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Stephen R. Donaldson

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I'm currently reading "Mordant's Need", my first ever try at Stephen R. Donaldson, and I just love it. Has anyone else read it, and if so, what'd you think? (No spoilers, please!)



I am definitely going to check out more Donaldson books, Gap or Thomas Covenant, and I'm wondering who else has read them? I generally prefer SF to fantasy, although if Thomas Covenant is the same sort of fantasy as is Mordant's Need (limited and yet very unique magic that is believable in its given system), I would be thrilled.



I've heard Mordant's Need is the most "accessible" series by Donaldson, so I'm not sure whether the Gap or Covenant series would suit me better for a next read. Any Donaldson fans who can suggest which would be better, or does it not really matter?



As an extra, does anyone know of any other books like "The Mirror of her Dreams" (Mordant's Need #1)? Somehow it reminds me a bit of "Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis, which I also loved... someone from "our time" going back to a medieval-like setting. I get lost in books like this and would be so happy to know of more like this!



Thank you :)


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Be warned, the other two series you mentioned are VERY different from Mordant's Need.



The Gap is sci fi set in outer space.



TCTC (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) is fantasy and shares a basic premise with Mordant' need - namely person(s) from our world translated into a fantasy world. The central character in TCTC is not likeable (he is not intended to be).



From MN, I would try TCTC. Donaldson has just (this very week) had the last volume in the final (third) series published. The First Chronicles (Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War, The Power that Preserves) and the Second Chronicles (The Wounded Land, The One Tree, White Gold Wielder) are really enjoyable reads when you finally get into them.


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From MN, I would try TCTC. Donaldson has just (this very week) had the last volume in the final (third) series published. The First Chronicles (Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War, The Power that Preserves) and the Second Chronicles (The Wounded Land, The One Tree, White Gold Wielder) are really enjoyable reads when you finally get into them.

Thank you for your reply! I will check out "Lord Foul's Bane" then. I've heard the main character isn't very likable in the series; hopefully the supporting cast is strong enough to carry the plot. I don't find Terisa, the main character in MN, very likable either-- she's rather gutless and submissive, although I really do appreciate why she is this way given the theme of reality/existence in the book.

I don't mind at all that Gap is SF set in outer space. I love that sort of stuff. It has multiple POVs like ASOIAF, doesn't it? Anyway, I'll get the first in the Covenant series, as the two realities is enough to really pique my interest. Thanks again.

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Mordants Need is the first grown up fantasy series I read and I absolutely adored it. TC, while not bad, doesn't compare well with it, even though it is his more famous series and has a lot of fans. It's worth trying it out but don't go in with huge expectations.

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The difference between Mordant's Need and Thomas Covenant is indeed significant, and MN is far more attractive to read than TC.



TC is, however, probably the best quality adult fantasy written during the late 70's / early 80's. It contains philosophical questions with difficult answers, it is well-written, and it features an unlikable protagonist.

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Thank you for your reply! I will check out "Lord Foul's Bane" then. I've heard the main character isn't very likable in the series; hopefully the supporting cast is strong enough to carry the plot. I don't find Terisa, the main character in MN, very likable either-- she's rather gutless and submissive, although I really do appreciate why she is this way given the theme of reality/existence in the book.

While Terisa may not be very likable, Thomas Covenant is actively unlikable. He is a great character, and a total piece of shit. TCoTC is a love it or hate it series, but it's one of the most important series in the history of the genre.

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I've read The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and I really liked it. The second book especially, The Illearth War was fantastic.

So I definitely recommend it. It is a great story and you really get the sense of doom and how important Covenant is for the people in The Land (as the fantasy world is called).

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I loved the Covenant books when I read the first two series 15 years ago. Now I am re-reading them before I start the last series, and still think they are really good (I am reading The Power that Preserves right now).


Also, I read the Gap series a few years ago and thought it was very good too. But be prepared for some horrible shit being done to the main protagonist (especially in the first book). Basically, the Gap series is Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung set in space.

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TCTC (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) is fantasy and shares a basic premise with Mordant' need - namely person(s) from our world translated into a fantasy world. The central character in TCTC is not likeable (he is not intended to be).

From MN, I would try TCTC. Donaldson has just (this very week) had the last volume in the final (third) series published. The First Chronicles (Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War, The Power that Preserves) and the Second Chronicles (The Wounded Land, The One Tree, White Gold Wielder) are really enjoyable reads when you finally get into them.

I have read both "Mordant's Need" and the First Chronicles. I liked "Need" much better, but thought First Chronicles was interesting and still hope some day to find time to read the second and third series.

But I haven't been paying attention to any reviews of the third Chronicles series and so I was really surprised to find out there was a fourth book just published -- based solely on the title of the third book, Against All Things Ending. That would have been such a perfect title for the final book in a series that I just assumed the last series was another trilogy! I'm slightly disappointed in Donaldson for using that title for the penultimate instead of the ultimate installment. :)

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I thought that Mirror of Her Dreams was possibly the worst book I've ever read, so I don't suppose my opinions will carry much weight with the OP. Normally, I would be glad to rant about why I hated it so much, but probably not appropriate to shit on someone else's tastes that way :)


Edited by Eponine

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I'm currently reading "Mordant's Need", my first ever try at Stephen R. Donaldson, and I just love it. Has anyone else read it, and if so, what'd you think? (No spoilers, please!)

I am definitely going to check out more Donaldson books, Gap or Thomas Covenant, and I'm wondering who else has read them? I generally prefer SF to fantasy, although if Thomas Covenant is the same sort of fantasy as is Mordant's Need (limited and yet very unique magic that is believable in its given system), I would be thrilled.

I've heard Mordant's Need is the most "accessible" series by Donaldson, so I'm not sure whether the Gap or Covenant series would suit me better for a next read. Any Donaldson fans who can suggest which would be better, or does it not really matter?

As an extra, does anyone know of any other books like "The Mirror of her Dreams" (Mordant's Need #1)? Somehow it reminds me a bit of "Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis, which I also loved... someone from "our time" going back to a medieval-like setting. I get lost in books like this and would be so happy to know of more like this!

Thank you :)

I have been a Donaldson fan for years,i've read Mordant's Need and "The Mirror of her dreams" and i loved them.I haven't finished "The Gap" series yet.My favorite by far has been the Chronicles of TC.I have not started "Against all things ending" but i'm looking forward to it.I've followed this series and i can't wait to see how it all ends for Thomas,Linden and the others.

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I recently reread the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and I kind of regret it, since it didn't live up to my memories of them. After Lord of the Rings the Thomas Covenant series was the first fantasy books I read and after struggling for the first 150 pages I was totally hooked on them.



So I would guess the Covenant books, as well as the "lighter" Mordant's Need, is best suited if you are not a very experienced reader of Fantasy. If you are used to Bakker, Erikson and Martin and think they are good, I guess Donaldson's Fantasy books are a bit too simplistic.



I read many of the reviews of the first Covenant books on Amazon and lots of people complain about Donaldson's prose being too convoluted and heavy to read, but personally I think his prose flows very well, and he's certainly easier to read than Bakker.


Maybe it's a "foreigner" or Scandinavian versus native English speaker thing? I


Edited by PetrusOctavianus

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I read the Gap Cycle first and absolutely loved it. It's still one of my favourite series. So I read the Covernant books with quite high expectations, which was a bit dissappointing. The Illearth War was the only part that I found great. But given that it was definitely a groundbreaking series at the time it was written, I have some high hopes for the final quadrilogy, which I haven't started yet.



As for the prose, I found it really good and I never understood the critique, but I'm also not a native speaker.


Edited by dietl

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I read many of the reviews of the first Covenant books on Amazon and lots of people complain about Donaldson's prose being too convoluted and heavy to read, but personally I think his prose flows very well, and he's certainly easier to read than Bakker.

Maybe it's a "foreigner" or Scandinavian versus native English speaker thing? I

I have no idea why your perception is different, but I certainly found the First Chronicles by Donaldson much more difficult to read than Bakker.

Though as I remember it the problem with Donaldson was largely that he was in love with a thesaurus and kept using words which may be in unabridged English dictionaries but which are actually rare in everyday American speech. The one I will never forget is "inanition." I don't think I have ever run across that word anywhere except in Donaldson's writing, but he used it over and over again in the First Chronicles.

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Thank you very much, everyone, for sharing your thoughts on this. I'm well prepared now for TC, and to be honest, my expectations have plummeted to very low (as opposed to very high when I began this thread)... perhaps that isn't such a bad thing given the dire warnings about beginning this series. :) Whatever my thoughts on the first book, good or bad, I still plan on checking out Gap afterwards, as sci-fi is very appealing to me. Thanks again!


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Don't be too discouraged. The Covenant books are different - the protagonist is unlikeable from the get-go, the language is often obscure, and the narrative is sometimes over-fraught with internal dialogue. But the story is also groundbreaking, engaging, and unique and these differences go hand in hand with each other, in a way. There are few completely "good" or "bad" characters, and their narrative arcs are interesting and complex. In my own opinion, I think these outweigh the negatives. It's certainly nothing like the Mordant books, though, so I wouldn't reduce your expectations as much as I would simply change them.


Edited by naz

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TC takes some persistence, but personally I'm enjoying the Last Chronicles more than the first two.



Also, go directly to The Gap. Based on your stated preferences it sounds like it will blow you away. It's great. And yes, the POV structure is similar to ASOIAF (apparently because it was one of the things GRRM was inspired by) except just a few characters focused on, 3 main ones and I'd guess no more than a half dozen secondary POVs.


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As my username no doubt informs you I'm a massive fan of Donaldson. In my opinion The Gap is the best work he has produced. The characters are all believable, the plot is remarkable and the aliens are one of the most.... alien races in science fiction. My advice is read it as soon as possible.



As an aside if I won the lottery one of the things I'd love to do is finance a film trilogy based on Mordant's Need. It is one of the most filmable novels I've ever read, most of the plot is explained by dialogue, it is filled with juicy acting roles for both genders (rare for fantasy) and it would be visually stunning with modern special effects. Unfortunately it will almost certainly never be adapted for film.


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As an aside if I won the lottery one of the things I'd love to do is finance a film trilogy based on Mordant's Need. It is one of the most filmable novels I've ever read, most of the plot is explained by dialogue, it is filled with juicy acting roles for both genders (rare for fantasy) and it would be visually stunning with modern special effects. Unfortunately it will almost certainly never be adapted for film.

I've also thought about this while reading the books. I would love to see Master Eremis on the bigscreen... I've developed a hopeless [pathetic] crush on him. Then again, I'm always massively disappointed by any screen adaptations of books, save for perhaps LOTR. I think one of the only agreeable things Orson Scott Card has ever said outside of his books was during a lecture I watched once on YouTube, where he asked the general question of why movies have come to be considered the highest form of art in modern society; he then goes on to ask (regarding reading a book) something to the extent of, "What's wrong with the movie you've just watched in your head?"

Well, anyway, like I said, I'm going to check out both series, TC and Gap, regardless of my thoughts on either. Both sound intriguing, and I really like his style of writing based on what I've read in MN. The feedback in this thread has been great, I love hearing peoples opinions on books. Cheers!

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Regarding the use of language in Donaldson's works, I would say that the vocabulary he uses is going to be more familiar to people who have a churched background than to those readers who are unchurched.



If you regularly sit on a Sunday and listen to sermons or homilies, you will not be unfamiliar with "inanition". Donaldson also treats figures with salvific intent or possibility in a manner that is an echo of Biblical characters and their storylines.



This shouldn't be surprising, given that his parents were missionary doctors in India working in a leprosarium.


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