gardens of the moon

my friend stephen, the man with the dubious honour of having forcibly introduced me to buffy and guy gavriel kay, who would truly make tons o' money if only he would give up legitimacy and turn his considerable talents of persuasion to peddling dope, has struck again. during a recent telephone conversation, he mentioned an author he was currently reading that he thought I might enjoy : steven erikson. given that we mostly have the same taste (read : it's pretty much a guarantee that i'll like what he does, but i haven't often recommended anything to him), i bought it the next time i came across a bookstore. and when a recent bout of the book blahs reared its ugly head, i eventually picked up and read gardens of the moon : a tale of the malazan book of the fallen.

I'd first like to say that it's been a while since i've read any fantasy. i love fantasy and sci-fi, but lately i just haven't been in the mood. i thought perhaps it might be something i'd outgrown, like my mother always predicted i would. the last two books in the wheel of time gajillionogy by robert jordan are languishing under my coffee table, unread. the last book in anne mccaffrey's pern series, unbought. the last david brin book, unknown. so i fully expected to read a couple of chapters and move on. well, i didn't. i loved it. it's great. a fun fun book. plus, the author is canadian! who knew? not only did i discover an exciting new author and end the book blahs, but i am also fulfilling a promise i made to myself a couple of years ago to encourage canadian lit! brillliant.

one of the first things i noticed and liked about the book is how erikson dumps the reader into a fully-formed world. no excuses and no explanations. you just have to trust that if you keep reading, things will eventually make sense. and they do. mostly. in that sense, i found the whole thing very reminiscent of william gibson, but only from a technical point of view. otherwise, his world is pretty standard : mages, wizards, undead warriors, talking ravens, possessed peasants, gods, empires, soldiers, hounds of hell, you know, the usual. describing it doesn't really work, because it's not the elements that make this book so much fun. it's how they come together, the character development, the dialogue, and the attention to detail. erikson obviously knows what he's doing.

the basic premise is this : the empress of the malazan empire likes conquering other peoples. she uses both martial and magical staff to achieve her ends. the book follows some of her soldiers, some of her mages, and some of the citizens of the new target. which leads me to another of the reasons i like this book so much : there are no good guys and no bad guys, really. both sides of the coin are clearly shown (no pun intended - if you read the book that line becomes pretty funny. ok, slightly funny). and that is something i find a lot of fantasy lacks. subtletly, in a word.

there is no great underlying meaning in this book. no life lesson. but it's fun and interesting and intriguing. and exactly the thing i needed to get me into fantasy again. by a canadian author, no less.

and oh yes, the characters have the best names. how could you not love a character named whiskeyjack?

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