Thursday, August 20, 2009

Passage at Arms by Glen Cook

Glen Cook is best known for his Black Company series, a military fantasy chock full of action. However, Cook has also turned his hand towards the science fiction end of the spectrum occasionally, resulting in books such as Passage at Arms, which has just received a new edition out by Night Shade Press. Seeing the book out on the shelves, I decided to pick it up and finally give Glen Cook a try.

Passage at Arms follows a crew of “climbers,” who are part of the human army that is engaged in a war that they are slowly losing. These climbers live in cramped conditions, and each has a history to them.

That’s it. There is no more story. The book feels like shell, very empty inside. The first-person narration, which is uncommon in much of today’s fiction, is especially irksome as the protagonist is far from likable, bordering on irritating, whiny, and off-putting. The aliens that the humans are fighting are not even mentioned for long stretches, making this entire plot seem meaningless. More time was devoted to the main characters inability to understand physics than to any major plot device.

This book was unfinishable. It took a force a will to get past the first chapter, which was confusing, slow, and dull. I had hopes that it would pick up, as the cover calls Passage at Arms a classic repeatedly, but that was a vain hope. The story, or what little story it has, never moves, just stagnates, and makes this book one I couldn’t make myself finish. It is a shame that this couldn’t have been better, as I had such high expectations, from all the good I had heard of Glen Cook, but Passage at Arms did not deliver in the slightest. Based on what I forced down:



  1. I could not disagree with this review more. I actually think it's one of Cook's best works! It is tense, interesting and has an excellent cadence to it. He digs down through the character layers as they go through the pressure cooker of service on the Climbers and when the Ulant are engaged I was on the edge of my seat. I would give it an 8/10.

  2. I'm reading it for the third time and it's one of the best military SF books I've ever read. Even saying "military" does it a disservice, because it puts the book on the same company that, say, Honor Harrington, which is entertaining, sure, but "Passage at Arms" is intense, gripping and very well written.