(urth) Long Review Essay on Wizard Knight

Brent Dyer brentdyer at sbcglobal.net
Tue Sep 18 13:32:21 PDT 2007

I agree with Chris and, at the risk of piling on, would amplify his point even a little more.

Unlike many (most? almost all?) authors, Wolfe does not present his themes in a simple, didactic format designed to lead the reader to the answer.  Most authors make it clear what behavior they approve or disapprove of by the ultimate outcome.  If a character does something "bad," that character will ultimately suffer as a result or, at the very least, the reader will see how that action causes misery to other, sympathetic characters.  In Wolfe, on the other hand, "bad" behavior frequently goes unpunished or, even worse, it will only hurt unsympathetic characters.  Personally, I think that this makes Wolfe's writing especially realistic because it reflects what really happens---bad people do go unpunished and bad acts frequently do seem to cause ambivalent results.  I think that Wolfe is reflecting the real-life tension between ethics and reality and is challenging his readers to examine their own ideas and feelings on these issues rather than simply
 asking them to agree with his own.

I also have to say that I disagree pretty strongly with Stephen on his argument that there is a tension between Abel as a "modern American teenager" and his ready acceptance of a rigidly hierarchical society.  As the father of 5 budding pre-teens between the ages of 8 and 12, I think Wolfe has it exactly right.  American teenagers live every day of their lives in a hierarchical society, albeit a society in which they sometimes have the ability to change classes.  Abel did exactly what most American teenagers would do if they suddenly became the strongest, most talented, best looking person around--he stepped right up to try to join the top of the hierarchy.

Thank for sharing your review Chris, it's interesting to read the opinion of someone who didn't enjoy the books at much as I.

----- Original Message ---- 
From: Chris <rasputin_ at hotmail.com> 
To: The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net> 
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 3:08:37 PM 
Subject: Re: (urth) Long Review Essay on Wizard Knight 

The reviewer said: 
"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." 

Not to put too fine a point on it but I think you have missed the point to a degree, on a very basic level. 

If you found Able to be insufferable, it is very likely because the author wrote him in such a way as to convey that impression. 

If you find the same devices frequently used in the fantasy genre present to an extreme that is pretty recognizable, then you were probably intended to take note of it - it is unlikely to be simple obliviousness. 

If you found the ethics to be problematic then perhaps the situations were intended to cause the reader to reflect on those problems. 

I don't mean this to come across as hostile. But what I am saying here is that if you want to understand *any* of Wolfe's work as anything more than a rip-roarin' tale of Adventure, you have to approach it with such considerations in mind. 

More photos; more messages; more whatever – Get MORE with Windows Live™ Hotmail®. NOW with 5GB storage. Get more!

More information about the Urth mailing list