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- Bill on The Runestaff and the Empire's End at 01:37 on 21-08-2016 - link I wonder if King Huon and his superscience throne globe keeping him alive is where Warhammer 40K got the idea for the Emperor.
- Adrienne on Absolutely Delirious at 07:52 on 19-08-2016 - link Yeah, i've wanted to watch this for ages too, although i am very put off by the idea of a show ending that is BOTH downbeat AND a cliffhanger. I may just watch through Assignment Four, i suppose!
- Arthur B on The Narration of Shannara at 22:13 on 15-08-2016 - link If you're actually bothering to read the hardcopy rather than just having the audiobook on in the background it isn't so much as "Terabrooks" as a "mistake".
- Robinson L on The Narration of Shannara at 18:02 on 15-08-2016 - link Oh, and I'm still curious: is Sword a Terabrooks in audiobook as opposed to hardcopy format?
- Robinson L on Mr Bubbles' Nostalgia Trip at 18:00 on 15-08-2016 - link I've only skimmed the article, and not made any kind of study of Objectivism, but there seems to be another contradiction in the author's argument. He invokes the maxim “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely,” which I tend to agree with. That being the case, though, isn't it the case that any society where one person (or a small group of people) wields absolute power at any point is practically guaranteed to devolve into autocracy? You're blaming Andrew Ryan for acting against principle in a situation which we both agree engineers unprincipled behavior in people, without any kind of checks and balances to stop him? That sound to me more like a systemic flaw than a personal flaw of Ryan's.
Alasdair Czyrnyj on Mr Bubbles' Nostalgia Trip
at 18:27 on 13-08-2016 - link
Infinite is definitely one of those games, like the Thief rebootquel, whose creation is far more interesting than the finished project. It's going to be years (if ever) before we find out what happened behind the scenes, but my own theory is that Infinite had the same sort of improvisational experiment-focuses development the other Bioshocks had, with the concept of the game radically changing during development and major new features appearing, being built, then disappearing when they don't fit the vision, but this time around there was too much money, too much time, and the whole thing was built on a central concept that didn't fit together. In Bioshock, Objectivism and bioengineering fit together with the whole idea of 20th-century political utopianism; the new society and the new man and all that. I still haven't found anyone who has explained to me what the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics has to do with the American national identity, and suffice to say Infinite never does either.
I've also found that Bioshock 2 has improved in retrospect, partially because I liked more of the characters (particularly the abused no-longer-human Subject Delta), but also because it works as a final endpoint to the Bioshock story. Rapture is dead, but Bioshock 2 is about what its final legacy to the world will be.
- Arthur B on Mr Bubbles' Nostalgia Trip at 11:32 on 13-08-2016 - link Honestly, hearing about Burial At Sea was what tipped Infinite over the edge for me from "That sounds disappointing, I'll probably get it if/when it is cheap" to "They really don't have any ideas left at all, do they? I won't bother." That reassessment is pretty good and just confirms my decision to pass it by.
Alasdair Czyrnyj on Mr Bubbles' Nostalgia Trip
at 20:13 on 12-08-2016 - link
Honestly, his discussion reminds me of nothing so much as the decades of argument among scholars and propagandists about whether or not the Soviet Union was a betrayal or the fulfillment of true socialism. Like a lot of those guys, the fellow you linked seems to be comparing Rapture to an nebuously-defined ideal Randian community rather than considering in the context of an underwater city-state that has to operate according to Randian principles.
Also, just look at all those old comments we made before we found out the truth about Bioshock Infinite. I was reading the one you made about how good it was that Infinite was getting away from the paradigm of the first two games, and it's pretty depressing in the light both Infinite and the "Burial at Sea" DLCs, where the first Bioshock slowly grows into a inescapable singularity that consumes both the setting and characters of Infinite.
Man, the more you dig, the more Infinite just falls apart, doesn't it? I've even seen one or two reviewers revisit it years after the hype and find it noticeably lacking.
Robinson L on The Narration of Shannara
at 18:00 on 10-08-2016 - link
Interesting. I guess I have an easier time following audiobooks than you do, Arthur, and keeping track of what's going on. I sometimes find myself in the position of putting down a book (audio or otherwise) for weeks, even months at a time, but I can usually pick it back up again and get back into the flow of the story with little trouble. All the memory space which ought to be devoted to remembering things like people's names, or “where have I seen you before, again?” seems instead to be occupied with remembering stories in some detail for long stretches of time.
I listen to audiobooks all the time in my day-to-day life (my iPod is overrun with audiobooks and podcasts, and only a smattering of songs), and since really good prose isn't something I prioritize, I usually go with the audio format if I can manage it and don't worry if I'm missing out on the author's use of language. One thing you and I can agree on, though, is that audiobooks are superb for car trips. I find them a great means of fending off boredom without taking up too much of my brainspace to impede my ability to respond to the needs of the road. For whatever reason, I'm also able to follow fairly complex material while I'm driving—at least as well as when I'm not driving—so I don't have to be too discriminating about what kinds of books are for in the car as opposed to out of the car.
On the subject of the Shannara novels and the first one's lack of originality, I remember listening to a podcast interview of Orson Scott Card—whose fiction I still have a soft spot for, even if I find his politics more repellent every time I come in contact with them—and I recall him commenting that he couldn't get through Sword of Shannara because it was so patently derivative, but that Brooks has done good things with the setting since then because “he's a good writer.” I remember being struck by this latter claim, because I recalled my mother once remarking that Brooks' writing is really bad, and my mother is probably the most undiscriminating reader I have ever met. (Let's just say it was no surprise that she was the only one of the five of us who saw Oz, the Great and Powerful in the theater who actually liked it.)
Apart from one abridged audiobook when I was a kid, I have no experience with the series, and no opinions on it one way or the other.
I must say, though, I don't consider the “Medieval fantasy setting is actually a post-apocalyptic future Earth” all that innovative. I felt the same way when we had the Prince of Thorns discussion a couple of years back. I can imagine it was fresh when Brooks began writing, but it seems downright cliché by this point.
Cheriola: And I wish I had found an audio version for Aliette de Bodard's Aztec mystery / fantasy novels, instead of having to slog through the interminable descriptions of people's clothes by myself.
Yeah, lack of an audiobook version is the only reason I haven't dug into her novels thus far. I'm a slow reader, and there are so many other books ahead of hers in my reading queue.
the Discworld novels certainly benefit from Steven Briggs' voice-acting.
No kidding. Although I think Nigel Planer has an edge over Brooks when it comes to voicing Death.
I don't think I've ever had bad narration actually ruin an audiobook for me, but I've definitely encountered ones where I heard the narrator and said to myself 'Really? this is the voice we're going for with this book? *deep sigh* O-kay then …' And now that you mention it, one of the most recent times I had that experience was with a book I specifically sought out because it had a non-binary protagonist, so that part fits, also.
Arthur B on Mr Bubbles' Nostalgia Trip
at 15:09 on 10-08-2016 - link
Almost a literal decade after it would have been timely, someone at Ars Technica is trying to argue that Rapture would have been OK had Andrew Ryan not betrayed the principles of Objectivism.
This misses a whole bunch of points, not the least being:
- Robertson is misrepresenting Rand's own philosophy there. A very basic idea of Objectivism is that builders ought to retain control of the things they build, rather than being compelled to hand them over for the public good. Andrew Ryan built Rapture; therefore Andrew Ryan should get to set the rules his guests follow in Rapture, and anyone who doesn't like it should fuck off and build their own undersea Utopia.
- Indeed, it's not wholly correct to absolutely identify libertarianism with Objectivism. Objectivist ethics demands an absolute separation between good and evil, and holds that even a little concession corrupts everything. Thus, the sort of isolationism Ryan tries to enforce in Rapture is, in fact, entirely in keeping with that. The Objectivist Messiah in Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, sets up just such an isolationist, fuck-off-we're-full community in the form of Galt's Gulch, after all.
- Even if you go with the very libertarian interpretation of Objectivism John Robertson is running with here, you still have the basic problem of any lassaiz-faire system, which is that as soon as someone like Frank Fontaine starts taking actions which will undermine, disrupt, overthrow or destroy the system you have set up you kind of either have to let them go ahead or put social order ahead of your principles and crack down - and the longer you stick to your principles, the greater a violation of them will be needed to finally stop someone. (It's like how AnarchoCapitalist fantasies of small communities operating entirely on the Non-Aggression Principle don't really have much of a cohesive answer to "What happens when people decide to go fascist?" beyond "Uuuuuh... we'll have private police forces which totally won't be an excellent front for anyone deciding to go fascist.")
- Ronan Wills on Troy Had A Company at 18:38 on 05-08-2016 - link A new episode just came out a few hours ago! Look like it's still going.
- Arthur B on Troy Had A Company at 00:41 on 27-07-2016 - link Binge-watched it. Looks interesting, though I am disheartened by the fact that they posted a "We're about to post new videos, guys!" video as the most recent thing and then seem to have failed to do anything for 3 months. That's rarely a good sign with these things.
Ronan Wills on Troy Had A Company
at 23:31 on 25-07-2016 - link
Thought I'd duck back into this comments thread to alert people to The West Records, a very obvious Marble Hornets-esque series that has both it and its many imitators beat in terms of production quality and (especially acting). It also doesn't seem to have anything to do with the Slenderverse, which is nice.
The starts is quite slow, but give it a chance. Once it gets moving it kicks off hard, which is something a lot of these things don't do.
It's still ongoing so we'll have to see if it gets around to solving any of its mysteries, but I'm definitely interested so far.
- Arthur B on Absolutely Delirious at 01:11 on 10-07-2016 - link I'll be interested to hear what you think of it, Alice.
- Alice on Absolutely Delirious at 17:56 on 09-07-2016 - link This is the first I've ever heard of this, but it sounds amazing, and I've just ordered a copy.
- Ashimbabbar on It Might Be Dying But It's Still a Naughty Earth at 11:11 on 04-07-2016 - link I believe T'sais is the one and only instance in all of Vance's works of religion being a good thing; as far as I know, wherever else it occurs in his works, it's a tool for hypocrites, a weapon for fanatics, or a means of self-delusion.
Craverguy on Absolutely Delirious
at 20:45 on 03-07-2016 - link
I've had this on my "to watch" list for a long time, ever since someone recommended it to me because of how much I like The Prisoner. Good to get a positive second opinion.
Now I just need an affordable Region 1 copy. Last time I checked, they were quite expensive secondhand.
- Adrienne on The Sequel of Shannara at 07:40 on 19-06-2016 - link Hah, fair enough. Read later Kay, maybe?
- Arthur B on The Sequel of Shannara at 22:42 on 16-06-2016 - link I think it's because I have low expectations of Shannara and it meets them solidly, whilst with Fionavar I keep getting frustrated by how good it could be if it didn't keep doing stuff that annoyed me.
- Adrienne on The Sequel of Shannara at 21:06 on 16-06-2016 - link I gotta say, Arthur, it boggles my mind that you can tolerate fucking Shannara but you hated Fionavar. :)
Ichneumon on Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Afterword
at 12:54 on 26-05-2016 - link
I am not sure how you spin "Harry's descendant becomes the next dark lord" in a way which is whimsical and sardonic rather than just grim, particularly when - as you point out - it comes at the end of the most densely grim books of the series.
I was thinking more of the other details, with that particular element being more of a sour, unsettling kick at the end. Which, again, wouldn't be entirely out of keeping with some of Rowling's earlier stuff: Consider how the first chapter of the first book begins with rather on-the-nose social satire and ends somewhere entirely different, all the while keeping roughly the same atmosphere. I feel like a sort of warped reprise of that same mode of writing would have been interesting, at the very least, but pulling off that sort of intentional tonal dissonance is quite the balancing act, and the last book makes a lot of... *odd* choices to begin with.
Janne Kirjasniemi on Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Afterword
at 09:20 on 26-05-2016 - link
am not sure how you spin "Harry's descendant becomes the next dark lord" in a way which is whimsical and sardonic rather than just grim
Perhaps "the dark lord" part is a aesthetic and he is actually just a really fun guy. Then the sardonic part could be how a more capable candidate for the position of the Minister of Magic loses, because the Dark Lord is just so much more popular and wins every debate with well timed magical guitar shredding (he has put his wand into the guitar). A kind of a Salieri-Mozart dynamic. The whimsical part could do with grandpa Harry's disapproval of his descendants shenanigans, until he is able to remember a part of his rotten childhood, that actually brings back good memories and has something to do with muggle rock music he heard when he was a child. In a whimsical way.
- Sister Magpie on Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Afterword at 21:02 on 24-05-2016 - link FWIW, you could totally read the ending of the book now and decide Voldemort lives on and Harry's descendant could be the next dark lord.
Robinson L on Educating Vitae
at 15:00 on 24-05-2016 - link
I checked this one and its sequels out, along with Fallen and The Morganville Vampires after the TeXt Factor Halloween special. I read the final book, book 6, a year or two ago, and I recently started listening to the spin-off Bloodlines series on audiobook. So, I obviously liked it—quite fun on the whole, with occasional forays into really fun. I'd put the series somewhere above Fallen, but below The Morganville Vampires in terms of my enjoyment/appreciation.
(I also encouraged one of my sisters to read the first book, and while she enjoyed it, she loathed Lissa and all the Moroi, because she considered them useless in their dependence upon the dhampir guardians.)
I broadly agree with your case for the themes the book explores, and I'd definitely say it carries over to the rest of the series—and the first two spin-off books, at least. Interestingly enough, despite dealing with these fairly weighty issues in a moderately intelligent manner, the books still come across to me as light beach reading; I still haven't worked out whether I think that works towards their favor or against it.
Book 2—where my sister bailed on the series—is a downgrade in quality from the first, as there's less stuff going on through most of it. However, it rallies at the end with an exciting climax, and one which redress one of my major disappointments with the climax to the first.
Book 3 is a return to form, and a solid addition to the series.
Book 4 is, in my opinion, the best of the lot: here we see Rose's internal struggle at its most intense, and Rose herself at her very lowest point in the series. I said the books feel like beach reading, but there was a point about two thirds of the way through the fourth book which got me right in the heart, and I was impressed with the depth of emotional reaction Mead managed to evoke. Plus, the Lissa subplot was pretty cool, and the resolution was both awesome and unexpected.
Book 5 like Book 3, is a really solid addition to the series, though it feels like a bit of a downgrade coming off the high of Book 4. Still, it's got a lot going for it, and while the big plot points themselves aren't to surprising, I wasn't expecting when or how they would play out.
Book 6 was a little disappointing, not because it did anything really bad, just that it wasn't quite as exciting as I would have liked from the final installment. While I like that the climax doesn't revolve around a big fight with an Arc Villain for the series, I could have done with something a little more epic. Plus, the villain turned out to be a very likable character I'd pegged early on as being either a villain or a victim, because they didn't fit into any other story slot. Just when I was beginning to think this was just a cool supporting character, it's revealed that person was a villain after all. Sigh.
I agree with you about Natalie, poor thing.
As I recall, the school principal is, indeed, a strict but ultimately reasonable authority figure throughout the series, whom Rose misreads because Rose's and Lissa's behavior often brings out the “strict” part of her character. Actually, that's a bit of a running theme in the series.
From what I remember of the first book, Mia does degenerate from understandable antagonist to Designated Villain, part of which involves her engaging in sex to influence someone else's behavior—rather than for love, in contrast to both Rose and Lissa* over the course of the books—and that's not good. It's probably no big spoiler to reveal that Mia is rehabilitated later in the series, but as I recall, it's a case of a reformed villain rather than both sides admitting they shared the blame equally.
*I think Lissa slept with her then-boyfriend—Mia's current boyfriend—before the events of the book because she was young and horny, which is still more “legitimate” than sleeping with someone because so they'll help you out in your evil scheme.
I also felt like the series as a whole has a disappointing lack of follow-through regarding some of the more unpleasant aspects of Moroi society. The hypocrisy over feeders (I think that is the common parlance “neutral” term) is brought up at times, but nobody ever really tries to do anything to resolve it, so the overall message comes across as a helpless shrug, “too bad, what'cha gonna do?”
Furthermore, the books never really acknowledge how immensely f*cking scary the Moroi's compulsion magic is, and how, in a more realistic universe, even well meaning people like Lissa would probably wind up using it for much more destructive purposes than undermining their rivals' popularity; kind of like a miniature version of the One Ring. (One character in the Bloodlines novels is suitably freaked by it, but this is explicitly depicted as part of their irrational distrust of Moroi and magic in general. Not once so far have we seen how easily compulsion could be abused to disastrous effect. I know Robert Jordan had a lot of flaws as a writer, but his characters knew to treat that kind of power with the respect and suspicion it deserves.)
The Moroi's institutional aristocracy and monarchy (even if it's a constitutional monarchy) also strikes me as pretty disturbing, but no one even suggests there might be something wrong with that one.
I think Mead does a better job of keeping Rose's faults and flaws as a character foregrounded, even with Rose providing first person narration the whole time, while still keeping her a likable character. One of the fascinating things in the later books is the way Rose gets into relationships which we know because of narrative convention are never going to work out, and which she has some misgivings over, but which she talks herself into anyway, sometimes multiple times, and the boy in question is so enamored of her that he keeps holding out the hope she'll commit to him for real. It's very unfair of Rose, and depicted as such, but also as completely understandable given what she's going though. It's like a total deconstruction of the Evil Girlfriend Who Toys With Innocent Boys' Emotions archetype, without ever hitting you over the head with what it's doing. (Indeed, I could be prepared to believe Richelle Mead didn't set out to explode this stereotype at all, and just happened to do so in the course of writing about a young woman caught up in an Epic Tragic Romance trying as best she can to navigate a swathe of feelings and emotions which she doesn't fully understand.)
The older lover thing is a trope, and being a trope it isn’t quite as problematic as a 17-24 relationship would seem to me in real life.
Me too—although on the other hand, one of the best matched couples I know got together at ages 17 and 30, and they're still going strong 8 years later. Funny old world.
On a tangential note, it's really weird to consider that I'm now several years older than Dimitri in the books. The way he acts, I guess I always tend to think of him as being in his early 30s, rather than early 20s.
I must also confess that I've got limited tolerance for plots along the lines of "you alone have the one special magic long thought lost or legendary, which will be the key to saving the universe".
For what it's worth, we meet a couple of other spirit users over the course of the series. Also, while Lissa's magic is, indeed, critical to the plot, it is not the key to saving the universe, as that's not really what the books are about.
We learn a lot more about Strigoi in later books, too, and they do indeed come across a lot like Buffy-esque Vampires: pretty much the same personalities, and they seem to have some sort of feelings for other people, and yet still somehow evil and uncaring, and the juxtaposition of the two is about as awkward as you would expect. (I fantasized while reading those sections that the Moroi and the Guardians might just be mistaken, and Strigoi, while alien and with very different priorities, might not be actually evil and uncaring. No such luck, sadly.)
If you do decide you want to continue reading the series, don't get attached to the psi-hounds. They get dropped so completely in later books that I was shocked to see them when the film version of the first book came out, as I'd literally forgotten they existed.