Pure Extract Of Fantasy
On the bus into town today I was reading extracts from three highly anticipated fantasies forthcoming from Gollancz. First, there was a brief snippet of The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie:
“Vol . . . un . . . teered?” Tunny wrestled with the word as if it belonged to a foreign language. “So they do exist. Just make damn sure you don’t volunteer me for anything while you’re here. Anyway . . .” He drew the lads into a conspiratorial huddle with a crooked finger. “You boys have landed right on your feet. I’ve done all kind of jobs in his Majesty’s army and this right here,” and he pointed an affectionate finger at the standard of the First, rolled up safe under his hammock in its canvas cover, “this is a sweet detail. Now I may be in charge, that’s true. But I want you lads to think of me as, let’s say . . . your kindly uncle. Anything you need. Anything extra. Anything to make this army life of ours worth living.” He leant in closer and gave the suggestive eyebrows. “Anything. You can come to me.” Lederlingen held up a hesitant finger. “Yes?”
“We’re cavalrymen, aren’t we?”
“Yes, trooper, we are.”
“Shouldn’t we have horses?”
“That’s an excellent question and a keen grasp of tactics. Due to an administrative error, our horses are currently with the Fifth, attached to Mitterick’s division which, as a regiment of infantry, is not in a position to make best use of them. I’m told they’ll be catching up with us any day, though they’ve been telling me that a while. For the time being we are a regiment of . . . horseless horse.”
“Foot?” offered Yolk.
“You might say that, except we still . . .” and Tunny tapped his skull, “think like cavalry. Other than horses, which is a deficiency common to every man in the unit, is there anything you need?”
Klige was next to lift his arm. “Well, sir, Corporal Tunny, that is . . . I’d really like something to eat.”
Tunny grinned. “Well that’s definitely extra.”
Then a longer chunk of The Dark Commands by Richard Morgan:
He pointed out over the rail, old memories roiling like the water. “You can see where the dragon tore its way out – that long, ragged hollow near the front, the pieces that flap about when the swell hits. The dragon comes first, it’s like a mother bird protecting its brood. Then there’ll be a couple of hundred smaller hatching gouges further back where the reptile peons and the higher caste Scaled Folk came out afterwards. Once that happens, the whole raft starts to rot. It loses a lot of its bulk and in the end the currents carry it back out to sea. This has probably been drifting about out here since the early fifties at least.”
“You really killed one of these beasts?” She was watching him keenly now, he knew. “With that blade you carry? Now that is remarkable.”
“I suppose so. As I said, I did have help.”
“Even so. Are you not proud?”
Ringil grimaced. “If you’d seen some of the other things I’ve done with this blade, you’d perhaps be less enamoured of my feats.”
“And perhaps not.”
Was she rubbing herself against him at the hip? Ringil turned to face her, met her eyes, caught the gleam of saliva on the teeth in her grin.
“My lady, I don’t quite know how to put this to you gently, so I won’t try. You are wasting your time with me.”
“Am I?” The grin was still there. “That’s a hasty judgment.”
Ringil sighed, pressed thumb and forefinger to his eyes. Was he really going to have to fuck this mad-woman before they made port.
And finally, there is the whole first chapter of The Republic Of Thieves by Scott Lynch:
Locke’s symptoms revealed themselves the day they entered the Cavendria estuary.
At first it had been nothing more than bouts of dizziness and blurred vision, but as the days passed and they slowly tacked against the current, he began bleeding from his nose and the corners of his mouth. By the time they reached Lashain, he could no longer joke away the trickles of blood, or hide his increasing weakness. Instead of taking on stores, they’d rented rooms, and against Locke’s protests Jean began to spend nearly every coin they had on alchemists, physikers, herbalists, and assorted cures and comforts.
From Lashain’s underworld, which was tolerably colorful if not nearly as vast as Camorr’s, he’d consulted every poisoner and black alchemist he could bribe or coerce. All of them had shaken their heads and expressed professional admiration for what had been done to Locke; the substance in question was beyond their power to counteract. Locke had been made to drink a hundred different purgatives, teas, and elixirs, each seemingly more vile and expensive than the last, until Jean began to fear that one of them would kill him before the poison finished its work.
After that, Jean had dressed well and begun to call upon the accredited physikers of the city. Locke was explained away as a “confidential servant“ of someone wealthy and important, which could have meant anything from secret lover to private assassin. The physikers too had expressed regret and fascination in equal measure. Most of them had refused to attempt cures, instead offering palliatives to ease Locke’s pain. Jean fully grasped the meaning of this, but paid no heed to their pessimism. He simply showed each to the door, paid their exorbitant fees, and went out after the next physiker on his list.
Although I won’t get round to them for a while, I’m looking forward to each of these novels. This is particularly the case for Abercrombie and Morgan who manage to perfectly balance wit and grit, adventure and realpolitik. Lynch I am more concerned about: I was disappointed by Red Seas Under Red Skies and, whilst the wit is never in doubt, I hope this is anchored to something more substantial this time round.
(As an aside, I was amused to note that each of these extracts begin with the principal character waking up in a state of confusion. In your face, creative writing advice!)