Saturday, October 25, 2008

Toll the Hounds, Steven Erikson

Steven Erikson's Mazalan Book of the Fallen series has been a phenomenal ride for seven strong books.   When I say strong, I mean like Lance Armstrong endurance strong.  However, with book eight, titled Toll the Hounds, I feel like he really missed his stride, stumbled hard, didn't quite fall - but it was a very, very close call. 

Is it on par with the previous books?  No.  Is it a decent read?  Yes - though I felt mentally exhausted many times while reading the book.

Normally I can blow through an Erikson book in about seven days (weekend to weekend).  Toll the Hounds took me closer to a month to finish.

Where does the book fall short?  Erikson, and many authors, will sometimes establish a large number of seemingly orthogonal plot lines and then weave them into the main plot line when, and where appropriate, even sometimes spanning novels.  Erikson has been highly successful in doing this until Toll the Hounds. There is a limit to which I can handle in the number of plot lines, I don't know what it is, but its probably a magic number contingent on many factors.  Erikson may have come close to this threshold many times, but with Toll the Hounds, he crossed over.

I have a rule that I generally apply to books:  grab my attention in the first 100 pages or so or its done.  I may actually finish the book (a sickness, really), but I've already checked out on it.  With the size of these tomes that are coming out these days, I'll give as much as 250 pages.  Toll the Hounds did not grab my attention, or full on engage me, until around  pages ~535. I was brought out of my induced auto-pilot like reading and we had Erikson in all of his glory for all of about ~100 pages, before falling back into the realm of mediocre.

I still have a huge amount of respect for this work.  You just have to for anyone who can maintain the level of writing that he has for ~5,600 pages before running into any real trouble.  I can go on, and on, but basically it will come out blah, blah, blah - this series has had me grossly entertained to date and I look forward to the next two (?) novels!