Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Book Review: After the King ed. by Martin H. Greenberg

After the King: Stories in Honor of J. R. R. Tolkien edited by Martin H. Greenberg

This anthology is a tribute to J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, books which had a substantial impact on the fantasy genre. Thirty or so authors have contributed stories inspired by Tolkien. As with many such works, the quality of the writing here varies from story to story. Most are good to excellent, making it an enjoyable read.

But let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. A few stories seem out of place in the volume. Gregory Benford's "Down the River Road," is similar to Tolkien only in world-building, otherwise it is a very different sort of fantasy--a boy travels down a river that is literally a time stream, with "timequakes" and storms that alter the speed of time. It's an interesting story but hardly Tolkienesque. "Revolt of the Sugar Plum Fairies" by Mike Resnick desperately and unsuccessfully tries to be comic. But the lesser stories are few in this volume.

My favorite stories were the fantasy horror "Faith" by Poul and Karen Anderson, where a goblin fortress appears near a human village and the human children start disappearing, and "The Fellowship of the Dragon" by Patricia A. McKillip, where a band of female warriors headed into the wilderness to save a bard from the clutches of a dragon. The most Tolkienesque story was "Nine Threads of Gold" by Andre Norton--nine children gather at a Hold where a sorceress binds them together to fight the evil that has overwhelmed the land. The narrative and the writing style mimic well the tone of old epics, the like of which Tolkien translated. The book has a lot of other entertaining stories.

Overall, I recommend this for Tolkien fans.

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