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Glen Cooks The Black Company series

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Is the first trilogy a complete story? Can I read it without needing the remainder?

Yes. You can stop right there.

I really liked the Silver Spike, which is sort of a stand-alone continuation from one group of the Black Company. I did think the other cycles dragged a bit, but Water Sleeps and especially Soldiers Live are well worth it. I've said it before here, but Soldiers Live has one of my favorite final chapters in any fantasy series. Wraps it all up perfectly. Even the ones that are a bit slower are better than a lot of the dreck out there.

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I read the first three novels in a book club edition in the late 80's. I read the rest of the series in 2000, after stumbling across them in a bookstore. I've read the first three volumes four times, and The Silver Spike and the rest of the Black Company novels twice each. I also read The Dragon Never Sleeps and the first two Instrumentality books. I love the Black Company novels, but I find Cook hard to read after an author like Martin or Jordan. He writes a lot of simple sentences that make for a choppy, staccato pace, and most of his sentences are incomplete. It is as if he never took an English class in his life. Once I get past that (and I always do, a few chapters into the book), I love the stories. The Taken are great fun, and I wish that he had fleshed them all out for us. As it is, we only really get to know a few of them. I love Soulcatcher!

i saw an earlier poster complain that The Lady is not evil, but I think that they might have had the wrong idea in mind. The Lady is not evil for evil's sake. She is not Sauron, Lord Foul, or The Dark One, and I find that refreshing. I'm always down for an evil overlord trope, but The Lady's charm lies mainly in the fact that she is very human. She is selfish, she wants to be in charge, she is ruthless, and she has the power to enforce her will, at least most of the time. She is Lawful Evil, with an emphasis on Law. If you live in her empire, and you are not breaking the law, she does not bother with you. She will do anything to anyone to gain power, and she will do anything to anyone to keep power, but as long as the power isn't threatened and her rules are followed, she's cool. Heck, she even planted vast flower gardens at Charm, which looks nothing like an evil overlord's dark fortress. You probably should not trample them, though. ;) You don't have to be trying to destroy the world in order to be evil; you just have to not care about hurting other people in order to get what you want. She comes through in that department in spades.

Like most posters before me, i thought that Bleak Seasons was...bleak. It was probably the worst volume in the series. Water Sleeps also drug along for me, but Soldiers Live picked up the pace. I agree that the ending was fantastic, but I felt like the story might have gotten away from him, and in response to that, he seemed to wrap up a lot of plotlines rather abruptly. Shadows Linger was kind of slow too, but it served as a good bridge between the first and third books. I disagree with an earlier poster who disliked Dreams of Steel. I thought it was one of the best of the later books. At any rate, I like that the story is different when different people are chronicling it. Other annalists do not read like Croaker, or like each other; each one is unique. Cook obviously has some polished writing skills; it's just his sentence structure that bugs me.

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I think I'm alone in having Water Sleeps as my least favorite. The chronicler in that volume just didn't click for me.

And he is planning on writing a sequel at some point, in was in a recent interview. I think one is a prequel and one is the final volume? Heck, it's Cook, he may have written them already. He seems to finish like 6 books at once. Or the publishing world is crazy. Or both.

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At any rate, I like that the story is different when different people are chronicling it. Other annalists do not read like Croaker, or like each other; each one is unique. Cook obviously has some polished writing skills; it's just his sentence structure that bugs me.

That was my problem with the middle books -- I just didn't like Murgen's voice as the annalist. But speaking of that, the whole concept of the annalist was just cool as hell. Selecting readings from the Company's past relevant to whatever was going on, etc. You just got a sense of the Company as a character of its own.

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I think I'm alone in having Water Sleeps as my least favorite. The chronicler in that volume just didn't click for me.

And he is planning on writing a sequel at some point, in was in a recent interview. I think one is a prequel and one is the final volume? Heck, it's Cook, he may have written them already. He seems to finish like 6 books at once. Or the publishing world is crazy. Or both.

I thought Bleak Seasons was worse. It is my understanding that both projected novels take place a hundred years or so after Soldiers Live.

The books are supposed to chronicle Lady's adventures after getting her power back, according to an old interview with Cook. maybe he'll set Soulcatcher free to fuck with her, too. I'd like that. :)

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He writes a lot of simple sentences that make for a choppy, staccato pace, and most of his sentences are incomplete. It is as if he never took an English class in his life.

Dry style sure, incomplete, huh, nope.

The actual point is that Cook's stuff "works" because of his style, not in spite of it.

That kind of pragmatic, no bullshit attitude makes him get away with the most fancy of magic and fantastical display of things. The characters are blunt and real, talk practical and you never see weird wonder in their eyes.

In The White Rose suddenly there are walking trees and flying whales, characters don't give a shit and describe them as they would of rocks on the ground.

It's essentially so completely anti-emphatic that makes everything work as real.

Without his style none of this would work. That stuff couldn't be written better (or if you try you move toward Erikson, who has plenty of his own merits, but also loses behind some of Cook's qualities).

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Dry style sure, incomplete, huh, nope.

The actual point is that Cook's stuff "works" because of his style, not in spite of it.

That kind of pragmatic, no bullshit attitude makes him get away with the most fancy of magic and fantastical display of things. The characters are blunt and real, talk practical and you never see weird wonder in their eyes.

In The White Rose suddenly there are walking trees and flying whales, characters don't give a shit and describe them as they would of rocks on the ground.

It's essentially so completely anti-emphatic that makes everything work as real.

Without his style none of this would work. That stuff couldn't be written better (or if you try you move toward Erikson, who has plenty of his own merits, but also loses behind some of Cook's qualities).

You might not be clear on what on incomplete sentence is. It has absolutely nothing to do with pragmatic attitudes or practical talk. That is style, not sentence structure. Let me give you an example. This is from the third paragraph of the first page of The Silver Spike: "My name is Case." That is a complete sentence. "Philodendron Case." That is not a complete sentence. "Thanks to my Ma," That is another incomplete sentence. That's just the first page of the first book I grabbed off the shelf behind me. I enjoy his style, or else I wouldn't read his books. That does not improve his grammar, though.

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You might not be clear on what on incomplete sentence is. It has absolutely nothing to do with pragmatic attitudes or practical talk. That is style, not sentence structure. Let me give you an example. This is from the third paragraph of the first page of The Silver Spike: "My name is Case." That is a complete sentence. "Philodendron Case." That is not a complete sentence. "Thanks to my Ma," That is another incomplete sentence. That's just the first page of the first book I grabbed off the shelf behind me. I enjoy his style, or else I wouldn't read his books. That does not improve his grammar, though.

It's still "style". And it will be style as long it's DELIBERATE.

He simply wants to give his prose a colloquial, straightforward and pragmatic tone. Add commas instead of full stops and you get your complete sentences. If there are full stops it's because he wanted to make the pauses longer, in a meaningful way.

Implying that he does this because he doesn't know grammar is quite ridiculous.

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I've just begun reading The Black Company and I must say that after 1/4 of the first book I am somewhat baffled. It has that Erikson - wtf is going on - style to it when you start. I hope this will pick up even though I like the style. There is a lot of potentially cool worldbuilding here. I hope the emphasis on character - relations (which is superbly done) does not tune down the overall attention on history and so on. Of course, I've only just started. It is looking awesome though.

What I think about the incomplete sentences is that it represents the stream of consciousness rather deftly. I've just come from reading the Amber series by Zelazny and this is also a first person story with these kinds of sentence structures at times. Here I did not find it hampering anything because it allows for a feeling of movement.

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It is grammar, and when it's deliberate, it is deliberately bad grammar.

ETA: @ Asathor: When it is in the form of a first person narrative, like the example I quoted, it does do a fair job of conveying a stream of consciousness, and I understand its use there. However, he frequently begins sentences with conjunctions, and there are entire chapter that read like, "Croaker entered, shut the door. He crossed the room, snuffed the candle. He drew back the curtain, scanned the street below." It sets the pace, but better authors do the same thing without raping English grammar.

Edited by Winterfail

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It is grammar, and when it's deliberate, it is deliberately bad grammar.

you say that like it is a bad thing. Or am I reading this the wrong way? If so, apologies.

I think that bad grammar can serve a purpose when it is executed correctly. If it is not then ofcourse it is just bad writing, but if an author uses these incomplete sentences to emphasize motion or the workings of the human mind, as is the case here, then I believe it can add to the feeling of reality and help the reader to be absorbed by the story. And that is what a good book does imo.

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you say that like it is a bad thing. Or am I reading this the wrong way? If so, apologies.

I think that bad grammar can serve a purpose when it is executed correctly. If it is not then ofcourse it is just bad writing, but if an author uses these incomplete sentences to emphasize motion or the workings of the human mind, as is the case here, then I believe it can add to the feeling of reality and help the reader to be absorbed by the story. And that is what a good book does imo.

Sometimes it is okay. Read my edit in the previous post. At any rate, I haven't read anything from him that I didn't like, although I started Sung in Blood and got distracted without ever finishing it. Maybe I'll knock that one out real quick.

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I've just begun reading The Black Company and I must say that after 1/4 of the first book I am somewhat baffled. It has that Erikson - wtf is going on - style to it when you start. I hope this will pick up even though I like the style. There is a lot of potentially cool worldbuilding here. I hope the emphasis on character - relations (which is superbly done) does not tune down the overall attention on history and so on. Of course, I've only just started. It is looking awesome though.

The chapter titled Raker (sp?) is one of the high points.

But nope, Cook does almost zero "worldbuilding", and if there is it's usually quickly referenced. I also don't think The Black Company has a steep learning curve, quite the opposite (it's the story of the Company, there aren't PoV switches, no changes of scene or context etc..). It's The Tyranny of the Night where Cook goes overboard and makes even GotM a simple, straighforward read.

Edited by Gormenghast

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I see what you mean Winterfail. It's probably because I've not gotten too far yet in the book that it has not really caught my eye yet. Maybe this will get to me after a while as I do find diversity important in works of this magnitude.

It's The Tyranny of the Night where Cook goes overboard and makes even GotM a simple, straighforward read.

Now you're just trying to scare me right? ^^ I remember starting GotM and being thoroughly overwhelmed by it. I have the same sort of feeling here although in lesser quantity because Cook gives me the impression (based on my extensive experience of 60 pages) that he is throwing a lot of names and history at the reader but that he is saying at the same moment: "This is the world but what I want to focus on is these characters"

Edited by Asathor

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Ha. I love The Tyranny of the Night to death, but it is DENSE.

Winterfail, you must be a big McCarthy fan then, eh?

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I see what you mean Winterfail. It's probably because I've not gotten too far yet in the book that it has not really caught my eye yet. Maybe this will get to me after a while as I do find diversity important in works of this magnitude.

Now you're just trying to scare me right? ^^ I remember starting GotM and being thoroughly overwhelmed by it. I have the same sort of feeling here although in lesser quantity because Cook gives me the impression (based on my extensive experience of 60 pages) that he is throwing a lot of names and history at the reader but that he is saying at the same moment: "This is the world but what I want to focus on is these characters"

Tyranny of the Night moves a lot quicker (as far as plot development), and more of what is mentioned in it will be revisited as the story moves along, than in the Black Company. You are pretty much correct in your assessment so far, that he throws some stuff at you, but mostly, he wants you to pay attention to a handful of characters. In the Instrumentality books, there is more that he wants you to pay attention to, and I ended up getting lost. :P

In general, his world-building is minimal, and a lot of his characters (at least the secondary ones) stay two-dimensional, but his books move quickly, his actions scenes are tense, and he is not afraid to kill off beloved characters, so you never feel safe. He has a knack for delivering a feeling of epic scope to his stories while writing them in a very minimalist fashion. Someone earlier in this thread said that travels in the Black Company series that would take up a whole book in the Wheel of Time series, are summarized in a paragraph. That's not far off the mark, although in fairness, Jordan was given over to excessive detail. Still, Cook draws a quick charcoal sketch rather than painting a colorful picture, yet the tales still seem grand.

Grack21, I have not read McCarthy.

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It is grammar, and when it's deliberate, it is deliberately bad grammar.

ETA: @ Asathor: When it is in the form of a first person narrative, like the example I quoted, it does do a fair job of conveying a stream of consciousness, and I understand its use there. However, he frequently begins sentences with conjunctions, and there are entire chapter that read like, "Croaker entered, shut the door. He crossed the room, snuffed the candle. He drew back the curtain, scanned the street below." It sets the pace, but better authors do the same thing without raping English grammar.

Have you ever heard of Cormac McCarthy? Or shit, Shakespear?

Better authors hold the English language down and have their way with it so roughly, you'd think it was a protagonist from an "urban fantasy" series.

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LoL I can't help it; it's like he puts unnecessary little speed bumps in the middle of each paragraph, but I'm probably the only one that's bothered by it, and after I'm a few chapters into one of his books, I don't really notice it anymore. It is probably a good thing that I did not become an English teacher; I would have been the type that everyone hates. :P

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I love the way glen cook writes. Its almost unique in the fantasy genre. Whether he rapes the English language or not, I can't get enough of it.

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