It’s scheduled to be a 10 book series when all is said and done, with each book standing alone to a certain degree. When I got the first three, I found myself with about 2,800 pages of fiction sitting in front of me, which was a bit offputting. Stubborn, I tucked into the first one. Three chapters in and I was totally hooked.
The plotlines echo Glen Cook, and in particular the Black Company and Dread Empire books. Erikson attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and Glen Cook hit pretty much every SF convention in that area; I’d be surprised if Erikson wasn’t a Cook fan. However, the writing style is quite different: Erikson’s prose has an elegant sheen which betrays his history in the mainstream literary arena. (Erikson is a pseudonym; his other publisher asked him to use one for his fantasy work.)
I am in the blissful state that comes with knowing I have around 10,000 pages of this stuff ahead of me. A sample, now:
Tattersail tracked the man as he joined his comrade at Hairlock’s side, striving to see through the muck and blood covering his uniform. “Who are you people?”
“Ninth squad, the Second.”
“Ninth?” The breath hissed from her teeth. “You’re Bridgeburners.” Her eyes narrowed on the battered sergeant. “The Ninth. That makes you Whiskeyjack.”
He seemed to flinch.
Tattersail found her mouth dry. She cleared her throat. “I’ve heard of you, of course. I’ve heard the —”
“Doesn’t matter,” he interrupted, his voice grating. “Old stories grow like weeds.”
She rubbed at her face, feeling grime gather under her nails. Bridgeburners. They’d been the old Emperor’s elite, his favorites, but since Laseen’s bloody coup nine years ago they’d been pushed hard into every rat’s nest in sight. Almost a decade of this had cut them down to a single, undermanned division. Among them, names had emerged. The survivors, mostly squad sergeants, names that pushed their way into the Malazan armies on Genabackis, and beyond. Names, spicing the already sweeping legend of Onearm’s Host. Detoran, Antsy, Spindle, Whiskeyjack. Names heavy with glory and bitter with the cynicism that every army feeds on. They carried with them like an emblazoned standard the madness of this unending campaign.