Tolkien’s latest novel?

So, I may be the last geek around who hasn’t read any of the Lord of the Rings (really I tried, and I will try again, but seriously, the beginning of Fellowship was just too much for me to bear when I was a teenager). But I’m curious about the Children of Hurin – a book begun by J.R.R.Tolkien, but finished by his son, Christopher. Strangely, Amazon has an interview with Adam Tolkien about the book – who is Christopher’s son and as far as I can tell, doesn’t really have anything to do with anything.

I don’t generally feel that this type of work ever really works out. I lump three types of works into this group:

· this kind where somene who isn’t the original author finishes an existing but incomplete work by the author
· the kind where someone goes back and writes a sequel or prequel to the works of an author (see the latest Amber novels by Betancourt)
· the kind where the original author revisits his own work many years later (see the latest Ender novels by Card).

I’m a sucker for them – I really like going back to those worlds that are so incredible and even if the writing is never as good nor the ideas ever as fresh, it’s fun being back there for a little while. How else can you explain that I went to the theaters to see Episodes I and II? They all lack something essential that was so vibrant and great about the original works. Sometimes they’re good enough to entertain, which is all I ask for (the latest Ender novels, as an example, they’re a fun quick read). Sometimes they are not only bad, they retroactively ruin the originals (Episode 1 as an example, so the force is actually a bacteria? and you can have a scanner to see how strong the force is? ugh).

Still and despite all this, I’m a sucker for it. Maybe this time it’ll be awesome. I don’t think there’s anything inherently stifling about it, if a new author can take inspiration from the original and build upon that. I still hold hope, I guess that’s just the optimist in me. Have you had any experience with this type of work where the secondary was at least nearly as good as the original?

PS Is it completely wrong to read this new one before I read LOTR?
PPS I finished Dawn of Amber and it was all kinds of awful, and yet… still entertaining enough for me to want to read on. This happens because I love backstory and apparently my brain is able to gloss over poor writing in the name of more backstory. Sadly and WTF’ly, the next book, Chaos and Amber, is selling for like $50, which is way too much. I could get it as an e-book, but do I really want to read a whole novel on computer or pda?? I bought Manna from Heaven instead, to keep with my Zelazny kick.
PPPS There some critique and then critique of the critique linked to from tokiennews.net. (slightly circuitously via AdamSchwabe.com)

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