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Despite the fact this Bauchelain and Korbal Broach (and Emancipor Reese) novella is the latest to hit the streets (in Britain, no less), this tale chronologically actually falls between Blood Follows and The Healthy Dead In fact, I've the sneaking suspicion there may be yet another novella between this one and The Healthy Dead yet to come. Either way, I look forward to reuniting with the dark threesome in whatever escapade it may be. Now, on to the tale in question.
The Lees of Laughter's End is actually one of the most convoluted short books I've ever read. Not a mass of double crossings and it's-so-complex-and-thick-and-filled-with-so-many-names-my-head-hurts convoluted. No, not that. Just the overwhelmingly bad-timing-coincidences-that-couldn't-possibly-make-matters-worse-than-they already-are-but, oh-my, they-sure-can kind of convoluted. 115 pages of every kind of mishap and circumstantial survival by all (who do survive) even gets to Bauchelain and Korbal Broach this time, forcing the indomitable due of death to actually defend themselves. And it's all so delightful! Amidst the galore of stumbling, bumbling accidents and coincidents and the quadrupling of every single one of Murphy's Laws, we still are party to the wonderfully astute observations on life and death offered within the minds of both the uneducated Mancy and the well-educated Bauchelain. Some of the most penetrating observations of life and its mores (many ridiculous, some not) are made by Emancipor, both whilst under the influence of his senses-numbing drugs and while clear headed - a state he rarely wished to remain in.
There are Erikson's trademark gods, magic-wielders, warriors, soldiers; his fierce magics and awesome weaponry; his historical depth, soldier's wisdom (and humor), and Mancy's just plain lucky unluckiness all rolled into this entertaining romp through a few days at sea. Singular effort on Erikson's part entwines a multitude of tidbits that hold special meaning for steady followers of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, yet pose no dilemma for those new to Erikson's wiles. Further terrific writing gets stellar names, vernacular, dialogue, POV, and banter to work throughout a telling of horrific events. Short, simple prose keeps the learning curve easy - so easy, in fact, I marvel at the mind that can pen both the complex and mind-bogglingly deep Malazan Book of the Fallen and these short, sweet, novellas that hint at humor as much as they hint at horror, silently working all the while in the shadow of the massive creation of all that is Malazan hovering about.
It is hard to describe an entirely dark book - filled with necromancer, lich, summoner, witch, ghost, god, demon, deep sea creature, vengeance, paranoia, greed, hatred - as lighthearted; but it sure fits. As fellow fantasist James Barclay (in another stellar Introduction to an Erikson novella) says, we "just know that [Erikson] had enormous fun writing it." This book rates a powerful 9.0 out of 10 points for me!
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