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M. E. Parker (Newcastle, England)

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Reaper's Gale (Malazan Book of the Fallen)
Reaper's Gale (Malazan Book of the Fallen)
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Paperback

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 19 July 2007
There is no better author in this genre, past or present, than Erikson. The Malazan series is prolific for the epic fantasy genre in its scope, integrity, and intellectual value, the latter of which standing as the author's most inspiring quality. To me, what makes a fantasy writer great is their ability to make an entirely new world, with fictitious races and magic, credible and believable; to achieve this and furthermore add the grit of 'real politick', emotional depth, and interesting characterisation makes for an exceptional read. The majority of the fantasy genre suffers from being too simplistic in the way people, be them individuals or races, are cast; crass definitions of good and evil, and sickeningly obvious, righteoeus heros, are the traditional exponents of fantasy. This is not so with Erikson. There is substance to the narrative, oftentimes to a very grim reality, and he writes with an almost philosophical flavour which is at times breathtaking.

The main problem with Erikson's work stems from his ambition. The sheer scope of what he is trying to achieve with this series is almost impossible to clearly commit to the written word - his work has no obvious central plot line, or central character, and therefore it fleets between numerous times, places, and people. This fractures the reader's perception of the many, many details and concepts Erikson is attempting to push upon the reader. I happen to think that this actually lends Erikson's work conviction, as it makes it real. Life tends not follow a clearly defined path, and is often confusing. But Erikson's ability to bring the reader back to his way of thinking, even when you're seemingly lost, is one of unique excellence. The series is testing, and therefore intellectually rewarding.

Reaper's Gale, for me, is the best book in the series since the first, 'Gardens of the Moon'. Whilst 'Deadhouse Gates' and 'Memories of Ice' are certainly credible, and indeed more obvious choices, the strength of 'Reaper's Gale' lies in the pivotal nature of the books substance. It is this book that begins to make extremely important and long plotlines much clearer - the formation of the warrens and relation of magic, the T'lan Imass and Jaghut saga, the reawakening of Master of the Tiles, the re-emergence of Silchas Ruin and his secrets, more insight into the history of the malazan empire including the Bridgeburners, Lasseen, and Kellanved and Dancer - are just several of the main threads attended to in this book. It is also bolder in its portrayal of some of the darker characters in the Malazan series in visceral battles, deeply uncomfortable scenes of abuse, and bitter tragedy. The book is brilliant, the series is brilliant, and I recommend it without reservation to anyone seeking a challenging but deeply rewarding read.

The Bonehunters: Malazan Book Of Fallen 6 (The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
The Bonehunters: Malazan Book Of Fallen 6 (The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Paperback

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic on a truly philosophical scale, 10 April 2006
What places Erikson at the forefront of the fantasy genre to date, in my opinion, is not just the sheer scale of what he achieves in the most complex plot and character writing I have ever seen, but in the style with which he does it. I am surprised it has yet to be brought to light, but the poetic and philosphical quality with which Erikson infuses his narrative, is simply astounding. Never before have I seen it done with such skill. Simply, there is nothing more tedious than some obscure narrative voice abstractedly droning on about the state of human nature or moral integrity - but what is beautiful with this entire series is the way Erikson employs each character as an entirely unique voice on many enlightening perspectives - many of which contradict themselves as various characters meet certain revelations. The point being is that in doing so Erikson achieves a profound insight into real thought patterns that are affected by the maelstrom of events taking place in the plot - which, as everyone else has asserted, is verging on the incomprehensible, in its quality of craft and scope.
I am intrigued to read some minor criticisms, which I would flatly refute. Yes, 'The Bonehunters' is a transitionary book - but it is also the most pivotal point in the entire series, and as such, the best written. Why? Without giving any plot away, how Erikson interweaves and conjoins disparate plot lines is indicative of immense skill. The Edur's entrance into the Malazan world is not random as the Midnight Tides ends, hinged onto the expansionist intent of the Emperor of Lether - it is one of the many plot lines that I could see coming a mile off. The book also clearly has a plot of its own which is blatantly pointed out in the title (among further sub-plots added to the foray).
In short, there are few respected fantasy authors that I have not read, and in comparison Erikson has achieved a new standard within the epic genre which I can't see being trumped.
Until, of course, the next one is published...

Astral Weeks
Astral Weeks
Offered by NextDayEntertainment
Price: £4.95

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic genius and musical excellence, 31 Jan. 2006
This review is from: Astral Weeks (Audio CD)
Astral Weeks...
Well I certainly wouldn't be elaborating upon my feelings for this album by saying that I think it is quite simply one of the best musical creations of our generation. This album transcends its successors in both its musical atmosphere, which in itself captures a lost idealism of the late sixties, and in its lyricism. Morrison has never been questioned with regards to his ability to infuse a song with the most beautiful and poetic lyrics, but what is sometimes in question is his ability to contain such powerful lyrics within his music - in Astral Weeks I believe he succeeds in both to such an extent that we never again here the vocal, lyrical, and musical intensity achieved in Astral Weeks, apart from a brief retrospection in 'Veedon Fleece'.
This album provides the greatest insight into what I deem to be the frustrated genius of Van Morrison, in my opinion the greatest singer-songwriter of our time, and I urge anyone remotely interested in experiencing a rare musical treat to get it.
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