Tag Archives: Fantasy literature

The Lord of Some Rings – or, how I learned to love “The Sword of Shannara”

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Yes, “The Sword of Shannara” by Terry Brooks has awesome/awful/epic cover art, doesn’t it?

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.

 

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Fat Reads, Groaning Bookshelves

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This post is inspired by a thread over at the nerd-friendly Sword & Laser reading group over at Good Reads – blimey, sci-fi and fantasy books are a bit on the portly side, wouldn’t you agree?  Not for many world-building fantasy authors the notion of a quick and dirty, 260 page novel – that’s barely a preface in the realm of the elves and darkling folk!

As much as I love the process of getting a new book, cracking the covers and disappearing into a new world, I still get a little intimidated when I pick up Markus Heitz‘s “The Dwarves” (my latest read) and noting that it runs to 733 pages – that’s a commitment and a half, particularly when you consider that this book is but the first entry in a series (Book two, “The War of the Dwarves”, is a girthy 752 pages, book three “Revenge of the Dwarves” is 800 pages and the final “The Fate of the Dwarves” is back to a manageable 752 pages).

That’s a long time to spend reading about diminutive bad asses with lovely beards and lethal axes, I’m sure you’ll concur.

One of the criticisms of this kind of fiction is that it tends to urgently need the services of an editor to weed out florid over-writing and excessive descriptions of armaments and architecture but that’s not necessarily a problem for me – I don’t need detail to aid my immersion in a fantasy universe but it does help to have a sense of what things look like and from where in history the author may have drawn from.  Educational and nerdy – my favourite combination!

The only problem with this kind of fiction – other than the hipness or lack thereof, which doesn’t bother me for a second – is that I’m going to need bigger book shelves sometime soon.  That or the local branch of Oxfam are going to get a bumper donation of older books next week.

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