July 17, 2016
I have a hypothesis. For some authors there comes a time when success becomes a liability.
My recent reading consisted, in part, of slogging through Ian Esslemont’s “Dancer’s Lament” and Steven Erikson’s “Fall of Light.” These two books are a couple data points of observable phenomena supporting my hypothesis.
“Dancer’s Lament” suggests Esslemont has taken a step back as a writer. Additionally I suspect the book was rushed to publication. It is clear from various hiccups that the manuscript required at least one more proof-reading. The blame for that may fall more on the publisher than the author. But the writing itself displayed certain weaknesses of execution, with characters reaching conclusions unsupported by the evidence presented and at odds with their own reasoning, Esslemont forcing the issue rather than taking another stab at the scene. It stinks of “it’s good enough.” I know that smell all too well. I try to fight it in my own writing, and I know from Esslemont’s previous outings that he’s better than that.
“Fall of Light” hints at an author allowed to indulge himself. To excess. “Fall of Light” is nearly 850 pages of bloat, Erikson wallowing in his penchant for orotund phrasing, his sentences replete with tautology. He’s striving for something Shakespearean. There’s a certain nobility in the effort, I suppose. But page after endless page of maundering navel gazing, portentous and pretentious philosophizing, grows tedious. And of course it doesn’t help that I tend to disagree with his mouthpieces’ pronouncements more often than I agree. Erikson excels at humor. Sadly the humor is infrequent and the plotlines involving the most amusing characters are left for resolution in the next volume.
It tells you something of my appreciation for Erikson’s output that I fully intend to wade into the next book. Esslemont’s as well. I am aboard the Malazan train for the long haul, occasional dull stretches through monotonous countryside notwithstanding.
Usual caveat: I’ve got no business criticizing my betters, minor (with a capital M, and maybe a few more letters) scribbler that I am. But these are my thoughts, and this is my web log. Make of it what you will.