Red Country is published in the UK. It sold somewhere over 3000 hardcovers in its first week, as a result of which it’s just scraped into the Sunday Times UK Hardcover Bestseller list at no. 10. The Heroes made no. 3 last year, but at a far less challenging time at the end of January. This week’s top ten was populated (outside of me) by serious end of year heavy hitters the likes of Rowling, Mantel, Judy Finnegan, Jackie Collins. Physical sales have, as a rule, dropped by about a third over the last couple of years while e-book sales have soared, especially in sf and fantasy. Red Country sold some 1500 kindle editions in its first week as well (though for the time being these don’t count towards the bestseller lists, of course), making well nigh a third of its sales digital, and presumably indicating that a whole lot of readers have shifted from hardcover to kindle over the last couple of years. Not that that’s news. The English editions also seem to be doing pretty well in foreign markets, with well over 20,000 hardcovers shipped overall already. Which is nice.
Tour of the UK was interesting. A couple of ropey events, especially in the daytime, but also some excellent ones in the evening, with Leeds, Edinburgh, and Friday’s homecoming gig at Toppings in Bath being the best. My thanks to those who went above and beyond to give me gifts, including Glencairn glass from the staff at Guildford and a bottle of whisky from Jason. Thanks, fellas.
As regards critical reaction, professional and semi-professional reviews appear fairly to very positive.
“Red Country is Abercrombie’s love letter to the Western, and unlike many that make a complete hash of the spit and sawdust stereotypes that make up the genre, he gets it magnificently. There’s much love here, but at the same time there’s none of the rose tinted romanticism and certainly none of the cheesiness you’d associate with certain aspects of the Western. As you’d expect from Abercrombie this is chockfull of grim humour, action and violence, and very much aimed at the cynical, gritty end of the fantasy spectrum.”
Jared at Pornokitsch had some interesting criticisms and observations to make. I’d actually like to have seen him follow a few of them further. But overall it seems he liked it too:
“There’s jaw-dropping violence, twists, turns and character arcs that prompt the occasional muted cheer. Abercrombie is fast supplanting George R.R. Martin as the standard by which all contemporary epic fantasy should be measured.
His words, not mine. There was even a four out of five in that esteemed figurehead of the British media, The Sun, of all things, though I don’t have a clipping to hand so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Trawls through amazon, goodreads, and various other websites and fora for a more grassroots response reveal that Red Country is both a triumph and a disappointment, too much of a departure or not enough of one, is overwhelmed by its western elements or expertly masters them, is a severe come down after the triumph that was The Heroes and a magnificent return to form after the disappointment that was The Heroes, that it is more overwhelmingly cynical than ever and shows an undoubted mellowing and all-pervasive optimism. It’s my best book and my worst.
Ah, plus ca change…
Right, off to Australia day after tomorrow. I’ll try to cobble a post or two together while down there, but it may be that you won’t hear from me for a while…