NESFA Members' Reviews

coverMeditations on Middle-Earth

edited by Karen Haber

A book review by Mark L. Olson

St. Martin's, 2001, 235 pp, $24.95

Karen Haber has brought together a dozen-and-a-half essays by fantasy and SF writers. Some are truly essays (the Le Guin, for example) while others are much more like gosh-wow fan letters. It's been clear for years that Tolkien had a major impact on SF, but I'm not sure that prior to reading these articles I realized just what an enormous personal impact it had been.

Several of the pieces are simply fans (who happen to be pros) burbling about how much they liked Tolkien -- interesting, sometimes touching, but slight. Several are better and considerably more revealing: Robin Hobb's piece for example, telling how important Tolkien was for her growing up in Alaska and, even more so, Terri Windling's revealing autobiographical essay.

Others are more about things: Harry Turtledove describes how he wrote unpublishable Tolkien rip-offs as a youth, but went back and mined them for ideas and scenes when he started writing his own material. Poul Anderson writes on Elves, and Michael Swanwick writes a great essay on temptation.

Two of the most interesting are Orson Scott Card's essay on the real meaning behind LotR (I think he's partly wrong, but he's wrong in an interesting and thought-proving way), and a very well done article by Ursula K. Le Guin on Tolkien's use of metrical devices in his fiction.

This is an excellent collection of fannish essays -- not one of them would be out of place in a good fanzine -- by major professionals.

Recommended. This should be a contender for Best Related Book of 2001.

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