"What do you think? Will they like that picture?"
"Dunno. Probably. I mean, look at those peaks. Rugged; austere; foreboding. Dare I say, crisp."
"'Crisp'? Look at the foreground, all shadowy like that. Don't you think people are sick of snow by this time?"
"It's March second today. Spring isn't that far off. Let's check the archive for something with some sun in it."
"Something less crisp?"
"How about this?"
"Gads, not another 'sunset at waterside' shot..."
"Why not? The beach is nice! No snow."
"The beach during winter is still cold. I'm shivering just looking at it. And look how little the waves are. Must be on the east coast somewhere."
"If it's east coast, that would be a sunrise, not a sunset. But it's pretty. Nice clouds. Cool little bird there, walking. And one flying, adding some motion to the picture."
"Nope. Still too wintry. What else you got?"
"Hmm. How about this?"
"Hmm. Better. Kind of a far east vibe. Where is that, Singapore? Viet Nam?"
"Must have taken the picture on St. Patrick's Day. They dyed the water green, just like the river in Chicago, eh?"
"Again, not sure. Maybe it's naturally that color. Like algae, or something."
"Or they just photoshopped it."
"Why would they do that? What's wrong with normal blue water?"
"Yeah, you're right. Besides, if they'd photoshopped it, they'd have likely added a blue sky instead of that overcast one."
"Anyway, so is it good enough, or what?"
"Yeah, that's fine. OK, what's next?"
"The intro, I guess..."
"OK, go for it."
"Lemme see. Where did I put Dave's text? Ah, here we go. Lemme cut-n-paste here for a second..."
Howdy, y'all! It's Dave again, with another blast of hot air. Random nonsense from a random goofball.
And since there's nothing more random than 7 Japanese Businessmen doing a synchronized dance all over New York City, I supposed I should start there tonight. Give the video a chance! It gets very cool.
I think my favorite part of that video was how the New Yorkers just walked by, as though that sort of thing was normal...
"What did you think of that?"
"Meh, I don't know. Cool, I guess. Not my cup of tea."
"Well, he usually has pretty good video clips. I liked it."
"Yeah, well, you like the Bee Gees and head cheese too."
"Ooh, maybe Dave will post a Bee Gee's music video..."
"Lord, help us all."
"Looks like the book report is up next."
"It's called a 'book review', you nitwit."
It will be odd to try and summarize the book, for those of you who have never read any Abercrombie before. The tale takes place over the span of three days, during a pitched battle between two great forces in Abercrombie's world that he's built from scratch. It's the same world/realm that was featured in his First Law Trilogy, as well as 2009's Best Served Cold (which I reviewed HERE), with several of the same characters from those tales. Most of the major players in The Heroes were minor characters in the other books, so it was very nice to see them, and have them developed further.
The book gets its title from multiple sources, the most obvious being a geographical source. The great valley that the huge battle takes place in has a large hill in it that is crowned with a large circle of towering, Stonehenge-like stones, called The Heroes. Holding this hill is very important, since it commands a 360-degree view for miles around. Very important in war, as you can imagine.
The title also comes from the fact that there are great heroes on both sides of the battle. The North has a great number of Named Men, which are fierce warriors with unique nick-names that they have earned on the battlefield in times past. The Union has many soldiers of valor, but really only one that could qualify as a Hero - and his name is Bremer dan Gorst, whom some might remember from the Trilogy and a cameo in Best Served Cold. He is a fiercely loyal King's Man who was disgraced and stripped of his honor because of something that happened when he was supposed to be protecting the King. He seeks redemption. He seeks it on the battlefield. He is an INCREDIBLE character, and by far, my favorite in the book (which is something, considering the cast).
When I first heard Bremer was going to be featured in The Heroes, I shrugged a bit. I wasn't too impressed with him in the other books, and didn't think much of the news. But I was very pleasantly surprised. I couldn't get enough of the contrast of his story arc. In battle, he was incomparable, having trained exhaustively, and wanting to die redeeming his name on the battlefield. Out of battle, he was the object of scorn and insult and snickering, a problem made worse by his soft, falsetto voice.
The book also gets it's title (I believe) from the philosophical angle that Abercrombie makes, whereby he calls into question what a hero really is, and whether it is really worth it to seek such status. In fact, at one point, a character says to a warrior something to this effect: "I used to think you were a decent man. But I don't think that anymore. You aren't a decent man. You're a hero." This was the payoff to a big argument, and it was meant as an insult.
There's no sense in going over the whole cast of characters, and any of the storyline any further. It would constitute spoilers for those that might read this book, and more endless chatter for those who will not. Let me summarize my unorthodox review with my thoughts on the author himself.
Joe Abercrombie's style agrees with me like no other that I can think of. He is so easy to read, so effective at description, and so genius at writing dialog and structuring scenes, I literally felt like I couldn't read it fast or thorough enough. At any moment, during any type of scene, regardless of context, he could slip a zinger in that will make you laugh out loud. The characters are rich and memorable, the dialog funny and very smart, the landscape vivid, the emotions blunt and powerful.
HOWEVER, I will not recommend this book to anyone without letting them know the hard truth: the book is very bloody, and there is no shortage of foul, profane language. These characters are hard men, and they use hard language. The insults and banter are often as hard-edged as the weapons they wield against one-another. If that sort of thing unnerves you, then I suggest you pass on this (and the rest) of Abercrombie's work. You will by necessity also miss out on some OUTSTANDING storytelling, but that will be the other side of that coin.
It may seem odd for me to at once highly (re)commend an author and strongly discourage most of you from reading him, but I feel I have to be honest. I loved it. But I know it's a divisive book that many of you, were you to read it, would likely hate. You wouldn't be alone. The author recently posted a fascinating "article" in his blog, responding to the idea that authors like him are ruining the Fantasy genre. Also a great read, should you choose to skim it.
SUMMARY: I have to give it 5/5. Grabbed me from the first sentence, chewed me up, spit me out, and I enjoyed every page of it. I will surely read it again. Memorable characters, memorable scenes, hilarious and smart dialog, top notch story-telling.
"Wow, that's quite an endorsement."
"True. But this is the same guy that thinks farts are funny, so how heavily should we weigh his take on it?"
"Maybe the book had a lot of potty humor in it."
"Wouldn't surprise me. What's up next?"
"Looks like he wants a quick Funny Picture, and then he's done."
"Of course, for now. Unless he gets hit by a bus or something."
"I hope not. Then we'll be out of a job."
"Best not think about it then. How about this picture? Funny enough?"
"Gah, no. Get that off there. Political humor is passe. Besides, no one will know it's a young Fidel Castro."
"I don't know... I think they'll get it."
"No. What else is there?"
"How about this?"
"Hmm. Nah, it's more cute than funny. What else?"
"Uh... let's see. How about this?"
"I don't get it."
"It's a 'snow man'. See? The word "man" made of snow. Snowman."
"Well, it better work. There's nothing better left in the archive. Dave hasn't fished for new ones yet."
"What about re-using one. From the archive. Pull a funny one from last year, no one will remember."
"OK, fine. How about this?"
"You had to go straight for the fart humor, didn't you..."
"Well, it's Dave's blog."
"OK, fine, use that one. Load up the 'goodbye' text and let's get out of here. And don't forget to add the title. Otherwise it will just say 'Generic Blog Post Title' again, and Dave will get mad at us again. You know how he gets when he's angry."
"I won't forget."
"I won't forget!"
"Fine, post the goodbye text already."
Well, that's it for now. I'll be back again soon with more hot air, fret not! If you miss me, just spend a few hours rooting through the back posts. You'll find goodies buried in there, I promise!