Oct 182016

lilith1Lilith, by George MacDonald

Synopsis: A landed gentleman stumbles into a magical dreamland, which I guess is full of parables and symbolism?

Book Review: Written in 1895, this book reads like it was written a century earlier. It’s short, only 200ish pages, but I still gave up after 60. This thing is not worth reading.

First, there’s no reason to like the protagonist. He’s a bland young man of the landed gentry class, who inherited his wealth, and has no friends or anyone important in his life. I just don’t care about his aimless wanderings through a nonsense world.

Second, there’s no tension. In addition to not caring about the protag, there’s no reason to care about what’s happening. None. He just goes wandering.

Third, it’s poorly written. Something something different time period – whatever. MacDonald will often write extremely long sentences that, once you parse them, say literally nothing. Sometimes several in a row. And those are just the ones that intentionally say nothing. My biggest complaint is that:

Fourth – this book is nothing but a huge dump of Pretending To Be Wise. In fact, it’s worse than Pretending To Be Wise. At least if you’re Pretending To Be Wise, you’re actually making some claims with substance, even if they are shallow. Lilith contains innumerable passages with a bunch of fancy-sounding words which don’t actually say ANYTHING. There is no substance there at all! It is the 19th century equivalent of the Quantum Homeopathy Woman. It’s fancy gibberish that doesn’t have any referent!

Well OK, not *every* time. It’s pretty obvious that the little people vs giants section is a big ol’ sign to say “Greed is bad.” Thanks for that update George. It was extra-profound when you demonstrated Greed Is Bad by pointing out that it would be awesome if everyone lived in an Eden, in perfect health with unlimited food and no need for shelter. Totes applicable to my life.

Strongly Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: Yeah, there’s not much to talk about here. There’s no topic to discuss, because nothing has been said. I was going to chalk this up to “Writing technology has advanced a lot”, but our English Major pointed out that MacDonald doesn’t even have that excuse. This post-dates Charles Dickens. It post-dates “Alice in Wonderland”, which was an actual GOOD tale set in a magical dreamland. It’s only a couple decades removed from Hemingway.

The only person in our book club who enjoyed this novel was someone who misinterpreted it as an Absurdist Humor piece, and found it hilarious. Even she got tired of it after about halfway through though, and skipped to the end.

On the plus side, it’s in the public domain, so you can get it free. Or for under a buck at Amazon.

Not Recommended.

  4 Responses to “SF/F Review – Lilith”

  1. For my own curiosity, what was the process by which this was selected?

    • That is a good question. I’m also interested in the answer! :-)
      I mean I’m interested how a book club decides on books to read in general. It’s probably one that nobody in the club has read yet?
      I assume there’s a list or something and books from the list are either selected in a predetermined order or at random but how does a book enter that list?
      I’d just +1 Quixote’s post but there’s no system in place for that.. so a reply was made.

    • Every 3 months or so, we have a “selection period” at the end of our meeting. Anyone who has a book they think is interesting will pitch it to the book club, and then we vote on which ones we want to read over the next few months. We try to get an equal amount of Fantasy and SF.

      People are not required to have read the book, but that’s always a bonus! Generally if an author is well-liked by the group already, or if a member got a review from a source they trust, we’re happy to accept that.

      Lilith was pitched by a member that doesn’t come very often, but he seemed excited about it, so we said sure. It’s all good, we’ve all pitched stinkers before. Hell, my favorite book ever (Vellum) was universally hated by my book club, most of them didn’t even get halfway through. /shrug It’s not like we’re going to hate him or kick him out now, or anything. :)

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