Warriors 2

Warriors 2 – edited by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

This is part (2/3) of a series of short story anthologies edited by two of the best known names in the business. (See the review of 1/3, here.) As before, the theme comes with no genre restriction, leading to a good mix of material. Here, there are half a dozen short stories, and David Weber’s 120 page novella.

Naomi Novik‘s Seven Years from Home is a poignant, sharp tale about interstellar politics, war, and diplomacy, told from the perspective of one significant player. It also features some clever ideas about alien cultures, and fairly rattles along. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a novel length treatment and extended development of this setting.

Peter S. Beagle‘s Dirae starts with a seemingly incoherent jumble of words that the reader may skim over, but will return to when the mist has cleared, and the setting, situation, and everything else has become a little clearer. It’s a sort of urban fantasy featuring a female vigilante, and a series of encounters with evil doers. I found it engrossing, and fairly complete and self contained. Thoughtful.

S. M. Stirling‘s Ancient Ways is a post apocalyptic coming together of two warriors, from very different societies. It’s a bit of a romp, though well done, and packing plenty into its restricted format. Good entertainment.

David Ball‘s The Scroll is a very dark and gruesome tale, set in olden Morocco, about the evil emperor, and his cruelty towards his slave work force. I would describe it as a glass half full type of story. It keeps its focus well, and sticks to the task of recounting the suffering, and the attempts to escape from that hell. Definitely dark.

Gardner DozoisRecidivist is a tale about the decline of planet Earth, the race against time by fleets of machines to strip the resources from each threatened locale, and the machinations of the the survivors to try and overcome their tormentors. This is not the weirdest story in the book, but it comes close. I’ll probably go back and read this one again, to see if there’s anything I missed.

Howard Waldrop‘s Ninieslando gets the prize for the weirdest story. Set in the trench warfare of an alternate World War 1, it tells of one soldier’s escape from the killing, and the strange community he becomes part of. One of the key threads is the use of Esperanto, without which the plot sinks without trace. That having been said, there are some subtle, and not so subtle, messages delivered in the course of this short piece. However, I preferred the writing to the story. Interesting experiment.

David Weber‘s Out of the Dark is a military ‘Earth is invaded’ type adventure, with buckets of death and destruction, as the outgunned humans try to fight back. There are some interesting cultural differences on show, and Weber does a good job of making the story crack along. I won’t spoil the plot, so no details. Although I did see the final twist coming, it still worked well. The author has taken the opportunity offered by the longer format, and done a good job. There’s not too much flab, and the action fairly rattles along. Whatever self indulgence is in the story can be excused, given what a good read is on offer. Good stuff.

Conclusion: about the same level of overall quality as the first, it’s an affirmation of the editorial talents of Dozois and Martin. Weber’s was the standout piece, though the experience here has definitely heightened my interest in all the writers. Again, I would give it 7/10 as a package.

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Warriors 1

Warriors 1 – edited by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

This is part (1/3) of a series of short story anthologies edited by two of the best known names in the business. The theme is obvious, and with no genre restriction, the implementation amounts to a reasonably wide ranging set of five 50 page shorts, and the 150 page novella from Mr Martin.

I bought this after reading Rogues; partly I wanted to do some more short story reading, and partly because I was still looking for more new authors, or new books from old authors – in both cases, at least new to me – to read and enjoy.

Joe Haldeman‘s Forever Bound is a snapshot of one recruit’s experiences in the early days of his call up and training, set somewhere inside the author’s Forever War type history. It’s not bad, but just seemed to be getting going when the ending arrived.

Tad WilliamsAnd Ministers of Grace is a sci-fi assassin story that is a decent page turner. I thought that Williams handled the plot better than the dialogue, but I was intrigued enough to want to see a full length treatment of the world on show here.

Steven Saylor‘s The Eagle and the Rabbit is a historical encounter between a Roman slaver and Carthaginian prisoners. It portrays all too well the nasty, brutish, and short life of the warrior.

Robert Silverberg‘s Defenders of the Frontiers is about a garrison left to fend for itself. I thought it was the most polished, and the story that best fitted the format.

Cecilia Holland‘s King of Norway is the story with the most fighting, being a Viking tale with all the blood and guts you could wish for, and a well written, well imagined sea battle scene as its center piece. This was the only author in the book of whom I knew nothing before, and I was sufficiently impressed to want to read more of her material.

George R R Martin’s The Mystery Knight is set in the world of Game of Thrones, but before the events portrayed in the blockbuster series. His story in Rogues was very disappointing. Thankfully, this is much improved, with decent use of the extra space to develop some of the characters, and unfurl a plot twist or two. It involves a down on his luck knight trying to get back on his luck (and his horse) while stumbling into a wedding and celebratory tournament that are not what they seem. If you have never read Game of Thrones, this is a reasonable taster. But, don’t buy Warriors 1 just to get your hands on this story, unless you are keen to collect the lot. It’s a good story, but not that good.

Conclusion: apart from following up that Cecilia Holland lead, I must sit down one day and work out what the gaps are in my Robert Silverberg reading. That guy can write. In terms of scoring this, I’d say it was around 7/10 as a package.

 

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Rogues

I do not normally read short stories. Over the years, I have made various attempts – in both crime and science fiction, especially – to get more acquainted with that form of fiction, but have never succeeded. So, it took an exceptionally strong review and recommendation for me to buy this collection of newly commissioned short stories, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, on the theme of rogues. (Surprise!)

Inevitably, the book trades on Martin’s Game of Thrones success by promoting that it includes a new story from that world. And equally inevitably, it’s a stinker. It’s a partial history of the early life of Daemon Targaryen, and reads like a trip through the author’s background notes (or database) with event after event, occasionally freshened up with a sparky comment or two. But there’s no meaningful dialogue, no plot as such, and nothing much of value, except for Game of Thrones’ fanatics.

Fortunately, there are some other works that more than compensate for Martin’s clunker. Continue reading

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