Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series is derivative, poorly written, and the heroes are really villainsMonday, 04.22.13
“Standing there, erect, masculine, masterful in his black war wizard outfit, he looked as if he could be posing for a statue of who he was: the Seeker of Truth…” – Terry Goodkind, ‘Faith of the Fallen’
Terry Goodkind’s 12-volume fantasy series The Sword of Truth is included in Wikipedia’s list of the best-selling books in history, with 25 million sales claimed by the publisher as of 2010. I’ve been reading my way through the list, and when I noticed that Goodkind’s series was loosely the basis of the lighthearted cotton-candy fantasy TV show Legend of the Seeker, I thought it would be a fun, breezy read.
My goodness, was I surprised! Picture if you will Ayn Rand and the Marquis de Sade frenetically rewriting Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, in a week-long amphetamine-fueled bender, each inserting astoundingly long digressions on the joys of Objectivism and sadomasochism, you’ll have a near-perfect picture of what to expect.
The first volume did include a few enjoyable elements: It was easy-to-read, Goodkind is obviously sincere and he clearly enjoyed himself immensely while writing the book. Having said that, overall I found the novel exceptionally derivative, poorly written, and the “heroes” are ultimately revealed to be just as evil as the villains, even by Goodkind’s rather dubious Ayn Randian standards.
Who would publish something like this? What accounts for the millions of readers who apparently love it? Am I missing something? Let the spoiler-laden exegesis begin!
All works of art build on earlier works, and the charge of “derivative” is admittedly subjective. This is particularly true of best-selling modern fantasy books, nearly all of which borrow rather openly from Tolkien (the one glorious exception being George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire). Having made those admissions, Terry Goodkind’s ‘Wizard’s First Rule’ remains the single most derivative book I have ever read.
* Critics often compare Goodkind’s work to ‘Star Wars’: Mord-Sith are elite guards of the dark lord, a bit like Sith, and Richard the main hero turns out – surprise! – to secretly be the dark lord’s son.
* Goodkind mentioned in a 2003 interview by KUSP that he enjoyed the Shannara fantasy series by Terry Brooks. The actual Sword of Shannara has the power to reveal truth, which may have influenced Goodkind’s Sword of Truth (which also has the power to reveal truth).
* The Mord-Sith might borrow a bit from Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of Catwoman in ‘Batman Returns’: Both wear the standard form-fitting dominatrix outfit (on the TV show Mord-Sith always wear red, but in the books they usually prefer the black Catwoman-style outfit). More tellingly, during the climax of ‘Batman Returns’ Catwoman puts a Taser in her mouth and kisses Max Schreck, electrocuting them both. Goodkind writes a very similar scene in which the Mord-Sith Denna puts an agiel (magical pain-inflicting dildo) in her mouth and kisses Richard, inflicting pain on them both.
* Goodkind considers himself an Objectivist, and Ayn Rand the greatest philosopher since Aristotle, so it’s no surprise that his books have many similarities to hers. Notably, Goodkind’s heroes often make astoundingly long speeches on the virtues of Objectivism, reminiscent of John Galt’s climatic 70-page speech from Atlas Shrugged. In The Fountainhead Howard Roark builds a temple “dedicated to the nobility of human spirit,” also carving a statue in it, and in Faith of the Fallen Richard carves a statue “dedicated to the nobility of the human spirit” in a temple. Roark dynamites his own building and Richard destroys his own statue rather than seeing their principles compromised. Rand’s John Galt character withdraws his Awesomeness from an undeserving world, and Richard abruptly abandons his own troops, explaining “It is not I who must prove myself to the people, but the people who must now prove themselves to me.” Goodkind sometimes even quotes Rand verbatim, as in ‘Faith of the Fallen’ when Kahlan says “Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent” (an uncredited quotation from Rand’s 1969 book ‘The Romantic Manifesto’).
The Wheel of Time
‘Wizard’s First Rule’ and ‘The Eye of the World’ (book 1 of Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series) both open when our hero (Rand al’Thor/Richard Cypher) meets the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, who also has powerful magic abilities (Moiraine Damodred/Kahlan Amnell); she is pursued by evil minions of the dark lord while visiting the hero’s remote village in search for the latest incarnation in a line of legendary heroes (the Dragon Reborn/the Seeker of Truth), who according to prophecy will defeat the dark lord (The Dark One/Darken Rahl). Will our perspective character turn out to be the legendary hero she’s looking for? Will he ultimately defeat the dark lord? If you’ve ever read a fantasy novel you already know the answer, but why not read another 12,000 pages just to make sure?
Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series appears to be the primary influence on Goodkind’s series. In particular, Goodkind’s Confessors have many similarities to Jordan’s Aes Sedai:
* The Aes Sedai/Confessors are an all-female monastic order with great magical abilities, who are more powerful than kings or queens
* They can magically bond with another person who serves as their bodyguard (Warders), and in some cases can magically compel the subject to absolute, unthinking obedience
* Aes Sendai novices and White Ajah (a subgroup of Aes Sendai) always wear a long white dress as a symbol of office (as do all Confessors)
* A male born with their power is unusually powerful, considered an abomination, and by long tradition must be hunted down and killed (in Jordan’s world they are either killed or at least “gentled,” meaning their power is removed)
* The Black Ajah are a sub-group who live within the Aes Sendai sisterhood but secretly serve the Dark One (Satan); Goodkind’s Sisters of the Dark are a sub-group who live within the Sisters of the Light sisterhood but secretly serve the Keeper of the Underworld (Satan)
Other elements from ‘The Wheel of Time’ which appear to be borrowed in ‘The Sword of Truth’ (this is only a small sampling, not an exhaustive list):
* Both include a magic sword which increases the wielder’s strength (Callandor, aka the Sword That Is Not a Sword/the Sword of Truth), has a blade that illuminates/turns white, and proves that the main character is the hero of prophecy (The Dragon Reborn/The Seeker of Truth).
* A collar and bracelet set collectively called an A’dam, usable only by women, controls people by magically inflicting tremendous physical agony when the wielder wishes it (similar to Goodkind’s magic weapon the agiel).
* The Dark One (the ultimate evil, explicitly named as Shai’tan, an Islamic name for Satan) is the enemy of the Creator, magically imprisoned in the Pit of Doom (Hell), but influences the physical world towards evil, has human servants called The Forsaken, and repeatedly comes close to escaping; Goodkind’s Keeper of the Underworld is also the enemy of ‘The Creator,’ trapped in the Underworld, has human servants called Banelings, and repeatedly comes close to escaping.
Was Goodkind influenced by Robert Jordan? When asked this directly by USA Today, Goodkind responded “If you notice a similarity, then you probably aren’t old enough to read my books.”
Jordan implied otherwise in a 2006 post to his blog, writing: “… I have never discussed anything whatsoever with Terry Goodkind. I suggest that you check the publication dates of his books and mine. Of course, he says he has never read me, or so I’m told, and I would never contradict a statement like that. Just check out the pub dates on his books, and the pub dates on mine, those that contain the similarities you speak of.”
Reviewers often perceive common elements between Jordan’s books and Frank Herbert’s Dune series, which also has a messianic hero referred to as “The Mahdi” (Paul/Rand), a tribe of fierce desert warriors who view water as sacred (the Fremen/the Aiel), and a mystic sisterhood who possess devices that can inflict unbearable pain at their command. So the Confessors and the Mord-Sith are both probably to some degree third-generation descendants of Herbert’s Bene Gesserit.
The Lord of the Rings
Like nearly all modern fantasy, Goodkind’s work follows Tolkien’s template: The young hero, his wizard mentor, and his band of friends must spend hundreds of pages walking through forests (even though horses exist in this universe), in order to ultimately prevent the Dark Lord from getting his hands on the Magical Thingy (the One Ring/the Boxes of Orden) or the entire known world will become Sucky Forever [tm].
The strongest common element between ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Sword of Truth’ is Sméagol & Samuel:
* Sméagol/Gollum is physically deformed due to his long possession of the magical One Ring, which he desperately wants back. The magic item has physically and emotionally deformed him. He has disproportionately large feet & hands, little body hair, and is pale from many years without sunlight. He has large bulging yellow “lamp-like eyes.” He speaks ungrammatically (”We hates it”). He is covetous (”Mine, mine!”), and walks in an odd waddle. He is the only one who can guide the hero through Mordor, so the hero leads him around by a rope tied to his neck. His goal is to lead the hero to his “mistress” (Shelob the giant spider), who he believes will eat the hero, at which point he will be able to re-acquire his magical treasure (the One Ring).
* Samuel is physically deformed due to his long possession of the magical Sword of Truth, which he desperately wants back. The magic item has physically and emotionally deformed him. He has disproportionately large feet & hands, little body hair, and is pale from many years without sunlight. He has large bulging yellow eyes that “shone like twin lanterns.” He speaks ungrammatically (”No cook Samuel”). He is covetous (”Mine, mine!”), and walks in an odd waddle. He is the only one who can guide the hero through Agaden Reach, so the hero leads him around by a rope tied to his neck. His goal is to lead the hero to his “mistress” (Shota the witch), who he believes will eat the hero, at which point he will be able to re-acquire his magical treasure (the Sword of Truth).
Did Goodkind borrow ideas from Tolkien? When asked “How much was J.R.R. Tolkien an influence on your stories?” Goodkind responded “He was zero influence. I’ve never read any Tolkien.” Not only that, Goodkind famously proclaimed “I don’t write fantasy. I write stories that have important human themes.” (Not like that loser Tolkien.)
The Richard and Kahlan portrayed on the television series ‘Legend of the Seeker’ are very different than the characters from the books. For instance, in the books Kahlan has green eyes, while on the TV show they’re blue. Also, on the TV show they’re not sociopaths who lie, torture, commit mass-murder and threaten to throw their sister back into a gang rape pit to enforce a military dictatorship over which they hold absolute power.
2. Poorly written
For what possible reason did the ancient wizards create the Boxes of Orden, which can either destroy the world, destroy the user, or make the user the tyrant-king of the world? If the ancient wizards’ goal was to prevent lying, why not simply give the Confessors the ability to detect lies, rather than the ability to turn people into their lifelong mindless zombie slaves (who must incidentally now tell the truth)? Since Zedd knows that Richard must eventually face Darken Rahl, and Rahl is surrounded by elite bodyguards who can magically enslave anyone that uses magic against them (the Mord-Sith), and given that Richard has a magic sword, why didn’t Zedd think to mention this to Richard even once? Since Richard’s magic sword cannot be used against Darken Rahl, but the whole point of the quest is for Richard to kill Darken Rahl, why doesn’t Richard purchase a non-magical backup sword?
Good and bad writing are largely subjective, but one can make a case that certain elements will doom a story to inarguable badness. Putting aside the long string of unbelievable coincidences, putting aside the clumsy parody of former president Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary (Sovereign Bertrand Chanboor and his wife Hildemara, who ultimately die in agony from venereal diseases they contract via adultery), Goodkind commits both cardinal sins of storytelling: he solves all four major challenges in the first book by abruptly changing his own rules, and his hero’s supposed moral triumph is counterfeit.
All four major challenges are solved by abrupt changes to The Rules
Imagine reading a murder mystery novel, and on the last page the murder is solved by blaming it on a never-before-mentioned character based on never-before-mentioned evidence. If you do manage to make it to the last page of ‘Wizard’s First Rule’, be prepared for the quest-fantasy equivalent of that. (Speaking of which, since all the wizards agree on which rule comes first, shouldn’t the title be ‘Wizards’ First Rule’? Because plural?)
Challenge 1: Richard and Kahlan can never be intimate, because according to The Rules, if they ever did she would inadvertently “confess” (magically enslave) him.
Resolution: Surprise! Goodkind solves the problem by abruptly introducing a previously-unmentioned exception to The Rules: if the man truly loves the Confessor, the magical enslavement doesn’t work. Yep – The Confessors have been around for almost 3,000 years and apparently not a single one of them has ever found a man who genuinely loved her before Richard & Kahlan. (Later in the series we learn that the only other exception was the original Confessor, Magda Searus, and the wizard Merrit.)
Challenge 2: Kahlan is about to be raped by four men (she is nearly-raped in almost every book in the series). Zedd cannot help because he is magically paralyzed. Her powers cannot help her because according to The Rules the men are protected from her powers by a spell cast by Darken Rahl, plus she needs to touch people to enslave them, and in any case she needs a few hours to recharge her powers after each person she magically enslaves, and incidentally she has no power which could free Zedd.
Resolution: Surprise! Goodkind solves the problem by abruptly introducing a previously-unmentioned exception to The Rules: In extreme circumstances a few of the strongest Confessors can enter a Con Dar or “blood rage,” and so gain the ability to enslave multiple people at a distance without touching them or needing to recharge, and by sheer luck also the ability to magically free people from magical paralysis at a distance with simply a gesture.
Challenge 3: Richard must escape imprisonment and torture by Denna the Mord-Sith, but cannot because according to The Rules she has absolute magical control over him.
Resolution: Surprise! Goodkind solves the problem by abruptly introducing a previously-unmentioned exception to The Rules: if the victim can view their Mord-Sith tormenter with compassion rather than hatred, the Mord-Sith lose their magical control over the victim.
Challenge 4: Richard must tell Darken Rahl the truth, because according to The Rules he must do whatever Kahlan commands, since she has magically enslaved him.
Resolution: Surprise! Richard wasn’t really enslaved, but was only pretending (see Challenge 1, above). Also, Richard explains that he hadn’t *really* lied, but slyly committed a lie of omission.
Solving major story problems by suddenly changing the rules is not limited to ‘Wizard’s First Rule,’ but pervasive throughout the series. Richard often solves insurmountable problems by suddenly realizing he’s Even More Awesome[tm] than previously believed: First he’s The Seeker, then the Keeper of ‘The Book of Counted Shadows,’ then he’s the only Seeker who can turn the Sword of Truth’s blade white. As the surprise son of Darken Rahl he becomes the lawful hereditary ruler of the Empire of D’Hara (which is cool with Goodkind, because as he points out in an interview, “There’s no goodness [inherent] in democracy. Gang rape is democracy in action.”) Turns out Richard is the grandson of Zedd, the Wizard of the First Order, and so also a wizard himself. In fact, he’s the first War Wizard born in 3,000 years, making him the most powerful person in the world. He’s also the Fuer grissa ost drauka (the Bringer of Death), and to top it off he’s the best athlete in the world (recruited against his will to play Ja’la), the most handsome man in the world (according to nearly every woman in the series), and at his very first go trying to carve a statue, he makes one so beautiful that when his enemies see it they fall to their knees weeping, realize that any belief system to the left of Ayn Rand is de facto evil, and switch allegiance to Richard.
Richard’s ever-escalating Awesomeness[tm] reaches apotheosis in 2007’s ‘Confessor,’ in which Richard uses the Boxes of Orden to gain the power of a god. He then creates an entire new universe in which magic does not work, erases the memory of the millions of idiots who still disagree with him, and banishes them forever to the new non-magical universe. In Goodkind’s 2009 book The Law of Nines we learn that the new universe Richard created is the same reality you and I live in. Why? Because Ayn Rand.
Hero’s supposed moral triumph is counterfeit
The magic of the Sword of Truth, by enhancing the user’s rage, ultimately transforms them into pathetic, grasping, Gollum-like creatures. To avoid this horrible fate, Richard must undergo moral growth and learn to feel compassion even for his enemies. However, Richard’s supposed moral triumph has a few obvious gaps.
A quick overview of the evil sisterhood of Mord-Sith: Darken Rahl’s men scour the land to find young girls who are unusually kind and compassionate. The girls are horribly tortured, then forced to watch their mothers being tortured and killed, then are forced to torture and kill their own fathers, all using a magic pain-inflicting dildo called an agiel. The girls spend their rest of their days clad in form-fitting leather outfits and live only to inflict pain using the same agiel which was used to torture them and their parents.
On page 640 Richard is captured by a Mord-Sith named Denna, and is then tortured, including genital torture, for an astounding 70 pages. For me at least, abruptly dropping a prolonged sadomasochistic dominatrix fantasy into an otherwise blandly standard quest fantasy novel makes zero sense, but to judge from the popularity of the series I am in the minority. What rings false is that the reader is expected to join in the pretense that the sequence is anything but a boilerplate S&M sex fantasy: Goodkind tells his readers about Richard’s “desperate lust” for the “childlike beauty” of Denna, who is “breathtakingly, stunningly attractive” and ultimately has sex with him. The sequence is without exaggeration ten times longer than it would need to be if the purpose were only to advance the plot.
The Mord-Sith magic causes Richard to feel pain whenever he thinks negative or hostile thoughts about Denna, so he trains himself to focus instead on her attractive auburn hair. Ultimately he discovers that if he can reach past his hatred of Denna and feel only compassion for her, that short-circuits his magical enslavement and frees him. Learning to feel compassion for his enemies turns the blade of the Sword of Truth white, which Goodkind earlier explained will prevent Richard from becoming a Gollum-like creature like the former Seeker Samuel.
The idea that compassion for one’s enemies frees one from becoming the slave of rage is actually a good idea — my favorite in the entire series. However, I feel that Goodkind defeats his hero’s central moral transformation in two ways: first, Richard is able to muster compassion for Denna, who is tall, slender, “breathtakingly, stunningly attractive,” has awesome hair, and for whom he feels lust and with whom he has sex. Goodkind explicitly tells us that Richard is incapable of feeling that same compassion for Constance, the dominatrix who is short, less-attractive, has “dull brown hair” and is “stout” (in Goodkind’s universe anyone falling along the stout-plump-fat spectrum is automatically evil and needs killin’). Goodkind’s idea here is that Richard can feel compassion for Denna because, even though she told him to his face that she lives only to torture him, he senses a flicker of compassion in her; he does not sense this same flicker of compassion in the shorter, stout, less sexually attractive dominatrix. Both girls were identified as unusually-kind-hearted, both were abducted into a life of torture, but even in his moment of emotional enlightenment, Richard can still only muster compassion for the hottie. If Goodkind had identified the short, stout, non-pretty girl with lusterless hair as the one deserving of compassion, the moral lesson would feel 1,000x more authentic.
The larger issue is that Goodkind tells us Richard can feel compassion for Denna, but definitely not for Constance or his turncoat brother Michael. Since he is unable to view them with compassion due to their foul acts, and Darken Rahl’s acts are unambiguously fouler, we may infer that Richard would be unable to muster compassion for Rahl either. So Richard experiences a moral triumph so great that his magic sword turns white to show that he has overcome the snare of hating one’s enemies …but only the slim, tall, sexually-attractive enemy with a face of “child-like beauty” who he has sex with, not his three primary enemies. This makes his moral triumph unambiguously counterfeit.
“Her power, her magic, was also a weapon of defense. But it would only work on people. It would not work on a chicken.” -Terry Goodkind, ‘Soul of the Fire’
3. Heroes are really villains
Goodkind’s books repeatedly make the point that people can do evil things while under the impression that they are doing good things, and those people are particularly dangerous because of their conviction that they are right. That sounds pretty good in the abstract, but then Richard, Kahlan, Zedd and their allies behave in increasingly questionable ways, ultimately murdering the innocent non-combatant wives and children of enemy soldiers, slaughtering a crowd of unarmed anti-war protesters, and forcing a military dictatorship upon unwilling subjects under pain of torture, rape & death. Goodkind frequently spells out his somewhat dubious Ayn Randian rules of right and wrong, but then his own characters break even these rules repeatedly, until ultimately it’s hard to see any moral difference between his heroes and villains.
* Richard has no hesitation in lying to get what he wants. He repeatedly tells Kahlan that all he wants from her is friendship, while the reader is repeatedly told that he actually has constant sexual thoughts about her and his goal is a lot more than friendship. Richard tells the Mud People he only wants their friendship, while the readers know he really wants them to reveal the location of the Magical Thingy. Richard and Zedd both explain that committing a lie of omission isn’t *technically* lying. Gradually the heroes’ lies become more serious, like when Kahlan tells her soldiers they are free to leave, then orders them hunted down and murdered.
* In ‘Phantom,’ Richard’s army of D’Harans is smaller than the army of the Imperial Order. Therefore, Richard orders his men to slaughter their wives and children and bring Richard their severed ears. He explains: “From this day forward, we will fight a real war, a total war, a war without mercy. We will not impose pointless rules on ourselves about what is ‘fair.’ Our only mandate is to win. That is the only way we, our loved ones, our freedom will survive. Our victory is all that is moral.” In short, Richard agrees with Niccolò Machiavelli’s idea that the ends justify the means.
* In ‘Faith of the Fallen,’ Kahlan orders her soldiers to murder anyone travelling nearby roads, on the off chance they might be enemy spies.
* In ‘Faith of the Fallen,’ Kahlan has a plan for her army to take off all their clothes, paint their naked bodies white to pose as ghosts, and then attack a much-larger army. She tells them “you may speak your mind freely, without retribution.” A group of soldiers led by William Mosle say they do not wish to follow her into battle. “Go, then,” Kahlan commanded. “Before you become caught up in a battle you do not believe in.” After allowing the men to leave peacefully, Kahlan orders her captain to hunt down, intentionally deceive and slaughter them, then threatens to murder him too if he disobeys:
“They must be killed. Send a force with instructions that they are to pretend to join with Mosle’s men, so they don’t scatter when your men approach. Send your cavalry behind, but out of sight, in case they’re able to take to the woods. When they are surrounded, kill them. There are seventy-six. Count the bodies to make sure they are all dead. I will be very displeased if even one escapes.”
…Captain Ryan tensed in near panic. “Mother Confessor, I know those men. They’ve been with us a long time. You said they were free to go! We can’t…”
She laid a hand on his arm. He suddenly recognized the threat that represented. I am doing what I must to save your lives. You have given your word to follow orders. She leaned a little closer. “Do not add yourself to those seventy-six.”
He at last gave a nod and she removed her hand. His eyes told it all. Hate radiated from him.
“I didn’t know the killing was to start with our own men,” he whispered.
…Kahlan came to a stop before the tent. “If you think I may be making a mistake about those men, I assure you, I am not. But even if I were, it is a price that must be paid. If we let them go, and even one of them betrays us, we could all be killed in a trap tonight. If we die, there will be none to stop the Order for a long time. How many thousands would die then, Captain? If those men are innocent, I’ll have made a terrible mistake, and seventy-six innocent men will die. If I’m right, I will be saving the lives of untold thousands of innocent people.”
* Nicci (friend of Richard & Kahlan) tortures people, but it’s okay because she’s torturing for ultimately noble reasons (from ‘Chainfire’):
Nicci had no compunction about what she was doing. She knew that there was no moral equivalence between her inflicting torture and the Imperial Order doing what might on the surface seem like the same thing. But her purpose in using it was solely to save innocent lives. The Imperial Order used torture as a means of subjugation and conquest, as a tool to strike fear into their enemies. And, at times, as something they relished because it made them feel powerful to hold sway over not just agony but life itself …The Imperial Order used torture because they had no regard at all for human life. Nicci was using it because she did.
…so in Goodkind’s view, it’s okay to torture people, but only if one is doing it to save innocent lives. Even if you accept Goodkind’s “the ends justifies the means” idea, his “heroes” repeatedly behave in exactly the way he defines as evil, torturing people even when no important information is sought or gained. For instance, in ‘Wizard’s First Rule’ Kahlan magically enslaves child-molester Demmin Nass and, after Nass is no longer a threat to anyone, cuts off and forces him to eat his own testicles. In ‘Faith of the Fallen,’ Kahlan’s subordinate Verna orders that a captured enemy soldier be tortured to death for an entire night while Kahlan watches approvingly (”Fair? What isn’t fair,” Verna said with terrible calmness, “is that your mother ever opened her legs for your father”).
* In ‘Wizard’s First Rule,’ Zedd explains to Richard and Kahlan that “Every living thing is a murderer.” So if you kill someone to steal his money, or in self-defense, or one tree out-competes another for sunlight, apparently that’s all 100% morally equivalent. [See comment section for full text.]
* In ‘Naked Empire,’ a village of unarmed pacifists stage a peaceful anti-war protest. Richard and his men slaughter an entire crowd of men, women and children who are “armed only with their hatred for moral clarity.” What Goodkind calls “moral clarity,” psychologists call “splitting,” a hallmark of morally- and empathically-dissociative disorders including borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathy. [See comment section for full text.]
The above list is by no means exhaustive. Goodkind’s primary heroes (Richard Cypher & Kahlan Amnell) and his primary villains (Darken Rahl & Emperor Jagang) all run absolute military dictatorships which control an unwilling populace through war, torture and mass-murder, and they all believe that there is no moral limit on how much they can lie, kill and torture because they all feel certain that the ends justifies the means and their own ultimate goals are just. So what’s the difference?
So far as I can see, Terry Goodkind’s heroes very accurately embody Ayn Rand’s philosophy, but that philosophy is fundamentally morally dissociative, empathyless and unhealthy.
“Rand in my view is one of the most evil figures of modern intellectual history.” -Noam Chomsky
“Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America.” -Barack Obama
When told “We can’t sacrifice millions for the sake of the few” in ‘We the Living,’ Rand’s mouthpiece character Kira responds:
“You can! You must! When those few are the best. Deny the best its right to the top — and you have no best left. What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it? What is the people but millions of puny, shriveled, helpless souls that have no thoughts of their own, no dreams of their own, no will of their own, who eat and sleep and chew helplessly the words others put into their mildewed brains? And for those you would sacrifice the few who know life, who are life? I loathe your ideals because I know no worse injustice than justice for all. Because men are not born equal and I don’t see why one should want to make them equal. And because I loathe most of them.” -Ayn Rand, original published version of her first novel, ‘We the Living’ (1936)
Ultimately, the biggest problem with Goodkind’s series isn’t the poor writing, over-dependence on other people’s ideas or the author’s open contempt for world-building; the problem is that Goodkind’s heroes are really villains.
Ayn Rand was a big fan of ‘moral clarity’ (splitting)