Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm Sorry, Mr. Erikson, I Don't Think You Understood What You Were Trying to Do Here

I understand not liking a novel, of course, few things are more natural. If you wish to delve deeper, look into the novel’s core, and decide that what’s there is repulsive, well, more power to you. If you want to read the novel, understand its themes, decide they’re repulsive, and then rail against the unthinking fans that you believe are either misinterpreting or ignoring something that’s repulsive, fine; that’s well within your rights. What I don’t understand is how these things don’t stop with the fans, but rather how the blame returns to the author’s feet. How some people, somehow, think that the author has misinterpreted their own work.

Malazan is, as far as I can tell, made up of two different parts. The first is the one of vast scales, huge armies, and breathtaking feats of prowess and daring. The second is the subtler, thematic one that, whether you enjoy reading it or not, has existed throughout the series. But no. There seems to be a rather sizeable group that deny the existence of that second strand completely, that view the books as nothing but a comic book in novel form.

Anyone who argues this has to discredit Erikson in interviews. Well, that’s fairly easy, I suppose. Clearly, he’s just desperate for some respect and is deluded enough to think that his action movie has depth. Everyone ignore the fool, let’s move on. Wait, though, isn’t there more than Erikson’s word that he’s exploring themes like responsibility, duty, divinity, and the like? Aren’t there passages in the book that unmistakably show these ideas? No, no, there aren’t. Those passages are just accidents, you see. The Myhbe is a two hour cut scene, inserted via uncaught glitch into the middle of your Halo level. A slight accident, nothing more. Not an interesting idea by the author, merely a mistake.

Now that I’ve finished Toll the Hounds, this view has become, if possible, even more confusing. Toll the Hounds is, without a doubt, the black arrow of death to every one of these arguments, seeing as musings on redemption and the tale of an abandoned child take up far more space than climactic duels. But, once again, I – and Erikson – have got it all wrong. Toll the Hounds isn’t a second kind of book, disparate from the others, it’s merely a failed example of a seventh or eighth Die Hard film. Somehow, dismissing the book as bad allows Erikson’s attackers to ignore what it’s trying to do, to ignore that it is, quite obviously, concerned with more than fireworks. The book is, it seems, just another attempt at a riveting hack and slash adventure that went horribly wrong. A vapid book of war in which Erikson, somehow, forgot to mention the army. Whoops.

Perhaps someone reading this can explain this viewpoint to me, because I’m a bit lost? I’ve read again and again on Westeros that Erikson is nothing but a video game, that the series hasn’t moved on from its original role playing roots. Can someone explain to me how this view holds up in direct opposition to, not only the author’s own statements, but the text itself?

1 comment:

  1. Ever notice that the people at Westeros have a bit of a habit of railing against books they, for whatever reason, do not like? We see this with Erikson, of course, every time a thread is posted asking about or attempting to discuss his books, but the biggest example of this is Goodkind. Granted, I am no fan and have no desire to read his books, but I do feel that over twenty threads of mockery is going a bit far.

    From what I gather, having read a great deal of these threads, is that most of the people complaining that the books are little more than prose-form video games, comics, or anime tend to not have read too far into the series. Sure, there are some who have read all the way through, but it seems that a great deal of the ones pecking away at the series and Erikson have not read too far beyond the second book.

    To be honest, I am not much bothered by these complaints because they are partially true. Erikson's action scenes stray towards the badass and there is nothing at all wrong with that. Partially, of course, since that is not all his books provide. No, the complaint that constantly irritates me is the suggestion that Erikson needs an editor and that his books are overlong.

    Yes, the books are long and yes, there is a lot of (seemingly) extraneous crap to be found in them, but that is what makes the books what they are. An Erikson Malazan novel without all of that would be, I feel, diminished.

    Honestly, I think they just bitch about the books to bitch about the books. How many of them never got too far into the series and are just parroting that bullshit about it being a video game, etc? How many are bitching that the book needs an editor and most of the content needs cut, when it really is a matter of the book not being to their taste?

    And I really have to wonder how many people amongst the ranks of those bitching about it being a video game (etc) are among those complaining that the Myhbe arc should have been cut from MoI...