Wednesday 17 February 2010

Holiday Reading

I'm just awful at packing for holidays.

It's not that I'm not organised; it's not even that I leave it all to the last minute. It's that my priorities, in terms of what I pack, have always been a little... suspect. Essential toiletries and enough clothes to see me through my break often, I'm afraid, tend to fall victim to my mad desire to pack at least one book for every day I'll be away.

I suppose this is some consequence of a lifetime of holidays to the same dull places over and over again. When the Speculative Scotsman was but a wee beastie, my folks would take me, year in, year out, to one historical hotspot or another, to see the same sights I'd seen a hundred times before. I did not, even then, share their fascination with what made the standing stones stand, or how people might have lived in Skara Brae before it was just some excavated remains for gaggles of middle-class tourists to flock towards.

So, I'd bring books. Many, many books. I remember a week in Ireland where I read through every one of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley books, one a day; another break I can hardly remember for the erotic-come-horrific fog of Clive Barker's back catalogue that occupied me while my folks walked and hiked and climbed everything in sight.

Late last year, I was lucky enough to spend an unforgettable week in beautiful little village by the name of Diklo in Croatia - a few miles down the coast from Zadar. As per usual, I packed my suitcase full of books. I had great plans. I was finally going to finish Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. Latterly, I was going to start on Gardens of the Moon, the first volume of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. I brought Christopher Priest, Dan Simmons and Neal Stephenson. The list goes on!

In the end, I read none of the books I'd lugged across Europe with me, because some kind soul had left the three volumes of Steig Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, and my curiosity regarding the most talked about fiction of 2009 got the better of me. I had a great time with them, of course - it's honestly hard not to - but that's perhaps a tale for another day.

For the moment, I have some news. In early March, I'm going on holiday again. I know! Alright for some, isn't it? Well. It's not quite the exciting international jaunt that Diklo was, but I'm sure between me, my lovely other half and the massive bag of books I'll be bringing, a grand old time will be had. For one thing, it's the perfect opportunity to get a start on one or two of the countless SF&F sequences that I haven't yet had the pleasure of.

Now that we're all caught up, then, my point: readers, I want you to help me choose between which of the many series I have lurking in my library I should cart up to Skye with me.

In no particular order, then, the contenders...

The Deepgate Codex
by Alan Campbell
(Comprising Scar Night, Iron
Angel, God of Clocks)

The Braided Path
by Chris Wooding
(Comprising Weavers Of Saramyr,
The Skein Of Lament, The Ascendancy Veil)

The Malazan Book of the Fallen
by Steven Erikson
(Comprising Gardens of the Moon,
Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice)

The Castle
by Steph Swainston
(Comprising The Year of Our War,
No Present Like Time, The Modern World)

The Book of All Hours
by Hal Duncan
(Comprising Vellum and Ink)

So there we have it. Five choices. And it's all up to you, readers!

I make no promises - I'll be taking up a bunch of forthcoming books for review on TSS too - but I'll certainly do my damndest to make a dent in at least one classic genre sequence. And whatever I read while I'm holiday, I'll report back on when I return.

I'm a terribly indecisive creature, so please do help me out here, ladies and gents - cast your votes either in the comments or on Twitter, to @niallalot - or God knows, I'll end up taking them all and then there won't be room for anything else in my luggage.



  1. Chris Wooding's The Braided Path is excellent! I read it in separate volumes a few years back then passed them on, but have since bought the omnibus as I want to re-read the series. It is original, well-written and very hard to put down! Also, the 'baddies' are very, very evil indeed - always a bonus! Highly recommended!

  2. My vote is for the Deepgate Codex which is just wild fun. And it is complete, unlike Erickson or Swainston.

  3. I think all are good choices really. However, I would put Erikson top of the list, it being one of the heavyweight series in epic fantasy. And if you love it, you will really love it. The comment on in not being complete is a bit beside the point, as the final instalment of the main arc is out this year, and it is unlikely you will get through the nine previous ones before then. The Swainston is also sort of complete, in that the three books published so far can be taken as a trilogy. But then I like incomplete series anyway, as you can be involved in more speculation.
    Deepgate is quite good, but I didn't think it was anything special, and it deteriorated.

  4. Here's a vote for Garden's of the Moon. I loved it. The series will blow you away as long as you're willing to work a little for it.

  5. Already, that's two votes for The Malazan Book of the Fallen and one each for The Braided Path and The Deepgate Codex.

    Keep it coming, guys!

    @Martin - The Swainston isn't complete? Are you referring to the prequel, Above the Snowline, or is there still more to come?

    That is a vote against The Castle series. At least the of Erikson's series is in sight...

  6. I think Swainston has plans for as many as ten Castle books, assuming she's allowed to write them, but I don't think that omnibus requires a sequel. Though I wouldn't know, since I haven't read The Modern World.

    Anyway, I do like Swainston, so that's my vote, with second-place pick being Campbell.

    (I am travelling tomorrow, and facing the same problem. Likely picks: Ark, Stephen Baxter; Blackmoor, Edward Hogan; The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NK Jemisin; Ruby's Spoon, Anna Lawrence Pietoni; and The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Dexter Palmer.)

  7. Well my point of view is slightly skewed because i havent read any of them except Erikson but still:

    Steven Erikson is the greatest fantasy writer in existence . . . okay maybe not quite but pretty darn close.

    Greg's coment is pretty well said. I will always love steven erikson's work. I would love a review on Campbell as well, his books look interesting.

  8. Well, if you have the time on your hands why not attack the first three books in the Malazan series? Each one is superb and taken together form a quite fantastic trilogy. I haven't read the others in the series which I should get around to doing but since each weighs in at around 900 pages it is quite hard to find the time.

    Last year I read Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding which turned out to be an absolutely fantastic book. So, if that is anything to go by I am sure The Braided Path trilogy would be also be good fun.

  9. It is probably just me, I get edgy when things aren't finished. I'm sure the omnibus of The Castle is self-contained enough though.

  10. I was really disappointed with Vellum so I haven't read Ink, but perhaps the second book vindicates the first.

    The Braided Path sounds interesting, so I suppose I cast my vote in favour of that. *grins*

  11. Tons of great picks to choose from, but when I saw Memories of Ice, I knew where I was going. Its that kind of Glen Cook / James Barclay feel that I love, only much broader than either of the previous two.

  12. I liked Vellum (though I still haven't read Ink) and I'd like to vote for that, but (for the reasons Greg gave above) it would probably make sense to start on Malazan.

  13. Deepgate Codex trilogy: the first two are stoaters

  14. Not at all sure how to count either Iain's or Aishwarya's recommendations, but let's go with half measures for the moment.

    The tally thus far has The Malazan Book of the Fallen leading the pack with five votes to two for each of The Braided Path and The Deepgate Codex, with The Book of All Hours and Steph Swainston's first three Castle books trailing on a single vote.

    A clear leader has emerged, then, and so soon. I'd probably better get buying the rest of Steven Erikson's books, in that case; I only have the first.

  15. The Malazans have got me through several foreign trips, so if you had to pick one set, I'd pick those... Why not take the first volumes of each, though? That way, if you don't get on with them there's something else to move on to, and if you do then you have the rest to look forward to the next time you travel...

    (And yes, there's one other set on there that would make me tear my hair out if I was stuck in a small seaside village with only them to read, as attractive as they looked before I started reading them!)

  16. I'm going to vote for The Deepgate Codex. I really really hate how good british covers are.

  17. I add my voice to the choice of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Erikson's work is totally worth all those pages. Altough Gardens of the Moon is not the easiest read, it will probably be a good start to get you addicted, and then there will be Memories of Ice... great time ahead of you.

  18. I'm saying Alan Campbell too! I have the first and want to know whether they're worth reading :-)

  19. Alan Campbell, I've had my eyes on these for a while.

  20. Steven Erikson +1000, Just re-read Deadhouse gates for the 6th time the "chain of dogs" is just amazing high fantasy

  21. I noticed the Twilight series wasn't on the list. What gives?!?

    Well, since you don't have those paragons of modern fantasy on your list, I guess I'll throw my votes for Vellum/Ink. I'm a sucker for anything to do with Armageddon, and dream of someday writing my own end-of-the-world novel.

    I'd be curious about the Malazan series. I've heard incredible things, but I'm reluctant to commit to a series with something like 800 books in it.

  22. Malazan Malazan Malazan! It's not true that you won't finish the 9 books before the 10th is out (based on how quickly you seem to get through books) but it doesn't matter - the series is so good it improves on re-reads. I totally agree with the comment re Chain Of Dogs in Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice is amazing as well. It took me about 4 months in 2009 to read all the 9 books plus ICE's Malazan novels and I loved every minute. A MUST read.

  23. Steven Erikson's prose is among the most fluent reads of my life, but it's also quite good at that. It's something that can be noted when considering the high page count. I'm more in the middle-ground though, not in the "love or hate" fraction. Nuances are fun.

  24. I'm honestly beside myself at the response from the community about something as insignificant as what I'm going to read on me holidays. Thanks to everyone who's played the game so far!

    Another update on the scores:

    The Malazan Book of the Fallen - 10
    The Deepgate Codex - 6
    The Braided Path - 3
    The Book of All Hours - 2
    The Castle Omnibus - 1

    Poor Steph Swainston!

    Still, it's looking like Alan Campbell and Steven Erikson are rather clearing the board. Maybe I'll take the first books of both series since there's obviously adequate interest in coverage of each.

    @James - Yes, I know, a massive oversight on my part. Obviously I haven't mentioned the eseteemed Twilight saga because I've already read and loved its every word.

    Is anyone buying that? ;)

  25. The Deepgate Codex gets my vote. Its a fantastic series.

  26. I think I'm probably too late to vote, but if not, mine goes to The Book of All Hours. I envy you your reading time!! ;)

  27. I find it to be incredibly unfair that you've had the fortune to see Skara Brae (and standing stones!) and have such a completely apathetic attitude about it.

    Ho hum.

  28. I'd vote for Hal Duncan's books as I have them on my shelf yet to be cracked open, but it seems pointless as they are getting destroyed. So I vote for the Deepgate Codex instead.

  29. Rather late, but my vote would go to The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series. Erikson is an amazing author and his books are riveting reads.