Archive for May, 2007

Reaper’s Gale

Steven Erikson has – once more – managed to do what few people in the world can do with competence, let alone genuine inspiration: he has written a fantastic fabulous book in which every plot strand lives up to its promise. This may sound like a modest achievement, except for the bit where its actually pretty rare – there is always something which rings false. And except for the bit where Erikson has about 200 times more plot strands than average.

Most books begin well – interesting-sounding characters and situations are introduced and you settle down to see what happens to them. Usually, once you are reasonably familiar with the world the writer does various bits of misdirection, of setting up a situation and then dashing expectations. This may work to surprise and delight the reader or it may annoy you and make you wish you had stopped reading when the plot started turning trite. If the first say 20 Agatha Christies you read work in the first way, by the time you have read a few more you can pretty much pick out the murderer in every succeeding book as soon as he or she is introduced.

With every page Steven Erikson sets up new expectations and with every page he subverts one of your expectations in a delicious and unexpected way. Seven books down, Erikson’s plotting is so meticulous that I am neither bored nor in any position to guess the end. Reaper’s Gale kept me on tenterhooks right through – between the immediate plots and the long range plots and the characters old and new and the jokes and the neat, unassuming writing. (It is such a relief not to have to wade through florid descritions that have no bearing on the plot. For those of you who like your fantasy farcical there is lots of Tehol and Bugg. And Erikson is getting better and better with the comedy. There is something so irresistible when you can tell that a writer you like is giggling himself or herself silly as they write.) When the final twist is one so wonderful that it never even occurred to you; when you should’ve seen it coming because now you think of it all the evidence pointed that way but you didn’t ‘cos its just that twisted and Erikson is that much more loony than you are; when it is funny and touching and ironic, that, comrades-in-reading, is happily ever after.

In other news the monsoon seems to have hit; and I haven’t been able to breathe through my nose for days. Also I walked through what felt like miles of thigh-deep sewage water to get home a couple of nights ago and can inform those of you who haven’t done this before that in a flood the actual rain water is cooler than the sewage water, which is kinda warmish. So if you find yourself in a flood, follow the cool water – unless of course you happen to be walking in sewage water out of choice.

That’s all folks.

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May 29, 2007 at 10:41 am 1 comment


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This work by Shalini Srinivasan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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