Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wrapping up '14

Wow, how can I forget each and every year just how crazy busy December is? There's almost no time to geek out on anything. When night falls, I can barely keep my eyes open to read a good fantasy novel or what have you.

However, last night I had a total geekout when I took my firstborn to witness an orchestra play the music of Star Wars. It was brilliant, though I'll never understand why they omitted playing Han Solo and the Princess, perhaps my favorite theme from the saga. Not complaining, though; we got music from the entire saga and the orchestra performed it flawlessly. In addition, the performance was enhanced by people from the Nordic 501st Legion in full suits. Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Jango Fett, C-3P0 and more made it a memorable night for both father and son. Also, it made me want to get my own high quality suit and join the legion. Oh yes, the Star Wars fanboy in me is fully awake these days and it's probably only going to get more intense in the year to come. Have you felt it?! The dark side...and the light.

Still, A Song of Ice and Fire has a special and large part of my heart as well, despite all the obstacles the franchise throws in my way; the long waits between novels, the half-baked merchandise (okay, okay, there are a few gems as well). Today I visited a LFGS (local friendly game shop) and there was a lot of Game of Thrones-stuff there (particularly all kinds of drinking gadgets - cups, steins, shot glasses...) but I am more fond of the stuff that's based on the books than the TV show. I almost bought the 2015 calendar but eventually I ended up with Steven Erikson's latest novella, The Wurms of Blearmouth, completing my collection of all things Malazan. I wrapped it in gift paper and won't open it until Christmas eve, though. Gives me the time to finish Assassin's Apprentice, Willfull Child and The Companions on the Kindle. So that's one Christmas present down, a whole lot to go. But as always, the best Christmas present would be an announcement on a certain blog that is not a blog about a certain finishing of a certain novel. I'd definitely yell hooray for that.

Before I've often done an "End of the Year" post trying to summarize good geek-stuff from the year. This year I'm going to keep it short. Just like I've felt 2014 has been: Short. Time flies. Here's a list of things I thought made being a geek extra nice in the year that was.

1. Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens teaser trailer
Rekindling my love for the original trilogy with an 88-second blast, the teaser was more than I had hoped for after the soul-crushing disappointment of the prequel trilogy. It has completely occupied my thoughts since it was released two weeks ago, as you might have noticed. I just can't help but love this stuff.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy
What a fun movie that was. I still haven't re-watched it, a blu-ray copy is on my Christmas wish list so I'm hoping to see it again soon (and hopefully it's just as enjoyable then).

3. Legend of Grimrock 2
The only game that has kept me hooked until the grim finish line this year (though this is mostly due to my crappy computer not being good enough to really enjoy a few other promising titles such as Divinity: Original Sin). I love me some dungeon-crawling and this game provides it to the point that I got sick of it.

4. Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools
In my humble opinion the best fantasy novel of the year. I voted for it on the Goodreads Awards.

5. The World of Ice and Fire (at least the half I've read so far)
After all the negative things I've said about this work, it still ended up being a fairly hefty tome of lore, with some absolutely amazing artwork and some very interesting details nestled in there for the starving fan of Ice & Fire.

So...with only five notables, I have to say that 2014 perhaps was a bit of a lean year for the fan of all things nerdy. Dungeons & Dragons returned with its 5th edition but I never felt an impact. A number of fantasy novels were good, but not great (Joe Abercrombie's Half a King deserves a honorable mention). There were probably a lot of great video games (Dragon Age Inquisition perhaps?) but until I can scramble together enough money for a good rig, they are lost to me (boohoo).

2015 on the other hand sounds pretty fantastic already with a new Malazan book from Steven Erikson, that Star Wars movie, a new season of Thrones, and, fingers crossed, maybe please maybe The Winds of Winter? I'm not counting on it, but a man must hope. Valar mohopefulness.

Friday, December 5, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion XI: Dysfunction Prevails

[Spoilers almost from the get-go; read at your own risk]

Five days and my life is still distorted from the disruption of the Star Wars teaser trailer; last night, however, I was able to focus and read another chapter in Assassin's Apprentice as well as another chapter in Willfull Child, and today I'm ready to re-enter the gritty, treacherous, exciting world that George R.R. Martin dreamed up for the enjoyment of us all. It's a good thing it's arguably the story's most entertaining character leading this 78th chapter of A Storm of Swords. If anyone can keep me sane in the aftermath of Black Friday, it's Tyrion Lannister.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

So how goes the game in all of this?

A tantalizing, hype-inducing image of awesomeness and then some! Can't wait.
Right. The whole weekend and the start of this week my brain has been fully dedicated to the Star Wars saga. It's like a virus taking control over a computer! I have watched the teaser trailer countless times, and my feelings about it change all the time, from wonder and amazement and love to worry and skepticism and everything in between. I haven't read one word in any of the books I'm reading, because I have drifted toward Star Wars forums and websites. It overshadows everything else, simply put. That's apparently how important this is to me, even though some part of me tells me to get over it and "it's just a movie" (a sixth diminishing return in fact!) - but the magic of Star Wars is strong and overwhelming. No, not Jar Jar Binks. The originals, man. And, hopefully, these sequels.

Anyway, this also tends to overshadow my love for A Song of Ice and Fire which I technically find a more impressive cultural expression/story, but all I really need to do is go to George's website to get that magical feeling of Westeros to the fore of my brain. I mean, there's this insanely interesting post where George is displeased with a sports team (so he does know what it feels like to be let down by something/someone he is a fan of); he also has no words regarding another sports team; and in case you thought the man had learned anything about treating his fans there's even more Wild Cards to be advertised. Right. Well, say what you will about American football teams not performing well enough, I think George could perform a little better himself. If Martin can be entitled, so can I and any other reader disappointed with the man's lack of progress and the lack of communication with the people who carried him on their shoulders all the way to worldwide fame and embarrassing riches.

Before I get too pessimistic, Telltale Games are releasing a Game of Thrones (yes, based on the TV series) video game, simply titled Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, Season One. This review at PC Gamer (UK) gives me a little hope that we will actually see our first worthwhile game based on Martin's intellectual property. Unfortunately you can't build your own character(s) or House, nor is it truly a CRPG the way I ravishingly love them, but a good point'n'click adventure could be a nice addition to the collection. I'm still hoping someone takes the rules system for Green Ronin's A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game and translates it to a more free-form CRPG (or even a strategy MMO where players create their Houses on small servers, interacting on several levels - as political leaders, inhabiting family members' avatars etc.) Too much to hope for? Of course. That's what A Song of Ice and Fire is partially made of.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Have you felt it? I finally got to watch the teaser trailer for Episode VII yesterday and have been spinning it a dozen times since. Bit of a ramble, as such teases tend to make my mind go all over the place and I'm not even sure I agree with what I wrote. I also realize I didn't comment on the voice-overs (there are two, though the voices are quite similarly pitched/styled). I thought it was a bit goofy. It looks like winter is coming with that Sith Lord...

I went to and was greeted with a picture of two TIE Fighters and the Falcon and I wondered for a moment if it was a shot from Star Wars: Rebels. Looking more closely, it said "Teaser trailer". Well, that wasn't a good start. So I hit play and...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A day long remembered

The big day has arrived!

No, not Black Friday. That's just meant to trick you into buying stuff that, while on sale, still was cheaper to produce than the price you paid for it.

No, today comes the teaser for Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I'm ready at the screen, eyes open for any sign of it appearing online. Probably about eight hours early, but still. I haven't been this excited since...since A Feast for Crows was on its way in the mail from Amazon, I suppose. That was really exciting. I remember the book finally arriving, and me rushing out to the post office to pick it up, going home, unpacking it...taking a selfie with the book as if it wouldn't be real without photographic evidence, and then jumping in and ... erm. That has to wait for my re-read of Feast and Dance. Still four chapters and an epilogue to go.

In other news, I finally found half an hour to flip a few more pages of The World of Ice and Fire. I admit I'm losing hope with the endless reams of texts about the Targaryen kings. So many names and back-and-forths, its almost like reading the bible. Too little juice, too much bone. Still, the quality of the art is very high and while the typos have become more prominent it still reads better (technically) than Dance.

Expect the next A Storm of Swords post after the weekend. For now, it is time to hopefully celebrate a glorious return to form for the saga that has been part of my life since 1982/83.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Season Five Teaser

It must be the old gods working their magic. I had barely finished my last re-read post (Jon XI) where I talked about being excited about tomorrow's Star Wars teaser trailer and bemoaning the fact that maybe Martin will be overshadowed if he doesn't soon finish The Winds of Winter, and what do we get? A teaser trailer for Game of Thrones Season V. Maybe HBO knows they need to do a little more to stay relevant now? I don't know. I just thought it was funny the (excruciatingly) short Arya Stark teaser came out this week. Another link between GoT and SW is that there are rumors of a third actor/actress from GoT joining the SW cast.

We already knew that Gwendoline (Brienne of Tarth) and Miltos (Syrio Forel) are part of the Star Wars cast next year, but apparently Jessica Henwick will play a role in Star Wars. She's the actress who will play Nymeria Sand in the next season of GoT. A strange casting, methinks. She kind of does not look like a Dornish character (I can live with that), or Oberyn Martell's daughter (that's the hard part).

I have to admit that I like getting my two favorite stories crossing like this but I am also worried that whenever I see Gwen or Miltos on screen in Episode VII I'll be seeing Brienne of Tarth and Syrio Forel.

[Re-read] Jon XI: Dangler of Carrots

SO, I've lamented before how I don't have the time to watch movies anymore. Back in the day, before so many other things preoccupied my time, I watched a lot of movies. I loved watching movies. But now I've realized that theatrical trailers for movies are becoming so long and show so much of a film that I can basically watch those instead of the full films and get away with a general idea of the plot and how the hero eventually reaches his goal. I watched a few movie trailers earlier today and, after having seen them, I actually lost the desire to watch these films because the trailers told me enough. Perhaps the trailers I chose to watch are for films that are exceptionally cliché/predictable, but really. At least I have saved a lot of hours in this way. The trailers I watched were for the movies 47 Ronin, Hercules: The Legend Begins, Homefront, and Seventh Son (yeah I generally look for scifi/fantasy movies which might be part of the problem of finding tired stories). These trailers lay it all out - the film's premise, the basic plot, the characters, and the question becomes "do I want to see all the bits in between?", and not a desire to learn more, or a wish to see it all. None of the trailers leave me with a sense of curiosity or excitement.

So why am I thinking about movie trailers all of a sudden? Well, in two days we are getting our first glimpses (eighty-eight seconds, to be precise) of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens (wow, I think I have actually not talked about the subtitle on here .. at length), so that's probably the link. I am insanely excited about this teaser trailer as it will most likely determine my hype level for the next year. In a way, I hope it turns me off, so I don't have to go all Star Wars-crazy again...but I suspect that, being a "teaser" (which is the format all trailers should employ, if you ask me), it will show me just enough to get me excited and not enough to form a solid opinion on what VII will be like.

Maybe Jon Snow can help me stay grounded and off the Star Wars fever. He's a fairly grounded guy, himself, if, in many ways. Off we go to the seventy-seventh chapter of A Storm of Swords! But, really, Mr. Martin, you're facing some stiff competition in the years ahead. A new novel would be quite useful in staying on top of the game...of thrones.