I feel like reading this after having read the entire Word & Void trilogy is what people who read Go Set A Watchmen after having loved and read To Kill A Mockingbird. (On a smaller scale, obviously.)
Brooks wrote this novel back in the early ’90s as part of a short story collection. It was re-released as a single e-book in honor of a friend who had cancer with all proceeds for the first 90 days of sale going to that friend for his medical bills.
I’m glad I read this novella/short story as it was a great little encapsulated tale which shows one of the magical characters, Pick, of Word & Void fame, at an earlier time than the actual trilogy. The story revolves around 12-year-old Jack McCall who is given a cancer diagnosis. And in essence it serves as an exterior battle/response to that diagnosis.
This is where you start to see that Brooks hadn’t quite sorted everything out for this part of the Shannara (pre-)universe as Pick is referred to as an elf in this novella, when really he’s a magical creature called a Sylvan. I also have questions about whether the dragon is the same thing as the creature in Running with the Demon.
I appreciated Brooks writing of Jack and how he responded to the diagnoses and how he dealt with things.
“How could he die when he still didn’t know anything about girls? How could he die without ever having driven a car? It just didn’t seem possible.” (Loc. 99)
I mean these are important things for a 12-year-old to know!
It was interesting to see his interpretation of a different young character when Nest Freemark made such an impression on me in Running with the Demon. I would love to know what happened to Jack McCall and if he ever heard of the Freemark women and Nest and their special relationship with Sinnissippi Park.
Recommendation: Coming in at only 27 pages, there’s not a lot to expound upon for this review. The story is a light read and a bit too fast for my tastes, but overall I’m glad I read it and I can’t wait to dive back into Shannara in the future.
Opening Line: “Jack McCall was ten days shy of his thirteenth birthday when he decided that he was dying.”
Closing Line: “A friend like Pick belonged only to him, and that was the way he should keep it.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Imaginary Friends
“Reynolds Lucius Wadsworth III was Waddy’s real name, the result of a three-generation tradition of unparalleled cruelty in the naming of first-born boys. No one called Waddy by his real name, of course. But they didn’t call him anything sensible either.” (Loc. 78)
“Everywhere there was a new story, a different tale, a dream of an adventure longing to be embraced.” (Loc. 190)