Morgan, Richard K. -- The Steel Remains

Morgan's writing is inevitably associated with the word "gritty". It's an unfortunately broad term. In this case it means that if your D&D campaign background includes a big war against the lizardfolk ten years ago, it wouldn't be unrealistic to have some homeless veterans in your gutters with PTSD and alcohol problems. Of course the D&D-style setup is a ploy for fantasy expectations, and although there are horse nomads and more-or-less-elves, the stockness is neatly pared away piece by piece as the book goes on. (N. K. Jemisin pulled this trick recently; I wonder if it's becoming a thing.) Anyhow, the characters are all compulsively human -- including the half-elf -- and I have a soft spot for a god who introduces himself by saying "Listen, I was the thief of fire once, you goat-shagging thug.... Ah, fuck it, never mind."


Having re-read this one (but not yet started the sequel), I find it nifty how the premises gain depth when they emerge from the D&D stockpot. We have broad clues that this is a post-technological future. (There used to be a Moon, long enough ago that it's not even folklore.)

Now add some of what the Monster Manual calls "demi-human" races: long-lived artisans from underground, eerie lovely ageless creatures that can catch you out of time for a night or a year. Fine. But they have nipples and cocks and get horny for human tail (and vice versa). They interbreed with humans. In fantasy, this goes without saying. In SF, this means something! Are these homo-sap offshoots from other timelines? Tech cultures that have been off travelling? What does this imply about the gods, who show up in the world and grouch at people? When the characters (and, more blatantly, the gods) talk in modern idiom, does that indicate a line of cultural descent? (I don't imagine they speak American English as-written, any more than any other high-fantasy setting, but the author isn't leaning on the style for nothing.)


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