Tag Archives: Sword of Truth

The Omen Machine

512jJDaPiILEight years ago, I declared myself free from a hell of my own making. Eight years is a long time, you know? Not as good as getting a ten year chip, but pretty impressive nonetheless, right? Don’t worry, I’m not buying it either.

Yeah, I’ve done something horrible. I thought I was hate-reading, and it would be entertaining after the fact. But instead… yeah, there will be spoilers everywhere. I do this so you don’t have to even though you never would have, purely because I am stupid. Learn from Observe my mistake, and laugh well.

What happened was, Goodkind wrote more books even though the series was over. And I eventually (a long time ago, really) bought the first one. We’ll never know why, I’m sure. The Omen Machine picks up very soon after the series ended, with a purpose other than objectivism, unexpectedly! Would that I could say it was a purpose other than screeds, though. See, there’s some dude with a bone to pick[1], and via means that are not at this time particularly clear, he starts seeding minor, clear as day prophecies all over the place. Then Richard Rahl[2] spends hundreds of pages arguing with his subject nobles individually and in groups, or sometimes with his friends instead, about how nobody should pay attention to prophecy in the first place, but they all (well, his friends less so) keep insisting, “but we waaaaaaana!”, so while never changing his initial opinion, he also argues that at the very least, leave prophecy to the people who understand it, that is to say him and his friends.

I mean, nobody could have interest in all of this back and forth in the first place, but it’s really critical to note that Ayn Rand’s most commercially successful disciple is making even a partial argument from authority that his pissy strawmen should stop choosing for themselves and let the government take care of it.

Also, your faithful reviewer adds as an aside, there’s a really cool AI in the basement that can see the future and is struggling with the whys and wherefores of its existence. I am really disappointed the book couldn’t have been about that instead, you know? But that’s what Goodkind does. He takes the kernel of a good idea, and plants it in a sea of shit. Which I suppose is how gardening is supposed to work, but not everyone who understand the principles of gardening has a green thumb.[3]

[1] Who we meet for a hot minute in the middle of the book, never to return. Because, God help me, there are more books.
[2] The main character of the series, you may recall.
[3] Nice try, metaphor. Thought you were going to escape me, didn’t you?


41zwvtAmaML 51VSfzZ9TcLThat’s that, then. The Sword of Truth series is officially over, marking, what, the second open-ended series in my adult life to be completed by its author? (The only other one I can think of is King’s Dark Tower series, though it technically predates my adult life.) The final book, Confessor, very nearly drew me in. Despite the inevitable lecturing on the nature of good and evil as they relate to objectivism, there were some really solid moments. I’m thinking especially of the climactic rugby[1] game in the middle of the book and the events that followed after. I know that sounds like a ridiculous (if not outright parodic) thing to say, but I’m sincere on this point. There were 5 or 10 chapters of non-stop action that was probably as affecting as anything I’ve seen Goodkind write; my pulse was up, I was excited to see the outcome of the events (not just the game), I basically couldn’t put the book down. So, hooray for that.

My complaints, alas, outweigh that moment. I mean, I’ve accepted that objectivist screeds are an inevitable side-effect of the series, but there’s more to it than that in this book. It’s that the first screed was performed between two of the good guys, and since the good guys are all on the side of objectivism, it was required that one of them act angrily out-of-character so that the other could calm him down with the clear truth of things. It’s that a later one was performed by a (let’s say) 10 year-old girl, explaining to a (let’s say) 14 year-old girl that it was the teen’s own evil choices that had led her to this fate and she had nobody to blame but herself, moments before her flesh was devoured from her bones. It’s that the climactic screed was performed to an audience of, literally, every person in the entire world. (That’s right. Literally.) Plus, on a non-screed topic, it’s pretty clear that in the last 200 pages Goodkind still had about another book’s worth of story to tell, but was either out of screeds or tired of the series or wanted to stand by his promise that it was the final book, and so he had to rush things to a degree that was certainly all out of pace with the entire rest of the series, but that also[2] genuinely felt like important explanatory events were being left out. Plus plus, I’m nearly positive that elements of the series’ conclusion were lifted from Atlas Shrugged. But this last is not something I’m willing to elevate to the level of complaint, partly because I have thusfar failed to finish that book and partly because I’m pretty sure it would properly be called an homage, anyway.

If you’ve made it this far[3], you may as well finish the series out, right? Plus, that middle part of the book was, I reiterate, genuinely good.

[1] I mean, it’s not exactly rugby. But close enough for the purposes of this review.
[2] Because, and let’s be honest, it’s hard to see that as a negative at first blush. Objectivist screeds kind of break up narrative momentum, is what I’m trying to say here.
[3] And let’s face it: you haven’t.


41zwvtAmaMLNormally, this is the point in the review where I’d be digging up my previous reviews and getting an idea of what I thought of the last few books in the Sword of Truth series[1] and what the tone of the pieces were. However, as I’ve been telling anyone who will listen, I’m currently off the grid. And since I didn’t make the entire contents of delirium.org available to myself offline before I left, well, you can see that I have no choice but to wing it.

Okay, then. Plot summary first, I guess. Phantom continues Richard Rahl’s search for his wife Kahlan, erased from everyone’s memories and perception via the Chainfire spell. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, the seemingly infinite army of the Imperial Order is nearing Richard’s army, which has no realistic chance to do more than momentarily slow their inexorable advance on the last free capital on the continent. He’s already lost his sword, and now someone is in the shadows, poised to steal the last advantage he has left. And I maintain that all of this could be pretty cool, tension-driven fantasy drama, if only it weren’t interspersed with the repetitive objectivist lesson plans disguised as storyline.

The Phantom in question is still supposed to be Kahlan, as you’d expect, though Goodkind shoehorns in a few other phantom references in other parts of the plot. (A bit clumsily, to be honest; if he’d used synonyms every now and then, it would have felt a lot less hammery, at least.) But the real phantoms of the book are the various strawmen against whom he’s arguing. It’s all fine and good to think that religion dulls people, that a focus on an unproven next world beyond death can be actively harmful to providing the best possible life for oneself, one’s neighbors, and one’s progeny. There’s an interesting debate there, and it can work even if you’re an author providing both sides of that argument. But it can’t work if your authorial position is that the logical conclusion of a religious focus is a communistic dystopia in which all beauty and knowledge is despised for taking peoples’ attention away from the afterlife and in which people can be easily brainwashed into believing that the wanton rape and murder of friends and enemies alike can be an expression of solidarity in collectively marching toward that goal beyond the veil. It’s not just that painting the opposite side as ravening beasts incapable of all rationality is insulting and ultimately detrimental to any persuasion, although it is those things too. It’s that it renders the entire counter-argument suspect, if the opposition needs to be placed in such an unattractive box for the authorial mouthpieces to be able to effectively debate their cause.

[1] Yes. Still. There’s a bright side, though, in that the next book is the final one, and I will at last be free!


51PDA40MJGLSo, yeah, the new Goodkind? (Okay, thoroughly not new; in fact, there’s going to be an actual new one in a matter of weeks, but it’s still currently “the” new one for now, so there’s that minimal claim to factuality, plus it was new to me, of course.) To absolutely nobody’s surprise, it really wasn’t all that good. I mean, look at the last one.

But here’s the thing. As bad as that was, at least it was competently constructed. Chainfire is a little bit better in some ways, but so much worse in others that I don’t even know how I got through it, though I do know why it took so long. See, on the good hand, the plot is more interesting than it has been in a few books and a substantial bit more relevant to the progression of the series. So, yay. Things are finally coming to a head between Richard’s empire and the evils of enforced liberalism from the previously hidden continent, which include the complete collapse of capitalism, rampant unhappiness, extensive rapine and murder, and all the kinds of things that you would expect if anyone believes that compassion is ever more important than self-interest. (Gosh, I have a hard time praising this thing.) But, whatever, when you stop looking at the thinly veiled metaphor sideways, my point is that things are coming to a head. The problem is, Richard’s wife has disappeared. And not by half-measures; instead, nobody in the world but Richard seems to recall that she was ever a part of his life or even existed. What’s more, an amorphous unstoppable killing machine of a demon has been unleashed onto his trail, and prophecies say that if he isn’t in the right place at the right time, the world as they all know it is doomed. So, yeah, not the best time for your wife to be missing from the timeline and all of your energy bent onto solving her problems instead of the other stuff going on. (It does kind of remind me of the Perrin/Faile thing more than a little bit, and I am impressed that the Wheel of Time plagiarism charges could possibly resurface. But that’s for my own horrified amusement, and not really otherwise relevant to this review.)

So, yeah, the plot elements and progression left me on the whole interested in the book, as I said. The real problem with the thing, far more dire than anything I’ve mentioned above, is that it was a 250 page story crammed into a poorly edited (copy- or otherwise) 600 page book. The first half is almost nothing but repetitions of arguments on the nature of reality, duty, right and wrong, between people that could not possibly be willing to talk to each other like this in anyone’s real life. Sure, to crowds of faceless nobodies like in the last book, okay, but these are almost all between friends and relatives. Such a beating. By the time the plot finally picked up the pace, started having more events than lectures and reminding me why I have occasionally enjoyed this series, it was only through sheer discipline (and my anticipatory enjoyment of a then-upcoming Jewel concert) that I had not already sporked my eyes free of their sockets to stop the pain.

Just… wow. If you correctly guessed that I’ll be reading the next book once I spot it used somewhere and wish to save me from myself between now and then using lethal force, I will both understand and almost certainly thank you with my dying breath. Bring breasts, though. They seem like they’d make that kind of thing easier on me, is all.

Naked Empire

61jwmR8eIHLAs with all people, sometimes I do things that I find embarrassing, and wouldn’t really want other people to know about. I collect Misty Mundae DVDs. I have Scooby Doo boxers. I watch Joey on NBC. Worse by far than all of these (although not my blackest secret, either), I read Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series.

Yes. Still.

This I could have carried to my grave, I think, except that now I review things I read. It’s a problem, but not one that I could get around and be fair to you, my faithful reader. So, yeah. Now I have to talk about it, and feel even worse about myself. Because reading it analytically, it’s worse than when I would just read it because a new one was out, and that was already aggravating.

Sure, the first book has the ‘Let’s ban fire!’ thing, which bothers me far more now than it did when I first read it. And then the next three or so seemed like cheap Wheel of Time knockoffs. But now that the Wheel of Time is no longer particularly copyable, he’s led the reader along toward an even worse fate, the objectivist screed.

It’s not that I dismiss Ayn Rand out of hand, or even disagree with a lot of what she had to say. It’s more that Goodkind presents the arguments as though it is not possible to have a reasonable disagreement about some of the points, some of the time. And of course, since he’s writing both sides of the argument, it’s easy for him to get away with. But I could forgive him that, I think, if it wasn’t for the screed part. Because, and I sincerely believe this to be true, fully half of the 725 page story revolved around Richard Rahl – our intrepid hero who carries the Sword of Truth (and therefore is named the Seeker of Truth, which makes him the best argument from authority fallacy on two legs ever) and wields both halves of a magical gift that nobody else has been born with for three thousand years, and is the sole line of defense for the people of the world according to prophecy, and to the people of his empire literally (but only as long as they make the proper devotions to him (and yes, yes I am feeling worse about myself the further into this I go)) – going off on pages-long diatribes explaining to people why it’s wrong to oppose the war in Iraq, and why it is not only right but morally necessary to kill anyone who actively stands in the way of having it accomplished.

Sure, he talked about fictional enemies that fit into the world of his story, but he didn’t really use different words, and even if the author will claim the subtext isn’t there, this is one of those times where what the author thinks doesn’t really have much bearing on the reality.

I got sidetracked. Anyway, my point is, half the book: swords and sorcery and the incremental advancement of the main plot of the series, plus the fully realized sub-plot that is the main plot of the novel. So he has that going for him, the stand-alone accomplishment. Which Mr. Jordan is welcome to plagiarize at any time now, really. The other half of the book: lectures on objectivism and how it relates to real-world morality.

It was every bit as fun as it sounds. The worst part is, I still want to find out how the main sequence story ends. I have no self-control when it comes to following a story from start to finish. (Like I said, I watch Joey.)