Thursday, March 19, 2009

Books for the road

I will soon be off for Spring Break, for a few days at least. This means I must consider my book load. I will certainly be bringing Neal Gabler's large Walt Disney biography. I will also have Stephen Millhauser's story collection, Dangerous Laughter (in preparation for Citizen Reader's Book Menage) and may have one of Lee Child's books in case the need for light escapism strikes.

I may also bring the heaviest of escapist books, Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson. This is book eight in a ten book series. Unlike George R R Martin's incomplete epic, The Song of Fire and Ice, there are only a few people to whom I would recommend this book. The sort of person who wishes Lord of the Rings was twice as long so as to tell tales of the Southrons and Easterlings or to allow the Fellowship to travel to alternate planes to find ancestors of an earlier age.

The readers also have to deal with an overwhelming amount of world creation. Lots of writers create rich worlds (Martin) or with bizarre pronunications (Bakker), or complicated politics (Mieville.) Erikson does all this with a dizzingly complex layer of demi-gods and gods battling over a number of continents, each with a distinct mix of polities and sub-wars involved in a meta war that only becomes understood (and then only partially) a few books into the series.

To enjoy these books you have an excellent memory for detail or be willing to simply not understand what is happening for pages on end. Erikson will pull out characters from over 1,000 pages before without any reintroduction. He also introduces a new set of characters with each book, so you really have to work with it.

So why on earth would you want to read these books? He writes the best war scenes I have seen in any fantasy novel. Because he is writing about so many characters and nations, he has little problem in eliminating characters, including quite major ones, which creates excellent suspense. He has also created some of the best fantasy badasses of all time. This is fantasy at its geekiest and if you are the sort of person who does, or ever has, made a D&D joke, then you might want to give these a try.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing funny about D&D.

Citizen Reader said...

Have a great spring break!

And thanks for the great Erickson review--my husband has been reading that series and I always want to know what about it appeals (as I have read and enjoyed some fantasy, but not nearly as much as he does). I had him read what you said and he agreed with your assessment. So thanks for the insight!

I agree with anonymous. Don't joke about D&D--unless you're prepared with some +1 magic armor or something.

Tripp said...


So far, it is as confusing as the start to any of his books. He has brought back a pile of characters, most of whom I vaguely remember.

Don't worry, whenever I crack wise about D&D I bring my +3 Helm of Geek Warding. Does the trick every time.