George R. R. Martin – Warriors Audiobook
Review of George R. R. Martin – Warriors Audiobook : I read Rogues (Vauriens) and Dangerous Women (same title in French, but published in two volumes) last year; I started Warriors, which I finished in 2019.
I took a break from reading this anthology: I wanted something else. Always reading news about warriors got a little boring. However, we cannot say that they are identical, or that the genre is always the same. Like the previous anthologies edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, this one was diversified, presenting different characters and genres. This is really one of the big highlights of these books for me! However, Warriors was not up to these predecessors. Indeed, although I loved some news, others were not at all made for me, which was rather rare in Dangerous Women or Rogues. Even when the genre was not my favorite, I still enjoyed the story, or the characters, or both! Here, some stories left me unmoved, completely oblivious to their potential charm – and there were more of them than in other anthologies. One final note before I start: unlike Dangerous Women and Rogues, Warriors presents fewer short stories written by women, and I got the impression that the number of main female characters was also decreasing!
Let’s start with the introduction! This was written by George R. R. Martin. It looks a lot like the one he wrote for one of the other two anthologies (for Rogues it seems to me), but that didn’t bother me. On the contrary: I have the impression that his introductions make me want to read the books he presents even more!
* the translations of the titles are mine, I don’t know if this news has been translated into French! I only know that this is not the case for the collection as such.
The collection opens with “The King of Norway” by Cecelia Holland (historical fiction therefore). I had enjoyed the author’s news in Dangerous Women (on Eleanor of Aquitaine if I remember correctly); unfortunately, this one did not know how to charm me. I was lost by the maritime vocabulary, I did not attach myself at all to the characters, and I had no context allowing me to understand the stakes of the action. The ending made me feel like it came out of nowhere, and to be honest, I don’t remember the news today at all. So the anthology started badly!
But she caught up with “Forever Bound” by Joe Haldeman (SF) right away. I loved this news !! I was caught up in history, despite my apprehension about a truly military story. For those who know the series, this news is linked to the world of The Forever War, which made me want to discover it even more! I liked the writing style, I got attached to the characters thanks to the internal point of view of the narrator. The link system is fascinating, and at the same time terrifying; it made me think of the [POTENTIAL SPOILER] coterie in Robin Hobb’s The Farseer Trilogy! [END OF SPOILER] I was shocked by the end !! It’s abrupt and quite unexpected !!
Then comes “The Triumph” (“The Triumph”) by Robin Hobb (historical fiction). Despite the author, it’s not fantasy; the action takes place at the time of the Roman Empire! Just there, you can guess that I loved it !! I cannot tell you too much, at the risk of spoiling you, but know that it is a story of honor (as often when we speak of Romans), death and friendship. It was both beautiful and deeply sad. This is without a doubt my new favorite of the whole collection!
We move on to “Clean Slate” by Lawrence Block (psychological thriller). I didn’t know this author at all, but I was blown away by this news, which I too loved! We follow a woman whom the reader cannot trust (one of my favorite tropes!), And her account of the men with whom she slept. This is the first news whose main character is a woman! Madness gradually creeps into the story, and it’s pretty scary! The reader has no idea what to believe until the end! Please note, some heavy subjects are treated as [POTENTIAL SPOILER] incest and rape. George R. R. Martin – Warriors Audiobook [END OF SPOILER] Next is “And Ministers of Grace” by Tad Williams (SF). This new treat of religious terrorism in the future, a subject that I had never seen treated before! Religion has been banished from Earth, and is trying to reclaim it through attacks it seems. The main character is very interesting: he seems half human, half robot, a sort of mutant. It’s original, combined with the intrigue! The reader can feel a sharp criticism centered on the brainwashing [SPOILER] embodied by this card placed in the brain of everyone [END OF THE SPOILER] whether it be concerning terrorists or rationalists! The end is a little too abrupt, which is why it is not really a crush.
“Soldierin ‘” by Joe R. Lansdale (historical fiction) is one of the short stories I have liked the least in the entire collection. It’s not my kind of story. We are in Texas in the 1800s and we follow former black slaves – we know this because their former masters are mentioned. It was violent – the other stories are too, that’s not why I didn’t like it – and I didn’t like my reading at all. Certain parts / reflections were interesting however. [SPOILER] The death of the horse, in the end, was not at all, but then not at all, necessary. [END OF SPOILER]
I liked much more “Dirae” (SF), by Peter S. Beagle, who almost fell in love! I’m really happy to have finally discovered it, even if it’s only in a new one! The plot is fascinating, even if it was a little difficult to get into the story, due to the total confusion that reigns at the beginning, as much for the main character as for the reader! (The editors warn us in the little presentation that precedes the story!) [SPOILER] The creation of a human being from dreams, and the fact that this being is capable of acting: it was great !! [END OF SPOILER] The confusion is not there just to make things look good, or to confuse the reader; it has a real meaning in the news, which is rather rare I think! We are in the head of the character, and that allows us to understand him. The reader sees through his eyes, lives what she lives. It was also very moving. I can’t wait to read Beagle novels, including The Last Unicorn !!
Next is “The Custom of the Army” by Diana Gabaldon (historical fiction). I must admit that I was rather disappointed here, when the news in Dangerous Women really pleased me! She enters the world of Lord John, another series by the author, with a slight connection to Outlander – we hear briefly about the Fraser family. I like the author’s writing style, but I was always distracted throughout my reading. She couldn’t capture my attention. Maybe it was too long? too confused? not my thing? Maybe I needed more context to be in the story? I liked the battle scene, I was really in it, but the rest didn’t transcend me.
Another slight disappointment was Seven Years from Home (SF) by Naomi Novik. I also expected to love a lot, probably because I heard a lot of good things from the author! But, the strangeness of the news, the format, and the distance I felt from the characters did not allow me to go down in history. I only got attached to Melida herself. The writing was good. I also had an impression of deja vu: I thought about Avatar a lot from start to finish! So I will wait to read a novel by the author to form a clear opinion!
Unlike the last two short stories, I really liked (almost a crush !!) “The Eagle and the Rabbit” by Steven Saylor (historical fiction). Like “The Triumph”, the action takes place at the time of the Roman Empire. Already a good point for the period. Something that could have been negative, but it was not: the plot takes place largely in the desert. It’s a place that doesn’t attract me at all, in real life or in literature. It was very violent, very cruel: our characters are taken prisoner by a Roman mercenary who likes to play with his victims. The protagonists fall one after the other, and it is quite painful to read. At the center is the question of freedom, what it is, what it is to be truly free. The end is frustrating !!!! [SPOILER] Did they succeed? Are they dead? Were they taken over? !! [END OF SPOILER] I can’t wait to read the author’s novels !!
“The Pit” (difficult to categorize, but I would say thriller?) By James Rollins had everything to displease me. I did not feel it at all, from the start, because of the subject: animal abuse. I can’t bear this. But I figured I was going to try anyway. The point of view is that of the dog itself, which is even more painful. It was cruel, violent, hopeless. But, very good all the same! I predicted the end; if it had not ended like that, I would have probably hated [SPOILER] even if, unfortunately, the opposite is closer to reality it seems to me… It still shows that it is possible, for veteran dogs, to have a real good life afterwards, thanks to care, attention, time, and love. [END OF SPOILER]
Another piece of news, which I LOVE this time: “Out of the Dark” by David Weber (SF). I just couldn’t NOT love this story !! [SPOILER] Wait, we’re still in the presence of the only one, the only Dracula !! How not to love? !! Many clues are scattered throughout the news: I picked them up, but I couldn’t believe it (too good to be true!) [END OF SPOILER] The story takes place these days, which makes it very realistic: I felt very close to the characters, I imagined myself in their place, it was so easy! I would now like a complete novel on Hegemony please !!!
Quite different news this time: “The Girls from Avenger” by Carrie Vaughn (historical fiction). Nothing to do with the Avengers; here we follow American female pilots (I guess) during World War II. I preferred this story to the one in Dangerous Women, “Raisa Stepanova”. As in the latter, the author takes a feminist point of view and shows how female pilots were devalued because of their gender. They could have participated in the war effort, but they were denied because they were women. Suffice to say that I cringed my teeth while reading; I almost cried in frustration at one point! This new trafficking of forgotten women whose textbooks do not say a word! It was sad, unfair, and I could clearly feel the despair of the characters! Regarding the action (which I will not tell you anything about), I am convinced that it could / could have happened! The revelation is horrible !!
Next is “Ancient Ways” by S. M. Stirling (SF) which I didn’t really like. I was not in history at all, and I read better futuristic / SF news in the compendium – it must be said that there is a bunch! It was interesting, but nothing more – so much that I don’t remember it at all while writing this column !!
After that, I took a break, because I wanted to read something else – I was a bit fed up with war and warriors, I admit! – but also because I was afraid of not enjoying the following news as much.
We start again with Howard Waldrop’s “Ninieslando” (historical fiction / alternative history?) The idea is original, and deals, for once, with the First World War, not the Second World War. I liked the place given to Esperanto, a practically forgotten language! But, I was not captivated, probably because of my lack of attachment to the characters, and perhaps the writing style?
Next comes “Recidivist” (I don’t think it is necessary to translate here!) (SF) by Gardner Dozois. It was the first time I read this author, and I really enjoyed reading it! It was original, the time was not so far from ours and, at the same time, it was so strange! I had a little trouble getting into history at first, then I was in it, and I wanted more! – a novel please !! I loved the definition of robots, and the differences between them and humans! I will try other books by the author!
Then, “My Name Is Legion” by David Morrell (historical fiction). This news had everything to displease me: still from the desert, and we are dealing here with the French foreign legion. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about it; this is not something that interests me greatly. However, I really liked this story! It was interesting and different, even if it’s still a war story. Personally, I saw honor in the worst of its form, since the reader gradually understood [SPOILER] that he was going to witness a fratricidal battle [END OF SPOILER]. The action takes place during the Second World War, the story is quite moving – despite the rehearsals that ended up making me roll my eyes! – since we discover the past of the main character and the reasons why he joined the foreign legion!
“Defenders of the Frontier” by Robert Silverberg is one of the rare fantasy novels in the collection! A group of men must defend a border very far from an Empire which seems to have forgotten them. The vision of women and other peoples was limited, not to say clearly annoying – I do not attribute it to the author, but rather to the characters. It was sometimes frightening: they are so alone. I would have liked to know more about the Empire, and to have the end of the story! The end was quite frustrating and scary: the reader, and the characters, are left hanging!
Next is “The Scroll” by David Ball (historical fiction). I could have loved this news, if I hadn’t hated the end so much !! I liked the other stories that I read about Ball in the previous anthologies, which leads me to try one of his novels! Again, a lot of violence, spiced up with cruelty !! I was completely in history, despite the decor that might not have pleased me (another desert!), And I had chills at the thought that it could be true! The author deals here with freedom, fate, will. But the end… NO !!
And finally, the latest news: “The Mystery Knight” by George RR Martin (Fantasy, of course!) The action takes place in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, so in Westeros ! I was delighted to find the universe! I had a little trouble at first because I didn’t know the characters at all, Dunk and Egg; I haven’t read the previous news, so I had no context! Fortunately, they tell us about their past actions – especially Dunk, in whose head we find ourselves repeatedly! -, and the reader learns who they are, where they come from, what they do! I was not so interested in them at first, then, getting to know them, I got to appreciate them, and I had a great time !! The action was quite slow to set up, but the pace accelerated at one point, and I was completely in it! Can we now have The Winds of Winter? !!
So a good anthology, with excellent news, and others that didn’t suit me. I am not a big war fan, but I was surprised to like so much some news which, at first sight, was not made for me!