I realize a lot of you out there reading this are not fans of Fantasy books. At least, I expect you aren’t. Most people aren’t. It’s a genre that a few people love and most people ignore. I like it, though, and I just read a book that did something very interesting. It’s author has sold fifteen million books, so I imagine some of you out there have heard of him. The book is called “Into a Dark Realm,” and it’s by Raymond Feist. It’s the second book of a trilogy called The DarkWar Saga, and it’s about a war involving- wait for it- darkness. And light. And all the usual good vs. evil fantasy battles and heros and villains and whatnot.
What makes this book so interesting to me is that Feist plops the reader into a world where evil rules. I thought about doing this exact thing in my fantasy novel, the working title of which is “Holy Warrior” and which I hope to have ready for publication sometime next year. Once I sorted through the ramifications of such a world in light of the story I wanted to tell, I decided against it. Enjoying a book requires a connection to the characters and it would be hard to find anyone with whom you can connect in a world full of evil people. This became apparent as I read “Into a Dark Realm,” because I kept becoming disinterested. Feist knows what he’s doing, though, and he plunked this evil world into a larger narrative so that the reader stays connected to the story emotionally while still getting to experience what it would be like to live in a world where everyone is evil.
The picture Feist paints is, not surprisingly, grim, but I also found it true. In the book murder is glorified. Strength is all that matters. The weak deserve to die, the strong deserve glory. Until someone kills them, anyway. The killing just goes on and on, none of it wrong. Yet inside many of the people in this evil world exists a glimmer that something is not quite right in all this. That somehow killing each other is not the way things are supposed to be. Many cannot name this feeling, but eventually we discover a group rising up to reclaim their people’s humanity (they aren’t human, but the idea is the same).
Last Sunday was October 31, the date on which theologian Martin Luther stuck his Ninety Five Theses to a church door in 1517. This started the Protestant Reformation. One of his main ideas was that we are all simultaneously “Saint and Sinner“- we all have the spark of good inside us, and we all have the spark of evil inside us. Feist captures that, but in his book it’s the evil that most often gets nurtured. After reading his book and thinking about our world, I have become convinced that in our world the good most often gets nurtured. It’s caused me to think better of my fellow people a bit and made me a little less cynical about the world I live in. Feist did that, incidentally, by taking me to a world that does not exist. That’s why I like Fantasy- it helps me understand my own world by taking me to others. This book left me very thankful for the world in which I live and for the inherent goodness of most of the people around me. Even the guy who was a jerk to my wife and I. After all, he wasn’t killing us. People may not be all good, but they are still mostly good. After reading this book, I’ll take it.