ROGUES Presents A Strong Gallery Of Authors – Review
Give this to George R.R. Martin, he knows a good hook when he sees one. I’m not referring to the concept of Rogues, an anthology centered around- well rogues edited by Martin and Gardner Dozois. But to Martin’s canny decision to pack it with authors known for taking their dear sweet time between books, thus making Rogues less a short story collection than literary methadone.
So is it worth it? Is the sweet, sweet taste of your favorite literary fantasy world worth the plunge? Well depends on who you’ve come for.
Let’s look at some of the other writers first. In his introduction, Martin insists that Rogues is not a fantasy anthology, which is overstating things just a smidgen (Let’s call the book 75 percent fantasy). True there are some non fantasy/sci fi authors but they’re front loaded. Most notable is Gillian Flynn, (that boys and girls is called a “get”) who brings her trademark cookie laced with arsenic style and double blind plotting to “What Do You Do?” Also noteworthy, though less a stranger to genre anthologies, is Joe Lansdale who offers an entry in his Hap and Leonard series with, “Bent Twig”. The story, most of it set at a hilariously piebald talent show finds Lansdale at his laconic, brutal, laugh out loud best. And Lansdale’s best is very good indeed. Dependable midlisters like Joe Abercrombie, Cherie Priest, Garth Nix and Daniel Abraham all do what they do and do it rather well. Connie Willis also puts in a strong entry.
Which leaves us with the big four, Neil Gaiman, Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin himself. The ones you came to see.
Well three out of four ain’t bad. Neil Gaiman is in full charming mode, revisiting his Neverwhere universe for “How The Marquis Got His Coat Back.”The story is a great one, Gaiman’s prose it at its high tuned best; light, elegant, funny, clever, with precise knowledge of the perfect detail to paint the scene and the ability to open a trapdoor under your feet and drop you into the realms of the disturbing any time he pleases. Scott Lynch bucks the trend of revisiting old work, and creates a new cast of charming characters and a new, more manic, fantasy world rather than revisit his Bastards in Emberlain, both of which seem tailor made for the anthology. It was a gamble, but it pays off with Lynch’s trademark propulsive con man prose, and unparallelled ability to balance near farce levels of humor with genuine, often terrifying stakes, delivering a satisfying story. Even if the ministry of silly names must have been working overtime to keep up with his demand. Those looking for any huge revelations of developments in “The Lightning Tree” might walk away disappointed, but those just looking to spend an engaging hour in The Four Corners will undoubtedly be pleased. It’s a story filled with Rothfuss’s trademark understanding of human nature, easy humor, balanced prose, and generous heart. I wasn’t exactly crying out for a Bastcentric story, he’s not my favorite character which speaks more to the surfeit of great Rothfuss characters than any deficiencies in Bast himself, but he ended up an engaging, unexpectedly compelling lead.
The only mackerel in the bunch belongs to Martin; his story is actually an excerpt from his upcoming guide to Westeros and thus reads like a relatively dry history text with 75% more incest than usual. While it’s not “bad” it might as well have the words “For The Hardcore Only” etched underneath its place in the table of contents. Lets just say that if your favorite Tolkien novel is The Silmarillion, you’re probably going to love it. Otherwise your mileage will vary.
Still on the whole Rogues is a satisfying collection, well worth the time and money. It’s a book built on a strong roster and Martin and Dozois made the most of it.