Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Black Company by Glen Cook
I’ve been aware of Mr. Cook’s Black Company for a long, time, but had never had the occasion to investigate. As part of a Fall that I wanted to be focused on reacquainting myself with fantasy and RPGs (DarkSouls!), I picked up a new copy of the first three books in the saga of the Black Company, entitled Chronicles of the Black Company. Glad I did.

Simply put, Mr. Cook writes what feels a lot like a Vietnam war novel in a fantasy wrapper. A company of soldiers plot and fight and laze their way through a morally black universe in which subterfuge, misdirection, and the fog of war constantly obscure the real meaning or significance of most events.

Our narrator, Croaker, is also the company physician, and the current chronicler of the Black Company’s history. He’s a soldier, a normal guy (at least at first), and he plays cards, lounges, shirks work, and generally does everything we’d expect from a soldier. Even his language is closer to that of a grunt stationed outside of Saigon than an an Authurian legend; no “thees” or “thous” here. Descriptions of events are terse; combat is seldom play-by-play. Instead, the company crosses weeks in the eyeblink of a paragraph.

The battle at the Stair is a particularly cool moment… The Taken are a neat idea, well executed, and Croaker is a fun narrator. I enjoyed The Black Company, and look forward to reading more of their Chronicles.

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