Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Way of Kings revisited

51WC999OnyLOn the one hand, there are so many new books I want to read right away, and I kind of resent the need to go back and read a book I’ve already read just to remember what would be going on in the sequel, now that it’s finally out three and a half years later. And then I think about other books I want to reread also, actively because I haven’t in a very long time rather than passively so that I’ll remember what’s going on as per that prior sentence. Not to mention just how much rereading I’ve done over the past couple of years.

All of that to say that (despite all my complaining), wow, The Way of Kings is still extremely good. Intriguing characters with real problems (I mean, besides the end of the world), highly alien setting with reasonable extensions of human societal development as a result[1], moral dilemmas, secrets to be explored, and of course exciting combat and magic sequences. I don’t think it would hold up to the kind of attention I paid Jordan’s opus, but that’s a reflection of how I’ve changed more than anything else. Which is why it’s nice to have followed along on the Tor reread as I dug through this one. Well, it was up until the last quarter of the book or so, when suddenly the authors and a lot of the commenters had read the new book and I had not yet. Bleah.

Because, seriously? It’s not all the details they teased out of this book that astonish me, although there are some pretty astonishing things being teased out. Someone translated runic script on a couple of the late book drawings? Someone else identified who all of the faces are in the chapter icons, associated them with thematic elements laid out in the otherwise bare glossary, and then proved how those faces / themes fit the chapters?! Are you kidding me? So, yes. Pretty meaty stuff, and kudos to Brandon Sanderson for that much depth and attention to detail at every turn. But then there’s all the connections they have drawn to his other works, which are all set in the same universe[2] and contain a same wandering character as well as the same pantheon of cooperative and opposed gods, some alive, some dead, spread out in the various corners they have decided to stake out and world[3] around with. Although I’ve read like 3/4 of his output, I would never have had the faintest clue about any of these interconnections. Which just makes me want to go back and reread all the rest of his books too, and if I resented the time for this, how am I supposed to find time for that?

Curse you, Sanderson!

[1] And if it seems like this alien of a world shouldn’t have humans in the first place, I’m nearly positive that’s by design and may well be addressed, implicitly or explicitly.
[2] Cosmere, they call it, and apparently the people on this book’s world, Roshar, are aware of said Cosmere and aware that travel to other places is possible. Answering how that can be is another missing piece I look greatly forward to acquiring somewhere down the line!
[3] Plausibly, world is not a viable verb? Then again, maybe it is. I’ve never Mormoned, so I can’t be sure.

Edge of Tomorrow

MV5BMTQwODI0NDM5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzkwNTY3MTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Man. I am so slow at watching / reading / playing anything at all, this year. So slow. It’s driving me a little bit crazy, although I have read really a lot of comics from the overly dense mid 1970s. I’m looking rather forward to a lot of titles starting to collapse by 1977 or so. However, this is not about that.

This is about Edge of Tomorrow, in which Tom Cruise plays the main character in a video game, stuck on an endless escort mission to get Emily Blunt (who used to be the main character in the previous video game to which this is the sequel) into close proximity with the boss fight, so that she can save humanity. Despite what a misery that would be as a player or to live through, it actually works pretty well on the big screen. Which you presumably knew it would, since you already know what an excellent movie Groundhog Day is.

If it feels like, between my thumbnail sketch and my acknowledgement of the very clear forebear, I’ve given away too much? Well, a) I like to think there’s enough depth in the movie (character studies, sfnal exploration of the possibilities, new and improved explosions, etc.) that it’s not actually as simplistic as that thumbnail, but then also b) it’s still a summer action movie. So maybe it is that simple, and all you’re going for are the broad sketches and explosions. If that’s the case, I offer up as my defense that I gave you one half of a detail beyond what the previews did. Either way: it’s more good than bad, as most Tom Cruise sci-fi vehicles are. So that’s cool.

X-Men: Days of Future Past to believe, yet true: over the past fourteen years, there have been seven X-Men movies, all in the same continuity, and all including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. 20th Century Fox is doing nearly as good of a job as Marvel Studios. That’s really pretty impressive, all in all. (I mean, okay, the actual movies have not been as consistently good, but it’s nearly impossible to credit how much better special effects have gotten in the not quite a generation between then and now.[1])

All of which brings me to the seventh such movie, Days of Future Past, which is named after what I understand will eventually be a really important storyline that I’m still probably more than a decade from reading. That said, I’m not so sure it’s very similar to that storyline? It is, however, extremely cool and handles time travel pretty well, both philosophically and structurally. I don’t want to say much about it, because of spoilers, but the title already gave away time travel and the end of The Wolverine already gave away the Sentinels; so I will only add that I thought the Sentinels were handled at least as well as the time travel was, and probably quite a bit better.

What was handled best of all, though, were the characters. The movie is, more than anything, a sequel to First Class, which was already heavily character driven. All of the dangling conflicts are brought to fruition in satisfying ways, and what more can you really ask? Well, that the characters also be fully realized, but I think they are. (Speaking of which, the scene with “Peter” in the Pentagon? Definitely the best characterization of him I have ever seen, and all without a word of dialogue. Bravo!)

[1] That makes it sound like I’m saying the special effects are the only flaws in early or for that matter middle X-Men movies. I’m not saying that, but having watched the first one a week or so ago, special effects are what stuck out to me as the second biggest flaw, just barely ahead of pacing[2] and way behind upscaled 480p, which it turns out is eye-hurtingly unwatchable in modernity. At least, it is if there are any special effects happening.
[2] Because, seriously, half that film was spent on Liberty Island! Climactic battles should not feel draggy. And don’t even get me started on treating Rogue as a major character in one half of the flick only to leave her as a damsel in distress for the other half. That she was rescued by a mixed team instead of a big strong man helps a bit, but not really enough.[3]
[3] Talk about being in the wrong review, right?