He could taste in his own mouth the desperation which had led
High Lord Kevin to Kiril Threndor and the Ritual of Desecration.
Power was dreadful and treacherous. When it was not great
enough to accomplish its wielder's desires, it turned against
the hands which held it. High Lord Elena's fate only repeated
the lesson of Kevin Landwaster; he had possessed far more power
than the new Lords could ever hope for, now that the Staff of
Law was gone; and all his might had achieved nothing but his own
ineluctable despair and the ruin of the Land. Mhoram feared to
share that danger by revealing his secret. He was appalled to
think he was in such peril himself.
|-- The Power That Preserves|
Passages like that
are why I've read the Chronicles many times and what inspired me
to spend dozens of hours shaping this web site. Even more than
the vivid descriptions of geography, warfare, individual stuggle
and ultimate triumph, it is the quiet and serious introspection
of fascinating people like Thomas Covenant, Lord Mhoram,
Saltheart Foamfollower and Linden Avery that bind me in Stephen
Donaldson's spell. Fantasy writing that is unafraid to travel
outside the bounds of traditional literature, unafraid to
express itself in extravagant language, and most of all unafraid
to explore the truly dark, repellant side of our common human
There are many fantasy and science fiction books I enjoy but this is the only web site I've built in tribute to the power of an author. And Stephen R. Donaldson is a powerful author, whether you like his work or not, whether you feel he's closer to Mhoram or Covenant or the Despiser. There are no less than 71 Tolkien WebRings at last count, hundreds of Tolkien web sites and thousands of people posting newsgroup messages with names taken from his novels (including me, sort of ... for a while I was King Arglebargle IV on www.theonering.net's Arena discussion forum) but there aren't more than a handful of real S.R.D. pages out there and not a single WebRing til now. That's just not fair in my eyes. Perhaps Donaldson holds up a less glamorous mirror in which the reader sees facets of himself or herself; defects normally suppressed, denied or repudiated. But without exception we humans all have ugliness, violence, hatred and inadequacies within. And to me the Land is as grand and magical as Middle Earth, and in its context the necessity of confronting issues of Good and Evil are even more vital.
The rewards of perusing the Chronicles are slow in coming but if you can endure Frodo's puttering around for a couple hundred pages you can handle Thomas Covenant's trip to the post office. The Chronicles' benisons far outweigh those of nearly any other written work I can name. And that's important because reading them has never been a comfortable experience for me -- physically, mentally or emotionally.
After reading all that, you may wonder why pick up the books at all. I can only answer that I ask myself questions like that after a particularly brutal gym workout or grueling mountain hike, but I never stop weightlifting or hiking. Maybe Nietsche was right.