Anything and everything.
You Can’t Handle The Truth!
Recently I found out Terry Goodkind has yet another “Sword of Truth” (sorry, “Richard and Kahlan”) novel in the works. Several words immediately came to mind : unbelievable! amazing! incredible! astounding! phenomenal!
Now, take each of those words and append “he’s still being published?!”
“He is an atrocious writer who pens idiotic hack fantasy but acts like he’s unveiling mystically hidden ‘truths’ about the real world and gets annoyed when his books are called ‘fantasy’ (which he insists they’re not, despite being set in a secondary world with magic and dragons and stuff).”
“There’s also the fact his central ‘hero’ is a mass-murdering fascist dictator (who kicks little girls in the face and executes peace protestors), yet he is lauded by the author as a paragon of virtue whom everyone should emulate. In short, Goodkind is entirely lacking in merit. His popularity in some circles remains one of the most inexplicable phenomenons of modern fantasy.”
— Werthead, Lemming of Discord, sffchronicles.co.uk
I read “Wizard’s First Rule” over a decade ago, having picked it up shortly after its paperback release, and found it to be a relatively mediocre novel by an obvious first time author.
Rough around the edges, more than a little derivative, and yet enjoyable enough as a guilty pleasure, “The Sword of Truth” featured prose on par with what one might expect from a highschool student. Some of the scenarios presented did little to dispel this impression, yet the story seemed to have potential in spite of its predictability; there were even brief moments of genuine originality scattered here and there, although nothing that inspired awe in the author’s mastery of storytelling.
The second volume, “Stone of Tears”, continues the story from the end of book one. Unfortunately, Mr. Goodkind’s prose did not improve at all, and characters are placed in increasingly ridiculous situations. Dialog wobbles between passably readable and utterly terrible, except that by this point the novelty of reading a new author has worn off, making it impossible to ignore just how bad the writing really is.
“Blood of the Fold” and “Temple of the Winds”, the next two volumes, again continue where the previous novels end. By this point I was beginning to regret having allowed myself to be sucked in to the series. Mr. Goodkind’s inability to write interesting dialog has shown absolutely no improvements since WFR. The tedium was such that many paragraphs, and eventually pages, were skipped in search of some scrap of plot advancement.
By the end of TotW, I had come to the conclusion that WFR must have been a fluke. Rather than crafting interesting, endearing characters in Richard, Kahlan and Zedd, they became increasingly one-dimensional and lackluster.
It was as though someone had taken Superman, Batman, Son Goku, Miyamoto Musashi, “and anybody else who’s super cool and awesome at kicking ass”, thrown them all in a blender, hit liquify, sucked down the resulting mélange and shat out the Man-God named Richard Rahl. Without any flaws, incapable of error, able to solve the toughest predicaments with a flick of the deus ex machina magic wand, Richard eventually grows into one of the most boring, least human character I’ve ever seen in fiction.
Kahlan didn’t fare any better. Rather than an admirable and powerful heroine such as Ellen Ripley or Wonder Woman, Kahlan is little more than a bland caricature who excels at two things: being separated from the man she loves (a fact we are reminded of constantly), and being almost-raped (an event which occurs with enough frequency that it’s a notable trait). While she does occasionally show flashes of heroism, they invariably lead to an utterly ridiculous solution to whatever challenge she is facing. And, of course, the removal of her clothes.
Finally, there’s Zedd. The only ability he seemed to acquire was a remarkable knack for getting himself into situations where he was incapable of using his vaunted First Wizardy powers. Not to mention his use of the word “bags” as an expletive, which is neither cute or entertaining, it’s just dumb. The prototypical Wise Old Mentor character is a common archetype in fantasy fiction, one would think that with all the prior art it would be nigh impossible to screw up a character based on this archetype. Not so in this case.
A large part of the problem is that this trio of core characters gradually shed any traces of the flaws that actually made them human. Sadly, human beings are not perfect, and very few individuals are without some flaw or another. Recognizing and overcoming these flaws is part of what makes a heroic character heroic. A willingness to Do The Right Thing in the face of adversity (Right as determined by what is generally considered right, not by some ridiculous Objectivist rationalization), even when it’s the hardest path to take, is what makes the hero a hero.
At this point I guess it’s almost needless to say that, by the end of TotW, I found I no longer cared about the adventures of Richard et alii. Usually I am compelled to read a series of books from start to finish, but for the first time ever I felt absolutely no such compulsion.
Unfortunately, in a fit of boredom and more than a little masochism, I reread everything up to and including TotW last year. It had been a long time since I read them, and I wanted to see if my memories of the series were accurate. Afterward I spent a bit of time reading about the subsequent novels and Mr. Goodkind online. I was curious about whether I was alone in my opinion, and wanted to find out a bit more about the author himself.
As to the first part of that search, I found I certainly wasn’t alone. Plenty of people, it seems, share the same opinion. In the end I’m relieved I quit reading Mr. Goodkind’s novels when I did. After TotW, the writing apparently suffered even more as he attempted to clumsily bludgeon his questionable philosophy into the story. Judging from the many cut ‘n paste excerpts I read (all very Fair Use, of course) of various monologues and speeches, the “Sword of Truth” seems to have become “Objectivism for Dummies (Now with 100% more Straw Men)!”
The second half of my search, finding out a little more about Mr. Goodkind himself, was even more surprising. Apparently he is completely incognizant of his own failings as a writer. Quite to the contrary, he believes he is a groundbreaking and unique author, a contemporary giant in the field of literature.
Oh, and he doesn’t write fantasy.
“There are several things. First of all, I don’t write fantasy. I write stories that have important human themes. They have elements of romance, history, adventure, mystery and philosophy. Most fantasy is one-dimensional. It’s either about magic or a world-building. I don’t do either.”
— Terry Goodkind, usatoday.com
What pretentious twaddle! WFR is justifiably classified as fantasy – a magic sword, protagonists with magical powers, antagonists with magical powers, red-leather clad anti-magic pain inflicting BDSM psychopaths, fantastic creatures (including a talking red dragon with the rather unoriginal name Scarlet), and a magic object with the potential to destroy the entire world, all set in a relatively primitive and obviously fantastic world.
The romance of SoT reads as if a fifteen year old deviant is trying to put to words every wet dream he’s ever had, the history is laughably superficial and devoid of any depth, the adventure is derivative and predictable, there is no “mystery” to speak of, and the philosophy is questionable at best and as subtle as the proverbial bull in a china shop. Magic abounds in SoT, and is frequently used as an easy out when the effort of writing an intriguing and clever solution to the problem at hand was evidently beyond the author’s ability to capably resolve.
Finally, the world-building is barely adequate enough to support the story. So he got that part of his claim right, at least. As to the rest, he’s either delusional or a liar. Good Lord, has L. Ron Hubbard been reincarnated? In thirty years or so should we be keeping a wary eye open for the Church of Rahlentology?
Now, in case anyone feels the need to raise the objection that I am just an anonymous nobody on the Internet, to claim that I have no right to criticize Mr. Goodkind as I am not a #1 Best Selling Author, I will figuratively beat you over the head with several redundant statements in the classic style of Mr. Goodkind himself.
One does not need to be a world-famous gourmet chef to know when a meal tastes terrible. Nor does one need to be a famous painter to recognize when a piece of art is little more than feces smeared on canvas. One does not need to be an auto mechanic to know when the oil in a car should be changed.
And one certainly does not need to be a critically acclaimed, world-renowned #1 Best Selling Author to know when someone writes like a dysfunctional teenager who’s trying to cram every BDSM fantasy they’ve ever had, along with unhealthy doses of their questionable philosophical ideology into a pitiable wreck of a story.
As for the whole #1 Best Selling Author nonsense, I urge you to take a walk through a local bookstore. I think you’ll be unpleasantly surprised to find that it’s not exactly a prestigious award, easily 80% of all books have some #1 award on their cover.
Many of Mr. Goodkind’s remarks made in his interviews are just flabbergasting. If he’d presented himself as a humble author endeavouring to tell (or is that sell?) a story he believed was exciting and meaningful, to the best of his abilities, I wouldn’t be nearly so incensed.
“Please refer to the previous answer, in which I explain that I’m not writing fantasy … My purpose is not weirdo cultural diversity. I repeat: I am writing stories about important human beings.”
— Terry Goodkind, usatoday.com
No, he is not writing stories about important human beings. He is writing fantasy fiction about imaginary beings with one-dimensional personalities who become increasingly infallible and insipid, and possessing questionable moral values, in spite of all the talk about moral clarity.
Worse still are the ravenous fans feeding his ego, blindly defending his writings against all naysayers with zealous, irrational, and baseless claims.
“On the surface I would agree. However with these few people, points to a few posts below this one, it is more that “dislike”. What we see here is a few people that have taken it more than a step further and shown the true callowness of their character. They show us the void of their existance that they are not simply “poking fun” but rather are unmasked by Goodkind so they have no choice but to run around attacking, doing their best to try and belittle anyone who reads Goodkind’s work.”
“This kind of behaviour not only suggest that Goodkind has more than struck a nerve but that it has shown the fact that they are just a bunch of bulllys. These are the same kinds of antogonistic and belligerent children who find what they think is a target and attack.”
“Now these people show their true character not just by attacking the material, but also the people who offer up good words or simply they liked the series. Someone offers up “I liked the series” and off they go attacking this person, then puking forth some week point about “he’s arrogant”, or “His prose” is really bad” or even “how can anyone read him”. Week indeed.”
— Yar (aka Mystar), sffchronicles.co.uk
Mr. Goodkind’s fans and defenders generally appear to be as literate as their idol. The above quotation has been copied word for word, poor spelling and grammar intact. Honestly, it’s about what I expected.
I’m a relatively contented individual. I have family and children that fill my life with joy (and tribulation). There is no void in my existence. Fans like Mystar blatantly refuse to see the Truth, and instead launch into ludicrous, uninformed tirades against Mr. Goodkind’s detractors, without ever addressing the actual complaints about the novels. They side-step the primary issue and instead waffle on about voids and bullies.
In more than fifteen years of writing, Mr. Goodkind has shown absolutely no improvement at all as an author. This is hardly worth condemnation, but when you consider the arrogance, ego, delusions of grandeur, questionable morals and ethics, and just plain idiocy, we’re left with one inescapable Truth: Terry Goodkind is a terrible writer and reprehensible individual who has somehow managed to convince an astounding number of people that he is the most talented and capable wordsmith to grace God’s green earth.
What was that whole first rule thing?
“Wizard’s First Rule: people are stupid.” Richard and Kahlan frowned even more. “People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”
— Terry Goodkind, “The Sword of Truth”
I hope the irony is not lost on anyone.
“Don’t be fooled. The assertion made by these detractors is a note wrapped around a brick thrown through the window. These people are not fans. There are hundreds if not thousands of fantasy books that fulfill their professed taste in books. Why would they continue to read books they claim are bad? Because they hate that my novels exists. Values arouse hatred in these people.”
— Terry Goodkind
I’ll end this diatribe with assurances that I do not hate that Mr. Goodkind’s novels exist, and I certainly do not hate the man behind them. There’s more than enough hate in the world already, hating someone for his laughable abilities as an author and his questionable philosophy is simply ridiculous. As for the claim that “values arouse hatred”, I certainly found few values of worth in the four novels that I read. I most definitely do not find kicking 8-year-old little girls in the jaw, no matter how EVIL they are, to be a good value. Nor do I find page after page of repetitive and vapid monologue attacking a straw man to be a good value either. I also did not find any of the lurid sex, rape, and almost-rape scenes to contain any notable values. They didn’t even cause my thing to rise, either.
I do not begrudge him his success, although I obviously question it. I do not deny his right to write or be published. I do denounce his many asinine claims about his own storytelling abilities and his ignorant opinion on the fantasy genre, but anyone with even half a brain should be capable of determining that he’s just talking out of his arse.
I also don’t want anyone telling me I need to read “Faith of the Fallen” because “honestly, no really, it gets better, I’m telling the Truth!” I do not like the writing, I do not like the image the author has presented, I disagree with almost every claim and statement he makes. I refuse to see any more of my money heading into Mr. Goodkind’s pockets (Capitalist protest at its best). If he couldn’t manage to improve his writing after the four fairly hefty novels I read, I have no faith whatsoever that the unread remainder are worth my time. Unless I’m in need of a good laugh or two, that is.
In the end this is just my opinion, which I’m entitled to, and entitled to share regardless of whether or not it matters to anyone else. Some people may agree with me, others obviously not so much. If you are a fan of Mr. Goodkind, good for you! That you can wade through repetitious, ridiculous dialog between one-dimensional characters in a boring fantasy world is certainly impressive. That you actually enjoy it and find it exciting and insightful is, however, incomprehensible.
I read several of Terry Goodkind’s books and laughed at how terrible they were. Several other people also saw the Truth and laughed. Then Terry Goodkind laughed. All the way to the bank.
Some of you might be griping that for as much as I claim Mr. Goodkind’s prose is horrible, I haven’t actually provided any proof. This post is already longer than it should be, and there’s more than enough evidence found elsewhere I can easily link to. Google can be your friend, just try searching with “site:westeros.org goodkind qotd“.
I also didn’t bother touching on the obvious parallels with Jordan’s The Wheel of Time , as Goodkind apparently believes if you see any similarities you aren’t old enough to read his books. Oddly enough, I saw the same similarities when I was in my 20’s as I did when I was 33.
I’ll close with another quote:
“Reading Terry Goodkind is like masturbating with sandpaper. Most people are smart enough not to try it. If they try it they’ll probably stop early. But for some of us, we think, hey, If you don’t finish, what was the point of all that suffering?”
— Moosicus, asoiaf.westeros.org