Rogues

RoguesRogues by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Rogues, the short story anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, contains over twenty stories of above average quality and wonderful use of the titular quality that connects all the stories. The twenty-one stories from several genres features significant characters as rogues no matter gender, species, and orientation from authors both well-known to general audiences and some note so.

Of the twenty-one stories featured in Rogues the three best not only were high quality writing and features very roguish characters, but also were able to introduce a reader into the already established universe they take place in that only enhanced the story. The opening story “Tough Times All Over” takes place within the First Law world that Joe Abercrombie established himself writing about, “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes takes place with in the world of Archonate, and “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix takes place within the world of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz. While these were the best, the stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Stanwick, and Patrick Rothfuss set within an establish world they had create were also very good.

The stories especially created for this anthology is a mixture of the very good, the bad, and those that were just missing something. Daniel Abraham’s “The Meaning of Love”, David W. Ball’s “Provenance”, and Scott Lynch’s “A Year and A Day in Old Theradane” were wonderfully written stories in two separate genres that were in the top seven stories of the whole collection. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis is unfortunately one of the worst stories of the collection which was a shame considering that she wrote about several interesting ideas, but the execution with the characters crushed the story. Yet some of the stories while good and having roguish characters just felt like they were missing something: “Heavy Metal” was missing a fuller backstory to the main character and a better understanding of the supernatural powers at work yet once done could become a fascinating future series for Cherie Priest, and “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” was fantastic homage to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by Lisa Tuttle that just felt it could have been more.

Yet some of the biggest disappointments in this collection were from established authors and their established series. The worst story of the collection is “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell that takes place in his alternate history timeline that features the spy Johnathan Hamilton but the reader has no idea about the world if you had never read an earlier story that featured Hamilton. And my personal disappointment was “The Rogue Prince” that George R.R. Martin wrote as an Archmaester of the Citadel as a biography of Daemon Targaryen but was more of a history of the events leading up to The Dance of the Dragons that he told in “The Princess and the Queen”.

The twenty-one stories that make up Rogues feature–more than not–very good short stories from across genres whether in established worlds or one-offs. Yet like all anthologies, it is a mixed bag in quality and expectations, but often than not the reader will be satisfied after finishing these stories with time well spent in several wonderful settings following some very unscrupulous individuals.

Individual Story Ratings
Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie (4.5/5)
What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn (3.5/5)
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes (5/5)
Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale (4/5)
Tawny Petticoats by Michael Stanwick (4/5)
Provenance by David W. Ball (4/5)
Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn (3/5)
A Year and A Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch (4/5)
Bad Brass by Bradley Denton (2.5/5)
Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest (3/5)
The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham (4/5)
A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell (1/5)
Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor (3/5)
A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix (4.5/5)
Diamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams (3/5)
The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein (2.5/5)
The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle (3/5)
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman (3.5/5)
Now Showing by Connie Willis (2/5)
The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss (4/5)
The Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin (2.5/5)

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Now Showing

RoguesNow Showing by Connie Willis
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Lindsay loves old movies and enjoys good movies, as did her former boyfriend Jack before he got expelled just before he graduated. After months of not going to the Movie Drome, she’s convinced by her friends to watch some movies but she only agrees if they actually watch movies. It turns out Lindsay is a rare individual in this near-future world of 100 screen movie theaters, someone who actually wants to watch films not go to all the movie-themed restaurants and stores housed in the Drome. When she bumps into Jack, Lindsay’s evening is basically shot and she learns about a conspiracy of fraud. But while the mysterious intrigues of the Drome are interesting to explore, Lindsay letting herself be treated like all ladies that “date” scoundrels in movies undermines everything. For over half the story, I wanted Lindsay to sucker punch Jack but instead they had sex while Jack got some evidence of his fraud conspiracy. My rating is more of the ideas and the detailing the near-future world than the story and characters.

The Meaning of Love

RoguesThe Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In independent “city” within a city, a life-long resident has taken a exile prince under her wing while he’s hiding from his evil stepmother. While Asa has used her street smarts to keep Prince Steppan alive, he has fallen in love with a girl he hasn’t met who is about to be sold as a slave by her family for much needed money. Asa promises to save Steppan’s great love and then runs into to bounty hunters looking for a recent Chancellor of the greater city around her hometown. Knowing the man, Asa comes up with a plan to help both her friends get what they want and in true roguish fashion even makes some money as well.

Bad Brass

RoguesBad Brass by Bradley Denton
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Professional substitute teacher Matthew Marx has another side to him, he steals from other criminals especially dumb ones like the band instrument thieves from his ex-wife’s high school. Having found out about this little ring of high school thieves, or wannabes, Marx is looking to take their illicit gains for himself only to witness a bizarre exchange especially when one of the thieves steals the buyers’ stolen van with some of the stolen band merchandise. When back at school, Marx realizes that half the “crew” are just band geeks brought in because they know stuff about the “products”. Although Marx himself is a rogue in every sense of the word and the story was well written with subtle comedy woven throughout, compared to some of the other stories in this anthology it just felt average.

Provenance

RoguesProvenance by David W. Ball
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A lost Caravaggio comes to the attention of art expert Max Wolff, although he is considered one of the most upright professionals in the art world is a dealer in underworld stolen art. After getting his hands on the painting, Wolff gives its history to “prosperity gospel” preacher Joe Cooley Barber, from the madman artist to the Nazis and East German Stasi, to dictators and arms dealers then a lowlife thief. But possibly the biggest rogue among the bunch that has touched this painting is Wolff himself, who’s own history with the painting is bigger than he let on with Barber. Ball set up the little twist to the end earlier and one doesn’t full appreciate it until finishing the story of a very unique rogue.

Bent Twig (Hap and Leonard #9.5)

RoguesBent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Hap Collins goes looking for this girlfriend’s daughter, Tillie, but he knows he’s going to have a rough going because Tillie is into having a rough-type of life and the associated rough individuals that are part of it. Luckily for Hap, his brother from a different mother Leonard shows up at the right time to save Hap and join the search for Tillie. The two raid a church used as front for a lowlife who claims the title of pastor to find Tillie. There are numerous rogues in this story, but Hap and Leonard are the most resourceful in getting this particular “job” accomplished.

What Do You Do?

RoguesWhat Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A life-long con-artist has once against changed her profession into the wonderful world of fortune-telling, or as she terms it “vision specialist”. One day a new client comes in who lives in a old house, who has a moody teenage stepson, and suddenly finds herself in the middle of some weird things. Although the reader quickly realizes that con-artist is being conned in some fashion, Flynn’s multi-twisted ending is set up so perfectly that that it earned an extra half a star. On top of wonderful ending is the detail in giving the reader the background of the unnamed point-of-view roguish protagonist that added another half star.