Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Lure of the Otherworld

I'm SO ready to explore these darkened streets.
I'm being even slower than usual on the blog these days, mostly because real life has so many demands on my time. And I'll tell you this, that getting one child means getting one child, but getting a second means getting at least ten. That's how it feels, anyway. Though I have to admit that I have found time for a few guilty pleasures over the last couple of weeks - I've played two tabletop RPG sessions using the Roll20 application - a brilliant substitution for a table when players live six-nine hours' drives apart and can only meet a couple of times a year, and I've fired up that old favorite computer RPG of mine, Baldur's Gate, the Enhanced Edition. I found myself suddenly immersed into the adventure again, and it's great fun seeing characters and locations from my favorite game again. 

Now, I believe the main reason I went back to Gate is because 2015 is really shaping up to be the Year of the Classic CRPG, and replaying that classic adventure is kind of like preparing for the fun to come; I normally don't play that much games, but a good CRPG can have me hooked from beginning to end. Tomorrow is the release date for Pillars of Eternity, virtually a sequel to the Gate games in terms of gameplay and style, so I am really excited about it. It is preloading right now into Steam, so it's ready for takeoff. Everything about it seems geared toward my tastes, so I can't help but feel this game can't disappoint (except for the fact that it may not run properly on my low-end computer, which would be typical, eh). However, the year will present even more old school nostalgia, with games like Tides of Numenara (which can count as a sequel to Planescape: Torment, another classic), Seven Dragon Saga (which promises to revive the glory of the old "Gold Box Games"), Serpent in the Staglands, Ultima Ascendant (a spiritual successor to Ultima Underworld), Dungeons of Aledorn and even more games of this kind - the more complex, deeper games that evoke the tabletop experience. And of course there will be a slew of more modern RPGs that I won't be able to run on this machine, so I will have to be content with Let's Play-videos on Youtube, like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and (especially, perhaps) Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which is a must-buy for anyone interested in the "medieval" in George R.R. Martin's medieval fantasy works. 

In short, there will be a lot of interactive entertainment to manage in an already busy schedule. Most likely, I won't be able to run through all this stuff, but Pillars is a given - it just calls to me, and I must heed the call to adventure. And I'll be grumpy every time I have to save and exit because I need to come back to the real world. The good thing? When having fun in a simulated fantasy environment, it works like therapy. It makes the Long Wait just that little shorter. 

As for the reading of fantasy literature, I've been kind of slow with that as well. I'm about 150 pages or so into The Red Knight, and it's a strange book - sometimes it reaches Ice & Fire-levels of fun, and sometimes it goes to the other end of the scale, I guess where R.A. Salvatore and Terry Goodkind hang out. I'll post a review when done. The reading is slow because I have a physical copy of the novel (how things have changed!) - on the Kindle I'm currently re-reading Erikson's Deadhouse Gates, and - like Gardens of the Moon before it - it is at least thrice as entertaining on a re-read. Fantastic piece of work. So much detail. So much caringly crafted otherworld. Mm. 

Which means I've been low on Martinesque adventures, but I do plan to get to the "Captain of the Guards" on my A Feast with Dragons re-read sooner rather than later. Aero Hotah awaits! HO-TAH! What, just a couple of weeks until season five, you say? 
I have decided to boycott Game of Thrones! Me no want to be spoiled. And it has been confirmed that it will spoil. Boo!

Oh, and R.I.P. Terry Pratchett and A.J. Pero :-(

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Will the winds blow in the fall?

George R.R.'s latest so-a-blog post is quite interesting, and of course it has sent hype and speculation sky high (per usual). Yes, it sounds as if he believes he can finish Winds this year. Yes, in 2005 he wrote that we'd be reading Dance "next year".

What I really liked though, was the following post - and for once, Martin responded in a nice manner (not the usually grumpy answers he sometimes hurt people's feelings with):

You're talented, rich, famous, doing what you love ... turn that frown upside down, mister


You have a valid point.

Most people would kill to have problems like mine.

George R.R. Martin admitted someone had a valid point! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

[Ice & Fire] Astronomy and mythology

While I am still banned from Westeros (which is why I call it Censoros) for questioning George R.R. Martin's dedication (yeah I'm over it now, no worries) - that's ten years in exile, I feel like Ser Jorah Mormont - I do browse the forums over there once in a while, because though it's a pretty sterile place, there are some bright minds there that produce some great theories.

A fellow who names himself Lucifer means Lightbringer has made two threads with more to come that I find both thought-provoking, interesting, and which I find myself agreeing with (mostly). Both threads are pretty good reads, if you ask me, so good that I want to promote them right here. I've been feeling that there's a connection between the setting's astronomy, history, and mythology myself, but haven't been able to put it forth so eloquently as LmL does in his threads. So if you're suffering from Long Wait Abstinence, you could do worse than check out The Astronomy Behind the Legends of Planetos and Astronomy of Planetos II: The Bloodstone Compendium. I've been interested in mythology and the origins of religions for a long time, and can confirm that everything stated about Lucifer, the Morningstar, is correct. I remember when reading A Feast for Crows and suddenly there was a character mentioned named "Lucifer". It so took me out of the story, but now I know there was a reason behind the choice of name. Which makes it a bit more palatable. Although it is still jarring. As jarring as reading The Winds of Winter and finding something like

Jon Snow woke up. It felt as if his face was frozen; his breath plumed above his eyes, making him realize he was lying. Rising, he saw that he was in some kind of ice cave, but it felt more like a tomb. He opened the door, and there he saw people staring at him, looking surprised.
"He is Risen!" they hollered. "He has returned! Jesus Christ!"

Know what I mean? Some names just don't belong in a fantasy novel meant to transport you to another world. For someone not familiar with Christianity reading about a character named Lucifer might not be a problem, of course. And there are many other common names from our world, like Jon, or the many Pates and Dicks. But some names of course have a little more baggage, so to speak. So let's hope we don't meet a Ser Afold Hitler or something like that.

Anyway, it sure is an interesting topic, and there's just so much to think about. I'm looking forward to more from this user. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

[Re-read] The one prophet accepted in his own land, apparently

Time to delve into another chapter of the combined epicality that is A Feast with Dragons. I've been through the two prologues, so now it's time to get back to the main story lines proper. Wait. What? "The Prophet"? Is that, like, another prologue? Why do chapters all of a sudden have titles after three fat novels of not having them? It breaks the rhythm?! 

Those were, approximately, my thoughts upon finishing the prologue in A Feast for Crows and then seeing the title of the first chapter. And I still find it jarring, not just the added titles but also the fact that Martin suddenly throws in a small host of minor characters as POVs. Time still has to tell whether this change will, in the end, show to be a wise decision. As of 2015 I am still not entirely sure I needed all these Ironborn chapters, for example - we could've had a chapter in which one of the main characters learns that "there has been a kingsmoot out on the Iron Islands, and one of Theon's uncles won." 

Still, here we are, and Martin thought it was best to give us more insight into both the Iron Islands and Dorne (though we still don't have "eyes" in the Westerlands and the Reach...and the Stormlands, though we've visited those); is he kind of making the reader look "through a tree" as it were? Will we end up realizing that all these titled minor POV chapters is what Bran has been seeing through the Heart Trees network? That would be a neat way to kind of make these chapters more...eligible, for lack of a better word. No, I don't buy into the idea myself, but...I feel that it could help tie these seemingly loose additions better into the narrative by way of Bran Stark.

Anyway, time to get into the psyche of a certain Aeron Damphair. For the reading order I'm using for this re-read, check it out here. Check out the two prologues here: Varamyr and Pate.

Monday, March 9, 2015

New Trailer

This is my new favorite Dany image. Love it.
My apologies for the current slowdown on this blog. Life's been a bit tough these last couple of weeks, leading to very little time for reading and other geekery. I'll be doing another chapter of A Feast with Dragons this week, but I'm not sure when I'll get it done. Meanwhile, there's a whole new Game of Thrones Season Five trailer out; which is the only bit of exciting news I suppose regarding A Song of Ice and Fire since...the previous trailer. Yup, Not A Blog is still not concerned with any update or info whatsoever on Winds - the only thing I've gleaned is that the next Wild Cards book apparently is more important to Mr. Martin than Winds. 

Quoth Mr. Martin:
But not I am home again, facing the usual mountain of mail and email, and of course the monkeys on my back... those noisiest of them being HIGH STAKES, volume twenty-three in the Wild Cards series, and of course the Son of Kong, THE WINDS OF WINTER.

All right, all right, he mentions that they are both important. Still. And it has become "Son of Kong" to boot, as if reminding us of the Long Wait for Kong is a good marketing decision. Some things just never seem to change...and now! The trailer. Haven't watched it myself, yet.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

[Reread] Prologue II - For the Night is Damp and the Cobbles will be Slippery

Right, so I am doing this reread thing where I read A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons as one volume, using Boiled Leather's suggested reading order of chapters. So I began with the prologue of the fifth book, and now it's time for the prologue of the fourth book. I'm confused already. But this should all be good, chronologically speaking. As I mentioned in the previous reread-post, I thought it worked better to go from A Storm of Swords to Varamyr's POV, because it gave a sense of continuity since Varamyr's a character we already knew a little about (though I had him confused with Orell for a while there, embarrassingly enough).
Right. So there I was, back in 2005, Lady Slynt was barely pregnant with our first child, and, well, my whole life was quite different but for my obsession with A Song of Ice and Fire (okay, and a lot of other nerdy stuff). For five years I had been looking forward to the next book in the saga, so anxious to read more of this story that so took hold of my imagination. To ease the pain of that first Long Wait, I spent a good deal of time playing the collectible card game - here's an article I wrote about it, published at Tower of the Hand back in August. It kept us sane while we waited, and there were hints on some of the cards, too, of what was to come. And then, finally, finally, and to my great joy a week early, came A Feast for Crows. I immediately delved into it, opening to the prologue. Martin had pulled that trick before, of course; the prologue of A Clash of Kings featured nothing but new characters at a new location. And that is what we got here, as well. With Feast, however, this became more dissonant or jarring because, I guess, we had been waiting so long for the continuation of the saga, and once it came we were thrown right into a new set of characters in a new location (of course I was aware of Oldtown, but this was the first time in town, so to speak). I got over this quickly, though; but what was more problematic was that it didn't feel like A Song of Ice and Fire. That's a long time ago now, though, so let's see how I feel about this prologue this time around, ten years after it was first published. Ten years. Can you believe it?! (One good thing about me not being too interested in re-reading it - it still feels like a pretty new book. Ten years dammit.) THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. NOT SO MUCH BLOOD. THIS TIME.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

[Review] The Wurms of Blearmouth

Tyranny comes in many guises, and tyrants thrive in palaces and one-room hovels, in back alleys and playgrounds. Tyrants abound on the verges of civilization, where disorder frays the rule of civil conduct and propriety surrenders to brutal imposition. Millions are made to kneel and yet more millions die horrible deaths in a welter of suffering and misery.

But leave all that behind and plunge into escapist fantasy of the most irrelevant kind...

When I first delved into Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen (around the time I began this blog, back in 2009), it was such a great experience to know that I had a lot of Malazan-stuff ahead of me (ten fat novels from Erikson, Ian C. Esslemont's additional books, and a number of novellas) - an overflowing of fantasy goodness, compared to the one or two books a decade from Mr. Martin. Even when I had finished The Crippled God, the tenth book of the main cycle, Malazan-books were published at such a frequent rate that for a long time I had something new to read that I was really looking forward to - until after Forge of Darkness, the first of Erikson's new prequel trilogy. Suddenly, the waits became longer. Not Martin-long in any sense, but still, after indulging in so much Malazan goodness for so long, I suddenly had the feeling that the well was finally dry. However, there was one novella that had eluded me, which I finally bought as a Christmas present for myself, which was The Wurms of Blearmouth, latest tale featuring Erikson's trio Bauchelain, Korbal Broach, and Emancipor Reese (Mancy).