Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Recycled Novel

Generally, I'm a huge fan of recycling. I have a several stashes specifically for recyclable items—plastic bags, batteries, computer parts—and I live in a neighborhood where trash is sorted by the city for recycling purposes (which I've done some research on, and they actually do it!). In fact, up until last week, I would have said I'm a huge fan of recycling. Period. No caveat.

Then I read Terry Goodkind's The Law of Nines. It's not a novel about the horrors of recycling. In fact, it's a fantasy novel about a man who must use his wits (and a gun) to save his world from destructive villains from another world. The problem, though, is that I've already read this book. I've read it eleven times already, to be specific.

I loved Terry Goodkind's first series, The Sword of Truth series (later made into The Legend of the Seeker TV show). Despite the fact that Goodkind drills his themes through each installment in the series with the delicacy of a jackhammer, I enjoyed the adventures of the main characters, Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell. I even was excited when I read on his site that he'll be releasing book twelve soon.

However, I was even more thrilled to see that he had released something completely different, contemporary, and with all-new characters. In The Law of Nines this brand-new character, according to the book jacket, turns twenty-seven, and this birthday sets off a chain of events that lead to the world becoming a target of "extreme and uncompromising violence." Finally, after the first long, drawn-out series, Goodkind had released something new and fresh.

Imagine my surprise when this mysterious main character turns out to be none other than Alexander Rahl, a descendant of Richard Rahl, a fact not mentioned anywhere on the cover, not even in the quotes of praise. In fact, Alex's last name isn't sprung upon the reader until chapter five.

Shockingly (or perhaps not), Alex falls in love with Kahlan, ahem, I mean with Jax, a woman who looks, acts, and talks the same as Kahlan. Together they race to stop a threat, one that is painfully familiar to anyone who read the first eleven novels Goodkind published. How do they defeat the enemy this time? Exactly the same way they've defeated him the last eleven times: with a little bit of trickery that proves the protagonists are smarter than the villain because they have honor, trust, and love on their side.

I finished the novel with grudging curiosity—not about the story, but just to see if Goodkind would regurgitate everything from his previous novels. Yes. Everything. He recycled everything from the themes to the characters to the setting (this novel was contemporary, but the final battle takes place in this world's version of exactly where the battle took place in the world of the eleventh novel).

I'm shocked that this novel was published at all, let alone that Goodkind's editor and agent thought he had a new story here that deserved being published. I'm amazed that Goodkind was able to stretch this recycled story beyond the length of a short story (which would have been far more appropriate) to 566 pages. I hate that I bought it, that I was suckered into paying $10 and wasting several hours of my life reading a recycled plot. I'm thoroughly disappointed in Goodkind—this novel trades on nothing more than his name and reputation, and it cheapens both.

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