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Jul 14

Impressions: The Steel Remains

I don’t consider myself qualified to write reviews, as I’m not a critical reader. If I read something, I like it. And this is always true, because if I start something and don’t like it, I stop reading. At any point. Life is too short for bad books.

Harsh and judgemental? I don’t think so. Merely the result of a university literature degree. I promised myself I would never be forced to read another book I hated ever again.

So, because I don’t consider myself qualified to write a review of The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, I’ll talk about my impressions of the book instead. *cough* If you want a plot summary or a blurb, follow the link.

First and most obvious: I liked it.

I was given an ARC of this title by a friend who works in a bookshop and knows my tastes well. Otherwise I might just have balked at the tag line on the back and not even bothered: ‘Fantasy is about to get real…’ My eyebrow rises even typing this.

I’m not going to launch into a rant about why that line, or more it’s implications, irritates me so much. But what I can’t avoid is how it coloured my approach to the book. It told me this book was going to be different from the normal fantasy fare. And really, it wasn’t. There was swearing, which might be considered gritty, but left the gate open for some sloppy writing. It might be ‘raw’, it might be ‘real’, but “Hey f**k you” gets boring pretty quickly. It has sex. Some graphic sex, both nasty and nice. Still waiting for the new here. Violence and gore. Yep, know that well. More importantly it has a ‘dark lord rising’, an aging once-hero whose name can still strike fear and who wields a special sword, and a motley group of fighters brought together to crack-wise at each other by the end. I looked for the ‘new’ – for the ‘real’ – because the back cover of the book told me to, and I didn’t find it.

But you know what, who cares? The Steel Remains kicks arse. It is good, solid, engaging fantasy. Could have hooked me stronger in the beginning, but by the middle I was holding it in one hand, reading while stirring dinner. The world and the characters stayed with me whenever I put the book down. I mulled over their choices and felt bad for them when bad things happened. I appreciated that the sexuality of more than one main character was not your usual hetero, and that this did not feel contrived. I liked the twisty ending. I could, if pushed, niggle about a few things. World building details that were never fully, well, detailed. At least to my liking. An uneven pace that, while really picking up at the end, should have done that earlier. An ending battle that just seemed a little anti-climatic. But – and isn’t this the real test – if there is a next one (and I hope there is!) I’ll be ready the day it comes out.

So there you go. Don’t need any claims of ‘realness’. Just need a good read.

5 comments

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  1. Graham

    Hi Joanne. I must say you didn’t tempt me to buy it. Of course, fantasy isn’t my thing so I’m not sure what would. I don’t know if you (or any of the others) read the book ‘Sasha’ that we got from Orbit but I’ve just finished it. It was nicely done, quite intelligently written – and thank God there wasn’t any magic! – but ninja heroines in alternative Medieval universes just begs the question: why? I couldn’t get past the first few pages of the other fantasy novel – can’t even remember its title. I read the Sean Williams space opera but couldn’t really see the point of that either – nicely written, of course, but characters? plot? Maybe I should go back and read some early stuff by him before I let this book colour my whole perception of him? He’s supposed to be good, right? Any recommendations?
    I have done book reviews on my other (non-writing) blog but I don’t suppose I’ll ever do them of Australian writers. It’d be too easy to piss off the whole local establishment – it’s not that big. Maybe that’s why they all seem so nice to one another :-)

  2. Rabia

    See, reviewing a book isn’t so bad, is it? 😀

  3. Ella

    Well that sounds like a book review to me!

  4. Joanne

    Hi Graham! I certainly didn’t mean to put you off the book, but if you’re not much of a fantasy fan I can understand. We all have our tastes.

    But I wouldn’t be concerned about reviewing other Aussie books. From my (tiny) experience with the Aussie spec fic scene yes, it’s a small tight-knit community, but it’s also a professional one and reviews are a part of the profession. There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy critique and I think most would agree :)

  5. Joanne

    Ella, Rabia… you’re both just being cheeky here 😉

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