on 18 August 2012
This is a review of the quality of the Kindle version of the book rather than the story itself. Had it been free or 20 pence I would have no reason to grumble, however it wasn't and I do. If books are being sold at a reasonably hefty price on the kindle format one would assume that proof reading would be carried out. This version is so littered with obvious mistakes such as ? instead the letter L that it becomes irritating. You even begin to wonder whether some words are the words which the author intended. All in all this detracts considerably from what should be an enjoyable experience.
on 12 February 2010
Ok, so considering how these stories were created back in the 1980's its almost embaressing that I never knew about them untill this year. I got the compilation about a month ago and after finishing the first book, I realise how much Steven Erikson owes Glen Cook. He ofcourse acknowledges this with the review from him, but for someone completely in love with the Malazan books of the dead, The Black Company was a much needed companion while waiting for the next installment from Erikson.
I dont know why The Black Company has gone under the radar for 2 decades, because although many people have read them, they were never promiment or even brought up as recommendations here on Amazon even after I purchased all the Malazan, and song of Ice and fire books.. very strange.
I heartify recommend The Black Company books, in fact, I dont think you can find better if you like the gritty fantasy type stories. It reads like a Band of Brothers set against a fantasy backdrop, and the characters are as strong and engaging as the Soldiers in Chain of dogs. Please do yourself a favor and get the compilation because it is such a great piece of work. Written back in the early 80s it is an example of great fantasy that is current and orginal today and for the well read it will also show you just how much of an inspiration it has been to other more current writers of today.
on 10 April 2010
I bought this as a recommendation from Amazon having followed the Malazan series very closely (which I love). It is a collection of the first 3 books in the series: The Black Company, Shadows Linger and White Rose.
Despite being written over 20 years ago it brings a refreshing look to the genre. Its principle character is Croaker, the Company physician and annalist/historian, and the story is mostly told from his viewpoint. The Black Company are a particularly dark bunch, a mercenary outfit usually hired by the villains of the piece who then add a sense of morality to their actions.
Glen Cook doesn't demark black and white, good and bad, heroes and villains. It is more of a sliding scale that is dependant on situation from scene to scene. A bit more gritty, a little more realistic. The standard is anti-heroes and darkness these days, and The Chronicles definitely has these themes in abundance.
The books themselves are good reads, The Black Company served as a good intro with nefarious beginnings and excellent battle sequences. Shadows Linger builds up to a tragic crescendo and ties a lot of threads together toward the end. White Rose is a spectacle in itself, although you feel the Company are all getting on a bit age wise at this point, and that new blood is needed soon.
A good series, and I will pursue the rest. If you like Thomas Covenant (especially Second Chronicles) and the Malazan Book of the Fallen, you will enjoy Glen Cook. Try to get them and read them before they drop off the face of the planet altogether
on 5 November 2011
I found the kindle conversion really very poor, huge numbers of mistakes in spelling, characters and even whole words which at times made it pretty hard to read.
Haveing said that i did really enjoy the read, It's by no means Erikkson, it does however touch on themes brought up in the Malazan series. I do like my fanstasy with a dark and almost ambigous flavour of good and evil. I would say its probably closer to the writing style of David Gemmell than that of Stephen Erikkson though.
As a fantasy fan for many years, I can only hang my head in shame that I had missed the Black Company books when they were originally released.
The series tells the tale of the Black Company, "last of the free companies of Khatovar" - a mercenary group with a long history and a proud tradition of working for whoever pays - good or bad. With a few notable expections, the heroes of the Black Company are nothing but, and many of the members have very dark pasts.
When a job protecting a city ruler goes sour, the Company betrays their commission and enters the service of the Lady - the immortal and evil ruler of a reborn empire.
In a refreshing change to the usual fantasy epic, the Company is therefore fighting for the dark side, which creates some wonderful dilemmas for the few men serving who retain a sense of morality.
The strength of the Black Company books are the interesting dilemmas this situation creates, and the excellent action scenes. The writing style is minimalist, which gives the plot an edgy pace and avoids the tedious meandering that sabotages the Lond of the Rings, but sometimes it goes too far - especially in the earlier books, when I found myself wishing for some description to go along with the dialogue. As such, the main characters initially seem flat, because we have no real idea what they look like, or what the world they inhabit is truly like.
Luckily these criticisms (hence the four stars) fade as the series progresses and Glen Cook matures as a writer. It is easy to see here the seeds that would appear to have taken root in the mind of Steven Erikson in the Malazan saga, and in retrospect the recent rennaisance of low fantasy owes a lot to the Black Company.
In summary: if, like me, you missed out before, do not do so again!
Having been in print for a number of years its come as a huge relief that Gollancz took the step to produce this Black Company Omnibus. No more searching for each book and you have it at a bargain price. Compendiums are cracking things to get. Not only do you get the full series in one go but its something that's to hand so you can flick backwards and forwards in case you want to check a fact or two. Here Glen's work will reach a new generation as it showcases his writing talent. The characters are fascinating in their shades of grey as opposed to being good or evil with plot lines, although a little bit to simplistic in certain respects, at the time they were originally written, pretty revolutionary with a Spartan writing style that is becoming more popular in recent releases.
If youre looking for an action adventure that will more than please that certain someone in your life (either for their birthday or as a Christmas present. This is one that will be hard pressed to beat on numerous levels. It will probably also guarantee a bit of peace and quiet as the reader enjoys the full adventures over the 704 pages within.
on 13 February 2012
As Steve Erikson amongst others cheerfully admit, this is the archetypal military-fantasy SF.
But Dark. The heroes are not always heroic. The victories are anything but absolute. Good is never entirely good . The defeats never as total as they seem. The Black Company itself has a history and personality which overtakes any of the individual characters.
The Black Company is loosely based on Sir John Hawkwood's 'The White Company' a group of English archers loose from the 100 Years War in France which terrorized early Renaissance Italy, and were unbeatable, and Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 2 novels about them (the White Company, and Sir Nigel).
Cook was a Vietnam vet (see 'A Matter of Time') and widely read in military history, and it shows. The battles and the strategems, and the human cost, feel almost real. The magic is seldom used as 'deus ex machina' but integral to the plots and the behaviours of the participants a la helicopters and missile launchers in modern warfare.
He also introduces concepts like the Unreliable Narrator: in successive novels of the Black Company, the Chronicler changes from Croaker (company doctor) onwards. What's really interesting is when subsequent commentators comment on Croaker's commentaries.
The 'Taking of Harden' could be almost a military textbook example of guerilla war. You could teach counterinsurgency from that chapter.
Just about every cliche of fantasy novels comes out, and gets destroyed. Always with Cook's wry, dry sense of humour and perspective.
The characters are also utterly memorable. The Wizard Silent. Croaker himself. The Captain. The Dark Lady, and Croaker's obsession with her. Bomanz the Sorcerer. Maron Shed. The Dominator. There are moments of raw chill.
I can only remember being this consumed reading a fantasy series (other than Lord of the Rings) when I read Roger Zelazny's 9 Princes in Amber in almost one go.
Read this, at least the first 3 (The Black Company, Shadows Linger, The White Rose) if you want to be drawn into a world of fantasy that is just so much better than all the hackneyed rubbish out there. And when you think 'I've read this before somewhere' remember Cook probably wrote it first: it's somewhere else that has imititated Cook.
on 13 July 2016
The Black Company are a mercenaries and this means that they are fighting for the "bad guys" which although it leads to some soul searching from Croaker thankfully does not result in any pointless moralising.
Croaker is a likeable main character even if he is a bit humourless, he is conflicted but simply gets on with his job as a soldier regardless of the right or wrong of it.
The wizards add some humour throughout with their petty conflicts and sometimes the mood is lightened with the dark humour of the various soldiers.
The plot moves quickly, the 3 books are all quite short and each has a proper ending although each one leaves room for the bigger plot to build in the background.
There is also plenty of unusual magic and creatures to keep things interesting.
There are plenty of twists and turns with enemies becoming allies and the story is painted in shades of grey with no simplistic black and white world view, until the last book there are no real good guys just a variety of bad guys.
The ending of the last book is a little weak, it feels more forced than the endings of the the first two, and this lets the series down a little, it is just to clean and easy.
The book is also hurt by how much of it is similar to Steven Erikson's Malazan series, the naming of the soldiers, the personality of the wizard, the ancient powers and gods and a lot of other things all feel too familiar, if I had read this first I'd probably have rated it higher but Erikson took these ideas and made them bigger, more complex and funnier so it is hard not to compare.
It is good that Steven Erikson makes such glowing comments about this series at the start of the book since I have rarely seen so many ideas overlapping between two series, if I didn't know the author I would have thought this was an early series by Erikson.
on 22 July 2013
...love this book.
I love it because of the limited perspective and the pace. It's written just from the perspective of one man (he's a medic, not an unbelievable superhero, therefore not always at the center of action) who writes down the annals of the company. He's just driven by events and has little influence over them, and the pace of the book ensures there's always a next thing right around the corner. The way this is written resembles the accounts I've read of other (real) soldiers.
One of the advantages of books over movies is that they give you space to flesh out the details that you can't see, so the uncertainty due to the limited perspective only serves to enhance the enjoyment of the book for me. This is a prime example of epic fantasy being told through a claustrophobic scope - brilliant.
If you are into action fantasy a la David Gemmell, then you'll be disappointed. This is military fantasy, the fights are not fanciful and it's far more about results than the action itself.
If you want deep characterisation, then you'll be disappointed. The hero is just a man who writes annals. He is in the company of other men who don't talk about their past. He can't read minds. Characterisation in this book is done via actions more than words.
If you want a beautiful fantasy world described in detail by a benevolent author, then you'll be disappointed. This book has no time for that, it's too busy describing the grim circumstances its heroes are in. It's not the job of the annalist to describe the world, it's his job to describe what his company does and what happens to its members.
But if you want a fantasy book with pace, fights, realistic heroes, and a slow unravelling of the world, then this is for you. If you want a fantasy book that gives room for your own mind to picture characters, towns, etc, then this is for you, too.
on 30 November 2011
I remember reading these first Black Company novels way back when they were first published. They were a kick in the teeth for the useless rubbish that was being passed off as fantasy in the 80s and 90s. They still make for a decent read now although those people who are not used to the first person narrative in fantasy novels will struggle because as a consequence you get an authentic and convincing pared down narrative as opposed to a 1000+ pages of irrelevant detail and overblown stodge.
These book have clearly been an influence on key current fantasy writers like Abercrombie, Erikson & Lynch.
When I saw this omnibus edition for Kindle I decided to buy it because it was a reasonable £7.99 and undemanding entertainment during some hefty work related train journeys over the next couple of week. However the quality of the proof-reading is awful. This is published by a major publisher and I think that it isn't too much to ask for a text that isn't riddled with typos. For the books alone I'd probably give 4 stars but this Kindle version is only worth 2.