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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen: 1)
Steven Erikson
Tor / $24.95 / 496p
ISBN: 0765310015


If you follow fantasy closely, you will already have heard of Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. First published in 1999 in the U.K., this debut fantasy novel caused some stir with both readers and critics. It's taken almost five years to make it to the U.S. Meanwhile, across the pond, four more books (including the latest, Midnight Tides) have been published. Don't get put off by the idea of an epic fantasy that is only halfway through its planned sequence with volume number 5. The author, a Canadian with a degree (among several) in anthropology who writes under a pen name, is working so far beyond genre convention you need to measure the distance in light years. We'd sooner attempt to reduce the history of China to a logline than try a plot synopsis in this limited space. Enter Malazan and find a fully-realized universe complete with history, mythology, sociology, and thaumatology. It is peopled with characters who are neither black nor white but patterned of gritty grey and shadows and wade through oceans of blood. Erikson gives more than a gentle push to established fantasy boundaries, but, since he is working on such a huge scale, his radical departures are less immediately noticeable than in the work of new fantasists like China Mi&eague;ville. This may well be the reason U.S. publishers took so long to pick-up the books. Profits lie in fluffy fantasy and costume melodramas and there's nothing safe about fantasy like this: intriguing, complex, thought provoking, exceedingly well-written, and, for the intelligent reader, exhilaratingly satisfying.

--review originally appeared in Cinemafantastique June/July 2004

I didn't have room to rant about the cover in CFQ, but will here. The Tor cover, to use the technical term, sucks. Oh, it's not the fault of the talented artist -- it's a gorgeously executed painting. It is just so insulting wrong for this book. It's worse than the old fashioned "stick a barely clad chickie on the front" school of sf/f/h art -- at least that approach is honestly prurient. If U.S. fantasy readers reject Malazan, it may be because this cover will attract exactly the wrong readers: those looking for "fluffy fantasy and costume melodramas." I, for one, would never have bought this book with this cover had I been browsing.

Here, below, are the U.S. cover (left), the original U.K. cover, and the U.K. paperback cover (right). The U.K. versions are striking and appropriate for the book.
Cover Cover Cover
Will Tor redeem itself with the mass market pb cover (due out January 2005) or the second book Deadhouse Gates (to be released February 1, 2005)? Probably not. Meanwhile, here's the U.K. cover (left). To the right is an all-purpose sf/f "cover." Let's just hope Tor does better than this.
Cover Cover

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Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.