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Crack'd Pot Trail: A Malazan Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach Erikson, Steven ( Author ) Sep-13-2011 Paperback [Paperback]

Steven Erikson


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More About the Author

Archaeologist and anthropologist Steven Erikson's debut novel, Gardens of the Moon, was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award and set readers on the epic adventure that is his acclaimed 'The Malazan Book of the Fallen' sequence. He lives in Cornwall and is currently writing The Crippled God - the tenth and final chapter in what has been hailed 'a masterwork of the imagination'. To find out more, visit www.malazanempire.com.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A counterpoint to the glowing reviews 1 Jan 2012
By D. Olson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read and enjoyed both all of the Malazan Book of the Fallen books, and the all of the previous Bauchelain and Korbal Broach books. But this book is so bad that I can't finish it. It starts off with pages and pages and pages and pages of boring descriptions of boring characters, on a boring journey. I'm sure he thought he was being clever. I can see the start of some sort of mocking of the people who review artists (no doubt people like me in this particular review). But in this case, all that resulted was a horribly boring book with stilted writing, hateful characters, and nothing even remotely resembling a single interesting occurance. Quite simply, this is easily the worst book I have tried to read in at least the last 5 years. Do yourself a favor and skip this. Don't let his otherwise fine track record as an author fool you.

If there was a way to demand compensation for the "pain and suffering" inflicted by trying to read this boring book, I would ask for it. If there was a way to get my money back for this travesty, I would. As someone who has been a fan of Erikson's up to this point and who has bought every other book he published, I cannot say how horribly disapointed I am in this. All I can say is "Do NOT buy this". Again, this is not coming from someone who does not like his past work. I own everything and in general loved most of it. But this book is horrible.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Painful 28 Jan 2012
By Dave D - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the books set in the Malazan world...until I got to this one. Suffice it to say that I was very, very disappointed. The other two negative reviews have pretty much summed up the reasons why I don't like this.

If you like Erickson's previous books/stories, download a sample of this first before dropping the 10 bucks. Obviously some readers enjoyed it, so you may as well. But why waste the money if you don't have to? I wish I had thought to look before I jumped
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please avoid 28 Jan 2012
By Riho-Rene Ellermaa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having read all the Malazan books I just went and purchased also this one. If anyone reads this before doing similar thing then head my warning and find something else to read. This book of meager 200 pages costs almost the same as 900 page Crippled God and is 10 times worse. Lots of rambling and drowning the reader to the avalanche of meaningless words and almost no story as such. In one hand it's good that its so short, because the torture to finish it ended quicker. And as I bought Kindle book, then I can't even resell it to some poor unsuspecting soul.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Something Interesting; Something Disappointing 11 Dec 2011
By S. Duke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series took the fantasy world by storm when Gardens of the Moon was published in 1999, leading to a 10-novel epic fantasy series, several additional novels written by Ian Esslemont, and a number of novellas. Earlier this year, Crack'd Pot Trail, a tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, hit the shelves, offering a strangely compelling narrative concept in an over-embellished, long-winded package.

Using the backdrop of the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas, Crack'd Pot Trail follows the Nehemothanai and their artist/pilgrim companions as they continue their hunt of the infamous Bauchelain and Korbal Broach (a less-than-reputable pair, to say the least). Stuck traversing the wasteland of the Crack'd Pot Trail with dwindling resources, the artists are pitted against themselves in a feat of narrative prowess: whoever tells the worst tale may become the next meal.
The question becomes: Who can play the narrative game with cunning and skill, and who will flounder in a sea of their own artistic deficiencies?

Crack'd Pot Trail does two interesting things:

It draws upon a rich history of larger narratives told through artists weaving miniature tales.
It provides a meant-to-be-humorous, if not disturbing, scenario involving cannibalism and artists.
The first of these will become obvious to anyone familiar with Boccaccio's The Decameron or Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (among other stories, new and old). Erikson plays with the narratives-within-a-narrative to examine the nature of the artist as a complex subject -- that is that rather than showing a series of people telling stories, Erikson challenges the nature of the story by deconstructing their origins and their tellers. What Crack'd Pot Trail does well lies in its ability to expose the boundaries of authorship, which may interest non-traditional fantasy readers more than those who come to fantasy for an adventure (this may also be specific to the Malazan readership, since Erikson's work has often been cited as a participant in the nihilistic overthrow of fantasy -- whatever that means).

Erikson, however, explores these questions in a written style which reads as authentic, but comes off as exceedingly convoluted and linguistically excessive. The result is that much of the book is difficult to read, often at the expense of the narrative (within a narrative). Sentences are bloated to a degree that they often have to be re-read in order to capture details or meanings. Such details could easily have been said with greater strength if Erikson wrote with more concision. For example:
Suffice it to say she was the first to set out from the Gates of Nowhere and her manservant Mister Must Ambertroshin, seated on the high bench of the carriage, his face shielded by a broad woven hat, uttered his welcome to the other travelers with a thick-volumed nod, and in this generous instant the conveyance and the old woman presumed within it became an island on wheels round which the others clustered like shrikes and gulls, for as everyone knows, no island truly stays in one place (16).
Or:
Apto rubbed at his face as if needing to convince himself that this was not a fevered nightmare (as might haunt all professional critics), and I do imagine that, given the option, he would have fled into the wastes at the first opportunity, not that such an opportunity was forthcoming given Steck Marynd and his perpetually cocked crossbow which even now rested lightly on his lap (he'd done with his pacing by this time) (41).
Or this paragraph:
Is there anything more fraught than family? We do not choose our kin, after all, and even by marriage one finds oneself saddled with a whole gaggle of relations, all gathered to witness the fresh mixing of blood and, if of proper spirit, get appalingly drunk, sufficient to ruin the entire proceedings and to be known thereafter in infamy. For myself, I have always considered this gesture, offered to countless relations on their big day, to be nothing more than protracted revenge, and have of course personally partaken of it many times. Closer to home, as it were, why, every new wife simply adds to the wild, unwieldy clan. The excitement never ends! (150)
The problem isn't that these sentences are meaningless, but that they often distract from the narrative, either because they are exceedingly long (to the point where comprehension becomes difficult) or because they digress into complicated musings about things that, oddly, play little significance in the story. Some digressions are amusing, such as when the narrator criticizes critics, but outside of the dialogue (with exception to when stories are being told), Crack'd Pot Trail is a difficult book to read, without offering the kind of payoff you expect from books with complicated styles (such as one would expect with a Pynchon novel). What should effectively be an exploration of the artist and authorship through the guise of a cannibalistic contest is really a narrative of digressions that seems determined to avoid focus in exchange for abstraction and incompleteness.

This is perhaps why I was disappointed with Crack'd Pot Trail. Erikson sets up a story that should be endlessly hilarious and compelling, but the result is a rambling mess which, to me, seemed to go nowhere because so many of the stories told are never completed. Whereas other narratives with similar forms have provided ample room for continued exploration, Erikson's novel ends without much fanfare or purpose. The main points are easy enough to pick out, but I found myself unwilling to traipse through the prose to make the additional connections that would lend strength to Crack'd Pot Trail's narrative (there are interesting connections to make, though). Instead, I got to the end of the book, after two weeks of struggling, without much interest in looking at it again -- a feeling I don't wish to have when reading anything, in part because negative critical reviews are the least entertaining to write (in most cases).

Crack'd Pot Trail leaves a lot to be desired. Fans of the Malazan series may love this particular book, yet I can't help feeling that a lot of people will come out of reading this book with similar opinions as myself. I'd recommend sticking with the regular series, where Erikson weaves a better tale.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected, But Brilliant 23 Sep 2011
By Alan Edwards - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'll warn you now: this is not a typical Erikson story. Yes, it is a tale in the Malazan world. Yes, it is a story concerning Korbal Broach and Bauchelain. Yes, it is funny and gripping and incredibly well-written in the normal Erikson manner. But this is a two sided story, and there are times where the barrier separating the two sides is thin enough to be non-existent.

On the one hand, it's a story of the hunters pursuing the pair of villified necromancers and their manservant. The straight-forward story of their travels - with a group of pilgrims seeking the Indifferent God and artists traveling to the annual awarding of the award to the best poet, bard, dancer, or what-have you - is excellent, gripping, and absolutely full of surprises and twists and laugh-out-loud exchanges and asides. But I do have to warn you - this book CONCERNS the hunted necromancers, but is not necessarily ABOUT them. They are barely in it at all, actually, so I thought it worth the warning. However, the story cannot exist without them. The story does a good job on its own examining what is good and what is evil, and how each side perceives itself juxtaposed by their actual actions.

But it's the other side of the story that elevates this to one of my all-time favorites. The other side of the coin is a commentary on art, and artists, and their fans and critics and the indifferent world around them. The commentary is at times vicious and brutal and hilarious. Take, for instance, the annual awarding of the title Artist of the Century, an obvious (sledgehammer obvious, as Erikson notes through the mouth of his characters in the story) commentary on the hyperbolic nature of the Flavor of the Moment. Erikson examines and comments on everything around the world of art, from the haughty pretentiousness of the artists and their propensity to steal and piss all over everyone else to stay on top, to the critics who criticize because they can't create the art they feel necessary to pass judgment over, to the fans who consume their artists and then parade around with their severed heads on the hands, making the jaws work and emitting "poety noises" (which made me think of fanfic writers).

The commentary is obvious and ham-fisted at times, but unapologetically so. This is the story Erikson wanted to write, and the only stories a writer can write are the ones they know. This book is not for everyone - by which I mean, not everyone is going to like it. However, it is a story I think everyone should read, whether we're fellow writers, critics, fans, or the indifferent world. It made me think and laugh and spun a hell of a good yarn all at the same time. I couldn't ask for anything more.
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