‘A Dance with Dragons’, George R.R. Martin, Retake

Hmmh, the next day after posting the previous on the ADwD I remembered that I completely ignored a few characters who were in it, most notable Arya. Don’t know why it turned out that way, but it sure did, so this is just a recap to remind myself and others that we do get a POV in Braavos.

Also, keeping in mind a few discussions I’ve had on online boards it would seem that the overall reaction is just as negative as the first moments predicted, at least amongst the hardcore fans. As said, my own opinion is quite different (rating this either the highest or second highest in the series after ‘A Feast for Crows’) but it is not a total surprise for me.

What does strike me interesting is that the online discussions have greatly increased the appeal of one character to me — namely, Rickard Stark. Much has made me think of his political skill in the game, and if I had the wish I might even put a few lines on paper (is that a valid expression online ?) on it.

There have also been a few interesting discussions on the panthea of the world, with questions arising when we consider the Seven, the Old Gods, the Drowned God, R’hllor (spelling is likely wrong), and the God of Many Faces and all the other gods there… Which of the religions can be valid, and which ones of them not ?

My good dear anti-theist self has hoped for most of the religions to come out as fallacies (entirely possible given the developments in the series) with people’s own skill (or luck, as one of my friends puts it) the driving force between success and failure. Be it as it may, it would be interesting to know more and to get the information that so many people complained about in ADwD — for information is, above all, good.

I’ve also considered going for Martin’s Hedge Knight series but seeing that they were not easily available on the Kindle (not at all, I think) I decided that the ‘Song for Lya’ would be one of the next things that I’ll read. Hope it will be on par with the best of his other works.

‘A Dance with Dragons’, George R.R. Martin

Ah, now, I believe I’ve come to the point where the fifth A Song of Ice and Fire book is discussed here. I finished it this Monday, and contrary to the majority of forum posts I’ve read by ASOIAF fans, I loved it. In terms of the series, I’d rank it second after ‘A Feast for Crows’ though I do understand that the slow-moving pace (much as in Caprica, if we want to compare it to something) made people dislike it especially if they hoped that wonderful things would be discussed here.

Note: I’ve added a quote from most POVs after the name of the character or just after the passage describing them. They are quotes *from* the POVs, and not necessarily by the people whose POV it was. 

I have to say that I was especially pleasantly surprised in the middle of the book when I unexpectedly came upon a POV by Jaime — which I had originally understood would not appear in book five as the story in King’s Landing and the south in general was told in book four.

 Jaime: “That’s how it always happens, my father says. So long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last. So we go on century after century, with us hating the Brackens and them hating us. My father says there will never be an end to it.”

Of the other point of view storylines, I found Jon and Barristan most likable in the book — Barristan’s episodes always made me think how they’d look on screen (especially given the memorable dismissal of him in the TV series which was so very well played — and which reminded that we should certainly have the chance to see more of Lord Beric Dondarrion on screen!).  For the first time I, however, felt that Daenerys was being a total idiot — her chapters were not the most pleasant to read and well, let’s just say that she could have done much better, which is a pity given that her developments in book three were reasonable. Then again, I did not appreciate her that much in ‘A Clash of Kings’ either so it might just be the same vibe echoing through.

Daenerys: “Man wants to be the king o’ the rabbits, he best wear a pair o’ floppy ears.”

Jon: “Laws should be made of iron, not of pudding.”

Barristan: “You kill men for the wrongs they have done, not the wrongs that they may do someday.”

Otherwise, Tyrion : less enjoyable (mostly because there was less jesting) chapters than previously but they achieved a new value — the first ones at least, where we saw him travel : quite brings to mind some other fantasy books with excellent descriptions on travels (and not only fantasy, for some of H. Sienkiewicz’s traveling chapters are also very well written). Tyrion definitely needs command of something though (if only sewers) so that he could make fun of others and amuse the readers…

Tyrion: “I think life is a jape. Yours, mine, everyone’s.”  ||

“There has never been a slave who did not choose to be a slave, the dwarf reflected. Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.”

Who else could we follow in ‘A Dance’? A wonderful chapter with Areo Hotah, who has to be one of the coolest guys in the area — I think there’s been a total of two chapters with him over the course of the series but I’d say that the two certainly outplay anything Daenerys has managed to offer. Especially since Areo’s view is somewhat closer to what ours might be, given that he is not a Westeros native.

Areo: “Tell me, Captain, is that my shame or my glory?” “That is not for me to say, my prince.” Serve. Protect. Obey. Simple vows for simple men. That was all he knew.

Then we had a chance of seeing Brandon in action again who seemed less well played than before, but might be just that my original dislike for his chapters kicked out — he certainly could be a bit more… innovative. Ask questions? Do something else besides what is *not* suggested? *sigh*

Bran: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never read lives only one.”

The Lannisters — I believe there was a chapter on Cersei which was nice again though she was a bit more active in ‘A Feast’. Well, with good reason — I’m sure that she’ll rise again. And a surprise Lannister POV as well – Kevan. About time we saw a bit more of that man, I would say. Very much liked it again.

Cersei: “Women were always the cruelest where other women were concerned.”

Kevan:  “That is how it is when a man grows as old as Pycelle. Everything you see or hear reminds you of something you saw or heard when you were young.” ||

“But it did no good to brood on lost battles and roads not taken. That was a vice of old done men.”

As another surprise, of our wonderful King Stannis, we had the chance to see his Hand, Lord Davos in action, and that was almost as good as his original chapters in ‘A Clash’. A few plot-twists as well (and some which have created quite a buzz in the fora but that’s only natural — Davos seems to always both enter and leave on a very dutiful note, much like his King). The other Stannis POV was Melisandre though if anything, this raised the question to me what ‘Clash’s prologue would have looked like from Melisandre’s point of view.

Davos:  “So I ask you, Onion Knight – what does Lord Stannis offer me in return for my allegiance?” War and woe and the screams of burning men, Davos might have said. “The chance to do your duty,” he replied instead. That was the answer Stannis would have given –. The Hand should speak with the king’s voice. 

Melisandre:  “Devan was the fifthborn and safer here with her than at the king’s side. Lord Davos would not thank her for it, no more than the boy himself, but it seemed to her that Seaworth had suffered enough grief. Misguided as he was, his loyalty to Stannis could not be doubted. She had seen that in her flames.”

Added to this was a POV series by a Prince of Dorne (the title ‘Prince’ has to be one of the finest ones around). Quentyn Martell managed to utter his “Unbent, unbowed, unbroken” in a pleasant enough way, and endeared the Martell’s even more than before. His attitude managed to remind me of the Starks though, which is a wonder, but an interesting move.

Quentyn: “Men’s lives have meaning, not their deaths.”

A few of the Ironborn made an entrance as well : starting from the lovely princess Asha Greyjoy who had quite a few wonderful passages; continuing with the not-as-likable Theon, who by all rights should be dead by now but seems to survive and in a rather good shape. *sigh* Martin’s sense of justice isn’t what it could be, but it is sufficient for now, I’m sure that Theon will suffer in the future. The last Greyjoy to appear was Victarion : still brooding over his defeat a number of years hence, but have to say, the description we were given did quite establish that the commander of the Iron Fleet was an idiot and sailed into a trap. Aside from that, he was his good former self killing people left and right in the most pleasurable way conceivable. And, of course, I do like the concept of the Iron Fleet which is another plus for Victarion. 🙂

Asha: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend, men said, but the other side of that coin was, the enemy of my friend is my enemy.”

Theon: “A peaceful land, a quiet people. That has always been my rule.”

Victarion: “Life is pain, you fool. There is no joy but in the Drowned God’s watery halls.”

Also, another new entry by a fellow exiled from Westeros — namely, the former Hand, Lord Jon Connington. I did enjoy his chapters though he appeared a bit too brittle… We’ll see how he fares in the future.

Lord Connington: “Not every man is what he seems, and a prince especially has good cause to be wary … but go too far down that road, and the mistrust can poison you, make you sour and fearful.”

All in all, a very enjoyable book — certainly better than both ‘A Clash of Kings’ and ‘A Storm of Swords’ though likely bested in quality by both ‘A Game of Thrones’ and ‘A Feast for Crows’. This is my opinion though — I recommend everyone to read them all, and tell me yours!

A Wish to Write

Indeed, having just finished two letters to good friends of mine (in case you happen to ever read this, a chance is you’ll know who you are) and thought to continue on a good note over here… after all, I’ve been waiting this week to start writing on so many different ideas (including a review on ‘A Dance with Dragons’ which I finished on Monday) but I’ve been completely disorganized. And I now have a wish to buy an alarm clock, preferably mechanical so that it can’t break down due to ‘electrical difficulties’.

‘Never trust the northern wind.’

I’ve also had the odd rewish to reread the wonderful works of Tolkien, and not in a lazy way as I did last year but in a more thorough one — which means adding ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Silmarillion’ (or the books I and II from ‘The History of …’) and possibly the ‘Unfinished Tales’ as well. The ‘Dance’ only heightened those wishes — quite possibly since that is another of the few books I would consider rereading.  Seems I’ll need to wait a bit longer before this turn though, don’t have the books anywhere but on my computer atm, and my computer time is unfortunately spent on… well, not reading books — more educating in film history (including watching Stieg Larsson’s trilogy which was a very good recommendation that I fortunately followed!) and such.

I also had the odd thought of having another, by the name “imp”.  Might not be the best idea right now though. Oh well.

 

Also, 2011 : seems that the predictions you would be not the friendliest of years continue to come true.

‘A Voice in the Dark’

This song, being one of the few that Blind Guardian has bothered to turn into a video, seemed fitting to sum up some of the artistic talent gone into it. Make no mistake, however, the video for ‘War of Thrones’ would in my opinion be quite a bit more entertaining though they have done well for this one as well.

For anyone who does not comprehend it (for either lack of hints, or background) then this song is well related to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book-saga. I am confident that in the near days I will mention him again due to the fifth book that I am currently reading; right now, however, I am more interested in this song. Not as broad as the other ASOAIF track from that album, ‘A Voice in the Dark’ is related to the character Brandon Stark, but it would seem as if these lyrics are wise enough to tell something to us all.

In vain
Still I don’t understand
So talk to me again
Why do I fear these words?
What keeps holding me back?

Not necessarily these lines but the story of the boy (I hope that I will not spoil anyone’s existence, as long as you’ve read a few of the first chapters of the book or seen the first episode nothing that comes after should be a surprise) who fell is surely something that most people can relate to — being good (or rather, thinking that we are good) at something and then we are surprised, we fall, we withdraw into our shell.

Letting go of the things which have held us back should be a foremost goal; overcoming them a sign of strength and of the wish to become a better person. Turn outwards instead of inwards, and remember that mind is the only thing which matters in the end: “Too much mind. No mind.”

Free your mind

Learn to roam
Don’t look back”

Life on the Coast

Merede tuules on päikest ja liiva…

I was yesterday surprised when a person I know said that living by the sea had become disappointing/boring for him… and when I managed to think about it for a few seconds, I understood that that might be the only feeling that the average British coastline can give to a person on the average day.  The beaches I’ve been to have both been windy. Well, not both, I did climb down the wonderful hill in Slapton so I could theoretically say that I’ve been to four — Thurlestone/Buckland, Slapton Ley, Hunstanton, and Sea Palling/Happisburgh. Original count gave me three since I considered the Norfolk ones together — they did look rather similar. On all of these counts it was windy — given, Thurlestone was rather warm as well but that only seemed to exacerbate the wind… All of the rest can be summed up as windy and overcast (admittedly, the larger frequency of visits to the Slapton Ley one means that I was there during non-windy times as well).

However, that is nearly irrelevant — just wanted to demonstrate that I know little of the variety most definitely present around here. Nevertheless, I am well acquainted by now with the weather of the finest location in the United Kingdom — an average of two more hours of sunlight per week than the rest of this realm. And, if I picture any beach that I know of in such conditions as that claim suggests, I shudder. Living on one or near one would mean that seeing the sea at its worst is far easier than the opposite.

For some reason, the image of two long seawalls extending far into the sea side-by-side under an overcast — the one where you know that it will rain soon, and it would not surprise you in the least if thunder accompanied the rain — sky… not thoroughly overcast, if you turn around in the end of the seawall and look back at the land, you can see the sun far away. The knowledge remains, it will still rain. The best and worst of a city by the sea.

Added to that the sense of supervision, a look from above at the same place frozen in the darkness of the winter, the sun now in the height of its wintery ascent — the sea glistening under the light, a near-perfection if there can be something like that.

What remains to be described is the third option — a southern sea under a mild breeze that lets you know that the season of monsoons has not yet come or is past already. The sun slowly moving to hide beyond the horizon, with darkness crawling over the setting day. The branches of the palms and tropical trees swinging slowly in that evening wind.

There are other images present as well but I will leave them without a description. I have said what was the important part, and I do believe — the right mind-set will allow even a bleak day by the sea to be better than a fine day away from it. Agree to disagree,..

Narrowsightedness on Democracy

The case for democracy is a moral one, not an economic one; but if democracies can’t handle responsible governance, either on economic or more general policy issues, then governance will gradually become less democratic, and the moral case will make little difference.

The above quote is from a The Economist blog post and illustrates what I believe to be an extreme case of narrowsightedness. A quick Google search on “the case for democracy” brought up the following quote: “The moral case for democracy is based on the apparent degree of fairness that it offers…”

I would very much like to hear what the author of that blog post has to say on such apparent democracies like the United Kingdom, Spain, or similar countries, which are decried not to be democracies by their republican fanatics but which offer a degree of fairness that is comparable to “the greatest democracies” on Earth (or in a singular form, “the greatest democracy/country”, as the US politicians love to call their land). Comparable, I say, though it would not be wrong to call them fairer than the United States.

So, does the author actually mean something more in line with the so-to-say republican fanatics that we see all around the place these days, or does he also accept the possibility of a fair monarchy/autocracy (Singapore anyone?) which does provide an “apparent degree of fairness” and a far more effective political governance (though it would be fair to say that no democracy can or should be effectively governed given that means that debate is being smothered somewhere along the line)?

What is the worst about this approach, however, is that the author has refused to accept that the same moral values might exist in a non-democratic society if the tradition and principles for it were there. Fairness of people does not need to mean governance by people.

Collapse of a Society

Not a book per se, but wished to bring up two interesting titles that my today’s browsing brought up. Both relate to how societies collapse and why it happens: one of them postulates that the reason is economics, the second that environmental factors are the main cause. [Naturally, they are speaking of the main cause of such a momentous event, for there is no single reason but a variety of them with one taking the foreground, at least how I see it.]

The first of these, ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’ by J.M. Diamond is the one with the environmental approach. All that I know now is what I read from Wikipedia (article link here) but it sounds rather reasonable for most instances, though the picture becomes less clear once one reads the criticism of the book. I do believe, based on what I read, that even if the thesis itself is not perfect then the thoughts written should present a view which the modern world needs to take into account. The environment can cause the collapse of a civilization, especially if treated carelessly. Refer to this month (July 2011) NG article on food supply (link here).

The second book (or rather, a paper) argues that energy economics is what forces a society to collapse upon itself. ‘Complexity, Problem Solving and Sustainable Societies’ by J. Tainter (Wiki article here; full paper here) is the name of this title and as far as I can see it brings up examples that relate to the question of how problem solving works. This is, however, not his main title (‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’) which would have investigated the topic more thoroughly and is likely to be a worthy companion to the aforementioned book by Diamond.

The Celts

EDIT: Oh horrors, seems that the embedding of the first video has been prohibited. I will leave it here for a direct link to the video though. 

EDIT 2: I decided to add a video of less quality for the first video so there’s no going to other sites needed except as an option. 

[youtube =http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGwUpsyDJTk]

[youtube =http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyR1c7CWCQw]

This song has seemed to make itself a companion of good thoughts for me. The rhythm and the touch of the music, all of it put together, it fits well. I had not seen the video before I thought to search for it on YouTube for this post, but having looked at it I can see that it adds to the pictures created in my mind. Not perhaps as it could, but still well enough. Some of the scenes reminded (or rather, made me think) of ‘Storms in Africa’. I wonder if that has a video (an easy search, to be true, reveals that it… does indeed. Namely just down below:)

[youtube =http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Faryu2hVBrQ]

The ‘Storms in Africa’ was one of the first songs/thoughts that I saw actually conveyed the  feeling of the possibility of a storm (natural, that is) in Africa. Few other things have done it as well, I would say. These two Enya songs have to be my favourites from the last period of listening to her music (along with other calmer artists).

Otherwise, did I want to say anything? Might be I’ve done it already… two songs after all say much and more, especially when such thoughtful ones as the two here are posted.

‘The Celts’ makes for better thoughts though; I will listen to it again.

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