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Look. Isn’t it beautiful?

The Blinding Knife, Brent Weeks

A nice hefty hardback, completely new with shiny, embossed lettering on the front. Pristine. (I hate it when people break the spine of a book – it’s sacrilege!) As to the actual story, I couldn’t comment yet – it’s only just arrived, and sadly I’m not first in the queue to read it.

However I can tell you a bit about the first book in the series – The Black Prism. It was…different. For those of you that don’t know Weeks’ writing it’s good solid fantasy, though he has rather too graphic a taste in gruesome torture, violence and monsters, for me really. For example the Ferali from his first series – The Night Angel trilogy.

The Black Prism introduced a new concept for magic, chromaturgy, which focusses on how people see and use colour (put simply, people can use the different colours they can see to make a magical substance that can be shaped/molded into different uses – so the more colours you can see/use, the more wide-ranging your magical abilities). I like the use of the fact women can see more shades of colour than men. (For more, semi serious ramblings on colour perception and naming see the XKCD study).

There are a good few twists and turns through the first book and some quite engaging characters. But it was unusual in that almost nothing happened for most of the 700 odd pages. Now that happens in some books, but generally they’re badly written ones. But it didn’t matter, because “nothing” happened in a really addictive way.  There was a lot of detail and a lot of background to the characters and what had happened in the world before the time the story is set. This was cleverly woven in throughout the book.

I’m looking forward to reading this shiny new book and finding out what (if anything) happens next.

I’ve just rediscovered Patrick Rothfuss’ blog and stumbled across this little video gem about George R.R Martin’s epic books and quite how long it’s taking for him to write them!

See the full post on Patrick’s blog.

…a TV series that was better than the book it was based on.

I’m talking, again, about Game of Thrones. The first book was a bit painful but I still watched series 1 on TV.

Unusually for an American series it was 10 episodes of an hour each, rather than the 24 or so episodes of 20 minutes with at least 10 mins of adverts that make up most American series. A couple of the episodes were a little dull – but so was the book at those points.

But it was good. Definitely better than the book, which surprised me because the tv series was very close to the book – these things usually get distorted and the story changed once the TV people get their hands on it. It was well scripted to keep the good bits of the story without geting bogged down in unnecessary dullness the way the book did.

On a tangent I watched the kids film The Spiderwick Chronicles recently, it was great, but when reading about the story and the author later on you realise the film was snippits of about 4 books mashed together to make the film. It made a good film, which made sense and flowed, but I wonder how much you miss out on. If they thought the story would work as a film why not make them faithful to the books.

Anyway, back to Game of Thrones – a lot of the dialogue from the book was used directly by the actors – with more bits added obviously as there wasn’t a narration. Most of the extra dialogue to fill in detail not covered as dialogue in the book was added whilst people were having sex. In fact I’ve just discovered there’s a new word for it, made up because of Game of Thrones –  “sexposition“!

And here we come to the first major problem with the tv series. The sex. There was so much of it. Most of it wasn’t in the books and was totally unnecessary. It may have been titillating to flash boobs and so on on-screen to keep people’s attention but  added nothing meaningful to the story. If they thought the story was so weak they had to pad it out with sex scenes then the producers should have done something different. Or not adapted the story in the first place.

And now the other problem, linked to the whole unnecessary sex thing.

The children (mainly Ned Stark’s offspring) are portrayed as several years older than they are in the book. I can see why – you couldn’t have Daenyrys and Sansa as the 16 and 14ish that they are in the books with them getting married/betrothed/having a child. But they are still acting and speaking as if they are the age in the book – it doesn’t fit. Either keep the actors portrayed accurately as the books are – which makes sense. Or the directors/writers needed to change the language to fit the older child they are portraying.

Overall the actors were well chosen and roles were well acted – I think Peter Vaughan portrayed the blind master Aemon very well.

Interstingly, the TV series made me warm to characters I hadn’t particularly liked, or cared about before. In particular Tyrion – the dwarf youngest Lannister son had a great role, and I can see him growing in importance (but not stature) as the story progresses further.

At the end of the series I WANT to watch series 2. Unlike at the end of the book where I just wanted to know what happened to a few characters because it didn’t end neatly. But not enough to actually want to read the books.

What did you think? Better than the book? Worse? About what you expected?

I’m re-reading Trudi Canavan’s Magician’s Guild series at the moment. Have you read it? It’s a simple, easy to read story (her first books I believe – published in 2001, and inspired by a dream) about a young girl from the slums who accidentally learns she has magical skill and how that develops in the very political world of the Guild of Magicians when previously all other novices were from the higher classes only. (As well as having to handle a bullying colleague and a scary adversary, who if my vague memory recalls correctly – isn’t actually as bad as first made out.)

But I’m hooked.

And I’ve read it before. But just devoured the first and second books and am a good way into the third already. The main characters are likeable and interesting. It’s surprising that her second trilogy (The Age of Five – set in a different world) wasn’t as strong a story).  I really must borrow the other Guild Magician books soon.

 

 

I finished A Game of Thrones (or “Game of Thrones” if you’re American), a few weeks ago now. It was rather a relief to finish, which is never a sign of a good book!

It took two attempts to get into it properly, and a good 50-100 pages before I was convinced it was worth reading. Then I quite enjoyed the first half or so, once I’d established who was who, and how they related to each other.

There are a lot of characters introduced at the start with no real setting to see how they fit together, or even if they are part of the same story. (and I only found the family history charts tracking who was who at the back of the book when I was over halfway through…putting it at the front would have been more logical!)

An interesting and different way to structure a book was telling the sotry through a series of point of view characters. Each chapter is titled with a different character’s name, and written from their point of view. But I think there were too many “point of view characters” making the story spread a little too thin to really engage with and care about all the characters who were telling the story.

There were a couple of characters I liked (Arya in particular), but other places – big battles which should be full of pace and excitement where I ended up skimming the details because it was just too staid and monotonous. I didn’t care what happened to Tyrion during the battle, or whether person X lived or died. Although interestingly Tyrion came across as a far more interesting and likeable character in the TV series.

The story of Daenrys, her horrible brother and the horse lord was one of my favourite threads of the story, and interestingly I found out afterwards that those chapters were split out into an award winning novella after the first book was published.

By the end I was reading it because I wanted to get to the end – wanted to finish it – rather than particularly enjoying reading it. It wasn’t bad. It was just a bit unfocused.

But then when one of the main characters died  (I won’t spoil it by telling you who) it was over in a flash, there was not enough emotion expressed by any of the characters there, and no detail for the reader to empathise with. There isn’t a need for blood and gore, but something to make the reader feel something about this quite surprising death would have added to the story.

I cheated in the end. I did finish the first book (of about 9 in the series) and I did, sort of, want to know what happened next, as it wasn’t a neat and tidy conclusion. But it just didn’t leave me wanting to read the next book enough to actually decide to buy it . And therefore I used the synopsises and character details on Wikipedia instead.

Next time – some more on the TV adaptation of book one.

Distractions

I’m trying to fill in a job application form. The difficult bit where I have to actually put down in coherent sentences why I’m suitable for the job. I’ve read the spec. I know I could do the job. But telling them that in a convincing way is more difficult to do. “I can do the job. Trust me” isn’t going to cut it somehow.

And I’m very easily distracted. Cos it’s boring. And tedious.

Therefore this blog post is tripping off my fingertips at the moment. Writing something other than “I developed the website and blah blah blah….”

Plus the second Rothfuss book – the wotsit of fear. Name of Fear? No, that’s not right. I’ll have to check*. Anyway, that’s in my head a lot at the moment. I really want to keep reading it, I’m about ¾ of the way through. I do hope it ends well – the final book I mean – and not some weak and unsatisfying ending – “and he lived happily ever after in the inn with Bast”. We already know Kvothe is alive after everything that happens, because he’s telling the story, though what happens between him and Denna is more intriguing. I’m pretty sure her patron is somehow wrapped up in the Seven too. But maybe Rothfuss is actually just putting clever hints in that direction to make the reader think that. And there’s no hint of where “King Killer” comes from yet either – which king, how, why, etc.

So, as you can tell, I’ve got quite into it now. It was a bit slow to get going. I think there was probably too much time in the University at the beginning of the book. Beautifully written, of course, but the story wasn’t actually moving forwards at all. Once Rothfuss moved Kvothe out of the University and into the wider world it gathered more pace. It’s slow to read for another reason too though. I bought the hardback book (no way I was waiting for a paperback version to come out) but that means it’s a hefty tome. There’s almost 1000 pages. In hardback. It’s like doing weight lifting each time I pick it up. It weighs 1300grams! – as a comparison all five books in the Belgariad weighs 1002 grams (in paperback). (Is it really, really sad I bothered to weigh them just so I could add that?)

Have I mentioned Rothfuss blogs too. Mainly about signings, conventions etc (all in America – boo!) but also entertainingly written little snippits about his little boy. And a cartoon synopsis of book one, (but do read The Name of the Wind first!). How cool is that. He didn’t want to write a prologue (fine by me, they tend to be far too dry to bother with) so instead there’s a very high level comic summarising the first book in one of his blog posts.

Time to check out The Guild now, Rothfuss is the latest of several people to tell me I must watch it. Yes, the job application is back on the to-do pile for now.

* The Wise Man’s Fear.

I dedicate this, rather delayed, blog to my biggest (only?) fan, who keeps reminding me, whilst bored at work, how long it’s been since the last post.

This month was going to be a neat segue from maps in books to pictures in books, or on book covers, but along the way I’ve got sidetracked into film adaptations and other book related imagery instead.

I’m not a fan of reading a book after having seen an adaptation of it on TV or a film (the other way round is fine though).  Friends at uni (quite rightly) insisted I read the whole of Lord of the Rings before watching The Fellowship of the Ring at the cinema. I want my own images and ideas in my head about what a place or character looks like before a director offers their ideas. However some adaptations are good and the characters and places are similar to the ones in my imagination.

The film version of Atonement by Ian McEwan was very well done and stuck fairly closely to the original book I thought. And the level of detail that had gone into the buildings, clothing and scenery in Lord of the Rings was stunning and must have done wonders for New Zealand’s inbound tourism (no wonder Tourism New Zealand is thrilled that The Hobbit will be filmed there too). Casting was spot on with Ian McKellan as Gandalf, and I was rather fond of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn too (but that was more of a personal appreciation  to be honest!)

I excitedly awaited the recent Discworld films for months before they were released. But personally it didn’t always ring true, either the storyline in the films was chopped up and reorganised too much to stay true to the original books or Pratchett’s descriptions of people and places seemed to get lost along the way. Going Postal (with the brilliant Richard Coyle as Postmaster Moist von Lipwig) and Hogfather were very good. However The Light Fantastic-Colour of Magic massacre was terribly disappointing. I didn’t watch it to the end, they simply tried to cram too much in and ended up not doing any of it very well. I guess the decision whether to stay faithful to a book or make a good movie (at the expense of the book’s original story) is a hard one – something I think JK Rowling probably experienced, as different directors treated Potter adaptions differently.

That’s the problem with trying to adapt a fantasy book. Otherworldly places (and people) will always form a set picture or idea as you read. To see someone else’s perception of, for example, The Tower Of Art is always going to be different to your own. Which is understandable. I’m not sure the total and utter miscasting of David Jason as Rincewind is forgivable though (one thing other fans agree on). Even putting aside the fact he was cast as Albert in the first Discworld film, Hogfather, and then played Rincewind, there’s no way a tall skinny gangly wizard can be translated into the short, rounded figure of David Jason. The Discworld wiki describes Rincewind as “athletic” – which makes sense with all the running away he frequently does – David Jason doesn’t strike me as someone good at running!

The Royal Mail’s December special edition of fantasy stamps featured Rincewind and Nanny Ogg. The Rincewind stamp had a gangly (slightly sleazy looking) character on it. Which, whist somewhat lecherous does fit my idea of Rincewind better at least.

Next time, if anyone’s still interested, I’ll head back where I was originally going in this post – book covers.