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(don't worry, no spoilers)


Steven Erikson is, in my opinion, one of the best writers of epic "doorstopper" fantasy today. He envisioned a 10-book epic and, unlike certain other authors I could name, stuck with it at a rate of about one book a year. I just finished Book 9, the only book to come with an apology from the author on the flyleaf. Here's part of it:

"To date, I have avoided writing cliffhangers, principally because as a reader I always hated having to wait to find out what happens. Alas, Dust of Dreams is the first half of a two-volume novel, to be concluded with The Crippled God. Accordingly, if you're looking for resolutions to various story-threads, you won't find them. Also, do note that there is no Epilogue and, structurally, Dust of Dreams does not follow the traditional arc for a novel. To this, all I can ask of you is, please be patient. I know you can do it: after all you have waited this long, haven't you?"

One of the things I've liked about the Malazan Book of the Fallen is how... utterly different it is from most other fantasy, structurally as well as in its content. The structure almost requires a great deal of faith on the part of the reader. Although each book is fairly self-contained, each book tends to alternate between metaplot threads such that the overarching plot of, say, book 5 won't be revisited until book 7. Book 8 follows, plotwise, the events of Book 3, which follow on from Book 1. He weaves metaplot on such a planetary scale that I'm left impressed.

Furthermore, he has a tendency to launch into a story apparently completely unrelated to anything that has gone before. The ENTIRETY of Book 5 takes place on a completely different continent, chronologically before any other book, with only one major named character we even recognize. It requires a lot of faith in a reader that this actually means anything, or is going anywhere. But it is. And unexplained, seemingly random events in every book eventually find answer in forthcoming books. Book 5, it turns out, is an absolutely necessary foundation for the events of Book 7 when the characters and plots from Book 6 suddenly show up on that distant continent some years later.

I was pleased that some of the seemingly random events of Book 7 found explanation in Book 9, and even though Book 9 was just the first-half of the conclusion of this epic story, and notwithstanding his apology, he did manage to end it in a way that does nothing but build anticipation for the final volume, due out sometime in 2010.

I know, all of you who have been burned by Jordan or Martin will doubtless say something cynical about whether that book will ever come out. Frankly, Erikson's track record so far, and the set-up that is Book 9, leaves little doubt in my mind that by this time next year I'll have read the final chapter.
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of_the_woods

September 2010

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