“The Wheel of Time is too daunting,” says Tolkienist. “Wait, what?” Everyone else asks.

Recently, I finished reading The Eye of the World, the first novel in Robert Jordan’s sprawling epic The Wheel of Time. It the first of fourteen novels and quite frankly, it is a bit intimidating. This is coming from someone who has a studied the Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and other collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing on a scholarly level, for fun.

The Wheel of Time seems daunting in the same style that Frank Herbert’s Dune is daunting. The difference being I already decided in my mind when I read Dune that I would go no further than the first book. You don’t have that option with The Wheel of Time. Like Dune, the writing style is long-winded but Jordan, like Herbert and Tolkien, cares about his words being mot juste.

However, this makes for a slow read. A fantasy novel, usually a long read by itself, will take me about two weeks to read. The first Wheel of Time novel has taken me a month to get through. It’s a slog, which usually has a negative connotation, but somehow it’s a good slog? A lot of backstory and history is given in this first book which usually would be perfect for a reader like me, who loves exposition, but by the end of the novel, it was hard to stay focused.

It’s funny, for such well-known fantasy series it is surprising how little I knew about it. Even A Song of Ice and Fire was spoiled for me (The Red Wedding) before I ever finished the second book. With The Wheel of Time, however, I’ve never heard of a single character or setting. Not Rand Al’Thor, Mat Cauthon, or Perrin Ayabard nor Tar Valon, Emond’s Field, or Caemlyn.

When I say the series may be too daunting for me this isn’t a criticism of the books nor does it mean that I won’t continue reading. What I mean is that it’s going to take me a long time to read and truly appreciate the series. As a child, doctors told my mother that I had attention deficit disorder. In school, I could not sit still. At parties, I would run into walls. To fight this, my parents removed all artificial flavors and coloring from my diet rather than putting me on a prescription drug like Ritalin. Now, I struggle to fight distractions when writing and have difficulty staying focused if I read a two books of a series in a row.

I could read each book in the series one after another, but not only would it take longer than if I read other books in between but the series would become a burden rather than what I would do for enjoyment. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Great Hunt, after I’ve read two or three other books in between. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read The Lord of the Rings for the twelfth time in ten years.

Advertisements

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

Appreciating A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Most people, when talking about the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, rank A Feast for Crows as the least interesting followed by A Dance with Dragons.

The first time through though. the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings, bored me in every chapter that wasn’t a Tyrion or Davos chapter. It’s not the book’s fault but a fault of my own.

You see, I have this problem when it comes to reading. Every time I try to read a series in succession I grow bored, no, restless during the second book. It becomes hard for me to concentrate and I always end up putting the book down, especially since I’ve figured out this flaw, and picking up a different one. I think it might stem from my A.D.D. (which I was diagnosed for, not just the many people claiming to have it) but I can’t be sure.

Besides A Clash of Kings other victims of this dilemma include the second Mistborn book, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and even The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s just when Sam and Frodo are climbing down the elven rope that I put it down though unlike the others listed I picked it back up shortly after. Spoilers ahead. 

Continue reading

Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World is What Half A King Should Have Been.

Last year, one of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, said Half A King was “[his] favorite Abercrombie book yet. And that’s really saying something.” So naturally I decided to buy, and all his other books. I started The Blade Itself a week before Half A King was to be released and ate it up like I had The Name of the Wind and The Lies of Locke Lamora. When Half A King arrived I read it and when I did I couldn’t wait to finish because I wanted to go back to reading The Blade Itself.

The fact that Half A King was Young Adult didn’t bother me, but everything else did. It all seemed so predictable, paint-by-the-numbers kind of characters and plot. Then the ending came too quick and too anticlimactic. By the end Yarvi broke the greatest sin for a protagonist, I no longer cared about him.

So it was with great reluctance that I started Half the World, the second book in the Shattered Sea series. I need that Joe Abercrombie fix but needed it to be quick because I was right in the middle of reading A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. I was absolutely blown away.

  • Yarvi’s weakness was his crippled hand and how that limited his abilities. Thorn and Bran, though, suffer from internal struggles of self-doubt, anger, and worthlessness. I found this far more engaging because once you figured out Yarvi was clever, you knew he’d always think his way out of any limitations his hand caused.
  • Yarvi’s story seemed more coming-of-age, as most YA is, but Abercrombie blends Thorn and Bran’s coming-of-age with the hero’s journey as the two become stronger and prove their worth to the rest of the crew.
  • The lore of the Shattered Sea is explored and expanded upon. Half A King seemed so focused on getting back to Gettland that the rest of the world didn’t seem to matter. Plus, the history of the elves, magic, and what disaster they caused is given to us to small amounts to entice the reader’s interest.
  • With a bit of age and without his point-of-view Yarvi’s cleverness is more impressive and without his inner monologue, much more cunning.
  • With war looming, their cause seems more desperate, the tone more serious, and with better protagonists I’m more worried if they’re going to make it out okay. When events go awry and the characters make a mistake they could have avoided, I am more concerned. When the characters get seriously hurt, injured, and killed I know Thorn and Bran are not completely safe (even though they are.) It’s easier to believe the protagonist isn’t safe when they’re not so clever.
  • I had to reopen the first book to discover that Thorn was the thirteen-year-old girl who witnessed Yarvi, with his short time as king, dueling with Keimdall.
  • When characters from the first novel are reintroduced, it’s a sure sign of a better book that even when I don’t fully remember the first book Abercrombie makes me feel something for them in the second.
  • The romantic tension between Brand and Thorn simmers slowly and never overtakes the main plot or the action. By getting both of their point of views, you get to be frustrated as they each have the same doubt about the other liking them. Sexual tension builds, romantic mishaps happen, and they both get to the point where you wish someone would just sit them both down and go you’re crazy for one another, just kiss already. Someone does and without feeling like a Deus Ex Machina.
  • Abercrombie does this through Rin, who through her brother’s and hers experience of hardships teaches Thorn a lesson above privilege, appreciating what she haves, while giving Thorn enough information to figure out what an idiot she’s been with Brand.
  • What is a well thought out move, just because they are together doesn’t mean Brand and Thorn’s self-doubts don’t just go away.
  • While war is often romanticized in books such as this, especially considering it’s based on Vikings and Norse culture, seeing Brand’s trauma and struggle with the morality of raiding villages hit hard. Then when he stands up for peace and the king praises him for it you feel proud of him also.
  • The twist with Grom-gil-Gorm, Mother Isriun, and having Thorn as the Queen’s chosen shield to fight Grom was such a satisfying moment, like when Eowyn reveals herself to the Witch King.
  • Then to have Grom, having grown tired of Mother Isriun’s orders, sparing Thorn, turning away from the High King, and forging an alliance with Gettland was a resolution I both didn’t see coming and thoroughly enjoyed. I just assumed, probably because I’ve read so many books where the child becomes the great warrior and avenges their father, that Thorn would find a way to kill Grom.
  • Bran in the end shows his own cleverness against Father Yarvi proving himself as someone who stands in the light, as he puts it, without feeling as if his story has had a bad ending. Plus, a marriage proposal awaits Thorn.
  • Then to end with Thorn telling off Master Hunnan and becoming a teacher just as Skifr did was the best conclusion this story could get. Perhaps one of these pupils will become the protagonists of Half A War. I’m looking forward to it.

“What Then?” by William Butler Yeats | I think about this one a lot.

His chosen comrades thought at school
He must grow a famous man;
He thought the same and lived by rule,
All his twenties crammed with toil;
‘What then?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘What then?’

Everything he wrote was read,
After certain years he won
Sufficient money for his need,
Friends that have been friends indeed;
‘What then?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘ What then?’

All his happier dreams came true —
A small old house, wife, daughter, son,
Grounds where plum and cabbage grew,
poets and Wits about him drew;
‘What then.?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘What then?’

The work is done,’ grown old he thought,
‘According to my boyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought’;
But louder sang that ghost, ‘What then?’

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

When I first read Stephen King’s opus, The Dark Tower, I was much younger and eating through books like gravy and mozzarella covered curly fries while drunk in a diner. I was not yet a writer so my opinions on storytelling was much different.

As I am going through them again I am noticing their flaws. I still cherish this story but some of King’s decisions are strange and I think part of the problem is how long it took to finish the seven original novels.

Granted, this is just my opinion. I am sure some people believe the story is perfectly fine as it is. I am also sure, having done writing myself, that Stephen King is not lying when he talks about how difficult it is channeling Roland’s story and how the story wrote itself when he can.

Still, here’s what I would change going in chronological order of the books starting with books 1-3.

The Gunslinger

– Let’s start with the problem of Marten Broadcloak / Walter Padick / Randall Flagg. I like the idea of Randall Flagg being a cross-dimensional villain in Stephen King’s books but all the names and different identities are excessive. Marten Broadcloak is Randall Flagg is the Man in Black that flees across the desert. No Walter O’Dim, Walter Padick, and all the other names he goes by. It’s just too much.

– Plant more seeds for the Crimson King here. He’s mentioned once by a throwaway character in this book and then we never hear his name again until book four and only on some graffiti.

– All the information doesn’t have to be given at once but more insight into what Roland intends to do when he gets to the top of The Dark Tower should be foreshadowed here.

The Drawing of the Three

– If Nineteen is going to be a reoccurring theme, then start with it here.

– Give the readers hints that Marten (no longer Walter) is not really dead.

The Drawing of the Three / The Waste Lands

– The Drawing of the Three is by far the best book of The Dark Tower series but the best ending for this book is the part one of The Waste Lands. Jake Chambers should have been drawn to Mid-World in the second book. The reunion scene between Jake and Roland was the catharsis readers needed for all that tension in book two.

– Plus, now we learn the Ka-Tet will be following the path of the beam in book two rather than waiting until book three.

The Waste Lands

– With the drawing of Jake in book two where it belongs book three can end where it should, with the beginning of book four and the end of Blaine the Mono.

– Without the drawing of Jake in this book the story is kind of lacking. What it needs is more development of the overall plot. Like in the last book let’s get a glimpse of Marten’s / Randall’s point of view.

– It takes way too long to get to the plot of Susannah’s pregnancy, and not only diminishes this conflict but Mordred as a villain overall. Let’s start addressing it here.

– As early as River Crossing or somehow in the city of Lud let’s have the group find out there is something wrong with the beams rather than later on in the series. It’ll make the journey to the tower more urgent.

– Even more nineteen, that way close readers will start to see the patterns but casual readers will still be surprised in book five.

– With what horrors Roland and his Ka-Tet see in the waste lands, let’s acknowledge that they’re probably from the Prim, the primordial chaos where demons in Roland’s world comes from.

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

 

How Green Lantern Rebirth Changed My Twenties

Back in 2004, freshman year of Suffolk County Community College, I was in a hip-hop group with my three closest friends. Then in November of that year, they kicked me out and would not hang out with me anymore.

It was deeply upsetting at the time, and pretty traumatizing. In hindsight, if it had continued I probably would have quit eventually. I didn’t enjoy the recording process nor did I have any focus for editing or making beats. The part I enjoyed the most was the writing. I had notebooks full of songs that I never recorded or performed but still continued to write new ones. The other part I loved was performing, it was thrilling. The amount of adrenaline you get from performing on a stage even though they were in high school talent show and a music showcase of all the school’s bands the adrenaline you get from it was crazy.

So my bridges burned with my former friends making music, writing music (and writing in general), and listening to the same music I had before left a bad taste in my mouth. I asked myself who was I before music? Well, before I discovered music at fourteen I was deep into video games. I started playing my GameCube heavily. Then I retreated further back remember this little comic book shop my mom used to take me to where I bought Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and The Simpsons comics.

The comics I read as a kid, as far as superheroes were concerned, were weird. Superman had a weird mullet, Spider-Man was a clone and Green Lantern had gone insane and replaced by another Green Lantern. When I walked into that same comic book store I had as a kid not knowing what I’d find what I found was the second issue of a comic called Green Lantern Rebirth by Geoff Johns. I held up and asked the guy behind the counter what this it was.

“Oh, they’re bringing back Hal Jordan from the dead and making him Green Lantern again,” he said. He offered me a deal for the first and second issue together and told me comic books came out on Wednesdays. I would buy comics there regularly for the next six years.

Hal Jordan (43)

I became entrenched in comic books and video games to fill the void listening to hip-hop and writing it had left. Comic books though reignited my love for reading that would spread to novels when my girlfriend at the time brought me to a Barnes & Noble. Before this I had only been to Border’s Book, and not in years. Last time I had been there it was not in good condition. This was two stories of book paradise, one with a graphic novel section that was lacking. Instead I picked up this beautiful leather bound copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams  I had seen at one of her friends house and The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King.

The more I read novels, the more I could see the weaknesses in comic book stories. Reading more novels led to more interest in literature. This led to me majoring in English which forced writing upon me. When I briefly dropped out in 2011 and into a deep depression it was writing that got me out of it and brought the love back I had for it back to the forefront of my brain.

All because I picked up Green Lantern Rebirth. 

GL-rebirth-cv

Childhood Memories of Sports – I

In my family from a very young age I was taught what teams to root for.

They rooted for the Yankees, the Knicks, the Giants and the Rangers. Both sides too, surprisingly. I had Yankee hats, t-shirts with Knicks logos, Rangers hoodies, and even a Giants Starter jacket. Remember Starter jackets?

It was a hand me down, that I remember, but I thought that Giants Starter jacket was so cool and so comfortable. I remember all the kids telling me the Giants were terrible but it didn’t matter to me. My whole family loved them so I tried to love them even though I didn’t watch a single game. Then in what I think was 4th grade I got out of my mom’s car and walked up to the elementary school around the block wearing my Giant’s starter jacket. As a walker, instead of someone who rode the bus, you would usually arrive early enough that they wouldn’t let you in right away. Some people that I knew were waiting outside when I walked up and everything was normal until one of them pointed out that a worm was coming out of the large front pocket was the staple of those jackets. I don’t know where it came from, how it got there, or why I didn’t notice it before but I didn’t live it down from those guys for a good two months or so which is forever in kids-making-fun-of-you time. Never wore that jacket again.

A more positive memory of sports was Super Bowl XXXII, the Green Bay Packers versus the Denver Broncos. My father and I were going over my uncle’s house for a Super Bowl party. My dad asked me if I wanted to enter the pool, and this was at a time when what little money I had in my kids wallet was few and far between and quite frankly going to more important things like Nintendo 64 games. I was mainly going to see my cousin and watch the halftime show on MTV which was one of the first episodes of Celebrity Deathmatch before it became a regular series. Still, my father was encouraging it and I wanted to be a part of the whole football crowd. Unexpectedly, I was the one who won the pool and I barely watched the game. I had no idea how the pool worked or why I really won it. My dad had just put me in and now I had enough money for about three new N64 games and maybe even a controller.

Lastly, a nice experience followed by a traumatic one all focused around my eyesight. It isn’t that I have no depth perception but very little. So little that trying to catch, hit, and throw a moving ball for me as a kid was next to impossible. In 3rd grade all the guys stopped playing childish things and instead decided to play football. The lead kid who basically ran the football games didn’t make fun of me per se but told me straight to my face that he didn’t want me to play because I was bad at sports. So I didn’t, and was pretty much the only one. I just wandered the old playground where nobody played before. I don’t remember being upset because he was right, I was bad at sports but also I didn’t want to play football either. No, I remember being bored. If I had been then like I am now I would of been reading and writing. Possibly even asking my 3rd grade teacher if I could go to the library.

Instead what happened was I had a friend in the class who taught me how to catch despite my vision and showed my new found skills in front of the lead kid. If he wasn’t impressed he was surprised and allowed me to play. I wasn’t really ever thrown the ball but I still was one of the tallest kids at the time so I played decent defense. Best of all that kid, who I thought hated me, was extremely nice to me ever since even saying hello to me in highschool long after we didn’t really know each other anymore with a warm greeting.

Then 4th grade happened, which was probably the worst grade for me in elementary school. I had the meanest teacher and it took me forever to make any friends  in the class. In gym every year when it got warm we played softball and I dreaded it because I struck out every time and couldn’t catch. This year though we had a new boys gym teacher and he was not satisfied with me striking out. He would not let me leave the batter’s mound until I hit that ball. I begged him after ten swings to just let me be out, after fifteen swings the other kids were getting tired of waiting to hit the ball, after twenty hits he finally let me go to the end of the batter’s line. I dreaded gym after that, crying at night when I knew a gym day was coming up, faking a stomach virus so I wouldn’t have to go. The teacher tried teaching me how to swing with more technique but he didn’t seem to understand that I was swinging where I thought the ball was, not where the ball actually is. Next time, same thing to both the scorn of the other kids and myself but this time I actually hit the ball after ten swings. It was a soft hit and I was caught out pretty quickly but I still did it. I’d eventually get my revenge during kickball when the gym teacher pitched the ball. I kicked it with all my might, not worrying where I was aiming it. My gym teacher’s privates never saw it coming and everyone had a good laugh.

That same year my closest friend in the class and I were the kind of friends who rough housed, push each other, play hit each other and the like. One day in gym when we were going to play dodgeball he took it too far. The gym teacher was in the back room getting out the dodgeballs while my friend I were leaning against the gym wall. Continuing our rough housing he grabbed me by the hand and swung me into the gym wall. It honestly didn’t hurt that bad but my mouth slammed first breaking one of my big front teeth in the process. The gym teacher came back, I told him what happened and I was sent to the nurses office where my mother would soon be called. I remember going back to lunch to wait for when my mom would arrive and the kid being on the verge of tears, apologizing profusely. I really wasn’t mad at him, it was an accident and I was glad he had not gotten in trouble. Meanwhile both that gym teacher and the principal were scarred out of their wits they were going to get sued. I remember telling my mom to do it, because I didn’t know better and so I’d have some money. We didn’t.

If you had an Imagination, Music Videos were always disappointing.

A little over a decade ago, before the rise of YouTube, music videos and MTV were on a slow spiral downward out of relevancy in the music industry. Artists were still making them, record labels were still paying for them and MTV was trying to make programing that could collect nielsen ratings from them. Total Request Live was not the hit show it once was post-Carson Daly, if you can believe it, and pirating music wasn’t going away anytime soon.

Now, music videos aren’t what they once were. Shows like Making the Video were a big deal, videos were often how artists premiered the song entirely, and those premieres felt like big events for the said artists following. Today, music videos are just part of millions of videos on YouTube. Some get a high number of views but it isn’t the same. If you missed the premiere of a music video you couldn’t just type the song into Google and watch it again, you had to wait for it be shown on one of the music channels again.

This may sound like I’m mourning the music video but in fact I rather disliked them. I’m not sure if other people listen to music this way, but when I hear a song I imagine the story behind it. Not what the songs mean but literally a story behind like a movie in my head. I once heard the song Australia by The Shin and had to immediately outline an entire science fiction novel (which I’ve never written.) The story I hear when I listen to a song doesn’t have the band posing while they play into a camera, no budget restrictions and no director deciding what his vision for the video is. My imagination has no limitations while music videos have nothing but limitations.

I guess dislike is a strong word in this case, because for the most part I don’t think about them and honestly don’t even search them out. If it’s the only way for me to hear a new song from a band I like thanks to YouTube I can just like on another tab in Chrome while it plays. It was only in my twenties that I thought about the limitations of video versus my imagination mostly from exploring the adaptation of books but I was teenager when I discovered my disappointment with music videos.

I can recall exactly where I was and what video it was. I was over my former best friend’s house and we were watching MTV waiting for the world premiere of Eminem’s Stan. I remember thinking, I’ve listened to this song at least fifty times. This is not how I imagined it at all. What were they thinking?

I didn’t understand budgets, productions, or the fact that unless you framed around programing there was no way for music videos to make any money because it didn’t count towards nielsen ratings. No nielsen ratings means no advertising means no money means Real World / Road Rules Challenge marathon.

I think part of the reason I loved underground hip-hop so much was because they couldn’t afford music videos so the picture playing in my head was never tainted by bad acting, no money, and poor decisions.

There’s only one music video that matches the story in my head, and I think part of the reason is that the video is so ingrained in pop culture that you can’t help but think of it.

That video is of course Michael Jackson’s Thriller