Favourite Fantasy Books Part 4: Legend by David Gemmell
This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy. Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great. But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.
Published in 1984, Legend by David Gemmell is one of those books that just captured my imagination as a young fantasy reader. On paper it doesn’t seem like much; A youngish flawed hero seeking redemption, a grizzled veteran warrior™ drafted back in to save the day, a slightly improbable romance with a warrior maiden, a colony of mystical warrior monks, and an invading horde of barbarians™. It even has the pseudo-medieval European setting, strange magical powers that don’t seem to adhere to any kind of rationalised system and a strange sort of theocratic, religious warrior cult. Even the writing is more journalistic and pared down than one usually expects in fantasy. So all in all it doesn’t really sound that impressive. And yet… and yet… it blew my tiny little read-a-holic mind back then and made me become a devoted follower of Gemmell as he began to churn out novel after novel in the Drenai universe.
Review: Virtues of War by Bennett R. Coles (Titan Books, 2015)
Action packed military SF novel that is smart, well paced, and a blast to read. Coles’ characters are fascinating flawed heroes who are balancing their personal lives and ambitions with their duties as serving officers. Given the plentiful action, it is surprisingly insightful and joins the ranks of great military SF like Haldeman’s Forever War and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
Let’s face it, when it comes to literature I am more a fantasy fan than SF. I might have studied SF, but my first love will always be fantasy. So it came as something of a surprise how much I enjoyed this book. Bennett R. Coles’ Virtues of War is one of those smart SF military fiction novels that dares to be read in two completely different ways. On the one hand you could read it as a straight-up, gung ho, military SF action story and it doesn’t disappoint. There are space battles, planet-side encounters, basically action aplenty. Or, you could read it as a critique of expansionist military regimes, that still has sympathy and empathy for the men and women who serve in the armed forces. I suppose, what I am trying to get at is that Coles breathes life into the old adage about ‘loving the soldier and hating the war’. But, as with all attempts to illustrate concepts and bring them to life, it is more complicated than that, and Virtues is all the better for it.