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The Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company, #1)
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June Book Discussions > The Black Company - June 2013

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

OK, I feel foolish. I read the book ahead of time this month so I could start a thread from some place other than 'I'm on page 1' .... and then forgot to create the discussion ...

I read the book but I really can't say I enjoyed it that much. It was decently paced and the world seemed interesting, but I really didn't care about any of the characters. I didn't have a vested interest in this mercenary troop or what happened to them.

So, what about you all? what did you think?


message 2: by Charles (last edited Jun 05, 2013 05:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Charles (nogdog) I bought the omnibus version with the first three novels in it. I quite liked the first novel, in part because it stood out from the crowd in terms of style, viewpoint, and lack of a cut-and-dried good vs. evil approach. I read through it pretty quickly as it pulled me along fairly strongly.

The second book was a bit of a let-down for me, as it got perhaps a bit too contrived and convoluted in terms of story-telling, at times prompting me to think, "Come on: just get on with it!"

Book 3 landed somewhere in the middle of those, as it got back to more straight ahead story telling, though perhaps started to suffer for me at that point as too much of the same thing.

I liked the idea of telling the story from the mercenary point of view, as opposed to the view of those definitely encamped on one side or the other of the war in terms of idealism, nationalism or what have you. On the other hand, it might have been interesting to see where the story could have gone if they weren't "honorable" mercenaries, but the probably more common type who were just honorable enough to continue getting contracts while avoiding getting wiped out while maximizing looting potentials.

Anyway, the books were worth reading, not sure if/when I'll continue with any more of them, though.


Donna (donnahr) I bought the omnibus edition but only read the first one. It didn't really work for me. My problem with it was that it reminded me of The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. I thought that series was excellent and this one just couldn't compare to it. I did like the POV of the mercenaries but I never connected with the characters.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

That was my thing, Donna. I didn't dislike the book but overall, I just didn't connect to anyone.


message 5: by A.L. (new) - rated it 1 star

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 37 comments I started reading this a while back and couldn't get on with it. I found there was a total lack of description, even of who was whom. I am sorry but I don't know what the author knows or the narrator knows and I ended up being pretty confused. I actually gave up about 6 chapters in. There was so little information about the world, who these people were I found it really hard to connect.

That said there are some really funny and wonderful lines and the snippets of info there were about the back story were entertaining. I can't say I won't try and read this again but then again I am not sure.


message 6: by Charles (last edited Jun 06, 2013 12:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Charles (nogdog) Alexandra wrote: "I started reading this a while back and couldn't get on with it. I found there was a total lack of description, even of who was whom. I am sorry but I don't know what the author knows or the narrat..."

I find this ironic (in a good way) when we currently have an active discussion here about too much description. Which goes to show that (a) there is no one-size-fits-all for these sorts of things, and (b) an author can get away with almost anything if s/he really has the combination of talent and hard work to make it work effectively.

I did feel that the approach of all the mercenaries having back stories as to why they were in the unit, but by common consent they did not share those stories, thus ending up being a sort of cop-out to keep the narrator (and thus the author) from telling them.

In particular, I would really have liked to know why Silent was, in fact, silent. It becomes a very important plot point in the 3rd book, but IIRC, the author/narrator still doesn't really explain why.


message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 06, 2013 09:16PM) (new)

I read this on my week off at the beach. While I did enjoy the atypical narrative POV, I found the lack of description and detail offputting. Not quite like reading an outline, but close. At times I had to reread parts to understand what was happening because the author said so little. I know some readers complain about other authors writing books that are too long and detailed, but this was too short and skimpy. It was ok otherwise.

I bought the omnibus edition but have to plans to read more.


message 8: by A.L. (new) - rated it 1 star

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 37 comments Indeed, one size does not fit all. Personally I like a lot of info and back info but I know many don't. It can of course go too far and I have skipped bits in books I have read to get back to the actual story.

I can live with little info about the surroundings but a bit of info about who these people were would have been nice, still I guess that doesn't fit with his style of writing.

I might go back to it at some point, as when I was reading it was for a book of the month and I felt a bit rushed.


Krazykiwi I like it very much when, as here, I get the feeling there is a complete and well thought out world, and I just don't know a whole lot about it yet. I dislike it intensely when it feels like the author is just making things up as they go along, and hasn't actually thought about the world they are setting the story in. I can't exactly pinpoint the difference or how I can tell though!

I think perhaps the lack of info on the characters is not bothering me either, it's a foreign legion type thing, as is made pretty clear with Raven: life starts anew on joining the company. Croaker can't tell us about the others, because he doesn't know, and even if he does, he's not sure it's the truth - he discusses this at one point early on, how most of his brethren he does know the history of, are running from the law, but they prefer to hint they are running from some romantic tragedy involving a beautiful woman.

I would like to know more about Croaker himself though, but it's not really bothering me, I'm just curious.


message 10: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk Johnson | 8 comments I read this series in it's entirety about ten years ago and have re-read it a few times. You get to know Croaker and the Lady and all of the others quite a bit more as you read on. Most of the books are rather short compared to the epics authors are putting out these days so the backstory is spread out quite a bit more than most. The actual history of the company doesn't come into play really until after the first story arc ending in the White Rose. That's when they try to get back to their roots.


message 11: by A.L. (new) - rated it 1 star

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 37 comments I think, for me at least, I need a bit more info earlier on. It is fine for some having the background revealed right at the end but I am lost before that. Sorry. I can't relate to characters I know nothing about until right at the end of a book.

Ah well, different strokes for different folks as they say.


message 12: by Kevin (last edited Jun 16, 2013 07:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 78 comments Mod
I think Glen Cook is a writer that was way ahead of its time. This book was published in the mid 80s when most fantasy authors was trying to write another Tolkien copycat with a band of heroes on a quest in order to defeat the enemy. But Cook was writing dark fantasy on a personal level that the reader cared about about a least 10 years before they came out and about 15-20 years before these kind of fantasy got notice and popular because of his experiences in Vietnam.


message 13: by Callum (last edited Jun 16, 2013 06:30PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Callum (tracer-actual) | 4 comments Alright I finished this one yesterday. Where do I begin? Well, it is a fairly short read so regardless if it is against your taste you will not be investing too much time into it.

Bottom-line-up-front... I enjoyed it. I appreciate what the comments above are saying and I would tend to agree with the majority of them. However, something sucked me in that kept me going. I can vouch for the realism of the military characters and enjoyed the original naming convention which Glen uses for them all (something evidently adopted by Steven Erikson - one of my favorite authors). The POV story telling style I enjoyed; even though I never realised it was meant to be read as if Croacker was reciting the story until someone mentioned it!

There is not a lot of descriptive text, which initially threw me off and it took me a good sixty to eighty pages before I was used to this writing style. However, once I became accustomed I found it excellent. My imagination was allowed to run wild with each scene and there was never a case of the picture in my mind not aligning with the story - purely because the minor descriptive details did not matter to the story - and if they did, it was explained well enough to draw the initial impression.

The characters themselves were interesting enough. In my opinion, not of the quality or calibre of those in the Malazan Book of the Fallen or Tolkien's; yet they are certainly realistic. I found myself cheering for them by the end.

Overall I really enjoyed it; to the point that I have purchased the second and third books (in the omnibus edition). I want to continue the adventure with the small team Glen built and I am interested in the world he created for them.

An easy, one-off read, which you could take or leave as you please. I feel better for reading it (from a professional, writing development stand-point) and will not easily forget the story nor characters.

**NOTE** I started reading this book a few months ago and only got about a third of the way through. When it popped up as the monthly read I grabbed the chance to finished it. For those struggling with the style, it is far better on a re-read. If you are only a short way into the book, my suggestion is start again and you will pick up a lot more detail as well as set your mind up for how the remainder of the book is told.


Charles (nogdog) While it's true that Cook does not use a lot of descriptive text, for me it often was not needed, as he is quite skillful at making use of just the right verb, a neat little metaphor or simile, and so forth to tersely yet effectively set a scene -- at least for my tastes, anyway. I never felt at a loss to imagine any of the scenes -- not that I necessarily imagined things the same as anyone else, but there was usually enough fuel there to spark effective imagery for me.


message 15: by Callum (last edited Jun 16, 2013 09:51PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Callum (tracer-actual) | 4 comments Charles wrote: "While it's true that Cook does not use a lot of descriptive text, for me it often was not needed, as he is quite skillful at making use of just the right verb, a neat little metaphor or simile, and..."

100% agree. An enjoyable divergence from the norm of my usual reads.


message 16: by Adam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Adam Ortyl | 5 comments [Just over 50% through at the moment]

I agree with a lot of bits and pieces that everyone else was saying.

- Yes, the book was fast paced. There are a lot of cases where I am not a fan of this, that I feel like I am missing out. But for some reason it didn't distract me this time around.
- Yes, I felt like some details were missing. Again, this is normally off putting, because I feel like I've missed something. For this book though, I was able to realize pretty early that it was stylistic. One example: We see Raven join the company, we see Croaker interact with him a bit. Then at one point the narrative indicates (paraphrased): 'Raven sharpens/plays with his knives when he is expecting there to be a fight', or something along those lines. We, the reader, had not seen this once.
- This leads me to the unreliable narrator. I hadn't realized for a while that what we are reading is perhaps some abridged version of the annals that Croaker is keeping. He eventually indicates to us that the company is a lot crueler than he lets them on to be, but he writes it the way he does so that they could potentially be remembered better.

Anywho... So I am enjoying. Looking forward to finishing it up in the next few days.


message 17: by Adam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Adam Ortyl | 5 comments Adam wrote: "[Just over 50% through at the moment]"

I'm 100% done now! I enjoyed the book, and would definitely read the next one, which is a good enough endorsement as any other.

Even through the end, I thought some of the characters pretty flat, and the pace quicker than I usually enjoy. Despite that, the story kept me entertained, and I liked the antics of most of the characters, one dimensional they may be.


Cheryl I'm new to the group, and this was my first book. I thought it ok, but took a while to get into. I agree some of the comments made previously. Especially that I found it difficult to like or feel that I knew the characters. I also found it to be very jumpy...in fact I initially thought I'd skipped pages.


message 19: by Bev (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bev (greenginger) | 42 comments I read all of the omnibus some months ago and loved them.

Considering the writing styles back in the 80s when this was first created well it is so different. I love Croaker and the story comes together so carefully and so skilfully, amazing end to the tale. I will read the other books when I can get my sweaty little palms on them!!!


message 20: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 165 comments Okay, I didn't read this for the discussion, I confess.

I actually read it about a year ago. I had about the same take away as many comments here - couldn't care what happened to most of the characters. That's not to say I want to sympathize with characters. I've read a number of books I loved where I abhorred the protagonist. But I cared what happened to him/her. This just read like it was written by a soldier, unintellectual, unaffected, casual. Too much so. Perhaps that was what Cook intended and if so he certainly nailed it.

But the writing style doesn't appeal to me, and it's not a product of the decade - Consider Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1) by Gene Wolfe , also from the 80's which has an unlikable protagonist but - for me anyway - produced a book I could not put down.


message 21: by Kirk (last edited Jul 04, 2013 10:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk Johnson | 8 comments One thing about the series is the implied and actual impact of history on the story. I love sometimes how a story can incorporate a referenced history into the current one they are living in. The villains of the Black Company universe are very vivid and do much to keep the reader ineterested..in my opinion :).

Edit: a reader may have to go beyond book 1 to understand.


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