Terry Brooks is known for his novels of high adventure starting with The Sword of Shannara. I picked up Running with the Demon at my local library's book sale having already journeyed with Brooks through his realms of fantasy. I was excited to see what he would do in a more realistic setting and I was pleased with the result.
Running with the Demon is about a force of great evil invading a small Illinois town and the people who stand against it. Magic and nightmarish creatures called "feeders" run amok in the forests surrounding this small town as it prepares for a 4th of July celebration. At the same time a stranger rides into town on a quest to hunt down this evil while being plagued by visions of an apocalyptic future should he fail. Events quickly spiral out of control as people become possessed by this evil and jeopardize the future of the human race.
I must admit, I was a little skeptical when I first started reading this novel. There was this uncomfortable feeling that I was diving into a saccharine sweet modern fantasy tale without substance to it. Knowing that the author was Terry Brooks, though, helped me read on and get over this feeling. Magic and fantastical creatures play such a vital role in this novel that these characters could easily inhabit the realm of Flick Ohsmford and the druid Allanon on their quest for the sacred sword. Brooks just can't seem to resist the allure of fantasy. But then again, the genres of horror and fantasy are so closely related that it's sometimes hard to tell the two apart. Horror usually involves fear of the unknown, while fantasy is filled with creatures and powers beyond our ken. What is scarier than facing something that you can't understand?
I appreciate Brook's ability to capture the mood and voice of Midwestern folks. Being raised in the state of Missouri, I could easily imagine the people of the town in this novel. The rising tension in the second half of the novel was also very well done. It was fast but not so fast that it left me behind. It had me rooted in place and wouldn't let me go until the story was over. Unlike The Tommyknockers, which felt like prolonged torture (the good kind of torture, mind you), Running was more like a short and sweet roller coaster that strapped me in for an exhausting ride. I'm not saying that it was better than the last book I read, but it was different and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Next time I'll be taking on a much shorter book by Frank G. Slaughter (god, such a great name!) in a work of historical fiction called The Purple Quest.