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I used to think that this song was way too cheesy. But several years later, after forgetting all the boring stuff that happened in the recent books and only remembering the awesome ride that is the Great Hunt, I think it’s pretty catchy.

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Nerdcore #1

I’ll be frank. This novel is a complete and utter mess! It’s been a long time since got the opportunity to read such a train-wreck that isn’t self-published, but actually released by a serious publisher. I mean, I got the feeling this was an incomplete edition, an early draft or something like that. The version I read, a digital version, I borrowed from a friend and I have yet to ask him where the heck he got it! Because the ending made me think that this couldn’t – in a million years – be the final version. Here’s why:

The novel begins fine, at a slow pace. We’re introduced to some sympathetic characters and the author starts building the world right away. The people of the islands have windships, they know of several magic systems and the Duchy is inhabited by two interesting groups of people. So far so good. I had no problems with the beginning. I even liked the first three hundred or so pages.

But then… Oh my god. The second book is filled with narrow escapes, streltsi dying, spirits being summoned, windships crashing, Nikandr feeling a connection with Nasim, characters dying, but no! they survived! Although that completely other character died in a utterly random scene. Weird. Characters disappear, but wait, they just reappeared, Nikandr learns to fly, Nikandr saves the day, Nikandr dies, Nikandr is resurrected…  The main cast is teleported all around the islands, Saphia is seemingly devoured by spirits but a chapter later we learn that she is now healthier than she has been in months…

Honestly, I paid as much attention to the plot as is humanly possible, but one hour after finishing the novel I can’t remember all the action scenes, all the twists and turns, and where all the characters are supposed to be. The prose in the second half is h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e. I get that Beaulieu made his debut with this book, but come on! Towards the end, the novel devolves into this:

                             The main character did that, but then that happened. He could feel the magic stuff happening all around him. He could feel the stone pressing against his chest. That minor character lay unconscious with the spirit looming over him. A streltsi on the main character’s right fell dead to the ground, but immediately another one took his place. The main character pulled his pistol, but he realized it was unloaded. The windships were firing grape shots all around them, filling the air with lethal rounds. The sotnik waved with his foreign word above his head, beckoning the streltsi to form a circle around them, but the confusion was to great.

And then that happened. A hole opened up in the ground and the spirit roared. Then a windship crashed into the ground, streltsi and seamen screaming in agony as they were thrown from the wreck.

The main character did that other thing, but then the third thing happened. And then a fourth thing occurred. The main character and the minor character were running up the hill, the remaining streltsi following them. A roar filled the air as a cannon was fired and a grape shot tore into the streltsi. One fell to the ground with a shout, but the other followed the main character.

Da! That foreign word, that was explained that one time four hundred pages ago, it’s being summoned!” the minor character shouted, his curly hair waving in the air.

The main character could feel that that other character was close, because they had touched stones, which for some unexplained reason allowed a bunch of stuff, important to the plot, to happen.

Nyet! Do not jest”, the main character replied, cursing the fact that the author had included a completely useless list of characters instead of a glossary over foreign words. He had no idea what the hell was going around him. And what the blazes had happened to Jahalan?

It’s confusing, it’s lame, it’s repetitive and it’s not remotely exciting. Too much is happening all the time and a lot is left unexplained. Like how come a character, who was lying unconscious on the ground one minute ago, suddenly is running along with the main character. I got the impression that Beaulieu wrote the last two hundred pages by spending a couple of hours writing every day after work, thinking he had to put a bang into each segment of the text so the reader wouldn’t get bored. But didn’t anyone edit the final draft for him?

The prose is bland and nothing special, as are the interactions between the characters. There’s no humor or excitement in the text, no natural flow in it, it’s merely a straightforward depiction of what’s going on. The characters seemed complex at the beginning, but the final chapters turned them into one-dimensional platitudes. The ones that turned to the bad side are utterly vile and evil, while the good ones are absolute paragons of virtue. And Nikandr turns out to be the finest hero of them all, never doing anything wrong.

In conclusion, the first half of the book was decent, but it all fell apart towards the end. I had high expectations for this one and I’m sad that only the first half lived up to them. But the question remains, did I get the wrong version of the book? Or was the ending really such a confusing mass of random occurrences and unmotivated actions? And what happened to Jahalan?

I used to act like a noob

Well, I still do. But nowadays if I happen to be ignorant and oblivious about game mechanics and tactics I’m doing it conciously because, let’s face it, playing like you’re a complete fucktard can be more rewarding than spending hours on the net reading class guides and comparing builds before you actually start the game. The last time I researched a build before playing a game was when I created a battlemage back in Dragon Age Origins. But that’s more of an exception, because my love for battlemages is greater than my lack of love for doing anything that resembles studying when I’m playing a RPG. So don’t hold it against me. Back in the day though, let’s say around 2007, I was one of the (unintentionally) noobiest players on the Bloodhoof server. When I played WoW with my nelf twohander it was in all essence a single player game.

WoW was the first MMORPG I had played and before that I had spent most time on online games like Diablo II (which by the end of 06 mostly consisted of weird guys who opened trades with you just to flash their goods) and Jedi Outcast (now that’s one game I wish I could still be playing), so I wasn’t shocked that it proved to be hard at first. I didn’t however anticipate that I would still be a complete noob after Uldaman. I did some bad choices, I’ll give you that. I chose to be a warrior, which meant I would be without a job as Paladins were better tanks then us at the time. I chose to be a twohander, when I could’ve been a pure tank. I chose to be a Night Elf, when I could’ve been a Tauren or Troll warrior. And last but not least, I rebuilt my character just before they released a patch that made Fury warriors the worst build in the World of Everything. Ever.

But I learned from my mistakes. Sometimes I remember my incapable warrior with warmth and fondness. You know what I’m talking about, right? That simple feeling. Like the summer you spent with the dimwitted countryside cousin when you were both little. You won’t tell anybody that you hanged out with him, but in the end he was a nice friend and hunting frogs by the creek or peeing on electric fences was more fun than you had imagined it would be.

The time I spent levelling this fury nelf warrior Amrothieal taught me some valuable lessons. After reaching level 70 I started an alt, a gnome warlock. And she kicked some serious ass. Both in Gnomerrogon and on PvP battlefields. She had some serious potential and I knew that when I reached the max level I would be able to handle myself in heroic dungeons and on raids. Finally I would get some good loot.

But then I got bored, uninstalled the game and moved on. And I’m still a noob.

The Sausagefest of the Ring

A hobbit in a suit.

I just finished the audibook version of the Fellowship of the Ring read by Robert Inglis, and I have to admit I’d forgotten how racist and manly schauvinistic this book is. But Tolkien’s trilogy is nevertheless the foundation upon which the genre of modern fantasy lies. And there’s no denying that fact. So I better show some more respect.

Still, foundation or no, Ingliss’ version of tFotR from the distant year of 1990  is one amusing audiobook, especially when you add the various songs he sings to the calculation. When I read the books for the umpteenth time I usually just skip the songs, especially if they are in some wierd language like Quenya… Or the dialect the Hobbits use. But this time I actually paid attention to them. And chuckled merrily. Inglis does have a fantastic voice. Speaking of hilarious versions of LotR, pistolshrimp‘s Boyz n the Ring, which is over two years old already, is well worth watching. It’s almost funnier than the extended version of Fellowship the movie.

“Kingthlayer!”

Well, it looks like the british actor, known for his roles in the original version of the Office and most

Artwork by mattolsonart ( mattolsonart.deviantart.com )

of the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, is a step closer towards doning the mantle of Vargo Hoat in season 3 of the HBO series Game of Thrones. It’s nothing official, mind you, but he was seen in a pub in Northern Ireland together with the actors who play Sam, Pypar, Loras and Dolorous Edd. Coincidence? I sure hope not. I’ve been rooting for him as Hoat for a while now and it’s a shame the character didn’t make it to season 2. But it could turn out that the only thing in common the actors had in that particular pub was a thirst for a pint and nothing more.

Other than that, Clive Russell has been confirmed as the Blackfish, and Nathalie Emmanuel will probably play one of Dany’s handmaidens. Check out westeros.org for more information on the subject.

I will c-commence this review by venting- No… yes, yes, I can do that. Can I? W-will I die if I don’t do it? No, I will vent my displeasure- Yes. I mean, no. M-maybe. Okay? Yes. Yes, now I understand. So, this book was a decent one, even though I found some of the elements to be irritating in the extreme. It was lacking in some departments, but it more or less compensated for those flaws elsewhere. I won’t lie. My expectations were quite high as I’d seen a lot of the hype about this book in various forms of media. And because it was written by a African American woman. I embrace changes and new things and seeing how Jemisin succeeded in a genre that is unfortunately dominated by white male authors, I looked forward to this book, sensing that I would give it the highest possible score, just because… Well, because. But I can’t force myself to give it more than three stars. It is a good debut, but it took a very long time for me to adapt to the way Jemisin writes. She lost me a couple of times in the beginning, but I’m glad I endured until the end. It is a strong form of narrative, no doubt about that, even though I disliked it from time to time. And the way the Gods are portraited is different and interesting, a novelty I enjoyed.

Let me begin with the superficial, the stuff that has little to do with the plot. The author and her avatar. Reading a novel with a strong female character as the main protagonist was a breath of fresh air for me, as I tend to mostly read novels where the hero is a valiant and youingish male. I was actually glad that there weren’t much of the aspects that are usually prominent in novels written by men. Violence, magic, sex. It’s still here, but it has a different ring to it and it’s important for other reasons, not principally for the entertainment of the reader. Jemisin is a fantastic writer, and her use of such an intimate form of the first person perspective really appealed to me. Yeine is a breath of fresh air, and she is a truly remarkable character to follow throughout the novel. We have access to all of her innermost thoughts and secrets, fears and passions, and that’s where I think the novel also has its major flaw. The prose. The drama is very strong with this one. Sometimes unnecessarily so. One thing that irritated me to high heavens were the dialogues and the interactions between the characters, which were very wierd. The dialogues are  full of stutters, hesitations and interruptions that kill the pace and natural flow of the plot. Compare it to how I started this review. The way the interactions are handled does not ooze desperation and frightfulness, which I have no doubt was intended, but instead become tedious and irritating. It’s just used too much and way too often.

The consequences of the wierd interactions are visible in the vibe of the novel and the overall setting, which are gloomy andmelancholic, sometimes more than necessary. Another thing I had problems with in this novel (and in most contemporary fantasy books as a matter of fact) is that very little time is devoted to describing what the characters and the setting looks like. Yeine’s grandmother is for example only described as shorter than average. And that’s it. How can I possibly see her in my mind? The fantastic thing about literature is that much is left to your imagination and if you have a good one, the books you’ll read will be infinitely better than any movie, because you’ve painted the picture yourself, so to speak. But what can I do with one tiny piece of information, that doesn’t even describe the grandmother directly, but indirectly? I’ve read many books in my life so naturally I’ve seen a lot of elderly characters in my mind. And because of that, I had a difficult time forming a precise image of her. There’s just to much freedom. The same can be said about the city and the palace. There’s so little time devoted to defining them that for the entire course of the story I was unsure if it was set in a medieval fantasy setting, or during an alternate magical modern timeline, or… Towards the end of the book I heard that the setting was not medieval European, but more akin to African or Asian culture. If I hadn’t heard that I would’ve still thought the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms were another pseudo-European culture.

Artwork by Neondragon. Visit http://www.neondragonart.com for more.

Overall, the whole book feels like a grownup(ish) Alice in Wonderland, yet a shade weirder. Yeine finds herself in a strange place, surrounded by peculiar people and it’s only her determination and will that can save her. I thought the ending was strong and quite satisfying.

So, a unique novel? Yes. Wierd and appealing at the same time? Quite so. A breath of fresh air? Definitely. Will I be reading the next two books? I think so, but I will need some time to digest this one first and reread some of the passages.

“And there is the difference between us.

Your people live to fight,

while mine fight to live.”

I was quite surprised when I had finished this book. The Desert Spear is everything the Painted was and everything it wasn’t. It’s the same story, has the same progression and arc, and has a similar character-building, yet it is so very different. The world of the corelings seems a bit empty and leaves much to the imagination of the reader, but what the book lacks in description of the surroundings, it more than makes up for with its interesting and memorable characters.

Saying that I have mixed feelings about this book would be a great understatement. On the one hand it feels so real and pristine when it deals with how a Chosen One would act and be manipulated in real life, especially in the opening third of the book. I’ve always been of the opinion that a Chosen One can never unite the forces of mankind behind him with sweet words and valor, which is often the case in epic fantasy. A more realistic Chosen One would however achieve unity through strength and necessary – albeit often cruel – deeds, which we have seen throughout our own history. DS shows us this in a great way. But on the other hand it suffers from the same flaws that made me think The Painted Man was a good novel and a fastpaced story, but nothing that I would remember in a few years. The world of Arlen and his friends seems so wierdly constructed, it doesn’t have the same bite and stark surface Krasia has. The reason for this is because the general setting of the story is a standard European medieval world, which shows clearly in the Free Cities, yet it seems the rural regions have been inspired by 18-19th century America, and it’s this mix of inspirations I find a bit odd.

The plot: This is one of those books that you either love or hate. It opens up were we left off, some time after the great battle where the previous book ended. The plot in DS is good and I didn’t find it too predictable. I was unsure about the relevance of a few passages, but I’m positive they’ll be important for the third and final book. Some find the fact that the book opens with a series of flashbacks of Jardir’s life to be a bad choice, but I think it’s a good way of opening the book with a slower pace and offering insight into the character of Jardir. He becomes more likeable after those first two hundred pages and it becomes easier to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing.

The setting: DS continues to have some of the problems PM had. Brett doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on describing what the surroundings look like, or how people are. Sometimes this can be good, as it doesn’t slow down the pace, but as in PM the world tends to feel empty. The Desert Spear doesn’t have this problem to the same extent as its predecessor, because much time and effort have been put down in building the city and culture of Jardir’s people. I love fantasy set in medieval pseudo-arabic worlds, which I rediscovered after reading Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed earlier this year, so it’s just another reason why this book appealed to me. However, one of the few things I didn’t like with DS is the fact that it is set in a postapocalyptic world! By the Gods, if I have to read one more fantasy medievalesque novel that features a long gone advanced civilization, I think I’m going to be sick.

The characters: This is one of the major things I liked about this book, especially when it comes to Jardir. The main characters are all refreshingly deep and interesting, as are most of the minor characters. Heck, even Leesha’s mother seemed to have a few more dimensions this time around. But I have to say that Abban is one of my two favorites. Although he seems to be the humble servant of Jardir he’s more sly and cunning than what he shows the world and I think he’ll have a bigger part to play before the end. Leesha is better in DS, even though for a moment I feared she would turn before my eyes into one of Robert Jordan’s creations from the Wheel of Time. But she never becomes one of those insufferable harpies and I have to say that she was the second of my two favorites. The interactions between the characters are great, as are the dialogues.

The technique: Brett knows how to write a fastpaced book. I thought the slang the farmers used was a bit irritating, but I guess it is a necessary thing to distinguish the rural regions from the cities. I don’t know. DS has a satisfying buildup towards the climax as it starts with a rather slow pace and finishes with a bang. And I didn’t find any passages to be boring. The book had my attention from beginning until the very end.

The finish: All in all, the Desert Spear is a huge step forward from the Painted Man. It has its flaws, as well as its ups and downs, but its a fantastic book and offers a different approach to the stale institution that is the Chosen One in the fantasy genre. Brett is a great writer. He knows how to keep your attention throughout the book and suggests some fantastic scenes, which he leaves to the reader to assemble for himself. Some will hate this freedom, meaning he didn’t spend enough time describing the surroundings, others will love it for what it does to the pacing. He doesn’t shy away from the more grittier and darker parts of the story, but writes it all stark and raw and real, giving the reader the choice to form his own opinion about the characters.  Murder, rape and violence are ‘ordinary’ things. And nothing is free in his world, because every gift demands something in return. Some moments will fill you with disgust, but it’s all part of the story and shouldn’t be kept behind the scene. Gone is the naivety that I thought plagued its predecessor and I can’t do anything but look forward to the third and final book, which will without a doubt deliver a bittersweet conclusion to this terriffic trilogy.

Final verdict:

  • Good character progression and great interactions between them
  • Arabesque fantasy! That’s always a plus in my book
  • Great pace and straightforward writing from the beginning to the end
  • An unorthodox approach to a certain cemented aspect of the fantasy genre
  • Postapocalyptic nonsense… Ugh…

This is it. This is the one. The big one. The one that will define the year of 2012.

You could say that I’m looking forward to this book. That I’m eager to delve into it.

But that would be an understatement.

If Abercrombie decided to write about how he does his taxes, I’d devour the stuff and claim that it was the best fantasy book of the year. Maybe I’m biased.

And Logen is still alive. So, ‘Body found floating in the river?’ Not this time.

They say the Kindle version will be released on October 18th on Amazon. I say I can’t wait that long.

I’ve already pre-ordered it. So why is it still June?

‘There is always time for antics’, moaned Zaphod

from his foetal position around a chair stem.

‘Antics get me out of bed in the morning.’

Guide Note: Quite possibly the steamiest pile of Vogon poetry on this side of the Horse Nebula. The characters are hysterical (not in the funny way), neurotic and off. Neither the Arthur nor the Ford or the Trillian from Douglas’ books seems to have made it to this one, as the trio in this book seemed to be some new edition to the series. The interactions between the characters are artificial and forced, and the story is of secondary importance as apparently much more time was devoted to formulating “funny” sentences and coming up with “hilarious” names. One should ask oneself why Colfer was chosen to write the (hopefully) last entry in the H2G2 series, as he has only written books for young adults, which clearly shows in the neurotic and erratic behavior of the characters. Did someone actually think that Douglas’ original pentology was aimed towards children? No personal insults directed at Mr. Colfer, but he clearly wasn’t the most suitable for the task. And the other question one should ask oneself is why, oh why was another book in the series even necessary? To fabricate a happy ending? Or to earn some easy cash? The answer is sadly both.

Even Trillian from the horrible motion picture is more enjoyable than the one encountered in Colfer’s book…

Forget this unnecessary footnote in the H2G2 series if you can. It’s pointless and a waste of time, effort, paper and ink. There are a few funny and good moments in this book, but they aren’t enough to make And Another Thing… a book worth reading. H2G2 is done and finished and we should leave it that way.

Related Reading:

So Long And Thanks For Failing At Trying To Ruin This Franchise, Colfer! by An Angry Fan

Anything But This by Anyone Who Has Ever Drawn Breath And Is Or Was Capable of Using A Pencil For Writing And Not For Cleaning His Or Her Ears.

Status update from Skyrim

I bought Skyrim when it was hip and fresh just like you, but then life came between me and this awesome game. I haven’t played it for real since January and I don’t plan to touch it for a good while because it screwed things up pretty royally for me at the university. And I’m still paying for my folly… Still, I used to love this game just like you did, so here’s some screenshots of my character.

Marcus hasn’t been the same since January when I left him in Solitude, overencumbered and with that racist Belrand for company.

Name: Marcus

Race: Imperial

Level: 51

Home: Breezehome. It’s pretty messy and there’s tons of stuff there so I’m probably what you might call a hoarder. But it isn’t my fault that none of the merchants have enough money to buy all my stuff.

Spouse: Lydia. I feel pretty bad about this. Really. I had to use the console to get her to marry Marcus, which isn’t cool. But he still misses her. This college for bards isn’t his style and the people are still crazy obsessed with an execution that took place like forever ago. Plus, the Queen always says inappropriate stuff and tries to touch Marcus where he doesn’t want to be touched. And Belrand is driving him nuts with the smell of his greasy, unwashed hair!

Most used follower: Lydia. One of the reasons I married her was so she would be invincible.

Favorite Weapon: Dawnbreaker. I used to despise the Daedra, but then I realized that they had cooler weapons than the good guys. Plus, there’s no way to join the Vigilants of Stendarr or what they’re called. A troubling thing is that Marcus has been recently walking around in Solitude with a drawn sword, and I think it’s just a matter of time before he snaps and kills every single killable NPC in the town. Starting with Belrand.

Main quest progression: Oh please… After that battle with Alduin I decided to level up to get stronger, but I didn’t count on it to take so  long. So now I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to side with Paarthurnax, the Greybeards or Max von Sydow. As an Imperial I feel I should go with the latter, but it wouldn’t be cool if that meant I had to kill Paarthurnax later in the game…

Bunnies slaughtered: 4.

Behold the weapon I use for breaking dawn!

Skills:

Destruction 99

Restoration 66

Smithing 100

Heavy armor 96

Enchanting 99

One-handed 91

Try spending half a year with a bigoted racist who never washes his hair and you wouldn’t be so happy either.

So Marcus is what you might call a Battlemage. Heavy armor, wicked blade, fiery balls. Cool stuff.

Chance that I will get the DLC: Oh please. I haven’t even finished the main quest yet. And I still need to play the entire expansion for Oblivion. Plus, I haven’t finished Dragon Age 2 (which I started playing when it was released), and I haven’t downloaded that DLC with Felicia Day yet. Plus, I’ve heard rumors that Mass Effect 3 has been released already. And Diablo 3 apparently.

But first things first. Marcus needs to empty his backpack so he can get the hell away from Solitude. And Belrand.