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    Review of IN THE COMPANY OF OGRES by A. Lee Martinez (see his website)

    Tor, August 2006

    Ned, A.K.A. 'Never Dead Ned' isn't much of a soldier. He has a tendency to die too often, and he doesn't enjoy the military aspects. He's finally found himself a job as army bookkeeper when he gets the dreaded blue scroll--he's been assigned to take command of Ogre Company, the worst unit in the huge mercenary army.

    While Ogre Company may be bad, it's senior officers had all hoped to be made the new commander and resent Ned for his assignment. The only thing keeping him alive is that they have to agree on his murder and Regina, the Amazon, develops a crush on Ned. Still, Ned manages to die several times in his first days on the job--only to be brought back to life by the patient, if crabby Red Witch. Things get complicated when the Red Witch gets into a battle with a wizard--leaving both of them pretty much vanished. Except that first the witch tells Ned his secret--which is that he is the myserious void which has destroyed uncounted universes and will, if he's allowed to die here, will destroy this one and uncounted more as well.

    Ned's never been much good at staying alive, and with an angry Roc, rebellious underlings, amorous Amazons, a walking castle, and a huge demon army all after him, staying alive looks even more unlikely than ususal. If Ned can call on the powers of the void, he certainly can defeat the enemies, but only at the cost of destroying the universe itself.

    Author A. Lee Martinez's attempt to combine farce with adventure (along the lines of the Robert Aspirin Myth series) has some laugh-out-loud moments and some memorable characters and mythical species. I found, though, that the story itself tended to drag. For the first two thirds of the book, Ned had essentially no goal at all. Even staying alive wasn't especially important to him, as he would always come back. Staying dead wasn't important enough to work at. With no character motivation, the story dragged--although Martinez's humor kept it from completely failing. In the last section, Ned's ambition became to stay alive--hardly an active goal, especially as he remained an ineffective fighter and staying alive pretty much meant getting out of the way while the Ogre Company fought demons.

    IN THE COMPANY OF OGRES shows a lot of promise--some good humor, some charming characters, and an interesting setting. Martinez didn't quite pull it off, but he gave it a good try.

    See more reviews of novels by A. LeeMartinez.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 12/08/06 Ready to buy it? Click the button:

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