Tell me about Erikson's "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series

I’ve seen it mentioned here on the boards a time or two, and the Science Fiction Book Club keeps promoting the books. Good stuff? Comparable to and/or different from Tolkien’s LOTR and Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire how, exactly? More political, magical, military, adventuring or otherwise in its focus?

No spoilers, please.

I haven’t read a Malazan book for about a year. I know Rysto, Merijeek, Hunter Hawk and a few other Dopers are fans, and their memories and interpretations are better than mine.

I like the books, but they’re intimidating. There is no exposition, and there are lot of characters, races, and alliances and betrayals to keep track of. Unless you can retain what you’ve read, it’s easy to get lost in the plot.

And it isn’t just the number of characters, it’s that there really aren’t just one or two that you can hang on to and follow. I’d be interested to know who other Malazan readers consider to be the protagonists. All the characters feel like pawns to me.

But I gotta tell ya, when I start reading a Malazan book, it’s impossible to put it down. Erikson’s strength isn’t the kind of deep, emotional writing and description you get with Tolkien and Martin, but he’s compelling just the same.

One other thing – you absolutely can not skim. Erikson is fond of dropping important little bits of character and plot development into a mundane conversation, a throwaway line where you go “Ah! So that’s why he wants that guy dead!”

Far more magic than Martin - uber-magicky in fact, of the huge bolts of coruscating energy variety, with actual “gods” intersecting regularly with mortals. Think Martin meets Dungeons & Dragons ( in fact it had its origins in tabletop gaming ).

Heavy politics like Martin, but in a much less identifiable, more fantastic milieu, rather than Martin’s pseudo-feudalism. Weaker character development than Martin, but equally fun, dense plotting and some well-drawn characters. Fairly brutal, in a Martinesque sort of way.

Whether you prefer Malazan comes down to a matter of taste. I don’t, to date. However I think a fan of Martin’s Fire and Ice books will probably like Erikson’s Malazan books, unless you are turned off by the ubiquity of magic.

Erikson has tons of cool ambitious worldbuilding going on, but his Malazan series reads more like a comic-book than anything.

Malazan is filled with bad-ass, one-dimensional, superpowered heroes & villains, poor dialouge, and deus-ex machinas aplenty. Not really my cup of tea, but lots of people still like the series.

I much prefer Martin’s limited magic setting. The problem I have with the super-magic setting in MBOTF where gods and demigods walk the earth is that since there’s no real set rules to anything, there’s no sense of suspense or tension. That vast enemy army could slaughter a couple main characters, or it could get stamped out by a single hoof of a god intervening on everyone’s behalf. Might as well flip a coin.

Hmmm. You’ve given me something to think about – the rules. I think the series started with set rules for the magic systems, but that things are in a state of flux in that world. There are changes in the way the magic works, not because Erikson’s making up the rules as he goes, but because the magic is changing and Erikson is revealing those changes gradually. We learn about the changes as the characters learn. An analogy might be climate change/global warming. We’ve known about the behavior of ocean currents and the ozone layer for years, but something changes and we’re all just waiting to see what’s gonna happen.

It does lessen the tension when characters die and are brought back later in another form.

Yeah, Erikson and Esslemont were working on an archaeology dig in Canada where the recreation options were either drinking or gaming, and they eventually got tired of drinking. And because their academic training was in anthropology and archaeology, they took one look at the maps in published modules and realized that they were ridiculous, so they decided to do a better job at world-building. The Malazan series is an adaptation of their campaign.

I think the series is great, but you have to approach it on its own terms. Whereas most fantasy novels follow the Joseph Campbell hero-arc of “a nobody has a journey and becomes the savior of the land”, the Malazan series has everything cranked up to 11.

And bear in mind that the books are quite complicated and definitely benefit from re-reading. I didn’t get the reference to the title of Book 1 till I got to Book 5.

Thanks, everybody. Still dunno if I’ll take a look.

Huh, I’m only just finishing Book 3 and was still wondering about the the first book’s title.

I’m enjoying the ride but as some others have mentioned the sheer magical power floating around all over the place makes me wonder why anyone bothers with armies at all.

All in all I have to say I prefer Martin (although at least Erikson looks like he’ll finish the series in a reasonable time)…

I tried to read Erikson and I couldn’t finish the first book. It was recommended to me as another fantasy author like George R. R. Martin and I found that he wasn’t nearly as interesting.

The conclusion I’ve come to after conversations is that Martin is epic fantasy for people who don’t like epic fantasy and Erikson is Martin for people who do like epic fantasy.

I find it compelling, but it IS very confusing. You read 600+ pages of Book 1, then when you start Book 2, it’s totally new. You don’t see or hear of anybody or any place you know for 50 pages. But it’s an excellent new book that will tie in later.
The entire series, if he does wrap it up with book 10 which he’s still on track to do (hello Mr Jordan and Mr Martin) will be around 10,000 pages in paperback, yes you read that right…10 THOUSAND, so i’d read into book 2 before deciding to finish, in order to give it a fair shake.

Sorry to dredge this thread back up, but I just stumbled upon it. I’m 150 pages into book 7 (Reaper’s Gale) and am really enjoying the series. I agree with most of what the other people who have already commented have said. I’ll add the following:

I think Erikson’s background in anthropology gives the series a rather interesting and informed angle on the world’s societies, cultures, histories, and warfare. The series is absolutely dense with information regarding the different societies at play.

To enjoy the series, you have to be able to let yourself be lost for a good portion of book 1, but trust that as the story unfolds more is explained. You also have to be able to say goodbye to casts of characters for entire 700-1000 page books, as the first 5 books alternate between characters and settings that are relatively independent of each other up until book 6.

Erikson’s writing seems to get better as the series goes along, and he really knows how to build a 1000 page book into a satisfying climax. Unlike Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, important stuff is happening all the time in the books. The books are just dense with plot and action, which is an amazing feat given their length.

I’d recommend the series, but not to everyone. It really takes a bit of a commitment to get through the series but for me at least it’s been a rewarding experience.