A Feast for Crows

I finished A Feast for Crows, book #4 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, this morning. When GRRM was writing it, he realized there was too much material, so he decided to split it into two volumes: A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. Rather than split it down the middle, he put half the characters in one book and half in the other.

A Feast for CrowsA Feast for Crows primarily focuses on King’s Landing, but also includes events in places like Dorne, the Iron Islands, the Eyrie, and Braavos. A Dance with Dragons, on the other hand, will focus on the Wall and events taking place across the sea.

So how did I like it? It was certainly good, but slower-paced than the other books and it lacked the big, shocking moments that were especially prevalent in the later half of A Storm of Swords. It didn’t help that few of my favorite characters were also missing entirely. 😛 Most of the points-of-view went to new characters in A Feast for Crows; a few of them were characters we were already familiar with, but several of them were new characters entirely.

A Feast for Crows was a great book, but it didn’t have the same addictive excitement as the other books in the series.

A Dance with Dragons comes out in paperback on October 29. Until then, I have a big pile of books next to me to keep me busy. 🙂

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

The GunslingerYesterday, I finished The Gunslinger by Stephen King, the first book in the Dark Tower series. I’d never read anything by Stephen King before and I heard that the Dark Tower series was amazing, so I decided to try it out.

The Gunslinger is an interesting mix of fantasy (my favorite genre) and western (unappealing to me, but I decided to give it a try anyway) in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s about a man named Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who pursues his adversary (“the man in black”) across a vast desert and beyond.

I have to admit I didn’t really like it. The story dragged, there were too many weird and confusing things going on, and I felt like I missed an explanation about why the gunslinger was going after the man in black and “The Tower.” At least it was fairly short, so I convinced myself to trudge through it.

I heard the rest of the Dark Tower series is a lot better once you get past The Gunslinger, so maybe I’ll read The Drawing of Three (book #2) someday… I’m just in no hurry to do that. :-/

Dune

The Book

Last week, I finished Dune by Frank Herbert, which was #2 on my book list. After hearing so many people proclaim it as one of their favorite books, I was really excited to read it. After my letdown with Neuromancer, though, I was a little skeptical. I’m very happy to say that Dune did not disappoint. I loved it. 🙂

DuneDune is set thousands of years in the future, during a time of interstellar travel and feuding houses. It tells the story of Paul Atreides, who is heir of House Atreides. Following the Emperor’s orders, Paul and his family are sent to control the desert planet Arrakis, which is the only source of the “spice” melange (a super valuable drug that improves mental abilities and prolongs life). Arrakis had been under the control of the Harkonnens (a long-time rival of the Atreides), however, so the transfer in power only increases the tension and hostility between the two houses.

Some people have said that Dune was a slow and difficult to get into. I felt immersed right away, though I would agree that the book really picks up toward toward the end. Others complained about the made-up words, but those words were usually given definitions and/or enough context to figure out what the words meant. Besides, there was a handy glossary in the back for looking things up. 

Dune is often referred to as science-fiction’s answer to The Lord of the Rings. I haven’t read LotR yet (*gasp!*), but I can see why people probably say that. Dune is the first book in an epic saga that has amazing world-building and intriguing characters.

For people who like fantasy, I think Dune would be a great sci-fi book choice. I felt like the science and technology really took a backseat to the main story. Dune wasn’t overly technical or futuristic, which has helped keep it stay relevant in the nearly 50 years since it was published. There’s more to the book than just sci-fi, too; there are political, environmental, and religious themes.

The Movie

The movie version of Dune, on the other hand, was terrible. There were so many things wrong with it, but I’ll just mention some of the ones that really stood out to me.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Dune Guild Navigator
Dune Guild Navigator

First, what the heck was up with the Guild navigators? They weren’t ever encountered in the book and I don’t remember there being much of a physical description (although I’m sure there will be in the later books), but I certainly didn’t expect a bizarre giant slug-like creature.

While Baron Harkonnen is supposed to be obese, they made him absolutely ridiculous in the movie. He was grotesque and filthy, with disgusting pustules all over his face. His character was insane and unstable and not at all the clever, plotting antagonist I expected. They also added the concept of “heart plugs” to the movie, which allowed the Baron to kill his servants at will. And what on earth was with making Thufir Hawat milk a cat to get an antidote for the poison he’s not supposed to know about? Omfg.

Jamis was removed entirely from the movie, along with Paul’s son, and I think even Count Fenring. I can see them leaving out Paul’s son, but not including the fight with Jamis seemed like a misstep to me.

Shields in Dune
Shields in Dune. There’s a person under there somewhere.

I know that Dune (the movie) was made in the 80’s, but the shields were just plain awful. The inner monologues were done poorly, too.

The fighting in the movie was completely off. They made up some voice-activated “weirding modules” that Paul taught the Fremen how to use. The Fremen didn’t need any weapons like that in the book; they were fierce, bad-ass fighters all by themselves. They certainly weren’t the weak, impressionable people the movie made them out to be.

Perhaps my biggest complaint about the movie was the ending. Paul certainly didn’t have the power to alter the weather and make it rain in the book. And even if he did, he would never do it because that would kill the sandworms and screw up everything on Arrakis. Wtf.

Overall, the movie really lacked the depth that existed in the book and it seemed to make a mockery of it. It glossed over important parts of the book and didn’t offer any explanations for crucial parts of the story. I doubt I would’ve wanted to read the book after seeing the movie.

The Hobbit

The HobbitI’m almost 2/3 of the way into my next book, so I guess I’m overdue for blogging about The Hobbit. As most of you undoubtedly know, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, set about 60 years before the events in Lord of the Rings. It follows the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, who, despite his dislike of adventures, finds himself caught up in a quest to regain the dragon-guarded treasure and homeland of a band of dwarves.

The Hobbit was written for children, which keeps the story light-hearted and amusing. The narrator occasionally interjects his own voice and involves the reader (“If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only a poetical exaggeration…”). It’s also only about 300 pages long, which seems awfully short for a movie trilogy, but I’m not going to complain much. 😉

I only wish there had been more character development; most of the dwarfs weren’t given distinct personalities or stories. There’s Thorin Oakenshield (the king and main dwarf character), Bombur (the fat dwarf), Fili and Kili (the young dwarfs who often go scouting), and… nine other dwarfs. :-/

Overall, I thought The Hobbit was a fun read and one that children and adults alike can enjoy.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyTwo weeks ago, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (the first in a series of 3 movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit) was released in theaters. I’ve been excited to see it for a while now and I read the first 6 chapters of The Hobbit in preparation.

Needless to say, the movie was awesome. Some people said it should have been shorter, but I never got that impression. I was, however, surprised by how much the movie differed from the book. I didn’t have any problems with the changes, but there were many times I was like, “Whoa, this is not how it happened in the book” or “Uh, this never happened.” Here are the biggest changes I noticed:

  • The Arkenstone – A large wonderous gem discovered by Thorin’s ancestor. I’m pretty sure this is actually in the book (I’m still reading it, so I don’t know for sure), but there was no mention of it in the first 6 chapters.
  • The Pale Orc – Thorin’s adversary in The Hobbit movie. This character seems to be made up entirely.
  • The Necromancer – An obscure powerful villain that Gandalf is worried about. While this character may exist later in the book, he’s not around in the first 6 chapters.
  • Galadriel and Saruman – In the movie, there was a meeting between Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, and Saruman to discuss the dwarves’ journey and the Necromancer. No such meeting occurred in the book. Gandalf (and the dwarves) did visit Elrond, but Galadriel and Saruman were never even mentioned in the book.
  • Radagast the Brown – One of Gandalf’s wizard friends, who tends to the plants and animals of the forest and rides on a sled pulled by rabbits. There is no mention of Radagast in the first 6 chapters. In fact, I think the only reference of him in the whole book is a very brief mention in Chapter 7.

Despite the deviations from the book, I thought the movie was very well done and I can’t wait to see it again!

A Storm of Swords

A Storm of SwordsFor the last few weeks, I’ve been reading A Storm of Swords, the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I finished the 1128 page behemoth last weekend. Of the three books I’ve read so far, I can’t decide where I like this or A Game of Thrones (book 1) best.

By the way, Season 2 of Game of Thrones (the HBO TV series) will be released February 19. I already have it pre-ordered. 🙂 It’ll be about the second book, A Clash of Kings.

Serious book spoilers below!

Continue reading A Storm of Swords

A Clash of Kings

A Clash of KingsIt’s been a few weeks now since I finished A Clash of Kings (whoops, forgot to blog about it!). It is 969 pages long and I read a couple chapters everyday, so it took me about a month to finish it. It’s the 2nd book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, after A Game of Thrones.

A Game of Thrones focused primarily on the feud between the Starks and Lannisters, but in A Clash of Kings, the Starks, Lannisters, Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, and now also the Greyjoys are all fighting among themselves. Meanwhile, Jon Snow and a group of other men from the Night’s Watch travel beyond the Wall and encounter wildlings. And out east, Daenerys Targaryen and her group of devoted followers are trying to gain strength so Daenerys, too, can fight for the the throne in the Seven Kingdoms.

I really enjoyed A Clash of Kings, though I preferred A Game of Thrones (A Clash of Kings was kinda gloomy). Some parts of the story were a bit slow-moving and sometimes I lost track of some of the minor characters and their story lines. Nevertheless, I liked the plot twists and character development. It was nice to meet new characters and learn more about characters like Stannis Baratheon who had only been mentioned here and there in the previous book.

Season 2 of the HBO series Game of Thrones, which is about A Clash of Kings, premiered on April 1. Looks like I have to wait until it comes out on Blu-Ray next year to watch it, though. 🙁 Too bad HBO GO isn’t available unless you have cable.

A Game of Thrones

A Game of ThronesToday, I finished reading A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I first heard about A Game of Thrones last year, when my mom mentioned that a coworker of hers had really enjoyed it. Fantasy is my favorite reading genre, so I made a mental note to look into the book later. Over the next few weeks or so, though, it seemed as though I was hearing about A Game of Thrones everywhere (probably largely due to the HBO TV series, which premiered in April 2011). After hearing so much praise for the book (and the TV series), I decided I had to read it… so in January, I began to read the 807-page novel.

It wasn’t long before I was hooked. At first, I was overwhelmed by the number of characters. I started to sketch out a tree to keep track of all of the characters, their titles and nicknames, and their relationships with each other… and then I discovered the appendix, which already contained that information. Whoops! 😛 Each chapter is written from the point of view of one of the eight main characters and I really enjoyed how the story bounced back and forth between their perspectives.

Excited to watch the TV series, I checked Netflix this weekend and was disappointed to see that it wasn’t available. I tried Hulu, but it just directed me to HBO’s website. The episodes were available on HBO’s site, but only for certain HBO cable subscribers. Ugh. So I tried Amazon.com next, hoping that the episodes would be available in Amazon’s Instant Video store. Nope. Hmph. I gave up and figured I’d just get it on Blu-Ray and wait for it to come in the mail… but I couldn’t even do that! It’s not going to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray until March 6. NOOOO! And then, yesterday, The Oatmeal released a new comic, I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened, that expressed the very same frustration I had this weekend. At the end of the comic, he ended up torrenting the season because he couldn’t watch it through any legitimate methods.

With all of the technology available at our fingertips, I think it’s time for publishing companies to get on board and realize that people want to do the right thing, but making it a hassle for them to do so is just turning them to piracy. :/