Friday, November 21, 2014

Bone Candy

Bone Candy by Glen Cook. A Black Company short story, originally appearing in the Shattered Shields anthology, published October 2014 by Baen. Approx. 25 pages.

While I am loathe to review individual short stories from anthologies, today we have a special case. Shattered Shirlds, a military fantasy compilation published by Baen last month, features a brand new Black Company short by Glen Cook. So, while I will most likely finish this anthology at a later date, it is imperative that I review this short story.

Now what do we have here? To start, Bone Candy, like the previous two shorts (Tides Elba and Smelling Danger), takes place in the city of Aloe, at some point on the timeline between the first book and Shadows Linger.

Before I get into what is good in this story and what I have issues with, let's look at the premise:

Things are rather uneventful for the Company in Aloe. However, they have an officer from Charm attached to them to contend with: Two Dead, a wizard dispatched by the recently minted Taken Whisper. Two Dead is no friend of the Company. Whisper does not hold them in a very high regard either.

One day, nuisance turns to legitimate problem. Two Dead grabs Croaker and Silent to help investigate some odd furry creatures that have turned up. These furry mysteries are packing a nasty secret inside, which lays Two Dead up. Meanwhile, Two Dead's hulking bodyguard, Buzz (who is actually well-liked by the Company), is contending with sudden health issues of his own.

It falls on Croaker to keep these two in the realm of the living, since their passing would cause some waves with people you don't want to cause waves with.

Ok, let's start with the good. Cook shows us that he is still in perfect form with this story. He is able to tap into the vibe of the Company from around that time seamlessly.

There is also an added bonus here: Bone Candy actually makes reference to the Port of Shadows. Black Company fans will of course recognize this as one of the potential new Black Company books announced years ago. So does this mean that a new novel is actually in development? This is quite exciting indeed. But, also, a tad anti-climactic. Why? Read on, as I present my issues with the story.

Look, I am as grateful as the next Company fan for anything to nibble on from Cook. But, let's be honest. Croaker's tale is done. He got one of the best endings in a fantasy series. I understand that he is the fan favorite (with good reason), but, as Cook said in one of his rare interviews: "The Company itself is the character." So, how come we can't get a book with Suvrin as Captain? Or one from pre-Croaker times? Part of the suspense in reading Black Company books is that anybody's number can be up, any moment. You can't do that, going back to circa book 1.5. If you've finished the series, you already know what's happened to all these guys. We've met some new faces in these shorts, but that means they are the only ones at risk. And the fact that the Port of Shadows is no more than another Dominator Resurrectionist tool is deflating too. Obviously he doesn't come back before Shadows Linger.

One other issue I have is with the usage of modern terms. "Wait a sec..." you might say, reminding me that way back I defending the usage of modern slang and colloquialisms in what is a "fantasy" setting. I still support that type of dialogue. What I have an issue with is technology. One of the later books, I don't remember which, had a scene in which rock melted "like plastic". That jarred me out of the moment. I have no problem with fantasy characters saying "Go f*** yourself, a$$hole." instead of a faux-British "Bugger off, you arse." (Note: this assessment does not pertain to actual British writers; it is directed at those who try to emulate what the speech of a time period might have sounded like rather than focus on how the conversation would proceed in modern discourse). But plastic is not part of their universe. In Bone Candy, someone uses the term "live ammunition". It doesn't read right.

Ok, gripe's over. Bone Candy is the most solid of these Black Company shorts (so far), and hopefully this is the segue into the next novel. If you have a chance, get a hold of this and check it out. I hope that soon I can finish the whole anthology and let you know how the other entries fare.

Final Score:


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