The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks published the first week of April 1977. It altered fantasy publishing forever. While J.R.R. Tolkien is considered by most readers as the grandfather of modern fantasy, Terry quickly became its master, proving with sales that epic fantasy had a readership far larger than what people assumed with The Lord of the Rings. Before The Sword of Shannara, publishers did not believe in the viability of the large epic fantasy. Fantasy sections did not exist in the vast majority of bookstores. Once Terry and Ballantine Books published his debut novel and it became the first fiction title to spend time on the New York Times trade paperback list where it remained for five months, the publishers realized epic fantasy’s potential and began adding titles of their own.
It is an amazing book, not only for its history and how it has impacted all of us, but it is also a great book to critique. Many believe it copies The Lord of the Rings. Others don’t think so at all. As in most things, the truth is in the middle. If you look as closely at Sword and Rings as I have, it is easy to see a break in the narrative where Terry becomes his own author. As Frank Herbert, the author of the greatest science fiction novel ever, analyzed, “don’t fault Brooks for entering the world of letters through the Tolkien door. Every writer owes a similar debt to those who have come before. Some will admit it. Tolkien’s debt was equally obvious. The classical myth structure is deeply embedded in Western society.”
Since I’ve read both books numerous times, I also fall on the side of Herbert when it comes to the actual breakdown of the book. “Brooks reverts to his own style,” Herbert said. “Somewhere around Chapter 20.”
If Frank Herbert was alive today, he would not be able to ignore the contribution that The Sword of Shannara has made in the last 35 years. No one should. That’s why I am excited about The Annotated Sword of Shannara, which celebrates the anniversary and will be published October 2012. It is an important book, as it gives insight from Terry about how it came to be. Having worked on it in a supportive capacity, I believe it serves as a reminder of our past and how we’ve arrived at our present.
The annotations have been written, edited, rewritten, and finalized. I finished my work on the book two weeks ago and after Terry added his contributions as well as a few changes, the book went to editor Anne Groell. She looked it over, asked for a few annotations to be rewritten and, once done, she put the book to bed.
Now comes the fun part though. The Annotated Sword of Shannara is being laid out by the production editors at Del Rey. There is no easy way to place the annotations into their proper place in the book though. Once they are finished, they will send me a copy and I’ll place a legend key into the book highlighting where all 200+ annotations are to be. I’m actually excited to do this.
So I sit, I wait, and I prepare. Once the book arrives, I’ll put the finishing touches on it. Even though its been a month since I last read The Sword of Shannara, I’m excited to look the book over again and see the work we’ve all done. Especially since this week is so special. I’ll see the book like a new reader will see it!
But mostly, I’m excited for the fans. Because after all of this time, The Sword of Shannara deserves a re-read—or a first read!
October 16, 2012!