Late to the Party: Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself.

As far as book go, it isn’t often that I have the forethought or the word on the street to get in on the ground floor of an author or series of novels. Joe Abercrombie is no exception.

I bought the first book in his The First Law trilogy after pre-ordering his new book Half A King. Once I start reading The Blade Itself my first thought was that I have should have read this years ago. Eight years later I’ve finished the first book and I want to read the second book right away. This is highly irregular for me.

I don’t know what it is but I can’t read the second book of a series immediately after reading the first. I get distracted, I get bored, I lose focus, my eyes start to trail off and by the end I can’t remember what really happened. I’m going to be clear: this is a not a slight of the quality of the novels but a flaw that I have. Just look at this list of second books I’ve tried to read immediately after the first and either didn’t enjoy it as much or since discovering this flaw about myself, stopped reading to pick up another time.

  • A Clash of King by George R.R. Martin
  • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
  • The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
  • Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

I can recall my experiences with all these books. You know when you read the words but don’t really take in what they’re saying? That happened to me with A Clash of Kings and The Restaurant at the End of the Universes? One, I missed hints to major plot points that would come in future books and the other I was too bored to enjoy Adam’s delightful sense of humor.

I think with The Wise Man’s Fear I got the furthest before putting it down, maybe a hundred pages? This was around the time that I was discovering this flaw about myself and I loved The Name of the Wind so much that I didn’t want the experience of the second book to suffer. With Kill the Dead, the second book in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series I read the first page, could feel my restlessness settle in and immediately put it down.

Now, Red Seas under Red Skies I remember putting down for maybe a month or two before I had to pick it up again in order to keep up with a friend who was reading, a much faster read than I am. Same thing happened with The Well of Ascension the year before and my opinion of the Mistborn series as a whole suffered for it. That book was torture for me to read through, I found it slow, I found the main character Vin to be a whiny idiot who made the worst decisions and by the end I didn’t care about anything that was happening. I just wanted to finish and when I did I didn’t bother picking up the third book even though my friend had already gotten halfway through it. That was December of 2012 into January 2013 and only now have I even started the third Mistborn book, The Hero of Ages. Guess what? I actually am enjoying despite the sour taste the second book left in my mouth. 

There are of course exceptions. If I read The Lord of the Rings I can read all three front to back with no qualms. Sometimes I’ll just read one only because I have read them so many times and want to read something new but the point is I can read all of them front to back without getting that restless feeling. Same thing happened with most of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. It wasn’t until the fourth book that I got restless and even then I only read one book in between before reading book five, six and seven.

The point of all this is that I want to read Before They Are Hanged, the second The First Law book right now. I need to know what happens to the characters now rather than later. I want to know more about the world, about it’s past and what is going to happen next. If an author can get me to do that then the books must be damn good.

 

How will A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones end? (No spoilers)

With two books to go by the self-admitted slow writer and the producers of the HBO show estimating the series to end at eight seasons the end game for A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones is far off. Still, I know how it will end, at least I know how viewers will perceive it to end. There will be no spoilers beyond conjecture, and no details of the fates of any characters.
The hype machine is still going strong for this series, with George R.R. Martin’s name constantly in the news, making appearances on Conan and casting confirmations as well unofficial filming footage constantly hitting the sites centered around pop culture. The show’s intention with each season is to build upon the overall arcs of each character with some ending as the seasons go on. The books likewise, because of the way they tell stories using third person limited point of view for different characters in each chapter, tell the stories of said characters as part of any overall story Martin is building towards.
Recalling an article from io9 speaking of Game of Thrones scratching that mystery itch that was left in the wake of Lost brings up the disappointment many felt by the end of series over the ending as it left questions unanswered and the overall conclusion deemed disappointing. Martin himself has said his intention is to avoid a Lost-like ending, proclaiming his disappointment and his hope to deliver on the high expectations of his fans. However, he also expects the ending to be bittersweet.
This is just conjecture but just as the story was inspired by the image of the two dying animals in the first episode and the first book, I expect Martin has had the ending in mind from the very beginning with obvious editing needing to be done as the plot changes and characters are added. While I’ve always expected a bittersweet ending given that the story for the majority a tragedy how satisfying will that ending be to it’s viewers and it’s readers? Let’s avoid questions of a production nature like it’s budget, it’s directing, the cinematography, the acting, etc and just explore it from a storytelling perspective.
Game of Thrones and the even more so the books it’s based on is a world full of characters. With this many characters the odds of satisfying every consumer is slim, but that is to be expected. Every character is someone’s favorite character including the antagonists but not every character is slated to have a complete story-arc as some of the secondary ones are doomed to be metaphorical and sometimes literal causalities to the major point of view ones. If we break it down even further using just the main characters we can expect that when they all converge once again as they did in the beginning of the series that some of these characters will come into conflict. As this is in a sense a political tragedy most of the characters fall into a morally gray area rather than one group being good and the other evil. Therefore, each character probably has a fanbase that’ll be disappoint and one that will be satisfied with how it’ll end overall.

How will it end though? I know how will it end in vague details, just going by what I’ve seen and what I’ve read from the source material plus Martin’s expectation of a “bittersweet” ending and his hope to avoid an ending like Lost. Here it is in the vaguest terms possible. Westeros will be left completely changed but stable in the political sense, not all the characters people hate will die and not all the ones people like will live. There will be sacrifices, sometimes that means a character’s life and sometimes that’ll mean a character’s power. 
Questions that have had speculation surrounding them will be answered with obvious answers and ones no one expected. Questions people didn’t know they should be asking will be answered, which in hindsight viewers will believe that should of been obvious. Questions that everyone has been wondering about for ages will never be answered because stories, like life, don’t have to answer all the questions. 
There will be love, sadness, tears, triumph, victory, tragedy, loneliness, isolation, and most likely satisfaction. Before it is over surely there will be fire and blood, you will hear some roar and some will pay their debts, there will be fury by some, sharp blades by others, and winter will most definitely come. 

A Year in Books 2013.

     You could just go to my Goodreads profile and see what I’ve read in 2013 by clicking “date read” under My Books, but where would the fun be in that? So here’s a list, in order, of what I read in 2013.

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2) by Brandon Sanderson
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4) by George R.R. Martin
Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill
Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill
Embassytown by China Mieville
Spun & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold Contemporary Style by Arthur Plotnik
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen
The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5) by George R.R. Martin
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
The Odyssey by Homer
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
Aloha from Hell (Sandman Slim #3)
Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic by Henri Bergson
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
Menaechmi by Plautus
Tartuffe by Moliere
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2) by Scott Lynch
The Republic of Thieves (Gentlemen Bastard, #3) by Scott Lynch
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Howard Mittlemark
     This list doesn’t include the forty-two sources for my senior thesis. The largest disappointing read began in the beginning of the year with The Well of Ascension and The Magicians with both books leaving me hating the main characters by the time I finished them and have yet to pick up the follow ups. The biggest surprise was A Feast for Crows, which is notoriously hated by fans of George R.R. Martin for focusing on new or minor point of view characters but I still felt it was a strong book with events that’ll be important for the final two books.
     Easily the best reads I had this year, as far as new books I’ve read was Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastard series starting with The Lies of Locke Lamora. A lot of modernist plays in my reading list this year, which I find myself loving despite disliking a lot of modernist poetry and novels.My rereads this year, The Lord of the Rings and The Name of the Wind continue to maintain their place as two of my favorite books, while Neil Gaiman’s new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane did not disappoint despite it’s short length. 
     Despite my love for Warren Ellis’s writing, Gun Machine was your typical detective mystery in stark contrast to his previous novel Crooked Little Vein which I think I will reread this year. Discovering his podcast late last year, I had to pick up The Tolkien Professor, Corey Olsen’s book Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit which made me appreciate the children’s book a lot more. Embassytown by China Mieville is in my opinion his best book, exploring an alien race and language in a way I haven’t read in science fiction yet, though I know he isn’t the first to do so. Meanwhile, with the passing of Iain Banks I had to read two of his novels this year. The first one, his second Culture novel The Player of Games has easily become one of my favorite science fiction novels while The Wasp Factory was a disturbing look at rituals that I never would of thought of.
     Of all the writing books I’ve read this year I thought The Writer’s Journey would of come out as the best but with a second half that drags How Not to Write a Novel’s brevity as well as it’s hilarious way of showing bad writing made it the top writing book for me of 2013. I don’t have much to say about the Harry Potter series, I like the books as I read them and they are indeed fun books to read but that’s about where it ends for me, and To Kill a Mockingbird I don’t really need to comment on that always has been written before. The book and Atticus continue to be amazing. That was my 2013 in books.
     For 2014 in books I hope there books from my favorite authors are announced, to reread J.R.R Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, and to read ten more books than I’ve read in 2013.