I had this whole post planned about how I feel about theme anthologies where a bunch of authors are given a topic and write about zombies or homewreckers or whatever, and how those anthologies are really hit or miss.
And then I realized I'd only ever read about two of those. Turns out, I just had a conflicted relationship with Zombies vs. Unicorns.
Setting that aside, though, the fact is that work for hire, written on a topic given by the solicitor, can be kind of flat. There's a difference between inspiration and workmanship, and sometimes you can see it. But "rogues" is a pretty broad category, and I don't think anyone was feeling very restrained when George R.R. Martin asked them to write a story for an anthology called Rogues. Whatever else, the quality of these stories was pretty uniformly high.
Not that they were all for me. It was both an advantage and a disadvantage that a lot of the heroes here were old favorites of their authors, coming out for another adventure. No complaints--they all played pretty well coming in blind. But some of the more detective-y stories were not anything I would normally have chosen to read (though I liked the idea of a black market in stolen band instruments), and some of the fantasy ones seemed to have a lot of backstory I could have used (this guy travels with a wizard who is also a puppet?).
I'm not going to run them all down, but I think my favorites were "Tough Times All Over," by Joe Abercrombie, "The Caravan to Nowhere," by Phyllis Eisenstein, and "The Lightening Tree," by Patrick Rothfuss. Oh, and Neil Gaiman's "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" was pretty great. And of course, Martin's own "The Rogue Prince" was the first thing of his that I've read, and it was pretty wonderful. Oh, and the characters in Carrie Vaughn's "Roaring Twenties" were really cool. Oh, plus Gillian Flynn's creep-out--that was fabulous. See where this is going? A really great anthology.
Anyway, pretty much all the fantasy ones were really enjoyable; the more modern settings I could mostly take or leave. The Joe Abercrombie one was really a ton of fun; basically a criminal relay race where the MacGuffin is stolen from each character in turn. And whatever I think of Patrick Rothfuss as a dude, the guy can write--Bast going about his day in "The Lightning Tree" is one of the most fun reads I've had in ages.
So, despite what I may think of Zombies vs. Unicorns, I guess anthologies can be pretty great--if you get a bunch of the best authors going together and give them a loose but definitely crowd-pleasing topic. Guess I shouldn't be shocked.
The funny thing is that it took me more than half a year to finish this book (aside: thank heaven for the Kindle, so I could carry this huge tome around and pop a story in whenever I had time), and I kind of wish there was more.