Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review - Tales of the Hidden World

Tales of the Hidden World
Simon R. Green
Open Road Integrated Media

3.5 stars

Simon R. Green and I have a long running relationship. I first picked up one of his books - Shadows Fall - at the library in about 2002, and absolutely loved it. I went on an immediate spree, reading as many of his books as I could find, whether from the library or in bookshops. The love wavered a little after I read Deathstalker, which was a little too sci-fi for my liking, but it bloomed anew when I moved back to Melbourne and discovered that in the three years I'd been gone, my library had bought every book in The Secret Histories series.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that I love Simon R. Green's books, and I was insanely excited when I stumbled across this little gem on Netgalley a few months back.

Tales of the Hidden World is a collection of seventeen of Green's short stories. The majority of the first half are new (within the last few years) stories, while the second half features some of his earliest work. A couple fit within the worlds Green's created in his novels while others cover world building, character development and plot in a mere handful of pages. At the end of each story is a short note from Green, providing the reader with some additional information about what drove him to create that story or the significance of that story in his career.

For the most part, I really enjoyed these stories. If there's any one theme running through them, it's death. They all feature death in some way, so it can be a pretty dark read at times. But that's to be expected with Green's work! I absolutely loved the first story, which focuses on The Armourer from The Secret Histories series. The Armourer has always been a character who's had to deal with moral grey areas, given that he's in charge of creating the Drood family's weapons. So it was great to get flashbacks to his time as a secret agent and see that he struggled with the moral grey areas as much in his youth as he did in his role as the Armourer.

I must admit, I liked the recent stories a lot more than the older stuff. While still enjoyable, it was clear that Green's writing style has developed and changed dramatically over the years, meaning that some of the earlier stories felt unpolished. Green tells us in several cases that they were published in magazines and fanzines in the 1980s, and in some cases, it showed. Still, despite their unpolished writing style, they were still enjoyable to read.

I read this a few weeks ago now, and the fact that so many of the stories have stayed with me says a lot about Green's writing, and how masterfully he crafted all these worlds.

So why 3.5 stars? Several reasons: 
1. The final two stories in the book should be in the opposite order, as the way they are, the prequel comes second. Green states that he has specific reasons for putting that story last, but it did remove a lot of the suspense from the prequel, knowing that the characters would survive unscathed.
2. There were zombies, and zombies are my personal squick. This is less to do with the book itself and more to do with me, but the presence of zombies in a few stories did mean that I cringed my way through a couple of stories, expecting the worst.
3. I kind of feel like it would have been better suited to alternating between the newer stories and the older stories. I understand why it was organised the way it was, but clumping all the older, less polished stories together meant that I found the second half a little difficult to get through at times simply because of the writing style.

Final verdict?
There's a lot to enjoy for fans of Green's work. Touches of The Nightside, a new Droods story, and a sense of how far he's come as a writer. For new readers, this book will give you an example of what Green's capable of. Either way, it's dark but thoroughly enjoyable.

Have you read any of Simon R. Green's books? Does this sound like something you'd be interested in?

K xx

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Tales of the Hidden World is available now.

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