Thursday, September 20, 2007

JD's Take: Homeland (R. A. Salvadore)

I've been wrestling for months with the desire to read cheap, pulpy, horrid, serialized fantasy or science fiction. Based on someone else's intellectual property if at all possible. I finally caved when I discovered a copy of Homeland by the oft-reviled R.A. Salvatore sitting on our shelves looking forlorn.

For those of you unfamiliar with this little piece of geek history, this book was the introduction of the character Drizzt. Still nothing? Okay, fine. Drizzt is a Drow Elf (or dark elf. The evil kind) who has a Good Heart, Two Scimitars, and a Pet Leopard. He rebels against the evil society he is brought up in (aided by the fact that he is So Much Cooler than anybody else) and becomes a great hero of the world. Sound like a hackneyed backstory from roleplaying session? An overused D&D cliche? It is, and this book is the reason for that.

So. I read it. Let me just give you a couple of impressions.

1) The spine of the book does *not* list the author of the book. There isn't room. See they needed the title, the name of the story cycle (The Dark Elf Trilogy. Very catchy) the book number (1!) and of course... the Forgotten Realms logo. Oh, and the TSR logo. And the publisher's logo.

2) So near the end of the first or second chapter I was forced to stop and step back from the book. On the two page spread I was looking at, 11 out of 14 paragraphs started with the word 'Zak'. Seriously. That's some quality writing.

3) The word Drow is *never* used without being followed by the word Elf or Elves. That's at least once a page, and never is it used by itself. It's absurd. Surely by page 50 I've figured out that the Drow are a kind of elf!

4) The Drow are Chaotic as a race. Which explains their rigidly lawful theocracy. Actually, I can't blame this one on Salvatore... stupid TSR.

Having said that, I almost wrote "but it's still a fun read" out of habit. But it really isn't. The basic plot arc is Drizzt is born --> Drizzt grows up to be a Hardcore Badass who excels at everything he touches and has a heart of pure gold --> Drizzt leaves the city with his pet Leopard. At no point do you doubt his safety. His mentor dies (oh shits! Spoiler) which any reader could have predicted at page 30. He is dutifully sad/enraged. His rivals fall before him (but he feels bad about it) and he leaves because he refused to conform to the evil ways of the evil society of his evil race. His sense of Good and Honor blossom despite the fact that he was at NO POINT exposed to these ideas.

Spare me. The good news is, it's a quick read. And you can't pick up this novel with high expectations, so you aren't likely to be terribly disappointed. That's about all the good I can wring from it. I'd read more but I'm pretty certain I get the gist of the REST OF HIS LIFE. For fun, I'll predict some key events:

  • Drizzt meets other elves. Turns out, They Aren't Evil.
  • Drizzt is outcast (oh! the title of the second book!) from Good society because of racism! Racism is bad!
  • Drizzt is framed for the vicious murder of a school filled with orphans, which he was only trying to protect! Poor Drizzt!
  • Drizzt gains the respect of the Elven Community!
  • Drizzt kills Lloth, the spider-queen-god of the Drow Elves
  • Drizzt, his Pet Leopard, and his New Girlfriend(I'm guessing a wood cleric)/Brother In Arms (a nobleman on a quest of self discovery. Probably a wizard/fighter) die bravely in battle. But they get better. Repeatedly (This happened (twice) to the damn cat in the first book alone!).
  • Drizzt mournfully sees the downfall of his race. He is very conflicted about it.
  • Actually, Drizzt spends an unhealthy amount of time feeling sorry for himself. Then he kills shit and it makes him feel better. Or sets off the next bout of self-loathing.

I wonder if Alien fiction is any better? Or maybe Warhammer?


Enrique said...

For those of you unfamiliar with this little piece of geek history, this book was the introduction of the character Drizzt.

Actually, Drizzt was first introduced in The Crystal Shard, the first book in the Icewind Dale series. The Dark Elf Trilogy (Homeland, Exile, Sojourn) was written after the fanfare for Drizzt came about from the other books.

Salvatore has a certain effect on me. I read through his books with the knowledge that he is a shitty writer, but just can't stop. A friend of mine describes it like this: His books are no more intellectually stimulating than one by Dr. Seuss, it's essentially "See Drizzt. See Drizzt Kill. Kill Drizzt Kill!" While all the readers are too enthralled yelling out "YEAH KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL DRIZZT!"

The books being quick to read is a really good point. Whenever I would read a Salvatore book at some point when I was busy with other things, I would promptly put it down and never open it again. I just read all the way through them if I have a few hours and little else to do though.

Drew said...

You know that Aliens fiction is better.

This for two reasons.

A) The goddamn Aliens comics were goddamn awesome, and books > comics, as a rule. Ergo, the books must be goddamn awesome.

B) They'll have the goddamn Colonial Marines, the prototype of space marines everywhere. Even the MI of Starship Troopers are somehow shadows of the Colonial Marines, despite having arived on the scene some 10ish years earlier.

C) I've heard only good things about recent Warharmmer fiction, in the cheesy serial pulp vein.

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