Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Review -Surrender to the Will of the Night

OK, I have a confession.  Although I'm a devout believer in science, I'm a sucker for Fantasy and Science Fiction.  I can live in the real world just fine, but when I read for entertainment I like wizards, and magic and the occasional stupid warrior type chopping up the bad guys (and sometimes the good guys).

One of my favorite living authors in this genre is Glen Cook, who has several series of both F&SF and "straight" science fiction, including the "Black Company" series, The Star Fishers (which I'm still in the midst of), the "Dread Empire" series, the Garrett PI collection, and some stand alone novels and short stories which may (or may not) tie to a series. He apparently is not a sufferer of writer's block.

"Surrender to the Will of the Night" is the third, and clearly not the final, or even a pause, in the "Instrumentalities of the Night" group.  Like many of Cook's books, this group has a number of plot lines which weave and intersect, but the main thread follows the career of the slave-soldier Else Tage, later to become Piper Hecht, from when, in a moment of desperation, he kills a minor god using a primitive cannon charged with silver shot.  This earns him the eternal hatred from the creatures of the night, who reach into the past to initiate plots to destroy him before this knowledge can spread.  This volume finds him the "Captain General" of a decadent empire with a vague resemblance to early Renaissance Italy, in conflict with other states that have vague resemblances to the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Caliphates, etc etc.  A fine old tradition dating back at least to R.E. Howard's Conan books.  He also finds himself in the god-killing business along with an ancient, and rather mysterious wizard/prankster who turns out to be his great-great grandfather (well, maybe).

As in all of his books number of characters introduced is quite large; but he is not so sentimental he minds killing a few off when the list gets too messy.  The book ends with Piper, the wizard, a lost sister sorceress, a few adopted kids, his (second) wife, a rogue demigod and a half-god (yes, there's a difference), about the enter the abode of the gods across the rainbow bridge, well armed with new fancy cannons loaded with specialized "god shot".  I'll have to wait to find out what happens, but whatever it is, I expect not to be able to anticipate it. 

One aspect of all Glen's works is that the characters, despite often living in places which appear to be analogues of familiar historical places and eras, speak and act much as you would expect people of our ilk to.  I contrast that to "True Grit" in which the characters speak in a formal style, which I ascribe to a method to lend "authenticity" to the characters in the movies.  It doesn't bother me much here, as I assume that where ever people are, they are speaking in the way they feel comfortable, and that's how this feels.

Well done, Glen.  It seems like I've been awaiting one or another of your books since about 1980.

This was the first "new" book I read on my new Kindle 3G, mostly in my 45 minute daily commute.  I'm also quite satisfied with the Kindle, which is easier, and smaller to drag around than most books, visible without illumination until well after sunset, and able to surf the web, and possibly even blog if necessary.  It's quite likely to help me develop an expensive reading habit, however, where until recently, most of my books were purchased used cheap, or Ted's discards.

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