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By Strahan, Jonathan [ [ Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery ] ] Jun-2010[ Paperback ] (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 22. Juni 2010
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Derzeit tritt ein Problem beim Filtern der Rezensionen auf. Bitte versuchen Sie es später noch einmal.
Eine Anthologie zu bewerten, ist allgemein sehr schwer. Insbesondere, wenn es sich dabei um die erste Rezension handelt, die jeder potentielle Käufer lesen wird. Darum fange ich einfach mal ganz nüchtern an zu beschreiben, was das Buch zu bieten hat.
Zunächst geben die beiden Herausgeber eine kurze Einleitung in die Historie der sogenannten "Nicht-epischen Geschichten", von Freunden der englischen Sprache auch gerne als "Low-Fantasy" bezeichnet.
Danach warten 17 mehr oder weniger kurze Geschichten von diversen Autoren, darunter namhafte Schreiber wie Michael Moorcock, Scott Lynch oder Joe Abercrombie [der in meinem Fall auch der ausschlaggebende Grund war, das Buch zu kaufen].
Dabei werden alle möglichen Arten der Fantasy abgedeckt: ob nun an Science-Fiction grenzende Parallelwelten, märchenhafte Erzählungen voller verzauberter Tiere oder aber fast realistische Schlachtsequenzen.
Ein Nachteil des Buches ist, dass manche Autoren mit ihren Geschichten an ihre bisherigen Romane anknüpfen, und wer die beschriebenen Welten und Charaktere noch nicht kennt, hat es schwer, sich zurechtzufinden - ein Umstand, der mir besonders bei Moorcocks Beitrag aufgefallen ist.
Zum Anderen benutzen manche Schreiber jede Menge Wörter und Redewendungen, die man aus dem allgemeinen Sprachgebrauch nicht kennt, was es sehr schwierig macht, wenn man "nur" über Schulenglisch verfügt.
Alles in allem ein Buch, bei dem man nichts falsch machen kann. Es ist für jeden etwas dabei und eignet sich in meinen Augen hervorragend, einen ersten Eindruck von den Autoren und ihren jeweiligen Schreibstilen zu bekommen. Und angesichts der doch knapp 500 Seiten verfügt das Buch über ein akzeptables Preis-Leistungs-Verhältnis.
Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf Amazon.com
It's really not an exaggeration when we say SWORDS & DARK MAGIC was easily one of our most anticipated titles of the year. In fact, that doesn't even say enough. Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, this collection, to us, was like the Holy Grail of short story anthologies. Why? The first three stories in the collection, in the order they appear: Steven Erikson, Glen Cook, Gene Wolf. Yeah. That's just the first three stories.
First we need to get something out of the way, and yeah it's a tad petty. The subtitle of the collection is "The New Sword & Sorcery". Honestly, this isn't a fair or accurate subtitle. Don't get us wrong, there are plenty of swords and plenty of sorcery to be found amidst these 500+ pages of awesomeness, but there isn't anything groundbreaking here. There isn't anything here that is re-inventing the genre. No, the subtitle should have been something more like "New Tales in Sword & Sorcery".
Now that that is out of the way, let's talk about the anthology.
It is fantastic. Are there weak stories here? Yeah. The thing about short fiction anthologies, however, is that you have a collection that appeals to a variety. As we stated earlier, the anthology starts with stories by Steven Erikson, Glen Cook, and Gene Wolfe. Then you have James Enge, C.J. Cherryh, K. J. Parker, Garth Nix and a guy named Michael Moorcock. But see, we aren't done yet. Then you move on to Tim Lebbon, Robert Silverberg (maybe you've heard of him?), Greg Keyes, Michael Shea, Scott Lynch, Tanith Lee, Caitlin R Kiernan, Bill Willingham, and ending the collection with Joe Abercrombie. If you can't find something to LOVE here, you have issues. You see, for every story we felt weak and mediocre, there was another story (or two) that were just unbelievable. The good stories were SO GOOD, that any runts in the litter could be easily forgiven.
So, which stories did we like the best? The stories we mention below won't surprise you; you DO know our tastes quite well after all.
The Deification of Dal Bamore -- Tim Lebbon
A grim tale of sorcery and revolution. Lebbon's descriptions are so clear. All the is happening here a criminal--a possible martyr to a cause--is being escorted to receive a token trial followed by execution. Things go deliciously out of control, of course. Makes us want to brush up on our Tim Lebbon. Such good stuff here.
Dark Times at the Midnight Market -- Robert Silverberg
Really all we should have to say is, "It's a Silverberg story. Of course it is awesome." Even then, it was surprising how much we enjoyed this story. "The Midnight Market" is a Majipoor tale. To some, that will be enough to know whether you will like it or not. To the rest, the Midnight Market is a place where essentially anything can be acquired...though right now it is going through a bit of a recession. This story is all about the comedy. It is timed and executed with perfection.
The Singing Spear -- James Enge
One of the best stories in the collection. Enge is so absurdly underrated. His character Morlock Ambrosius is a man of legend. A sorcerer of unparalleled power. And, uh, a complete drunk. "The Singing Spear" is a tale about what Morlock does when his bartender is killed. Enge is freaking terrific. This story will make you want to read more of his stuff. We suggest starting with BLOOD OF AMBROSE.
Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company -- Glen Cook
An all new Black Company story? Featuring Croaker? This story begins with our beloved cast of characters realizing things have been far too good lately. In their experience, that is never a good thing. Balance and all that. Everything you like about Cook is in this story. He is one of our favorite writers. Ever.
Goats of Glory -- Steven Erikson
You knew it was gonna be on here. It starts a tad slow, but when it gets going, it gets GOING. Five soldiers wander into the town Glory. The gravedigger sees them coming and begins digging five graves. In true Erikson fashion, we get great humor mixed with amazingly described action. We loved this story. The ending was absolutely PERFECT. Was this the best story in the collection? Almost. It pains Steve to admit it, but there was one story that topped even this treasure.
The Fool Jobs -- Joe Abercrombie
If this is what we get to see in Joe's upcoming THE HEROES, we are going to be in heaven. The main character? Craw. You may or may not remember him from the First Law Trilogy. Craw, along with a...colorful...cast of characters are sent into a small town to get something. They don't know what though. They'll know it when they see it. Seriously. Humor and action. A seriously incredible story. Was this the best story in the collection? Almost. You know how much Nick loves Abercrombie. But even he had one story above it.
(Fanning yourselves in anticipation yet?)
In the Stacks -- Scott Lynch
The. Best. Story. There was no debate. No arguing. Lynch's "In the Stacks" is just a freaking masterpiece. Not nearly as irreverent as his other works, yet just as imaginative. It takes place in a wizard's school. The students, as a final exam in their current year of schooling, must return a library book. Really. The library, of course, is violent and sentient. We feel that people forget just how good an author Lynch is. This story will remind you. And make you want to re-read LOCKE LAMORA and RED SEAS. And make you salivate in anticipation for his next book. Unreal.
So there you have it. Just because we didn't mention the story you were eying doesn't mean it wasn't good. Moorcock's was great. Parker's was actually good as well. As was Wolfe's. We just don't have time to talk about all of them.
This is a collection that should be on every shelf. The main problem with it? It makes us want the next novel by these authors now...no, make that YESTERDAY.
As a final note, we want to mention the introduction to the collection, "Check Your Dark Lord at the Door" by Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan. This is the history of Sword & Sorcery that everyone should know. Serious kudos to these guys for taking the time to show where the genre came from, and then for giving us this terrific collection.
Recommended Age: 16 and up.
Language: Yup. Though not as prevalent as in the author's full length novels, there is still a significant amount.
Violence: Hello? Sword & Sorcery? Of course there is violence. It is almost always crazy awesome too.
Sex: Talked about, joked about, and alluded too. But never shown.
Anyways, it is a good collection, and if you want some decent dark fantasy to read for fun, then check this out.
A tale trying to turn librarians into action heroes..? (Into the stacks) Tough sell, & I love action heroes and librarians both.
The story about paint..? (Hew the Tintmaster) was so stilted it was painful.
75% of the stories are entertaining, and kept my interest. The editors could've cut a bit more and made this seem less like a book for kids.
Swords and Dark Magic, however, pushed all the right buttons. Abercrombie, Lynch and Parker in one place? I'd crawl over broken glass to get there. And the theme - the stunning resurgence of Howardian pulp fiction? You could lace said glass with strychnine, and still get me a-crawling.
So, keeping my utterly reasonable expectations in mind, how did Swords and Dark Magic fare?
Well, not too badly. In a rare feat of anthologising, there wasn't a single story I skipped, and, possibly more importantly, there are several that I really look forward to revisiting. There were some pleasant surprises - and some unpleasant ones - as well as a few interesting themes that I'll get to later on.
Scott Lynch definitely stole the show with "In the Stacks". Four sorcerous students must return books to the university library - a surprisingly dangerous adventure. A brilliant concept, a demonstration that characters can be built in a small space and some delicious storytelling.
Neither of my other two favorites disappointed. Joe Abercrombie's "The Fool Jobs" introduces a few of the characters, a crew of Northern named-men, that later reappear in The Heroes. I enjoyed the story, but was a little disappointed that Abercrombie didn't take the opportunity to go foraging in a completely new world. Still, "The Fool Jobs" is an excellent addition to the canon of The First Law series, as the crew adventure into previously-unseen geography.
K.J. Parker explored much further afield than his/her usual books, and I think the experiment paid off nicely. Known for his/her commitment to detail-oriented, realistic settings, Parker actually included proper magic-magic in "A Rich Full Week", complete with wizarding and even a bit of zombie action. Wry, absorbing and provocative - the story was everything Parker normally does, but with a bonus topping of the supernatural.
Of the other contributions, there were a few stand-outs. James Enge's "The Singing Spear" felt like a missing entry in Jack Vance's Overworld series - simultaneously dramatic and tongue-in-cheek. Tanith Lee wrote a sly fairytale with the unfortunately-cutesy name of "Two Lions, A Witch and The War-Robe". Lee is never someone I've particularly rated, but her story was very good - also balancing the humorous and the epic.
Two other authors - Steven Erikson and Gene Wolfe - were less surprising to me. I've never liked Erikson's work, but his contribution, "Goats of Glory" was remarkable in that I didn't like it for entirely different reasons. I found it slow, over-written and slightly goofy. (Yes, I find Erikson "slow" and Parker "absorbing" - I consider this evidence that just including violence doesn't dictate a story's pace). Wolfe's contribution was less remarkable. I always find his work cryptic and alienating. His "Bloodsport" was no exception.
Overall, there were a few recurring themes. Despite the editors' provocative claims that "sword-and-sorcery" is here in force, many of the stories were littered with tentative - even defensive - notes. Whether that took the form of a cutesy title (see Lee, above) or even a deliberately goofy concluding line (even Lynch failed on that count), there was a sense that the authors were often holding themselves back.
This particular sub-genre cites Robert E. Howard frequently. REH did a lot of experimentation with his fiction, but he never once ended a Conan story on a bad pun, or, worse yet, a lazy "...and then things got really bad!" joke (I'm looking at you, Erikson and Willingham!). Glen Cook and Michael Moorcock both had stories that, although they didn't personally resonate with me, stood out for being the most "serious" contributions to the book - efforts to show that "sword and sorcery", even in its short form, can still capture tension and moral conflict. Similarly, the predominance of authors writing in their own worlds, rather than stretching to something new, didn't alleviate this particular concern.
As a final note, the introduction, by the two editors, is a good read. Slightly more anecdotal than academic, it serves as a quick survey through the history of "sword and sorcery" fiction, including its new 'golden age'. Like any document that advances sweeping genre theories, it will prompt more discussion than immediate acceptance. My personal criticism is more tied in to pessimism. I'm incredibly fond of the new era in fantasy, but I still want more points in the line before I bring out the bucket of gilt.
Swords and Dark Magic, despite my wildly-inflated expectations, was worth the wait. It is less a timeless reference than a simple snapshot of where the genre is today. But, given where we are today, that's no bad thing at all.