I absolutely blitzed my way through Joe’s First Law trilogy, and made relatively short work of ‘Best Served Cold‘ Â – the first sequel, set across the sea in the same universe. But I’ve been very slow at getting through The Heroes, another follow up featuring many of the characters from the original trilogy.
Normally, compulsive commute blogging and the return to work notwithstanding, I’d have made more progress here – I read very quickly and yet I’ve taken the best part of three weeks to get two thirds of the way through this one. But I think its the slightly experimental narrative style that’s slowing me down.
Unlike the first four books, which covered a relatively long expanse of time and events, the first four hundred pages of Heroes takes place over the course of three days. You might think this makes for a ludicrously high words to event ratio, but instead what it makes for is a large and detailed tableau of a battle, in which we’re provided insight into characters’ inner monologues, doubts and fears; into military strategy, manipulations and intrigues; into insults, wholesale slaughter and semi-wise philosophy. One scene / chapter will take the point of view of three different characters, one of which might end up dead three paragraphs later before passing the torch to another. It reminds me of the Scrubs episodes when the internal monologue was passed to a character other than Zach Braff – a jarring experience on television, it’s even more bizarre in a novel.
For many this might well be the perfect fantasy novel fodder. For me? I like the larger story arcs – the epic quest, the conflict between good and evil that sits at the heart of this. The character in the novel – Bayaz – that is the driving force for one side of the conflict – is himself contemptuous of the detail of the battle. It’s hard for me to be enthralled…
But as the battle progresses and the pre-ambles complete, the novel is picking up its pace. I imagine I’ll be done by the weekend and looking to add the next Joe Abercrombie to my reading list… His dark, cynical view of the world – tempered by the doubts of his heroes – makes for stories that are quite different from your run-of-the-mill epic quest.
Next up? Trudi Canavan’s newest Black Magician book. Then? I might eventually finish the novel in the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant I keep failing to pick up… followed by Eoin Colfer’s take on the Hitchhiker’s guide universe (how did I miss that had been written?), before I wait for the newest book in the Stormlight Archive, Charlie Stross’ Rule 34 and Terry Pratchett’s Snuff to be published – not to mention the latest George R R Martin.
It’s nice to have a few books to look forward to.