„Gods below!“ exclaimed Benner, as the earth itself split asunder beneath the Thing’s footfalls. „What is that?“
„A K’Plark-T’Pang Tyrant“, answered his comrade Mel. „They used to reign over this warren for millions of years, until they went extinct, or at least so I thought.“
„Gods below!“ exlaimed Benner.
„Even if this is the only survivor, its mere existence threatens all existence as we know it!“ uttered Jahkors.
„My tea has grown lukewarm“, interjected Princess Jaya, „Please brew another pot for me, handmaid, I don’t like it this way.“
„Gods below!“ exclaimed Wruthkar.
„Would you not like me to dispose of the K’Plark T’Pang Tyrant before, your Majesty?“ asked the handmaid.
„Most certainly not! Do you expect me to drink lukewarm tea while watching you save all existence as we know it?“
„Gods below!“ exclaimed Kollas Trular.
„Well, I guess I could try“, volunteered Marsh Degunt.
„How can you hope to defeat such a being that incorporates the sheer force of Chaos itself, a thing that not even the combined power of all the Eleint and the Bamerach Geral stood a chance against?“ asked Corporal Bastan.
„Well… I’m a god, after all“, answered Degunt.
„Gods below!“ exclaimed Festral.
„You are?“ said Brula. „That’s funny, so am I. What’s your aspect?“
„Rain“, said Degunt.
„Well“, said Brula, „mine is-„
A quarrel from Jas the Older’s crossbow hit her right in the forehead.
„Why“, piped Princess Jaya, „Whatever did you do that for?“
„Gods“, spat Jas the Older. „Can’t stand the dirty fuckers. Always meddling in us mortals‘ business, always pushing and shoving. But I’ve had enought of their immortal crap, so I kill ‚em whenever I see ‚em. Teach ‚em to mess with humans!“
„Doesn’t that kind of mean you’d have to kill Degunt as well?“ asked Perses.
„Nahh“, grunted Jas the Older. „He’s alright. Shared his canteen with me back in the Hejakannson Campaign.“
„Gods below!“ exclaimed Benner.
„So“, said Hajukar Nebralos, „What shall we do about yonder monster, you reckon?“
„I don’t think anyone could stand a chance against such might. Not even the Ancient -„
A rattling sound erupted from Mel, spasm surged through him, his limbs jumping. His eyes were wide open, filling with blood, while his face was quickly swelling, his flesh splitting.
„Gods below!“ exclaimed Benner, as his comrade jerked upright, blood draining from his fingertips, bony projections pushing through his face, and tearing sounds burst from under his clothing, as more bones thrust past skin, and the ground beneath him seemed to crack open.
Degunt took a step back and stared at Mel, who was by now mostly gone, and in his place, rising up from the broken earth below, a stained wrist thick as as the bole of an ancient tree. The hand had pushed through his body as through an ill-fitting glove.
„Oh dear“, said the princess, „if this thing breaks thorugh completely, it might upset our kettle. Would you mind doing something about that, handmaid?“
A mound was rising – an entire hill – splitting the hard ground before them. The tree at the spring thrashed, and on its long-dead branches green suddenly sprouted. Rock exploded from a a ridge fifty paces to the south. A gleaming boulder rocked into view.
„Is that … a forehead?“ muttered Jas the older, cocking his crossbow..
„Sure, majesty, just be a dear and mind the kettle for a while, will you?“
„If I must.“
The handmaiden jumped towards the shattered bedrock in a giant leap and vanished in dust and gravel. A few seconds passed before an infernal scream tore through the air, icy air swept over them, and the earth seemed to moan as the gigantic hand directly in front of them grew suddenly motionless. The tree, tilted precariously, slowed its manic shivering, its branches now burdened with leaves of jade and huged globes of fruit.
The handmaid returned.
„Was your tea endangered, Majesty?“ she asked, slightly out of breath.
„Not at all“, answered the princess, „but please do continue taking care of it, it’s such a bother.“
„Gods below!“ exclaimed Fragulah Kohn.
The K’Plark-T’Pang Tyrant regarded the plain that stretched out before him, and contemplated the destruction it would now visit upon the world for having kept it imprisoned for such long aeons. Its reign of terror would begin anew, its ancient power would devour their puny new gods like an avalanche engulfs the puny huts and fortifications they considered protection from forces they could never fathom.
The low rumble of its laughter shook the warrens as it took another step forward, stumbled, hit its head upon a pointy rock and died.
Did you enjoy that? If so, you might want to check out Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. 3,300,026 words on 10,891 pages in 10 volumes of basically this. Better, of course, but basically the same.
Erikson has great style, and if I even had one tenth of his talent, I would be grateful for the rest of my life. He single-handedly reformed the fantasy-genre, and his writing is simultaneously profound and funny, sometimes hilariously so, demanding and entertaining, but he somehow manages the trick to be boring, repetitive, and sometimes outright frustrating at the same time. His oeuvre (Yes, I know, is that a word, or what?) is too huge for me to attempt a complete review, but let me offer you some examples:
- The last volume’s Dramatis Personae lists 209 persons, and that’s just those appearing in that book. And they’re all the same, except for a very few like the brillantly insane Lord of Shadow Ammanas, or the brillantly insane Letheri King Tehol Beddict, or the brillantly insane Elder God Kruppe, or the brillantly insane… well, let’s say there are two different characters in Eriksons books, and they are shared between more than 200 persons, so that gets confusing after a while.
- When a monster or some other antagonist is built up as a humongous threat of epic proportions and is then stopped by some guy dropping an anvil on its head, that might be funny and/or surprising the first time, and maybe even the second, if enough time passes in between. If it happens to every single threat in your story, you might consider the danger that the reader will stop taking your threats seriously.
- Yes, showing the horrors of war is an honorable undertaking, but boring the reader to tears with never-ending pages and pages and pages of the same slaughter, mechanically repeated time and time again, until (I’m not exaggerating!) no one knows where to step anymore without standing on some corpse’s face, you run the risk of having too much of a good thing and making your reader tired instead of shocked and horrified.
- It’s not always a bad idea to keep your readers guessing and not hand them every information in some kind of cheap exposition, and a fantasy universe functions by its own rules, but if those basic rules are completely inconsistent and there is no way to even make out a noticeable difference between someone you call an Elder God and just some guy on a street corner, and if there is no way for your readers to even estimate the outcome of any conflict because any mortal human can just spontaneously become invincible and all-powerful at any time, while gods and dragons and legendary monsters die like flies, you endanger their connection to your story (compare pont 2. above).
Nevertheless: If you have a high tolerance for confusion and tedious repetition, there’s no doubt that the Malazan Book of the Fallen will be one of your greatest literary experiences, and even if you can’t, I seriously recommend that you check it out. Erikson’s prose is rousing, his dialogues original and clever, his stories are the definition of epic fantasy, his plots are tensely-woven, gritty and detailed, and his deep understanding of history, culture and military strategy strengthens his fictional world without hitting you on the nose with his research.
Erikson’s shortcomings drive me to distraction and made me sometimes foam at the mouth, but I still remember Deadhouse Gates and Midnight Tides as two of the best and most inspiring stories ever told. Klingt komisch, ist aber so.