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dog-days

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  1. No, it's definitely come out of left field. Due in November 2022. I'm not going to read the hype about it and get too psyched up, but I am curious to see how the mechanics will work. The tone looks a bit tongue-in-cheek without being overly zany. Damn it, I'm auto-up-psyching without the help of the gaming press or Twitter.
  2. That looks completely bananas. Sign me up. Apparently Josh Sawyer is the lead director. I thought this game might be his baby when I started the trailer given the medieval armour all over JS's tumblr page.
  3. Not a big Bond fan - the only ever time I ever really deliberately watched Bond movies was on a school trip through Europe when I was trapped on a bus for hours at a time. Anyway, I remember preferring the silliness of the Roger Moore films. With the serious ones, I just don't get why I'm watching them when I could be watching a John le Carré adaptation instead.
  4. Read H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald, the deserving winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson award for non-fiction. It's a book that weaves a number of elements together. The main 'plot' is the author's attempt to train a young female goshawk, a bird with a reputation in falconry for being difficult. At the same time, McDonald writes about grief - she acquires her goshawk not long after the unexpected death of her much-loved father - and about human-animal relationships, their functionality and dysfunctionality, the latter mainly owing to humans attempting to project way too much onto the animal and getting lost in their own ego. Leading us to the meta protagonist, Terence "Tim" White, author of The Once and Future King, who also once trained a goshawk and wrote about it. His life is examined, discussed and contrasted to McDonald's own; a brilliant technique that hugely widens the perspective and emotional depth. This also leads into an important look at the problems of a strain of white English mythologizing, present in White, present in the present, that veers towards a blood-and-soil sort of mindset. That looks at the English countryside and sees an impossible continuity instead of hares (brought by the Romans), rabbits (probably brought by the Normans), fallow deer (brought by the Normans) swallows (fly to the UK from Africa every year) etc. Goshawks themselves were more-or-less extinct in the UK and had to be reintroduced from European populations. McDonald writes very, very well:
  5. I remember being very disappointed by Thief of Time when it came out. Hogfather was the book that got me into the series, so the prospect of another Susan Sto Helit instalment had made me quite excited. That said, I reread it a couple of years ago, since to date it is the only Discworld novel to have been translated into Welsh (why this one in particular I have no idea) and found the character of Myria/Unity (the Auditor who commits death by chocolate) more interesting/affecting than I'd thought. The Nanny Ogg cameos were great, and I'm generally easy to amuse with digs at organised mysticism.
  6. I didn't enjoy it at the time, but it's been growing on me in retrospect - I might end up reading Harrow the Ninth soon, despite not expecting that I would. It definitely feels like one of the most distinctive books to come out of the fantasy genre recently. It knows what its thing is, and does it full throttle.
  7. I imagine Wales does feel distinctly unreal to anyone from large parts of the UK and urban America. It's rumoured to be possible to buy a house in Wales for less than £100 000, unless you want to buy in Penarth or the Mumbles, in which case start auctioning your kidneys. I kind of hope it exists though. Fe ddaw crawc y gigfran o glogwyn y Pendist Mawr The croak of the raven will come from the cliff of Pendist Mawr Ar lepen yr Wyddfa pan gwffiwyf ag Angau Gawr On the slope of Yr Wyddfa when I fight with the Giant Death Fe ddaw cri ar Nant y Betws a Drws-y-Coed A cry will come from Nant y Betws and Drws-y-Coed Ac o Bont Cae’r-gors pan gyhoeddir canlyniad yr oed... And from Pont Cae’r-gors when the result of the encounter is announced... Mind you, the ravens would need megaphones these days to be heard above the tourists striking Snowdon from their bucket list (obviously in a drugged-up, hallucinogenic haze of unreality).
  8. Thanks for the extract, Zorral. A George-and-the-dragon reference makes it as good a time as any to link to Not My Best Side by UA Fanthorpe.
  9. Finished Deeplight by Frances Hardinge, having previously read and enjoyed The Lie Tree by the same author. In the former book, a tree that feeds on lies is the central conceit. In this book, it's a strange sub-level of the sea, the Undersea, once inhabited by divine sea monsters, or monstrous gods, where humans can breath, but the water is made of fear. Deeplight is aimed at children/teens, and this is visible inasmuch as sex and romance are barely mentioned. Instead it's platonic ties that drive the story, and in particular the troubled friendship of the main protagonist, an orphaned petty trickster called Hark, and the tougher, confident Jelt. The fantastical setting of the Myriad, a long string of islands that are only just waking to the significance of the large continent beyond their territorial waters, felt real and colourful, even though it was invented to accommodate the plot of just one novel. The final pages did feel a little pat, but not infuriatingly so. eta: Forgot to mention that a number of the characters are deaf, and communicate through sign language. As a very amateur language enthusiast, the beauty of signing has largely escaped me, despite seeing occasional exclamations of delight related to it on my Twitter feed. But the descriptions of it here made me start to get it.
  10. I still have the fourth book to read. When I switched to using the library instead of buying books, Will have to get round to it soon though before I forget the first three completely, which were very good, but not amazingly, eternally-inscribed-in-the-memory-good. I was okay with Edith and Tom. I felt that their mutual attraction was sympathetic and non-icky given the circumstances - two decent people thrown together living in close confinement and going through so much danger. But one's icky-line varies!
  11. Last night I finished Between Light and Storm - How We Live With Other Species by Esther Woolfson last night. I'd put it down unfinished a couple of months ago because the chapter on vivisection was a bit too much at the time, but resumed it in May as the greater presence of the sun made me a bit braver. I'm glad I carried on, even if it meant learning more about the modern fur trade than I'd ever wanted to know. I suppose I had expected the self-justification and machismo of the hunting-fishing-shooting set in the UK, having heard bits of it sampled on the radio from time to time, but my brain had quietly consigned the industrial production of fur for fashion to the past, without checking reality first to see if this was true. If all this makes the book sound unrelentingly grim, it's not. Woolfson's a fine prose stylist, a writer sensitive to mood and behaviour, and is excellent at taking apart the ambiguities of human behaviour and belief surrounding animals, as well as in her descriptions of the animals themselves. She deserves to be more widely known, but I would recommend newcomers start with Corvus - A Life With Birds first which with its numerous anecdotes and stories is more of an easy read. Epitaph of Chicken, a rook that the author was given as a fledgling.
  12. Thanks, @Starkess. Someone should learn to read the blurb!
  13. Daniel Abraham's Age of Ash left me with mixed feelings. The pace was much slower than the Dagger and Coin books; it had enough space to dive quite deep into the characterisation of the two lead characters, Alys and Sammish, and the main plot surrounding the immortal spirit/demon living on in multiple generations of the ruling family seemed to take a back seat in comparison. I appreciated the struggles of Alys and Sammish, and thought it was a brave choice to spend almost the whole book seeing events through the eyes of the underclass. There was no place of safety and comfort to retreat to, just borrowed rooms that were less lethal than the streets. I also liked Sammish for being the kind of character who stays in the background being practical and getting stuff done, in a very unheroic way, until she eventually realises she can't anymore. Overall I didn't feel that the richness of the prose or characterisation or depth of the setting was quite enough to balance out the lack of genre pace; at the same time, Alys and Sammish's arcs were well-realised, and I will be there for the next in the series. Because Age of Ash was quite self-contained (with one obvious continuous element), I wonder if Abraham's going to take a leaf from Abercrombie's Shattered Sea trilogy and pick new point-of-view characters for the next instalment - perhaps a generation or two further on? Abraham apparently lives in New Mexico. Is that why he chose to write about a city that's really bloody cold for half the year, and for more than half the page time of the novel?? (Ok, according to Wikipedia New Mexico can get seriously cold. They didn't tell me that in Breaking Bad. Television, you've failed in your duty to provide me with a thorough geographical education.) ETA: To make my topic sentence clearer, I meant to imply that Abraham was writing about icy Kithamar because it was an exotic contrast to his home country. (Which in my head is full of arid land, bright blue skies, drug dealers and dodgy lawyers for some reason).
  14. Thanks for the review, Wert. I haven't read McKillip before, and am looking forward to checking out her work. The library had a copy of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, so I've placed a hold on it.
  15. Yes - I gave up, then ended up skipping a few of the middle episodes of Season 2, and rejoined at 'Headspace' or 'Man City' . It's an odd show. At times, it's so saccharine it's really unbearable, at other times it comes out with a pitch-perfect line or some throwaway insight that's timed just right, and I don't want to miss the latter because of the former. Really enjoyed Beard After Hours (S2, E09).
  16. The author Patricia McKillip has died. I'd never actually heard of her, but I keep an eye on Dreamwidth, and a huge wave of appreciation for her has swept across the blogs there. Has anyone here read her? In other news, I finished listening to The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars and Caliphs. It whet my appetite for more Ottoman history, and did a good job attempting to give an overview of a very large subject. I meant to read The Long Price Quartet after finishing The Dagger and the Coin, but the library didn't have them, so ended up with Age of Ash instead. After reading a Joe Abercrombie series, I find I want to leave a decent-sized gap before attempting more, perhaps because of the brutality (the sometimes repetitive/predictable brutality) of aspects of the writing. I find it's not like that with Abraham- after The Spider's War, I was ready for yet more. Perhaps because he's less dark and grittyTM, or just because I haven't got a grip on the keys to his style and themes yet.
  17. Yes - the setting and story itself might not be ground-breaking, but I did feel that what it did, in terms of pacing, atmosphere, and characterisation, it did really really well.
  18. My favourite of his is Guns of the Dawn - I also liked Dogs of War a lot. I've still got a lot of his back catalogue to catch up on. Really, I should write 'catch up on his future output' since he writes faster than I can read.
  19. If Rayner and Starmer do go — I suspect they won't, and we'll end up with dead silence in both parliamentary parties about the leadership's Covid compliance or lack thereof — who would be the next choice for Labour leader? Emily Thornberry? I don't follow politics much these days: the few times I've heard her she's at least comes across as confident and fairly articulate by the low standards of the HoC.
  20. Mohammad was supposed to be a prophet for humans and jinn. I think a lot of Marvel goings on could be incorporated into Islamic theology with "yep, jinn". Thor? Jinn. Khonshu? Weird skull-headed jinn. Rocket? Small furry bad-mannered jinn. Disclaimer: Haven't seen Moon Knight yet. Once my Apple TV runs out, I might take out Disney again.
  21. PC now control more councils than they ever have before. Previously they held Gwynedd; now they have Gwynedd, Anglesey, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire. They tended to pick up some extra seats in those places too. However, they took a drubbing in Rhondda Cynan Taf and Neath Port Talbot, suggesting that while they're getting stronger in the Welsh-speaking heartlands in the west (and, oddly, in Wrexham, where they gained six councillors), they're losing what influence they have in the poorer industrial areas of the south. Depressing. At least Private Eye won't need to worry about material for its Rotten Boroughs page in the near future. (Or ever, given the corruption and incompetence of UK local politics).
  22. Well, that's one way to describe it. It's kind of funny that most of the speculation I've seen has been about whether Keir Starmer will keep his job. I think everyone's just resigned to Boris now. It's like having chronic eczema.
  23. You would hope so; unfortunately I have the impression that Labour would rather stay out of power for another decade than work with the other progressive parties. At this point, with the SNP so dominant in Scotland, Labour and the Lib Dems should seriously be thinking about merging because even if they did decide to introduce PR, the chances are they'd never get enough seats in a GE to push it through. Also, they'd probably end up choosing Alternative Vote then putting it to a referendum (howls of protest from the peanut gallery otherwise) which they'd most likely lose as in 2011. PR could only happen if a GE has the Lib Dems holding the balance of power in the Commons again. If Labour won outright, they'd drop any PR ideas like a hot potato. A Lib/Lab ruling coalition might just happen - it could have happened in 2010 had the Lib Dems not walked into the arms of the Tories - but it could be a long long wait while the progressive vote is split between Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens in England, plus Plaid and the SNP in Wales and Scotland.
  24. Finished The Spider's War, the last in Daniel Abraham's five-book high fantasy Dagger and Coin series, at around 1am this morning. Entertaining, escapist troperiffic fun. I would have said 'swashbuckling', except that most of the characters expend a lot of energy trying to escape from, evade or stop the violence from happening. It might be the only SFF series that has bankers as the heroes of the story? I'm sure someone here can correct me. Now that I think about it, there might be more given that in Renaissance Europe - the very rough inspiration for these books - the merchant classes, enabled by the availability of capital and loans - were the harbingers of the end of feudal power. The stand-out character for me was Geder. When we first run into him, I thought 'oh right, he's going to be the male character who the audience will be most rooting for. Nerdy, bookish, social lead balloon, who's obviously about to do some bildungsromaning and gain a level in awesome'. And then things did not go like that at all. But it wasn't just the subversion of my expectations that I enjoyed — there was real art to the characterisation. The way he could care for his chosen people (Jorey, Sabiha, Aster) albeit being largely oblivious to how they perceived him, and to how the power dynamics actually worked, or Inys Dawson Kalliam felt like an innovative choice of POV too - I read him very much as being a reaction to Ned Stark, inflexible slave-owner Kalliam being an aristocrat with a genuine sense of duty and honour who To me the tone read as being more hopeful than not, partly because the worst atrocities happen to unnamed or very minor characters, and are shown in less detail than Abercrombie or GRRM might have. It felt as if the author was most sympathetic to Master Kit's view of the world, as one where kindness is found in people as much or more than cruelty. The structure of the books wasn't perfect. There were multiple point-of-views, but Marcus and Cithrin often shadowed each other a lot. That could sometimes be entertaining when their perception of events, or knowledge, diverged, but sometimes it could drag. I see that Dagger and Coin had its own thread on the board once; looking forward to seeing what everyone thought about it. Apart from that, I've listened to the first eleven Gamache books (the Louise Penny Quebec-set detective novels) through Audible, which is as far as the German versions have reached. The plots get madder as the series goes on, but I'm there for the croissants and voice of the narrator. Now I'm onto The Ottomans by Marc David Baer. Really enjoying it so far - I hardly know anything about the Ottoman Empire, and this is working as a good general introduction to a massive subject. It doesn't go into much detail or look into different readings of events and characters, but it's clear, and, as far as this non-expert can judge, able to appreciate the strengths of the Empire (religious tolerance compared to the west-door neighbours, technology, art and architecture) while not trying to hide or underplay its less charming features.
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