Since taking on my library job over a year ago, I have read a lot of books… not at work mind you, as I find our school’s 15-minute-a-day reading period is often taken up either helping students find a good book or shhhhing those who obviously haven’t found one yet. Instead, I read at night, usually books I can recommend to teen readers of every different taste, or, classics, that as a writer and librarian I’m ashamed I haven’t quite read yet. This, the lack of a full classical book repertoire, is, as I’ve mentioned before, because of my first love of book genre – - the fantasy/sci fi book. One of my other shortcomings as a librarian, is recommending teen girl romance novels. That shortcoming as well, is because of my own teen reading habits. My brother had a vast collection of carefully preserved fantasy and sci-fi books, and I was careful enough with books (a tell-tale sign of my ultimate employ as a librarian?) that he let me read them all. Who needed teen romances if you could read about the adventure-packed romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia which armed me with such classic lines as, “I’d sooner kiss a wookie”?
Some of my brother’s old books have ended up in the current collection of well cared for fantasy/sci-fi books my son and I have put together. My brother is likely unaware his books are missing, but, as a guy who spends his days keeping computer networks running, he says he doesn’t even feel like checking his e-mail at home. So, I’m pretty sure he isn’t a blog reader and I should be safe in telling you about some of the cool books he once owned without fear of reprisal.
A few years back Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy inaccurately named trilogy of five books, passed away. It seemed only fitting that I mail my brother back his copies of the series. To ease my guilt, I also threw in a brand new at the time copy of Adams’ posthumously published The Salmon of Doubt. But if my brother were to visit and take a close look at the floor to ceiling bookshelf along one wall of my office he would still find his old copies of: Bladerunner or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and his original paperback copy of Star Wars, that although it carries the byline George Lucas, was actually adapted for the novelization by one of my favourite fantasy writers, Alan Dean Foster. My brother would also find his missing copies of Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Return of the Jedi, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, another Star-Wars based novel by Alan Dean Foster, Han Solo at Star’s End, Han Solo’s Revenge, and Han Solo and the Lost Legacy.
Okay, I know creatively borrowing a few selections from my brother’s left-behind books from his old room and not returning them is not exactly an example of good librarianship. But, as I said, I did eventually send his Hitchhiker’s series back to him, after which I bought my son the commemorative anniversary editions. And, to make up for taking the Star Wars books, when my dad asked me if I thought my brother would like the full DVD set of the Star Wars films for his 30th birthday I vigorously replied, “of course he would!”.
Another great book formerly owned by my brother that my son is now reading is the original Dragonlance Chronicles Volume 1, Dragons of Autumn Twilight. It is billed as “the first fantasy novel from the people who know fantasy best – - TSR Inc., the producers of Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role playing game”. We also have Volume 2 on the shelf entitled Dragons of Winter Night. Every time I go to a used book sale, I scour the tables for Book 3 of the trilogy which has so far eluded me. I have toyed with the idea of asking my brother if he has it, but, perhaps it’s best not to ask too many questions…
In the meantime, my son has caught on to the Forgotten Realms series of books, which, like the TSR series, owe their beginnings to the role-playing gaming world. The Forgotten Realms is actually a campaign setting created by Canadian author and game designer Ed Greenwood for the original Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Chronicled in novels by authors such as fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore, the campaign setting also inspired the creation of computer role-playing games such as Pool of Radiance (which my brother actually owned for Commodore 64), and some of my son’s favourite PC games, Baldur’s Gate I & II and Icewind Dale.
To make a long blog post a bit shorter, I was reminded of my love of fantasy reads the other day while working with one of my student interns in the library. We were sorting through Stephen King novels to see which ones we still needed to add to the library’s collection. The student mentioned he preferred fantasy novels, something you can read to “get away from it all”. He wondered if we could add more Forgotten Realms series books to the library. Coincidentally, I had just picked up the Forgotten Realms Dark Elf Trilogy for the library a week earlier and two other students who like to hang out in the library during spares had started to put together a list of other Forgotten Realms books I should add to the library over time. Any books that inspire teen boys to read are good buys in my opinion. Plus, they are books I’ve wanted to return to reading myself for a long time.
I guess what’s held me back lately is the fact most of the Forgotten Realms books are written by R.A. Salvatore and (Star Wars spoiler here) I’ve never quite forgiven this fine, but, in my mind somewhat heartless author, for killing off Chewabaca in Vector Prime, the first novel of the Star Wars New Jedi Order series. But, any author who in this article credits his love of reading and writing fantasy books to reading his sister’s copy of The Hobbit (my all-time favourite fantasy book) can’t be all bad. And, maybe, he knows something about Wookies that the rest of us don’t that he’ll reveal in a future book. After all, one of my other favourite aliens, E.T., whose story is told in my brother’s old copy of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, came back to life.
Anyway, while waiting for the potential Return of the Wookie, one of the next R.A. Salvatore Forgotten Realms books I will be adding to the library is The Orc King the first book in a new trilogy about Salvatore’s signature character Drizzt Do’Urden, a drow or dark elf that readers first met 20 years ago in the book The Crystal Shard of the Icewind Dale trilogy. Publicity for the book which was released this week notes that “the book marks the first time since 2004 that readers will be able to read about what has become a favourite character of a generation of readers”. According to interest in the book by the fantasy readers who visit my library, I think you can make that two generations. Maybe I’ll buy a copy of the book for my brother too. It’s the least I can do… And, if he doesn’t have room on his bookshelf for it, I can always store it on mine.