Thursday, November 25, 2004

Legends II

Edited by Robert Silverberg

This is a collection of short stories by popular fantasy authors. I bought it because it contained stories by George Martin and Neil Gaiman, which I knew would be guaranteed good reads, but I vainly held out hope that some of the other stories might be good too. I should have known better, since I read the first Legends compilation years ago, and it was pretty shit.

The first story is 'Homecoming' by Robin Hobb. Once upon a time she was one of my favorite authors. Her Assassin trilogy is one of the best fantasy series I've ever read. Unfortunately then she wrote a sequel trilogy, which was OK, but a bit of a disappointment compared to the first series. It's a good thing she never wrote a third series, which not only was incredibly crap, but completely ruined the first series retroactively. Boy, I sure would have been pissed if she'd done that. Her story here relates to the second series, and is about equivalent to it in terms of quality, which is to say, pretty average. Little did I know when I read it that 'pretty average' would make it one of the best stories in the book.

'The Sworn Sword' by George Martin. One of the stories I bought the book for, and it didn't disappoint. It's set hundreds of years before the events of his big epic series 'A Song of Ice and Fire', but is a sequel to the story he wrote for the first Legends. Don't buy either book just for his story though, as they're both also coming out in graphic novel form. I've got the first one, and the stories really lend themselves to the comic format.

'The Yazoo Queen' by Orson Scott Card. I've never read any of his books before, and maybe if I had I would have liked this one more, but while he seems like a pretty good writer, I found this story, set in an alternate history colonial America, quite dull.

'Lord John and the Succubus' by Diana Galbadon. It took me a while to figure out that this was the same woman who writes the big epic soft porn historical books that the girls are always reading. I quite enjoyed the start of this one, but by the end it had gotten pretty rubbish. Still, ends up being one of the better stories.

'The Book of Changes' by Robert Silverberg. I remember virtually nothing about the first Legends book except that Silverberg's story was really shit. Well this one is even worse. I honestly couldn't believe that someone would publish a story this uninteresting, trite, and predictable.

'The Happiest Dead Boy in the World" by Tad Williams. Tad Williams can be pretty good sometimes, but not in this case unfortunately. It's a bit of a sequel to his series Otherland, showing what happened to the main character afterwards. It builds up to a big sci-fi style twist at the end which is really just uninteresting. It occurs to me that all of these authors are famous for writing huge long series' of books. I guess it's no surprise that they're not that great at short stories.

"Beyond Between" by Anne McCaffrey. McCaffrey's written about a billion books, all called Dragon-something-or-other. I read one of them as a kid and that was enough. All I'll say about this story is that it was mercifully short. Actually, I'll say one other thing, how is it that someone who's been writing since the late 60s can still be such a godawful writer?

"The Messenger" by Raymond E. Feist. I've read a few a Feist's books and they're not bad, but not good enough for me to spend time on reading any more of them when there's so much better stuff out there. His short story is nothing special, even for this collection. At least I'll give him credit for coming up with a decent idea for a short story: a day in the life of a messenger boy during a big war that occurred during one of his novels. It still ends up being cheesy and boring, but gosh darn it, Feist just really wants you to know that this kid was just the Bravest Little Boy in the World!

"Threshold" by Elizabeth Haydon. I've never heard of her before, and even after looking up the story in the book it took me a little while to remember anything at all about this one. Like most of these stories, the author has decided to take an element of the backstory of her Big Series and retell it in tedious detail. Fortunately she seems to be a decent enough writer, so this one wasn't as much of a chore to read as some of the others.

"The Monarch of the Glen" by Neil Gaiman. At last, a decent story! It comes after American Gods, featuring the main character from that book, and presumably linking it to the forthcoming sequel, but also standing pretty well on it's own. I had a great deal of trouble figuring out what was actually going on, as most of the characters are mythical figures with their identities concealed, and unlike in American Gods, Gaiman doesn't explain who they are, you just have to figure it out from the clues. I consider that a good thing though, I'll have to do a bit of reading to find out about it, and maybe I'll learn something.

"Indomitable" by Terry Brooks. I read a lot of Brooks when I was in intermediate school. He's not very good, but I thought maybe I'd feel a bit of enjoyable nostalgia from reading about his characters again. No, I didn't.

No comments: