What was originally a decision to read the first two Shannara series has become a decision to read them all, in order. Well,more or less in order. Because of the way I started, I am going forward from Shannara and then looping back to the prehistory. Short stories will be tucked in whenever. Anyone who wants to join me is welcome to hop on board for this eccentric, erratic read/reread. Previous reviews are under Read all of Shannara.
The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Antrax it the middle book in a trilogy. Therefore, it is the book where everything goes to hell in a handbasket, and there is no end in sight. The crew of the Jerle Shannara is scattered, mostly demoralized, and trying to fight an extremely powerful computer and/or persuade an extremely powerful witch that she should give up her Ilse Witch ways. Also, they need to get their ship back. All attempts lead to further disasters and deaths, making this a dark book overall. The struggles certainly kept my attention, though at this point, there is more breaking down of character than building up.
Morgan is with Tamis fighting a battle with a persistent wronk and learning, with much heartbreak, what the Rindge meant when they said that the person’s soul is trapped in the machine. It is one of those battles that will never be fully won, no matter how it turns out.
Beck, meanwhile, is working on the other sibling relationship in the series: That between Bek and his sister, Grianne. This is reminiscent of the Jair/Brin pairing—assuming Jair hadn’t gotten to Brin in time. Grianne has already turned to the darkness and sees no reason to turn back. In fact, she has a vested interest in not turning back because doing so would admit that her entire life has been based on a lie and that she has done terrible things for no good reason.
Then there is the primary enemy of the book, Antrax. The computer presents a formidable threat largely because sometime in our future people either stopped watching movies or left 2001: A Space Odyssey and its descendants sit and gather dust. Antrax is what Hal would have become if no one had shut him off. Mind, the programmer was under a lot of stress at the time, what with a world-ending war going on and all, so perhaps the “protect at all costs” mandate can be excused. In any case, Antrax has taken his instructions literally and learned how to make humans useful in ways that have the side-effect of his chosen subjects living out some form of nightmare.
It’s a tossup at this point between the Ildatch and Antrax for “worst enemy.” Arguably, the Ildatch has done more damage because it has had more time to corrupt people. On the other hand, the damage Antrax does is far more personal and targeted. Book-wise, the computer has an entire book plus to torment people in (It isn’t responsible for quite all the damage done in Ilse Witch) while the Ildatch stayed behind the scenes for most of its trilogy. What do you think? Which one makes the worst enemy?
The characters are mostly those in Ilse Witch, and they remain an intriguing and mixed bunch. Tamis, Rue Meridian, and Ryer Ord Star are strong female characters who get as much development as the male characters. Still, while this is something I pay attention to and appreciate, Walker and Truls Rohk remain the most interesting pair for me. In part, this is a pre-existing bias. I already liked Walker from Heritage, and Truls is a fascinating, mixed character. He reminds me in many ways of Slanter in the way he takes the odd-mentor role and appreciates toughness in his charge, but he has an even stranger background.
Antrax ends with a nasty twist and a couple of cliffhangers, although not quite the cascade that Ilse Witch managed. Now, on to Morgawr, but not until I have read a couple of the other books waiting for me. I know—it’s the middle of a series, but I have been reading “just one more” Shannara book for a while now, so I’m deliberately not acquiring Morgawr just yet. It is the only way I can exercise any semblance of self control when it comes to the series.
Or the all-in-one version: The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara
Edit: I can’t believe that I almost forgot to mention this–Shawn Speakman (web druid of terrybrooks.net) has started a forum on site where people can talk about the upcoming show, and Terry Brooks’ books in general.