Monday, April 25, 2011

Stuff and bother.

As I've mentioned previously I'm contemplating a relocation of sorts. One of the things that has to be done is a good pruning of my stuff. When you live in one place for 26 years you accumulate a LOT of stuff.

So over the last few days I've been wandering about the house and cramming stuff in bags to take to Goodwill. Clothes that don't fit any more, DVD's I don't watch any more.. loads of books. Maybe some one else can get some use out of it. I'm just going to through my remaining stacks of VHS tapes away. It's mostly just stuff I've recorded off TV over the years.. which is something I feel is lacking in current technology. They didn't kill it off.. but they certainly made it more difficult than putting in a tape and pressing 'record'.

I've gotten about 4 bags of stuff ready to go so far, and probably will have another 4 before much longer. I've begun making a pile of stuff I plan to sell on E-bay as well. Who knows what I will get for it but.. something is better than nothing. I used to collect Transformers. More out of compulsion than anything. So I have a rather large number of them that are from series that I just have no emotional attachment too. They are all going to be going. I've decided that I really don't care much for GIJOE's either.. the toys I mean.. The Comics I'm keeping.. or maybe will replace with the new Trades from IDW and sell off my old newsprint copies like I've been doing with my smattering of Conan comics. Quite frankly though I've lost a lot of interest in both franchises thanks to their current and constantly changing iterations, over the last 5 years my interests have really changed a lot.

I'm trying to get my total number of possessions down to about 4 large tubs. Make it easier to pack up. How well that will work I don't know. All I know is I want to get rid of some stuff.. so I don't get stuck here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to know if an Anime fan will be annoying or not.

This may be a bit of casting stones.. or spears.. or whatever.. but I've come to the realization that it's simply something that bugs the heck out of me. I don't really intend for this to be taken entirely seriously. It is meant to be humourous..

On the internet, and in real life, if you choose to hang out in places where they tend to congregate.. you will no doubt come across Anime Fans. most of them are very average people who just happen to like Japanese cartoons. Ok, No harm there. It's the ones who self Identify as "Otaku" sometimes also "Wapanese" or more derogatorily as "Weeaboo" Which is a ludicrous slurry of racial epithets. These names are not really fair, because I've met plenty of non Caucasian anime fans..

So how do you know you're dealing with one of these rather than the more mundane sort of anime fan?

I've come across a few tips that have served me well.

1) They bring their own chopsticks with them and use them even when they are not eating Asian food. Though if you manage to find one of these in a place that serves non Asian food, then that alone is something of a miraculous happening. Chances are, they were dragged there by their parents. Will happily eat Ramen for 3 meals a day.. and can occasionally be seen worshiping rice cookers as if they were golden calves.

2) If their favorite Final Fantasy villain is Kefka, or conversely they dislike Final Fantasy 7 for no reason other than it not having Kefka in it. Final Fantasy 8 is a close runner up, it's good simply because it isn't as popular as 7 and therefore it's superior.

3) They waste no time at all in attempting to correct you of your misbegotten idea that you enjoy watching Robotech.

4) They maintain that all Anime must be watched Subtitled, or else you just can't appropriately appreciate the experience.. totally disregarding the fact that, by the very nature of the medium.. All animation is dubbed regardless of its original language. What they really seem to be antagonistic towards is the translations.. but don't seem to express it very well. Fan Subs (especially if they are of dubious legal status) are always superior to any commercial release because of this fact.

5) Related to #4, are extremely disdainful of all Western animation and comics. In their minds even the lowest scribblings of a Korean Cel painter are superior to Alex Ross.

6) Refer to themselves as 'Otaku'.. which is a mark of pride among their confederates.. but in Japan is more akin to calling yourself a hairy palmed geek.

7) Related to #5, randomly intersperse a smattering of Japanese in their every day language. Such as, "Kawaii" rather than just using the English word "Cute".. Answer the phone with 'Mushi Mushi'.. and make odd faces in attempts to emulate the facial expressions of anime characters.

8) Don't tend to really care that much about actual Japanese culture beyond the confines of the Otaku subcultures. Try getting an anime fan to watch a Kurosawa film.. it ain't pretty.

9) think that the chocolate (Dubious at best) dipped swizzle stick of stale cardboard known as Pocky is actually an edible snack food. Of course when you consider it's having to be shipped from japan to the US and then is possibly sitting in stores for months waiting for some half starved anime fan to descend upon the sun bleached boxes of empty calories.. maybe I've just had a few bad batches.

10) REALLY REALLY HATE ROBOTECH AND MAKES SURE YOU KNOW HOW STUPID YOU ARE FOR LIKING IT.. Your opinions and nostalgic remembrances mean nothing, You are an idiot if you like Robotech and don't immediately forsake it to watch Macross with Subtitles. Yes I really do feel I needed to emphasize this twice because it above all else is the #1 cause of friction between me and Anime fans.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Well The Jokes on Me.

Never one to turn down the opinion of a helpful person, and since the sales person was unable to recommend anything similar to Nick Hornby.. I took her at her word that she knew what she was talking about. So I got conned into buying David Foster Wallace's "Magnum Opus" the Infinite Jest by a pouty smile and a sundress sported by a Barnes & Noble customer.

I've been struggling to make some sense out of this book for the last 3 days now. It's not been easy. It started out so normal too, just a kid who is going to school for a Tennis scholarship, falls down and has a seizure in the principles office. Ok, tons of drug/rehab sort of novels start out that way. Then we started getting into Heavy Drug use. Ok, again, par for the course. But all of a sudden.. we started to get references to "Teleputers" and "Entertainment discs"... It kinda started to feel a bit odd.

You see, I had no idea when I bought it, it was science fiction either. What? surely the man that Slate Magazine drools over, and a million hipsters wept when he died.. surely you must be joking I here you ask. Yes. Science Fiction. Specifically of the Dystopian Future branch.

The book is set in a world where, the United States, Canada and Mexico are now one nation. O.N.A.N. Organization of North American Nations. The US apparently tricked the Canadians into joining, or at least thats the party line in the new much more violent Quebecois liberation parties. Corporations run everything. They even get to name the years. so we get things like "Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad" and "Year of the Depend adult undergarment".... It's supposed to be about drugs and rehab. I figured it would be a bit like a modern One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. I was wrong. Thats what I get for thinking when it comes to "Literary fiction". Which is apparently free to both be Genre, and also not be Genre.

I'm not going to say that, David Foster Wallace's writing was no good. Because it was actually very good. He didn't try to do any odd grammatical structures the way Cormac Mcarthy does.. He actually built some interesting characters. And had they have been in a real world, rather than a Scifi Dystopia.. I might have kept reading. I'm not much of a Sci-Fi reader at the best of times.. I don't go in for the Asimov, Clarke, Dick, sort of stuff.. About the closest I get to Sci-Fi Really is Star Wars and DUNE. So It's the very act of him playing with Genre tropes that I'm already biased against that caused me most of my problems with it. But I can't help but think, if this had been submitted to a Genre publisher like TOR or Del Rey.. they'd have politely refused it or simply ignored it.

Needless to Say, I won't be finishing this. At least right now. It's certainly better than some of the other stuff that comes out of the middle aisles of B&N. It just wasn't what I wanted to read right now, and considering I went in looking for another author similar to Nick Hornby.. I think it's safe to say I failed in that quest.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Sound of Fantasy

Scores are good, I like them. Especially really really good scores.

The music can make or break a Fantasy film. Look no further than the Alan Parson's Project inspired score from Ladyhawke or the Tangerine Dream score to Legend to see how much damage a poor score can do a film. On the other hand Many hokey scenes in the Micheal Bay Transformer's films were saved by the sometimes amazingly good Steve Jablonsky scores.

He did a rather good job with Fantasy music for his store to 'Your Highness' Which while a Homage to many different scores to Fantasy films from the 80's.. also was quite good on its own.

I make a habit of collecting these sorts of things. Scores to films, video games, all sorts of things. I like to have ambient music in the background while I work, while I read and other times. But I don't always want the boisterous sort of music that you get with Hans Zimmer. And I don't always want the technological sounds of Frank Klepacki who scored the Command And Conquer series. Scores such as those from John Williams especially, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Star Wars. These tend to be too easily identifiable to really be ambient. They suck you into specific scenes in the movie almost as soon as you identify them.

Sometimes these scores are easy to obtain. If its from a big name movie then it's on CD, usually in a truncated form, but available. Sometimes you get lucky and get the whole thing. Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings score being a notable example. But frequently, especially for older films, the scores aren't available on anything but LP or Cassette Tape. If they make it to CD then they are expensive and limited quantities such as the score for The Goonies.

I know of two good sources of streaming "fantasy" music.

a fellow by the name of Mats Wendt has created a very good, and very long "Score" to the Poetic Edda. It's available here But it provides no ability to pause it and go back to where you left off, also no ability to download or purchase a copy. So it takes a good constitution role, or a really really huge dungeon in order to get through the whole thing. Much the same as with the Lord of the Rings score.

Then there is which has a streaming radio station. It also has a link list to different composers who give their work away, and to websites for various video games which also give their scores away for free download.

One of the benefits to running a D&D Game with a netbook, using it for Dice Rolls, Tracking party progression on maps.. it also allows you to program your adventures with music.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review - Winter is coming.

Alright, so I just got home from a the house of a buddy with HBO. We watched the episode twice. Sitting through all the stupid commercials for true blood along the way.

Game of thrones the show, is a very starkly beautifully rendered production. The costumes seem designed for functionality rather than screen appearance. It generally was a nice looking program. It felt like a world thats been lived in.. rather than one that was thrown together with oddments found in the backlot's broom closet. I imagine a good bit of their budget went into those aspects.. because it didn't go into the CGI.

The Characters were well Acted, believable, the only ones who I considered distracting where Khal 'Ronan "Jason Momoa" Dex' Drago and Eddard 'Richard "Sean Bean" Sharpe' Stark. They are simply too identifiable and I can't help but thinking back to their other characters. Almost no one else in the show with the exception of Peter Dinklage is anyone I could place. I know Mark Addy was in the recent Robin Hood.. and he was in A Knight's Tale... but he isn't some one I really think of immediately as some defined character. None of the women in the program stood out to me for any of their previous roles. So the cast was very well assembled.

But thats not really important.

Already I can state, without any vacillation, there is no way I will be able to actually watch this program for years and years. I will not invest another minute of my time, another Iota of my effort into George R.R. Martin's program. I simply cannot countenance allowing him to rope me into it. Regardless of how well it is written as a show (or a novel), Regardless of how well the performers do. I cannot do it until I know the ending and KNOW without any doubt, that the Lannisters and Targaryens all die, much deserved, deaths. And since I cannot trust G.R.R.M to do that. I can't be certain going in that that is how it will end. I cannot take any more steps on this journey. I'm keeping my feet, and I'm heading back to my front door.

The Bleakness Game of Thrones

So I just read the three page review of Game of thrones from the New York Times Magazine. This is a separate review from the incendiary one from the New york Times proper.

The basic gist of this article is that the Game of thrones is too bleak. And could do with a bit of optimism thrown in. Maybe some levity that dosen't involve raunch of jokes about bloodshed. I'd say this is a fair complaint from what I remember of the part of the book I read.

I'm willing to be supportive of the Show for the same reason I was supportive of Legend of the Seeker, Your Highness, Eragon, and a whole host of other Fantasy films and shows. I want more, and I want better. So I better support what we get. Or the next Peter Jackson might not get so lucky. But that dosen't change my opinions of George R.R. Martin's opus.

It's still a gritty, bleak, dark series of novels that leave very very little room for the more noble aspects of the human spirit. Chances are anyone who exhibits them is swept down upon like white on rice in a snowstorm and swiftly eliminated. Martin has crafted a world in which nobility, altruism, and the like are vices at best, and weakness at worst. His enemies are the Self. Rather than the standard Fantasy of having the enemies be the Other. Martin's kingdoms operate the same way a cancer ridden body does.. systems failing and feeding on each other in a confused morass of decay. He simply localizes the problems. It turns your neighbor into the Other.

That's not to say it dosen't happen. You can see it endlessly repeated in a whole host of nation-states on a nearly daily basis all over the world just by turning on the nightly news. It happened constantly in the TV show which Game of Thrones is endlessly compared too.. The Sopranos. A show which, I didn't like. It glamorized criminals. None of them were shown having to pay societies price for their malediction of their end of the social contract. If anything they were shown to be 'Just like everyone else'.. except that they murder and steal to get what they want.. while the rest of us slave away.

I just hope thats not how I feel after watching Game of Thrones. I want to like it. I want to support it in the hopes we get more Fantasy programs. But I have to have characters to like, that I'm sure will survive till the end, or it won't be worth bothering with. It's always darkest before the dawn, etc. But I'm left wondering if Martin intends to include the Dawn in his books. Certainly no shortage of his imitators show no inclination to include anything of the sort.

So this brings us to the other edge of what is as always a double edged sword. If it does well, it won't be doing well "because its a fantasy" but because its bleak and bloody and shows lots of tits. And we can no doubt look forward to adaptions of even bleaker and more bloody books into series.

I suppose I should console myself with the fact we are apparently going to get a Discworld Television show.. At least I can always count on Pratchett to make me laugh. Even if I can't count on anyone else to inspire me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Totally self indulgent posting.

Portland Timbers just won 4-2 against the Chicago Fire.

Really pleased with this outcome.

The Stadium formerly known as PGE park is quite nice looking now that it's finished.

Can't wait till sunday when they play F.C. Dallas.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

And Now, for a joke in bad taste.

"Cumming Man Dead After Car Flips"

.. I suppose he should have kept both hands on the wheel.

*Slides on sunglasses and looks at the camera*


And yeah thats a real headline from my local paper.

*For some reason I tried to post this twice and both times it screwed up.

Quasi Medieval, Dragon-ridden Fantasy Crap, Uhh what?

So.. I'm taking it that Slate's TV reviewer dosen't like Game of thrones all that much.. and wants to take out his anger on someone.. He apparently already hates the Fantasy Genre before even going into it. Fair enough. But I'd expect some one who reviews TV shows to be objective in reviewing well.. a TV show..

It would be like if I reviewed 'Mad Men'. It's obviously a great program, well written, with lots of drama and all that jazz. Good costumes, sets, actors giving great performances. But it's also about Ad executives.. people who make it onto my top 5 lists of "Those who will not be allowed into the bunker when the end comes" along with Lawyers, Politicians, Insurance claims adjusters and people who say ' Thats what she said' ". I wouldn't be objective, my dislike of the manipulative act of selling people stuff they don't need, negatively colours my opinion of the program before anything else is even taken into account. The same is true of 'Walking Dead' I don't like zombies, 'Jersey Shore' I don't like stupid people. I could go on and on.. but I've explains my position.

I've not seen anymore of the show than anyone else at this point. That 10 minute preview, I've read the first 100 pages of the book. It didn't really do much for me. But I'm going to cheerfully give the show a chance. See thats something else the reviewer assumes. That just because it's fantasy, means that every fantasy fan will enjoy it. Thats simply not true. I certainly wouldn't enjoy a film based on the works of R. Scott Bakker.. any more than I enjoy films based on the works of Cormac Mcarthy. Just because the Road was Science Fiction dosen't mean I went to go see it. I imagine plenty of people who tuned into Krod Mandoon just as quickly tuned back out. Obviously the same is true of the recent Your Highness, which seems to have just as many supporters among Fantasy enthusiasts as detractors.

The problem is now however, that his review is the review of the series for that website. He is their TV reviewer and he obviously hated it. And at the same time wants you to know how dumb you are for liking it.

If you read that.. the whole thing kinda reminded me of this

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Harry Potter, The Finale

I just closed the cover on Deathly Hallows. Allow me to say how relieved I am to finally have that project behind me. I'm glad to move on from those books. I was beginning to feel I couldn't deal with their blatant disregard of anything resembling a logical consistency.

Don't get me wrong, the Plot made sense.. it just could have been compressed into about half as many pages and been the better for it. But you can't jump off the gravy train like that.. I realize.

The series is so full of stuff that had me frustrated I nearly quit reading them. The characters never really grew on me. If they did, they died before the series was up anyway. I can also say, I've never met any kids who act like they do in this series.. but I've met plenty who THINK they act like they do in this series. Thats probably why the series was so popular. My eyes have rolled so much in the course of reading this series I may have caused permanent torsion to the muscles.

Handful of Adults know whats what and know to stand back and let the kiddos handle the tough jobs.. while the rest are off being blithering idiots and ruining the kids plans. Its pretty thin.

The whole concept that the book teaches Witchcraft is absurd.. but it does Beyond encourage some dramatically dangerous attitudes. Genetic superiority, racial purity, ethnic slurs, slavery.. these are all things the magic users make regular use of and think nothing of it. They toss around "Muggle" like jim crow era southerners. They are encouraged by adults to do this. So of course by the time we get to the 7th book, the "muggle" Lynchings have begun too. I'm honestly surprised that theres no bonfires with death eaters standing around chanting "Wizard Power, Wizard Power" But since the "muggles" are all clearly idiots.. worse even than the adult wizards.. no one seems to feel they need to be let in on the whole thing.. This is clearly more a fear on the part of the wizards that they wouldn't stand a chance against the "muggles" if it came down to brass tacks. The Wizards it seems have begun to delude themselves into thinking it was their choice to go into hiding.. rather than being forced into hiding by the Torch & Pitchfork wielding "muggles".

The magical abilities of the characters, due to spontaneously showing up in 'Muggle-borns" is obviously Genetic.. yet at the same time it requires a wand to work.. Freud would have had a field day with this. This fact leads many of the Magic users to feel they should be running the world.. yet most don't even seem to grasp how to wear clothing properly. This is laughable at best. The fact they seem to nominally be Christian is also a head scratcher. The characters celebrate Christmas in all the books.. and Harry puts a cross over the grave of several of the casualties. I assume this could be a vestige of his childhood with the Durselys, but I'm not sure.

Harry himself has to be one of the more annoying characters in literature. He's not annoying to me the same way, say, Cugel or Richard Rahl are. They are annoying because they seem incapable of understanding other peoples views of the world. Neither of them has any problem with wanton killing if they see their views justified, as they are, being threatened. Harry is the complete opposite. Even when his friends are being murdered left and right around him, he can't bring himself to kill. He's the perfect spokesman for the "duty to retreat" laws that are in effect in so many places. It's always best to run away from danger and let some one else handle it. It makes him a very unbelievable character.

But any time you bring up an inconsistency like that. Its hammered home again and again that "it's only a kids book". Right.. it's better to patronize the little monsters and make them feel special since thats what gets the money out of mommy and daddies pockets and into the till. But make no mistake. It is only a kids book. It's not even as complicated writing wise as the Narnia books are. It lacks their moralizing, but it also lacks the character building. It's easily out classed in that department by the Prydain books. Taran starts off as a bit of a crybaby too, but through grit and determination comes to be a good man. I don't think its fair to compare the Harry Potter series with adult novels like Lord of the Rings. But it is fair to compare it to other novels written for kids. Rowling is no Lloyd Alexander or Susan Cooper..

Rowling's writing style is, very similar to Stephen King's, and that probably goes a long way to explain his admiration for her work. I like Stephen King, his books remind me of a comfortable chair, lacking any complexity in the language.. Rowling has that same feel. I don't think its a style that lends to the sort of epicness she apparently intended for the series to take on. To me it reminds me of a small child walking around in his dad's shoes, and barely managing to keep them on.

I'm really dreading watching the films now. The series was a cute kids book for the first 3.. and then just flip flopped from book to book with the rest. 4 and 6 were pretty good. 5 and 7 were pretty dire. The Idea of sitting through close to 20 hours of Harry Potter makes me more than a bit uneasy. Hopefully though, the movies are an improvement on the novels. Hopefully some of the stuff that read poorly, will be rendered more believable on screen. Hopefully.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Your Highness.

A raunchy fantasy romp brought to you by the same chaps who made Pineapple Express. It's done pretty poorly at the box office. I can understand why. It has very little appeal to your average viewer.. not nearly as much nudity as the trailers would have you believe and generally it requires that the audience be well versed in 80's fantasy films, D&D and other sorts of Fantasy oriented activities in order to truly get anything out of the movie.

It felt a hell of a lot like the sorts of things my friends would devolve a D&D game into. Wizards shooting colour spray out of their backsides. Barbarians blundering into boobytraps and having to re-roll 3-4 times a night. Jokes about copulating with dwarves or farm animals.. All of that sort of stuff.. it's all in this movie. Instead of getting high and watching Ator the Mighty, this is like getting Ator the Mighty high and then watching while completely sober.

Like Pineapple express the marketing is.. confused.. and confusing. They try to make it have as much mass market appeal as possible but its clearly not working.

The cast is, generally made up of quite good actors and actresses.. James Franco, Natalie Portman and Damien Lewis are all people I usually think of as being 'good' actors.. Danny Mcbride however you either love or hate, and having him star in the film was perhaps a mistake.. It's one thing to have him as a character in the movie.. but to be the star of the movie didn't really work... but he wrote it.. so he clearly loved it. At points in the film it was almost as if the character succeeded or failed based solely on Danny McBride throwing some saving throws behind his DM screen. He also wasn't lying when he likened it to serious movies like Dragonslayer and Krull.. It's simply a really really really raunchy Krull.

It didn't have the sex and violence of programs like Spartacus, but wasn't family friendly like a lot of those 80's movies were by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the jokes relied on the audience being aware of what was being lampooned. The film was rife with shots copied from Conan the Barbarian and others. But at the same time it didn't really come across as a spoof. It's more of just a really really screwy Fantasy world. Xanth on Acid.

So my guess is, if you are reading my review of it.. you will get a lot more out of it than if you are just some one who is reading a review of it on Yahoo. Don't trust the reviews from "normal" sources on this one.. if you like those 80's movies (some like Ator and Deathstalker are so bad they hurt to watch) You will find this lovable near Pastiche of those sorts of films quite enjoyable.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Camelot (It's only a model)

Being a Netflix subscriber comes with some additional perks, one is that you can watch the TV station 'Starz' live through a streaming broadcast. This is good because it lets me see the new program "Camelot" 90 days before the moratorium on it being on Netflix's Instant service runs out.

On Wednesday I wanted the first two episodes, which formed a two part story. It was.. apart from frankly grafted on feeling sex scenes.. not too bad. The usage of foul language is kept to a minimum, which is probably a good thing as the F-Bomb came over with Horsa and Hengist and dosen't make much sense historically...

Cast wise Joeseph Feinnes turns in a very unique Merlin.. who is Half Peter O'Toole and Half Christopher Lambert. (Described by the actor as Obi Wan Kenobi meets Donald Rumsfield) Manipulative and yet so blundering that by the 3rd episode he walks right into Morgan's (Eva Green, even more smarmy in this than in Casino Royale) trap. Once we get past them however.. we have to confront Arthur and Guinevere.. both of whom seem to be played by perpetually startled deer with very little discernible acting capability. Guinevere's father is played by Daragh O'Mally who you may recognize as Patrick Harper from the Sharpe's series. Several other quite good actors are in the show as well, Sean Pertwee as Ector, and James Purfoy as King Lot. But most of the show seems to really fixate on Arthur's wet dreams.

The show is rife with other odd anachronisms that your average viewer wouldn't notice.. Arthur, uses the name "England" at least once in the course of the program. That was probably a slip, he didn't use it again in the 3rd episode.. and we will just have to see if it shows up again. And of course we have the token minorities wandering around the village as well. Several people who appear to be of middle eastern extraction, and the third episode features a former African slave who sides with Morgan in her plotting. They at least attempt to explain this as being people who came there or were brought there due to the Romans.

The costumes are an odd mix of stuff left over from other movies or TV series.. I'm sure some stuff from the very short lived Heath Ledger program "Roar" is even in use.. along with a good bit of stuff that looks like it belongs to Braveheart They use odd little round metal shields (almost miniatures of the ones from TROY/300)but also use swords more akin to what was available in the 1100's during the Crusades.

Camelot itself almost looks more like a 1930's style train station or government building than a Castle.. certainly not a Roman Castle anyway..

I'll probably tune in to a few more episodes.. It's easily better than Legend of the Seeker.. but I don't suspect the program will be able to hold up all that well compared to Game of Thrones.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Dying Earth.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume in this series, I won't however be reviewing it but rather the second book 'Eyes of the overworld'. Having now read it, it fills in some gaps in my understanding of where the current trend of seemingly sociopathic characters in fantasy originated.

Having enjoyed the first volume in the series, I decided to press on into volume two. I'm sorry I did now as the main character for this volume, alternatively titled 'Cugel the clever'. Sometimes described as "ambiguously appealing", I found he was perhaps the most aggravating character I've had the misfortune to see a story from the P.O.V. of since Steerpike in 'Titus Groan'.

As described by the author, Cugel is "a man of many capabilities, with a disposition at once flexible and pertinacious. He was long of leg, deft of hand, light of finger, soft of tongue ... His darting eye, long inquisitive nose and droll mouth gave his somewhat lean and bony face an expression of vivacity, candor, and affability. He had known many vicissitudes, gaining therefrom a suppleness, a fine discretion, a mastery of both bravado and stealth."

Once you translate that from bullcrap however, it reads as "Liar, Cheat, Thief, Murderer, Rapist, who shows no remorse for his actions whatsoever". In other words.. he has no redeeming qualities, and as such this book has no redeeming qualities except one. And that one is the only reason I didn't chuck it promptly into the Trade-A-Book pile. It is marvelously well written with truly evocative scenery and atmosphere. It's simply a shame that Jack Vance didn't construct a less obnoxious character to inhabit it.

This series was apparently very influential also in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.. but if a player ever ran a character like Cugel in a game in which I was the Dungeon Master.. he'd find his character making a short drop and a sudden stop in the first town he passed through.

The Influence of this book's main character can definitely be felt today in the works of authors like Joe Abercrombie, Sam Sykes and the rest of the Grim n' Gritty brigade. So Perhaps since I don't like its imitators.. its no surprise I don't really care for the original either. It's truly a shame that such a character pollutes the landscape in such a way as to sometimes be distracting, this was Peake's major flaw as well. He redeemed this by having Steerpike get his comeuppance, Somehow I doubt Cugel will ever face a situation he can't weasel his way out of.

I'm not sure now if I will bother to read Cugel's Saga or simply skip it in favor of reading "Rhialto the Marvelous" instead... I certainly won't be seeking out Micheal Shea's Cugel Pastiche 'A Quest for Simbilis'.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Conan book on Amazon, Conan the Barbarian: The Stories that inspired the movie

Having a look on amazon today I chanced across this Mass Market Paperback from Del Rey.

No cover art and No idea of the contents at this point, but its gonna be released on July 26. It's a slim 320 pages so Hopefully it will be the first in a series of Mass Market releases of the stories previously only available in the Trade Paperback series. If it does well and makes money, perhaps it can fend off the demise of the more luxurious Trade Paperback Series.

This is something I'd hoped to see for a while now, a stripped down Mass Market release from Del Rey of just the finished stories. Since while the current batch of Del Rey's are really nice, high quality product, their price and the presence of lengthy essays and introductions I've found scares new people off when I've tried to introduce them to it. The same thing happened with the new trade releases of Elric.

Perhaps they just come across as too scholarly or something.

Still I suppose only time will tell.. But I plan on buying a few copies to pass around to people who have previously only seen the movies.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Prince of Dogs, Crown of Stars #2 by Kate Elliot

Well after having struggled some what to finish up the first volume in this series I took a bit of a break before tackling the second volume. I really hoped that it would be better, after all the first book was mainly set up, world building, showing the reader what was what and who was who. My hopes proved unfounded however.

After another lengthy struggle through another lengthy book which acted as a car with bad petrol in it. Fits and Starts. Parts of it are great, but parts of it are not. Its extremely uneven, and this makes me afraid to continue with the rest of the series. Pages and Pages of stuff that dosen't do anything to further the plot. Good characters shunted aside so the author can focus on characters who are, for the most part, pointless at this time in the series. Which I'm not ruling out that they could be more important later, that happened in the Wheel of Time several times.

At this point I'm not sure I'm going to continue reading this series, as the third volume is longer than the first two buy nearly 200 pages. That is almost assured to be another 200 pages of introspection bulking up a plot that could be covered in half as many chapters. Unfortunately when an author builds a huge series of huge tomes, it can sometimes occur that they are huge simply because the author is self indulgent. I'm not sure if thats the case here, since the books all cover such short spans of time it could simply be that they can't be taken as individual books but rather as parts of a whole. But so far I've not gotten enough investment in any of the characters to make me want to keep reading to find out.

I still can't bring myself to call it a bad series. It's an incredibly complexly detailed series that feels like a real world with a vast history. There are still a number of things which I feel detract from this, and its stuff thats not likely to go away. Simply put, the chances of a real medieval world featuring this many women in levels of authority is rather baffling to me. I can't think of a single Indo-European culture that actually had this level of egalitarianism. Even if cultures like that existed during the European Bronze or early Iron Age as in the case of some Celtic tribes.. it was mostly relegated to history well before anyone made it to the castles and mounted chargers phase. It's not a bad thing, since it is a Fantasy series, but to me its a bit distracting. Since none of the female soldiers are described in terms that make them sound even the remotest bit like soldiers.. they ride hard all day in armor but then all the men still faun over them.

I'm going to have to think hard about whether I will continue or not. Until then, here's a few more Cover art shots that once more put the US edition to shame.


United Kingdom:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wizard Smoothies

So here I am, just sitting here, beavering away at finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly hallows. I'm probably slightly more than half way done.. and I've hit upon a raft of new questions about this series. Well .. annoyances really..

Why is it that every adult in the series up till now, practically crapped their pants every time some one mentioned Voldemort yet.. now they all seem to be working for him willingly? Why is it if he is so dangerous no one has bothered to do anything about him until now? Why is the series turning into an allegory about the Nazis? Surely the Wizard's would have known about World War II and Hitler.. and wouldn't have allowed that to happen to them? And this is the one they felt the need to make into a 5 hour 2 part film? Really? Nothing's happened so far.

It makes me wonder.. Why haven't they bothered to tell the "Muggles" that if Voldemort wins he plans to kill them all? Way back in the first book, one of the characters explains why the Wizarding world is invisible.. and thats because the "Muggles" kept burning them at the stake.. so apparently "Muggle" technology can lay the hurt down on a Wizard. And that was Swords and Pointy sticks.

So since pointy sticks work against wizards.. but no one seems to bother to use weapons.. I'd like to see a Broomstick Vs. an F-35.. It would be awesome... but instead, we are shown yet more hand wringing by practically every character. It shouldn't be surprising. The series' main character wouldn't even throw down on Draco Malfoy for insulting his mom.. he let Hermoine slug him instead. Cause I certainly wouldn't have stood for that and I can't think of too many kids who would. I mean, Thank god he didn't insult Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind.. or he likely would have gotten a mouthful of high test booze to the face and a quick light.

So most importantly why are none of the Wizarding groups in other countries doing anything about this? Voldemort poses a threat to the whole planet and not just jolly ol' England. The only allies Harry seems to have are a few Wizards and Witches from France.. all the rest of the European magic users seem to be behind Voldemort.. But Harry is no Bernard Montgomery... and Madame Maxine is no Leclerc.. Maybe Dr. Strange, Harry Dresden and Willow & Tara need to go and sort things out for them..

Kid's book or not, even Bilbo carried a sword and kicked some spider ass. And its such a shame because the series started out with such promise of being a relatively light children's series about magic and everyone being a unique snowflake and all that. But instead the author decided she wanted to make it Epic, with a Dark Lord and all that.. and failed miserably.