The Magic and Mystery of Imaginary Friends: A Review of Terry Brooks' Short Story
Imaginary Friends by Terry Brooks: A Short Story Review
Imaginary Friends is a short story by Terry Brooks, first published in 1991 in the anthology Once Upon a Time. It is a prequel to his bestselling Word/Void trilogy, which began with Running with the Demon in 1997. In this review, I will summarize the plot, analyze the themes, and evaluate the style of Imaginary Friends. I will also explain why this story is important for fans of Terry Brooks and fantasy literature in general.
imaginary friends by terry brooks
What is Imaginary Friends about?
Imaginary Friends tells the story of Jack McCall, a 12-year-old boy who lives in a small town in Illinois. He has a happy life with his parents, his best friend Wally, and his dog Nest. However, he also suffers from severe headaches that force him to visit the doctor. There, he learns that he has a brain tumor that will kill him in a matter of weeks. He also discovers that he has a special gift: he can see and communicate with imaginary creatures that live in Sinnissippi Park, a nearby forest where he is forbidden to go.
One of these creatures is Pick, an elven being who claims to be Jack's friend and protector. Pick tells Jack that he is a Knight of the Word, a chosen one who can wield magic against the forces of darkness. He also warns him that there is an evil entity called the Void that wants to destroy Jack and everything he loves. Together, they embark on a quest to find a powerful magic called the Gypsy Morph, which can save Jack's life and stop the Void.
Who is Terry Brooks?
Terry Brooks is one of the most popular and influential fantasy writers of all time. He was born in Illinois in 1944 and began writing stories at a young age. He studied English literature at Hamilton College and law at Washington & Lee University. He published his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, in 1977, which became a huge bestseller and launched his career as a full-time writer.
Since then, he has written over 30 novels and several short stories, spanning various genres and subgenres of fantasy. His most famous works include the Shannara series, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world where magic has returned; the Magic Kingdom of Landover series, which follows the adventures of a lawyer who becomes the king of a fairy-tale realm; and the Word/Void series, which blends contemporary fantasy with urban horror.
Terry Brooks is known for his rich world-building, his complex characters, his fast-paced plots, and his themes of good versus evil, heroism, destiny, and family. He has influenced many other fantasy writers, such as George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Christopher Paolini. He has also received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to literature, such as the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2017.
Why is Imaginary Friends important?
Imaginary Friends is important for several reasons. First, it is the first story that introduces the Word/Void series, which is considered by many fans and critics to be Terry Brooks' best and most original work. The Word/Void series explores the origins of the Shannara world, showing how the modern world was transformed by a cataclysmic event called the Great Wars. It also features some of the most memorable characters and villains in Brooks' oeuvre, such as Nest Freemark, John Ross, Findo Gask, and the Demon.
Second, Imaginary Friends is important because it showcases Terry Brooks' skill as a short story writer. Although he is mainly known for his epic novels, he has also written several short stories that demonstrate his versatility and creativity. Imaginary Friends is one of his best short stories, as it manages to create a compelling and complete story in less than 10,000 words. It also has a strong emotional impact, as it deals with themes of mortality, friendship, and hope.
Third, Imaginary Friends is important because it reveals some of the secrets and mysteries of the Word/Void mythology. For example, it explains how Jack McCall became a Knight of the Word, how Pick and Daniel came to be his allies, and how the Gypsy Morph was created. It also foreshadows some of the events and characters that will appear in the later novels, such as Running with the Demon and The Gypsy Morph. For fans of Terry Brooks and fantasy literature in general, Imaginary Friends is a must-read story that enriches and enhances the Word/Void saga.
The plot of Imaginary Friends
Jack McCall's discovery
The story begins with Jack McCall waking up from a nightmare in which he sees a dark figure chasing him through Sinnissippi Park. He tries to shake off the bad dream, but he is soon overcome by a terrible headache that makes him scream in pain. His parents rush to his aid and take him to the hospital, where he undergoes a series of tests. The results are devastating: Jack has a malignant brain tumor that is inoperable and terminal. He has only a few weeks left to live.
Jack is shocked and scared by the news, but he tries to act brave and cheerful for his parents' sake. He returns home and pretends that everything is normal, but he feels a growing sense of despair and loneliness. He also notices that his vision has changed: he can see strange shapes and colors in the air, especially around Sinnissippi Park. He wonders if he is going crazy or if there is something more to his condition.
Sinnissippi Park and Pick
One day, Jack decides to break his parents' rule and go to Sinnissippi Park, hoping to find some answers or relief. He sneaks out of his house with his dog Nest and rides his bike to the park entrance. There, he meets Wally, his best friend since kindergarten. Wally tells him that he knows about his tumor and that he wants to help him. He also says that he has seen some weird things in the park lately, such as glowing lights and moving shadows.
Jack and Wally enter the park together and follow a trail that leads them to a clearing. There, they encounter a small creature that looks like a cross between an elf and a gnome. The creature introduces himself as Pick, an imaginary friend who has been waiting for Jack for a long time. He tells Jack that he is not sick or crazy, but gifted: he can see the magic that exists in the world, hidden from most people's eyes. He also tells him that he is a Knight of the Word, a chosen one who can use magic to fight against evil.
Jack is skeptical and confused by Pick's claims, but he feels a strange connection to him. He also feels curious about the magic that Pick talks about. He agrees to follow Pick deeper into the park, where he shows him more wonders: a giant owl named Daniel who can talk; a fairy ring where time stands still; a hidden lake where mermaids swim; and a tree where dreams are stored. Pick explains that these are all manifestations of the Word, the force of good and creation that balances the Void, the force of evil and destruction.
The confrontation with the Void
the park, but it is guarded by a powerful creature called the Demon, an agent of the Void.
Jack is reluctant to believe in Pick's story, but he agrees to go with him to look for the Gypsy Morph. He feels a sense of adventure and hope that he has not felt since his diagnosis. He also feels a bond of friendship and loyalty with Pick, who seems to care for him more than anyone else. He leaves Wally behind, promising to come back soon.
Jack and Pick follow a secret path that leads them to a cave where the Gypsy Morph is supposed to be. However, they are ambushed by the Demon, who appears as a dark figure with red eyes and claws. The Demon attacks them with fire and shadow, trying to kill them and take the Gypsy Morph. Jack and Pick fight back with their magic, but they are outmatched by the Demon's power. Jack is wounded and falls to the ground, while Pick is captured and tortured by the Demon.
Jack feels helpless and hopeless, but he refuses to give up. He remembers his parents, his friends, and his dreams. He remembers his love for life and his desire to make a difference. He remembers his duty as a Knight of the Word and his friendship with Pick. He gathers all his strength and courage and stands up to face the Demon. He reaches out to the Gypsy Morph, which responds to his call. He unleashes its power, which takes the form of a bright light that envelops him and the Demon.
The themes of Imaginary Friends
Friendship and loyalty
One of the main themes of Imaginary Friends is friendship and loyalty. The story shows how Jack's friends support him and help him cope with his illness and his destiny. Wally is his best friend who knows him better than anyone else. He is loyal, brave, and kind. He follows Jack to the park even though he is afraid of what he might find there. He stays behind to guard the entrance and waits for Jack's return. Nest is his dog who loves him unconditionally. He is faithful, protective, and smart. He senses Jack's pain and tries to comfort him. He also senses Pick's presence and trusts him as Jack's friend.
Pick is Jack's imaginary friend who becomes his real friend. He is wise, funny, and loyal. He guides Jack through the park and teaches him about magic. He protects Jack from danger and sacrifices himself for him. He also helps Jack discover his true potential and his purpose in life.
The story also shows how friendship and loyalty can overcome evil and despair. Jack's friends give him hope and courage to face his fate. They also help him defeat the Demon and save the world. They show him that he is not alone and that he matters.
Courage and sacrifice
Another theme of Imaginary Friends is courage and sacrifice. The story shows how Jack faces his fears and challenges with bravery and determination. He does not let his illness or his destiny stop him from living his life. He does not give up on his dreams or his friends. He does not run away from his responsibilities or his enemies.
He also shows courage by accepting his gift and using it for good. He does not deny or reject his power as a Knight of the Word. He does not use it for selfish or evil purposes. He does not hesitate to use it when it is needed.
He also shows courage by sacrificing himself for a greater cause. He does not try to save himself or escape from his fate. He does not bargain or compromise with the Demon or the Void. He does not fear death or pain.
He willingly gives up his life to save Pick, Sinnissippi Park, and the world from the Void's destruction. He uses the Gypsy Morph to create a new reality where magic and goodness prevail.
Magic and reality
A third theme of Imaginary Friends is magic and reality. The story shows how magic exists in the world, hidden from most people's eyes but visible to those who have the gift or the imagination to see it. It also shows how magic can affect reality, changing it for better or worse depending on how it is used.
The story contrasts two types of magic: the Word and the Void. The Word is the force of good and creation that manifests itself in various forms of life, light, beauty, and wonder. The Void is the force of evil and destruction that manifests itself in various forms of death, darkness, ugliness, and horror. The story shows how these two forces are in constant conflict, trying to influence and shape reality according to their will.
The story also contrasts two types of reality: the mundane and the fantastic. The mundane reality is the ordinary world that most people live in, unaware of the magic that surrounds them. The fantastic reality is the extraordinary world that Jack and Pick live in, where they can see and interact with the magic that exists in Sinnissippi Park and beyond. The story shows how these two realities are connected and interdependent, affecting each other in subtle and profound ways.
The style of Imaginary Friends
The narrative voice and perspective
The story is written in the third-person limited point of view, focusing on Jack's thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The narrator is omniscient, but only reveals what Jack knows or perceives. The narrator also uses a conversational and informal tone, using personal pronouns, simple sentences, rhetorical questions, and analogies and metaphors. The narrator also addresses the reader directly, engaging them in the story and inviting them to imagine along with Jack.
The narrative voice and perspective create a sense of intimacy and empathy between the reader and Jack. They also create a sense of suspense and mystery, as the reader discovers the secrets of Sinnissippi Park and the Word/Void along with Jack. They also create a sense of wonder and awe, as the reader sees the magic and beauty of the world through Jack's eyes.
The use of dialogue and description
The story uses dialogue and description to develop the characters, the setting, and the plot. The dialogue is realistic and natural, reflecting the personalities, emotions, and relationships of the characters. The dialogue also reveals information, advances the action, and creates tension and humor. The description is vivid and detailed, creating a clear picture of the scenes and events. The description also evokes the senses, the mood, and the atmosphere of the story.
The dialogue and description create a sense of immersion and realism in the story. They also create a contrast between the mundane and the fantastic elements of the story, highlighting their differences and similarities.
The tone and mood
The tone of the story is a mixture of sadness and joy, darkness and light, fear and hope. The tone reflects Jack's emotional journey as he faces his illness, his destiny, his enemies, and his friends. The tone also reflects the balance between the Word and the Void, as they struggle for control over reality.
The mood of the story is a mixture of suspense and wonder, horror and beauty, tragedy and triumph. The mood reflects Jack's physical journey as he explores Sinnissippi Park, discovers magic, fights the Demon, and uses the Gypsy Morph. The mood also reflects the impact of Jack's actions on reality, as he changes it for better or worse.
Summary of the main points
In conclusion, Imaginary Friends is a short story by Terry Brooks that introduces his Word/Void series. It tells the story of Jack McCall, a 12-year-old boy who has a brain tumor that will kill him soon. He also has a gift that allows him to see magic in Sinnissippi Park, where he meets Pick, an imaginary friend who is actually an elven creature. Together, they go on a quest to find the Gypsy Morph, a powerful magic that can save Jack's life and stop an evil force called the Void.
Evaluation of the story
Imaginary Friends is an excellent story that showcases Terry Brooks' skill as a fantasy writer. It has a compelling plot that keeps the reader interested and engaged. It has complex characters that make the reader care about them and their fate. It has rich themes that make the reader think about friendship, courage, sacrifice, magic, and reality. It has a captivating style that makes the reader feel immersed in the story world.
the voice's commands and avoid being corrupted by the Void.
What is the Gypsy Morph?
The Gypsy Morph is a legendary magic that can change reality according to its wielder's will. It is a shapeless and formless entity that can take any form and do anything. It is also very powerful and unpredictable, as it can create or destroy anything. It is the ultimate weapon against the Void, but also the ultimate risk, as it can be used for good or evil.
What is Sinnissippi Park?
Sinnissippi Park is a forest in Illinois where Jack McCall lives. It is also a place where magic exists and where imaginary creatures live. Sinnissippi Park is a sanctuary for the Word and a battleground for the Void. It is also a place where Jack McCall discovers his destiny and his purpose in life.
Who is Terry Brooks?
Terry Brooks is one of the most popular and influential fantasy writers of all time. He has written over 30 novels and several short stories, spanning various genres and subgenres of fantasy. His most famous works include the Shannara series, the Magic Kingdom of Landover series, and the Word/Void series. He has influenced many other fantasy writers, such as George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Christopher Paolini. He has also received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to literature, such as the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2017.