The Malazan Book of the Fallen is done

I’ve hunted for this news for the last four months, after about two months of delay on the original deadline The Crippled God is complete and now going in the hands of the publisher.

The current estimation for the release is the 20th January, but it may as well be anticipated (it happened before) or postponed. Now it depends entirely on the publisher, hoping they’ll do a great job since Erikson deserves it.

Announce that came from Erikson’s Facebook page (but it is private and not open to fans):

“GASP! That would be me, coming up for air. How long was I down there? About twenty years, from conception to completion. The Malazan Book of the Fallen is done. Sure, editing and all that crap to follow. But … done. I don’t know who I am. Who am I again? What planet is this? Three months of butterflies … maybe this double whiskey will fix that. Hmm. No. Delayed reaction going on here.”

According to my wordcount list the complete series will be around 3 millions 3 thousands words.

It’s a monumental achievement in literature in general. No one can realistically embark for a 10-books series and expect to be successful, because no one can realistically plan ahead 20 years of his life, even more insane if this sort of plan is artistic in nature, and so more capricious and out of control. Erikson succeeded in the only way possible: sticking to deadlines and keep delivering without losing focus. He survived his own staggering ambition.

He made it. It is done.

Here’s a pertinent quote from the recent introduction to Gardens of the Moon:

The journey ahead, of words on a screen and then paper, still awaited me in the idyllic state that was the future. Yet the publication of Gardens of the Moon was, for me, a momentous event; for it permitted me to sharpen my focus, as I slowly, almost disbelievingly, comprehended that what was now coming to pass was indeed possible. These things could be reached. The import of that statement cannot be overemphasized. They can be reached.

I am now on the cusp of the tenth and final novel in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Almost ten thousand pages span the gulf from Gardens to The Crippled God, a detail even more numbing than the decade it took to compose them. I am often asked; how do you sustain it? A difficult question to answer. How do I not? I have a tale to tell and until it is done an inexorable momentum drives me, an impatience against which I still struggle, knowing I need to do it right, and that haste is my deadliest enemy. Especially now.

I cannot claim any prescience with that opening; perhaps, indeed, I was aware on some subconscious level that I was fighting the very thing that confounds many readers with this series. For me, it was the push to advance the story versus the pull to keep it under control, to hold tight on the reins no matter how wild the bucking beast. For the reader, the whole thing reverses: the story pulls, the details prod, claw and tug.
Prod and pull, ‘this the way of the gods …

I can only say that I’m glad I found these books, I feel like I’ve waited all my life just to read them :)

The Gunslinger – Stephen King

I began to read the book almost a year ago but got sidetracked after about 70 pages, so when I took it again a couple of weeks ago I had to restart from the first page since I had a very vague idea about the part I had read. Not that it got so much better the second time through, the story defies control and one has to struggle to distill from the book some form of logic progression. Reading this, day after day, feels like you never make any progress, which I guess is the point. There’s a direction, a sort of abstraction of the concept of the “quest” in its most absolute form. The endless, ultimate journey toward something that is perceived as the definitive “Truth”. Or better, this is the conceit, the Mac Guffin. Roland, the Gunslinger, on his journey toward a mythical, capitalized Dark Tower. Only that this is one book, part of a series. So for this single instance Roland is chasing after another Mac Guffin, the “man in black”, who, when caught, would hopefully point Roland in the right direction.

The starting point is not present. We see this chase when the chase has become a consolidated reality that seemed to go on forever. The beginning is a blur, a movement whose beginning was lost. It starts with a desert that represents the absence of a definite space and time. An infinity whose confines are misty and dream-like. The quest is a journey, but here it seems trapped in a stasis: the longing for something that can’t be achieved, the distance that never closes. I’d say it doesn’t even work as a “tease” because we can’t grasp anything meaningful of Roland himself or the object of his longing. Merely an assumption. You witness obsession without motives. One has to reach the very last few pages of the book to have at least a glimpse of what the tower represents. The story is not one built to entice the reader and follow along. The place is haunted and inhospitable, but it’s maybe in these traits that someone may find some fascination.

The introduction written by King himself is the most revelatory part. It explains the origin of the idea, especially its naive ambition. The rest of the book is, at the same time, talented, immature and pretentious. All together in a mix that represents the real quality to find here. There are no restraints typical of the established writer, no control of the parts, but this has the consequence of “freeing” the creativity and let it go wild and uncaring. The writing is powerful as it is naive. A core of talent as wordsmith mixed with the pretentiousness, egocentricity and impudence of the young. It takes itself so seriously that it builds a wall of detachment, not reaching out to the reader or gaining his sympathy or empathy. The place is haunted, all characters being like phantoms of momentary conscience, fading in and out, being themselves lost too and living aimlessly. There’s everywhere, on the characters and the places, a sense of nostalgia. Something missing or forgotten that can’t be pinpointed. Even if nostalgia should be a thing of memory. Everyone is missing something but without being able to remember what it was. Nostalgia of the future. A suspended and undefined state of agony.

The scenes are all dream-like, evanescent. Their symbolic meaning more important than the factual one, but at the same time esoteric and impenetrable. The book is filled with symbolic myths but nothing at all is explained or even placed into context. These are shattered lives, like glass whose pieces do not connect anymore. I guess the purpose is to to establish this mythology that will only start to make sense later and in retrospective, when the story will loop on itself. There’s already here the impression that the pattern has been repeated, that these characters are themselves victims that follow trails that are merely their own. Condemned to retrace themselves, only to forget again. It sounds, and is pictured, like a torture.

If anything, Roland is the only character who seems to have maintained some tangibility. Of self-awareness. Other characters are all hopelessly lost, unrecoverable. Roland seems the only one who produces a difference, sometimes catastrophically, but still a change or a disruption of that agony. When he exterminates a small town the feeling is one of gratitude for having put those ghosts out of their misery, but at the same time he certainly doesn’t win a sympathy in the reader. Roland is himself haunted and hallucinated way beyond any hope of recovery. We have no insight and so one cannot sympathize or understand. This first book works merely as a framework and I’m sure the character will grow toward something more human later on, in this first he stays obscure and maybe for this reason vaguely fascinating. A twisted, black anti-hero that plays maybe too much with being against the convention. A kind of anti-stereotype that is itself a stereotype.

In the end this book taken as a single entity is not generous and rather opaque, I didn’t get much out of it beside the fancy, dislocated atmosphere. Abstraction without substance. It closes, before setting up the sequel, with a trippy space journey taken straight out of ‘2001: A Space Odissey’, but here the meaning is painfully obvious and plain, revelatory of the fraud hidden behind. Containing just a promise of something more meaningful to be revealed later on, coinciding with the promise of the Tower and the conclusion of the series itself. It dresses itself as wise and resourceful but the conceit is evident. As Roland, I have no solid motivation to carry on with the hopeless and insubstantial chase. You need to entice me with with something more than mystical mumbo-jumbo and esoteric made-up terms. What’s actually there? A boy being sacrificed for ludicrous reasons, largely foreshadowed but delivered in a way so forceful that it defies every purpose that part of the story may have had. Follows a host of prophecies again grounded on nothing, neither abstract nor concrete, if not in offering bland hooks to the following book. Instead of building curiosity for the mysteries set within a context it may easily lead simply to irritation, with the man in black representing perfectly that feeling. Inhuman, inconsistent, pretentious and ridicule. His display of powers does not impress anyone and that part of the story is so inconsequential that it’s like watching animated puppets play a trippy script whose pages were thrown into the air and scattered.

What is good? The sheer talent and creative pretentiousness. The lack of restraints. The outrageous metaphorical descriptions filling the pages. ‘The artificial glow from the wet rock was suddenly hateful’. All this being not only something glaringly obvious in the text, but it’s King himself explaining it. “On being nineteen”. And the book has to be appreciated in regard of this creative, unhampered recklessness. The ambition and courage that coincide with carelessness. It becomes then, in potential, a strength if one considers the series as a whole. With the latter books representing a conciliation of all this with the wisdom and moderation that one can legitimately expect to come with the mature, more broken King. Coming to terms with his own creation and trying to tie loose ends in some sort of coherence and meaningfulness, maybe.

The rest is magic, or sleight of hand.

Guess the quote

I’m known to follow the most disparate links. This one is weirdness incarnated.


Wise men have regarded the earth as a tragedy, a farce, even an illusionist’s trick; but all, if they are truly wise, and not merely intellectual rapists, recognize that it is certainly some kind of stage in which we all play roles, most of us being very poorly coached and totally unrehearsed before the curtain rises.

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The cipher of the Malazan series

Beside the subtleties of plot, the Malazan series has two different main levels that represent the foundation of the whole thing: the first is the infinitesimal small, the (under)world within a single person, his perceptions, his feeling, his thoughts, his personal yourney; the second is the impossibly huge, the human condition, what embraces all of us.

Today I discovered a non-fiction letter/article by Erikson himself. After reading few lines I thought it was interesting, after reading some more I thought it was EXTRAORDINARY. He talks about his view on the whole series, then his experiences as archaeologist, and finally the perspectives of our world and our species. In the same way these themes have built the Malazan series, I think we can deduct some aspects of where the series will go with its conclusion.

His fiction is a way to elaborate his thoughts, and this article is like a deconstruction of the series itself, and the reason why it is extraordinary. We can see the core bared of all conceits.

Sometimes my series feels like a ten thousand page requiem for our species, or a long, drawn-out howl verging on utter despair; as I search in desperation for moral gestures of humanity, no matter how small, no matter how momentary, in the midst of self-inflicted carnage.

I write novels under the name of Steven Erikson. I am nearing completion of a ten book Fantasy series entitled ‘The Malazan Book of the Fallen.’ These novels are set on a fictitious world that is Homeric in nature—magic and meddling gods—but at a technological level somewhere around late Roman Empire. Progress has stalled, as magic has supplanted technological innovation. Unfortunately, magic is also highly destructive. While these epic novels seek to portray a history in an entertaining style, the underlying themes concern the life cycles of cultures and civilizations (including those of non-humans) against the backdrop of environmental degradation.

In the fourth novel in my series I introduced, rather brutally, a character emerging from an isolated tribal culture, who finds himself first a slave, then an escaped slave, within the far larger world of civilization of which he previously knew nothing. He ultimately concludes, after numerous travails, that civilization is an abomination, and so he vows to destroy it.

I recall standing on a pyramid in the Guatemalan jungle (back in ‘83), during the modern civil war (that had everything to do with land), and perversely feeling a strange optimism. After all, when the Mayan Priest-King stood where I was standing, only a few centuries ago, he could see the vast expanse of his demesne—planted fields out to every horizon. I’m sure he believed it would last forever (just as we believe our civilization will last forever, that we are somehow exempt from the rise and fall cycle that afflicted every previous civilization). He didn’t realize that his culture was unsustainable. That it was destined to collapse even before European contact. He believed as did the pre-Inca civilizations in Peru and Chile. Why did I feel optimistic? Because I was surrounded in jungle. The natural world had reclaimed everything. It had healed, and in a very short time.

Read on.