How Bakker's Judging Eye sees around the usual pitfalls

Fantasy author R. Scott Bakker says that his latest novel, The Judging Eye, is epic fantasy, but that it avoids many of the traps of the genre.

"Long epic series notoriously suffer from the 'bushing effect,' where writers continue to multiply viewpoint characters and so transform initially clear narrative arcs into thickets of parallel action," Bakker said in an interview.

At a certain point, Bakker realized that he had fallen into the same trap. "Even though my readers only spend a few hours with my main characters, I spend thousands of hours with them, which makes the temptation to 'freshen things up' with new viewpoints well nigh irresistible," he said. "Luckily I caught myself, scrapped everything and started afresh, this time faithfully sticking to my original cast."

The Judging Eye is part of an epic fantasy sequence, which began with The Prince of Nothing. It tells the story of Kellhus, who can manipulate men the way men can manipulate children, and his brutal and troubling rise to mastery over the Three Seas—all in the name of saving the world. "In The Judging Eye, his power is complete, and he at last embarks on his great military expedition to prevent the destruction of the world," Bakker said.

The central protagonist is a broken-down sorcerer named Achamian, who used to be Kellhus' tutor but has since become his sworn enemy. "Achamian has spent years sifting through his dreams of the First Apocalypse, looking for clues to Kellhus' origins," Bakker said. "In The Judging Eye he enlists a company of Scalpers, half-mad men who make their living hunting Sranc in the northern wilds, to help him find the secret birthplace of the Aspect-Emperor."

Next up for Bakker is Neuropath, a techno-thriller. "No matter what civilization you look at, every human during every age has assumed that the world they 'knew' was the world," Bakker said. "That feeling of certainty you have, the one that moistens your eyes and braces your heart, is no different than the feeling of certainty felt by suicide bombers or concentration-camp commandants. In fact, feeling certain is the primary symptom of being duped. These are simply facts, so the real question becomes: What are the chances that the world I believe in is a lie through and through? Exceedingly high, if you consider all the competing worlds humans have cooked up over the ages. ... Neuropath asks precisely this question."

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