Archive for October, 2011
Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
To put it bluntly, this book was really bloody good, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it was really bloody and good. Before They Are Hanged, and the First Law series in general, is a perfect algorithm of violence, intrigue, character development, and world building.
Damn. Joe Abercrombie knows how to write a good, bloody fight. One of the best parts of the novel is that Abercrombie’s style is one of cynical realism. Fights are confusing and nasty. Battle isn’t all glory and honor in reality, it’s really more fear and desperation. That’s how Abercrombie chooses to portray it throughout the series and it works for me. That perspective is a nice change of pace, although at times it can be a bit gory for my tastes.
I think the best stories have a bit of mystery. The First Law trilogy is no exception. There are so many things that are not fully explained that allow the reader to speculate and theorize about. I really love to try to put the pieces together from the hints and clues left by the author.
The First Law trilogy has a very unique set of characters, the likes of which I’ve found in no other fantasy series. What’s strange is that, despite their obvious flaws, they really grow on you. When I first started reading The Blade Itself, I disliked most of the characters, but by the end of that novel, I was very wrapped up in their stories and I genuinely cared about them.
One of the reasons that I believed that occurred was because the characters develop over the course of the story. Sure, they may not go from villain to hero or they may have setbacks, but they do change to some degree over time and become more likable.
In particular, Logen and the Northmen are my favorites. They are just so much fun to read. They are oh so crude, but they are also insightful in a way that is so simple that it has the trappings of wisdom.
You might call Before They Are Hanged a road novel. Much of the story is spent on an epic journey that shows off a lot more of the circle of the world than we saw in the first novel. Overall, I think that Abercrombie puts together a pretty unique geography that is enriched with an interesting and mystery history.
Overall, Before They Are Hanged was an excellent read. The First Law trilogy has quickly become one of my favorite fantasy stories. I would recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach!
View all my reviews
Thursday, October 6th, 2011
Warehouse 13 just wrapped up its third season on Monday with a two-hour finale and I thought I would pass along some of my thoughts about the final episode, this season, and the show as a whole.
First off, I thought I should start by saying for the benefit of those that have never watched the show that Warehouse is really fun. Perhaps it can get a little too goofy at times, but, in general, the episodes are entertaining and amusing.
Warehouse 13 is a show about an organization that collects, decommissions, and stores magical objects. It’s kind of like a lighthearted, whimsical version of The X-Files, but with a steampunk vibe, which I think works pretty well. The agents are responsible for capturing magical objects so it’s only fitting that their tech has a fantastic bent.
In addition to the premise, the characters are a major selling point of the series. The writers have done a nice job putting together a group of lovable and charming characters…who also happen to have plenty of baggage and shortcomings, but that only makes them more human and easy to relate to.
Of the characters, I think I’ve got to pick Claudia as my favorite because she’s so quirky, but I also like Artie, Myka, and Pete as well. And then there’s also H.G. Wells, Mrs. Frederick, Leena, and Jinksy. So yeah, the show a pretty nice group of characters and a good group of actors.
My one complaint is probably with the writing. It’s actually pretty good, but there a couple of things that I think could be better. For example, I often feel like Pete is little more than an overgrown 12-year-old and I have a hard time taking him seriously as a character. That, and let’s face it, these guys are REALLY BAD agents. I mean, they really can’t go an episode without screwing something up. I guess it’s kind of necessary to make the show interesting, but it does make me roll my eyes a bit at from time to time.
Overall, season three was solid. The quality has been pretty consistent from day one, but, if anything, season three was the best yet. H.G Wells was a pretty cool addition in season two so it was cool to see more of her this season. I also thought that underlying story arc was pretty good. They really expanded the lore of the Warehouse and I liked that pretty well, learning about previous Warehouses and the regents and so forth.
To cap it off, I think season three had the best finale. I can’t say too much without spoiling the episode, but I thought that the first hour especially was really good. It got way more emotional and way more violent than I would have guessed. The writers really raised the stakes for the finale and that was good to see.
Honestly, Warehouse 13 is probably the best show that Syfy has put together since Battlestar Galactica. I’m really looking forward to another season.
Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
Let me start by saying that I’m not a huge movie buff. Sure, I like movies, but I don’t typically watch all that many. I tend to stick more to television, books, and videos games. That said, I do like to continue to expand my repertoire of science fictions movies…I’m just not in a big hurry I guess.
Now that I’ve prefaced this sufficiently, I would like to make a few comments about a movie that I recently watched on Amazon Instant Streaming called Time After Time. I have Amazon Prime and I was trying to find a free movie to watch. When I came across Time After Time, I recognized the artwork and I noticed that it had a good user rating.
Not convinced, I shot over to imdb.com to check out the movie’s profile. The overall rating was 7.2/10 and the summary sounded intriguing. Here’s what it said:
H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper to the 20th Century when the serial murderer uses the future writer’s time machine to escape his time period.
H.G. Wells? Jack the Ripper? Time travel? I’m in.
The movie was filmed in 1979 so, right off the bat, there were some (unintentional) laughs as H.G. is awed by now outdated television sets and other bits of technology. But that was okay…it actually added a little charm to the movie in a way.
And the movie had a few intentional laughs as well. It was meant to be pretty lighthearted (for the most part) and, in general, it was enjoyable.
However, there was one gaping hole in the plot that I just couldn’t believe. At this point, if you haven’t seen the movie and you don’t want it spoiled, stop reading.
So Jack the Ripper starts killing in modern day San Francisco and H.G. puts it upon himself to stop him. In the meantime, he meets a lady, Amy, and to convince her that he’s really from the past, he takes her to the H.G. Wells exhibit at some museum where the time machine is currently on display (and completely functional).
Once there, they hop three days into the future and find a newspaper that indicates that Amy (as well as another woman) will be victim to Jack the Ripper. At that point, they make the decision to go back three days to stop Ripper, because the newspaper tells them when and where the next crime will take place.
Unfortunately, a flat tire ruins the whole plan and H.G. and Amy fail to stop Jack. And so they resolve to stop him when he shows up to kill Amy. Anyways, the whole thing goes to hell. H.G. gets arrested, Amy’s friend is killed, and they just barely win the day in the end.
So, if you are a clever reader, perhaps you have noticed a pretty sizable flaw in our intrepid protagonist’s plan. It seems pretty odd to me, but H.G. Wells seems to have forgotten about the TIME MACHINE that he invented! How’s that again? H.G. Wells forgot about his Time Machine–the entire reason for his presence in 1979 San Francisco. Yeah.
That means that they didn’t have to use Amy as bait, because they could have just gone back to the museum and TRIED AGAIN. Or, better yet, they could have gone back to before the FIRST murder and saved EVERYONE.
I’m sorry, but how does that kind of storytelling make the cut? I guess that’s why Back to the Future is the best time travel movie and not Time After Time.
But speaking of Back to the Future, I could not get past the irony that Mary Steenburg is the actress who portrays Amy in Time After Time and also Clara in Back to the Future III. And in both, she falls in love with a time traveller. Weird.