Jul 25, 2011

A new R. Scott Bakker interview by a trio of bloggers, Part II

Some time ago, I posted the link to an interview that Pat, Adam and Larry took from Scott Bakker. Now it's time for the second part. It is a lot shorter, but plot-intensive, and I love it! You can read it here. My favorite part:

Is Aurang special amongst the Inchoroi in his ability to use Sorcery? Or were all Inchoroi, his brother included, amongst the Few? 

The Inchoroi only possessed the Tekne when they arrived in E√§rwa. All of the Inchoroi are the products of successive Graftings, species-wide rewrites of their genotype, meant to enhance various abilities and capacities, such as the ability to elicit certain sexual responses from their victims (via pheromone locks), or the capacity to ‘tune sensations’ and so explore the vagaries and vicissitudes of carnal pleasure. The addition of anthropomorphic vocal apparatuses is perhaps the most famous of these enhancements.

The Grafting that produced Aurang and Aurax was also devised during the age-long C no-Inchoroi Wars, one of many failed attempts to biologically redesign themselves to overcome the Nonmen. But they had been outrun by their debauchery by this time, and had lost any comprehensive understanding of the Tekne. The Graftings had become a matter of guesswork, more likely to kill than enhance those who received them. The Inchoroi filled the Wells of the Aborted with their own in those days.

Aurang and Aurax are two of six who survived the attempt to Graft the ability to see the onta.

Limited edition of A Dance with Dragons

Subterranean announced their limited edition of Martin's fifth ASoIF book. More info here.

Personally, I find the artwork devastatingly uninspired, but we'll see when the finished cover shows up.

Jul 20, 2011

Dwarves! Everywhere dwarves!

I am sorry. I had a long rehearsal, and it's really hot outside...

Anyway, more dwarves from The Hobbit:

Thorin Oakenshield

Balin and Dwalin

Game of Thrones Season 2 casting: Davos and Cressen

Casting news continue to pop up. Winter is coming announced two new names - Lian Cunningham as Davos, the "Onion Knight", and Oliver Ford Davies as Maester Cressen. The second role is irrelevant, but Davos Seaworth has a major role in the story. I have to say Cunningham doesn't even remotely resemble the character that I've always had in my mind, but as usual, that won't matter if he plays the part right.

Jul 19, 2011

Game of Thrones Season 2 - more casting news: Stannis and Melisandre

Via Winter is Coming:

Melisandre will be played by Carice van Houten, a Dutch stage and film actress. She’s appeared in the movies Valkyrie and Repo Men. I think you’ll agree she looks just about perfect for Melisandre.

And Stannis will be played by British actor Stephen Dillane, best known to U.S. audiences by playing Thomas Jefferson in HBO’s John Adams.

I don't know either of the actors, but they both seem really good for the roles. Can't wait for next year!

Jul 18, 2011

Movies: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

It is hard to review this movie without looking back at the ten years of Harry Potter that precede it. We literally saw those little kids grow up, witnessed as their world matured with them, grew darker, more serious and far more dangerous. There is a feeling of immensity to this franchise that few others have achieved. And even though the quality of the movies was uneven, and they had many problems that could not be denied, in the end the scope of the thing seems to be worth more than its mistakes. If you were ever captured by the magic of Harry Potter, you can't not see the conclusion to the boy wizard's story.

After the painfully boring disappointment that the previous movie was, I had pretty low expectations for Part 2 of The Deathly Hallows, mingled - as always - with some hope to be proven wrong. My opinion of David Yates as a director is, shall we say, low. And when you've failed three times in a row, it's hard for people to expect much the fourth time, even if it's your last shot at getting it right.

Surprisingly though, the movie delivers. Beginning where the previous one ended - with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) claiming the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's grave - The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 follows Harry to the end of the road, going full circle back to Hogwarts, as it should.

The movie is epic. Considering the part of the book that it covers, most of it is one gigantic climax spread into two hours, and that of course leads to problems with pacing as is Yates' wont, but even so it is epic. As usual, the script follows the novel almost to the letter, so all of the fans' favorite moments are there.

I find it pointless to go over the story (everybody knows it) or acting (as that hasn't changed in the last years). Instead, I'll just focus on how the ending itself works. And it works wonderfully. Alexandre Desplat's soundtrack is much better suited to the grand tragedy that unfolds at Hogwarts than John Williams' original music from the first movies, and even though the pacing is all over the place ("uneven" doesn't begin to do justice to the awkward moments of slowness amidst scenes of action, revelations and drama), when the key moments happen, they are always satisfying. The final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort itself is magnificent, and Snape's memories actually got me choked up - something I no longer expected from that particular series.

So, is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 the best movie in the series? Hell no! In terms of overall quality it holds no candle whatsoever to The Prizoner of Azkaban or The Goblet of Fire. But it is the final chapter, it is the end of an era, and it is epic! And you should go see it, if for some weird reason you already haven't. With all its flaws, and even knowing how much better it could have been in the right hands, it is worth the ticket money.

So yeah, mischief managed. Let's see what the next Big Thing will be.


Jul 15, 2011

The dwarves of The Hobbit

Oin and Gloin

Fili and Kili

Bombur, Bifur and bofur

Nori, Ori and Dori

Found those over at A Dribble of Ink. A colorful bunch, no doubt, but I am more interested in the dragon myself. I wonder if they'll show it to us prior to the second movie's release.

Jul 14, 2011

Cover art for the e-book edition of Robert Jordan's New Spring

As usual, vastly superior to anything we've seen in print...

Game of Thrones has 13 Emmy nominations

And here they are:

- Best Drama Series: Game of Thrones
- Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
- Writing in a Drama Series: David Benioff and Dan Weiss for “Baelor”
- Direction in a Single-Camera Series: Timothy van Patten for “Winter is Coming”
- Casting in a Drama Series: Nina Gold and Robert Sterne
- Costumes for a Drama Series: Michelle Clapton and Rachael Webb-Crozier for “The Pointy End”
- Hairstyling in a Single-Camera Series: Kevin Alexander and Candice Banks for “A Golden Crown”
- Main Title Design: Angus Wall, Robert Feng, Kirk H. Shintani, and Hameed Shaukat
- Non-prosthetic Makeup in a Single-Camera Series: Paul Engelen and Melissa Lackersteen for “Winter is Coming”
- Prosethtic Makeup in a Series: Paul Engelen and Conor O’Sullivan for “A Golden Crown”
- Sound Editing for a Series: Stefan Hendrix, Tim Hands, Michelle McCormack, Steve Fanagan, Andy Kennedy, Jon Stevenson, Robin Whittaker, Caoimhe Doyle, and Eoghan McDonnell
- Special Visual effects for a Series: Adam McInnes, Angela Barson, Lucy Ainsworth-Taylor, Raf Morant, Henry Badgett, Damien Mace, Stuart Brisdon, and Graham Hills
- Stunt Coordination: Paul Jennings

Excluding Hairstyling, Visual effects and Stunt coordination, I'd say the show deserves all of the above. I am particularly hopeful that Dinklage wins the support actor award.

Jul 8, 2011

Deadhouse Gates limited edition

The limited Subterranean edition of Steven Erikson's Deadhouse Gates finally has a cover. I want to say something nice, but it looks pretty uninspired to me, and way more forgettable than the Gardens of the Moon one. Also, It would seem to me that when you are publishing a 10-book series, you don't want to wait for four years in between books.

Anyway, if you are interested, here is the link to pre-order it.

Game of Thrones Season 2 casting news

British actress Gwendoline Christie has been cast as Brienne of Tarth. A major role, and the choice seems pretty good. Obviously Christie isn't half as ugly as the character she will be portraying, but I can definitely see her donning the armor and awkwardness of Brienne.

Another casting choice - as of yet not entirely official - is Gemma Whelan who is supposed to play the character of "Yara Greyjoy". So far it seems that Theon's sister has been renamed, potentially to avoid confusion with wildling Osha.

Jul 6, 2011

A Clash of Kings - George R. R. Martin

My ASoIF reread is going much slower than expected, due to summer being all summery... I am really annoyed that I won't be able to finish the fourth book before A Dance With Dragons comes out, which means I will not be reading it the first second it hits shelves. Profound tragedy to say the least. Oh well, moving on.

A red comet shines over the skies of Westeros. The color of blood and fire, it is a symbol, but a symbol of what? Five kings strive to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and everyone sees it as a sign for his victory. In King's Landing, the young Joffrey Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne, but his fickle rule - directed by his mother Cersei of House Lannister - is on the brink of total disaster as both the late king Robert's brothers are declaring themselves king and threatening open war.

Meanwhile, in the North, Robb Stark has been declared King of the North, and he is fighting the Lannister forces to rescue his sisters from the Queen and avenge his father's death. At the same time, in the Iron Isles the Greyjoys have decided to carve a kingdom for themselves as well, returning to their old ways of piracy and pillaging. And beyond the Wall the force of Jeor Mormont and his Black Brothers are tracking the lost Benjen Stark in an attempt to find out why all the wildlings have left their villages and what are Mance Rayder's plans.

But the red comet is a sign meant for someone else entirely. A new Queen has arisen beyond the Narrow Sea. Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons and rightful heir to the Iron Throne of Westeros, sets on a pilgrimage, following the red star with the remnants of her dead husband's khalasar, ever looking for a way to reclaim the kingdom that was stolen from her father.

A Clash of Kings starts right where A Game of Thrones (Review) ended. The realm is in chaos, with multiple powers vying for control. War rages everywhere and the smallfolk are just victims in the battles of knights and lords. The book has many PoVs, but with one exception they are all familiar faces from the first part. The most time is given to Tyrion Lannister - sent by his father to act as Hand of the King and somehow save King's Landing from the invading armies of both Renly and Stannis Baratheon. Those were also - to me - the most enjoyable chapters in the book, as Tyrion constantly plays the scheming game with his malicious sister Cersei, but unlike Ned Stark and Jon Aryn before him, he actually revels in it, and the reader revels with him.

Another big chunk of the book is given to Arya Stark, last seen in the hands of Yoren of the Black Brothers. He dresses her up as a boy and takes her with his group of conscripts for the Wall, hoping to drop her in Winterfell on the way North. Things don't go so smoothly of course, and Arya is used to give the reader a ground level view of the war that we didn't have in A Game of Thrones.

There are many new characters, some of them important, others - not so much, but with one exception, none of them has their own chapters (although that will change in the next books). Still, the cast is quite a bit larger than in the first part, and a good thing too, because Martin isn't shy about killing off characters, even if they are important players. And more than a few fates are left hanging by the end of the book.

Just like with A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings doesn't so much have its own plot, as follows a chunk of the overarching story. However, unlike A Game of Thrones (where I could not find a single unnecessary page), here there be filler chapters, and not a few of them. Many of Catelyn Stark's entries are pretty much just her bemoaning her sad fate while a good half of Tyrion's chapters could easily have been cut. They aren't entirely "unnecessary" of course, as they create atmosphere, and fill in time gaps that would otherwise remain unaccounted for. Also, the latter are immensely enjoyable as everything Tyrion does is gold. It's just that not that much plot development happens in them, and they do feel rather fillerish.

That said, the book suffers not from this. A Clash of Kings is every bit as good as A Game of Thrones, and what it lacks in speed, it more than makes up for in epicness. War is ravaging the land, and you can feel it in every chapter, no matter how far the character is removed from the actual battles. Most of the main players see a significant development, both in terms of personality and their place in the game, and the threat from beyond the Wall is beginning to take tangible shape.

So, as far as magnificence is concerned, A Clash of Kings is pretty damn magnificent! And if I wish it were shorter, it has more to do with the fact that I desperately want to finish the reread before Dance comes out, than with anything else.