Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Excuse my language but ARGHFUCOLA.

What a week, what a day.
Anyway.
So happy with my Kindle (as mentioned in previous post) - a delight to use, increasing my reading time and reducing my Internet-waste-of-time, and then I thought, what the hell I'll bring it to work so I can show my students, maybe some of them would like to see how an e-reader works, and maybe even want one for Christmas you know. Make 'em better readers and all that.
And then I manage to let it slide out of my hands on my way to the classroom (I had my hands full with a lot of books and a PC and whatnot) and there you go, one irritating, annoying, soul-sucking 8 millimeter scratch almost perfectly in the middle of the screen, appropriately placed to make it impossible to ignore while reading - and even more visible when you actually turn on the damn screen as it somehow seems to absorb and spew out the backlight, a brilliant little permanent bolt of lightning marring my 1.3 week old baby Kindle.

Look at that scratch! Totally screwed up my day. 
I hate gadgets so much. But I love them. But they are so vulnerable. So frickin' frail. ARGHFUCOLA. Well well. I guess there's still time to get a replacement, but I'm almost afraid now to get a new one (if I can get a new one, I haven't really looked over the guarantees or rules or whathaveyoumafuc) since one small scratch is enough to fuck up (I did ask to excuse my language in the title of this damned postal rant) the entire experience and fun of owning this (otherwise awesome) thingamagog. SO SADNESS IN MY FACE!
It doesn't help that, at the same time, I'm trying to quit nicotine once and for all. You'll see, that scratch is going to make me pick up my bad habit again. Dammit. ANyhoot.
(One thing that kind of infuriates me a little extra is that the Kindle is built with the screen kind of protected by the surrounding plastic; in practice, falling on the floor shouldn't actually cause a scratch like that, am I right? If you put the Kindle upside down on a flat surface, the screen itself doesn't touch said accursed surface at all, it's sunk. WHYYYYYYYYY


Before this disaster ruined my literary life (about an hour ago), I did finish the third Maurice Druon novel in his series about the French kings of yore, heavily recommended by George R.R. Martin, called The Poisoned Crown, and it is quite similar in every way to the two first books (I hesitate calling them novels, though the third one is the closest to having a mostly coherent narrative with fewer authorial intrusions and straight history lessons).

Coming to the end of this trilogy collectively known as The Accursed Kings (great and fitting title), my next project is to restart (and this time finish) Ian C. Esslemont's latest venture into the Malazan Empire with Dancer's Lament, I really miss me some Malazan, so that will be good. But I am rather intrigued by Druon's work to be honest, and wonder whether I should try and track down the next four volumes of The Accursed Kings, if they exist at all in the English language. There's something about real history and its random twists and turns that appeals to me, and of course it's valuable in the sense of getting a feeling of a time and place so foreign.

Since I'm done with the three-in-one The Accursed Kings ebook, just in time before I fucking missed my accursed Kindle-baby on the accursed floor, here's a short list of vague and not so vague similarities between A Song of Ice and Fire and Druon's work, showing why George R.R. Martin dares call this stuff "the original Game of Thrones". (Not sure Martin ever uttered this statement of course; never trust a cover blurb).

SPOILERY.
-- Hold yer horses --


* An icy queen
* Three royal brothers and their claims to succession
* Young lovers marry in secret
* Prophecy coming true but not necessarily by miracle or magic
* A physically large character who is not very chivalrous
* And of course all the elements you pretty much have to expect, like backstabbing, poisoning, rape, murder, violence, bastardry, lies, lust, betrayals, battles (not so much to be honest, kinda like Martin in that we hear more about them than actually feeling like we're in the middle of them),  knights and councillors, kings and queens and princes etc. many reminding you of ASoIaF characters (there are versions of Cersei, Littlefinger, Varys, Mace Tyrell, Margaery Tyrell etc. in here, heck, even Quentyn Martell can be recognized)

I guess I could go on and on but dammit I'm going to send a mail and hope to get a replacement reading device of reading now. And then finish up my latest short story, only five days until the SFFWorld September-October 2016 competition ends! With only five days and a massive plot hole I am really not sure I can manage it. And I missed this month's flash fiction compo :´-(
Whether I finish it or not, the next thing to tackle will, of course, be another chapter of A Feast with Dragons, Sansa I (AFFC). Sansa, oh Sansa, what the heck is going on with you and just how much of your TV story is what we'll actually see in the novels and how much is complete crap? I refuse to believe you submitted so easily to Ramsay Bolton (or met him at all). Will we ever learn the true story of Sansa Stark? Stay tuned! One of these years, we may yet get THE WINDS OF GODDAMN SCRATCH WINTER1!



Thursday, October 20, 2016

FINALLY NEW GRRM BOOK YAY OH YAY

Wow, I didn't realize when I posted the Brienne II re-read yesterday that it actually was the publishing date of an ENTIRELY NEW GEORGE R.R. MARTIN BOOK! At least, that's what the continuous mails from Amazon claim. I'm talking about the new anniversary edition of A Game of Thrones, of course, which they dare call "George R.R. Martin's new book" in their mail headers, you know, simply as click-bait.

I for one am not very interested. Yes, it's probably a very nice book and it will look good standing on the shelf but, you know, I already have that book in at least four versions, how much more money do they expect to suck out of my wallet? Now, the main draw of this book is that it has illustrations; but from what I can gather I've seen most of it already; you can find, for example, the definitive vision of the Iron Throne on the Internet without further ado. I also already have both Art books based on the series, and some of the art comes straight from there (and a lot of the art in those two volumes was reused from Fantasy Flight Games' card game). It's such a transparent way of selling people stuff they already have, that it hurts. So yeah, no way I'm buying this book, even though I am prone to collecting this and that.

The real pain here, of course, is that the anniversary edition is of a book that was published in '96, setting up a story we're still waiting to see the end of; and even more real pain - it is announced in a way as to make people think The Winds of Winter has arrived, which feels like a deceptive and unfair ruse to people parched with thirst for more ice & fire.

On a more positive note, the Kindle still entices me to read more than usual, and to my own surprise I've already finished reading the second novel in Maurice Druon's series, The Strangled Queen. Like the first book, The Iron King which I posted about here, this is a strange amalgam of history and story, but still very interesting if you're into the medieval era. And since it's based on real events and people, it's even more unpredictable than A Song of Ice and Fire. Some similarities to Martin's work in this book too, but nothing that I feel Martin ripped directly; but a lot of the elements (most elements, even) in The Strangled Queen are also employed in Martin's work, like, you know, queens and strangulation. Still recommend it to fans of Martin, if only to experience one of the main influences of our favorite author.

It is frustratingly shallow in many ways, often merely describing character actions and using way too much exposition to explain, and as such it is a vastly inferior read to Martin, but it scores points on being actual history, and it seems that the author strived to keep it as true as he could. The lack of any fantastical elements doesn't really bother me, mainly because there kind of is fantasy in the sense that people are very superstitious, so there's a mystical element there anyway.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

[Re-read] A Feast with Dragons, Chapter 18: Brienne II

All leather must be boiled! I'm back with another re-read post, this time we'll be delving into Brienne's second chapter in A Feast for Crows, the tenth chapter of that book and the eighteenth of the combined re-read. So many numbers. Head spinning. As I've noted over the past couple of re-reads I'm beginning to find an appreciation for Martin's two last books, an appreciation that I went in wanting to find, 'cause I was pretty negative toward both Feast and Dance upon their releases, and you know, maybe some of that is because I had to wait so goddamn long for these books that they couldn't possibly live up to the hype. Now, older and wiser, I can sit back and try and see what Martin did with Feast and Dance with a calmer perspective, the perspective of someone who's no longer on the barricades shouting "Finish the book, George!" but who still eagerly anticipates The Winds of Winter, but without the fury. 

Would still like to remind you, though, George, valar dohaeris! (That goes to you, too, Neil Gaiman with your silly sandman-books.) (I kid, Sandman is awesome. But Neil calling out ASOIAF-fans is something that still irks me. But as I said, they should realize that valar dohaeris.) D'oh!aeris

Click below to read the actual post on Brienne II (AFFC).. "Brienne" is, by the way, quite an unusual name, in the sense that it's not like most names in Westeros, amIrite? Can't think of, admittedly from the top of my head, any other name with -ienne but I'm prolly wrong. At any rate, there are more Jons and Pates than Briennes so I guess I'm right either way. And now! The post.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Iron King

My re-read of Brienne is coming, I've been writing on it on and off - it's been hard getting a couple of consecutive hours to really write.

Meanwhile, I have treated myself to an actual Kindle device, a so-called 'Paperwhite', and, while I was initially disappointed it didn't have colors (which I've been used to with the Kindle for Android and Kindle for PC apps), it was a happy new marriage to another gadget. It's battery life is basically astounding. The main reason I bought it was that reading from the smartphone, while easy, was straining my eyes and somewhat impossible in sunlight. It was also too easy to go online and surf uselessly instead of getting some solid reading in.

The result so far is that I actually finished the first book of The Accursed Kings by Maurice Druon, "The Iron King"; such was the allure of my new toy. Reading it properly backlit is a great experience. And since my shelves are full (mostly with Martin and Erikson and Abercrombie and RPG books), it is so much more convenient to have books digitally.

The Iron King comes with George R.R. Martin's recommendation - if the cover is to be trusted, this is, according to our favorite author, "the original Game of Thrones" - and that is, of course, why I took a chance on this French author. Not that I believe anything Martin recommends is automatically gold, but Druon's work is apparently one of the actual main influences on A Song of Ice and Fire, along with fantastists like Tolkien and Vance (I still have to read Vance), and since it's based on actual medieval history which I've become interested in (again thanks to Martin), well, I really felt like trying it out.

My Kindle version is actually a bundle featuring books 1-3; "The Strangled Queen" and "The Poisoned Crown" are the two sequels to "The Iron King". While the general plot of "The Iron King" is like 700 years old, you might not want to be spoiled anyway, so I'll try not to say too much about the story itself, but rather whether I'd recommend it to another fan of George R.R. Martin's saga.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Stranger Things and Accursed Kings

So I watched Stranger Things over the past couple of weeks, an episode here an episode there and the two last ones tonight. I went in with no idea what this was going to be, completely unspoiled as it were, except knowing I'd probably like it 'cos nerdy.

I will not spoil any plot details but let's say it really captured my attention from the get go with it's incredible eighties style; I felt like I was eight again, this was what the movies were like back then, from the logo to the music to a hell of a lot of the cinematography. It just oozed a certain atmosphere that harkens back to, I don't know,  I guess Steven Spielberg movies like E.T. but, you know, for a modern and somewhat older audience.

Not knowing anything about it, I was stunned that the show was over tonight; maybe I'm too used to the endless developments of Game of Thrones but all of a sudden all the character arcs began to merge and boom finished. In that regard I felt the story was unbalanced, with a lot of buildup that was essentially resolved in the final two episodes (well, there was a lot of stuff that wasn't exactly resolved as well) and it left me somewhat disappointed; but, since Netflix is calling it 'season one' I can only imagine there will be a 'season two', though I found this season to be self-contained enough that it doesn't really need a second season - which I guess was a deliberate choice. Not a success? No season two. I assume this isa big success though, but I actually have no idea. For all I know it's a Firefly, which deserved so much more attention than it got.

All right, wow. Of course I loved the references to Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars in particular; I enjoyed how authentically eighties movies it was; I thought the cast was great (most of them anyway) but not on the level of Game of Thrones (but which TV series can boast similar excellence?); the special effects not so much, again we've been spoiled I suppose by the might of Thrones, but there were also moments where I thought they could have solved a scene in a different perhaps better way; not all character interaction came across as believable, but overall I liked the script's creativity. The villains (or whatever you want to call them) were a bit weak, in my opinion, but the story didn't really have much room for them. The best parts were without doubt (and now I have to check online 'cause I have no idea who these actors are) Finn Wolfhard (that's a great nickname for a Stark character) as Mike and of course Millie Bobbie Brown as Eleven. David Harbour as the chief did a great job, too, his story brought small, manly tears to my eyes.

Now it's time to put Stranger Things behind me and get on with Maurice Druon's novel about the Hundred Years' War that inspired George R.R. Martin himself (actually my Kindle version is a collection of three novels, the first three out of seven (!) collectively known as The Accursed Kings); I've read the very short prologue and first chapter, and while the prose is quite different from Martin's I can already see the links between Martin and Druon.

I find it interesting to explore some of Martin's influences, I guess if you mash this up with The Lord of the Rings and Martin's pre-AGoT works you'd be coming close to A Song of Ice and Fire. Maybe. Have the nicest weekend!