I've been intrigued by this anthology ever since George R. R. Martin made the announcement that Tor Books had bought the rights several months ago. And with a lineup of all-star authors contributing, as well as GRRM's third Dunk and Egg novella, you couldn't help but be intrigued. My curiosity was piqued even more when I discussed the anthology with Martin at Worldcon: Anticipation last summer. Hence, I was pretty keen to read it.

Though there is a central theme to the anthology -- warriors -- George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois envisioned a cross-genre work that would be comprised of short stories and novellas of various styles and tones. A brief look at the table of contents shows that, although many of these writers are bestselling authors in their own genre or sub-genre, compiling fiction from each of them could make for a disparate and dysfunctional work. That was probably my biggest concern.

In his introduction "Stories from the Spinner Rack," Martin bemoans the fact that nowadays every genre and sub-genre is segregated and relegated to its own section in a bookstore. Back in the day of the spinner rack, with paperbacks jammed in there without rhyme or reason, a reader could discover and peruse novels from various genres.

Sure, I knew the differences between a space opera and a hardboiled
detective story and a historical novel. . . but I never
cared about
such differences. It seemed to me, then as now, that there were good stories and
bad stories, and that was the only distinction that truly mattered.

Books should broaden us, take us to places we have never been and show us
things we've never seen, expand our horizons and our way of looking at the
world. Limiting your reading to a single genre defeats that. It limits
us, makes us smaller

There's no science fiction section here, no shelves reserved just for
historical novels, no romance rack, no walls or labels of any sort. Just
stories. Some are by your favorite writers, we hope; others , by writers you may
never have heard of (yet). It's our hope that by the time you finish this book,
a few of the latter may have become the former

I was aware that I would enjoy some of the short stories found in Warriors. But I was wondering if the anthology could stand on its own, as the sum of all its parts. I knew I didn't have to worry about Robin Hobb, Tad Williams, David Weber, Joe Haldeman, and GRRM. But what about Diana Gabaldon, Lawrence Block, Steven Saylor, and James Rollins? Would their short fiction fit with the rest? Well, the answer is a resounding yes!

The problem with many anthologies is that they contain a couple of very good short stories, while the rest seems to consist of half-assed, uninspired stuff. Not so with Warriors. Though some stories are better than others, I enjoyed every one of them. Considering the number of genres and sub-genres represented in this book, I found that overall everything flows particularly well. There is no filler material in Warriors.

As a matter of course, the main draw is "The Mystery Knight" by George R. R. Martin. And yet, no matter how eagerly awaited this latest ASOIAF novella has been, Warriors has a lot more to offer.

The anthology opens up with Celia Holland's "The King of Norway," a story about Vikings going on a raid. While entertaining, it's probably the weakest work found within the pages of Warriors. "Forever Bound," a Forever Peace short story by Joe Haldeman recounts the tale of a number of young people recruited to operate machine soldiers in a war. It was excellent and at times moving. One of the anthology's highlights.

"The Triumph" shows a side of Robin Hobb we've never seen before, which bodes well for the short story collection she has in the works. Set during the First Punic War, it's a story about friendship, about two Roman soldiers which fate separated and brought back together.

Lawrence Block's "Clean Slate" is a disturbing story about an abused girl losing it and going down on a very dark path. Whether one can call her a warrior of any sort is open to discussion, but "Clean Slate" is the sort of short story that sticks into your mind for quite a while afterward.

"And Ministers of Grace" by Tad Williams is another one of my favorites. A Terminator-like soldier is sent on a suicide mission in the name of his religion. As was the case with Hobb, this is not the sort of stuff Tad Williams has accustomed us to. But it's pretty damn good.

"Soldierin'" by Joe Lansdale is a Western in which two black men join the army following the Civil War and get into a bind fighting Indians. At times hilarious, you can't help but root for the narrator and The Former House Nigger.

"Dirae" by Peter S. Beagle is by far the weirdest story in Warriors. It's about a woman who constantly finds herself at the right place and the right time to fight for and help innocent people in need. The narrative can be quite vivid, and it gets better as you go along.

Diana Gabaldon's "The Custom of the Army" recounts the adventure of John Grey being shipped to Canada to help in the taking of Québec. Well-written and entertaining, but it probably doesn't stand on its own as well as the others. I have a feeling that fans of Gabaldon's Lord John books will get more out of this one than newcomers will.

"Seven Years from Home" by Naomi Novik demonstrates that the author has a lot more to offer than the Temeraire books. This could well be the best short story of the anthology. It recounts the tale of a woman sent to a planet to get involved in a local war and going native. This one shows Novik's grittier side, and I for one hope to see more of this from the author.

"The Eagle and the Rabbit" by Steven Saylor is about prisoners from Carthage attempting to escape Roman soldiers. Another excellent story, one that makes me want to discover Saylor's books.

"The Pit" by James Rollins is quite different. Indeed, the narrative is from the POV of a dog captured and forced to fight in the pit. Unusual, yes, but well-written.

David Weber's "Out of the Dark" is a novella in which an invading alien army discovers the extent of mankind's resourcefulness when they try to take over the planet. This is a thrilling, action-packed read. But the ending, while quite unanticipated, is a bit of a letdown.

"The Girls from Avenger" by Carrie Vaughn recounts the story of a group of female aircraft pilots from the Women Airforce Service Pilots during WWII, as they try to shine some light on the cover-up that prevents them from learning how one of their own died. Different from what Vaughn habitually offers, but a very good story.

"Ancient Ways" by S. M. Stirling is about two warriors, one Cossack and one Kalmyk, attempting to rescue a princess. Fun and entertaining, to be sure.

"Ninieslando" by Howard Waldrop is the oddest short story of the bunch. A WWI soldier discovers a strange place between the trenches. With the Holland piece, it is likely the weakest one in Warriors.

"Recidivist" by Gardner Dozois is another weird piece, but with a much better flow. Humanity is now under the control of AIs, and a group of men trying to preserve their memories of the past attempt to strike back at them.

"My Name is Legion" by David Morrell is about soldiers from the French Foreign Legion. The story packs a good punch.

"Defenders of the Frontier" by Robert Silveberg recounts the tale of a group of aging soldiers stuck in a distant outpost. There are pacing issues in this one, and at times it falls on the boring side.

"The Scroll" by David Ball is another highlight. A French engineer is captured and forced to work for a cruel Moroccan monarch. Tormented in various ways over the course of years, he fights to keep his sanity as his hope of ever being released slowly evaporates.

Give it a shot! George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois' Warriors will not disappoint.

The final verdict: 8/10

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3 commentaires:

valerie said...

You made this sound so great I went ahead and picked it up today and am looking forward to reading it. It has to be a winner with many of my favorite authors contributing and who knows - I may find a new favorite, thanks Pat!

La'Von Gittens said...

Wow! I love your honest review! Warriors sounds exciting! ^_^

Sascha said...

I have been hearing only good things about this collection. So, in a rare move for me, I ordered it in hardcover. It will be another week or two before I get it (living in Germany and all that), but when I have it it will be immediately at the top of my reading list. Thanks for reinforcing my decision to get this now and not wait for the paperback!