Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: The Cold Commands

After reading The Steel Remains, I read that author Richard Morgan intended the story and the universe he created to show how you wouldn't want to live in the typical fantasy universe. One of the big schticks in The Steel Remains was that the major protagonist, Ringil "Gil" Eskiath was gay, and indulged in as much debauchery as he could get away with. Lacking that surprise, The Cold Commands reads as a much more pedestrian work.

The Cold Commands can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. I barely remember the plot of the previous novel, so it's nice to see a trilogy that allows you to jump in in the middle without feeling like you're missing much. Even the protagonists are all re-introduced, and since what they start out doing has very little to do with how the previous novel ended, there's no context lost.

The plot runs in three separate strands, coming together only very late in the novel. Morgan takes the opportunity to do more world building, and it really is made clear that the setting is only a sort of fantasy: these is a science fiction world as well, with some of the various races involved in the big story-line being aliens.

Unfortunately, there's no real character development, and not even a lot of blood and guts. Other critics make a big deal out of an early-scene rape scene, which shows how nasty one of the protagonists actually is, but Morgan even took the sting out of that one --- it certainly doesn't have the shock impact that Lord Foul's Bane had, for instance.

All in all, while the book satisfied any desire I had for more Richard Morgan, it's definitely not him at his best. I still refer people to Altered Carbon instead. If that doesn't make you a Richard Morgan fan, for heavens sake, don't bother with The Cold Commands.
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