Malazan Empire: Are the Malazan books pro-military? - Malazan Empire

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Are the Malazan books pro-military?

#1 User is offline   ContrarianMalazanReader 

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Posted 17 April 2021 - 10:20 PM

This is a question I started asking myself as I progressed through the books, and the reasons are:

The military characters are often portrayed in the most flattering light, and if they do unforgivably horrible things, Erikson and Esslemont are quick to brush these aside and spend the rest of the story convincing us that they are better than most people. Case in point Tavore, who sent Felisin to the Otataral mines where nothing good was going to happen to her, and worse she is placed under the care of Baudin who doesn't bother at all protecting Felisin while planning their escape, yet Erikson spends the rest of the series brushing that off and by telling us that Tavore is a deeply compassionate woman who does what's best for everyone. Bullshit!

There are several instances where we learn about military characters who were petty criminals and generally awful until joining the military, and joining the military has made them better people, like that Daru character in OST whose name escapes me who was a petty thug in the streets of Darujhistan, but joining the ranks of the Malazan military has somehow kept his worst traits in check.

Letherii society is portrayed as awful in general, but even then the Letherii military are far more honourable than than everyone else.

Stonewielder features a Dal Hon character who spends a lot of time reflecting upon the difference between a warrior and soldier, and how he used to be a warrior but is now a soldier because he has learned to fight as part of a unit.

Finally the latter books gave me the impression that nothing beats joining the military, and hell, the military should be in charge of everything. I almost expected an afterword from the authors encouraging the readers to join the military.

Is there a reason for the authors to have such a romantic view of the military? AFAIK neither Erikson nor Esslemont have done any military service, so their championing of the military strikes me as odd.
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#2 User is offline   worry 

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Posted 17 April 2021 - 10:56 PM

Not particularly. Next question!
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#3 User is offline   worry 

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Posted 17 April 2021 - 11:17 PM

Just kidding, it's an interesting topic worth exploring. I think the background of the two authors' interests in the military squad as a focus for storytelling -- aside from (non-military) life experience, sf&f, and gaming -- comes in large part from their respective affection for novels & stories (perhaps non-fiction too) set during the Vietnam War.

In terms of MBotF etc., I have a fairly different reading of the text than you do for sure. I don't believe military members are painted in a particularly flattering light, and your examples (Tavore for one) don't strike me as wholly accurately reflecting the text as I read it. That said, there is clear affection for many characters, including (not coincidentally, I'd agree) so many of the marines. I just don't see it as 'flattering' to any significant degree. I'm sure if these stories were set in a busy kitchen, there would be affection for many of the characters, a band-of-brothers-and-sisters camaraderie that shines through, with some real bastards inside and outside that band for contrast, and even some characters who personally reflect on how finding such a band has changed their life for the better. I suppose there's some romance in that, but I don't think it's divorced from reality if that's the connotation you meant it.

This post has been edited by worry: 17 April 2021 - 11:17 PM

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#4 User is offline   ContrarianMalazanReader 

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Posted 18 April 2021 - 04:07 AM

Come to think of it, the only military character that is unequivocally portrayed negatively is Korbolo Dom.
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#5 User is offline   Tsundoku 

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Posted 18 April 2021 - 07:06 AM

 ContrarianMalazanReader, on 18 April 2021 - 04:07 AM, said:

Come to think of it, the only military character that is unequivocally portrayed negatively is Korbolo Dom.


You don't consider Pormqual a military figure?
I can't remember any details at all but wasn't he supposed to have had at least some experience or was he purely a noble appointee? The wiki doesn't go into his background much.
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#6 User is offline   ContrarianMalazanReader 

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Posted 18 April 2021 - 02:31 PM

We're given no info on Pormqual's background, but based on very brief appearance near the end of DG, it's pretty obvious that he didn't have any real training and most likely advanced through connections, which might explain why Laseen decided to cull the nobility, as the rot was starting to set in, but that last part is pure speculation on my behalf so don't take my word for it.

But back to Pormqual, I don't consider him a military character.
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#7 User is offline   D'rek 

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Posted 18 April 2021 - 06:12 PM

Yeah, I think it's a fair statement. There's a lot of "this military force needs to do the military thing to save the world" stories in Malazan, rather than, say, making the world better through international diplomacy and outreach. Though I wouldn't necessarily say that a pro-fantasy-military stance in the books should reflect a pro-real-world-military stance.

 worrywort, on 14 September 2012 - 08:07 PM, said:

I kinda love it when D'rek unleashes her nerd wrath, as I knew she would here. Sorry innocent bystanders, but someone's gotta be the kindling.
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#8 User is offline   ContrarianMalazanReader 

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Posted 18 April 2021 - 08:36 PM

 D, on 18 April 2021 - 06:12 PM, said:

Yeah, I think it's a fair statement. There's a lot of "this military force needs to do the military thing to save the world" stories in Malazan, rather than, say, making the world better through international diplomacy and outreach. Though I wouldn't necessarily say that a pro-fantasy-military stance in the books should reflect a pro-real-world-military stance.


There's also this weird narrative dissonance where most characters agree to themselves and with each other that yes, war is horrible, but in the end the Malazan military are the ones who solve the major conflicts, as they are the ones who rid the world of all the ills originated by the Crippled God, such as the Pannion Domin, Rhulad Sengar's psychotic reign of terror in Lether, thwarting the Forkrul Assail in Kolanse and finally freeing the Crippled God himself, all thanks to Tavore's implausibly intricate planning, so hurray for the military who are the ones that get the job done.

This post has been edited by ContrarianMalazanReader: 19 April 2021 - 04:18 AM

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#9 User is offline   Macros 

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Posted 24 April 2021 - 12:00 PM

The Bridgeburners as basically Team America
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#10 User is offline   Tsundoku 

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Posted 24 April 2021 - 12:13 PM

Fuck yeah!
"Fortune favors the bold, though statistics favor the cautious." - Indomitable Courteous (Icy) Fist, The Palace Job - Patrick Weekes

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#11 User is offline   Keysi 

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Posted 01 May 2021 - 04:45 PM

In one of the podcasts Steve talks about being very anti-war, and that all war films are inherently anti-war. Anti-military is a different yet question though.
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#12 User is offline   Aptorian 

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Posted 01 May 2021 - 06:32 PM

View PostKeysi, on 01 May 2021 - 04:45 PM, said:

In one of the podcasts Steve talks about being very anti-war, and that all war films are inherently anti-war. Anti-military is a different yet question though.


Don't know what Erikson's arguments are here but I think that's just plain wrong. To a person who is against war, you'll identify all the horrors of war and the arguments against it. To the person who is pro-military and gung-ho about nationalism and fighting for your country, a war movie will be a romantic story about people suffering through Hell so good will triumph over evil.

I'll bet you that movies like full metal jacket, saving private Ryan, , Heartbreak Ridge, We were soldiers, etc. has helped recruit more than a few kids.
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#13 User is offline   ContrarianMalazanReader 

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Posted 01 May 2021 - 09:13 PM

View PostKeysi, on 01 May 2021 - 04:45 PM, said:

In one of the podcasts Steve talks about being very anti-war, and that all war films are inherently anti-war. Anti-military is a different yet question though.

As I posted earlier, while everyone agrees that war is horrible, the military characters are the ones who are given the most positive portrayal.

I think it's perfectly possible to be anti-war and pro-military at the same time.
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#14 User is offline   Azath Vitr (D'ivers 

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Posted 01 May 2021 - 09:36 PM

View PostContrarianMalazanReader, on 01 May 2021 - 09:13 PM, said:

View PostKeysi, on 01 May 2021 - 04:45 PM, said:

In one of the podcasts Steve talks about being very anti-war, and that all war films are inherently anti-war. Anti-military is a different yet question though.

As I posted earlier, while everyone agrees that war is horrible, the military characters are the ones who are given the most positive portrayal.



Erikson's paratactic style leaves that up to the reader to a significant extent. From my perspective the portrayals even of Whiskeyjack and the Bridgeburners seemed a bit less positive than, say, Tehol or Kruppe or Anomander... or (like Anomander) various other weapon-wielders who aren't primarily 'military' in the sense of regimented units inside a military organization.

This post has been edited by Azath Vitr (D'ivers: 01 May 2021 - 10:04 PM

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#15 User is offline   Siergiej 

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Posted 03 May 2021 - 05:03 PM

I wouldn't argue against saying that Malazan is pro-military, because yeah, Malazan soldiers and army are portrayed in a flattering way, especially compared to pretty much the entire rest of the world. But I definitely disagree that Tavore is an example of that. Until very far into the series she is generally disliked and distrusted and barely shown to have personality beyond the idea of Cold Iron. And her treatment of Felisin is not brushed off at all. Like, in the culmination of one of the major story arcs, Tavore stabs her. That is both literally and symbolically a summary of their relationship and it's hardly a good look on Tavore.
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#16 User is offline   ContrarianMalazanReader 

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Posted 03 May 2021 - 07:13 PM

View PostSiergiej, on 03 May 2021 - 05:03 PM, said:

And her treatment of Felisin is not brushed off at all. Like, in the culmination of one of the major story arcs, Tavore stabs her. That is both literally and symbolically a summary of their relationship and it's hardly a good look on Tavore.


You mean when she kills Felisin towards the end of HoC? But Tavore didn't know it was Felisin, and doesn't ever learn she killed her own sister.
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#17 User is offline   Siergiej 

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Posted 03 May 2021 - 07:31 PM

But the reader knows that. And we also know from the ending of The Crippled God that Tavore has been haunted by guilt after losing track of Felisin. Also, Felisin's actions as sha'ik were mainly fueled by her rage towards Tavore.

In the end, everyone can judge Tavore for themselves but her treatment of Felisin is by no means brushed off by Erikson. It is foundational to both of their character arcs.
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