Monday, September 21, 2009

This is Your Life... Are You Who You Want to Be?

"...And in this corner... in the brown trunks with a rip in the seat... weighing in at a deceptively tubby 186lbs... from San Diego, California... the two-time Biggest Literary Blaggard Heavyweight Champion... voted Most Enturdtaining Writer of the Year by the International Simpleton's Collective three years straight... the "Sultan of Squat"... the "Methanatrix" himself... Two-Ton David "Windy" Wagner!"

[OK... cue explosive applause... blast the theme music... confetti and streamers now... ready camera #2... and... take it.]

Thank you! Thank you all!

I trust your Monday came and went with nary a hitch... I know mine did. Pretty mellow day today - though that doesn't mean it was unproductive. I finished The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson, and I have some thoughts on it...

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson: A Review

For a thousand years, the world has been ruled by an evil Lord Ruler, who defeated a greater evil called The Deepness, and now rules with an iron fist, immortal and unassailable. The world is dark, under constant ashfall, with frightening mists that envelop the land nightly. The vast majority of the population are called the skaa, and are basically slaves, forced to work the ashy fields for little more than food to keep them going, all to support the noble houses that form the structure of the Final Empire under the Lord Ruler.

Some noblemen are born with special giftings, which are exercised by ingesting trace amounts of certain metals, and then "burning" them within themselves to activate the gifts, in a process referred to as Allomancy. These gifted ones are called Mistings, and specialize in one Allomantic facet only. They are useful in keeping order, and keeping the skaa subjugated. Occasionally, a Misting will appear that has all of the Allomantic gifts... these are called Mistborn, and they are supremely powerful.

The Allomantic gifts are hereditary; therefore no skaa can obtain the gifts, since physical interraction between the nobles and the skaa is prohibited, unless the nobleman has the skaa woman immediately put to death afterwards, to prevent any inadvertent pregnancies, with the resulting mixing of the classes. Thus, the Immortal Lord Ruler keeps things as he wants. As you may guess, eventually, some half-breed Mistings survive...

That should set things up well enough for you. I cannot say enough positive things about both the book and the author. There is something very special about this book; something that proved difficult to put my finger on at first. I believe I've distilled it down to this: the writing is so solid and effective, and the story so rich and compelling, I simply forgot I was reading a book. The writing is not self-aware or in love with itself (like Bakker), it isn't highly polished and tasty (like Rothfuss), it isn't constantly looking for ways to stick you in the ribs and/or shock you (like Abercrombie), and it isn't blatantly manipulative (like King)... it merely tells a terrific tale in a way so straightforward and effective that you simply fall in and go. I don't know how else to put it... the writing absolutely does nothing in any way to hinder the story... it steps aside and lets the reader fly...

There aren't any noteworthy monologues, or bits of dialog that are worth pulling out, as examples of great wordsmithing, as I've done with other writers. But that's ok. There are solid, extremely rich and well-crafted characters, a deliciously fascinating magic system, rich lore, and a lightness in the midst of the ashy darkness and curling mists... and wonderfully satisfying David-vs.-Goliath moments throughout. There is no profanity or adult scenes - they are not needed. Sanderson establishes a trust almost from the get-go that is intangible and likely impossible to force... as a reader, it was without question that he would spin a solid, terrific tale... I just felt it as I read, like a warm undercurrent. Clean, simple, extremely effective... that style is likely why Sanderson is able to spit books out so quickly. No agonizing over the drafts, searching for the perfect flowery synonym or subtle adverb.

Man, listen to me gush. Have you vomited yet? Yeah, this isn't a traditional review, I'm merely rolling with it here. I simply thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I look forward not only to starting Book 2 tonight, but also to adding all of his titles to my library. What a wonderful author.

Summary: Highly recommended. 5/5


I decided to go ahead and number the Israelites (so to speak) today, and assemble a list of the books I've read this year so far. I've noticed many others do that on their blogs, and I am a complete lemming, so here it is...

Books I've Read So Far in 2009 (In order of enjoyment)
  • The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson
  • Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
  • Before They Are Hanged, by Joe Abercrombie
  • Last Argument of Kings, by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield
  • The Black Company, by Glen Cook
  • Shadows Linger, by Glen Cook
  • Point of Impact, by Stephen Hunter
  • Across the Face of the World, by Russell Kirkpatrick
  • The White Rose, by Glen Cook
  • Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
  • Speaker of the Dead, by Orson Scott Card
  • Runaway Jury, by John Grisham
  • Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch
  • The Assassin's Apprentice, by Robin Hobb
  • The Darkness That Comes Before, by R. Scott Bakker
  • The Talisman, by Stephen King/Peter Straub

I started a few others, but didn't make it very far in them. It's uncertain whether I will return to them or not. The Briar King by Greg Keyes; Hawkwood's Voyage by Paul Kearney; The Sword of Shanarra by Terry Brooks; and A Cavern of Black Ice by JV Jones.

Next up for me will obviously be the next 2 Mistborn books, The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. Beyond that, who knows? I'm literally saturated with options... my shelves runneth over.

Vye posted this wallpaper on his blog the other day. I love it. Click it to see it big - it's worth it. I have this as my current WP, bumping the skateboard wallpapers I slaved over recently.

Speaking of those skateboard wallpapers, I recently created a new Deviant Art account and uploaded them, just to get them out there to share. I also googled "skateboard wallpapers" and found a cool site to submit them to. I emailed the webmaster, he gave me the link to upload them, promising to take a look and see if they were acceptable... he wrote back saying they were perhaps the best skateboard-related wallpapers he'd ever seen, and thanked me profusely, saying he knew tons of people that were going to love them. Ahh, feels good to be appreciated! Even if it's just by a sliver of a micro-niche....


"And in the red corner, Dave's opponent for the evening... weighing in at a trim 150 lbs... rookie sensation The Coolest Guy in the World!"

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

Winner by TKO in the first round, The Coolest Guy in the World!

[Spotlight on CGW... theme music. Quick cut to Dave, sprawled out, with the doctors checking his vitals... add canned laughter... and... fade to black!]


Avari said...

AHHHHHH! Kaname-sama! Vampire Night.

*respects Dave forever*

havah said...

Don't know if it counts for anything, but the title is by Switchfoot - "This Is Your Life"/ Great song. And the answer is, no.

Awesome video clip. Makes one wonder how many bones were broken in the making of this movie..err...clip.

You've read a lot of books, but for some reason I thought you'd read more. Odd. o_O

Huge congrats on the skateboarding wallpaper. It's always rewarding to see your work come to something good. And you thought it was a fruitless exercise!

Sorry I didn't comment on yesterday's blog...I've been a under the weather the last few days.

Vye said...

Mistborn sounded good, of course there are zero copies available on bookmooch. Everyone hogs the good books. Maybe I'll get it off of amazon. I haven't read a novel for so long.

I noticed you have "Snow Leopard" listed on your DA account. Did you finally upgrade? Did reinstalling the drivers for bootcamp fix your CDROM issue?

"Personal Quote: I Stink, Therefore I am."


Krista said...

I loved your review! Sanderson is awesome!! I am so glad you liked him just as much as me(I might like him a little more than you, though LOL! Sorry, I'd put Sanderson before Rothfuss, but he would definitely come in second...) Sanderson really is an amazing story teller, no doubt about it.

I have a link where Sanderson answered a ton of questions for fans if you want it? Very cool!

I look forward to seeing all you have to say about his other books, they just get better and better!

You know what else is cool you can get Elantris and Warbreaker in graphic audio form. I don't have any but I've listened to the previews and they're very cool here's the links: - Elantris - Warbreaker
Awesome, eh?

Nice list of books you got there!
Man, if I could I'd read 24 hours a day. Pure love...

Love the art picture, wow, it's amazing!

Good luck with your Deviant Art account! Some of my friends have them and seriously there's some awesome stuff over there!

logankstewart said...

Buckle down and hold on to your seat, cause things are gonna get awesome in the books in your future. That was a fantastic review of Sanderson. I felt like I was watching a film or that the book was really happening in front of me. Man I loved it.

I re-read Rothfuss this year. I read it aloud to my wife, and she loved it. Plus, reading it aloud was pretty fun, too. Ender's Game was a great read, but it's been a few years since I've read it. I've heard good things about The Black Company and The Lies of Locke Lamora, and I fully intend on reading Lynch one day. The Partner is definitely my favorite Grisham, though The Street Lawyer is super-double-plus amazing good. If you can chug through The Sword of Shannara then there's a whole world of well written and entertaining stories ahead, starting with the immediate sequel The Wishsong of Shannara.

Sorry for the long comment, but what can I say? I love books.

Crystal said...

Great review of Mistborn. I can't wait to check it out from the library. I'm 15th in line.

Oh, and because of you, I'm listening to Switchfoot (A Beautiful Letdown) this morning. Great album.

Paula Titus said...

Switchfoot fan here - not yet, but closer than I used to be.

Excellent non-traditional book review, makes even me want to pick up a copy.

David Wagner said...

Shannon: Posting a cool WP was all it took to gain your eternal respect? Man, I should have done that years ago! He has another awesome one that I snatched as well... maybe I'll post that one as well...

Havah: Sorry, no points... I was just listening to that song as I needed a title, and ran with it. Awesome album. About the video clip, what I liked about it was the guy was obviously a cornball... he mixed in some really cool stuff with some really lame stuff... what was he doing with the chair, lol? And the yo-yo... and that spot where he's riding a razor scooter and flipping his jacket around? lol. And the part where he did the flip with the rubic's cube... man... to get beaten by such a man as this...

I thought I'd read more as well.. but that's it. I did start reading a couple others that I didn't list... a collection of short stories by Stephen King... the Sherlock Holmes collection...but that's it...

Vye: The copy of The Final Empire I have belongs to Joseph, I believe... I can check with him and see if you can borrow it... also, I put Snow Leopard as more wishful thinking at this point. I intend on upgrading, but haven't yet... I just wanted to sound cooler than I am... it didn't work; you saw right through me!

Krista: I'd love the link to that Q&A session you mentioned! I'm going to check out those audio links you posted, thanks!

Logan: I started Well of Ascension last night... good so far. I've been waiting to re-read The Name of the Wind... I'm sure once the release date for The Wise Man's Fear draws near, I'll re-read Name. Just like when GRRM's book 5 is finally released, I'll take a couple months and re-read 1-4 again...

Crystal: 15th in line! Man, you'll be waiting months! I trust you're the patient sort...

Paula: Closer than you used to be, that's awesome. When you finally arrive, be sure to blog about it... I could use some tips...

Dave-O said...

Hey sir, sorry haven't droped by in a while, not been busy just got really lazy LOL. I apologize again. Read your blogs to catch up, sir you have a gift of keepin me laughin and thinking, I LOVE IT, and a new blog shall be posted tonight on mine I SWEAR lol

David Wagner said...

Dave-O, you are THE MAN. Whatever you decide to do is fine by me. But I'll certainly check today and see if you update... I'd love to hear about what you've been up to...

Vye said...

Hmm, I think it is not so much the WP but the fact that you posted a picture of Kaname-sama. *sound of 100+ Japanese high school girls shouting his name in unison*

lol. Just make sure you get Time Machine up and going before you upgrade. If you have any problems you'll be able to revert without too much trouble.

Actually, I bought a used copy of The Final Empire on Amazon for cheap. The trick is to find a used copy being shipped by someone local, otherwise it'll take over a week for the donkey carrying your book to get across the continent.

Thanks for the offer though, btw I will return the book you lent me this Sunday. Sorry I've had it for so long. It's not that I didn't like it, I just never had the urge to pick it up again. But now I want to read Mistborn. :)

Why would German be your second language of choice?

Avari said...

Pardon me, that's Vampire Knight. I forgot the K.

havah said...

Those odd bits were the bits showing his coolness, Dave! ;)

Rebekah said...

Uhg I haven't been able to read your blog in so long, but it was the perfect one to pick up one.

Dave, I'm glad you liked Mistborn! I just finished the last... and I think I cried on all three. I'm sure you did too.

Anyway, really happy you thought so much of it. Sounds like you have them but I have the other two if needed. :)

Krista said...

Okay, the answers start on this link here:
Sanderson is in red and his name is'll have to scroll down a little ways to get to his answers and then they continue on through the pages....


Sanderson Rocks! LOL!

Krista said...

Oh, I forgot to say that you must watch out at times, because some of the Q&A are from books you haven't read yet, so beware. I think he lets you know when there are spoilers if I remember correctly....

David Wagner said...

Vye: I don't know why with the German... for some reason, the language has always fascinated me...

Rebekah: I'll get the book back to you this weekend, thanks a ton for passing it on to me. You McCalments are the best! Glad you popped in.

Krista: Thanks for the links. I shall tread carefully.

Abbie said...

I totally agree with Logan about the Street Lawyer by Grishom! it is so good! and the partner was interesting, but i liked the street lawyer better :D and he is also right about the shanarra series getting better after the first one, lol.
so, now i just need to get caught with my homework, read across the face of the world, and then i can be the one to borrow mistborn from Rebekah :) yay!