Goodkind's Faith of the Fallen brings no surprise
by Jonathan David Pearce, Contributing Editor
(Mild spoilers here, but worry not. The book isn’t worth reading.)
Argh. Terry Goodkind must die. This is my mantra; this is what I believe.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a truly God-awful book like Tom Clancy’s Net Force, poorly written and exhaustingly dull. It is merely an unbelievably frustrating one. Goodkind has the curious faculty of creating characters one can really care about and then making them do the least interesting things possible. I didn’t care for the original Sword of Truth book and I was sorry to have read the second. I swore off the series then and there, but I unfortunately did not hold myself to that and chose to read Faith of the Fallen.
Let’s start with Goodkind’s heavy-handed foreshadowing. Nothing, I repeat nothing, ever happens in a surprising fashion in the Sword of Truth series. There is no event, no surprise that the reader cannot see coming a mile away because of Goodkind’s obvious clues strewn throughout the text. He seeks, I suppose, to write no plot twists without justification. A superior author such as Douglas Adams could tie together all the little threads of the story at the end, leaving nothing unjustified or without cause. Goodkind seeks to do that too, but he chooses to employ massive iron chains that the reader can feel shifting and straining throughout the text instead of little threads. What he achieves, then, is a sense of inevitability and a plot devoid of tension. Reading Faith of the Fallen was like standing frozen, watching the headlights draw near. The reader is just waiting for impact. And, with any luck, unconsciousness.
Goodkind, at least with this and the first two Sword of Truth books, is formulaic. Once again, Richard and Kahlan are separated when Richard is taken prisoner. Once again, Richard’s magic personality serves to see him through this latest ordeal. Once again, Kahlan and Richard are completely and mind-numbingly in love with each other. Once again, the main antagonists of the book shift. Goodkind can’t even stick to a good-old-fashioned Keeper (cough, Dark One, cough) taking-over-the-world plot, a la Wheel of Time, for more than a novel and a half before losing interest and generating new enemies. Enemies, I might add, which a follower of the series cares nothing about, for they’ve appeared literally from nowhere.
While I’m harping on the subject, the Sword of Truth universe is frighteningly derivative. C’mon, people. Sisters of the Light? Touching your Han? Don’t even get me started on some of the names. More important than these superficialities, however, are the complete and utter lack of things Goodkind addresses which Robert Jordan has not already covered, and better, a half-dozen books ago. The only dimension Goodkind’s work has over Jordan’s is this mindless love-fest between Richard and Kahlan, which we’ve already determined is more of a lack of dimension than anything else.
Goodkind has the oddest vendetta against faith. The biggest, and for the most part only, propounders of faith in Faith of the Fallen are the Sisters of the Light in particular and the vast majority of the Old World in general. These characters’ faith in the Creator serves only to cloud their good reason and make them obstruct Richard in new and inevitable ways. Goodkind seems to be advancing opinions about faith commonly held by rebellious juveniles seeking direction and purpose. Personally, I tired of this sort of thing a while ago. I also like to entertain the idea that most adults understand the complexities of faith, and Christianity in particular, which the Sword of Truth universe seems to reject, though that may be wishful thinking on my part. Incidently, Gordon Dickson wrote a wonderful science-fiction treatment of the complexities of faith in Soldier, Ask Not which I recommend without reservation.
Finally, and here is my biggest beef with the book and also my biggest spoiler, I couldn’t stomach the Objectivism at all. I swear to God. Had it been a good thousand pages thicker, Faith of the Fallen has the stuff to rival Ayn Rand herself. What’s more, Goodkind’s protagonist does not demonstrate the radical superiority of reason against the backdrop of a titanic life and death struggle of a nation, but rather a pitiful sort of microcosm which, honestly, I could not care about. I’m supposed to gain joie de vivre and respect for man’s rationality above all else from Richard lugging around charcoal? Perhaps I could accept the Objectivism better if it weren’t so painfully painted over the plot. Richard’s speechifying on the nature of reason is just as terrifying as any of John Galt’s multiple-page monologues, but less appropriate. While I hesitate to call the resolution of the book deus ex machina since the reader could see it coming five hundred pages away, the way things neatly tie together at the end, dare I say it, defies reason. Yet reason is, ultimately, the bizarre and inexplicable cause for writing this book, a theme never hinted at within the other Sword of Truth novels I’ve read. Within Faith of the Fallen, however, Goodkind heaps it on with a trowel.
Faith of the Fallen. My opinion? Feces. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
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