Malazan Empire: Two paths diverged in Malazan--ICE and SE - Malazan Empire

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Two paths diverged in Malazan--ICE and SE

#1 User is offline   gandrin 

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 05:36 PM

So now that ICE is successfully churning out really enjoyable books, we see two vastly different approaches to the story.

SPOILERS? -- I'll speak in generalities to avoid spoilers, but I am going to refer to the other series.




SE has taken on a REALLY hard task of a clever manipulation of myth in the Kharkanas trilogy, to change our preconceptions while making several deep philosophical statements. This makes for very deep and thought provoking reading...but also has a really hard time earning new fans.
ICE has decided to show us some cool stuff we heard about, and throw in a bunch of "special guests" to get the audience to clap when they enter on stage (even if the scene really doesn't have anything to do with the story).

Which is better? A couple of years ago we thought about this, and while we were happy to have the ICE stories we found them a bit thin, and the MBotF was really the canon and incomparable. Now we might have to reconsider.

SE had to delay his third book because Fall of Light sold poorly. He is writing slowly. For inexplicable reasons he has forgotten to put characters we actually LIKE into his books (quick, name 4 people from Fall of Light that you actually LIKE). Also, I didn't really like The Willful Child books very much. If feel a lot like a James Cameron fan, getting angry that he decided scuba diving was so cool--think of all the awesome movies we could have had in the 1990's!

On the contrary, ICE has momentum, and although the books are not as rich they are quite fun to read.

It is as if SE is trying to prove some philosophical point and avoiding "fanboy" material, whereas ICE is just coming up with fun stories and teasing us with characters.
The prime example is that in these books we get up close and personal with Dancer and Kellanved, whereas in Kharkanas we are told from the outset that it is "not a book about Rake", who remains just as distant as ever.

So my point here is really to applaud ICE, and to implore SE to remember that humor, heroism, "really cool events" were the mainstay in MBotF. So many awesome characters! ICE is doing that and it's working. It's pulling the story along and attracting readers. The problem with Kharkanas is that it's just too....dark. It's not much fun. Of course I'll still read it, but, to be honest, I'm much more excited about ICE's next book.
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#2 User is offline   Puck 

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 06:46 PM

I'm going to be in the minority and disagree with pretty much everything here. I understand and see why people currently prefer ICE over SE, but for me personally, I wish SE would continue to write the Kharkanas stuff because I do actually, seriously like it (and I can name you ten characters I active enjoy and probably a bunch more I find interesting in there). I LOVE the "not about Rake approach", because when it was initially anounced that there will be a whole trilogy about the Tiste civil war everyone thought it would be one scene after another of Rake kicking ass and being majorly badass and I'm happy as a kitten that SE went against delivering simply what people wanted to see. This has always been his approach and this is (similarly to Bakker) the reason why I love him as a author. The MBotF isn't just about humor and heroism and he spent ten books trying to drive that message home. And I want more of that. If I want humor or heroism and really cool stuff happening, I can go read the Black Company series, which pretty much runs on that first and foremost and I think Cook is a better writer than ICE.

I don't think there needs to be a reevaluation of who's better. That makes no sense. They cater to different tastes, and it just so happens that after years of floundering about ICE has now found his niche and it's a lucky time for him that it happened after SE was done with the MBotF. I think ICE, as co-creator of the Malazanverse, deserves the attention he is getting now, but I also think it's not fair to either of them to call for reevaluating what SE has done. The guy has written ten massive books within twelve years and brought the series to a satisfying conclusion, thus as far as I am concerned, he has earned himself the right to take his damn freaking time with writing and to write what he damn well pleases to. It is my right as a reader to like it or not like it and to either spend my money on it or not (though I do, on every damn word).

I don't understand this need to juggle who's more important based on who's more productive at this very moment. It's not like there aren't any other books and authors to read out there and SE and ICE are both the creators of these stories we so love. They have two vastly different approaches to writing: one aims to stick the entire thing on its head and one aims to please the fan crowd. And I think both are fine, just read what you like. I for one am not and have never been particularly interested in the early days of the empire and the young Dancer and Kel, or Dassem's family issues, but that's not a reason to question ICE's right to write what he wants and I think the same should be true for SE, unless the hidden message here is supposed to be that authors own their fans to write what the fans want them to.

ICE is not better because he now writes faster than SE does now. His books are shorter and much less dense than what SE was writing a couple years ago and he was still churning them out each year. As I said, he's earned his right to write as slowly as he wants now, and ICE is welcome to being the more prominent Malazan-themed author as far as I'm concerned. That's just life and things change, but I don't think time in itself changes the quality of something we enjoyed when it was new and fresh. There's a reason the MBotF is so well suited for rereads.

This post has been edited by Puck: 13 July 2018 - 06:54 PM

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#3 User is offline   worry 

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 07:25 PM

There isn't a character in Fall of Light I didn't like.
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#4 User is offline   gandrin 

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 08:05 PM

I can hardly remember any character’s names from Kharkanas, save those from MBotF, let alone feel like I “know” them like in other books. Conversely, I am shocked when I see quotes in here from MBotF characters I don’t remember— I feel I should remember everybody! And I haven’t read MBofF in over 5 years.

I still prefer SE, just not Kharkanas.

My point is that SE acts like it’s a surprise the books didn’t sell, when he goes out of his way to make them as miserable as possible and actively avoids doing what everybody wants, just to prove a point. I get it. I get it. Their society was decrepit. Is there no glimmer of hope? Somebody to cheer for other than the two derelict guards turned Hust legion?

From reading his FB post about Karsa, I think that won’t be repeated in the other trilogy.

And I disagree that “humor and heroism” diminish a work or weren’t part of MBotF. It is the catharsis, triumphs, and stunning valedictions that I remember still, many years later. Too many to name. I frankly don’t care about anybody (main characters) in Kharkanas anymore except Arathan. And he’s a bit of a jerk himself. No, there are a few more. His dad’s pretty cool too, for instance. But there is no comparison.
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#5 User is offline   Puck 

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 09:29 PM

View Postgandrin, on 13 July 2018 - 08:05 PM, said:

My point is that SE acts like it’s a surprise the books didn’t sell, when he goes out of his way to make them as miserable as possible and actively avoids doing what everybody wants, just to prove a point. I get it. I get it. Their society was decrepit. Is there no glimmer of hope? Somebody to cheer for other than the two derelict guards turned Hust legion?


That's not what you said, though. I do actually agree with that point. I don't think he should be surprised it doesn't sell all that great considering what he writes. It's just that the vast majority of readers want light happy fare. I don't, so I love Kharkanas to bits (I'd love it just for that rant about art Kadaspala delivers in FoD, if I had to). That said, again, it's not what you said up there.

View Postgandrin, on 13 July 2018 - 08:05 PM, said:

And I disagree that “humor and heroism” diminish a work or weren’t part of MBotF. It is the catharsis, triumphs, and stunning valedictions that I remember still, many years later. Too many to name. I frankly don’t care about anybody (main characters) in Kharkanas anymore except Arathan. And he’s a bit of a jerk himself. No, there are a few more. His dad’s pretty cool too, for instance. But there is no comparison.


I never said any of that. Neither did I say that humor and heroism dimish a work nor that they aren't a part of the MBotF. They don't and they are. All I said is that they're not the central theme of the series but elements of it and that if I want them to central to a story, I know of authors, like Glen Cook, who do put them front and centre rather than to use them to transport a philosophical theme as SE does. They're also not the primary reason I love the series so much because I'm more someone who enjoys quiet character work which shows a deep understanding of the human nature and all that it brings with it, pretty and ugly.

Also, I personally feel a deep connection to certain characters from the Kharkanas books (that little shit Kadaspala is particularly close to my heart; I could make a whole list, though neither Arathan nor Draconus figure on it) and can both follow and understand their outlook. I am touched by what's going on in these books. I may find some aspects more interesting than others, but the entire Shakespearean slant, tragedy and complicated themes are something that I can relate to. BUT my entire point is, and was in my previous reply, that everyone has their own preferences and connects to different things and I see judging SE for continuing to go in the direction he has slowly been going all this time anyway (after all, many people complain about the philosophising, metaphors and navelgazing in the second part of the MBotF) seems pointless to me. You like what you like and if you like ICE why not just enjoy the fact that he is putting out so much new material at the moment rather than decry the fact that SE is enjoying his foryas into genres and themes he had no opportunity to explore previously?
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#6 User is offline   Zetubal 

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 10:00 PM

I think your initial argument is a tad weird, gandrin. Right now, we're in this unique lucky position where we have two authors who simultaneously work on novels that share a fantastic universe but deliver very different takes on it. ICE has recently hit his stride with the Path to Ascendancy series and continues giving fans what you, from my understanding - crave: A more light-hearted, action-packed style of writing.
SE, on the other hand, uses his time to flesh out the lore and experiment with authorial techniques. His recent article on POV is very insightful in that regard. He doesn't want to do a fan service-ish series from Rake's perspective wherein we follow him as he dishes out badass moment after badass moment because he probably feels that this would ruin the character to some degree. One thing that I feel has always been integral to SE is the consistent way in which he lets us approach certain characters. Rake is always distant, everything we learn about Beak is introspective etc. Sometimes this even gets to the point where SE creates major revelations around changes in perspective (remember how in TtH we're in Nimander's head most of the time and learn to share his doubts about himself - only to get this one glimpse later on about how his companions see and adore the guy?).
Kharkanas, in a way, is the culmination of that. It's a bold move to write a novel with an all-encompassing bleakness to it and make us feel the kind of atmosphere that made the Andii who they are in the MBotF - but I firmly believe that the way SE does it is the only way he believes it can be done - and it's in line with everything that his main series has taught us about characterization.

This post has been edited by Zetubal: 13 July 2018 - 10:58 PM

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#7 User is offline   Esa1996 

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Posted 14 July 2018 - 02:28 PM

View Postgandrin, on 13 July 2018 - 05:36 PM, said:

So my point here is really to applaud ICE, and to implore SE to remember that humor, heroism, "really cool events" were the mainstay in MBotF. So many awesome characters! ICE is doing that and it's working. It's pulling the story along and attracting readers. The problem with Kharkanas is that it's just too....dark. It's not much fun. Of course I'll still read it, but, to be honest, I'm much more excited about ICE's next book.


I agree. The Kharkanas Trilogy has been really boring thus far, especially FoL, whereas Path to Ascendancy has been really fun. I hope Erikson will return to his old writing style for the Karsa Trilogy and keeps that for the last book in the Kharkanas Trilogy, as I just hate the way the Kharkanas Trilogy books have been written thus far.
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#8 User is offline   Puck 

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Posted 15 July 2018 - 02:09 PM

View PostEsa1996, on 14 July 2018 - 02:28 PM, said:

I hope Erikson will return to his old writing style for the Karsa Trilogy and keeps that for the last book in the Kharkanas Trilogy,


I hope not. I mean, even if I didn't like the style of the Kharkanas trilogy, it would still be weird and cheapen it in its entirety if SE chose to change the style two thirds into it for no good reason other than some people complaining.
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#9 User is offline   Esa1996 

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Posted 15 July 2018 - 03:17 PM

View PostPuck, on 15 July 2018 - 02:09 PM, said:

View PostEsa1996, on 14 July 2018 - 02:28 PM, said:

I hope Erikson will return to his old writing style for the Karsa Trilogy and keeps that for the last book in the Kharkanas Trilogy,


I hope not. I mean, even if I didn't like the style of the Kharkanas trilogy, it would still be weird and cheapen it in its entirety if SE chose to change the style two thirds into it for no good reason other than some people complaining.


I almost agree. It would feel stupid reading the series back to back if there's a big change in writing style between the 2nd and the 3rd book, but at the same time I have very little interest in reading another book written the way FoL was written. I don't care for philosophy unless it's very densely said (Bringing up some interesting point is fine but I don't want to read five pages of inner monologue about it), and there was little else in FoL IMO. K'rul's chapters were epic, and I also liked Osserc. What glimpses we got of Rake, Silchas and Draconus were also nice, but apart from those there was very little in the book that held any interest to me. Even things that I would have thought to be interesting (Scabandari, Hood...) were rendered painfully dull by the abundance of philosophical musing.

This post has been edited by Esa1996: 15 July 2018 - 03:17 PM

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#10 User is offline   Puck 

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Posted 15 July 2018 - 09:52 PM

Then don't read it? Get a synopsis somewhere if you want to know what happens? I don't understand this completionism. If I can't stand a series as much as you with the Kharkanas trilogy, I just drop it and find something else, and yes, I don't/wouldn't care that it's Malazan. I dropped ICE's initial series like a hot potato after Stonewielder because I couldn't be bothered with his style.
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#11 User is offline   Esa1996 

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Posted 16 July 2018 - 09:43 PM

View PostPuck, on 15 July 2018 - 09:52 PM, said:

Then don't read it? Get a synopsis somewhere if you want to know what happens? I don't understand this completionism. If I can't stand a series as much as you with the Kharkanas trilogy, I just drop it and find something else, and yes, I don't/wouldn't care that it's Malazan. I dropped ICE's initial series like a hot potato after Stonewielder because I couldn't be bothered with his style.


I want to know what happens but I also want to know how it happens so a mere synopsis won't do. Leaving the book unread is also something I can't do as the knowledge that I left a series unfinished would bother me forever. I'm not expecting to like the writing once WiS finally gets written and released, but, as it's the last book in the trilogy, I'm expecting the plot to be a bit more action packed than it was in FoD and FoL which should be a good thing.

As for completionsim? Well, I guess that applies to me very well. I've never quit a book halfway through and the only series I've ever decided to quit without finishing is Wars of Light and Shadow (And despite deciding not to continue with the series, I eventually ended up reading it to it's end and I haven't regretted that decision as it was, in the end, a very good series).

This post has been edited by Esa1996: 16 July 2018 - 09:45 PM

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#12 User is offline   blackzoid 

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Posted 17 July 2018 - 06:40 PM

I strongly agree that the Kharkanas trilogy is too gloomy but I really dont want a tone change for the 3rd book. It would read as off-kilter and odd to suddenly change tack in the last volumne. I guess I am a bit of a completionist myself. I always assumed that the Karsa trilogy would have a major tonal difference to the Tiste trilogy anyway afterwards. I also would have preferred that SE finish the Tiste trilogy first as I think it may be harder to get back into the same mindset when he eventually comes back to finish the trilogy. (if he ever does)

This post has been edited by blackzoid: 17 July 2018 - 06:41 PM

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#13 User is offline   Esa1996 

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Posted 19 July 2018 - 08:53 PM

View Postblackzoid, on 17 July 2018 - 06:40 PM, said:

I strongly agree that the Kharkanas trilogy is too gloomy but I really dont want a tone change for the 3rd book. It would read as off-kilter and odd to suddenly change tack in the last volumne. I guess I am a bit of a completionist myself. I always assumed that the Karsa trilogy would have a major tonal difference to the Tiste trilogy anyway afterwards. I also would have preferred that SE finish the Tiste trilogy first as I think it may be harder to get back into the same mindset when he eventually comes back to finish the trilogy. (if he ever does)


While I haven't been a big fan of the Kharkanas books thus far I must say that I hope he does finish them at some point. I also somehow find it hard to believe that he would actually leave the trilogy unfinished, but at the same time if his agent tells him it's not going to sell whether or not he writes it, it might make things hard for him even if he wants to do it regardless. Were I to make a bet on it I'd say that he will finish it, most likely after the Karsa Trilogy.
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#14 User is offline   Tiste Simeon 

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Posted 20 July 2018 - 12:25 PM

Kharkanas was extremely dense and for someone like me who now only reads for enjoyment I did struggle a bit.

Will I buy WiS when it finally comes out? Course I will. I agree with Puck SE has earned the right to write however he wants and take as much time as he wants.

I'll admit to being quite happy that the Karsa trilogy has taken a step closer but that's more a personal preference - I care a lot more about what happens with him and the follow on from the main series than I ever cared about the history of the Tiste.
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#15 User is offline   worry 

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Posted 20 July 2018 - 06:30 PM

It's still unclear to me if his plan, if he has one, is to do the whole trilogy before Walk in Shadow or just the first Karsa.
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#16 User is offline   Esa1996 

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Posted 20 July 2018 - 08:14 PM

 Luv2B_Sassy, on 20 July 2018 - 06:30 PM, said:

It's still unclear to me if his plan, if he has one, is to do the whole trilogy before Walk in Shadow or just the first Karsa.


I've been wondering about this too. Finishing the Karsa Trilogy first would make him only have to do one switch from an incomplete series, but finishing Kharkanas after Karsa 1 would get Kharkanas finished and leave him free to concentrate on nothing but the Karsa Trilogy.
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#17 User is offline   Avernite 

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Posted 28 July 2018 - 04:37 PM

I think Kharkanas has a fatal flaw, at least in terms of audience: it is tragedy through and through.
This is not like MBotF, which is tragedy with sparks of light. The Chain of Dogs was a tragedy, but some of the characters we loved lived (after a fashion). Two of the Parans survive the whole way through the series. And when in the MBotF the Hust were sent off to die to a man, they did so in a seemingly epic struggle. The Shore was held, even if the conflict was stupid and devoured an entire race/people or two.
In Kharkanas, basically everything fails and things just fall apart. It is possible that the triumphs of the third book could win it those sparks of light, because tragedy with sparks of light is to me a better story than the action-packed story with nearly only winners that the path to ascendancy has, but well, it does need those sparks.

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#18 User is offline   gandrin 

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Posted 10 August 2018 - 08:21 PM

I think I'm more middle ground than the two Kharkanas readers' factions. First of all, I have no problem with philosophical musings. It reminds me quite a bit of how Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and then God Emperor of Dune became progressively philosophical. As a 13 year old I didn't like it. But as a 30 year old re-reader I thought it was awesome. On the other hand, I think many of this (obviously very biased, since we are the ones who post to the malazanempire forum) group take the approach of orthodoxy, that what SE does is by its very nature excellent (justifying belittling ICE's stuff because it's not dense enough).

But let's not forget that MBofF was dense...but it was also FUN TO READ. I don't mean just comic relief (of which there was a TON), I mean 'really cool things' happened. It is 8 years later and I can still remember giggling with glee, or having my breath taken away, at countless little moments throughout the series. These were awesome. Kharkanas has had a few very brief glimpses of those, but mostly in side characters. Seeing the dry sense of humor of some very recognizable Jaghuts, or early Azathanai, or ... well I guess I cannot say much since this would be spoilers. But anyway, there certainly were moments. But they were so fleeting, and the characters involved were essentially "special guest stars" placed there to get the crowd to cheer, but not the main story.

The main story was just plain not fun.

And I disagree that this is a "tragedy" in the classical sense, because part of a tragedy is that you have to develop some attachment to the characters. These are the people you are really cheering for...and then tragedy strikes. Not so here. All the characters we actually like are simply passing through in the scenes, and the POV characters are essentially all people who deserve what is coming and for whom I really felt no attachment. So cold. So mean. No true heroes. These people are going to get what they deserve, and SE is showing us just how far they have fallen. What fun!

On the other hand, what I find absolutely brilliant is his reconstruction of history. So much of what we thought would happen is actually lies/propaganda/misunderstanding. So clever!

That's why SE simply MUST FINISH THE SERIES, because do any of us have any idea what actually happened with the Shadow realm? It is talked about as some cataclysmic disaster that still reverberates, and probably led to the problems with Tiam in the TCG as well as the underlying theme of Deadhouse Landing. What in the world happened?!?! It has been so pervasive since the beginning, that I must assume SE and ICE have it well planned. I am dying to know what it is.

The next series will be great I'm sure (because, Karsa), but it really has a much more simple premise (Karsa was never all that subtle). I'm willing to wait a bit to see what happened with Shadow. But I'd like it to be sooner than later.
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#19 User is offline   Salt-Man Z 

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Posted 13 August 2018 - 05:22 AM

My $0.02:

ICE has absolutely hit his stride with the PtA series, no doubt about it. They are fun, they're easy to read, and it's cool recognizing and rooting for characters we know. But for as enjoyable as the books have been, I have not found them particularly memorable. Right now, I could barely tell you what happens in the first two books beyond a one- or two-sentence summary of each.

As for SE, agreed that the Khark books are not as enjoyable to read as MBotF. They are dense and difficult and not particularly fun. But I find a stark beauty to them all the same in the way SE works with both language and myth. What sticks with me from the Khark books is not necessarily the plot (outside a small handful of very cool scenes) but the mood, the atmosphere; they feel like they have real substance, not just the (still enjoyable) popcorn fluffiness of PtA.

This post has been edited by Salt-Man Z: 13 August 2018 - 05:23 AM

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#20 User is offline   Yastru 

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Posted 24 September 2018 - 11:57 AM

I hope he finishes the trilogy after Karsa 1, and i hope he just does himself on Karsa as well. I love it to bits, its Shakespearean and fantastic and
i want to see how the myth and everything in it plays out. And some fucked up things are about to come. I positively shiver at Draconus going Draconus and Rake going Rake in the grand finale.
I dont want whiny ppl to cheat me of that. If you dont like it, dont whine, go read Esslemont. I did. And love them too. Especialy the Kellanved trilogy. But If any author in the world deserves my trust its Erikson.
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