The Malazan Book of the Fallen series consists of 10 brick-sized novels that according to Wikipedia make up 3.2 million words. Yup, 3.2 million words. That’s a lot of words.
Fortunately, it’s fantastic.
What we’re looking at here is a massive series, not just in terms of word count, but also in terms of world building—it spans thousands of years, several continents, several cultures, a multitude of races, several systems of magic, and a sprawling host of characters. Massive.
But what’s most impressive to me is that despite the insane word count, Malazan is tight. Unlike most high fantasy with 100-pages-to-walk-around-a-bush sections, there are no draggy bits—every word reveals character, builds the world, or moves the story forward. It’s written like a series of interconnecting short storys or novellas that snap together to create a story arc. I get a headache just thinking about creating something like this. Massive respect to Steven Erikson for even undertaking such a massive job, no less pulling it off.
Erikson also trusts his readers—there is no coddling. If a character disappears for three novels and then comes back, there’s no reintroduction or reminder of who that character is. They just show up and it’s up to the reader to remember who they are. The same thing goes for character introductions: There’s no signaling to let you know if this will be a major or minor character. It might be a major character the series will turn on, or the character might die four pages later. You don’t know. You have to pay attention at all times. No coasting.
The same thing goes for the systems of magic. Wizards do magic stuff from the get-go, but the reader has no idea how it works—there are systems, but it’ll take the reader a while to figure them out. In the meantime, you just have to roll with it.
So what’s the Malazan Book of the Fallen about? There’s obviously a lot—a lot—of high fantasy plot happening, but at its heart it’s a meditation on mortality and the choices we make.
If you’re the kind of reader who enjoys being challenged and you like fantasy, definitely give the first book in the series, Gardens of the Moon a shot. Just be prepared to be both awed and confused.
Includes The Incomplete Book of Running, Aching God, The Murderbot Diaries, Lies Sleeping, The Consuming Fire, and Rendezvous with Rama.
Includes Hollywood Dead, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, The Court of Broken Knives, and Port of Shadows.
Includes The Storm Before the Storm, White Trash, Calypso, Tell the Machine Goodnight, Prince of Fools, and Provenance.
Mostly excellent non-fiction in this installment. Includes Fantasyland, The Miracle of Dunkirk, Das Reich, The Undoing Project, Waiting for the Punch, Vacationland and Points of Impact.
Lots of sci-fi in this installment. Includes Retribution, Boomerang, The Collapsing Empire, All Systems Red, and Ninefox Gambit.
A worthy inclusion to the Malazan canon and great high fantasy to disappear into in troubled times.
Includes a mea culpa, Hillbilly Elegy, Gulp, The Stars are Legion, and The Kill Society.
Lots of fiction series in this one. Includes Grunt, 1177 B.C., Louder Than Hell, Smarter Faster Better, The Hanging Tree, Death’s End, Chains of Command, and Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?.
Hey kids, you like epic fantasy? ’Cause I've got some epic fantasy for you.
This installment features grimdark fantasy, peppy astronauts and the Roman Empire. Includes SPQR, And On That Bombshell, The Code Book, Schiit Happened, Beyond Redemption, The Severed Streets, The Martian and Veiled.
Includes The Antidote, One Nation, Under Gods, Losing the Signal, The Todd Glass Situation, The Last Policeman, The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Beacon 23, Killing Pretty and Queen of Fire.
Lots of fantasy and sci-fi in this installment plus a book about sports! Includes Boy on Ice, Difficult Men, Restaurant Man, The Red Line, Cunning Plans, Seveneves, Nemesis Games, Bitter Seeds, The Mechanical, Angles of Attack, and City of Stairs.
Nic is sad about Terry Pratchett's passing. Includes No Land’s Man, Idiot America, Something Coming Through, The Burning Room, Foxglove Summer, and The Dark Defiles.
Things go dark and magical in this installment. Includes So, Anyway…, Yes Please, The Mirror Empire, London Falling, Broken Homes, Perfidia, The Peripheral, Burning Chrome, and the Bel Dame Apocrypha Omnibus.
Lots of good reads in this installment. Includes All Hell Let Loose, Metallica: This Monster Lives, 10% Happier, Onward, Echopraxia, Cibola Burn, The Getaway God, Lock In, The Red: First Light, Terms of Enlistment, and Lines of Departure.
Solid reads abound in this installment of the roundup. Includes Console Wars, Your Inner Fish, Flash Boys, Digital Wars, The Perfect Storm, Tower Lord, By Blood We Live, I am Pilgrim and Lexicon.
Some great reads and a huge disappointment in this installment. Includes The Loudest Voice in the Room, Hatching Twitter, Dogfight, Ancillary Justice, KOP Killer, The Circle, Working God’s Mischief and Where Eagles Dare.
Some solid reading awaits you in this installment. Includes The Outpost, Masters of Doom, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, The Everything Store, Bomber Command, Gods of Guilt, and Low Town.
A slimmer-than-usual book roundup is heavy on the non-fiction, including several must-read titles.
Another book roundup, including some stellar athletes and soldiers, what might be the most jaded, soul-weary protagonist ever, and some grimdark fantasy.
The Core Dump is back! Books were read during the hiatus. Includes The Coldest Winter, Oh, Myyy!, Tough Sh*t, The Revolution Was Televised, The Rook, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Gun Machine, Fortress Frontier, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and The Memory of Light.
From a true patriot to a world-weary detective, a dead god, and a civilization about to sublime from the galaxy, this book roundup spans the gamut. Includes Where Men Win Glory, Wild, Inside the Box, The Black Box, Three Parts Dead, Red Country, and The Hydrogen Sonata.
From the heights of athletic excellence to the depths of depravity, this roundup includes The First 20 Minutes, Double Cross, The Heroin Diaries, Tattoos and Tequila, Dodger, Farthing, and Devil Said Bang.
Includes Wabi-Sabi, Making Things Happen, D-Day, Tallula Rising, Blood Song, The Americans and Amped. All in all, a happy romp through the meadows of literature.
Includes Search Inside Yourself, The Information Diet, Redshirts, The Gone-Away World, Wool, Leviathan Wakes, and Prince of Thorns. One of these may very well change your life.
Includes Shadow Ops: Control Point, The Night Circus, The Hunger Games, Quiet, The Science of Yoga, and Kitchen Confidential. Lots of good stuff in this one.
Includes Angelmaker, The Magicians, Magician King, Iron Council, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Distrust That Particular Flavor, and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. One of these is the most important book of 2011.
Includes The Drop, Ready Player One, Moon Called, Among Others, Excession, Inferno, The Paleo Solution and I am Ozzy.
Includes Sandman Slim, Snuff, The Cold Commands, Reamde, Goodbye Darkness, Steve Jobs and The Psychopath Test.
Some books you might enjoy reading.