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97 of 103 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh Stephen, what have you done?, 8 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Against All Things Ending: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Hardcover)
There's a heck of a lot of good stuff in this book. About 400 pages-worth, which is roughly the length of each of the first trilogy. The only thing is, this book is 743 pages long. So we have 400 pages of action that moves the story along, decent introspection and analysis, character study, and 343 pages of Linden whining.

Although I couldn't say Linden Avery's ever come close to cracking my top 10 list of favourite Covenant characters, I've never been a hatah. Until, I'm sad to say, now. Sadder than I can express, actually, because ever since discovering the first and second trilogy at the same time, in the mid-80's (they screwed up my "O" level revision), the Chronicles have been my favourite set of books. Ever. And when I heard about the Last Chronicles coming along, well, I was a very happy chap.

The Runes of the Earth: great. Fatal Revenant: excellent. But now that I've finished reading Against All Things Ending I am, for the first time, wondering if Stephen Donaldson's lost his mojo. If you look on the US Amazon site you'll see a lot of reviews which express similar sentiments: Linden. Bloody Linden. Why is the whole thing about LINDEN?! And I agree with them. The *constant*, never-ending, repetitive, boring, circular self-doubt, self-hatred and whining. The almost wilful misunderstanding of people's motives. The need always to bring things back to me, me, me. I'm so wicked. I killed my mother. I watched my father die. I'll never live up to Covenant. Give. It. A. Rest.

At times Donaldson seems to have completely lost the feeling for his own characters - this quote from page 625: "What remained, except to pray that she and her friends had not made a terrible mistake by surrendering their fate to the Ranyhyn?" Oh, you think? Her reaction to Covenant's post-resurrection disorientation and pain? She sees it as a rejection of her, that she's been abandoned. "To hell with you" she even thinks, at one point. And later, "Covenant was still alive: in effect, Infelice had said so. Other issues were more important." The last time I looked, it was still the Final Chronicles of *Thomas Covenant*. She's what you might call an unreliable witness, so can't be objective about things - fine, but come on. She wasn't *this* bad before. She may have second-guessed (and even third-guessed) herself, but in this book she's just interminable.

Oh, and the Giants. Since when did they ever describe themselves using language not far short of "Heh! We're Giants! We're absolutely bonkers, us! You'd have to be mad to work here! We're ker-rayzee"? Joy in the ears that hear, certainly, but Foamfollower and the Search always reserved a fundamental, grave dignity. There was never the feeling that our current band are projecting of "hey, who cares where we're going? Who cares what we're up to? As long as it turns into a good story, right?!"

The best example I've seen of fantasy that ties up motivation, struggle (internal and outward), action and heart-in-the-mouth pace is The Illearth War. Go back and read it. It's majestic. When you stumble on the name of one of Linden's gang, trying to remember who is being described (because they're all similarly heroic and self-sacrificing), marvel at the way Donaldson managed to elegantly juggle Elena, Hile Troy, Mhoram, Covenant and Bannor. All different and distinctive, all memorable.

Three stars. A lot of good stuff (everything involving Covenant, basically), but several hundred pages of wallowing, self-pitying drivel from Linden Avery.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Nov 2010 14:05:13 GMT
W. Rollason says:
LOL , we wrote the same review but yours is about twice as good as mine!! Its not just us either. SD? sort it out!, last book, half the length less characters and whip it along a bit man!

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Dec 2010 08:51:02 GMT
I wouldn't say my review was in any way better - yours was cracking. I think Against All Things Ending could have done with the firm hand of an editor. I'm reminded of the way Donaldson was forced to excise the whole of "Gilden-Fire" - which was excellent, but perhaps slowed the pace and took the focus from the main part of the story - from "The Illearth War".

If only somehow had been able to say "Look, Steve. The Covenant stuff? Uniformly brilliant. The set-piece events? As good as ever. But you *have* to do something about the way you get wrapped up in Linden's self-absorption." I pray he'll pull it together for the final, final book. But I don't think he will. I'm presuming there'll be a lot to enjoy, but dozens and dozens of pages of Linden second-guessing herself and forcing me to skim.

Posted on 1 Dec 2010 18:29:25 GMT
P. Mather says:
i admit i also found linden annoying in the last book, but was looking forward to reading this book which i shall still do. i hope the final book will have the magic of the rest, it has been a long time coming as i also discovered the books in the 80s and re read them all recently when i saw the final chronicles

Posted on 13 Jan 2011 18:27:43 GMT
I read the first two Chronicles about thirty years ago. I enjoyed the First Chronicles because they were about Thomas Covenant alone. I didn't enjoy the Second Chronicles because of Linden Avery. I have the first two volumes of the Third Chronicles and was saving them until the third volume was published, so I could read them all at once. After reading all the reviews of the third volume, I don't think I'll bother reading any of them. (I think I'll just buy the First Chronicles and read that again instead). Thanks for helping me make up my mind Daniel.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jan 2011 19:35:12 GMT
Noooo! Don't do that!

I'd hate to put anyone off reading the series, because there's a *lot* of great stuff. And even some of the things Linden does in earlier books are interesting - the whole reason she gets returned to the Land and the way she figures out the weapon she's going to need (and the way she tries to get it) in The Runes of the Earth is good. The journey she takes in time and space in Fatal Revenant is cracking - and she meets up with a special guest star (you might say) who adds a lot to the mythology of the whole story. She's not fantastic in Against All Things Ending, but the Covenant stuff is excellent. When you think of Thomas Covenant's whole story, it's the set pieces that stick in your head: Covenant and Lena, Lord Mhoram's Victory, Elena and the Earthblood, Covenant in Andelain with the spirits of the Dead, Covenant facing Nom, Cable Seadreamer and the Raver, the duel at the One Tree... it's a long list. The set pieces in the Last Chronicles are just as good. The problem, I think, is that Donaldson's editors are failing him and letting him get away with too much crap.

Why not consider getting the paperback when it comes out? Or, failing that, getting the book out from the library? You might find yourself skimming through the parts where we cover - over and OVER again - Linden's agonised indecision and self-doubt, but a *lot* of it is worthwhile. I am slightly dreading the bits that cover Linden in the final book of the series, but am otherwise looking forward to it with great anticipation.

Posted on 24 Nov 2011 17:00:27 GMT
C. Fallon says:
Congratulations on a brilliant review! It articulates the feelings I have about the 2nd and 3rd Chronicles. Some great writing but the story gets so bogged down at times that I want to give up reading. I carry on because I loved the first chronicles so much that to stop now would feel disloyal.

Posted on 17 Dec 2012 07:17:56 GMT
I have to echo the sentiments of other comments, you nailed that one. If my command of the written language were better I would have written exactly the same of Linden.

I have still not managed to read past a third of the way through, the short sentences and constant moaning from Linden, coupled with the overuse of obscure words from the dictionary made this a really hard book to pick up. Unlike the other series which were hard to put down.

Good review.

Stop whinging now Linden.
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