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“Rogues” by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (editors)

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In this anthology, Martin and Dozois have collected nearly two dozen stories that focus on characters who have less straightforward ways of dealing with challenges than the typical hero. A number of the pieces are set in worlds already popularized by a given author’s novels: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicles, and of course George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

The Marquis de Carabas was one of my favorite characters in Neverwhere, so I was happy to see him return in “How the Marquis Got his Coat Back.”

“The Rogue Prince, Or a King’s Brother” is written in the style of The World of Ice and Fire. One of my favorite things about the ASOIAF series is the richness of its worldbuilding, and I loved the extension of that in The World of Ice and Fire. As such, I enjoyed this story, which describes the buildup to the Dance of the Dragons. However, readers who aren’t as interested in the intricate details of a setting’s history may find this one a bit dry.

Although I haven’t read The Kingkiller Chronicles, I liked “The Lightning Tree.” The story was easy to follow even for someone who isn’t familiar with the setting, and the way each event chains into the next one worked well to keep me interested.

Two of the stories present a similar concept. In both Matthew Hughes’s “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” and Garth Nix’s “A Cargo of Ivories,” the main characters encounter small carved idols that actually contain the essence of the gods they depict. In “Inn,” the god in question is more-or-less benevolent, while in “Cargo,” the deities are more akin to Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones. Both of these pieces feature interesting characters, humorous moments, and engaging plots.

Phyllis Eisenstein’s “The Caravan to Nowhere” is somewhat remarkable for being the first new story featuring an established main character (the teleporting minstrel Alaric) in decades. It’s also one of the best stories in the anthology, with an ending that leaves the reader wondering whether or not a character whom all the others view as deluded is truly as addled as he seems.

There were a few lackluster pieces in this collection. The opening story, Joe Abercrombie’s “Tough Times All Over” moved from one viewpoint character to the next without giving the reader much time to really get to know any of them. Connie Willis’s “Now Showing” had some interesting concepts, but the plot was very repetitive, with similar things happening to the main character over and over, or similar setting elements being emphasized repeatedly when they didn’t need to be. However, these are vastly outnumbered by the excellent stories (and of course, in an anthology that covers a variety of genres and writing styles, it’s to be expected that at least a couple won’t ring true for any given reader).

The one gripe I had with the collection as a whole is the lack of science-fiction stories. Paul Cornell’s “A Better Way to Die” does feature the concept of parallel universes, but it’s not clear whether the characters’ ability to jump between those universes is fueled by magic or science. And while “Now Showing” clearly takes place in the future, the technology featured isn’t so far beyond what’s available today—it doesn’t evoke the sense of wonder that starships and so on do. It would have been nice to see at least one tale of pirates raiding the interstellar shipping lanes, a spy infiltrating an alien culture, or a con man trying to sell someone a wormhole.

Overall, Rogues is an entertaining anthology featuring a wide variety of stories by a number of celebrated authors. It’s definitely worth reading.

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