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Quest for Middle-earth
The following review has been kindly provided by Jason Fisher. You can read his blog at Lingwë.
It had to happen eventually -- that the Da Vinci Code, Nostradamus, Celestine Prophecy, Mayan Calendar, extraterrestrial, mock-religious, mock-scientific movement would infect Middle-earth and seek to capitalize shamelessly on the success and popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien. Not since Gracia Fay Ellwood's "Good News from Tolkien's Middle Earth [sic]" (1970), with its psychedelic cover and supposedly supernatural photos, have we seen such a bizarre attempt to combine Tolkien with the paranormal. At least Ellwood had the sense to write, "I am not claiming that the work is true history -- only that it is truer than one might think." But Dirk Vander Ploeg's thesis is precisely that -- that "The Lord of the Rings" is, in fact, true history, mystically divined by Tolkien, blah blah blah ... It doesn't help his case that Ploeg is the "owner, editor and publisher of ufodigest.com" (author's website).
I have not read this entire book -- nor do I need to do so. How can I dare review a book I haven't read? Well, what I *have* read is the author's own statements regarding his "research". I've also taken a look at the book's official website (which you can find on the press release) and read the posted excepts from the Introduction and Chapter 1. And frankly, it's just awful. A conspicuous absence of citations, one unsubstantiated claim after another, and plenty of outright errors. It hardly deserves response, honestly, but I wanted to warn others away from it. It is *not* a serious study. It's painfully obvious here that the pseudoscience being deployed to serve the author's thesis is just patently ridiculous. A few highlights:
-- "Recent discoveries by archaeologists and historians have found evidence that indicates that elves, giants, dragons and even hobbits once existed on earth."
-- "Dirk has researched scientific, biblical and historical texts to discover if J.R.R. Tolkien had secret knowledge of earth's early history and if he based the Lord of the Rings on this knowledge."
-- "If you're a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, Dan Brown, Zecharia Sitchin or Erich von Daniken then you'll love Quest for Middle-earth."
Umm, one of these things is *not* like the others...
Here's the bottom line. Sometimes you *can* judge a book by its cover ... and its publisher, excerpts, and marketing collateral. The book is obviously self-published (by somebody or something called iUniverse-Indigo), and I'm certain it's without the support of the Tolkien Estate, and probably without even their knowledge. Serious students of Tolkien are advised to steer clear. Caveat emptor.