What THEY are saying 09/09

September 18th, 2009

Some time has passed since I last stole from port before first light and trawled the internet for reviews like an illegal trawler trawling the North Sea for cod in contravention of the EU’s fishing policy. Except that in my case, however hard I trawl, the stocks never seem to reach exhaustion. What a metaphor. It’s shit like THAT that allows me to earn a living as a professional writer, yo. So, who and what have we slithering from the nets in the last month or two’s catch?

First up we have a review of Best Served Cold from either Paul Witcover of Matt Staggs (it doth not specify precisely) in Realms of Fantasy magazine. Realms is old-style printed written word stuff and hence cannot be linked to, therefore you’ll have to take my word for it (never a good idea) that it says, among other wonderful things:

“When you read as much fantasy as I do, you appreciate a writer who has the restraint to depict the frenzied chaos and bloody confusion of battle in all its beauty, terror, and black humour. And when, as with Abercrombie, that approach extends beyond the battlefield, you know you’ve found a writer to follow.”

Have you ever had that feeling you were being followed? A ha! A ha ha! A ha ha ha haaaaaaaah! It’s jokes like THAT which allow me earn a living as a professional writer, yo. Next we have an opinon on Best Served Cold from Elena at Book Spot Central , an occasional visitor to this very blog, here:

“This story could easily have spanned several volumes (then again clocking in close to 700 pages could arguably be considered several volumes), but yet there isn’t really a lot of wasted space … If you like your epic fantasy gritty, well, it doesn’t come any sandier than this. Best avoided by those who need happy endings and sterling heroes, but highly recommended to anyone who thinks they might like it – you know who you are”

You know who you are, you grit-loving mo-fos! Someone who might like it, but I’m still not completely sure whether he did or not, is Niall Harrison, who has made a characteristically deep and thoughtful probing of Best Served Cold over at Strange Horizons:

“This inevitably makes Best Served Cold something of a novel of parts – some very good, exhilarating or terrifying or amusing, but no more a coherent whole for that … Best Served Cold is a novel that can be understood to deliberately deny the higher heroic possibilities of its imaginative premise, because it refuses to believe there are any.”

Hmm. I feel … probed. It’s a piece that asks questions about big issues – the role of truth in fantasy, the role of fantasy in truth, the use of fantasy as analgesic, the necessity for historical accuracy in dialogue and setting, and more. Big questions, and it is perhaps a piece that asks more than it answers, though no less interesting for that. Asking the simpler question – is the book good? was Jason Henninger at Tor.com, a man whose doubt-riddled review of The First Law forced me to learn him up good style some time back. Did he learn from the experience, and grow as a reviewer? Let us see…

“Because of the narrower scope, the pace is quicker than before, which means it’s gone from the reader feeling like they got jumped in an alley to feeling like they got shivved fifteen times on the way to the prison cafeteria. In an entertaining way.”

Exactly the effect I wish to have on readers.

“I’ve never before read an author so willing to chuck his characters from high places. He just defenestrates the shit out of people.”

Good use of the word defenestration. Outside of the context of Prague, it simply doesn’t get used anything like enough, especially in sentences that also contain the word “shit”. But what of the book, Jason, the book?

“what we get is a thrilling, funny, vicious and exhilarating story, because above all, he writes great characters. That is, as always, the strongest part of his storytelling. I truly marvel at his skill in generating concern for the wellbeing and success of people who are more or less degenerate bastards.”

Huzzah for degeneracy! But the darkness/nastiness/unsympatheticness (yes, it is on account of coining catchy words like unsympathicness that I am able to earn a living as a professional writer, yo) of the characters went too far for some, such as James of Speculative Horizons – for those who like their horizons speculative rather than strange, and their speculations horizontal rather than fictitious (presumably):

“The main issue I had was – surprisingly – with the characters. I just couldn’t connect with most of them on any real level. Perhaps it’s because the entire lot of them – to varying degrees – are cheating, lying, backstabbing scumbags with barely a redeeming feature among them. It was odd to read a novel where there was no ‘hero’, where it’s not clear who you’re meant to be siding with (none of them, I suspect). This is not to say that some of them are not likeable in their own way, but I found it so hard to invest in any of them because they are all so morally vacant.”

Man, moral vacancy is my occupation! (it is thought provoking juxtapositions such as vacancy with occupation that allow me to blah, blah, blah). To think I actually bought a pint for James when I was up in Manchester recently. And when I say, bought a pint, I don’t mean demanded that my publicist put it on his expenses, I mean, actually reached into my own pocket. Last time I’m doing THAT.

Posted in reviews by Joe Abercrombie on September 18th, 2009.

14 comments so far

  • Bob Lock says:

    Some time has passed since I last stole from port before first light and trawled the internet for reviews like an illegal trawler trawling the North Sea for cod

    *sigh* Oh to be a master fisherman like you, Joe. When I trawl all I get are old boots…

    Oh and to say – To think I actually bought a pint for James – is taking your fiction just that little bit too far!



  • James says:

    Now that I think about it, perhaps giving BSC such a review after you bought me a drink makes ME morally vacant! 😉

    I never forget my debts though, and perhaps – if you're attending the Gollancz party next week – I might find the opportunity to purchase you a chilled beverage. Or I could just kneel before you and kiss your feet, if you prefer -your choice.

  • Bob,
    It's all about the size of the net.

    I'll be there. The drinks are free though, so you better put on the knee pads and pucker up for some foot kissin…

  • James says:

    No problem, I have a cute little velvet cushion with tassels that I keep in the attic for these sort of occasions. Protects the old kneecaps, you know? It can also be used to suffocate people.

    Yeah, I know the drinks are free – I was thinking if somehow we ended up in another establishment later. No problem if not though, since there will be other times, hopefully…

  • Alec says:

    You guys should get a room…

  • Clambeard says:

    It's the 'moral vacancy' that makes your stories so appealing to my shrunken blackened heart.

    The phony do-gooderness of the typical fantasy 'hero' is stripped away, withdrawing the legitimacy for violence they gain from prophecy, divinity or just because they're an 'good guy'.

    Cheers for writing another fantasy novel I didn't have to put down after 50 pages because of cliche overload.

  • Jon (Gollancz) says:

    Can I just point out that the publicist did buy at least one round on his expenses, lest I'm portrayed as a tight-wad.

    I'm mean I am, but I don't want it put around.

    Jon — Your cheapskate publicist

  • Bob Lock says:

    So, Joe, are you saying that size does matter (and my wife's been lying to me all this time?)


  • Elena says:

    I had an "opinion" about BSC? Isn't that selling my praise a bit short? And you don't even mention my discussion of how much you've grown as a writer. (shakes head in disdain) Really, Joe, it's like you expect your other fans to actually go READ these reviews, which is preposterous. I mean, you have to be realistic about these things….


  • Jeff says:

    The characters, Joe, are not vacant. They were profound because they lacked on so many points, they were human. Beacause in the end, humans are lying, cheating, backstabbing, paranoid, selfish basterds. Let no one tell you otherswise, 'cause ye know they be lyin'! Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day! Catch th' outgoing tide!

  • Elfy says:

    I have to agree with Jeff, it's sad, but true that making your characters the lying, backstabbing scum that they are actually makes them more real.

  • phild says:

    From Joshua R Parker's BSC review in the Subterranean Press Summer 2009 online mag:

    "It takes a deft hand to make people this brutal and despicable so much fun to read. Abercrombie makes it look easy."

    Right on, Josh.

  • m m my momma says:

    I love that your characters are so real and I agree with Jeff.
    At one point or another I hated, liked or sympathised with each character.
    I have to say one of my favorite characters to read was the Dogman…. He was decent, intelligent, and brutal if neccessary, and surprisingly sexy in my mind.

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