I tried to read this a while back. I was really excited because I always was more interested in the lives of the Orcs than reading about the hicks of the Shire. My favorite scene in LotR is the two orcs talking to each other and expressing a desire to stuff this Mordor stuff and get lost in the world somewhere distant, where they can waylay passing travelers. It’s the closest thing the Orcs get to being treated as characters. I was really disappointed with The Last Ringbearer. It really didn’t make any sense, maybe because it was translated? I skipped ahead several times before just giving up. I had really wanted to like this book but it just didn’t work.
Of course, the whole thing ignores the fact that Sauron was evil, and he committed many evil acts in his thousands of years of existence prior to the events of LotR. Sauron was a total sociopath control freak. If he were alive today he’d be in charge of a corporation poisoning the public for profit. The entire point of his forging of The One Ring was slavery. Sauron crossed the moral event horizon and went full-on evil when he helped Morgoth destroy the land of Almaren, and that was in the First Age. Honestly, this review tells us a lot more about the reviewer that it does anything. Sample quote: “The novelist Michael Moorcock has attacked Middle-earth as a childishly rose-tinted vision of the Merrie Olde England that never was, as well as willfully blind to the hardships and injustice of preindustrial and feudal societies.” WTF? It’s a fantasy novel, people. It’s something you read when you’re not reading real books. Oh. I see. The reviewer has an axe to grind. “So I was horrified to discover that the Chronicles of Narnia, the joy of my childhood and the cornerstone of my imaginative life, were really just the doctrines of the Church in disguise.” Yeah, surprise surprise, lady. No wonder she sees racial demonization, it’s what she’s looking for. Yet another writer who can’t write anything original and instead can only parody others. That’s the greatest failing of The Last Ringbearer. If the author had something to say, great! Say it. But jeez it’s pathetic when the only thing you can do is attach another author’s name to your work while criticizing the shit out of it. Am I the only one who is utterly sick to death of sequels, rewrites, spinoffs, and reimaginings? I suppose so if that’s what everyone is buying. Can’t argue with the market.
It’s been said that history is written by the winners but Laura Miller writes in Salon about a counterexample as she reviews a new version of Lord of the Rings. The Last Ring-bearer was published to acclaim in Russia by Kirill Yeskov, a paleontologist whose job is reconstructing long-extinct organisms and their way of life. Yeskov performs essentially the same feat in his book. The Last Ring-bearer is set during and after the end of the War of the Ring and told from the perspective of the losers. In Yeskov’s retelling, available in translation as a free download, the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science ‘destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men’ and Aragorn is depicted by Yeskov as a ruthless Machiavellian schemer who is ultimately the puppet of his wife, the elf Arwen. Sauron’s citadel Barad-dur is, by contrast, described as ‘that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic.’