It might be that with the state of the world these days you want to take your mind off things. A great way to accomplish that is with epic fantasy. And there’s no fantasy series more epic than the awesome Malazan Book of the Fallen series.
But if you’ve already read all 3.2 million words—yes, 3.2 million words spread out into ten novels, which is a lot of words—of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series and are jonesing for more, I bring you good news!
If you’re not familiar with it, the Malazan Book of the Fallen is a high fantasy series that spans a world and a history of a world and ultimately is a haunting meditation on the meaning of mortality. The sheer scope of Malazan is mind-blowing and that Steven Erikson pulled it off is incredible.
The series starts with Gardens of the Moon, which will leave you utterly confused and enthralled. It’s not an easy read, but magnificent.
But if you’ve already read Malazan and want more—and why wouldn’t you want more, the world of Malazan is so rich and deep—Erikson’s co-creator of the universe, Ian C. Esslemont, has written a six-series cycle called Novels of the Malazan Empire that take place in the same time frame but with different characters—though there is some overlap—and tells a different set of stories that tie in to the main stories of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.
As an aside here, I’m not a Dungeons and Dragons guy, mostly because we were not aware of it in the small Swedish town where I grew up. If I had only known, I’m sure I would have been one of those guys, but I wasn’t introduced to D&D until I went to college in the States, at which point in my life I was much more interested in hanging around night clubs making feeble attempts at dating women.
My biggest frustration with a lot of fantasy is that it feels like some guy—it’s usually a guy—wrote down his awesome D&D campaign and unless you’re that guy, it actually isn’t that interesting because the characters came out of a D&D campaign and are one-dimensional and boring to everybody but you.
Not so Erikson and Esselmont. They have myriad—perhaps too many, even—characters, and a lot of those characters are quite interesting.
However, Erikson and Esselmont have, to put it mildly, different writing styles. Erikson has found the elusive Epic knob on his keyboard and turned it to 11, while Esselmont writes more prosaically. Not that Esselmont is a bad writer by any means, but he hasn’t found that Epic knob Erikson did.
But Esselmont does grow as a writer as Novels of the Malazan Empire goes on.
Night of Knives is frustrating, as it’s told through the viewpoints of characters who have no idea what’s going on and thus you as the reader have very little idea what’s going on, and Esselmont’s prose in this novel is pretty rough. If it was a stand-alone there’s no way I could recommend it.
But then he finds his stride and the series picks up steam. So don’t let Night of Knives put you off—it gets much better.
As a whole, Novels of the Malazan Empire is satisfying and a worthy inclusion in the canon. And despite being less Epic than Erikson, Esselmont does use much fewer words, so these are more normal-length novels instead of the bricks that make up the Malazan Book of the Fallen.
Obviously, this series is not where you should start, but if like me you find yourself jonesing for another shot of Malazan, dive in to Novels of the Malazan Empire to find out more about the Forkrul, the Stormguard and the Crimson Guard.
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.