Friday, December 16, 2011
Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson
Deadhouse Gates is the second book in Steven Erikson's epic Malazan Books of the Fallen.
I had some idea what to expect having read Gardens of the Moon, and also being aware that the action in Deadhouse Gates was centred away from the setting of Gardens of the Moon (in fact the events in the 3rd book; Memories of Ice, apparently run concurrently with a lot of Deadhouse Gates), and would follow a different set of characters.
There are different groups of characters with their own agendas in Deadhouse Gates, and they converge a little towards the end. While the storylines are wrapped up this is far from standalone and you know there's a definite continuation.
It took Erikson, and his co creator Ian Cameron Esslemont, some time to secure a publishing deal for Gardens of the Moon, and the result is that Deadhouse Gates was written some years after the first book of the series.
Steven Erikson did grow and improve as a writer in that time, there was less influence of Glen Cook's Black Company in Deadhouse Gates, although it was still present at times. The game play aspect was not so evident either.
One thing Erikson could use is a ruthless editor. All his books are long, and they don't need to be as long as they are. A good editor could easily cut 200 - 300 pages from Deadhouse Gates and not lose anything in the process, in fact it may have even improved the narrative, at times I did find my eyes glazing over a little and wondering why I need to read what I was reading. It took over 100 pages before the main set of characters had been introduced and the stories set in motion.
Because of the cast of characters, George Martin puts a lot of characters in his epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, but he's got nothing on Steven Erikson, I found it a little difficult to connect with many of them. Too many of the cast of thousands seem similar. Three that will stay with me are Corporal List, the little soldier reminded me of Colonel Huxley's aide Corporal Zilch, from Leon Uris' WW II epic Battle Cry, and I always liked Zilch. Coltaine, the driven Wickan leader who was trying to get his vast train of refugees across hostile territory to safety. The Wickan horse warriors themselves were a great idea and something that I enjoyed reading about. Then there was Felisin. Felisin seems to rub readers up the wrong way. I started out feeling sorry for the fallen, pampered noble girl, but while she was trying to escape slavery with the discommunicated handless priest Helboric and the huge psychotic murderer Baudin, she became thoroughly unlikeable. I was actually hoping that Baudin may twist her head off, but unfortunately it stayed attached to her shoulders. Crokus the young thief from Gardens of the Moon returned, but I found him less interesting this time around, I did like his familiar, the bok'haral Moby, although in typical Malazan Books of the Fallen fashion I don't think he's what he appears to be.
The twists and turns that the story took and the sheer breadth of Erikson's creation plus his stunning ideas that are well presented did my head in, and I really want to see where he takes this and how it turns out.