Friday, August 5, 2011

On This August Occasion...

Is it August yet? It is? Schweet!

Still riding high, as far as life in general, and life around the house. I'll leave it at that, out of fear of sounding like I'm gloating. Bottom line, it feels great to feel great.

On the other hand... O, come on, you knew there was going to be an "on the other hand"!

On the other hand, my To-Do List has taken on monstrous proportions.

That's me, on the left. My To-Do List is on the right...

In part because, as I said in my previous post, I have been spending far less time in front of this computer. I've even been going to bed much earlier than normal (no more 2am nights... or even 1am nights... ah, sleep, I missed you...) As a result, all the stuff I used to get done as I whiled away the hours in front of this glowing box is not getting done. Work-related, church-related, personal-related... it is forming into a perfect storm of pressure. I want to get as much of it done as I can before my birthday trip.

Wow, that was boring. Sorry.

Here's a video showcasing examples of the special effects that were done on the recent season of A Game of Thrones.

And here is a cool travel video... as usual with Vimeo, for best results, High Def, full screen.

There, that should tide you over while I ramble about more boring personal nonsense.

Actually, I should fire off a quick book review, before the unfortunate book completely evaporates from my brainpan.

The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms, by NK Jemisin: A Review
So, after this debut fantasy novel received award nominations and accolades last year, I decided to skip over my normal routine of downloading a free sample of a book (to see if I liked it enough to buy it) and went straight to purchase. I mean, any novel that is nomination for a Gemmell award in the Best Debut Novel category has got to be good, right? Right. (Of course, I only downloaded the free samples of the other nominees, so that theory holds no water... I think I was taken in by the cool cover).

So I made the purchase, and filed the book away in my virtual library, for future reading. Well, after finishing A Dance With Dragons (yay!), I decided Ms. Jemisin's title needed a good, honest look, so I dove in.

It is told in first-person, retrospective form, which usually bugs me. But when this form is done *just right*, I can normally hang on long enough to make it through a substantial portion of the book, if not all of it. I made it through this one to its conclusion, not only because it was done *just right*, but because of its quirky, almost schizophrenic delivery. By that, I mean the narrator would stop and start and back up and say, "hold on, something else happened before that..." and backtrack, and overlap the telling. She would also appear to have conversations with herself while telling the story, which was unique.

In spite of the unique delivery, the fact that I made it half-way through the book without being able to recall the main character's name (or any other's) was not a good sign.

Yeine is from a ruling family in the far north of the continent featured in the book - the name of which I don't recall. She has been called south, to the capital city of Sky, for reasons beyond her, simply because her grandfather (the supreme ruler of all Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, whom she had never met, and whose name I also can't recall...) had sent for her. Being a dutiful subject, she made the long journey. Upon arrival, she finds out that her grandfather is getting ready to retire (so to speak), and that his heir will need to be chosen. Yiene's two cousins (one cut-throat, the other a drunkard) thought they would be the only potential heirs... but grandfather has sent for Yiene, to mix things up a bit.

Yiene finds out soon enough that she's being used, as a pawn - a sacrificial one at that. Not just by her grandfather, but by the captive Gods who live in Sky's palace as well.

Many centuries before, the Three Gods went to war. One God ruled the day, the other the Night, and the third ruled the transitional times (dusk and dawn). One God was victorious, another was killed, and the third enslaved. The Gods had children before this, who had picked sides in the God's War... those that chose the losing side were also enslaved. These defeated Gods are held captive in Sky, serving the ruling class.

These captive Gods want their freedom again. They put a plan into motion decades before. A plan that involves Yiene.

That should set the stage for the tale, without spoiling much.

Regardless of what you may feel about the potential in the premise, the story is really a tale about relationships. Almost all of the action takes place inside the palace at Sky. There are no grand quests or great battles or Dark Lords here. It's all about a rather naive Yiene trying to survive the treacherous palace politics between Gods and man. There is plenty of magic. But not much action, in the traditional fantasy sense. And as relationship-centric as the tale is, it was a loooong time before I could remember who was whom, based on names. The characters just weren't very distinct. In fact even now, a few days after reading it, almost all of the names have fled me. I only retain vague impressions of various people in the tale.

It might be because the pace was so swift in the first half of the tale. Events that I knew were supposed to be impactful simply lacked any punch, because I hadn't had time to make many meaningful observations about the characters (or even remember who was who). Fresh revelations and twists were wasted on me. "Wait, who was he/she again?"

I'm beating a dead horse here.

Bottom line, I think there were enough unique traits and characteristics of the novel to warrant a single read-through, but I won't enthusiastically recommend it, as a "drop what you're doing and read this book" type of thing. It had some good ideas, but they weren't allowed to develop well enough, in my opinion. I don't regret reading it, but I have no doubt that, before summer is over, I won't be able to recall much, if anything, of what I read. And I have no interest in reading the sequel.

Summary: 3/5 stars. A good effort, but needed more time to cook.


There, that's out of the way. Now I can let it go. Free up some room in my brainpan...

I'm reading a sci-fi tale now, called Hunter's Run. It has three names listed as author(s), so I assume it's a collaboration of some sort. All that I've read thus far (about 30% through at the moment) is by an author named Gardner Dozois, and is a solid, interesting tale. The other authors are Daniel Abraham and George RR Martin. I assume they each take over at some point.

Anyway, I think I figured out the big ending twist early on in the book. It will be interesting to see if the twist was really that obvious, or if it is a red herring. I hope it's the latter. I'd hate to think they were so inept as to project their ending that obviously. I don't normally go for Sci-Fi, but this is a good, gritty, easy-to-read tale.

Good doggie...

Well, I'm not sure what else there is to say at this point. I really should be working on the perpetually-late newsletters for my clients. Maybe I can finish them tonight, and take joy in scratching that item off of my To-Do List.

Squish me luck.

Dave the Goof


Rug Warrior said...

I squish you luck Dave.

Love the to-do list photo... I feel like that too. =)

Hope the ideas today helped... and thanks for the cool set-up you did with tracking. Andrey LOVES the new little computer and the system (he didn't say "love" but when he shakes his head solidly and says "it's really good" that mean love.)

Keep up the great posts!

Dave-O said...

yet another great post sir, i swear i need someone to actually light a fire under me to start using mine again LOL, anywho, hope all is well sir, and we will talk soon.

Anonymous said...

I know the pitfalls of having a home office. We would receive business calls after 10:00PM and it's hard to stop working, so we ended up renting a small office space.

Maybe if you set "office hours" around your other job and family stuff, and stuck to it???? I'm sure it's a lot harder than it sounds.

So glad to hear life is wonderful. I didn't read your review just in case I read the book. I'll give you feedback on Storm of Swords when I'm done.

Beth the Quinquagenarian

logankstewart said...

The schizo-thing has me super curious. One of these days, perhaps, I'll try the book.

And Hunter's Run sounds interesting. I await your review.

wv: axworke, a Briton lumberjack's job

Dave-O said...

i can't help but look at that pic of the whale shark, and think it's thinking "NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM" lol