In LOTR Tolkien's characters are shallow, his plotting straightforward and his villains uninteresting - but every time we have any kind of book poll here in England LoTR wins the 'Best Ever Book' category by a very wide margin because the book speaks to us on levels no other work does.
Yeah, but I must be missing something, because LOTR speaks to me on... uh, precisely no
levels whatsoever. When I can't bring myself to care about the characters, as I've said before, I won't care about their stories. Period. For me, characters drive the story. Characters are
, essentially, the story. Failing that, there's the plot. If neither characterization nor plot grabs me, all bets are off. I only finished LOTR for the sake of it being the foundation of modern fantasy. (Note the word "modern"; I know that LOTR is hardly the
foundation of all fantasy genre or something.)