I know I was rather gushing about Joe Abercrombie and his latest book Red Country yesterday, and the excitement is still high. Very, very few books keep me up later than I should, and even fewer books beckon me to read them in broad daylight when I have all manner of other things I should be doing. In fact, the only I can think of is George R.R. Martin. Even though A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons weren't all that, I ripped through them with ferocious interest, wanting to read on. That's what Abercrombie also manages. I'm halfway through Red Country by now, and that's saying something - I mean I've had a book like Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings on my night table since forever. Well, since it was published. And that was...August 2010.
It's a thing, I guess. Both Martin and Abercrombie have these great characters to latch onto, and I believe the thing is that their characters are often sarcastic, witty, hardened, I don't know, but when characters talk in their books, they come alive in a way few other authors manage. The thing could be the gritty, down to earth style (well Abercrombie is taking it below the earth really whereas Martin is taking strides toward more epic fantasy), it could be the way they both condense their chapters into mini-stories interesting all on their own, I don't know...Is it the (often hideous) violence that is the draw for me?
That said, I've also grown very fond of Erikson who is kind of in the opposite direction in many ways, but his stories too tend to have swearing sarcastic violent characters with wit to boot. And these three are my favorites, so yeah, it could be it.
On the other side I am also enjoying the much milder tones of Rothfuss, and have always been and will always be enamored by The Lord of the Rings.
I guess the conclusion is that I like most of my fantasy to be a tad dark, but with some rays of light shining through here and there...
...In stark contrast to my continued meddling with the online medieval warfare game, Wars of the Roses, where life is so bleak, so ... meaningless and full of pain™ as I get thrashed around a lot, often receiving the edge of a shield hammered into my character's face, teeth and blood and jawbone flying. Still, little by little I come by these little scraps of experience points (usually a meager five points for assisting someone else, or a larger sum for standing near a flag long enough without being slaughtered). If only I had a computer that was able to run the game without lag! When I have finally turned my character around to face an opponent, I either fall straight to my knees as he slits my throat, or the opponent has moved on, or been vanquished by someone on my team. Kind of embarrassing, really. Fortunately it's all with the mouse and the keyboard, and not with the shield and the sword back in the day. Still, the game does evoke some sense of dread as you move forward to where the enemies are waiting, and the game gets me sweating no doubt. Exciting and exhilarating, and I don't even have the computer to run it properly. One day...
One more round on the battlefield, and then back to the Red Country. I believe I have a new favorite character in fantasydom, and her name is Shy South. No, I have two new favorites - Temple is pretty much a vividly drawn character too, with nobody liking him and he being quite all right if you ask me. And the humor! If not the best fantasy out there, it is without doubt the funniest. I feel like quoting entire reams of banter from this book. If you didn't like Best Served Cold or The Heroes it might not be for you, though. For me, if the book keeps on being as entertaining as it is right now, Red Country may yet turn into his best effort. But poo on the editor who skipped more than one punctuation. If you don't respect punctuation, well, uh....something something.
Sorry mr. Erikson, Forge of Darkness may be a solid tale drenched in dark atmosphere and with a prose unequaled in the genre, but Red Country is popcorn and soda spattered with guts.