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31. Steven Erikson Discussion

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Philip Overby, Dec 22, 2013.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Number 31 is Steven Erikson (hey, someone I've read!). Known primarily for his Malazan the Book of the Fallen series, Erikson is one of the names often dropped when it comes to those looking for epic fantasy that doesn't really fit in most people's understanding of such. His writing can be difficult to get into for some, but I think he's one of the more unique writers in all of fantasy at the moment. And he finished a ten book series rather quickly! I've heard the Malazan books described by some as like some anime series. Not sure I get that description, but I guess that comes from high powered characters fighting other high powered characters, which there is a lot of. I've only on Book 3 at the moment, but this is a world where "Ascendants" may come down to the regular world and wreak havoc a la the Greek gods. Sorcery is hurled and people travel and get magic through things called Warrens. I always highly recommend the series with a caveat: you may not like it. Typically, people either love Eriskon's writing or hate it. I personally love it. And as a side note: I think most writers should aspire to the same. Who wants to be seen as a "meh" writer? Go for broke, I say!

    Any other thoughts on Steven Erikson?

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    Also an awesome bit of art someone did for the characters of Gardens of the Moon.

    If you've ever read any of Steven Erikson's "Malazan Book of the Fallen" books | IGN Boards
     
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Erikson's work has been a great inspiration to me. Perhaps not so much in how he writes as in how he's created an entire world. The way he doesn't really explain what's going on or how things work gives (to me) a great sense of depth and "realism" to the world. The way things are portrayed make them feel like natural occurrences rather than something that needs to be pointed out, examined and explained.
    Sure, it's really strange at first, but once I got into it I found I had a good intuitive understanding of warrens and houses and all that jazz which I probably wouldn't have had if it had just been explained to me from the start. This was one of the things I enjoyed the most in his books and it's something I aspire to and hope to achieve in my own writing. I want my reader to have the same sense of immersion and understanding of the world I create as I did for Erikson's creation.

    I do think he did lose it towards the end though. The story went on too long, became too big and somehow lost touch with wherever it came from. It ll became a bit too much, too strange and too epic - a bit like he was planning a birthday party for his kid and ended up having Siegfried and Roy do the magic tricks with the Wienna Philharmonic Orchestra providing the background music.
    Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but that's the entire point. ;)
     
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    The AD&D roots of his writing come through pretty clearly. At times I can almost hear the dice rolling.

    That said, I consider him to be good, but not great.

    And yes, I've read the entire ten book main series, the first book of the next series, and Esslemonts continuations.
     
  4. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I'm a giant fan of Steven Erikson. No one can capture the true meaning of epic. His cast is epic, his world, and his conflict. But what I feel most miss is his ability to embody ideals, to have them in opposition to one another, even if the character representing the ideal is unaware of any such conflict.

    Some call his work wordy (an odd insult for a book). Some claim his characters are cardboard cut outs, but with different special abilities (an idea closely linked to ThinkerX's feeling that his stories are derived from D&D campaigns). I don't see either.

    He writes characters that could easily come from a Homeric poem. Grand characters with lofty, aged language and definitive goals. But I felt for each one. Toc the Younger, Whiskeyjack, Coltaine (if I every change my stance on rereading books, it would be because of this character's story), Karsa, Kalam, Quick Ben, Candle (If I recall the nickname), Duiker, Fiddler, Gruntle, Kallor, Scabandari Bloodeye, Tool, Icarium, Mappo, and, my favorite, Anomander Rake.

    That is the list of the most memorable characters from the series. Those are the ones I can put a name to from memory. Show me a list of characters, and I'll smile fondly like an old woman looking at a photo album of her youth. Each character is unique, represents an aspect of human existence, and makes you care for them.

    The only problem with Erikson's writing is his attempt to force humor into a few of his scenes. Some of this attempt came in the form of characters. I didn't care for them, but I could hardly expect to like every single one.

    I was sad to finish the main series of books. Too many questions needed answering. Too many unresolved threads in the tapestry still needed a clean resolution. I look forward to his new trilogy (I've read the first book), and the next trilogy featuring Karsa Oolong.
     
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I read somewhere the story really was based on an RPG campaign Erikson took part in?
     
  6. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I think the world uses a barebone RPG campaign. He just fleshed it out and made it something more.

    I don't think he recorded an RPG campaign and used the scenes from it to create his novels.
     
  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    He comes across as *still* being deeply divided on the issue thirty years later (Sheesh, its been that long? I was doing AD&D at the same time, and I had a similiar list of complaints back then!) He actually contradicted himself more than once in that post/rant.

    But yes, from the first time I read him, the gaming (AD&D) material was really blatently obvious, something he's admitted, not just in that piece, but elsewhere.
     
  9. Well I've only read Gardens of the Moon, about 2 years ago. I started reading, and I thought "wow, there's a lot going on here". As I read on things got more complex, I was dropped with little ceremony into the deep end of his imagination, and did my best to navigate and follow the story. As I read some more I felt I was running to keep up, and felt a bit frustrated that I couldn't work out who on earth was supposed to be the protagonist, who was I supposed to be following and getting attached to? Anyway, by that stage I was reading with little enthusiasm and more perseverance to get something from the damn book.

    But then something changed around the 100 page mark, and I actually started to get into it. I still didn't know much about what was going on, but after the initial struggle I was finding the characters engaging, it was becoming clearer who the good guys were supposed to be, and who the main players were. When I finished the book I did feel a certain pride at having read the whole thing, but looking back I realised I had enjoyed it, now that I wasn't reading it I missed it. Since then I've had respect for Erikson, and intend to read the others some time. The story itself didn't feel nearly as fresh and creative as it's execution and the characters, but the atmosphere was good, and the characters really lived. I got really attached to Tattersail, she just seemed so easy to root for, and Whiskeyjack was portrayed marvellously. So it did take some getting into, but it was rewarding for me.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013
  10. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    From what I can derive from that link, the world and characters were all Steven Erikson. He used some gaming structure for character attribute and class, but we all do that in some way. We assign the "warrior" class to some characters, the "rogue" class to others, and so on.

    As far as attributes go, we do that as well. "Kevin isn't strong, a little less than average, but his hands are fast. He's also light on his feet, and has great balance"

    That may be the non RPG way of saying Kevin, the rogue, has a STR of 8, a DEX of 16 and AGI of 17. Steven just uses numbers to sort out the words, a reference, if you will.

    The one that got me is how he "gamed" some scenes. Note that he didn't take any scenes from an RPG, only that he had a scene and he wanted to make the outcome random. So he uses dice, and some ruleset only known to him and Ian, and played out the scene. Again, this is not strange. Steven Erikson's strength is that he makes randomness a real thing. Characters die, fail, break all the time. I love the dark overtone of randomness.

    That he used dice to generate the randomness creates a neutral outcome. Springboarding the scene back and forth with another person (Ian), will still create a biased outcome (I really liked this character, so I don't want him to die).

    In a nutshell, he used gaming mechanics to help flesh out the story. Malazan is not a rip off of an RPG game. He actually states he tried to destroy the tropes established by most RPGs.
     
  11. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Count me as one who tried to get into the first book, couldn't, and discarded it partway through.
     
  12. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I've read a sizeable segment of Erikson fans almost weren't until the forced themselves to read the entire first book. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but that's what I've read.

    I will say that Deadhouse Gate should be read by any and all authors who wish to entangled their audience with such emotional power. I've often stated on these forums that it was one of a couple books that caused me to tear at its completion (the other being Glen Cook's final book in the Black Company series). If not for anything else, but to study how words, tone, and situation can move an audience.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think the series is brilliant. Erikson shows that you can do a lot more with Fantasy than churn out the standard material. I liked Gardens of the Moon immediately.

    As someone who has been playing D&D for around 30 years now, I have to say I don't see the strong gaming ties. I understand the origin of the setting, but I don't see it in the writing like I do with some explicit gaming tie-ins.
     
  14. Did you make it to page 100 :) (not that I remember anything very amazing about p. 100, that's just the number of pages it took me to get into it).
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes, it was masterfully done.
     
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    That does seem counterintuitive. Truthfully, my whole theory of writing is that I should make my books as easy for the reader to get into as possible. Not sure that "forcing" myself to read a book is something that I either want to do or support.
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    There's something to be said for books like that, but certainly not all literature needs to be easy, or should be. It is nice to have more substantial, cerebral fare alongside the rest.
     
  18. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    This might be a subject for its own thread, but does being hard to get into really make something substantial and cerebral? I mean, I think Ender's Game is pretty cerebral, and it's very easy to pick up and read.
     
  19. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I agree with Ankari and Aidan. I was very close to tossing the first book myself, but I stuck with it and felt it has ultimately become one of my favorite fantasy books ever. That is one reason I avoid tossing books aside anymore. Sure, reading isn't supposed to be a chore, but there are some authors in the genre who are just harder to get into. I've had similar problems with Gene Wolfe and Michael Moorcock. However, that doesn't mean I'm never reading anything by them again. I just have to be in the right mood to read certain kinds of books. I don't always want to read "light fantasy fare." Sometimes I want something a bit more challenging and Erikson is definitely that.

    As I said in the opening to the thread, I very seldom find people who have no opinion on him. Either they don't like him or they think he's awesome. I fall in the awesome camp. I think many authors should aspire to be like Erikson: take chances and not just follow the easiest path.
     
  20. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Never said it did.
     
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