on 27 November 2011
Richard Morgan is one of those authors I feel I can rely on to entertain me. And that is the real purpose of buying books, for me. This sequel to The Steel Remains returns to the world of Ringil and his violent comrades and foes. But as witht he earlier book there is a hint of magic which may not really be magic. Morgan's titles can be read in several ways and this indicates the puzzles in the book that kept me reading. The Steel Remains could read as a weapon is the last resort or final argument, or it could read that steel remains in the ruins of a civilisation. Both would be appropriate. Likewise the title Cold Commands, and I won't spoil it by revealing the double entendre. I suggest if you like Alasteir Reynolds then you might like this Richard Morgan novel.
on 13 January 2013
Readers familiar with Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovac books (Altered Carbon, Woken Furies, etc.) will be relieved to hear the author has made a seamless transition from Sc-Fi to fantasy. A closer reader will surmise that he hasn't made a transition at all, but 'nuff said there.
Although The Cold Commands lacks the narrative punch of the first in the series (the Steel Remains), it expands the cultural and political backdrop of the setting, and deepens the excellent characterizations established with the first book. It also continues to tie together the fates of the three protagonists.
Readers of the Game of Thrones series will find much to appreciate here. Morgan's work lacks the majestic scope of Martin's Game of Thrones, but his characters are every bit as compelling, and the series has a unique "fantasy noir" feel that recalls the work of Michael Moorcock's "Elric of Melnibone" series, the Theives' World books, and Frutz Leiber's "Fafhard and the Grey Mouser" series. The same moral ambiguities and pallor of doom pervade in both, though Morgan's is more of the post-modern, slow tramp into catastrophe rather than Moorcock's looming, apocalyptic feel.
What I find most interesting about this particular work of his is that all the characters seem to be struggling with the issue of age and nostalgia. Each feels that they are somehow past their prime, and becoming increasingly irrelevant in a landscape where they or their people once reigned high and mighty. They all feel that they have at least one more great adventure ahead, one last chance to make a legend in a world increasingly ruled by petty politics, cruelty, and greed. It's that issue, a very human dilemma, that really drives the novel more than the high adventure, violence, and "sorcery" elements, though those are all _very_ well done.
As with all his other works, I find that I couldn't put this one down until the end. I imagine most discerning readers will feel the same way!
on 22 March 2015
i did not like part one. only read this because i had bought both parts together.
it is a better story then part one. only one or two sex scenes, still lots of drugs, but more realistic storytelling. ringel is growing up. but why only 3 stars?
i was looking forward to the journey, on which the new helmsman was trying to send archeth. this does not happen and story ends before it.
egar ends up doing john rembo stuff in the same city as ringil and archeth. it was good in the end but i can't even remember why he went on the temple raid, other then the fact that he was bored. the author kept changing pov at annoying times.
the mythical grey places or the world of possibilities was used again. ringil meets his future lover, but remembers him. the dewinda that was his lover/enemy last time, is still there. ringil gets taken there again, is hurt/tortured badly but gets well again. a bit of a let down. i was dreading and looking forward to reading how ringil would cope with is injuries and still be the hero. but all that was taken away by a twist.
ringil's true identity, clues that he is a powerful magician and is beginning to use his abilities was exciting.
some good bits but still not brilliant. this should have been part one.
on 27 November 2011
There was a lot of positive buzz about this being an improvement over "the steel remains" and while I think it is a stronger book it still suffers from many of the problems the first book had. One thing I did enjouy more in this book is that the three point-of-view characters all have their own story and they fuse together quite nicely towards the end. While Ringil is clearly the main character, I think Egar actually had some of the strongest scenes this time around. The emperor still manages to steal every scene he is in again as well.
In terms of the story and world it always seemed to come to life whenever it was dealing with the pseudo-science fiction/fantasy elements. Any scene featuring the helmsmen or the dark council members caused me to become far more interested in the story. Herein lies my problem with the book though, when not dealing with the weird science/magic elements the book feels very average in that I've read far better/similar "gritty/mature" fantasy books over the last decade. There just isn't anything to make it stand-out when it's not delving into the weird. This could be partly with the story itself as there are very few "big" moments and it focuses more on indvidual skirmishes. There are some well choreographed fights but it never seems to escalate into anything "substantial". I was also frustrated by how two-thirds of the book sets up a "quest" only for it to be abandoned or left for the next installment. In defense of Richard, he does make the reason why the quest is side-lined an organic consequence of one of his characters storylines so it may be a case of the character determining the plot. I know the author isn't a fan of his books turning into phonebooks but I think this story could have really benefitted from having a bit more occur - such as the quest.
I'll see the series through as there is only one book left but as it stands it feels like there is a lot of untapped potential within this series. For anyone who enjoys this style of fantasy, I think they'd get more enjoyment out of Bakker's "the darkness that comes before" series.
on 29 October 2011
Having loved his SF, I read The Steel Remains with some trepidation. I loved it, so I was really looking forward to Cold Commands. I waited and waited. Publish dates being put back. No worries, I had complete faith in Richard Morgan to produce a cracking sequel. I won't say that I feel cheated, but I'm really disappointed that he couldn't have produced something a bit more interesting. The plot is slow, probably laying the scene for the next book, and takes an age to come together. Of course it doesn't help that this sequel was so late being published, so references to characters from the first book, left me a little lost. The book has all the graphic bloodletting and sex scenes (hetero and homo) as the first book, but somehow they fail to shock or engage.
My biggest gripe is the fact that Morgan seems to drift in and out of love with this book, whether or not he was distracted by other projects, it's difficult to say, but certain passages seem to be written with care, whereas others seem to be rushed (approaching deadlines?). One example of this is the incredible way (yes, I know it's fantasy, but even so) in which Ringil escapes death a few times by going into the Margins. That just seems to be a bit of a cop-out to me. I sincerely hope that this will not be a recurring theme in the next book, which I will buy if it doesn't take a couple of years to appear.
on 28 October 2011
I loved the Steel Remains so I was happy to find that I loved the Cold Commands even more. In SR I found myself missing Ringil whenever he wasn't in the narrative, this time around I found Eg and Archeth more interesting, although there was still a Ringil shaped hole. Hopefully that will no longer be an issue in the third book when they all get to play together some more.
With this book I also found myself noticing even more that there is a huge debt owed to Moorcock's Elric novels, but you know what, that's a good thing!
A year ago, the famous swordsman Ringil Eskiath, hero of Gallow's Gap, prevented the return of the Dwenda, the ancient rulers of mankind, to the Earth. Ringil and his wartime allies, Egar the barbarian warrior and the half-Kiriath agent Archeth, stand vigilant against any future incursions by this foe.
Now Egar, Archeth and Ringil face separate mysteries. A bar-room brawl and reports of slaves being held in unusual circumstances leads Egar into an ill-advised confrontation with the Empire's dominant religion. A warning from the Helmsmen sends Archeth on a mission into the wastelands to recover a valuable item, an item which comes with a dire warning. And a chance encounter between a runaway slave and Ringil results in blood, mayhem and revelations of a dark kind.
The Cold Commands is the long-awaited sequel to Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains, the author's first foray away from SF and into the arena of secondary world fantasy. The Steel Remains was a blood-soaked, swords and sorcery adventure, black of humour and fairly brimming over with violence and sex (most of it graphic and gay, to the disquiet of some readers). It was solid enough stuff, though perhaps not as good as the billing suggested. Morgan's SF is so good because he writes with anger, flair and passion, and is at its best when he is clearly ticked off about something (in Black Man, particularly the self-destruction of a society which cannot talk to itself, only throw up barriers and tear itself apart). The Steel Remains, though a reasonably solid novel, lacked the vitality of his earlier SF.
The Cold Commands has that energy back, and in spades. Here Morgan confronts the issues of religious fundamentalism and blind dogma as the Citadel attempts to garner more control over the Empire than the young (and notoriously uncompromising) Emperor. Archeth recalls the religious disagreements that almost tore apart her parents' marriage: her Kiriath father's mounting horror as his calm, rational scientific explanations for everything are rejected by his human wife in favour of rote-learned rhetoric. These issues give the book a bit of a philosophical and thematic kick to it that sees Morgan's writing return to the top of its game.
Whilst this issue is present and explored intriguingly, it does not overwhelm the plot. This time around there is a three-pronged storyline with each of the major protagonists having their own story arc to follow. Ringil probably has slightly more action than Archeth and Egar, but the division of responsibility between the three is more equal this time around. This approach contributes to the book's greater length (more than half again the size of The Steel Remains) and also allows Morgan to bring in the noir-like investigative tone of his earlier SF work. We also get a lot more backstory and revelations about the mysteries of the world, which further the hints in The Steel Remains that this is as much a far-future SF story as it is a fantasy epic.
Morgan's skills with characterisation are extremely strong, as usual. Ringil remains an unreliable and flawed protagonist, whose motivations are fascinating and complex, whilst Archeth is conflicted and guilt-driven, unsure of her place in the world now the rest of her people have departed. Even the relatively straightforward Egar has his frustrations and demons that drive him to make some spectacular mistakes which drive the plot onwards. The secondary cast, this time consisting of mostly new faces with only a few returning characters, is also extremely well-drawn, particularly the increasingly punchable young Emperor and the new character of Anasharal, who is amusing and annoying in equal measure.
This is a character-driven and intelligent fantasy novel, but Morgan doesn't forget to bring the mayhem. There's a midnight raid on a temple that Robert E. Howard would have approved of, more swordfights and murders than you can shake a stick at and a few rare but impressive displays of sorcery...though the dividing line between 'sorcery' and 'vastly superior technology' is intriguingly blurry.
In fact, the only thing lets The Cold Commands down is that a major storyline is kicked into gear in the latter part of the novel only to be put on hold for the impressive finale. With this story presumably left to be picked up in the third book, this means that The Cold Commands does not stand alone as nicely as the The Steel Remains, and is not as self-contained. This is a relatively minor issue, but one worth bearing in mind.
The Cold Commands (****½) sees Morgan back on top form and delivering a book as passionate, fast-paced, smart and furious as any of his SF.
on 21 April 2012
I was disappointed with The Steel Remains but loved all of his other novels (Kovacs is one of my all time favourite characters) so I gave this book a go. It really is excellent, it's beautifully written, error free and a great tale.
As a fan of Richard's first Fantasy title, The Steel Remains, I really was looking forward to seeing what would happen in the next outing. The world is wonderfully designed, the characters fantastic and when added to Richards, hard combat style which when backed with double dealing and cunning, makes this a title that's hard to put down.
Finally add to this a cracking pace, great plot and wonderful writing style which makes this series a definite one to watch as it exhibits the best of the genre. A thoroughly magical read and one that will have me reaching for Steel Remains for a refresher pretty soon. Cracking.
on 19 March 2012
I've been a fan of Richard Morgan ever since I first read 'Altered Carbon'. It was such a well written and exciting book, I still reread it about once a year. Since then I've read every other book he has produced but never recaptured that thrill supplied by that first book.
When he switched genres to fantasy from Sci-Fi I had high hopes that I would enjoy his new books as much. And 'The Steel Remains' was just excellent , I liked the world he created and I loved Ringil Eskiath, an anti hero with a heart of gold.
After a long wait I finally got my hands on 'The Cold Commands' and looked forward to reading it so much.
Perhaps my anticipation was a bit too much because I felt quite let down by this latest offering. All the characters are there, but nothing seems to happen very much until the very end and then it seems rushed.
Each character, Ringil, Egar, and Archeth wander through the story, the POV changes as you would expect but there seems to be no link up between them until the very end. They meander through the pages, doing not very much and I kept waiting for the story to begin. When it did, it was during the latter pages and it was over in a flash. I felt a little cheated.
The writing is wonderful, no one brings such dark characters to life in such a sympathetic way as the author, but during all the description, I lost my way and while I kept on reading hoping for it all to come together and make sense, it just didn't.
I don't know if Mr Morgan plans on writing a third novel in this series, I hope he does, but please, can we have a beginning, a middle and an end in the next book.