Steven Erikson, The Crippled God (Spoiler-Free Comments) [Library of Babel]

(This is a post about the concluding volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, so if you clicked through here because the title made you expect a rant about religion, you're at the wrong blog.)

It's hard to say anything coherent about this other than "Wow." I mean, this is the tenth thousand-page book in an epic fantasy series, and it actually ended! He took all the myriad storylines of the previous nine books, and brought most of them together in a way that made them fit! Most of all, it didn't suck!.

It's also sort of hard to write a blog review of the book, because it's the tenth in a series of nearly-a-thousand-page books. There's just no way to talk sensibly about it in a way that somebody who hasn't read the previous several million words will have any chance of following. Even explaining the basic set-up requires you to remember a huge amount of material, let alone talking about the ending.

I will say this, though: a few weeks ago, there was a very stupid argument, summarized here about how the genre of epic fantasy started out being moral and heroic, but has recently descended into amoral nihilism. The chief example being thrown around for the bankrupt nihilism of modern epic fantasy is Joe Abercrombie, but Erikson's name gets thrown around a lot, too, probably because the books, like Abercrombie's, are very, very bloody, and you know, all that epic fantasy stuff is the same anyway. This could hardly be more wrong-- as dark and bloody as these books are, they have a very moral core to them, and the central characters have always been people who know right from wrong, and strive to do the right thing even at great personal cost.

This is spelled out more explicitly than ever in this volume, in a short exchange that pretty much captures the essence of the whole series:

Sighing, he faced Onos T'oolan. "Why are we here? The truth is we're not even sure. But... we think we're here to right an old wrong. Because it's the thing to do, that's all."

Silence, stretching.

Gesler turned back to Stormy. "I knew it'd sound stupid."

Explaining who these people are and what they're doing would take more space than I want to spend on it (It's on page 728 of the ebook, out of 940, and the characters were introduced in the first two books), and would take more time to read than you probably want to spend deciding whether to read these or not. But I think this probably gets the necessary information across: if you're allergic to epic fantasy trappings and the D'read Apos'trophe, you shouldn't come anywhere near these books. But if you like stories built around people undertaking impossible tasks against incredible odds simply because it's the right thing to do, stories that still maintain a sense of humor about the whole thing, you won't find it done better than these books. You'll certainly find it done shorter, and with less bloodshed, but this is as pure and well-executed a version of that story as you'll find anywhere.

There are a few loose ends left hanging-- I'll put up a spoiler post after this one-- and a couple of elements of the ending are a little too pat, but this was as satisfying a conclusion of an epic fantasy series as I've seen in years. It comes to an end, and the ending makes sense, fits with what has gone before, and doesn't retroactively make anything else stupid. It's a great achievement, and I highly recommend the series, provided you're okay with extreme violence and, you know, willing to commit a huge amount of time to it. But if you are, you won't need to think about what to read next for a good long while...

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I'm glad to hear that it ends well. I've read the first 7 books (maybe ~3 years ago), but I haven't read 8, 9, or 10. I've just started a reread of the entire series, and while I had little doubt, given how good the first 7 books were, it's nice to know that he pulls off the finale.

Good to hear the series ended well for you, Chad. I felt the same finishing "The Evolutionary Void" being the last of a five-book series by Peter Hamilton that began with "Pandora's Star."