Saturday, November 7, 2015

Flash Review: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

I know, I know! I talk a lot about Ilona Andrews. And Jim Butcher. People can say what they want about the choices, but when it comes to Urban Fantasy, authors could do a lot worse than to emulate these two. Both authors are fantastic in their fields, and in cross-genre chracterization. I mean a Wizard living in modern day Chicago with the attitude of a White Hat in the wild west and a warrior-merc living in a semi-post-apocalyptic Atlanta...who comes up with this stuff? Ilona Andrews and Jim Butcher.

So let's talk about Ilona Andrews and Magic Bites. Typically I hate talking about books I really like. Good books are like Kryptonite for a deconstruction critic. Like water to a cat I want to shake them off and start with something a little dryer that I can sink my teeth into. But, I'm finding that Flash Reviews are the perfect length to get out some good words in between the longer reviews I have planned for books like City Stained Red by Sam Sykes and other works that I need to get out of the way so I can clear my Bookshelf-O-Shame.

Magic Bites is a genre blending Urban Fantasy that teeters on the bridge of Fantasy Romance with a clawed toe that never quite passes the line. Instead, they slap at each other like toddlers until Mama Ilona tells them to get back to their side before she sicks a Vamp on them. Set in Atlanta, the story tells of a time when magic and technology are constantly at war with each other. At some point in the story's timeline, Magic came back into the world and it's constantly fighting for dominance with technology. Normal people will be walking down the street for days, hours, weeks, and then BANG! Wizards throwing fireballs at each other, were-tigers bounding around, etc.. This creates some fantastic drama because often the story becomes more complex during magic and vice versa with characters not always being what they appear to be.

The main character, Kate Daniels...Oh my god! I love Kate Daniels so much. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this character. The pacing for her background is given in spurts so short that no matter what you may think about her at any given time, you never know everything. There's a lot of pressure for female characters to go toe to toe with their male counterparts, and I just want to point out that that's crap. Not every female character has to be a role model to women everywhere, just like male characters don't have to be. It's fiction. It's escapism. But, that being he case, Kate Daniels is one kick-ass female character. Powerful in magic, a warrior with a sword as well as numerous other weapons. Kate has no problems taking out vampires on the street or drop-kicking Were-Lions. She has problems being frilly, which comes out more in the first book, but that doesn't dull some of the romance.

That being the case, Magic Bites paces the romance in between the story perfectly and kind of sets a standard that I really like in books. The main character, like I said, isn't frilly. She's a warrior, and her love interest, (who I won't mention, even though it's not really a secret,) isn't exactly a tea-cozy either. Instead of forcing an awkward romance, Andrews perfects her characters by playing each character to their strengths. Their romance plays out in their love of battle, in snarky comments and their knowledge of each others buttons and how to play to them. What I mean, is that while the romance is there, they don't force it down your throat like some other books...*Cough* Twilight *Cough*

Anyway, enough Rant. Magic Bites main story is that Kate's mentor died and it's up to her, a loner who doesn't really mix well with magic folk or law enforcement, to find out who killed him and why. It's the first in series by Ilona Andrews, with several spin offs and a series that is actually still going. Get hooked and be ready for gods, monsters, Vampires, were-creatures of all size and specifications, and a sword that just can't be stopped. I give Magic Bites five out of five every dang time

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Flash Review: The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron/Bach

The nice thing about reviewing books is that you get to see how far authors have come. One of the most interesting things is finding out that authors aren't who they say they are. Nothing nefarious, but it was super interesting to find out that J.K. Rowling was writing under a pseudonym, though not surprising considering her first, "Adult" novel tanked in comparison to the Harry Potter books. I hear a lot of grumblings about that. The fact that her success skyrocketed by writing under a man's name wasn't lost on a lot of people out there. I won't get into that, because it has nothing to do with being a man or a woman considering she wrote under the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling in the first place because she thought boys would be more likely to read a book written by a genderless writer than as Joanne Rowling. The fact that you can look up and see that she doesn't actually have a middle name is the real tell and the fact that success after the first book was phenomenal means that boys really didn't care.

But, I won't be going on about Rowling in this review. I feel she goes on enough about herself for any reviewer to really need to get any words in edgewise. This time I'm going to be giving a short flash review for The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron. I only bring up the fact that you don't really know an author until some time has passed, because it's not until you find that they have been writing under a pseudonym that you get a real look at what makes that author tick.

For those that don't know and likely haven't gone through my previous works, I've reviewed Rachel Aaron before. She's a great author, phenomenal in her craft, and there is a second series out there that I had no idea of because I didn't find out until recently that she's been writing as Rachel Bach as well. It shouldn't be surprising. Plenty of authors do it, Stephen King had his own foray into pseudonyms, as well as Erin Hunter who is a pen name for a collaboration of authors. Nora Roberts, a very well known author wrote under the name of J.D. Robb, despite the fact that shes one of the most well known authors of fiction in the world. I blame publishers for this, The fact that you're excellent in your craft means nothing when you're stuck in a genre for the rest of your life.

Considering the fact that Aaron, who wrote a superb series of books in a fantasy genre and then made the dive into Science Fiction, (two completely different genres in my opinion,) makes the switch all the more confusing, until you realize that Aaron was secretly including elements of Science Fiction into her series the whole time and just never let it slip until the later books.

The Spirit Thief is a fantasy fiction short (no epic fantasy for this series, a dedicated reader could probably finish it in a day and a half,) about the main character, Eli Monpress and companions who travel a world where every living thing has a spirit, though not every one is awake and willing to speak with people around it. Eli and his companions begin each book with the intent of stealing something impossible, because Eli wants to have the highest bounty in the world rather than for any financial gain.

So with that being said, The Legend of Eli Monpress is a fairly good series that focuses between several characters, including the titular character, Eli Monpress, a thief who is trying to get the biggest bounty in the world. What are his motivations? Or those of his companions? Well, Aaron does an excellent job at pacing her books so that you get very minimal amounts of backstory each book. Mostly through flashbacks at the beginning of the story that focus the theme of each characters motivation for the short amount of time they are the focus, Aaron gives out just enough to make the characters come alive without dragging exposition around behind her like a a bum leg in the sand.

This, matched with the adventures of each book, none of which exactly going the way they think make Eli and his companions the lead in anti-heroes in a world where grimdark has removed any connection between being a mass murderering scumbag and being a relateable, sympathetic character who just happens to be a little bit of a jerk. The fact that each character lives their lives by singular motivations that have nothing to do with the others gives the feel of Cowboy Bebop to it. It's a common trope in fiction, usually where bounty hunting or private investigating comes about. Give just enough information about each character to give them spice and differentiate between them without making them stale too soon into the plot. It can be aggravating at the beginning of a new series, but patience is definitely a virtue when Eli Monpress is concerned.

That being the case, The Spirit Thief is no perfect book. Similar to many first in series, it suffers from the Unknown Capacity Syndrome. That is, the story begins with you not knowing everything that's going on and plugging along as though you do. Little bits are revealed as the story goes on, but the fact that characters make little comments about the others is very much like being introduced to a group of friends who have known each other for years and make little inside jokes that 1) go completely over your head, and 2) wouldn't make sense anyway if they did explain it. The nice thing about the Eli Monpress series is that Aaron doesn't even attempt to bring you in on the jokes. If you want to know what is going on with each character, then buck up and get the next book in the series. You'll get it all eventually.

The secondary problem is one that I fell into as I went further into the series, and is fairly common in a lot of series and that's that the characters are very forgettable. An early description in the series may tell you what each character looks like, but they are more identifiable by the items they carry than anything else. Eli himself is completely forgettable because the books cover may show you what he looks like, but each book begins with him being amorphous. As a thief this is all well and good, but by the end of the series try thinking of his companions as anything other than the guy with the REALLY big sword and the girl with the CREEPY cloak and you'l be a better person than I am by far. At one point she described one of the characters having black hair and I had to do mental arithmetic to remember if this was new information or if I had just imagined her having blonde hair prior to that.

Given a rating system, I'd give The Spirit Thief  4 out of 5 as a series, but only 3 out of 5 for being a stand alone novel. The fact that you have to read the entire series to know what's going on with the characters dulls the excitement of having a story, but the fact that it invites you to read the series as a whole makes it more fun than having information spoon fed you. Altogether it has the feeling of having a busy parent try to tell you bedtime story without the aid of a work of fiction. It doesn't mean they're cheap, it just means they want to give you something original. Don't worry, they love you and want to do right by you, and they'll get better with time.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Been a While

A quick word to people not familiar with my reviews.

I've been told I'm mean when I review books.  I don't think I'm mean,  I just refuse to filter myself.  When you're in middle school and high school you have to be nice.  Go along to get along, tell the teacher what they want to hear.  In college,  some people still do that.  Say the nice thing.  But reviewing books isn't like that. If you read a book you start picking things up.  What the author does more than what he doesn't.  Where his strengths are and what he does to compensate.  Does he drag the characters exposition around like a man handcuffed to a corpse? Or does he overcompensate action because he doesn't do transitions very well.  Saying, "I liked this book,  it was great," is all well and good,  but what do you get out of it without going into spoilers.  A critic who gives a bad review,  or at least an honest one,  actually read the book.  They took the time to look at it closer than even someone who tested the book for the author.  They know what works and doesn't because they went through it with a fine-toothed comb and recorded it.  A good critic can do it without being mean spirited or vulgar, but if you didn't like the book then who's feelings are you sparing? Let's not forget,  bad reviews do more to sell books than good ones do.  Someone may get a book because their buddy liked it,  but more people pick up books because they want to see if it's as bad as they say it is.  The fact that Go Set a Watchman is still on the best sellers list can attest to that.  So if I seem vulgar,  or mean,  or overly critical,  let's keep in mind,  I'm not some dick on a forum trashing books. I'm a reader response/deconstruction critic.  I'm not here to play nice.  If I didn't like it, I'd City of Bones it and never review it.  Thanks and save your filters for instagram  people.  This is the real world

Friday, July 4, 2014

Evolution of a Damage Dealer: Final Fantasy A Realm Reborn

So, I'm pretty sure that the concept of linear, Traditional, (with a capital T,) RPG is dead in the eyes of Final Fantasy and Square Enix in general, and that's okay to me. People joke a lot about the name, Final Fantasy, and how it's getting a little late for them to be keeping up the pretense of being the Final one, but I never have.

You see, I started with Final Fantasy 7, (VII for the those in the know,) and was instantly in love with the game up until I found out that you needed a memory card if you didn't plan on staying up for two weeks straight playing it, having your food pushed through a hole in the door so your parents could avoid the rank odor of unwashed teen, stale hot pockets and Mountain Dew containers that looked a little too yellow to be actual Mountain Dew. People harp on a lot of things about RPG's in general: the wait time for characters and enemies to do attacks, the loose graphics, the hours of doing things other than story playing. But, these people are the same people that think RPG is just a genre of game and not the actual acronym for the genre which is Role Playing Game, a concept that was brought about by men and women sitting around a table, taking time to make and design characters, worlds and attacks, waiting as people came up with strategies for characters and enemies and having no graphic settings but the limits of their imagination. Comparatively, waiting 5 minutes for a nice cut-scene to finish up and dialogue to finish sounds fairly lazy and complaining about it jaded and ungrateful. It's a little like a kid rolling his eyes when grandpa says he had to walk five miles to get to school, ignoring the fact that grandpa only has one foot and bad knees.

As the games progressed and became better and better, I became more and more obsessed with the game series, and while you might never catch me wearing a cute little Tonberry outfit at a convention, I do have three nifty and rather expensive tattoos permanently imprinted on my flesh to show my devotion. More to come.

But, as with everything, there does come a breaking point, even with obsessive people like me who have played every version of a game they can without spending thousands of dollars on new systems, imported Japanese versions and cards that emulate them on an unloving system, and for me, that was Final Fantasy 10, (X to the people who care.) There was no specific thing that got me to become jaded over it, but if I had to pick one, it was the Specs, or the specific way that the game forced you to use certain characters. While you were free to customize characters through a sphere grid, throwing the initial leveling system mostly out the window, this effect did not take place until later in the game, forcing you to use characters you might not particularly like. Before, in Final Fantasy 1 through 9, you had a freer range of freedom to customize characters so that they would be more or less effective against certain things. This character is an attacker, he has high health, better equipment and you place him in the front. This character has all the magic, and this one has healing magic only so I put them in the back. With Final Fantasy X, you were forced through the game to bring in specific characters to attack specific enemies. The one with the sports ball, Wakka, dumbest character in Final Fantasy history, including Quina, until Penelo, could attack airborne characters others could not. The whiny protagonist in the story could attack the wolves that were too fast for other characters to hit. The cool bad-ass with the hefty sword could kill shelled enemies, (okay, the giant anthropomorphic jaguar that had furries obsessed for years counts towards that as well, but I didn't like him.)

I think it was at this point that Final Fantasy began a steady decline. Other systems were still popularizing on the traditional role-playing game, and the big hit was waiting on the horizon: World of Warcraft. Granted, Final Fantasy XI hit the stores first, technically in Japan. But, it had two big things in it's favor. First, Warcraft was already a popular computer game and it didn't have to switch a lot of it's concepts around, just going from a society creating battle game to a single player multi-player-environmental game. In comparison, Final Fantasy had to go from a single player, customizatable game, to a multi-player-environmental game that no one was quite ready for, including developers. The second thing in World of Warcraft's favor was that Final Fantasy went on to making Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XII.

Now there's nothing wrong with hitching your bandwagon to new trends. That's how things stay in the limelight for so long. In my humble opinion, making X-2 was a last ditch effort to keep interest in the series while they were preparing XI for development, and it failed miserably. Trendy, art-poppy, and heavily influenced by the dying interests in Charlies Angels, Final Fantasy attempted to merge two different things, hip, trendy, youthful, girl power protagonists in revealing outfits, and the old Job Class system from games previous to Final Fantasy VI. While creating a more diverse character, it actually did the opposite, forcing gamers to finish a perfect game in order to get good Jobs, and confusing things by creating jobs with obscure attacks for different situations. Where in X you had to use different characters to kill specific enemies, in X-2 you had to hope that the character you had had the skills necessary on their list of available jobs in order to do damage properly.

Having no experience with MMORPG's at the time, I had no reference point, but, looking back on things now, I have to say that Final Fantasy XI was one of the most unfriendly systems I've ever played. Imagine you are playing a city-wide scavenger hunt and are told that you get to play all by yourself, and the grand prize is s a new car. You start out the game excited by the prospect of something rewarding, only to realize your first clue is leading you twenty miles across town. Determined, bleeding and footsore, you get there and find that three other people are there as well and that they all have the next clue and you have to do it together. You start out on the next part of your scavenger hunt, but halfway there, someone gives up and you have to go back to the last part because the clue specifically says that if you get there without four people, you won't get the next clue.

So, you go back, and wait. And wait. And wait for a few hours. Finally someone shows up and they are just as tired as you were and they say they can help but they can only stay for an hour before they have to go get some food because getting a car isn't worth starving for. So you go for the next clue, only to realize that four other teams are there and they all want that clue and only one shows up per hour and five other teams have left. Tired, and with a hungry anarchist on your team, you steal the next clue which happens to be a set of bikes and peddle away, three angry teams on your tail. But, now realizing that even through you have a means to getting somewhere and the prospect of a new car, you know not everyone is going to get that car and everyone has bikes. Instead of going off to get that car, the anarchist goes home to get food, your tank goes AFK and the other damage dealer whines for fifteen minutes before leaving and flipping you off while he goes. That was what Final Fantasy XI was like.

Rather than trying to go back to tradition, as IX did after the steampunk revolution that was VII and VIII, Final Fantasy continued on it's online road, but continued making console games, but instead creating a merging of the two, bringing more customizable concepts to the characters, but taking away the freedom of character control. In XII and XIII, you had varying degrees of lessening control over your alternate characters, putting you in control of only one character in a more free-turn setting with options to give orders like some kind of general. The problem being that the sense of control over your characters, each with their own identities was a sense of immersion. It was why Vincent Valentine was so popular, even as a secret character, because your control over the character gave you control over how involved you got into him. Final Fantasy XII and XIII were more like a game my step-siblings played when they were younger: Kessen. Instead of being in control of characters, you were a general in an army and you got to send people into battle and watch as their numbers decreased depending on their way of dealing with that particular enemy. You didn't cry or cheer for those enemies, just watched the numbers and felt a sense of accomplishment when it didn't reach zero.

Things were beginning to look a bit dim for me when XIV came out. The beginning stats were bad, everyone was hating it and the mere fact that it went back to formula, (thank you Spiderman reference,) was bad enough for me to wait around for the next one to come out. The problem is, Final Fantasy is looking to be reaching the point where Final Fantasy might no longer be a witty commentary on their last chance at success and a goal on the horizon to look to and MMORPG's might be the road that they take, skipping and singing merrily along to get there.

But, with the wait for the next Final Fantasy game looking further and further away, and tattoos being rather pricey to get in the meantime, I decided it was time to try out Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, and see if the hubbub had subsided. Boy, was I happy to try it out. Not only is the game more user friendly than XI was, not only is the Class and Job system more relaxed, not only can you get a mount fairly on, but also, rather than take an RPG and force it into the confines of an MMORPG, they did the opposite. What does this mean? Rather than being fun, but kind of aimless with a storyline buried under random quest-lines and meaningless characters, (like WoW,) Final Fantasy XIV has taken the storyline and pushed it to the forefront, a little more like Everquest, which I only played once...for a day. The storyline is central to the playing mechanics, many of which you can only unlock by playing the main game. But, rather than being taxing like XI was, the game play is more relaxed. While I don't really remember hearing anything about dungeons in XI, having not played far enough to care, XIV takes the WoW route of including a duty finder to get quests, and even a random daily roulette for high leveled characters to get Tomes that can be traded in for high level equipment, encouraging people to continue playing even after the main quest-line ends at level 50, the level cap as of yet for the game.

Now, the game is still progressing, with new patches planned out and new job and class mods coming out soon, which is hopeful as my little character, Eldrich Forceus, wants desperately to be a Ninja one day. The thing I like most about the game is that not only is the game more user friendly, but it's also more friendly gamer on gamer and I think that has a lot to do with social media. Groups in game are posting Facebook pages for their friends and accepting adds more lucratively, (houses aren't cheap after all, and Chocobo Stables are looking to be expensive as well.) I see at least four or five invites per day for people to join groups with words like, "relaxed playing," and "fun times had by all," in the wording, and there isn't a day that goes by that someone I follow on tumblr posts a picture of something XIV related, even on their NSFW pages. Go look it up if you don't know what it means, but reader beware.

So, going back to my earlier statement, people make a lot of jokes about Final Fantasy and it's 14 or so final times, but I don't. Things have been rough on the journey through Gaia, Cocoon, Eorzea and it's many other incarnations, but it's been fun. I can always count on an engineer named Cid to save the day. There are always beautiful landscapes to look in on, even if there is that damned coconut sound every time I walk from place to place. And Eldrich Forceus is always ready to join a dungeon party and do some damage dealing, trusty spear in hand ready to make a few tomes. It doesn't seem as worrisome when the fantasy has an end in sight if it's looking as good as XIV does.

And, if all else fails, I've always got IX on my PS Vita and that never disappoints.

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Writing: The Problem with Sympathetic Characters

There's a problem with selective and omniscient Third Person, and that's that it creates too many sympathetic characters in the story and not enough conflict. But, Jacob, you might be thinking, when two people think they are in the right isn't that the very definition of conflict? Probably, but the fact is that it creates very confusing character dynamics.

There's nothing wrong with it, per se, but the fact is that when you refuse to have a true antagonist beyond a hive mind or group dynamic, there's a hard time for the reader to focus on who they are supposed to root for. I'm going to use a series that I have just finished re-reading, but not actually mention what book series it is. For two reasons, 1) I've already picked on it a few times and it really is a good book, and 2) because it carries over to a lot of other book series. That series is The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett

The first book begins with three main protagonists, not too bad, and an amorphous set of bad guys. At one point one of the characters is betrayed by his companion and an antagonist is created. Perfect. But, then that antagonist is added to the set of three from the first book and given a back-story to make him out to be a man of honor doing what he believes is right to save the world. Great, now we have four protagonists and an amorphous group of bad guys that are little more than beasts. Well, during the second book, the fourth protagonists wife is introduced as a rather bad person, so she is more of an antagonist, right? No, during the third book, the author focuses on how she is doing what she is doing out of love and honor and that she is actually a good person, too, despite the shady way she goes about it. So what do we do?

Well I still hate his wife. I still disagree with her husbands methods, and one of the protagonists is kind of a jerk, too, so I think I don't like him as well. Now the book has an amorphous set of bad guys who are supposed to be a bad guy, a ruler who is doing the right thing for the right reasons but in a rather despicable way, and a wife who is conniving and vicious but truly loves her husband. Who are we supposed to be rooting against again?

With the same problem as having too many perspectives, when you have too many sympathetic "villains" you disperse whatever conflict you might have among the characters of the book until in the end you have no conflict at all and you begin to wonder, "Why are these people fighting each other?" It's less evident for these characters because the reader can see how the problems started but as the reader you begin to wonder why these problems are coming along. Who started this problem and why aren't they talking? They talk about everything length...but nobody talks among themselves.

Where is the line in the sand drawn for books now. Plot driven books in the past, the ones that were bread and butter for me growing up, always had the clearly defined antagonist. The dragon that stole the mountain. The Wizard who kidnapped the Princess. The Emperor who was running things all along. Now, with character driven stories, everyone has to be sympathetic and it leaves me wondering, are there any bad guys left in the world?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Room with a View

What do you do when you fall so far behind? Honestly, this is a question I have no answer for. It is the one I pose because I don't believe there is an answer, and therefore it will not be the smart-ass query I pose this week. So, honestly, what do you do when you need to catch up?

There is no room for books on my main and secondary bookshelf, at least not for books. My cat, Sabin Rene Figaro Chavez Moore has found space enough to stare at me wide eyed and accusingly from time to time, but as far as authors and books, my main shelf has found its tenants and the place seems to be rent control. Jim Butcher has the top floor mostly to himself, though Rachel Aaron and Illona Andrews have stubbornly kept to their shared condo despite the, quote, unquote, misogyny from the former. Brom, on the other hand, has been caught sleeping in the penthouse staircase with a rolled duffle and a pack full of art supplies and no matter how many times we kick him out, or how many times we change the locks, he still somehow finds his way up there every 3rd Wednesday.

The second floor, though crowded, is a mystical sort of place full of pagans, idolaters and shapeshifters. Lev Grossman and Neil Gaiman are on good terms as far as neighbors go on the corner end of things while Thomas Sniegoski and Carrie Vaughn are quite chummy with Mark Zicree while he and his constant revolving door of roommates discuss the end of the world. And, right in the middle, having bought at least three different rooms all for herself, (and the massive amounts of parties she has to celebrate her success,) J. K. Rowling sits like a queen at throne in her contentment.

But, if my main shelf is like rent control condo's then my secondary shelf is more like a hostel. Well traveled, a little seedier than a hotel, and full of people who keep coming back because it's comfortable and nobody has killed them and stolen their wallets yet. Simon Green and Terry Goodkind, Stephen King and Margaret Weiss/Tracy Hickman. This place is for the glory and the ones that came and went and came again when I wasn't quite paying attention. I love them for their tenacity, but at any point they might be replaced by one that needs the space.

In the bedroom, serving multiple purposes, is the halfway house of bookshelves, of which I can name no names. Why? Because, I don't know who they are off the top of my head, and am too lazy to pick myself and my laptop up and run in there to name a few. That shelf is where books go to die slow deaths of disuse. Their drugs are simple but extreme: New York Times Best Sellers List and A Good Read by [Endorsement]. Like many famous people who visit these places, they were referred to by someone else famous, maybe even someone who can handle their vices like Stephen King or Ursula k. Le Guin, but didn't quite catch the mark.

Once a week I would go out, less frequently these days, and go to the bookstore, a little place right down the street that no longer exists in reality, and pick out three or four books. I would give each a turn, and 7 times out of 10 it would pan out well and I'd have another spot open for rent. These days, all but the very lucky have been moved directly to the halfway house in my room, next to my bed, in it's place of shame where they are set aside but not quite forgotten in all but names...I should light a candle for them, maybe.

Now it has been several months since I have gone book shopping. Under the guise of waiting for good books to catch up, but really just trying to find the time to read, and not just the occasional audiobook, I have gone without for too long. Where do I go from here?

I could, in all fairness, pick up a book in my favorite, still running series. Perhaps try to find some space for Butcher to expand or maybe one of my less needy tenants in the main building. Or, I could always check out the hostel and see what those workhorses like Green or Kadrey are working on. The fear, and the excitement comes in the same flavor, though less severe in consequence, as Russian Roulette. Will it be the safe click of a good book that I collect, or will it be the last heat and pressure I hear of a dud before that bullet cracks my skull and I'm forced to resign myself to fate of needing a bigger halfway house to share my shame.

...and yes I know that final analogy didn't make sense. Shush!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Did J.K. Rowling Jump the Gun or the Shark

I actually really don’t like J. K. Rowling right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Harry Potter series. I think it’s one of the most brilliantly written, paced, and involved books of the century. Not only is it timeless because it takes place in a time out of time, but it grows with you as a reader. You don’t look at the book and think, “This book is for little kids,” you think instead that it is part of a whole with characters that grow up with you. But, at the moment that Rowling said that Harry and Hermione were meant to be together instead of her and Ron, I actually wanted to smack someone or break something.
This is what we in the world like to call a gimmick. Sales for Rowling’s books are never going to go down but the people from the older generation don’t need to get it anymore because the book has been read. That means that in another ten years when the Harry Potter books become a part of nostalgia again, another series will be out already to take the place and Harry Potter will, in all possibility, be relegated to the bargain bin. In this case, Rowling might have jumped the gun because she made her move too soon to pick up publicity. Let me put it clearer.
Let’s say that Rowling hadn't made the introduction and ten years after the last movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, (2021 to be exact,) the sales from her books are starting to wane off. Three different generations have finished the series (those who read the books as they were coming out, those that watched them as the movies were coming out, and those that decided to see what all the hype was about after the movies,) and now there’s nothing left but to reread. New series have come out in the meantime, and now Harry Potter has been displaced by some nameless fantasy series of the generation. Sales are slacking because everyone who likes Harry Potter has read it already and those that haven’t have the new fantasy series to read instead. So what does Rowling do? She can’t start a new series, it’s been over ten years and the characters are grown and moved on: Pottermore kind of killed that road anyway. Well, if you’re smart, you laid out a gimmick, or you create one. Harry and Hermione were meant to be together. Honest! Go look in the books.
Well now, all the fans of the books are going to start rereading the books to find those subtle clues, and those that don’t have them anymore will need to go out and buy new copies. But, that’s not all, people who never had the inclination to read the series because they are in love with “James Dainer and the Prince of Twilight” or some junk like that, are now hearing all sorts of interesting things about this Harry Potter fellow. Well! Now sales are tripling, the market is flush with people who want those books, and what’s more, people will want to be watching those movies, too. Collecting wands and action figures and posters will become the thing to do again and not only has Rowling reinvigorated her story, but she’s bringing fantastical fiction to a new generation of readers.

Instead, Rowling has jumped the gun by three years of nostalgia for the 7th book, and rather than reinvigorating the story, she is playing into the trend of a new generation of lesser books like Twilight, Hunger Games (which is still good, but not Harry Potter good,) and other sappy fantasy series by introducing the Love Triangle. Because, that’s what Harry Potter was never about. While Ron and Hermione had their spats, and it was always joked about that Harry and Hermione were dating, Ron was a good man and Ginny was devoted to Harry from day one. There was never anyone else and saying that you wanted to do something but didn't doesn't change the facts of reality. All of these people going around looking for evidence that Harry and Hermione are supposed to be there are going to find it. Why? Because devoted friendship and love are easily mistaken by the thin lines of romance, and the Harry Potter books, meant for young adults and up, was never about the romance. It was there from time to time but the focus of the Harry Potter books was and will always be about the trials and tribulations of a boy who was born to do great things and who lost much in the doing.