Monday, November 3, 2014

Reading List, Week of 2014-11-02

Reading List 2014-11-03:

*Esslemont, Ian C. Night of Knives (reread/started)
*Erikson, Steven. Gardens of the Moon (reread/finished)
*Esslemont, Ian C. Assail (finished)
*Barnes, Julian. Nothing To Be Frightened Of (in progress)
*Lock, Graham, Forces in Motion (reread/in progress)

I have finally started my reread of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, the 10-volume high fantasy series by Steven Erikson (augmented by Ian C. Esslemont's 6 novels). It's a massive undertaking (we're talking well over 10,000 pages here!), but I know what I'm getting into. It's a densely-written, poetry-packed, brutally challenging series that manages to overturn tired fantasy cliches while affirming what is best about the best fantasy, from Homer to George R.R. Martin: adventure, imagination, complex plotting, military extravaganzas, and a strong evocation of a mysterious and unknowable universe of gods and, for lack of a better term, magic. Marvelous characters, some of the best battle scenes and individual fight scenes ever written, and wonderfully evoked moods, scenes, and philosophical ramblings: Malazan is all of this, and more. Erikson can write, and he brings a finely-honed poetic sensibility to every one of these novels. I started these when only the 4th or 5th one was out, and I was worried that he wouldn't be able to pull it off. If he'd taken 7-8 years between each volume, well, I wouldn't be writing this. Fortunately he finished it, and I am thrilled to now return and go through the whole thing all at once. I am also following along with the Malazan Reread of the Fallen, which is still going on (and has been since 2010!), so I'll be steeped in Malazan for quite some time.

I found two really good introductions to the series on Goodreads: here and here. Both of these reviews really give a good sense of the depth and heft of Erikson's achievement, as well as an acknowledgement of the frustration and puzzlement many readers experience when attempting to get into the series. I get the sense that many people give up after (or during) the first book in the series, and I understand why: Malazan is not easy reading. It doesn't flow like Tolkien or satisfy like Martin. It challenges, it puzzles, it frustrates, yes, but its rewards, once you get immersed in its universe, are stronger and more mind-blowing. If you are at all intrigued, take a look at those two reviews, then try this list, then trust me and read at least the first 2 1/2 books. Then we'll talk.

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