Friday, January 8, 2016


I'm guessing this is Seattle in the far far future
Three years ago at a bookstore in suburban West Seattle I was browsing the stacks and doing some Christmas shopping when an announcement came over the Tannoy that a local author called Terry Brooks was in the store and doing a book signing. Now, most of you won't know who Terry Brooks is, but he was a big part of my childhood. As a kid I was really into Tolkien, CS Lewis, TH White that kind of thing and then I discovered that a whole bunch of people who weren't dead were also writing epic fantasy: Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Julian May, Raymond E Feist etc. Some of these books were good and some felt like Tolkien or Dungeons and Dragons rip offs (Feist's career began, apparently, when he decided to write up his D&D campaigns as a novel). I ploughed through Brooks's Shannara books in a couple of weeks and was particularly impressed by the Elfstones of Shannara which had a creepy changeling character that gave me nightmares. So that day in Seattle I wondered over to the signing area and found Brooks sitting there with the publicist having signed everyone's books. I chatted to him for about 25 minutes and he was a very affable, likeable guy. I told him about my liking for the Elfstones book and he told me that that was the one they were turning into a TV series. Great, I said, I'll look forward to that. 
Be careful what you wish for. If I could spin the clock back to 1980 I would have been super excited to know that there was going to be a Hobbit movie or three, a Terry Brooks TV series, a series of Narnia movies... Unfortunately they are all shit. I think we can now all agree that The Hobbit movies were a disaster up there with the Star Wars prequels. The Narnia movies were very cheesy and the Shannara series that started on MTV on Tuesday night has apparently been designed solely for younger teenage girls. I'm guessing this because there are lots of handsome dudes with their shirts off, the story focuses on a Katniss Everdeen type character and it follows the show Teen Wolf which also has a big teenage girl audience. The acting on Shannara is of the soap opera variety (there are some very curious line readings indeed), the CGI is cheap and cheerful and the production values ain't exactly Game of Thrones. But really the problem is the focus of the show: about 15 minutes in I realised that I was not the target demo and had to stop watching. 
The only thing I found interesting about the Shannara pilot was its opening titles which seemed to suggest that the Shannara universe is actually Earth in the far far future after the continents have changed shape and new races of sentient creatures have evolved. This echoes my own theories about where Game of Thrones is actually set and I kind of dig all that future dying Earth stuff.  Gene Wolfe is an author you should read if you like that trope. Anyway, Shannara ain't my cup of tea but I don't really think it's meant to be.