Good Reading : November 2004
32 goodreading science fiction fantasy word of mouth The Runes of the Earth Stephen Donaldson It has been 21 years since Stephen Donaldson took readers to one of the finest fantasy locations ever created. At the end of White Gold Wielder, the sixth book in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series, Linden Avery had used her healing power to bring health back to ‘The Land’, although in vic- tory her lover, Thomas Covenant, was killed. In this new book, set a decade later, Linden is in charge of a mental hospital and the comatose Joan Covenant is one of her patients. When, out of the blue, Thomas’ son Roger wants his mother released into his care, Linden instinctively feels Lord Foul’s influence. After being refused, Roger tur ns violent, several people are killed and Linden’s adopted autistic child is kidnapped. Linden races to the place where Thomas died, only to be shot herself. Awaking once more in ‘The Land’, she is openly taunted by Lord Foul, and the game, as they say, is afoot. As in all the previous books, Stephen Donaldson over- writes, he constantly reminds the reader of the danger, of the characters’ guilt and motivation, but that pales as, once again, you can immerse yourself in this amazing landscape. Lord Foul’s cor ruption this time has taken a different tack, with one of the more steadfast and loyal races now being unwitting tools to the evil god’s plans. Without Covenant’s guidance, Linden feels adrift, unsure of where to go, until she meets a deranged man, Anele, who claims to be the son of people she had helped on her last visit. Anele is possessed by a variety of spirits, each new voice giving Linden clues about what her tasks should be. The big surprise comes when one of the voices claims to be that of Thomas Covenant, and he says to her ‘Find me’. Having re-read all six previous books in the last few months, I was reminded that, despite his faults, Donaldson did create the most important fantasy series since Tolkien, and he is still capable of telling engrossing stories within this setting. ★★★★ Victor Gollancz $49.95 Reviewed by Phillip Knowles Song of Susannah Stephen King Song of Susannah is Stephen King’s latest offering in the long-running ‘Dark Tower’ series, the final instalment of which (The Dark Tower) is due to be released this Christmas. Taking place immediately after Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah is mostly navel-gazing. That said, it does advance in plot, if not in actual time, quite considerably, and the ending left me eager to get my hands on the last novel – although I have to say that while my eagerness stems partly from ‘ooh, what happens next?’ it’s more from ‘omigosh, can he really pull this off?’ With the author himself featuring as a main character in Song of Susannah, and so much hanging on being wrapped up in the last book, ‘Dark Tower’ is easily King’s most ambitious work. As Song begins, our heroes have lost one of the members of their ‘ka-tet’: Susannah, who is about to give birth. While Father Callahan, who fans will recognise from King’s novel Salem’s Lot, Jake and his billy-bumbler, Oy, go after Susannah, gunslingers Roland and Eddie Dean travel to Wisconsin (circa 1977) in search of bookstore owner Calvin Tower. While this is by no means the best book in the series it’s still intriguing – and anyway who could stop now, with The Dark Tower so clearly in sight! ★★★ Hodder & Stoughton $65.00 Reviewed by Johanne Knowles Next Month At the time of going to press, The Dark Tower had just been released. Look out next month for Johanne Knowles' review of what is not only the last book in the 'Dark Tower' series, but also Stephen King's last book ever. Also next month, Gareth Beal reviews the latest fantasy sensation, the 782-page Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, the first novel from Susanna Clarke that is already storming to the top of the bestseller lists around the world.
December January 2005