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Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1) Hardcover – June 1, 2004
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The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.
However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand...
Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order--an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
- Publisher : Tor Books; 1st edition (June 1, 2004)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 635 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0765310015
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765310019
- Item Weight : 1.81 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.36 x 1.55 x 9.62 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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This book is a complete mess in many ways, but it was still enjoyable to read.
Let me start with the good parts. First, there's a lot of creativity in this book. The world is interesting, the history is long and complex, and the world is bigger than any one character. Second, Erikson is an excellent writer. I couldn't have finished this book otherwise.
Now there are problems. It's going to sound like I'm really negative about the book and hate it. I don't hate it or Erikson. I do think it was over-ambitious for his level of writing ability at the time of writing. I also think there are some things new readers should know before starting.
* You expect a lot of new characters and places when you start a new fantasy series. Never have I been forced to endure such a steady stream of characters, histories, and magic systems with so little in the way of development or explanation. It becomes so overwhelming with so little structure it's hard to even care enough to read on.
* The dialog is a mess, especially early in the book. Most writers would put clues in the dialog to help with exposition. Unfortunately, I don't think Erikson even knows what exposition means. At many points it just sounds like the characters are speaking nonsense. It's not entirely because you don't know anything about the topic of the conversation, but also because their dialog lacks subjects and is often jolting and unnatural.
* Character development is okay, but very abstract. You get to know a new friend by seeing what they do and say, right? This is also the best method for getting to know characters because it aligns with our real-life meetings. In the book almost everything happens in characters heads, and you don't get to visualize a lot of what they say or do. They also talk to themselves quite a lot. This leaves you with a sense of what they think, but not really much in the way of how they act with other people. It's told to you, not shown. This may have actually worked out, because otherwise character development would have been even more incomprehensible dialog.
* There are far, far too many unexplained character intuitions. Some of these unexplained intuitions are explainable by the story, but most are lazy shortcuts for foreshadowing and having characters think things a normal person wouldn't.
* The book desperately needed an editor with some pull. I don't know what happened here, but it really read like a self-published book from a first-time author with dreams well beyond his abilities. An editor should have pulled back and reminded the author we don't know about this civilization or that type of creature, and he should probably make us care about the current cast before adding on more. You want to craft a world, fine, but take some time to explain it rather than just assuming we've read (or want to read) your academic thesis on Malazan history.
* Everything stops reading like nonsense about halfway through. I can't imagine many people make it that far. You start to focus in on some characters and get a sense for what they want to accomplish through their plans. The "how" turns out to be excessively convuluted and poorly-explained, but you don't realize that until you think back after finishing and realize their plans were actually just the plot outline made manifest.
* The book all builds to the final climax, but the final climax is a series of loosely-related stories. Rather than ending in a big climax, then, there are an awkward series of resolutions as bad guys 1 through 4 all meet with their just ends ... in totally different scenes to wrap up totally different character stories.
* While introducing new side-stories and mysteries can maintain a sense of mystery, doing it endlessly and to resolve stories rather than begin them is frustrating for the reader. You don't even care to think ahead by the end. Will the story be resolved according to your clever interpretation of prophecy with our protagonist's cunning? Nah, there will just be some new entity or plot device that is totally unforeseeable. Probably some new entity appearing or falling from the sky.
* Minor spoilers here, but nothing that will ruin the book. Even at the VERY END of the book, Erikson is introducing new characters, creatures, and items. The demise of what you thought might be the most powerful villain and tyrant happens in a place that isn't even clear, with new rules (you can't be enslaved if X), and at the hands of a new being that hasn't even been hinted at. It honestly felt like a child was telling the story. "But then then there's this other guy, and he's even more powerful, and he beats the bad guy."
* My saddest criticism is that character motivations don't really move the story along. It's what writers call "and then" storytelling. Characters have plans, but they don't really make sense in light of what they want and know. Almost no one is acting like a normal human with normal human motivations, which makes them all harder to relate to. "Why was she doing that?" is an unanswerable question for a main viewpoint character at the very end of the book, and she's not alone in that respect.
Ultimately book 1 was exceptionally ambitious with lots of interesting ideas, but the author lacked the skill to pull it together into an interesting story.
How, then, could I possibly say Erikson is a good writer? He writes each paragraph well. Being good at putting words together is not the same thing as being a good storyteller. Erikson is like a runner with excellent form and top-notch ability who will never win a race because he's running all over the stadium looking at new shiny objects. It limps along, but only because he can manage the next step. It feels like it's about to collapse at any moment, and in the end it sort of stumbles to a halt and then simply ends.
Surprisingly, I do plan to read book 2. I've been told it gets much better and that I "just have to get through" book 1. It was so frustrating I can't imagine a world where the quality of story changes dramatically. I will give it a shot, but I'm putting it down unless there's significant improvement.
Reading this book gave me a feeling of immersion and excitement that I haven't felt since I first read Dune (my favorite book) when I was around 13 years old. When I picked up Dune I was shocked to see a glossary at the back. A work of fiction so vast that it needs its own glossary? It was fantastic. I couldn't get enough of it; learning these new words and new places, experiencing this whole new world alongside the characters. Those same feelings came back to me as I read Gardens of the Moon, holding my fingers in the front and back of the book, flipping to and from maps and glossaries and character lists learning all that I could. I think I'm in for the long haul on this one.
Top reviews from other countries
Steven Erikson CANNOT tell a story. He fundamentally fails at the key things a good storyteller must do.
The book starts with a foreword by the author in which he half apologises, half refuses to apologise for how badly written this book is. But there is no excuse good enough. It was rejected by so many publishers with good reason. It is atrocious.
The reader is dropped into the middle of a scene, with no exposition, no explanations, no character introductions. That itself might not be so egregious, if we later learn what is going on. But Erikson then repeats this technique for every scene for the rest of the book. Every time you start a new scene, you have no idea where it is taking place, who is in the scene, how they got there, even who is saying which item of dialogue can be confusing at times.
There is very little in the way of scene descriptions or character descriptions. Most of the book seems to be pointless dialogue between an unknown number of people. I have nothing against dialogue, but the dialogue is wooden and written as if we are mind readers. It's fair to say that I had no idea what anybody was talking about most of the time, or why they were even talking about it.
A lot of the time I couldn't even form a mental image of what was going on, because of the complete dearth of descriptions. When you don't know what someone looks like or what their past is or what their motivations are, it's very difficult to remember them from one scene to the next. In Gardens of the Moon you read a conversation about unknown things by unknown characters in an undescribed location. And then you do that repeatedly.
I did not get the impression that the characters say or do anything due to innate motivations or desires, because they are so devoid of personality. The only thing the characters remind me of is a 14 year old's D&D game. They are overpowered and make seemingly random decisions. I was constantly asking myself: have I missed something? The book reads as if you are missing key information, and you keep reading expecting it to be elucidated, but it never is.
The most important thing for a good novel is the characters. If the characters are interesting, intriguing, or if the reader cares about them, then we want to continue reading, because we want to find out what happens to them.
I couldn't tell you anything about the characters in Gardens of the Moon. Because I wasn't told anything about them. And most of them have terrible names that ruin the readability of the book.
The 10 book series seems to have a very fanatic following on the internet who are eager to claim that you have to read all 10 books and then reread them in order to finally appreciate this series. I'm sorry, that is a poor excuse for bad writing. It is the writer's job to tell a story. And Steven Erikson catastrophically failed.
Ignoring the temptation to bin the book, I somehow managed to read a quarter of it, trying my utmost to give him the benefit of the doubt, telling myself It'll get better. It doesn't. He spends too much time bouncing from one cryptic scene to the next (probably twiddling his fingers together like Mr Burns praising his own 'cleverness ') leaving you in a perpetual state of indifference as to the fate of his two dimensional characters.
I should have listened to my inner doubts. Reading is supposed to be an enjoyable experience not a perseverance.
It wasn't the endless incomprehensible battle scenes, or the unnecessarily overblown descriptions of anything and everything (he gets quite rapturous about rotten flesh), that did it for me. It was the fact that every-time a main character gets killed off, they somehow spring back to life. I don't consider this a spoiler since it happens right at the start and regularly thereafter. I quite like it when an author dispatches one of the main characters - It can really shake things up, your expectation for the rest of the story is shattered in an instant. But then, with this book - two chapters later, the character is right back in the thick of it and the story is plodding on just as before. It might be fine to do it once, but it becomes such a regular occurrence in this book that you start to expect it. It also winds me up when major leaps of plot (including repeated reanimation) are explained away as due to some previously unmentioned magical force. 'Because Magic' bleugh. It renders the rest of the plot fairly pointless. I like a clever plot.
There were loads of other things that I did not like about this book (you might have guessed that), but I have to admit I only read halfway. Perhaps the story was just about to change from the long hard uphill slog into something much more interesting and enjoyable. Perhaps I am missing out, but I really could not bring myself to read any more.
I liked Tool, he was the best. One of the stars is for him.
Other than that - just not my cup of tea.
I found mistakes (people referred to by the wrong name etc.), endless sections that make no sense no matter how many times you re-read them, rookie mistakes like characters walking away from a conversation and then still being there when someone speaks to them 2 minutes later. There are a quite a lot of names but very few characters. I take that back, to be a character they should really have a personality. Since none of them have a personality I guess there are no characters at all in this book.
The use of magic is way over the top and someone needs to say to the army something like "look guys since you are not actually contributing anything to this battle could you maybe not just stand around getting blown to bits as the mages toss nuclear bombs at each other?"
Two of the mages take turns reciting verses from a poem to show that they are much smarter. If you can recite poetry word for word then you have to know it pretty well - right? While showing off her intellect in this way, one of them works out that someone called Caladan Brood in the poem might actually be the same Caladan Brood they are fighting against. Well done, but why did it take you 3 years of sieging his stronghold to make that connection?
The above are just a couple of examples of how the people in this book behave in ways that suit the writer but make no sense in a real or fantasy world. There are lots more.
In his foreword the author refuses several times to re-write this stuff (obviously a number of people have pointed out some of the umm...flaws), preferring to believe that its all just too clever and complex for his readers.
Don't be fooled, this is amateurish writing pretending to be something epic. Its confusing because the author lacks the skill to describe a scene or the motivation of the characters involved in it.