I’m thinking Mondays will be the day I post about everything I’ve been reading over the last week.
First off, I’m going to talk about my reread of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson and the side Malazan books by Ian C. Esslemont. Track my progress, here.
I’ve dedicated time every day to read one chapter, and while I’ve not read today’s chapter, I’ve been having a blast with my reread…although, now that I have the first eight books under my belt already…it’s also pretty bittersweet at times. I still stand by my claim that MBotF makes ASoIaF look like a Sunday school picnic. Seeing the seeds that Erikson plants for not just the twists at the end of this book, , but also the rest of the series yet to come. Meeting Fiddler for the first time and seeing his latent talents makes me yearn for his card games later – some of my favorite moments in the whole series. I’m also itching for moments when Quick Ben and Kalam surprise the crap out of people who greatly underestimate them, including several ascendants. I’m also a little ashamed to say that I didn’t pick up on the clues about Shadowthrone and Cotillion the first time around. So much I can’t talk about without spoilers.
In this reread, I’ve come to realize why so many people have trouble getting through this book. As I’ve said before, Erikson does 0% hand holding for new readers. He drops the reader into the rich world, one with thousands upon thousands of years of history and back story, and expects the reader to go along for the ride. For those of you considering this series, and you have trouble with the beginning of this book in the aftermath of the siege of Pale, push through to Darujhistan. If the scenes with Kruppe don’t convince you that this series is worth reading, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Kruppe’s conversations with himself (whether or not other people are present) are some of the finest moments in all of fantastic literature. The only true let-down I’ve experienced from this series is that Erikson conspires against me in that he never gives us a conversation between Kruppe of Darujhistan and Tehol the Only.
Mr. Erikson…Steve…if you ever read my blog, please…I implore you…nay, I beg you…I prostrate myself before you in abject fan-boy humility and implore you…please…write a novella in which Bauchelain and Korbal Broach must match wits against Kruppe and Tehol.
Choice quotes from this last week’s reading of Gardens of the Moon.
“Never be too easy with the knowledge you posses. Words are like coin — it pays to hoard.”
“…the beliefs of the ignorant are ever entertaining.”
“Maybe dying did away with the usual games, the pretenses of the living dance.”
“Shake your fist all you want but dead is dead.”
“Being alive, Tattersail concluded as she approached her tent, isn’t the same as feeling good about it.”
“‘The Empress expects obedience of her servants, and demands loyalty.’
‘Any reasonable ruler would have the expectation and demand the other way around.'”
“I look at you and I see a man because that’s what men are capable of — I don’t hunt for excuses because I don’t like to think that that’s how nasty we can get.”
“It’s rare you’ll find a mage with a pleasant past.”
I think keeping myself to one chapter a day is going to be a HUGE challenge.
Here’s my moment of hubris for the week. I’ve read “The Wilder One,” “The Saga of Machine Gun Joe,” and “Glowworm” all by probably my first literary hero since I shifted from being a teen writer emulating David Eddings and Robert Jordan to the fledgling steps of an adult writer where I wanted to push boundaries and try impossibly wonky awesome ballsy stuff with my own writing. You can thank “‘Repent Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktock Man” for that. Ellison wrote these three stories in 1955, and “Glowworm” was his first published story. For a writer, few moments compare with reading a published work and grasping, because you have an understanding of the elements of crafting fiction, that your writing is superior. Now, I am not comparing myself to the literary monstrosity and icon that is Harlan Ellison. However, when examining the work Ellison put out when he was in his infancy as a professional writer, I feel my current writing to be at least equal. So…there we have it; 2014 is off to a pretty good start. I am fairly certain as I read more Ellison as the year goes on, I will revert back to my previous “I’m never going to write anything this brilliant so I might as well give up,” most likely.
Theft of Swords
I’ve been meaning to read the works of Michael J Sullivan for some time now. He is a great guy who has taken time out of his life to help guide me along in my writing journey. The /r/fantasy subreddit is doing a read of his first book this month on in their Goodreads group.
I’m 27% though the book, and I’m having great fun with it. The main characters are a pair of thieves for hire, Hadrian and Royce. They are long time friends and trusted companions of each other. They have a few associates who help them set up jobs, but they are the guys who go out into the field. As you can predict, things go wrong on a job, and they find themselves at the center of a web of danger and conspiracy, one step ahead of those who who wish them dead.
While this reads like many first fantasy novels, Sullivan is a solid writer. I predicted several of the early plot twists early on, but that’s because I’ve read A LOT of fantasy and I’m way too cynical. I frequently find myself thinking, “If this was a game, what would I do to the characters here?” when reading fantasy books. Sullivan and I have a very similar sense of screwing with our characters. I think he and I are going to get along well, fictionally speaking. I can’t wait to see where this one is going.
Promise of Blood
Let me begin by saying: I really want to like this book.
Anyone who has read my Tears of Rage sequence can probably predict that I was excited to learn about Promise of Blood. This is the first book of THE POWDER MAGE TRILOGY for God’s sake. I also had the pleasure to correspond with Mr. McClellan for an article I wrote for The Genre Underground, and he seems like a really great guy. The concept is cool, starting the same night as a revolution similar to the French Revolution, only with magic, and people who can use gunpowder as magic and do really nifty cool crap with guns and magic. A great line from the first chapter is, “The age of kings is dead, Adamat, and I have killed it.” I’ve been wondering for quite some time when fantasy was going to jump into the Age of Rebellion, and now it’s here. I got really, really excited when this went down to $1.99 on the Kindle store. Grabbed it right then.
Did I mention that I really want to like this book?
But I’m having trouble. And my trouble is not the same as other people’s trouble. Many people love this bool. My very good friend, Christopher Kellen read this before me and raved about it. So please, despite what I’m about to say, if you like fantasy, try this book…especially if you have a Kindle. The current price of $1.91 on 1/6/2014 is more than a bargain just for the cool stuff going on in this book. It has more cool factor that any first novel should legally be allowed to have.
So, I’m on Chapter 5. I’m struggling. I’m just not grooving on the way McClellan is putting his sentences together. I am not a big fan of linking verbs in fiction. This book has a lot of them. Sometimes, as a writer, you can’t get around them, whenever I see an over abundance of was, were, etc… my reading speed slows way down, and I start trying to think of how to rewrite the sentence to make it stronger. I know this isn’t an issue for everyone, maybe not even most people, but it’s a doozy for me. I will read this book in its entirety, as well as the two short stories McClellan self-published that tie into this book. I’m interested to see where McClellan’s career takes him.
Just now, I’m reminded of another first novel by another fantasy writer I read a few years back. I struggled to get through it. I had some issues with the pacing and one minor plot detail, but the end was pretty awesome. I remember being very excited to see where that writer’s career took him. The book: Elantris. The writer: Brandon Sanderson. McClellan could do much worse with his first book than have me draw comparisons to Brandon Sanderson.
Well, that’s all for this week in what I’m reading. More next Monday.