Thursday, June 14, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

I spent most of my year-end holidays with my nose in the new book by Richard K. Morgan, one of my new favorite British speculative fiction authors. The Cold Commands is the second book in what he is calling his A Land Fit For Heroes series, which began with 2009's The Steel Remains (see MadProfessah's A review).

Morgan is most well-known for his "carbon-dark noir" Takeshi Kovacs novels (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies) as well other award-winning hard sci-fi works such as Thirteen and Market Forces. I loved the Takeshi Kovacs novels so much that I read  The Steel Remains without even realizing that it would have a special appeal to an openly gay fan of science fiction and fantasy books.

Morgan jolted the fantasy world with his first entry in the A Land Fit For Heroes series when he not only made two of the three main characters in the series openly gay (or lesbian) but also included explicit homosexual sex scenes between the primary male "hero" and the primary male "villain" in The Steel Remains. This was just one of many ways in which Morgan signaled that he wanted to make his first fantasy series something completely different from the swords and sorcery sub-genre, even though his book does contain a lot of swords and plenty of sorcery. It also contains, profanity, explicit sex, stomach-churning violence and breathtaking suspense.

In The Cold Commands the protagonists from the first book return, characters who are as nuanced and well-crafted as before. First in line is Ringil Eskiath, the openly gay, disgraced scion of the upper class Eskiath family who is also a fierce and feared warrior; Egar the Dragonbane, a huge blonde chief from a nomadic tribe of warriors called the Majak who is famous for killing a dragon; and Archeth Indamaninarmal, the half-alien child of immortal parents who also happens to be addicted to drugs and somewhat conflicted about her lesbian sexuality. The trio have been in several tough battles together, including several that are detailed in both The Steel Remains and The Cold Commands.

I don't want to go in to too much detail about the plot or story of The Cold Commands except to say that the events happen about one year after the events in The Steel Remains and that one should definitely read them in the correct chronological order. There are several reviews of  The Cold Commands around the web which can give you a good sense of what the book is about.

If you liked any of Morgan's hard sci-fi and enjoy the modern fantasy of people like Joe Abercrombie  and Scott Lynch, you should check out Morgan's books in the A Land Fit For Heroes books.

Title: The Cold Commands.
Author: Richard K. Morgan.
Length: 512 pages.
Publisher: Del Rey.
Published: October 11, 2011.

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.917/4.0).


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