In which I excerpt a conversation between Baruk, master alchemist, and Kruppe, petty thief and spymaster, originally recorded in Toll the Hounds, the eighth installment in The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Baruk’s comments are in green.
K: Kruppe asks this: witness two scenes. In one, an angry, bitter man beats another man to death in an alley in the Gadrobi District. In another, a man of vast wealth conspires with equally wealthy compatriots to raise yet again the price grain, making the cost of simple bread so prohibitive that families starve, are led into lives of crime, and die young. Are both acts of violence?
B: In only one of those examples will you find blood on a man’s hands.
K: True, deplorable as such stains are.
B: There are countless constructs whereby the wealthy man might claim innocence. Mitigating circumstances, unexpected costs of production, the law of supply and demand, and so on.
K: Indeed, a plethora of justifications, making the waters so very murky, and who then sees the blood?
B: And yet, destitution results with all its misery, its stresses and anxieties, its foul vapours of the soul. It can be said that the wealthy grain merchant wages subtle war.
Fantasy often gets a bad rap, but I enjoy Steve Erikson’s forays into history, economics, politics and ethics, made all the more enjoyable by his highly literate style.