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Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
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3571730,515 (4.01)18
Member:GhostWriter57
Title:Red Country
Authors:Joe Abercrombie
Info:Orbit (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 464 pages
Collections:2012
Rating:****
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Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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 |
I can't tell if I just like Joe's work more or if this book is really just written better. It seemed to me that his writing steadily got better from the First Law trilogy, through Best Served Cold and The Heroes to right here. I am probably a biased observer because I couldn't cheer more to see The Bloody Nine in another story.

I thought his prose got completely out of the way of the story, his characterizations were lean, his descriptions were really clean.

Maybe he was extra-harsh on Cosca. I had more sympathy for his character after Best Served Cold and he loses some of his depth in Red Country. He becomes more of a bad joke. Loved the characters Shy and Temple.

The order of events between novels feels jumbled because I could have sworn Caul Shivers gave up on revenge for his brother in Best Served Cold, which came first, and yet here he is, at it again. I'm a touch surprised Caul didn't get roped into some of the earlier action. Same for the Shenka, dealt with off-screen (and hey, what about those 300 Dragon people?).

In terms of plot we've got a heavy John Wayne in "The Searchers" feel. Nothing wrong with that classic theme and I loved the Western fantasy mix. I wish we had more time with the Dragon folks' viewpoint. It started to get developed and felt like it was cut more in editing. It is hard to write a certain type of savage without just saying "heck, they're Indians." I think Joe tried but we still got Indians.

"Lamb" was a fantastic plot device and I enjoyed seeing him get SOME rest, some peace in his life.

One of the things Joe does so well is create a world of magic and then use it SO sparingly that we are shocked at each such event. Technically there was none in Red Country. The big wagon's surprise really was anticipated after reading The Heroes.

So there you have my jumbled-up review because I mostly just gush over such finely written dark fantasy. This tastes like the finest poison. ( )
  Penforhire | May 24, 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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)

(summary from another edition)

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