Monday, March 19, 2007

Alright, stop. Collaborate and listen

Are you an at least 15th level very large fantasy novel reader? Do you own +3 Bracers of Ogre strength that allow you to hold massive books for hours on end? Do you always win on the Comprehend Labyrinthine Plot savings throw? If you still reading, you might like the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series. I just finished Memories of Ice and I quite like it. There are a number of reasons to like it, and a few that might dissuade you from picking it up.

There is little point in discussing the plot of this book, as it will give spoilers aplenty. The overall story is only becoming clear in this book, but the surface story is about the Malazan Empire's attempts to expand its control over the world. The book reads a cross between the Illiad and the Forever War. Almost all of the characters are warriors or those forced to fight. The battle is nearly constant. Many of the major characters are Ascendents, or gods. Like the Illiad, they are flawed, in conflict, meddle directly in human affairs and can be killed. The overall plot concerns the shifts in human and divine power and how these changes influence the other realm. The Malazans and the gods themselves are fighting wars all over the planet and the death toll is incredible. Imagine the Mongols invading every continent at once and you get an idea.

So what is to like? The action is excellent. Endless battle could be quite repetitive, but Erikson keeps it fresh by using multiple characters with different skills and powers. His varies the battles as well, with sieges, meeting engagements, ambushes, one on one super battles and so on. The action is an unglamorized as possible. It is brutal, bleak and destructive. There is comic relief but it is on the black side.

His world is immense and he has clearly spent time developing the many, many players. There are multiple states and tribes on the human side and a confusing array of divine powers. He provides a list of the dramatis personae, but I would have appreciated a bit more detail here.

The character development leads a lot to be desired. You won't find anyone as realized as Martin's Tyrion here. Or even half as realized. But Erikson makes up for this by surprising you with yet another incredible battle or duel of wits between an angry God of Death and wily wizard.

The book is also crazy long. The paperback is 900 pages long and it is part of a TEN book cycle. Unlike the works of the Betrayer, these books are filled with story for the 900 pages, but still it is 900 pages. That's three normal books, which means reading this is not reading three other books. And you are buying nerd futures for the other 8100 pages. So you have to keep that in mind. You may hit your end at the end and say "I could have read Remembrance of Things Past!"

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