Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ancient lore

Earlier this week I got this always recognizable itch, the need to delve into some kind of fantastic adventure, preferably through my fave hobby, roleplaying. But since our next Friday-Sunday session has been cancelled I had to resort to other methods to scratch that itch.
Looking through old RPG books only makes it itch more, but it is nice at the same time, imagining what I would do if I was a character in this adventure or that location.
However I needed to experience a fantasy story not just read about it, so I decided to play a CRPG. Trawling through a list of classics I suddenly realized I had never really played Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos, a venerable old school fantasy game that, if I remember correctly, was the spiritual successor to the classic Eye of the Beholder trilogy of games. Indeed, the gameplay is similar, but I don't remember why
I never played this one, despite being  a massive dungeon crawl fan. Maybe because it was simplified? Because I could not build my own party?
Anyway, this time I went for it, and the sheer nostalgia of the crude graphics alone was comforting. The plot in Lands of Lore is typical golden age CRPG style, that is, simple and quite ridiculous really, but it is only meant to provide a framework for the travels through dark forests and mines, one square at a time. Yes, it does not look or feel good to travel a forest that is basically a hedge maze - roaming the icy lands of Skyrim feels much more real - but there's something alluring about these old games anyway, and I believe it is simply the fact that they don't hold your hand (I don't want to tell how long I spent figuring out how to defeat the guardian of the Urbish Mine), yet are very easy to jump into for a moment or two when time allows. I am trying not to rush through the game by using walkthroughs et al, but sometimes I have to take a peak to eliminate time running in circles looking for an answer to some clue. It's a tale in which I hit the Save-button a lot, to avoid re-running large sections because I forgot to save and got killed by some nefarious monster jumping on my back. It is, in a way, the opposite of many of today's fantasy games, because it provides a challenge. A challenge in a fantasy environment ... scratches that itch I occasionally get from not having played tabletop RPGs for a while. 

Meanwhile, I am almost done with Ian C. Esslemont's Assail, I admit I have slowed down as my interest in the tale waned, as I shalt explain in a future review. I've been following the usual Westeros-related websites for news on anything that could hint at The Winds of Winter, ending up reading another batch of theories on this and that, reading an analysis of the possible future of Brienne and Jaime, and generally being unhappy that there's no news forthcoming. I am still utterly mesmerized by the fact we are getting a new Star Wars episode and spend too much time following news and rumors on it, and I still wish there were more hours in the day for all things geek. 

The next re-read post on A Storm of Swords should be up sometime during the weekend, hopefully. Kind of busy these days.

Friday, September 26, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion X: Snakes, mountains controversy

When you add the chapter number in Roman to the character names, they become so regal-sounding, I mean, Tyrion X. Regal, or pope-ish, perhaps. I wonder if Bronn's son will be known as Tyrion II, that would be funny. Oh yes, it is time for another re-read, and we are inching ever closer to the finish line of the first of the "original trilogy" of Ice & Fire novels that I still consider to be nothing but amazingly entertaining and interesting. Which is what I also think of Tyrion Lannister up to this point: an amazingly entertaining character, whose sarcasm, wit, scheming & banter makes him probably the most popular in the series. Until A Dance with Dragons, at any rate - the Tyrion we are presented with there is certainly not as entertaining to read about, but is it part of Tyrion's internal changes that he's on such a downer, or is it the somewhat contrived and overlong journey through Essos that takes away something from him? When I begin my somewhat ambitious next re-read project, to read both A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons using a suggested order of chapters (known as Feastdance), I will be looking for evidence one way or the other. I want to believe that Martin wrote the changed Tyrion to reflect Tyrion's mental state, and that he will rise again more entertaining and stronger, but somehow I also still hold on to the notion that Tyrion wasn't presented with interesting enough characters and situations to keep him a fun read. In the three first books, Tyrion constantly faces characters and situations that seem to bring out the greatness in his character; think of his friendship with Bronn, his relationship with Cersei (slap!), the way he singlehandedly changed the fortune of King's Landing, The Red Viper and Tyrion's trial, his encounters with his father... in general, Tyrion was always in the midst of exciting plot developments, always actively a part in things, and had to suffer a lot too (the sky cell, captured by Catelyn, his frustrations and love for Shae)....yet in A Dance with Dragons he is traveling, and then traveling some more, on a boat while playing cyvasse without much happening. Okay, that's a bit unfair because there are things happening but these events don't feel as vital or as plot-important, but what do I know, maybe all this setup will get a proper payoff later. Enough about Dance already, we aren't there quite yet, time for Tyrion's tenth chapter in A Storm of Awesome! And it's a highly ranked chapter at Tower of the Hand, so this should be a gleeful devouring of words. Oh, wait. It's that chapter! Ser Gregor Clegane for the [spoiler]win![/spoiler] There will be gnashing of teeth.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Keeping hands warm during the Long Night

MAN, when can we get some proper news/updates on The Winds of Winter? It's getting as ridiculous as the long waits for books four and five. There's just nothing.
No wonder I'm drifting more and more to Star Wars VII rumor websites and fora, at least there's something to follow to keep interest up.
Of course, there's the fifth season of Game of Thrones to follow, and there's been articles on the upcoming The World of Ice & Fire, George R.R.'s birthday, and...oh, that about sums it up, but nothing for us to chew on when it comes to that coveted sixth book in the saga.
If I wasn't convinced Martin isn't interested in his story anymore before, I am really beginning to feel it now. The argument that he's not saying anything because fans get fretful is weak; he doesn't have to give us a release date, he can tell us something about the creative process like most other authors have a tendency to do to communicate with their devoted worshipers readers. And the longer we wait, the more fans put the pieces of the puzzle together and can guess the general outline of the remainder of the story, which is kind of tragic in its own way. Once again, the slowness of forthcoming news is maddening. 

But have you seen that awesome new X-Wing (well, parts of it anyway)? Just that little glimpse has me all excited and happy. And just a little glimpse of the process of The Winds of Winter would do the same. Perhaps it's time for another teaser chapter. Given time and enough teaser chapters, we'll eventually, finally, have that sixth book.

Friday, September 19, 2014

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Legend of Grimrock II is Coming

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

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

Meanwhile, in the world of Ice and Fire news, there's a plethora of nothing new. Life is miserable and full of pain, apparently, but beyond that...no. Nope. Nothing on The Winds of Winter. Who cares anyway?

Friday, September 12, 2014

[Re-read] Sansa VI: Load New Game

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

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

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

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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

No news, really.

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

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

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