Monday, October 08, 2007

Armageddon's Children

Picked up a used copy of Armageddon's Children, the first volume in Terry Brooks' latest trilogy on Saturday. This trilogy, subtitled The Genesis of Shannara, is supposed to link two of Brooks' series, The Knight of the Word novels and the Sword of Shannara books. I've only read three of the Shannara books, the later trilogy The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, and only one of the Knight books, Running with the Demon, so I'm only somewhat familiar with both series. I know that in the Shannara books, Brooks has dropped hints that the Tolkien-ish world of the Four Lands is our own world in the far future and in the other series that the mission of the Knights of the Word was to save human kind from destruction.
Apparently the knights have failed because in Armageddon's Children the nukes have flown and the plagues have come and the world is overrun by the servants of the Void, the demons and the once-men. Most of what remains of humanity live in fortress like compounds that are slowly being destroyed by the demons. There are only two Knights of the Word left in the world and both end up charged with quests that are part of the last hope of humanity. Deep within the forests of Oregon, the last of the elves live in hidden enclaves, having withdrawn from the world of men in the distant past. They too will perish if the demons of the void have their way.
This is an interesting mix of post-apocalyptic science fiction and heroic fantasy. The knights fight the usual post nuke tropes. Mutants and monsters and genetically altered humans. There's a group of scrappy street kids who reject the compounds and live wild in the streets of what was once Seattle. The narrative jumps between the points of view of the two knights, Logan Tom and Angel Perez, the street kids, and a young elf named Kirisin.
Brooks has always said that he is less a writer of fantasy than a writer of adventure novels in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott and Alexander Dumas. I think that's basically true. Armageddon's Children is fast paced, with lots of action and plenty of fight scenes. I read 220 pages of this 317 page hardback at a sitting and will probably finish it up tonight. Brooks' novels are the literary equivalent of a good TV show or movie. Nothing thought provoking. Just good entertainment. I know he's taken a lot of flack over the years about his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, because many thought it too similar to Tolkein. I haven't read it so I can't comment, but I will say that his later books owe very little to the Lord of the Rings. His prose is clean and straight forward, and he knows how to tell a story. Armageddon's Children is out in paperback and the second in the series, The Elves of Cintra is out in hardback.


Allie said...

This book sounds awesome - now I want to run out and acquire it. I have yet to read any of the Sword books - is it best to read his books in published order, or does it matter?

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Allie, I'd say that you could jump right into Armageddon's Children without having read any other of Terry Brooks books. I'm sure there are references to his earlier works that I missed, but I wouldn't think there were too many.
That said, if you want a deeper enjoyment of the book, I'd recommend reading Elfstones of Shannara and Running with the Demon first, which would give you all the basics of both the Shannara books and the Knight of the Word books.
Most of Brooks' trilogies are self contained and don't require knowledge of his previous books. Many of the novels are stand alones, including First King of Shannara. I haven't read them all, and I've never had any trouble with the ones I have read. Hope that helps. I picked up the sequel, The Elves of Cintra, last night. but probably won't crack it until the weekend.