Here I sit, in front of my typewriter, typing furiously, sweating into my Warded Underoos, an exceptionally loved copy of Peter V. Brett’s excellent sophomore novel The Desert Spear near to hand. Outside, demons pound at the wards on my door, howling with frustration; it sounds like a death metal band has replaced their guitars with tubas filled with rusty razor blades. And their drums with a flatulent xylophone. The noise is staggering; overwhelming to the point that cacophony would call the cops on this level of auditory diarrhea.
Still, I persist, and the demons persist along with me; my keystrokes punctuated by incessant demonic screams, howls, and bangs at my door. Occasionally, frustrated, I pause to yell out “not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin” just to maintain the cliché KICKASSTORRENT. The minions of hell, stalking my door like a pack of paparazzi braying at Brangelina, are unimpressed. Bastards. No one appreciates the classics anymore; no one has standards.
I pray my wards hold. In retrospect, maybe slamming the door on the security consultant that tried to interest me in an alarm system for my home last week was foolishly shortsighted. Fear has suddenly spurred my consumerism; my credit card would slide out of my wallet so fast now that any flame-retardant baby clothing nearby would combust. Please A.D.T. man, come back, I have VISA kickass movie 2. Or were you with Brinks. Doesn’t matter-just give me a button I can use to summon help. I’ll even settle for a LifeCall pendant I can scream into: Help, my house is surrounded by demons, and I can’t get out.
Demons continue to pound at my door, one particularly vicious beating sends my 8-track player crashing from its shelf. C’mon man, that had my Toto tape in it. So here I sit, in front of my typewriter, praying, thinking maybe being slow in adopting new technologies is a character flaw. I’ve heard those who don’t embrace technology, perish. I just never thought they meant that literally. So I pray, once again, my wards hold. I pray that low-tech will come through this night victorious. Because if I survive this, I’m getting an alarm system in the morning.
Thankfully the characters in Peter V. Brett’s The Desert Spear aren’t techno-geeks looking to jump on the latest security whiz-a-doodle; laser-armed security systems just wouldn’t be as much fun as having to use wards for protection. Might as well give your hero a machine gun instead of a sword to plow through his assailants. Why be vulnerable when you can be utterly kickass?
But vulnerability is essential, and the most intriguing aspect, of the world Brett has created in both his debut novel The Warded Man and here in The Desert Spear. Humans ultimately wish to survive, so there is a natural instinct to avoid vulnerable situations, to avoid being a potential victim or prey. Why else does one lock the bathroom door when using the facilities, but to lessen the sense of vulnerability and to feel more empowered in an otherwise dangerous situation.
So what if you lived in a world in which you were vulnerable every night? And the only thing standing between you and certain death are the wards protecting your home. Like the bathroom door, wards only offer an illusion of protection. Especially if what lurks on the other side of the door is big, mean, nasty and has a hankering for human. Think of the shark cage in Jaws, it might protect you from some sharks, but it ain’t protecting you from the one that had Robert Shaw as an appetizer. We are all vulnerable, but strength comes from recognizing and confronting that. True power comes not from the wards, true power comes from within.