As I get older, I find myself less and less bothered by what people think about the things that I enjoy – hence, I’ve chosen to return to Brooks’ first novel, after abandoning it previously in a fit of peevishness over the debt owed by the novelist to some obscure fantasy novels written by a British academic, back in the day. My reason? It’s not original, it’s not clever, but it is fun – if you allow yourself to just enjoy it as fantasy novel candy, rather than genre-busting, transformational literature which alters the landscape of the form forever after.
In many ways, it doesn’t surprise me that Brooks would eventually go on to pen the tie-in novelisation for “Star Wars – Episode One: The Phantom Menace” as his work has a fair bit in common with George Lucas’ ultimately divisive sci-fantasy blockbuster. Both writers lean heavily on breathless plotting, well-established archetypes/tropes and a sensibility so at odds with the critical establishment that it could well be deliberate.
Neither can be said to produce what might be referred to as high art and both are doing very well, thank you kindly, out of their nerdy, un-hip, Saturday morning serial brand of adventure yarn. And, on the evidence of “Sword of Shannara”, the 1977-vintage Brooks and Lucas were slightly confused by girls and, not knowing how to write such mysterious creatures, didn’t bother to.
This is knowingly nerdy stuff, folks, with all the plucky Dwarves, ethereal Elven warriors and mysterious Rogue leaders that you could yearn for/fear of in fantasy fiction. Your tolerance for it may directly correlate to how much you can handle post-Tolkien fantasy and whether or not your brand of escapism cleaves more to the grimy, neo-realistic worlds of George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie and Richard Morgan. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with either, but I do find myself drawn more to a more optimistic take on extraordinary events – which, for an often cynical soul like me, is quite a turnabout.
As ever, the idea of ploughing through many years worth of trilogies and series by an author fills me with some trepidation but I’ll report back if “…Shannara” continues to entertain me as it has been doing for the last week or so.
- The Annotated Sword of Shannara: Tolkien Lite, and That’s Alright! (tor.com)
- The New Yorker on how Tolkien invented sword and sorcery (crofsblogs.typepad.com)