January 18, 2010
I got several books for Christmas. (Surprise!) Two of them are by Margaret Barker: Christmas—The Original Story and Temple Themes in Christian Worship. I haven’t finished the second one yet but I’ve been enjoying reading them. If you’re not familiar with Margaret Barker, she’s a scholar who studies Christian origins and in particular has written several books (I already had two others, The Older Testament and The Great Angel) expanding on her thesis that most of what scholars have considered new about Christianity was actually a restoration of beliefs and practices from the First Temple (ie., Solomon’s temple before the Babylonian exile.)
Another book I got was Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. This is a fantasy novel and it’s really, really, good. I’m not sure how much to say without giving parts of it away. He’s very original and the characters are very well developed.
After I finished that I started reading The Sword of Shanara by Terry Brooks. Sam bought the “25th Anniversary Edition” printing of the trilogy that starts with that book, and I didn’t have anything else (fiction, any way) to read. Now, I’ve seen this book in bookstores and libraries since it was first published, but the jacket blurbs and such always gave me the impression it was a cheap imitation of Tolkien so I never bothered to read it. Well, now that I started it I think I can say that my impression was correct, with a big emphasis on the “cheap” part. Frankly, I’m astonished the book ever got published, let alone became a best seller. The characters aren’t even two dimensional, while there’s danger and adventure there don’t seem to be any moral choices, and the prose style is more like someone describing the story than actually telling it. I’m glad I never wasted any of my money on this.
Finally, I went to the library last week and found The Gathering Storm in the “new books” shelves. This is the twelfth book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Unfortunately, Robert Jordan died a couple of years ago before finishing the story, so his widow and editor (she’s the same person) hired Brandon Sanderson to finish it, and both are credited as authors. This was supposed to be the last book, but as Sanderson started working on it he realized there were too many loose ends to tie up (if Jordan had a fault, it was branching out his plot in too many directions) so there will still be two more books. But this book does start resolving some of the subplots, so it does seem plausible he’ll be able to finish in two more. The only problem is I’m ready to read them now.