Glen Cook is my favorite author. If Howard got me into reading fantasy, Cook is the writer who made me want to try my hand at writing it.

Cook’s been at the top of my author list since I first picked up The Black Company novels. The Black Company is an epic fantasy series that follows an elite mercenary unit through several decades of their history. It currently stands at 10 novels long (collected in 4 omnibuses) with rumors that Cook may write two more. Personally, I love every book in the series but some feel that the middle books are a bit slower. I just think their focus is different. The last book of the series is maybe one of the most satisfying and gut-wrenching endings to a series I’ve read yet. In many ways it is so perfect that I don’t know where Cook could possibly take the story next.

Part of what makes that ending so gut wrenching is that you become attached to all the characters whether major or minor. All of the books are told in a first person point of view and most from one character in particular (Croaker).

The Black Company series is probably the most popular of his works and has recently received the recognition he should have earned years ago thanks to several of his older novels being repackaged and rereleased. Other big name authors such as Steven Erikson have cited Cook as a major influence on their works, stating his Bridgeburners are a nod to the Black Company. Like Erikson, the mercenary outfit (The Hell Patrol) in my own Blood and Tears series was influenced by the Black Company.

Cook had this to say about why he thinks the fans of the series are so passionate, especially among soldiers today.
The characters act like the guys actually behave. It doesn't glorify war; it's just people getting on with the job. The characters are real soldiers. They're not soldiers as imagined by people who've never been in the service. That's why service guys like it.

Cook is a very prolific writer with dozens of other books to his credit outside of The Black Company. One is a fantasy detective series called Garrett P. I. The novels are written in a film noir-esque style, containing elements of traditional mystery and detective fiction, as well as plenty of dialogue-based humor. The focus is more on the detective side of things with the fantasy elements serving as a backdrop to the general story. I’m working my way through this series now and enjoying every minute of it.

Between the Garrett and Black Company series, I believe that Cook writes in a first person perspective better than any other author I’ve read.

Cook has written a large amount of epic fantasy from a third person perspective as well, most notably The Dread Empire series and the Instrumentalities of the Night series. I’m a fan of both but I find that there is less of a consensus on how good/great these series are in comparison to the Black Company and Garrett series. In addition to these series, Cook has several standalone books and even some science fiction. Some I’ve read and enjoyed, the rest are still part of my large “to read” list. As I hinted at above, he’s got a large back catalog that I’m slowly working my way through.

Here are a few great quotes I pulled from some of his work.

“Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.”

“There were dreams once upon a time, dreams now all but forgotten. On sad days I dust them off and fondle them nostalgically, with a patronizing wonder at the naivete of the youth who dreamed them.”

“I believe in our side and theirs, with the good and evil decided after the fact, by those who survive. Among men you seldom find the good with one standard and the shadow with another.”

“If one chooses sides on emotion then the rebel is the guy to go with. He is fighting for everything men claim to honor, freedom, independence, truth, the right.......all the subjective illusions. All the eternal trigger words. We are minions of the villain of the piece. We confess the illusion and deny the substance.”

“Evil is relative. You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”

“Mornings are wonderful! The only drawback is that they come at such an inconvenient time of day!”

“Combat is fear and management of fear far more than it is organized murder. Those who manage fear best will seize the day.”

“I guess each of us, at some time, finds one person with whom we are compelled toward absolute honesty, one person whose good opinion of us becomes a substitute for the broader opinion of the world.”

“More evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way. Few villains think they are villains.”

“Being an old cynic myself I have strong notions about the true value of human gratitude. It is a currency whose worth plunges by the hour.”

“Soldiers live. He dies and not you, and you feel guilty, because you're glad he died, and not you. Soldiers live, and wonder why.”

That list quote hits me hard every time I read it, especially when I think about the context in which it was written. Do yourself a favor. If you haven’t read Cook’s work, give it a shot and then come back and tell me what you think.

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5 Responses so far.

  1. Jeremy says:

    Better than Tom Clancy's stuff? I read most of Clancy's and Brad Thor's books, and really enjoyed them. I'd love to get into a similar series at some point.

    - Jeremy D

  2. Well, I can’t personally attest if Cook is better than Clancy since I haven’t read much in that genre. However, Leah’s read a lot of Clancy and she is a big fan of Glen Cook as well.

    The big thing about the Black Company series is that even though it is a fantasy series set in a secondary world and involves magic, the main story is really about the characters in the mercenary outfit and how they deal with each other and war in general. So, if you like reading about that sort of camaraderie with the military backdrop, then it’s something you should enjoy.

  3. Mike says:

    I particularly like this one:

    “I guess each of us, at some time, finds one person with whom we are compelled toward absolute honesty, one person whose good opinion of us becomes a substitute for the broader opinion of the world.”

    I actually e-mail myself quotes that I find that I like. I guess because I like to know that they're stored somewhere in case I want to refer back to them for whatever reason. This is one I'll be e-mailing to myself.

    Now I have a question:

    Has your love of literature overtaken your love for music? How would you answer that question?

  4. Awesome. Glad you liked the quote.

    To answer your question, that’s tough (it might have to be a future blog post where I go into more detail). But, literature is definitely a larger part of my life than it once was. And since I’m trying to make writing a second career, it’s only natural that I would spend more time thinking and working on literature than music.

    However, I’m still not sure if I could say that literature has taken the place of music in my own personal hierarchy. I’ve been a huge music fan my entire life when I became engrossed in reading/writing much later.

  5. Mike says:

    Good answer. I'll accept it. ha

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