Briar Patch Research
I have just finished reading an interesting Tolkien knock-off, The Last Ringbearer by Kiril Eskov. It is available as a free download from The Tenseg Press—honor to them—at http://www.tenseg.net/press/lastringbearer
There is a fairly good workup on it on Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer as well
Normally I hate fanfic, and avoid it... this one is way different, and deserving of note. Sadly, the Tolkien Estate is reportedly cranky about it, but since they approved Peter Jackson's eviscerating REWRITE of the story... I just don't care. “Courtesy to living authors” (and their estates, when they have Gone West) only goes so far: Tolkien himself took the editorial stance that he was translating existing mythologies and histories and fanfic (fan-written knock-offs) have been a central part of the work’s vast marketing success over the last 50 or so years. This is the best piece of Tolkien fanfic I have encountered.
Declaring the Lord of the Rings to be “history as written by the victors” The Last Ringbearer retells the history of the Dawn of the Fourth Age through the eyes of various inhabitants of Mordor, Umbar and other civilized Southron nations. The book is an adventure story, and I refuse to give away anything more than I already have, so it must suffice to say that The Evil Empire was a hotbed of capitalism, science, technology, and the early stages of representative government… all of the things that Tolkien expressed disapproval in “The Scouring of the Shire” and other episodes. You can actually see hints of this work buried in Tolkien’s text—advanced Orcish medicine, metallurgy, and in many places orcish behavior that… just wasn’t typical of the mindless killing machines they are so often alleged to be. Not a hobbit to be found, either.
For context, I reread the ENTIRE Red Book of Westmarch every year from 1967 through my viewing of the first PJ movie, when I just gave up. My first attempt at a master's thesis discussed it as a work of Campbellian "creative mythology." I think I know the story line, footnotes and mythopoeic antecendants fairly well. This fanfic knock-off is... a superior piece of work, hanging together in many ways better than the original, and certainly better than PJ's adaptation. The writing is a bit rough, perhaps due to multiple translations, but, damn, there is an actual appreciation of the economic, political and social ramifications of the stuff the fanboys gush on endlessly about hidden here. The author has a top-notch mind, and a meticulous understanding of the Westron mythos.
ANYONE who grew up reading The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit and the Many Fiddly Bits That Followed should read this work.