Title: Tough Times All Over
Author: Joe Abercrombie
As mentioned in my introduction, some of the authors that participated in the anthology decided to experiment outside the genre their known for. Known best for his fantasy work, Joe decided to write what can almost be best described as a fantasy caper. The setting of Sipani is new to us, but wouldn’t just as easily fit in with the great cities of Europe or perhaps even the old west. The story itself is simple: there is a package. Everyone wants it. The story follows the package through Sipani as it exchanges hands from the various rogues who have been assigned to collect it.
There are three things I like about this story in particular:
Point of View- the story is practically told from the point of view of the package itself. The first handler sets up the scene for us, but from there the narrative shifts as the package itself shifts from hand to hand. We meet a variety of ne’er-do-wells and they all manage to feel different enough that even in the limited form of the short-story we still get a sense of their personality and their place in the world. It works great.
Pacing – the story is brisk. We move from handler to handler and the story never lingers too long on any character really aiding that classic caper feel.
Strong Female Characters – Though the rogues are a mix of male and female, all of the female MC’s feel like strong and worthy opponents in their own rights. I’d love to read more about any of them. It’s both refreshing and awesome. You could quibble that there’s some lesbianism going on towards the end (in a way that makes you wonder if it was fanservice) but it was minimal enough that I can’t really get too upset and the rest of the story is more than strong enough to make up for it.