Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Game of Thrones: Gender Identity, Stories Untold and Week Two

So I finished week two of reading Game of Thrones, and I'm just as psyched, if not more so than before. Dear God, Joffrey is a loser! You know a lot of things got kept out of the show to keep the things that were important to the plot and the story in general, but I have to say: reading the book and watching the show gives you a different flavor all over.

One of the things that really reached out to me was the scene in Arya's chapter where she is talking to her father about Needle. In the chapter, Arya is talking to Ned about how how she doesn't want to be a Lady. She doesn't want to be some little woman who has to get married and have kids who do impressive things while she takes care of their home. At first, Ned seems really uncomfortable with this prospect, but after a while he returns Needle to her and even goes so far as to arrange a "Sword Dancer" from Braavos to come train her, (and how awesome is Syrio, huh?)

Now the things that was so great about this scene is that the perspective is all from Arya's limited third-person view; you have no idea what is going on in Ned's mind when he makes these decisions, and that makes him so much more than what he is. Think about the last time you asked your parent or significant other for a favor: you probably got the fifth degree about it before they made any kind of decision. Who's going to be there? Do we know their parents? How late are you going to be out? That's not to say that Ned doesn't give the token fatherly try of making sure she is absolutely sure.

What's interesting, is that if you changed the entire topic of the conversation to Arya saying that she thinks that she is a lesbian, I think Ned Stark would have made the exact same decision. And that makes me like Ned Stark all the same. He's a crappy hand of the king, and a naive Lord, but he really is a family man. When you compare it to everyone knowing about Renly Baratheon and Lorras, or even the way Varys is portrayed, (very simpering and creepy,) Ned's reactions are so much more conciliatory and welcoming.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is that there are a lot of things you just don't know about in this book. I mentioned before that this is a very "after" kind of story. Everything that is central to the plot: Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen's exile, Robert Baratheon's rebellion, magic and dragons. All of these things happened before Game of Thrones even started. That's fine, it's similar to post-apocalyptic stories where you know the world ended but not exactly how. What makes less sense is not revealing the information as it comes up.

An example is the old and new gods. I know from the show that the new gods are given names, but not exactly why they replaced the old ones? Who were the old ones? Were they part of the forest children myths? There are tons of things being thrown around, and only parts of the explanations are given over to the reader. This is similar to the gripe I had with Beautiful Creatures, where the character see's a lot of things and what isn't explained is just handed off as something you see every day. It could just be that the information is being saved for later on, but the way it seems at the time is that the information isn't important enough to share and I know that couldn't be further from the truth.

Other than that, I'm having a lot of fun with the book. I hope Martin lives long enough to finish the series, even though I know that even if he does fans will still be clamoring for him to do more because they do that. For now, wish me luck because I'm going to be doing chapters 31-45 and this is looking to be a busy week

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Game of Thrones:Week One

Okay, so I just finished my first week of Game of Thrones, (the book not the show,) and I'm pretty psyched so far. It pretty much coincides with finishing the third season of the show, which I'm actually pretty psyched. Surprise surprise when the first gratuitous sex scene in the book doesn't happen until six chapters in. Who'd have thunk. Anyway, I did fifteen chapters and counting, and like I said on my twitter, I have just a few notes, but I'll save that for last like usual.

First off, I know I'm late to the game, but really excited about the show. I usually wait until I finish with the books before I do the movies/TV shows. The test of a good movie adaptation is that it isn't perfect, but it holds up to the actual story AND it should only be a visual representation of the book. For example, everyone went nuts about how bad the Eragon movie was: the cast, the plot, the setting, the magic, everything. But for the Harry Potter movies, they were, for the most part, more readily accepted, even though there was a lot of content that was purposefully left out of the plot. And why? I like to think because the Harry Potter movies were never meant to stand alone from the books, but to just be a visual reference to the many events and characters portrayed in them. It also didn't over-reach like Eragon did by making major, and pointless, detours from the storyline. I also like to think that the books were already almost halfway done by the time the movies started and they didn't try jumping too far ahead of where they were at. Despite this, there were some parts of the book that were important to the plot that were left out because the directors and writers for the movies didn't know what was going to be important later on.

The nice part about the Game of Thrones show is that for the most part they are keeping extremely close to the actual text of the book. It's actually a little uncanny for me, especially after watching just one episode. For instance, the part in the show where Tyrion Lannister comes down and slaps Joffrey and then goes into the keep to have breakfast with his brother and sister is almost identical to the book, even down to what he orders from a servant for breakfast. Now that can sometimes be a little overkill for a series, or movie when it's derived from a book, but in this case it's incredible character building in my opinion and shows what an excellent writer Martin is.

Okay, so now that I've finished geeking out on the show, I think it's time that I moved on to the book itself. For this week I decided to keep it to fifteen chapters, seeing that by the time I finish with week five I'll be done with the book and ready for a final analysis. I know that on my twitter page I've been teasing a bit about the book, but I actually have found myself getting really immersed in the book, even with the fact that I've already seen everything that's happened in the show. Rather than that making it boring, it's really given me a bitter view of who I'm reading about and what's going on.

Now normally I try not to reveal too much about the plot of the books I'm reading, and for good reason. Go buy the book! The authors have worked really hard on these things, and it would be rude of me to reveal their works in detail. But with this already being such a groundbreaking work of fiction, and me doing a whole month worth of reviews, I think I can get away with a few more sneak peaks.

So the overall plot of the story up to where I'm at is the Lannister and Baratheon family went North to Winterfell to see Eddard Stark, nicknamed Ned....really? Where'd the "N" come from? Anyway, the King, Robert Baratheon had his right-hand man, named Jon Arryn, who was known by the title, Hand of the King. Jon was a mentor to both Robert and Ned and now Robert wants Ned to be his new Hand, but Ned is worried about getting engulfed in the politics and having to pick his family up and go south. But, a message comes from Jon's widow, intimating that the Lannisters had something to do with his death.

Now, Ned was going to take all but two of his five/six children with him, but the day before they were slated to go, his second youngest, Bran, who liked to climb, found the Queen and her twin brother getting it on in a secret tower. He was caught and thrown from the tower and nearly died, making him one of three children left. Not being able to take anymore time, the Baratheon's, the Lannister's and the Stark's leave for the south, leaving Ned's wife to take care of him. Ned's bastard son John Snow is going off to the Wall, basically a military encampment that mans a giant wall in the North to keep wild people from attacking the south.

While all of this is happening, my favorite character, Daenerys Stormborn Targaryn, who is descended from the Mad King before Robert Baratheon, is being sold off by her brother to a warlord so that he can get his throne back.

Now there's a lot more going on, but like I said, sneak peeks, not a synopsis and I think I'm actually cutting it pretty close with THIS much already. Most of the other things have to do a lot with politics and whatnot and I don't feel up to going into all of that. My reviews are long enough.

The first part that I wanted to get into real quick is the characters. There are two characters that I both love and hate and both of those stem from some excellent writing on Martin's part. The first is Tyrion Lannister. For those of you who don't know, (rocks, people, they are not good places to live under,) Tyrion is the third child of the Lannister patriarch. He was born a dwarf, accidentally killed his mother during birth, and has a lot of enmity sent his way. For this, and his physical shortcomings, he's trained himself to be smarter than just about anyone else. I love this character, he constantly runs circles around his friends, family and enemies and is just a generally likable guy.

The second is Sansa Stark, and I'm sorry but it just goes back to that whole thing that women can't take care of themselves in books. Which is bunk. I get the feeling she was meant to be a foil to her sister Arya, who is outgoing and tomboyish. Sansa just screams PINK all over the place, perfect and pristine and in love with Joffery the Prince. She's just so doe eyed and ready to follow the prince around that a lot of the things she ends up doing just irk me to pieces. I know that's her point, and for that I admire Martin. Because, it's easy to make a character that everyone loves, but it's a lot harder to make one that everyone hates. That takes talent.

The last thing I wanted to bring up is something that I noticed in the writing and isn't particularly good or bad. It just is. What I noticed is that each chapter is pretty much split in half between some expository monologue-ing and the actual meat of what is going on in the story. For instance, the first half of the chapter will be filled with descriptions of what is going on, who is there, what they are doing, before the character actually goes in and interacts. It's not bad because all of the information given is vital to the storyline, but it is a little bit of an eye sore for me. It's kind of like if you walked into a room and saw ten people, and took time to notate mentally who everyone in the room is, what they are wearing, who they are talking to, etc. In a book, it's a lot easier to believe that this all happens within a second or two, but in real life, your friends will likely be looking at you very strangely as you stand there for twenty minutes just looking at them.

So, week one is done. I'm starting chapter 17 tonight with all the thrills and excitement therein. Wish me luck

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Single Handed Part 4

The door to the back of the van was swinging in the cold wind when I came to. Shouts
and screams, and the unmistakable sound of firearms discharging chilled me in a way Asgard’s
endless winters never could. I took in my surroundings carefully before I did anything.
I was lying prone on the side of the van, the new roof where I’d been sitting was a dented mess,
and I thanked God I hadn’t had my spine crushed on impact.
 Fenton’s chains dangled uselessly near me, blood and a bit of skin on the left cuff. From
where I was laying, I checked my pockets, and sure enough, my cuff keys were missing. After thevan rolled over, Fenton must have wriggled his mangled hand out of the restraints and snagged
my keys.
 The fact that people were still shooting outside meant one of two things: either someone
was trying to kill Fenton, or neither side had gotten hold of him yet.
 Ignoring the pain in my head, I got up and headed out the van door. Seeing the scene
outside I was both grateful and annoyed that I’d left my service pistol at work. Being in an
enclosed space with Fenton without it had been a necessary precaution, especially in hindsight
seeing as I’d been unconscious. But, as I watched the muzzle flashes going off around me, I
missed its comforting weight in my hand, and had to stop myself from reaching for it out of
 Keeping low to the ground, I relaxed my eyes, seeing past the snow like my grandfather
had taught me. It seemed men and women were running every which way in the blizzard, taking
shots at the officers who were less successful in returning fire. I only hoped someone had had
the brains to call in for backup.
 I saw it while I was ducking out of the way of some punk, a small orange fleck keeping
low to the ground. Officers on either side were being kept occupied while Fenton shuffled his
way towards a blocky shadow that had to be one of Asgard’s many snowplows. While the
shooters were keeping each other busy, I ran down the street, ignoring the slicks of ice and
exchanging caution for speed as I gained on Fenton. The streets were clogged with parked cars,
the snow too severe to drive in, and Fenton was using them for cover as he made his way
towards freedom.Using my momentum and greater mass, I grabbed Fenton by the back of his jumpsuit
and, twirling him around, threw him bodily over a car. It wasn’t a clean throw: the tip of
Fenton’s foot caught on the roof and he shouted in pain before it was muffled by his fall. As I
walked around the car, Fenton hobbled to his feet, limping noticeably. I circled around him,
keeping myself between him and the plow.
 “You forgetting something?” I asked, smiling at Fenton, whose face was red from his
tumble on the icy streets.
Fenton snapped his fingers and grinned, though his eyes were dead and calculating. “Oh
yeah. I was gonna snag that stupid ring.”
 I waved my hand at him, “All you’re getting is a good look at it as I wipe that snarky grin
off your face. Don’t worry though, you’ll still be pretty enough for the pen.”
 “I told you, Tyler: I ain’t going to jail!” He snarled, and with surprising speed, he flung
himself at me.
 Maybe not that surprising, considering one of the cars behind him exploded in a dazzling
display of fire and shrapnel. The blast lifted us off the ground, and for the second time that
night, I flew.
This time I didn’t black out, but had the pleasure of crashing to the ground and having
two-hundred pounds of crazy land on me. Before I could move or even dodge the exploded car
parts landing around us, I felt hands wrap around my throat and squeeze. Looking up, I was
greeted with Fenton’s face, no longer grinning, but determined and calm as he slowly choked
the life out of me. The police train people on a lot of things…like getting a raving lunatic off your windpipe,
for example. Unfortunately, being twice concussed, and having black dots swimming in your
vision as your brain screams for oxygen, can complicate matters and make training seem very
far away. In the end it comes down to what really drives your will to live. For me, it was an
obsession…not with Fenton, but with getting the truth. How far was I willing to go to get it?
 The look on Fenton’s face as I slipped the loop of my personal handcuffs through the hole
in his hand was priceless. He looked from his hand to my right wrist where I’d already clicked
the other end. He even stopped throttling me, his mouth moving, but no sound coming out. I
had to admit, I was rather pleased with myself: I’d out crazy-d the mad man.
 “You aren’t going anywhere, you fucking nut job…” I whispered, my throat too sore to say
it any louder. It didn’t matter, because Fenton wasn’t paying attention. Instead, with his free
hand, he lunged to the side, and I had enough time to see something gleaming in his hand
before he thrust it into my guts. The agony of having hot metal invade my stomach was
indescribable. I was spared the job of describing it though, because after the third time he
stabbed into me, I passed out, and knew no more.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Game of Thrones: Introduction

Quite some time ago, I was walking through a local bookstore in Albuquerque when I had the most interesting discussion with one of the booksellers. I was talking about how long it had taken Patrick Rothfuss to write his second book, The Wise Man's Fear, (some four years and some-odd months.) The bookseller, my favorite up to date, had the most interesting of responses, to which I will paraphrase: "You think that's bad, we had to wait five years for A Feast of Crows by George R. R. Martin." To my distress, I had never heard of either the book or the author, at least not in a familiar sort of way that I do with Jim Butcher and his books or Stephen King. Color me surprised that George R. R. Martin was already four or five books into this epic fantasy series and here I was with my head in the sand wondering what the sky looked like. Needless to say, I went out my next payday and bought Game of Thrones, the first book in the series and started reading it that very night.

And ended reading it five minutes later.

I'm not ashamed to say that I never even got a proper length into the book, setting the book down before I had even finished the first page of the prologue. It happens to all men from time to time. Sometimes you start and you just can't finish. Hey, I have a great personality. But beyond that I've read over a hundred books this year alone and not all of them end up making the grade to being written about. But, Game of Thrones is different, as are the circumstances to why I couldn't get into it, as well as the reason I am trying again. There are a lot of reason why I didn't get into the book, most of them simply cosmetic. For simplicity sake I'll just stick to the top three.

#1) Immersion - As I stated in my review of Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, the reason that I don't review epic fantasy books is because when you read something on that grand of a scale, it becomes harder to immerse yourself in it. So many things are being pushed at you, you are almost literally being dunked into a world of pure imagination, that it becomes more difficult to accept the rules of the game. For me it also becomes more difficult to separate myself from that world. Since the series isn't yet complete that means having to break away once I get caught up and wait for whenever Martin, a man in his 60's, finishes the book or doesn't. That was the same reason I didn't want to immerse myself in the HBO series based off the book: when a book isn't completed yet, they have no idea d who and what will become more important as the books progress. That means they will likely take liberties with character development, making the ending somewhat stunted.

#2) Hook - I didn't like the opening page. I'll admit it. In the opening part of the story, three throwaway characters are being introduced as a way to show the dangers in the North. I got bored reading the first page and that's a big no-no for me so I set the book down. It's as simple as that.

#3) Wikipedia - Great scourge of the internet world, Wikipedia has just about everything you could possibly want to know about the major events and characters of the series. When I couldn't get into the book, I looked up the series to see if it would get more interesting. To my surprise, I found that the elements of fantasy are quite interesting and come into play later on. What I also found was that it is very heavy on the political intrigue, something that bores me to no end. For that reason, I set the book on my "Need to read" bookshelf by my bed and waited until I had the inclination to do more with it. Since then I have picked the book up twice more and got exactly down to the first page of the prologue before I had to set it back on the shelf.

So, why am I picking up the book again? I have to say it is because of the HBO series. Friends and acquaintances have been bugging me for the last two years to watch this show, and now that I have HBO Go, I can finally watch it from season 1. Finding that the show is interesting at later points has grabbed my attention and set in me the inclination to read the book like never before. It's also set in me a distaste for the series that is new, and something I'll talk about briefly since this is just an introduction.

The Song of Ice and Fire series is definitely an "After" story, and that's always been something that has bugged me. Let me explain: have you ever watched a movie, played a game, or read a book where everything that is happening "Now" is something that happened after some great war? Heroes from that war are now leading, magic has disappeared from the world, evil despots are now beggars and exiles? This is an "After" story. Blips and dribbles of the story that happened before are let slip but they lack the true excitement that would be available if the author had written the events themselves. To me, stories like this have always lacked foundation and emotion. It's like finding out that your wife's/husband's cousin has died. You grieve for them for a little while until you find out that they never even knew they had a cousin. It's still sad, but it's so far removed and lacks the true emotional connection that it's more like finding out that your boss has a flat tire as far as knowledge goes.

But despite that, I decided to devote this entire month to George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones. I'll be reading as much as can in the week and giving my usual opinion-ing about what I thought so far. I know it's a little different than what I usually do, but, the book is so large and the scope is so wide that I think that I can get some good work out of it. Keep track on my twitter page as well, if you want to see where I'm at, as usual. Till then, good night.