Archive for July, 2012


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.