Entirely British friend Sherlock has generated an audio version of “It Could Be Us” that will go live next Monday. It sounds great! So
look listen for that next week.
Latest audio book is Armageddon’s Children, by Terry Brooks. Brooks is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. When I was a kid I consumed the early Shannara books with abandon. Elfstones, the second in the series and the first I read, was my always my favorite. That gradually tapered off as more and more prequels started appearing, and I got to reading other things. The similarities to Lord of the Rings have been discussed to death elsewhere, so I won’t bother retreading it here. I enjoyed them for the popcorn fantasy they were, .
So I thought I’d dip back into that well with the Genesis of Shannara series that bridges his modern urban-ish fantasy books with the Shannara novels. I actually had read the first of those, years ago, not realizing that he’d intended to ever link the two worlds.
It’s fun enough. It’s got all the hallmarks of the previous Brooks stories – young group of heroes thrust into an adventure, people discovering heretofore hidden magical talents, lone brooding demon hunters struggling to save the world, hordes of monsters threatening civilization, etc. If I took a shot every time I came across “gray” or “madness” I’d have died of alcohol poisoning.
What it also has, though? Those damned boring elves that are the other hallmark of the Shannara books. In the old ones they were little more than humans with pointy ears, but it kinda worked fine. They were just another group of people living in the world contributing to the adventures whoever they needed to.
This one, though, it’s a problem. The world is falling apart. This is in the not-terribly distant future, where wars and disease and environmental catastrophe have ruined the world, and hordes of monsters roam the countryside, methodically destroying humanity. Knights of the Word (prototype Druids of the later books) struggle to save some tattered remnant of humanity for the future. Human-demon hybrids who’ve sacrificed their souls to become monsters hunt them down. The last of society holes up in shattered cities, living off scraps and basically waiting to die.
Against this backdrop, enter the elves. They’ve been here all along, hiding from humans. They’re hanging out in the forest, and they have a magical tree that protects the earth for the teeming masses of demons that wants in to wipe everything out. (Which to be honest seems like a moot point at the moment.)
That’s fine. But as soon as the elves appear on the page (er, the CD), the book comes to a screeching halt. They’re set apart and not involved in the action. Their lives are pretty serene. They don’t seem threatened by anything. And they’re just not interesting. The story completely stutters and loses its momentum. I’m sure they’re necessary for the sequels, it’s just. Woof. Here’s some dead space that doesn’t matter.
This would probably be mitigated if there were something about the elves that made them unique. Like I mentioned before, other than minor physical features and the fact that their race has been around for a long time, they’re no different from humans. They don’t even have a significantly different political structure – there’s still a king and princes and all of that nonsense. I don’t think they’re even long-lived (though I could be remembering that wrong).
I just feel like, if you’re a fantasy author and want to have multiple races in your stories, come up with a reason for it. Give us something different and interesting to read and imagine. Maybe elves are used up for that? I don’t know. When was the list time someone did something really cool with elves?