Book review: Lord Foul’s Bane

I am in the midst of another fiction-consuming binge. When I tire of listening to podcasts I fire up an audio book. Between listening to books and reading them with my Kobo e-Reader, I go through a lot of books.

The fantasy novel Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson is the first book in the trilogy The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. This trilogy and two others–10 books in all–comprise the Chronicles. The first novel, the one I am reviewing here, was published in 1977, and the last one in 2013. The series is considered a classic in the fantasy genre and with so many books, the series promised many hours of audio book pleasure.

It’s not going to happen. I couldn’t get past the first quarter of the book. My informal rule is to not review books that I haven’t finished but I am making an exception with this book.

Anti-heroes are commonplace now but were less so in 1977 when the novel was written. Thomas Covenant is an anti-hero’s anti-hero. His unexpected leprosy causes his young wife to leave him and take their small child with her. His life as a novelist is shattered.

We join him in the midst of maudlin self-pity and growing hatred for his neighbors. One of Thomas’ strong characteristics is a hair-trigger temper, which the author uses to justify many of Thomas’ actions. Self-pity and gamma assholeness are major themes.

In the midst of Fear and Loathing in gamma land, Thomas is magically transported to a fantasy kingdom where–wait for it–he discovers he is immensely important to everyone’s future and might be a figure out of myth or legend. Gee.

A beautiful young woman helps him get oriented and hints at his immense importance. She promises additional help and he rewards her by raping her. Her beauty, health, and innocence trigger his temper, you see.

I noticed that this book has a lot of bad reviews because of this one incident. I plowed on but abandoned it after confirming that this author is not for me. Covenant is a coward and a rapist, which is bad enough, but the author uses self-pity and anger to drive the action and justify it. Maybe the character develops over the course of the series, and maybe the writer’s style and psychological insights mature as well, but 100 pages is already too much time wasted that I can never get back. Horrid book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.