R. Scott Bakker, The Thousandfold Thought (2006)

Thousandfold_Thought

Long time, no see – vacation time is not inductive to writing, but gives lots of opportunities to read, even in the middle of an Internet-less wilderness :). I usually leave the thickest books for my vacation time, as only then I might be sure of reading them in full, and in reasonable time. For the summertime I also leave those books which I wouldn’t have read any other time – vacation makes me more bullshit-tolerant 😉

And that’s why one of my summer readings this year was the final installment in Bakker’s acclaimed trilogy The Prince of Nothing. I know, I have said before I won’t be reading The Thousandfold Thought anytime soon, too irritated with previous installments to care; while The Darkness That Comes Before was still readable, The Warrior Prophet was just awful. But I like to finish things, and that gutted carcass left on my metaphorical porch, to use the imagery borrowed from Bakker, begged to be cleaned up and buried for good.

The Second Apocalypse is near and the only thing standing between the people of Eärwa and the Inchoroi and the Consult is Kellhus, the unbelievably intelligent and trained Dûnyain who manipulates other people with ease reserved for us mortals while using mindless tools. He knows what moves the soul, and so is untethered to any base motivations and feeling. And how’s our twisted and malformed alternate Jesus Christ doing these days? Oh, he’s having the time of his life. He’s been named the Warrior-Prophet and now spends his days fucking the wife of his teacher in the hopes of fathering another twisted Dûnyain, leading the concerted effort of the crusade against the Fanim and murdering countless victims along the way, learning the Gnosis with – surprise, surprise – astounding ease, and dispassionately getting rid of his enemies, all in the glorious aim of meeting and killing his father. And the Consult seems powerless against such a formidable, nay, otherworldly foe.

Do I sound sarcastic? Well, I admit, I am quite surprised I actually managed to finish this book. The Mary-Sue-ism of the author, embodied in the main protagonist, is raised here to new, truly  dazzling levels. I’ve written about Kellhus before, so I won’t repeat myself – let me only assure you that it gets even worse here. Moreover, while in the previous books we had quite a lot of action interspersing the lengthy monologues and quasi-philosophical ruminations on the nature of human… nature, in the conclusion to the trilogy the action is definitely pushed to the aft. Its place is taken by more of Seswatha’s dreams, more of lengthy descriptions of the foreign lands, and – thankfully – more of Cnaiür’s and Achamian’s doubt, so sorely missed in the second installment. However, for the four-fifths of the book the Holy War is nowhere to be seen, and when what was supposed to be the grand finale finally comes, it peters out before you realize it was happening. The conclusion to almost all plot points is deeply disappointing – from the battle of Shimeh to the meeting with Moënghus, Kellhus’s father looming over the previous installments like a hungry, vengeful, mysterious ghost. In The Thousandfold Thought even the final magic battle between Cishaurim and Scarlet Spires seems uninspired and dull.

So why did I bother? Apart from the need to have it over with and never take another look at anything written by Bakker, it actually is well written. The diarrhea of nonsensical words, which just sound nice when put next to each other, still prevails, but I cannot deny that Bakker has the gift – the ability to create intriguing, fully realized worlds, even if they come from bad dreams of some very twisted personalities. He is indeed a talented author, a teller of stories, an inventor of histories and peoples. The Prince of Nothing trilogy is in this respect a treat for all those fans of fictitious maps and glossaries and encyclopedic summaries of histories past – at least if you don’t mind the frequent “shit, piss, ass, cunt, ooh how my soul suffers, the Apocalypse, cock, shit, fuck” interludes. Truly, I agree with the critics claiming that these books are a peculiar form of literary masturbation – I’d say the only person fully satisfied with them is the author, for obvious reasons.

The most interesting part of the whole trilogy for me was by far the Encyclopedic Glossary at the end of the book three, consisting of 140 pages of tightly written information. The second good thing was the final eye-opening of Achamian – but as an epitome of the saying “too little, too late”.

I must repeat three main things for all those who haven’t read my earlier reviews of Bakker’s work: first, the main protagonist Kellhus is an abominable character for many reasons, his Mary-Sue-ism being only the most visible and irritating  one. But what is equally important, as a literary character he’s simply not believable, not psychologically real in any conceivable way – he was invented just as a vehicle for the author to convey his thoughts, prejudices and complexes, a convenient Deus ex Machina to solve all problematic points in the story arc. Secondly, there is not a single well-written female character in the entire series – and there are as many as three in the over 1000-pages long trilogy – Bakker’s females are just rutting machines, push the button and splay the legs and when one’s hot enough, one may actually be even paid, but they don’t really need the money, they do it for pleasure. Men are not much better, their goal in life in general can be summed up as “get laid”. And thirdly, the whole series reads like a porn slasher with a really strong fecal twist. Rape, murder, incest are a must every few pages, and hard-ons pepper the book like a strangely shaped drops of rain.

I have read all three books in The Prince of Nothing trilogy, and I won’t read another word by Bakker, even on vacation. If you like to wallow in sperm and feces while listening to a philosophy crash course for dummies, absurdly simplified to the point of nonsense and told in a very undiplomatic language – The Prince of Nothing is just for you.

Score: 3/10

 

3 thoughts on “R. Scott Bakker, The Thousandfold Thought (2006)

    • I’m very curious of what you’ll think of the second book – please let me know when you read it! The first book was promising – IMO the best in the trilogy. Unfortunately, at least for me, the writing deteriorated throughout books two and three when the author concentrated on his pet obsessions. For an author so focused on “what comes before” Bakker surely hasn’t analyzed his own prejudices deeply enough.

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