My takeaways from Steven Erikson's "Dust of Dreams"

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It took me a while but finally, I’ve finished the 9th book of Malazan Book of the Fallen. I know how adept Erikson is as a writer but it still amazes me that after so many thick titles, he still manages to maintain the quality he set for himself in the very first book. I will say, picking up this series and getting to know the world of Malazan has been one of the most important decisions of my bibliophile life. Erikson’s influence on me is no joke -- his elegant prose, choice of words, metaphors, similes, plot devices, and exposition -- everything’s topnotch. But among these things, his keen eyes into the history of mankind as an anthropologist shines through. His willingness to tackle some of the controversial histories and breathe new fire in them with his own ideas is noteworthy. I reckon, there will be a time when his name will be hailed among the greatest literary figures.


In Dust of Dreams, he muses about many things. I’d like to summarize a few notes I made throughout my reading.

His remark about civilization (through one of the characters obviously) that it is a “beast that ever faced forward” and “in making its present world it devoured the world to come” and “it had always been so” is something I regularly witness. So do you.

What is the greatest crisis right now? Covid-19? What caused this global pandemic do you think? The virus? Well, it is the agent of that demise, true, but what caused this pandemic is the greed of a few wet market owners who couldn’t just resist the profit despite the fact that there were past outbreaks (SARS) from the very same place. They wanted to make money for NOW and we know what happened.

Then there’s climate change. The scientists knew about the drastic changes that were going to happen but no one actually paid any heed to them and they still don’t. We perhaps still can fight the change and keep things habitable. But geopolitics and billions of dollars in business won’t make it easy for any of us. You see, none of us take this threat seriously. We like to imagine ‘climate change’ is something that will happen in the far future when none of us would be alive. Actually, it’s happening right NOW and even if it wasn’t, what about the future generation that will have to deal with it because of our shortcomings?
That’s right.

“Justice without compassion was the destroyer of morality, a slayer blind to empathy.”

Another quote I liked. But I feel it’s like walking on thin ice. Do you force yourself to grow empathy just to be neutral? Or do you genuinely feel empathy towards a criminal?
What are the dangers of feeling empathy for a criminal? Perhaps, you feeling sorry for them might cause injustice to the victim.
And trying to fake it, well, can you possibly take yourself down to their level and imagine yourself in their shoes? How about your own sanity then? How will you protect it?
Still, empathy is required. And this is the hardest job for a judge. If they are aware of the burden, that is.

“the assault hides a fragile person.”

Now, this one can be taken in both ways. I’m quite sure this is not disguised stoicism as the context it was used in dealt with preemptive attacks, born of fear of loss. I understand that from real-life experience.

Not going to lie, I have been such an attacker myself at one point in my life at a younger age. A false sense of accomplishment and pride led me to it. It takes work to remind myself of the cognitive bias. But seeing so many people trapped in that fragile state only saddens me more.

“But the world had its layers. To the simple it offered simplicity. To the wise it offered profundity.”

I think I understood this when I started reading philosophy. So many concepts went over my head. I couldn’t put my fingers around them. Some, I couldn’t even decipher. Am I a clumsy oaf then? Perhaps, perhaps not. Like Erikson stated, the courageous act is to acknowledge that limitation, however humbling it may be. I don’t shy away from expressing my inabilities. Nor do I boast them. It’s just a way to make a conversation sometimes, haha!

While reading the book, I made a few more notes but they might not be applicable outside of the book.
Also, I haven’t included anything from the story because, after 9 massive books, anything I say will be a spoiler for a potential reader. I don’t mind spoilers but I know many who do!

Well, thanks for reading (if you have that is) this blog and pick up this series if you have the time.


I read the book on my e-reader, and that poster photo up there of a paperback version was sourced from here

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