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The Time of the Dark

It turns out, and probably unsurprisingly, that the landscape is littered with old fantasy series that never struck my fancy or I otherwise never got around to, and that’s nevermind the many current(ish) ones I’m interested in. So what brings an otherwise random element of that book-studded landscape[1] to my attention? I think more unsurprisingly than the last not very surprising thing I said, I started reading the Darwath trilogy on the advice of a pretty girl.

The Time of the Dark is very much the picture of a book that was written for me.[3] It has a couple of people who more or less stepped through a random portal in the universe to end up in a fantasy realm, much as I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school, and that realm is threatened by eldritch[2], floating Lovecraftian abominations that avoid the light of day, not unlike the premise of Pitch Black. And there’s even a proto- Chain of Dogs situation that informs the final third and climax of the book. Ultimately, the only bad thing I can really say about the book is that the me it was written for is probably ten or fifteen years less experienced, minimum, in the elements of fantasy and horror that it describes. But it’s quite easy to recognize all the holy wow moments I would have had if I’d read it at around the same time I was reading, say, Eddings.

In addition to the cool plot and setting tricks, there seems to be some veins of philosophy beneath the surface that I expect to show up a lot more strongly in the second and third books. And also, there are some mysteries yet to solve, even aside from the central one of whether humanity can be saved from the Dark Ones. (Oh, right, speaking of things that are designed to lure me in, civilization is on the brink of utter collapse. So, yeah.) Good stuff, and I am pleased to be reading more soon.

[1] I’m really loving this imagery, by the way. I mean, not my portrayal of it, just the idea that you’re walking around, and there are these piles and drifts of book every which way, scattered about like a nine-pins. Except for the problem of rain, that would be a pretty sweet world.
[2] You pretty much always have to say “eldritch” in these situations, you know?
[3] Aside from the ridiculous cover art, that is, which I feel obliged to mention since it’s the only literal picture in sight. In its defense, that is (inexplicably on first blush) a literal portrayal of a scene from early in the story.

La Marche de l’empereur

First of all, let there be no doubt that this falling behind thing is of the suck. It makes it really hard to adequately review serviceable-yet-mediocre fare when you’re a week or more after the fact. So, you’re asking yourself (or at least would be, if my titling scheme was not so utilitarian), what movie have you finally gotten around to seeing after a month out of the theaters? The Cave, surely. At the least, Red Eye, or maybe that Brothers Grimm thing, right? Well, no, instead, March of the Penguins.

There are two things to understand that will make sense out of this travesty of movie-going. 1) I do have some amount of interest in learning about things as well as stuff, and sometimes just for the sake of knowing things, not merely because of all the chicks at cocktail parties who hang on my every word and inevitably pay for the cab back to their respective places afterwards. 2) I really dig penguins. I mean, a lot. I blame Opus.

Anyhow, worthwhile movie? Yes and no. My instinctual reaction while watching was to assume that the Discovery channel is going to get a lot more advertising money over the next quarter or so. This is both its success and its failure. Excellent job of providing concise and comprehensible information about the world out there where most of us can’t afford to be. Terrible job of escaping the boundaries of a made-for-TV documentary. The only things that truly distinguish it from one of a hundred other such documentaries that have and will air on basic cable this year alone are a) a massive advertising budget and b) probability of winning an Oscar. Unless I’ve fabricated this into my days later memory banks, there were actual commercial break fades.

I forgot c), though. Probably, if this had not been theatrical, you’d have had Patrick Stewart narrating rather than Morgan Freeman. Of course, maybe this is his way of retiring and he’s hitting all of the big documentaries from here on out. Between this and War of the Worlds, he’s already off to a big start.