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Sung in Blood by Glen Cook

Sunday, June 24th, 2012 | Posted by Jason M 'RBE' Waltz

Sung in Bloodcookg-sung-in-blood
Glen Cook
Night Shade Books (190 pp, $23.95, 2006)
Reviewed by Jason M. Waltz

A high fantasy Fu Manchu meets Doc Savage in this formerly long out-of-print and impossible to find short novel from Glen Cook.

So says the Night Shade Books bookstore page. It’s more than accurate. And for any fan of Doc Savage, it’s a pleasant must-read. Sparse and pulpy, with evil sorcerers and demons, swords- and shadow-men, this less-than-200-page-novel is a fun romp amid the glorious romance of a former era.

My thanks to John O’Neill who, as always, guides my purchasing choices at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention every April in Chicago. While I found the book this year, tucked on the lower shelf beneath a vendor’s table, it was he who convinced me to buy it.

In truth, it is not reminiscent of Cook’s other better-known writings. This is nothing like his Black Company or Dread Empire tales — consider that both recommendation and caution.

It’s been my experience that Cook is an acquired taste. I know others who do not enjoy his works; while I do, I’d not list him among my favorites. I came to him in the late 1990s, well after he had made his impact. I still wonder what that impact would have been on me personally if I had found him in the late 1980s when his writing would have shaken me from my Dragonlance~Shannara~Dragonrealms~Forgotten Realms reading habits. For those readers looking for more of Croaker or Mocker and their ilk, you’ll search in vain. For those not so inclined, perhaps you’ll find a Cook story worthy enough to while away an afternoon. I did, and I’m glad I did; this book is staying on my shelves.

Check out that cover. The story matches its fantastical splendor! Nary a sword or demon in sight, yet they’re present, the former appearing mere pages behind it and the latter lurking right there…danger and dastardly deeds and death roiling beneath the lot of it. Our protagonist is Rider, a fantasy version of Doc Savage complete with specialist sidekicks, gadgets, and even a stated incomprehension of the female half of the species. This is his world. In fact, he’s been bred to dominate, and he does so in fine fashion, rising to every challenge and responding to every setback with aplomb. The story is entertaining and exactly as presented; besides Dent’s presence, one can find a bit of Sabatini, even Burroughs, and perhaps a dash of Leiber completing its wonderful pulpiness.  This is fun reading, and I imagine it was fun writing.

Speaking of which, this novel was originally published in 1990 by NESFA Press in recognition of Cook’s Guest of Honor status at Boskone 27. Their description even includes the word ‘pastiche’ alongside Doc Savage. If you enjoy The Man of Bronze or any other quick read consisting of heroic swashbuckling and derring-do against vicious villains consumed with plots to rule the world this is one book you should definitely pick up. My only wish is that Night Shade Books could convince Cook to continue the story.

9 Comments »

  1. I told you to buy this one because it was under 200 pages.

    I didn’t want you burdened down with anything, and unable to carry my Greenberg collection out to the car.

    Comment by John ONeill - June 24, 2012 12:25 pm

  2. They convinced him to write the last Dread Empire novel, at least. Closure!

    Comment by Joe H. - June 24, 2012 1:30 pm

  3. I used to own this book. Some NSB’s books are gorgeous physical specimens that are a delight to hold, and this is one of them (although just, as the height/width are a little shy for my taste).

    My only complaint about the story is I didn’t think Rider was ever challenged. The novel opens with his henchmen being kidnapped, and it’s all uphill from there.

    Comment by Jeff Stehman - June 24, 2012 2:35 pm

  4. I’ve been looking for cross-genre fantasy ever since discovering Joe Bonadonna’s and Fraser Ronald’s fantasy-noir tales, through Black Gate.
    Thanks so much for suggesting this, I have a couple of fantasy novels and a collection of his, yet to read. This I’d probably never notice…

    Comment by periklis - June 24, 2012 4:38 pm

  5. @Jeff – Yes, I can understand that potential complaint, though my own feelings regarding his capabilities and triumphs aren’t as critical. I thought there was just enough mystery to keep him on his toes and not allow his first guess or first attempt at resolution to work. Doc’s sidekicks are much larger ingredients in his tales, but I thought Cook maintained in Rider Doc’s ability to mostly breeze through anything just fine. Rider did have to work to solve the riddles…though if he solved them all is a legitimate question.

    Comment by Jason M. Waltz - June 24, 2012 6:45 pm

  6. @periklis – If you want cross-genre fantasy, then you could do much worse than Cook’s Garret, P.I. series. Hard-boiled detective fiction in a fantasy world with elves, dwarves, etc.

    Comment by Joe H. - June 24, 2012 10:32 pm

  7. Sung in Blood is interesting, but by no means a great slice of Cook’s work. (and I say that as an unapologetic Glen Cook fanboy.)

    It’s clearly a “trunk” piece, or something written for that convention. Or, maybe a little bit of both.

    On the plus side–as usual–Cook plunges the reader into the setting seat-of-the-pants, and it’s a fun ride. The opening assassination is darn near worth the price of admission alone.

    The biggest weakness is the abrupt ending. Some reviews argue Cook should have filled the tale out to a novel. I think–given that is was aimed as a novella–it should actually have been cut shorter. It feels like act one ends, act two starts and stops within a few pages. It might stand alone better with a cleaner cut and no bits of act two.

    If you really want to introduce someone to Glen Cook, I’d still go with the original Black Company trilogy or one of the Garret novels.

    Comment by pmcnamee67 - June 25, 2012 9:44 am

  8. If you really want to introduce someone to Glen Cook, I’d still go with the original Black Company trilogy or one of the Garret novels.

    Edit that to one of the novels in the first half of the Garrett series, and I think you’re golden.

    Comment by Jeff Stehman - June 25, 2012 12:12 pm

  9. […] Sung-in-Blood-by-Glen-Cook […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Top 30 Black Gate Posts in June - August 5, 2012 3:28 pm


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