Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks

Everyone swung about to face the collapsed wall, prods coming up defensively. They stood motionless for a moment, listening. Nothing happened. No movement, no sounds. The seconds ticked away, and the basement seemed to grow stuffy and warm. Finally, knowing he had to do something, Hawk started forward to take a closer look. Candle grasped his arm instantly, pulling him back. "Don't go in there!" Hawk looked at her in surprise. "What is is?" She shook her head. Her face was pale and drawn, and her eyes wide with fear. She could barely make herself answer him. "We have to get out of here. We have to get out right away." The way she said it made it clear that she felt there was no room for argument. Hawk looked at the others. "Go back up the stairs, right now." "Wait a minute!" Panther was right in his face, his voice angry. "We came all this way across town to turn tail and run? You want us to leave the tablets behind?" "Go back up the stairs." Hawk repeated. "Go back up the stairs yourself!" Panther snapped and wheeled away. As the others watched in disbelief, he started toward the back of the room and the deep shadows, ignoring the looks directed after him, oblivious to Candle's hiss of warning. Hawk started to follow, then stopped as he realized he could not turn Panther around without risking a confrontation that would likely do more harm than good. Not knowing what else to do, he swung the thin beam of his torch after the retreating figure to help light his way. Panther reached the piles of crates and move through them, neither hesitating or hurrying. Then abruptly, he disappeared from view. ~Excerpt from Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks Before picking up "Armageddon's Children" by Terry Brooks I hadn't read a book from the Shannara universe in almost 15 years. Terry Brooks was one of the first fantasy authors I ever read and his style of writing had a lot to do with laying the foundation for what I think of as "real" fantasy writing. I liked the original Shannara series quite a bit when I was in my teens though my interest waned as I got older and I sought out new authors with newer ideas. Now though, I find myself returning the beginning. "The Genesis of Shannara" is the latest series of books by Terry Brooks. "Genesis" starts with "Armageddon's Children" and it ties together the story of our world with that of the Shannara universe. I haven't read the original books in years, but now I find myself wanting to go back and see if there are hints that Shannara is built upon the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Earth. At any rate, it's an intriguing story. Earth has been torn asunder by the recklessness and greed of world leaders. All of our worst fears about nuclear, biological and chemical warfare have come true and humanity is barely hanging on. But underneath all the mundane reasons that mankind might have used to tear itself apart is a larger battle between good and evil. In another series of books, Terry Brooks had introduced the concept of "The Word & The Void" to describe where good and evil exist. I haven't read that series (though you can read "Armageddon's Children" quite easily without having read the "The Word & The Void" series) but it's pretty easy to extrapolate that "The Word" is good and "The Void" is evil and that demons get their power from the Void. Logan Tom is a Knight of the Word. His mission is to try to save the remnants of humanity from the Demons and Once Men who hunt down and enslave the survivors of the holocaust. For most of his life Logan has been fighting a losing battle and trying to find a reason to keep fighting when he is told of a magical being called "The Gypsy Morph." He is told that he needs to find The Gypsy Morph and protect it because the Morph is the last best hope for the survival of humanity. A street kid, known only as Hawk, is the leader of a makeshift family that lives in the ruins of Seattle Washington. Hawk has visions of a better life-- literal visions, and the other kids who follow him believe he will lead them to a better place and a better life. But living on the streets is beyond dangerous. The fallout from nuclear war and the various plagues that have befallen humanity have filled the world with mutated versions of mankind that prey on the rest of the survivors. Food and water are scarce and dangerous and everyday is a battle to survive. Adding to the already considerable challenges is the fact that Hawk is The Gypsy Morph. Hawk doesn't remember his childhood so his destiny is unknown to him. But the demons that are looking for him have started to narrow down where he lives and Hawk soon finds himself in even more danger than before. Angel Perez is also a Knight of the Word, though she finds out she has a different quest entirely. She is to track down the remaining elves, hidden in the hills of the Pacific Northwest, and help them save The Ellcrys, a tree that holds up a barrier between the demon world and our own. I really enjoyed going back to one of the authors who initiated my interest in fantasy in the first place. When reading "Armageddon's Children" I kind of felt like I was reading "old-school" fantasy because the feel is so different from much of what I read now. The story in this book could very easily fit into the paranormal category if it wanted to-- but it doesn't. Mostly I put that down to style. Much of what I think of as paranormal fiction has a formula that involves a lot of sarcastic dialogue and the villains/heroes might be demons, though they're just as likely to be vampires or werewolves. Despite the presence of demons here, the feel is definitely not in the urban fantasy or paranormal category. "Armageddon's Children" is good, old-fashioned fantasy. The magic is a lot like what you might find in "The Lord of the Rings" or anything by David Eddings. It's sorcery that comes from within the user. It's a burst of light that can harm or heal. Overall, the story is pretty good. Terry Brooks has been writing fantasy for over 30 years and it shows. I know that some of his older books could get a bit repetitive, but this one is fairly unique, especially since it's the first in the series. The story-lines do contain a lot of the mentor-student relationships that I have seen in earlier books by Brooks, but the mentors here are mostly realized in flashbacks and the heroes spend most of their time on their own. And the blending of apocalyptic fiction with high fantasy is a very interesting combination. The only thing that struck me as a definite negative about the book was that it is one of those books that stops mid-action. A total cliff-hanger. Fortunately, all three books in the series have already been published and I already have a copy of the last two books. Whew! If you have enjoyed Terry Brooks in the past then I think it's a sure thing that you'll like this book. For me, it had all the good aspects of a Brooks' book without the predictability I had come to expect from some of the Shannara series. If you haven't read Brooks and you like high fantasy, or even dystopian fiction, you might give this a try. It's not as gritty as some of the more recent publications like authors like E. E. Knight's "The Vampire Earth," but for someone like me, who doesn't always like stories that are too grim, that's a good thing.


DesLily said...

kinda funny.. i reread the original trilogy of the shannara books just this year... its one of those series that stuck with me since i was younger.. reread eddings too!..boy you sure pulled out names from old series! (all excellent i might add)

RD Williams said...

It has been years since I read the original Shannara books, but I do still remember them. I do remember little references that could point(for the reader) that their world was built on an apocalyptic future. The very first book in fact has a little hint or two in some of the descriptive detail.

I might have to check this one out. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I've actually never read a thing by Terry Brooks. My education is sorely lacking.