(urth) Long Review Essay --Able's character
bob_bageera at hotmail.com
Thu Sep 20 05:59:35 PDT 2007
But I think my biggest complaint -- my biggest stumbling block -- was
a pair of intertwined issues: the character of Abel, and the ethics
(even, politics) of the book.
First off, I found Abel frequently insufferable. Pompous,
self-righteous, frequently a bully, he also came off as a Mary Sue
(at least in one sense of that polyvalent term of fan critique): not
only was he the most courageous and noble person about, but he also
had the writer stacking the deck for him at every turn. He had more
magical allies, artifacts, assistants, companions, than you could
shake a stick at: an invisible ogre doing his bidding! A sky-wolf who
happened to be totally loyal! Elves (called Aelf) who were his slaves
(yes, not always reliable, but often enough). A magic sword, the
blessing and friendship of Odin, various other magic devices he got
at the end (the helmet, another sword). Heck, he even becomes a god
halfway through the work! Talk about favoritism!*
This sort of stacking the deck is hard enough to take when the writer
has some self-consciousness about what he's doing, but I didn't see
any sign that Wolfe did. He simply loved his creation, and showered
him with so many cheats and advantages that any honor he might have
accrued felt like a cheat.
There are three things that I thank the group for forcing me to think of.
Even in the 14th century, the lack of knightly virtue was descried by no
less than Chaucer himself. The Knight's battles and self represented an
earlier, more ideal time. So, the knightly ideal was on a pedestal, a
standard toward which to aspire.
Able started off pretty poor asd an excuse for a human, yes. It was the
narrator's "voice?" and the lack of justification of his actions that kept
the reading road smooth for me. From the word go I felt the narrator's
voice promised growth. And that is what I liked so much about Abel. He was
wrong. And he grew. From the trust and chance given by the Valfather he
became more than he was--bullying brawler on one hand and sex slave to a
creature of moss and twigs on the other.
And by his stepping up to the plate, his refusal to walk off toward the end
of the Wizard and go to Aelfrice with Disiri leaving everyone and thing
else, Wolfe has him give us the best portayal of courage and knightly
virtues I can imagine. No one other than Able and Disiri knew he had been
tempted. Thoght I would not say that Michael or the Valfather had not
predicted it. Not to mention we get the smooth non-Irish cream of Wolfe's
I thought the slow pace and acceleration was deliberate, and very
reminiscent of the cavalry charge in Olivier's Henry V. Slow and
accelerating and faster until they were at a full gallop. Perhaps Wolfe did
somewhat commit what the great Algis Budrys called the sin of taking his
audience for granted? The unevenness I acknowledge as well. I like it, I'm
not a puzzle solver and these intervals give my rear brain time to catch up
and help me unnertand what I read an hour or six ago.
I love this book. Able had so many gifts, and still he had to have outside
help for his real accomplisment--saving humanity. He had no hope of winning
against the Black Caan until Lothur "brought" the hundreds and food with
Smiler and Able accepted his impending severing from Disiri to save those he
would willingly have slain himself at the beginning of The Knight.
Thank you for making me think
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