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The Hickory Staff: The Eldarn Sequence, Book 1
Robert Scott & Jay Gordon
Gollancz, 577 pages

Robert Scott
Born in New York, Robert Scott grew up in New Jersey. He attended Colby College in central Maine where he majored in music and was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study and perform for a year in Europe. Scott moved to Boston where he taught music and began working on a graduate degree. Moving to Colorado, he took a job as a public school teacher and completed a doctorate in Education at the University of Northern Colorado. In 2002, the family moved to northern Virginia where Scott took a position as a high school administrator. Today, he teaches special education at a local middle school.

The Eldarn Sequence Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Jay Gordon
Jay M. Gordon was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and studied business management at City College in Manhattan. He completed a Masters and began working as a business programmer in 1967, emerging as a network management specialist during the early years of personal computer hardware and software development. After moving to central New Jersey with his family, he founded Future Systems Technology, an independent consulting firm. In 2002, he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). Jay Mark Gordon passed away on November 18, 2005.

ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Enzinas

The Hickory Staff: The Eldarn Sequence, Book 1 I received a review copy of The Hickory Staff by Robert Scott and Jay Gordon at the beginning of October. I started reading it soon after. It took me a good month to finish. Sometimes it takes me a while to finish a book because the prose is so dense it takes time to digest it all; sometimes life gets in the way of my reading and finding the time to read becomes nigh impossible; and sometimes the book is the literary equivalent of Discworld Dwarven Bread (i.e., knowing that it awaits you in your free time does wonders to keep you busy).

This novel tells the story of three people from modern Colorado who fall through a mystic portal into another world. There they join forces with freedom fighters who are struggling to free their world from the grip of Evil. The present­day trio discover that both their modern skills and their newly discovered powers will be instrumental in freeing this other world. If this sounds familiar, it should. The juxtaposition of modern man and fantasy man has, of course, been done many times before. However, that is nothing to hold against it. This has been done well in the past: Thomas Covenant, Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold, The Rivers of the Dancing Gods and so on.

The Hickory Staff does not stand on the shoulders of giants so much as fall off them. Having no character, within the first 50 pages, live past the section of their introduction should have been a tip­off. The constant reminders of how "adjective" a particular "noun" was should also have been some indication of what I was in for. Sometimes, I'm not terribly observant.

In some cases it was the little things that frustrated me, such as: in a world where magic is known and readily accepted, a series of bizarre deaths and illnesses are nevertheless blamed on a mundane virus; or an ex­soldier with no espionage training is able to tail a master spy for weeks without being noticed. In other cases it was the big things, like all of the women in the book being described only as beautiful.

The absolute worst thing was the fact that even with the flat writing, the uninspired characters and the verbose descriptions, you can still tell that buried underneath it all there is an interesting story taking place in a finely crafted world.

Towards the end of the book, I found myself thinking "just get on with it" far less often and I actually started to care about some of the characters and enjoy the writing (except for the one spot during the climax where they leave a fight to go to a training flashback and when they return to the present the fight is over). Where one of the characters is in a fever, there are even a couple of pages that are wonderfully inspired and a delight to read (and not merely by comparison to the previous several hundred).

What this novel really needed was a more ruthless editor -- someone who would have cut away all of the fat and gristle, leaving behind the lean, delicious meat of the story. Sadly, the editor was not nearly enough of a butcher.

Copyright © 2006 John Enzinas

John Enzinas reads frequently and passionately. In his spare time he plays with swords.

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