The Way of Kings is littered with intellectual ideas – a fact I missed the first time I read it, presumably because I was too distracted by the story. That is, itself, a good thing, as it means the story is gripping. But on a second read, I felt those included intellectual thoughts were telling me as much about the author as the story.

I’ve probably forgotten some, but here are a few I spotted:

  • Atheism, the arguments for and against it, and particularly the tendency of some to not understand how one can even be an atheist;
  • The atheist’s wager – the notion that if one lives a good life, god will forgive you your disbelief, and if he doesn’t, then he’s not a god you want to worship anyway;
  • The nature of morality and what makes an action inherently good or bad;
  • The question of whether morality springs from the divine or not, and the idea that it is better to do good for good’s sake than for fear of punishment by some god
  • Questions of morality versus practicality
  • Is there a distinction between doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons?
  • What makes a god a god?
  • Justice vs mercy and whether a life of goodness and atonement makes up for one very bad deed.

A lot of this, but not all, is included in Jasnah Kholin’s scenes, as she is a scholar of some renown, and a woman after my own heart – a critical thinker who questions everything! No answers are necessarily offered in relation to the questions posed – and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing, because it means the reader doesn’t feel preached to. The point is that the mind turns to the question in the first place.

I’m reading Words of Radiance right now, and I’m sure I’ve missed more of these pearls, but I did just spot another one – a discussion of the correlation between intelligence, compassion, and practicality, and the observation that those with an over-abundance of intelligence might find themselves entertaining ideas that seem like a good idea (but probably aren’t) such as requiring people to pass an intelligence test in order to breed.

Such a wealth of conversation topics! I would much rather sit down and discuss any of these in preference to the boring tedium of small talk – even with a perfect stranger! In fact, just a few weeks ago I did have a conversation on topics like this with an accountant I’d just met.

I’ve never had an answer to the question “If you could choose one person, alive or dead, to talk to for an hour, who would it be?”

But I think, now, that I do – and it’s you, Brandon Sanderson. We might not necessarily agree, but the conversation would no doubt be stimulating!