Despite writing three blog posts on this book, I haven’t written a full review of it (as far as my reviews of books go, anyway), as those posts were answering questions as part of the group read hosted by Writers’ Bloc. So I have decided to sum up my overall feelings about the book, finally.
Anyone who has seen my Goodreads lately might have noticed that I gave The Hobbit three stars, and this is perhaps a rating that would offend almost everybody, because most people I know either love The Hobbit as a great children’s fantasy, or utterly loathe it as a load of absolute drivel. But, I just…like it. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I am glad that I read it, and there are parts of the story I won’t forget. I think the upcoming film adaptation of it will be amazing, and possibly far superior to the book, so I am glad I read it before seeing those films, too.
The biggest problem for me, which I spoke of in earlier posts, is that the beginning of the book is just too boring. The writing style isn’t as heavy as it is in Lord Of The Rings, Tolkien’s much more famous masterpiece, but despite this, and more importantly, the story just didn’t really grab me. A bunch of dwarves and Gandalf appear, and force Bilbo along on an adventure to defeat a dragon and reclaim treasure that is rightfully the property of the dwarves. A pilgrimage type fantasy story quickly emerges, and everything bumbles along rather predictably. And whenever the characters find themselves in trouble, Gandalf pulls a few tricks and ta-dah, they’re all safe.
After a hundred pages or so of this, I was nearly ready to put the book down, but luckily it was around this point that something significant happened – Bilbo was separated from the rest of the group. Not only did he have to keep himself alive, and actually begin his ascent to a more heroic status, but this was where he met Gollum and got his grubby little hands on the ring (yes, that ring), and suddenly the story became interesting. Not too much after this, Gandalf has to leave to “take care of business down south”, thus thrusting our unwilling hobbit into a more inspiring role as the main character of the story.
The middle part of the book I enjoyed immensely, I must admit, and I raced through it in a very short amount of time. The scenes with the giant spiders, in the Elven prisons, and even inside the mountain with Smaug the dragon were all brilliant. But then the final part of the story came along, and I quickly realised that the big event I was expecting to be the end of the book had occurred far too early, and that something else was going to be the climax. That’s okay, I like surprises. But then just as the action really heats up, Bilbo is knocked out, and the story is cut short. And yes, the rest of what happened is related to him later by Gandalf, but somehow it just feels like we as readers have been short-changed at that point. More than that, the hero himself has little to do with the final conflict, which doesn’t sit right with me. While there are elements to this ending I did like, it did feel a little rushed, a little forced, and surprisingly sloppy.
I guess I am being quite harsh towards The Hobbit. I can see why it is much loved, and I can see how influential it has been. I also am aware that although it’s nowhere near as good as LOTR, Tolkien did spend 12 years writing that book, so it’s not really fair to compare the two. I don’t think I’ll be re-reading The Hobbit, but I am glad to have ticked it off my list, and overall I did enjoy it and do consider it necessary reading for any fans of the fantasy genre, or anybody with writing ambitions – even if you’d never write a book like this, I think this is one of those stories you have to read once. It is a kind of duty, really.
So there we have it. The Hobbit, a good novel, but as far as I’m concerned, not a great one.
What are your thoughts on this book? Did you like it or hate it, and why?
Do you think the upcoming film of this will be superior to the book?