#23 – The Sapphire Rose, by David Eddings


By now you’ll have realized that I make even less of an effort to review these books by Eddings than even my normal sloppy ramblings would suggest. I think there’s only so many ways you can say “this book was light and fun, and that’s all I wanted from it in the first place.” Things just don’t go much deeper than that between me and Eddings. But right now I’d like to talk about the concept of race in fantasy and science fiction. It pisses me off. When a science fiction or fantasy author uses the word race, they almost never mean it in the way it’s used in contemporary society. It doesn’t refer to the artificial classifications we make based on things like skin colour, but is more a curious intersection of ethnicity, nationality, and species. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s an Americanism, but it seems to show up in their work most often, and it always strikes me as antiquated and mildly offensive. Star Trek in particular uses it to mean “species”, but also as a shorthand for personalities and character traits. It was drilled into us by my high school biology teacher that the term “race” was a pure social construct (I mean, duh, right?), and had no scientific legitimacy, leading to false ideas about homogeneous traits in highly varied populations and other, sometimes dangerous forms of sloppy thinking. Eddings seems to use it as a blend of ethnicity and nationality, and it makes me cringe a little every time I see it on the page. I don’t for a minute believe that Eddings ever meant anything offensive or controversial or hateful or anything of that stripe by his use of the word (nor does it come across like he did), but I can’t help but feel that it’s a vestigial appendage left over from the days of pulp magazines and weekly serials at the cinema.

As far as plot goes, there’s the journey to the dangerous place, the death of the beloved friend, and the destruction of (most) of the big bad enemies while a huge armed conflict distracts the armies of the adversary. Typical stuff, but great fun.

Next is Tempest-Tost, by Robertson Davies.

August

Writer. Editor. Critic.

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