Red Country discussion - Spoilers!

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,146
Location
Highlands
A discussion thread for those who have read Joe Abercrombie's Red Country, and wish to discuss spoilers.







Firstly, generally enjoyed the story once it got going, but found the "Fellowship" a drag, especially Fellowship POV's.

Wasn't so keen on the Cosca ending - felt completely unnecessary. Better to have simply had him disappear as a prisoner? Just didn't understand how Cosca could have known Shy et al would go that particular farm for a confrontation - and if accidental, what was the point to the story in having Cosca killed?

Also, the Caul Shivers ending - again, what was the point? If Shivers has reached some form of resolution, why haven't we seen this from his POV?

On the issue of Fellowship and the "dragon" - how much was Red Country playing on Tolkien? Simply a couple of hat tips to make the Western more of a fantasy, or were there more subtle references?
 

thaddeus6th

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Sep 15, 2007
Messages
6,598
Location
UK, Yorkshire
At the risk of sound like Captain Alzheimer's (I only read it in November) I've forgotten how Cosca ended up.

On Shivers, I agree. My one fairly large gripe with the book as a whole was that the Shivers part seemed utterly pointless, and the ending perhaps out of character and definitely pointless.

I have to say, though, that Red Country's my favourite Abercrombie book to date. I really liked the trilogy, and whilst the previous stand-alones were sound I felt Monza was just too dislikeable and Best Served Cold too unremittingly grim. The Heroes was more to my liking, but there were probably too many characters.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,146
Location
Highlands
At the risk of sound like Captain Alzheimer's (I only read it in November) I've forgotten how Cosca ended up.
He was run through by his biographer - after Shy and crowd went to a farm, only to find Cosca there with Friendly et al and ended up in a confrontation.

On Shivers, I agree. My one fairly large gripe with the book as a whole was that the Shivers part seemed utterly pointless, and the ending perhaps out of character and definitely pointless.
We know Shivers struggled with the whole "trying to be a better man" idea. However, we never got to see him struggling with this in Red Country, so his turning his back on Logen was both a surprise and unexpected. And didn't feel like it had been justified.

ADDED: One of the other things I felt with Red Country is that because so many of the characters were from previous books, they were never really developed in any depth here. I'm therefore wondering if someone reading Red Country as their first Abercrombie might find the reading a bit shallow, with too much presumed, and not much emotional conflict/journey. Even Shy's never felt filled out - the whole story was justified on her rescuing her siblings, and yet she never seemed particularly focused on them.
 

Coragem

Believer in flawed heroes
Joined
Nov 4, 2010
Messages
518
Location
I started writing a door stopping wedge of a sci-f
I posted my thoughts about RC in the earlier thread. For example, given my current tastes it didn't feel realistic enough – at least if realism is about more than the proliferation of sh** and whores. The dialogues and monologues sometimes read as scripted, contrived to comic effect.

A few further observations, first in response to I'Brian:

(I) found the "Fellowship" a drag, especially Fellowship POV's.

The initial intro to the fellowship was hilarious:
** Lord Inglestad's "misfortunes" and Lady Inglestad scowling at him "as though she felt all his misfortunes plus an extra one, her choice of husband."
** Iov Lestek, "a king's voice, rich and deep and fruity as plum sauce."

I also really enjoyed the baton passing shifts in POV. Very amusing and Joe has a real talent for capturing a character (what drives them, maybe what makes them strong or weak or bitter or sympathetic) in just a short scene. Very funny contradiction in how Buckhorms (husband and wife) see one another.


Wasn't so keen on the Cosca ending.
I agree. It felt very unrealistic. But then, I felt Cosca's character degenerated into something very bizarre – to the point that I stopped caring.

On the issue of Fellowship and the "dragon" - how much was Red Country playing on Tolkien?
Not sure about Tolkien, but the dragon people just didn't engage me. Nothing there that had a resonance for me in the real world. The section in the mountains bored me, although I did like the Lamb/Savian section in Beacon.
There were other things that didn't engage me, such as they children. Ro and Pit didn't come to life – not in themselves and not in Shy's mind. It seemed odd that Shy was so determined to find the children when she didn't seem to have detailed or interesting thoughts / memories about them.

One thing that impressed me was the confidence Abercrombie shows in trying new things, new styles, breaking the rules. For example, the way he altered his prose in Red Country — I guess not only to suit the POV characters but also the setting. The Heroes = short time frame, small setting, and most POV characters using short fragmentary sentences. Red Country = vast setting, longer timeframe, and sentences that sometimes threaten to never end.

I guess less positively, the longer sentences gave things a more messy, less tight feel.

All in all, after reading The Heroes I was full of Abercrombie. After reading Red Country I'm more hesitant. Given the direction of my reading tastes, there wasn't enough there to stretch and stimulate me. Just a few things (only a few, but enough to annoy me) felt contrived or convenient. On the surface it was all well written, and funny, and entertaining, but it seemed to be missing focus and impact.

Coragem.
 

kromanjon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2013
Messages
103
Seems like this thread is the "gripe about Red Country" thread. I joke.

But honestly, I thought Abercrombie chose the wrong POV characters in this book. Seems like all the interestign guys was running around in the background while we got stuck with Shy and Temple.

Now I know alot of people will disagree with me about this but I feel that female characters seem to be Abercrombies weakness. I felt the same while reading Best Served Cold but that book had several great male characters at least.

As for your criticisms: I had no problem with the fellowship, maybe because I was to busy being bored with Shy. The Cosca ending was okay if a bit rushed, but not as rushed as the Shivers bit. Man it annoyed me that he never showed up during the main part of the book. And then he jumps in at the end and does... NOTHING? What? Perhaps Mr. Abercrombie felt the need to force that in to keep us wondering about when the blody nine would next show up and also layer on some more western-clichés.
 

thaddeus6th

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Sep 15, 2007
Messages
6,598
Location
UK, Yorkshire
Yeah, Shivers' presence was a mistake because it didn't lead anywhere. I think the ending could've worked if we'd earlier seen Shivers go completely berserk and slaughter some people (especially if the odds were stacked against him) to try and make it seem like a serious contest was in the offing.

Because he featured about twice before that it seems like a bit of a waste of a character that's got quite a lot of backstory.
 

somnambulist

Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
15
While signing my copy, I told him how surprised I was that Logen survived - the whole book seemed like the perfect opportunity to lay him to rest in blood and maybe redemption. Near the end I was like: OK, he's survived all this crazy stuff but Shivers will finish him off, that works well. But when they met, *nothing* happened. And Joe said that he wrote this part of the book first...

I'm convinced it's an elaborate reference to some Western that I haven't yet seen. I'll be investigating western classics to see if this proves to be true.
 

Coragem

Believer in flawed heroes
Joined
Nov 4, 2010
Messages
518
Location
I started writing a door stopping wedge of a sci-f
… and maybe redemption.
Perhaps the fact that Lamb and Shivers didn't kill each other is a hint at some kind of redemption for them both?

I don't know, normally I don't read stories for the story. Normally it's the strength of the writing on each page, the thought provoking ideas, and most of all the characters that keep me engaged. This time, however, I think there was something missing in the story. Red Country read more like a "fantasy" than Joe's other books – and here I'm being mean and using "fantasy" in a derogatory (silly wish fulfilment) way.

… Just so happened that the mayor needed someone to fight in single combat when Lamb arrived at Crease.
… Just happened that they couldn't talk and negotiate with the dragon people (because then there'd be no battle).
… Just happened that they run into escaped Cosca at the end.

Some very solid writing, though. Looking back I enjoyed the cameo POVs the most. I love the way Joe nails a character in just a short POV scene.

Coragem.
 

nubins

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2012
Messages
270
Just finished this... im not feeling so negative about it as some comments above though.

I thought it was interesting how he told this story. It is clearly to me, the continued story of Logan Ninefingers and not the story of Shy & Temple. It is just Logan's story being told from another perspective. I think this is probably quite clever, because Logan's thoughts and feelings have already been incredibly weel documented in the First Law Trilogy and there isn't actually that much to him, it's what he does that is interesting. So I think he introduced Shy & Temple as more charismatic characters (particularly Temple) through whose thoughts he could embelish the continuing adventures of Logan.

I found a curious sense of excitement when I started to suspect and then became sure and was finally confirmed that Lamb was in fact The Bloody Nine. The re-emregence of that character was a joy for me to read, which maybe skews my enjoyment of the book?

The mayor needing a fighter wasn't a happy coincidence though, it was the reason Dab Sweet took Logan with them, wasnt it? They would never have gotten there otherwise.

The stuff int he Fellowship I didn't mind, mainly because I was curious to see how the romance with shy and temple would develop and how temple would develop too. As well as seeing how Logan emerged from Lamb.

The stuff with the dragon people.. well I felt the book had a strong theme of change and the inevitability of it. The stuff with the cannon and the steam engines of Curnsbick that had taken over Crease by the end of the story. Cosca summed it up when talking to the dying leader of the cult.. the time for cults and shadey factions was passing and they simply belonged to a different age. I think this is why it was so easy to brush them aside - they just didnt belong in the modernising world and noone really cared about them or the mechanical dragon they revered, the only thing they had that mattered was gold.

I would have liked to have seen more of Caul Shivers, but in this book I think he was purely a mechanism to motivate Logan to leave and move on.. the continuing adventures of.... It worked for me and I'm glad they didnt fight. I liked Caul in The Heroes and did not want to see him killed. If anything, it validated him as the character I liked - it was needless to risk his life to avenge his scum brother - if he won.. he gains nothing and deprives another family of their father figure (hence him looking over at Shy, Ro and Pitt before making his decision) and perhaps begins the cycle of revenge again, but if he lost.. he lost all. He was there for honour but to a man like him, what difference did that make? I hope he will feature more prominently in another story.

In summary.. I enjoyed the book a great deal, but it was not as enjoyable as the First Law Trilogy or the Heroes.
 

nixie

pixie druid
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
May 4, 2005
Messages
5,409
Location
I may live in Yorkshire but I'm a Scot
Shivers to me was pointless, the children could have been developed more. Wan't keen on Cosca's ending. Now it seems like I am saying I didn't really enjoy but that is definitely not the case, amusing, violent, cowardliness, heroism a page turner not a lot of depth but still very entertaining.
 

shrubsNbushes

New Member
Joined
May 23, 2013
Messages
1
The way I experienced the POV system Abercrombie uses, was that if you had one as a character you would not end up dead. Lamb did not have one wich made it a lot more nerve racking to read. I can't remember if Cosca had a POV in Red Country.
 

BornOfRivia

New Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2013
Messages
2
At the risk of sound like Captain Alzheimer's (I only read it in November) I've forgotten how Cosca ended up.

On Shivers, I agree. My one fairly large gripe with the book as a whole was that the Shivers part seemed utterly pointless, and the ending perhaps out of character and definitely pointless.

I have to say, though, that Red Country's my favourite Abercrombie book to date. I really liked the trilogy, and whilst the previous stand-alones were sound I felt Monza was just too dislikeable and Best Served Cold too unremittingly grim. The Heroes was more to my liking, but there were probably too many characters.
I know exactly what you mean about Best served cold being grim, but to be fair, aren't all of Abercrombie's books? I think that's the beauty of them: they take the glamerous shine away from the type of violent lifestyle that is so prevalent in this genre. He writes heros that aren't truly heros, just violent men with big reputations and a long, bloody list of victories and failures. He shows that kind of lifestyle for just how lonely it truly is and, though it can bee grim and hard to stomach, it's very well done.

Shivers involvement in Red Country was a bit off the wall, but, if the last stories are anything to go by, that tenous thread will lead to a real connection and, probably, another story entirely. To be truthful, I don't see the out of character moment that you're getting at: all through Best Served Cold, he wanted to be a "better man", but Monza kinda beat that out of him. It makes sense to me, however, after he saw where the path he was on ended (i.e. how Black Dow ended up) he may have decided to make a last ditch attempt at forgiving, if not forgetting.

Or he might have come all that way to kill Ninefingers and changed his mind on a whim, though I think THAT might be out of character for him, he always comes across as very stubbborn.
 

BornOfRivia

New Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2013
Messages
2
I do agree with you about Abercrombie's dealings with female characters: they are good, just not as well developed as his male characters. Though to be fair, that's probably because he is a man and therefore writes well from a mans perspective.

I know that I certainly don't write very strong male characters, probably because I don't understan a male perspective as well as a womans.

And wow are you right. Very negative thread for Red Country, right here.
 

thaddeus6th

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Sep 15, 2007
Messages
6,598
Location
UK, Yorkshire
It's true they're all grim, and I like that, but Best Served Cold went too far down the path of misery, into the garden of gloom, plunging into the pond of despondency.
 

Pedro Del Mar

I am content
Joined
Mar 18, 2010
Messages
1,288
Location
Darwen Tower
For me the real reason Shivers was included was to give Ninefingers a reason for riding off into the sunset. This is a stereotypical Western style ending which for me fits with Joe's attempts at giving the novel a Western style. Although, I must admit I was disappointed not to see more of Shivers, it would have been great to see a Shivers POV. I'm hoping to see Shivers and Ninefingers reunited at some point in the future. Are you listening Joe?.........

Personally, I really enjoyed this book, I am a fan of Abercrombie and although I don't think Red Country is his best piece of work I have to say it's up there for me in terms of how much it made me want to pick it up and read to the end. I think it's great that he has the strength of mind to attempt fusing styles together and the skill to pull it off.
 

JagLover

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2007
Messages
165
It is still an enjoyable read, but probably his worst book set in that world.

Spoilers

Logen was my favourite character from the original series so it was good to see him return. Aside from that I feel it lacked really memorable characters and time spent with the fellowship, most of whom were fairly irrelevant to the story, particularly dragged.

After the brilliance of "The Heroes" it was a bit of a come down.
 

Boaz

Happy Easter!
Joined
Jul 14, 2005
Messages
5,931
I've read Joe Abercrombie's stories in the wrong order... but I wouldn't have it any other way.

(Why is Abercrombie underlined as a misspelled word in the JA forums? If my PC can broadcast my info all over the web and my phone can auto correct my spelling, why can't my PC understand this page already deals with the name Abercrombie and stop from labeling it?)

Okay, I read Best Served Cold in 2013. While I was impressed by his style and creativity in presenting his story, I was ultimately left without a protagonist. Maybe Friendly was the protagonist... I dunno. Needing a read at the end of May, I picked up Red Country. After RC, I jumped into The First Law Trilogy. Then The Heroes.... and am currently on Sharp Ends.

RC was my first experience with the Bloody Nine. Yes, Shivers mentioned him in BSC, but I thought he was just some Norse warlord. When Lamb killed the slavers early on, I realized he was the Bloody Nine. I do not think this spoiled the trilogy for me. I knew Lamb and Logen and Logen Ninefingers and the Bloody Nine... and I relished reading other people meet the Bloody Nine when they thought they were meeting Lamb, Logen, or even Ninefingers. The Bloody Nine is Achilles, Beowulf, Conan, Druss... He is death incarnate.

RC is the tale of Logen. It is a Western. The Western is the American myth. Thousands upon thousands of books, songs, films, television episodes have expounded the romantic ideals of hard men dealing hard justice in a hard land. Forget that Abercrombie is a Brit... Red Country is a Western.

Have you seen the movie Shane? I never read the book, but Shane's story is Lamb's story. Lamb wants to hang up his sword and his past. He'd like to help civilization (the end of barbarism, not the beginning of industrialization) to grow and expand. But certain men won't let the land be civilized, so Lamb's special skills surface to protect the innocent.

Lamb's story is the story of the protagonists of most Westerns. He's a bit of Shane, the Ringo Kid, the Man with No Name, and Matt Dillon (The James Arness character, not the actor).

Red Country is the story of pilgrims, natives, homesteaders, entrepreneurs, frontiersmen, bandits, murderers, cowards, and blowhards trying to live their dreams in a land where life is cheap. The Searchers, Rio Bravo, The Magnificent Seven (mandatory nod to Kurosawa), High Noon, True Grit, How the West Was Won, Warlock, Pale Rider, 3:10 to Yuma, and Silverado are all movies that part of parcel are the story of RC. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. If you want to know what Crease looked like, then watch Deadwood.... Ian McShane is Papa Ring with a bullet!

As for character development... why would JA have to develop them? If you have seen a Western.... even Shanghai Noon, The Lone Ranger, or Dances With Wolves, then you should know the archetypes. If you've read any Abercrombie, then.... you should know the archetypes, the pacing, and the blood. Having read RC before being properly introduced to the Bloody Nine, I felt he was fully developed from scratch. Shy had a past, a home, a family, a hunger for vengeance, a purpose, a reckoning for money, and a nature to do the exact opposite of what people wanted. Temple had a past.... a number of pasts to be exact, a need for God, a guilty conscience, an adversity to commitment, and a talent for running away. Logen learned to be realistic... again... and again... and again. Shy learned to trust... to a degree. Temple learned to be brave... sometimes.

I felt that Best Served Cold did not have a sympathetic character. Monza and Shivers each chose vengeance, blood, and hatred over forgiveness, peace and love. I just wanted someone to persevere in the process of redemption... RC was full of characters to whom I could sympathize. Temple's attempts at trustworthiness got better and better. Shy's efforts at vulnerability got longer and longer. Lamb did not become resigned to killing... oh, he was tempted, but he knows he needs to get even farther away from his past... and rides away into the sunset.

Developing Ro and Pit? Waste of time. This is a Western. Children are defended, rescued, and spanked... that's it. Go read The Little House on the Prarie if you want children to learn lessons in the West.

I don't accept lack of character development as a criticism of Red Country. If you don't like the method of storytelling.... the style of prose... the characters themselves... the setting, then that's okay.

I do accept criticism of the appearance of Shivers. My only explanation is that JA is drawing a close to this period of the Circle of the World and he needed to bring a close to the Ninefingers-Shivers feud without getting anyone killed. And really after reading about Logen's record in the circle... Black Dow, Threetrees, Thunderhead, Dogman, Grim, Weakest, Shivers' brother, Fenris the Fearless, and Glama Golden... was there any doubt as to the outcome? Logen wins... and, because this is a blood fued, Caul Shivers would have died. End of story.

After reading the trilogy, I might have expected Lamb to have met Ferro before riding off into the sunset. But maybe JA will do that in another story...

I'd say Red Country is much better than Best Served Cold. And... because of the focus on the characters and their lives... and without needing Bayaz to save the world... nor a limitless cast of characters because of the never ending war betwen the Union and the North, I think Red Country may be Abercrombie's best of his first six.
 
Top