Reading Drew Karpyshyn’s Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan on the new Amazon tablet Kindle Fire — just icing on the cake for the gadget geek-girl in me.
Posts Tagged ‘Books’
Due to professional interest, but also thanks to my general love for art, I’m always on the lookout for artbooks. They’re good for reference or just ordinary perusal on a rainy day, and I collect just about anything and everything that catches my eye.
Several of my shelves, however, are especially dedicated to the realms of fantasy and sci-fi. Over the years, I’ve amassed artbooks featuring masterpieces by the greats such as Frank Frazetta or Brom, but also gaming-related books containing graphics and concept art from games like Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, etc.
Today, I want to give some love to The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I was ecstatic to add to my collection this week. Remember, I was initially disappointed that no artbook was included in the retail collector’s edition of the game, but now that I am holding this gem in my hands, I am beginning to understand why. The Art and Making of SWTOR is a masterpiece in and of itself. It’s a hefty hardcover of good quality, filled with full-colored images of digital pictures and concept art, and pages and pages of commentary to go with it.
Topics covered include the things you’d expect: class design, planets and environments, species, creatures, ships, weapons, armor, etc., etc., etc. But since this is technically a “Making Of” book as well, you also get developer insights into the creation of the game, everything from commentary on SWTOR’s evolution from its roots in Knight of the Old Republic, to the multitude of challenges BioWare faced when moving into the MMO space.
There are also other interesting tidbits on the game’s development, random facts about the game I picked up as I read through the pages. One of my favorites is the section at the back, called “Verbal Cubism”. Did you know that beyond the main dialogue, thirty-thousand lines of alien-speak were recorded for SWTOR? The book states: “To put this in perspective, [that's] more than the entire script for Mass Effect or both KOTOR games combined. Just in aliens.” Pretty neat.
If you 1) have a general interest in game art and concept art, or 2) are a big fan of SWTOR, then this book is definitely worth it. Since both those descriptions apply to me, I must say I am quite pleased. I’ve been flipping through the pages admiring the beautiful pieces in there since I got it. I wish I could showcase them all, but there are just too many. Here are, however, some of the highlights and my favorites:
- Hoorah for an adaptation that didn’t have me seething with nerdrage over casting. With few exceptions, every actor and actress were amazing in their roles, bringing to life the essence of each character. A few that stood out for me: Sean Bean as Ned Stark, of course — it was like the man was born for the role. Mark Addy showed that everyone underestimated him as “just a comedy actor” with his performance as Robert Baratheon. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, who makes whoring and drinking look charming. Maisie Williams made me alternate between being stupefied by her sword fighting skills to wanting to hug her for being so cute. And as much as I wanted to dunk Joffrey’s head repeatedly in a dung pile, they couldn’t have chosen a better or more evil looking kid than Jack Gleeson.
- The Song of Ice and Fire series involves multiple storylines and enough characters to fill a small village. One of the first concerns about this show was whether or not they could pull this off without confusing the hell out of the people who haven’t read the books. For the most part, however, I think they did a great job with presenting the whole story, keeping a tight grip on it as best as they could. HBO successfully made each plotline distinct enough so you were never too lost.
- There were still some things they could have made clearer. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted until my friend who hadn’t read the books asked me for clarification on a few things — like why Jaime Lannister being called “Kingslayer” was such a big deal, not just because he killed the old king but because of who and what he was as a White Cloak. And the direwolves certainly did not get enough screentime! When Ghost finally appeared again with Jon at Castle Black, even I was a little taken aback.
- I still wonder about the pacing. There were definitely parts that felt a little off to me, like a couple of the middle episodes that were more about world and history building, versus actually having anything happen. In contrast, the last three episodes were crammed to the brim. It’s never boring, but it did seem like the final episodes had to cover more than half the book.
- Game of Thrones had all the elements of an HBO show in spades — blood, sex, violence, sex, power, sex, humor, but also honor and strength.
- Beautiful sets, costumes, props, etc. What stood out for me: 1) Their depiction of The Eyrie and its sky cells. I wasn’t disappointed (unless you count how I wanted to see even more). Certain things were even better than the book — like the stunning and ginormous wooden throne (cooler than even the Iron one!) and their version of the Moon Door. 2) The Wall and the men of the Night’s Watch. 3) Littlefinger’s wardrobe. Damn, the man looks good even in black silks and embroidered roses.
- Made by the same people who did the titles for other HBO shows like Rome and Carnivale, the opening sequence deserves some love. I wasn’t crazy about it at first, but the more I watched the more it grew on me, despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that it’s not very “fantasy-ish” at all. I also love how it the map changes, reflecting new locales as they are introduced or visited by the characters in later episodes. What a fun and interesting concept. The awesome opening theme music pretty much guarantees I’ll be all over the Game of Thrones soundtrack too when it comes out.
- Satisfied with how loyal the show stayed to the original source. Understandable how there were a few liberties taken and a couple new spins, but there weren’t too many instances where they outright changed the characters or the outcomes of an event. I wouldn’t have wanted it to adhere exactly to the books anyway, and I’m not one to pick the details to death, plus ultimately I felt that most of whatever they added or trimmed away served to enhance rather than impair the story.
- Even though I knew what and when things were coming, I was still shocked when they happened. It’s amazing how emotionally affected I was; there were times where I just sat there wondering if all of it actually happened.
- Can’t wait for Season 2, Spring 2012.
And the reading frenzy continues!
Currently, I’m still on track to reaching my goal of reading 100 novels for the year of 2011. June’s nowhere near over yet, and already 51 books in, to be exact. As to why I’m doing this, there are a couple reasons — 1) for my love of reading, and 2) I’m insane.
It’s also quite fun. I read every day anyway, and in the same way I like to track my games and playtime with Raptr, I like to track my books and reading progress with Goodreads. By the way, if you are on GR, feel free to add me. If you’re a science fantasy fan, I could also do with some fresh new sci-fi recommendations that aren’t based on video games or Star Wars, heh.
Once again, here are some of the titles I’ve had the pleasure of reading these past couple of months…
A zombie book! In a world where the CDC is the most important organization in the country, children are trained in firearms as young as 7, and Alaska has been ceded to “the Infected”, the population has come to depend more on social media instead of the mainstream news to get their up-to-the-minute information. Enter our protagonists, a trio of bloggers who land the story of a lifetime — the opportunity to accompany a senator on his campaign across the country to become the next president of the United States…but of course, bad things start happening.
Not that I’m a huge fan of zombie books, but when this one was nominated for a Hugo and my book club chose it to read for the month of May, I seized the opportunity. For one, I loved the premise behind the book. The story, however, turned out rather predictable and “telegraphed”, and for the lack of a better term the characters are kinda full of themselves. Ah, but the ending was a bombshell that made everything worth it. Despite my indifference for the characters themselves, the emotional fallout that resulted was simply gut-wrenching.
Did I say I wasn’t a huge fan of zombie books? Really, I’m not. Like, I don’t go out of my way to read them, but every so often something indulgent like this just falls in my lap.
And God help me, but I liked this book. I didn’t really think I would. When I first caught wind of a series of Star Wars books about zombies, I predicted only disastrous results. Zombies are good and fine, but I just couldn’t imagine their presence in my beloved Star Wars universe. But curse my curiosity, I wanted to see what it was all about. And it was a short read, so I picked it up.
And whaddya know, a few chapters in and I actually started enjoying myself. Sure, there were a lot of plot holes and things that didn’t make sense, but the book was also everything its cover promised — blood, gore, dismembered body parts, more blood and gore, flesh eating Stormtroopers, and even Wookiee zombies. It delivered where it was supposed to, and I mean, you might say the secret is low expectations, but then again you don’t pick up a book like this and expect anything more. This book belongs in my closet of guilty pleasures for sure, and I’ll just try not to feel so dirty for liking it.
No more putting this off; I’m making it a goal to polish off all the Dresden books by the time Ghost Story comes out, which gives me about a month and a half. Yeah, so maybe I have the attention span of a squirrel, but I usually have a lot of trouble reading books in a series back-to-back-to-back as I find myself getting antsy and needing a different focus after a while. The only series with which I’ve ever been able to do pull that off is A Song of Ice and Fire. Say what you will about the quality of the subsequent books after A Game of Thrones, but George R. R. Martin does have a way of engaging you and making you want to know what happens next.
Jim Butcher makes me feel the same way, which is how I’m now reading all these Dresden Files books in a row and still not feeling worn down. I still have issues with “emo Harry” sometimes, but the stories themselves are always so full of action and humor. Currently on the 7th book now and I’m pleasantly surprised at how the momentum has not slowed down, which is rare in an ongoing series. In fact, I’ve been told the books just keep getting better and better. At this point, I’m starting to believe it.
I’m always thrilled to give a new book and a new author a try, especially since everywhere I look, the consensus for this new series is the same: “Recommended for fans of the Dresden Files.”
I can see why — both are narrated by a male protagonist in the first person with a modern, “hip” voice. Both are humorous and full of pop culture references. Harry Dresden has a talking skull named Bob, Atticus O’Sullivan has an Irish wolfhound he talks to named Oberon. They both keep paranormal company like werewolves, witches and vampires. And always, there’s some bad guy trying to kill them, and action ensues. It’s inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between these two series.
Atticus, however, is a 2,100 year old druid. And despite taking place in modern day Tempe, Arizona, the Iron Druid Chronicles series is steeped in Celtic mythology and culture. You’ll love Hounded if you’re into that type of thing. Or even if you’re not. I had a lot of fun reading this book. I would say it is better than the average debut novel, but I’m also curious as to how this series will progress. Atticus seems to have a magical solution for every problem, or friends that do, so I’m interested in seeing how things will turn out in terms of character growth. In any case, it’s always refreshing to read an urban fantasy novel that doesn’t suck.
Have I mentioned this hour that I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn? No? Well, I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn. Loved his Star Wars: Darth Bane novels and enjoyed my first taste of his Mass Effect books with Revelation. So then I went and finished Ascension and Retribution, which tied together rather nicely.
One thing I admire about Drew and his books is his ability to make you sympathize with even the biggest jackwads. This is the man who managed to make me root for an evil Sith Lord, after all. Enter Paul Grayson, a Cerberus agent, drug addict, and a ruthless killer who sold his own daughter out to science. Kahlee Sanders returns to make him see the error of his ways and also to kick some ass, and in book 3 our old friend Anderson even comes back to help out. There is essentially no filler in these Mass Effect books, just action and more action. Typical of video game tie-in novels, but I find these much better written than many.
Right away, I sensed that Dalglish was attempting for a Song of Ice and Fire feel. The title format and certain phrases and names dropped as homages were a hint, but he also stated as much in his afterword.
Well, he succeeded in a couple ways, first and foremost in that the story is much too complicated for me to explain in three sentences or less. I also had the feeling I was going to be in for some political intrigue and that I best prepare myself for most of the characters I meet dying horribly and needlessly. Turns out I was right on both accounts.
I liked the book, but A Game of Thrones it is not. A very fine attempt, however, with plenty of character and world building. A little bit more of that and a little less of blatantly trying to shock the reader, then I dare say it could have come close. And speaking of shock-value, expect much violence. I’m so desensitized these days that I barely flinch anymore, but I still have a weakness for the eyes and fingernails and any time anything bad happens to those two specific body parts. Unfortunately for me, Dalglsih seems to have a particular fondness and fixation for eye-gouging and other eye-related torture and injuries.
This was perhaps my first real taste into the sub-genre of “military fantasy”. History or literature buffs will realize right away that The Ten Thousand is directly based on the events from Xenophon’s Anabasis. So maybe it’s a little difficult to feel much excitement or suspense when you know what’s going to happen already, but I found some of the fantastical elements in this book really intriguing.
I wish more details had been put into these, such as the mysterious black armor pieces worn by the Cursebearers or the strange exotic race of the Kufr, but most of the focus was poured into the book’s martial elements. That said, Paul Kearney has an obvious talent for writing scenes of warfare, as the battles and the descriptions of the fighting were really well done. I discovered after reading this book that I can take military fantasy, but it’s not really so much my thing. If it is yours though, I recommend giving this one a look.
Okay, what I actually wanted to do was read the newer Star Wars books, like stuff from the Legacy of the Force or Fate of the Jedi series, but decided to go back a little further in the timeline and read up to it instead. Sure, I could have just read summaries on Wookieepedia and called it a day, but damn my stubbornness, I wanted to do things properly. As such, I started with The New Jedi Order AKA the “Yuuzhan Vong” series that’s, oh, about a whopping 20 books long.
I’m starting to regret things, but once I start a series it gets hard for me to drop it, especially since I’m already more than a third of the way in. It’s been a tedious journey thus far, but NJO does have its moments every now and then. Also, being familiar with the events of the Star Wars expanded universe is one thing, it’s another to go right to the source and read about the finer details. I like knowing more about the stories that until now I’ve only heard of or read about in passing, which was my motivation to tackle this series in the first place.
China Miéville came highly recommended, though everyone who had read this one before me warned that Kraken is not like any of his other books. I still wonder if it was a good idea for picking it up for my first taste of Miéville. Even now, I’m at a loss as to what to say about it.
Two things are certain — 1) it was nothing like I expected, and 2) it’s going right into the “Weirdest Books I’ve Ever Read” shelf. The book follows Billy Harrow, a scientist at the Museum of Natural History in London. An expert on mollusks, Billy was also responsible for the preservation of one of the museum’s most popular exhibits — the giant squid. One day, out of the blue, the thing goes missing — all 28.3 feet of it. Investigating into its disappearance, Billy finds himself thrown into a side of London he never knew existed, a world full of magic, secret cults, doomsday theories and other supernatural creatures.
If you’re into Neil-Gaiman-type whackiness, then this book is for you. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be up for reading another book like this for a long time, but I’m more interested than ever now to tackle Miéville’s other more “straightforward” books like The City & The City. Nevertheless, Kraken was a fun if also bizarre read. I give this book a thumbs-up, if for nothing else the entire chapter full of Star Trek references including a live Tribble and an actual working phaser gun, plus the fact I got to annoy my husband by shouting “Release the Kraken!” before settling down with the book every night while I was reading it.
Ever since 2011 rolled about, I’ve been devouring books like a beast. Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes apart from gaming and art, but in the recent months I’ve been going through books more ardently than usual because I’ve set a challenge for myself — to read 100 novels this year. Yeah, good luck to me!
Anyway, I’ve always admired other bloggers like Syp or Anjin for writing about the books they’ve read lately, and I realized it has been quite a while since I myself wrote a book post on this blog. The last time I considered writing one was late last year, for lack of a better explanation I changed my mind because I didn’t feel like I had enough good books to talk about. Ever since I set my reading challenge, however, there has been an abundance! I’ve been dying to talk about good books lately, and my favorite genre is fantasy, so I hope you won’t mind my sharing some of the better reads I’ve had so far this year:
Second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series and follow up to 1997’s The Name of the Wind. Admittedly, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about with these books until about a third of the way through WMF when I changed my attitude and finally stopped trying to make the book conform to my expectations of what should happen in a fantasy novel.
After that, following Kvothe around on his adventures became so much more enjoyable. We’ve all heard how he’s supposedly this badass hero who has done all these amazing things, but now he tells us the true story in his own words. Hopefully at some point, we’ll also get to find out how he came to wind up behind a bar as a simple innkeeper.
A really cool book about a world where demons rise at sundown from the Core and terrorize the nights. Humanity hides in the shadows, and their only means of protection are their wards that shield their homes and make them impenetrable to the Corelings — but only if their ward symbols hold. As a fan of modern fantasy, I enjoyed this one a lot. It had a character-driven story and just the right amount of action to keep the momentum going. However, I did feel that the second book of this series The Desert Spear was a little weaker, but regardless The Warded Man was still well worth the read.
Weeks is probably better known for his Night Angel trilogy, but when I became curious about his work I decided to pick this one up instead. The book is about Gavin Guile, a powerful man attempting to complete five great purposes before his death in five years, meanwhile guarding a terrible secret that could unravel everything he has accomplished. Then there is Kyp, an orphan boy who suddenly finds himself a father figure in Gavin, and together they are drawn into a war that threatens to shatter their world.
Yeah, the story is kinda hard to explain. It was all right, but in the end it was the unique magic system that really made it memorable. Based on chromaturgy, some people in this world called “drafters” can harness light to create a substance called luxin which can take on different colors of their spectrum. Each color has unique properties, so drafters can construct many different things out of this substance. Interesting magic systems always stand out for me.
Very rarely do I find a series, especially in a trilogy, where the later books actually outshine the first. I wasn’t sure I was going to like The First Law when I picked up the first installment The Blade Itself, but now I’m really glad I stuck with the series, reading Before They Are Hanged and finally Last Argument of Kings. I love being able to read an epic tale of war and magic, and yet still feel connected to amazingly well-developed characters that breathe and bleed.
And ugh, do they bleed. Joe A’s books are definitely not for the faint-hearted. I have a pretty strong stomach for violence and I don’t really consider myself squeamish, but even I cringed at some of the scenes of torture and bloody battle. The dark grittiness and cynicism in his books can sometimes be a little too much to take, and I had to give myself long breaks between the books instead of reading them back-to-back. I recently realized how tired I was of the dreariness after reading Best Served Cold, a sort of “spin-off” which takes place in the same world as The First Law books but stars a completely new character. Makes me think it will be a while before I’m ready to take on Abercrombie’s latest novel The Heroes.
I gave this new author and his debut novel a try, and I don’t regret it one bit. His style may still lack a bit of polish, but in the end this book delivered a great story that was full of action and interesting twists and turns. Drothe is a “Nose”, which is like an informer for the underworld. I was immediately thrust into his world of intrigue and betrayal, and the action seriously doesn’t let up. Even though the beginning was a bit confusing, the end managed to come together and all the subplots tied up nicely.
I can see myself reading something by Douglas Hulick again. With more time and experience, I think he can deliver some amazing stories
I confess, I was never big on urban fantasy. To put it mildly, so much of it out there is just utter crap. But I’d heard so many good things about The Dresden Files from so many people, I felt like I was the last person on earth to read this series. I finally took the plunge and picked up the first book Storm Front earlier this year, and was pleasantly surprised with what I read. These books center around the life of Harry Dresden, a wizard who is also a private investigator looking into paranormal disturbances in modern-day Chicago, striking a fine balance between fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction.
I’m currently on book 5, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series because apparently these books just get better and better.
And speaking of Jim Butcher, I gave his Codex Alera series a try as well, but after reading Furies of Calderon, I think his Dresden stuff is clearly where his forte is.
I loved this book. When asked to describe LoLL, I always say it’s like Oliver Twist meets Ocean’s 11 meets The Godfather. It’s fantasy, but also reads like a dark action-adventure thriller, with its tales of thievery, gang wars, subterfuge, and themes of vengeance. I fell in love with the Gentleman Bastards right from the start, which made some parts of the novel hard to take whenever unfortunate events befell them.
Anyway, a great start to what looks to be a very fun series. I currently have the second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies already on my to-read list.
Yeah, this is not your typical werewolf story. If you’re into Vikings and Norse mythology, and are sick of the usual paranormal romance stuff that passes for werewolf fiction these days, then this book is for you. Wolfsangel begins with a Viking raid on a small village, the leader a king who has seen in a prophecy that he was to kidnap a child to be his heir. But what he finds is not one but two infants — twin boys whose origins and fates are entwined with the gods. Vali grows up as a Viking prince, while his twin Feileg is raised in the wilds with wolves to be the protector of a witch.
At times, this book was difficult to follow, but all in all I was impressed by the story and the writing, which invoked some very powerful imagery. A hauntingly decent read, some parts being downright bone-chilling.
Just finished this book earlier this week, actually. A friend of mine who was not a fan of fantasy read it and ended up loving it, which made me curious to take a look.
It started off typically enough, a bastard son (my friend asked me why fantasy novels are always full of bastards…I honestly didn’t know what to say to that) of a prince is raised in the shadow of the royal court, secretly trained to be an assassin by the king. I found most of the novel rather average and predictable, until the end where the many plot twists and turns finally got me hooked. I was a little disappointed that the last chapters wrapped up so quickly, but luckily there is more to this trilogy so I can still follow more of Fitz’s adventures.
I am always on the look out for great books. Much of my to-read list is populated by fantasy, but I am open to all sorts of genres in fiction. So if you look at this list and can think of something you think I might enjoy, feel free to throw some recommendations my way!