Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gardens Of The Moon, Steven Erikson

Gardens Of The Moon
Steven Erikson

Gardens of the Moon is book 1 of a projected ten volume fantasy series. It's full of action and warfare, magic, political intrigue, assassins, thieves, and so on. It was recommended by a friend, so I ordered a copy from

As it happens, what we have here is a HUGE pile of back story. Erikson's history is vast and deep. His notes about any single place he mentions - and he mentions a lot of places - must include at least 5 or 6 conquests spread out among the various races that have peopled his planet. If you want a world with history, this one has it.

But that's about all it's got. His characters are mostly cardboard cut-outs, with very little in the way of real depth, and despite the fact that they live in a world with all that history, we never understand it. Facts from that history are thrown at us as if we should know them, but there is no cohesive way to piece them together. And it gets worse. There are maps at the front of the book, but they don't cover everything described, and it was only at the very end that I learned one of the major characters was "2 continents away" from where she'd started out. Excuse me?

There are many different groups or individuals that could be viewed as major characters, but we have very little to go on for motivations, and they mostly react to things going on around them. Some of those potential major characters are on stage only briefly throughout the course of the novel, so we don't really even know if they're important. And as for that plot they're supposed to be a part of, it's almost a random series of events. Things - sometimes very improbable things that we as readers have no way to know anything about or anticipate - just happen, and these people (or creatures, or gods, or whatever) are bounced about like pieces on a checker board during a 6.5 earthquake. Whenever one of those potentially important characters winds up in a precarious position, we find ourselves introduced to a new player who gets him or her out of the jam. Sometimes those new players are mortals, other times they're not. Usually we had no idea they even existed when they are slapped in our face.

Another thing that pushes characters about is magic. Vast quantities of totally unexplained magic. We don't even get good descriptions of what is going on when magic is involved. And (of course) there are a zillion different types of magic - and a flock of gods, some current, some ancient, and some dead, but all (apparently) capable of other types of magic - that we're supposed to keep track of. Or maybe Erikson doesn't care that we can't keep track of it. I honestly couldn't say.

In a nutshell I couldn't follow the story, I got tired of the "here's something you didn't know" method of dealing with things, the characters (who could have been memorable) aren't, and it was all just too contrived.

So why did I finish it? I could have quit after 50 or 100 pages, but I didn't. I did regularly put it down - sometimes mid sentence - simply because I was sick of it, but came back and finished it in the end. (It took a while... I've been busy and this hasn't been a fun read.)

At some level I think Erikson has affected me in a manner similar to Martin's Fire & Ice series. There are major issues with it, but I kept reading in the vain hope that I would figure things out, or that it would all make sense at some point. Sadly that point never came.

With Erikson I don't think I'm going to bother continuing. Reading a few reviews on I am convinced that the later volumes are more of the same and I have far too many other things to read to bother with them. That's a shame, but such is life.

Some people will love Gardens of the Moon, but not me.