Friday, October 12, 2007

The John Carter Effect

So I'm zipping along reading The Elves of Cintra, which is the sequel to Armageddon's Children which I reviewed a couple of posts ago, and having a fine old time, but being ever introspective, I suddenly wondered why I'm enjoying this current work of Terry Brooks far more than I have his other series? I mean, I found the Shannara books I'd read previously to be entertaining and competently written, but I'm liking the new ones much much better.
Along about page 100 it hit me. One of the heroes, Angel Perez, the Knight of the Word, meets the titular Elves for the first time. They're fairly standard post-Tolkein elves. Narrow faces. Pointed ears. Bows and blades for weapons. She's a Hispanic girl raised in the post apocalypse ruins of L.A. Major culture clash. It is what I have termed The John Carter Effect.
See, as much as I love Conan and Jirel and Druss and Elric and Fafhrd and the Mouser, I have never been able to fully identify with any of them. I have much the same issue when I read historical fiction. I may like the hero, but I can't really get behind his point of view. I prefer to read about protagonists from the here and now. That's why I love time travel stories so much. Seeing how someone from today reacts to the strange things he encounters in the past. Similarly, I love fantasy stories where someone from earth goes to another world.
Which brings us to John Carter, a man from earth who finds himself on Mars. I remember being completely blown away by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books when I was thirteen or so. I sought out any other sword & planet (as the genre is known) books I could find. Lin Carter's Jandar of Callisto and Green Star novels. Alan Burt Akers' Scorpio books. In all of these, someone from here goes there, but none can compare to the adventures of John Carter, the greatest swordsman of two worlds, the Warlord of Mars, the champion of...well, you get the idea. I have read and re-read those books many times over the years and will doubtless read them again.
So I'm always looking for fantasy books with heroes from earth that end up on some strange world. It's why I was able to read Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books before I could read The Lord of the Rings. It's what I liked about Robert Heinlein's Glory Road. It's probably the reason I liked the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon so much. And I'm reasonably sure it's the reason I'm enjoying the new Terry Brooks trilogy as much as I am. Contemporary Earth people meet Elves and demons and even the King of the Silver River, a mystic character who's in most of the Shannara books. It's not quite sword & planet, but I'll take what I can get.


Gabriele C. said...

Have you read Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar trilogy? It's along those lines as well.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I have indeed read those, Gabriele. Thanks for the suggestion though.

francisco said...

Den by Richard Corben