Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Definition of Epic?

I was just over at Black Gate, a great blog for the magazine of the same name that you should definitely be reading (both the blog and the magazine). I read a post about Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series that shocked me. I can't believe that monster is almost finished! The last book in the series, The Crippled God, will be published early in 2011. I remember reading this review at SFSite years ago—OVER A DECADE AGO!—about a book you couldn't get in the US that was supposedly something totally new in the realm of fantasy fiction. And according to that long-ago review, Erikson had been working on Gardens of the Moon, the first book, for six years! So that takes us way back into the olden days of the early 1990s, folks! Unbelievable!

Anyway, it seems like two people at Tor are going to be re-reading the ENTIRE Malazan series and blogging their efforts (similar to what another person has been doing for the Wheel of Time series). Good luck and god speed to those intrepid souls! I've read Gardens of the Moon, and have the next four books in the series sitting on my bookshelf. I'm so intimidated by those bricks, they sit there and mock me, daring me to read their thousands of pages!

Whether or not you like Erikson's work, it has to be admitted that his books are truly a monumental achievement of epic fantasy literature. When stood up against the books of would-be fantasy masters Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, and the late Robert Jordan, I think many will agree that Erikson comes out on top for sheer scope of vision and the simple daring of attempting such a massive effort. Brooks may have published more books, and the books of Jordan and especially Goodkind may be just as thick as Erikson's, but I don't think they can match the magnitude of the Malazan series.

I have to admit that I'm very divided about Erikson's series. I have to admire him for his tenacity, and the fact that he has delivered on a promise to write ten books in his main series (there are several offshoot books written by Erikson and collaborator Ian Cameron Esslemont). He's nearly finished, making the authors of other (incomplete) series that are supposed to be "epic" fantasy look somewhat pitiful. This "crazy" Canadian guy (apologies to James at Grognardia ;-) has (somewhat) quietly taken the epic crown. BUT, when I consider trying to read his books, with their huge page counts and multitudes of characters and plotlines, I get a little wobbly in the knees. I picture myself as an old man finishing the last book and falling over dead. Sorry, I can be melodramatic (how strange for a roleplayer ;-).

Anyway, that's enough of my jibber jabber for now. In the meantime, I'd love for anyone and everyone to chime in about their thoughts on the Malazan series.


  1. I've got SFBC hardcovers of the first nine books, waiting for me to read them. I may save them for retirement.:) Seriously, I did decide to wait until I had the whole series, before starting the first book. That way, if I dig em, I won't have to wait. If I hate em, I'll put the whole set up on ebay, as one item.

  2. Wow, James, you have them in HARDCOVER? Well, I imagine that they're not as thick as the mass market paperbacks, but still! Erikson's very up front about the books, stating that they are indeed a challenge, and I think he's very unrepentant about that fact. I think I need to wait until Autumn to try to read another one of these books. I keep starting and restarting the second book in the series...