Posts Tagged ‘Joe Abercrombie’

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Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden details a bloody skirmish between the Union and a group of Northmen in the run up to the greater conflict at the heart of the novel The Heroes. Told from multiple perspectives on each side, as well as that of the farmer on whose land the fight takes place, Abercrombie once again captures all the tension, fear, expectations and, ultimately, the pointlessness of warfare brilliantly.

Though most of the bloodshed is caused by Bremer dan Gorst, that squeaky voiced Titan of violence, the other characters and their different points of view add a lot to this story. Cowardice, naive bravery and jaded acceptance all feature heavily as the chaos of combat sweeps up both sides. But, it’s Gorst’s interaction with the farmer that’s gives the real edge to this excellent snap shot.

Longer than most of the stories collected here, Three’s a Crowd features another of Shevediah and Javre’s escapades. Set after the events of Best Served Cold and fourteen years after the two friends first met, this is more than just an account of Shev setting out to rescue her lover from Horald the Finger. There’s plenty of banter between the two companions, a nice cameo amongst some drunken antics, and a plot full of treachery and intrigue. However, it’s the details of Shev and Javre’s friendship, their collective past, that make this one of the best of their tales yet. I don’t want to spoil anything but there is also a fairly large reveal in this story and an ending that begs to be turned into a book.

Created as a vanity piece for the rapacious Nicomo Cosca, Freedom is written with tongue firmly wedged in cheek. It’s superbly achieved as it manages to retain a straight face whilst staying in the style of the fictional author, Spillion Sworbeck. Displaying a great sense of fun whilst simultaneously illuminating more about Cosca, Freedom is about as true as every other claim by that notorious sell-sword.

Throughout this anthology, the spectre of many of the ‘First Law’ characters have loomed large as shadows or, occasionally, as extras in these superb short stories. Each tale adds to the larger canon and some, especially the ones involving Shevediah and Javre, offer a whole new perspective. Yet, like the opening account of Sand dan Glokta in A Beautiful Bastard, the final bookend is an exceptional insight into the enigmatic Logen Ninefingers.

Made a Monster is a kind of origin story for the Bloody Nine as told from Bethod’s standpoint. But, it is also a kind of confession from Bethod as well. Whilst the self-proclaimed Chief has used Logen to achieve much, he now realises that perhaps he can’t control that which he has unleashed. Made a Monster reveals a lot about the relationship between Bethod and his champion, showing completely different aspects to each man. Bethod merely wants peace and thinks he has found a way to achieve it; Logen (or, more accurately, the Bloody Nine) wants war and little else. In the end, this story shines a bright and unforgiving light on the monster that lives within Logen Ninefingers and makes him such a great character.

Sharp Ends is a truly fantastic companion piece to the larger novels of the First Law. From the insights into Glokta and Logen to the adrenaline fuelled action pieces, this is a must if you’re an Abercrombie fan.

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Published by Gollancz

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I’ve enthused on Joe Abercrombie’s astounding skill at crafting characters and, once again, he continues to amaze. Wrong Place, Wrong Time consists of three stories featuring three characters who are all background extras in the larger novel Best Served Cold. Each story fills in a life using the smallest detail, outlining these characters brimming with their own narrative. Only each one is a mere bit-player; a witness, and at times a victim, to the bigger story of Monza Murcatto’s vengeance.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a great piece of writing. Not just for how each individual story is developed but also for how it fits into the bigger picture, giving life and flesh to the world of The First Law.

Set before Red Country and featuring the uncompromising Shy South, Some Desperado is, like the novel, all piss and vinegar. And dust. And the sense that if things are bad, they can definitely get worse.

On the run from her own bunch of bandit friends intent on earning the bounty placed on her head, Shy is not having much luck. Finding herself without a horse, a weapon, nor any way to get help, a showdown is all that’s left to her. The desperation almost sweats out of the page as her three erstwhile companions set about capturing their mark. Against the backdrop of a sun bleached ghost town and with nothing left to lose, Shy proves that she can punch way above her weight.

A great setting, a superb short story, and more action than seems possible considering the equal amount of soul searching Shy does. All in all – awesome.

Review copy
Published by Gollancz

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I’m really enjoying this collection of short stories by Joe Abercrombie. Being able to jump in and consume a perfect little slice of action during a lunch break is fantastic. But, as ever with Abercrombie and the world he has created, it’s not just the firecracker confrontations he so brilliantly crafts, it’s the characters behind them that truly stand out.

In Hell, Abercrombie let’s us walk, or more aptly run, in the shoes of a coward. Temple, the religious acolyte of Dagoskan, is running because the Gurkish have breached the city walls, the Union army is retreating and the Eaters are on their way. Through all the debris and smoke and startling description, Temple’s fear and cowardice are sumptuously laid bare. He knows what he should do yet he can’t; he despises what he does but he can’t help but do it. Wanting to live, regardless of the guilt is a powerful motivator and Temple is highly motivated.

Looking in on the fall of Dagoskan and watching the Eaters display their power, Hell is a clever commentary on a profound aspect of life; so few do what is right at the right time, especially Temple.

Two’s Company is another roaring tale featuring Javre the Lioness and Shev. Travelling in the North, attempting to evade the Templars of the Golden Order, the two women find themselves face to face with Cracknut Wirrun. The meeting, however, takes place on a very rickety rope bridge and neither warrior is in the mood to back down.

There’s a real humour laced through Abercrombie’s work and none more so than here. Wirrun and Javre engage in a classic conversation that leads to a fist fight. Before any conclusive blows are struck, a group of Bethod’s men show up looking for Wirrun. Mayhem ensues as Javre takes offence at the interruption, helping Wirrun to defeat his enemies. The favour is paid back when Javre’s foes arrive upon the scene. Throughout it all, Shev narrowly avoids death but not getting covered in blood and guts.

Shev and Javre are turning out to be brilliant actors and these stories are making me hope for a novel based around their exploits. More great stuff from the World of The First Law.

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Published by Gollancz

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Joe Abercrombie has the ability to take what is ostensibly a set piece and imbue it with all manner of depth and insight into the world he has crafted with his First Law novels. Much like the excellent work The Heroes, his short feature The Fools Job is a character driven riot of a story. It’s the small details and the honesty of the actor’s inner thoughts that reveals so much and makes these tales so engaging. Yes, there’s plenty of Abercrombie’s patented action sequences but there’s also just as much of his sagacity.

The Fools Job centres around the Named Man, Curden Craw; slightly younger but no less honest and no less cynical about his role in the world. Leading his dozen on a mission to steal a certain item, Craw, along with his second Wonderful and new member Wirrum, does his best to keep everything on track. Yet, with sketchy information at best, things, obviously, don’t go to plan.

It’s a fantastic, action packed look into the lives of a Named Man and his crew trying to make things work in a world where everything is mud.

In Skipping Town we are back with Shevedieh and Javre as they try to find a way between making more enemies and, well, making more enemies. After a catastrophic though successful job to steal a jewel the unlikely pair discuss their options. Skip town and leave behind more marks against their names or enter into what is very possibly a double-cross and trap.

Javre opts to take it all on head first whilst Shev tries to do her best to avoid the inevitable violence. Whilst both these characters are new to me they’re equally and brilliantly fleshed out. Skipping Town results in a bar fight of epic proportions that shines a light on Javre and her intriguing background. It’s an another example of Abercrombie’s skill at crafting engaging protagonists and writing brutally effective battle scenes.

Sharp Ends continues to be a brilliant collection of stories full of Abercrombie awesomeness.

Review copy
Published by Gollancz

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There’s nothing as nice as reading more stories by one of your favourite authors; that familiar voice transporting you back to a world you enjoyed hearing about so much. Joe Abercrombie’s collection of short stories is exactly that – perfect little slices of life from his First Law series.

The collection starts with the fantastic A Beautiful Bastard, featuring the inimical Sand dan Glokta as a young, fit Colonel in the Union’s army. It’s a wonderful set piece that captures the man before we (as readers) meet him in The Blade Itself and goes some way to explaining why he is such a twisted piece of work. Boastful, arrogant and handsome, Glokta is portrayed as a complete bastard with no regard for anyone else. His act of heroism against the Gurkish – the battle at the bridge that resulted in his capture and torture – was in truth the act of a man so enamoured with his own self that he understood little of the consequences.

Watching him peacock and posture through the eyes of Salem Rews, we are shown so much with such deft little narrative moments. From his bullying and egotistical nature to his relationship with West – one both respectful yet competitive. It’s a masterful piece of writing that lands the reader right into the heart of Glokta and shows it for all it’s truths.

Next up in the collection is Small Kindnesses. Abercrombie is brilliant at crafting complex and full characters and in this episode we are introduced to Shev, the best thief in Westport, and Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp. Though trying to retire from crime, Shev is caught between her desire for a beautiful woman looking to use her skills and a horrible gangster looking to abuse those same skills. Set up by the former and threatened by the later, it’s through a small act of kindness that she manages to scrape out of trouble.

After taking in a battered and beaten stranger, Javre, and musing on how her generosity always lands her in danger, a grim little tale unfolds. Shev, it seems, has few choices and is soon forced into stealing an unknown object. However, the gangsters aren’t best pleased and it’s Javre who saves her skin, though it’s Shev who puts the finer point on things in the end. It’s another fantastic example of Ambercrombie’s skills and another brilliant look into the lives populating his world (there’s even an interesting introduction to a certain Severard and other hints.)

Truth be told, Sharp Ends has jumped the reading pile. I fully expect all the stories to be as excellent as the two I’ve read so I’ll be dipping in and out as often as I can. This collection is awesome, not just for the die-hard fans of Abercrombie but also as great examples of top notch fantasy fiction.

Review copy
Published by Gollancz

Following on from my recent revelations via actually reading my emails, I’ve also come across a netgalley haul of awesome titles that I’ve been approved to read – that includes the new short story collection from Joe Abercrombie (fist pump for gritty fantasy).. There’s also some very cool sounding novels from a few writers I’ve not encountered before that I’m eager to read. So, blurbs and covers below and reviews will be forthcoming..

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In this gritty and innovative science-fiction thriller in the vein of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, turmoil on one of Saturn’s moons rattles Earth’s most powerful citizens—and draws one planet-hopping rogue into a fight he never saw coming.

Malcolm Graves lives by two rules: finish the job, and get paid. After thirty years as a collector, chasing bounties and extinguishing rebellions throughout the solar system, Malcolm does what he’s told, takes what he’s earned, and leaves the questions to someone else—especially when it comes to the affairs of offworlders.

But his latest mission doesn’t afford him that luxury. After a high-profile bombing on Earth, the men who sign Malcolm’s paychecks are clamoring for answers. Before he can object, the corporation teams him up with a strange new partner who’s more interested in statistics than instinct and ships them both off to Titan, the disputed moon where humans have been living for centuries. Their assignment is to hunt down a group of extremists: Titanborn dissidents who will go to any length to free their home from the tyranny of Earth.

Heading into hostile territory, Malcolm will have to use everything he’s learned to stay alive. But he soon realizes that the situation on the ground is much more complex than he anticipated . . . and much more personal.

Amoral protagonist? Off-world terrorism? Fight for survival? Check – I’m in.

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A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.

Post-human virtuality written by Lavie Tidhar – sounds good to me.

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In this dark and gripping sci-fi noir, an exiled police detective arrives at a lunar penal colony just as a psychotic android begins a murderous odyssey across the far side of the moon.

Purgatory is the lawless moon colony of eccentric billionaire, Fletcher Brass: a mecca for war criminals, murderers, sex fiends, and adventurous tourists. You can’t find better drugs, cheaper plastic surgery, or a more ominous travel advisory anywhere in the universe. But trouble is brewing in Brass’s black-market heaven. When an exiled cop arrives in this wild new frontier, he immediately finds himself investigating a string of ruthless assassinations in which Brass himself—and his equally ambitious daughter—are the chief suspects.

Meanwhile, two-thousand kilometers away, an amnesiac android, Leonardo Black, rampages across the lunar surface. Programmed with only the notorious “Brass Code”—a compendium of corporate laws that would make Ayn Rand blush—Black has only one goal in mind: to find Purgatory and conquer it.

Hard sci-fi, crime noir, action thriller…another firm yes.

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The Union army may be full of bastards, but there’s only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta.
Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is.

Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp.

And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There’s only one obstacle left – his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine . . .

Not much to say other than, I can’t wait to read more First Law world stories..

Due to recent life getting in the way of hobby type stuff, I’ve not been keeping up to date with all my emails and news (though I am reading a bonkers book; more on that in another post). However, this weekend has brought about some exciting revelations.

Joe Abercrombie has a collection of short stories featuring characters from his fantasy series, The First Law, due to be published soon. From the press release: “The short stories will be a mix of original and reissued short stories collected together for the first time, eight of which are award-winning and previously published, and six brand new. The brand-new shorts will feature some of the most popular characters from the First Law world, including Glokta, Jezal, Logen Ninefingers, Bethod and Monza Murcatto.

If that isn’t awesome enough, then his announced tour in April should be. Check the banner below for more info..

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2014 is coming to an end and, as cheesy as it is, I thought I’d post a little about the best books I’ve read this year. It’s taken a fair amount of beard scratching and some serious moustache twiddling but I feel a general top five is probably the fairest way to go as I’ve read some really, truly brilliant novels since I started this blog.

Though my reading has trailed off this month, due in no small part to my son celebrating his first birthday and subsequently forgoing any kind of routine day time naps, my last read Europe in Autumn is an excellent novel. Subtle, engaging and with an intricacy and depth that is quite astounding at times, Dave Hutchinson is definitely a name to look out for in my opinion.

Along with a lot of other blogs, awards and readers, I also have to admit that The Martian by Andy Weir is an unbelievably awesome book. There’s humour, humanity and hardship all packed into a novel that somehow makes potato maths interesting, nay, intriguing. This book had me gripped from the first to the last page and it was such a great read with such a fulfilling end that it’s hard not to recommend it to everyone, everywhere.

My top fantasy reads this year resulted in a dead draw between Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country and Mark Lawrence’s trilogy beginning with The Prince of Thorns. Both authors are clearly some of the best writers in this new golden age of fantasy that we are all lucky enough to be enjoying. Red Country is, in my humble opinion, Abercrombie’s best to date. A rollicking Western-esque tale of revenge full of grit and characterised by a protagonist full of piss and vinegar. Mark Lawrence, a man of supernatural abilities and talent, has produced a trilogy so gripping it’s a must read if you like fantasy. His world building is fantastic, his characters are brilliant and the final revelations are just awesome. I think this work is one of the best new fantasy trilogies out there and I’m not ashamed to say it was an absolute pleasure to read.

Finally, in my top five I am going to mention Fiend by Peter Stenson. I read this during a zombie novel binge and though it isn’t your typical horror fare, it’s for that reason that the book is so excellent. Drug addled protagonists, insane zombie-esque shenanigans and a skin crawling, brain itching ability to convey addiction. Stenson’s book is crazy but it’s a real (excuse the pun) shot in the arm for the zombie genre.

I’ve also read a lot of fantastic short stories this year. It’s not something I’ve done much of in the past but I’m really glad I’ve discovered the medium. Two names that really stick out are Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Genevieve Valentine. Both produced stories that had a touch of the sublime about them but which also stuck in my mind long after I read them. I will also say that, for me, the best anthology of stories in 2014 was Two Hundred and Twenty One Stories From Baker Street. Every single piece of work was a fitting tribute to the Sherlock and Watson cannon and it was just great fun to see how each author reproduced those characters in such wildly different settings.

Starting this blog earlier this year has also been great for me. Not only have I had a place to collate my thoughts on all the books I read I’ve also got to interview a few very interesting authors and editors. I’m hoping to continue in the same spirit in which I began in 2015. Maybe I’ll get a chance to watch all the films I missed out on this year. Maybe I’ll finally get to watch The Walking Dead season 4 (no spoilers please!). But, definitely, I’ll keep on reading, reviewing and blogging about some new stuff, some old stuff and some e-stuff.

Have a great New Year and thanks for reading 🙂

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Like a child who hides his sweets so that he doesn’t scoff them all in one go, I’m the same with certain authors. Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country has been sitting on my shelf giving me the come on for quite some time but I’m glad I waited. You always know you’re going to get a great read with Mr Abercrombie, I just didn’t expect it to be so effortlessly brilliant. Check out the blurb below though, as it was published in 2012, I’m sure you’ve seen it already..

They burned her home.

They stole her brother and sister.

But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer, Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…

The past never stays buried…

Set in the same world as his First Law trilogy and other excellent stand-alone novels, Red Country takes place 10 years after Best Served Cold. However, Abercrombie has imbued this last book with a remarkably unique atmosphere. Part fantasy and part Western, Red Country is testament to the immense talent of the author as he weaves a tale of epic proportions in a ridiculously readable style that leaves you wanting for more. The characters are brilliantly crafted and, as ever, suitably jaded and rough at the edges. The world building is awe inspiring whilst the story is gripping.

Like many of Abercrombie’s novels, there is a theme to discern and here it is the notion of broken promises and lost dreams. Revenge, redemption and reality feature heavily as well as Shy and Lamb undertake their journey, meeting many a character on the long, dusty way. It’s a journey that takes them into the far reaches of Abercrombie’s world, one where we get introduced to new elements and some old ones too.

The idea of a fantasy Western is probably not new but Joe Abercrombie has nailed it with a precision that is close to perfect. The long trail and it’s trials, the frontier spirit and the lawless pioneers, the savage country and weather, and the broken ideals and dreams of those brave, or stupid, enough to undertake the task of taming the wild. But it’s the characters that make these books so enthralling – those who are breaking promises to keep another oath, those who find tenderness where they thought there was none, the ones who scrabble and scheme for a better tomorrow whilst damning the losses of yesterday, and then the odd one who finds hidden depths.

I thought Heroes was Abercrombie’s best but now I see I was wrong. Red Country is a towering inferno of awesomeness. I just wish I could read it for the first time again..