on June 14, 2012
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)
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)
on June 12, 2012
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.
on May 13, 2012
"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.
on December 21, 2014
Glen Cook has been one of my favorite authors for years since I discovered his Black Company books. His stories are realistic, gritty, immersive, and get you very involved with the characters. Unfortunately, as he has gotten a little older, his work sometimes seemed to lack some of the flair and sparkle of his earlier stuff - but I wondered if maybe it was just me. However, these short stories are glittering gems of some of his best work. I highly recommend this book. Absolutely wonderful storytelling.
Some things to keep in mind:
1) Many of the stories relate to an earlier series and are more richly understood if you have read the earlier series. Still understandable if you have not read the series, but you have better context if you have read it.
2) I echo the comments that it would have been preferable to have a little intro, preferably written by the author, before each of the stories - or at least before those stories relating to an earlier series. It also was not clear that the stories had been published before - not that it matters that much, but sometimes the time in which a story is published can provide context to the work itself.
3) In a marketing sense, I totally can't believe that the author and publisher didn't try harder to use this book as a cross-selling or interest-enhancing work to stimulate sales of the previous series. I am also a little confused why they didn't try to rope in the Garret audience by having a Garret story - and the same for Black Company and Instrumentalities audiences. Could this be a copyright ownership issue? I frankly think that Cook is a better author than many that are more widely known, but it has seemed that his works have not been widely/successfully marketed. Everyone that I have given a Cook book to has loved it. This book could almost have been a Cook self-anthology (with their well-known cross-readership selling) that could have reawakened interest in his older works and given him a wider audience and appreciation that he totally deserves - but that opportunity has been missed.
4) The decision to include the story that appears first in the book as the first story is questionable. The story itself is fine and fits in thematically with Cook's other work. However, if you are not familiar with Cook's work and read that story first, you may focus on aspects of the story that, interpreted in light of current events, may give you the wrong idea about Cook's message. I would keep the story, but not put it first. Also, this would be a story where the time in which it was written was important for context. That is, the story takes on a different context knowing it was written in 1971 (as it was) - rather than thinking that it was written in 2013 or 2014. Those 40+ years make a big difference for a "near future" story.
5) Finally, a personal message if the author reads these comments - Keep up the good work, Glen! Write faster! Also, the Starfishers worlds are definitely worth a revival. Also, if you are not going to play with that world, why not open it up to collaboration or Cook-approved other authors? It could be good for you financially and as a fan I would like to read more of those stories. Also, you may have thought that you were going to get back to those worlds extensively, but time is running short. However, passing the torch allows your worlds/work to be continued.