Saturday, July 24, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 2

This is the second part of an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a writer.

The Sword of Shannara
by Terry Brooks

The Sword of ShannaraWhen I was a kid in the 1970s, fantasy fiction wasn't easy to find in the towns where I lived. Of course I was able to get my hands on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but nothing beyond that was available. Which was a shame, because after reading Tolkien (and seeing the first Star Wars movie) I yearned for more fantasy.

Along comes author Terry Brooks.

And the gates of the heavens opened and the faithful were allowed entrance!

The Elfstones of Shannara (The Sword of Shannara)I actually started my Shannara reading with the second book in the series, The Elfstones of Shannara. I'd stumbled across a big paperback version of that novel at a local book store and I had to snag it up. But soon after that same book store got in a paperback copy of The Sword of Shannara, and I was swept away in fantasyland.

Over the years I've read not quite a half dozen of this author's books, and admittedly I've never been blown away by them, but in all fairness I've read worse and seen worse out there on the market. But Brooks helped me through the latter parts of my childhood and early teens, giving me exciting fiction to read when there was a dearth of it available to me. Brooks even helped me through a couple of tough spells when my mom was in the hospital in the very early 1980s, and I had to spend days upon days in waiting rooms with nothing to do but read. So I've always had somewhat of a soft spot for Brooks, especially his world of Shannara.

Over the years, Brooks has often caught grief from some fantasy fans who have accused him of being a Tolkien ripoff. Those fans' opinions are not completely unjustified because Brooks' early Shannara works have a lot in common with The Lord of the Rings, things like elves, dwarves, swords, quests, druids that seemed an awful lot like wizards, etc.

But for a kid dying to get a fantasy fix and finding little else available, Brooks was awesome.

I can't say Brooks has had a direct influence upon my own writing style, but his subject matter was definitely fuel that kept my own fantasy fires burnings. Also, I love one of Brooks' nonfiction books on writing, "Sometimes the Magic Works," mainly because the way he approaches writing fiction seems quite similar to my own, an immersion into the writing that at times seems to take one away from or out of the real world, almost in a spooky kind of way at times.

If nothing else, the Shannara books kept me reading and kept me interested in fantasy fiction. But I'd like to think there was a little more than even just that to the whole thing. I'd like to think Terry Brooks helped me along my road to become a fiction author.

Next up: Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell


Charles Gramlich said...

I just couldn't get into the humorous fantasy stuff that Brooks did. I was never able to read one of his books.

Ty Johnston said...

I've read one of his humorous books, and didn't care much for it.

But, in case you didn't realize and it might affect your opinion, at least the first three Shannara books aren't humorous.