Sunday, September 13, 2015

Silver on the Tree (1977)

Silver on the Tree (1977) by Susan Cooper completes her Dark Is Rising series. In this book, everything that has been collected must be brought together in the final conflict between the Light and the Dark. Before that can happen, the last item of power must be claimed.

This book bring together all the principal actors of the previous books: the Drews, Will, and Bran. Working together and apart, they strive to end what must be ended.

I found that this book had a solidity that the other books didn't, mostly because there were times when doubt actually had a chance to live. There are times when the character disagreed, distrusted each other, and even felt anxious. It was about time. I was getting tired of the stiff, white, wedding-cake icing personalities that they had. Their personalities are still mostly like wedding cake, and all the insults that carries along with it, just not quite so stale as in the earlier books.

The ending followed the pattern that so many 70's books followed, in imitation of Lord of the Rings. All the powerful people go away to a far away land, leaving the world of men, because ... I really don't know why. I assume that all epic fantasies had to end that way because that was the thing. That still made no sense.

The book failed to answer a few lingering questions. Why did the Dark even exist? Why were the fights when they were? Why is now the time? Why is now the last time? I'm all for accepting, "because the plot says so," (I do it all the time), but a few lines would have been welcome. Nor are we given any indication of why the old ones exist, and why Will is the last. These plug into nothing.

The Dark continues its long streak of uselessness. They aren't quite at the incompetent evil level, but they're close. More than a few times, we're told, "The Dark can do nothing here," and "the Dark cannot directly harm one of the Light." Yet, given these facts, the Dark keeps trying to do things when failure is a virtual certainty. The Dark literally shows up to taunt the Light because it can't do anything else. Uslessness adds nothing to tension.

What does it mean that there's a world without the Dark? I have no clue. I have no clue what it means that there's a world with the Dark. If the Dark had won, I have no idea what the world would have been like. It's this lack of dread that turns an otherwise ominous foe into merely a token foe.

If the books had been built better getting to the finale, I think that I would have felt it more. I would have glommed onto the book, dying to know what happens. But I didn't need to read the end. The end happened. It was certain. The only thing that I wanted to know what exactly how was how the pieces went together.

Cooper wrote this book in her cinematic style. This book is eminently filmable, with all the magic easily convertible to clever cutting lighting techniques. In some scenes, you can even feel when the camera changes between lines or when the camera gives you a 360 degree visual.

If you've been a fan of the series so far, if it's worked for you, you should adore the ending. If the book doesn't work for you, expect more of the same.