Finished–The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams (Book Review)

The Heart of What Was Lost_Amazon

I finished The Heart of What Was Lost (THoWWL) by Tad Williams over the weekend.  I’m going to give a short review today and I’ll probably paste and cut this review on to Goodreads.com (which also reposts my blog, so if you’re seeing this blog there, you might get a “double post”) and LibraryThing.com

Final Grade: B+ (or 4 stars out of 5)

Having read the Memory, Sorrow, Thorn Trilogy late in high school and early freshman and sophomore years in college, I always hoped Tad Williams would return to the world of Osten Ard and tell more stories in this world.  However, after George Lucas’s Prequel trilogy and seeing the mess made by sequels of my other favorite stories (for instance, the original Karate Kid sequels, Alien 3 and up, Terminator 3 and up, and Jurassic Park 2 and up), I slowly soured on the idea.  So, when Tad announced he was returning to Osten Ard, I was filled with both excitement and trepidation.

THoWWL is a short book, by Tad Williams standards, but it contained a story that seems to function in two ways: a coda for the original series and a prologue for the new series.  It functions as a coda as it picks up directly after the events of To Green Angel Tower and tells what happened to Isgrimmnur and his warriors.  At first, I didn’t think I would like the (I think) new characters of Endri and Porto as their banter seemed forced, but as the story went along and their complications grew, I warmed to the pair.  The same is true for the Norns, Viyeki and Yaarike, in that it took the complications of the plot for me to truly like them as characters.  The first third of the book, I didn’t like so much, but after the introduction of the Norn General, that is when I feel the book hit its stride and the relationships between all of the main players really coalesced into a strong narrative.  I can say truly that by the end, I was totally invested in the outcome of the Endri/Porto and Viyeki/Yaarike storylines.

While the action isn’t necessarily on the same scale as in the main MST books, I feel that the action that is there is great and more than appropriate to help change the characters in meaningful ways.  A cousin who has also read the book remarked that she saw this much like a World War 2 narrative following a “band of brothers,” and I can definitely see echoes of this in the storyline.  It is a shorter, more compact, and more empathetic look at the nature of war than most fantasy novels give us and I, for one, am grateful that the characters took center stage over the action.

Having finished this first book, I can say that I’m excited that Osten Ard is back and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Witchwood Crown.

It’s about the books (or games), not the card

Waldenbooks_Buzznet

I’m a bibliophile–I love books and I love to read.  My first job was at a bookstore that is sadly no longer in business.  Even though they were a bookstore, they lost their focus.  Management got too involved in selling the store’s loyalty card rather than the books themselves.  I only mention it because of the things that I’m hearing via social media that indicate GameStop may be following the same self-destructive path.

When I was a customer at Waldenbooks, their loyalty card seemed like an okay trade-off.  Ten dollars per year and a percentage off your purchase (I believe it was 10%, but I could be misremembering).  I think it only applied to books and not magazines which wasn’t ideal for me as I often bought books and magazines together.  It didn’t give me a huge benefit, but it didn’t take away too much either.

Yet, when I got my first job there it seemed that the focus was less on selling books and more on selling the card.  When the “Mystery Shopper” came and graded us, they were looking for whether or not we sold them the card–that was the “make or break” score and could push an above average encounter down to an average or below average and vice versa.

GameStop_IGN

Much the same is happening in GameStop today.  I’ve found that I am pre-ordering games through Amazon.com these days for their discount and the fact that I don’t have to be sold on ThinkGeek merchandise or the GameStop loyalty card.  I don’t enjoy Borders Bookstore because they cater less to bibliophiles than to people who like the communal nature of the “bistro”-type atmosphere.  I’ve learned from hard experience that it is dangerous for stores to stray too far from their base products.  I’m worried that GameStop (& to a lesser extent, Borders) haven’t learned that lesson.

Book Haul for April 2017

 

books images

I love books and I love reading.  I love going to bookstores and libraries and just walking down the rows of books, pulling out books that look interesting, reading the blurbs on the dust jackets and the backs of the books.  However, I don’t love the modern incarnation/conception of libraries and bookstores with their focus on book “communities,” reading “clubs” (aka reading “circles” or “groups”), and focus on other non-narrative media (movies, audio, and even video games are fine for me because of the narrative aspects of those media, but when start moving into toys, and food and beverages, that is where I lose interest).  However, I discovered that if I’m able to get to the bookstores/libraries early enough in the day, I can recapture some of that joy in cruising the aisles in order discover that special book that I can lose myself in.  So, I thought I write this week’s blog entry on the four books that I bought recently at a used bookstore.  I don’t know if this will become a regular feature of the blog, but it seemed like something fun to write about.  I bought two fiction books and two non-fiction books this time around.

TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT (Book 13 of the Wheel of Time Series) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Towers_of_Midnight_hardcover

I have read this book before.  I have completed the entire Wheel of Time novel series having started reading them way back as an undergraduate when I started my college career at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) before I transferred to U.T. Chattanooga (UTC) a couple of years later.  This series is one that I found with help from a friend from high school who was also attending UTK  (An aside: quite a few of us actually ended up at UTK, especially in that first year and we often talked about cool Fantasy novels that we were reading).  I read this book about a year or two after it was published.  I didn’t read it initially because I concerned about Sanderson’s (or any other writer’s, for that matter) ability to successfully conclude the story that Jordan had been working on for so many years.  However, after reading an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings, I felt confident in Sanderson’s approach that I went ahead and finished the three books the Wheel of Time Series.

WRITING FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION: HOW TO CREATE OUT-OF-THIS WORLD NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES by Orson Scott Card, Philip Athans, and Jay Lake & the Editors of Writer’s Digest.

Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction

Source: Amazon.com

This is one of those books that I simply couldn’t resist based on the cover and the title.  I try to buy only one book in each genre (in this case, how to: writing), but I simply couldn’t help myself when I saw it.  It covers a lot of material that I already know and/or have in other forms somewhere else, but I”m super interested in transitioning from short form Fantasy and Science Fiction into long form Fantasy and Science Fiction and I’m looking for any tips and techniques that I can find to aid me in my process.  It also has a very comprehensive “reference” section that relates to various historical elements that might be useful to a Fantasy writer, in particular and I just couldn’t resist.  I don’t think it will be as helpful to me as the other book on writing that I bought (see below), but it did have a dragon on the cover.  Note to future authors: if you want to pique my interest, just put a dragon or a spaceship on the cover.

BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens

bleak houseOkay, so this is one of those books for “school.”  My program has a fairly exhaustive list of famous/important literary works for incoming PhD students to read and take a test on.  Now I’ve already taken (and PASSED! 🙂 ) this exam, but I the idea of a list of important literary works is a “challenge” that I really want to undertake.  So I’ve made it my goal to finish all the books on this list.  I actually downloaded the audio version of this book to listen to on the drive to and from school, but I really do follow the story better when I can read it, rather than listen to it.  So, I decided to buy this copy and read it during my “downtime” between classes, waiting in lines, etc.  I’ve read Dickens before, but not this specific book, so I’ll be interested to see if I like it as I do all of the other Dickens novels that I have read.

WRITING THE BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL by Albert Zuckerman

Writing the blockbuster novel

Source: Amazon.co.uk

This is another book that I’ve read before–I read it at the Chattanooga Public Library long before I started working there.  It didn’t really make all that much of an impression on me at the time as I was primarily interested in learning “short story” writing.  I wanted to learn how to write short form fiction before stepping up to the “big” works of novels, screenplays, and the like (graphic novels, while around, were not really viable options at that time).  Now, however, I think that I’m ready to learn the lessons of novel writing.  I especially love the fact that point number on the dust jacket in the inside cover is “how to develop and use an outline.”  Anyone following the conversation that I had two weeks ago with a blog commentor named Tom Cordle will appreciate the fact that I like outlines to guide my stories into rough draft stages.  Outlines make sense to me where as just jumping in blind does not.  I can’t tell you how many novels that I have “in my mind” that did not make the translation onto the page because I did not complete a strong outline/rough draft.  I’m hopeful that this book will allow me to produce an outline for a novel over the summer and (fingers crossed) a rough draft for it by Christmas of this year as well.  Well, I can dream big, at least.

Well, that’s it for me.  Here’s hoping you have wonderful, book-filled, week.

 

Errata

Sorry this blog post is late . . . IIterally just got Wi-Fi back about 50 minutes ago.  It has been out since Friday night.  Eventually I will get this problem sorted, but it is very annoying to say the least.  

BOOKS

Currently, working my way through 2 books: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon (rereading) and Teen Titans: It’s Our Right to Fight (Graphic Novel).  I love the idea of a young girl as a space captain which is why I love this series by Elizabeeth Moon so much!  Later books go off the rails for me (they take the character too far from the roots by making her too much like Honor Harrington rather than fufilling the promise of interstellar trade/commerce with combat intermixed with shipping schedules.).  The Teen Titans have always been a “guilty pleasure” for me.  One of my first comic books was a Teen Titans title (the one where Starfire fights her sister–it also has the origin of X’Hale (?)).  The storyline is from the mid-eighties, but it was intense.  Another Teen Titans comic that I bought at the time was when Dick Grayson abandoned his Robin identity for Nightwing.  I remember not being impressed by the suit, but the late 90s/early 2000s revision made him relevant.

WRITING

I am approximately 1.5 sections (of 5 total sections) through Project Roland.  I missed writing on Tuesday, so I’m approximately a section behind.  I have a May 31 deadline, so I may need to step up the speed (as much as I can).  I have decided to work around my network issues by writing/working Project Roland when I have Wi-Fi and working on (paper & pencil) rough drafts/notes for other stories.  I worked on 2 ideas today while my network was out: Project Templar and Project Djinn.  Hopefully, these 2 projects will turn into short stories over the summer.  

MOVIES

Just rented White House Down last night and watched it via Amazon streaming.  I have to say that I wasn’t impressed.  I would give it 3 stars.  It is very derivative and the narrative seems to try for over-the-top spectacle at the expense of the narrative/characters.  It takes its cue from Die Hard, but I referenced scenes from The Matrix and an odd tone shift as we got a scene from National Treasure.  The other movie that dealt with The White House that summer was a better movie (Olympus Has Fallen).  It wasn’t great, but I didn’t have to work as hard to stay invested in it as I did with White House Down.  

I plan to see the new Avengers movie next week.  Internet willing, I’ll post (spoiler-free) impressions on the next blog entry.

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I think I’ll end this post here–talk to you all next week!