book by Terry Brooks
annotation by Philip Barragán
As a writer it is important to know your audience. And after eighteen books on his mythical world of Shannara and more on other fictional lands, Terry Brooks knows what his loyal readers want to read. Unfortunately, Brooks does not utilize the skill of writer who has written over two dozen novels nor does he attempt to capture the interest in a new reader with good literature.
Brooks begins with a smart premise of a post-apocalyptic world and the various creatures that inhabit this world. He tells the story to the reader without allowing the reader the chance to observe the world. To his credit, Brooks has given extraordinary thought to every detail and insists on telling the reader everything he/she should know. Unfortunately, there is an abundance of detail (read: excessive data download) that Brooks keeps the reader from getting to know the characters. The author places himself between the character and the reader throughout the entire novel. The reader is made acutely aware that the author is guarding his characters and will not allow the reader to get to know the inner thoughts about each character. Additionally, Brooks introduces dozens of characters in epic proportion and creates three storylines that prevents the reader from following each one comfortably. The author gets caught-up in flooding the reader with details from each storyline that we completely forget about the other characters.
As for simple writing rules, Brooks speaks from multiple characters in third-person close within one paragraph, line to line. As a completely omniscient and distant narrator, everything is known and told to the reader. There is no effort to be made by the reader to figure anything out. Brooks explains everything in great detail, overwriting each paragraph and each storyline.
Characters are cliché without any effort to make each one unique. There were several instances where Brooks contradicts the nature of the character in the sentence following a statement. It seems as if there was no editing for consistency in the storyline. One example is his explanation of the elves caring for a tree that needs their human touch to help it grow. However, in the following paragraph, Brooks states that the elves are not human beings.
Within the first half of the book, Brooks invokes Huxley’s title as if to summon the spirit of good speculative fiction: “It was a brave new world for this crew…” Brooks is not successful in his endeavor.
I would hope that a prolific writer would improve on his or her style after a dozen novels. I would hope that a fellow writer might make a suggestion on how to improve one’s writing. I find it hard to believe that a writer would not be interested in improving one’s skill unless his editor tells him to continue writing just like his first book. Why change what works, or sells? If this is true, I can see a lonely muse locked away and crying as it bangs its head against the cellar wall, screaming to be heard.