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Bookmarks Issue: 
57-Mar-Apr-2012
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A-The-Cold-CommandsSince his groundbreaking science fiction–noir trilogy featuring Takeshi Kovacs (Altered Carbon [ 4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2003], Broken Angels [ 4 of 5 Stars Selection July/Aug 2004], and Woken Furies [2005]) a few years back and after winning an Arthur C. Clarke Award for his stand-alone novel Thirteen (3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2007), Richard Morgan has been a hot property in fiction and in science fiction. With the publication of The Steel Remains (3.5 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2009)--the first volume in a new trilogy, A Land Fit for Heroes--readers got epic fantasy with a twist. The second book, The Cold Commands, follows the continuing exploits of three heroes set on saving the world from unimaginable evil.

The Story: A year after the events of The Steel Remains, Ringil Eskiath, the hero of Gallows Gap, remains at loose ends after his earlier triumph; now, struggling to eradicate the slave trade that claimed his cousin, he finds himself exiled and his life at risk from a far worse danger. Similarly, the nomad Egar the Dragonbane's discovery (not to mention an ill-considered affair) places him at odds with the Citadel, a powerful religious faction, and puts a price on his head; and the half-Kiriath agent and technological wizard Archeth, the last of her kind, guides the mercurial emperor Jhiral in his quest to evolve civilization. What will happen when the three respond to a sign that has fallen from orbit to warn of the coming apocalypse?
Del Rey. 512 pages. $26. ISBN: 9780345493064

Fantasy Book Critic 4.5 of 5 Stars"The [science-fictional] part works wonderfully and there are a ton of quotable lines and moments in the book. ... The Cold Commands ... is a superior effort to The Steel Remains and an excellent novel."

The Ranting Dragon 4.5 of 5 Stars"The Cold Commands takes everything that made The Steel Remains great and amps it up to the next level. ... Richard Morgan is an accomplished author at the top of his game and The Cold Commands stands as a testament to this fact."

Tor 4.5 of 5 Stars"The complex thematic arguments about religion, society, sexuality, morality and what becomes necessary for survival that underlie the book make its adventure-and-intrigue plots emotionally engaging, the world-building is absolutely genius, and the characters are gripping. The Cold Commands does what a second book should do: resolves a conflict of its own while opening up a greater, much more dangerous challenge for the next book." Brit Mandelo

io9 4 of 5 Stars"This series is fast becoming one of my all-time favorites, not the least because it's damn hard to write intelligent escapism the way Morgan has here. There's just the right amount of realistic detail, juxtaposed with hallucinatory fantasy sequences; plus, there are sentient swords and dirty sex scenes and people taking drugs in a world full of magic and dragons." Annalee Newitz

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars"Importing an SF/cyberpunk sensibility into the sword-and-sorcery subgenre makes for interesting juxtapositions: quantum demons; black elves forging steel weapons and launching orbital AIs (artificial intelligences). ... Commands will carry you deeper into the ongoing saga of Ringil Eskiath and his companions, as they refuse the corrupt trappings of nobility." Nisi Shawl

Shades of Sentience 4 of 5 Stars"The Cold Commands is quite clearly the middle of a trilogy, setting up for the finale. ... The action and plot make this a very worthy book and we see growth from all characters, especially Ringil--I don't think anyone could manage to read this book without shuddering at some stage at what Morgan puts poor Ringil through." Katharine Stubbs

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars"Mr. Morgan offers deep layers beneath the fantasy surface and is still setting matters up for the volume-three finale." Tom Shippey

Critical Summary

Although his writing has always been confident and his storytelling top-notch, Richard K. Morgan took a chance when he put aside straight science fiction for a time to pen a traditional fantasy with a hint of Brian Aldiss's Helliconia, echoes of Joe Abercrombie, and a hero straight out of Fritz Leiber. The result, though, is a home run. The Steel Remains had readers excited about the series' second volume; by most accounts, The Cold Commands is even better than the first, taking the time to explore the series' three major characters and upping the ante with plenty of action (and graphic violence) and plot twists that blur the lines between magic and technology, an aspect that no doubt will appeal to the author's science fiction fans. No middle-book curse here. Readers will clamor for the trilogy's final volume. Get The Steel Remains and The Cold Commands and be immersed in Richard Morgan's A Land Fit for Heroes.