Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 - A Feast of Fantasy?

Here we are, with only one day left of 2014. I find time fascinating. No matter what we do, we can't stop its march onward. Soon, we'll be in 2015, and we can begin asking the same old question again: Will this be the year?

It might not become the year of The Winds of Winter, but for those of us who love good fantasy, the year is shaping up to be quite solid without Mr. Martin as well. Now, if you look at this "Can't Wait for..." - list on Goodreads for the next year, you'll notice that The Winds of Winter is present but that's of course because of hope, not because anyone has said anything definitive about a release date. I'm not saying we won't get another novel in our beloved saga in '15, because he might just surprise us all, theoretically speaking at least. There are a few other titles too that I'm not too sure we'll see, but if we for a moment imagine that all these books will be published in the year to come, we do have a real feast of fantasy ahead of us.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

[Re-read] Samwell V: The Choice is Sam's, actually. Kind of, anyway.

How did it come to this?
Last night I got a call from a neighbor asking if I wanted to go see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and, well. I wasn't particularly keen to see Peter Jackson thrash the legacy of Tolkien even further after the two previous Bilbo Baggins films, but then I heard that the teaser trailer for Star Wars was being shown, and that got me all excited - to see it on the big screen. Imagine my disappointment when they showed the trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings instead. Oh well; the main attraction was to be the third Hobbit film, and there was very little in it that I was able to truly like - a few shots toward the very end of the film that truly evoked the sense of Middle-earth. What the heck happened after Fellowship of the Ring? That film genuinely drew me in, and most of the scenes felt real and tangible; The Battle of the Five Armies felt like an especially hectic cartoon most of the time, and whenever there was a scene that was supposed to be poignant it just became laughable. I still like whatshisname's performance as Thorin Oakenshield, though. But what a mess of a movie.
At so many points I could only laugh at the silliness - grumpy Legolas, overacted Galadriel, the menace of the Ringwraiths reduced to cartoon-like silliness, Tauriel's unconvincing love, the need to overdo everything (towers falling to neatly wedge between two cliffs to form a bridge), Azog's swim beneath the ice, it was all so fricking soulless. Boo/hiss!
I suppose I could go on and write a grand dissertation about why I feel the Hobbit trilogy doesn't do justice to the source material, or even Jackson's own The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The films manage to both be overwhelmingly epic and detailed and at times beautiful yet they are never exciting or all that interesting; they are frustrating but not nearly as frustrating as the Star Wars prequel trilogy was, fortunately. The biggest sin, I think, is that The Battle of the Five Armies felt more like I was watching a Dungeons & Dragons film (we even got a token Scottish Dwarf) than a piece based on J.R.R. Tolkien's works. Enough about that, I've got to counter this dose of bad fantasy with some good fantasy. And what's better than A Storm of Swords? Not much, I reckon.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wrapping up '14

Wow, how can I forget each and every year just how crazy busy December is? There's almost no time to geek out on anything. When night falls, I can barely keep my eyes open to read a good fantasy novel or what have you.

However, last night I had a total geekout when I took my firstborn to witness an orchestra play the music of Star Wars. It was brilliant, though I'll never understand why they omitted playing Han Solo and the Princess, perhaps my favorite theme from the saga. Not complaining, though; we got music from the entire saga and the orchestra performed it flawlessly. In addition, the performance was enhanced by people from the Nordic 501st Legion in full suits. Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Jango Fett, C-3P0 and more made it a memorable night for both father and son. Also, it made me want to get my own high quality suit and join the legion. Oh yes, the Star Wars fanboy in me is fully awake these days and it's probably only going to get more intense in the year to come. Have you felt it?! The dark side...and the light.

Still, A Song of Ice and Fire has a special and large part of my heart as well, despite all the obstacles the franchise throws in my way; the long waits between novels, the half-baked merchandise (okay, okay, there are a few gems as well). Today I visited a LFGS (local friendly game shop) and there was a lot of Game of Thrones-stuff there (particularly all kinds of drinking gadgets - cups, steins, shot glasses...) but I am more fond of the stuff that's based on the books than the TV show. I almost bought the 2015 calendar but eventually I ended up with Steven Erikson's latest novella, The Wurms of Blearmouth, completing my collection of all things Malazan. I wrapped it in gift paper and won't open it until Christmas eve, though. Gives me the time to finish Assassin's Apprentice, Willfull Child and The Companions on the Kindle. So that's one Christmas present down, a whole lot to go. But as always, the best Christmas present would be an announcement on a certain blog that is not a blog about a certain finishing of a certain novel. I'd definitely yell hooray for that.

Before I've often done an "End of the Year" post trying to summarize good geek-stuff from the year. This year I'm going to keep it short. Just like I've felt 2014 has been: Short. Time flies. Here's a list of things I thought made being a geek extra nice in the year that was.

1. Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens teaser trailer
Rekindling my love for the original trilogy with an 88-second blast, the teaser was more than I had hoped for after the soul-crushing disappointment of the prequel trilogy. It has completely occupied my thoughts since it was released two weeks ago, as you might have noticed. I just can't help but love this stuff.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy
What a fun movie that was. I still haven't re-watched it, a blu-ray copy is on my Christmas wish list so I'm hoping to see it again soon (and hopefully it's just as enjoyable then).

3. Legend of Grimrock 2
The only game that has kept me hooked until the grim finish line this year (though this is mostly due to my crappy computer not being good enough to really enjoy a few other promising titles such as Divinity: Original Sin). I love me some dungeon-crawling and this game provides it to the point that I got sick of it.

4. Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools
In my humble opinion the best fantasy novel of the year. I voted for it on the Goodreads Awards.

5. The World of Ice and Fire (at least the half I've read so far)
After all the negative things I've said about this work, it still ended up being a fairly hefty tome of lore, with some absolutely amazing artwork and some very interesting details nestled in there for the starving fan of Ice & Fire.

So...with only five notables, I have to say that 2014 perhaps was a bit of a lean year for the fan of all things nerdy. Dungeons & Dragons returned with its 5th edition but I never felt an impact. A number of fantasy novels were good, but not great (Joe Abercrombie's Half a King deserves a honorable mention). There were probably a lot of great video games (Dragon Age Inquisition perhaps?) but until I can scramble together enough money for a good rig, they are lost to me (boohoo).

2015 on the other hand sounds pretty fantastic already with a new Malazan book from Steven Erikson, that Star Wars movie, a new season of Thrones, and, fingers crossed, maybe please maybe The Winds of Winter? I'm not counting on it, but a man must hope. Valar mohopefulness.

Friday, December 5, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion XI: Dysfunction Prevails

[Spoilers almost from the get-go; read at your own risk]

Five days and my life is still distorted from the disruption of the Star Wars teaser trailer; last night, however, I was able to focus and read another chapter in Assassin's Apprentice as well as another chapter in Willfull Child, and today I'm ready to re-enter the gritty, treacherous, exciting world that George R.R. Martin dreamed up for the enjoyment of us all. It's a good thing it's arguably the story's most entertaining character leading this 78th chapter of A Storm of Swords. If anyone can keep me sane in the aftermath of Black Friday, it's Tyrion Lannister.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

So how goes the game in all of this?

A tantalizing, hype-inducing image of awesomeness and then some! Can't wait.
Right. The whole weekend and the start of this week my brain has been fully dedicated to the Star Wars saga. It's like a virus taking control over a computer! I have watched the teaser trailer countless times, and my feelings about it change all the time, from wonder and amazement and love to worry and skepticism and everything in between. I haven't read one word in any of the books I'm reading, because I have drifted toward Star Wars forums and websites. It overshadows everything else, simply put. That's apparently how important this is to me, even though some part of me tells me to get over it and "it's just a movie" (a sixth diminishing return in fact!) - but the magic of Star Wars is strong and overwhelming. No, not Jar Jar Binks. The originals, man. And, hopefully, these sequels.

Anyway, this also tends to overshadow my love for A Song of Ice and Fire which I technically find a more impressive cultural expression/story, but all I really need to do is go to George's website to get that magical feeling of Westeros to the fore of my brain. I mean, there's this insanely interesting post where George is displeased with a sports team (so he does know what it feels like to be let down by something/someone he is a fan of); he also has no words regarding another sports team; and in case you thought the man had learned anything about treating his fans there's even more Wild Cards to be advertised. Right. Well, say what you will about American football teams not performing well enough, I think George could perform a little better himself. If Martin can be entitled, so can I and any other reader disappointed with the man's lack of progress and the lack of communication with the people who carried him on their shoulders all the way to worldwide fame and embarrassing riches.

Before I get too pessimistic, Telltale Games are releasing a Game of Thrones (yes, based on the TV series) video game, simply titled Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, Season One. This review at PC Gamer (UK) gives me a little hope that we will actually see our first worthwhile game based on Martin's intellectual property. Unfortunately you can't build your own character(s) or House, nor is it truly a CRPG the way I ravishingly love them, but a good point'n'click adventure could be a nice addition to the collection. I'm still hoping someone takes the rules system for Green Ronin's A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game and translates it to a more free-form CRPG (or even a strategy MMO where players create their Houses on small servers, interacting on several levels - as political leaders, inhabiting family members' avatars etc.) Too much to hope for? Of course. That's what A Song of Ice and Fire is partially made of.