Thursday, February 26, 2015

[Reread] Prologue II - For the Night is Damp and the Cobbles will be Slippery

Right, so I am doing this reread thing where I read A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons as one volume, using Boiled Leather's suggested reading order of chapters. So I began with the prologue of the fifth book, and now it's time for the prologue of the fourth book. I'm confused already. But this should all be good, chronologically speaking. As I mentioned in the previous reread-post, I thought it worked better to go from A Storm of Swords to Varamyr's POV, because it gave a sense of continuity since Varamyr's a character we already knew a little about (though I had him confused with Orell for a while there, embarrassingly enough).
Right. So there I was, back in 2005, Lady Slynt was barely pregnant with our first child, and, well, my whole life was quite different but for my obsession with A Song of Ice and Fire (okay, and a lot of other nerdy stuff). For five years I had been looking forward to the next book in the saga, so anxious to read more of this story that so took hold of my imagination. To ease the pain of that first Long Wait, I spent a good deal of time playing the collectible card game - here's an article I wrote about it, published at Tower of the Hand back in August. It kept us sane while we waited, and there were hints on some of the cards, too, of what was to come. And then, finally, finally, and to my great joy a week early, came A Feast for Crows. I immediately delved into it, opening to the prologue. Martin had pulled that trick before, of course; the prologue of A Clash of Kings featured nothing but new characters at a new location. And that is what we got here, as well. With Feast, however, this became more dissonant or jarring because, I guess, we had been waiting so long for the continuation of the saga, and once it came we were thrown right into a new set of characters in a new location (of course I was aware of Oldtown, but this was the first time in town, so to speak). I got over this quickly, though; but what was more problematic was that it didn't feel like A Song of Ice and Fire. That's a long time ago now, though, so let's see how I feel about this prologue this time around, ten years after it was first published. Ten years. Can you believe it?! (One good thing about me not being too interested in re-reading it - it still feels like a pretty new book. Ten years dammit.) THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. NOT SO MUCH BLOOD. THIS TIME.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

[Review] The Wurms of Blearmouth

Tyranny comes in many guises, and tyrants thrive in palaces and one-room hovels, in back alleys and playgrounds. Tyrants abound on the verges of civilization, where disorder frays the rule of civil conduct and propriety surrenders to brutal imposition. Millions are made to kneel and yet more millions die horrible deaths in a welter of suffering and misery.

But leave all that behind and plunge into escapist fantasy of the most irrelevant kind...

When I first delved into Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen (around the time I began this blog, back in 2009), it was such a great experience to know that I had a lot of Malazan-stuff ahead of me (ten fat novels from Erikson, Ian C. Esslemont's additional books, and a number of novellas) - an overflowing of fantasy goodness, compared to the one or two books a decade from Mr. Martin. Even when I had finished The Crippled God, the tenth book of the main cycle, Malazan-books were published at such a frequent rate that for a long time I had something new to read that I was really looking forward to - until after Forge of Darkness, the first of Erikson's new prequel trilogy. Suddenly, the waits became longer. Not Martin-long in any sense, but still, after indulging in so much Malazan goodness for so long, I suddenly had the feeling that the well was finally dry. However, there was one novella that had eluded me, which I finally bought as a Christmas present for myself, which was The Wurms of Blearmouth, latest tale featuring Erikson's trio Bauchelain, Korbal Broach, and Emancipor Reese (Mancy). 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

[Review] The World of Ice & Fire

To my own astonishment, I actually managed to read through this entire massive volume of lore, and finished it last night. Astonishment because the book is quite long, and I expected to take much longer than I did, and astonished because, frankly, most of this splendid-looking work is written in such a boring manner that it occasionally hurt to read, and I was just blazing through the material to get through it, rather than enjoying it. It was quite obvious, in my opinion, what pieces were written by Martin himself, and what was written by his two partners in crime, which unfortunately seems to be most of the book.

Hit that nifty "Read more" button below to, well, read some more.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

[Re-read] Varamyr versus Man-scent

After the feast comes the reckoning...and spoilers for everything.

All right! Time to delve into those two latest novels! A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, published in 2005 and 2011 respectively, arguably the most divisive works in the series, and which, unlike books I-III, I haven't read to death. Feast I've read two times fully, with the occasional chapter when I felt like it; Dance I've only read fully once, and I stopped a re-read halfway through - so these books occupy far less of my memory than the three first books, and as such I am in one way excited about getting to this point, while at the same time I have to wonder if this re-read will make me appreciate these two novels more, after so many years of debating them. I well remember how disappointed I was with Feast ten (!) years ago - how much of this disappointment was due to my excitement over finally getting a new book? I mean, I was so excited that once the book arrived (before pub date) I had to take a selfie with it. Same with Dance really, but with more apprehension. Right now, before I start over again with these novels, I feel that Dance is the weaker of the two, yet at the same time, by discussing and reading up on what fans say, it seems that these books are perhaps a bit more complex in terms of storytelling, at the expanse of the more outward action-oriented, tightly paced  first three. There are - perhaps - more nuggets of gold to discover in the sense that Martin packed these two with a host of clues, allegories, foreshadowing, possible resolutions to earlier introduced prophecies, new prophecies, enigmatic alliances, unexpected turns etc. and so I'll do my best to try and uncover and explore, and hopefully a deep dive will make it worthwhile. So, without further ado, the first prologue of A Feast with Dragons, featuring Varamyr Sixskins. I suppose he's glad he didn't warg four animals, which would lead to the other wildlings having fun with "Varamyr Fourskins". Tee hee. For the reading order and the announcement about this re-read, check out this post.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

[Ice & Fire] King Robert Baratheon

I have started my re-read of A Feast with Dragons, and have started to write a post, but it must needs wait a while longer until I find enough time in my schedule to actually finish it and get it up and running.

Meanwhile, Tower of the Hand are doing a countdown of the fifty most popular Ice & Fire characters. At #37, we have King Robert Baratheon, with a write-up written by yours truly

Enjoy at will.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Procraster speaking

Dunk! Egg! Horse! Art! Procrastination!
Dunk & Egg riding again, it says on Martin's (not a) blog. More correctly, Dunk & Egg are riding the exact same trails again, experiencing the same three adventures now with some new art depicting the same stuff we had depicted in comic book adaptations. 
Yup, I'm still a bit aggravated over the whole A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms announcement. It feels as if they expect the fans to get down on their knees and praise the mighty overlords of publishing for this book. Well okay, I do get it. For people who don't already own the three novellas, this is a nifty and admittedly good-looking product. Obviously. It's more the way it's being marketed that bugs me, I suppose. As if this is something people have been clamoring for; as if this should work as an appeasement of sorts for another long year of waiting (which makes the release date of October 6th hilarious btw). 

Well well. That's not what I really came here for today. No sirree. I mean, I may like to moan and bitch from time to time, but, you know. Right? Okay. Oh. What I came for was to mention that I'm almost ready for the massive undertaking of A Feast with Dragons, I just need to find an opening somewhere to get in some reading and writing. I'm also reaching the last fifth of The World of Ice and Fire, so stay tuned for more Ice & Fire-related posts. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

[Ice & Fire] A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Yay, finally a brand-new Ice & Fire book!

Circle October 6 on your calendar.

Oh. Well, it will probably be worth the wait.

My friends at Bantam have just informed me that will be the day that A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS in released in English, collecting all three of my "Dunk & Egg" novellas -- "The Hedge Knight," "The Sworn Sword," and "The Mystery Knight" -- between one set of covers for the first time.

Oh. I have already paid for, and read (and re-read) those stories. It would have been a little bit more exciting with The Winds of Winter, I dare think. Heck, even an update on that book would be more interesting.

Many of you, of course, will have read the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire Egg in their original appearances in LEGENDS, LEGENDS II, and WARRIORS. But A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS will have a lot more than the three stories. 

Exactly. I have Legends. I have Legends II. I have Warriors. I have already thrown the money at you. I also have The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword comic books, paid for each and every issue to experience the story in that format. Did I mention that I also paid to have those comic books collected into two hardcover collections? The Iron Bank of Braavos would never ever give me a loan the way I keep throwing my money in the direction of Santa Fe.

We wanted this to be an illustrated book, so we went to the amazing Gary Gianni and asked him to do some art for us, thinking perhaps we could include seven or eight interior illustrations. 

But I already HAVE illustrated versions - those comic books! GRRuMble!

Gary turned us down. 

Le chuckle!

He loved the stories, he said, but he'd only do it if he could illustrate the entire book, with art on virtually every page.


We said yes, of course, and Gary has been drawing for the better part of two years. Most fantasy fans know Gianni's artwork from his work on PRINCE VALIANT, on the Wandering Star limited editions of SOLOMON KANE and BRAN MAK MORN, and of course for his stunning 2014 ICE & FIRE calendar, but we think A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS may be his best work to date.

Of COURSE it is his best work to date, merchant dammit.

This is going to be an amazing book, one I will be very happy to have my name on -- beside that of Gary Gianni, surely among the very best fantasy artists of all time. (And damn it, folks, it is LONG past time that he was nominated for a Hugo).

It was about time the Hugo was mentioned on the Not-a-Blog again. It's been too long. Well, mr. merchantman, thanks but no fricking thanks. The most ironic part, which I'm sure will fly over the heads of most of the readership, is of course that A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms will be yet another unfinished story from our good friend George R.R. Martin. That should be the blurb on the cover (in case you don't know, Martin's been talking about more stories about Dunk & Egg for a long time - but maybe he's been stalling because the story is taking them into territory that would spoil his fun naming these novella characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, at least that's an excuse apologists can use).

Thursday, February 5, 2015

[Ice & Fire] A Letter from the Past

As reported at the Tower of the Hand, Censoros, Reddit, and a host of other sites dedicated to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire or geekery in general, a letter written by George in 1993 to his agent has surfaced on the Internet (photos of the letter tweeted by HarperCollins). Right, only a couple of days I lamented the lack of any interesting Ice & Fire-news, and now we get this. It is really nice to get some insight into how Martin originally envisioned his tale to develop. So much changed since his original conception. I know that this is how such things usually go - there's a huge difference between the early ideas and the final product, but we usually get nothing like this from George R.R. Martin, so no wonder this news sends ripples through the communal pond. 

What I found more interesting than the original early conceptual ideas, however, is Martin's words to his agent, Ralph Vivinanza, perhaps especially the following:

As you know, I don't outline my novels. I find that if I know exactly where a book is going, I lose all interest in writing it.

There it is. 
I suppose I don't need to say anything more than that. 
There it is.
The simple answer to the question, "Why does it take so long between novels?" 

Once he arrived at Feast, Martin was basically forced to outline and plan a little, in order to go ahead with his tale. This is confirmed. He needed to choose a structure, needed to pick the chapters and storylines he wanted to advance in Feast, and which to postpone to Dance, and make them all sync (more or less) - 
- and, having discussed the series' ending with the creators of HBO's Game of Thrones, even more of the future of the story has been set...thus, explaining the Long Waits. It cannot be stated any simpler than this: George R.R. Martin has lost (all) interest in writing it.

Now, since plans do change, and so much of his outline in this letter has already changed, I don't feel that anything here can be taken as major revealing spoilers - i.e,, the five surviving characters back then may not be who will survive the actual books, if finished. Perhaps the notion that Tyrion Lannister will eventually ally with the Starks will come to fruition? 

What is funny, in my opinion, is that these ideas, when presented like they are in this letter, don't really sound all that interesting in the sense that without Martin's prose and just a presentation of his ideas it all sounds much less awesome than the actual text in A Game of Thrones (and so on). I'm sure this Constanza-fellow scratched his head at some of Martin's explanations, WTF IS A KHAL DROGO?! know what I mean? 

Now, if anyone can figure out what's behind that next-to-last paragraph...

[Review] John Gardner's "Grendel"

Right, this was a rather quick read, not just because it was a fairly short work (between 144 and 174 pages, depending on edition - I read the .mobi-file, only $9.99 on Amazon) but also because it was such an interesting read.
I was not blown away, at least not instantly, but I could not put it down easily either.
Before reading an interview with Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen-cycle, I had not heard of this novel. It was actually published in 1971, four years before I came screaming into the world (at least I like to think I screamed, for some reason), written by John Gardner, of whom I likewise knew nothing. 
Anyway, as I've become such an adorer of Steven Erikson, I was reading that interview and he was asked about his favorite book, and it was Grendel. I recognized the name of the titular character, of course, which is the monster from the ancient Anglo-Saxon Beowulf epic (I'm afraid most of what I know about this poem is the decidedly strange yet somehow interesting movie Beowulf - no, not the fairly recent (2007) movie with Anthony Hopkins and a host of other big names, but the 1999 version with the...less stellar names of Christopher Lambert (the Highlander) and Rhona Mitra (who I was briefly infatuated with during the viewing of said film). The film's score of 3.9 at speaks volumes. But seriously - I'd rate it a 6, at least, though I admit it's been a while since I watched it (probably upon straight-to-DVD-release). All this to say that I might not "get" this novel the way someone much more familiar with the poem would.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Announcing "A Feast with Dragons"

Right, since our good friend George R.R. isn't making any announcements of interest on his own blog (unless you count artists out of prehistory, half-decent video games, screening Game of Thrones for the umpteenth time, a German film-maker adapting three old short stories feat Milla Jovovich, Superbowl commentaries as always, etc. - though I admit a movie based on three Martin short stories featuring Milla, who I adored in The Fifth Element and Jeanne of Arc: The Messenger, is kind of interesting in the sense that we might have another train wreck on our hands - or something that might end up genuinely intriguing), I thought, well I can make an announcement here. 

Not really digging the title Feastdance, which seems to have become the de facto description of Martin's two latest Ice & Fire novels when put together in an approximation of one helluva fat fantasy book, I decided to call it A Feast with Dragons, though there's precious little dragonry in either novel (I pondered for a moment calling it Dragoncrows but that makes even less sense). 

Monday, February 2, 2015

[Re-read] All hail the Epilogue!

[Spoilers for everything under the sun]
And so I finally get to wrap up A Storm of Swords, the third book of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It is a novel so full of twists and turns and awesomely paced excitement and intrigue and character development, it pretty much has to be my favorite novel in the series. Never mind that I said A Clash of Kings was my favorite (I still think book two is pretty darn awesome, though); it is this third volume that truly upped the ante, raised the stakes, lifted the story to a new level in so many ways - through this one, we slowly had our perceptions of Ser Jaime Lannister changed; in this one, we came to realize that Beric Dondarrion was a setup for, well, today's epilogue I suppose; in this one, Prince Oberyn Martell came, saw and didn't conquer, stunning many a reader and TV show fan; in this one, we got so much more of everything we liked about Martin's writing, taken up another notch. And it remains the series high, I suppose. What a novel, eh. It was the book that turned me from very appreciative of the story to an obsessive fan. And I still remember the moment I put the book down, being done. And there was no continuation. I began my search for other novels that could be as awesome, and for a long long time I didn't find any. There was only one thing to do, and so my first re-read began.
And now, I'm once again going to follow Merret Frey on the road up to Oldstones. Letz flip open ze book-zingy.