Things you’re unaware of while on the road: David Eddings has passed away.
Before I moved to California last year, I went through our fiction shelves, re-reading the various series I was keeping on hand out of childhood nostalgia. In many cases, it was a farewell, one last look back before they got culled from the herd. But the ones I found myself still enjoying got kept.
kniedzw and I had an interesting debate about Eddings: I wanted to keep the Malloreon, and he wanted to keep the Belgariad. I caved, because it didn’t matter to me all that terribly much one way or another — but it’s worth noting that I wanted to keep something. There are any number of flaws to both series (not least of which is that they tell essentially the same story, which then gets rehashed twice more in the Elenium and the Tamuli, in slightly shorter form), but when all’s said and done, I still really like the characters and their interactions, just as I did when I was thirteen.
There’s a piece I want to write someday, an adaptation of a paper I wrote in graduate school, about a particular way of looking at Tolkien clones. Yes, these books feature a motley assortment of characters traveling all over the map, accompanied by a wise old wizard, in pursuit of a powerful magic object that a dark god is trying to acquire — we’ve read that story before. But I saw very clearly in this re-read which things Eddings brought to the table, that Tolkien was never interested in: Politics (admittedly of a simple sort). Trade and economics. Relationships, not just in the romance stages, but onward to marriage and children; by the time you’re done with the Malloreon, Eddings has hitched up every major character from those ten books. (Even the eunuch settles down, in his own way.) He makes his own omissions — aside from the vaguely Asian look to the Angaraks, this is a melanin-challenged world, and underhanded things like spying get a very rose-tinted depiction — but I can still appreciate the additions. This isn’t just Middle Earth all over again.
So we still have the Belgariad on our shelves. The Malloreon, I think, was a more mature iteration of the story (and had the entertaining virtue of writing a justification for the rehash into the cosmology), but I’m okay with its predecessor being the one we kept. It means I can pick up one of the books, find a favorite scene, and spend a moment bidding farewell to David Eddings himself.