I thought that coming up with my favourite book as a kid would be easy. I'd write about my first favourite book and that would be it. My first favourite book was: This Can't Be Happening At MacDonald Hall, written by the now very popular Gordon Korman. MacDonald Hall was Gordon's first book, written in 1978, when he was twelve years old. Let me say that again: he was twelve years old. My first novel, The Skids, just came out and I'm forty-five. Sigh. Nonetheless, I read the book when I was eleven and decided that if Gordon could do that at twelve, then, hey, me too. And I did. I wrote a novel when I was twelve. You will never read it. It's uh…well, it reads like it was written by a twelve year old. Still, it got me started on the journey I'm still journeying today, so I figured: great, that's what I'll write about. Good old Bruno and Boots. But then I remembered Hitchhiker.
I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy only a couple of years later and that influenced my writing so much that the first draft of my second novel was a complete copy of it, replete with a two-headed man. You are unlikely to read this novel (my book, not Hitchhiker), although it evolved enough over the years that I'm no longer embarrassed to show it to people at cocktail parties. I am embarrassed that I take it to cocktail parties, but that's another story.
However, I realize that a lot of people might have Hitchhiker as their favourite book, and I don't want to be the guy in this series who picks Wolverine to play on X-Men Role-Playing Night (you have those, right?)
I thought about Guy Gavriel Kay or Stephen King, but I discovered them a little late for favourite kid book. Considered Lord of the Rings but see: Guide, Hitchhiker.
Then I remembered The Belgariad.
To be honest, I have no idea how David Eddings holds up in 2016. I do know that by the time I was twenty-five, I'd stopped reading his books, and I didn't read much beyond The Belgariad and its sequel The Malloreon.
But boy, did I read the crap out of that first series. I think I read it five or six times before I was twenty.
There were a lot of reasons to like The Belgariad: the world was great; the story was enthralling; the resolution was satisfying and still one of the better resolutions I've read to this day, based on a strong character choice, set up by the series of events that led up to it. And the magic system was the best magic system I've ever read: The Will and The Word. Say what you want to do with the proper intention. It was simple and clear, but not easy, because you still had to take into account little things like, you know, rocks are heavy and mud is softer than solid ground.
But my favourite thing about The Belgariad was the way the characters talked. Not the characters themselves, although that was great too—strong points of view; clear wants and desires; satisfying character arcs and emotional journeys. But it was the dialogue itself that hooked me. Because even though the characters were each based on a fantasy archetype, Eddings was the first fantasy I read that not only ditched the formalism of Tolkien's characters, but actually spoke the way I thought I would if I was, you know, a thief or a Viking. They sassed each other constantly, taking bets on what kind of trouble the dumbest character would get them into. They cracked jokes in serious situations because sometimes human beings use humour as a defense mechanism.
And it wasn't just the laughs. The way Aunt Pol dealt with Garion's immaturity reminds me of exactly how my mom deals with my nephew Bruce. Granted Bruce is three and Garion was fourteen, but hey, he had some growing up to do. The gruff bond between Polgara and her father actually made me believe in and relate to characters that were supposed to be thousands of years old.
Plus, Silk the Thief kicked ass.
So there it is: not my first favourite book, but definitely one of my early favs. If you know anyone looking for an entry-level high fantasy series, you can't go wrong with The Belgariad.
Unless you follow Mandorallen's advice. Never do that. Ever.
Seriously, that guy's an idiot.
BIO Ian Donald Keeling is an odd, loud little man who acts a little, writes a little, and occasionally grows a beard. His short fiction and poetry have previously appeared in Realms of Fantasy, On Spec, and Grain. He’s on the faculty for sketch and improv at Second City in Toronto and likes all forms of tag and cheese. The Skids is his first novel.
Live Fast, Die Fast. We Are The Program.
They're called the Skids. They've got three-eyes, tank treads and a bucket-full of attitude. They play the games and the few that don't get vaped in the first weeks still die at five years old. Game over, thanks for playing. Johnny Drop's the best skid the Skidsphere's seen in generations, but he won't get to enjoy it. Because his world is going to die. And then Johnny's going to learn that the universe is larger than he ever dreamed. Part Hunger Games, part X-Games, with a little Monster's Inc. and the Matrix smashed into the mix, The Skids will take you on a ride beyond what you know of the world. So pop the top and show'em the circus, we-we-we're going for a ride.