Book Review: Deconstructing Tolkien

DeconstructingTolkienby Michael D. Pederson


Deconstructing Tolkien: A Fundamental Analysis of The Lord of the Rings
Edward J. McFadden III
Padwolf Publishing, 179 pp.

Despite the scholarly title this is one of the most approachable analyses of Tolkien that I’ve read. McFadden alternates between his own opinions on Tolkien and fiction from authors that he feels had some influence on The Lord of the Rings. He picks selections from Wells, Poe, Lovecraft, and Chaucer and then illustrates how the author’s work may have had an affect on Tolkien’s writing. Even when the connection seems a stretch, it still gives readers a nice introduction to other works that nicely complement the tales of Middle Earth. The essays that make up the other half of the book come off more as “one man’s opinion” than as a dry deconstruction of the story, covering a range of topics such as Tolkien’s background, the use of sex and drugs in LotR, and where the recent movies failed and succeeded in adapting the original text. I found myself disagreeing with McFadden’s points almost as often as I agreed with them but, most importantly, McFadden’s analysis always made me look deeper at a story that I thought I knew pretty well already. And isn’t that what all good analyses should do?


Book Review: The 2nd Coming

PirateWritingsVol2by Michael D. Pederson


The 2nd Coming: The Best of Pirate Writings, vol. 2
edited by Edward J. McFadden III
Padwolf Publishing, 191 pp.

Pirate Writings stands as a shining example of what can be accomplished with a small-press fiction ’zine. It’s gone now, morphed into the latest incarnation of Fantastic Stories, but we get one last hurrah with 2nd Coming. Many of Pirate Writing’s best stories were already used up in volume one but the remainder—though not as strong as the first batch—can hardly be described as leftovers. The highlights: Allen Steele’s “Warning, Warning,” a clever tribute to Lost in Space; “Milking Belle,” a story of interplanetary colonization and emotional survival by Brian Plante; a Murphy’s Lore story from Patrick Thomas; and two more Paul diFilippo stories (yay!). Plus Mike Resnick’s “A Limerick History of Science Fiction.” A great collection.


Book Review: The Best of Pirate Writings, vol. 1

PirateWritingsby Michael D. Pederson


The Best of Pirate Writings: Tales of Fantasy, Mystery & Science Fiction, Vol. 1
Edited by Edward J. McFadden III
Padwolf Publishing, 219 pp.

Published in 1998, this Best Of collects stories from the first six years of McFadden’s highly acclaimed magazine, Pirate Writings. Don’t let the T&A cover fool you, this is a serious collection of stories from some of the finest writers in the genre; including Allen Steele, Paul Di Filippo, Esther Friesner, David Bischoff, Nancy Springer, Geoffrey Landis, Charles de Lint, and Roger Zelazny. McFadden has chosen thirty stories and poems to showcase in this volume (a second volume is set to be released this year) and they are, for the most part, all excellent choices. Some highlights: “Doblin’s Lecture” by Allen Steele and “Roadmaster” by Leland Neville are both startlingly unique stories of serial killers that grab you instantly. Roger Zelazny’s “Coming to a Cord” is an amusing Amber tale that takes place behind the scenes of the second series. And Paul di Filippo—one of my favorites—has two great whacked out surreal tales in here. “Bad Beliefs” is a fun exploitation of the “meme” concept, while “Leakage” is an old favorite of mine that would justify the purchase of this book on its own.