Review: Fire & Blood, George R.R. Martin

Rating: 5 out of 5

Not the great saga by GRRM but a broader, more wilful take on his world… I found this a major improvement on the other stories. This is partly because of the uniform way it was written in (no POV aspect), but also the same fictional author — Archmaester Gyldayn. Gyldayn is indeed a humorous figure and he, under Martin’s pen, often inputs excellent commentary into the conversation. Continue reading “Review: Fire & Blood, George R.R. Martin”

Review: ‘Dangerous Women’, George R.R. Martin

Dangerous WomenDangerous Women by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to say, rating a collection is tough as it can obviously be very variable in quality. I found this here — a few of the stories were breathtaking in their intensity and beauty while others (the majority, regrettably) not nearly as interesting. For personal reasons, I found the stories which touched on the historic aspect a bit more thrilling but in general the variety was commendable. Continue reading “Review: ‘Dangerous Women’, George R.R. Martin”

‘The Rains of Castamere’, A Game of Thrones

Speaking of television these days, I am sure that A Game of Thrones is in the mind of many a people. It is quite a good show, and it has managed to captivate an audience that numbers in the tens of millions (based on HBO viewing in the States, I would assume that there’s at least as many outside the States).

This Sunday we got to a pivotal point in the series — at least, I would look at it as a pivotal point. I am afraid I will have to avoid mentioning what exactly happens in case anyone reads this before seeing that episode or reading that section in the books, but I would like to emphasize that I was quite happy in how the producers managed to portray the events.

Generally, there is a far higher level of compromise in filming a TV series if it is based on a book. Right now, there were only a few changes that I had to disagree with. Namely, having the Blackfish and Talisa both at the Twins: it will be interesting to see if the Blackfish pops up in the next episode for that will be the determining factor in how much the series will start diverging (at least, that is how I see it).

Otherwise, ‘The Rains of Castamere’ is an excellent song. The songwriters for the show and The National have done a really good job of building an enjoyable tune that captures the emotions present. The scene in one of the previous episodes where Cersei quotes the poem/song to Margaery is a decent example of this. ‘The Rains of Castamere’ is what the Lannisters are right now, and it does a good job of telling the story of how little they like being defied.

What I was most impressed by was the reaction to this last episode. I really enjoyed it, I think it was well done aside from the points mentioned above. I am not entirely happy with Bran’s storyline although he saw more action here than in the previous season combined. Daenerys’ time wasn’t too bad either — I could actually stand her scenes in this episode. Plus, lots of good combat skills displayed by her sturdy warriors.

However, I think that people were somewhat surprised by the events in this episode, and that is what prompted them to yell out in fury. But, I would keep in mind that these are George RR Martin’s characters and this is his story. His word is the word of god for A Song of Ice and Fire. And, yet, he did nothing that drastic here. Old men are notoriously grumpy and this is what we see in this episode. The characters had to continue like they did here for this is who they were: their personalities allowed for nothing else.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised by Roslin Frey. It does look that the people in charge of the show took their time in screening even the most minor of the characters.

Overall, I think we’ve had a good lead-in to the season finale which will no doubt (hopefully, at least) feature the next wedding (Joffrey & Margaery) as well as many other things. I hope they’ve put as much effort in as they did here.

The one question I do wonder about is whether we’ll have an epilogue next episode…

‘Game of Thrones’ [Season 3 Trailer]

There’s a trailer for the Game of Thrones soon-to-debut season 3, finally. It looks promising.


What makes me like the show so much is that they seem to have kept the majority of what is good in the books. In this trailer we see the best of that side by the philosophical saying that Bronn puts forward, and I am sure there’s plenty more to come in the episodes when they start. The best part about them: they’re memorable and true, generally. Maybe somewhat harsher than we like our truths, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

In addition to that, the soundtrack seems very good — I truly hope that song (from the trailer) is somewhere in the series.

There’s a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand.

Quoting George R.R. Martin

The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.

I have again come to quote George Martin. For some reason, so much of what he writes can be seen to come across as very refined…

This quote goes to my very heart — I know that a number of people consider science fiction and fantasy both most unrefined and uncivilized and they do not grasp why anyone would want to read about something that is “not real”. My response to that usually was that nothing read in books (assuming fiction) is real — it’s all someone’s mind and thoughts which has conjured up a world of some sort into which they have placed their story. It is just that some authors choose to place their stories into a world everyone knows, while others create their own world where anything can happen.

Note that I also consider that any science fiction/fantasy work is in a better position to criticize society although I should return to this to figure out why I believe this to be the case.

But, coming back to this quote: I agree with everything Mr Martin says and I enjoy the final sentiment. I love being lost in fantasy lands especially the ones where I can imagine endless forests and a hunter wandering in them or a dragon flying over the seas hunting.

So, yes…

They can keep their heaven.

Quoting George R.R. Martin

“Sleep is good, he said, And books are better.”

I noticed this amongst my liked quotes on Goodreads, and my one thought was that this is very true: I do like my rest even though on average I sleep five to six hours. However, not few are the days when I like the book I am reading enough to continue well into the early hours of the next day.

Take the attitude presented here, and make it yours!

On the Quality of E-Books

Whilst I generally prefer to live a peaceful life of which reading is an important everyday piece, I discover every now and then that there are a number of difficulties with this approach. Generally, everything works well or good enough and I do not have to regret the amount of monies spent or effort put into purchasing and reading books but there are also moments when I wish to say something of what is being done under the near-proper term of “digital publishing”. Continue reading “On the Quality of E-Books”

‘A Song for Lya’, George R.R. Martin

I don’t really know whether ‘A Song for Lya’ is considered sci-fi or fantasy (knowing Martin, likely fantasy) but the border between the two is so fragile that I’ve listed it as both — which brings me immediately to one of the things I liked about this story. It was well written (though nowhere near as well as other works of Martin, namely the A Song of Ice and Fire) and contained an intertwined idea that took what most people hold important and turned it around; twisted it.


What is love ?

Martin has a partial answer of sorts for us in ‘A Song for Lya’ and for that, if for nothing more, this is a story worth reading. The concepts presented to us have had predecessors in the past, but at least the look is new and the handling of topics as well — not many of the better end of the spectra of sci-fi writers have written stories of love after all (Isaac Asimov might be the only though no doubt Clarke has lightly touched upon it as well). Aside from that though, as I already mentioned, the feeling that I was given by parts of the book was that it was not finished — or perhaps it is wrong to assume that all of Martin’s works would equal the well-known saga ?

But how much can human beings know each other? Aren’t all of them cut off, really? Each alone in a big, dark, empty universe? We only trick ourselves when we think that someone else is there. In the end, in the cold lonely end, it’s only us, by ourselves, in the blackness. Are you there, Robb? How do I know? Will you die with me, Robb? Will we be together then? Are we together now?

I guess that it is something many people think about — if not aloud for fear of being overheard (for who indeed would like their deepest fears to be known) then in their own minds. And if not “thought” then perhaps a thought, only a single one, has strayed there.

For indeed, if you accept that love is there, then the quantification given will also mean that it will end. The main characters are two people with ‘Talents’ — meaning that they can read either the emotions or thoughts of other people if they concentrate. An interesting power?

That said, aside from the two Talented, we’ve also got a rather interesting chap named Dino (completely unrelated to everyone’s favourite Dinosaur Soldier) who is the commander of the planet where the problems that the Talented — named Lya and Robb — are called to investigate take place. I have to say that Dino became my favourite character by the end of the book, mostly because I felt that at least on some level I could relate to him far more easily than to any of the others.

Unfortunately, there is little else to be said for while the ending can be guessed from the early beginnings then it is not declared out loud as in other books such as the ‘Master of Go’ — therefore I will avoid giving out details and instead finish on two thoughts : one of resemblance, the other a quote.

It reminds me of ‘Solaris’. While Stanislaw Lem’s book was a bit more thorough then the general gist remains the same (on a very broad level) : love. I do think that I’d rather reread ‘Solaris’ (though I hear that the English translation is not the best) than ‘A Song for Lya’ but it did have its charms. I am also inclined to think that with the passing of time, my opinion of the book will improve.

“Robb, that’s absurd, and you know it. You think the Shkeen have found the answer to the mysteries of creation. But look at them. The oldest civilized race in known space, but they’ve been stuck in the Bronze Age for fourteen thousand years. We came to them. Where are their spaceships? Where are their towers?”

“Where are our bells?” I said. “And our joy? They’re happy, Dino. Are we? Maybe they’ve found what we’re still looking for. Why the hell is man so driven, anyway? Why is he out to conquer the galaxy, the universe, whatever? Looking for God, maybe …? Maybe. He can’t find him anywhere, though, so on he goes, on and on, always looking. But always back to the same darkling plain in the end.”

‘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.

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