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September 12, 2004 7:21 PM   Subscribe

The Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant More than two decades after the last chapter, Stephen R. Donaldson is set to release the first of four novels in "The Final Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant." Bonus: a "trailer" of sorts (left side of page, midpoint). Hellfire & White Gold!
posted by davidmsc (25 comments total)
Also be sure to check out a fansite or two.
posted by davidmsc at 7:24 PM on September 12, 2004

More than two decades after the last chapter...

Geez, that brings back memories!

I was working in a bookstore at the time. When the "last chapter" got released it was facking MOVING out the door.

I worked there for 4 years and no other book caused more excitement, or sold as quickly as that one. IIRC.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:32 PM on September 12, 2004

Too late, too late.

This narrative - a Tolkien derivative although very well done - has come to characterize our daily lives.
posted by troutfishing at 7:46 PM on September 12, 2004

All right, my next game of clench racing will have 13 players!
Clench Racing

The rules are simple. Each player takes a different volume of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and at the word "go" all open their books at random and start leafing through, scanning the pages. The winner is the first player to find the word "clench". It's a fast, exciting game -- sixty seconds is unusually drawn-out -- and can be varied, if players get too good, with other favourite Donaldson words like wince, flinch, gag, rasp, exigency, mendacity, articulate, macerate, mien, limn, vertigo, cynosure.... It's a great way to get thrown out of bookshops. Good racing!
posted by Grod at 7:50 PM on September 12, 2004

Disclaimer: Never read the books. Just sayin', OK?!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:01 PM on September 12, 2004

I met the guy, Donaldson. He was a very nice person. I asked him about where he got the idea for his anti-hero and his answer was simple: he did some very basic research into the fantasy/scifi genre and found that most "heros" were very nice, relatively well-adjusted people, as far as dealing with having to kill, maim, murder and etc. He wanted somebody different - that somebody is Thomas Covenant.

I'd read these new books. They certainly were a turning point in my reading material 20 years ago, not to mention a high point in the genre. And I'll fight anybody who disagrees with me on this.
posted by ashbury at 8:22 PM on September 12, 2004

I suppose you could play "Balk Racing" with any of Piers Anthony's books, too...heh...

And I'll certainly read the new chapters, too -- obviously, my 13-y/o brain didn't grasp all of the Deep Stuff the first time I read the First Chronicles, but upon subsequent readings, spaced about 5-7 years apart, I've enjoyed the series more and appreciated more of the "completeness" of The Land.

posted by davidmsc at 8:31 PM on September 12, 2004

I think I'm going to cry.
Tears of happiness.

imho the Thomas Covenant books, in some ways, surpass the lotr books.

Ever since the lotr books have been made into worthy movies, I've been hoping for an announcement that the TC books would receive similar treatment.

But, for now, I'll settle for a new series :D
posted by Trik at 8:36 PM on September 12, 2004

I'm already crying. I also met him many years ago. He used to regularly come to my school to give talks. He's a very nice guy. Wow what a great thing to learn. The next Lemony Snicket book is coming out in 9 days as well.
posted by filchyboy at 8:48 PM on September 12, 2004

Never read the TC books, but I loved the Gap Series. Though I've read many a review or blog that hates that series, I thought it was quite a fun read.

Might have to pick up these books, but I'm not so much into fantasy.
posted by snwod at 11:09 PM on September 12, 2004

Wow, I haven't read these in years and years. It was the last series my dad and I read through together. I rather imagine it influenced my choice of wedding band material, although not consciously.

It will be interesting to track the old books down and reread them as an adult - I've read through all my other childhood stuff again and this is one I just missed.

I do have to admit a fear of, what does one call it, the Lucas factor, perhaps?
posted by mwhybark at 11:22 PM on September 12, 2004

"The essence of Donaldson's artistry--and the key to his success--is his ability to construct narrative crescendos that build and build and keep on building, unremittingly, until they have reached a pitch which no composer of texts has ever attained before." (website)

I can't tell if this is a compliment or not.
posted by stbalbach at 11:54 PM on September 12, 2004

Um...I know Reagan was in office when I finished the last book, but I seem to recall that Covenant died. Isn't this a bit like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle bringing Moriarity back from Rickenbacker Falls?

mwhybark - I understand. When I got married (10 years ago - sheesh) I made some comment about "Oh, cool. white gold. Now I can bring down the Arch of Time." My fiancee just looked at me with those eyes that questioned if she was doing the right thing.
posted by stevis at 11:55 PM on September 12, 2004

I'm kind of ambivalent... I enjoyed the series immensely when I was in high school, then reread it recently and thought, "man, Thomas Covenant is such a drama queen." It's well written, but way over-wrought sometimes.
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:17 AM on September 13, 2004

Fantasy Bedtime Hour: The cable TV show in which two women lie in bed puzzled by Lord Foul's Bane.
posted by inksyndicate at 12:46 AM on September 13, 2004

October 14th seems to be the release date according to Amazon. I'll be keeping an eye out for it: Donaldson's always pretty compulsive reading. And to be fair, he's improved vastly since the sometimes clunky writing of the first book.

Also, in blatant self-promotion, I wrote a kuro5hin article about Donaldson ages ago.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:31 AM on September 13, 2004

I'm still trying to scrounge up a copy of the original chronicles. It is one of the few books I have left to read on the Top 50 Sci-Fi/Fantasy list that came out in aught-two.
posted by sciurus at 3:03 AM on September 13, 2004

When his first post-TC book was published, my grandmother gave me a brand-new first edition for Christmas. I loved the TC books and I was absolutely astonished to discover that my grandmother knew I liked Donaldson.

She said, "Keith, I don't know if you've heard of this author, but he's a very nice young man I play bridge with."

She's passed away now, but I think one of my aunts still plays bridge with him at the bridge club. She's sent me several of his books, autographed, in the last ten years. The last one said, "Keith, I know your aunt Judy, too." But I've not met him myself.

It's interesting to hear that people here have met him and think him nice. Of course my grandmother and my two aunts thought(think) so from knowing him at bridge club. But I'd heard a couple of other people around town that had met him who said he wasn't very nice at all. I'd like to think he is.

Many people just couldn't make it past the rape that essentially begins the first book. I think it's an astonishing thing that Donaldson would have the courage to make his protagonist so despicable and pitiful—a horrid combination. The Convenant books are really anti-fantasy, in my opinion. Fantasy is a genre of archetypes and as a result, can't really be anything at all like a modern psychological novel. But Donaldson took a modern anti-hero in a modern psychological novel and placed him essentially in opposition to fantasy.

That next pair of novels were a failure, I think. Same theme, much less well realized. I only recently read the Gap series, and I enjoyed and respected it quite a bit. You have to make it into it a ways, though, before it acquires much depth.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:00 AM on September 13, 2004

I hope Donaldson recognizes that the mal-de-mer of Thomas Covenenant is more or less done, and is going to invent some more cool scenarios and devices.

The self-loathing anti-hero bit was cool (especially for its time, and extra-especially for what was probably sold as a yet another Tolkien rip-off), but it got tired pretty quick.
posted by MattD at 5:13 AM on September 13, 2004

Chalk me up as one person who couldn't get past the rape scene in the first book. It's kind of a shame though, because I was beginning to find some elements of the world interesting. So does Thomas Covenant get any less wretched as the series goes on? People above mentioned that he was presented as an anti-hero for the fantasy genre, but he seemed so over the top, to the point where the sum of his huge flaws seemed more gimmick than an attempt at a realistic portrayal.
posted by picea at 6:27 AM on September 13, 2004

He does get more tolerable. But he remains hard to like. I always thought the rape was marginally excusable (he thinks he's in a hallucination and he's overcome with his ability to feel sexual stimulation because his leprosy is gone) which, I think, actually weakened the theme. It gives the reader a way to forgive him, or excuse him, and I think we shouldn't. On the other hand, many people like yourself couldn't tolerate the rape at all so, commercially anyway, Donaldson was smart to mitigate it.

The books really are anti-fantasy in an important sense. The fantasy hero is intended to appeal to the reader's narcissism—the hero is always intrinsically good and everyone around him/her validates this.

But Covenant isn't a good man, and not especially bad either. He's pathetic, with reason, but his lot in life has made him into someone none of us would want to know. How in the world could a person like that be a hero?

Well, it may be that in this fantasy universe (which is teleological like so many others) someone exactly like him is needed.

These books would have been mundane (and certainly not well written enough) as serious literature. By putting his theme and characters into the fantasy trope allows Donaldson to accomplish something subversive.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:57 AM on September 13, 2004

posted by mookieproof at 7:21 AM on September 13, 2004

Wow. Wow. Wow.

This is very exciting. By some strange coincidence, I was thinking about the TC books last night, thinking I should re-read them -- it's been almost ten yeras. I definitely will now (although I fear I might find him over-wrought, now).

And chalk me up as another geek who got a wedding ring of white gold... "just in case."

And... he died, yes, but he also lived on in the "arch of time" or something, yes? Because he WAS the white gold and it was part of him... or something like that.
posted by papercake at 9:32 AM on September 13, 2004

heh, i remember trying to design the whole covenant campaign setting in a grups campaign, and...

anyhow, I met him too. Pretty nice guy. He was a friend of mine's dad's roomate in college, and I got an autographed 'power that preserves' out of it, i think.
posted by das_2099 at 10:36 AM on September 13, 2004

Fantasy Bedtime Hour: The cable TV show in which two women lie in bed puzzled by Lord Foul's Bane

No fat chicks.
posted by Bonzai at 11:16 AM on September 13, 2004

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