Black Tide rising…

Been meaning to write about this for a while but kept putting it off; now I’m a bit behind thanks to the new Rock Band DLC.  I stumbled across Black Tide during a search for new music via the Playist over at the Kerrang! website; unfortunatley some genius broke the link.  A short hop over to iTunes and I found the singles “Shockwave” and “Warriors of Time”…and was summarily $1.98 the poorer.  In my opinion “Warriors of Time” far eclipses “Shockwave” in sheer badassery but both songs rock.  Needless to say their album is scheduled for 3/18 and I’ll definitly be snagging a copy.  In the meantime enjoy the studio cut and the live version (from Ozzfest this past August):

Review: Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged Abercrombie, Joe. Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book 2). Pyr. 2008.

Having found The Blade Itself an immensely enjoyable read I was elated when Before They Are Hanged arrived in the library early (with no note about SOS date!).  Was it worth the wait?  Yes…and no.

The major complain with the first book, its seeming lack of an overarching plot, is somewhat lessened here.  Abercrombie lulls you into complacency with his traditional quest structure (at least in one of the narrative threads) only to defy convention at almost every turn and leave you dangling in the end (again).  As in the previous book it’s the characters that cary the story.  Setting and plot take a back seat to the sad, tortured, humorous creatures that populate the book.

Old favorites return.  Glotka is perhaps one of the strangest “heroes” I’ve ever read in fantasy.  Wolfe’s Severian was a torturer yes, but he still followed a rather traditional fantasy trope (young obscure man raised to greatness; a simplification) .  Glotka is a tortured wreck of a human being, a walking contradiction who can find mercy for criminals but at the same time doesn’t blink at forcing an innocent man’s confession, a man who helps out “friends” but does so through hot pokers and the rack.  He’s honest enough, in his own way, yet if you met him in street you would run the other way.  But, I like him.  I root for him.  You want him to “win” even when I squirm at how he does it.

If there is one thing that Abercrombie does well it is the characters.  Logen/the Bloody Nine, Jezal, Dogman, Threetrees, Byaz, et al. are all interesting characters.  I would be counted among the detractors regarding Abercrombie’s scant attention to setting but, as I thought about it, I’ve decided that his lack of attention to setting (except where necessary) is completely intentional.  In many ways, to go with an extreme analogy, Abercrombie’s scant worldbuilding functions in many ways as the set from Our Town.  Abercrombie sketches out bare details and populates a scene with what, at first appearance, are obvious archetypes but on closer examination stray much further from the fantasy norm.  It is, as I said, an extreme analogy.  There is one key thing to note, setting is mostly non-extant except for the major action set-pieces.  Its an abrupt slide from black and white to full color but one that serves to enhance the action and leave a lingering image with the reader.  As a result Abercrombie’s richly textured and vividly imagined characters stand out all the stronger.  It becomes about the people and their, often strange, relationships to one another.

I doubt any of the above discussion on setting would occasion comment outside the fantasy genre.   But in a fiction medium used to the setting playing an integral part in its definition and where “world-building” has been somewhat of a hot-button topic the absence of lengthy development of both world and setting feels somewhat odd.

The focus on character and action, the cliffhanger elements, all play into the pulp feel of the book.  It may sit as sort of an odd duck out in the realm of fantasy fiction, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The novel is a fun read from start to finish but ends up feeling like a meal cut short, my hunger unsated, by the end.  However, the merits far outweigh the faults and in all honesty I’m more upset I have to wait for the next one to come out, if the dollar weren’t in the shitter I’d be ordering it from the UK (3/20, release date).  A solid A, highly recommended for fantasy fans looking for something a bit outside the box.

Last Week’s Best Comics- 3/5

Descriptions later:

Echo #1 (Terry Moore)
Having missed out on Strangers in Paradise I finally get to experience some Terry Moore. I knew nothing about this book going in and was pleasantly surprised to find it’s a sci-fi tale. Mostly set up, but off to an interesting start. Combined with last week’s RASL from Jeff Smith we have the two biggest “indie” writers starting new series; definatly a good thing.
BtVS Season 8 #12: Wolves at the Gate (Drew Goddard and Georges Jeanty)
My man crush on geek general Xander Harris wins out here. Spouting awesomely ridiculous one-liners (“My Beautiful Burning Eye!” “Merciful Zeus!”) good ‘ol Xander reminds me why he’s my favorite character in the Buffyverse. Also, Buffy mostly naked with other chick mostly naked. Situational comedy does work well in comics.
Logan #1 (of 3) (Brian K Vaughn and Eduardo Risso)
Another week, another Wolverine comic. I wanted to hate it but couldn’t. It seems we’re going to get a chance to see Wolvie vs. an atomic bomb. Pick up the black and white variant if you can.

24 Hour Comics- Ryan Ottley’s Death Grub

This one goes out to Larry.

Ryan Ottley, best known for his work with Robert Kirkman on Image’s Invincible, will be publishing his 24 hour comic from last year.  About the comic Ottley had the following to say:

Well, 24 Hour Comics Day only comes once a year and I wanted to try my hand at doing my own little story. So I got together with a bunch of other artists at a local comic shop here in Salt Lake City and we all worked on our own book. The only thing I wanted to write about was a big giant grub that ate people. Thought it sounded cool.

And my ideas went from there. It was a good experience as I don’t write at all so this was new to me. Really enjoyable stuff but man, it really was draining to be forcing your mind to come up with something that quick and then drawing it all.

The full interview can be found over at Newsarama and the comic is slated for release, from Image, in May.