I "discovered" Abercrombie in 2012 when I was actually looking for some fantasy novels that "weren't Dragonlance-level shit". Back in 2012 I started off by reading “The Heroes” first. Only in 2013 I got to reading the First Law from the beginning.
Abercrombie does not sugar-coat his narrative. That’s for sure. That’s the first indication you’re not reading your running-of-the-mill fantasy: it’s disturbing because it skews closer to real life than we are used to or comfortable with fantasy-wise. Protagonists fail, start things but don’t finish them, have their plans changed in mid-stride and generally push through as if they were making it up as the narrative progresses. While reading “The Blade Itself” I kept expecting conventional fantasy storytelling to assert itself and bring the characters back around to the “right” path, despite evidence to the contrary. I’m not that well versed in fantasy lore, but I think this first novel in Abercrombie’s fantasy milieu sets up a precedent for an ending that just isn’t what you expect, but I still kept waiting for that tide to turn back and give me a the usual happy ending cropping up in a lot of fantasy nowadays. What I found most unsettling is that there IS a happy ending – it’s just the last person in the entire book you’d expect gets everything he wants. It was one of those endings, and one of those books, that sits with you for a very long time.
If you're into SF of the Grimdark variety, read on.
I'm loving this anthology so far (which is what I expected, given that I find Jonathan Strahan's taste similar to my own). The first few stories exhibit the kind of variety and quality that one ought to expect from a Year's Best anthology. Here's what I think of these individual pieces:
The Future Is Blue, by Catherynne M. Valente -- 3 stars (out of 5). Well, this one I did not like as much. That's a surprise, because I have never encountered a CMV story I didn't like. This wasn't bad, it was just kind of a chore to finish. The ending packs quite a punch, no less strong than the usual from this wonderful author. If anything, the water-world bizarreness of life in this thoroughly imagined story makes you realize that, even if climate change doesn't completely drown the Earth, life may well become a challenge to recognize.
Mika Model, by Paolo Bacigalupi -- 5 stars! A police detective finds himself in a situation where he must find a defense lawyer for a sexbot... but what legal rights does a sexbot have? Is the sexbot truly sentient? To what degree? Tough questions with no good answers in the near future. This one is fascinating, not just for the moral questions, but also for its ingenious structure and its finely tuned writing. The really neat thing about this story is that all these Big Questions are wrapped up in a fiction-package made poignant by the author's mastery of perspective. That kind of combination makes you think more deeply.
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik -- 5 stars again! This compelling tale is a riff on Rumpelstiltskin. The daughter of a failed moneylender (failed because he is too kind), who is himself the son of a successful moneylender, makes herself into an even more successful moneylender. But such success comes with a price...
Two's Company, by Joe Abercrombie -- 4 stars. I think this one is set in the "Blade Itself" universe (though I haven't read anything from that milieu...). It's a clever tale pitting two boastful warriors against each other in comic fashion, complete with witty repartee and amusing reversals. It didn't come across as half so witty as the author thought it might (or so it seems to me), but it's still pretty amusing, and the writing is impressively smooth, with something approaching the perfect economy of description.
You Make Pattaya, by Rich Larson. 5 stars! There's really nothing revelatory about this sexy con caper, but it's constructed so perfectly that it was a pure joy to read. Taken together with "Mika Model" (and even "Two's Company", to a small extent), it's a refreshing challenge to the status quo of sexual mores as well as a reminder that such mores are ever in flux.
These I put on hold from those newly added to my public library's overdrive ebook loans.
I already read the Succubus Blue's (Georgina Kincaid) series from Richelle Meade so didn't hold -- but that's been recently added as well. Plus more Nalini Singh ebooks (my library had mostly audiobooks of hers). First three Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance now showing in ebook rather than just audiobooks also. Not my thing, but a lot of Battletech books showed up as well.
I did put in a librarian request adding missing covers if any are still showing on this post.