Warriors 3 – edited by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
This is the final part (3/3) 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, and 2/3 here.) The absence of genre restriction means the contributing writers could have delivered a good mix, though in this volume there is much more of a common theme and setting. Inside the book are six short stories, and Diana Gabaldon’s 90 page novella.
Robin Hobb‘s The Triumph is a dark, sharply observed tale of honor and loyalty, set in the times of the Punic War between Rome and Carthage. The story fits the format perfectly, and the end result is a satisfyingly good taste of the author’s prodigious talents.
Joe R. Lansdale‘s Soldierin’ is a bittersweet war story set in the Cavalry v Indian backdrop of the good old USA. With African Americans playing the leading roles, the author cannot quite deliver enough variety to match the freshness of that idea, and the writing – while colorful and entertaining – is not enough compensation. This one was too familiar, and made little impact on me.
Lawrence Block‘s Clean Slate is the story with the best kick in its tale. It’s about a young lady, revisiting her past loves, and encountering some new ones. But not in the traditional, normal fashion. Scary, smart, and slick. Best of the bunch.
Carrie Vaughn‘s The Girls from Avenger brought me back, far too quickly, to Soldierin’ with a similarly disappointing after taste. The story, such as it is, features American women pilots contributing to the WW2 war effort. So, again, a break away from the mold. But after that, lifeless characters, and a bit of a flop. No tension, no believable drama; just a decent initial idea, let out on its own, and doomed to end with a whimper. Worst of the bunch.
James Rollins‘ The Pit is a story that volume contributors Lansdale and Vaughn should study, for it takes an interesting idea, and backs it up with solid characterization, good writing, and a better sense of timing and polish. At the core, it’s a story about a dog. But the author manages to raise questions of loyalty, humanity, and compassion into the rather steely center piece. This was an experiment that worked.
David Morrell‘s My Name is Legion gets the prize for the best ripped off title, though I doubt Roger Zelazny ever did a piece on the French Foreign Legion; that’s what you get here. It’s a story of WW2, featuring soldiers of the Legion on each side, and the inevitable bloody clash. It’s quite atmospheric, does a good job of building up the tension, and delivers a reasonable conclusion. Probably the runner up in the volume, in terms of quality.
Diana Gabaldon‘s The Custom of the Army features one of the author’s minor characters from her other fiction – John Grey – and gives him a leading role in this 18th century military adventure. It starts well, though quietly, with a strange electric eel ritual, and then goes off in several directions. As much as a couple of the stories here were perfect matches for their format, this novella tries to do too much and cannot manage the feat. I did not enjoy the journey, finding Mr Grey to be less than interesting. Admittedly the French Indian Wars are not my favorite historical setting, so that didn’t help. But overall it was the author’s writing style which just did not connect. Not for me.
Conclusion: not quite up to the same level of overall quality as the other two volumes – maybe that is why it was the last part? – but, on the whole, reasonable enough. If I had read this first, however, I would not have read the other two parts. This one is a 6/10.