Gardens of the Moon was recently republished by Bantam UK in mass market paperback for cheap and with a short new introduction by Steven Erikson.
I just found out that the introduction is now fully readable online.
Gardens of the Moon. Just to muse on that title resurrect all those notions of ambition, all that youthful ferocity that seemed to drive me headlong against a wall time and again. The need to push. Defy conventions. Go for the throat.
Heh… I can sympathize.
Gardens marked a departure from the usual tropes of the genre, and any departure is likely to meet resistance.
The rest of this preface is really worth reading. It may sound highly arrogant, but it’s about what you set as a goal and motivations you carry. Readers decide if he succeeded.
Sleight of hand.
The cedar forest south of the river rose on tiered steps of limestone, the trader track crazed with switchbacks and steep, difficult slopes. And the deeper into the wood the depleted train went, the more ancient, the more uncanny it became.
Duiker led his mare by the reins, stumbling as rocks turned underfoot. Alongside him clattered a wagon, sagging with wounded soldiers. Corporal List sat on the buckboard, his switch snapping the dusty, sweat-runnelled backs of the pair of oxen labouring at their yokes.
The losses at Vathar Crossing were a numb litany in the historian’s mind. Over twenty thousand refugees, a disproportionate number of children among them. Less than five hundred able fighters remained in the Foolish Dog Clan, and the other two clans were almost as badly mauled. Seven hundred soldiers of the Seventh were dead, wounded or lost. A scant dozen engineers remained on their feet, and but a score of marines. Three noble families had been lost—an unacceptable attrition, this latter count, as far as the Council was concerned.
And Sormo E’nath. Within the one man, eight elder warlocks, a loss of not just power, but knowledge, experience and wisdom. A blow that had driven the Wickans to their knees.
Earlier that day, at a time when the train had ground to a temporary halt, Captain Lull had joined the historian to share some rations. Few words passed between them to start, as if the events at Vathar Crossing were something not to be talked about, even as they spread like a plague through every thought and echoed ghostlike behind every scene around them, every sound that rose from the camp.
Lull slowly put away the remnants of their meal. Then he paused, and Duiker saw the man studying his own hands, which had begun trembling. The historian looked away, surprised at the sudden shame that swept through him. He saw List, wrapped in sleep on the buckboard, trapped within his prison of dreams. I could in mercy awaken the lad, yet the power for knowledge has mastered me. Cruelty comes easy these days.
The captain sighed after a moment, hastily completing the task. ‘Do you find the need to answer all this, Historian?’ he asked. ‘All those tomes you’ve read, those other thoughts from other men, other women. Other times. How does a mortal make answer to what his or her kind are capable of? Does each of us, soldier or no, reach a point when all that we’ve seen, survived, changes us inside? Irrevocably changes us. What do we become, then? Less human, or more human? Human enough, or too human?’
Duiker was silent for a long minute, his eyes on the rock-studded dirt that surrounded the boulder upon which he sat. Then he cleared his throat. ‘Each of us has his own threshold, friend. Soldier or no, we can only take so much before we cross over… into something else. As if the world has shifted around us, though it’s only our way of looking at it. A change of perspective, but there’s no intelligence to it—you see but do not feel, or you weep yet look upon your own anguish as if from somewhere else, somewhere outside. It’s not a place for answers, Lull, for every question has burned away. More human or less human—that’s for you to decide.’
‘Surely it has been written of, by scholars, priests… philosophers?’
Duiker smiled down at the dirt. ‘Efforts have been made. But those who themselves have crossed that threshold… well, they have few words to describe the place they’ve found, and little inclination to attempt to explain it. As I said, it’s a place without intelligence, a place where thoughts wander, formless, unlinked. Lost.’
‘Lost,’ the captain repeated. ‘I am surely that.’
‘Yet you and I, Lull, we are lost late in our lives. Look upon the children, and despair.’
‘How to answer this? I must know, Duiker, else I go mad.’
‘Sleight of hand,’ the historian said.
‘Think of the sorcery we’ve seen in our lives, the vast, unbridled, deadly power we’ve witnessed unleashed. Driven to awe and horror. Then think of a trickster—those you saw as a child—the games of illusion and artifice they could play out with their hands, and so bring wonder to your eyes.’
The captain was silent, motionless. Then he rose. ‘And there’s my answer?’
‘It’s the only one I can think of, friend. Sorry if it’s not enough.’
‘No, old man, it’s enough. It has to be, doesn’t it?’
‘Aye, that it does.’
‘Sleight of hand.’
The historian nodded. ‘Ask for nothing more, for the world—this world—won’t give it.’
‘But where will we find such a thing?’
‘Unexpected places,’ Duiker replied, also rising. Somewhere ahead, shouts rose and the convoy resumed its climb once more. ‘If you fight both tears and a smile, you’ll have found one.’