Thursday, April 26, 2018

Things I Didn't Finish - The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself
by Joe Abercrombie
Gollancz, 2006

Grimdark is supposed to be a dark, morally ambiguous reaction to the strict good/evil dichotomy in High Fantasy, much as spaghetti westerns were to the white hat/black hat oaters.  It does this while maintaining the core theme of High Fantasy - walking from one place to another.

I picked up The Blade Itself after reading pearl-clutching reviews of how violent, gory, and nihilistic it is.  Having gotten several thousand pages into it, I can only include that fantasy fans are incredible wimps.

The world building is good - the gods of old were killed years ago, their powers stolen by megalomaniac magicians.  There's a grizzled barbarian, a disillusioned minor magic user, and an idealistic young fighter who's only purpose is to mock the concept of the "hero's journey".  As much as it deserves mocking, it doesn't make for good reading, or at least not for hundreds of pages.  And it's not subtle, either.  He's in league with some escaped prisoners who mock his piety, and I'm sure he eventually makes moral compromises or turns out to be a hypocrite.  But mostly the other escaped prisoners just rub his face in the lack of honor in the world, at one point even calling him a "snowflake".  I tapped out there, before someone explained ethics in gaming journalism.

We get exchanges like:
Flashing Goodboy: "You must be a political prisoner like me!"
Grimey McRapey: "Nope.  I'm a rapist.
"But you must have been falsely accused?"
"Nope.  I done the rapes."
"But you'll change your ways and become a hero like me!"
"Nope.  Gonna keep raping."

There's only a little bit of hyperbole there.  As much as I enjoy moral ambiguity or outright nihilism, I'd rather have a book with black and white morality with something actually happening.  I think there may have been one quick action scene in the part I read, and somebody gets stuck with a needle, which I guess is torture?  Reviews I read said things don't pick up until the end (over 500 pages), and then only to set up the second book in the trilogy.  Joseph Rosenberger would have quadruple digit body counts by then.

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