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Onhell

Infinite Dreamer
A third of the way through a Column of Fire. Dude took 290 pages just setting everything up. The biggest difference from Pillars of the Earth and World Without end to this one is definitely the scope. The first two books told the story of a group of people in Kingsbridge, but now it's Kingsbridge, Paris, Seville and possibly more. I feel it has lost it's depth (all three books are about 1000 pages) in favor of breadth and that's fine. Different, but still the Follet formula.
 

Magnus

Pica Serdica
Re-reading Larry Niven's Ringworld. Not only a very good book on its own but also a direct influence on Strata and (less directly) on the Discworld concept.
 

JudasMyGuide

A Moravian soul
I'm currently reading the ninth book in the main sequence of Malazan Book of the Fallen, Dust of Dreams. Along with the Esslemont books I've already read like, about 8.500 pages of the series, I'd guess. Still not near the end, though :D
 

Maturin

Sköldpadda
I'm currently reading the ninth book in the main sequence of Malazan Book of the Fallen, Dust of Dreams. Along with the Esslemont books I've already read like, about 8.500 pages of the series, I'd guess. Still not near the end, though :D

Is it insanely, life-changing, good? Because I need something like that to read. Longest series I've read is The Dark Tower.
 

JudasMyGuide

A Moravian soul
Is it insanely, life-changing, good? Because I need something like that to read. Longest series I've read is The Dark Tower.

That's a tough question.

I'd say that obviously for many people it is. That is, let me put it this way:

- the series is insanely complex. You get these three main arcs on different continents in different times and you see how they build up to a climax... that's not including all those "parallel" books by Esslemont ("Novels from Malazan Empire") that actually concern with finishing some of the tangential storylines on yet another continents.

- however, it's rather unique, not only among fantasy but literature in general, because it's deliberately done in an obfuscating way - despite having read all that pages I still don't know what the main conflict is or how the main history goes or how precisely the fucking magic works. Very often you'll meet someone under a pseudonym (or given no name at all) and you only later find out who that was - sometimes in that same book, 500 pages later, sometimes it's 4 books later. The series was written specifically with re-read in mind, that is, it was supposed to feel entirely differend the second time around. However that also means that very often Erikson (and Esslemont as well) are being vague just for vagueness' sake. When it works, it's a great meta- detective story with you as the detective, both of the "fair" and the "unfair" kind (some stuff you are able to put together and make a correct guess, some not), when it doesn't it feels like they've been simply pulling your leg.
Still, most of the books have a "regional/particular climax" of sorts, when at least the storylines within that particular book converge and culminate and sometimes it's totally worth it, even if you're not sure how it matters in the grand scheme of things. I'd say that those certain parts of (especially) books 2, 3 and 6 are among the best in the fantasy genre (and possibly literature in general) you could possibly find.

- that's connected with... hey, I know that just this week (I think) Erikson went on this long rant on Facebook how everyone respects him as a plotter, as a world-builder, as a narrative powerhouse, but everyone keeps saying for 20 years he's bad at characterization and that he isn't and being a small whiny kid about how if you don't like his characterization the problem is with you and not him, because how it would be otherwise possible that when he kills a character, everyone weeps and so on...
Bullshit. He is bad at characterization. Or at least, he's very inconsistent at it. He can spend two pages describing a person you've never seen before and you get totally in their head and in their life... only to kill them moments later, yet with many long-term characters he's not able to describe them much and you know nothing about them.
He's definitely not that kind of king of characterization, making you able to feel like you've known someone with just two sentences (like you might be used to with King, Martin, Austen, Rowling, whoever). I've been trying to play as Quick Ben in D'n'D and I found out that what I know about him sums up as: - overpowered, - dark-skinned, - knows more than he lets on, - (one specific spoilerific thing I'm not gonna say)... but I don't know whether he's choleric or melancholic, whether he prefers beer or wine, whether he ever had sex... you get my drift.
You get people like Laseen, Tavore and Faradan Sort, all three are strong women with high ranking in the military and you couldn't possibly tell them apart. All are cold, distant, keep things for themselves (even when that doesn't work out really well) and one is probably a lesbian. That's it.
In the eight book the climax is supposed to be the sacrificial death of one of the important characters... everyone was completely shattered by that, I personally felt absolutely nothing, because he gave me no reason to care about that particular character + it's easy to make your death sacrificial to get emotions from people, especially if your character lacks characterization, but has these outer perks that would make him a favourite in a popular poll, probably...
(On the other hand, considering the insane scope and the meta-detective aspect it's possibly necessary to do it in this way, but it certainly takes from my reading pleasure and almost automatically disqualifies him as my "favourite" writer, let alone the best)

- again, connected with the previous point - yes, he is an excellent writer and he can really use words well. He has a certain poetic charm that shines even through the glaringly bad translation we got in Czech (this is one series I refused to read in English, because it's confusing as heck even when you read it in your native tongue) and he's rather good at philosophizing - he can express himself very well and his observations are sometimes quite pointed and while the comparisons to Dostoevsky are insane, I get where they come from...
...but then again, all his characters do that and all do it in the same way. Almost all are these burnt out, philosophizing humanists that have these similarly cynical worldviews and it doesn't make much difference if the particular person is 7 or 7000 years old. Kinda annoying. At least with Fyodor those similarly histrionic, philosophizing characters represented different ideas, not the same one in shades of gray.

- which is connected with... well, this is a personal peeve, but he's trying really hard to make observations and concepts about human nature and especially religion. And though he's not himself an atheist (seems to me more like a "theological anti-nihilist", at least from his personal comments on the Malazan Re-read) he sometimes seems to not understand religion at all. Some of his stuff is just... really wrong and looking like someone who tries to fight what he doesn't understand (still better than Dawkins, who's an idiot, but that's a given). Let alone the fact my personal suspicion is that he modelled his main villain (who is possibly not going to turn out to be the villain after all, but still) at least in parts after his crooked view of the Judeo/Christian God.
But it's also in the other things as well, to put it shortly: He's not as clever as he thinks he is, but he is still well worth reading, I'd say. Even I take him as a... noble enemy, of sorts. Some of the stuff is genuinely clever and original, I believe his utimate goal is a "good" - although, alas, a humanist good at best - and he can sometimes put it in a very delicate way.
Don't fall in love with him, take it with a grain of salt and you're in for a great ride, I'd say. He's really trying to be a writer-philosopher and you don't get many of these in modern literature (at least not good ones, not counting Coelho and the like) let alone fantasy. At least not in this amount and succeeding at least half as well as he does.

- however, yes, while most people give up throughout, so they can't even say they understood what it was really about ... the people who are going to finish this gargantuan task are usually those who became real fans. And I mean reeeeeeal fans - I've made the mistake of being a member of certain groups on Facebook (and his personal page as well) and it almost put me off the books altogether, because the adoration and "obsessive devotion" is really annoying.
I'm probably one of the few people who got this far and intend to finish it without becoming like these uncritical fans and it is getting a bit tiresome.

- after the halfway point at the latest it sometimes gets really bloated - most of the books could have been easily shortened without losing anything, but I guess that's everyone problem nowadays ... God knows King has it as well.


So yes, many people (see the penultimate point) are going to tell you it's the best fantasy/book/whatever they ever read and I even kinda get it - I certainly understand how someone after either finishing it or getting as far as I did is going to never look at fantasy the same way again...
In that regard it's pretty unique and worth reading, not sure about the mass/quality ratio, but it's not that bad.

But it still has some obvious and glaring flaws and it's definitely not for everyone - its very nature makes it so.

Unfortunately, you can't pick it and decide, because you are not starting to get any kind of feel until the second/third book or so and even by then I'd say it's more about your original decision to read it or not to continue.

On the other hand, despite me being a huuuuuge long-time fan of King, I never read Dark Tower (though I have all the books, really). So I'm not able to compare it at all.

Also, I have (actually very) similar issues with Herbert's Dune, which is even more universally beloved. And also has some glaring, unbearable tendencies and mistakes that have actually put me off him for good. Yup, I'd say that Erikson is definitely the better writer - if you wanted to read one of these, read Malaz. Many will disagree.

Just stressing that because my opinions are in the minority out there, it would seem, so you might love it and think it's the best thing ever. A lot of people do.
 
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Perun

Dominus et deus
Staff member
Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology.
I think I know Norse myths better than Gaiman, even though I say so myself, but I like him a lot as an author and really wanted to see his personal approach to the subject. Which, I'd say, is remarkable (on first impressions, haven't finished the book yet); he makes Asgard look like this forum sometimes.
I've read Norse mythology in numerous translations, retellings, synopses, you name it, not to mention quite a few academic papers discussing and analyzing it, and I'd never - yet - felt such sadness and empathy as when reading Gaiman's version. Well done sir.

I read this last night in one sitting. It was an enjoyable read and I think I see where you're coming from. He really had a sense of turning figures like Thor and Freya into characters and some passages like the binding of Fenrir were truly heartbreaking. However, I'm wondering if it wouldn't have been better had he turned it into a proper novel and given it a bit more breathing space, as even at twice the length it would still have been relatively short.
 

Magnus

Pica Serdica
I'm wondering if it wouldn't have been better had he turned it into a proper novel and given it a bit more breathing space, as even at twice the length it would still have been relatively short.
I'm not sure the often contradictory Norse myths could be turned into a novel, but Gaiman has certainly had even shorter books.
 

Magnus

Pica Serdica
Was re-reading, for the umpteenth time (an unmistakable sign of old age, they say), Barry Hughart's Master Li & Number Ten Ox trilogy.
In Bulgarian, unfortunately, and by three different translators one of whom mixes up BC with AD and another seems to have no idea at all that jade is a thing and not a personal name; still, beautiful, funny, exotic and sadistic tales of love and death. Shame the author (1934 - 2019) never really got the praise he deserved.
Thank you Mr. Hughart, I felt a better person for a while.
 

Niall Kielt

Ancient Mariner
Was re-reading, for the umpteenth time (an unmistakable sign of old age, they say), Barry Hughart's Master Li & Number Ten Ox trilogy.
In Bulgarian, unfortunately, and by three different translators one of whom mixes up BC with AD and another seems to have no idea at all that jade is a thing and not a personal name; still, beautiful, funny, exotic and sadistic tales of love and death. Shame the author (1934 - 2019) never really got the praise he deserved.
Thank you Mr. Hughart, I felt a better person for a while.
Your description spoke to me. Ive just ordered the first one.
Just started 438 Days, a true story of survival at sea. Not sure how long he was at sea but Im sure I'll find out.
 

Niall Kielt

Ancient Mariner
Now I feel responsible and I truly hope you won't be disappointed.
Ive abandoned many a good book because I just wasn't feelin it at that time so I wont judge you (too harshly) if this doesn't jive with me. I had His Dark Materials for 5 years before I took a fancy to it but I absolutely loved it when I got round to it.
 

Maturin

Sköldpadda
I think the trilogy is very good, but I tend to prefer the first book - I also like the Swedish mini-series/films (bear in mind, most big productions in the Nordic are made as both a mini-series and a theatrical release at the same time - always watch the mini-series over the "films" if you have the chance).

Haven't yet read the continuation by David Lagercrantz, but I have the first one on the shelf - got it hardback for less than £1 in damaged shelf-worn condition.
 

Cornfed Hick

Ancient Mariner
I recently discovered The Murderbot Diaries novellas. They are hilarious. Imagine if Douglas Adams' Marvin the Paranoid Android were designed to be a ruthless killing machine but prefers to chill and watch TV reruns instead. Each novella will take you a couple hours or so to read. Highly recommended, particularly the first two books. There is also a full-length novel that came out this year, I haven't gotten to that yet.
 
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