As I said in my last related post, there are plenty of genre novels due for release this year that are worth keeping tabs on. A Dance With Dragons is just one of them. Another that I have my beady eye on is...
The Steel Remains
By Richard Morgan
(Gollancz, 21 August 2008)
Now, I've never read any of Morgan's work (which appears to be largely sci-fi) but what I've heard about this novel has got me intrigued.
Here's the blurb:
Ringil, the hero of the bloody slaughter at Gallows Gap is a legend to all who don't know him and a twisted degenerate to those that do. A veteren of the wars against the lizards he makes a living from telling credulous travellers of his exploits. Until one day he is pulled away from his life and into the depths of the Empire's slave trade. Where he will discover a secret infinitely more frightening than the trade in lives.
Archeth - pragmatist, cynic and engineer, the last of her race - is called from her work at the whim of the most powerful man in the Empire and sent to its farthest reaches to investigate a demonic incursion against the Empire's borders. Egar Dragonbane, steppe-nomad, one-time fighter for the Empire finds himself entangled in a small-town battle between common sense and religious fervour. But out in the wider world there is something on the move far more alien than any of his tribe's petty gods. Anti-social, anti-heroic, and decidedly irritated, all three of them are about to be sent unwillingly forth into a vicious, vigorous and thoroughly unsuspecting fantasy world. Called upon by an Empire that owes them everything and gave them nothing.
Richard Morgan brings his trademark visceral writing style, turbo-driven plotting and thought provoking characterisation to the fantasy genre and produces a landmark work with his first foray.
The blurb, while interesting, is not what grabbed me. Instead, it was Joe Abercrombie's words that managed that. Morgan's world, Joe says, is:
full of the strange and unexplained...constantly in the shadow of old and terrible wars with lashings of religious bigotry, sexual oppression, messy executions, and slavery.
Now, that sounds a little more interesting. I do tend to favour more gritty, realistic storytelling, so this sounds promising. However, this novel doesn't just sound gritty, but positively barbaric. In Joe's words again:
What else can I compare it to? It has the explosive violence of, well, Richard Morgan (only about twice as explosive), the moral ambiguity of vintage Moorcock (but about three times as dark), with the explicit sexual content of Martin (only about ten times more explicit, and I'm not kidding), the harsh language of Scott Lynch (times about 1,000,000). If those things put you off, really, don't bother. The first couple of pages will probably give you a bit of mouth sick. The lyricism of Patrick Rothfuss? Not so much. The languid descriptions of Robert Jordan? No. The charming rural laughs of Eddings? No. No. No.
That's the paragraph that really grabbed my interest. Let's be honest, how could you read that and not feel intrigued to see exactly what The Steel Remains is like? It sounds totally brutal, to the extent that Joe admitted that:
sometimes I'd wipe the latest explosion of gore, shit, or spunk from my face and just think, "must we? Must we, again?"
Joe's books contain a healthy amount of sex, swearing and violence, so for him to think the above indicates that The Steel Remains is very violent and oppressive indeed.
Subsequently, I'm looking forward to this book to see exactly how 'brutalist' it is. Not only will it be interesting to see how well Morgan writes in the fantasy genre, but I also want to see whether it's all just mindless violence, intended to shock, or whether there is actually more depth to the story than that.
The Steel Remains is released on 21 August 2008. Check out Joe's full article here: http://www.joeabercrombie.com/2008/03/steel-remains.html