Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rest in Peace, Richard Adams

I can’t say it any better than Richard Adams’ family says it on their website, announcing his death on 24 December 2016.

To me, there are four authors – all of them British – who did more than write novels. They built worlds. Adams is among them, and is likely the most obscure. But his worlds are no less complex, vibrant, and real than those created by JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Terry Pratchett.

More importantly, Adams combines his skill at world-building with the Dickensian gift of creating characters that the reader only adds to as he or she gets to know them, page by page.

And while “Watership Down” tends to get most of the love reserved for Adams, I find most of his other books even better. Particularly, the world of Shardik – and its heart-rending look at the power of religion perverted by the evil of men. Many a time as I’ve wandered Idaho’s Lost River Desert, I’ve created in my mind a vision of the hapless slaves led through the valley of the shadow by their cruel masters, bending a religion of peace. (Clearly, it’s been a while since I’ve read it. I should put it in my “to-read” pile.)

Two books of his I couldn’t read: Traveller, a horse-themed novel in which the horse character had an atrocious southern American accent, and Girl on A Swing, which just didn’t fit my preconceived Adams notions. Traveller especially taught me as a writer you can take a character’s accent much too far.

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