Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

In the Company of Ogres

OgresIn the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez

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I had so much fun reading Martinez’ first novel, Gil’s All Fright Diner, that when I saw this one at the bookstore, I had to grab it. He did such a good job with his pastiche of horror, that I figured he could do just as well at fantasy. Unfortunately, since he’s writing fantasy-humor novels, the comparisons to Terry Pratchett and Robert Asprin are inevitable (and right on the back cover, too).

In In the Company of Ogres, Never Dead Ned, who has died 48 times by the start of the novel, is working as an accountant in the military in an effort to stop putting himself at risk and dying. When he’s transferred to the Ogre Army as a commander, he finds himself in charge of an inept, yet effective when properly motivated, army (sort of like Phule in Robert Asprin’s series). The army is full of goblins, orcs, ogres, a siren, an Amazon, a blind oracle, a salamander, and even a treeperson (don’t call him an Ent!), and Ned finds himself commanding an army while trying not to get killed.  Being immortal, he says, sounds fun, but after a while it gets tiresome.  When he finds out just why he’s been resurrected so many times, though, he finds himself eager to stay alive at all costs.

This is a fun, zany novel, and while Martinez doesn’t quite reach Pratchett’s level of zaniness, he makes a great effort.  He addresses the implications of a white-hot salamander working alongside a treefolk (she has to be careful not to set him on fire), what it means for an Amazon and a siren to vie for a man’s attention (one can only take a man as a lover after he bests her in battle, and the other has to make sure it’s not her singing that’s attracting the man), and how tedious and frustrating it can be to be resurrected time and time again (Ned retains some scars and aches from previous deaths, so he has a “bad arm” because it was once severed from his body, and it acts on its own accord).  The author has a great sense of humor, as well as a talent for finding the absurdities in fantastic situations, and it carries over through his writing.

In truth, it’s a shame that readers and critics will make the comparison with Terry Pratchett; Martinez is a good author in his own right, and deserves some attention for what he can do.  The characters ring true, the plot isn’t forced, and the resolution is satisfying.  It’s not a deep novel, but it doesn’t pretend to be one; it’s just good fun.

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August 23, 2006 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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