Chronicles of an Age of Hugh Cook
Without a doubt, one of my favorite books of all time is "Wizard War" by Hugh Cook. When I first saw this book, I wasn't into epic fantasy. I think it was around the time I was trying out Star Trek books. I had read "Chain of Attack", "Deep Domain", "Dreams of the Raven", "The Romulan Way" and "Enterprise: the First Adventure" before I had gotten bored of them.
I remember the first time I saw the cover of Wizard War. I mean, look at this cover! It is one of the best book covers I have ever seen!
I sat in the back row in 8th grade civics class. The boy in front of me who usually had some Piers Anthony book going started showing up with this one.
I had to have it. I made note of the name and author, and the next time my parents took me to a mall, I bought it.
This book did not disappoint. All the characters were great. There were three, very distinct wizards, a pair of weathered warriors, a woodsman, an evil wizard to hunt that had an evil snake and an egg that could turn the land into rocks and the rocks into living beings. There were a plethora of other characters too. Each character was unique and I never got two of them mixed up.
It also had short character bios that began certain chapters. These were gold for me. I ate them up. The whole book was also full of sarcasm both in description and dialogue that I would not encounter again until I discovered the incredible Jack Vance.
Anyway, the book was long. The plot progression was unexpected, and the ending left me wanting more.
Who was this Hugh Cook and why didn't I see any other books by him on the shelves? For years, I would check the shelves of both bookstores each time we went to the mall, but never any new books by Hugh Cook. Then, by a miracle, one day I spotted one. I almost missed it because it was so short. It was called "The Questing Hero". Disappointed by the size, I still bought it. I found out two things. This book took place at the same time as "Wizard War". This guy was building a universe. I was intrigued. I also found out that this was only half of the book. The US publisher split it in half for some reason. "The Hero's Return" was released later, and it too was just as short. To make up for this, I taped my two books together to make one regular sized version.
Years went by again with no Hugh Cook and then, lo and behold, one day there was another large tome at the bookstore. It was called "The Oracle", and it too took place at the same time as "Wizard War". You got to see a castle siege from the other side in this book and it even extended the time line farther than the first book. This Hugh Cook was incredible.
Sadly, only one more book was ever released in the US. "Lords of the Sword" it was called. This time they broke one of his books into thirds and the US only got the first third.
Sometime in there, I found out that Hugh Cook published all of this books in England. They were all in hardcover there and they all had names that had two words that began with "W".
My cherished "Wizard War" was called "The Wizards and the Warriors". The two "Hero" books were called "The Wordsmiths and the Warguild." "The Oracle" was "The Women and the Warlords", and the book we only got a third of was called "The Walrus and the Warwolf".
I was able to order a first edition hardcover copy of "The Wizards and the Warriors" from a bookstore called "The Little Professor" that was located near Notre Dame. The cover is bland compared to the "Wizard War" cover, but I felt like I owned something rare and wonderful and I still cherish it to this day.
By then, I was onto my "Wild Cards" obsession, and Hugh Cook was forgotten about for awhile.
Once the internet became a thing, I found out that Hugh Cook had written ten books in the series which he had titled "Chronicles of an Age of Darkness". This series title was in the original "Wizard War" book and it always intrigued me.
The other titles were:
The Wicked and the Witless
The Wishstone and the Wonderworkers
The Wazir and the Witch
The Werewolf and the Wormlord
The Worshippers and the Way
The Witchlord and the Weaponmaster
I also learned that Hugh Cook had moved to Japan and was suffering from cancer. He also had a website. That website is still up. It is a horribly designed, but I tell you, it contains gold.
Here is the surviving link:
This is one of my favorite places to go on the internet.
"CHRONICLES series plan 1989" - shows his outline of the next ten books in the series. Then it outlines general plans for the next 40 books! This guy was planning a 60 book series!!! Other pages on this website detail earlier outlines of his future plans. They are all interesting and they are all priceless. When I need inspiration, I look at these pages and just wonder about all the stories that will never be told. It gets me wanting to tell stories of my own to fill the void.
Well, with all of these books that I had no idea existed, I had to find out what I had missed out on. So, I used eBay and slowly bought all the paperback of the books I was missing. "The Walrus and the Warwolf" was an undiscovered gem. I have come to find out a lot of people love this book. It was even reprinted in 2010. The only book I couldn't get was the last one, and that was readily available on Hugh Cook's own website.
So, what did I find out? These books would have been hard to market. The genre changes from high fantasy to space academy, all taking place in different parts of the planet. The story, I believe would go galactic at one point. Also, they are all great. They are filled with imagination and creativity, a healthy dose of sarcasm, and massively entertaining stories. We are all the poorer for never being able to experience the glory of the completed series.
But, I love knowing that this existed in Hugh Cook's mind. I imagine him creating it and it makes me smile. I imagine his disappointment at never completing his life's work, and I morn for him. I appreciate that he was able to bring ten of those novels to life. He died at 53.
One of the main reasons I am writing my novels, is to somehow keep the spirit of Hugh Cook alive. I don't write in his genre. I don't write with his tone, although I try to emulate it a bit here and there. But I do love a story with a grand scope. That's what I ultimately hope to bring to the table with my writings. A grand universe of different and entertaining (and intertwining) stories.
The only author out there that I know of who is currently writing on this scale is Brandon Sanderson. He has the Cosmere, a bunch of interconnected books that all take place on planets in the same (relatively) small cluster of stars.
Well, I have the Chrismere. More on that in the next blog post.
Anyway, Hugh Cook was a master at character creation, world building, and story craft. He is the most under appreciated artist I have ever come across, and I lived in Bloomington, Indiana when it didn't become the next Seattle in the mid 90's.
Please, give yourself a treat and track down a copy of "Wizard War" or "The Wizards and the Warriors" and experience the magic of Hugh Cook! Though it was created of words, words truly can't describe the experience of reading it for the first time.
Thank you for your time.
Note: the image at the top of this post has nothing to do with Hugh Cook or his writings.