I really wouldn’t say that Martin is “all around competent”. While I really enjoy his depiction of the Western Kingdoms or whatever the main continent where the main events take place is called, his depiction of the Eastern nations really leave a lot to be desired, because they’re totally crap and the way he writes them makes them seem like they’re made entirely out of paper without anywhere as much history and lore as the main setting. A single castle in the main setting has more history to it than entire cities in the East.
I don’t know if it’s because his interest in medieval kingdoms doesn’t extend to the Middle East and Asia, but they’re pretty bad, at least in the first three books. I don’t know if it gets any better in the 4th book. I’ll be controversial and suggest that maybe Martin just doesn’t really think much of Asian cultures. Who knows?
Erikson, on the other hand, I tried because of the recommendations here. In keeping with the recommendation, I skipped Gardens of the Moon and went straight for Deadhouse Gates. I couldn’t make it more than about 50 pages in. I initially blamed it on the fact that I wasn’t starting at the beginning, but I later found out that most of that uncompelling, nonsensical shit that kicks off the book is actually the introduction of new characters, locations, and plots, unrelated to the events of the first book. So while I wouldn’t say I hate Erikson per se, I don’t ever intend to give him another try.
Of course it’s unrelated to the events of the first book. They’re happening simultaniously on two different continents. Do you really need that spelled out for you? It even says so in the beginning of the book. That’s as bad as faulting Alistair Reynolds for doing the same thing with Revelation Space and Chasm City.
Furthermore, I think that the argument people often level against Erikson, in that his characters are “uncompelling” by contrast to Martin is fucking bullshit. Just because he puts a lot more effort into the setting and plot doesn’t make his characters any less compelling. It’s like arguing that better graphics result in less gameplay, and people do argue this a lot. For shitty, uncompelling characters, one needn’t look further than Tolkien, and I dare say that the world Erikson envisioned is far more compelling that Tolkien’s numerous trees.
Erikson managed to create a fantasy world totally unlike anything else, with characters and a setting that doesn’t happen to be plucked out of a generic European kingdom. Not that there’s anything with Martin doing it. Martin does it very well.
I’d also like to reiterate the fact that the poll is more retarded than a Darwin Award winner for being so incredibly polarized.