Bleak Seasons is the sixth novel in Cook’s acclaimed Black Company series. A brutal, straight in your face account of an ugly, unredeeming war was a welcome refresh after the streak of bad and mediocre books I had recently hit.
Bleak Seasons take place at the same time as the Dreams of Steel, recounted from the Lady’s point of view, but this story is told from the perspective of Murgen, the new Standardbearer of the Black Company. Murgen, along with the majority of the Black Company under the command of Mogaba, has been trapped in the siege of Dejagore. You remember that monstrous city ruled by Shadow masters in the middle of southern nowhere, past the Hindu-like Taglios on the Black Company’s way toward Khatovar? Dejagore is a living hell. Fear and hate, utter lack of hope clashing with the animal need to survive, tight confines of the stone city bereft of food but full of hungry, hostile mouths, and a looming catastrophe of an urban fight change the place into a nightmarish landscape of grisly death. Reading Bleak Seasons I had one name in mind – Hue. Although, considering the recent wars, at least a couple of others should join it – from Fallujah to Mosul.
Those who became acquainted with the Malazan universe know very well that this world had been originally created by two authors: Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. It is no coincidence, though, that Esslemont’s name hadn’t appeared on this blog before (except as a necessary mention in this entry…) I fully stand by my words – Esslemont is no Erikson. And it seems to me that he never will be.
Erikson and Esslemont divided between the two of them the enormous cast of characters populating the world of Malazan. Until that division was kept, I was fine with it. Keep the Crimson Guard, ICE – K’azz d’Avore is boring, and I couldn’t care less for the rest of them. I suspect this indifference is too an effect of Esslemont’s writing for the Crimson Guard in itself seems a very fine concept, it’s its execution that is irrevocably flawed. But Esslemont in his share of 10 books grabbed some characters that he should have not reached for – Anomandaris Rake is just the most glaringly obvious example. I still shudder when I remember Assail…
So why on Earth did I reach for another ICE’s book? I should have known better. I’ve read Orb Sceptre Throne (simply terrible), Blood and Bone (interesting worldbuilding, clearly Esslemont’s read Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness or at least has seen Apocalypse Now! ;), but not much else) and Assail (words fail me with this one, I guess that’s the main reason why I didn’t write a review of this book at all), and I promised myself I would not go there again. Why did I then?
I’m not a big fan of Star Trek. I have tremendous respect for the idealistic nature of The Original Series. I’ve seen… a couple of episodes, a couple more of The Next Generation, and most of Deep Space Nine. I rather enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ 2009 motion picture, but I had my problems with that. Into Darkness… was no very good, not a Star Trek movie nor in its own rights.
The Original Series, and, to lesser degree, it’s immediate successors, had a spirit that set them apart from (most of) the rest of s/f. With antiquated special effects and often rather silly plot it was not enough to make me enjoy watching it.
And politically… I’ve always been a Babylon V guy. Good guys kicking ass in space for liberal democracy, more or less as we understand it 😉 I’ll have to review that one day, possibly after my next re-watch, the time is coming for that. Also aged in terms of special effects, but, as a whole, makes more sense than Battlestar. The ending is not disappointing.
Making lists is one of the favorite pastimes around the web – and probably not only there. Lists of best books in any given year or month, lists of worst zombie movies ever, etc… It’s as if structuring and prioritizing one’s experience or even group preferences became the best source of available information. Show me your list and I’ll tell you who you really are.
We’ve been mentioning our own lists on the blog at least several times already – the TBR lists, mainly. The problem is, my personal lists are few and far between, and they are not even proper lists with any discernible hierarchy. I have rather sets of items, where each item holds more or less similar position to any other. And even of those I have only two worth mentioning: TBR and TBB.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen, one of the milestones of contemporary military fantasy, and fantasy in general, is great – in many aspects of this word. First, it is lengthy: ten big books, together some 3.3 million words (suck it up, George R.R. Martin!), and populated with an enormous cast of characters, many returning, some showing only once, but all of them unique and multi-dimensional. The series starts with Gardens of the Moon, but beware – as a reader you will be thrown into the thick of it, without a word of explanation. You will have to piece together the events, its causes and results on your own, without any help, and it’s going to be difficult. This is not an easy read. Once you’ve succeeded, you will have to take sides, as some of the characters will do their best to steal your heart and mind. And this may prove even harder. Because nothing in Erikson’s world is simply black or white. Nor should it be. Steven Erikson, or Steve Rune Lundin (that’s his real name), is an anthropologist and archaeologist – and, as adepts of the queen of all social sciences, we can readily claim him as our own 😉 And his scientific background proudly shows up in his novels.
Is fantasy proper literature? That topic was already analysed here, inspired by discussion around Ishiguro’s “The Buried Giant”. The answer was, of course, yes. Original post is in Polish, but a very interesting debate featuring Gaiman and Ishiguro – was hosted by the BBC. Personally I find efforts to exclude genre literature from “proper literature” laughable. As with modern art – some snobs believe that if you enjoy something, it can’t be “real art”.
Recommended reading for today is another author’s attempt to prove that real art it is. A successful one. Stephen R. Donaldson writes about his works, and Erikson’s series, in a text in “The New York Review of Science Fiction”. Go and read him, I’ll just make some introductions.
It’s mu turn and I really wanted it to be a review. But I couldn’t, yet again, finish my review of “Fatale” graphic novel series, and I’ve found something I want to share. So today’s post goes into the “wyszperane” (“found in the net”) category. My source is, as usuall, /r/Fantasy, where Mark Lawrence’s“When the language flexes its muscles” was recommended (with entry entitled “Get your stinkin’ poetry out of my fantasy book!” 😉 ). The initial purpose of this category of posts was not to write big texts, but rather link interesting and thought-provoking essays, add a short commentary and maybe initiate discussion in the „comment” section.
First – I generally agree with the author. Two important quotes:
„A lot of people say they hate poetry. That’s fair enough – the school system bears a considerable responsibility for that.” – amen to that, it almost killed my interest in poetry.
„Poetry is a distillation, the highest concentration of linguistic content, and like all strong flavours it won’t be for everyone at every stage in their life.”
I’ve read and enjoyed my share of simple, action-oriented novels, where language was almost reduced to its utilitarian function. But literature is more than a description of a sequence of events and the beauty of a fantasy/sf masterwork is in its language as well as its plot or characters.