Humor


I bought Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora” just two days ago, and have since spent three sittings of non-stop, feverish page-turning – alternatively grinning and laughing my head off and staring in absolute horror at the book, and wearing my butt out after hours of stasis on an extremely uncomfortable chair, forgetting to eat and drink… and all the other symptoms of the addiction one can get from a pretty darn good book. The hallmark of the book is excitement: suspense, pace, plot twists. It doesn’t hurt that Lynch is, I admit, a very skilled writer. This guy knows his language, and he knows how to use it.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

And here I was afraid the book was going to turn out just another Harry Potter clone tottering in the footsteps of its awkward idol. Wait, wait – point your fingers elsewhere: you have to admit that an alliterated, teasing little title like this seems either aimed to amuse young minds, or is a mocking giggle at the more sober series of epic fantasy.

Not that this book isn’t epic fantasy, or sober. Here’s the cinch and the pinch. This book is just the first book in what Lynch has titled The Gentleman Bastards Sequence, and ‘sequence’ suggests that we shouldn’t expect a trilogy, or a quartet. (I’ve heard it’s to be seven books.) Isn’t this terrible news? Utterly appalling? Mindblowingly catastrophic? NOOOOOO! This means I’ll be hooked on yet another series, suffering from that same, ohgodno desperate in-between syndrome for the next book, for six times including now, extemporising theorising and basically guessing what might happen next and who’s going to die and AUGHH!

Lynch, you got me good.
You’ll want to read this book if you:

…like fantasy in general and read any book that falls into that category.

…like clever, often witty dialogue and descriptions, lots of detail and skilful, careful writing, regardless of genre. Oh, but if you’re a prude about the crude, this might not be the perfect book for you. Then again, if you can read A Song of Ice and Fire without having your sensibilities offended, you’ll be just fine.

…don’t feel like yet another thick, heavily moral and sober series, a la The Lord of the Rings. The Lies of Locke Lamora is fun, catch-your-breath kind of exhilarating.

…like being shocked very frequently. Or quite frequently. The book is divided in aptly titled Parts – once you get to the part called “Complication”, start armouring your virtual book-invading presence, ’cause you’re about to, well, be shocked.

…like something I think is a mix of George R. R. Martin’s high adventure and disregard of my personal sacred rule don’t kill apparently major narrators, or any beloved characters, and Clarke’s irony. And though I’d like to believe that rule should stand, truth is, books often get from ‘very good’ to ‘brilliant’ when they break it.


I’m currently caught in the last quarter of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Mind you, it isn’t just Locke that’s lying here, it’s a whole bunch of other clever characters, and of course, the all-knowing Lynch himself. Being played is part of the fun of reading the book; it’s almost interactive really, the way you get fooled as much as the characters do.

LIES of Scott Lynch - er, Locke Lamora.

Once I finish the book, regard it sullenly for a few hours or so, reflect on events I expect will make me both laugh aloud, feel like an idiot, and revere Lynch as my personal new god (though hmm, I recently proclaimed George R. R. Martin as my new god, after he de-heavened Robin Hobb), I’ll write a more detailed post on it. In the meantime, satisfy yourself that the book gets 4.75 bloody grudging stars from me, and go ahead and read this review.

****3/4 (4.75) out of 5. If you’re wondering why not the full 5 stars, well, I gave Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell the full 5, and frankly, nothing I’ve read really matches that standard.

P/S: Is it just me, or does Locke Lamora remind you of Locke Cole? Too smart by half and too cheeky by whole?

Interactive Fiction.

Spider and Web

So I’ve just gotten into it. Strange, in an age where most people are leaving wordy passages and verbose descriptions and >what now? prompts for 3D swordflinging and spectacular lifelike tank-and-airplane crashes. But being an irrepressible gamer and reader both from as early an age I can remember (I have a video from my childhood with mini-me yelling at Mario to jump over the stupid green pipe), text gaming is naturally my element. Besides, one of the first games I completed was a text game – an Alice in Wonderland adaptation that I lost when the 3.86 crashed, and never found again. I thought it was great, a fantastic idea. That was back in, oh I suppose, 1994, so I’m no child of the golden era of text gaming – I really did stumble back into those hedges. I eventually tripped up Quest while doing some of that stumbling, and after MUDding a little as well, I realised how unpolished Alice was, and how much more sophisticated text games could be. Sure, they’re just games, and lots of them are made by ordinary people not in the gaming industry, but even games made of words and prompts can shine. *gleaming letters*. Not ‘shine’ in that sense. I’m using the overused metaphor. But see, that’s exactly what I mean – like art, interactive fiction is open to interpretation and adaptation. If one decides that blinking letters makes a good point, then blinking letters it is, and it doesn’t have to be tacky. (Check out shrapnel, by Adam Cadre for a good example of innovative style.)

Perhaps most importantly: interactive fiction isn’t quite the same as text games – the latter can arguably be said to have its emphasis on the gaming aspect, and the former can arguably be said to focus on the literary aspect. Storytelling, like Cadre says in his (brilliant) game Photopia, where you tell the tale as much as I do. You absolutely have to get the idea out of your head that text games are just made nowadays because they’re considerably easier to code than graphic-driven ones – if there’s one idea we all should do away with, that’s definitely the one. What I have played of interactive fiction leaves me breathless, excited, astonished, addicted. It can be like literature. It can be literature. I’m practically hyperventilating with the absolute expanse of things you do with interactive fiction!

At any rate, you should stop listening – metaphorically speaking – to me fawn over interactive fiction, and try out some of these games… here’s the link to the Frotz interpreter archive. It’s what you need to play the Z-code games, which are all I’m playing at the moment. I’ll move on to TADS and the other kinds of files soon enough. I downloaded the WindowsFrotzInstaller, if that’s any help. Now go to Emily Short’s IF ‘Notables’ listing, where she categorises some of the more significant or prominent games according to Playable Character style and personality, Gameplay and structure, interactivity of NPCs, etc. Very good if you’re into playing unique, stereotype-bending games, which I am.

I’ve played quite a few games, but finished less – some are tough, and some are outright incompatible with my still nooby brain. I *did* manage to finish Andrew Plotkin’s (brilliant) espionage piece Spider and Web with only a small hint about grilles , and that means you should be able to do it too. Just hone your exploratory skills. Pay attention to everything that’s said or described, and examine, search, try everything. Trust me, the chair puzzle alone, when you solve it, is worth all your effort and time. I finished Babel by Michael J. Roberts and Sting of the Wasp by Jason Devlin too; the last took more time than the first, and has a wholly enjoyable streak of malice running through it. *grin* Schadenfreude! Babel, while possessing a rather cliched plot and premise, has sufficiently evocative descriptions that I was wearing a sweater and a jacket and the heater turned up high when I was playing it. Right now I’m handling two activities: playing as Adam Cadre’s delightful little Machiavel of Varicella, and currently swearing at the NPC in Jon Ingold’s Fail-Safe. That last primarily because I’m convinced what I’m stuck on is a guess-the-verb problem more than a real block on my part. Fail-Safe‘s got a very interesting idea working here though, so don’t let my being stuck stop you from checking it out. All games can be found at Baf’s guide to the IF archive… here.

Here’s my new theory. Forget dualism, forget physicalism, idealism, neutral monism, marxism, utilitarianism, frisson, chiffon, schism. When one writes essays, especially concurrently or simultaneously or attempts any number of essays within a short period of time which eventually leaves you with the wonderful and memorable experience of a throbbing thumping thudding headache – one is likely to subscribe to the theory of essayism. Or suffer from the symptoms of essayism. Depends on whether you think it’s a new state of mind, or a bloody disease.

Early Symptoms: persistent headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, hunger, sore wrist from resting it on table edge too long, sore back and derriere, cramped legs, fatigue, irritability, attention deficit and inability to concentrate

Mild Symptoms: migraine-like headaches, aching eyes, residual screen-shaped squares of light when one looks away from the computer, feeling of insecurity when one is not doing the essay, serious instability, acute hunger pangs, periodic shivering, numb wrist, numb back, numb derriere, numb legs, post-fatigue alertness, fits of anger, periods of apparently timeless ‘spacing out’ due to severe shortened attention span, self-hatred and guilty remonstrancing due to aforementioned spacing out

Severe Symptoms (just suffer a late mark penalty!) : Panadeine no longer works, you can’t recall what blinking feels like, the residual squares of light now have tiny patterns of shade that seem to form letters and words, obsessive-compulsive word-counting, manic spellchecking, gastric pains, deep vein thrombosis, perfectionistic tendencies, habit of speaking aloud to oneself, irrepressible desire for silence, smoking computer, rows of empty Bar Merlo coffee cups, surprisingly long hair, long fingernails, dust lining the floor around your chair…

It’s amazing how you can tell the desperate students from the diligent ones. The diligent ones do everything calmly, and usually call home or a friend just as they’re packing up. The desperate ones stare at the screen, type a little, print out a copy, scroll around the document, type a bit more, erase a bit more, print out another copy, stare at the screen, shuffle papers, and so on. The reason why some lecturers put time slots for essay submission is for those (us) desperate students. You can probably hear from the other end of the world the collective klclick of pens dropping at precisely a minute to the deadline, and then a rush of feet not unlike an elephant stampede in the ancient Thai jungles as we all rush to get our essays in the submissions box.

Though the smarter desperate students, like me, suffer a late mark penalty and hand in their work the next day.

…looks like there were more than swords raining.

Just a couple of speculations, spoilers and a link to a good theory.

A handless Jaime and a noseless Tyrion are both writ out of their lord father’s will, and enjoy an extremely brief affectionate moment before another of Martin’s relentless cruel ‘realisms’ decides to part them, and minutes later we get to see Tywin dead on his privy seat. So, like Jaime thinks to himself, the winning side isn’t really winning at all; and the war is being won within thronerooms, bedrooms and cell walls, and not out on battlefields with swords… and when they say words make better weapons than swords, think of Arya’s valar morghulis, clever little Littlefinger’s machinations, Shae’s unclever ‘confessions’, and Samwell Tarly’s whisperings in Denys Mallister’s and Cotter Pyke’s ears respectively.

So there’s lots to say. I’ll probably end up with a couple dozen of posts exploring Martin’s created world of Westeros, and the lands to the east that Dany is ruthlessly, but oh-so-cunningly manipulating to her will.

For now…well, I had a theory since the first book on Jon Snow’s parentage, and while I never lingered on it too long, I never did develop it either. When Dayne told Arya that Wylla was Jon Snow’s mother I decided, OK, that’s the end of my theory then. But when I did a little research to see what other thoughts were, it becomes clear that sometimes characters get their rumours and their facts wrong. See here for a good explanation of the possible parents of Jon Snow, and its conclusion, which matches mine.

…and yes, I did say parents.

😉

…take the test here. Fear not, there are no spoilers.

I got Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, on the first go. Shucks, I was hoping a nicely sneaky Littlefinger, or maybe an awesome Brienne.

Do Knights pout? This one does.

*pout*

Haha, take the test!

[edit: I got the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell, after that. Couldn’t find two bloody knights more different. Not really anyway.]

More character tests: here

…the first two are all that are out, but they’re good enough to receive **** (4 stars).

The third and next book is expected in October of this year, according to Jones’ official webbie.

Sword from Red Ice - upcoming book 3

She’s put up a preview from the next book, A Sword from Red Ice on that there website. It’s the prologue, and sounds mighty interesting…though we did know that hunk o’ rock would shatter sometime soon.

The Sword of Shadows books are, in my humble opinion, much better than Jones’ earlier work. While The Book of Words trilogy seemed another indelicate traipse down the rutted road of cliched fantasy, often crudely glossing over important details of background, period, and character, these books are pretty sophisticated. I hold back on lavish praise simply because the ending isn’t out for me to read yet, and we all know how important endings are. Never a good book without a good ending. Book 1, A Cavern of Black Ice, had much to offer, throwing the reader straight into an environment so tangibly freezing it was hard not to pull an Orrl cloak about myself, if I had one. Jones takes pains to elaborate on setting (apparently based on the Scottish clans) and history, so drawing out our enjoyment of the tension, in a story that practically twangs with tension. She wastes no time with peaceful pastoral beginnings (think how Eddings’ Garion started, Tolkien’s Bilbo, Jones’ own Jack, the baker’s boy) but leaps straight into a competition of bows and arrows and running rabbits between the brothers Raif and Drey Sevrance. Within a few pages, we already learn of Raif’s strange ‘skills’, and lines later we are presented with a mysterious, tragic but chilling massacre, of which the brothers’ father is one of the fallen. All throughout, a pervading ominous aura keeps us on our guard for more surprises, along with a lingering, disturbing, strange feel: rather like we were aliens, or foreign creatures. This land that Jones describes, the clansmen’s land, is no land we are welcome to, and Jones’ revels in distancing us from it.

That opening scene alone is brilliant. Tense mood, bows and arrows, wind and snow, prey and hunter, a brotherly tussle and a spot of dark magic – and then cold murder aplenty; this is what we can expect of the Sword of Shadows sequence. What happens next?

Fortress of Grey Ice - book 2Cavern of Black Ice - book 1

A briefish synopsis…(I might be getting facts from book 1 and 2 mixed up, so warning: SPOILERS)

Raif is our main narrator, and he’s not too detestable. We are told he used to be a normal, lively child, but at the novel’s outset, he is 16, recently orphaned, and morose, reflective, and bitter. The mysterious massacre took the life of his clan’s leader, so his adopted son, Mace Blackhail, takes over the position as clan Blackhail’s leader. He was apparently at the same camp that was massacred, but according to him, managed to escape. Blaming the massacre on clan Bludd, Mace orders a raid on a group of Bludd carts. Drey is sent out, and Raif insists on joining the raid, though he has not yet sworn a clansman’s oath – that is, not come of age. Raif manages to win the right to take the oath however, and does so, although the clan guide prophesies his betrayal, and bringing of doom – as he wears a raven lore, unlike his brother’s and father’s bear lore. The Bludd party turns out to consist of women and children, the kin of the Bludd lord, and while Drey joins the slaughter, Raif cannot bring himself to kill women and children, and flees back to Blackhail. He finds his uncle, Angus Lok, there, and Angus offers to take him away, knowing he has deserted and so broken his oath as a sworn clansman. Angus also reveals his knowledge of Raif’s ‘magic’. Not without regret, Raif complies, and the two set off toward the south. They stumble on another of our narrators, Ash, who has been kept locked in the city by her adoptive father, Penthero Iss, a weak sorcerer. Ash has the same power, but more of it, and when she attempts to escape the city, finds herself about to be dragged back by Marafice Eye, her father’s man. Angus and Raif help her escape, a move which Raif does not understand, and then set off again, but only after Raif discovers Ash’s great but dark power, and recognises some of that same power in his own skill at marksmanship. (more…)

…the Nerd Test, a Death Test (when will you die?). And a nifty Word Game, simple rules, fiendishly addictive.

Here’re my scores :p

I am nerdier than 56% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out! I am going to die at 84. When are you? Click here to find out!

More tests at NerdTests.com.

And the Word Game…

I first got this and was absurdly happy considering it’s a game, really…

Click here to play Make-A-Word word game, and TRY to score better!

…then I got some crappy scores, mainly because I’m using a touchpad, and touchpad-users aka fingerrubbers should know what I mean when I say the cursor kept ‘sticking’, and so I kept hitting the wrong letters. 😦 still. It’s great non-progressive fun. Great useless fun. And so since I really had nothing better to do I went ahead trying and trying and trying and managed to get this far… (more…)

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