Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sung in Blood

Thank god for short novels. Once in a blue moon, I can actually fit one in between submissions and feel like I'm not completely myopic. As I've been wanted to do since I picked it up at the World Fantasy Convention last fall, and since I've just read five submissions back to back in rapid succession and wanted to reward myself and also clear my head, I forced some time that didn't really exist into enough of a block to be able to read something short and fast paced. I'm talking about Glen Cook's Sung In Blood. I was attracted to the book right off because of the wonderful Bob Eggleton illustration, and I've never read Glen Cook before, so I thought this would be a good, quick introduction to his work.

As it turns out, it both was and wasn't. The book, as the jacket warns but I didn't anticipate the degree to which it would be true, is a reworking of Doc Savage into a fantasy setting. A young scientist-magician inherits his father's role as the self-appointed Protector of a city (along with his father's tower laboratory and blimp armada) , only to find himself and his version of the Doc's Fabulous Five fighting off the machinations of an eastern emperor bent on conquest and modeled on Fu Manchu. The clipped style of the writing and the plotting, which puzzled one Amazon reviewer who clearly didn't get the allusion - "Curiously, the characters seem disimilar to other Cook characters he has created over time, and somewhat more shallow" - probably doesn't tell me much about Cook's usual output. But it tells me a lot about his sense of humor and his talent. Because I absolutely loved it. Just loved it. Guilty to be away from my submission reading, I read it at a furious pace that matched the nonstop action of the book, and laughed right up to the predictably open-ended conclusion. I don't know if a sequel were ever written - the open-endedness is part and parcel of the pastiche - but I'd love to read more adventures of Rider and his team vs the evil Shai Kei, and I sincerely hope Night Shade are considering commissioning a follow-up if none already exists. Really fantastic and highly recommended to lovers of good old pulp adventure, particularly if your name is Chris Roberson.

Meanwhile, my new iPod is totally psychic, because while it played songs like R.E.M.'s "Burning Hell" while I was reading Justina Robson's Selling Out in which a character travels to Demonia and the Smiths while I was reading a submission heavy on young man with old man romance, out of 4,736 possible songs it chose to play mostly long ballads from Yes' Relayer album while I was embroiled in this wonderous story.


Chris Roberson said...

Brother, you had me at "reworking of Doc Savage." Everything after that was just gilding the lilly. Consider me sold.

Lou Anders said...

The Amazon review really amused me - the guy also complains about the cliffhanger ending. But it also raises issues about who this sort of allusory work is intended for. The answer, of course, is that it's for you and me!