Steven Erikson, The Malazan Book of the Fallen (1999–2011)

EriksonThe 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.

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Donaldson, Erikson, fantasy as fully-fledged literature.

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.

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A few thoughts on poetry in fantasy.

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.

And:

„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.

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Don’t judge a book by its cover…

… czyli pozory mogą mylić. Mogą, ale nie muszą. Myślę, że nie wywołam wielkich kontrowersji stwierdzeniem, że okładka książki jest jej niezwykle istotnym elementem dla każdego czytelnika (papierowej wersji). W idealnym świecie okładka powinna choćby w minimalnym stopniu odzwierciedlać zawartość – informować odbiorcę o tym, czego może się spodziewać, sięgając po daną publikację. I bynajmniej nie mówię tu o precyzyjnym rysowaniu zawartości na okładce każdej książki, a raczej o kreowaniu pewnego nastroju, klimatu odpowiadającego treści. Sztandarowym przykładem błędu twórcy sztuki okładkowej jest czworo oczu Dwukwiata na okładce „Koloru magii” autorstwa Jacka Kirby’ego, dobrze znanego wszystkim fanom komiksów [1].

the-colour-of-magic-1

A zarazem jego okładki, pełne nasyconych barw, humoru i drobiazgowo nakreślonych, szalonych postaci, dla wielu stanowią idealne odzwierciedlenie charakteru Świata Dysku. Po śmierci Kirby’ego zaszczyt projektowania okładek dla Terry’ego Pratchetta przypadł Paulowi Kidby’emu (podobieństwo nazwisk raczej przypadkowe, choć z Pratchettem nigdy nie wiadomo ;)). Kidby zachował większość palety Kirby’ego, podziela też jego zamiłowanie do szczegółu – a zarazem tworzy zupełnie odmienne, autorskie dzieła.

librarian-Kidby

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