I borrowed this anthology from the library because it contains a Lord John story by Diana Gabaldon. I figured at least some of the other stories would be worth reading as well. I generally prefer books where battles are just a side dish and not the main course, but I have read some very good stories that center on the bravery or the horrors of war.
Editor George R. R. Martin introduces the collection with reminiscences of the spinner rack in the candy store he frequented as a child, where he had his pick of a wide variety of books, all jumbled together with no attention given to genre. It is a loss to the modern reader, Martin suggests, that our bookstores are so neatly organized by genre, and a bookworm can feast on his favorite sort of books without once even looking to see what is available on other shelves. The stories included in this volume come from a variety of genres, and Martin’s hope is that readers will come to appreciate works they would not normally have considered reading.
My post yesterday about “My Name Is Legion” shows that his hope was fulfilled to some extent, as I would not normally have thought I would be much interested in a story about a battle of the French Foreign Legion during World War II. Then again, I do enjoy historical fiction; it was my interest in reading a bit of military history to find out the facts behind the fiction that surprised me.
Other than that, Warriors introduced me to authors I had not read before, but did not make me a fan of any new genres. The Western was so-so – not bad but not an enticement to read more by the same author or in the same style. The history and fantasy and science fiction were like any stories of those genres – a mix of those I enjoyed and those I did not, with some in between that I did not dislike but was not sorry to be done reading.
The one story I really disliked was “The Scroll,” about the cruelties of a Moroccan king who takes delight in the suffering he inflicts on his prisoners. One reader review on amazon.com calls it one of the strongest stories in the anthology; to my mind it is strong primarily in the way an unpleasant odor is strong – memorable but only in a bad way. I won’t say it is bad writing – no doubt author David Ball is a powerful writer and that is why the unpleasant images from the story linger with me. But I see no value to writing that portrays only suffering and despair. I finished the story to see if it got better, but it ended just as negatively.
Other stories depict suffering – how could a book about warriors fail to do so? – but they also depict such positive values as bravery, loyalty, tenderness, hope, or justice. There is selfishness, greed, cruelty, and despair, but they are not the whole story. Some stories are mostly negative, but they are at least thought-provoking in terms of how much people are the product of their upbringing.
Some of the best stories, in my opinion, are “Forever Bound” by Joe Haldeman, “Seven Years from Home” by Naomi Novik, and “The Eagle and the Rabbit” by Steven Saylor. I doubt I’ll go out and look for more written by these authors, but if I happen to come across books or stories written by them, I hope I will recognize the names and choose to read them.