Wednesday, November 19, 2014

[Re-read] Samwell IV: Plodding On


Great news, everybody! George R.R. Martin recently announced that he is about halfway through The Winds of Winter. This means, by careful estimates, that we might possibly see the book released in 2016/2017. He might be slow, but it seems he has grown comfortable with his new schedule of one or two books a decade. Of course, there are arguments in the linked thread that suggest taking Martin's comment literally is unwise; maybe he meant that one half of Winds is super-done, totally finished, delivered to the editor..and the other half is in a rough state. Well, that's a big fricking maybe right there. With no updates from the man himself aside from this half-hearted comment, it is impossible to know just how close or how far away Winds is. Some are positive - cheer up, the book is halfway done; others are more pessimistic - the book will never be done. The comment does elicit reaction one way or the other, myself I'm leaning toward pessimistic but not dramatically so; I am confident we will have watched and digested Season 5 and maybe even 6 before we can enjoy another novel in the series. It seems to me that Martin has given up trying to stay ahead, and resigned. Gotta love that one commenter who says that, well, you know, maybe "middle of the book" means 95% finished. If he decides to split it into two volumes. Yes, people are getting desperate. And so many more readers will now know what it means to suffer through one of the Long Nights between books. And so many will read, and re-read, the books in existence as if that magically will enhance Martin's writing speed. Which is kind of what I'm doing right here with this blog, so let's flip open to Samwell's fourth and last chapter in A Storm of Swords and for a moment forget the darkness that surrounds us and penetrates us and binds us together.

Friday, November 14, 2014

[Spoiler-free review] Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools

All right, so I finished another fantasy novel last night. Like Half a King (Joe Abercrombie) before it, I ripped through it with a speed and dedication that I often lack. Now, I know, some of you read a slim novel like this in a day, but I really don't have that kind of time. Still, the point is that Prince of Fools, then, is a good old yarn with a drive to it that makes me want to read. It's not the kind of novel that lingers on the nightstand for fricking years (I'm looking at you, Sanderson's The Way of Kings, among others), it has a direct, immediate and fast pace with a narrator of dubious morality that just draws you into his world and demands attention.

In that sense, Prince of Fools is quite similar to the trilogy that precedes it. In The Broken Empire Trilogy (Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns) we saw Lawrence's world through the eyes of a narrator with dubious morality - Jorg of Ancrath - but the main character in this new trilogy in the same world - Prince Jalan of Red March - is a different enough fellow from Jorg to become his own distinct lead.  Where Jorg leaned toward violence, Jal is of different cloth, yet the two aren't entirely dissimilar either.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Erikson does it...again

SO, the Malazan Re-read at TOR is over, and people can ask the master questions. And he's already popped in, answering questions where he can.

What an author!

To quote him,

I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to engage with you all, via this screen and TOR.com, as well as via your emails to me through StevenErikson.com. While I may not be able to respond to each and every one of you (I’d never get any work done), be assured that I appreciate your reaching out to me.

Doesn't that make you wish a certain other author would love to be so forthcoming with his readership? Of course, he's in a different league and his way to communicate material to his fans might well be to release the lil' juggernaut The World of Ice & Fire.

I have finished the section on the most ancient history of Martin's world (next up: the Targaryens) and I have to admit that, at least so far, the book is pretty well written. Haven't even noticed any glaring typos (something I feared based on the amount of typos in A Dance with Dragons). A pleasant surprise then, so far, and even in those few first pages of most ancient history there were some interesting nuggets of information that gave me new understanding, and even introducing a faction within Westeros we haven't seen yet. There is text that supports certain theories here, too, such as a possible link between the Children of the Forest and House Reed. 
And the art is pretty darn good, overall. 

I am actually looking forward to delve deeper into the tome - it is not as ponderous as I feared.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

It has arrived

Well, today it arrived in the mail. The World of Ice and Fire. Martin's name is so huge it's totally easy to miss that there are two more authors. The book was about the size I expected it to be, which is fairly large, let's call it a tome.

I've flipped through it quickly, and there's a huge amount of text here, so my guess is it might be a ponderous tome. I fear my review will not be forthcoming this side of 2014 if I am actually going to bother reading all that stuff. Man!
(Prince of Fools, first, though. I got through the sagging bit and am now back on track at about two-thirds done. Great book but after a great opening I feel the three stories about Jorg that Mark Lawrence wrote first remain the better tale. Unless the last third of Fools ramps it up in terms of humor and excitement, that is.)

And there's some great art - some really great art - in The World of Ice & Fire; and much less of it recycled from Fantasy Flight Games products than I feared (buying the two The Art of Ice & Fire books I could have just gone through my collection of A Game of Thrones Collectible Card Game cards to see the same art - mostly). There's one particular piece here that really awed me (I haven't seen all yet, just flipped through remember), I am so going to try and scan it, sharpen it, and show it here and/or use it as my new dual monitor wallpaper. It's a classic scene painted a hundred times before, but this one really stood out. It had a..haunted quality to it. Esoteric, if you will.

It's not giving me the Westeros fever, though; I'm still heavily infected by the Star Wars virus. Made me watch old Star Wars documentaries instead of finishing Legend of Grimrock 2. Made me tear into the olde box of vintage action figures and vehicles, just looking and putting it all back.

There's only one cure, and that's The Winds of Winter, and no, not dinosaurs. What annoys me most about Martin's latest post (besides it not being about said Winds) is that I wanted to write a medieval dinosaur novel! Oh well.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen Wrap Up

During my re-reads of A Song of Ice and Fire, I came upon Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Gradually, book by book if you will, I became more fascinated with the series - but it wasn't until I discovered TOR.com's re-read that I really began to understand just how deep and profound these books are, and just how great it would be to re-read this particular series - even more rewarding than Ice & Fire in the sense that there's even more details, even more foreshadowing, even more subtle clues to discover and re-discover.

[Re-read] Arya XIII: Valar D'oh!aeris


Yesterday was an exciting day for Star Wars geeks across the globe, with Lucasfilm announcing the title of Episode VII. Now, any sane person would hear it, shrug, and go back to business but I was adequately swept up in long discussions online on the meaning and quality of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. How can a simple movie title cause so much excitement and cause for wasting away time on the Interwebs? It's the same effect that makes me write about A Song of Ice and Fire, of course. Being a fan. A devotee. It's what makes people build websites dedicated to their favorite entertainment. The kind of entertainment that's so solid it becomes something more; an experience, a phenomenon. For some it's Star Trek, for others The Lord of the Rings. For some poor souls like myself we find intense passion for more than one such phenomenon, which makes it difficult to juggle. Feeling so strongly about invented material is both a great feeling, but occasionally it also feels like a drain on my energy as well as my time. I have only a limited time of the day to devote to all those things I love and enjoy immersing myself in, and it's kind of annoying. Also, obviously, a luxury many people in the world can't even fathom. At any rate, I have come to the point I'm almost scheduling my nerdist hobbies. One hour for gaming, one for reading, one for writing etc. It helps. And Fridays, well, Fridays I try to reserve for my A Storm of Swords re-read. So here we go, with Arya Stark's last chapter in the novel, a very poignant chapter at that.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Random'd

Wow, how many years since those Ice & Fire art prints were published?  I think it was 2007, so that's seven solid years ago. There were three released (as far as I'm aware), painted by the fantastic Michael Kormarck (my favorite Ice & Fire artist) - one featuring Ned Stark cleaning his greatsword Ice in a quiet moment in the godswood; a second featuring Sansa Stark building a miniature snow-Winterfell; and a third, featuring Jon Snow and Ghost. Well, I bought the two first all those years ago, and lo! and behold. Today I finally framed them and hanged them on the wall. At least I'm following tradition by waiting so long. But seriously, I'm so glad I finally got them up. The last years have been turbulent, so the prints have just been lying around, but now that I have an office-ish room, it was time for Ned and Sansa to get what they deserved. Well, Ned got what he deserved in King's Landing, of course, but you know what I mean. Only shame is that I haven't been able to keep the prints in pristine condition, there are some creases, the Sansa one is probably too damaged to be hanging on the wall in the first place, you see it when the light shines on her from a particular angle. Well, that was the Ice & Fire news. 

Yeah, I caught the newsflash on the seventh season and the actors signing and getting more money and that whatshishname Jon Snow is on the list as well, but that hardly counts as a spoiler. Even my dim brain caught on to the Ghost-warging-thingy at the end of Dance there.

In other news, I'm halfway through Mark Lawrence's King of Fools and boy, it's good. Not better than Jorg of Ancrath's adventures in the Broken Empires trilogy (not yet, anyway) but just as - and that's saying something. It's already so entertaining I gave it my vote at Goodread's annual Choice Awards.

In other other news, I am not sure whether I should be waxing positive about Legend of Grimrock 2 anymore. The puzzles are sometimes so infuriatingly frustrating. And my party is so hungry! But still, gotta love a game that actually is difficult to play well, and which manages to balance old school gaming with modern sensibilities pretty well. Love it and hate it.

And in other other other news, tomorrow there's yet another Steven Erikson novel coming out, Willful Child. It's a Star Trek parody, so pretty far from The Malazan Books of the Fallen, but knowing how droll Erikson can be, it will probably be a hoot. If you're new and you haven't read it yet: Steven Erikson is a genius, although it may take you a book or three to figure that out. Go check this excerpt from Willful Child. Unless you don't want to.