If you've even attempted to read Gardens of the Moon, the first book in the 10 book epic that is the Malazan Book of the Fallen, you'll see very quickly that you're not given much as a reader. It's confusing, it's complicated, it's full of mysteries and myriad of characters and magics that you can easily become overwhelmed. Not to mention, Gardens of the Moon isn't nearly as well-written as the rest of the series. Not the most ringing endorsement so far, but we're getting there. The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is easily the most epic series I've ever read. The history is mysterious (and murderous) and vast, the races are plentiful and old, and the magic is as powerful as it gets. How many times do you pick up a book that sounds epic, but you start to read and it really isn't? This happens to me all the time. Because of a drawback of the medium, there can only really be a focus on so many characters. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it takes away from the epic-ness. The consequences of a few characters may have far-reaching effects and the history and world may even be vast, but there's still no denying that the scope is limited. It can't really be anything else. Steven Erikson does something that has yet to be seen in epic fantasy. He has created the standard for what is truly epic. I'll not deny that his characters suffer somewhat from this, many seeming to be essentially the same, but he has truly created a world that is so vast and detailed you won't care. This is also part of the genius. The characters don't even know what's going on, who's killing whom or why. They rarely even know who's actually in charge. And Erikson puts you right there with them. In addition, they're the ones narrating the story, which means you really have no idea who to trust. This is yet another aspect of his genius because as humans, we tend to want things to go our way, to see things our way, even to tell stories that go our way. Many characters are humble enough to see their shortcomings, but the story is told from very human people... well, and gods. And like George R.R. Martin, Erikson has no problem killing off main characters. It IS the book of thefallenafter all. Another reason to read this series is what I call the Superman phenomenon. Erikson creates characters who have it all when it comes to magic or military prowess or swordsmanship or you name it. They are all-powerful and when they clash it will blow your mind. At the same time, he creates tragedy filled with pathos that at one point had me devastated for weeks. This is not a bad thing, not only is it good for the soul, it's powerful writing that evokes emotions in you so strong you feel like you've lost a friend when all you did was finish a book. This makes me wonder how he can possibly be accused of having thin characters when he made me feel like that about them. Finally, and fittingly, Erikson has written simply the best endings I've ever read. Any bit of confusion, and believe me there's quite a bit in every book of the series, is rewarded ten-fold with an ending that you will never forget. For most books, you may get a hundred pages as you climax after 500 pages worth of build-up. Erikson gives you at least 200 and in some books even more than this. The Crippled God , the final book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, starts a part of the climax with 400 pages to go in the trade paperback. Simply put, read this series. When you're 400 pages in and you still have no clue what's going on, it's okay, I've been there too. It will be worth it, keep pushing on. How many authors really trust you, the reader, to put things together on your own? Have you felt how rewarding that is, have you even been given the chance? Now's your chance. --------------------
On that note, there is a Malazan Book of the Fallen read going on at Goodreads here. I know it's late notice, but the official read starts tomorrow and I heartily recommend you join with us. It's for new and older readers as well and there are threads for each chapter and then threads for the rereaders to go off on implications for later in the series. If you've ever wondered about starting this series, doing so with a group to help clarify things might actually help a whole lot. I'm really excited to give this a go and see what others think of a series that is arguably my all-time favorite. We'll be reading four chapters a week of Gardens of the Moon, starting tomorrow, January 1. So, if you still need to secure a copy, you won't be too far behind (although Malazan chapters do tend to run long). I'm not moderating or anything, but I thought it would be a great opportunity for anyone who wanted to know about it.
Ps. For an excellent piece about this series as a whole, check out Neth Space's article here.