Jumpdrives & Cantrips


In the Company of Ogres
February 10, 2008, 1856
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

In the Company of OgresA. Lee Martinez seems to be carving out a niche for himself by taking familiar tropes of genre, trying to turn them on their head, and tossing in some laughs. This worked well in his first novel, Gil’s All Fright Diner, which was an amusing and weird little story that massaged vampires, werewolves, zombies, and cthulu together in one. It hasn’t worked well in his second book, In the Company of Ogres.

In the Company of Ogres follows Never Dead Ned–not called so because he never dies, but rather because he never stays dead. Ned would rather die, especially after being transferred from his comfortable accounting job for Brute’s Legion, a massive mercenary organization. Now he’s been made commander of the rag-taggle Ogre Company, whose poor discipline and lack of profitability make them the bottom of the barrel, and has 6 months to whip them into shape–or else. Of course, Ned also has to find out why a magical being called the Red Woman keeps raising him from the dead. Once he does, Ned realises it might be important to not die again as the existence of the world just may depend upon him.

But I didn’t really care about any of that. While the story isn’t such a bad premise for a genre-buster, it isn’t funny. It keeps trying for funny, but the comedy just isn’t quite there. I realize a lot of other reviewers out there thought this book was a side-splitter that left them rolling on the floor beside their overstuffed reading chairs. For me? Not so much. I found it a hard slog to actually finish the book. The humour constantly tries, pushes, prods; to the point where I felt it picked itself up, thrust itself into the air, and attempted to beat me over the head. And it just never got there; it was only able to flutter piteously at eye-level, sometimes veering towards me like a drunken moth. I felt sorry for the poor thing, which isn’t a good relationship for a reader to have with a novel, much less its comedic bent.

So many authors with vastly more experience have already tackled genre-busting stories in fantasy literature that Martinez would almost have to make meta-jokes to succeed with a story like this one. There are no meta-jokes, there is no driving “funny” that kept me reading, and while written with nice prose, it’s just not enough.

And in fact, everything to do with the book is just not quite enough. Martinez’ characters resemble the depth of the rabbi, the priest, and the duck once they decide to head into a bar. They have stereotypical qualities that get locked in place once a pre-programmed situation starts playing out. If they aren’t stereotypical, they are the opposite. It’s really a pity, because these characters, if handled with a little more finesse and black humour might have been extremely subversive. The plot is much the same as the characters. If you’re an astute reader of genre, you probably know where the plot is headed the moment you get tossed a few hints.

I see no point in buying In the Company of Ogres unless you are a massive fan of comedic fantasy. Here’s to hoping Martinez’ next novels have a little more edge to them.

Martinez, A. Lee. In the Company of Ogres. New York: Tor, 2006. 318 pages. $8.99 (Canadian).

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[…] site. La Gringa also mentioned that A. Lee Martinez’ In the Company of Ogres (see my review here) has had film rights optioned to the same people involved in The Simpson’s Movie and […]

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