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Steven Erikson's Malazon Books Of The Fallen

I was just at the Perceval Press website(www.percevalpress.com) dreaming about having lots of money so I could order all of the items I wanted: The collected works of Viggo Mortensen, poetry, photos, and sound collages on c.d., and others. This got me thinking about books in general. There is nothing more exciting then a new book, especially by an author that I like. The anticipation of what awaits: a good storey, characters, but mainly words in action.

Word after word piling up to form thoughts and ideas. Such a deceptive appearance, passive, not doing much of anything but waiting for some one to read them to bring them to life. A sword flashes, trees tower, mountains loom, clouds lower, lives are led out to their fullest or in their most bland typicalness. I don't know about you but when I read I form little pictures in my head and see what is going on. From the clues the author has dropped I play out scenes, even after putting the book down, if the writer has done the job well, the characters and action continue their lives. I worry about them and care.

I'm constantly amazed by the authors who can develop layers of plot, not convolutions that confuse or show-offs that do it just to show they can, but those who build a suculent cake with icings of intrigue that keep us breathless and on the edge of our seat. Which is a really good lead in to StevenErikson series The Malazan Books of The Fallen. The sixth of the proposed ten part cycle will be published in August of this year and I'm already counting the days. These are not books for the faint of heart(or weak of stomach in places because he holds no punches in describing the horrors of what men and women do to each other in times of strife)and those looking for a little light escapism. The first book plunges you (Gardens of the Moon)into a maelstrom of turbulence: the schemes of Gods,men, women, wizards, and different races(dead and undead, past and future) are all coming to fruition during the turbulent period of the reign of the Empress Lasheen of the Malazan Empire.

The first three books (Deadhouse Gates, and Memories of Ice are the second and third)deal primarily with the Empire's internal strife as it expands and consolidates it's positions through conquest and the suppression of rebellion. Enemies become allies, the dead are reborn as children, men become gods, and the gods walk among men as we travel across two continents through desserts, plains and across seas. Through it all march the men and women who are soldiers in the armies. People who cry and swear, kill their officers if they get out of line(a lot like the American army in Viet Nam)and battle with the weapons (swords, lances, and shields) that force one to face the reality of what you are doing. There is no way to shirk the responsibility for your actions. You look into the eyes of the person you kill.

Then there's the magic that wafts through the weave of all their lives. Deadly and unpredictable, as capricious as the gods whose power it reflects, it emanates from the warrens of the gods; pathways, even different worlds, that can carry a person further then their wildest dreams or nightmares. Each mage's power rest on their ability to access a warren and channel its power through themselves and transmit it into action. The more control, the greater the power.

The fourth and fifth books (House of Chains, and Midnight Tides) bring more forces into play. A powerful people have reappeared on the scene looking to regain a lost empire. They have entered into a deadly bargain with an angry god who is seeking to destroy those who chained him and wreck vengeance on a world that has crippled his body. All along he has been lurking in the background assembling his acolytes and slowly poisoning the earth goddess. Now he has enthralled a people with the promise of a return to a forgotten past. So forgotten that they do not even know their own history anymore.

At the end of Midnight Tides they have begun their journey of conquest, but we know from the House of Chains that they are further along in their plans. Already they seek to control the Throne of the First Empire, which would give them control over a mysterious undead army, and the Throne of Shadow(their initial attempt on that throne was repulsed by a god who is the patron of assassins and who used to help rule the Malazan Empire, but now along with former emperor has ascended to rule The Warren of Shadow....I told you many layers)

It's a testament to the abilities of Steven Erikson that instead of all this being a confusing mess, it is a fascinating puzzle. Sure on occasion one feels lost, but you just know that an answer is forthcoming, and although it may not do more then open the door to more questions, you know that the characters in the book (at least most of them) don't know any more then you do and are struggling to make sense of it as much as you are. Sort of like life, you piece it together as you go with the answer never just falling into your lap.

Read these books at your own peril, once you get involved, you are hooked. The good thing about them is their ability to stand up to re-readings. So while your waiting for the next installment you can at least get a Malazan fix to keep you going.

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