Review: Joe Abercrombie – “The Heroes”

DebE —  November 5, 2011 — Leave a comment

The HeroesThe Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book after someone recommended I read “Best Served Cold”. My book-buying budget has dried up, so I had to go to the library. “Best Served Cold” was out, so I picked “The Heroes” up instead (and had to drive to the Mosgiel library to get it as even this one was out at the town library). I still plan to read “Best Served Cold”…

It took me a while to read this book (end of September to early November). This is due to my inability to prioritize my reading in a busy schedule, rather than a poor read. There were nights I read another book instead of this, but those were nights when my bed-lamp would have disturbed my husband’s sleep and so I read an ebook under the covers, instead of the paperback (ebooks were good when the baby slept in our room, too…).

(5 November 2011) Finished. And, I liked it. While there were several word choices and turns of phase that threw me out of the narrative a little, it was a good read. The characters were well developed and I kind of liked most of them. I was saddened, though, that the only character that I truly got excited about whenever he turned up in a chapter ended up dead. Part of me guessed he might, but I had hoped… and the way he died… tragic, really. In fact, on the night I read that part I stopped caring about any other character until a few nights (my time) later. Yes, I was that gutted. So, I guess that is a sign of good writing when a reader cares that much for a character. It’s just a shame there was so much left to go.
A lot of the characters didn’t think too highly of themselves and, while it’s preferable not to be stuck in some egotistical idiot’s head, it does get one down as a reader.
This book was basically a collection of character arcs, with little in the way of plot, strictly speaking. There was a war (we don’t even know exactly what started it, not that that matters) and it lasts for three days, then is over. That’s it. The point of the story is to follow the characters and see how they get through it (or not).
While each of the characters was engaging in their own way, I never felt particularly attached to any of the main ones. The one character I did get attached to died (not saying who – but he made me laugh… a decent few times). It was hard to take, but it was probably a good move on the author’s part (not that I know if anyone else finds the same character quite as ‘loveable’).
I understood where each of the characters ‘ended up’, and could agree that for many it was the right ending. But, I’m not going to say that I finished with a deep sense of satisfaction.
I enjoyed the read. I’m interested in reading more of the author’s work. But, I shan’t be clinking a glass over the outcomes for any of these characters…

Earlier comments:

(28 September 2011) I just finished the chapter introducing me to Beck – a 17yo farm boy off to join the army. I didn’t really like this chapter. I thought Beck was intriguing, as were the various other boy soldiers-to-be that he met; it was the writing style chosen that threw me off. The chapter is written in third-person. But, the narrative is given a voice that I could only say is Beck’s. And Beck doesn’t come across as overly educated. So, the narrative mingled “lower class” speech with poetic observation – which just doesn’t ring true for me. One or the other, please – unless the poetry can be seamlessly interwoven into the character.

(26 September 2011) While I am not totally gelling with all of the author’s writing style, the characters are immediately engaging, and I am interested to see what befalls them.

In conclusion, this is a pleasant (for a gory war book) read. I’m a fan of character-driven stories, so this one suited me just right. I would recommend it to anyone, so long as you’re not wanting to come away with some completely altered world view. Just enjoy the ride – and try to form bonds with the characters that live…

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DebE

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Deb E was born in New Zealand’s North Island, but her parents corrected that within months, moving south to Dunedin and staying there. Childhood nights were spent falling asleep to cover versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows and other Rock ’n Roll classics played by her father’s band, and days were spent dancing to 45 LPs. Many of her first writing experiences were copying down song lyrics. She graduated to scientific reports when she studied a nematophagus fungus in the Zoology department of the University of Otago, trading all traces of popularity for usefulness… then traded both for fiction. Mum of one human & four fur-babies.

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