The OF Blog: The (Rabid) Squirrel of Truth: Terry Goodkind, Severed Souls

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The (Rabid) Squirrel of Truth: Terry Goodkind, Severed Souls

Nearly a year ago, Larry lost one of his most valuable and trusted Serbian reading squirrels, Stefan Veverica, to pulp-induced rabies after Stefan attempted to read and review Terry Goodkind's The Third Kingdom.  It was a terrible blow, as Stefan was now no mere squirrel, but rabidness manifest.  Much of the past year has been spent seeking a cure for Stefan's rabid state, until Larry made the controversial decision of applying lexico-shock to Stefan, exposing him rapid-fire to all sorts of literary styles and media, including Beat poetry and anagram construction, in order to help stabilize Stefan's mind...and to stop him from trying to attack Larry every time the words "good" and "kind" were ever used in a sentence.  After months of arduous reading rehab, it is now time for Stefan to face the ghosts of his past, to see if he can purge that spark of Death in his soul.  In other words, it is time to review Goodkind's latest novel, Severed Souls.

"Bring us our dead."

At the same time as he heard the voice, Richard felt the touch of an icy hand on the back of his shoulder.

He drew his sword as he spun.

As it cleared its scabbard, the blade sent its distinctive ring of steel through the hushed, predawn air.  The power contained within the weapon answered the call, inundating him with rage in preparation for a fight. (p. 7)

Monty Python?  *chitterchitter* Sranje!  Rage, though, yes, ohsosweet rage! Does anything ever change, my dear Marija, anything at all with G---d?   He repeats himself, repeats the same setup from the previous novel, spends over half of this wretched novel having Dick and Jan...err, Kahlan being sick from this death-poison, as if death could be a poison and not a sweet release from the pains and travails of life, oh my squirrely gods of Shatner and Bonaduce why oh why does he continue to describe using the same words the biting hunger of "half people" while more and more magic is aimed at them, making a charnelhouse of these pre-cannon fodder non-souled bodies while the bad men cackle and twirl their mustaches and talk yet once again about prophecy oh so sweet prophecy that makes absolutely no sense at all!  I feel a oneness with these "half people," wanting to eat bodies in order to get at souls, oh those delectable souls like those of Dick and crew.  The succulent flesh of these Objectivist stand-ins, their illogical logic deserving to be drowned in a Bearnaise sauce.  So sumptuous the feast will be once they have died through their own stupidity at last and then the squirrels can emerge from their trees and take over this world.  Yes!

With a sigh, Larry gently snatches Severed Souls from Stefan and gives him Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake to read instead.  Stefan's tics settle down into gentle chittering barks as he becomes engrossed in this tale of post-Hastings England written in an alternate English.  And now that the Squirrel from Scene 24 has been rescued from imminent rabies relapse, onto the rest of the review:

Severed Souls, hard as it may be to believe, may be Goodkind's worst novel.  Yes, it is very difficult to top the dreck found in the previous volume, The Third Kingdom, or images such as the iconic chicken that isn't a chicken but evil manifest, but somehow Goodkind manages to overcome these difficulties to write something that, if self-published, even Hugh Howey couldn't defend as part of a digital reading/writing revolution.  There really is no plot progression here.  If anything, the first half of Severed Souls could be viewed as a recapitulation of the final scenes of The Third Kingdom, with Richard and Kahlan still fleeing from the "half people" eager to devour their flesh, still infected with the ridiculous "death in life" illness that naturally deprives them of their magical powers (except when it doesn't, mostly when it comes to Richard's use of his Sword of Truth), still dealing with villains who seek to torture people to the brink of death to bring forth "prophecies" as though they were industrial items to be produced in a factory.  On the face of it, the entire premise is so ridiculous that it is hard to understand why anyone would want to contemplate just what is being splattered on these pages, unless perhaps they get some sort of masochistic thrill out of having their souls tortured with this claptrap. 

But that is just on the surface.  When one studies Goodkind's writings at a deeper level, like the "occult" powers he keeps referencing without ever really taking the time to examine just what this might mean beyond the Tiki god episode of The Brady Bunch, one comes to a different conclusion.  If advanced numerology, crossed with records of squirrel dropping patterns and the number of One Direction fans complaining that The Who ripped them off, is applied, then passages such as the following reveal an awesome truth about sorcery and objective truthiness:

At the cluttered desk, he went to the ancient-looking scroll that had caught his attention.  Unrolling it partway on the desk, he saw a complex tapestry of lines connecting constellations of elements that constituted the language of Creation.  Ludwig frowned as he leaned in, studying the writing on the scroll.

"This is a Cerulean scroll," he whispered in astonishment as he straightened.  He looked over at the old man watching him.  "This is a Cerulean scroll," he said again, louder. (pp. 249-250)

This is a key detail, as this is no mere chartreuse scroll, but an evidently dangerous cerulean version.  It is so fell and occult that only the color of its pages needs to be mentioned for a sense of awe to overcome one of the villains.  It is moments like this that Goodkind readers long for, for that misplaced sense of import that leads to powerful lines such as this one:

Not prophecy, as in revealing prophecy, but about prophecy itself almost as if it were a living thing.

The scroll spoke of a time when prophecy itself might be ended. (p. 251)

 The implications are just too terrible to consider.  Same holds true for the improbable distances covered in the few days of Severed Souls.  All those battles, punctuated with one of the more awkward major character assassination scenes that I have ever read.  While this scene is explained toward the end, it is so contrived and forced that it just falls flat.  And this is the toasted toad's truth...whatever the hell that might mean.  The only saving grace about this particular character death is that it seems sane when compared to the second major character death.  In a series filled with illogical plot twists, execrable character development, and horrid thematic expositions, this second death is so lame and is obviously so constructed as to allow for a greater commentary on the presumed value of living life (and also to allow the character most known for this to come back to life as a Jesus chock full of truthiness). 

This, of course, is just a long, snark-filled (and with way too many citations to support these sarcastic comments) way of saying that if it weren't for the fact that millions of people have bought this merde over the past twenty years, there is no justification for this poor excuse for an epic fantasy to have ever been published.  Yet somehow, Goodkind has managed to lower expectations even more for his next novel.  As people chant during a game of limbo, "how low can he go?"

And now pardon me while I continue to help Stefan rehabilitate from his traumatic Goodkind reading experience...


Anonymous said...

So true

Dan Solo FTW said...

I've just finished reading the book, and I must say I am heartbroken as a result of the two characters being killed off.

There are so many loose ends in need of tying. The first being how to end the threat of against the world of Life.

There are so many characters that have yet to reach their full potential. How they may be capable of righting the wrong I don't know. But knowing Goodkind, somehow, some way, things will end the right way. We can only wait and see.

So long as Terry hasn't pulled a George R.R. Martin...but I digress.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this, seriously I needed that. You have pointed out with amazing wit all that is wrong with this book. The sot series was the first fantasy (well according to Terry`s FAQ page, he does not in fact write fantasy, but rather books with elements of fantasy in them...give me a break.) series I ever read and since I've been reading them from the time I was around 12 I can't seem to help myself. Once he got all Atlas Shrugged on us, I knew it was going down hill fast (even my 16 year old self realized that), but I could tolerate the regurgitated Ayn Rand bs FAR more easily then this new trend towards wooden characters who do and say the same things they have been since 93.

I am astonished that this man has made such a fortune with so limited an imagination with a series that is essentially a unisex version of twilight and perhaps even more blown away that he thinks so damn highly of himself (seriously, check out his website, he compares himself to contemporary BIG time writers, I think he uses Clancy as the example) for doing so.

You can't compare Goodkind to Martin. At least Martin has a Hugo under his belt.

God bless you for this blog, it truly made my day.


Anonymous said...

I just finished the book myself, and I am a huge fan of the series. While the first six books were undoubtedly his best works, I understand the complaints of some of these readers. First, in regards to the previous commenter, I have to stand in defense of Faith of the Fallen. I thought it firmly developed Richard as a man of uncompromising moral character. It's truly sad that philosophies like the golden rule and the non-aggression principle can no longer be espoused without getting a visceral reaction out of people. After all, if you're robbing Peter to pay Paul, or electing someone else to do it for you, then you have unquestionably made a moral compromise. It's almost as if people today are under some sort of mind control. Jajang must be responsible! That being said.. while there is a lot of action in Severed Souls, Goodkind didn't really devote much print to character development or substantive exposition. I don't feel as if I've learned anything new or exciting by reading it. The formula of suspense he uses is all too familiar, some of the most important plot developments didn't get nearly the print they deserved, and the way he buttoned things up at the end of the novel seemed painfully hackneyed. I wanted to learn new things about the history and mythology of the series. I wanted to see the characters behave and grow in unanticipated ways. I wanted to be surprised. Right now the only thing that could truly surprise me about this book is learning that it will be the last in the series.

Anonymous said...

Brilliantly written. Thanks for this.

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