Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Monday, December 30, 2013
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Not much geekery, then, but a whole lotta metal. And I can certainly live with that. However, it is Christmas and one thing I have "always" found a necessary ingredient for coming into that Christmassy mood, is Tolkien. I don't have the time to re-read his works but maybe I'll throw in a viewing of Fellowship of the Ring.
Monday, December 23, 2013
Anyway, it's a nice gritty tale, combining a touch of post-apocalypse with romance and noir, which is inspiring but the story isn't very uplifting (not that I need a story to be uplifting, I am just saying). It was a little confusing at first, with names thrown about, but in the end the story is neatly tied together, there is almost a circular motif here, and the dialogue is good. Not among my favorites so far, then, but it is still rather refreshing to read some stories set in a non-high fantasy environment.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
I finally got around to seeing the second Hobbit movie last night. I wasn't very hyped, as the previous one didn't really do it for me. I expected a CGI spectacle and that's what I got - where in 'The Fellowship of the Ring' we had the Moria sequence as all-out spectacle, in the middle of an otherwise fairly grounded and well written script, here we are fed one dizzying whirlwind of cgi overdose after another.
Where the CGI has been given enough of the budget, it is rather good: the spiders of Mirkwood and Smaug. Some good shots here and there.
Smaug was a hit, I think. Well done.
The acting was, in general, solid, with a special nod to the guy who portrays Thranduil.
Some evocative panoramic shots.
Laketown was well realized, most visually interesting setting of both movies.
Legolas was unconvincing and unnecessary.
Little time for characterization.
Lots of unconvincing CGI. Most orcs didn't feel real to me.
The "let's kill Smaug" sequence was horrible in execution and writing and had me wanting the film to end. Reminded me of the droid factory scene in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, more reminiscent of a video game level.
What is with the notion that bigger is better? No subtlety as you are hammered, battered and bludgeoned with action that is so over the top it becomes unbelievable, thus ruining immersion. Where are the subdued yet emotional moments? Not in this film.
I'm no Tolkien purist in the overly nerdy way so I don't mind changes, but splitting the movie in many strands when there is only one plot feels wrong on many levels. I didn't care about any of the characters except Bilbo, really. And he wasn't the main character either in this film. What a mess.
Several sidestories went by so fast you barely registered them; I'm thinking of Beorn specifically.
Gandalf facing Sauron himself creates a rather big plot hole when we get to 'The Fellowship of the Ring'.
Putting Azog in Dol Guldur was a strange choice. A new orc (also unconvincing) was sent after the dwarves and I am not sure if this made any sense. Sauron needed Azog as a battle commander? Unnecessary to say the least and adding nothing.
Fewer than last time, the nods to the "original trilogy" are still jarring. Specifically Peter Jackson showing up in Bree, and the whole Bree-intro mirroring the Bree-scene in Fellowship, including the seemingly Undying Black Cat of the Prancing Pony.
The love triangle coming out of nowhere, featuring Kili, new character and hot hot female elf Tauriel and dour Legolas didn't really do anything for me. It wasn't Anakin-Padme bad but it did get close. Shame this will have to be resolved in the final installment.
The locations often look unreal, even when they probably are real. Both Hobbit movies lack that feeling of Middle-earth that the Ring films provided. Maybe it's just me.
Sigh. I guess I'm too old for this stuff. Kids will probably gobble it up, playing outside pretending to be Legolas jumping all over the place to kill and maim orcs in a variety of creative violent ways.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
As most years since '99 or thereabouts, my own Christmas wishlist is rather modest. I would be extremely happy with a new A Song of Ice and Fire book. This year, The Winds of Winter would've been a great treat. Imagine enjoying that one surrounded by the restful spirit of Christmas. Now in case this wish won't be granted (the Santa is a fickle god), I still have about half of Dangerous Women to read, and it's been a treat so far, so I'm happy with that. My second wish is not that modest. I still desperately want a powerful new computer. Maybe in 2014, I'll somehow manage to get hold of one. If not, it's not that big a deal, either. As Christmas movies are wont to remind us, there are more important things in life than, you know, stuff.
Which is exactly the kind of feeling you're left with after reading Nancy Kress' Second Arabesque, Very Slowly. Behind the curious title lurks a post-apocalyptic tale of a group of people keeping together against the adversarial environment around them, but unlike other post-apocalypses I am aware of, this one doesn't feature lots of cool tech and a decidedly heroic main character. Instead, this story is told from the point of view of an elderly woman (that's the second old woman POV in the anthology, statistic freaks), who is part of a group because she is useful to the group as a nurse. The mentality of the male characters is pretty rough, and women have been degraded to sex objects (there is even a "Sex List", with the alpha male on top); the story goes that most girls and women have lost their fertility, so any woman who is fertile must have sex with all the men in the group to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant. Rather dark, then, as it should be in a post-apocalyptic tale, but I'm not a big fan of the notion. Fortunately the author also shows us a male character who isn't worried about being on the Sex List, and would rather learn ballet. Well, that sounds kind of strange, perhaps, but when you read it you'll understand how it all fits together. I found myself mostly enjoying this story. It's not a genre I'm particularly familiar with, but the setting was vividly described, and it has a certain nerve that kept me going, wondering what was going to happen next. Most of all I felt sorry for how the girls were treated. The ending was perfect, though, giving both closure and some 'openendedness' (did I just invent a word?). In a way, this story was a bit movie-like in the way the scenes flowed together.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
This puts me about halfway through Dangerous Women, and Martin's piece is looming nearer but so far I am quite content with what I've read so far. From regretting the impulse purchase to being happy I bought it, after all.
There are rumors floating, by the way, that Martin is almost done with The Winds of Winter. This mongering of rumors appears to have been born out of an interview with Roy Doltice or whatever his name is, the guy who did the audiobooks and played the pyromancer Hallyne in Game of Thrones. Maybe this is why Martin can so comfortably state on his site that he's going to relax with some football on TV? Or maybe it's just crock and we're still years away from a sixth novel., as the author himself has indicated in various interviews. It is so easy to cling to hope, when reality is disappointing.
The most interesting thing was that the story of Constance seems to have inspired Martin, as I recognized several elements from history that make an appearance in A Song of Ice and Fire. Primarily, Constance finds herself in a tense situation that mirrors a situation Queen Cersei finds herself in; the Kingsguard of Westeros could be inspired by the imperial guards (and Sir Baldwin reminds me of Ser Jorah Mormont or a Kingsguard), and I couldn't help but think of Viserys' crowning when I read about someone receiving a red-hot glowing crown on his head.
Monday, December 16, 2013
|Now THIS is a potential meme-pic.|
Sunday, December 15, 2013
I've started the next story already and the first pages surprised me totally. You see, the next story is a Brandon Sanderson story and all I can think of when I see his name is "sloooo-ooo-oooow" due to The Way of Kings (though I admit it could be just me being slow, what with having that massive slab of book on my nightstand for more than three years), and then this story kicks off and goes straight into great, quick characterization and a nice atmosphere that made me go back to see if I actually had read the author's name wrong. The best part so far is the great names the characters in this story have. I would like to read more about this world where people can have such cool names. Maybe Sanderson has written novels in this setting for all I know. I need to check it out.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I actually think I'll find time to finish that Sam chapter later today, if I can stay on target with all my other to-do's. Keep an eye out for it.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
A good thing about Dangerous Women so far is that it really presents a vivid variety of settings and characters and styles, and for each new story I have to kind of readjust and realize that stories can be pretty entertaining without being the kind of fantasy I normally enjoy.
After this anthology, I am definitely going to sit down and write a list of my to-read-pile-books, decide on an order and actually read them through one at a time. Okay, maybe two at a time; one physical book, one ebook. Sometimes I have only one or the other available. I've got a bunch of physical books on the nightstand, including King of Thorns which I paused for this anthology, a Dutch novel my father gifted me (with the signature and a greeting from the author) entitled De Tovenaar (translated The Wizard, but according to the blurb, there is no magic in the book so I am curious about that), Miles Cameron's The Red Knight is still waiting, and then of course - still not finished since January 2010 (!), Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings. I'm going to put it right on top of the list because it is really about time I finish it. And who knows, maybe it picks up the pace and the last half is a riveting, non-stop entertainment ride without an equal in the world of fantasy literature. Okay, I doubt it. But one can always hope.
Tonight is the premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I'm not going in the middle of the night for it (I might have considered it if the first installment had awed me the way Fellowship of the Ring once did), but I'll probably end up seeing it sooner rather than later, out of curiosity more than a genuine interest in seeing the continuation of the story. A curiosity mostly born out of wanting to see what Jackson and his team have come up with this time to pad the movie into a suitably epic length (from what I understand there's a whole non-Tolkien Legolas-subplot in there; perhaps a good choice, I reckon he's a fan favorite).
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Yup, I managed to finish this one. It really has that Fables vibe. I was surprised and taken out of the story by a sudden influx of Star Wars quotes, and the rest of the short story didn't really keep my attention. It was a creative story, no doubt, and though I'm not sure I understood everything that was going on in this story it was entertaining - but maybe just not my cup of tea. It has made me a little curious about The Dresden Files but probably not enough that I'll actually go out and buy.
In addition, my latest acquisition for my Forgotten Realms collection is the solo adventure Knight of the Living Dead, not the most famous product in that line, and quite different from other Realms material due to the fact that this is a book that works like those classic Fighting Fantasy books, you know, where you choose what to do next and then you flip to entry 44D to see what happens. I haven't delved too deep into the adventure yet, nor do I feel it gives me the same experience as a regular roleplaying session but it's fun. Also, the title is very appropriate, wordplay and all. Evocative cover, too. I love those classic D&D covers by Jeff Easley et al. I'm about to find my d12 and pencil and see if I can survive the next couple of pages of the text.
In the meantime, I see Mr. Martin himself has been directing attention to the anthology as well. Next: An update on the progress of The Winds of Winter. Give us a percentage, is all I ask. "I'm 23% done." Okay cool, nice to know.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
“Sometimes I just wish [the fans] would stop pressuring me about it. It will be done when it’s done. [...] I’m a slow writer, I’ve always been a slow writer, and these are gigantic books.”
In a way, I sympathize. The more I try my hand at writing, the more I understand that it is an undertaking not done lightly. I do wonder at the "fans pressuring him" bit, though. People who send him e-mails? There is nothing on Not-a-Blog, because any questions regarding The Winds of Winter are automatically deleted by Squire Ty so George doesn't have to see it. Is he checking out people's comments on various websites? In that case, he's seeking it out. Are people still sending him e-mails? Well, how about setting up a second email account which you only use professionally to keep in touch? Let the hate mail pour in, you don't have to open any of them. Really, you don't have to.
He also says he's a slow writer, but that didn't stop him from publishing A Game of Thrones, A Clash of KIngs and A Storm of Swords in a timely fashion - neither has this slowness stopped him from getting other stuff done, be it editing anthologies or writing other material. So, in my opinion, the excuse doesn't really hold water and is more a sign of Martin having other problems when it comes to wrapping up this saga we're all so invested in.
The books are gigantic, though, and one should expect them to take a while, but they are not larger than previous volumes - they have gotten more complicated to write, rather. It ties in with my rant yesterday about getting arcs out of the way.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
I suppose many fans find reading his other material a way to alleviate this yearning for a new book - in just three days' time, Dangerous Women will be published, featuring George R.R. Martin's novella The Princess and the Queen, and for many fans this will be a nice morsel while waiting for the main course.
Personally, I am not curious about this text at all. Not out of spite or anything, it's just that I don't care that much about the Targaryens and their dragons and their history. Certainly I care less than Martin who seems to have developed a great love for this part of his creation. If the novella had been the fourth The Hedge Knight tale, you know, a proper story instead of a history, I'd buy it. As it is, I am offered a bite while I wait for the main course, but I don't like the food being offered, so I'll have to live with that, or eat it anyway. What to do, what to do? I am hungry, but not that hungry. However, there is also a story in the collection from some guy who calls himself "Joe Abercrombie", and that might just be a good enough reason to cave in, after all. We'll see next week whether I am the owner of a copy - I think that if I go for it, I'll go for the e-book. I simply have run out of space on my shelves. And space for more shelves.
A Storm of Swords, then, and Samwell Tarly's second chapter. I suppose re-reading this novel is my way of That's really what this blog has been all about since I set it up back in 2009 or thereabouts. To scratch that famous itch. To get a fix. At least I don't have to wonder about Brienne anymore (well I do still wonder what word she said, as we haven't been told explicitly, but at least I know she isn't hanging around anymore). Samwell Tarly, it is! At once an obvious homage to another Samwell, although with the opposite main trait of being cowardly instead of being brave (but that's changing all right), I've always found Samwell to be somewhat too stereotypically portrayed, but at the same time he's rather different from the rest of the cast in terms of personality, so I'm fine with it. There's also, as one would expect from this series, a rather convoluted and dark background to the character explaining some of his behavior - such as having a rather unsympathetic father (I know, I'm putting it mildly) - something he shares with the Lannister Three.
|I have to commend Sam's listening habits.|
The chapter opens with a typical Martin contrast, with a woman giving birth up in the loft, and a man dying by the fire. Death and life in juxtaposition. Will we see this contrast explored further in the chapter? Let's check it out. It is a useful hook for inviting the reader to read on, of course. Samwell doesn't know which one scares him more, which is kind of funny. Bannen's the guy who is dying, complaining about the cold and not able to drink the onion broth Sam is trying to give him. I sympathize with Bannen there; I cannot imagine onion broth tasting anywhere near good. Craster, still alive (and I admit, a little to my surprise - watching the third season of Game of Thrones has screwed with my perception in more than one way), comments that Bannen can be considered dead - within earshot of the man, of course - immediately reminding us of Craster's personality - he's rather indifferent, as Martin perhaps too bluntly states in the following sentence (what I mean is that the reader gets how indifferent the man is to Bannen's fate by his dialogue, and that we don't need the added "Craster eyed the man with indifference". Bedwyck, better known as Giant, asks Sam, by calling him 'Slayer', if they had ever asked for Craster's counsel - and by that dialogue we see that Giant isn't very interested in Craster's opinion and neither is he afraid of him. Martin excels at showing what characters feel and think through dialogue, it's brilliant at times, like here. Sam cringes at the nickname Slayer, instead of headbanging and hailing and shouting Slaaaayyyeeeeer!! which is possibly what I would have done. You see if you're a metalhead and into Slayer, you're not just into Slayer. You're intooooooo Slaaaayyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer!
Giant complains to Craster; Craster had promised food and fire yet is stingy with the food. Craster tells him to be glad he is providing them with fire (or rather, warmth). We are given a description of Craster at this point, probably to remind readers. He is kind of the polar opposite of the friendly loner you often encounter in fantasy tales. Instead of inviting the adventurers to the hearth to share tales over an ale, Craster is a repugnant fellow who's not really interested in helping out at all. Imagine Biblo and the dwarves coming upon Beorn's homestead and they found Craster and his happy family of inbreeds instead. Heh.
Craster launches into a speech which I suppose is in defense of his decisions: "I fed you what I could, but you crows are always hungry. I'm a godly man, else I would have chased you off. You think I need the likes of him, dying on my floor? You think I need all your mouths, little man?"
Not sure if those excuses hold up if you are into solidarity. Still, maybe Craster has a point - he is gambling on his own existence (if it is true that he is running out of food, that is). Also, we can assume that he is worried about keeping himself in the good graces (?) of the Others. And maybe, just maybe, he is worried that the Others will come and kill them all and he wants to get them off before the Others arrive. A stretch perhaps, because Craster never seems to be rushed.
Interestingly, Sam wishes they had a maester who could help Bannen better than he can. Was Martin already at this point considering sending Samwell Tarly to Oldtown? I see this as foreshadowing, regardless. Nice. Reading it again, it is also ironic, because Bannen suffers without a maester and we know that Sam might just end up being a maester later in the story, but by then, of course, it's too late for Bannen. Apparently they have hacked off Bannen's foot as well to keep it from killing him, so there really is no hope for the man and one can only feel sorry for him. The hardest part, then, is that he has to listen to Craster's indifference.
So, they are inside Craster's hall, the black brothers who fled the Fist, drinking onion broth (mmmm....) and chewing on chunks of hardbread; some are even worse off than Bannen; they have lost a lot of the supplies that could have been useful in patching up these fellows, so it is left to Sam and the other stewards present to try and treat their patients as best they can. It's warm inside the hall, Sam muses, but they are given too little food. Martin makes sure to spell that out for us over these first pages of the chapter and one might wonder if the need for food might lead to something. Heh (Walder Frey is my ghost writer). There is an entire paragraph dedicated to their need for food, even; also, Sam worries that Craster might know about him and Gilly, but Martin doesn't delve too deeply into these fears (which one could take as a sign that it won't be important, while the many mentions of food might indicate that it will be important).
Bannen continues to complain about the cold, and Sam feels cold himself, despite the heat we've been told about. Also, he's really tired. He wants to sleep but when he closes his eyes, nightmarish visions of dead men shambling appear before him. Upstairs, Gilly continues to give birth. Now, as it is, I witnessed a birth only seven months ago, and I'd argue that it would be scarier to have a man dying on the floor. Craster is annoyed by Gilly's "shrieking", and threatens to go up and slap her into silence. I've spoken about the bestiality of many characters in the series before, and here it is again. How inhuman are you when you want to slap a woman giving birth for making noises? He really needs therapy. And a cell.
The otherwise forgettable ranger, Ronnel Harclay, reminds them that they are beneath Craster's roof: His roof, his rule. In other words, they should not interfere. The whole shtick on guest laws runs through much of A Storm of Swords and it is obvious why - we are headed for a quite dramatic scene in which these laws/rights are violated like never before, and to build up to this, Martin tells us often how important these laws are to the people of Westeros, to make the impact of the infamous Red Wedding even more gut-wrenching. In the NaNoWriMo story I wrote this month, I had a character named Ronnel. Subconsciously taken from A Storm of Swords, or coincidence? I lean toward coincidence on this one. I would never have known if there was a Ronnel Harclay in the series if someone asked me.
There are more descriptions to remind us what a bad man Craster is, another reminder of guest rights, and a recap of what happened before between Sam and Gilly before we can get on with the story - which happens when Sam realizes Gilly is giving birth to a boy (it's kind of strangely written because they say "his head" but if only the baby's head has exited the you-know-what, how do you know it's a boy? does the baby have really manly looks? A beard? Bushy eyebrows?). Anyway, the point is of course that if Gilly gives birth to a boy, that means Craster will give it to "his gods" which any HBO-viewer can tell you are bad gods. Bad gods for bad men. Is Martin making a point? I dunno. But I like to think so.
Sam can't take it anymore, what with Bannen dying before him and Gilly howling above (to Craster's annoyance - man does Martin make some of his characters disgusting; Craster certainly's in the top, uh, thirty or something). Sam walks outside, into a cloudy day, some patches of snow weighing down branches which makes for a nice visual; water is melting, so it can't be very cold (in fact, I guess this means it is at least 1 degree above Celsius which is what I consider the threshold temperature concerning the wearing of T-shirts outdoors - okay, I am exaggerating a bit but it really isn't that cold - but then the winters around here tend to bring minus 10 to 20 degrees Celsius - not this year, though, it has been worryingly mild). It's a good thing though, because melting snow means that the Others can't be close by right? (Only I'm not sure Sam has connected this yet).
There have been no attacks and Craster says it's because he's a "godly man", which is ironically funny for the reader/viewer who knows more, but this could be a line that a casual first-time reader will never pick up on. Oh, the nuisances! When he says, "You best get right with the gods", isn't he basically saying, "You better try to be friends with the Others"? And if people all over Westeros would pay the Others tribute in the form of baby boys, would that be enough to keep them off? Kind of a bad deal, though, especially if you want the human race to continue. Also, this makes me wonder why the Others specifically want baby boys (or whether this is just Craster wanting to keep all the women for himself). Quite dark territory this. Oh, Gilly apparently has told Sam that Craster makes all kind of offerings to the Others, so it seems they are not specifically target baby boys after all. Is there a thematic link here to the Baratheon bastards dotting the landscape? Are the Others perhaps looking for one specific sacrifice? It's an entertaining thought - what if they want/need the blood of the Azor Ahai reborn? Far out.
Sam encounters a group of his brothers entertaining themselves by shooting arrows at a butt they have built, Sweet Donnel (brother of Ronnel?) in the process of firing an arrow at it as Sam approaches. I bet these guys would have liked an iPad. Ulmer's up next to shoot, and we learn he has once with the Kingswood Brotherhood (nice way of putting some info on that organization into the text here - by having people from all over the place in the Night's Watch, Martin really stands free to introduce whatever background he wants to develop). What little we learn of the legend that is Ulmer is quite interesting as Martin keeps it brief and enticing (it involves Dornish princesses, gold and a Kingsguard). There's some banter to enjoy, and we get our first (I believe) couple of Dicks (lots of Dicks in A Feast for Crows if I recall correctly) - Fletcher Dick and Old Dick. I wonder if Martin was giggling hysterically while coming up with the idea to have a lot of characters named Dick with nicknames appended.. If so, -1 respect points. There's even more background on the Kingswood Brotherhood (one could almost assume they will become important to the plot one of these days, or we have drifted into exposition for the sake of worldbuilding territory - it's really around this point in the story that Martin begins to slacken on the tight-paced storytelling). "Slayer", Sweet Donnel calls, the way Martin italicizes it suggesting it is said in a mocking tone, "Come, show us how you slew the Other." Indeed, and realistically so, not everyone believes the tale of Sam the Slayer. I like that. I like how Martin keeps us grounded; his people are real, they don't believe everything they hear (well, not all of them). Sam is immediately afraid he'll fail, telling them he had used an obsidian dagger, not an arrow.
What we get here is a fine example of peer pressure, medieval style. Even otherwise nice Grenn gets in on it, they all want to see Sam shoot, probably to have a laugh. These guys are bored and cold and probably a little annoyed by Craster. However, it seems that Grenn isn't really understanding the underlying motives here, which is a nice little touch. Sam having to explain it to him takes away from the scene, though, I find; as if Martin didn't trust us enough to read into it ourselves. I can understand if he suspected me of not paying attention, but you guys...
Sam repeats that it was the dragonglass (obsidian) that had done in the Other, and that he is no hero or "slayer". SLAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEERRRRRR! R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman :(
Exposition follows, giving us details on where the discovered dragonglass has gone to (which I guess we need to know in the event that the Others actually advance on the fricking Wall). Sam doesn't think they have enough though. Depends on how many Others there are, of course. Does Sam know something about their numbers? I don't think so. Sam wonders what comes first - the cold, or the Others. I suppose it's an important question, but I am not sure it really matters once you face one of them. Sam also believes the Others are emotionless, which I suppose we should keep in mind. Either Martin is setting us up thinking the Others are these undead, icy automatons, and they actually are more (in the prologue of A Game of Thrones there is a hint that they speak a language of sorts, am I right?), or they are forces of nature without minds...but I tend to think it's the former. Sam misses Jon Snow (who is with the wildlings). He thinks back on the horrors of his recent experiences, until his train of thoughts is interrupted by Mormont's raven calling, "Snow." Coincidence?
The Lord Commander appears and tells Sam to come with him (after having stated that they will have to leave). Mormont complains that they had forgotten what dragonglass was made for and asks if it is truly made of dragons (Sam replies it comes from the earth) - still, a hint that there is a link between dragons and obsidian - did the Targaryens fight the Others back in the day? Did the Others cause the Doom of Valyria? Sometimes I feel like I have questions that only one man can answer. Oh wait, "the children of the forest used dragonglass" . That kind of sucks the life out of my Targaryen suggestion. Craster appears to interrupt their discussion, telling them he's had a son. "Son," Mormont's raven replies. Seriously, I had whacked the thing a long time ago. Craster tells them it's time to leave, he's sick of having the Night's Watch around (or so he makes it sound - could be he just wants them gone before he makes his offering to the Others); Mormont tells him they aren't strong enough to ride yet, but Craster won't have it (further suggesting he's in a hurry to get rid of his visitors).
When Craster complains that with the baby he "has another mouth to feed" (an obvious lie), Sam squeaks that the Watch could take the baby with them. Craster's eyes narrow. That actually scares me a little. The Lord Commander understands that Sam is making a mess of diplomatic relations, and orders him inside. And to be quiet. I don't know where Sam found the courage to speak up like that; he must really like Gilly to want to save her son. He's basically risking everything here.
And now I need a break lest I drop off the chair and onto the floor, to lie there in a semi-perturbed state of semi-consciousness. Which means I'm splitting up this post and get to the rest of the chapter in a post very soon.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
With only 1,000 word shy of 50,000 and three days to go I feel elated. Elated because I was able to push myself to do this. Exhausted and tired of the story, which isn't so much a story as lots of talking heads. The draft needs some seriously violent tweaking, but still, I have written all that stuff and I did it in under a month. It gives me the idea that I can write a long story if I want to do it enough. It would take much longer to write something that would be actually worthwhile for anyone else, of course, but still.
I did need an outline which I had beforehand, though, to be able to push through when it dragged. Several times I found myself mindlessly turning outline to flowing text without changing much - at other, more inspired times, I changed things around, gave the wording some thought.
All in all, a really interesting experience which I feel has taught me a lesson or two on time management and the writing of words (I do know a little bit about the writing of words, of course - Waiting for Winter: Re-reading A Clash of Kings Part I, out on December 22nd, comes in at around 100,000 words I believe) - but writing fiction is an entirely different matter, of course.
In the meantime, I sucked up J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Return of the Jedi like a sponge and finished it at record time (me being a slow reader) - only other books that urge me to read that voraciously are, of course, the volumes that make up A Song of Ice and Fire. I put up a few thoughts about Rinzler's book on the making of Jedi in my silly new Star Wars corner.
Which has brought me back to Mark Lawrence's King of Thorns. At first I was like, mmph, this doesn't really grab me like the first book's beginning did, but a few chapters in and we're getting some fun dialogue again. The black humor that made the beginning of Prince of Thorns so entertaining is back. While Prince disappointed as it developed, it's still a pretty fun romp. It's not in the league (by which I am referring mainly to Martin, Abercrombie and Erikson, and perhaps Rothfuss - oh, and Tolkien, kind of) but it certainly lingers close to books like The Painted Man and Throne of the Crescent Moon. The B-list, as I call it. Good, at times perhaps even great, but not consistently awesome.
Monday, November 25, 2013
In this blog, which I have called Star Wars: The Dark Legacy I will post musings on news as it comes out from Lucasfilm/Disney, and try to build my own vision of what a seventh Star Wars episode could look like. Feel free to drop by, or ignore it like Cersei versus other people's feelings!
Could you imagine a space epic like Star Wars only instead of stylistically going the high fantasy route it went Martin's grim'n'gritty route? Maybe that's the next big thing: Game of Thrones in space.
All right, where was I? I was pretty confused reading this chapter two days ago, but in my defense I was very tired and not really focused. But that's how it is, sometimes, isn't it? The chapter never seemed to end, nor did it have scenes that really grabbed me by the, uh, attention. Let's see if, upon finishing the chapter, we get some juicy stuff to rattle our sensibilities. Speaking of sensibilities, it seems I am not the only one who finds The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister a somewhat useless product for which actual trees have paid with their lives. On Amazon.com's page, the book's current rating is a cool two stars, with 28 reviews giving it one star and 4 reviews awarding it with five stars. Not out of spite or anything, but I do hope that this brings home the signal that people will buy Ice & Fire stuff, but that we're also reasonable human beings who won't buy everything with Martin's name on it. If not, we may have to face further titles such as The Back-and-Forth Considerations on Ruling of Daenerys Targaryen, Fabulations on my Sister by Jaime Lannister, The Various Conquests of Gatehouse Amy, Etiquette & Protocol as Defined and Refined by Shitmouth, Where Honor Gets You: A Guide by Lord Eddard Stark, Things Bastards Say: A Collection of Quotes from Luminaries in the Realm of Bastarddom, Quotes that Suggest Varys Feels Less Manly, and of course The Complete Collection of Hodor Quotes.
So here I am complaining about a book about A Song of Ice and Fire while I'm writing books about A Song of Ice and Fire myself. There's a difference, though, isn't there? I've spent years writing about these books, while I could have copied/pasted quotes from the books in half an afternoon. Same goes for many other fans who are writing about Martin's works and worlds, engaged in activities which show our affection for the series. There's a lot of these kind of books available these days, and all of them are more worthy of your attention as an Ice & Fire-devotee than a book of quotes you already know full well. The worst part of it is that when taken out of context, the quotes aren't even that great and some of them are definitely not the kind of lines of dialogue you want to have lying around on your coffee table. And now I shall stop ranting about this publication for ever and ever!
SO, Tyrion was having a chat with his delightful father, Lord Tywin Lannister, who has just told his son that it is useful to show off your wealth because he equates this with showing off the power of his family - but he is not going to forgive the throne's debt to his house to make it easy: Tyrion just has to conjure up the money needed for the expenses of the royal marriage. And again, thanks dad. You are the best. How can you not be the best dad ever when you casually throw in a request to get it on with Lady Sansa Stark, a young girl who has been living in hell since forever, possibly on the brink of suicide who has but recently become a woman (in practical terms, that is).
Tywin is, perhaps interestingly, "puzzled" by the fact that Tyrion has no problem 'bedding whores' but doesn't want to force himself upon Sansa. Interesting because this icy man is always shown as being above petty lust, yet here he is puzzled - in other words, he does show a certain understanding of lust. I mean, here we have a tiny hint that he thinks more like Tyrion than he would ever admit. We'll see where that gets him toward the end of the novel. Tyrion tells him Sansa is too young, but Tywin doesn't want to hear it - because, once her brother is dead, which Tywin says with an absolute certainty (and thus it could be seen as foreshadowing in a way) she will be the Lady of Winterfell. He tempts Tyrion here - "claim her maidenhood and you will be one step closer to claiming the north" - note that he says 'one step closer', thus not promising his son that he will actually become the Lord of Winterfell, I love that insinuation from the author that Tywin isn't really thinking of Tyrion as a future lord. Another possible foreshadowing, or at least a clue that may lead to a separation - the High Septon or a Council of Faith have the authority to annul a marriage if the wedded haven't had sexy-time all night long. Will we see this happen? Maybe. At least the author has put it in there for us to read, so that we can believe it when, in the future, we'll see an annulment of a marriage.
Next up Tywin tells Tyrion that Mace Tyrell has refused Tywin's offer to marry Cersei to Willas. Cersei, however, does not know - and Tywin reminds his son that he is not going to tell her. Again, the TV series departs drastically here, where Cersei knows she is to be married to a Tyrell. In the book, she is never to know about the offer, as Tywin states clearly that for all practical purposes, there never was made an offer in the first place.
Pycelle enters the room, giving Tyrion the evil eye (Tyrion had his beard shaved off back in the good old days when he was still the most efficient Hand of the King in the annals of Westeros). He wishes to speak with Lord Tywin privately, but Tywin says Tyrion can stay. This of course makes me curious and interested because if we know our Mr. Martin, Tyrion will learn something possibly shocking or revealing or something that twists the plot or his fortunes. Excited, I flip the page (actually I just click a button as I'm reading this chapter in a Kindly way) -- but it's "just" news from the Wall. One would wonder why it's so important to Pycelle that Tyrion doesn't hear this - did he plan to tell Tywin something else and when Tyrion doesn't leave he just improvises on some useless news from the frigid upper north? Even Tywin tells Pycelle that "this warning isn't new" (the warning being that wildlings are moving in great numbers beyond the Wall) - however, there is news of Lord Jeor Mormont's death, which is news. Tyrion, having met the man in person, had liked the gruff Lord Commander but he does not express any outright grief. Pycelle proffers Tywin a letter addressed to all "five kings" (you just know Tywin has to take that as a slight) which states that the Wall is expecting an all-out assault from the wildlings. Of course, this takes (once more) the focus off the reality of the threat as Tywin gets annoyed and begins complaining that there is only one king and that's Joffrey Baratheon. This makes Tywin less interested in dealing with the Night's Watch simply because the Watch isn't acknowledging that there is only true king of Westeros.
Tywin suggests that the Night's Watch needs a better Lord Commander who can bring some discipline to Castle Black - and I would so so so love it if the story had taken Tywin to the Wall instead of the privy! Imagine Lord Tywin Lannister forced to take the black! That would be hilarious and interesting all at the same time and could provide for some very interesting story developments. Of all the characters Martin removes from the game of thrones, I feel Tywin is the one that weakens, rather than enhances, the stories to follow; Ned Stark's death set into motion a fantastic and dramatic story - Tywin's demise just kind of leaves a hole. /sad Slynt.
Oooh! /happy Slynt! Slynt is proposed as the next Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. An all together fitting role for one of the most misunderstood and loyal men under the lion banner. Pycelle seems to suggest Janos Slynt mostly to wex Tyrion, though. And Tywin can just enforce this decision because if the Night's Watch doesn't accept Slynt, well, then Tywin doesn't send them more men. Simple as that. Might makes right. Tyrion tries to tell his dad Slynt is the wrong man; but Tywin won't have it. "There is a tool for every task, and a task for every tool." Couldn't have said it better myself. With that, Tywin orders Pycelle to send a letter to the Watch: they cannot spare any men for the Wall right now, but behave and install Slynt as Lord Commander, and we'll see. What a man, Tywin Lannister. Cunning and cold, enigmatic and ruthless. Truly a loss for the story, if not for the realm.
Tyrion regrets not having killed Pycelle and Slynt, but thinks to himself that at least now he has learned (by ordering the murder of Symon Silver Tongue), and thus ends the chapter with a last reflection: See how fast I learn my lessons? It's not a WOOWIIIEEEWEEBAABANG cliffhanger ending but it is quite chilling in its foreshadowing. Martin is almost spelling it out for us. You know what I mean. Their later confrontation featuring crossbows, poop and whores.Among other things.
And that wraps up Tyrion IV, not the most brilliantly written Tyrion chapter but still a decent read with some interesting politicking and a few funny lines of dialogue. I am not sure I understand Pycelle's motivation toward the end here, is it just to wex Tyrion that he suggests Slynt for Lord Commander or is there more to his agenda here?
Next time: Samwell Tarly, darling.