Welcome to a new blog series on Tor.com, the Malazan Read and Re-read of the Fallen! Your hosts are Bill (reading the series for a second time) and Amanda (reading it for the first time), 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 the epic fantasy world created Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. As we finish each book in the series, both writers will appear to help us do a wrap-up!
If you think you saw an earlier intro post about a Malazan Re-read going on here at Tor involving Bill and his fellow fantasyliterature.com reviewer Stefan, you aren’t crazy. Due to some unforeseen circumstance that precluded Stefan from having the time needed for such a big project, he had to sadly bow out, though I’m sure he’ll join us in the comments section. Luckily, Amanda, their fellow reviewer, was gracious (or crazy) enough to step in.
So, starting with book one, 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 storylines 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 Bill, you picked up 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. Or, if you’re a first time reader like Amanda, you will be painfully aware that seemingly the rest of the fantasy world has picked up this series and raved about it—and hence it is high time you read the books to see what all the fuss is about!
To be clear, neither of us is holding ourselves up as some sort of Malazan expert (especially Amanda, who expects to be going “huh?!” a lot). 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 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. 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, w/ 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 fantasyliterature.com). 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 (with the finale I’ll now have to find a different way of annoying her—my work is never done).
And some info from Amanda: I live in Portsmouth, UK with a houseful of books and two utterly madcap cats (no, I am not a crazy cat lady—yet). As with Bill, I have been reading fantasy pretty much since The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. My dad started me off on C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and from there I embarked on all the fantasy fiction I could find! My particular early memory is being read to out of a beautiful hardback version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and feeling entranced by the idea of worlds beyond ours. Embarrassingly, I also spent half my time after that in the wardrobe just in case…
I have read an enormous amount of good fantasy fiction and bad fantasy fiction, and some of my favourites include Charles de Lint, China Mieville, Sharon Shinn, and David Gemmell. As well as contributing reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to fantasyliterature.com, I also review for my own site floortoceilingbooks.com (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine. Although this all seems to take up an ever-increasing amount of time, I also manage to shoehorn in playing field hockey and an obscene amount of cinema trips.