January 28, 2011
Review: "Memories of Ice" By Steven Erikson
This novel brings the reader back to the continent of 'Genabackis' with the Malazan Army, specifically the 'Bridgeburners' and their charismatic commanders, 'Dujek One-Arm' and 'Whiskeyjack.' These great characters were first introduced in the series' first novel, Gardens of the Moon. There's some really dramatic and action-packed sequences associated with the siege and battle for the large city of Capustan. The Malazan Army and its allies are tasked with trying to retake the city from its conqueror, the horridly evil Pannion Seer and his minions. By the end of the book, I had shed some tears several times. Erikson really knows how to spin a tale, and at times his characters and plotting can really tug at the heart-strings. Also, in reading Memories of Ice, the reader gains an incredible amount of insight and information associated with several other significant plot-lines, characters, and history of some of the other species and races that populate the previous novels. In fact, sections of this novel reminded me of some of the fascinating accounts of hominid evolution and the ecological and archaeological evidence of Neandertal and early modern human life and interactions during the ice ages of 50,000 to 30,000 years ago. This really reflects Erikson's professional background as an archaeologist and his obvious love of anthropology and archaeology, and contributes mightily, and quite authentically, to the 'world-building' in this series.
While some things do become more clear for the reader with Memories of Ice, at the same time Mr. Erikson, in a very workman-like fashion, creates a whole host of new plot-lines, raises new questions, creates new mysteries, and develops fiendishly clever new issues that torture and torment the reader. Also, I have to say that each of these books just gets better and better; and is more complex and complicated, leaving the reader gasping and grasping for more. This is so uncharacteristic of most fantasy series where the strongest representative in the sequence is typically the first or second books, and the rest in a series tend to decline appreciably both in content and quality. Erikson's "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" series just seems to grow exponentially in quality. A very rare thing indeed!
Finally, if you've read the first two books in the series I probably don't have to tell you this, but read these books carefully. Pay attention to the information that Erikson gives you, think carefully about things said and done by the characters--everything means something! Erikson is famous for foreshadowing events and actions to come, but you have to figure it out. While some things may seem completely inexplicable to the reader now, rest easy and try not to panic for all will be eventually made clear with time. To reiterate, in my opinion Mr. Erikson may well be the most clever and creative author that I have ever encountered. Pay attention!