Archive for April 23rd, 2011

Glen Cook – October’s Baby

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Glen Cook made a good turn with the second book of his Dread Empire Trilogy, October’s Baby (1980). October’s Baby is not a direct sequel to A Shadow Of All Night Falling but takes place several years later. Thus it does not suffer from the typical middle book syndrome. This is a common trait of Cook. His books are fairly stand-alone novels. Prior knowledge is useful, but not entirely required. Cook’s good turn compared to the first book is that he focuses the story more on one character. Other views are shown aplenty, but those are mostly short, allowing the story a more steady beat. This is especially useful as Cook puts a lot of story in what is basically a short novel. The first book was moving between characters too much, leaving too little time for the reader to get into a character, leaving many of them superficial. Of course this remain such in this book, but having at least one who is developed strongly makes it a much better reading experience. This does not mean that the large cast Cook uses is all stereotype or two-dimensional but with such a fast moving story there is too little time to provide such.

The first book took place in a somewhat compact and simple setting, although it already introduced many of the great powers of the story. In the second book the scope grows much larger. It is also a more military book. Much of the story is spent on warfare, providing some intense battles as only Cook can write them. These are certainly the highlights of the story.

What still leaves me at odds a bit is that when I first read the prequel to the Dread Empire Trilogy I expected all the main characters of those books to play an important role in the trilogy. Strangely enough the most important characters rarely appear. Without the prequel any reader would have no idea what their function was and how their past related to the other main characters. There are no explanations or references to these things. They could have been left out of the story of the trilogy without affecting it at all.

There is a strong sorcery element in the second book as well, although it remains more vaguer. It plays a supporting role to move events, but does dominate. As Cook prefers the actions of the non-magical characters determine the outcome of events.

October’s Baby is a fast and entertaining story, but it has a lot of details which may confuse a reader. In a way one could say that a story is never that simple as usually presented so in that way Cook provides a scope which is closer to reality than most fantasy stories. With this novel he reaches the level of the least of the Black Company books, which is a vast improvement. Certainly this book contains a lot of typical elements which make Cook’s storytelling so enjoyable. However, it is clearly not completely on that level yet as there are some weaknesses, but that is part of a developing writer.