Friday, August 17, 2012

A Song of Ice and Fire - 1 - A Game of Thrones (8/10)


'A Song of Ice and Fire' is a world of Kings, fallible and imperfect; Knights, brave and brutal; Lords, honorable and devious; great houses and dark creatures. The main storyline of the first book, 'A Game of Thrones' is set in the land of the Seven Kingdoms ruled by the House Baratheon from King's Landing. Lord Stark of Winterfell from the North, is invited to be the new Hand of the King after the death of the previous Hand. And so it is that the honorable House Stark unwittingly, and reluctantly, gets involved in the deceits of the House Lannister, represented chiefly by the Queen Cersei. A big chunk of the main plot revolves around the righteous Starks (Lord Eddard, Lady Catelyn, the sons Robb, Bran and Rickon and the daughters Sansa and Arya) and the devious Lannisters (Lord Tywin, the sons Jaime and Tyrion and the daughter Cersei whos also the Queen of the realm). Add to this mix of forceful personalities, the direwolves of the Stark children, the wit of the dwarf Tyrion and several councillors of the Kings court, with their devious and crooked ways, and you have an extremely promising plot.

Another thread follows the illegitimate son of Lord Stark, Jon Snow. Jon is a recent recruit of the Nights Watch, which is a brotherhood that mans the Wall, an immense wall of ice that separates the forests and icy expanses of the extreme north from the Kingdom, charged with protecting the relam from the terrors beyond. In this book we get just a tiny glimpse of what these terrors might be, undead people, the 'Others' or the White-walkers. As the long summer comes to an end and the long night comes, the Stark words 'Winter is coming' will take on a whole new ominous significance and this part of the story promises to become more important and central to the plot.

Finally, we follow Daenerys Targaryen. The last of the line of the Targaryens, the Dragonlords and the Kings of the Seven Kingdoms until their overthrow by the Baratheons. The Targaryens were all butchered in the rebellion, all except Daenerys and her brother who are in exile on another continent, desperately trying to get back and reclaim the Iron Throne that is rightfully theirs. Daenerys, the mother of dragons!

So much happening and this is just the first of 7 books. The epic scope of this series is clear enough. George Martin does extremely well to narrate the story from several points of view characters, easing the reader into his wonderful, vast world, without every becoming drab, boring or overwhelming the reader with too much information.

And yet, its not just about the wonderful story. 'A Game of Thrones' is about genuinely good writing. Writing containing wit as well as wisdom. In a fantasy-action-adventure you don't expect much philosophical, profound observations; yet, not satisfied with the action and intrigue, George Martin manages to infuse this adventure with a lot more substance than one would expect. Phrases such as the following convice you that George Martin's writing is not just about the story. Every once in a while, he makes you think as well, think about life and its eternal questions.

"Can a man still be brave if he is afraid?"
"What is life worth when all the rest is gone"
"If life is worthless, what is death?"
"The things we love destroy us every time"
"The hard truths are the ones to hold tight"

A very promising start!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

You get credit for trying ;)

I love the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. After Captains Jack Sparrow and Barbossa, my favourites are Pintel and Ragetti. They crack me up every single time. This exchange from "Dead Man's Chest" was brilliant. Ragetti is reading the Bible when pintel points out something...

Pintel : "You do know you can't read"
Ragetti : "It's the Bible, you get credit for trying"

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

I have always been fascinated by words - poems, stories, quotations, everything that transforms simple words into something much much more. The essence of art - creating something from nothing, like magic! Yesterday I came across this one and it blew me away!

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.

--- Alexander Pope

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Rise of Endymion - Dan Simmons (1/10)

Horrible, horrible writing!

The prime failure of this book is the failure to create chemistry between the characters. Mr. Simmons fails miserably every single time he tries to describe an emotional bond between his characters. It started with the first book and 'Siri's Tale'. You just didn't buy into the bond between Siri and Merin. And now the same happens for Aenea and Raul. The characters are so wooden and the feelings so clearly artificial that the characters are just not believable. And so you don't really care what happens to them. He's a complete disaster when talking about people's feelings. I'm not a writer myself but even I know that to show two people who love each other, it takes effort than describing their sex lives and having them call each other 'beloved' a million times!

Almost as annoying are the unbelievably long-winded descriptions. Pages on end are wasted on endless and completely pointless descriptions of places. At so many points you want to remind the author that this is supposed to be a story book, NOT a geography lesson. It gets to the point that you want to stop reading the book just to not waste any more of your time.

Finally there is the shaky credibility of the characters. Mr Simmons has found an easy way to change everything else that came before. Just say that the person who said those things was lying. So you have people lying all over the place - humans & machines alike . I don't like this trick because it makes all your characters lose credibility. The reader no longer knows if he can trust what anybody says.

The series should have ended with the second book. What a terrible and utter waste of space and time the last two books have been!