The Lord of the Rings and its Blatant Rip-offs

I always find it fascinating and perhaps a bit disturbing that J.R.R. Tolkien is praised at one of the best writers of Fantasy fiction ever. He certainly was one of the first of the genre, and his stories have inspired more authors than probably any other Fantasy work that has ever been written. In fact, just about every review of a fantasy work seems destined to carry with it the phrase “blatant rip-off of Tolkien” if they have any races other than humans in them. Sometimes even if they don’t. If a work has that kind of power, that work must be the best there is. Right?

I constantly have people coming to me and wondering why they are having a hard time getting through the Fellowship of the Ring. “If the Lord of the Rings is the best Fantasy series, why am I having such a hard time reading it? I can’t even get through the first book.”

I have read the entire series and its prequel. I read them while I was still in High School. They were, after all, the best.

I am not sure how I managed to get through them. Continue reading The Lord of the Rings and its Blatant Rip-offs

The Belgariad

Just yesterday, a friend of mine asked me if I had read the first book of the Elenium. He had just finished reading it and had enjoyed it.

“David Eddings”, I said, “is my second favorite author after Terry Brooks. If you really want to read his best works, though, you have to read his first series, the Belgariad.”

The Belgariad begins with a young farm boy named Garion who lives in a farm community with his aunt. He is visited periodically by a crazy old story teller who his aunt seems to enjoy having around. Unfortunately for Garion, his nice quiet life is soon to change forever because he was never really meant to live a quiet farmer’s life. There have been hundreds of pages of prophecies written about him being aided by a group of other notable characters and confronting the evil god Torak where the fate of the world will be decided.

The plot is fun and never lacks for excitement, but the real joy of David Eddings’ works is the dialog between the main characters of his story. Continue reading The Belgariad

Digital Fortress

In Digital Fortress, Dan Brown, the author of Angels & Demons and the Da Vinci Code, takes a stab at the realm of computers and high tech encryption verses our rights as citizens to keep secrets.

Dan Brown has picked a new hero for us to follow — or a couple of them. One of the NSA’s top cryptologists and her boyfriend find themselves in the middle of a political fight between a government trying to prevent secrets from threatening the peace of the United States and a cryptologist trying to protect the rights to privacy of everybody on Earth. An ex-NSA cryptologist is supposed to have developed an encryption called Digital Fortress, a self-mutating string capable of encrypting anything in such a way that no computer anywhere can possible decrypt it.

Continue reading Digital Fortress

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

In this book, Voldemort has returned to the world in full power (he did that at the end of the fourth book, so I hope I didn’t spoil it for you). Harry Potter has a godfather now who he can hang around with (Sirius Black went into hiding at the end of the third book, so he couldn’t be around for much of the fourth book).

Now, you’re probably thinking, “How can J.K. Rowling possibly write three more books in the series (since there are supposed to be 7 years of schooling at Hogwarts) with Voldemort back?”

Here is how she did it.

Continue reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Sword of Shannara

The Sword of Shannara was the first book written by Terry Brooks, and the series of Shannara books is now easily one of the most famous series of Fantasy books of all time.

I recently finished re-reading the book (it was a long time since I had first read the book), and I was still amazed at how much detail Terry Brooks can place in his books and how good the story was.

The first book has Shea and Flick Ohmsford in search of the legendary Sword of Shannara helped by a few other heroes from the four lands including the forbidding and mysterious druid Allanon. The Sword of Shannara, the druid tells the brothers, is the only item which can defeat the Warlock Lord, an evil entity who is trying to take over the four lands.

Continue reading The Sword of Shannara