Ricky Ganci's Reviews > The Cold Commands

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan
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Feb 21, 12

Read from February 13 to 20, 2012

There's not much more I can laud about Richard K. Morgan as a writer--he is simply the finest writer of science fiction and fantasy that there is, in my estimation, at present. He writes efficient, interesting stories about interesting, multi-dimensional characters who struggle in understandable ways with the dystopic world that surrounds them--his allegory becomes more pointed than ever, mixing in elements of the free market, state-motivated religious fervor, the idea of nationalism and how it shapes a culture, and, of course, the issue of homosexuals in the military. Morgan's feelings area abundantly clear on these matters, as they tend to be in his novels, but his ability to avoid editorializing and other intrusive authorial missteps has never been finer. This book lacks some of the long pontifications of the earlier books (I'm reminded of Takeshi Kovacs' long, long, speeches in the second half of WOKEN FURIES), but lacks none of their conviction. It's a compelling sequel, a great novel, and a story of very memorable characters.

What I appreciate most about this novel is how Morgan contains his excitement for the plot and characters, and the restraint that he shows in writing this sequel. As fantasy sequels tend to balloon in length (Martin, Jordan, even Sanderson, to some extent), Morgan is working with a predetermined structure, answering questions, reintroducing elements, and foreshadowing the third episode of his trilogy with a sort of seamless purpose, neither pandering to his audience nor leaving them in the lurch. The less-defined elements of the world, specifically, the Grey Places, remain a mystery to us as well as to Ringil, just as the Helmsmen remain a mystery to the Emperor as well as to Archeth. I enjoyed the chapter that featured both Archeth and Jhiral sort of "studying" the Ghost Isle in her study, a chummy scene that gave me a better appreciation of their relationship, imbuing it with a sort of symbiotic codependency that I did not previously appreciate or understand. It reminded me of old college pals in graduate school, puzzling over a particularly difficult piece of research. While Egar, Archeth, and Ringil are all endeared to the reader from the very beginning of the story, Jhiral comes along at the midpoint of the trilogy as something of a human being. Ringil helps remind us of that later on, but in a more...Morgan-ish way.

As always with Richard K., the violence and sex are graphic, cinematic, and frequent. Among my favorite descriptions of the former are "the collapsing ruin of the man he'd just gutted," as well as the throat-slashing parade in which Ringil marches as he seeks to assassinate a certain key player. But more impressive than the cinema is Morgan's control of dialogue and humor--both of which underpin the deep, deep understanding of both the craft of writing and the importance of character development that Morgan exhibits in every chapter of every book that he has written. It makes his writing exceedingly readable, easy to invest in, and compelling enough to not only be willing to revisit, but rather to look forward to it--as we await the close of the trilogy in THE DARK DEFILES, I will look forward to retreading the paths of both THE STEEL REMAINS and THE COLD COMMANDS and the sheer pleasure that it is to read the novels of a writer who is aware of what a good novel entails and who is unwilling to compromise about how it is he is going to go about building both its world and its plot.
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02/14/2012 page 13
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02/14/2012 page 36
9.0% "Reasons we love Richard K. Morgan: "Beyond the collapsing ruin of the man he'd just gutted...""
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