This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history. (Tolkien 19)
The thing that fascinates me about the idea of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is how they came to be, and the position their events occupy in J.R.R Tolkien’s world as a whole. Tolkien was, to put it mildly, a complete and total language nerd, and his constructed languages form the basis for all of his writing. In order to fill in the history of his languages, he started to write pieces of the middle earth. The Lord of the Rings trilogy that most of us are familiar with is a relatively trivial part of his world as a whole, which is itself an excuse for how he designed his languages. To me, this is a whole new level of awesome. If you want to see a brief example of the depth that Tolkien has written into his world, here is a clip of two of Stephen Colbert’s TV segments, in which the subject of Tolkien lore came up.
So far I am 30 pages into J.R.R. Tolkien‘s book The Fellowship of the Ring. And so far, the book has consisted solely of exposition on the history of Hobbits. This includes how they came to inhabit their current home in and around the Shire, their disposition, some information of the most prominent families, and their political system, as well as a summary of the major Hobbit ethnic groups. It isn’t the most riveting read so far, but it is still interesting.
I am still kind-of sort-of reading IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation by Edwin Black, but I have not made very much progress on it, so I am at page 195. More of my recent reading time has been devoted to a re-read of David Weber‘s Honorverse series. I am currently on page 81 of the second book in the series, The Honor of the Queen. Honorverse is one of my favorite book franchises. It is a relatively “hard” military science fiction series, which has grown to encompass a massive scale, with thirteen books in its main series, at least six anthologies of short stories, and four side series, which themselves encompass an additional fifteen books. The series is long enough that by the time I finish reading it, I’m ready to start all over again.
One of the interesting things that Weber does in this series is how he characterizes different planets. In this universe, most planets are populated by immigrants from one country or region of earth, and the results are wonderful. For example, there exists an empire which has a substantial German and Chinese population, with the result that most people have both a traditional Chinese based name, and a German name. Another, slightly more frustrating example, is a world of primarily Polish extract, which has taught me that Polish names are even harder to pronounce and remember than Russian names. I love the idea, but neither my tongue nor my mind are limber enough to wrap themselves around terms like “Komisja Wolnoś ci i Sprawiedliwości Społecznej”. I had enough trouble trying to remember the names in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I don’t need this as well. Fortunately, the book where these Polish-inspired words appear (Shadow of Victory, a much later book in Weber’s series) is kind enough to provide a glossary these words, though the fact that a glossary was necessary at all is somewhat disturbing.