Glen Cook, The Silver Spike (1989)


The final installment in Books of the South, not exactly a part of trilogy (although the chronological order is more or less maintained), but rather a spin-off from the Black Company series. Instead of Croaker and co. we get White Rose and Silent and Raven. And, of course, a certain silver spike, containing the soul of Dominator, conquered in the Barrowlands in the grand finale of The White Rose. There’s also a very peculiar severed head craving for a body, and a really nasty dog who doesn’t like toads :). But it all comes together thanks to a quartet of greedy and not very bright no-names from Oar, who get the brilliant idea of stealing the spike and selling it to the highest bidder. What could go wrong with such a crafty plan?

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Glen Cook, Dreams of Steel (1990)

Black_Company_SouthToday is the Men’s Day in Poland. I decided to celebrate it with a review of Dreams of Steel, the second installment in the second almost-trilogy in The Black Company series, Books of the South. Why? Besides the obvious and false stereotype that military fantasy is a distinctly male sub-genre? 😉 Here it comes: while the first installment, Shadow Games, was written from Croaker’s perspective, the second – for reasons obvious to anyone who’s read the first book and not readily revealable to everyone else 😉 – undergoes a forced change of the narrator. The role of the Black Company Annalist falls to the Lady.

What a wondrous turn of events! 🙂 The infamous Lady, the long-standing infatuation and love of Croaker, the mover and shaker of the whole Black Company universe, has been an immobile center of the whirlwind of events from the book one. Now we have a rare opportunity to see everything that happens through her own eyes. To see… actually, I won’t tell you what we really see, at least not yet. One fact remains clear, however: her perspective is similar enough for the hard-core fans not to feel too betrayed, and unique enough to lend the series a new, distinct flavor. A tip of the hat, or better a deep bow, to Glen Cook; it is a feat that’s difficult to pull off even in normal circumstances, and what happened in the Black Company universe is far from normal.

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Glen Cook, Shadow Games (1989)

Black_Company_SouthAfter a few reading trips in other literary directions (like the bio-zombie dystopia The Girl With All The Gifts, or the popular tribute to pop culture of the 80’s, Ready Player One, the review of which will appear here soon) I came back to the world of Glen Cook’s Black Company. I’ll be honest: I missed those guys, ruthless and hapless cutthroats that they are.

Shadow Games is the first installment in the second trilogy, The Books of the South. Well, that’s not entirely true, because the Silver Spike is a stand-alone novel, but these are little, rather obscure issues and probably not interesting to anyone but me… Anyway. After the events depicted in The White Rose, when the Black Company eventually defeated the Dominator, but for an enormous cost, now the proud mercenary unit is down to seven men. Among them the Lady, powerless after her name had been found and exposed. Croaker became the unwilling Captain, but maintained also his primary role as the Company’s Annalist. Now the Black Company marches South, toward Khatovar, their unit’s birthplace, to fulfill the promise of returning the Annals home.

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To be read, to be bought…

Ok, so here it is, and I will wait with the Temeraire review, maybe till I finish the first trilogy. It’s late, but recent Paris bombings occupied my mind most of the weekend. I’ve even spent lots of time arguing about politics on the internet, never a good idea and something I’ve tried to avoid for a long time. But I had an unusually emotional reaction and needed to rant a bit 😉

First – both my TBR (To Be Read) and TBB (To Be Both) lists measure in hundreds. I’d like to read everything and I’d love to have a hardback copy of most of the fantasy & s/f books ever published.

The End.

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On lists or lack thereof

Making lists is one of the favorite pastimes around the web – and probably not only there. Lists of best books in any given year or month, lists of worst zombie movies ever, etc… It’s as if structuring and prioritizing one’s experience or even group preferences became the best source of available information. Show me your list and I’ll tell you who you really are.

We’ve been mentioning our own lists on the blog at least several times already – the TBR lists, mainly. The problem is, my personal lists are few and far between, and they are not even proper lists with any discernible hierarchy. I have rather sets of items, where each item holds more or less similar position to any other. And even of those I have only two worth mentioning: TBR and TBB.

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Steven Erikson, The Malazan Book of the Fallen (1999–2011)

EriksonThe Malazan Book of the Fallen, one of the milestones of contemporary military fantasy, and fantasy in general, is great – in many aspects of this word. First, it is lengthy: ten big books, together some 3.3 million words (suck it up, George R.R. Martin!), and populated with an enormous cast of characters, many returning, some showing only once, but all of them unique and multi-dimensional. The series starts with Gardens of the Moon, but beware – as a reader you will be thrown into the thick of it, without a word of explanation. You will have to piece together the events, its causes and results on your own, without any help, and it’s going to be difficult. This is not an easy read. Once you’ve succeeded, you will have to take sides, as some of the characters will do their best to steal your heart and mind. And this may prove even harder. Because nothing in Erikson’s world is simply black or white. Nor should it be. Steven Erikson, or Steve Rune Lundin (that’s his real name), is an anthropologist and archaeologist – and, as adepts of the queen of all social sciences, we can readily claim him as our own 😉 And his scientific background proudly shows up in his novels.

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Glen Cook, The Black Company: The Books of the North (1984–1985)

TheBlackCompanyGlen Cook to absolutny klasyk military fantasy. Według obeznanych z tematem, na przykład Stevena Eriksona, autora Malazan Book of the Fallen, Cook to właśnie ten koleś, którego należy obarczyć winą za grimdark. Nie jakieś Martiny czy Abercrombie, ale Cook: były żołnierz amerykańskiej marynarki wojennej, który przez pewien czas wspomagał 3rd Recon Marines, a na miesiąc przed wylotem swojej jednostki do Wietnamu zrezygnował z czynnej służby. Potem przez całe zawodowe życie pracował już w bardziej pokojowych rolach w General Motors, ale doświadczenie z wojska niewątpliwie uformowało go jako pisarza i wpłynęło w istotnym stopniu na całą jego twórczość. Najlepszym tego dowodem jest właśnie cykl The Black Company, liczący sobie dziś już 10 książek i, wedle słów autora, wciąż nie zakończony.

Ta recenzja dotyczy trzech pierwszych książek cyklu, znanych wspólnie jako The Books of the North, albo Chronicles of the Black Company: The Black Company, Shadows Linger i The White Rose. Książki stareńkie, tak stare jak co poniektórzy z nas, albo niewiele młodsze, ale – i tu wyrażę nadzieję, że z nami jest podobnie – wciąż na najwyższym poziomie. Historię armii najemników, znanej pod nazwą Czarnej Kompanii, poznajemy z perspektywy Croakera – głównego medyka i nieoficjalnego, czy też raczej pół-oficjalnego jej kronikarza. Croaker jest ciekawski. Niestrudzony w zadawaniu pytań, na które nikt nie zna odpowiedzi. Pełen wątpliwości. Podważa i kwestionuje to, co widzi, i to, czego widzieć nie może. Popełnia błędy, myli się w ocenach, puszcza wodze wyobraźni tam, gdzie powinien trzymać się faktów. Ma duszę niepoprawnego romantyka, nieustannie wodzoną na pokuszenie przez syrenie pieśni cynizmu. A zarazem wciąż próbuje być lepszy, a przynajmniej nie gorszy niż dotąd. Wszyscy inni najemnicy traktują go trochę jak młodszego brata, z którego można bezkarnie stroić sobie żarty, ale kiedy  zagrozi mu ktoś inny, bronią go do ostatniego tchu. W tych trzech pierwszych tomach cyklu Cooka Croaker niejako dorasta do samego siebie. Przy czym zupełnie nie jest to Bildungsroman – już na samym początku nasz bohater jest człowiekiem dojrzałym i uformowanym, zapewne w swych latach trzydziestych. Ale w kalejdoskopie wydarzeń wypełniających The Books of the North Croaker po prostu dogłębnie dowiaduje się, na co go stać i do jakich granic może się posunąć. Jednym zdaniem, to bohater niedoskonały, bliski każdemu czytelnikowi, któremu proste podziały moralne i dychotomiczne wizje świata już nie wystarczają.

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