Malazan 3 Done and now a brief marathon

It was a struggle, it was a slog.  I haven’t wanted to talk about it until now, and I still don’t, really.  Suffice it to say I finished Memories of Ice and did not pick up Malazan, Book 4.  I may one day, but not now.

I quickly grabbed one of the books I’ve really been wanting to read but waiting on my wife to finish.  Well, after several months of her being on page 6 or so, I decided it was safe to take it for a few weeks.  The Help, by Kathryn Stockett was probably the best book I’ve read so far this year.  I’m still not much in the mood to write about books, but this one was really, really good.  It was a conversation starter at the gym when I was reading it on the bicycle.  It gave me pause for though often.  But most of all it made me remember, fondly and sadly, Bernice.  How I wish I would have been able to know her both as the child I was and now as the adult I am.  I really think we could have had some amazing conversations about life, faith, God, and raising a family.  I cried near end of this book.  The last book to actually make me cry was The Kite Runner.

Having finished that book in record time after the several months it took me to finally be done with Memories of Ice, I grabbed another book I’ve been meaning to read that I knew I could also read quickly and get again that jolt of satisfaction that comes from finishing a book.  I grabbed Stephen King’s Rose Madder.

I’ve known for a while that this is one of King’s least regarded works, but it was on my shelf and I wanted to read it anyway. The subject matter of a picture having supernatural qualities intrigued me.  It didn’t disappoint, but neither was it earth shattering.  Actually, without any of the supernatural stuff, I thought he wrote a damn compelling story about spousal abuse.  On the list of evils, that one’s up there.  The story ended in a slightly unsatisfactory way for me, but what can you do.  It was a good read.  Even if I’ve read better King, this was the best book I’ve read about spousal abuse (actually, it may be the only one, but that doesn’t matter really).

Following that, I forged ahead, borrowing on my e-reader a book from the library that I’d heard about over the summer and been wanting to read.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Billed as a young adult book, it certainly is not.  Neither in theme nor content, at least in my opinion.  The author, Ransom Riggs, made clever use (I thought) of a bunch of old photographs to draw out and illustrate his story.  My guess is the story came after he saw the pictures and not the other way around, but who knows.  Some parts of it were bit too like Harry Potter but not most of it.  It was a neat story about difference and hatred, and about what makes a person unique and special.  A fun, quick read – I’d recommend it.

And now, I’m afraid, I’ve started another death march.  Depending, I may start another book to read along with Roberto Bolano’s magnum opus and ultimate work, 2666.  I’ve never read Bolano before, but I’ve been told to, many times by people who’s opinions I trust.  I take it that both in style and substance, it’s a challenging read.  So, far, and I’m barely into it, it’s not all that exciting.  Enough people say it is great though, truly great, to make me continue. So, until I finish it, or until I come across some inspiring quote or another, fare well.

Malazan Is Not Confusing

I don’t know why there was all this hype out there about Gardens of the Moon being so impossibly confusing as to be unreadable.  Are readers these days that unable to hold multiple storylines in their heads?  I am around 250 pages into the book, loving it, and not confused at all.  It seems that what confuses most folks is the number of characters and how quickly the narrative shifts perspectives.  People, keep up!  That’s all.  Book One within Gardens featured one large set of characters, and Book Two featured another.  Ok, got it, no problem.  It’s a 10 book epic fantasy – there are going to be a lot of characters!

 

The other thing I’ve heard/read that there is a lot of confusion about is the vocabulary.  It’s a fantasy, people!  Did you know what all those words meant when you read Lord of the Rings, or perhaps an even better example, The Wheel of Time for the first time?  No!  You didn’t!  But you got the hang of it as you went on.  Some people seem to be confused by the use of the term “warren” in Gardens.  Now, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I have a fairly good idea from contextual clues.  Remember that: contextual clues are your friends.  (Did all of you fail that reading comprehension section of your state’s standardized tests????)  A warren is either: (a) a magical pathway through another dimension that works like a teleport/wormhole, or (b) a particular source of energy/another dimension, from which mages draw their power; there are different warrens available to different people and not all warrens seem to be equal.  Within those places of energy reside some pretty nasty beasties, so mages should be careful. To go between the warrens is to access something called the Warrens of Chaos, which seems to be generally frowned upon.

 

That’s really not that hard.  If you really need to, do as I did, and keep a list of characters going in the back of the book.  I’m enjoying and can’t believe I’ve been afraid of it because of all this nonsense I’d read!

Fantasy Revival

I grew up on Fantasy novels.  When I was in the third grade, my Dad gave my a hardback, illustrated version of The Hobbit, without much preamble.  I read it and liked it, but felt I didn’t really understand it.  I read it again the next year and fell in love.  The following year, the 5th grade, he gave me his hardback Lord of the Rings and asked simply if I wanted to know the rest of the story.  I replied increduously, “There’s more?!”  And I ate it up, even setting my alarm clock to an hour earlier than normal in order to get more reading time.  For a while there, I read it every year.

Then I turned to the DragonLance novels and enjoyed most of those, but there was no denying the qualitative difference.  Over the years I’ve read a lot of the big names in fantasy – Jordan, Goodkind, Martin, etc. – and a few of the smaller ones, too.  But I’d say most of the fantasy books I’ve read in the past decade have been piss poor.  I pretty much gave up.  I never finished the Wheel of Time.  I agonized over the fact that Martin’s books weren’t finished yet.  I devoured Harry Potter just because it was well written sorcery, but I wanted, I don’t know, more adult depth of character.  I wanted shit to go wrong, because it does.  I wanted to see a character make a poor choice and then have to live with the consequences not get out of it with a deus ex machina.  I wanted…more. And no one was giving it to me.

Then I picked up The Blade Itself on a total whim, because I liked the cover and I’d never heard of Abercrombie or his publisher, Pyr.  Abercrombie, in a word, delivered.  Delivered everything I’d wanted out of my fantasy.  He reinstated my love of the genre and my belief that great fantasy could still be written.  I think people had to throw off Tolkien, I don’t know.  People, for ever in a day, couldn’t write fantasy without thinking of or being compared to Tolkien and I honestly think (as much as I love Tolkien) that kinda killed the genre for a while.  No matter what press praised a book on the cover as being “as good as Tolkien,” or, “the next J.R.R.!” the fact of the matter was that it simply wasn’t.  Couldn’t be.  And didn’t need to be.  Thank you Joe Abercrombie!

I’ve read all four of his published novels now and loved them.  The First Law trilogy better than Best Served Cold but we’re talking matters of degrees of greatness here, not leaps and bounds.  I’ve visited his website and gotten his list of recommendeds.  I bought a few this weekend.  I stopped reading a piece of shit Eberron novel because I got to the middle of the trilogy and realized I didn’t care.  And now, I’m excited and am not looking back.  Goodbye, shit fantasy.

Hello to:

Scott Lynch, James Barclay, Patrick Rothfuss, Steve Erickson, Richard Morgan, Alex Bell, R. Scott Bakker, Tom Lloyd and whoever else is putting out great stuff.  Basically, if Joe Abercrombie has said on his blog it’s good, I’m going with that.  Because right now, he’s the platinum standard.

I’ve started with

and so far, I can’t wait to read more.  There’s so much awesome fantasy out there right now.  Put down the shit you’re reading and go get some.