May 26, 2010
David is entitled to as much love and care as the family toaster. He is an appliance created for a specific purpose, which is to fill the void in the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Swinton. He cannot think freely or feel emotions any more than a toaster, and no one owes him devotion any more than they owe to a toaster. One might argue that the difference between a toaster and an android is that of artificial intelligence, but an android has no more consciousness of its operations than has a toaster. It is very clear to us that there is no evidence to suggest that a toaster knows that it is heating bread, yet most toasters can adjust the toasting time to avoid burning the second or third piece of bread when it is already hot. This ability to respond to different situations is programmed into the toaster in the same way that certain speech situations and responses are programmed into an android.
It has long bothered me that the genre of Fantasy has become essentially formula fiction. Most Fantasy can be defined by its setting and plot: in a medieval world of magic, an unlikely hero saves the world from an unspeakable evil. Elantris cannot be said to be a part of this "Tolkienesque" tradition. The single book epic differs from much of modern fantasy in that the setting has a unique feel that cannot be placed in any single Earth timeframe, and encompasses its own religions, cultures and history. And the plot cannot be described in ten words, which is always a plus.
I have not read the Twilight series, but my objection is that Meyer has altered the Vampire fiction genre without contributing anything to the meaning. The idea of vampirism has long been a comment on humanity’s quest for immortality and the cost of such a quest. It is similar to the Faustian bargain of selling one’s soul, but in this case the soulless become a prey upon their former race. By altering this trope, Meyer destroys the idea of the cost of immortality in order to create a new class of bad boy for teens to swoon over. I much prefer Joss Whedon’s creation of a soulless, demonic race that cannot experience desire, love or empathy, to demonstrate the cost of immortality and the undesirable condition of vampirism. Anne Rice deviates from this with the character of Lestat, who regrets his disconnection with his humanity, giving a foil to the character of Louis, who revels in his condition.
This book made me think of Ender's Game in a whole new light. In the driver's seat this time we have another brilliant student, possibly even more brilliant than Ender, and you really can't appreciate the commander as much after having read this book. If you want to continue to think of Ender as an incredible leader and a suffering human being, don't read Ender's Shadow. Shadow places Bean at the forefront and shows his contribution to Earth's victory over the Buggers. His personality is strikingly different from Ender.
This book seems to focus on Rand and show his internal thoughts much more clearly than previous books, which works perfectly with the climax. Finally we begin to see the toll the Source is taking on Rand and the Asha'man, and how much Rand relies on his followers. Losing just a few Asha'man for any reason is a high price to pay for victory, and Rand has to decide whether to take the Seanchan out before they become too much of a threat, or whether to keep his valuable forces in tact. Egwene struggles against the puppet strings that keep her power as Amyrlin Seat in check, while Elayne journeys back to Camelyn and faces difficulty claiming the thrown of Andor. With both of these plots we are left with a complete cliffhanger, driving this somewhat weary reader on to the next book without pause. If you haven't given up on the series yet, don't hesitate to pick up the 8th book. You've already come so far!