Changing the Dark Tower Pt. III: Wolves of the Calla

Finally through the boring fire that is book three of The Dark Tower by Stephen King we leave Wizard and Glass behind to return to the main story of the series with the Wolves of the Calla and The Song of Susannah. Though not the best in the series the Wolves of the Calla is definitely the best of the later books in the series while The Song of Susannah leaves you wondering whether it is wholly necessary or wishing there was more.

Continue reading

You Should Read: The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes & Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe (A double.)

This is a double You Should Read, a feature that is mostly in my drafts folder more than actually published in my blog. A lot of the time it’s because I’m not sure what I want to say about a book besides “This story blew my mind / was awesome / was cool / so good that I wish I could write like this!” and that doesn’t make much for a blog post.

Continue reading

Jorah Mormont’s Redemption Won’t Be Worth It.

Spoilers for all of Game of Thrones and all of A Song of Ice and Fire up to now, right up front.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Jorah Mormont, played by Iain Glen on the show, is an exile from Bear Island due to selling poachers on his land to slavers. When the show begins he attends Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo’s wedding as a spy for Varys, sending back information about the exiled Targaryens in hope of earning a royal pardon.

He eventually falls in love with Daenerys, saves her life from poisoning, and stop sending back reports to Varys fully committing himself to his khaleesi. The problem is, and this is where her point-of-view chapters from the books benefit, is that he sees her as both a child and as someone he wants to bed. She needs him to see her as a queen.

It feels like Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys knows this but we cannot be sure. Unlike the beginning of A Storm of Swords, Jorah never has this big reveal of his love for her until it is too late. This doesn’t make Jorah any less a creep, as the audience knows he secretly loves her through Viserys’ reveal in season one, his fatherly protection of her in seasons two and three, and his jealousy of Daario in season four.

On the show, Tywin Lannister uses the royal pardon that was promised to Jorah to separate the two of them. In the book, it is Barristan Selmy who reveals this fact and the two of them have to prove their loyalty to Daenerys by breaking into Meereen. In either medium she both rejects him and exiles him from her presence.

This leads us to Sunday’s episode Sons of the Harpy in which Ser Barristan Selmy is killed by the Sons of the Harpy,  a group of insurgents fighting against her rule in Meereen. Meanwhile, Jorah has kidnapped Tyrion in Volantis.

The death of Barristan Selmy was a surprise and an annoyance. Not because it was different from the books, that’s only part of it. Some of Barristan’s best moments in the series comes at the end of A Dance with Dragons and thanks to  D.B. Weiss and David Benioff we’ll never see them. Is it the biggest deal? No, but it makes the plot for the rest of the season really predictable.

Without Barristan, Daenerys is without a close advisor. Who should happen to be heading back her way but good ol’ stalker creep Jorah Mormont with Tyrion in tow doing whatever he can to earn his way back into her good graces by bringing her one of her enemies.

He’s going to arrive, and Tyrion is going to betray him instantly. He’s going to spin a clever tale that’ll make him her new advisor and put Jorah right into the fighting pit, and will try to save Daenerys when Drogon returns. Of course he won’t be needed, this is when Daenerys will finally mount Drogon and fly with him leaving Jorah behind to take care of Meereen along with Tyrion. Uh oh, the hijinks that will ensue. In the books, Tyrion and Jorah had not yet arrived but Barristan was there to take care of Meeren as Lord Commander of her Queensguard when she takes off. All those moments he has, and it does involve the Sons of the Harpy, will now be Jorah’s.

That’s not all Jorah will do. Before he meets Jorah, Tyrion travels with Jon Connington, Rhaegar’s former best friend who contracts Greyscale rescuing Tyrion as they pass Stone Men, a group of people infected  by the disease that they pass. Gee, Greyscale sure has mentioned an awful lot this season. I wonder if that’s relevant? For Jorah Mormont I bet it will be.

What better way for the show-runners to redeem Jorah by

  1. Infecting him with a fatal disease
  2. Bringing a beloved character (Tyrion) to another beloved character (Daenerys)
  3. Fighting to the death in the fighting pits until…
  4. Drogon arrives and he tries to protect Daenerys then…
  5. Gets all the badass fighting scenes defending Meereen while the queen is away.

I can understand cutting Jon Connington and his story from the show, and even giving part of that story to Jorah but he is not so great a character that it was worth losing Barristan Selmy, the only good person left in the show who

  1. Both Eddard Stark and Jaime Lannister revere.
  2. Who told off King Joffrey just after the boy king cut off Eddard’s head.
  3. Who Tywin Lannister thought dismissing Barristan was a dumb move.
  4. Who was the only one not to attack Eddard in the throne room and
  5. Questioned Cersei’s dismissal of Robert’s last requests.
  6. Kills the gold cloaks that go after him to prevent him from leaving King’s landing.

Some of these scenes don’t make it to the show, along with the ones that will occur after his death, and all for the sake of redeeming Jorah Mormont. I don’t mind changes from the book but that’s not going to stop me from criticizing bad storytelling. If my prediction for Jorah Mormont is right, it’s going to be bad.

How Did Peter Jackson Read This Passage and Still Get the One Ring Wrong?

In book six, which is the first part of Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee is alone in Mordor with the One Ring having just found out Frodo is still alive and taken captive after the confrontation with Shelob.

     His thought turned to the Ring, but there was no comfort there, only dread and danger. No sooner had he come in sight of Mount Doom, burning far away, than he was aware of a change in his burden. As it drew near the great furnaces where, in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring’s power grew, and it became more fell, untameable save by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor. He felt that he had from now on only two choices: to forbear the Ring, though it would torment him; or to claim it, and challenge the Power that sat in its dark hold beyond the valley of shadows. Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad- dûr. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be. In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit- sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command. ‘And anyway all these notions are only a trick,’ he said to himself. ‘He’d spot me and cow me, before I could so much as shout out. He’d spot me, pretty quick, if I put the Ring on now, in Mordor. Well, all I can say is: things look as hopeless as a frost in Spring. Just when being invisible would be really useful, I can’t use the Ring! And if ever I get any further, it’s going to be nothing but a drag and a burden every step. So what’s to be done?’

Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, and Fran Walsh must have read The Lord of the Rings before they decided to write the scripts yet somehow to most of the viewing audience the only power the One Ring had was to turn people invisible. Then again these are the same people who thoughts a simile about stretching shadows meant Balrogs had wings, that the metaphor for Sauron’s reach across Middle-Earth meant he was a giant flaming eye, and that because Ents language is much slower than English that this meant they were both passive and unaware of Saruman’s destruction.

I wonder if people ask them the same questions friends will ask me when they find out I am an avid reader of Tolkien. “Why is the One Ring such a big deal if it just turns you invisible? To convey it did anything else, it was probably a bad idea to show that scene of Isildur retreating into the water with the ring on and turned invisible. It was probably a bad idea to cut this bit of dialog between Frodo, Sam, and Galadriel.

‘I would ask one thing before we go,’ said Frodo, ‘a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?’

‘You have not tried,’ she said. ‘Only thrice have you set the Ring upon your finger since you knew what you possessed. Do not try! It would destroy you. Did not Gandalf tell you that the rings give power according to the measure of each possessor? Before you could use that power you would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others. Yet even so, as Ring- bearer and as one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener. You have perceived my thought more clearly than many that are accounted wise. You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine. And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger? Did you see my ring?’ she asked turning again to Sam.

‘No, Lady,’ he answered. ‘To tell you the truth, I wondered what you were talking about. I saw a star through your fingers.”

You could easily cut to her ring after showing Frodo, then do it again after showing Sam to show he can’t see the ring. You can cut this dialog down a bit and still have it explain how the ring works. This is literally dialog you could of used, Jackson. You show plenty of times when resisting putting on the ring is difficult, but you do a terrible job of showing why the ring is a power, a threat, and wanted by Boromir and Denethor (Faramir too in the movie version.) What about how the ring makes Frodo appear to Sam when Gollum swears upon the precious?

For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another’s minds.

That’s not a metaphor, that is literally how the One Ring’s power affects Frodo by being its bearer. Hard to convey, maybe, but no less hard than the spirit world in which Frodo enters when he puts on the ring. Later when Gollum tries to suggest giving the ring to him Frodo tells him.

In the last need, Sméagol, I should put on the Precious; and the Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command. So have a care, Sméagol!’

Having this dialog would

  1. Show how the ring gives the power to command, even to a hobbit.
  2. Show how Frodo has grown in power, even though the ring is making him weak physically the closer they get to Mordo
  3. Show how susceptible Gollum is to the power of the ring
  4. Give some well needed credibility to your version of Frodo, who has been made younger and has all the parts where he has shown any sort of bravery cut from the movie, but that is a post for another time.

It is one thing to cut parts of the book out of the movie. Obviously there are time restraints but some of these moments would add seconds, maybe five minutes at most that could easily but cut elsewhere.  It is not a matter of audiences being dumb either, but the One Ring in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is not explained very well at all. It is portrayed as more of an sigil for addiction rather than an artifact of power.

 

Speculations for Joe Abercrombie’s next The First Law trilogy

Author Joe Abercrombie tweeted this today:

Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy was one of the best fantasy series I have read in years. I ate it up nearly as quick as Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower or more recently Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards. It felt like reading The Lord of the Rings if Middle-Earth were as brutal of a world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Just like people you’ll love the main characters one minute and hate their guts another. I never saw the twists coming, and when dialog was spoken I thought afterwards of course they would say that. I left reading the books thinking I could write something like this because of the ease of the prose then jealous when I realized how wrong I am because these books were brilliantly written. It’s one of those series that leave you floored as a reader and a writer.

As always remember that there are spoilers ahead.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

I have to say ahead of time I have not read the First Law side books though I do know the big reveal of Red Country. Red Country, being the latest book in the First Law timeline takes place thirteen years after The Last Argument of Kings. So here is what I am speculating will occur in the next trilogy.

  • Sand dan Glokta and Jezal dan Luthar will no longer point-of-view characters. Jezal will make an appearance, maybe even just a mention but won’t have any prominent plot points. Glokta will be a prominent secondary character to one of the point-of-view characters.
  • There will be three or four new point-of view characters to replace the one we’re losing: Jezal, Glokta and Collem West.
  • I’m on the fence on whether Dogman will still be a point-of-view character.
  • Logen Ninefingers (still alive as revealed in Red Country) and Ferro Maljinn will be the only returning characters with a point-of-view.
  • What the Bloody Nine is will be fully revealed in Logen’s quest to confront Bayaz.
  • Bayaz manipulation of the North and the Union will begin to unravel but perhaps not fully free of the First of the Magi until the third First Law trilogy.
  • Ferro will have to deal with her madness if she is to accomplish her goals with the Gurkish.
  • The spirits that Logen can talk to will become more prominent again, and why he can do so will be revealed.
  • Perhaps Bayaz himself will have a point-of-view exploring his background with the other magi.
  • The Great Eastern Library will make an appearance
  • Maybe even one of the other magi not seen in the original trilogy will get a point-of-view to explore Bayazs background.
  • We will finally meet Khalul in person, perhaps through Ferro but like Bayaz his downfaill won’t come until the next First Law trilogy.
  • Tolomei will be released or break out from the House of the Maker
  • It is implied that Bayaz killed Juvens, we’ll find out why.
  • The other side will be explored more, perhaps be a main focus of the plot.
  • The mythology of Euz and his four sons, Kanedias, Juvens, Bedesh and Glustrod will be explored.
  • Logen Ninefingers will be actually dead by the end of this trilogy, having started what will be the downfall of Bayaz.
  • However, the Bloody Nine may not. With Logen dead the Bloody Nine may takeover to wreak havoc in the third trilogy.
  • Luthar may die before the end of the second trilogy.
  • There is no way there is only two laws by Euz. A third law will be revealed.
  • Cawneil, one of the magi, may be forced to give up her slothful ways in the Great Western Library, possibly even have a change of heart about being a cynic.
  • Zacharus may take a stand against Bayaz, and he will fall doing so possibly revealing Bayaz’s more sinister nature.

Obviously this is all based on having not read the three World of the First Law books, as I understand Bayaz makes an appearance in one of them.

There’s nothing like the feeling of discovering a new favorite book series and I hope Abercrombie will continue to do so with the next trilogy.

Changing The Dark Tower Pt. II – Wizard & Glass

In my original post I said that Father Callahan should join Roland’s second ka-tet in The Waste Lands at River Crossing. Now that I’ve reread Wolves of the Calla I see I’ve made myself some problems by moving where he is introduced, so let’s fix them now.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

 

The Waste Lands.

After hearing how Father Callahan got to Mid-World / End-World again in Wolves this story could fill the space that was originally the drawing of Jake into Roland’s world that I moved to book three. This will further strengthen the importance of the Rose in the vacant lot and be the part that reveals Marten / Randall’s background influence. (note: in my last post I eliminated the Walter / Marten / Randall confusion of all the names. There’s only Marten Broadcloak = Randall Flagg.)

Instead of Marten pushing him through a door in the Way Station to Calla he can do it the other way around. Black thirteen says on the Calla side, discovered by the Manni and it is they who beg for Roland and his Ka-tet to take it. Then with Randall’s remarks about having to “get ahead of them again” referring to Roland and Jake in The Gunslinger he goes through a door, Callahan follows and ends up in River Crossing.

Now you have two people talking about the vacant lot, the Rose, that area of New York, and now we get the introduction of the Low Men way ahead of time so there introduction later doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Wizard and Glass.

The fourth novel gets a blog post all on it’s own because it’s the one that needs the most change.

What should of been the most important Dark Tower book besides the last one turned out to be the worst, not only because Roland’s story of his first love drags but reveals so little of his past that is relevant to his quest for The Dark Tower until the very end. If it were me, I’d change this whole novel as it does not answer any important questions.

1.) What happened to Alain and Cuthbert? When did they become Gunslingers themselves? When did they die?

2.) How did Gilead fall?

3.) What happened to Steven Deschain?

4.) Again, why does Roland want to go to the Dark Tower at all?

5.) Why should I care about John Farson’s scheme here if we never meet him and never see him destroy the Affiliation?

Don’t say these questions are answered in the comic book because of a.) whether they are canon are not is in question b.) that is the biggest cop-out I’ve ever heard. If it’s part of the story it should be in the series of novels and not in some side story in the comics written by someone else.

The introduction of Merlyn’s Grapefruit, the tragedy of Susan’s death, and Roland having to choose between saving her and The Dark Tower after he sees it in the Grapefruit is not enough to justify this long winded, desperate in need of an editor, side story. All the things this novel does with developing Roland and his first ka-tet could have been done on their quest for the Dark Tower. This isn’t even his full ka-tet, there are at least two others that he mentions but we never learn anything about until The Wind in the Keyhole. 

Let’s say this story has absolutely be told, it still needs to be changed. That first session between Rhea of the Coos and Susan Delgado is disgusting. I’m no prude but this story should begin with her heading home with brief mentions of seeing the Grapefruit through Rhea’s window. I don’t need this eternal debate about being disgusted by Rhea molesting her and her being horny when she meets Roland. I’d rather her learning to masturbate by rubbing her clitoris be cut, but I can tolerate that more the descriptions of Rhea’s disgusting hands on Susan.

In fact, most of the parts giving Susan’s point of view can be cut. Are we supposed to assume Roland learned all these parts of the story from the Grapefruit at the end? It’s not needed. The whole will they / won’t they part of the story drags on for too long.

The worst part of the novel is the antagonists of this novel, The Rhea of the Coos, the Big Coffin Hunters, and Susan’s aunt, Cordelia Delgado are most compelling and interest villains than any we’ve gotten so far or will get afterward. All in a story that barely matters to Roland’s quest. Why couldn’t Randall Flagg be more fleshed out for this story? Why can’t Modred, or the Crimson King? In fact, why can’t Randall Flagg and the Crimson King be in it? That would at least play into the lore of the series. King tried way too hard to make this a stand-alone novel, and I had the privilege of reading all these novels at once in 2007-2008. I can’t even imagine what it was like reading this book when it came out after waiting for years to get it.

Then Roland finishes his story and we get back to present day. This was easily the best part of the novel but what was the point of bringing back the Tick-tock Man from book three if he was barely a threat? Is King even trying to write a western mixed with fantasy? A Mexican stand-off would have been better but all we get is Eddie and Susannah gunning him down without effort in a parody of the Wizard of Oz.

Then we finally get the reveal after Roland and his ka-tet have been in the aftermath of King’s The Stand a confrontation with Marten Broadcloak himself and the reveal that he is, in fact, Randall Flagg. This confrontation is great if you don’t know what happens in the rest of the books because there is a promise of a future confrontation that never happens.

You can navigate to the other parts from here:

Changing to The Dark Tower – Part I – The First Three Books

Changing to The Dark Tower – Part II – Wizard & Glass

Changing The Dark Tower – Part III – Wolves of the Calla

Changing the Dark Tower – Part IV – The Song of Susannah

Changing The Dark Tower – Part V – The Final Book & Mordred: All Hyper, No Substance

Marvel: Don’t let Spider-Man Go to Your Head.

We’re all excited Spider-Man is going to be in Marvel Cinematic Universe starting with Civil War but the link to the io9 article brings up some good questions.

“How much creative control does Sony have? Does Marvel have any input into the Sony-produced movies? Can Sony use parts of the MCU in return? Will the studios skip the origin story this time around?”

Let’s not forget an important fact, Sony still has the rights to Spider-Man, this is just an agreement and until we get more details who knows if they can pull out on this deal at any time. I mean, what did we learn from Sam Raimi about making a Spider-Man movie, and we’ll probably here this about Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the coming years, Sony executives can’t keep nose out of the creative process when it comes to these movies. The fact that their still going with that Sinister Six movie they have planned, although will probably now have Spider-Man in it, doesn’t make me feel any less cynical about this.

The other part people should remember, if Marvel Studios had the rights to Spider-Man when we started this business of a shared universe, and hey let’s throw the X-Men in there too, we probably wouldn’t have Iron Man, Captain America, Thor or the Avengers. At least, not yet.

Before Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. brought Iron Man to the big screen he was not a popular character or a big draw. In fact, the Avengers only a resurgence in the comics, thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, three years before the first Iron Man movie came out.

Also, I’m sure a lot of people have forgotten but nobody thought the first Iron Man movie was going to be any good. Statements likes Downey Jr. being washed up, Jon Favreau being inexperienced with directing, Iron Man not being a viable character were thrown out there. Marvel Studios success and all their plans were relying on this movie and all because they couldn’t rely on their biggest characters.

IMG_1311

So when they announced Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel, three films I am far more excited for,  were pushed back my first reaction was definitely pessimism.  Sure, Kevin Feige has the whole three movies a year rule but until I hear or read from him that this was the reason for the push back I can’t get the idea out of my mind they did this to please Sony.

Think about this, if Marvel had Spider-Man from the beginning we probably never would have had Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean, which movie would you make? Another Spider-Man film or who the hell are the Guardians of the Galaxy? Yet that movie, in my mind, was far superior to any of the Spider-Man films so far.

Here’s my hope for the deal. It goes a little something like this: Sony now handles part of the marketing, makes a big part of the profit, but is otherwise hands off. They get no say on what happens to Spider-Man in his guest appearances and no creative control over the movie because if it was up to them they’d put Venom in every movie and each movie would have 23,095,480,324,587,102,935 characters.

So Marvel Studios, don’t forget Spider-Man didn’t bring you success. It was your less popular characters that did so because you didn’t have a choice. You had to make great movies because you couldn’t rely on the name alone. DON’T FORGET.

Louis CK’s Live at the Comedy Store is a Concept Album and an Inside Joke.

Since 2006 with Shameless Louis C.K.’s been producing some of the best stand-up comedy specials. When I downloaded his new special Live at the Comedy Store and watched it several times over three days I thought “Oh no, this is good but not great.”

What I thought about changed when I read this article from Wired Magazine, Louis CK’s Latest Email Is a Fantastic Elegy to Comedy Clubs. According to Vulture  Louie “has described this new special as a tribute to the workshop tradition of comedy-club material.”

“Oh,” I thought, “So it’s like when a band makes a concept album or a group of friends has an inside joke.” Essentially, unless those previous specials this one is more of an experiment. He’s trying to capture what it’s like when you’re developing a setlist at a comedy club and you’re trying out the material in front of a tough crowd.

You can definitely tell. Some jokes are riffed, some are honed material, and others feel like he’s trying them for the first time. He’s not afraid to go off the rails or be silly. The only thing missing is crowd work but C.K. might not be the type of comic.

Still, unless you’re reading his e-mails on his mailing list closely, have a deep knowledge of the stand-up comedy business or are a stand-up comedian yourself you may download this special and not understand what’s he doing. That’s where the idea of it being an inside joke popped into my head. Like an inside joke, this special could be ostracizing to the casual viewer. Then again, considering the sales of the special I don’t think this will matter much in the end.

I just don’t think in the long run, this special will be as appreciated or seen as one of his best. However, I’d rather he try new things then try to stay the same.