You can see the most recently posted comments here, 24 at a time; or, if you prefer, we've got a news feed...
Robinson L on The Sequel of Shannara
at 03:00 on 11-10-2017 - link
No worries, Cheriola.
I didn't necessarily expect something as generally light-hearted as Xena. I guess something tonally similar to Buffy is what I envisioned, taking the problems seriously, but with a lot of self-aware humor. From your description, Wil sounds like potentially a really fun character - like Xander but minus the creep factor.
All in all, you make the show sound pretty tempting. I don't terribly mind low-budget production values, and I can definitely get behind more majestic landscape shots of New Zealand. Teenage romance drama isn't my favorite, but in terms of annoying plot devices it's pretty low on my list (unless it's coupled with, say, "conflict between the romantic partners which only exists for plot-driven reasons and could be cleared up in three minutes if they would just sit down and talk things out," which isn't confined just to teen romance dramas).
Cheriola on The Sequel of Shannara
at 10:48 on 10-10-2017 - link
Sorry for not answering earlier, Robinson.
The show isn't really as cheerfully self-parodying in the way Xena was - there's way too much death and gory violence going on for that - but it feels sort of like Buffy in that the world-threatening drama is played completely seriously but the younger characters still occasionally make snarky comments about it as a coping strategy. Wil especially has this counterintuitive personality mix of being naive, nice to people, and none-too-bright, while at the same time managing to be a deadpan snarker and quite genre savvy about some particularly silly tropes. It shouldn't work, but somehow it does. (I've recently rewatched the first few seasons of Buffy, and Wil reminds me a lot of teenage Xander - except without all the seriously annoying parts, i.e. the latter character's more problematic attitudes about girls he's attracted to, occasional nastiness to cope with being unpopular or jealous, the near-constant jokeyness even when it really isn't the right time, and the sense that the self-depreciating humor masks a lingering shame about 'insuficient masculinity' / the fact that Buffy was a lot stronger than him.)
Sadly there isn't very much Allanon-Wil interaction beyond the first few episodes, as Wil gets sent off on his quest with Amberle and Eretria at the end of episode 4, while Allanon stays back in the elf kingdom.
As for Wil refusing the Call... That doesn't last long, thankfully. And after Allanon has convinced him that magic is indeed real and in his blood, he has even more good reason not to want to fulfill his destiny. ("So, I'm supposed to use Elfstones I don't have, to protect a princess, who doesn't wanna be found, from a demon horde bent on laying waste to the world. And even if I succeed - which is entirely... doubtful - my life could still be doomed, because magic will have fried my brain.") But at first he just sort of temporarily resigns himself to go along with Allanon - partly because "go find the druid" was his mother's dying wish, partly because Allanon initially tempts him by saying that he could teach him the kind of magic that could have saved his mother's life, but ultimately one gets the feeling it's really mainly because Allanon just doesn't take no for an answer and Wil doesn't have much psychological resistance to this sort of treatment. After that, for a while it's just that he and Aberle are almost constantly threatened (Allanon is gravely injured, sparking Wil's sense of healer's responsibility) and there's no-one else around to help her, so walking away is not an option. But as soon as they are safely back in the palace, Wil says goodbye to Amberle, basically tells Allanon to go screw himself (Allanon accepts this for once - probably because he knows the youngsters have emotionally bonded by this point), and he even leaves the Elfstones behind with Allanon. He really only finally commits to the quest to give Amberle emotional support, because most of the elven council still won't believe the whole "we are all going to be massacred by demons" thing, and they are insultingly dismissive of Amberle as the candidate to go on this world-saving quest.
Wil: "Magic and demons are real. I have seen them with my own eyes. Quite frankly, all I wanna do is run away. Then, I met Amberle. She might have been frightened, but she is also incredibly brave. She didn't have to come back. But she did. For all of YOU - the people she loves. If I had to put my faith in anyone to save the Four Lands, it would be her."
*goes to stand with Allanon* "...Don't even say it."
Allanon: *handing back the Elfstones* "I think these belong to you."
(There also was a very brief scene with a weird young man they'd just rescued (he's a seer, but Wil doesn't know that) trying to tell Wil that "something terrible will happen" if Wil doesn't go with Amberle to Safehold, but it's not clear if Wil believed him at all.)
The show really is worth watching (second season is just starting now), as long as you have a certain level of tolerance for teenage romance drama and the kind of "narm charm" that inevitably comes with a low-budget LotR (the occasional anachronistically modern-looking outfit; those Spock ears...). Though I was really understating the visual quality of the show above: For a TV show without the mass audience of Game of Thrones, the CGI, monster make-up, and elven court sets really look amazing. Plus, lots of pretty landscape shots, of course, this being produced in New Zealand.
- Arthur B on Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos and Its Imitators, Part 1 at 21:51 on 09-10-2017 - link That much makes sense, and of course Leiber was a contemporary of Lovecraft - but at the same time I taste more than a bit of the 1970s Leiber in the actual writing. Given the long gestation time I can't believe that the story we finally got in 1976 resembles especially closely the story as it would have stood were it finished in 1937.
- Arthur B on Agent Cooper, You Are Far Away at 21:37 on 09-10-2017 - link I have heard it both ways and suspect there may be a local dialect thing going on there, but have corrected for the time being.
- Robinson L on Agent Cooper, You Are Far Away at 20:00 on 09-10-2017 - link Not much to add to this article, not yet having wandered onto the Twin Peaks bandwagon, but I thought I should point out that from what I hear, the word “transgendered” is a slur, and the correct term is just “transgender.” I haven’t looked into the background, but I assume because “transgender” is what someone is, whereas adding the “ed” implies something being done to the person in question.
- Ashimbabbar on Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos and Its Imitators, Part 1 at 18:01 on 09-10-2017 - link concerning the Leiber story, according to wikipedia it was begun in 1937 but not finished until 1976 ( talk about artistic dedication ! wait, no, I believe he did write some other stuff in between ), so there's a point in including it with stories of HPL's contemporaries
- Bill on Lumley Makes a Psychomess of It at 17:50 on 07-10-2017 - link I'll take your word for it that this is a terrible book, but "Monstrous Evil and Savage Lust Pulsate in the Depths of the Horror Machine" is a classic of its genre.
- Arthur B on That's the Hell of It... at 11:03 on 04-10-2017 - link Same here, it's a great funeral song.
- Craverguy on That's the Hell of It... at 01:05 on 04-10-2017 - link I own this on Blu-ray. I plan to have them play "The Hell of It" at my funeral.
- Arthur B on 1984 for the 21st Century at 10:39 on 03-10-2017 - link I contemplated whether or not to put this one in the Halloweenpalooza daily article grind but then realised that the entire concept is about wearing other people's lives like a costume, so there's that. :)
- Arthur B on I Wish I May, I Wish I Might, Find Someone Who'll Translate This Right at 16:42 on 01-10-2017 - link I believe all English versions of The Last Wish were done by Danusia Stok, though apparently from the third book in the series onwards she was replaced by someone else.
Craverguy on I Wish I May, I Wish I Might, Find Someone Who'll Translate This Right
at 15:30 on 01-10-2017 - link
I know this review is old, Arthur, and you might not even have your copy of this book anymore, but I was wondering if you know the name of the translator for the edition you read.
I'm thinking of picking it up on Amazon (my local library has it, but with a months-long waiting list), but I won't bother if the translation is the same hack job you wrote about.
Arthur B on Kickstopper: First as Farce, Then as Tragedy
at 00:45 on 16-09-2017 - link
Surprise update on this: Matt Sprange put out an update on the Kickstarter today announcing that Mongoose now considered Ultraviolent to be a dead project.
Ultraviolent was going to be a mission pack written by James Wallis, who after being extremely late delivering the core rules on this project and the main product of his own Alas Vegas Kickstarter campaign seems to have remained true to form by being extremely late delivering Ultraviolent, to the point where Mongoose have given up hope on it being delivered at all.
I'm kind of floored by Sprange talking about being unable to get in contact with Wallis except through an intermediary, but on the other hand he's also shown similarly extremely avoidant behaviour in dealing with his Alas Vegas backers so it perhaps isn't so surprising. The line about "a ridiculous situation for grown adults to be in" kind of says it all, really.
Arthur B on I, Whedon
at 13:14 on 31-08-2017 - link
It feels timely to dust this one off since this wave just broke.
To be fair, by this point even the Torygraph kind of gets that Joss isn't as good an ally as he proclaims himself to be. But it kind of feels like a sea change has happened. Whedonesque has shuttered, and whilst the decision to close isn't overtly connected to the open letter the fact that they suggest donations to a C-PTSD charity when Kai's open letter talks about how she had to work through that kind of points to it being a factor.
There's separating the art from the artist, of course, and more power to you if you feel able to do that, but Whedon's proclamation of his woke bae nature isn't art, it's self-promotional rhetoric, and whilst the fact that someone has behaved badly and caused harm to others shouldn't in principle have any effect on the validity of their arguments - truth is truth even if Hitler is saying it - it's hard to look past the hypocrisy, especially when his feminist talking points are so tied to the image of himself he promotes.
You don't get to claim the brownie points for being One Of The Good Guys unless you actually are a good guy, and Dan's diagnosis of Whedon with Nice Guy Syndrome in retrospect seems dead on.
Robinson L on The Sequel of Shannara
at 15:00 on 30-08-2017 - link
Cheriola, from your description, it sounds like the show’s producers are playing fast and loose with the backstory – note that, according to the review, Will is supposed to be the grandson, not son, of the hero of the first book. Given the creative liberties they’ve apparently taken with the source material (to the show’s advantage, it sounds), why not do the same for the set up?
I have to say, you’re making this TV show sound mighty tempting. The self-aware humor sounds kind of like the deliberately anachronistic comedy of e.g., Xena. The female characters sound pretty great, Allanon sounds like a potentially compelling character, and a well-adjusted, non-stereotypical, non macho male lead is refreshing.
The dynamic between Allanon and Will sounds pretty entertaining also, potentially. However, when you say Will “sees no reason why he, random dude without relevant skills, should be called upon to save the world from demons,” that sounds like maybe he’s one of the protagonists who’s constantly trying to get out of taking part in the story, which is one of the most annoying tropes in fiction. Is that Will’s angle, or is it more that he thinks it’s inane but he’s going along with it anyway?
Robinson L on The Narration of Shannara
at 18:00 on 12-08-2017 - link
The dystopian angle isn't too bad. More regimentation and indoctrination and generally restricted freedoms than, say, the North American Indian Schools of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some characters die, but it's not like they're in The Hunger Games, or anything. And the society isn't particularly oppressive towards non-binary people, it's pretty much an equal opportunity oppressor.
I confess I didn't completely understand what the story was doing with the non-binary characters, but my best recollection from when I listened to it a year ago was that the protagonist's treatment was treated as more discordant than traumatizing. That might just be because I missed some undertones which actual non-binary readers would more likely pick up on, though.
I've never read Anne Rice, and even if I had, I'm afraid I'm the last you want person to ask for a consultation on prose. It has to be damn near ultraviolet for me to recognize - and that's just in print form. I'm not sure if I've ever noticed bad prose in audio format. Sorry.
Cheriola on The Narration of Shannara
at 04:26 on 12-08-2017 - link
Hm... How bad a dystopia are we talking about here? I don't mind reading such in principle, as long as it's not relentlessly depressing (like The Handmaid's Tale) or specifically designed to make the life of LGBT characters even worse than in real life, because the author thinks that tragedy is the only way to inspire sympathy. I'm reading the phrase "government-run Cropcamp" in a review right now, and I'm thinking: Gulag? Or just like when my mother had to work a few weeks as a farmhand / harvest helper as part of her non-agriculturally-related university studies, which no-one liked, but which served to make the whole class bond quickly?
Also, I'm reading the phrases "poetic style" and "flowery language" and I get flashbacks to Wraeththu... I have a relatively low tolerance for purple prose. How bad is it, compared to, say, an Anne Rice novel?
Robinson L on The Narration of Shannara
at 22:02 on 11-08-2017 - link
I'm curious, which book with a non-binary protagonist were you talking about?
Took me a day or two to remember the title: it was “Lizard Radio” by Pat Schmatz. Creative world-building, even though dystopias aren’t exactly my favorite, but I wasn’t enamored with the narrator, sorry to say.
Robinson L on Ferretnibble 3 - Two Different Frontiers, One Class, and Four Text Adventures
at 22:00 on 11-08-2017 - link
gay people - the last of which the Allies didn't even free but just put in another prison
Yikes, now that part I didn’t realize—that the gay people in the camps were imprisoned again by the Allied forces. Given what I know of the state of homophobia in the US and Britain at the time, it sadly doesn’t surprise, but I’m a little surprised I hadn’t heard about it before.
Good luck with your election next month.
Robinson: I call him that because according to Naomi Klein, it hurts his brand to insinuate he’s not the one calling the shots.
Cheiola: Uh... Are you talking about Trump or about Bannon here? If it's Trump, I agree. Though I'm not so sure it's Pence pulling his strings.
Sorry, I meant the President. The one with the atrocious hairdo. The United States’ answer to Silivio Berlusconi (to paraphrase a friend of a friend).
Klein also named Bannon when she gave an example of a hypothetical puppetmaster. I just went with Pence because I try to avoid palace intrigue on principle, and from my limited knowledge he seemed a more plausible candidate than Bannon—I wasn’t trying to be particularly serious with it.
Robinson: As for the article itself, I had to stop for a minute when I reached this part:
Cheriola: Because you agree, disagree, or because your eyes glazed over at the string of incomprehensible terminology, like mine did? ;P
Definitely the third. I brought up Orwell because that sentence is a textbook example of the kind of unintelligible intellectual gibberish he criticized in “Politics and the English Language.”
I don't remember 1984 being that bad. Though of course I read that in a German translation. (In highschool, as part of the obligatory "anti-Fascism innoculation trifecta" of 1984, Fahrenheit 400-something, and Brave New World.
I didn’t find it bad—I just found the totalitarian society it explored the only interesting character in the story.
I’m a little surprised you were taught 1984, though, considering Orwell was fairly explicit about specifically satirizing Stalinism.
Also, his free use of weapons is really, really silly in a country with stringent gun control, even for someone who might believably have connections to Russian illegal arms dealers. I laughed my ass off when he used that rocket launcher - within line of sight of an office building of the federal police right across the river.
I’m pretty sure that part would have raised eyebrows even here in gun-crazy USA.
This actually brings up one of my biggest criticisms of the first season—an inevitable result, perhaps, of two of the showrunners being primarily action movie directors. While the protagonists aren’t supposed to be saints or anything, one of the themes of the show is about exploring the best in humanity, and in one of the later episodes, Jonas explicitly cites ordinary humans’ proclivity for killing each other* as something which makes sensates their ethical superior. And then we have sequences where not one, but two of the main characters slaughter upwards of a dozen nameless minions, and we, as viewers, are clearly not supposed to experience the merest twinge of cognitive dissonance about it. (Sure, Wolfgang is a “monster” for taking it too far, but Capheus, whose actions are slightly less harsh than Wolfgang’s, was entirely reasonable in the context of the show.)
*Conveniently ignoring the fact that most human beings are not killers, and, if not outright sociopaths, have to be pushed to some extreme limit or subjected to practically cult-level indoctrination before they can kill another person.
the creators have made it look like Wolfgang has some sort of fetish for women of colour, which gives his budding romance with Kala a bad aftertaste. (Yes, there is a large Turkish minority in Berlin. But most of them would not run around unveiled or even naked in an unisex bathhouse.
Oh man, I completely misread that scene at first. Because it was a unisex bathhouse, and we didn’t get a super good look at the woman’s face, I thought she was supposed to be Kala doing the sensate visiting thing (a bit of “they all look alike” racism on my part, I guess), and I couldn’t understand why it was never brought up again.
From what I've read, the plot-point about Chicago 'ghetto' hospitals refusing to accept gunshot wound victims is actually true. (They don't have the funding to keep a 24/7 emergency team of trauma surgeons on staff.) But having that injustice presented the way it was, by an African-American nurse no less, was a really bad idea.
Unfortunately, I can easily believe they have that policy; it’s the same fucked-up prioritizing which leads to atrocities like the Flint Water Crisis. But yes, having the black nurse and cop partner defend the practice (“what are you going to do if that kid grows up and kills a
real personcop?”), while the white police officer is the only one to push against, it is hella reprehensible. Not to mention the fact that even he never questions or challenges the practice in general or the mindset or social structure behind it—he just argues for making an exception.
Clearly Martin Luther King Jr.’s maxim “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” does not apply for the purposes of this subplot.
I came away with the impression that Daniela's endangerment was just the spark that finally made Hernando face up to what had been bothering him for a long time: That Lito is hiding him like something to be ashamed about. And that's why he broke up with him.
That’s certainly a more palatable interpretation. I guess I’d have to watch that part again to see if it makes sense to me—if I’m wrong, it would hardly be the first time. Or the hundredth.
Lito came out for Hernando (and for himself, to finally stop leading a double life), not for Daniela.
I dunno. To me, part of the reasoning seemed to be, “she’s our friend, you should help her.” And obviously, I’m all for friends helping each other out when and as they can—it’s one of the things I love about the show—but I read it as saying it was Lito’s responsibility to do so. Again, that could’ve been my mistake.
And as far as I remember, Daniela does take responsiblity - she's voluntarily resigning herself to a lifetime of domestic abuse - to make up for her stupidity and invasiveness. It's what redeems her character. (Well, that and the fact that hating her would be like kicking a puppy.)
I agree it’s a redemptive gesture, but it also puts her friends in the position of knowing she’s going through that domestic abuse for their sake. It was also a rash decision, without even attempting to work things out with Lito and Hernando. (If I’m remembering correctly, while they’re angry with her, they don’t stop speaking to her or anything, so the three of them could have tried to come up with a plan together.) To me, it came across more like a self-centered—though not selfish—attempt just to have the problem fixed and absolve herself of guilty feelings than a mature bid to repair the damage she caused.
If my reading of the situation as presented in the show were accurate, and the implication was indeed that it’s Lito’s responsibility to fix the problem caused by Daniela agreeing to marry Joaquin (rather than something he does out of friendship or solidarity), that to me further implies an erasure of Daniela’s responsibility, not only for the phone debacle, but also for creating the situation where—in this logical framework—Lito is obligated to step in and make things right. Sorry, that looks complicated even to me, but I’ve turned it over several times in my mind and that’s the best way I’ve come up with to explain what I mean.
Re: orgy scene
The Sensates themselves enjoy it and presumably only people already aroused get pulled into the clusterfuck (Capheus wasn't in the mood so he only got a little physical backwash, not the full stereo mindmeld - I like to head-canon him as asexual, for his reaction in that scene and a few other reasons), so it's not exactly non-consensual.
Well, just being aroused doesn’t count as consent, so I found that scene disconcerting even on account of the sensate participants (which certainly isn’t to imply that you’re wrong about Hernando or Amanita).
I found it best not to take that sequence too literally, and view it more on an emotional and symbolic level; which I realize requires a certain amount of denial on my part, but I think it’s the best way to interpret it.
Unfortunately, I doubt the showrunners share your sensibility about Capheus being asexual—I’m almost certain he’s not aromantic, given the ship-teasing we get between him and Sun later in the season.
It should have been enough to show her having been diagnosed with depression, and maybe refer back more indepth to her blink-and-you-miss-it suicide attempt scars that were already shown in an early episode. But that probably wouldn't have been enough for most neurotypical people in the audience to feel sorry for her and retroactively realign their mental picture of her to cut her some slack.
I’m afraid you’re probably right. Though I wonder if it could have worked for her to have depression, and a tragic history, but to make clear there was no direct cause and effect relationship between the two.
The one guy just stood out for being memorable for all the wrong reasons. KSR is just not very good at compelling characterisation.
That was my conclusion, and why I need a break before I’ll be prepared to give Aurora a try.
I actually think his characterization is okay, just not sufficiently compelling to keep me engrossed and invested through a mammoth-sized book whose plot progression is generally in the continental drift range. If the books were shorter, or the plot moved quicker and without the boring asides, I’d probably find them a lot more engaging.
They're just not... much fun to be around, or even fun to loathe. They're just very ordinary. Which may be the point, since the books are usually about how communities deal with their problems, not about singular heroes, like in more libertarian scifi.
That may be so, but even in communitarian stories, it’s possible to have characters who are vivid or eccentric, or otherwise compelling, without making them superhuman.
There is an audio version of Chill and Grail, yes.
Okay, well, if I can acquire those audio versions through my library system, maybe I’ll give ‘em a listen some day. I’m not curious enough to go out and buy them.
I didn’t hate the characters in Dust, but I also found them kinda boring, for whatever reason.
In the real world, all we can hope for is to break the cycle that makes kids turn into sociopaths in the first place - i.e. removing child abuse (including parental beatings), severe childhood trauma (wars etc.), and doing our best to remove the various social oppressions and otherisations that lead to partial sociopathy … Besides that, removing social structures that inherently encourage sociopathic behaviour (e.g. shareholding companies, or badly supervised prisons, or the CIA) would help a lot.
Well yeah, but if we achieve that—and I don’t think it’s impossible—we’ve completely changed the way the society functions anyway. Not a total utopia by any means, but maybe close from where we’re standing.
If you want, I can do a whole song and dance routine on why Socialist states are doomed to always end up with a dictatorial government, no matter how well-meaning the people who set up the system were originally.
No need. There’s a reason I favor a decentralized, anarchic model for societies. You can’t have social equity without democracy, and you can’t have democracy if your society is too big for every member to be meaningfully informed about the needs and life situations of every other member. (Apparently, US Founding Father Alexander Hamilton agreed with this assessment, which is why—Hamilton being an elitist prick—he favored a vast republic where participatory democracy would be impossible.) Plus there’s the fact that states by definition are institutions of organized political violence, which in practice always means warfare—actual or potential—abroad, and oppression at home.
And the reason for that ultimately is ordinary, personal, I-want-the-best-for-my-family type greed that almost everyone is guilty of because it's just human nature.
I dunno. I mean, that’s certainly true, but there’s also the argument that the best possible safety net is one which applies to everybody, without exception. If I want the best for my family, then logically, I ought to be working to ensure that everyone’s family has a decent standard of living—enlightened self-interest, if you will. I think a society organized around that principle would have a lot of human nature on its side.
As for religion, I’m familiar with the history of co-optation, and being put to use for oppressive purposes, but that’s only part of the story.
I just don’t see these oppressive tendencies as being inherent to religiosity in the same way I see them in, e.g., monarchism or stateism.
So if it were only hostility to organized religion, I’d find that understandable. But a lot of progressives and radicals seem to view any belief in the supernatural or religious practices—including those of native African or indigenous belief systems around the world, which don’t have the same history as organized religions—as being either inherently oppressive, or misguided superstitions which they’d grow out of if they only learned better. (Thinking of stuff like Star Trek and Anne McCaffrey’s “Pern” series.) It’s that kind of blanket, hardline anti-religiosity I can’t quite comprehend.
Incidentally Grail suggests a similar system for choosing political leaders: There's a citizen lottery for who gets to be a candidate, then a democratic election to weed out the truly unsuitable. And it's your civic duty to serve your term as best as you can if your number gets called up. You don't get to opt out. Basically, it works much like jury duty in the US.
Interesting. Graeber also talks about lottery systems as historically being the democratic alternative to elections, which he claims are an aristocratic institution.
To clarify: I don't think the author meant to call for the enslavement of men
Oh no, I didn’t get that impression. From your description, it sounded like an unfortunate implication of the author not thinking through the premise fully … Or it would be an unfortunate implication if the people in question were literally any other demographic.
The book's seeming condemnation of the concept of "the revolution will not be civilized", I can't excuse, though. Not when it's a rebellion against slavery.
Sorry, I’m not sure I followed that. Are you saying she depicts a civil revolution or a nasty one? Because I’m all for rebellions against slavery, but the accounts I’ve heard of, say, Nat Turner’s Rebellion here in the States, or the Haitian Revolution, get pretty gut-churning at times.
Unfortunately, this recommendation of "make up already" requires ignoring that the colonized population has very real and serious grievances that need to be addressed, even if the major atrocities happened generations ago. It's not okay to treat it as a conflict of equals, nor of people who are equally "in the right".
Yeah, that’s a phenomenon you see at work a lot here in the States among well meaning liberals, including directed at Palestinians.
Cheriola on The Sequel of Shannara
at 20:57 on 11-08-2017 - link
Having just re-read this article and the one for the first book, and then re-watched the first double-episode of the show, I'm also struck how up-front the show is about Allanon's manipulative streak and the main hero's less-than-heroic nature (I don't want to use the shaming term "whimpyness".)
Like, there's actually a character (an ex-lover bitter about being abandoned) who outright calls Allanon a "puppet master who's manipulating innocent lives as he sees fit" (to his face) in the pilot, just to make clear to the audience not to fully trust the guy. (Even though he's otherwise presented as almost the Only Sane Man in a world where the entire younger generation irrationally refuses to believe magic is real / still existant, the whole Ellcrys-protecting-the-world-from-demons thing is more than "folklore", or that that the Chosen really were murdered by a demon infiltrator, not a Gnomish attack that should be answered with war.)
Also, Will is refreshingly self-aware and unashamed of his non-macho personality, which seems to contrast with what you wrote about his father's character development in the previous book. (E.g. when Amberle tries to stroke his ego, after he's told her of his helplessness when his mother was dying, by calling him brave during the demon attack that follows their initial meeting, he answers with self-depreciating humor: "Don't mistake terror for bravery." Even though that's manifestly untrue in this situation: While Will was against going to investigate a scream without Allanon and they both would have been dead if not for Allanon's timely rescue, Will did have the instict to push the unarmed Amberle behind him and pull his little dagger to try and defend both of them, even if this attempt was obviously futile.) It's not that Will presents himself as a coward, á la Rincewind, nor even that he's refusing The Call because he's comfortable in his life, á la Frodo. (Will grew up being bullied for his elven heritage and he lived in a hovel in the middle of nowhere, with his mother's death being implied to have happened because they were so far away from civilization. He'd already decided to upend his life to move to a city and get an education, when Allanon derails those plans.) It's just that he never had any aspirations to become a fighter/mage, and sensibly sees no reason why he, random dude without relevant skills, should be called upon to save the world from demons. Which totally makes sense for someone who was planning to become a healer, but still seems unusual for the protagonist of an otherwise cliché-riddled book presumably written primarily for a young male audience. So was that part of the book characterization, or was the apprentice healer backstory in the book just there to make a plot point later?
Will also spends most of his early interaction with Allanon basically calling him 'full of shit' on both the issue of magic being real and his insistence that Will should throw away his life to save the world because that's what his blood / destiny says he must. Allanon, in turn is literally like "Why did I have to be dealt this Shannara?". The relationship between those two is so far from the traditional respectful-to-reverential mentor/hero relationship in this genre (e.g. Frodo / Gandalf or even Luke / Yoda), that it made me wonder if this was already in the book as part of the author's few glimmerings of originality. Or was it just added by the TV show writers for the sake of comedy and modernism? (Will and the other young characters also talk mostly like modern people, with Will in particular frequently using irony / snark to cope with his crappy destiny (he sometimes sounds like someone doing a rifftrax of a clichéed fantasy movie: e.g. Allanon: "I was tracking down descendants of the Shannara bloodline. They were being murdered." - Will: "...Of course they were."), which makes Allanon and his straight-out-of-LotR, portentous and purple language and almost total lack of humor stand out like some sort of fossil. (Which makes sense in the setting, but not really very much. He's only been in magical cryo-sleep for 30 years. It feels more like 300.)
At one point Allanon explains to Will that his father (whom Will only knows as a "sad, lonely, dead-beat drunk" whom the rest of his family refused to talk about after his premature death) was single-handedly responsible for saving the world and that "his courage and fortitude inspire [Allanon] to this day." And his failings of character later in life were apparently caused by "magic taking its toll". This does not seem to square with what you wrote about the protagonist in your review of The Sword of Shannara. Which makes me wonder if its just another lie to inspire / guilt-trip Will into fulfilling his part in Allanon's plans? On the other hand, Allanon tells another character (the aforementioned ex-lover, who apparently knew Will's father as well) "I'm not convinced he'll be the man his father was", with his tone implying that it's not meant as a compliment. Which sounds more like the show wants to retcon Will's father into really having been this great, tragic hero that Will fails to measure up against. This is made more confusing by the season's Big Bad (here called "Dagda Mor") getting the same backstory you described for the "Warlock Lord" in The Sword of Shannara, while at the same time being implied to have spent the last few hundred/thousand years locked away with the demons in the Forbidding. The older character's of Will's father's generation just vaguely refer to a "War of the Races" as the major conflict 30 years earlier.
- Arthur B on The Sequel of Shannara at 13:26 on 10-08-2017 - link It sounds like they have given themselves a lot of creative freedom with it, which is absolutely fine by me - everything you cite is a massive improvement over the book.
Cheriola on The Sequel of Shannara
at 00:30 on 10-08-2017 - link
I have watched the TV series based on this book now, and it's... actually surprisingly good?
Especially the female characters and their relationship with with Will seems to have been reworked to something much more positive and attractive to a female audience:
1. Amberle, Will, and Eretria are all young adults of about the same age, and no-one comes across as "child-like". Except maybe Will a little, due to growing up fairly isolated, he comes across rather clueless and unworldly in the beginning. Amberle has an elven boyfriend at the start of the show, just to make clear that she's not some sort of virgin Madonna symbol.
2. Eretria uses seduction to manipulate people, but it comes across more like a well-honed survival tactic, not like she actually means to go through with it. (E.g. shortly after meeting Will, she starts seducing him, but only to get his clothes off so she can steal the elf-stones. Once he's naked, she drugs him with a sleeping potion.) And when she describes Rover's habitual promiscuity, it seems like she's just exaggerating to shock Amberle. As far as I remember, the only instances of sex coming up are in the context of romance. There are no prostitutes.
3. The girls are much more competend fighters than Will is, which leads to the impression that the story is really Amberle's hero's journey, with Will having the usually female role of moral support (he's surprisingly kind and gentle for a young male character) with a magic superpower that's only useful in very specific circumstances. Most threatening situations that don't involve actual demons, he's the one needing protection. Also, don't know if this was in the book, but in the TV show, Eretria turns out to be just as destined to participate in the recreation of the Ellcrys as Amberle is, making it not feel like she's a third wheel. Rather, Will is the one team member who seems kind of surplus to the mission, if they didn't need him to operate the elf-stones.
4. There's a love triangle between the 3 protagonists, but eventually the girls bury most of their jealousy (and class-based animosity) and start to bond and maybe even develop an interest in each other, if you squint. When Amberle first seems lost to them, Eretria cries. And because the show spends a lot of time giving characterization to the girls, in the end it feels almost like Will is the prize (i.e. object) they're somewhat childishly squabbling about, until they get their act together in the end and do their duty for the good of the world. (Which involves giving up Will.)
5. I don't remember any twin witches.
6. I don't remember it ever being specified that only a woman can revive the Ellcrys. In fact, Amberle has to sneak into the competition for new candidates for the Chosen, since women aren't traditionally allowed. And she definetely doesn't know that she will have to sacrifice herself. She runs away from her duties in the beginning because she has visions of killing one of her fellow Chosen.
7. Will is played by an actor who looks like he belongs in a boy band, all slender and with long-ish hair, which just makes the whole show look even more like the main intended audience is supposed to be female. I distinctly remember thinking "It's nice they've hired someone who makes good eye-candy. But I cannot imagine any straight young man wanting to identify with this character. Turning off most of the standard audience for this genre seems kind of a bold move for this show."
8. From the way they were depicted in the show, I didn't make the connection between the Rovers and Romani at all. They seemed more like the typical scavanger gangs you get in post-apocalyptic movies like Mad Max. And they were not Eretria's family - just guys who bought her as a slave and raised her with lots of emotional abuse - and whom she desperately wants to get away from. (The Romani stereotype involves close-nit family ties.)
9. In the end of the first season, Will loses both Amberle and Eretria, because Eretria does the whole "You shall not pass!" heroic sacrifice to buy Amberle time to get back home. In the last scenes, Will starts trekking back to go save her, even though others tell him it's probably pointless to try. And he has a desperate breakdown when she almost dies during the Bloodfire ceremony earlier. So if they get together in the next season, it will feel less like he's just 'settling' for her because Amberle isn't in the picture anymore. If anything it would feel like they're both going on as best as they can after one corner of their triad just died.
Also, the production values aren't as low as I was expecting, after all. The few CGI monsters are noticably made by the same team that made The Lord of the Ring movies, and those movie productions have clearly left New Zealand with a lot of competetend stunt coordinators and extras who can do a decent battle scene. Shame only that the TV show couldn't afford to hire more than two dozen people for its 'epic' climactic war.
The show also goes out of its way to make Allanon seem something other than a Gandalf-expy. Primarily by hiring burly, half-Maori Manu Bennett for the role.
Cheriola on The Narration of Shannara
at 20:55 on 09-08-2017 - link
Thread-necromancy because I never bothered to answer this:
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.
Since I just mentioned the Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling in another comment: Book 4 of those (Shadow's Return) was one case where the narrative voice really grated for me.
Now, I really loved the first 3 books in that series, but then the author went on a decade-long break between those and the fourth book. To quickly recap for myself, I listened to some old audiobook version of the first 3 books (which was a little unprofessional, with a narrator with quite a strong American accent, who often couldn't maintain a natural sentence rhythm and who pronounced most of the fantasy names differently than I had in my head - but okay). Then I started the new audiobook of the 4th novel, which had a different narrator - one who made one of the main protagonists sound like a bratty teenager, which certainly had not been the case before. (Said character has a complicated characterization in the first 3 books where it comes to his physical and mental age, but most of the time he can be equated to a 21-year-old who was forced to grow up fast because he ran away from home at the age of 14. For a long stretch at the beginning of the series, the narrative makes you think he's 30+, because he's so unnaturally mature for his age. The firest audiobook narrator usually makes him sound like he's 40.) This new narrator just emphazided and kept reminding me of the author's choice to change this protagonist's characterization to display immature / unprofessional behaviour far more often and even in situations where it doesn't make any sense, which was just one of a long list of problems in that book that made this series continuation such a deep disappointment to me. (The scars from that are part of the reason I've become so reluctant to read/watch sequels of something I really liked in the first installment.)
If you ever read / listen to the Nightrunner series, do yourself a favour and stop after book 3. These days, there are more fantasy series with non-tragic, non-heteronormative heroes around - you don't have to stick with this one until after the author stopped giving a toss about good writerly craft (like not putting in tons of continuity errors and retcons) or genuinely progressive social politics. (Lots of what went wrong with Shadow's Return can probably be explained with the author having been introduced to yaoi by her fans and encouraged to adopt its genre conventions, which are not really compatible with Western intersectional feminism.)
I'm curious, which book with a non-binary protagonist were you talking about?
Cheriola on Ferretnibble 3 - Two Different Frontiers, One Class, and Four Text Adventures
at 18:38 on 09-08-2017 - link
Hm... from what I understand, the reason the Nazis didn't outlaw the Karl May books despite their representation of people of colour as possible heroes, is primarily childhood nostalgia overriding adult political opinions, not the idea that Germans should identify with the Native Americans in their struggle for "Lebensraum". Kind of the evil mirror verse version of when we say "Yes, the Indiana Jones movies are racist and sexist as hell... but they're just so much fun!"
Also, as far as I've read, the depiction of Native American culture in those books had really more to in common with 19th centruy ideas of what ancient germanic tribes were like, than with actual Native American cultures. (For example the blood brotherhood thing is much better established as a part of germanic culture, and there is only little evidence that it ever was a Native American custom.) So obviously, this version of the Noble Savage trope appealed to the Nazis, who were already big on making up myths about Germany's tribal origins.
Though I do think that the Communists had a point in that the Nazis' idea that they have the right to conquer new land for the German people no matter how many other, supposedly inferior people have to die to acchieve this goal, came from the same ideololgical source as the British / French colonisation drive, especially as justified through "Manifest Destiny", with Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians being viewed maybe not as outright "sub-human", but as a "dying race" that could and should be pushed aside and supplanted by White people.
Though while this analysis work as an explanation for why Karl may books appealed to Germans in the early 20th century, I think it's unfair to call him "the Cowboy mentor of the Fuehrer", as some Communist critics did. For his part, Karl May seems to have had an attitude not unlike that of many liberal Westerners who are looking from the outside onto the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: "Colonization has happened and can't be taken back. So try to get along and share the land." Hence the great central friendship of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. Unfortunately, this recommendation of "make up already" requires ignoring that the colonized population has very real and serious grievances that need to be addressed, even if the major atrocities happened generations ago. It's not okay to treat it as a conflict of equals, nor of people who are equally "in the right".