Death Gate by Margaret Weis
The Death Gate Cycle is one of the most amazing series that I have ever read. It is exciting and thought provoking, and the theme is much deeper than good vs. evil. Those who read into the books will find that there is always a question of what makes a person good or evil. The first four books are very exciting, and if read alone might make some of the pulp fiction ever written. However, it the last three books that link the books together and truly allow the theme to shine forth. Many I have spoken with have said that the last three books are far weaker than the first four. While I will agree that the abrupt ending to The Seventh Gate annoyed me, I do not agree with those that say the last three books are "boring" and "poorly written." Since there are many acclaims for the first four books, I will concentrate on the last 3 and why you might like them.
Let us start with "The Hand of Chaos." One of the most common complaints I get from here is that the main characters are not portrayed correctly. They are absolutely portrayed correctly. What surprises many people is the way the characters change. If you like your characters to remain unchanged, staying the people you like, do not read this book. Every character you know and love goes through tremendous growth. I personally like my characters to grow and learn and become something better, and it is this growth that Weiss and Hickman wanted to show. Once again, if you do not like characters questioning their own beliefs and changing their actions, you absolutely should not read this book. If you do not like your characters showing restraint and making a journey rather than blowing obstacles into small pieces with their powerful magic, don't read this.
Go on to "Into the Labrynth." In order to read this book you must understand how the characters have changed. That is, if you didn't get or enjoy "The Hand of Chaos" then this book will confuse you, because many characters will "suddenly" have a change in heart and do things that they wouldn't have done in the original 4. This is where you suddenly understand that you don't really know who all are the "Good Guys" and who are the "Bad guys." Those you might have thought were heroes do things that will shock you and those that you thought evil will suddenly see the error of their ways, repent and begin to suffer for their sins. But the lines are still not clear, and it is here that (if you had not realized it to begin with) That Weiss and Hickman hit you over the head with the theme. If you find repentance "wishy-washy" and if you do not care about the journey the characters went through, do not read this book.
"The Seventh Gate" is, unfortunately, the weakest book of the lot, but still satisfying. The issue of who is good and who is evil is not fully resolved, but the pieces start to fit into place. Many loose ends are tied up in a short amount of time, and the whole thing seems... quick... But if you've read the previous six, not reading this one isn't an option. Just zoom through it, making sure to read through it _thoroughly_ because some threads are tied up in the matter of a paragraph, or in the case of Hugh the Hand, about a sentence. Some of the most poignant moments appear in this book, so if you were actually invested in the progress of the characters and you don't want to cry, then don't read this book... If you wanted to see Xar as the good guy (again or finally,) then do read this book.
Then make sure that you re-read all the others, because once you realize the theme that you are looking for, you can see it wind it's subtle yet powerful way through each and every book. Once again, the last three books do require some thinking, so don't give up. Once you are finished you will have a better understanding of what truly makes good good and evil evil.
Submitted by TIGERB8
What was I thinking? I waited this long to read this awesome journey. When my mother told me to read this book one day and I thought to myself, I don't like fantasy, it is not in the genre of reading material I am accustomed to, but what the heck. I sat down for about a 10 minute reading session and the next thing I knew, I was at the bookstore getting the following 6 masterpieces.
The characters are so magnetic, that I felt as if they were family. I was immediately drawn to all of the characters in this read. The worlds as they related to this day and time was incredible. They were some of the best characters in the books.
I am a true advocate for reading and continuing education through written words, but this was the first time I actually would create a soundtrack in my head for the worlds, the characters, and the plots. Becoming rarely bored, I started to realize that this would come to an end.
The recommendation for this was be my strongest as of yet. It puts all other fantasy in the minors of storytelling. Great job Weis and Hickman. Can't wait until the movie comes out.
Submitted by agent agape
If there is a series that has touched my life in a magical way, then I would have to give the glory to The Death Gate Cycle. I was given this series by my friend and I told him I would get to it as soon as I could. Months later I started reading and now I can say that I have read this series through three times. For those of you who like an amazing read twice, pick up the adventures of Haplo and Alfred. This series will be better the second time and even more magical the third time around. Weis and Hickman truly have a gift for developing the most memorable characters in fantasy storytelling. With a unique style and a lot of wit, this writing team has conjured a world full of heroes and villians with hearts as large as life. From themes of selfless love between friends and terrifying ambition from the antagonists, The Death Gate Cycle allows you the reader to enjoy the very best in fastasy storytelling and finish the series with satisfaction. It's always great to know that you have read a story that comes straight from the heart of accomplished writers. I truly believe that if you were to ask which project meant the most to Weis and Hickman, they would say this series. It shows in the way the themes of friendship are so richly written. This is not a series of action and adventure only. This is a story of the heart. The central themes of these books are very richly woven into situations that we all face everyday. The magic is in the characters. By focusing on the series in this way you truly will see the series as a whole and not as book one,two,three,etc... Pick it up and let Weis and Hickman bring the human heart into a world of magic and fantasy.
Submitted by Irene
Well, great there's a place I can say something about all this thing. Well, nothing new - I agree with many previous speakers: the brilliant, brilliant, sheer brilliant starting of the cycle... and the complete loss of that brilliance to the end of it. The first four books are awesome. Though, unlike other people expressing similar views, I like the fifth one, too. But the sixth and especially the seventh books were... damn it, helpless. What's the matter? Nothing to write about? Nope, there are a lot of themes raised by the authors that never got their solution and ending in the cycle. Tired? No time to write profound novels? Necessity not to exceed the quantity of words prescribed in their contract? Never knew. Never will know. Never will want to know. I know only one thing: an unprecedented fantasy cycle, a cycle that could make its authors rival Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin as the King and the Queen of fantasy, was literally strangled to the end. I never understood why such a dull ending to the Hugh/Iridal and Alfred/Ola romances. Why such a refusal to work out the concept of the Higher Powers. Why everything is finished in some forgotten room in such a sorry way - no contacts with other realms, eternal internal struggle. Damn. Too bad.
And still - there are brilliant books starting the cycle! There are stunning concepts - the wave theory of magic, the using of runes, elves and men as 'lower' races, the merciless description of what 'a child's innocence' is in reality (never met such Banes? I did). The Dog as Haplo's soul, his true self. The brilliant humour by Zifnab (yeah, Fizban - but how he got into this other world? Don't tell me he's simply a Sartan who saw the Sundering himself...)
And then, there's that brilliant game. That is, for me the game was first. Perhaps that's why I liked its outcome much more: everything is decided not somewhere in the Seventh Gate, but in the Vortex, definitely in the center of all universe. And the result is not isolation, but on the opposite, the start of great work in all the available world. And - well, that's personal - I liked much more the idea that Edmund stayed alive! No Alfred in the game, though, what a pity. But what stunning layouts!
Submitted by Heresy
The first four books were well developed in that they contained a wonderful new place with all sorts of creations, people and politics. If you're going to read anything of this series, the first 4 books are the ones to read. (Ignore the last 3 books as they are a tremendous let down to the remainder of the series.)
Though the books are subjected to the "RANDOM PLOT" motif that Weis and Hickman use throughout their novels, the first four books were filled with lots of interesting twists and turns. My main gripe about the series are the last three books.
In layman terms, sucked rocks.
Book 5 was a shadow of what the first four books were attempting. It encompassed a weak plot, characters that suddenly lost characterization in favour of shifting the "poor" plot, and lack of all description of the very worlds they had taken the painstaking trouble to create.
Book 6 and 7 were the worst. They were simply badly written filler to finish of a story the writers got tired of doing. It was as if they had ghostwriters or someone just as bad to finish off the last 3 books because they lacked all energy, all creativity that was included in the first 4 books. What was the point of putting all that effort in the first couple of books if only to lose all steam and completely screw up in the end.
I can barely remember what happened in Book 6 and Book 7 was so flat and unbelievable that I couldn't understand how this could have been published. The characters lost all sense of purpose and the two main races which Haplo and Albert hail from "SUDDENLY" forget their differences and join forces - JUST LIKE THAT. Argh, the unbelievability in which things happened just ruined the series for me.
The good vs. evil fight gets simplified so badly that the message the authors give is "Good will always conquer Evil". First four books are worth reading, but ignore the last 3.