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This book contains stories by Fantasy and Science Fiction-author Glen Cook which vary in length from short story to novella. They also have a very wide range when it comes to their contents. As you would expect from this author, the quality of the stories is very good and the book is definitely worth buying. What is somewhat irritating is that the publisher didn't bother to give any information about the stories except for their titles. Given that they were written over a span of several decades and some of the stories are connected to series by the author (and should be read in the right place within those series), the least you would have expected would have been the original publication date, ideally also some information of which series it's connected to, maybe even a little introduction by the author. This is all the more surprising, since it's really a labour of love to republish these stories, most of which haven't been available for decades. Getting them on their own, from lots of magazines and collections, would have been a real nuisance and rather expensive. As it is, this collection is a really good deal and I would recommend getting it while it's available. Subterranean Press is known for limited editions of which there is no reprint. Now to the contents: I have made a list of the stories with their year of original publication and the series, where it applies. I won't write anything about the contents. In the case of shorter stories, a summary already is a spoiler, in my opinion.
Song from a Forgotten Hill (1971) And Dragons in the Sky (1972) Appointment in Samarkand (1972) Sunrise (1973), Starfishers-series The Devil's Tooth (1974) In the Wind (1975) The Recruiter (1977) The Seventh Fool (1978) Ponce (1978) Quiet Sea (1978), A Dread Empire-series Darkwar (1982), Darkwar-series Enemy Territory (1983) The Waiting Sea (1983) Winter's Dreams (ca. late 90s, exact date now known to me)
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Subterranean Press have done some great Jack Vance anthologies, with loving introductions and notes on each story therein. How can they have bungled this so badly that there is not even a copyright list, so you cannot even tell when a particular story was written? To read the copyright note, you would think every story here was fresh-written for this volume, which is not the case. Sure, the contents of the book are great and distinct - scifi, fantasy, space opera, dystopian future earth - but so much is missing that should be there.
Maybe all that is because I'm a real Cook fan, with his Garrett series being one of the most fun things I have ever read, but I think the lack of ancillary material is even more pronounced for a casual reader.
For instance, "Darkwar" was written in the early 80's, and Glen Cook then wrote a trilogy of books as a prequel to the short story (yes, the mind boggles at the unorthodoxy). I only know that because it was in an interview I read. That's the kind of stuff that helps make a collection become more than the sum of its parts. Great parts, yes, but it could be more.
Of all the stories, "The devil's tooth" was the one I liked the best: a gritty sword & sorcery tale in a dying-earth type setting, but definitely not Vance. Really though, all were great, and its only a matter of personal taste which story you enjoy the most: Dragons in the sky was also up there, and now I am tempted to try the Starfishers trilogy after all.
If you like Glen Cook, you'll like this. If you like scifi, or S&S, or short story collections, you'll like this too.
"Winter's Dreams" is a collection of mostly strong, but generally dark, short fiction by Cook. Particularly welcome are that five of the fourteen works are excellent additions to the Starfishers universe (or at least a variant of it). Unlike Night Shade Books' handling of "An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat", this collection by Subterranean Press lacks the author's introductions to the short stories or even the information on where the stories first appeared (mostly in the 1970s?). This is particularly regrettable in the case of the sixth story set in the Starfisher universe ("Dragon in the Sky"). It appears that the novel "Starfisher" is what became of this story when it was expanded out, and it should be marked here as being a 32 page spoiler for those who haven't read the series. "In the Wind" is set after the novels and has a few spoilers. Similarly "Darkwar" follows after the conclusion of the Darkwar series of novels and probably shouldn't be read until after they are (it was well written and I really enjoyed the original novels, but given how they ended I'm not sure I wanted a follow-up). Of the other stories, "Devil's Tooth" stands out as a demonstration of Cook's ability to jump in and quickly establish the feeling of a fantasy/sci-fi world. Finally, one of the stories gives Cook fans the chance to see where work from a short story set in one world became a large part of a novel set in another.
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