WARRIORS is an extremely cool idea for an anthology. It is a collection of multiple stories, from various genres, written by some of the biggest names in speculative fiction. Martin, in his preface talks about how he wanted the book to have no specific genre attached to it (though the cover makes it seem as if it is an epic fantasy anthology), and in this sense the anthology succeeds magnificently. There are short stories from genres spanning fantasy, historic fiction, SF, WWII, and even western. Each of them tells a tale of a “warrior” in that particular setting. Martin’s thought here is that books should broaden our reading perspective, and WARRIORS specifically should show us something new. In this anthology, there truly is something for everyone, and any reader would be hard-pressed not to enjoy it.
Let’s get on with the name-dropping. The anthology was edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, and contains short stories by Tad Williams, Robert Silverberg, Cecelia Holland, Naomi Novik, S. M. Stirling, David Weber, James Rollins (or James Clemens for you fantasy-only readers) and a bajillion others.
With anthologies it is usually the expectation that there will be a few gems, a majority of average stories, and then a few puke-worthy filler pieces. Warriors goes ahead and throws that expectation in your face, with the force of a 733 page book. Yeah, this is a large anthology. Very nearly every story in the collection met our expectations, and entertained us completely. Some noteworthy mentions:
Cecelia Holland continues to write magnificent historic fiction (we have loved her writing since we picked up VARANGER at World Fantasy 09, and then read the rest of her novels). Her short story is gritty, immediate, visceral, and wholly entertaining. What else would you expect from a tale about viking warriors?
Robert Silverberg gives us the most interesting (to Nick anyway) tale. While being slower paced than some of the other entries in the anthology, it is much deeper and much more engrossing. Silverberg’s characters are soldiers that have been left out of contact with their superiors for a long time, and who struggle with how long they should continue in their task. The naming syntax used in this short story was also pretty ingenious. It was nothing done new, but it was especially evocative in this specific case.
Carrie Vaughn’s story is probably the most thought provoking, and gives us a glimpse into a fairly unknown part of our own history. During WWII there was a group of pilots called WASP, or Women Airforce Service Pilots. The story is powerful, engrossing, and illuminating. Not too shabby from the chick who writes Urban Fantasy.
George R. R. Martin gives us a new Dunk and Egg story. This is where we had our biggest problem with the anthology. It took immense, god-like, control on our parts to not let the name George R. R. Martin color our review of the rest of the anthology. This was not easily done, especially when he not only has a novella included in it but, his name is on the cover as one of the editors. We have both (but Nick especially) begun nurturing the beginnings of resentment and general loss-of-respect for GRRM. It seems like he is doing absolutely everything within his power to do everything he possible can…other than write anything worthwhile in the A Song of Ice and Fire sequence. We have Wild Cards stuff coming, an HBO series, and this anthology (among other works), while we sit and wait for the next ASoIaF novel–a novel which isn’t even anything close to bringing to story to a close. Its just the second half of the incomplete 4th book. He has repeatedly stated he doesn’t owe his readers anything, but his is false (not to mention absurd). When you write a story, you make a promise to your readers. So…while The Mystery Knight (the novella by GRRM) is well written, as we have come to expect from George, we hated what it represented. Its like being promised a new car for Christmas and getting a Hot Wheels. Yay…
On the other hand–speaking of editors–Gardner Dozois’ story delivered and was suitably dark and entertaining for us. Not only that, but it mentions Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Lindsay Lohan, Facebook, and World of Warcraft. Sadly he neglected Elitist Book Reviews. We emailed Dozois about his oversight. The story is extremely bizarre and foreign, but shows just how weird things can get if you are a good writer.
We could go on about all the fantastic stories, because most of them were, but instead we urge you to pick up WARRIORS and see if George R. R. Martin can convert you to his spinner-rack idea. When all is said and done, WARRIORS is the kind of anthology that everyone should be reading. It is the kind of quality anthology that readers have been waiting for. Instead of buying some anthology of beginning writers, most of which won’t write anything else of value in their futures, how about you pick up this mammoth 733 page anthology written by proven professionals so you can learn from the best. It is well worth the cover price. This is perhaps one of the best anthologies we have ever read.
Recommended Age: 18 and up
Language: Its a mixed bag. Some stories don’t have any. Others (like James Rollins-who wrote a brilliant short story) have quite a bit.
Violence: The title of the anthology is called Warriors…
Sex: There are various depictions of sex, from adultery in the Lawrence Block story, to the Carrie Vaughn story which has sexism is one of the central points.
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