Welcome to a long-awaited new blog series on tor.com… the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Your hosts are Bill and Stefan, and in the coming months we will read, re-read, discuss, summarize, analyze, scratch our heads in confusion, wonder out loud, possibly argue (courteously), occasionally criticize (also courteously), marvel, and at times (we’re sure) bow to the superior knowledge of tor.com’s readers as we attempt to dissect Steven Erikson’s incomparable epic fantasy series: the Malazan Book of the Fallen!
This re-reading project was conceived quite a while back, going back to well before the birth of tor.com! During our first reading of the series, we were—like most people—incredibly impressed with the scope and complexity of the universe described. At the same time, it quickly became clear that Steven Erikson didn’t intend to spoon-feed the story to his readers.
Starting with Gardens of the Moon, we’re basically thrown into the deep: a world with a 300,000-year history, several original non-human races, and a unique and complex magic system. Subsequent volumes offer up Dramatic Personae lists and glossaries that cover several pages per volume, and multiple story lines that aren’t always told in chronological fashion: book 2 is set on an entirely different continent from book 1, book 3 picks up where book 1 left off, book 4 continues book 2, and just when you think there’s a pattern developing, book 5 starts an entirely new storyline. With so many plot strands and hundreds of characters, some of whom change names as they die and get resurrected or die and become gods (as one character says “does nothing dead ever go away around here?”), there is a LOT of material here to keep track of.
If, like us, you read most of these novels as they were released, quite a few years may have gone by since you first read the earlier books. You may have found yourself reading one of the later novels and recognizing the name of a character, but having no idea of who they were or exactly what they did earlier.
Both of us have felt for a while that if we ever had the time we’d want to re-read these books and, hopefully, get a better understanding of this incredibly complex tale. Originally, we were considering hosting this project on Fantasy Literature (where we are both reviewers), but when we were offered the opportunity to join the ranks of esteemed re-readers here at tor.com… well, here we are!
However, we want to be honest: neither of us is a true Malazan expert. This is only our second time reading the series. We’re not promising all the answers (we’re aiming for 82.7% of them) and we’re sure we’ll even make some mistakes (*gasp*). In a nutshell, we’re going to muddle through this together with you, and hopefully with your help we’ll all achieve a better if not complete grasp of this somewhat daunting material.
So, here’s the plan: we’ve broken up the books in parts of roughly 100 to 150 pages each. The page count is based on the US mass-market editions, but we’ll use the chapter divisions as a yardstick so you can follow along regardless of which edition you have. We are planning one article per week—a leisurely pace, so as many people as possible can read along and still otherwise be productive members of society. This means that we’re probably going to take at least a year to cover the books that have been published so far—and by the time we’re done, The Crippled God will hopefully be out, so we can lead right into the final volume.
In each section, we’ll present a summary of events and some analysis based on what we’ve read up to that point, and then open the floor to discussion. Look for our first post (covering the prologue and chapters 1-3 of Gardens of the Moon) in the first week of April. We hope you’re looking forward to this as much as we are!
Here’s a bit more about Bill: I live in Rochester NY with my wife and 8-year-old son and I’ve been reading fantasy/science fiction nearly as long as I can remember, beginning in primary school with the Danny Dunn series (hmm, speaking of a re-read) and moving on to The Borrowers, Narnia, Andre Norton, and that frozen-in-my-mind moment when my father handed me a copy of The Hobbit in the Sibleys’ bookstore and said “I think you’ll like this.” I love sprawling, lengthy, complex works, so long as the length is necessitated by the complexity; I’m not a big fan of a good 350-page novel buried in a 750-page book. I look for strong characterization probably more than anything else—give me some characters to care about and I’ll go pretty far with them (of course, with Erikson that may not be very far as he’s so fond of killing them off. Then again, he’s equally fond of bringing them back so it’s always farther than you think) Along with Erikson, some of my favorite current authors are Daniel Abraham, Brandon Sanderson, China Mieville, and Catherynne Valente (for a more full sense of my tastes, you can check out my reviews at Fantasy Literature). Beyond reading and reviewing fantasy, I write short stories and essays, play ultimate frisbee, teach as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and annoy my wife by complaining about Lost as she’s watching it.
And some info about Stefan: I grew up in Belgium, moved to New York after college, and currently live in sunny San Diego CA with my wife and 2 year old son. After a decade-long career in the exciting world of corporate training, I decided to take a break and stay home with my then-newborn son, which has also allowed me to spend more time on reading and writing. I’ve been hooked on SF and fantasy since age 12 or so, when an exasperated librarian at the children’s library sent me to the “grown-up” section after I’d finished literally every children’s book. Naturally drawn to books with colorful, exciting covers at that age, I picked up my first Jack Vance novel (Planet of Adventure!) and never looked back, working my way through any SF&F I could find in translation, and later in English. Current favorite authors include Guy Gavriel Kay, Steven Brust, C.J. Cherryh, Robin Hobb, Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Stephenson and Janny Wurts – and like Bill, you can get a more complete sense of my tastes by checking my reviews at Fantasy Literature.