10 July 2012

Puttin' the Blog in Balrog - Lord of the Rings (Bk. 1 Pt. 1)

I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

This weekend was really busy for me, and then I took some extra time on my Hugo review for The Left Hand of Darkness.  The result was that I never was able to find the extra time to get around to my first post for the LOTR read along hosted by Book Snobbery.  If you thought you knew anything about Middle-earth, you ought to check out SJ’s discussions.  I mentioned that I’d be participating in this last week and though I’m behind on my first post, I’ve actually been able to keep up on the reading (and the singing) just fine.  This week covers the Fellowship of the Ring chapters 1-6 and as usual with non-Hugos right now, I’m listening to the audiobook read by Stephen Fry.  It’s a fairly good reading, but I think a goat could read LOTR and it would still be amazing (picture that).  On to the discussion where I’ll start with a mash-up answer of SJ’s discussion topics because I can’t really do them all justice:

Discussion Topics
  • First time readers – are you keeping up okay?  Is everything fairly easy to follow so far, or are there things that need clarifying?
  • Also for first time readers – what could be keeping Gandalf?  Any ideas or thoughts on why he hasn’t shown up again yet?
  • Re-readers – Frodo’s dream in Crickhollow.  I think the last time I read this, I was high on Silmarillion and had convinced myself that he was talking about Elwing’s tower lighthouse instead of Tower Hills.  Now I can’t remember why I was so sure.  Thoughts?
  • Old Man Willow – related to Ents, Huorns or neither?  Why?
  • Um, did anyone else [fistpump] when they read this? :  ”We are horribly afraid, but we are coming with you.”  Man, these little hobbits.  I get emotional every time.  Am I the only one?

Sooo…  I’m not a first time reader.  I’ve read The Hobbit and the trilogy but nothing else (sadly).  That was about 8 to 10 years ago though (aside from the Hobbit which I read a few months back), so I’m kind of supes out of it and my memories of the books tend to be more nostalgic and fuzzy than anything else.  BUT, oh man, when I read these books for the first time it was like, like…THE BEST!  I was hardcore into these books and I took them with me to my college classes and read every second I wasn’t taking notes.  I remember reading The Lord of the Rings like the world was going to end if I took my eyes off the page.  I remember staring at those maps for hours.

Tolkien makes Middle-earth not just a real place, but a real place from the very moment the book begins.  His worldbuilding is poetic and intricate, but also natural and cozy.  Is there anyone who has read any part of these books and not dreamed of being on in the shire and smoking pipe weed with Gandalf or drinking in the Green Dragon with the hobbits?  If there is, tell me who they are and I will Orc-smash them.

I bought this cheap copy when I was a poor
college student.  Please don't hate.
My introduction to LOTR actually came through my family.  Of course I remember equal parts fear and wonder at the animated Hobbit when I was young, but my real introduction to Tolkien didn’t come till I was in college.  My brothers and Dad had read the books and loved Peter Jackson’s Fellowship and whenever I visited home during summer or holiday breaks, every conversation and joke was infused with Middle-earth lore and incessant hobbitisms (a few YOU SHALL NOT PASS!es thrown in here and there too).  I knew nothing about it but when they were being ridiculous, it was impossible to notice that I had been left out of something special.

Sidenote/confession: I had actually seen Jackson’s Fellowship by this time but it was one of the very first movies that I saw with my girlfriend at time (my wife and the mother of my child now :D) and I was apparently concentrating on other things than Frodo and Samwise because I had zero recollection of the story later!  I’m hoping that the fact that we ended up married will allow me to get away with this oversight, though I’m not sure there is any logic behind that plea.

ANYWAY.  Returning to SJ’s questions…  When I finally started reading Fellowship, I was ALL IN!  I had no trouble following along and I soaked up every little detail I could and I geeked-out over everything I could gladly.  I remember my calendar above my bed in my college apartment even had significant events marked and circled when it was possible to determine a date.

I still love it this time around listening to the audiobooks on the way to work, though to skip ahead and answer the [fist-pump] question, I learned my lesson about wild gestures and hysterical laughing during my very dangerous commutes when I listened to The Lies of Locke Lamora recently and I’ve had to be more subdued or risk moto-destruction.  Also, in college it probably wasn’t smart bringing LOTR into class no one was really going to say anything about it.  Now, I’d probably be fired.  Needless to say, I’ve toned it down a bit.  I’ve also decided I’m not going to listen to the audiobooks for the next two books because I think there is something lost in the listening (a rare thing to hear me say).

Okay, that’s all I’ve got in me for now.  Sorry I didn't get too deep into the actual substance.  Erg.  Frodo Lives!


  1. You know, it's kind of blowing my mind how many people have waited until later in life to read these books.

    By the time the movies came out, I'd already read them so many times, that I'm pretty sure nothing would have satisfied me. >.<

    1. I know. It is sad and I do feel cheated. There was no one in my life encouraging me to read it and I was probably only peripherally aware of it until later in my life. Until I read LOTR my reading fare was quite a lot different and that's part of the reason I'm doing this blog and also part of the reason I'm participating in the read along. I need to make up for lost time!

      The take away for me here. Make damn sure my daughter isn't as in the dark about the books she ought to be reading as I was :-)

      Oh and thanks again for a good discussion starter!

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  3. For me, C.S. Lewis's Narnia series was the first fantasy I got into at a young age; later I read The Hobbit and then right after that The Lord of the Rings. I was already hugely into D & D by then and started consuming epic fantasy. So glad I started with Tolkien. There were some things other fantasy authors have done better, perhaps, but his work has remained one of the standards (for me) by which I measure all others against.

    1. ugh, I haven't been keeping up with my LOTR posts... Yeah, I got a late start and other than LoTR haven't gotten deeper than the fringes of fantasy. I'm not sure why, I have loved practically everything I've read. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!

    2. I am more than willing to help you out with recommendations for fantasy, should you be interested - once you've finished this ambitious project here, that is.

    3. I hope you mean it because I'll take you up on that offer. There is no need to wait though, I go through a lot of non-HEP audiobooks during my commute to work. That is how I recently read The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (both of which I really liked).

    4. I have The Lies of Locke Lamora on my TBR, I'm hoping to get through it soon.

      Okay, fantasy series I think are worth giving a shot, for someone with generally sf sensibilities (which is how I would generally categorize myself, anyway):

      I could take the easy way out and recommend GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire series, since even non-fantasy fans are all over Game of Thrones, but I'll put a little more thought into this for you.

      Robert Silverberg's Majipoor - The first book is Lord Valentine's Castle. I'm not going to say that it's plot-heavy or that the characters are the best ever, but the world-building is top notch.

      Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey's Halfblood Chronicles - Book 1 is The Elvenbane. Shape-shifting dragons, cruel elves and enslaved humans. Reviews for this one are pretty hit or miss. It seems like most people either love or hate this series. I obviously fall into the former. If you've read any of Norton's other stuff, you'll be familiar with her slightly plodding style, but I think it works in this case. Also, like a lot of sf, the first book is primarily setup for the action to follow.

      CS Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy - First book is Black Sun Rising, which Michael Whelan did the cover art for. I'm almost positive I picked it up initially because I'm a fan of his work. ANYWAY, this series is kind of a science fantasy, I guess. The premise deals with a colony of earthlings that have to deal with the forces of magic on this new planet - we're kind of given a teaser into how we ended up on this planet at the beginning, but the primary story takes place over 1000 years after that in a vaguely medieval society. It's an interesting quest. Not necessarily for everyone, but I liked it.

      Margaret Weiss and Tracey Hickman's Death Gate Cycle - First book is Dragon Wing. This series is 7 books and there are several fully realized worlds. A lot of fun.

      Jim Butcher's Codex Alera - Furies of Calderon starts this one off. I'm a huge fan of Butcher's Dresden Files, and I know a lot of people wrote this one off, but I think it's just as strong as his other work. Magic+Politics. It's fun and serious at the same time.

      And if all else fails, give Stephen King's Eyes of the Dragon a try.

    5. hmm... I'm surprised to see Stephen King in there but that's cool. I have some really nostalgic memories of reading a bunch of his books in high school. As for the others, they all sound fun. Especially the shape-shifting dragons-that sounds awesome!

      Thank you so much for all the recommendations. My TBR pile just got really heavy.

    6. Oh and The Lies of Locke Lamora is really great and funny as hell. I listened to it on audiobook and tell everyone they should too. Michael Page kills it.

    7. Eyes of the Dragon is different from anything else Stephen King has written, and it was either the first or second thing I read by him (I read this and The Gunslinger around the same time). I just re-read it this year, and it was better than I'd remembered.

      I think I have the most nostalgic memories for the Halfblood Chronicles (I read and re-read them in high school), so I kind of hope you like those. They're not as epic in scope as the other series, more a kind of fantasy-lite (even though they're full of dragons and elves and magic) in that they are pretty quick, easy reads.

      LoLL is definitely moving up on my to read list, so many people I know have loved it.

    8. And Republic of Thieves is coming out soon (the third book in the series) so you better get on that quick :)

    9. Okay, okay! I have them both on my reader already. As soon as I finish the, er...five other books I'm currently reading, I'll be all over it.

    10. hehe... Hope you enjoy, and I'll be curious to hear your take, once you get to them.

    11. Yes, absolutely. I'm trying to blog about all of the new things I read this year, but some only make it to goodreads reviews. Especially if I hate them. I'm sure I won't hate this, though.


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