Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Talismans of Shannara: The Platypus Reads CXC

Reading The Talismans of Shannara, encountering its particular tone again after so many years, brings with it a constant succession of images.  For some reason, Tyrsis and Varfleet are linked in my mind with the wintry world of Narshe in Final Fantasy III/VI (the book predates the game by two years).  I suppose there's also a Resistance in the game and several attempts to enter and escape an occupied city.  Still, I'm not quite sure how these things became connected in my mind.  Other disjointed memories come floating in: eating bread and cheese in the basement before going out to shoot with the bow and practice knife throwing, listening to the BBC's production of The Hobbit, playing a Tolkien ccg in the vaulted family room during a thunder storm.  Was I reading the book when these things happened?  Why these images and not others?  I don't know.

One thing I do know: we did because we read.  Our world was interesting because it was wrapped in story.  Hiking, fishing, archery, knife-throwing, wilderness lore, canoeing, camping, weren't mere pastimes, they were doing the sort of things our literary heroes did.  The woods were more interesting because they were elven.  Because there was Eldwist, all abandoned buildings were transfigured.  There were no Shadowen in the woods, but the woods became different once we knew that they were the sort of woods where Shadowen might live.

Those are my thoughts.  It's odd to have them connected to a piece of light fiction that I wouldn't have bothered to pick off the shelf for summer reading if I hadn't had a reason for it.  Maybe that's Terry Brooks' ultimate triumph: creating images, however poorly, that sink into the leaf mold of the brain and wind themselves into the way we see our world.

*Begin Plot-Relevant Material*

Today's post brings us up to the mid-point of chapter nine.

Too many prison breakouts.  The Tyrsis prisons will have to install revolving doors, ours heroes go in and out of them so fast.  So now we have Damson in prison and Padishar and Par organizing a jail break.  This, of course, goes awry and leaves Padishar in jail with Par and Damson free to organize his rescue (which, after some initial resistance, they don't seem in much of a rush to do).  The scene does keep the plot moving, however, and gets rid of Padishar long enough for Par to begin developing a little heroic spine.  Par's choice to drag Damson out of the prisons and abandon Padishar moves him out of the passive role that he's had for quite some time now.  Indeed, Brooks was obliged to find some way to get Padishar out of the way from the moment he appeared on scene just to give his major character enough room to grow (an thus catch up with Wren and Walker).  The capture scene is at least and efficient way of doing that that flows logically from the plot and characters.  Plot a tone are really all that are saving the novel at this point.

As Padishar and Damson escape, Brooks wisely begins uniting the different threads of his master-narrative with the discovery of Paranor and the return of Coll.  Paranor offers some hope for our hitherto much thwarted main character, and Coll gives Brooks the perfect excuse to pry him away from his chief prop: Damson.  This is the pattern of character growth that has worked so well for Walker and Wren: take the character, remove everything that supports and defines them and see what they do.  The episode with Coll also gives Par the further assurance that the Sword of Shannara is real: another powerful win that should give him the courage and determination he needs for some darin' do.

Finally, we shift the story back to a more developed character: Morgan.  Morgan's become fairly cool since his journey north and now he's actually a fit hero to follow.  Morgan has been wailed on for most of the time he's been on screen and I'm guessing that much of his time in this final episode will be spent rebuilding and healing.  We get a little picture of this in the flashback to his illness after coming down into the Rabb.  The main venue of this healing shows up almost immediately in the form of Matty Roh.  Lose one girl, get new girl.  Not very imaginative, but it will keep the story moving.

That's as far as I've gotten.  There's lots of adventure, but little substance so far.  We'll see what happens once the novel kicks into high gear.

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