Reviews of Red Country continue to roll in. Not satisfied with one, Locus have reviewed it twice. Graham Sleight said, among other things:
“It’s commonplace to say that what’s changed most in fantasy over the last few decades is diction, but it’s still a shock to run into a book like Red Country. It’s not just that the characters say “fuck” a lot – they do, and, unlike some fantasy authors, Abercrombie doesn’t get diminishing returns from that. It’s that the language is part and parcel of these characters’ lives, which are very far from those of princes and princesses … The book isn’t perfect, and the dialogue sometimes lends more to screenplay-ese than what real humans might say … but it’s a book that remains pointed, driven, and sharp.”
See? It’s not just that the characters say “fuck” a lot. Although, of course, they do. Faren Miller, meanwhile, said:
“Red Country takes the action to the untamed frontiers, a far country where elements of our Wild West mutate and run amok … The subsequent description mixes irony, filth and feelings without constraint, as Abercrombie does so well … As for our heroine, the only thing particularly shy about her is her name. She’s an antidote/antithesis to high fantasy’s sheltered princesses and fairy queens … a woman of the frontier, born and raised to make her way through all its dangers, even in changing times.”
Another good review from Jason Heller at the AV Club.
“A pall of gallows humor still hangs over the story, but rarely has Abercrombie had so much fun while rollicking through his colorful cast’s foibles and witty dialogue—and rarely has he dished out so much straight-for-the-heart poignancy. And the Western motif gives him leeway to expound movingly on the noble-savage stereotype, not to mention cram in plenty of brawls, wagon chases, and an achingly anticlimactic showdown that reinforces Abercrombie’s strengths as a subversive yet celebratory purveyor of fantasy … Abercrombie is still a relatively young writer, but with Red Country, he’s deepened his gleefully bleak fantasy with a newfound wealth of wisdom, sentiment, and yes, warmth.”
Pointed, driven, and sharp. Irony, filth, and feelings. Not forgetting wisdom, sentiment, and warmth, who would have thought it?
Red Country’s been out about six weeks in the UK, and about three in the US, and sales would appear to have been better than ever both sides of the pond. Although I daresay there’ll be plenty more response to it the general pattern is settling down. To whit, from where I’m sitting – the professional and semi-professional reactions have been better than ever, and the coverage has probably been wider than ever, which is most certainly a good thing from where I sit. With the grass roots, so far as one can assess the roots without ripping up the lawn, the picture is more mixed, as it always is. Plenty of people expressing love and delight, plenty expressing mild to strong disappointment of one kind or another, plenty of people saying it’s my best book or my worst, and lots of contradictory details – it’s too long or too short, too cynical or I’ve gone soft, has my best and most vivid characters or pale shadows of previous efforts etc. etc. But then the exact same thing has happened with all three standalones. Often when someone comes into a comment thread to say they particularly disliked one or another, someone else chimes in to say it’s their favourite. I’m strangely pleased with that, actually, as it suggests to me that the books succeed to some degree in offering something different, suiting a different balance of tastes. I’d hate to become entirely predictable, don’t you know.
Trying to get some kind of objective grip in this stormy sea of subjectivity, which is the kind of stupid pointlessness we authors (or at any rate this one) indulge in, there are already 117 reviews on amazon uk and us, averaging a healthy 4.3 and 4.4 stars respectively, and not a 1 star in the bunch (yet, and that’s not an invitation), which makes Red Country my third highest rated book in the UK and my highest rated in the US (where generally my ratings are a tad lower). On Goodreads it’s rated at a 4.43 average, way the best of my books which are otherwise grouped between 4.07 and 4.22. Still, it’s only got some 700 ratings so far compared to some 20,000 for The Blade Itself, so there’s a strong possibility that average will drift down a little over time, as early enthusiasm dissipates and more evil nay-sayers come forward to voice their wrong-headed criticisms. One of those many Goodreads reviews contains what may be my favourite comment about the book: ‘It’s like Oregon trail on crystal meth’. I continue to watch this process with interest, of course.
Oh, and my other books still exist, it would appear. The lovely people at Geek Syndicate’s Scrolls Book Club have been discussing The Heroes in depth, and very complimentary they are too. Well, of course they are. If they weren’t, they’d be horrible people.