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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