Forty years ago it was: towards the end of school, Watty — he of the Number 6 badge, celebrating The Prisoner — turned me on to The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.
‘What does he not believe in?’ I asked.
‘Everything!’ said Watty with relish.
It took me a while to get into the first book. There was an early section where I ground to a halt. But I went back to it, and ripped through the five books of the two trilogies that were out yet.
Then I had to wait. This is largely why I try not to start a series before its author has finished writing it. Those weeks and months through the first year of uni were interminable. (Only in that one regard, though, to be fair.)
There was a guy on my corridor in the halls of residence who was similarly waiting, and when White Gold Wielder came out, he bought it at once.
In hardback. I was shocked by the profligacy, and didn’t emulate him. Besides, it wouldn’t have matched my paperbacks.
But after he’d read it, he lent it to me. I wish I could remember his name.
So it should be clear that I liked the books a lot. However, I was thereafter corrupted by the general consensus that these were not well-written books, not a good example of the genre.
And yes, sure, they’re not particularly well-written. Donaldson can be over-wordy and repetitive at times. But he knew how to weave a tale that gripped me.
And now, forty years hence, after my son had borrowed my old copies and read them (including my paperback of White Gold Wielder, which I bought to complete the set, but have never read, since I never reread the series) he discovered (something which I vaguely knew) that Donaldson had written a ‘final’ trilogy. Which has since turned into a tetralogy. I don’t know when that happened. This volume that I read — my son’s — says it’s three volumes.
So how is it? Pretty damn good, actually. A copious ‘What Has Gone Before’ leads off, and reminds me how much I don’t remember about the original six books. And then — well, I don’t want to get into spoilers, but after the first hundred or so pages, it’s a real page-turner for the next four hundred or so, and leaves me keen to know how it all ends.
So expect more of this stuff here, in due course. This time, it’s all finished, and there will be no need for me to wait for a final volume.