Showing posts with label Tolkien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tolkien. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Best in Fantasy Fiction -- A Reading from "The Shadow War of the Night Dragons"

Many of the best works of Science Fiction and Fantasy are meant to be read aloud.  Ursula Le Guin describes the power of prose meant to be written aloud in her description of Tolkien's narrative prose in The Lord of the Rings in her essay "Rhythmic Pattern in The Lord of the Rings."  The essay was published in the book Meditations on Middle-Earth: New Writing on the Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien, and like the book she is describing, the essay is a joy to read.  She describes such works as follows:

The narrative prose of such novelists is like poetry in that it wants the living voice to speak it, to find its full beauty and power, its subtle music, its rhythmic vitality.
It's a wonderful description, and it captures Tolkien's work perfectly.  There are places in The Lord of the Rings where my "silent reader mind" recoils from the page, but when the passages are given voice they come to life.

Some fiction was just meant to be read aloud...and that includes John Scalzi's Hugo Nominated masterwork The Shadow War of the Night Dragons Book One: The Dead City.  Like most works of sublime Fantasy, Scalzi's true genius is revealed by the voice of the reader -- in this case Mark of  As Mark reads the pages, the reader is given the pleasure of seeing how masterfully Scalzi combined Shakespeare's opening of Hamlet with one of the most endearing story openings of all time -- second only to Once Upon a Time in its familiarity to readers -- and wraps them in a stylistic bow of genius.

I dare you to watch this video and not be moved to tears.

Do you see what I mean?  What is striking about listening to this, as opposed to merely reading it as I have done before, is that it has affected the way that I read Patrick Rothfuss and Iain Banks.  Thanks to John Scalzi, the Culture Novels will never be the same again as they are surely sequels to Shadow War.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Alternative Vision of the Hobbit that Never Was -- Thank Heaven

Over at the Tor books website, there is a post discussing a short animated version of The Hobbit that was produced long before the Rankin/Bass film adaptation with which most people are familiar.  The film was worked on by Gene Deitch, who shares the genesis of the project on his website.

As I watched the approximately 12 minute adaptation, I was struck by two thoughts.  The first was how similar the animation style was to the illustrations on the covers of the paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings that my parents had sitting around the house when I was a child.

The second was how little the illustrations captured the feel of the fiction for me.  I never felt that the Ballantine covers truly captured the magic of Middle Earth.  They were dynamic covers, but they were too faux surreal and angular for my young tastes.  The Fellowship cover, above, captures neither Hobbiton nor Rivendell for me.  This isn't to say that those places might not look surreal, just that these images fail to capture my vision.

The same holds for the animated film.  It's adaptation of Thorin and the insertion of hearts into the costuming of various characters seems bizarre, though I do like the angular Gandalf who has a darkness that the other characters lack.

Watch the clip and judge for yourself.  One thing is certain though, the name change they gave Smaug is nigh unforgivable.