Monday, November 19, 2012

Little Yellow Gnomes

Eryn and I have been reading The Sword of Shannara trilogy.  I read it as a 16 year old at camp when I was a BSA counselor.  What I remember most was getting the first book wet in my tent, swelling to about three times its normal size, and yet I still read it, enough so that I remember it fondly after all these years.

As we've been rereading it, I've come to suspect that what I really enjoyed was camp and my surroundings, and my enjoyment of the book was a direct result of that situational enjoyment.  Because it's just not very good.  Great for reading to my daughter.  She's having a great time.  But a bit melodramatic, poorly written, and seriously stealing from Lord of the Rings.  Disagree?  Tell me where this scene comes from: wizard fights with evil, demonic creature, lots of fighting action, both tumble into a fiery pit.  While it could be argued that's a basic scene in any fantasy book, it's pretty close in the actual details.

As for the writing, here's an example:
"Get away while you can, hateful one!" Allanon commanded in the most menacing tone any of the members of the company had ever heard him use.  "You frighten no one here.  We will take the Sword, and you will not stand in our way.  Step aside, lackey, and let your Master show himself!"
"I will destroy you, Allanon.  Then no one will be left to oppose the Master!  You have been our pawn from the start, though you could not have guessed.  Now we have you within our reach, along with your most valuable allies.  And look what you have brought us, druid--the last heir of Shannara!"
Might as well be Snidely Whiplash and Dudley Dooright.

And I'm worried it might be racist.  On page 183: "The gnomes gathered together in a yellow group."  Dubious, subject to debate, but I get the weird feeling that the little yellow angry gnomes descended of people from the past (who were us) are Asian.  They run around in bonsai-style hordes attacking the pretty nordic folks, like the humans and elves.  And the dwarfs.  But who doesn't like to smack a dwarf around.  They're built for punishment.

You Offend Me, You Offend My Family disagrees and feels the elves must be Asian.  So maybe our own racial prejudices and preferences are playing into our perceptions.

I don't seem to be the only one who thinks old Terry Brooks is sort of unpalatable or a blatant lifting of most of the Lord of the Rings.  I know he got better as I read some of his later books.  Maybe we should have started there.

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