The Thousandfold Thought by R. Scott Bakker
|Book Name:||The Thousandfold Thought|
|Author:||R. Scott Bakker|
|Publisher(s):||The Overlook Press|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||February 2, 2006 (US) January 31, 2006 (UK)|
So this is it, the climax of R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing, with (the impossible to pronounce) The Thousandfold Thought. What we witness in this final volume is the Holy War’s further ventures into the land of the Fanim, the climatic battles that are a part of this, and the culmination of many different character arcs. Unfortunately for this novel, it did feel like Bakker had run out of story by this point (perhaps the curse of extending what was initially planned as one book into a trilogy) and so the first half (of this much shorter novel compared to its two predecessors) is padded out with a extension of the events of The Warrior-Prophet followed by a climax that seems to drag out a bit too long with a confused and often unfocused narrative that makes the whole end of the trilogy a rather bewildering mess.
It is not a bad book (I realise that I may have implied that with the opening paragraph!), more a novel that I’m not sure Bakker knew what to do with. It seems to be part apocalyptic-showdown, part set-up-for-the-next-trilogy giving it a very cloudy identity as to what on earth it is trying to get across. Obviously, Bakker originally envisioned it as the climax of his ‘first novel’ and in that sense it might have worked very well, but as its own novel it suffers quite considerably I feel.
Let’s talk about that climax (this is about the last quarter of the book, with the exception of the very last 10 or so pages). Bakker unfortunately seems to have thought that to have exciting pacing he would have to flit between five different plot threads at the rate of a beam of light caught between five reflections. Probably a page is spent with one character before you are thrust to another, and then again, and then again. This must go on for at least 50 pages if not more and it truly gets to the point where you lose focus on what is going on completely. This is definitely the case for one such thread which revolves around a deep philosophical debate between two powerful characters. Flitting in and out of this conversation so much caused me to completely lose track of the flow of the conversation and so I feel its true meaning was lost on me. This was a damn shame. Bakker’s writing is quality as usual, but his choice to sacrifice that quality for pacing was wrong.
The slower character moments in the stories of Achamian, Esmenet, Kellhus, & Cnaiur (which were always the best parts of these novels) continue to shine with some intensely moving moments in the story. The last scene in particular is marvellous and potentially one of the best closings of a novel I’ve come across. The stage set is grand in its potential consequences and the character development painfully inevitable but wonderfully portrayed. It is a wonderful setup for the next trilogy if a somewhat lacklustre ending for the current one.
The reason I write this is purely due to the number of plotlines still left wide open at the end of this book with barely a story concluded satisfactorily. On the contrary, they are all strung out into what seems like a narrative hiatus rather than an end. Take closing trilogy volumes such as Hobb’s Assassin’s Quest, Sanderson’s The Hero of Ages or Weeks’ Beyond the Shadows. Each of these trilogies have follow-ups (or in Weeks’ case, potential follow-ups) but each has a firmly solid ending where a reader could be quite content to leave the story there and never know what happens next. This is not the case with Prince of Nothing. Instead you are left wondering what the heck is going to happen next! This may be an enticing point for some, but I for one will always feel that the end of a trilogy, or a series within a series, should have some kind of true ‘ending’ feeling. Otherwise it isn’t truly a trilogy, rather, it is simply the first three books in a much longer series.
My opinions on the ending of the trilogy aside, I still consider these three novels a marvel of fantasy fiction. The ridiculous detail of the world-building, the intelligence of the philosophical discourses, the amazing critique of our own world and history, and the quality of Bakker’s writing all equates to an incredible reading experience one where the reader can truly appreciate the passion that Bakker has for his themes and, surprisingly, can learn a lot. Whether it’s to understand more about politics, history, religion, philosophy, war, culture, the complexities of social division, or how masses can get behind the idolism of a ‘messiah’, there is so much to take from this truly didactic and wonderful trilogy.
The story is great. So vast, dark, and gut-wrenchingly moving. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Judging Eye and continue on this riveting road.