Jun 15, 2010

[Books] Armageddon's Children (Genesis of Shannara Book 1)

Armageddon's Children (Genesis of Shannara Book 1)I first got into Terry Brooks books at a young age - in fact he was officially my first fantasy author in my collection. The Shannara books were easy enough to get into and I enjoyed Brooks' light yet creative writing style and his inventive approach towards large-scale battles. Of course once I read Tolkien later on in life, I realized the similarities, and yet the Shannara books have always remained close to my heart.

Then came another Terry Brooks series of books - one that was eventually known as the Word and Void series of books. This featured a more contemporary fantasy setting with demons and their ilk fighting a secret war behind the scenes of our world. The books were a lot darker than the Shannara books and yet there was just something about them that really sparked my interest. So yeah, I definitely became a fan of that particular sub-series.

So it was quite the pleasant surprise that Brooks eventually wrote books that somehow linked these two universes together as one, which was something I had speculated to some degree when I first completed the books in both series. Thus it was probably inevitable that I'd try to read this link between the worlds.

Armageddon's Children is the first book in the Genesis of Shannara series, which aims to link the Shannara and Word and Void storylines. Whereas the Word and Void stories were set in our times with the Knights of the Word experiencing dark visions of the future, these books are set well within this post-apocalyptic period. Mankind is under assault from armies of corrupted humans called once-men, as led by their demon masters. All organized resistance has crumbled and now the last vestiges of human society try to survive in various compounds that are like small fortresses setup in stadiums and other large halls. So yeah, it's a pretty bleak world.

The novel starts with Logan Tom, a Knight of the Word, continuing the fight against the demons. Things have been bleak in recent years and it seems there are fewer and fewer Knights of the Word still active in the world. It is in this period that he receives instructions from the Lady herself - a magical creature of old known as the gypsy morph is back in the world and it is up to him to find it. The gypsy morph is prophesied to be the one who will save the remnants of mankind in order to save them from the coming cataclysm. Another knight named Angel Perez is active pretty much on the other end of the country and she receives a surprisingly different mission from the Lady.

In another part of the world, a group of children have managed to survive the horrors of this world and have a modest life for themselves. They were primarily brought together by a rather gifted boy who calls himself Hawk and his new family unit of sorts is called the Ghosts. Living in a secret underground bunker of sorts, they realize that things are changing in the city as strange occurrences imply a new force of nature killing some of the nearby residents. Then there's the strong vision that Hawk has about leading his new family to a different, safer place.

Brooks has gotten very comfy with the multiple book story arc, and that's a pretty good thing from a commercial perspective. It guarantees that he writes pretty much in trilogies and that kind of continuity encourages more fans to pick up the books. The flip side is also rather true though since trilogy writing tends to be rather formulaic or even strained at times.

I was a tad disappointed that this book didn't feel like it accomplished anything on its own as compared to his previous books. Yes, it is the first book in a trilogy, but it doesn't mean that the book doesn't have to stand on their own. While it does establish the key plot lines for the whole arc, the story ends at a slightly odd and unsatisfying point in things and I wish this had been better considered. 

Then there's the challenge of the setting as a whole, which was an inevitable downer. The older books only gave us glimpses of our dark future. This book starts us out in this bleak period and it looks like things are fated to get even worse over time. The massive armies of the Void certainly seem unstoppable and as always the powers of the Knights of the Word remain ambiguous and inconsistent in terms of their strength against the demons. The concept of magic was always weird in these books and I never quite determined the extent of their abilities. That always bothered me to some extent and it looks like they're not going to better quantify things here.

I have to admit that of all the story arcs, I enjoyed the adventures of Hawk and his Ghosts the most. Both Knights of the Word remained cursed with italicized memories of the past invading into their storylines while the Ghosts just had to depict survival in this scary world. They provide a more interesting perspective to this whole world that really puts you down in the trenches with them. There are certainly echoes of later creatures of Shannara amidst the darkness of this world and it's nice to speculate how things might eventually come to be.

Armageddon's Children was a decent book for the most part and it's only really the ending that irked me. It was deliberately crafted to force people to buy the next book in the series, but that might not be such a bad thing. It gets 3 references to flechette guns out of 5.
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