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Great Science-Fiction & Fantasy Works • View topic - G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

for discussing authors not listed here, main list or "possibles"

G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby Lucien on Monday, 29 September 2008, 7:10 pm

Hi Eric! I've been reading on and off your site for some time, so I was glad to see the introduction of the forums. The site is a great resource!

You've probably heard of them, but I've been wondering for quite some time if you've read any G.R.R. Martin or Steven Erikson (not Erickson) or considered them for inclusion. A Song of Ice and Fire is Martin's major series. Judging from the first book that I've read (finding the time to read them in succession has been hard), the prose isn't amazing, but it's quite sturdy and the various shifts in perspective allow the writer to flesh out both his protagonists and antagonists. He's good in creating political intrigues and even though some of his places feel needing the look of the Writer-God to come to life, they feel pretty realistic with perhaps a few exceptions.

The main charm of Erikson's Malazan books is the scope of the books and the plethora of characters. It's one of the few times where a so-called huge empire actually felt big, as the characters were removed far away from it, with the centre of the empire being a faint echo except for its special agents; where characters from different walks of life (re)acted according to their powers, knowledge and aims. Not glorifying a war that feels pointless is a nice touch too.

There's been a lot of word of mouth about them during the past years, so I'm curious to know your opinion. Did you find them not worth it or is the to-read list getting too big?
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby Jeroen on Thursday, 30 October 2008, 3:14 pm

I am also curious about these authors. From what I've heard, they are about the best that high epic fantasy has to offer these days.

But I am reluctant to start such lo-o-o-ong series. I prefer standalone books and trilogies are already pushing it. The longest series I have ever read are The Lord of the Rings and Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun. It seems a waste of time to spend so much time on one story while you can read a dozen great ones in the same time. At the other hand, long stories often have the power to drag you in and make themselves a big part of your life, and such a commitment to a story has its rewards. Perhaps, if I end up in a hospital some day and I find myself really bored for months I will tackle those doorstoppers. :)
Last edited by Jeroen on Friday, 28 November 2008, 3:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby owlcroft on Thursday, 27 November 2008, 5:28 am

I have found extracts of each author on the web, and was not excited. Erikson strikes me a YADM (yet another doorstop maker); Martin's prose, praised in some quarters, struck me as awfully flat, indeed outright wooden, and his characterization as taken from "Making two-dimensional characters real by putting quirks and torment into their psyches 101."

Mais chacun a son gout . . . .
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby VictorGijsbers on Wednesday, 24 December 2008, 4:39 pm

Martin is not a good writer, and his prose is indeed wooden (compared to good writers, not so much to the people like Jordan with whom he primarily competes); but he is doing something very interesting nonetheless. As far as I can see, he is destroying the fantasy epic (by which I mean the post-Tolkienian genre including the works of Brooks, Feist, Eddings, Jordan, Goodkind, and indeed most of the best-selling, 5000+ pages fantasy series of the past few decades) by copying the genre faithfully up to a certain point, and then giving it a twist that shows how false all he predecessors were. I once wrote:

But this fourth book made something clear to me that I might have seen earlier if I had been older when I read the previous books (Martin is not a fast writer), but which this fourth book made even more clear: A Song of Ice and Fire is not only the best fantasy epic, it is also the last fantasy epic. Not in the sense that it somehow ensures that people won't write epics anymore, but in the sense that it mercilessly exposes and destroys the ideology of the epic. It takes a traditional kind of narrative, seems to follows its rules to the letter, and then suddenly breaks them where it hurts most.

In A Song of Ice and Fire, being good and honourable, or even kind and innocent, doesn't mean that the author will protect you against evil - it generally means that you will die at the hands of those who are more ruthless. Here, a war doesn't end in victory, glory and things being set right again - it ends in Pyrrhic victories, death, a devastated countryside, plague, famine and horrors untold. Here, in a trial by combat the innocent person can die. As one of the characters was fond of saying: "Life is not a song", and "Knights have no honour".

But Martin's most powerful weapon is protagonist death. Or, in Vincent's words, letting the events in the world decide that someone was a supporting character after all. In A Song of Ice and Fire, focal characters that we have followed for many chapters sometimes die, out of the blue, suddenly, and utterly senselessly and in a deprotagonising way. More than once, I looked at the words in shock an horror as I stammered: "but, but... that wasn't supposed to happen!"

But happen it did. Life is no story. You can hear Martin laughing in the background and saying: "the ideology of the epic is false. You should learn to accept the reality of life, where fate intervenes suddenly and without human concerns. Life is not a song". After A Song of Ice and Fire, all other epics will be recognised by the reader as the lies they are.

(Whether Martin will be able to keep to his anti-ideological stance even when he writes the climax of the series is, of course, as yet unknown. But one can hope. I sincerly hope he'll levae us with both the ruins of Westeros and those of the epic.)


I won't exactly recommend Martin's books. They are liberating if you grew up on writers like Eddings and Jordan and cannot help but read fantastic fiction with their work somewhere in the back of your mind; but they don't have much to give you if you didn't. For the general reader, M. John Harrison's much better Viriconium sequence is surely enough to exorcise the ghosts of bad fantasy plots.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby vancian on Thursday, 22 January 2009, 4:11 pm

I quite enjoy the Song of Fire and Ice books, a guilty pleasure perhaps. I read a lot of these fantasy cycles when I was young and Martin's attempt at subversion allows me to read another without feeling too dirty; most others are so awful I throw them across the room after a few pages.

However, I have become irritated by his Viking and Mongol groups, whatever he calls them. He has followed the usual cliche of basing their whole society on total war. In reality such groups had many strings to their bows and raiding or war was only one - his cardboard cutout portrayals undermine every storyline based in these locations and leaves the characters from these societies looking unconvincing.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby Dudley Dawson on Thursday, 05 February 2009, 11:41 pm

I still haven't quite put my finger on Steven Erikson. I read the Gardens of the Moon and I honestly didn't know what to make of it. The main complaint I've read -- with which I heartily agree --is the fact that the plot is all over the place in the first book, but supposedly it gets better. I'm not entirely sure I want to devote another 1000 pages of reading to make sure of that. Some of the characters and situations were intriguing, but others seemed as though they were carved from cheese. I don't know. I guess we'll see.

Anybody care to try to venture an opinion and sway me?
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby thepaladin on Sunday, 08 February 2009, 12:39 am

I just wasn’t drawn to Steve Erikson when I read the synopsis of his work. Maybe later I’ll try, but I never seem to be caught up on what I have on my shelves anyway. Speaking of that I’ve had the first 4 volumes of Martin’s “epic” on my shelves for a couple of years now and haven’t gotten around to starting them. I plan to...but there are others I want to read first. :roll: Go figure.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby Dudley Dawson on Sunday, 08 February 2009, 2:42 am

You might as well keep on waiting. GRRM writes at a snails pace. I, for one, really enjoyed his books. Whatever critiques there may be about his writing, his plot structure is pretty nicely done. It's a long wait between books, though.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby Jeroen on Wednesday, 22 April 2009, 4:37 am

I have finally found the time to start George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

I am very pleasantly surprised. The first book, although 800 pages, reads very quickly and it does not feel drawn out at all. I think it is a very entertaining story. Martin's writing is nothing special, but it is solid. Consistently adequate. His plotting is very good, I think. You never know what is going to happen, but if it does, it still makes sense. He also has a way of letting you make your own judgements. Where other writers would bluntly tell you the importance of the events you are witnessing ("now this is where something important happens. see how thoroughly I describe this scene? I tell you, my reader, you better watch closely..."), Martin lets the reader interpret the events unfolding.

Also, I like his characters and his dialogues. Good thing too, otherwise such a huge series would be a big bore. Im not worried of his slow writing, for I have 3.5 big books to go. As long as he finishes it, or doesn't pass away before.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby owlcroft on Friday, 24 April 2009, 5:23 am

In A Song of Ice and Fire, being good and honourable, or even kind and innocent, doesn't mean that the author will protect you against evil - it generally means that you will die at the hands of those who are more ruthless. Here, a war doesn't end in victory, glory and things being set right again - it ends in Pyrrhic victories, death, a devastated countryside, plague, famine and horrors untold.

Well, but so do all of the great epics, from the Eddas right through Tolkien and beyond. If Martin is "deconstructing" anything, it's the hebephrenic doorstop fantasy of exactly the sort that those who mock genre literature and its followers have in mind in their mockery. Tolkien, Cabell, Peake, Eddison, Lee, Monaco, even (or perhaps notably) Gemmell--these folk do not deal in "and so Prince Goldenhair ascended the throne and they all lived happily ever after." To deconstruct folk like Eddings or Jordan is scarcely a literary achievement.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby whitetrash on Monday, 29 June 2009, 1:56 pm

Yes both of these guys are great writers and both series are great reads. I enjoy them very much.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby VictorGijsbers on Saturday, 25 July 2009, 7:13 pm

If Martin is "deconstructing" anything, it's the hebephrenic doorstop fantasy of exactly the sort that those who mock genre literature and its followers have in mind in their mockery. ... To deconstruct folk like Eddings or Jordan is scarcely a literary achievement.

Sure, but that is exactly what I said, isn't it?
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby neuroticdog on Sunday, 25 April 2010, 2:32 pm

Hi, new here and wanted to resurrect this old thread.

First off, I have enjoyed reading all the introductory material re. this site and have come away quite inspired to investigate many of the authors held in high esteem here. It's be a while since I've read any sf or fantasy but my interest has been recently sparked due to conversations with friends and other websights (from which I was directed to this one). This is just the sort of comprehensive resource sight I have been looking for.

Anyway, I wanted to jump into the deep end of the fantasy pool with, coincidentally enough, either Steven Erikson or GRRM. I initially decided on Erikson's Malazan series, even buying the first book "Gardens of the Moon" but subsequently decided to give it a miss after reading reviews saying stuff like (paraphrasing) "first three books are amazing, but then a noticeable dropoff in quality possibly due to Erikson's propensity to pump them out" and "plot lines to tangled, to many unresolved scenarios, ridiculously leveled up characters and, basically the need to take notes to keep everything straight in your head".

So, without even reading a word, I decided to make the jump over to G.R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" books, knowing full well that the series is unresolved AND it's been something like 5 years since he's published anything in relation to the tale at hand. (I'm hoping with the green light that HBO has given to film the series, it will give the author possible incentive to finish it...if indeed it's incentive that he needs.)

As of this writing, I'm about 25% into the third book and have been enjoying it greatly! I've come to pretty much expect the unexpected, such as nasty things happening to favorite characters (often described in vivid and visceral ways) and random misdirections concerning peoples identity and motivations. Also, I'm really enjoying the picture I'm getting of medieval society. Lots of political intrigue and backstabbing and a nice combo of what life was like for the have's and the have nots. To me, it reads less like a fantasy and more like an alternate history. The main characters, of which there are numerous are fleshed out very well too. There is very little magic involved, and what there is, is suitably creepy and "black", although, there is the occasional dragon, with, it seems more to come along those lines given the name of the fifth, upcoming book "A Dance with Dragons".

I find this series very readable, with many scenes actually staying imbedded in my mind long after I've read them. I know Martin might not be the greatest wordsmith in the world, but, on the surface at least, these books are a fun way to spend a rainy evening.

best
Michael
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby Jeroen on Monday, 26 April 2010, 7:35 am

I've heard it said that A Song of Ice and Fire is like a lengthy exploration of the nature of power and all the ways people gain, use and lose power. The series certainly has merits. I think the plotting and the characters are really 5 star top notch. I am also glad that the entire series is in fact one single story, as opposed to a book with an endless number of sequels. Martin's way of words never really pleasantly surprised me, it is merely adequate.

I haven't read the fourth book yet. After reading the first, second and third back to back I got tired of it (3000+ pages :shock: ) and needed to read something else. Also, the fourth seems to be a step down in quality from what I've heard. Maybe I will skip some of the viewpoints and focus on the characters I think are the most interesting. Do you think that is doable?

I'm looking forward to the HBO series.

Owlcroft: by reading an extract on the internet, do you feel you get enough of an overview of characterization, plot and setting? It seems to me that one can only get a glimpse of language use that way.
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Re: G.R.R. Martin/ Steven Erikson

Postby owlcroft on Monday, 26 April 2010, 4:38 pm

[B]y reading an extract on the internet, do you feel you get enough of an overview of characterization, plot and setting? It seems to me that one can only get a glimpse of language use that way.

I find it analogous to wine tasting: a small sip or two in the tasting room will only rarely, if ever, be materially contradicted by the experience of consuming an entire bottle of the stuff. To me, at least, prose style is an ever-more-important aspect of what I consider a good book. When I was young, I would slog through mediocre and worse prose to "see what happens", but I find these days that I am far more interested in the pleasures of the trip than in the nature of the destination (so to speak). A wooden or worse prose style typically shows itself in as little as two or three paragraphs (though the samples I encountered were more on the order of a chapter or so).

Moreover, it was not just prose style: the characterizations seemed artificial in the old, literal sense of the word: the product of artifice. It wasn't so much that they were two-dimensional as that they didn't at all feel like "real" people, butrather like constructs created to fill a need of the author's.

Mais chacun à son goût
. . . .
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