Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Disturbance in the Force

I was writing this long-winded (you know me) post on what I was looking forward to in the realm of fantasy come 2017 (no, I believe it's too late for The Winds of Winter alas) when the news of Carrie Fisher's passing hit me. Carrie was always a favorite, so much fun, and her return as Leia in The Force Awakens was heart-warming. Thank you, Carrie. "To me, she is royalty." I can't believe she's gone. 

So long, princess.

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016: A Rretrospective

(Sorry for borrowing the title of one of your collections, George. It just popped up in my head, and now that it did, I admit I feel a little compelled to go pull GRRM: A Rretrospective from the shelf and flip through it; it's a nice collection of Martin's early works (the only story directly related to Westeros is 'The Hedge Knight', though ... gods, that means I own six copies of the same damn story; in the original Legends, in Knights of the Seven Kingdoms, as a series of comic books, as a trade paperback collecting those same comic books, and in this 'rretrospective'; plus the same trade paperback on the Kindle (an accidental buy I didn't notice until it was too late to do anything about it). In case you have a sharp memory and remember me stating I would never buy Knight of the Seven Kingdoms because I already had its contents in multiple versions, maybe I received it as a gift from someone? I didn't.
Anyway, you know me, much ado about nothing and lots of rambling and circling around the point, but the point of this particular post is to summarize the year's good stuff. Without further ado, hit the "Continue Reading" button for some rambling on the year that was. I intended this post to focus on A Song of Ice and Fire in 2016 but it just warped into something completely different. Sorry for that, and you've been warned - another non-Westerosi post.

[Review] The Last Wish

When I first, out of boredom more than interest, purchased The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, I had only a vague idea of the Witcher and his world. I played the first game, The Witcher (2007) a couple of hours at most, and that practically feels like a century ago. I was aware of its sequel but never bothered. It was not that The Witcher wasn't cool; it was intriguing, but the games were a tad too demanding on the system I was running then and so no love blossomed.

Over the years, I was aware of this Witcher fellow, who looked pretty much like the stereotypical (and thus, uninteresting) anti-hero, but it wasn't until I caved in due to the excellent reviews of the third game that I finally got to know him. If you don't, I can tell you that the titular Witcher's name is Geralt, of the realm of Rivia, sometimes also called The Butcher of Blaviken. And that nickname ought to make you guess: This is violent fantasy, and the best Game of Thrones videogame I have played. There are a lot of differences, but the similarities are striking, perhaps because George RR Martin's world is so ingrained. Makes the similarities stand out more, I suppose.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

[Re-read] A Feast with Dragons, Chapter 21: Tyrion III (ADWD)

...and just one day after that massive rant I have to admit that simply writing about the film made me really eager to see it again. Sometimes I find my brain hard to understand, but hey, whatever. I probably sounded very negative toward Rogue One yesterday, but I'm really not *that* bothered, it just comes off like that because there were so many nits to pick. The good thing about not being completely wowed: I'm not lost in a Star Wars-spiral of watching and rewatching movies, spending money on merchandise etc. and can freely go on with my re-read of A Song of Ice and Fire, the saga that, after all, at its best, is the best.
Trade in your lightsaber for a Lightbringer and off we go, this time to Chapter 21 of the combined re-read, which happens to be Tyrion III from A Dance with Dragons (it's an old novel, from 2011 or thereabouts, so I'm not surprised if you haven't heard about it; but you've probably heard of that Game of Thrones series where they kill off everyone and there's a lot of bewbs? Yeah.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rogue One: A rantish review (or a reviewish rant) WHATEVER

So I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story the other day; you may have heard of it. As a Star Wars lifer I couldn't help but jot down my reactions to this latest installment. The first part I wrote the day after the premiere, the second part I finished today. It is long (10,000 words!!) and I have no time for trimming and editing of the text, so please don't take it as any attempt at a professional review or whatever. It's more like a rant, anyway. So, without further ado and with my apologies for rambling on and on, here are my unedited first thoughts on the most anticipated movie since last year's Star Wars movie! Also please excuse any grammatical errors yadayada not native English; and most of all, if you're a total fan of Rogue One, forgive me my initial misgivings; I do hope more viewings will convert me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Today is the Day

I cannot properly express how it feels to be a lifelong Star Wars geek on the day a new Star Wars movie premieres. Especially when it is already receiving glowing reviews and is compared to The Empire Strikes Back. Wow, the minutes are crawling by now. Sloooow...... may the Force be with you on this day of Star Wars. The Winds of Winter can wait. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

[Re-read] A Feast with Dragons, Chapter 20: The Kraken's Daughter

My posts usually do not respect spoiler boundaries. I'm talking about stuff from all over Martin's canon, including spoiler chapters from books that never seem to be published.

You know (forgive me if I've mentioned it before), when A Feast for Crows was published, one of the things that really irked me was the out-of-the-blue change where Martin suddenly gave some chapters titles. It actually took me a good while to realize that these titles were actually titles in more than one sense: they were descriptions, titles, related directly to the POV character of the chapter; so in a sense, Martin did continue the tradition of having each chapter named for its POV; only with the many new minor POVs he gave a description instead of just a name. Once I understood this, and how it helped differentiate the minor added POVs from the more "proper", established main characters. Now, eleven years after its publication, I can say I am finally good with this abrupt change (weird how it still feels as if this is something new) and that in many cases I actually like the titles. "The Kraken's Daughter" is one of them. It's a cool title in itself, and it also gives us a description of Asha Greyjoy in the role she has in this particular chapter, as the daughter of Balon Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands. Now it's almost like I'd wish all chapters in the saga had titles that refered to the POV character's state of mind/status/whatever, because it's cool - and this is actually what Martin ended up doing with Arya and Sansa's chapters in these two last books, where the author is playing with character identity and this is reflected in their changed chapter titles. An interesting experiment, at any rate. Some part of me (the compulsive disorderly one I suppose) still thinks it would be the neatest to have names only; but some actual chapter titles that give away more than who the POV is, is nice too. Come set sail with me as we go to the Iron Islands and Theon's sister, Asha Greyjoy! If you're a TV-only fan, you are probably already aware who Asha is; they changed her name to Yara in the TV show, I suspect because the name was too similar to Osha's. Personally I think it was an unnecessary change - Osha is barely seen after Yara's introduction, and there are other characters whose names are at least as similar (Bronn/Bran, Jon Snow/Jon Arryn).
What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger! 

While we're at it, let's look for any...shades of HP Lovecraft while we're at it as well; I've been reading a few theories trying to link Martin's setting - and in particular the Ironborn culture - with H.P. Lovecraft's Chtulhu mythos. This link seemed to become very obvious with The World of Ice and Fire in which Martin introduces a lot of Lovecraftian elements. All right, hit the "Continue Reading" button below and we're good to go.

So Much Toil

Wow, do not simply install the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. It took me nearly a week to get things back in order. At first it merely slowed down my computer, but I ended up with two wiped hard drives and the prospect of reinstalling everything which, these days, can take a while with programs happily eating 50 GB. Fuck.
Installed update. PC began to freeze after a minute in Windows. Tried to revert to previous installation. No dice. Tried a lot of other things. Fucking ended up breaking everything. Howled with rage when I realized I needed a boot-DVD and my machine didn't have a drive. So much toil!

Fortunately, I learned a little when my previous PC imploded, and so I had saved my writing stuff, my music, and other creative endeavors onto OneDrive, which I now love a good deal more than I used to.
All this to say that my upcoming re-read of 'The Kraken's Daughter' is coming, but it's a little late in the running. Cool chapter, though. Cool character. Now that everything is (almost) back up and running - I did lose countless hours of toil in my games, such as The Witcher III (I love you!) and other cRPGs - I hope to finish up Asha's chapter and get it published right after this post of self-pity and first world problems laid bare.

Five days until I'm freaking out in the cinema watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I feel an oncoming screen crush..

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Wars & Witchery

So I finished Catalyst, yet another Star Wars novel pumped out to sluice more money in the direction of the Disney company. This one is supposed to set you up for the amazing-looking ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, which is premiering in ten days (I know people in the US have to wait a little longer), but if you have watched the teasers and trailers you kind of already know what's going on, no novel really needed.
Seriously, if I had known how little Catalyst actually brought to the table in terms of plot, characters, and fun secrets that would enhance the movie experience, I'd probably skip this one. I'm aware I haven't seen the movie yet and there might still be some form of "enhanced experience" after reading the novel but everything about it makes me doubt it.

If you've seen the trailers you'll have figured out that main character Jyn Erso is going to fix what her father Galen Erso did wrong and Director Orson Krennic is going to be the foil. The teasers and trailers also make it easy to link Galen to being behind the Death Star as an ultimate weapon, and that Jyn is going to help the Rebellion steal the plans for that weapon, leading up to and straight into the classic Star Wars (1977). The clips also show Jyn as a child, and her mother (Lyra); in Catalyst, the story is about the same four characters (though Jyn is only a baby/child throughout the tale), and nothing really happens. Author Luceno just stretches a story out of nothing, really; it's all about Krennic wanting Galen to work on the Death Star. Yes, there are some plot lines woven around this, some feeling very blunt (there's a strong, on-the-nose political message or two in here), and there are other characters involved, and it is the best thing I've read from Luceno so far (which doesn't say much), but the book itself...nothing happens. Not much, anyway. Most of the action is only related after it took place, which is kind of boring especially when you're reading a Star Wars novel. I mean, as an example, there's this exciting aerial attack on a cool environment / location featuring Imperial forces and people hiding, but we're only told about this after. Instead of being thrown right into the action. That's a big sin in my book; and that's why I still prefer Chuck Wendig's Star Wars books which much better emulate the pace, style, and adventurous tone of the movies.

So will I now stop lettimg myself be duped into buying Star Wars novels? Maybe. They have to be especially alluring. Catalyst's lure is that it ties into the upcoming movie (for which I am extremely stoked); others don't have a pull on me (like Ahsoka or Thrawn because they are about non-movie characters I don't care about).

Speaking of books related to franchises - I've found myself immersed in the world of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt again, as I wrote about here, and the (video) game is so damn good and compelling that I found myself buying the first collection of Witcher short stories, on which the game is based. I didn't know much about the Witcher series before delving into last year's number one videogame, but I soon learned about the creator and author, the Polish Andrzej Sapkowskiand the books published so far in English. Sigh, another world of lore to explore...

Anyway, I bought The Last Wish which collects the earliest (chronological) stories of Geralt of Rivia - the Witcher - and am halfway through already. Another cool fantasy to recommend Ice and Fire fans starving for Winter. Will get back to this when I've finished it.