Friday, September 19, 2014

[Re-read] Jon IX: Along Came a Fricking Big Turtle (and later, a Fricking Annoying Toad)

Time to dig out A Storm of Swords, we're deep in the endgame now as we open up to the seventieth (!) chapter, and, as I've said a gazillion times before, this book is just astounding, riveting, deep yet light, and so full of twists and turns I still feel it in my gut when I think of, say, the Red Wedding, or Oberyn Martell's failure, or Sansa Stark being whisked away in the night, or Joffrey clawing at his throat as he drops to the ground during his own many iconic scenes and images in the series come from A Storm of Swords. And there are so many of them, the list goes on and on. How about Jaime being unhanded? The maiden in the bear pit? The epilogue? There's only one other series that can dish up equally powerful imagery/scenery (in my personal opinion!) and that is Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen. In Martin's books, the scenes become powerful because we are so invested in the characters - in Erikson's works, the scenes often resonate because of the vivid descriptions or because the ideas presented are haunting or epic - he's stuck a few images in my head that just don't leave; the whole ending of the second book in his series, Deadhouse Gates, lingers still; the priest of flies in the same book's prologue likewise. There's something grand and majestic yet darkly disturbing about Erikson's prose that makes him stand out in the crowd of fantasy authors. Oh, look, I've wandered off again. My mind is partially tuned in to the Malazan world these days because I'm reading Assail, of course. I've got about 40% left of it, and I am trying to slow down and savor it (even though Ian C. Esslemont's prose is nothing like Erikson's, it's almost like having R.A. Salvatore write in the Westeros setting - well, okay, it's not that terrifyingly bad; it's just that where Erikson really explores and experiments with the genre and with language in general, Esslemont writes what feels more linear, safer stories that, because they are more simplistic, don't ring as true as Malazan works). ENOUGH ALREADY. Jon Snow is waiting for his ninth turn in the spotlight. He actually has twelve chapters in this book, yet when I think of A Storm of Swords, I seldom think of his part. Is that weird?

Day and night the axes rang.
So opens the ninth Jon Snow chapter, and I immediately have an image in my mind of Jon sitting in his office in a frozen tower accepting all those calls from the axes. Of course, Martin wants to tell us that the Night's Watch is fighting and working, like, a lot, further emphasized when Jon can't remember when last he slept. He's been busy - as have the wildlings on the other side of the Wall, who are basically taking down the forest with saws and sledgehammers, in preparation of attack. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Legend of Grimrock II is Coming

Been waiting for this one, but didn't really believe it would be upon us just yet. But today developers Almost Human revealed it is less than a month away and they are taking pre-orders. A no-brainer for a fan of old school dungeon crawls.

I talked quite a bit about the original Legend of Grimrock and how it rekindled that adventuring spirit that classic computer games seemed to overflow with; games like Dungeon Master and the Eye of the Beholder trilogy, to name two examples. And now the sequel is pre-ordered and I can't wait to get my hands on it. For some reason, exploring dungeons is something I love, except when I get really frustrated when some clever/fiendish puzzle stops me from progressing. This time around, they are giving us some above-ground, outdoor environments as well, so they could potentially be catering to a somewhat larger crowd this time.

Meanwhile, in the world of Ice and Fire news, there's a plethora of nothing new. Life is miserable and full of pain, apparently, but beyond Nope. Nothing on The Winds of Winter. Who cares anyway?

Friday, September 12, 2014

[Re-read] Sansa VI: Load New Game

Rough week with a virus infection leaving me unable to even squeeze some geek-time out of staying indoors. Well, I've been able to get halfway through Ian C. Esslemont's Assail, and Shadows, the dark elf of all trades wandering the cold lands of Skyrim, has gained another level and a severe bout of vampirism (art imitating life kind of) and I've been binge-watching Firefly and I've spent way too much time following and debating the latest Star Wars: Episode VII rumors (okay maybe I did squeeze out some geek-time after all). The folks over at Star Wars Episode 7 News have kindly opened their cantina for this kind of behavior, and that's where I've been hanging a little. And I suspect I won't become any less obsessed with this upcoming movie over the next year or so. It just pulls me in, even though I know I shouldn't worry so much about a two-hour piece of cinema crammed with silliness. Yet here I am, and that's because of the power of the story of the original trilogy.
The only thing that can make me forget about a new Star Wars movie right now would be....The Winds of Winter. Bring it on, George!
Without further ado, let's read another A Storm of Swords chapter. And maybe for a little while my stupid geekhead can get some rest from that galaxy far, far away...

Monday, September 8, 2014

[Re-read] Jaime VIII: I'm dreaming of a white whiteness

A white book sat on a white table in a white room. 

So opens this eighth Ser Jaime Lannister chapter of A Storm of Swords, and I just kept staring at it for a while. It fits so well right now, because I'm in a bit of stress because I have a gazillion projects going on at the same time and it has just become a bit too much lately, and I feel like I'm ... well, staring at a white book, a blank page. And I hate it, because not doing anything about anything makes me even more stressed. So, in order to tick off some boxes on the too-long to-do list, and picking one that I actually enjoy doing once I'm in the zone, here's • "Write a new re-read post". And all the while I'll probably have my conscience gnawed from within by all the things I probably should prioritize.
Which relates perfectly to Ser Jaime at this point in the story - he's struggling with his priorities, and in this particular chapter we'll get a real close look at precisely that. A character development chapter, more than action and high adventure. Right, let's crack open that white book.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

No news, really.

Doesn't look like I'm going to get in a re-read post tomorrow; the window has been smashed to bits by not one, not two, but three work-related meetings.
This week I've played twenty minutes Skyrim, and I'm about 30% into Ian C. Esslemont's Assail. I've seen a few reviews of it and these reviews haven't been very kind, but I am enjoying this novel a lot for what it is. Yes, the great mystery that is/was the continent of Assail might just be meh, but there is a solid pace, and vivid descriptions of the many hostile environments the characters encounter. So I'll reserve my judgement for now. 

Not much news on the Ice & Fire front this week (or I have missed it). Not a whiff of The Winds of Winter. Joe Abercrombie, on the other hand, gives us this lengthy post, giving his devotees something to enjoy as they wait for the man's next output. The man even dares to call it a "Progress Report". That's a big slap in the face to any Ice & Fire fan, innit. Or maybe not. Come on, George, it is time - no, really it is - for a progress report. Something. Pretty please?

The one bit of news I've seen/heard is that Bran and Hodor won't be in Game of Thrones Season V, which is both a relief (no spoilers) and a bit weird (and, perhaps, even worrying; but maybe people, having become hooked through four seasons, won't mind that much and give the writers/producers the benefit of the doubt). It must also mean that Bran's continued story in The Winds of Winter (if he's even in it) must be really full of stuff Martin doesn't want the world to know yet. Which could be good.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pleasures of the Guilty

Wow, I've had better weekends...

...But last night I found a couple of quiet hours for myself, so just to indulge myself a little extra, I connected a laptop to a 46" screen to get some size and played a little Skyrim. I let all worries about the upcoming week of work, all the meetings, all family matters, things I need to write and do, I let it all go away for a while and allowed myself to immerse myself back into the land of the Nords for a while. And it really made a difference. When I went to bed I felt a lot more content, and after a few pages of Esslemont's Assail I slept soundly (I could've said "I slept like a baby" but as I have a youngling sleeping at my side these nights, I can assure you that sleeping like a baby is a weird, weird, proverb).

When looking through the eyes of my character, the Dark Elf Shadows (yes, he's shown up on this blog before) on a fairly big screen, I immediately fell back in love with the sense of adventure this game provides. Cause what I really was hankering for, was some roleplaying, and so I decided to really "be" Shadows last night. During last night's voyage (I try to skip fast travel for that immersion), I met a ferocious ice dragon harassing the townsfolk of Dawnstar, and later, an even more ferocious blood dragon somewhere out in the wild, attacking a bandit stronghold. Navigating an enraged dragon and angry bandits was a fun experience. That's what gives Skyrim its extra points - the potential for the unexpected. For all the linear quests, you can still strike out and do whatever you feel like, within the frames of the game obviously.

Shadows against a blood dragon, somewhere north and east of Falkreath (which I hadn't visited before last night)

Once again I also noted that the popularity of A Song of Ice and Fire must have had some influence on Skyrim, as it feels far grittier and medieval than the four previous The Elder Scrolls titles did. Love it.
I spent a good amount of time trying to defeat a heavily armored orc in a small dungeon, keeping a table between me and him so that I could survive; this fellow could smack me down with one stroke with that bigass sword of his. I wore him down with arrows and fire, until I finally succeeded. And it felt so good! After months with little to no gaming (aside from, say, nine hours in Divinity: Original Sin) it was nice to game away the evening and I didn't even feel guilty about it.

Yesterday, Skyrim was more therapy than guilty pleasure.

Friday, August 29, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion IX: Ups and Downs

All right! Friday! My favorite day of the week. Not only is it currently the only day of the week where I have time to dip into a chapter of A Storm of Swords, it also heralds the coming of weekend, which in turn brings more smiles all around. Coupled with nice late-summer weather, one can only be grateful for living in a (relatively) quiet corner of the world, though the news likes to remind me just how beyond repair the human race seems to be. Sigh. Anyway; speaking of beyond repair; here's Tyrion's ninth chapter, the sixty-seventh of this magnificent volume of awesomeness. It's a chapter with a lot of characters and a lot of talk, so let's see if Martin can keep us interested and excited in spite of that.