My Dungeons & Dragons geek-out continues with the second book in R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf trilogy, Exile.
As the book begins, Drizzt Do’Urden, the drow elf with a heart of gold, has been surviving in the wilds of the Underdark for ten years. Meanwhile, his evil family back in Menzobarranzan have not forgotten about him. In order to appease their evil spider goddess deity, they send out the reanimated corpse of Drizzt’s father to kill him.
Drizzt’s decade as a savage in the Underdark has been lonely: so lonely that eventually he journeys to the city of the deep gnomes and turns himself in, just to have some contact with other living beings. He knows there’s a good chance the deep gnomes will summarily execute him, since drow elves and deep gnomes are sworn enemies, but he believes that’s a fate preferable to what he sees happening to him: his exile in the Underdark has unleashed a primal, instinctive killing machine side of him that even he finds frightening. However, his friendship with Belwar, and their adventures together, reconnect him with other living beings and help him rediscover his true self.
Another thing I found interesting was how the author addressed the body/spirit dualism so common in modern science fiction and fantasy. This is the idea that the spirit of a person (sometimes called mind, or soul, or personality, or essence, or simply described as all the person’s knowledge and memory) exists within the body the way a computer program exists within a computer. The “memory banks” can be separated from the “hardware” and copied onto any other piece of hardware. Or, conversely, the “memory banks” of a person can be erased from the hardware and replaced with other “software.” You see this trope in Star Trek a lot, like the one about the three beings who live in those glowing globes and switch places with Kirk, Spock, and another crew member. There’s an episode of The X-Files where a character hooks herself up to a super-computer and uploads her “self” onto the Internet. (That episode was written, BTW, by William Gibson, originator of cyberpunk and coiner of the phrase “cyberspace.”) Zombies are another version of this, in which the soul is gone but the body still somehow functions physically.
The body/spirit issue comes up when Malice Do’Urden, Drizzt’s mother, conducts a diabolical rite to reanimate the dead body of Drizzt’s father and send him out into the Underdark as an assassin. It is under Malice’s complete control, and she uses it as a remote-controlled puppet to hunt down and kill her son. The body retains all its amazing sword skills but none of the father’s personality, memory, or emotions. Drizzt, however, believes that this is a load of hooey:
The physical powers of the body cannot be separated from the rationale of the mind and the emotions of the heart. They are one and the same, a compilation of a singular being. It is in the harmony of these three–body, mind, and heart–that we find spirit.
The spirit cannot be separated from the body. Not in life. And not in undeath.
Well said, Drizzt!!
I won’t spoil it for you, but the final confrontation between Drizzt and his zombified father is quite good!
Book I in the Dark Elf trilogy: Homeland
Book II in the Dark Elf trilogy: Exile
Book II in the Dark Elf trilogy: Sojourn