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The Library of Babel: A Book Log

"This much is already known: for every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences." -- Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Tyranny of the Night

I put up a post over at my other blog asking for opinions on which of the many books waiting to be reviewed on this sadly neglected booklog should come first, and the top vote-getter was Glen Cook's The Tyranny of the Night, so it will be the first of (hopefully) several new posts here.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden (who edited this book for Tor) made a comment a while back that they had great hopes for Cook's next series, because the last couple of Black Company novels flirted with best-seller status. He figured that a new series that didn't require ten volumes worth of back-story to understand might get him over the top.

This book reads in part like they were really taking that to heart. There's a lot more explaining of what's going on than in the Black Company novels, in some places almost managing to achieve an excess of exposition, which is unheard of for Cook.

It's also a book with some clear Points to make, as can be seen from the set-up: The world is bounded by walls of ice, and afflicted by supernatural powers (collectively termed "the Night"). Among the civilizations in the world, there are two great religions, both of which were founded in the same Holy Land. One of those two religions (headed by Patriarchs) and an Empire associated with it used to control the Holy Land, but has lost control of it. Their rival power (an empire whose ruler bears the title of Kaif) now controls the lands, but the new Patriarch is thinking of calling a Crusade to regain control.

The political set-up is a little heavy-handed in its similarity to the real world. Cook doesn't pull this off as well as, say, Guy Kay does.

Against this backdrop, you get a fairly typical Glen Cook story. A military commander in the Holy Lands is attacked by a power of the Night, and uses some new technology to destroy it. This was previously unthinkable, and causes quite a stir. The commander in question is quickly sent on a secret mission into the heart of the Patriarchy, where they might be working up to a Crusade, if they can stop feuding and killing each other long enough. There are battles, and scheming, and back-stabbing, and lots of the ground-level military stuff you would expect from Glen Cook in Black Company mode.

It's not quite as good as the early Black Company stuff, largely because the exposition and political set-up come off as kind of heavy-handed. Somebody less bothered by that sort of thing than I am would probably enjoy this more than I did. It's also very much the first book of a series-- most of what goes on really amounts to shifting pieces into position for some later action.

In general, though, if you like Cook's other stuff, you'll probably like this. It'll be interesting to see where he takes the story in the future volumes.

Posted at 4:40 PM | link |
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