Thursday, November 29, 2012

[Rant] The Best & Worst of Not A Blog 2012 Awards

This post is a rant about Not A Blog. I do these for therapeutic reasons. If you are offended by me being offended by George RR Martin, please skip. New re-read post coming very soon.

It's the 29th day of the 11th month of the year 2012. It has been more than five hundred days since we saw the release of A Dance with Dragons. If I had read only one page a day, I could still be exploring new words from George RR Martin, but alas! even as tedious as I found the fifth novel of the series, I wouldn't be  able to slow the read down to those levels. The fact remains that a reader devours a story so much faster than an author can write it down. Obviously. It couldn't be any other way. 
One way to alleviate this is, in my opinion, for the author to give small insights, tidbits or news about the creation process. This gives anxious readers a sense of feeling that work is progressing, and that they, by having bought into the series in the first place, are privy to it. No, Mr. Martin doesn't have to tell us a thing. I know this. But he could, if he had something to tell us. There was a long silence following A Feast for Crows as well. Then suddenly, as if Martin had delayed working on Ice & Fire-material for years, updates began to crop up on his Not-a-Blog. My suspicion then is that Mr. Martin hasn't written much or anything at all on The Winds of Winter. This could be due to many other obligations, that he has lost the passion for his story (not unlikely considering how many years they have already consumed), and / or that life is meaningless and full of pain. Maybe I'm wrong and he's writing feverishly. The blog certainly does not indicate this; well, he's writing sidebars for world books and editing short stories, but there's not much to be found about The Winds of Winter
But I have digressed; I wasn't intending on making a point out of my suspicion that nothing has been done these last five hundred days; I wanted to point out that with a little updating on the Not-A-Blog the author may avoid some of the ongoing damage he does to his reputation. The more people that get hooked by the TV series and then the books, the more people will, proportionally, discover that the man isn't exactly a genius when it comes to public relations. 

Cute is not enough, George. Want Winds. Of Winter.
Let's have a look at the blog so far in 2012. The year's almost come to an end, so this is as good a time as any to check it out and see what the best and worst of Not a Blog 2012 has been. For these Awards I'll give a blog post a score between 1 and 5, where 5 means 'really interesting for a fan of A Song and Ice and Fire' and a 1 means 'completely uninteresting garbage'. All tongue in cheek, of course. I do not really mind Martin blogging about whatever he feels like. Just bugs me that we can't get something - anything - useful from the man, even a "I haven't really written a single word" would be nice because you know it would be honest. And honesty rules.

The most recent post (only two days old) is all about George wanting to sell you stuff. Fortunately it is Ice and Fire - related stuff. Calendars. And, unlike a memorable event on his blog some years ago where he offered you outdated calendars, you can now buy one you can actually use. Score: 3

According to this post, life is magical and full of joy. Yes, it's another American football post. Zero interest from me, but I am sure there are readers out there who appreciate this irrelevant post for some reason. Score: 1.

I already went over this one a few days ago. As a show of gratitude, Martin offers us yet more stuff in exchange for our money. This time it isn't related to Ice & Fire, unfortunately. Exorbitant prices aside for books no one wants, I'd like to mention that selling stuff isn't really showing gratitude. Giving us a sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, or an update, would be. If you disagree, I cannot fathom your soul. Score: 1.

At first I thought the old man was celebrating Turkey's national day, but that's in October, so I realized it had to be a Thanksgiving post. He admits he has a lot to thank for (said his wallet overflowing with millions), and here he promises that "he'll keep writing", but he deftly avoids mentioning what he's writing... curious? 
Score: 2 (bonus point for writing anything).

This isn't Martin's post but in fact Ty's, and it is really not interesting. I'm not sending him anything and why would I? You'd think that getting him to sign a book in person is cool, but sending stuff so he can sign it? Not so much. That's like cheating. And yes, I have had Martin sign something for me. Little did he know... 
Score: 1.

Prepare for season three. What, five months in advance? How am I supposed to prepare? It's related to Ice and Fire, though. And I like the TV series well enough. So it's not all bad. 
Score: 2.

Another Ty-post. Martin must have been busy writing. It is another post demanding you to relieve yourself of money for an Ice & Fire-related product.
Score: 2.

Whatever.
Score: 1.

While I'm interested in politics (to a certain degree - mostly fantasy politics ^^) I'm not very interested in Martin's opinions on politics. However, the post ends with a promising "Tomorrow, back to work..." which could be read as Martin preparing for another long day of writing good words for his sixth novel, but he does explicitly not mention what that work entails, and knowing how much stuff he's got on his plate (such a nice figure of speech when talking about the Gurm), it's another dodge from the man. Boo and hiss.
Score: 1.

Oooh, Martin uses the angry-face. It is forever connected to his 'To my Detractors'-post in my mind. Oh, it's just about politics (again). 
Score: 1.

More politics. So many words that could have been spent expanding The Winds of Winter by a page. Sigh.
Score: 1.

...and full of pain. We get it, George. You like that expression. Considering your income and status I feel it's a bit unfair to the starving children in Africa, but oh well. To each his own. Three long paragraphs about that crap sport he enjoys and an added fourth paragraph about the hurricane Sandy (which would elicit a fair 'life is meaningless..' outburst, but it seems football is more important after all).
Score: 1.

I know who'd win a 'Most Self-Indulgent Grumpy Fantasy Author' award.
Score: 1.

Woot, an Ice & Fire-related post. A beautiful (I suppose) new edition of A Dance with Dragons, the least interesting novel in the saga. Also, a cleverly disguised sales post (again). Buy buy buy! I wouldn't mind buying your merch, George, if only you gave me a reason to. Also, Dying of the Light is a dud. Also I am impressed he makes a sales post for a book that is essentially sold out (no, not Dying).
Score: 1+

Another Ice & Fire post. About the book of maps. Maps that you can view, for free, in all manner of variants, on the Internet, including maps that are far better in all aspects. But of course you have to buy this one, it's officially licensed. I'd buy it in an instant if it were published in, say, 2002. 
Score: 2.

A piece of art depicting Cersei Lannister, to be published in some calendar with fantasy ladies. It's a bit sad, really. The art is relatively nice, but naked ladies are but a few clicks and a google away, so it's a little pointless.
Score: 1.

Oh noes, it's the sad box robot. That means a football post. It's as long as a short Ice and Fire chapter. I want to smack that droid in its square face. 
Score: 1.

Another sales post. Buy another book where the same story I wrote years ago is printed! He also somehow believes you're a loser if you didn't acquire a copy of Warriors, where "The Mystery Knight" was first included. I guess you are - Warriors is readily available wherever.
Score: 1.

And here we have a sales post. My eyebrows shoot through the roof in surprise. Buy buy buy! Only, this is actually a useful purchase for me as I do play roleplaying games, and have recently started a campaign in Westeros (centered around a peddler traveling the King's Road selling water-damaged goods). 
Score: 3.

October 22nd - .......

...Okay, I give up. I had not realized just how many posts George actually produces in the course of a mon. . I guess my point is clear - the Not A Blog isn't a very exciting place. I will trawl through the rest of the year and pick out only the posts hinting at The Winds of Winter:

I am sure there will be a great abundance of them; an affluence of hints for us to speculate about, a great plethora of prosperous postings, plenitudes and ample bounty. Oh yes.

Ooooh! Spotted a post about writing. Oh, wait. That's about sidebars.
Oh and another! mmrrpfh - another post about sidebars. And there's one about an introduction to an anthology. A promise of "the best is yet to come" in a post about ADWD. Again not mentioning The Winds of Winter specifically but this one does sound like the real deal. 

And here we have an actual update. Dated June 23rd, Martin writes "THE WINDS OF WINTER. Also known as Son of Kong. Working on it. Lots to do."

And that's it. A Dance with Dragons was an epic struggle, hence he named it Kong; and here he indicates that things won't get easier with Winds. That's just great. It's a useless post. Lots to do? Oh really? How about some actual factual information? Why is this too much to ask for? The update, by the way, is buried in a swamp of other projects he presents as "working on". Great.

"Yes, I'm working on that [The Winds of Winter] too. At the moment I'm writing about the Dothraki. More than that, I sayeth not, you know I don't like to talk about this stuff."

And there it is - the only worthwhile update in 2012 from the master. He's writing about Dothraki. It's not much, but it is something. He also admits not liking to talk about this stuff and I can only assume, once again, that is because there's not much to talk about. But we'll have Dothraki in Winds

In conclusion then, we have one and a half post about The Winds of Winter for the entirety of 2012 (unless something magical and full of joy happens come December), with the basic info being there will be Dothraki in Winds

Is it really too much to ask for a little more? I ask because I see many people claiming that you can't ask him anything because we're not entitled to anything. Yet most other authors I am aware of or follow on the Internet seem to realize that talking, once in a while, about an upcoming book does wonders. I can't imagine George has this amazing story he desperately needs to hide for fear of people becoming spoiled; he could have said so many things about  A Dance with Dragons without ruining the experience for us. It all comes down to his statement that he doesn't like talking about it. Except when he's doing interviews of course. But to his fans? Nothing much, no. 

It's a sad, sad situation.
So, without further ado, The Best Post of 2012 goes to May the 12th for telling us the Dothraki will be in The Winds of Winter. The Worst Post I guess goes to... I don't know which of the three archetypical posts annoy me the most: the football posts, the sales posts, or the political posts. I think I'm going with the sales posts as they add an extra layer of obnoxiousness to the blog that is not a blog yet is a blog for all purposes. And of those, I think the way he tries to sell me trash like Wild Cards are the worst, or what about those severely limited books that somehow pop up from year to year despite their scarcity. 


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the hobbit of getting hyped





Haven't really been paying attention to the production of THE HOBBIT.
Didn't really cross my mind that it could be a good movie, but now I've been going through
these production diaries, followed news of the world premiere event in New Zealand,
and watched the clip where Gandalf bestows Orcrist to Bilbo, and all of a sudden
I'm ALL HYPED UP.


Remembering how hard it felt to wait for The Two Towers, it's kind of refreshing to realize the film is but a few weeks away. No time for worries or expectations, just throw on a hat, find a walking stick and out the door we go to the cinema.

Also, ever since I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring (time flies...feels like it was half a year ago I first welled up when the kids went "Gandaalf!" as he rode into Hobbiton - yes, I do have certain emotions regarding Tolkien's novel) the series has given me an extra pinch of holiday feeling, all cozy and geeky. This Yule I plan to watch the saga again, be annoyed all over again at some of the choices they made in adapting the book and enjoying the rest.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Geek Update

Been a couple of geeky days, which is always lovely.
I have returned to an old fantasy game, Neverwinter Nights (yes, the original), which I never really truly played - it's mostly been yet another gatherer of dust - used to have games stacked along shelves but these days as a family man my games have been relegated to a dark corner in the attic. At least I have an attic. Anyway, the game, though graphically repugnant, surprised me with its depth and I've had some fun with it (although I'll probably get tired of it any time soon as I am wont to do with computer rpgs, a few titles excepted). 
Another great happenstance was that I received Ian C. Esslemont's Blood & Bone yesterday. It's a hefty nice hardcover and it will hopefully be fun to once again enter the Malazan universe. However I decided I wasn't going to read it until I finished The Wise Man's Fear which ended up with me staying up too late last night and actually finishing Rothfuss' second novel. Such a fat tome, the goal of finishing it always felt so distant and suddenly it was over. And not with a bang, either. Not really. I feel the weakest part of the book is the last quarter, it kind of dwindled a bit didn't it? Still, lots of great stuff in here but I can't help but feel, for all of Rothfuss' qualities, that the book could have been trimmed a couple of hundred pages.
This also forced Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings back up on the reading pile. Gods I've been reading it for so long, maybe I'll just give that one up. It's so ponderous. 
Also, I've got a couple of titles going on my Kindle app on my smartphone; let's see, I've got Darth Plagueis (yes, the news of Episode VII is to blame) which is, quite frankly, a very dry and uninviting reading experience but it's about Palpatine's formative years so to speak so I am curious more than entertained, I actually tried a Dungeons & Dragons-licensed novel, Pool of Radiance just for fun but I am afraid it will affect my writings skills (if any) so I'm worried about continuing it. 
Speaking of writing, I kind of regret abandoning NaNoWriMo but at the same time it freed up some precious time for geekery, which is about an hour a day these days. I did enter a new flash fiction piece over at SFFWorld, though, entirely free of daggers +1 or she memorized a Burning Hands spell but full of deep thoughts about stuff. Or so I claim.

And The Winds of Winter remains elusive...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgivings

Just a quick recommendation. Steven Erikson has published, over at TOR, a preview of a little science fictiony story he has been tinkering with. As a thank you to his fans. He just keeps on giving. Even if you don't think highly of his Malazan books (which you should :p) I think you'll agree Willful Child is a very funny bit of text. Some fantastic lines in there. Captain Hadrian reminds me a bit of both Sergeant Hellian and Iskaral Pust from the Malazan sequence; their space versions if you will. The piece shows Erikson's droll humor quite well.

Willful Child

The other great author of fantasy literature, meanwhile, as his thanks (I am assuming they are being thankful because of Thanksgiving Day which apparently is a pretty important day over the ocean, where, according to this blog's statistics there's a mighty big chance you are from) - where was I? Oh, yeah, Mr. Martin also has thanksgivings to distribute, in this case pls buy my surplus books mkay?

This comparison may be unfair. One guy is productive as hell and his Malazan works a much smaller franchise (it's not even a franchise, really - there is the books and the rest is fan-made art; no comic books or computer games or busts for the Malazan Empire), the other has way too much on his plate. But I am sure readers of Ice and Fire would have appreciated, for Thanksgiving, an update on The Winds of Winter, a new sample chapter, or anything but being asked to buy...stuff. Stuff voyaging. Ka-ching.

I'll throw in my own thanks to you for reading my blog :)

[Re-read] Tyrion II: Caught in the Riddle


So there's this guy on national TV claiming he lost in some crap reality show because it was the will of God. Stuff like that provokes me to no end, because a) if there had been a god of some sort he'd probably be better off watching out for starving children than some reality show on TV and b) he failed to give proper credit to all the other potential powers that could have been involved in his loss, like Odin, Baal, Anahit, the Easter bunny, Zeus, Ra or Isildur for that matter. Oh, and c) he's talking out of his ass. When something like this gets me fuming I have three different solutions. One is going online and debate something to get my mind off it, another is to put on some loud music to blast away the annoyance, and a third option is to read something good, reminding me that there is still something of worth around. So this post is a combination of all three as I am rioreading another chapter of A Storm of Swords (my apologies for the delays - November hasn't been easy on this body), while blasting some powerful, life-affirming metal and getting out some of my frustration in this paragraph and now on to the good book (pun intended, I guess). But not before a nice crossover I found on the ganz Interwebz.

You have the right to be offended and so have I. Also, funny.

Wow, it's really been a while since last I flipped through the pages of A Storm of Swords. So what was up with Tyrion, our little lord of Lannister? Guess he's been recuperating after that nasty incident with Ser Mandon Moore, and as we step back into his shoes he is still figuring out what's been going on in his absence, as witnessed by Varys' surprise when he here finds Tyrion seated by the hearth, and Martin makes sure to give us the impression that the eunuch is indeed surprised - his voice is squeaky, and he giggles nervously - which is quite the indicator knowing how strong Varys' control usually is. An unexpected event for him then, that Tyrion lives. Cersei must have been very good at keeping it secret that her dwarf brother was merely holed up in some chamber and not dead.

Gotta love Tyrion's comeback line when Varys titters about his quarters being humble: "They are humble. Excessively so, in truth." It's one of those lines that for all their sarcasm get lost among other, more famous lines of dialogue. Really, for these first three books there are so many great lines to quote it's almost ridiculous. In this case, it is of course the oxymoron that makes the comment funny - excessively humble. Bit like the Pope, then. Whooops! Only thing is I completely misunderstood the line and didn't notice until I read a few sentences on. That's the price I pay for blogging as I read, as I am doing now. The quarters are in fact humble, and the 'excessive' part means that they are really humble as in sparse, while I thought Tyrion was kind of telling Varys that "yeah right, if you call this humble..." know what I mean? My bad. Oh well, at least I admit when I bad.

In fact, Tyrion is surprised by just how humble Varys' room is - stating that there was water in the flagon (instead of wine), which goes to show just how...monkish Varys lives. Hey! Could Varys be a monk? Could he be so dedicated to some god (the Lord of Light perhaps) that he lives ascetically? Did he lie about how he lost his...equipment - did he do it himself to humble himself before his god? Just food for thought. "Your sleeping cell is no wider than a coffin, and that bed, is it actually made of stone (...)?" Yes, Varys sure is an ascetic! The rest is conjecture of course, but there can be no doubt Varys' rooms show a man perfectly comfortable living like a begging brother even though he lives within the walls of the Red Keep!

Here we get a real bit of sarcasm from Tyrion, also funny: Varys asks if Tyrion is cross with him for abandoning him after the battle, to which Tyrion replies, "It made me think of you as one of my family." Heeheeh. Didn't need to wrap my brain around that one. Good good. They talk about Tyrion's scar, especially the missing nose, and Tyrion suggests he should get himself a golden one, which is a nice setup for Jaime getting a golden body part later on. Tyrion asks if it is true Pycelle has been restored to the Small Council - remember Tyrion deposed him in A Clash of Kings. Varys confirms it, which is a tell-tale sign that all the political work Tyrion did is unraveling at the hands of his mad sister. However, Varys tells him that in this case, it wasn't Cersei's doing, but the Archmaesters of Oldtown. According to these guys, only the Conclave can make or unmake a Grand Maester. Not sure if this is the first time the Conclave is mentioned, but it feels that way right now. It comes somewhat off left field, but of course we'll see the maesters of Oldtown take a bigger part in the story as it evolves (or devolves, depending on your point of view). 

Another nice hint that we might just see Tyrion riding a dragon in a future novel: "Alas, I am quite dragonless." Turns out, though, that the Conclave had considered sending a new maester anyway, one from Highgarden, at which Tywin had immediately reacted to prevent this from happening. A hint that the maesters of the Citadel are in league with the Tyrells? After all, the Tyrells are kind of infiltrating the higher echelons of society at the moment, aren't they? And the citadel is in Oldtown, in the Tyrell lands of the Reach. I like how, without showing us too much, Martin still gets across the idea that the Tyrells are bidding for power in their own, secretive ways. More importantly we learn that Varys has little birds in the Citadel at Oldtown; I'm going to put that little bit of tid on file.

Ser Boros Blount is also being restored to his position in the Kingsguard, and Tyrion muses that this guy is probably hating hard on Cersei right now (after having been stripped off rank for "failing to die", I lol'd), so he can be useful. This is another one to file away, as the implications will become clear in A Feast for Crows  I believe.

Varys tells Tyrion that he has noticed Bronn asking around, subject of interest Ser Mandon Moore, the man who betrayed Tyrion on the Blackwater. Wanting to know how Moore had turned against Tyrion, he carefully states, "The man seems to have been quite friendless," hoping to draw out more information from the master of information himself. What Tyrion wants is a link between Moore and Cersei, but he's not getting any help from the eunuch. Varys instead regales just how a perfect white knight Moore was, and I can only imagine how infuriating this must be for Tyrion (though the text does not state Tyrion's feelings as Varys blathers on about Ser Mandon).

The discussion takes a new direction when Tyrion asks that Varys brings him Shae. He wants to see her one last time before sending her off, having decided it is too dangerous for both him and her to keep her at the Red Keep, what with his lord father present. Turns out Tyrion is becoming a bit jealous of anyone near her, as well. He watched a young knight helping her out with a heavy pail of water, and it tied his gut into knots (suggesting jealousy). This in turn swings the direction of the conversation again, and now we get a quick summing up of just who is keeping a close eye on Tyrion: The Kettleblacks report to Cersei; we learn that Ser Osmund is lusting after Cersei, and Varys reminds Tyrion that while he can match her with bribes, she has a "second purse" (nice way of putting it). Janos Slynt's sons are also against Tyrion for what he did to their father, and Varys adds Littlefinger to the list as well though I suspect this could be part of his own agenda as well (to get rid of Littlefinger). Ah, the political intrigues of King's Landing - it really is awesome how Martin keeps truths, half-truths and lies (and half-lies I guess) juggled, it's such an amazing part of the experience that is A Song of Ice and Fire, and as I probably have mentioned sixteen hundred thousand times before, one of my favorite aspects of the series.

The debate returns to Tyrion's wish to see Shae and he tells Varys that a secure place would be the very room they are in - the excessively humble chambers of Varys the eunuch. I'm really thinking he could be part of some monastic order now, dammit. They agree and the scene ends, but the chapter does not. Which is fine by me, since reading Tyrion still rocks baby, even thirteen years later (cue obligatory question about where time goes...cue envisioning Tyrion traveling all over Essos asking people where time goes). Anyway,  the scene is over and we get to the next bit of the chapter, which begins with describing the rest of that day as 'slow as a worm in molasses', which led me to look up that last word (and maybe I have done that before during other re-reads, I don't know). Ah, the thesaurus (fortunately not an extinct species) comes to my rescue - a kind of syrup or some such? Making a worm crawl even slower, at any rate. All right, it's a really slow day and this is of course to punctuate Tyrion's longing for Shae. A bit like being a child waiting for his/her yuletide presents. He tries to distract himself reading History of the Rhoynish Wars reminding us Tyrion is a reader and that one of his more powerful weapons is knowledge; but it is hard to concentrate. He really craves Shae. Some time is spent in the bath tub, and apparently Tyrion has whiskers now. Martin kind of slows the story a crawl to illustrate the slowness of the experience, but fortunately for too long - just enough to give the impression he wants to give us. Which can't always be said for later novels. Tyrion first clothes in fine garbs, then realizes that it is probably a mistake, pulls off those clothes and puts on something less conspicuous. 

It is night - told us through a description of the moon peeping over the castle wall - when Tyrion goes off. That sounded like Tyrion exploding. He tells Pod he's visiting Varys and that he'll be away for a while. He is seen by several characters which the author deems necessary to point out - Ser Balon Swann, the Knight of Flowers - and I'm thinking Swann's the guy here who will report back that Tyrion's been seen waddling about at night. Tyrion stops to chat with Ser Loras, asks him his age. "Seventeen," he replies. Tyrion is envious of the young man, already a hero and admired by the ladies like few others. Tyrion asks his reasons for joining the Kingsguard; Loras replies, among other things, that "when the sun has set, no candle can replace it," which refers to the death of his love, Renly Baratheon. Kind of weird that he says it, really. Maybe he doesn't count on Tyrion connecting the dots. Another stop to extend the painful reunion between Shae and Tyrion when he passes the kennels, a quick paragraph seemingly existing to remind us Sandor Clegane has gone off; then Tyrion finally slips inside "the eunuch's meager abode" (is it a separate building? I'm beginning to wonder from the description here). 

A plump woman appears inside the 'abode' and Tyrion recoils. Now 'recoil' is a cool word, and you really can't stop reading at this moment can you when he fricking recoils. Turns out the plump woman is Varys. One of those bits where you either smile, roll your eyes or do both. I did both. And Shae is there as well, ooh. She asks him what she's wearing (it's dark) and he hopes for nothing and before you know it they are talking, rather frankly, about getting around to the fucking. I'm not going to excuse Mr. Martin's language. Shae is a whore, has nothing to be shy about, and that really comes through in her dialogue that's for sure. Varys disappears in an almost mysterious way, simply vanishing. This results in Tyrion realizing there has to be a secret exit/entrance here - and I can only assume that Varys wants Tyrion to figure it out, or he wouldn't leave in this manner, no? 

Shae is all over him before he gets to think more about it, which could be a clever way of Martin to not having to let Tyrion come to the conclusion that Varys is either not as smart as he appears to be, or wants Tyrion to find secret tunnels and what have you. Well there you go, five strokes in and Tyrion is done. Perhaps it is best that way. Shae continues to be a mystery of sorts as she tells him she likes his new scars, scars that make most people, you know, recoil. No wonder poor Tyrion is confused about this whole thing; she is the conflicting feelings in him incarnate. She begins to complain about being Lollys' servant, clearly not afraid of his father (and why is that....one wonders), and Tyrion gets agitated: "Shae, gods be damned, stop that. Listen to me. You have to go away. The city's full of Tyrells just now, and I am closely watched. You don't understand the dangers." Did they move some of this dialogue to season two of the TV series? It felt so familiar. Also, I am seeing the actors of the show now as I'm reading.


Now after you've recovered from the fact that an old fart like myself has discovered this thing called "Internet meme" let's read on. Shae continues to bug Tyrion about, what it amounts to, getting a better / more luxurious treatment: "Can I come to the king's wedding feast?" Interestingly, perhaps, Shae and Varys are like opposites in this chapter - contrasting, if you will - Varys living humbly, but really wielding a lot of power, and Shae wanting to live luxuriously but being quite powerless in the grand scheme of things. And while Varys is sly, maybe this contrasting means Shae is in fact straight-forward, but that's grasping, I know. Still, I like the contrast between them in this chapter, as if they together tie up thematically what the chapter is about, with Tyrion caught in the middle. Could also tie into Varys' riddle of power with Shae - at the moment - believing power still resides with Tyrion although this and his previous chapter have shown that this is no longer so. She wants him to improve her life, yet he no longer has the power to do so, constrained by Cersei's spies. Neat!

Their talk is also used, efficiently, to foreshadow and setup the king's wedding, nudging its coming in our minds so as to be prepared for it. Seventy-seven courses, a hundred doves baked into a pie, and Tyrion countering that those doves will be shitting all over the wedding guests - the author saying the wedding will not be quite as expected? One can wonder how deep Martin's prose goes, or whether it is deep at all, depending on who you talk to I suppose. It is at any rate quite clever most of the time, like a puzzle with the pieces fitting nicely together once you see the pattern. And Shae continues to demand a lady's clothes and joining the feast, and he refuses. There'll be a thousand guests, she explains as she "cupped his cock and stroked it gently" which comes into the text as a bit of a jarring additional information. She gives him another round of intercourse, and now it becomes obvious at least to me as a reader that she is trying to use "her purse" as Varys would have put it to convince Tyrion to let her come with him to the feast. Another neat touch, then, comparing Cersei and Shae's purses. Cersei has both powers, but Shae has only her purse...this chapter is really full of these little contrasts and comparison, making it all the richer for it. But Tyrion still refuses, at which Shae becomes all sullen and icy (thus supporting my suggestion that she is sexing him for the favor she wants). The thing that hurts is that Tyrion does want to give her the world, but can't. It's a lovely internal conflict for the author to explore. 

Tyrion, however, begins to explore the room, resulting in the discovery of secret steps beneath the stone bed - not only an ascetic's bed, then, but also a concealed hidden door. A "counterweight spell" Tyrion calls the magic Varys uses to open the gate and I'm not sure whether he means an actual magical formula of counterweightness or if he's being a bit sarcastic toward her (she seems to believe it's actual magic). A counterweight isn't magical, but a counterweight spell? Maybe I'm dense. Or maybe the way the author writes this leaves room for ambiguity. Who knows? Not Zeus.

Shae tells Tyrion she has to go because Lollys could need her (funny how she all of a sudden is in a rush, after not having gotten what she wanted), but when she leaves she's all honey again: "You are my lion, aren't you? My giant of Lannister?" She tells him she understands - all of a sudden, it doesn't matter anymore. Has she made up her mind to seek elsewhere? That's the fascinating with Martin's strict adherence to point of views. We're never privy to Shae's thoughts and can only read how she acts and talks through Tyrion's skewed view of the world. Brilliant. Possibly my favorite style in literature and stuff. Also stuff.

Tyrion returns to find Pod sleeping. He sends Pod to find Bronn, initiating the third scene, which starts with Bronn showing up late at night, all grumpy about having been dragged away from the brothel Chataya's (apparently the only brothel in town). Tyrion is annoyed by this; the reader sees a clear sign from the author showing us a shift in Bronn's character: No longer Tyrion's lapdog, most visible because of his easy insolence. Martin repeats twice that Tyrion is annoyed, which takes me out for a bit; Bronn bragging about sexing two whores links to Tyrion's jealousy shown earlier in the chapter; really this is a nice little woven tapestry of characterization. 

Tyrion tells Bronn there's this guy, Symon Silver Tongue who plays for "Lady Tanda's daughter sometimes." Apparently, this guy has 'filled Shae's sweet head with visions of doves and dancing bears', e.g. explained to Shae in meticulous detail all the glories of the coming wedding feast. Turns out Tyrion does not like that one bit (said captain Obvious). He thinks of killing him, but instead asks Bronn to find him. And that's a very short, to the point scene compared to the first two, and we have reached chapter's end. I hope this post enlightened or entertained you in some way, and apologies if any of it offended your sensibilities (but if you're a Martin reader you're probably used to that ^^)

We like in exciting times of geekery; novels, movies, comics, games. The genre is strong, its roots have grown deep...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blood, bone, ice, fire, and why

Blood and Bone: A Novel of the Malazan Empire by Ian C. Esslemont has been dispatched! That deserves a woot.

>Woot.<

Haven't been a break reading something Malazan since early 2010, these guys are productive no doubts. One could argue that editing suffers from this, but at the same time the somewhat obtuse style of the Malazan fellows is very appealing. So, woot. Better than one fat book every five or six years which somehow also lacks in the editing department.

And it looks like I can manage to finish The Wise Man's Fear before I'm diving back into the Malazan world as well. Say one thing for Martin, he helped revitalize fantasy literature, giving it a new direction to work with, resulting in some great books here and there.

But there is still nothing quite like those three first Ice & Fire novels, is there...I guess you've all seen the teaser for Game of Thrones Season III as well. Not that it's much. But as a fan of the books I can't help but look forward to how they manage A Storm of Swords in TV format. Interesting times.

And WHY HAS NO VIDEO GAME COMPANY MADE A DIGITAL VERSION OF FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES' A Game of Thrones Boardgame YET? Dammit. There's a well-designed game right there waiting to be played online.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Saying no to XP

Kind of sad that my last post was about writing for the hell of it, and yesterday I stepped away from the computer and announced myself as a coward, for giving up on it. Not that it wasn't a worthwhile experience, it's just - as I've moaned about before - that there's too much going on right now. Maybe December - or hell, July - would have been a better national novel writing month. Anyway, giving up freed up some time for geekery and so I finally got around to finish Red Country by Joe Abercrombie.
I was all over it during the first third of the book as witnessed on this blog but I'm afraid the book took a dip about halfway through and it never managed to grab me the way the first parts did. I don't even know exactly why. It kind of slowed a bit, and the narrative got a bit lost in the confusing, mud-spattered streets of Crease,  and once the story got back into gear it somehow had lost some of its emotional and dramatic punch. This all means that Red Country remains an entertaining novel but not, as I had suspected earlier, Abercrombie's finest. It's still very recognizably Joe here, though. Some fantastic banter, fun sequences, but much of it lifted almost directly from some of the man's favorite westerns and given a slight fantasy twist. Some of his best characters in terms of development are here, as well - Shy South and Temple - but the backdrop is a little bit of a shallow setting. I suspect Joe will get more heavily into his world building with his next project, which is a rumored trilogy, which we haven't had since The First Law books. 
Well, with that book under my belt (so to speak!) I have about 20% left of The Wise Man's Fear which likewise dipped - or should I say, listed - heavily, about half of The Desert Spear (gods how long since I read in that one?).

I admit that once I decided to give NaNoWriMo the middle finger up, I also downloaded the now free-to-play Star Wars: The Old Republic, partially due to the Episode VII-news getting me all itchy about that saga again. I'd say, if you haven't tried it, don't. Must be the most irritating, boring and useless game I've played in a long time. Nuff said.


Now, time to get back on track with A Storm of Swords. Feels good to be free from my artificially assigned duties and just be a consumer geek again, instead of producing geekery myself ^^ Maybe's that's just my lot in life. 

Speaking of consummation, Ian C. Esslemont's Blood and Bone, his fifth novel in the Malazan world he shares with Steven Erikson, is out in a few days. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Writing for the XP

Half of November has evaporated already. Most of my time has been geared toward three things: Family (including renovations), work, and what little time I've had left I've spent trying out this crazy "NaNoWriMo" thing. In the beginning I was amazed at how fast I could write a story when I didn't stop to ponder each and every sentence, but as the days have come and gone I found it impossible to keep up the pace. I'm now at 16,767 words, which isn't too bad really, considering everything else going on, with a story I just came up with on November the first. I basically did a Martin - went into medieval history and found an interesting period with some interesting political instability and went from there, spicing it up with some fantastical elements. Afraid of losing interest / momentum, I've jumped between characters and been able to get down those sixteen thousand words, and it's funny to see how the story is starting to go its own way, not much resembling the outline I planned on the first day. So, its both hard work and fun, but the experience itself is what I'm really after, since I have never done this before.

Hence the quietude on the blog these days :-)

Oh, and I was kind of pleasantly surprised to realize The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is but a mere two weeks away. I'm betting a donkey it's not going to be as awesome as The Lord of the Rings, what with the law of diminishing returns and all, but still. Gives me a warm cozy Christmassy feeling to know there will be time spent with Hobbits soon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hecticum

Time flies. Doing NaNoWriMo. Work. Finishing two great books. Family. Meeting up with some new people to start a pen-and-paper RPG group for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. More work. Loads of it. Almost snapping here. Itching for doing nothing. All riled up about the new Star Wars movies. Must not think on them. Ruins personal energy. Time time time!
Oh, and this month we'll see yet another Malazan book, Ian C. Esslemont's Blood and Bone. Where do these guys get their productivity from? Oh my. Christmas next month. Looking forward to that. I think.
BRB.