I know I’ve already written about The Malazan Book of the Fallen series a couple of times: there’s a review of the entire series and a shorter post on finishing my reread of the series. But I feel neither of those posts really does my affinity for this amazing series justice. I’m going to try again, and hopefully convince more people to read the series, and if that doesn’t work, at least they’ll know that by not reading it, they’re missing out.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen series isn’t for everyone. I’ll admit that. If you’ve read my review, you’ll know that I thought it wasn’t for me either at first. But somehow, after I put Gardens of the Moon down, years later I actually picked it back up. Something about it kept niggling in the back of my brain, and I’d read so many good reviews about it that I wondered. I wondered why I initially didn’t get into it. I wondered why the series wasn’t more popular if it was THAT good. I wondered if it really was THAT good. But I took a leap of faith (backed by a little research) and got the entire set for my birthday.
I read them all. One after the other. And when I got to the last pages of The Crippled God, I no longer wondered. I knew. I knew why I initially didn’t get into it. It’s actually the same reason why a lot of people decide not to continue this series: Gardens of the Moon isn’t your typical first book. There isn’t a slow build-up. There isn’t any introduction to the world and the characters. You are dumped in the middle of a conflict with many sides and you don’t know which side you’re supposed to be on. Hell, the characters don’t even know which side they’re on. Everything is confusing, because everyone is confused. Steven Erikson decides not to spoon-feed the audience, or to take it easy: he throws the audience into a maelstrom and then it’s sink or swim.
I decided to swim. I decided to take everything as it came, and not break my brain trying to figure out who, what, why and when. That would come later. And it did. But you have to be patient. And you have to love puzzling pieces together.
I knew why it wasn’t that popular: the series is epic. And not just scale-wise, or time-wise. The complexity of it all is epic. There will be so many questions that you’ll be asking yourself and you might get a few answers, but most of those answers will only bring up more questions. It’s not an easy series to read. You can’t read these books in one sitting. And numerous rereads are required (but by that time, you’ll want to read them again and again) to get a sense of just how many layers Erikson puts in there. The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is incredibly complex, full of magic and mystery, but it’s not escapism.
Steven is an anthropologist and an archaeologist and it shows in his writing. There’s a sense of countless ages having gone past, in every part of his writing. When it comes to the world, and what has come before, when it comes to certain Elder races and Elder Gods, and when it comes to characters. The audience gets introduced to the Bridgeburners when they’re essentially past their prime, and we get a whiff of all these awesome things they’ve done in the past, but we stay with the Bridgeburners of the present. And that’s the same for all the characters: a sense of opening up the autobiography of that character in the middle, and you can’t read backwards.
Why isn’t it escapism? Because when you read The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, you don’t escape. You might not be on Earth, but that doesn’t mean the characters don’t go through the same things we do. That life there doesn’t have the same themes as life on Earth. In fact, while reading the series, I found myself thinking of ‘real’ life more and more.
I knew then that it was THAT good. Because the best books make you think about life. Not just the lives you just read about, but the life you lead. The world and how you view it will be changed forever when you read The Malazan Book of the Fallen. That is my guarantee.
But, I have to accept that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and there will be people who will try Garden of the Moon and never finish it. Or people who just won’t touch the books at all. That’s life. If you do happen to fall in love with the series, or you are thinking of trying it out, drop a comment below. And check out Tor.com’s Reread of the Fallen, which can help you with your struggle to understand or come to terms with the things you read and uncover.