Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Bonehunters

by Steven Erikson


Erikson has thus far managed to overcome the problems that most epic fantasy writers suffer from and keep his series of six hundred page door stop novels from getting bogged down in detail or overwhelmed by the huge number of subplots and secondary characters. Unfortunately in The Bonehunters (the sixth in what will eventually be a ten book series) signs start to appear of such a deterioration.


To be fair he hasn't become Robert Jordan just yet, a lot happens in this book but while the earlier entries worked as standalone novels as well as part of the series, The Bonehunters consists of individual scenes and setpieces unrelated to one another that feel just like events and plot points that Erikson has to check off before we can get to the good stuff at the end of the story. And in true epic fantasy style the characters take their damn time moving from plot point to plot point, I was sick and tired of 'trekking through the desert' scenes by the end. At least when the characters arrive where they're going the action scenes still contain everything that fans of the series love, which is to say lots of shit getting fucked up by absurdly bad assed heroes and villains.


As a whole the book was still fun to read, but didn't meet the standards set by the series so far. However most long fantasy series' suffer from 'middle book syndrome' and I remain hopeful that later episodes will continue to satisfy as the overall story arc begins to descend towards what should be a fucking intense climax.


Erikson keeps the real world subtext coming again in this book. The last book, Midnight Tides, made its primary villain an aggressively capitalist, expansionist empire that had more than a few similarities with the USA. This book reveals more about the plans of the series' ultimate villain, the Crippled God, whose promises of redemption after death in exchange for suffering on Earth are clearly meant to be uncharitable interpretations of Christian beliefs (or those of Abrahamic religions in general). This commentary is supported by more than a few soliloquies by primary characters regarding the ultimately harmful nature of any brand of religion. Even in a world where gods are provably and unavoidably real, promising devotion to an all powerful being who sits by and lets mortals suffer in this fallen existence is not only irrational but morally suspect. Jesus and Mohammad may not literally stalk the desert themselves deliberately spreading war and disease as the gods in this book do, but the analogy is pretty much spot on.

5 comments:

Will said...

Excellent analysis! The multi-tome epic fantasy world is a difficult world to navigate through.

andrew brown said...

lol bonerhunters

Jon said...

Thanks Will, and uh, thanks Andrew...

Jungle Rhino said...

Actually I must get down to the shop and pick this up. Damn good series this. What I want to know is how does he think of his names... he's so good at it!

Jon said...

Yeah it's not as good as his other books but it's still Erikson, names and all.