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Five Rules of Fellowship (the Questing Kind)

We’ve read ’em, we love ’em, we want more of ’em.  Those books where a rag-tag group of people journey with each other towards a destination, a quest, a mission – an adventure.  These are my favourite kind because we are treated to – not only an epic adventure – but a view of relationships, evolution of mind, heart and spirit and sacrifices made when we enter into these types of stories.  I call these Fellowship stories because they always contain a group of three or more people travelling together towards a goal.  We all are familiar with the Lord of the Rings – probably the most well-known Fellowship story of all. As I’ve read these types of books over the years, I’ve come to notice 5 unspoken rules about Fellowship stories.  But before we get into them, what do I mean by fellowship?

Fellowship is defined as:

1. the state of sharing mutual interests, experiences, activities, etc

So in the case of these stories, the mutual interest is a focused goal, usually to save the world, destroy the one ring, defeat evil, fight zombies, find a cure,  and so on.  The mutual experiences and activities are the challenges the group faces on their journey.  I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t love the Fellowship type stories, whether they be a movie or a book.  It is compelling to witness how a group stays strong or dissolves due to circumstances outside of their control.  We see the true nature of character in group dynamics; who is lacking courage, who has malice in their heart, who is loyal, loving and brave.  I am drawn to these types of stories (as I am sure we all are) because let’s face it, we are drawn to each other – we humans need each other.  As an introvert I revel in solitude – but only for so long.  Eventually I will seek human companionship.  We create fellowships for ourselves without our even knowing it – our group of friends/family who we spend the most time with.  We recognize ourselves in these stories, relating to one or two characters within.  Who we cheer for, who we mistrust, who we miss when they are gone from the story can reveal something of our inner selves.

Let’s dive in to the five rules shall we?

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The Five Rules of Fellowship:

  1. There must always be a group of three or more people
    • It can start out as one or two but eventually, a group of three or more is formed along the way
  2. There must be a journey with a mission involved 
    • the journey has to be a physical one towards a destination (with the added bonus of an emotional and spiritual journey developing along the way)
    • the mission usually involves saving the world, kingdom, city, country, another being or soul
  3. The group gets separated along the way 
    • either by choice or by force
    • it can be the entire group splitting or it might just be one or two people who leave the group
  4. Someone in the group eventually (*usually) betrays another 
    • betrays the whole group or an individual
    • this betrayal might be forced (blackmailed or seduced by power)
    • betrayal might also by by choice (they put themselves before the group to save their own ass)
    • * I say usually because not every Fellowship story has a betrayal – though most do
  5. Someone in the group will eventually sacrifice themselves for the group
    • it could be the betrayer who redeems themselves in the end with an unselfish act
    • the sacrifice is usually made so the rest of the group can be saved to finish their journey

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These are the 5 rules I’ve observed that are standard throughout each story.  Is there a rule you have observed that I haven’t listed?  If so, I would love to know.  Write it down in the comment section below.

To end this post I want to list the books of an author who writes a lot of Fellowship stories.  Stephen King.  He loves them and I love him for loving them.  His Fellowship stories are:

  • IT
  • The Cell
  • The Stand
  • Stand by Me
  • The Mist

Other Fellowship stories I’ve read that follow the above rules?

  • The Passage Trilogy – Justin Cronin
  • Dies the Fire – S.M. Stirling
  • Swan Song – Robert McCammon
  • The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
  • The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
  • The Walking Dead (graphic novels) – Robert Kirkman
  • The Braided Path – Chris Wooding
  • A Song of Ice and Fire series – George R.R. Martin
  • Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
  • The Last Unicorn – Peter S. Beagle
  • Fire of Heaven Trilogy – Russell Kirkpatrick

I know I’ve read many throughout the years and can’t remember them all – but these are the ones that stick out in my head. What Fellowship stories have you read?  I would love to know so I can add them to my To Read list.

 

This post brought to you by the letter F and the A to Z Challenge.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

the passage by justin croninLet me get my gushing out of the way – I LOVED this book.

The Passage by Justin Cronin has everything a good apocalyptic story should have:

  • Compelling, unique apocalyptic concept
  • Characters you fall in love with
  • Grappling with issues of the humane and inhumane
  • Great villains that you love to hate
  • Philosophical, dramatic and emotional tone

The compelling, unique concept steps away from zombies in this character driven story and instead focuses on the devastating effects of military testing on humans.  With the hopes of creating human weapons we instead are treated to a world where hell has been unleashed on the population through the creation of the Twelve.  The Twelve are former humans who have been transformed into vampire-like beings and with every attack they transform other humans into an army of apocalyptic proportions – virals.

What I liked about this book is that it didn’t spend too much time on the creation of the virals – just enough to whet your appetite.  We are also introduced to Amy (a mysterious little girl who seems to simultaneously hold potential answers to what the virals are and raises more questions) and Wolgast, the man who has sworn to protect her (let me take this moment to say the relationship between Amy and Wolgast is beautifully written).

Suddenly we are launched about a hundred years into the future where we are introduced to a colony of people who are living in a world that seems – empty.  The virals have devastated the world and this group of people must survive the darkness, the fear and the violence that the virals can inflict.

And then Amy appears – still the little girl she was a hundred years previous.

I don’t want to reveal any more of the story because it is worth the read – a philosophical, spiritual and action-oriented story all in one.  Justin Cronin does an excellent job of creating multidimensional, emotional characters that are magnetic – so much so that when you aren’t reading about them, you are thinking about them, wondering when they are going to appear again.  As a reader you journey with a group of people from the colony who are forced to travel miles and miles to find answers, to find hope – led by Amy.

It is a beautiful story about relationships and what we will do for the people we love.  It is about the connections of family and that when faced with destruction, family isn’t defined by the blood you share, but by who you will lay your life down for.

It also asks a question that we should all be asking ourselves on a daily basis: what are the consequences of messing with nature?  Of playing God? In our quest for power – whether it is through science or technology – we are moving further and further away from what it is to be human.  This is what is scary about this story.  That there are people “in power” that are making decisions that could go horribly wrong and that it is the rest of the world that will pay.  Science in itself is not bad, it becomes bad when the intentions behind the science are tainted by the hunger for power.

There is a fine balance with apocalyptic stories.  On one hand you can’t have a story that is too depressing.  As a reader, you need to feel there is hope (never mind as a reader, as a human!).  Too much violence and gore and it is meaningless.  The characters are a fine balance to strike as well.  It is easy to fall into stereotypical caricatures in the apocalyptic landscape – the leader, the nerd, the hysterical woman, the asshole.  There are no stereotypes in The Passage.  All characters – even the virals – have more to them than meets the eye.  They express fear, doubt, love, courage and despair all in different ways and at different times.  There are men and women alike in this story who are heroes and warriors at different times throughout.

I wish that I could read this story for the first time again.  As I read I was delighted to discover a refreshing, impactful and philosophical, apocalyptic horror story that isn’t so much about the horror as it is about the characters.

The Passage is one of three books and while I’m sad that I have to wait a year for the third (I’ve just finished the second book, The Twelve, which I will be reviewing shortly) this story is one that I wish could go on and on (a la The Walking Dead).

If you are a fan of apocalyptic stories you won’t find a better one than this.

My rating:

OMG! I LOVE THIS BOOK!My heart hurtsGod save my soulDevastatedThis book totally gets me

The Path of Zombie Enlightenment

I’ve just started reading World War Z by Max Brooks and I am already loving it.  I love post-apocalyptic stories.  Not for the violence or grim, hopeless possibilities but because these stories can really dig into the morality of being human more than any other it seems.

Especially zombie stories.

Reading World War Z has taken me back to a blog post I had written for an old, old blog of mine regarding how zombies can show us the way to enlightenment.  I decided to rehash some of those thoughts and expand.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the zombie genre has been going strong for the last few years and shows no sign of slowing down.  The most popular gory installment right now is The Walking Dead (comics and television show though I am referencing the television version mostly due to a very dreamy Rick Grimes played by Andrew Lincoln).

I believe our attraction to the zombie genre is a subconscious one.  I’ve been hearing one phrase over and over again these last few years, even using it myself – “waking up”.  This phrase is often used when referring to a listless/apathetic society or person (the walking dead if you will) that is starting to finally show signs of life.  In general the majority of people are starting to see that something isn’t quite right in this system of the have and have-nots and we are doing something about it.  This is manifesting itself in global riots, protests and demonstrations.  It is in our demand for organic and natural food, not the zombified food which fills the majority of our grocery stores (oooh, see how I did that?).  Yes, we are indeed ‘waking up’.

The popularity of zombies are a great gauge of where we are as a society.  We are drawn to this genre, thrilled and terrified all at once of the apocalyptic doom; invested in and emotionally attached to the band of survivors trying to balance their humanity with their instinct to survive at all costs.  I wouldn’t be surprised if soon we saw a band of survivors ready to outlive, outlast and outplay a competing team of walking dead on Survivor: Zombie Island.

We fear nothing more than the bite that will put us on the path towards complete and utter darkness, for the life of the zombie is worse than death.  The bite of the zombie leads us to a state of constant, mindless, uncontrollable hunger and decay. Our skin and our insides rot and yet the hunger doesn’t stop.  And that hunger results in destruction of the world around us.  Sound familiar?

If the world we perceive is a manifestation of the world within ourselves, then zombies are a reflection of our desire to ‘wake up’; to survive.  We relate to the survivors because we are them and we want nothing more than to get back in touch with our humanity and begin anew.

This gives me great hope (and makes the book possibilities endless!).

Oh dreamy Rick Grimes

 

It’s what I feel, not what I read

I’ve thought long and hard about posting book reviews of books that I don’t like.  On one hand, I made an agreement with myself that I would review any and every book I read.  On the other hand, if you dislike it so much are you going to give a fair review of it?  And fair to whom?  The author?  The publishing house?  The readers who read your reviews?

But then again, how fair is it to review a book you absolutely love?  Both arguments are surely to have a biased perspective no matter which way you look at it.  (Is bias in reviewing a bad thing?)  I thought I would finally post my thoughts on book reviews after the blogger over at Noon Observations asked if readers post reviews of books they hated and Damyanti over at Daily (w)rite asked what types of reviews people prefer.

Are book reviews worth reading?  Are reviews of any kind worth reading?  Can reviews be objective?  My answer (and my opinion) is yes, reviews of any kind are worth reading and yes, I think reviews can be objective but they are more fun when they aren’t.

Objectivity requires one to be neutral.  It asks us to look at something without any attachment.  For human beings, this isn’t an easy task.  Our entire lives are based in emotion and emotion creates attachment.  To be objective about something is to remove one self from any type of emotional attachment.  It isn’t impossible to do, but it is a challenge.  The very nature of reviewing a book, or a movie for that matter, is a delicate task.  Movies and books (any art form really) are created to purposely provoke an emotional response within the viewer/reader.  What else is the point if not to feel something?  We discover our own morality through feeling so to ask someone to review something without feeling is like asking the writers of The Walking Dead to not write in any more zombies in the show.

I don’t hate anything.  Least of all books.  I love books – childishly so.  I could never hate a book even if it provokes hateful thoughts within me and for me, that is the basis of my reviewing style.  Feeling.  It’s not about whether or not I loved, liked or disliked a book, it’s about what that book made me feel.  If it did provoke feelings of rage or hatred in me then what was it about it that did?  The characters?  The story?  A particular scene?

When I review, I don’t want to comment on how the writer followed proper grammar or how well they understood a topic or what style their preferred method of writing is in.  I want to comment on how that author made me feel, what their book is saying to me and, the rhythm they are creating through their words.

I am an emotional and intuitive person.  Everything I do is based on feeling.  I use feeling when I cook.  I use feeling to assess my thoughts on a situation or an experience.  I use feeling to get to know others.  To ask me to set aside feeling is to ask me to remove colour from my world – impossible.

So perhaps it is the responsibility of the reviewer to let their audience know what type of reviews to expect.  Are they going to be clinical in nature?  Are they going to be focused on character or story development?  Are they going to be based on written style?  For me, my reviews will always be based in feeling and I realize that is broad so they won’t appeal to everyone.  In addition, the challenge of writing reviews based on feeling is that sometimes feeling is all you got.  Sometimes, you can’t put your finger quite on what it was that led you to joy or what dragged you down into frustration.  I will always do my best to be as clear as possible.

I guess what I am trying to get across is that I love all books and I respect all writers.  The gift of a writer is not dependent on my liking their story as preference is key.  I don’t care for Mystery genres and I dislike Romance novels – but does that mean authors in these genres aren’t excellent writers who can tell one helluva story?  No – these types of stories just don’t appeal to me.

To be honest, I think all of this may be moot as I never finish books I don’t like.  I get too frustrated or bored to finish it and since I don’t see the point of reviewing books I haven’t finished,  then the chances of me reviewing books I dislike are slim to none.

(Unless the story is filled with unnecessary stereotypes – then I might just be compelled to yell and shake my fist at the book for awhile.)

I enjoy reading other people’s reviews – whether ‘amateur’ or those paid to review – I am always curious about the emotional reaction people have to things.  Since reading is such an intimate, personal thing, book reviews in particular are always entertaining to read.  It’s happened once or twice that I’ve read a book because someone hated it so passionately.  If it provokes that strong of a reaction in someone, what will it provoke in me?

Happy reading!

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