Thursday, October 16, 2014

No Dawn for Men by James LePore and Carlos Davis

Reading No Dawn for Men was a guilty pleasure, because I have to think J.R.R. Tolkien would have hated it. Let me explain: in 1938 Germany, Tolkien and James Bond author Ian Fleming join forces to prevent the Nazis from gaining control of an ancient artifact that would allow armies of the dead to be brought back to life. They form a “fellowship” to return the artifact to a certain location where it can be destroyed by fire. They meet dwarves (with beards and murderous skill with axes) and beautiful, tall, beardless youths who have a way with nature and provide them with “honey wafers” that keeps them on their feet for days. They meet and are aided by a mysterious "ranger."

Fleming also is threatened with torture in a bottomless chair and falls in love with a woman who may or may not be trustworthy.

Tolkien is in Germany to talk to the Germans about translating The Hobbit into German; Fleming is ostensibly there as a reporter, but he is in fact a spy. Although the premise is ridiculous, I still thrilled at all the references to the Lord of the Rings. (For example, the person with the artifact says, "The parchment and the figurine must be destroyed together. If they are not, there will soon be no more dawns for Berlin, no more dawns for men." (p. 68))

I’m not a Bond fan and I’m sure I missed many of those references. The narrative is definitely more Bond than Middle-earth. The styles of the two authors are quite different and the language felt quite forced at times, the two styles almost clashing.

This is not a great book. It could have used some editing. (For example: "In a few minutes they uncovered a dark, anvil-shaped stone as high as Shroeder's waste [sic]." (p. 241)) It’s hard for me to imagine that someone who is not a big fan of either Fleming or Tolkien would get anything out of this book. But if you are a Tolkien fan, you might find yourself, like me, enjoying the Lord of the Rings reminders. Guiltily.

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