These are my impressions of the book, and not a full review. I
won’t give any book a full review unless I read it all. I just can’t
bring myself to read every word on every page of this monstrosity.

General Information

Title: The Silmarillion

Author: J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Chris Tolkien

Original Publication Date: 1977

ISBN: 0-261-10366-0

Cover Price: 24.99 GBP; thankfully, I found this hardcover in a
“previously unsold” bookstore for a mere $4.99 Canadian. I’m not
convinced I got my money’s worth.

We’d normally have the “buy from” links here, but I’m not sadistic
enough to suggest anybody pay for this.

Impressions

When I read The Hobbit, I felt that it was published
because
it was a fun little adventure story, well targeted at a young
audience. When I read The Lord Of The Rings, I felt it
was
published because it was epic fantasy at its best. As some of you
know, The Lord of the Rings was very popular, and is
considered by some to be the most read book of the 20th Century
(since
the only book that outsold it in that century was the Bible.)

From what I’ve read of The Silmarillion, I’m convinced it
was
published because The Lord of the Rings is a very
popular
book. I’ve heard that it was published after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death,
edited together by his son
from a set of notes J.R.R. used to write his masterpiece work.
I’ve heard that J.R.R. had no intentions of publishing this work in
any form. I have no reason to doubt these rumours.

This is why I’m writing a set of impressions rather than a review. I
refuse to review a book and give it a score unless I’ve read it from
cover to cover. In this case, that will never happen. I’ve been
trying to read this all summer, and I’ve never managed to read more
than 6 pages in a single sitting. I’m on page 132 of 365 of this
copy, and I can push myself no further. It’s possible that the
situation improves, but I suspect that will not be the case. (If it
is, I’m sure some kind reader will let us know.) I wouldn’t even
bother writing these impressions if the review hadn’t been requested
by
one of our readers.

The first thing I should point out is that The Silmarillion
is not a story. It is a collection of the creation myths of Middle
Earth, strung together as chapters, often with weak or non-existant
transitions and no characters with any depth. We know some
characters
are evil, because the narrative voice tells us so. We know some
characters are noble and heroic, because the narrative voice tells us
so. The actions of these characters should speak for themselves,
but
since that requires the characters to actually take action, we often
have no chance to make these determinations ourselves. The
creation
myths span enough time that characters will appear and disappear
all
the time, often with similarities in their names that can lead to
confusion for one who is not taking notes. The plot is vague and
unclear, reverting to a set of drab stories that happen to fall in
(nearly) chronological order.

This is all it is. It lacks the descriptive details of the works that
J.R.R. Tolkien brought to publishers himself, and it lacks any depth
to any characters. I understand that epics with large casts often
have large numbers of flat characters, but even The Lord of
the
Rings
had depth to Frodo, Gandalf, the other major
members of the Fellowship, and Gollum. This shows none of that
depth,
at least in the first third of the book. We don’t get the great
descriptions of the world these characters live in. We don’t get the
same sense of building danger, approaching a climax. Instead, we
get
a string of tangentially related events that clearly exist in the
background of The Lord of the Rings but would likely not
have
been published on their own. This book does nothing to build an
emotional attachment for those readers who haven’t read The
Lord
of the Rings
.

In my opinion, there is a very, very small audience for this book.
I believe with certainty that it was marketed and published based
solely on the popularity of The Lord of the Rings, and
that
nobody would publish it purely on its own merits. This is a book that
feels very much like an additional set of appendices to The
Lord
of the Rings
, and yet, J.R.R. Tolkien chose not to include it
with the other appendices; I think he made the right decision.

My advice to you is this: if you read The Lord of the
Rings

and felt that the appendices included weren’t enough to satisfy your
thirst for the world J.R.R. Tolkien created, then you should find a
copy of this in your local library. If, like me, you skimmed the
appendices but didn’t even bother to read most of them, you
shouldn’t
even consider exerting the effort required to take this book off the
shelf.