Today I would like to wish a very happy 70th birthday to one of sci-fi & fantasy's most influential authors, Glen Cook!
Of course everyone is familiar with his signature series, The Black Company. But Cook is also the person behind a slew of great series in these genres, including the Dread Empire, Garrett, P.I., Starfishers, Darkwar, and Instrumentalities of the Night series. Add to this mix a handful of beloved standalone novels, and you have around fifty quality tomes produced.
It's been an honor and a joy to finally finish reading and reviewing The Black Company series. The review for the finale, Soldiers Live, went up at the end of June, which left just one more short story to track down, named Smelling Danger, and appearing in the Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 anthology. Luckily, there was a copy in the local library system. So how did it fare?
Smelling Danger by Glen Cook (30 pages):
Smelling Danger is the second short story featuring the Black Company the Cook has published in recent years. The first was Tides Elba, which appeared in the Swords & Dark Magic anthology (reviewed here). That story followed the Company for a period during which they were stationed in a land called Aloe, taking place chronologically between the first book and Shadows Linger. In Tides Elba, the Company used their trademark trickery and subterfuge to outscrew the Limper, who was trying, as always, to screw them over. As it turns out, Smelling Danger is a continuation of sorts to Tides Elba, and it references the events that occurred in it (so basically give it a read first). Other than that, the story is nearly identical. The Limper, greatly ticked off by having been one-upped in the last story, looks to get over on the Company again. He employs dirty tricks, the Company reciprocates. There are a few nagging things going on; a purple fungus plaguing the troops, terrible weather, festering sores on our favorite wizards, nasty nests of hornets, weird little whirlpools, and a lurking Rebel rabble-rouser looking to start some trouble.
The good thing is that Cook in on top of his game here. You get the good old authentic military lifestyle vibe from Danger that you have come to expect from him. He also doesn't slip in writing again for the "Croaker of then", which makes you fully understand how talented an author he is that he can age his characters appropriately. People change, they evolve, and Cook has always made sure that that reflects in his Annalists as well.
There is no tension in Smelling Danger, since their is no real danger, or risk. We know already what happens to everyone involved through the book series. So, the best thing to do is to enjoy this tale in the nostalgic sense. I'll admit I got choked up when I first saw Elmo again.
Smelling Danger is a must if you are a completist. On it's own, it is still a strong story, just make sure to read Tides Elba first.
Score: 9 out of 10
Again, happy birthday Mr. Cook! Thank you for all the great stories!
If you haven't read The Black Company series yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a look-see. At least read the first book; I can honestly say that the first chapter is one of the best pieces of fantasy fiction I have ever read.
Heck, if you have some time to spare, you can listen to the first book in audiobook format for free at Youtube!