This is not a review. Stories are after all a labor of love. Shouldn't they be loved and cherished rather than put on trial, dissected, compared and judged? I like reading and I like to hold those lovely images the words have conjured close to my heart and share the same with the world. But that necessarily is not a review, eh? For a reviewer takes the position of a judge, jury and executioner and pronounces a verdict on a book. Doesn't sound like much fun, does it? So I decided for a change I shall just ramble on about the book I last read.
Well the book is by this guy Terry Brooks. Incidentally he is the first fantasy author I have read after Tolkien. His most popular series is one known as Shanara series. I somehow did not enjoy that series all that much. But that I guess is more my fault than the author’s. The series has multiple sub series which are standalone but within a sub series the books tell one continuous story and have to be read in order. But I unfortunately read them in random order often following books in one sub series with a book from a different sub series. So it became like the experience of seeing a movie in bits and pieces. You know some of these popular oft repeated movies: you switch on the TV and the middle scene is running. You have always wanted to watch it but not got an opportunity. You sit to watch and some work comes along. Then another day the last scene is coming on TV and the first scene comes on a third day. Somehow you have watched the entire movie; yet you have not. The experience somehow does not feel wholesome. That is what happened to me in the case of Shanara series. Maybe I need to pick them up again and read them in proper order.
Well, the author has another series – ‘Word and the Void’ – which I read in order and enjoyed. Now Shanara is high fantasy while ‘Word and Void’ is urban fantasy. For those of you who do not know the difference, the former is a fantasy set in a whole new world different from our own while the latter is a story in our own world with some fantasy elements such as say dragons, witches or vampires. Coming back to this new book I am reading, it is a new trilogy that establishes a link between the stories told in ‘Word and the Void’ and the ‘World of Shanara’. In some ways, without the urban fantasy elements, it becomes a kind of science fiction, exploring the future of our world. From the point of view of Shanara however, the story reads like history. In that way it kind of brings together my three favorite genres – science fiction, fantasy and historic fiction. That way this post should have been on my other blog – Three Realms of the Mind. But then that blog is supposed to be a useful resource for information on these genres while this one is for my idle ramblings.
The story talks of a post-apocalyptic world. Humanity has fought wars, cut down the forests and polluted the land, water and air. The whole world is in shambles. Human and animals are mutating under the effect of the chemicals. We have new mutated species of humans called spiders, lizards and croaks – all grotesque effects of chemicals and radiations. The world is no longer safe. There are just a few small pockets of safety called compounds where small groups of humans live marshaling their limited resources under strict martial law. Then there are the underprivileged orphans who have not been accepted into these compounds – groups of street boys and girls who form gangs and live on their own foraging for resources from the ruins of the destroyed human civilization. The protagonists of the story are one such street gang lead by a boy who calls himself the Hawk. In some ways, this part of the story oddly reminded me of Peter Pan and his lost boys.
Then we have the other story line – the urban fantasy part from ‘Word and Void’ series. That series sets the world as a battle ground between the forces of good and evil called the Word and the Void. You have agents of the Word called Knights of the Words and agents of the Void called demons battling it out. The author tries to portray the current state of the world as a result of the activities of the agents of the Void, who feed on negative human emotions such as greed, envy and anger and exacerbates the same. We have here two Knights – Angel and Logan on separate quests for the Word, who appears to them in the form of a Goddess – this kind of reminds me of Zoya from cartoon series ‘Captain Planet'.
And last but not the least the third story line connecting to the world of Shanara – the elves. Yes, elves, the elder race from Tolkien! Apparently they are still here and have chosen to withdraw from the world and stay hidden from humans who have taken a path of destruction. Now apparently the destruction of the world would affect them as well and they have to act, but then they have a leadership resistant to change. Kristin is an elf who sees the need for change and the urgency and has to battle inertia and bureaucracy of his race to mobilize them to act.
All the story lines are left hanging at the end of the book, but the linkages have begun to emerge. I need to pick up the other two books to know what happened next. Characters are not too complicated but you can relate to them. Even minor characters like the members of Hawk’s gang have some history that make interesting reads – that kind of reminded me of the TV series ‘Lost’. To someone reading this post, this book might sound like a magpie’s nest with trinkets picked from all over the place and stitched together. Possibly that is what the book is – but it is still a fun read and I enjoyed it.