(New contributor thegreekdog has arrived; your reading list is squarely in his sights.)
There is some cross-genre pollination as between video gamers, comic readers, and fantasy readers. If you’re knowledgeable about arrow-studded ACLs preventing one from fighting dragons, you’re also likely knowledgeable about the newest Batman retcon, and you’re also angrily awaiting George R.R. Martin’s next book (the dude has to write faster, if only because the HBO show is going to catch up with him). In any event, I spend much of my time reading fantasy and science fiction. I skip around a lot. I may be reading a book published in 2011 (see below) or I may be reading a book published in 1959 (yes, yes, I’m a Philistine for not reading Starship Troopers until now).
In any event, I like classifications for my fantasy reading pleasure. There’s kid fantasy (David Eddings), there’s classic fantasy (LOTR), and there’s realistic fantasy (GRRM or GoT or whatever acronym we’re associating with the overrated series written by a walrus). There’s also realistic and high-falutin’ fantasy. And that brings me to Steven Erikson.
Steven Erikson (a Canadian, but we won’t hold that against him) has written one of the most epic fantasy series I’ve ever read: Malazan Book of the Fallen. If you want more biography, history, etc., hit up Wikipedia.
Erikson writes fantasy novels that are ultra-realstic in the vein of GRRM. People die. People die a lot. People that you care about. That’s surely not the only “realistic” part of realistic fantasy, but that’s the part that gets people like me to keep reading. And Erikson delivers that.
Erikson also delivers to the thinking man a version of philosophy that’s hard to resist (if you’re a thinking man… or woman). Once you get through the first book, which is as ponderous as LOTR and quite hard to follow, you’ll be treated to a treasure trove of great stories and grand philosophical ideas. There’s the mortals turned gods; there’s the philosopher king and his godly assistant; there’s a sergeant that plays the fiddle; there’s a guy that eats too much; and, of course there are dragons. There are discussions of the meaning of life, why people go to war and fight, what it means to sacrifice, and what is love. It’s a funny and intelligent series. It completely took over my personal life for the last six months. And, at the risk of killing your ability to do anything other than read ponderous fantasy, I highly recommend the series.
And, to complete matters, I literally cried real, big boy tears for the entire last two chapters of the last book.
So, start with Gardens of the Moon (published in 1999) and read through The Crippled God (published in 2011). Thank me later.