Reviews: good things in small packages – Polansky’s The Builders

Published On February 18, 2016 | By Misti Cooper | Books, Reviews

The Builders,

Daniel Polansky,



One of the nice things about novellas is that they give you a chance to get to know an author whose body of work consists primarily of trilogies and even more extensive works without making such a serious commitment. It’s a coffee date with a stranger. Something you can leap into with no strings attached. And if you like what you see, well then that is when you order the entire back catalogue and turn this hasty rendezvous into something more long term. At least, that is what happened to me with ‘The Builders’…

From our brief dalliance, I think I can say I have found in Daniel Polansky a kindred spirit. Someone who grew up seeing emotions in the ways their stuffed animals were arranged or got too attached to the denizens of Farthing Wood. Someone, perhaps, who found humour in the tense drama of a Mexican standoff as well as gravity. This neat little novella from Tor was exactly my cup of tea and I think it is a heady brew that would suit many fans of the so called ‘grimdark’ fantasy genre. Despite his menagerie of, dare I say cute, characters, Polansky’s sense of humour remains bone dry and just this side of black. It’s a story Tarantino would be proud to film, fur and all. It’s a story that could be voiced by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and, like so many good westerns, it is not so much a story of vengeance as it is a story of violence and the men and women who know no other way of life.

‘The Builders’ is a gem amongst the handful of novellas released by Tor this winter and a bargain, especially in e-Book form. If you enjoy a good old fashioned gunslinger’s tale or if the exploits and snappy dialogue of the soldiers and mercenaries of Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson or even Bernard Cornwell put a wry grin on your face, give this wee read a go.

Speculate SF has a two part podcast on Daniel’s work, including a chat with the author himself

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