Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book review: "The Crippled God" by Steven Erikson

Wow, after three months I finished the whole Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Sure, there are still Malazan Empire series by Esslemont and several short stories by Erikson, but I will leave this for another occasion. Ending a series is always a bittersweet experience. From one side, this is what you have been expecting, the reason you are reading it, culmination and revelation. On the other hand, you know that this is the last time you will meet your favorite characters. Sure, there is always possibility that author will give it another try and make some sequel or cameo, but in most cases this fails and it leaves a bitter taste of greed (trying to squeeze more money from franchise).



But, because of uniqueness of MBotF, "The Crippled God" doesn't follow this exact model. From the beginning with "Gardens of the Moon" to tCG, it never felt like classical fantasy: meeting the main characters at their beginning and the following them until their retirement (literal or figurative). But with this series, you were plunged into already rushing stream: there were no clear main characters; some were close to their "retirement", somewhere at beginning, but all gave impression of being bigger than just characters for these books. The same is true for plots. There are several plot that were finished here that we didn't even see start, and there are some there were started but were not finished. Add to this Erikson's style of writing, and it all just gives a feeling of history only glimpsed, with much more potential. Fortunately, this is true and Erikson does plan to publish more books in this setting, with familiar characters.

Now, to the book in question. "The Crippled God" is not the longest book in series, but with 900 pages it far from shortest. It is split in 7 parts, of which six comprise first half (or little more) of the book and last one takes the rest. This is a bit unusual for Erikson, but it clearly shows that this is the last book. It also has two epilogues! Since this is a direct continuation of "Dust of Dreams", there are no Dramatis Personae and we immediately start with the plot. For those first six parts, chapters are split in strict structure, with different sets of POVs. We have one, giving the Letherii, Bolkando, Grey Swords, Fellush (which is a great addition!) and Gesler and Stormy with K'Chain Che'Malle. Then we have the Bonehunters, with the Snake and Khundryls. Third set is Shake and Sand and Withal. We also have many minor one inserted between: Draconus, Elder Gods, Ublala Pung, T'lann Imass, etc. It would be too much to write them all and I am not even sure I could remember them without forgetting a few. What I can say is that some characters are missing. And by that I mean some important characters! There are few cameos in here, but I hope Erikson will decently and successfully continue these ones. Last part is one big storm of alternating POVs, a real action-bomb. It feels much longer that it really is.

Plot continues events started in previous books. Pace is much faster that in last few books. There is a portion of typical Erikson's philosophy discussions and observations, but when POVs start to alternate, the pages are really flying. And this is my first objection: the book could have been longer. Main POVs are decently explained and described. But there are many clips with important characters getting only a few lines to see what they are doing, but without expanding it. I know it's no use to second-guess if this is what Erikson wanted or was he forced to do (externally or internally), but were stuck with it. Few hundred pages or even a whole book with alternative POVs would have been much appreciated. No objection to the plot itself, although I feel like I will need at least two more re-reads to completely understand it. Expect several 180° turnovers.

My second objection regards characters, Well, one character in particular. There is not many new characters here, "only" a few Forkrul Assail and dragons. And all of them are done usually well. But I just couldn't stomach the Crippled God. I got used to grayness of Erikson's characters and how he completely succeeds in making them lovable, honorable, decent, disgusting, etc. at wish. But Crippled God just didn't fit in anything we knew about him. Thankfully, rest of the cast done great. Some were funny, some very disgusting, some were scary, but all of them are written extremely well. As with plot, expect surprises. I was forced to change my opinion of some characters (again).

I also want to get me final objection of my chest: I didn't like the conclusion. By that I mean the first epilogue. It was like somebody else written it. It felt too much high, which doesn't belong to the gritty and down-to-earth fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen is. Honor guard, kings and queens in attendance, last salute to dead friends... It just didn't fit in.

Now, after I said that, let's go to the good parts. First scene with Hood is great!! After reading it I was stunned for few minutes, thinking "Did he just ATE her f*** face?!?!?!". That was one of most bad-ass entering in whole series. Unfortunately, this book is missing some of the funny characters, but Tehol ("Have you already slept with her?"), Spax, Fellush (and handmaid) and few others manage to add some very enjoyable funny moments. Traveling the Glass Desert was one of the best "torturous journey" depictions I have read since Frodo and Sam's journey through Mordor. There are too many good scenes to name them all, but these two had to be singled out.

"The Crippled God", even though it is not Malazan book out, is nevertheless one great book. It is not perfect, but Malazan fans know better to expect perfection. I hope that all reader will be satisfied with this much as I was, if not more.

5 comments:

  1. Ur good at explaining!Wish i Could do that!

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  2. Wow, my first comment! Thank you (if you are not being ironic) :-)

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  3. lol cuz i do a blog too and i suck at explainging stuff

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  4. Well, I don't think I am especially good with writing, but am hoping to improve.

    Good luck with you blog!

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