First, some announcements. Worlds of Fantasy tonight, on BBC4, at 9pm, will include footage of me, saying stuff. About Peake, and Tolkien, and the “EPIC IMAGINATION”, apparently. Possibly. Not to be missed. Anyone who sees it, by all means come back here and tell me how much I sucked ass.
Secondly, the good people of Romania will soon have the opportunity to join the fantasy craze that is sweeping the globe. Patrick Rothfuss, you ask? Well, no, not him, he’s going there already, probably, but– Scott Lynch, cry the crowd excitedly? Well, actually, I think he went there a while ago now, but– Brandon Sanderson, Brian Ruckley, Alan Campbell, Tom Lloyd, Daniel Abraham, Felix Gilman, Robert Redick, or, or, or– No, none of them. It’s the First Law, I’m talking about. Yes, courtesy of Nemira, one of Romania’s foremost genre imprints (Martin, Robinson, Herbert etc.), The Blade Itself should be coming within six months, with the other two books following about six months apart. Magic.
Now to some reviews. Do you remember Beezer? After reading The Blade Itself, he was left in two minds about my writing skills. “Mr. Abercrombie does show a knack for writing a solid tale. I think once he hones his craft and is able to correct some of these deficiencies he will truly be a name to watch in the fantasy genre.” Well it looks like some honing went on some time last year, because of Before They are Hanged he says:
“However, in this novel, there seems to be an exponential growth in both his writing and his overall story. If this type of growth continues with the next novel (and any future stories after that) I think readers will be more than pleased … The First Law trilogy seems to be taking on the mantel of a fine painting. Taken piece by piece each book is solid. However, taken as a whole, as the entire trilogy, the true beauty of this work begins to stand out.”
It is, indeed, a positive Sistine Chapel ceiling among fantasy series. Internet humorist Elena, meanwhile, who earlier in the year was so taken with my phrase “a face as red as a slapped arse” has also checked out Before They are Hanged. She begins by voicing her amazement that I apparently know everything that is said about me on the internet, almost before it is written.
“I think he must have written a program to email him the URL of any website that speaks his name.”
Luckily, someone else has written it already, and gifted it to the world in the same way that a crazy biologist might gift the world a lethal mutated virus. It’s called Google Blog-Search, the most dangerous piece of technology since the a-bomb, and with it I waste 90% of my writing time. Elena has some interesting thoughts on the book too, though:
“I find myself wondering if this new sub-genre of fantasy–Abercrombie, Lynch, Martin et. al.–should be termed gonzo fantasy after Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism. Consider: Filthy language? Check. Copious amounts of weapons for every occasion? Check. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong–hilariously? Check. An unlikely and perhaps unaware hero who stays alive against all odds, including his own activities? Check. Drug/alcohol use/abuse? Check. Written by someone you can see hunched over a typewriter smoking a cig without bothering to ash, slogging whiskey instead of caffeine, and not bathing for days on end? Check.
Gonzo fantasy. Goddamn brilliant.”
I do wash, though, you know. Going back to where it all began, Larry, from Wotmania’s Other Fantasy board, has finally run his critical eye over The Blade Itself.
“it is due to the strength of Abercrombie’s characterizations and the rather up-close and personal approach to the storytelling that manages to keep the plot just interesting enough for readers to want more … The “action,” such as it is, is more of a set-up for the following two volumes, but with the promise that what follows after will make these oft-meandering plot threads into portents of something rather moving.”
By no means a slating, but I will hold off on my assesment of Larry’s reviewing capabilities until I have read the entire trilogy … of reviews, apparently due to culminate in a piece of something they call professional criticism on Strange Horizons. Keep your eyes peeled for that. Long established blogger of the sci-fi and fantasy scene, Joe Sherry, had a more positive first reaction to The Blade Itself:
“There is so much going on in The Blade Itself. There are fascinating characters, political maneuvering a plenty, sword-play, action, a dash of romance, class politics, a variety of cultures, more action, magic, empires and feudal warlords, still more action, foul language, inventive language, something called action – all this, and more. The Blade Itself has something for everyone all wrapped up in a violent, action packed, sometimes profane package.
And I like it.
However, he then goes on to refuse me my due of a perfect 10/10 score on the paltry bases that a) the book has no ending, and b) he does not give books numerical ratings. As if such feeble excuses will save him when my righteous wrath descends like a crimson tide upon the reviewing community…
To be fair to Joe, I don’t really expect any perfect scores for The Blade Itself – too many unanswered questions, too much set-up, too much that depends on how the series develops and concludes for anyone to be throwing top marks around. It’s the forthcoming Last Argument of Kings that’ll get me the big scores, if I’m ever going to get them. We’ll just have to wait to see how the mainstream print media responds to … what’s that you say? Early copy from next month’s lead review from Dave Bradley in SFX?
“You should always end with the best. Wow them in the final act, make the last chorus a belter, build to a climax and get them on their feet applauding when the curtain falls. Last Argument of Kings is the textbook example of this theory in practice.”
Oooh. That looks promising. What else?
“The third in Joe Abercrombie’s debut fantasy series, The First Law, reveals everything a finale should: conveys some answers, ties together the loose ends from various plot strands, knocks over pieces painstakingly set up in the preceding stories, and in the aftermath delivers character development that surprises as well as delights.”
Better yet. Final thoughts?
“It builds to a tense final act which fulfils every facet of the phrase, ‘leave them wanting more'”
And how did the world’s biggest selling SF magazine rate the book, I wonder?
Well, 5 stars, as it happens.
5 stars, you say? Out of?
Why, out of 5.
5 stars out of 5? You mean the maximum possible score? The best score? Top marks, as it were?
That’s right. 5 stars. Read ’em and weep. I bet Pat Rothfuss never got none of that 5 star top marks shit from SFX!
Bastard. Well, I bet Scott Lynch never did!
Yes, yes he did too. Both of them did. First books. Five star debuts. Right out of the blocks.
Right. Great. I’ll just go, then, shall I?