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A Stark and Wormy Knight
Tad Williams
Subterranean Press, 440 pages

A Stark and Wormy Knight
Tad Williams
Tad Williams is the bestselling author of Tailchaser's Song and the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy. He is co-founder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well as novels.

Tad Williams Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Shadowmarch
SF Site Review: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn
SF Site Review: Rite: Short Work
SF Site Review: Shadowmarch
SF Site Review: The War of the Flowers
SF Site Review: Sea of Silver Light
SF Site Interview: Tad Williams
SF Site Review: Otherland, Vol. 3: Mountain of Black Glass
SF Site Review:Otherland Vol. 2: River of Blue Fire
SF Site Review:Otherland Vol. 1: City of Golden Shadow

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'As you've guessed,' Grayson Thursday said, 'my people are not natives of your earth. Or, to be more exact, we are native only to a small part of your world -- the portion that happens on the day you call Thursday.'
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A Stark and Wormy Knight is a small collection of shorter works from an author best known for his vast, sprawling, epic tales. Having previously reviewed Rite, a fine collection of Tad Williams short stories, I was very much looking forward to this volume. Some writers are naturally at home with longer stories, others excel when restricted to shorter forms, but few can manage both with equal aplomb. Tad Williams is one such author. Already having legions of fans means a large number of readers will buy this collection regardless of what any reviewer says. So my job here is not to preach to the converted, but to offer an overview to those who are not yet in the author's camp.

As might be expected, there's a wide range of themes and styles showcasing Williams diverse imagination. The first fifteen pages are warm, interesting notes, explaining how the author writes and the basis for each of the stories contained within this collection. The lead story, "And Ministers Of Grace," features the Holy assassin Lamentation Kane, and is a taster for one of the main characters in a larger work under the working title the Arjuna books. Kane's story is one of religious extremism versus science and logic, from the character's personal perspective. "A Stark and Wormy Knight" itself is a comedic tale of dragons and knights, which tries hard to be witty, and works well, if you are in tune with the author's humour. For me, the story that represents Williams at his very best was "The Storm Door," which takes its inspiration from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and offers a chilling new slant on what makes a zombie tick. For those already familiar with Williams's Shadowmarch series, "The Terrible Conflagration at the Quiller's Mint" is a brief, stand-alone view into that world. One of the longer pieces is "The Thursday Men," which sees the author at play with someone else's character. Specifically, Mike Mignola's Hellboy. Unsurprisingly, he proves more than equal to the task. There's something of an homage to Jack Vance's Dying Earth in the fantasy work "The Lamentably Comical Tragedy (or the Laughably Tragic Comedy) of Lixal Laqavee." Something aimed at fans of comic books is a fun example of Williams thus far unsuccessful proposal for a DC series, titled "The Bad Guy Factory." Those more interested in movie ideas may like the author's long script for an unproduced screenplay about four friends and the long term effects of an experimental drug called "Black Sunshine."

Altogether there are eleven examples here of Williams shorter form writing. As a collection it certainly shows his range, and offers glimpses into the talent that has made him so successful. From a purely personal point of view, I found some stories worked a lot better than others. But having said that, I feel obliged to add that what did not work so well for me, might be the star of the show for another reader. It's always going to be down to personal preference, and from a technical perspective, Williams is never less than professional. What I can say with complete confidence is that there are at least two stories here which are essential reading for the author's established fans, and at least two -- although perhaps not the same two -- that will provide new readers with examples of why they should consider investing their time and money in Williams larger works.

Copyright © 2012 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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