Friday, March 11, 2011

Speaking English, Bacon, and The Warded Man


Dang, that quake/tsunami one-two-punch was incredible, wasn't it? Hardcore. I heard of it right after it happened, actually, on Thursday night before going to bed. Woke up to some incredible video. Heartbreaking. I wanted to hit that first before launching into my usual hot air-filled blog post, so you know I'm not off-balance.

Well, I mean, I am off balance, but I mean at least you'll know I have my head on relatively straight...

I better start with a cool video. Lemme see what I've "favorited" lately...

Ah, here we go. Snagged this off Bits and Pieces the other day. I'd seen it before, but it's a classic...

So, it's Friday night, and of course, I'm home in front of my computer, as usual. I have no social life. No places to go, people to hang out with, fun things to do, movies to see, nice dinners out to eat... It's odd. I've never really been much for going out and about... but lately, I've felt a strong urge to be social, and do stuff and meet people, etc. I wonder what that's all about?

Maybe I'm just sick of being cooped up all the time -- even though I'm the one cooping myself!

I've got my writer's meeting to go to on Saturday morning, so that's a start, I guess. Although, really, all I do is show up, set up my web book on a table by myself, and write for 90 minutes or so. I nod a hello to the group leader and maybe another writer or two, but I don't really socialize. I'm all business, baybay! Woohoo! By the way, I'm looking for a good "word count" widget for my blog.

Gonna work on my fantasy novel tomorrow. I've been inspired by all the great fantasy I've been reading of late. Oh, that reminds me...

The Warded Man, by Peter Brett: A Review
So I've read good things about this book by Peter Brett, called The Warded Man, and thought I'd give it a go. I pulled the trigger on an eBook version for my Kindle App, and started in. It hooked me from the go, and I pretty much gobbled it up.

The main character is named Arlen, and you see him first as a pre-teen, living in a village that has just been attacked. Barbarian hordes? Bandits? Aliens? Nope, attacked by demons. In the world that Brett has created, mankind struggles against demons, which rise at night to kill and destroy anything they can get their claws on. Fire demons, rock demons, air demons, wood demons, water demons... there's a different type of demon for all of the elements of nature. They are kept at bay by certain symbols (called wards) arranged in a certain way as to form a protective circle around a structure or a person. The wards must be perfect, expertly aligned, and kept unmarred, for if one symbol is obscured or damaged, it breaks the circle of magic, and the demons can get in and slay and eat.

Thus, people rule the day and walk freely, but demons rule the night, from dusk to dawn (sunlight kills them). People hunker down and tremble the night away in their protected homes, hoping that their ward nets will hold up to the relentless pounding and testing that the demons unleash upon the shields. The wards are all defensive in nature -- the knowledge of offensive wards, which could enable people to fashion weapons that would actually kill demons, has long since been lost, as a result of complacency on the part of mankind, who thought they'd defeated the demons three millennia early, when the beaten demon armies fled, not to be seen again. People thought they'd won the decisive victory, and as the centuries passed, the knowledge of how to beat the demons dissolved. When the demons returned, no one knew how to fight them, but clung to the knowledge of a few remaining defensive wards to keep them from death in the night.

Wow, that's a long set-up, sorry.

So Arlen is the somewhat typical fantasy trope: the farmboy who takes it upon himself to attempt the impossible quest to save the world. In this case, it is trying to learn the long-lost secrets of offensive wards, so demons can be defeated. It is, of course, motivated by revenge, as you can imagine. Demons had killed someone very important to him, and he wanted to make them pay.

The story is very well written, and the world-building is effective. The action continues practically non-stop, and the characters are memorable. The tale is fairly predictable, but in this particular case, it doesn't matter, since the path it takes is where you'd like to see it go (at least it was for me), so it worked.

My main problems with the book were both trivial and more substantial. Of course, I strongly disliked what Brett did with the names. He took names we use in our world, and merely tweaked them phonetically, so they sounded the same, but read differently. So Jason became Jasin, Mary became Mery, Sarah became Saira, Doug became Dug, like that. I don't know... maybe that's fine for most readers, and I know you can't please everyone, but it just annoyed me.

The larger concern for me was the final quarter of the book (for those that have read the book, I mean from the point where Arlen saves Leesha and Rojer in the forest, onward). It just felt like a step down in storytelling to me. It seemed almost Hollywood-like. I don't know... from that point onward, the three main characters just didn't seem like they were themselves. They said and did things that didn't click with the way they'd been written to that point.

But in spite of the awkward finale, the book was a great read, and I finished it easily. There is a sequel out, called The Desert Spear, and I've read reviews of it that were not all flattering -- but honestly, I am intrigued enough to want to read it anyway. So once I tear through a couple more fantasy books that are clamouring for my attention, I'll revisit the war between mankind and demonkind. Demons are good "bad guys" to have (sort of like Nazis).

Summary: 4/5 Fast paced, memorable scenes and characters, good world-building. But the tale falters toward the end (imho), the characters slipped out of character, and the names thing bugged me. But I do recommend it. At least, if you have access to a digital reader of some sort, get a sample of the book from Kindle (for free) and read the intro. Maybe you'll like it. Minimal profanity, but very violent.


It's tax season. I better get my receipts and forms together....

How random a transition was that? From demon-slaying to taxes, in one easy step! Well, that's how my mind work, sorry.

Better toss another video in here...

This video freaked me out...

Those kids have to be 5 or 6 years old. I shudder to think of the hours that they've had to spend learning guitar and then learning that routine. I don't know whether to be impressed and amazed, or dismayed and depressed...

I better bring a Funny Picture in here, to break things up a bit...

I think that's from XKCD. Funny, smart (but occasionally offensive) web comic.

Well, I'm going to hit the sack. As usual, I thought I had more to share, but it has fled me. Until next time, then!


Dave the Goof


Rebecca said...

OMG about those little kids playing guitar! All that synchronized bobbing of the heads, smiling, and turning was so strange. I actually liked it though. lol

Thanks for the excellent post as usual. When I have free time (this summer) I am going to read Brett's book. I have it on my Kindle already. Just waiting for a break from all the manuscripts I am reading in my spare time...

Paula Titus said...

The bacon chart is hysterical.

I also wonder why you suddenly desire to be social. Loneliness maybe. Sometimes I get lonely in a house full of people.

Book sounds pretty cool overall. May give it a read. Presently I'm reading the classic, "Hope and Help for Your Nerves." Let me know if you want to borrow.

The Bob said...

Sounds like a nice book i could translate :))

logankstewart said...

I'll put my spoiler section at the bottom, in case anyone's curious. Curiously, Peter Brett wrote The Warded Man on his cell phone while commuting back and forth to work. How cool is that?

Ah, XKCD. One of the greatest internet comics out there. Have you read the short catalog from The Perry Bible Fellowship? A few of them are slightly offensive/risque, but that comic is one of the funniest out there. Shame it's not updated oftener. (Yeah, I said it. Oftener. It's okay, too.)

***Warded Man SPOILERS***
I wouldn't say Arlen is attempting to deliver the world and save it, so to speak, but he just wants to equip it so the demons aren't so powerful. Also, considering the setting of the world, knowing that it's basically a post-apocalyptic world after our sciences and technology went too far, I think the subtle shifts of normal names (Doug to Dug) is probably what would really happen. Just look how names and words evolve over the course of a few hundred years (hath to has, etc.) Etymology seems to point that the spelling of names and words will change as time does, and I liked this part. However, I know you're a stickler for names, but that's my thoughts for this particular book.

I'm with you on the end, though. It definitely seemed very Hollywoodish, but I think necessary in order to propel the story. I liked Leesha well enough, but nothing special, and her ultimate victimization was tragically predicted from very early on. Rojer was pretty cool, I thought, but neither he nor Leesha compared to Arlen.

The Desert Spear definitely had its problems, but I thought the novel was well written, if not a bit off-setting at first.

I'm quite excited to see how Brett finishes out his series, though who knows how long that'll be.

Abbie Josephsen said...

I liked both your videos :)
the kid one was crazy! very impressive! my favorite was the middle girl, because she had a cute smile :)

Abbie Josephsen said...

btw, check this out. This is about the Holocaust survivor I saw at school. the article has the background story a little more accurate than I did, but not the part about when her "savior" restored her to humanity.

plus it has a picture :)