Sunday, May 20, 2007

Just Read: The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

Finally! I was reading this book for exactly two weeks straight, and -- though I do enjoy reading these books -- it's great to finally get to the other end.

The Bonehunters is the sixth book in the "Malazan Book of the Fallen" epic fantasy series, and -- as each book is about the same (huge) length, and each book is a twisty maze of plots, counter-plots, intrigues, and wars spanning several continents -- I'm not even going to attempt to explain what happened before this. (In the tiniest of nutshells: a few thousand years ago, an ill-advised attempt to end a war brought an alien god down to this planet. Said god is not happy, and, at the time these books take place, is trying to upset the entire theological structure of the world. He's more-or-less the "Dark Lord" of the piece...except for the fact that he might not be wrong, exactly. With that as background -- often very, very deep background -- there are a lot of wars and other disagreements going on.) This is the kind of series where each book has about a dozen viewpoint characters, and some of them never even come close to meeting each other.

Anyway, that first cover (above) is what the British hardcover looked like, and the one to your immediate left is the UK paperback, which is the edition I read. (As I mentioned above, it's over 1200 pages long, making it nearly cubical.) The cover with the stagecoach (which I have to admit I'm not sure if I quite like, though I know exactly which scene in the book it's illustrating) is the forthcoming US hardcover. Three radically different looks, actually, and I don't love any of them.

I don't want to talk about the plot of The Bonehunters, because 1) it's not published yet in the US, and b) there's twelve hundred damn pages of plot, so, if I get started, I may never find my way back out again. It's the kind of book where a major siege pops up in the first half, and things go on from there. (The siege chapter, by the way, is over a hundred and thirty pages long, and I suspect it fits the Nebula definition of a novel all by itself. Yes, The Bonehunters is the kind of book that has novel-length chapters. This is not a series for the faint-hearted.)

One interesting thing I noticed while reading this: when I'm working on a book this absurdly long, I'm in no hurry to finish. I guess I feel that as long as I'm not going to be able to get it done quickly (and I can't), there's no use rushing it. So books like this poke along for me -- I read solidly in it every day, but I didn't feel any urgency to get more done every day, or to push to the end more quickly. (For me, reading a book in two days instead of three makes a difference, but twelve instead of fourteen, not so much.)

I've also noticed again and again that what I'm reading affects my mood -- it's one reason I go back to P.G. Wodehouse so regularly, because it cheers me up and sets my temperament back in order. Erikson is pretty gloomy, though not as gloomy as people sometimes say. (There's a fair bit of death in Erikson's books, but his major characters don't die permanently all that often -- oh, they die, often enough, but that's often as a prerequisite for becoming an ascendant, or a god, or something in between.) So I get a bit depressive -- dour and Germanic -- while I'm reading Erikson.

It's a good thing I like his books so much, or else it wouldn't be worth it -- grumping around for two weeks, not reading much of anything else, and lugging a small paperbound brick everywhere. Luckily, they are worth it.