Peter V. Brett has recently told Fantastique magazine that a well-known
Hollywood moviemaker has expressed interest in adapting his novel,
The Painted Man, to the big screen . . .
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read
Brett’s debut novel, which came out in paperback earlier this year. It
will be the first of a planned series of novels titled The Demon
Trilogy. (For some reason The Painted Man is titled The
Warded Man in the U.S. – not quite as catchy a title that.)
Brett’s novel has “Fantasy blockbuster” written all over
it because (a) it boasts the sort of high concept plot you can fit on a
matchbox and (b) deals in the sort of Black & White morality that
Hollywood just loves to bits.
First, the story behind The Painted Man. The
novel is set in a world in which demons are not only real, but practically
rule the planet. Each night supernatural demons materialize and prey upon
the frightened remnants of humanity who cower behind “wards” – magic
spells in the form of symbols that (sometimes) keep the demons at bay.
Like Terry Brooks’ Shannara books,
which are also being made into a movie, and unlike most other works in the genre,
The Painted Man appears to take place in our distant future even though
it is never exactly made clear just when this might be. There are several
references to an “age of technology” before the demons came back in force
to exterminate human civilization. Stuff such as concrete and reading
glasses from that era are also mentioned occasionally.
However, like Brooks’ novels, The Painted Man is
set in your typical medieval feudal system that is so typical of Fantasy, a
convention which Tolkien began when he single-handedly invented the genre
with Lord of the Rings.
Society is divided into city states and fiefdoms that are ruled over by
unelected monarchs. (To be honest the clichéd setting is a bit of a
disappointment. Perhaps a Road Warrior-style
post-apocalyptic scenario in which more technology has survived would have
made it more interesting, who knows? But that’s just the sci-fi nut in me
talking . . .)
"The Painted Man is set in a world in which demons are not
only real, but practically rule the planet . . ."
The evenings belong to the demons. Each sunset hordes of
demons would magically materialise from nowhere and in the mornings
they’ll disappear before the sun rises. The demons can’t live in sunlight,
but except for this they are practically invulnerable. Mankind has no way
of killing them, even though ancient legends speak of magic wards – now
long-forgotten - that are powerful enough to do just that.
The novel follows three principal characters from their
childhoods onwards: There is Arlen whose father’s cowardice in the face of
the demons results in his mother’s death. Inspired by the tales of a
messenger – a hardy lot who actually dare to travel between towns and cities
to deliver mail and produce – about an earlier war against the demons
which mankind actually won, Arlen leaves home in disgust, promising
himself to bring the battle to the demons and never back down against
them. Wanna bet that our hero will rediscover those long-lost spells that
actually kill demons?
Then there is Rojer, a small boy whose parents are
killed off by the demons and is adopted by a drunkard “jongleur” –
basically a travelling minstrel – and has to make a living in one of the
tough, big cities in the city. The third – and final – major character is
Leesha, a buxom girl who lives in a small village along with her harridan
mother who is also the town slut and her doting, but henpecked and wimpish
father. Their three stories are told separately and obviously interweave
towards the end when their paths finally cross in time for a climactic
battle against the demons. If this was a Gary Larson cartoon then the
final paragraph of the book would have been captioned: “trouble brewing.”
Yup, it might as well have a “To Be Continued” flashing across the screen
as the scene is set for The Desert Spear, the next instalment in
Next: "We still
liked it better than the last Terry Brooks book we read!"