I am not sure that I have read fantasy series less interested in providing the reader with the physics of its world than Gardens of the Moon. Erikson is clearly interested in blowing up generic conventions – there are no elves or dwarves, and at least one non-human race (but one closely aligned with at least one human faction) is insectoid. (Reminders of Mieville’s Perdido Street Station pop into my head).
Why did I find this novel so fascinating then? GoT “blows up” the fantasy genre, rather easily actually, but it still creates a world that is mostly recognizable (remember, it’s the War of the Roses with dragons,said those who like John Snow know nothing).
This novel pretty much ignores all genre convention – hell, I’m not sure there were any gardens on the moon that inhabits the title – creating a world that at times feels completely disconnected from anything I’ve ever read. A short list:
- There are the long dead and resurrected, but they are creatures with fantastic powers that others are trying to awaken. After being awakened, and portrayed as ominously lurking on the horizon, they are defeated, almost easily.
- There are entire battalions of mages, easily defeated by anti-magic swords and explosives.
- There are demons from other realms that appear and then disappear.
- There are competing gods, with competing weapons and waxing and waning powers.
- There are intensively powerful figures who cannot defeat some that seem simple and goofy and humble.
- There are guilds of assassins that compete with each other, and are available for bid.
- There are empires that I didn’t even glance at a map to follow, and a glossary that sort of summed up what I already knew.
- There is an obsession with ancient knowledge, but when that ancient knowledge arrives it is not nearly as impotent or even wise as readers might expect.
As is perhaps clear, this will require more work.