Silmarillion (J.R.R.Tolkien/Christopher Tolkien) - Random House Ballantine Del Rey 1977 (442 pages)

This easily the worst book I have ever read.  Published four years after the death of J.R.R., this is apparently the history of Middle Earth where two-legged beings (elves, dwarves, orcs, etc.) are more technology-challenged than your average Amish community.  The book is filled with characters and places and everything has two or three (or more) names.  For example, Aragorn of Arathorn is also known as Estel, Strider, Thorongil, Telcontar, King Elessar and Twinkletoes.  (I made up that last one but not the others.)  However, there is very little continuity and really no story.

The first draft of the history of Middle Earth was written in 1917 when Tolkien was stuck in a field hospital with trench fever (that explains a lot!).  According to Wikipedia, Tolkien was not able to sell any of his writings until 1937 with The Hobbit which was followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955) that I call "Hobbit-to-the-Third-Power," "Hobbit-Cubed," or "Hobbit3."

I read The Hobbit and the ring trilogy in the 1970s when I had a lot of time on my hands.  I vowed never to read another of his books until recently when I discovered three more parodies (Sillymarillion, Sellamillion and The Roadkill of Middle Earth).  It took me two months to read Silmarillion, five to ten pages at a time (flipping back and forth between the text and the 50-page index of names), trying not to fall asleep and somehow keeping all of those names straight.

At the end, I concluded that J.R.R. Tolkien was really just a crazy old coot who spent all of his time creating an improbable world where some powerful wizards can make magical rings or swords (with names like "Glamdring") but could never remember how to make a replacement when one was lost or stolen.

And what is "Silmarillion" anyway?  The book does not explain its title and the word never appears in the text.  Internet blog mavens claim that "Silmarillion" is the "mythopoeic tale of the Silmarils" which are the "three jewels made by Feanor before the destruction of the two trees of Valinor and filled with their light."  If I rated books on the elven number scale, this one would be "zeromarillion" for a "monumental waste of time."  [JAM 2/6/2009]