Wednesday, June 18, 2014

[Rogues] Joe Abercrombie does it again!

Yeah, so I went to bed with the intention of reading King of Thorns but I was just too curious about Joe Abercrombie's short story in this anthology. Abercrombie has, in my opinion improved a lot since his first The First Law novel - he's found his own distinct voice, and he shines when he portrays roguish characters; so he's a perfect choice for this anthology. Like the previous Martin/Dozois anthology Dangerous Women, Joe opens the ball (he wasn't present in the first anthology in this series, Warriors).
Abercrombie, in my opinion, has written a little masterpiece here with his story Tough Times All Over (that title is so Joe, it tells you a lot about his setting and style and characters, actually).

The funny thing is, that I have been talking about a scene from Joe's The Heroes in my last re-read posts, in which I profess my love for a certain narrative technique Joe used in that scene - moving the story through a small host of characters' points of view. And he decided to use this same trick in Tough Things All Over, so that makes me quite a happy man! This time, the story follows a McGuffin, a mysterious package, as it changes a lot of hands, swiftly. You might think that, when you begin reading the story, that it is a story about Carcolf, a messenger running through the misty streets of Sipani with the package, but then she meets a fellow who takes it from her, and the POV shifts to him. I think Joe writes this absolutely brilliantly. It gives the story a flow and a thudding pace that just hooked me right from the get-go and I couldn't go to sleep until I had devoured the whole thing. Which is troublesome now, the morning after at work. Nah, totally worth it.

One criticism Joe will likely face using this technique is that you don't get properly into a character, and that the story as a result may feel shallow. I disagree. Abercrombie paints his characters, as short a screen time as they have, masterfully. Take for example the second character, the male thief (sorry can't remember the name and I don't have the book here). He is painted in a few broad strokes that makes him absolutely stand out from the other characters present in this tale. Same goes for most of the other characters we inhabit during this fast-paced story of rogues and more rogues. Joe definitely delivered on the anthology's premise and some. I suppose you either love this shit or you don't care. I think it's a strong effort, and shows off Joe's characterization skills adequately. The glue holding it all together is the city of Sipani, which is quite similar in style and tone to Braavos (A Song of Ice and Fire) - both these fantasy cities have taken their inspiration from medieval Venice, Italy (correct me if I'm wrong). Abercrombie's city is a bit more raucous, though.

This is a tough act to follow for the remaining stories in the anthology, and I feel like re-reading it again today. It's entertaining and fun, pure and simple. And with some great banter, to boot. Highly recommended!

1 comment:

  1. There are 15 characters in this story and each one is either miserable or nasty. It's why I don't like Abercombie. He takes grittiness way too far. Though GRRM's books are notorious for killing off heroes, at least GRRM's characters can achieve redemption or happiness, but Abercombie is unrelenting in piling on the misery.