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Kyll.Ing.

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  1. On the other hand, what would actual poverty look like in the Harry Potter universe? Given that everything but food can be conjured out of nowhere, any wizard with any source of income should be able to do pretty well for themselves. The rules of the setting make actual poverty, well, not impossible, but rare enough that the protagonists wouldn't be likely to come across it. That being said, from what we see of young Snape's life, it doesn't look like his parents were flush with cash. He grew up in a cramped apartment in a derelict industrial area. The Gaunt family was also living on a sustenance minimum, or so it seemed - then again, none of them had a job. And if you want working class, look no further than Argus Filch, whom somebody somehow saw fit to do cleaning and maintenance of an enormous castle housing hundreds of kids, on his own, without the aid of magic. There's an implication there that he wouldn't be able to find work otherwise, so he has to stick with a job he hates. Not sure where Hagrid is on that spectrum. It appears he enjoys being groundskeeper, but he has to live in a single-room hut on school property and appears to be shunned by most people. Then there's also Lupin, who has to use the student train to travel to Hogwarts (by the way: why? Every new book appears to show a new mode of transport that would be much more convenient for him), wears only very worn clothes, and isn't shown to have more belongings than he can carry (then again, magical suitcases are very roomy). Overall I'd say it's a bigger problem that none of the poor people portrayed in Harry Potter are shown as any form of sympathetic. Snape is an ass (and so were his parents), the Gaunts border on insane (poverty = insanity, that's a problematic portrayal), and Filch is disliked by everybody for good reason. Even the good guys with money issues seem to have got there by spending their money irresponsibly. Hagrid buys copious amounts of alcohol and occasionally a dangerous magical creature. Mr. Weasley fills his garage with trinkets and doodads while his kids all wear hand-me-downs. There's also a scene in Chamber of Secrets where Mrs. Weasley counts coins to make sure her kids can afford all the required curriculum books, while Mr. Weasley casually suggests getting a drink at the Leaky Cauldron with Hermione's parents. Lupin seems to be the exeption, as it's made explicit that he has problems finding a job due to his lycanthropy, and presumably lives by himself quite far away from other people. A counterpoint is the question of whether there'd be room to depict actual poverty in the Harry Potter books. We spend all the time with Harry, who's either at boarding school or with the Weasleys. And while the Weasleys could have been shown in actual poverty - a couple of Squibs trying to raise nine children in some cramped apartment in a downtrodden industrial city, or something - their purpose in the story is also showing Harry (and by extension, the reader) what everyday life in a wizarding family looks like. To extensively portray anything but this middle-class life would require that Harry spent a lot of time with another family. We can assume that legitimate, non-self-inflicted poverty exists in the Harry Potter universe (again, to the degree that the setting allows), but there isn't really much time to openly show it.
  2. That being said, it did have massive quantities of pre-refined lithium lying around, so there was a fortune to be made there.
  3. Ever since we saw what was on the other side of the gates, I've had a feeling that Leviathan will indeed fall in the end: Humanity will spread to a bunch of planets all over the galaxy, and suddenly and irreversibly lose the means to travel between them. It will no longer be a multi-solar civilization, but hundreds of individual, single-solar civilizations with no means to communicate. Humanity will be fractured for thousands of years at the very least, building entirely new societies that will eventually no longer remember their common past. Many of them may eradicate themselves over time, but all will know there is intelligent life to be found elsewhere in the galaxy. It will be an epoch shift in humanity's history, or rather, histories. A nice place to end the series. By the way, I really like the title. Tying it all back to the beginning of the series. Oh, and if I were to guess what destroys the gates, I'll place my money on them being destroyed intentionally to cut all contact with the "gate builder eaters". Deactivating the gate network will remove their link to our (corner of the?) universe, preventing them from destroying humanity but removing interstellar travel. Kind of like tearing up that vital highway that crossed the haunted Indian burial ground. Losing a capability, but probably being better off compared to the alternative.
  4. I noticed this the last time I read Rendezvous with Rama myself too. The human characters mostly ... just are there. All the spectacular stuff that happens is things they observe, not things they do. And whenever a new situation shows up, which might warrant a different set of skills from any of the characters, a new characters enters the story out of nowhere, they do their thing, and then aren't mentioned much again. Rama is very much the main character in that story, and I daresay it's the only interesting one too. It's a really interesting one, though, so it makes the book a very enjoyable read nonetheless.
  5. Terry Pratchett also had something similar in Thud!, with the Battle of Koom Valley. The dwarfs kept insisting the dwarf king had been ambushed by trolls, while the trolls insisted the dwarfs had ambushed them, and over the millennia of resulting animosity nobody even remembered what had actually gone on in Koom Valley. It could very well be that the Others think they are conducting a defensive operation, as the old stories of human hordes swarming north with fire in their hands turn out to be true as humans move north once again for the first time in eons. Mance Rayder had gathered a large host in the Frostfangs after all, and they went about opening graves in search of an artifact that could get them south of the Wall. From an Others perspective, this would clearly look like an amassed army looting and pillaging monuments in a DMZ. Almost an open declaration of war. No wonder they went out to attack them. All that being said, the threat of the Others could very well be an important plot element even if the Others themselves turn out not to be as bellicose and evil as assumed. Westeros will act upon their assumption of a threat, after all. You could still have lords putting aside their squabbles to fight common enemies, main characters desperately trying to rally support from armies who'd rather fight each other instead, smallfolk fleeing regions they fear to be doomed, Southern regions facing hordes of refugees and desperate pleas for help, and all the other aspects of war, even if the Others aren't coming for that. Think of it like the McCarthy-ism and "Red Scare" in the US, it definitely impacted the country even though there was no uprising of communist sympathizers in the end. We could even have Jon Snow - or whoever the heck that Legendary Hero is supposed to be - taking on the role of hero and riding out to face the Others, only to be met with a greeting of "Oh, so you're the negotiator, then? Nice to meet you, we have a breach of neutrality policy to discuss..." as he arrives before the undead horde. In short, I think the Others cast as "a horde of evil monsters coming to kill us all" will be a little too black-and-white for the series, but the humans' perception of them as such could still have a major impact of the story. It could even potentially escalate to major bloodshed before the misunderstanding is cleared up. But I don't think the conflict will be resolved by one side completely exterminating the other by putting every last creature in their ranks to the sword. The "kill 'em all!" approach to the conflict seems antithetical to the series until now, and far too simplistic as well.
  6. Over the years, I've read too many Cassandra parallels to count, and they are for the most part too cookie-cutter for my liking. Why must the people nobody believe always be right about the unknown danger? It could simply be that Jon and the Night's Watch place way too much importance on what the Others are up to and what they will do next, jumping to conclusions that since they've attacked Wildlings, they'll go for the Wall next and then swarm over Westeros in a quest to kill absolutely everyone, shroud the land in darkness, and make a permanent end to summers. Just because the Others are perceived as "the big threat" doesn't necessarily have to mean they are the big threat. Didn't Martin once say that the only stories worth writing are those that describe the struggle of humanity against itself? Making the Others default to the tired old trope of the Evil Horde Of Evil Evils Out To Do Evil Stuff goes against the entire spirit of the series so far. He masterfully describes the power struggle between different people from different backgrounds with different motivations, yet the climax of the series is supposed to be an "all of humanity vs. them" zombie apocalypse? It's a little awkward to say the least. Maybe there's good material to be gained in how the various lords react to the threat of the Others, and how it impacts their in-fighting, but the in-fighting has been the entire point of the series so far and arguably its strongest suit. We're here to read about the people who play the Game of Thrones, not how the alliance of heroes banish the hordes of evil. That whole "united we fight and vanquish a common enemy" plot has been done to death and feels too straightforward given the intricacy of plots the series has shown so far. Give me instead a good, old misunderstanding of motives clouded by stories warped to the unrecognizable over millennia and a total lack of communication between the parties. But hey, I'm also the guy in favour of offing Cersei by means of a random stumble down a staircase after a night of heavy drinking (Just because she has figured out a prophecy and saved herself from scheming younger queens and little brothers, shouldn't mean she's impervious to everything else. The thing about prophecies is that you never know where you've got them, and by placing a disproportionate focus on avoiding the fate that was prophecized, she makes herself vulnerable to death by completely unrelated means, an implication that's rarely given attention in this type of plots). My preferences on how the story could explore alternative outcomes of the classic plot lines it has set up may not be entirely realistic.
  7. My problem with that is how often this plot line has been used in fantasy. It would be refreshing to see it the other way 'round. TV show spoilers, of the most major kind:
  8. Based on the ravings posted earlier, you really wouldn't.
  9. He trimmed 7.16 * 10118 pages? That's cutting fat indeed.
  10. It's one of the books I hope we get to see from George after ASoIaF is finished: The Cutting Room Floor of Ice and Fire.
  11. The Last Hero is an odd one for me too. The art is great and I think so is the story, but it is a lot more condensed than other Discworld books, probably so as not to give the illustrator too much work given the density of art in that book. In particular, the beginning almost feels rushed. We learn what Cohen is up to in only a couple of sentences, then a few main characters are drummed together and they start working on the right solution immediately. Leonard da Quirm gives the Patrician a shopping list of materials and dragons, and in the next scene the Kite is fully built. The whole book feels like it fast-forwards to where the climax of a Discworld book would usually be, then spends its entire running time on that. Again, though, awesome art. The story is cool too. It's one of the few that actually explore the lower elements of the Discworld. There are times when you wonder what the turtle and elephants are there for, other than to set the tone of the setting at the start of each book. The weakest Discworld book overall for me (so far - still only halfway through Wintersmith since I'm saving the latter half for a lengthy train journey tomorrow) is one similar to The Last Hero, namely Eric (or FaustEric if you want to be technical). This one was also illustrated, but I was dumb and got the regular paperback version, which is short as a pamphlet compared to the full-length books around it and both begins and ends rather awkwardly with a very short middle. That being said, it has its strong points too, like the great descriptions of Hell. I also like that it exists, because that gives me a very easy pick for my least favourite Discworld novel, a question that would have been substantially harder to answer otherwise. Counting The Colour of Magic would be a cheap move (I think I would rank it below Eric if I did) as Pratchett had yet to find his style by then, and it really shows. It's like counting the playing cards that as the worst Nintendo franchise. I also agree with the general sentiment that the characters tend to "solidify" a little too much into their most virtuous selves after a few books. Vimes being moral to a fault, Carrot also being moral to a fault while also being a really nice guy, Vetinari being clever to the point that he treats his assassination attempts as a riddle for others to solve, Granny Weatherwax being an unbendable badass, and so on. I don't really let it affect my enjoyment of the books, though. The stories are still great and the setting is awesome. If I were to categorize the Tiffany Aching books, I'd place them in the same basket as Equal Rites. They are Witch books all right, but not a "Witches of Lancre" books. Granny and Nanny are definitely side characters, if they show up at all. They are all about a character learning the basics of witchcraft and facing her own issues, even though the more experienced witches do feature. Although, again, I'm not too sold on the "Tiffany being stalked by a supernatural being" plot as that's a main story in all three of her first books. But there are two Tiffany books left to read (well, two and a half), so she may end up doing something else eventually. Oh, and even though I already declared the Witches series (series plural, as per the paragraph above) my favourite, the Watch series still deserves credit for one thing: It shows how the city of Ankh-Morpork changes over time. It's a very mono-cultural fantasy city in the first few books, then eventually more dwarfs and trolls settle there, and there's a gradual technological development as well. We see Ankh-Morpork grow as a society, instead of being the same all throughout the series. That wouldn't have been a bad thing in itself (Lancre stays the same, after all), but it's nice to see an example of societal and technological progress in a fantasy series.
  12. I'm actually inclined to agreeing with you there. The Watch series is really, really good, of course, with police dramas in a magical city being really interesting, but the Witches series really shows a culture unique to Pratchett's world. It also helps that the main characters practically have it as their job description to outsmart everyone else, meaning you get a lot of examples of badassery and displays of skill. Unfortunately, the plots have a small tendency towards the same type of villain every time: something or somebody even more magical and mystical than the witches themselves. For this reason, I think Wyrd Sisters and Maskerade are my favourite Witches books so far, as they deal with matters a little more mundane than the usual "go into a magical realm and wrestle the MacGuffin away from the big bad therein" plots. And that's sort of my complaint with Wintersmith so far, around halfway through the book: The main conflict concerns another magical entity stalking Tiffany Aching. Wasn't that the plot of A Hat Full of Sky too? As well as a non-trivial side plot in The Wee Free Men, even beyond the titular characters? I hope to see Tiffany meet some human adversaries eventually, instead of just supernatural entities. There's two and a half books left in her story, so there are a fair few chances left.
  13. Yeah, the Discworld books take a while to find their form. In particular, I didn't like The Colour of Magic very much (it was fun and all, but the lack of an overarching story irked me), so after reading it I didn't continue with the series until years later, when I'd heard so much good about Pratchett that I had to give it another go. The Light Fantastic was so fun I had to continue reading in chronological order, but it took until Guards! Guards! or so before the series really found its tone. The number of stand-alone books and stories in the beginning means it takes a while before it has built a cast of recurring characters and settings to return to. At some point I realized there were approximately as many Discworld books as there were months left of my PhD studies, so from then on I've bought one book per month. I'm now on Wintersmith, and the series is nearing its end while my thesis deadline is looming ahead. Unfortunately, I've heard that Pratchett's dementia had an impact on the books from Unseen Academicals onward (which is the next one), so I'll get the most stressful PhD months alongside the least-liked Discworld books. Oh well, at least there will be some closure. Kinda strange to think I've read the last of the Death series already and that Susan won't be around for more books. I think the rest of the recurring characters have at least one more book to them, but not much more. It'll be sad to see the last of Lancre, of Ankh-Morpork, the Unseen University, Uberwald, L-Space, Great A'Tuin, and all the rest of the lands on the Disc.
  14. Good for GRRM and his readers, I suppose, but ...
  15. You forgot the entire family trees of both Sture and Thordur, including where everybody lived and who were married to whom.
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