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"House of Chains" - Astrobolism!

About "House of Chains"

Previous Entry "House of Chains" Apr. 30th, 2011 @ 11:02 am Next Entry
This is the fourth book in Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen. I really like this series, though what it offers is a bit different than most books I tend to love. Specifically, the prose is fine rather than great. Plot, for me, is more or less irrelevant to whether I like a book, and so I could take or leave Erikson's, which is your normal fat-fantasy "epic." I like his characters, particularly when he places sympathetic ones on different sides of a conflict. I think he has a great sense of humor. The way magic works in his world is weird and all but inexplicable--world-spanning "warrens," like a complex circulatory system, which can be travelled through, sometimes, or can be a source of power--which feels right. But what's best about this series is the sense of scale. By the fourth book the reader is just starting to lock down what tangled political acts happened between the prologue of the first book and the current action, and with every volume, millennia of past history are unrolled. Ancient races and their alien motives and magics are shown to have had fundamentally important effects on the world. One ancient race's warren of ice scoured the peat and prairie warren of another race, mimicking the actions of glaciers in our history. Thousands of years worth of old mistakes and resentments are coming back to haunt the world. Characters are being slotted into the "Deck of Dragons"--a sort of living tarot deck that's a map of ascendant powers--sometimes against their will, which probably isn't a good thing for their hopeful masters...

If all this sounds a bit too complicated, well, it probably is, but that's a great part of its charm.

Oh, I also read a handful of other books between volumes 3 and 4. Most notably, The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi. I should have set aside a few paragraphs to write about it. I consider it brilliant. If Erikson's muted awesomeness is in the long form (a serial drama that draws you in despite being on VHS), Rajaniemi's is compressed like diamonds, the first movie I ever saw on an HD screen. A confection of glittering science fiction. "Sense of wonder" sparking off every page. There's a cool system of economics based on time. There's a detective, and a character modeled on Arsene Lupin. And some literal confections, inside a chocolate shop on Mars.
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