I started reading The Lord of the Rings this week and have found it interesting that I’m not enjoying it. I loved The Hobbit and was looking forward to reading this series but I
find myself drifting off while listening to the audiobooks. The first reason for this, I think, is that early on I noticed many similarities to the Harry Potter books and I can’t help but find
myself analysing the Lord of the Rings and wondering how many ideas J.K.Rowling has
taken from them.
The second reason is I think it is a bit slow. It is ultimately a journey and that got me thinking about my favourite books and the realization that most of the books I have ever truly loved have been a journey of one form or another.
The first of these are of course the Harry Potter books. You journey from his 11th
birthday as an odd little orphan through seven amazing years that transform him into a
Wizard who defeats the Dark Lord. The similarities between the J.R.R.Tolkein’s works haven’t ruined the Potter books for me, yet, although I’m only half way through
the first book. This is because when I read Harry Potter I have loved and cried for many of
the characters along the way. I think that this is something that only a truly gifted
author can make you do.
Then I started thinking about other Journey stories and Stephen King has
penned my next two favourite books. The Long Walk and The Stand. The Long Walk
was written under the name Richard Bachman and it is the book I have
probably re-read the most. I would guess around 10 times to date. Garratty decides
to take part in the public spectacle that is The Long Walk, you have to complete an
essay and a physical and then qualify for the lottery to be one of the 100 starters.
These 100 walkers will walk against each other to the ultimate end. You must
never drop below a certain speed, not to use the bathroom or to rest, the walk is
continuous and you receive a warning if you slow down under a certain speed.
Three warnings and you are shot dead. This book has always fascinated me
because these young men have signed up to commit suicide under the pretense of
winning the Long Walk. You hear their stories along the journey and identify with
the characters and then one by one they are taken away from you. Perhaps you
could call this the ultimate journey story and it truly is brilliantly written.
The Stand is another much loved favourite of mine and you follow many people’s
journeys to the same destination. After a plague has wiped out 99% of the
population the people remaining on earth start to have vivid dreams which guide
them to Nebraska and the beginning of human kind’s last stand against the evil
man situated in themes in this massive book are supernatural and the ending of the book gets more and more unreal but it’s the beginning of the book I love. The characters’ journey through loosing everybody in their life. How they cope
on their own and how they come together with others. There is one passage in the book
which details how the plague spread, it is very simple but encapsulates the journey of the
plague in the very beginning. It starts like this.
Under the California desert and subsidized by the taxpayers’ money, someone had finally invented a chain letter that really worked. A very lethal chain letter.
On June 19 the day Larry Underwood came home to New York and the day that Frannie
Goldsmith told her father about her impending little stranger, Harry Trent stopped at an East Texas cafe called Babe’s Kwik-Eat for lunch. He had a slight cold, an allergy cold, maybe, and he kept sneezing and having to spit. In the course of the meal he infected Babe, the dishwasher, two truckers in a corner booth, the man who came in to deliver bread, and the man who came in to change the records on the juke. He left the sweet thang that waited his table a dollar tip that was crawling with death. On his way out, a station wagon pulled in. There was a roofrack on top and the wagon was piled high with kids and luggage. The wagon had New York plates and the driver, who rolled down his window to ask Harry how to get to US 21 going north, had a New York accent. Harry gave
the New York fellow very clear directions on how to get to Highway 21. He also served
him and his entire family their death warrants without even knowing it.
It continues for a long time of course but
I love the way that such a simple journey
can really engross you in the story.
There are other journey books that I have loved over the years The Road by
Cormac McCarthy is such a simple story but well engaged and emotional, I Am
Legend by Richard Matheson is another quite solitary journey. The Talisman and
Black House and Odd Thomas too have engrossed me into a story where your
characters have to travel and take you with them on their way. Maybe all stories
are really journey stories in one way or another but I couldn’t help but realise that
the sorts of stories I have listed above I love on a whole different level to a Jane
Eyre or even The Big Over Easy which I loved in their own way. I love the feeling
of being transported along a road with characters you love onto your final
destination…. which still doesn’t explain at all … why I’m not enjoying The Lord of