Thursday, 10 June 2010

The problem with being a big Tolkien fan...

... is that every other piece of fantasy fiction I read ends up being measured against the man. I mean, my youth was spent immersed in the world that Tolkien created, every facet, character and myth, from The Silmarillion onwards. My ideal of fantasy fiction is grounded in his work.

So when I sit down to read any other writer's work, even the stuff that predates Tolkien such as Howard or Dunsany, I always end up comparing the story, characters and world to Middle-Earth. I tried the Wheel of Time, Shannara and Magician books. I tried Legend and A Song of Ice and Fire and Earthsea. I just can't shake that Tolkien yardstick mindset and that's really annoying, it's honestly something that holds me back from fully enjoying a book. I can sit down and read an entire series of fantasy books and really enjoy them, but I always come back to thinking 'that's not as good as Tolkien'.

Maybe it's not completely my fault. Tolkien did set a standard as far as the structure of fantasy stories is concerned (he may not have been fully original but as far as mass-market books go he is the forerunner) and many people tend to do similar things with their protagonists, ancient-evil-rising plots and vast, detailed world building. I just don't find many post-Tolkien fantasy works as original, rich or fascinating as Middle-Earth.

If anyone, anyone at all, can recommend me a book that may change my mind then please, please do so. I have to get out of this Tolkien-only mindset as it clouds my judgement and appreciation of other works. I have shelves filled with fantasy fiction and it's a shame that I have put them up there without fully enjoying them. I've yet to find a book that I can enjoy and return to with any kind of enthusiasm.

'Hello. My name is Jonathan Hicks, and I'm a Tolkien addict.'
'Hi, Jonathan!'