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Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Red Country (edition 2012)

by Joe Abercrombie

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4661722,239 (4.03)28
Title:Red Country
Authors:Joe Abercrombie
Info:Orbit (2012), Hardcover, 464 pages
Collections:Your library, In the blog

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Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

  1. 00
    The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs (DemetriosX)
    DemetriosX: Both books apply western tropes to a fantasy setting (as opposed to weird westerns which apply fantasy elements to tales of the Old West). Both also have strong elements of grimdark. The Incorruptibles has more magic, while Red Country is more cinematic.

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I really enjoyed the path this novel took. I enjoyed the familiar characters being put to interesting uses in a new genre. (Abercrombie writes fantasy adventure novels, but Red Country tips its hat to the Western genre, The Searchers in particular.) I enjoyed looking back after the closing chapter to think about the character tropes the familiar characters employed; Shivers as The Man with No Name was especially good.

I also enjoyed the return of The Bloody Nine and the view that this character gives of violence. Through Logan, I think Abercrombie is telling us something important about violence. It isn't just a deus ex machina solution to plot problems. Violence has a cost greater than its reward. Abercromie has grown a lot as a writer, and I think I'm finally seeing what he meant Logan to be all along. He's not a tragic hero (The Heroes explained this) he's more of a comment on the whole genre. When violence is used to achieve a goal, it turns that goal to mud.

I'm hoping Abercrombie does something new next. The first three books were really good, the next three were something better, but I think I'd like to read him try something with a different setting. Somewhere where there is a stable middle to contrast with his characters that live on the edges. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
Usually like Abercrombie. Some really good sections but the pacing really got to me. There are long streches where nothing seems to be going on. ( )
  kaipakartik | Jun 27, 2014 |
Having read everything Abercrombie has written so far, I found myself slightly disappointed by this one. The characters are often doing repeats of previous performances, and the story does not engage in the same way his first trilogy did. It's not bad, and some of the dialogue is up their with the best he has written. The fantasy/western mash-up works well, and the grit is heavy in this book. Still, it lacks memorability and it's ultimately just okay. ( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
If someone had described the overall story to me I probably wouldn't have been interested in reading this one. After a hard day at the market a young woman and her stepfather return to find their farm burned to the ground, her brother and sister missing and the farmhand hanging from a tree. Then they go off on a long quest to find the missing children. Ho-hum. And all of this in a western-style setting, complete with wagon trains, savages and a gold-mining town in the “far country”. A fantasy western? Really?

However, this is Joe Abercrombie, and our favorite anti-hero makes a comeback! Reasons enough to have a look! And I am pleased that I did. Essentially this is a snapshot of another episode in the life of a much older Logen and Red Country turned out to be, in true Abercrombie fashion, another very gritty story, but also a very engaging and very witty one. The black humour and quotable lines, especially from another favorite returning character, loveable and despicable mercenary-villain, Nicomo Cosca, are just superb. And although a stand-alone novel, ideally this should be read after the First Law trilogy, it will make the enjoyment of Red Country and the comeback of Logen aka "The Bloody Nine" so much more satisfying. I listened to the audio version of Red Country, which must be one of the best audio productions I have ever listened to, a fantastic performance by the narrator Steven Pacey who did a brilliant job of bringing Logen to life. I found myself driving home the long way around, and taking long weekend walks just to listen to more of this great story and performance. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook. ( )
  TillyTenchwiggle | Sep 26, 2013 |
This is my first foray into the world of Joe Abercrombie and for those of you who are about to make the mistake of starting with Red Country like I did, my advice would be to go back and start with the First Law books. Red Country is marketed as a standalone novel and one can certainly enjoy it without having read Abercrombie’s other work, but the reason I’m giving it only 4 stars is because I always felt like I was missing out on something--that there was critical, need-to-know information from previous books that would have elevated this one to giddy kick ass heights. Reading the reviews and comments of other diehard Abercrombie fans, my suspicions have been proven correct. Without reading the previous books, I was doomed to live in the dark as references and revelations that should have held a “holy-shit-you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” relevance whizzed right on by. Despite feeling like the kid who decided to start wearing stonewashed denim the day after stonewashed denim became decidedly uncool (as it should forever remain), I still really enjoyed the novel.

Red Country is a western/fantasy, a combination that never fails to hook me. However, this is fantasy in the sense that Game of Thrones is a fantasy: there’s little/no magic (although it hints that it may exist, but in a darker, more sinister form than in lighter fantasies), nary a fantastical creature in sight, and no prophecies or fates to fulfill. This is fantasy in that the world in which the novel is set doesn’t exist; however, it’s written so realistically that it seems like the history of ordinary pioneers whose stories were simply swallowed by time. In fact, it’s possible to go entire chapters while forgetting that it is a fantasy, which at first bothered me. It’s so true to the western genre that I thought, “Why not just write a straight western?” The answer, of course, is that the novel fits into the context of a larger world created by Abercrombie and, if I had been exposed to that world by reading the previous books, such a trivial concern wouldn’t have bothered me. As it stands, Abercrombie’s tale of the main characters’ journey to the Far Country (the equivalent of the The Wild West) is gritty, blood-drenched, and populated by people who see violence as a tool to be wielded by those strong enough to use it when necessary. It’s a world where there aren’t anti-heroes so much as anti-villains—all of the characters have dark pasts shaped by need and want and necessity, carrying the guilt of doing what had to be done while possessing a moral code that leaves them painfully aware of why it shouldn’t have been done. All live with the ghost of regret and hope they have left their more violent selves behind.

Such is the case with Shy South, a young woman trying to raise her younger brother and sister while managing the family farm. Shy is a hard-worker and a ruthless negotiator, much too young to bear the burden of providing for so many and much too young to have to outrun a past that includes murder and theft. Shy’s hell-bent on seeing to it that her siblings don’t have to make such dark choices. However, when Shy returns from town to find her farm in smoldering ruins and her brother and sister kidnapped, her past serves her well in her quest for revenge. With only her passive and cowardly step-father, Lamb (whose past, much to Shy’s surprise, makes him far more equipped for the ensuing violence than she is), to help, Shy goes on a journey that brings her into contact with outlaws, pioneers, savages, mercenaries, and a soggy, hilariously droll lawyer named Temple while attempting to find her siblings and bring them home.

Shy’s tale is the axis around which Red Country revolves, but it’s not her tale alone. The novel follows a large cast of characters; it’s like True Grit meets Lonesome Dove. What makes the novel stand above typical fantasy fare is Abercrombie’s talent as a writer. There are no info dumps, and he’s happy to skip ahead to move the action along (for example, when Temple begins building a store for another character, there are plenty of writers who would have drug us through every damn day, describing every nail and every board). He also writes with humor and wit, refusing to imbue his characters with idealized perfection. They wake up with morning breath, they reek after months on the trail, their lovemaking does not read like sexy-time-porn, and they have physical as well as character flaws. What impressed me the most is how he takes characters that from the outside seem like stone-cold bad asses unfazed by anything and explores their internalized fears, regrets, and worries. Their actions may seem heartless, but his revelation of their motivations often makes them anything but. Theirs is a brutal, hardscrabble life where easy choices are hard to come by and an aversion to violence can place serious limitations on one’s shelf life. As one character is told, "The world out there is a red country, without justice, without meaning" (298). That these characters still go on without the guarantee of justice and meaning gives them a heroic bravery despite some often unheroic choices. And, if you ask me, that's the stuff of life, not fantasy.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder ( )
2 vote snat | Jul 1, 2013 |
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For Teddy
And Clint Eastwood
But since Clint probably ain't that bothered
Mostly Teddy
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'Gold.' Wist made the word sound like a mystery there was no solving. 'Makes men mad.'
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316187216, Hardcover)

A New York Times bestseller!

They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:35 -0400)

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With her cowardly step father for company, Shy South journeys into the lawless Far Country, reckoning with the Ghosts and being forced into an alliance with the infamous soldier of fortune Nicomo Cosca, with one purpose in mind: to get her family back.… (more)

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