Friday, November 07, 2003

An odd letter to Terry Brooks

Mr. Brooks,

I have a problem with you. It's nothing personal, since I've never met your ex-lawyer ass. My problem isn't even with your writing style. In fact, I've been a fan of how you write since 7th grade when The Sword of Shannara appeared in the school library. I've read every novel you've written, including the adaptation of Hook, and I'll probably read everything you write in the future (except, maybe, for another Star Wars adaptation, ugh).

If I'm such a fan, what's my problem, right? I'll tell you.

My problem is with the last four books you've written and the next two to come. For those who don't know, or care, they all took place in the world of Shannara and are, in general, based around creating a new Druid counsel so peace can be brought to the Four Lands, the first three were a trilogy (The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara), and the newest will also be a trilogy (High Druid of Shannara). Usually, I'm a huge fan of trilogies, but only when each book can stand on it's own. I like it when there are connections between the books, leading to an ultimate conclusion together, but I want the books to stand on their own enough to feel like within the 300+ pages there is a beginning, middle, and end.

Look at your other Shannara groupings: The original trilogy had seemed to be more of an after thought, loosely connected by using the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the very first book. Fun books, but not a trilogy like Asimov's Foundation. Now, The Heritage of Shannara (even though it's four books) is more my idea of a trilogy. The first book brings together all the main characters then divides them on the quests. Next two are for individual characters. Fourth finishes the quests and brings the characters back together to end the trilogy. Each book stands strongly on it's own. Even if they are read out of order, which is what I did, a reader can understand everything that's going on.

The best trilogy you've written was The Word & the Void. (This trilogy is the best to support how I want trilogies to be written, and just the best in general. I've read it three times and each time it's better.) Each book stands strongly on its own and can be read without knowledge from the other books. Sure, knowing exactly what happened in the fist book is useful to the third, but not absolutely necessary. I like how each book builds on the tension from the last book, but knowing specific plot points isn't necessary.

This is not how the last two trilogies you've written (are writing) work. These series seem to be one novel split-up into three books to make more money. Sure, if the books were put into one volume, it would be 1000+ pages, but that's the way they should be read. Hell, that's the way The Sword of Shannara is written.

You may say to that this would apply to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but at least he built up to a climax before he ended the book. I just finished Jarka Ruus and didn't find any major build-up in action or tension at the end of the book. Yes, there were tense moments and scenes with action, but where was the major conflict between two characters? Where was the emotional conflict? Yes, I know that there is some conflict in there, but it's not major. In fact, it's hardly in the book at all. I guess the conflict is coming in the second book, right? So, I have to wait a year to get a sense of tension, that's not right, especially for those of us who buy the books in hardback.

You're not the only author doing this. Since Lord of Chaos, Robert Jordan has written this same way. There has been no major build-up of conflict or tension in the past four books. I want the book coming in December to be better about that, but I'm not getting my hopes up too much, and I suppose I'll let the world know when I finish reading the book.

Every time I think about this problem, I tell myself that I just shouldn't buy books written by you, and others, anymore. But I can't stop myself. I like your world too much. I enjoy learning the history of worlds that aren't the one that I live in, even if it means I'll be spending $60-$75 (or much more in the case of Jordan) to get the conflict I desire.

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