"No lie can live forever. Let us not despair. The universe is with us. Walk together, children. Don't get weary."
Words as powerful today as they no do"No lie can live forever. Let us not despair. The universe is with us. Walk together, children. Don't get weary."
Words as powerful today as they no doubt were in 1960. We've entered a time where division, rancor, and hate are on the resurgence after valiant efforts to tamp them down and put them in a box from which they'd never escape. The country celebrated far too soon. The solitary ray of sunshine that gives me comfort is that those who've gone before us have shown us how to fight all the nastiness in life. It's probably the most straightforward and simple strategy for combat ever devised by human beings. It only requires that you suppress your instinct for self-preservation and see beyond instant justice to the grander picture. The end game.
John Lewis, with the help of Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell make a powerful chapter of American history personal. They make a movement intimate. March is a treasure trove of insight, memory, and probably more significantly, reflection. The story begins on the inauguration day of Barrack Obama. As Lewis readies himself for an historic moment in the country's history, he's briefly held up by a young mother with her two boys, visiting the capital and the office of the famous Representative from Georgia. In Book One, Lewis reflects on his upbringing and the formative years in his life that set him on the path that would lead him to the capital. Lewis's recollections of his past are intermingled with his meditations on inauguration day, making a horrific and shameful story resound with hope and a comforting sense of inevitable triumph.
Absolutely timely reading. This one has evaded my "currently reading" shelf for far too long. John Lewis is a national treasure and this book should be curriculum across this country. ...more
Definitely an improvement over the first volume. Cook builds much better characters and a lot of my complaints about lazy or paradoxical characterizatDefinitely an improvement over the first volume. Cook builds much better characters and a lot of my complaints about lazy or paradoxical characterization are resolved in the second installment with some introspective narration from Croaker in his Annals. The pacing is as tight as the first book, but the struggle feels much more intimate than the sweeping Lord of the Rings-esque epic between the forces of dark and dark(ish) that tended to impersonally dominate the narrative of The Black Company. At its heart, there's still a lot of mystery in Shadows Linger of the sort that I'm a sucker for. Unexplained lore and mythology are my weak spot in storytelling and there's still plenty of that mystery left in the world of the second book. Characters like Marron Shed add a humanistic element that make the characters easier to identify with and for the reader to establish a more prominent foothold in Cook's world.
A minor pet peeve: the split narration. Multiple first-person perspectives are fine and make a lot of sense to me, but mixes of first-person limited and third-person omniscient are jarring to me and always will be. In spite of this complaint, the third-person narrative gave us Shed and I think that third person just feels better for Cook than his Croaker narration does. Other than that, this is a super solid weekend read. If you're on the fence about the series after the hit-and-miss first book, your patience will be rewarded with this read. It's satisfying on both the personal and plot level. ...more
One of the first "gritty" and "dark" entries in the modern Fantasy genre, The Black Company pales in comparison to the fiction that it inspired. I supOne of the first "gritty" and "dark" entries in the modern Fantasy genre, The Black Company pales in comparison to the fiction that it inspired. I suppose what keeps this novel unique is it's narrative perspective. Croaker is the physician of a band of mercenaries that often finds itself in the service of "the bad guys." He is unapologetic for the work he and his companions do, in fact, he makes it a point to say at times that he downright enjoys it. At the same time, Croaker would have you believe that the Company is one that is bound by the virtues of honor and dignity. And I guess that's what my problem was with the whole thing.
Sure, Croaker could be called an unreliable narrator. As annalist for the Black Company, it's his job to recall for future generations of Company men the history of his age and pass along whatever institutional wisdom he can. He admits to a certain tendency to intentionally misremember or omit, but what he chooses to record is often paradoxical. For a band steeped constantly in savagery and violence, he records several instances so beyond the pale that they cause he and his companions to become ill. How can that be? When you spend passages remembering black times- filled with rape, murder, pillage, torture- how can there be anything that shocks you into anything resembling sensibilities? He would simultaneously have the reader believe that his crew are a stoic bunch of ironhearted warriors and gentle softies that weep at the murder and rape of innocents. In fact, halfway through the tale he interrupts a dialogue between himself and his captain in which he justifies his fellows raping the local townswomen as "blowing off steam" with a delightful scene in which their adopted 9 year old rape victim orphan is bonding with one of the company men.
I'm not sure if it's intentional or not. Is it deeply symbolic of the way we-by our very natures-are conflicted in our own actions? How often do we justify terrible behavior or choose to recall embarrassing episodes in our past with a gentler eye, to the very point where our memories of the events themselves and our role in them begin to change? Either that, or it's incredibly lazy and inconsistent writing. If I were less charitable, I could argue that Cook falls in love with the dark only superficially. He likes the idea of giving his characters a patina of callous cruelty, but can't quite bring himself to commit to the idea of abandoning the typical fantasy hero tropes. "I want my characters to be cold and murderous and unapologetic-but they must also have a sense of honor and a moral code!" There are moments when the characterizations seem downright silly.
Still...there's something engaging going on here. For all of his inconsistencies and my annoyances with him, Croaker is an entertaining and likable narrator. Heck, the company itself is likable and in the end comes off as quite noble. I think it would be better off for all if Cook didn't try too hard to emphasize that they were working for the bad guys at nearly every turn.
Cook builds a fantastically interesting world, rich in mythology and lore and I have to admit that I'm a sucker for that sort of storytelling. I can reread Tolkein because of the hints of history and story that he leaves in fragmented tales or side conversations regardless of how flat and ultimately boring his characters are. I'd say Cook does a better than halfway decent job at hinting at a larger world himself AND manages to give you slightly better characters than Tolkein. I also appreciated Cook's brevity. He tells a concise and well-paced story...and I'm not bored yet. There's enough here that warrants continuing with the tale. My hope is that the characters will deepen and evolve away from the whole "I am the Night" crap though. ...more