[Book Review] Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Hi there…

Short story collections are tricky to sum up sometimes. In the case of fantasy, science fiction, or horror collections, often I find that an anthology feels more like it was rounded up like cattle to slaughter than a carefully selected group of stories about a particular theme. Warriors from Tor was thankfully in the latter category.

Warriors was put together and edited by George R. R. Martin (author of the bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series that began in 1996 with A Game of Thrones), and Gardner Dozois (acclaimed editor and novelist who has won fifteen Hugo Awards for his editorial work in science fiction and fantasy). I’ve read many of GRRM’s works, including some of his Wild Cards anthologies and have been waiting to see who lives and dies in the next book of his Song of Ice and Fire series for 5 years along with everyone else. And I really enjoyed Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy a few years ago, which was edited by Dozois. So I suspected that Warriors would be just as good.

Man was I wrong. Warriors was an amazing collection of stories from all eras and genres, from ancient Rome and Carthage to a future where soldiers jack into giant robots on a battlefield far away and everything between. These stories impressed me with their depth, their eloquence, and the ability to surprise me from time to time. I loved Wizards, but Warriors beats it hands down. It helps that the 735 page book could be used as a weapon to bludgeon a poor, unsuspecting wizard while they were trying to remember or cast a spell…

When I first saw this behemoth, I wondered if they’d sent me a dictionary by mistake. Its size alone presented a daunting challenge of carrying it around. That said, I think I added a bit of muscle as I lugged it around.

It would be impossible to cover all of the great stories in this collection in a single review. Instead, I’ll focus on a few that really captured my attention.

Robin Hobb is an author who I had often heard about, but never read until recently. I read Dragon Keeper and just finished Dragon Haven a few days ago, both of which were excellent. So when I read her short story “The Triumph” I already knew she was an excellent writer. But it’s one thing to write about a fictional world of your own making and quite another to write accurately enough about a historical period that you can enjoy the story without getting mired in historical details or inaccuracies.

“The Triumph” is about an Roman soldier named Regulus imprisoned by the Carthaginians and his childhood friend and soldiering companion Flavius, recently escaped from Carthaginian slavers. In the story, Hobb describes the love, respect, and admiration soldiers often have for one another that leads them again and again into and out of impossible situations. Regulus was a natural leader and Flavius a follower intent on keeping his friend alive through battle after battle. But in the end, there was only one kindness Flavius could give his friend. Beautifully written and told with just enough detail to be believable, but not so much as to become lost.

Joe R. Lansdale, I’m sorry to say I’d never heard of prior to reading his story “Soldierin’.” However, from the blurb before his story I now know he was involved with novelizing the awesome and quirky movie Bubba Ho-Tep. Now I may have to look for some of his other works!

“Solderin'” has nothing to do with Elvis, a mummy, and nursing homes, but instead deals with a story from the wild west of 1870 about two Black men looking for a better life. The pair get involved with the Ninth Cavalry from Fort McKavett “between the Colorady and the Pecos rivers” as Nat Wiliferd and Cullen find themselves in Indian country.

Did they find their better life? Perhaps. But what captured my interest was the way in which the story was told, from Nat’s point of view. I laughed my way through the story enjoying his view of the world and the way everyone spoke in a particularly direct, yet drawly English. It reminded me a bit of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. with Bruce Campbell. The language, storytelling, and the touches of history kept me amused from beginning to end.

The story that surprised me the most was “Dirae” by Peter S. Beagle, the author of The Last Unicorn, one of the great novels of an earlier era of fantasy and science fiction. Beagle has written much since then, including other novels, short fiction, and scripts for such great series as Star Trek: The Next Generation at the height of its run. “Dirae” starts with two pages of dream-like text and leads you on an adventure that transcends the frailty of the human spirit to help those in need. As you read and learn more about the character at the center of the action, you and she piece things together to the very end. I won’t spoil it for you, but it was beautifully paced and emotionally charged.

Another story that surprised me, and the last one I’ll talk about here, is “The Pit” from James Rollins. This one moved me to tears in the end and is not about a human warrior at all, but a canine one. Brutus is a dog trained to fight in the pit, stolen from his happy puppy days by a thief intent on perpetuating the “sport” of dog fighting. As anyone familiar with the Michael Vick dog fighting saga knows, it’s not a sport. It’s illegal and immoral. And this story should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants a glimpse into that world.

There are many other stories in the anthology from authors I knew and a few I didn’t – Joe Haldeman, Tad Williams, Diana Gabaldon, Naomi Novik, David Weber, S.M. Stirling, David Morrell, and the editors Dozois and Martin were among the ones I knew. And all the stories – whether I knew the authors or not – were well written, diverse, and told amazingly well.

If you need some summer reading material, Warriors works well on vacation as you can enjoy the collection a story at a time. The editors and Tor outdid themselves this time. Great work!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this collection and others at Barnes & Noble!

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Amazing Short Story from Elizabeth Bear

Hi all…

I don’t usually gush like this, but I have to say that when I read “The Horrid Glory of Its Wings” on the Tor.com site I knew I had to blog about it.

You can read it here at Tor’s site: “The Horrid Glory of Its Wings” by Elizabeth Bear

Not only is it touching, but it’s poignant in its approach to some of the children growing up with AIDS from birth. Mix that with an urban take on an old mythological creature and you get the gist of this story. Just know that the story is soooo much better than my summary of it. 🙂

Check it out!

–Fitz

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Book Review: The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

Hi there!

I try to read as much as possible. My reading ranges from technical computer manuals and books to short stories. The books I most enjoy reading are fantasy and science fiction. I am usually asking my friends for ideas for trilogies or great books. There are a few things about fantasy books that really tend to turn me off to buying new books, including those series that take years to finish.

In a podcast I heard quick review of a new book called The Way of Shadows. This was the first book in the night angel trilogy about assassination and magic in a fantasy setting. I looked up the book at Amazon and saw that even though it was out October 2008 the next two in the trilogy were already out (book two – Shadows Edge, book three – Beyond the Shadows). These were release one month apart, and all in soft cover. What a concept! It sounded fun, all released, and in soft cover so I decided to by the whole trilogy.

I started reading and with all good books I was up late and night and did not want to go to bed. I managed to get through half the book in one sitting (the book is 688 pages). The next day I did not get a chance to get to the book. During that time I was thinking the whole time what was happening and how was it going to turn out. When I got to the book a day later, I powered through it and enjoyed every word.

This is a story about kids growing up in a harsh city. It starts dark and the kids in the city go through some pretty bad situations. The author does not pull any punches. However, he does it in a way that you see hope and are rooting for them the whole time. This initial story starts out as they are kids and moves as they grow and find ways to get through the rough streets and moves into them becoming adults. The main character becomes an apprentice to the top wetboy (special assassin) in the city.

But there is more to this wetboy and during this time the young trainee finds out there is much more to the city, the wetboys, the politics than he sees. There is depth in the characters and is a great story to really show good and evil is just not black and white. There are “evil” people that really show good character choices, and good people who you see stab people in the back. I am just starting the second book and really excited to see where the trilogy goes.

If you like fantasy, a quick fun read, and don’t want to wait years for the trilogy to finish and find out what happens, this is a great book to pick up. I really hope the trend of soft covers and full trilogies being published in a short time continues with other series.

Andrew

p.s. Here is the short description from the book:

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly – and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death.

p.s.s. If you want to pick up the books in the series, click here:

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