Book Review — Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Willful ChildWillful Child by Steven Erikson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the craziest thing I’ve ever read.

It’s a wild and zany ride that you should enjoy even if you didn’t come here for the Erikson. (Because hands up, how many of us are already Malazan fans?)

Willful Child is super bizarre and you just have to laugh and keep going. It’s like running downhill too quickly: you can’t stop. You can’t think. You’re having the time of your life, but you just have to keep running and not even think about the possibility of crashing.

There really shouldn’t be much doubt anymore, but I’ll say it again: Steven Erikson can write. This is easily some of the funniest fiction I’ve read in years, and it’s easy to see that he had a fun time writing this book.

The main character is a mix of Tehol from the Malazan Book of the Fallen and the captain from Futurama. (And perhaps Captain Kirk, but I’ve never watched Star Trek: TOS.)

OK, let’s be honest here: it’s basically Tehol in space, so if you liked that humour, pick this book up. Though don’t worry, it’s not so similar that it feels like tired territory.

Much of the book is dedicated to the protagonist’s voice and his lengthy expounding, which is an extremely good thing. He’s the best part about this book, and all the adventures and characters are designed to give him more room to shine.

As we’ve come to expect from Erikson, lying beneath the humour and light tone lies a biting indictment of humanity and society on a variety of topics.

It’s so subtle you’ll almost miss it, and well, I have to admit that I might have done just that.

I have to include a strong caveat about this book here, because I’m sure this will be a big point of contention for Willful Child.

The majority (or if not, at least too much) of the humour is unfortunately sexist. The protagonist is undoubtedly a sexist pig and you really can’t miss this since we are beat over the head with the degradation and objectification of women time and time again.

There might be a line where this could have been passed off as clever satire intended for introspection, but it strays too far down the path of juvenile humour.

Perhaps I’m missing the forest for the trees here and the satire went right over my head…but I can’t deny that the sexism put me off and ultimately kept this from being a 5-star read.

So. Read this if you love Erikson. Read this even if you’re unfamiliar with him. Read this if you love witticism and clever dialogue. Read this if you want to laugh. But fair warning: expect sexism.

Willful Child will be published on November 4, 2015 from Tor Books and can be found at your favourite bookstore.

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Book Review — The Crippled God (Malazan Book of the Fallen #10) by Steven Erikson

The Crippled God (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #10)The Crippled God by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And now the page before us blurs.
An age is done. The book must close.
We are abandoned to history.
Raise high one more time the tattered standard of the Fallen. See through the drifting smoke to the dark stains upon the fabric.
This is the blood of our lives, this is the payment of our deeds, all soon to be forgotten.
We were never what people could be.
We were only what we were.

Remember us.

Convergence.

That’s been a theme throughout this entire series, and it really hits home in the last tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Erikson outdoes himself (yet again) in the final pages of The Crippled God. After 10,891 pages and 3,330,026 words, only an author of his calibre could have brought such a satisfying conclusion.

Almost nothing else in my life has affected me on the same level that these books have. The characters and their travails were portrayed vividly enough to leave me speechless again and again. So speechless that I’m not sure how to accurately review this book. I don’t know what to say – ten thousand pages (over 7 straight days of continuous reading) will do that to you.

As sad as I am that it’s over, I know that this is yet the beginning. If anything, these books truly reward re-reads, and I feel no trepidation in embarking upon this epic journey once again.

EDIT:

I’m going to quote some of Bill’s review over at Tor.com because it resounded with me.

He forces us to stare at humanity, even though it’s often not a pretty picture: despoilers of nature, hunters to extinction, killers of children (the line “children are dying” haunts this entire series), destroyers perhaps finally, of ourselves when we’re left with no others to set ourselves against. There are moments in this book where you find yourself actually nodding in agreement with arguments for the complete annihilation of all humanity. And yet, a few pages later you’re glorying in the sheer audacity of humanity, its cussed defiance, and marveling at the capacity in individuals and groups, if not the species as a whole, for compassion, a word I’ve long said was a key theme to this series.

And these are the scenes that will move you—thick throat, damp eyes—it happened on several occasions and then did so again at those same scenes on my second read. There are scenes here that will stab you in the chest and break the cold iron point of the dagger off in your heart so that the pain stays with you long after you’ve turned the page, and it’s a pain so beautiful you’re glad it does, despite the ache. There are the obvious such moments—death scenes, (and there are a good number of those), last stands (lots of those too), suicidal charges (more than one)—but the ones that pierce more sharply are those small moments involving not death but life: compassion amidst horror, sacrifice amidst evil, consolation in the face of terror—a shared drop of water, the naming of a child, the combing of someone’s hair. And expressions of love in all its forms: romantic, familial, the love among soldiers, the love between friends, the fierce doomed love of and for children, and perhaps most breath-takingly unexpected, the love for a stranger.

Done, if one can say this after nearly 10,000 pages, all too soon. Fiddler, Quick Ben, Whiskeyjack, Rake: After those near-10,000 pages (and the several rereads), I can’t say we hardly knew ‘ya, but I can say we wish we knew you longer. Luckily, we can know you again and again just by pulling you off the shelf. And I envy those who’ll get to meet you for a first time.

I will set out scrolls and burn upon them the names of these Fallen . . . Hear them! They are humanity unfurled, laid out for all to see—if any would dare look!

Look. Dare.

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Book Review — The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen #6) by Steven Erikson

The Bonehunters (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #6)The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First book of the year, and wow! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: no other author can compare with Erikson’s imagination and vivid imagery.

We return in this novel to familiar characters in the 14th army, and in the end it links up to Midnight Tides.

There were quite a few fast-paced scenes which Erikson handled excellently. The viewpoints jumped around every few paragraphs, making for a literary version of a Michael Bay film which presented a perfect juxtaposition of confusion, tension, and action.

This series is only getting better and better!

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