastisch - Jun. 21st, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Jun. 21st, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - franztastisch - Jun. 21st, 2013 09:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Caroline Bozec
Jun. 21st, 2013 12:54 pm (UTC)
I don't know
Totally agree than going to the West is like getting some help and a quite life more than committing suicide. But then, I read the Silmarillion too...

While I can take some criticisms about The Lord of the Ring (barely lol), I think you have to take into account that he voluntarily wrote the book as an epic story, the way they wrote heroic deeds and mythology centuries ago (and thus not empathising on the people but on their deeds). By instance, Tolkien was heavily influenced by Northern mythology. So, while it's true that character writing is not his best talent (but not that bad either, I thought), I think it's actually part of the charm : the story fits with all the legends I used to read and love as a child.

I don't know if that's clear...

I understand what you say about watching the movie before you read the book: I don't care enough about the movie (even if I like it) to be disappointed by the book...
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:33 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't know
Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily saying that Tolkien didn't write the way he wrote on purpose... I'm just saying that personally, I connect better to character-driven stories, and so it surprised me that LoTR WASN'T like that at all and yet my friends had still connected so much to it.

But hey, you make a good point about it matching up with the way myths are told to kids - so maybe it's a difference of age, and kids don't need to be able to connect to characters to enjoy a story. I mean, I loved listening to myths as a kid too and I don't ever remember wondering about character motivations or feelings while I did so, so maybe that's the answer right there.

I understand what you say about watching the movie before you read the book: I don't care enough about the movie (even if I like it) to be disappointed by the book...

Jun. 21st, 2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
World War Z is an awesome book! I second that one :)
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
Noted! :)
Jun. 21st, 2013 02:02 pm (UTC)
A note on how LotR was written - it was actually serialized when he wrote it. He sent chapters to his son while he was in South Africa in 1944 He actually wrote it as each book is actually 2 books - for 6 books but release his publisher wanted it to be 3 - and he himself wanted it all as one volume for release. It's all very confusing on how it came together, but that's why it's written the way it is. - the serialization of story for his son.
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:40 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I think he was probably right to want it split into 6 books, but I liked the way it worked out in 3 books too - though I thought the split point between The Two Towers and Return of the King was a little odd.
Jun. 21st, 2013 05:18 pm (UTC)
One of my brothers was big into the Hobbit books when we were growing up. And I recall he enjoyed the Rings trilogy as well. I never read them in my youth. Only read the Rings trilogy after the movies were released. I really enjoyed the books and found them to have some nice insight into the characters that wasn't fleshed out as much in the movies.

As far as the ending and Frodo and others going to the far off lands, I never saw that as suicide. I saw that as that these people were done with their earthly life and they were moving on to the next stage of life, meaning they were dying without really dying. In our realm we would interpret this as moving on to Heaven without having to die. There is a lot of religious symbolism in these books and this was definitely one of them - at least that is my interpretation.

I haven't read any of the books you are thinking about reading, so good luck with your choice.
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, to me you can't move on to the next stage of life, or leave your "earthly" life, or go to Heave, without committing some form of "suicide" - so, I'm not saying Frodo ACTUALLY died, I'm saying that he committed a metaphorical suicide in order to leave a world that he no longer felt a part of.

It's just a personal interpretation though. I'm glad that not everyone sees it the way I do. It's also just a personal preference of mine for hero-endings - I like the hero to continue living in the world, broken, but making the best of things...rather than "leaving" in any capacity.
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:42 pm (UTC)
Book rec, here--I just read two great books by Alison Goodman, EON and EONA; they're teen books but so well written and suspenseful. They're about a young girl who pretends to be a boy serving in the house of a revered dragon master; she wants nothing more than to become a dragon master herself and bring riches and honor to her master's fading house, but if anyone found out she and her master are perpetrating a ruse pretending Eona is a boy, Eon, then the penalty is death. The 'world' of these two novels is a parallel of sorts to real world ancient China but also distinct and inventive; and of course there are DRAGONS, but the only people who can see them are the dragon masters; each dragon has a master and the master can only see his own dragon; the master and dragon share power and energy. But Eona finds she can see ALL the dragons, and in fact an elusive Mirror Dragon no one has seen or mastered in centuries returns and is slated to be Eona's dragon. But she still has to pretend she a male, Eon, and while hiding that she has to fight against another evil dragon master and the evil brother of the new emperor, who wants to kill the new emperor and all his other siblings and take over the empire himself. I like books with dragon themes but the paranormal ones always seem to have hunky dragons who look like male model humans, sigh; in this two-book series the dragons are actual dragons, and there is such a rich history the author creates of these dragons and successive dragon masters and this world's politics and people that it just sucks you right in. There IS a 'romantic' entanglement of sorts but it blends very well into the overriding action and plot of the books; I also loved one character who is a very important part of the novels and is in effect a transgendered person and one of the most interesting figures in the series. If you look the books up on Amazon they have a 'look inside' option and you can read the first part of Eon to see if you like the style, etc. I really enjoyed this story and in fact got so stirred up emotionally over some parts of it that I had to put it down and calm down before going back to it; certain characters put me in such a rage I wanted to call down my own dragon to do some righteous smiting, ha!!
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:51 pm (UTC)
Ooo, thanks for the rec! It certainly sounds like something I would enjoy. DRAGONS! And I don't mind reading "teen" books at all, as long as they're well written...actually, sometimes I prefer them, as "teen" books are far more likely to have happy endings.

Also interesting that there's a transgender character. I'm currently writing a fantasy novel where the protagonist is a "genderless" character, so I've gotten a bit more interested in how other books handle non-binary-gender characters.
(no subject) - nerthus - Jun. 23rd, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 21st, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC)
You ate brave. Those are enormous books to read. Rewatching the movies however, is on my summer to do list. Interesting you say Samwise is the real hero. Kinda like how Dean is the real hero in SPN.
Jun. 21st, 2013 09:02 pm (UTC)

It helps that I "read" the books on Audiobooks...it still took me 3 months, but whatever! :P

I think SPN is a little bit more murky when it comes to who the hero is - I think Sam and Dean fill different hero-archetypes. But, that being said, SPN is told mostly through Dean's POV, and it's Dean's POV that the audience by default believes, so in that way he's very much in the roll of Samwise.
Jun. 21st, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)
I agree with the whole SPN - LOTR connection and Samwise being the hero of the books.  It's been a while now but I think I really liked book!Faramir when I read it.  At first, I mostly felt like the books were bits of really exciting action separated by 300 pages of description of crossing the countryside and rhyming verse, sometimes written in a foreign language.  I confess I skimmed quite a bit of it when I read them after the first movie.  Then my kid got interested at about age 6 so we read big chunks of them together. I was really surprised at how much my real life each time impacted my feelings about the books.  I enjoyed them a lot more reading aloud.  Maybe that's part of their staying power.  There's something for everyone and you get something different out of them each time.  I'm glad they left the attack on the shire mostly out of the movie.  I think the movie benefitted from being able to interweave the two halves of each book together also.

The Hobbit is a fun read about an adventure that flows more like a story than the other books.  Part of the fun with the book is seeing what's going to happen next and if you wait til after you see the movie it will be a huge spoiler.  I suppose that could work the other way too but the movies have added extra stuff not in the book and it somewhat confuses the story.  Martin Freeman is a really great Bilbo though so you have that to look forward too.  I'll be interested to get your take on it after you've seen it.
Jun. 21st, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's one thing I agree with my LoTR-fan friends on - book!Faramir is far better than movie!Faramir. They did that character a disservice in the movie.

I think it differently helped that I "read" the books on audiobook - so it WAS like having the book read TO me, rather than reading it myself... it let me get through the songs and the long descriptions without giving in the urge to skip.

I'm going to see the movies before I read the Hobbit, but I'll let you know what I think of both when I eventually do both. ;)

I do agree that Martin Freeman is an excellent Bilbo. I just find him to be an amazing actor all around really.
Jun. 22nd, 2013 11:09 am (UTC)
Heh. I find I am near the opposite. I adore Tolkien. My fave is Fellowship, followed by Return, followed by the Valaquenta portion of the Silmarillion, with Two Towers last. The slogging through Mordor bit just bores me to tears.

For me, Fellowship is all about the Shire and the Party, and I love them both. Plus, the beginning of the Hero's journey!
Jun. 22nd, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm a bit too character/action oriented. So, Fellowship was a bit too slow moving for me and, for all its descriptions, extremely lacking in good character writing. It's not until Return that I really started to connect with the characters and get really excited by what might happen next.

The Two Towers, I agree, was a slog.
Jun. 27th, 2013 02:30 pm (UTC)
I read LOTR when I was much younger and loved all of it. All this discussion makes me wonder if I might need to revisit it as an adult. I think if I do though the audio books sound like a great idea. I like to listen in the car, especially on long drives.
Jun. 27th, 2013 07:52 pm (UTC)
I would definitely recommend the audiobooks. I got the unabridged version read by Rob Inglis. He does a really good job, considering the cast of characters and the fact that he has to sing songs!
(no subject) - pielover62 - Jun. 27th, 2013 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Jun. 27th, 2013 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
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