September 18, 2010

The Hobbit

     A little over a week ago I posted about reconnecting with a friend of mine from high school.  During one of our previous conversations it came out that I had not read The Hobbit.  Oh I'd seen the movie but I'd never taken the time to sit and read the actual book.  I had made it a point to read The Chronicles of Narnia which she had not read so we agreed to a book swap so we could both catch up on some good fiction.  I use an Android phone with the Kindle app so I thought I'd go download a sample of the book to see if the Kindle software was all it was cracked up to be.  I found out that it was pretty slick in that it synched where I was reading via Kindle for the PC and my Kindle app so there's no need for bookmarks or trying to remember where I was on my PC vs. my phone.  Of course the sample ends during the Dwarf song of the first chapter so you're left in anticipation.  Not knowing when I would be able to see my friend again I dropped the $10 on the Kindle edition of The Hobbit and dove in.
     Typically a review of mine is on something that few have experienced or perhaps it's meant as an encouragement to try something out that you may not have heard of before.  That's not the case with Tolkien's The Hobbit.  It's a classic work of literature that has been reviewed time and time again; who's subsequent books would be developed into a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster 'The Lord of the Rings'.  So everyone is already familiar with the ring, hobbits, dwarves, elves, and thus I don't know that I can add any new information there.  I will speak to it as I take it, my own impression.

     This is my first reading of any of Tolkien's work.  I will start by saying I enjoyed the book but I can't say that towards the end of the book I wasn't more excited about finishing it and moving on than I was to find the end of the story.  That could be in part because I'm used to quick reads here and there as opposed to focusing on one story line over such a long length of time or it could be because I already knew the outcome (by seeing the cartoon) and I just wanted to get it done to say that I had done it.  The story does a good job of talking about Smaug as it creates a good deal of anxiousness in wanting to read about the dragon and the parties dealing with him.  But in the end, after all the pages and pages of descriptions and songs (that I fail to see the point in) I am left with only a chapter or two on the dragons presence.  This really was annoying from my stand-point, not to mention that the whole thing was told from the vantage point of a story teller who kept inserting opinions here and there.  
     Now I know why I find such great difficulty with this style of writing.  I am someone who finds little joy or interest in the journey, it's the destination that's the point.  The climax of the story is what I'm interested in and not the build up or rabbit trails and side arcs, etc.  Tell me where we're going, get me there, and then wrap it up.  Now I think this speaks more to my own qualities and failures rather than any actual work of Tolkein but since this is my review then it's my opinion.
     Obviously Tolkein has created an amazing world in Middle Earth and the world of Fantasy.  Many hold his work as their inspiration to create worlds and stories of their own.  It's a good read, a must if your a fan of the fantasy fiction realm.  Because I have also seen The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (extended edition no less) I wonder if the books to follow will suffer the same temperament?  Perhaps the issue is that because I have "seen" the story I feel there is no need for the pages upon pages of nothing but description over and over again.  A writer has to paint his world though so I understand it's purpose, but again I think that taints my view of the book.  I mean it was good, I just wouldn't call it great.  

This is where I lose several friends . . .