Tag Archives: books

The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercombie

I recently finished reading The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercombie, which consists of “The Blade Itself”, “Before They Are Hanged” and “Last Argument of Kings”. While a fantasy series, it is also part of the grimdark subgenre. As can be guessed by the name, grimdark is darker and grittier than “normal” fantasy. Rather than a classical good versus evil story told with clear black and white characters, they characters come in varying tones of grey. It is comparable to George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (also known as Game of Thrones) where there’s really no clear-cut good guys.

This is evident in one of the main characters in the series, Inquisitor Glokta. He used to be an officer, but after being captured and tortured in a war, he has now turned to torturing others. I’ve seen him compared to Black Adder in other reviews, and while I don’t fully agree in this, I can certainly see the similarites. I would rather compare him with Dr. House, since he’s smart and capable at what he does, though constantly in pain. Glokta easily has some of the best lines in the books, and his inner monologues are a thrill to follow. He especially shines in the second book, “Before They Are Hanged”, where he is tasked with running a city while investigating why his predecessor vanished. Oh, and and the city is besieged by an army much stronger than any defence they might be able to put up.

The two other main characters are Logen Ninefingers and Jezal dan Luthar. Luthar is a young officer which is training for the annual fencing contest, hoping to win fame and glory. While busy practicing and spending his evenings playing cards, he is eventually dragged into a quest for an object which might change the fate of the world. Logen is a barbarian from the north which has been a warrior for most of his life. In addition to his skill in battle, he is able to summon and talk to spirits. After being separated from his group of fighters and assuming they have perished, he heads south. Shortly after, he is called upon by Bayaz, the First Magus, which has use for someone who can talk to the spirits.

Bayaz is a powerful wizard, who has played a vital part at several times throughout the history of the world. The backstory is presented through various means (including a play!), and helps both explain what has happened earlier and show how historical events affect the present. He is a wise old man, but can also be intimidating in his displays of magical power. I find it interesting how he fills a similar role to Gandalf, yet does things which Gandalf would never do. This is one of the fun things in the books, how the author plays with the preconceptions of how the story will progress. An example of this is that the very first chapter literally ends with a cliff-hanger.

All in all, quite interesting books. Abercombie’s also written some standalones which take place in the same universe, which I look forward to checking out.

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson – A Memory of Light

By popular demand, my thoughts on the final volume in the Wheel of Time series; A Memory of Light. With 14 books and one prequel novel in total, it is one of the longest fantasy series and it has now come to an end. When Robert Jordan passed away, a lot of us were worried we would never know what happened to the group of friends which had to flee their home town all these years ago, but now the last book is out. And so, more than a decade after I picked up the first book, I’ve finished the last one.

Being the final book in a long series, there is a lot happening. Factions clash, prophecies are fulfilled and the fate of the world is determined. It all culminates in Tarmon Gai’don, the Final Battle, which gets a nearly 200-pages long chapter dedicated to it. Much of the series have been leading up to this event and most of the plot threads are resolved, as well as some new mysteries introduced. (Those who have read it know what, or rather who, I’m talking about).

It was really nice to see the series finished, and I think Sanderson did a great job wrapping it up. It is one of the best series I have read, which is a bit ironic since I initially gave up on it merely a chapter or two in. When I picked it up a second time though, I couldn’t figure out why I had abandoned it. I really enjoyed the characters, the varied cultures they encounter in different parts of the world, the magic system and the glimpses into the lost glory and wonders of the Age of Legends.

Mystery is important, and so are stories

Most who played The Longest Journey will probably remember unexpectedly stumbling across the name of its writer inside the game. At the entrance of a movie theater, the player can look at a movie poster for “A Welsh Ghost Story, written and directed by Ragnar Tørnquist”. I always wondered whether this was a reference to something he had actually written, foreshadowing something to come later or simply his way of inserting his name into the story.

Then some years went by, the sequel Dreamfall was released, and while I eagerly await Dreamfall Chapters which is due to be released this fall I had mostly forgotten about this little cameo. Then here the other day, Ragnar Tørnquist posted a link to a screenplay called “In the Dark Places”. And the interesting part is that the working title had been “A Welsh Ghost Story”! So not only does it exist, but we’ll get to read it as well. He also posted another story, “Rules are Rules”, which he now considers a sort of precursor to The Longest Journey. I’ve only skimmed parts of them so far, but both look like interesting reads.

A Memory of Light released

“A Memory of Light” is the fourteenth and final book of the Wheel of Time, an epic fantasy series. It was released earlier today, and I’ve already picked up my copy which I had preordered through Outland.
Originally, the title was intended for the twelfth book. Then it grew too large, and was split into three: “The Gathering Storm” (2009), “Towers of Midnight” (2010) and this final volume. It is also the third book Brandon Sanderson has finished after Robert Jordan passed away in 2007. It was sad to see the original author pass away before he had the chance to finish the series. On the other hand, I think Sanderson has done a great job with the last books. He is also one of the best authors I have discovered over the last few years, and I am not convinced I would have done so had he not been chosen to finish the Wheel of Time. He has now taken a step back to focus on his own series and books again, and it looks like he already have plans to keep himself busy for a while.

Almost 23 years and thousands of pages since the first book, it is time to finally figure out how this story ends… At the end of the previous book most of the characters were joining forces and preparing for Tarmon Gai’don, The Last Battle. This is the event the books have been leading up to; the final confrontation between good and evil.

Collection of links #1

This is a collection of some various, interesting things I have stumbled across lately which doesn’t really justify a separate post each.

Someone made a Creative Commons licensed book about the architecture of open source applications. Since the code is open and freely available, this makes it possible to discuss how it is constructed and how the choices made in development affected the end result. Among the programs covered are Eclipse, Mercurial, CMake and Battle for Wesnoth. I read some parts of it, and it looks like they are already working on volume 2.

If you know what a Möbius strip looks like, you should check it out this short little story about a girl living in Möbius world. Actually, it is brilliant, so you should probably go see it anyway.

“Achieving your childhood dreams” is the name of a presentation I watched a long time ago (last fall or something), which is a really inspiring talk by Randy Pausch. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The talk is his chosen topic for what they referred to as a “last lecture”, which essentially means if you were given one last lecture to hold, what would you talk about? The twist here is that he had recently been diagnosed with cancer and informed he had maximum six months left. He also gave an interesting lecture on time managment. They have both been posted on YouTube by Carnegie Mellon.

Also on YouTube is the TV-series Pioneer One. It is an interesting approach because they are funded by donations and make the episodes freely available from their website. So far they have released four episodes, with two more coming soon. It is hard to say something about the plot without spoiling too much, but it is a sci-fi series.

And Ubuntu recently released alpha 2 of their upcoming Oneiric Ocelot release. Check here if you want to take it for a test spin, or here to see the expected release schedule. Since it is still under development, I recommend not using your day to day machine, but rather test it in a virtual machine or something in case something breaks.

Speaking of Ubuntu, you may have noticed the main colors used are orange and aubergine. If you have wondered exactly which colors are used, these two friendly owls (?) will let you know.

That’s it for now…

Towers of Midnight

The second to last book in the “Wheel of Time”-series was recently released. I knew it was due to be released sometime in November this year, so I was delighted when I discovered it is already out. The book is entitled “Towers of Midnight” and is the second part of book twelve in the series. Dragonmount (possibly the largest WoT-community online) has some more information. (Rather spoiler-free, unless you consider the text on the back of the book a spoiler).

Since Robert Jordan passed away in 2007, Brandon Sanderson have been wrapping up the last book, which was split into three. The first part was released last year, the second was just released (see above) and I assume the third and final part is due next year.

While I was initially somewhat skeptic to another author picking up Jordan’s notes and plan for the finale, Sanderson seem to have done a great job so far. The previous, “The Gathering Storm”, which was the first Sanderson co-authored fitted in with the rest of the series nicely.

Oh, and for those who gave up on the Wheel of Time because it started to drag out. Well, “The Gathering Storm” put it back on track, even resolving some plot threads going back to the earliest books. So while I to some degree understand the complaints some people had with some of the later books, it seems to have been sorted out now.

One thing I’m really looking forward too, is that it seems the characters will finally be exploring the Tower of Ghenji, which has always sounded like an interesting location. I look forward to picking up this soon.