Saturday, September 24, 2011
Yes, I admit it, I am a completist. Despite being largely disappointed by Warriors 1 and 2, I still went ahead and bought Warriors 3, just so I could have the entire set. I'm probably going to wind up getting the anthology tentatively entitled at this stage Dangerous Women, also edited by George R.R Martin and Gardner Dozois, because it will contain a new Dunk and Egg story, although even at this early stage I have the feeling that it's also going to contain some real howlers, as did all 3 paperback volumes of Warriors. A little note about the cover. I know it seems rather odd to give a book called Warriors a hot pink cover. It's actually salmon in reality, but for some reason the pics that are on the internet are all that pink colour. Anyway onto the stories.
This final collection opens with George Martin's by now familiar intro and then we go into Robin Hobb's The Triumph. Hobb is best known for her Farseer and Liveship series. I've read the first Farseer trilogy and the first Liveship Traders trilogy. I'm not all that enamoured by her writing, she starts off very well, but kind of fails to deliver in the final books to me. This story was a definite change of pace. It was set in the Punic Wars and it had echoes of Steven Saylor's The Eagle and the Rabbit from Warriors 1 in that it concerned the Romans and the Carthaginians, although this time the Romans were the slaves and the Carthaginians were the victors. It wasn't a bad story, very violent and brutal, well told. I would have liked to know exactly what the 'dragon' was that brought the Romans undone, but this frustratingly was never explained and that's a hallmark of Hobb, she regularly leaves things unexplained and untied off.
Soldierin' by Joe R. Lansdale was next up. Lansdale writes across genres, including Westerns, and that's what Soldierin' is; a Western story. It's set after the Civil War and concerns the battle against the Apaches. The twist is that the narrator and his closest soldier friend are both former slaves who fought during the Civil War. It's mostly played for laughs and is passable. One irritation for me was that the author chose to use first person narration and therefore a lot of it was written using the slang of the day. I find accents in stories somewhat gimmicky and Soldierin' was no exception.
I've never read Lawrence Block before and if Clean Slate is representative of his work, then I never want to again. The story is called Clean Slate, an alternative title would be How Not To Write A Piece Of Short Fiction. Terrible is being too kind. Firstly the collection is called Warriors, pretty much everyone else who contributed to this collection managed to write a story about someone or something that fit that definition, even Peter S. Beagle's confusing mess Dirae in Warriors 2 fit that brief sort of, but not this abomination. The main character was a serial killer. The story had no real point, it was written confusingly and unrealistically, the dialogue was truly awful and there was no sympathy for any of the characters. Ugh! How this bit of unpleasant dreck even made it into the collection I will never know.
After that pretty nasty experience about the best story from this or any of the other two collections popped up. The Girls from Avenger by Urban Fantasy author Carrie Vaughan. As well as being the author of the successful Kitty Urban Fantasy series Carrie Vaughan is also a regular contributor to George Martin's baby Wild Cards. I haven't previously read any of her work. I can't come at Wild Cards (I tried with the first volume years ago, but just could not get into it) and I don't want to get involved in another Urban Fantasy series at this point. However The Girls from Avenger was great. It's about the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots), these criminally unrecognised ladies, while not in combat roles, performed an invaluable service for the US war effort and it has even to this day gone largely unrecognised and unrewarded. The story is about the search by one girl to uncover the truth about the death of a friend. Everything that Clean Slate wasn't, this was. It was well written, it fit the brief of the collection, the dialogue sparkled and was believable and the reader genuinely felt for the characters. Top notch stuff. Carrie Vaughan does have some standalone novels in print, and I may have to look at one of them. She can write.
The Pit by James Rollins was an unusual one. Rollins is a vet by profession when he's not writing, and it showed in this story. It's about a pit bull terrier forced to fight for survival in illegal dog fights. What makes the story so different is that it's told from the dog's point of view. I once saw a film, I think it was called 'It's a Dog's Life' which was similar, but that was made years ago, and this is current day. Dog lovers may find it hard to stomach, because the animals are treated very brutally, but again I felt that was close to reality, and it's likely that in his chosen profession James Rollin has come in contact with some of these dogs. It was let down a little by the ending, which, while happy, was totally unrealistic.
Next up was My Name Is Legion by David Morrell. Morrell would be one of the better credentialled highest selling authors in the collection. He's best known as the author of First Blood, which was the first Sylvester Stallone Rambo film, he also wrote the sequel for the film. I read some of Morrell (the original First Blood, before he rewrote the ending to tie in with the film, and some of his other militaristic fiction), so was comfortable with his style and his interest in military organisations. My Name is Legion is about the French Foreign Legion, so ties in with this. It's well done from a historical view point and he's done his research, however he got a bit too wrapped up in this and didn't leave enough room for character development, which made the actual story component fall a little flat.
As in the previous two volumes the final story was a novella length contribution by one of the collection's heavy hitters. A Lord John Grey story from Diana Gabaldon. I haven't read any Gabaldon and if this one is representative I don't think I will in the future. It's not bad, it's just uninteresting to me anyway. The setting and the main character were of interest and she does relatively good battle scenes, but it was just very blah. I did have to laugh when I read that a peripheral character was called Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The character of James Fraser in her highly successful time travel, historical fiction romance Outlander series is based on one of Doctor Who's early companions; a young Scotsman by the name of Jamie MacCrimmon, and she's also stolen the name of her Brigadier from the long running British sci-fi series. This is the lady who last year ranted very strongly against fan fiction! Pot meet kettle. There may be something to her writing, but this novella didn't really display it.
There was a lot of hype about Warriors when it came out in hardcover form last year, and I have to say that overall it was not justified. About two thirds of the stories were duds by largely unknown authors, some of the better known authors also turned in some pretty uninspiring work. To be blunt this collection would have been unlikely to see the light of day without the name George R.R Martin attached to it as an editor and his contribution. It's basically a grab for money by the publishers and an attempt to cash in on George Martin's current popularity and name.