As he has done in the past with the Malazan series and A Song of Ice and Fire, Adam from the Wertzone is doing a recap of the Wheel of Time, called The Wheel of Time So Far, in preparation for the November 2012 release of A Memory of Light, the 14th and final book in the series. He does a great job summarizing the story from the ground up. These are spoiler-filled synopses, intended for the re-reader, not the first-timer. Part 1 is up now, and it’s probably the best, most concise summary of the history of Randland that I’ve read.
I never thought I’d be one of those people who balked at starting a new fantasy series simply because the author hadn’t yet finished it, but I’ve discovered recently that I have become exactly that. I think it clicked for me this afternoon, when I was reading an update on Scott Lynch’s acclaimed Gentlemen Bastards Sequence over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. Lynch readers have been waiting for the third book in the series, The Republic of Thieves, since 2007. After some delay, it is now expected to be published in June 2012, five years after the second novel. It is perhaps unfair of me to use Mr. Lynch as an example of my hesitation, because the delay between his books is reportedly due to very real, very serious personal problems of the author to which we should all be sympathetic. That said, while Lynch’s case is a different matter entirely, it brought to mind for me the feelings of hesitation I’ve experienced lately over beginning a new, long genre series that remains unfinished. I’m not talking here about the unfortunate criticism of writers who tend toward lengthy delays between books, like the inappropriate rage that has been launched at George Martin. I’m talking about the internal process of an individual reader, deciding whether or not to commit to an unfinished story, particularly one whose ending doesn’t even seem to be in sight.
Found this buried in Scott Lynch’s LiveJournal. Mindblowing spaceporn cool.
OK, total geek rage issue: was anyone else disappointed by the portrayal of Ned Stark’s greatsword “Ice” in HBO’s Game of Thrones series? Seeing this iconic image (click to enlarge) of Sean Bean as Ned from Season One again brought this back to mind for me. It’s a thought I had the first time I saw the promo photos, but it’s obviously not a terribly important criticism, and the fact that I’m able to focus on something so minor actually demonstrates the quality of the production. The sword in the show is a beautiful weapon, but it doesn’t look like Ice to me. I always thought of Valyrian steel weapons as being a little more ornate, a little more alien in design. They’re supposed to be ancient, after all, forged by imperial dragonriders centuries ago.
The latest Sword and Laser podcast includes a very well-framed discussion of a simple, relevant question: is listening to an audiobook of a novel the same thing as reading the novel? This subject apparently began as a debate on Goodreads, resulting in a Sword and Laser straw poll, which revealed that a plurality of people (46 percent) believed that they were “both equally valid, but different.” Another 39 percent believed the were essentially the same, while a small minority (15 percent) answered that they were different.
I tend to agree with the plurality: the two media are equally valid, but different. The differences, in my mind, are related to style and the subjective impact of a book on each particular reader. The existence of a third-party audio narrator necessarily adds another layer between author and reader, and the narrator’s audio interpretation of the text is just that: an interpretation. The narrator’s choices regarding tone, inflection, accent, volume, pace, and rhythm create a subjective interpretation of the book that belongs to neither the author nor the reader. Does this affect the listener’s ability to absorb the essence of the work? No. Is it a difference substantial enough to argue over? No, probably not, particularly if the narrator is any good (and the talent level of the particular audio reader makes a huge difference).
I’ve only recently started listening to audiobooks regularly, through Audible.com. I spend a lot of time in the car, so listening to audiobooks effectively doubles my reading time. But I have to admit, I generally avoid listening to serious or heavy novels. I save the stuff I really care about for print, both because I’m old fashioned and prefer it, and because reading comprehension is an issue for me with audiobooks: unlike with a paper book or ebook, if your attention wanders and you miss a line in an audiobook, you’ve got to scrub the file back, which can be difficult when you listen in the car. In a book you’ve got the text right in front of, ready to be read and re-read in a tired haze ad nauseum while you wonder how tired you’ll be the next morning.
What do you think? Do you listen to audiobooks? Are they the same? Different?
The term “space opera” doesn’t really encompass what John C. Wright’s novel Count to a Trillion is. I read more fantasy than science fiction, generally speaking, and so when the craving for some space opera struck me recently, this book had two things going for it: (1) it was new, and (2) it appeared to be a stand-alone novel. I wanted to get a sense of where the genre was at, but I didn’t want to get involved in an unfinished series by an author I was unfamiliar with, given that I was sneaking this onto the top of a long reading list. More on my hesitation about getting into new series later.
Count to a Trillion contains more fascinating ideas than any five books of its kind, and as such it is brilliantly flawed, because the narrative is so over-flowing with pure scientific spitballing that the actual story often gets lost completely.
So that’s that, unless you think it’s all disinformation, which would be getting fairly paranoid.
Did you know the entire series of The X-Files is available for streaming on Netflix? After discovering this treasure trove of awesome, my wife and I began re-watching the series from the beginning. Aside from the inherent awesomeness of having a wife who wants to watch every episode of The X-Files on streaming Netflix, the early seasons are even better than I remembered. We’re halfway through Season Two, which is particularly good. It’s in Season Two that we first meet Alex Krycek, X, and Duane Barry; where Scully gets abducted and Mulder has his first showdown with the Cigarette-Smoking Man. The first half of the Season sees Mulder and Scully separated and dealing with the shutdown of the X-Files in the aftermath of Deep Throat’s assassination, and it’s during this time where we first discover the depths of their feelings for one another, the connection created by all that they went through together in Season One. It’s also where we find out that Skinner is a good guy, an ally, one with stones enough to tell Cancerman not to smoke in his office.
There’s something comforting about The X-Files. For me it has a lot to do with the fact that Mulder and Scully are in a way the ideal law enforcement officers: dedicated and entirely secure and content in their chosen career path, fervently pursuing truth and justice. There’s also something familiar and reassuring about the fact that no matter what is going on in your own life, you can always rely on a certain stability of setting and theme in Chris Carterland: every week features a new economy rent-a-car, a new cheap motel, a new investigation into the weirdest nooks and crannies of the USA. There’s something important to be said about the way the show encapsulates early 1990s small-town America, and what it says about it, the topical commentary that runs beneath every paranormal oddity and every dry quip by Mulder, but I’m not feeling eloquent enough to enunciate it right now.
If you’re feeling nostalgic, Wikipedia has a wealth of information on the series, including a complete list of episodes and a summary of the entire “mythology.” Tor.com is also doing an episode-by-episode re-watch called “Reopening The X-Files.” You’ve got to watch something while you’re waiting for Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead to come back.