Legends 2 by Robert Silverberg (ed.)
Voyager (UK) HCVR: ISBN 0007154348 PubDate: 09/01/03
Review by Iain Emsley
645 pgs. List price £18.99
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Fantasy is notorious for its endless cycles and re-workings of similar material. Legends 2, edited by Robert Silverberg, is the second collection of Fantasy's modern masters. Each of the eleven contributors has created a short story set in one of their worlds, though not extracts from forthcoming books, and has an introduction to each of these by Robert Silverberg to introduce the non-familiar reader to these writers. With a roster that includes Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman and George Martin and a range of styles from High Fantasy to Historical to Sword and Sorcery, this is a collection that is necessary for any fantasy fan's shelves. What makes this collection so valuable is that Silverberg has managed to get each contributor to come up with an original tale and he has also managed to demonstrate the diversity of many Fantasy forms without these stories becoming overblown ego trips.
Robin Hobb starts this collection with a strange tale of enchantment and shipwreck, written in diary form. She has deservedly become known for creating powerful stories driven by string characterisation rather than the demands of plot, and this is one such story. Having been sent to colonise the Cursed Shores, Lady Carrock tells a sorry tale of betrayal (both political and personal) in her diary when she and her family are marooned on a swampy island. Hobb utilises the closes personal relationship that the diary form has with its author to great effect, drip feeding information about the societies and social change necessary.
Martin delivers a new tale set in the 'Song Of Fire And Ice' series, the next volume of which is apparently due next year. He delivers a strong tale of intrigue and political machinations as well as some old fashioned derring-do and he is to be congratulated on delivering a fast and deftly told tale.
New authors in fantasy form to me were Diana Gabaldon and Orson Scott Card. Card delivers a good strong tale of personal freedom in the Deep South and effortlessly manages to reproduce the dialogue and cadences that historical fantasy demands but so often is delivered short on. Gabaldon turns her attention to the Seven Years War (fought in the eighteenth century) and uses the German background to create an old fashioned vampire tale with a succubus. Again she utilises the different dialect with stunning effect, keeping the whole world believable and the Gothic atmosphere intact. Both authors have addressed one of the problems of historical fantasy – how does the author go into another era and reproduce its different language without being twee? These stories must surely be benchmarks for any budding fantast wishing to write a historical tale.
Tad Williams takes us back to Otherland and reminds us that fantasy can be forward looking as well as backward or sidewise looking. He comes across as the master of the epic and maintains the reputation of the Otherland series as one of the modern classic sequences. Neil Gaiman revisits the world of American Gods but this time thematically. Shadow is in the Scottish Highlands and is once again brought into contact with the elder gods and the battle with the newer ones. He takes Shadow down some intriguing paths and promises much for the novel which will tell Anansi's story.
What disappointed me about this collection is its conservatism. As we have seen with Conjunctions #39and volume 10 of Mcsweeney's, there is a revolution happening to fantasy and an excitement in the liminal zones as well as th heartland and Silverberg fails to take stock of this. There are hints towards these exciting developments and new ways of retelling old tales but there is no urban fantasy, no animal tale or retold fairy tale in this collection. Silverberg knows his heartland but his vision is sadly limited with the occasional crack in the blinkers.
Having written this, I heartily recommend this collection for any body looking for well told tales and stories that can be re-read for gentle pleasure time and again.