Monday, November 19, 2018

I have just started The Great Hunt

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started The Great Hunt, book #2 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
The Horn of Valere is found and travels south to Illian, yet the hunters and the hunted are each the other in this game. Darkfriends wearing white and those true to the Light in conflict despite the return of spring. As the
Prophesies of the Dragon state, "Let tears flow, O ye people of the world. Weep for your salvation."

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

I have just finished The Eye of the World

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished The Eye of the World, book #1 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
Thus have I entered a wondrous and truly vast world on a scale unseen since Tolkien. A world of Aes Sedai and Warders, Trollocs and Fades, lords, ladies, legends, and the Dark One bound by the Creator along with the rest of the Forsaken in Shayol Ghul until the end of time (more or less). Well met Rand al'Thor, Mat and Perrin, Egwene and Nynaeve. I look forward to the rest of your long journey and the unfolding of the Pattern.
The prophesies will be fulfilled. The Dragon is Reborn.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The last of the Many Worlds of Diana Wynne Jones

My father and I just finished Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones.

This is it. This was it. The last the of the Many Worlds of Diana Wynne Jones - Mistress of the Multiverse and Lady of Endless Surprises whom I put second only to J.R.R. Tolkien himself. And, as usual, Dad and I ended up pounding our fists against the bed and crying aloud in the purest shock as her utterly unpredictably yet expertly woven story wound from quiet beginning to thunderous end.

This is the end of over a decade of reading. Since elementary school my father and I have laughed and learned with her, always knowing that another Diana Wynne Jones book lay on the horizon - another book we knew with every fiber of our souls that was good and moral and a literal roller-coaster ride to read.

Look on the list every Fantasy book I have ever read and Jones can be found spanning the whole of it. Our tradition of reading at night dates back to when I was a toddler and now I am in Grad School. We have read War and Peace, Pride and Prejudice, most of Shakespeare's plays and so much else both of Non-fiction and Fantasy. Yet so many of our favorite reading moments to look back on occurred during a Diana Wynne Jones.

She knows every Fantasy stereotype, trope, and trick in the book – indeed, she lists them into an actual book called The Tough Guide to Fantasyland – and purposely subverts and/or circumvents them;  I once judged myself wise enough in the ways of Fantasy to be able to see through basically any trick. Well, Jones first shredded the banner of my pride, then reduced the plain it stood on to a smoking crater! The ability to surprise is her signature and she will tear down literary arrogance like hurricane winds will leaves! "We've been Jonesed!" was our agonized yet delighted yell whenever she got us (as she did at least twice each book). Yet she is also an excellent teacher and, while Dad and I never realized our dream of anticipating a Jones surprise before it happened
my signature line being "Well, since we've thought of it then it can't be right" – without her we would never have been able to barely anticipate Patricia A. McKillip as often as we do. Hence the students never matched the teacher, but we learned well.

Thank you, Diana Wynne Jones. Thank you so much for so many precious stories and reading memories. Our reading time and life itself will not feel the same knowing that we do not have a fresh world of yours to explore.

And Enchanted Glass was a stellar and most fitting ending; a classic that showed her ability to weave chaos and mind-bending complexity into an outwardly simple tale.

Happy days to Andrew Hope & Stashe, Aidan Cain, Tarquin, Rolf, Groil, Shaun, Trixie, and the unrelated Mr. and Mrs. Stock.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Great War that forged a Great Writer

I have always abstained from commenting on current real-world events here on Stars Uncounted but, today, I think I can make an exception. For a hundred years ago this day all quiet fell upon the western front as the armistice that ended the World War I was declared. 

A war that saw the service of a man who expressed admiration for his wife's willingness to marry a man with no job, little money, and no prospects except the likelihood of being killed in it. A man whose relatives were shocked when he elected not to immediately volunteer for the British Army, and who later recalled that "in those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage." But he did join, later writing that "Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife then ... it was like a death."

Today I pay tribute to the end of the First World War the only way possible on a Fantasy blog: by recognizing and paying homage to the particular service of the man I have described above. A man who fought in the trenches on the Western Front, most notably in the Battle of the Somme. A second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers named John Ronald Reuel Tolkien who, while recovering from an injury, began to work on what he called The Book of Lost Tales, beginning with The Fall of Gondolin.

One has heard (at length) my praises of the author of The Lord of the Rings before, so today I will simply leave one to contemplate on how Tolkien's experiences of the true horror of war influenced his writings. With that in mind, let us look at these now familiar quotes of his again.
  • "Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?...If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!"
  • “I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
  • “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”

And here are three that are new, the last perhaps the most poignant: 
  • "The most improper job of any man ... is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity."
  • "The greater part of the truth is always hidden, in regions out of the reach of cynicism."
  • "One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead."

Saturday, November 3, 2018

RuneScape Fishing level 99

Today I accomplished one of those rare decade long goals: I reached Fishing level 99 in RuneScape. It may seem petty/minor, but I put as much heart into this game as I do my books. Long hours and many years of dedication to anything always bear fruit in the end; or, in this case, fish.

Also and ironically, I gained that final level in the sunken remains of old Tutorial Island 🤣

Thursday, November 1, 2018

His Darker Mental State

To start, some reassuring news about BBC's upcoming  adaptation of His Dark Materials, straight from the mouth of Philip Pullman himself: "I’ve seen the scripts at every stage. I’ve made copious notes and comments and these have all been followed up. My function is to nudge it back on course if I think it’s going in the wrong direction. I think they will get it right, because they’ve got more time than the film-makers had."

"I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone,"
says Philip Pullman. "I’m just trying to stop
myself going mad."
However, while the BBC-related news may be reassuring, the article from which it comes is overall anything but. Sadly, it looks as though Pullman is giving in to a rampant cynicism that was absent in His Dark Materials yet is seriously affecting The Book of Dust. Recall now that he even confirmed such and directly it could have called "His Darker Materials" and that, as an author, "I’ve got older and perhaps more cynical, closer to despair...It is a darker book, I don’t deny that, but that’s the story that came to me and wanted to be told.”
Honestly, I thought that La Belle Sauvage made little contextual sense seeing as the political/general situation was nowhere near that bad in The Golden Compass. If it was then Lyra would have been kidnapped or killed years ago while running wild around Oxford. Indeed, the impression was not that the world was falling apart, nor was Lord Asriel a wanted man to the same degree. Recall that he was able to walk into and out of Oxford in The Golden Compass without the same life-threatening hassle as in La Belle Sauvage.

Why am I saying this now as opposed to before? Because this articles reveals to me more fully that, tragically, the great Philip Pullman is descending into a very dark, cynical, place and I, for one, has always viewed cynicism as merely a more sophisticated form of surrender; for cynics still fight for what they believe in – but they no longer truly believe. 

Yet a cynic is something the Lyra Silvertongue I and so many others know and love could never be...unless Pullman, as he seems to indicate, means to drag her down with him: "Pullman is famously an atheist, although he explores myth, legend and magic in all his writing and will do so particularly in the next book [of Dust], which sees Lyra losing her sense of magic as an adult and will be called The Secret Commonwealth."
Alas for the great Philip Pullman!