Reviews of ‘Elric of Melnibone,’ ‘The Life and Legacy of Muhammad’ and ‘The Rise and Fall of the British Empire’

Elric of Melnibone book 1

This is a fantasy classic, first published fifty years ago. This feels old, in both good and bad ways. The good is that the prose feels more lush and vital than a lot of modern stuff I read. The bad is the cliched tropes. This has everything from helpless fainting princesses, noble princes, evil cousins seeking to kill the king to inherit the kingdom… you get the idea. But here’s the thing: I’m willing to forgive older books of these sins because these tropes became cliche as a result of how good books like just this one are, codifying those tropes. I had a few more quibbles, but nothing major.

While I read this, I can feel the lineage of older stories in it: this reminds me of some Conan stories, and other similar warrior-prince stories. While I read this, I can feel the lineage of newer stories derived from this: I can feel echoes of everything from D&D, Warcraft and anti-hero fiction like the modern grimdark wave.

Credit where it’s due, the prose here was good. This is an older book, and I must say that when I read older classics they usually have better prose than modern books. It feels that fantasy authors back in the day had to focus on their prose in order to get some respect for their books- a habit which has since faded in the modern fantasy tradition. Modern prose really doesn’t hold a candle to what a lot of the old masters could do. Reading this book on a sentence-by-sentence level was lovely.

Did I enjoy this? Yes. Did it have it’s flaws? Yes. It was only 180 pages (or just 4ish hours, in the case of the audiobook I listened to), meaning this didn’t overstay it’s welcome. I am willing to read more in this series, but I don’t make it a very high priority.


The Life and Legacy of Muhammad

Goodreads

This is a 5 hour lecture series on the topic of Muhammad. It begins by discussing pre-Islam Arabia, then discussing pre-prophesy Muhammad’s life, post-prophesy Muhammad’s life, and finally Muhammad’s legacy with the Ummah until the modern day.

This lecture series provides a mostly positive depiction of Muhammad’s life, interpreting him and Islam in general in a way so it’s easy for a Westerner or Christian to understand. It does not go deep into his life, instead focusing on the broad events in his life. I found it insightful.


The Rise and Fall of the British Empire

This is a Lecture series about the history of the British Empire. The lecturer focuses on the mercantile aspects of British history, from the Industrial Revolution, to the slave trade, to the East India Company (as well as similar colonialist companies), up until the modern day with WW1 and WW2, as well as the Cold War and decolonialization. It also discusses some cultural topics, such as sporting (in kricket) and decolonialist literature.

This was a good lecture series, in part because the lecturer was very honest about his opinions. He was not afraid to bring up the bad parts of British history (from the repression of India and Ireland, in which MANY people were killed. Also discusses the biological genocide of the Native American people), but at the same time he goes out of his way to say ‘The Empire brought about more good than bad.’ I liked the fact that the lecturer was very clear about his biases, so I know that the information I’m getting from him might be slightly skewed to be apologetic for the empire. When I do further research into this topic, I will delve into anti-empire sources to balance out my worldview.

If you’re curious about British history, I’d say that this is a good place to start.

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