January 23, 2020

"Goblet of Fire" House Editions Published Today

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81B6gx1zavL.jpg

Today the House editions of Goblet of Fire, the 4th Harry Potter novel, was published.

The House editions started off as a celebration of the 20th anniversary; however some of the later books may come sooner than that. For instance, the 20th anniversary for Order of the Phoenix will be 2023, Half-Blood Prince for 2025, and Deathly Hallows for 2027.

The house I got sorted into via Pottermore (read: canon, and not same random internet quiz) is Slytherin, so the Slytherin edition is pictured.

The hardbacks will be the house colours, and the paperbacks will be black; as has been established (this will make a sort of neat 'scarf like pattern' for anyone who gets all 7 House editions in the same format (hardback, paperback) and all the same house.

To find them, go to any UK bookseller (Amazon UK, Waterstones, Blackwell's...) and search for the name of the Harry Potter book, followed by the house you'd want.

I'll keep your posted when the others come out, as well.

January 20, 2020

Icelandic Sagas

Currently, I'm reading The Saga of the Volsungs, published by Penguin as part of their Legends From the Ancient North series (other titles include Beowulf, The Elder Edda, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Wanderer.

I am quite enjoying it so far, as well as some similar books I've read lately. However I've yet to read any of these sagas. There a few different versions from a few publishers. There are 49 Sagas total, so I'm going to look at which editions of the Sagas offer what.

Image result for sagas of icelanders

First up is Penguin's Sagas of Icelanders. (ISBN: 9780141000039)

This collection offers some of the Sagas and Tales, and is a great 'best of' in that sense, or greatest hits. This edition also 'matches' some of their other deluxe paperback editions, such as Robert Fagles' translations of The Iliad, The Odyssey and The Aeneid; as well as some other titles (like Anna Karenina). Please note that the pages are 'deckle edge', so they're supposed to look old or tattered on purpose.

Anyway, here are the Sagas and Tales included (I kinda wish there weren't any 'Tales' and more 'Sagas' though I've yet to read it so I may be speaking too early)

Sagas:

Egil's Saga
The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal
The Saga of the People of Laxardal
Bolli Bollason's Tale
The Saga of Hrafnkel Frey's Godi
The Saga of the Confederates
Gisli Sursson's Saga
The Saga of Gunnlaug Serptent-tongue
The Saga of Ref the Sly
The Vinland Sagas (which includes The Sagas of Greenalnders and Erik the Red's Saga)

Tales:

The Tale of Thorstein Staff-struck
The Tale of Halldor Snorrason II
The Tale of Sarcastic Halli
The Tale of Thorstein Shiver
The Tale of Audun from the West Fjords
The Tale of the Story-wise Icelander

Also by Penguin are separate saga books featuring the same, and more, content. The Sagas of Icelanders is, as I said, a greatest hits, best-of, or taster. Another, slightly more (but not totally) method of getting the Saga books by Penguin is individually.

There also exists the Icelandic Saga Collection, which consists of 8 books in that "series." They are:


Njal's Saga
Egil's Saga
Sagas of Warrior-Poets
Gisli Sursson's Saga and the Saga of the People of Eyri
The Saga of Grettir the Strong
The Saga of the People of Laxardal and Bolli Bollason's Tale
The Vinland Sagas
Comic Sagas from Iceland
It would take a while to list the content of each of those, however if you look them up on Amazon, you should be able to see the table of contents via the 'look inside' feature. Worst case I'm sure Penguin's product page/description can also have info.



Next up, and more luxurious, is The Folio Society's editions. They've got some of the sagas (again, not complete, yet more than Penguin) in two volumes, which are, as of now, out of print. These are called The Icelandic Sagas, and the contents are:

I:

Auðun's Tale
Grænlendinga Saga
Eirík's Saga
The Tale of Thorstein Stangarhögg (Staff-Struck)
Egil's Saga
Hrafnkel's Saga
Eyrbyggja Saga
Vopnfirðinga Saga
Bandamanna Saga
Gunnlaug's Saga
The Tale of Thiðrandi and Thórhall
Njál's Saga

II:
Ivarr's tale
Gisli's saga
Olkofri's tale
Laxdæla saga
Gunnarr Þiðrandabani's tale
Fostbrœðra saga
Hreiðarr's tale
Vatnsdæla saga
Hænsa-Þorir's saga
Grettir's saga

Finally (and the most pricey!) we get to The Complete Sagas of Icelanders. It can be bought, and there is a ton of info here about the set: http://sagas.is/yfirlit.htm

Image result for complete sagas of icelanders

Here are the contents for the boxed set (I am unsure which sagas are in which volumes, so this is a complete, combined list for the set):
Eirik the Red's Saga
The Saga of the Greenlanders
Egil's Saga
Kormak's Saga
The Saga of Hallfred the Troublesome Poet
The Saga of Bjorn, Champion of the Hitardal People
The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue
The Tale of Arnor, the Poet of Earls
Einar Skulason's Tale
The Tale of Mani the Poet
The Tale of Ottar the Black
The Tale of Sarcastic Halli
Stuf's Tale
The Tale of Thorarin Short-Cloak
The Tale of Thorleif, the Earl's Poet
The Tale of Audun from the West Fjords
The Tale of Brand the Generous
Hreidar's Tale
The Tale of the Story-Wise Icelander
Ivar Ingimundarson's Tale
Thorarin Nefjolfsson's Tale
The Tale of Thorstein from the East Fjords
The Tale of Thorstein the Curious
The Tale of Thorstein Shiver
The Tale of Thorvard Crow's-Beak
Gisli Sursson's Saga
The Saga of Grettir the Strong
The Saga of Hord and the People of Holm
Bard's Saga
Killer-Glum's Saga
The Tale of Ogmund Bash
The Tale of Thorvald Tasaldi
The Saga of the Sworn Brothers
Thormod's Tale
The Tale of Thorarin the Overbearing
Viglund's Saga
The Tale of the Cairn-Dweller
The Tale of the Mountain-Dweller
Star-Oddi's Dream
The Tale of Thidrandi and Thorhall
The Tale of Thorhall Knapp
Njal's Saga
The Saga of Finnbogi the Mighty
The Saga of the People of Floi
The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes
Jokul Buason's Tale
Gold-Thorir's Saga
The Saga of Thord Menace
The Saga of Ref the Sly
The Saga of Gunnar, the Fool of Keldugnup
Gisl Illugason's Tale
The Tale of Gold-Asa's Thord
Hrafn Gudrunarson's Tale
Orm Storolfsson's Tale
Thorgrim Hallason's Tale
The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal
The Saga of the Slayings on the Heath
Valla-Ljot's Saga
The Saga of the People of Svarfadardal
The Saga of the People of Ljosavatn
The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and of Killer-Skuta
The Saga of Thorstein the White
The Saga of the People of Vopnafjord
The Tale of Thorstein Staff-Struck
The Tale of Thorstein Bull's Leg
The Saga of Droplaug's Sons
The Saga of the People of Fljotsdal
The Tale of Gunnar, the Slayer of Thidrandi
Brandkrossi's Tale
Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson's Saga
Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson's Tale
Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson's Dream
Egil Sidu-Hallsson's Tale
The Saga of the People of Laxardal
Bolli Bollason's Tale
The Saga of the People of Eyri
The Tale of Halldor Snorrason I
The Tale of Halldor Snorrason II
Olkofri's Saga
Hen-Thorir's Saga
The Saga of Hrafnkel Frey's Godi
The Saga of the Confederates
Odd Ofeigsson's Tale
The Saga of Havard of Isafjord
The Tale of Hromund the Lame
The Tale of Svadi and Arnor Crone's-Nose
The Tale of Thorvald the Far-Travelled
The Tale of Thorsein Tent-Pitcher
The Tale of the Greenlanders

Please do not the various editions of trying to figure out which sagas appear in which books intimidate you.


January 17, 2020

RIP Christopher Tolkien

Image result for christopher tolkien

Yesterday, Christopher Tolkien has passed away, at age 95.

I wanted to write a post....but was not sure on what to say. Today, HarperCollins released a statement which I'll share, but before that, I wanted to say that Christopher Tolkien has a lived a long, fulfilled life. I'm grateful for his contributions to his father's writings, published material, and legacy.

Their statement follows:

HarperCollins is deeply saddened to have learnt of the passing of editor and author Christopher Tolkien, aged 95. Christopher was the third child and youngest son of J.R.R. Tolkien, who became his father’s literary executor in 1973 and during a remarkable period of 47 years edited or oversaw the publication of 24 editions of his father’s works, many of which were international bestsellers.

Christopher was an editor from the age of 5, catching inconsistencies in his father’s bedtime tales, and was promised tuppence by his father for every mistake he noticed in The Hobbit. As a young man he was typing up manuscripts and drawing maps of Middle-earth and around the time he was commissioned an officer in the RAF in 1945, his father was already calling him ‘my chief critic and collaborator’. Following Tolkien’s death in 1973 Christopher carried out his father’s wishes by completing The Silmarillion, the book that his father had worked on his entire life. The Silmarillion was an international bestseller, selling more than 1 million copies in the UK.

Appointed by his father as literary executor, Christopher Tolkien left Oxford in 1975, moving to France to edit Tolkien’s massive legendarium. Christopher found himself confronted with 70 boxes of unpublished work. Much of the archive concerned the history of Middle-earth, and the notes contained a broader picture of the world only hinted at in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien had intended to bring that picture to light, but he died before completing a final, coherent version. Christopher took it upon himself to edit that book, which was published in 1977 as The Silmarillion. He then turned to another project drawn from his father’s papers, then another – ultimately publishing poetry, academic works, fiction, and the monumental 12-volume History of Middle-earth. Within these books, tantalising fragments of The Fall of Gondolin emerged, but not the whole story. With the publication of The Fall of Gondolin, and more than 20 books before it, Christopher’s extraordinary stewardship of his father’s Middle-earth is ended. Like many of the meticulously researched and eloquently written books before it, it would become a number one bestseller, and will be a fitting memorial to a truly unique contribution to the world of literature and letters, and tribute to his father’s genius.

Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins UK CEO, said: ‘Christopher was a devoted curator of his father’s work and the timeless and ongoing popularity of the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is a fitting testimony to the decades he spent bringing Middle-earth to generations of readers. The most charming of men, and a true gentleman, it was an honour and privilege to know and work with him and our thoughts are with his family at this time.’

Speculation: If Game of Thrones Was 9 Seasons

I've often spoken on how the final two seasons of Game of Thrones were cramped - they tried to squeeze too much story into too few episodes, when HBO would have surely let them take their time.

In this post, I propose how I would have liked to seen the ending of the show.

Of course, anyone unhappy with how the story itself unfolded, well, I'm not re-writing anything - just restructuring the final seasons.

In my scenario, Season 9, the final season, would be happening this year.

So, let's start.

Game of Thrones Movie Poster

Season 7: The Army of the Dead and The Night King

Season 7 should have been a full 10 episodes, with each episode having a 60 min+ runtime. The pace and story of my season 7 would be adjusted. Reflecting back on the real Season 8, it's clear that the Army of the Dead and the Night King aren't the antagonists - after they'yre dealt with, it would be Cersie, and then Dany.

While it would be tricky to break down my story episode by episode, with a re-structured story, and at 10 episodes, the final 3 episodes would be the first 3 episodes of our real Season 8 - with only Winterfell content for those full three episodes.

Game of Thrones Movie Poster

Season 8: The Last War

My Season 8 (again, 10 episodes, each being 60+ minutes) would begin with episode of the real Season 8, and include the non-Winterfell material from its first 3 episodes. The main focus of the season would be what leads up to what happens at King's Landing: the survivors of The Battle of Winterfell (and their allies) vs Cersei and her forces. The season would end at about the same spot that episode 5 of the real season 8 ended at.

Game of Thrones Movie Poster

Season 9, final season,: The Queen of Ashes + Rebellion

The final episode of Game of Thrones had enough content for a whole season! ...OK, maybe not 10 full episodes (maybe my Season 7 should have had 10 episodes, while 8 and 9 would have 7 and 6? Or maybe split my season 8 into two (like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, etc) with each half being 7 60+ minute episodes) but the subjects and story elements it tackled definitely warranted multiple episodes. This could also allow time to have a possible rebellion and war against Dany - the result of which would determine who would rule The Seven Kingdoms, break the cycle, and be our last war of the series. 

Season 9 would start at the same place the final episode would. It's Season finale (and my final episode) would be from that episode, at the point where Jon is released from prison. It would also have Bran becoming King (and his council being appointed), Jon would then go to the Night's Watch, Arya sailing away, and the final scene of the whole show.

And that's it.

The outcomes still would have been the same, though the pace would have been slowed down; which would have made characters' actions make sense - most notably, in regards to Dany. 

I think in my scenario, a lot more people would have been satisfied with the show after Season 6. The real Season 7 and Season 8 that we got were told at breakneck speed. While I enjoyed the plot and directions the story took, the show definitely deserved a better post-Season 6 structuring. 

January 15, 2020

The Wheel of Time 30th Anniversary




30 years ago today marks the publication of the first book in the massive 14-book Wheel of Time series, The Eye of the World.

The series is very Tolkien-esque, but not being a ‘copy + paste’ The Lord of the Rings clone. The series does have its flaws (it should have only been 6-10 books, for starters) but it helped establish the fantasy genre (until A Song of Ice and Fire re-defined it) and was incredibly beneficial to the American publisher, TOR. I also like to think if it as the first great fantasy series, post The Lord of the Rings. Even though The Lord of the Rings is not a series, but you get my point.



It also has a literary successor, by way of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight. Sanderson is relevant here, as he connected the dots Jordan left before he passed - Jordan was unable to finish the series himself.....but it has *an* ending. Think of him as Christopher Tolkien to J.R.R. Tolkien, in this regard. I suggest looking into that series once you finish The Wheel of Time. No, it's not a sequel series, nor related in any way, though to me it's the next, best, logical step after The Wheel of Time.  

I first heard of, and got into the books, around the time that Crossroads of Twilight was published in paperback. At that time, I didn't have the funds I do now, there were quite a few books in the series, and at that time, hardback editions of the earlier books were no longer in print. Or if they were, they were sold out then. Not liking having mixed formats of books within a series (alternating between paperback and hardback) I went for paperback all the way through. The ones I had to wait to get (though I wasn't caught up with reading) was Knife of Dreams - A Memory of Light

I got introduced to them by way of a very close friend of my family, who also likes fantasy. I believe that The Wheel of Time was her favourite series. Or, among her favourite.

There hasn't been that many editions of the books over the years; however for the 30th anniversary, I wanted to showcase a particular edition. One that I wish had existed when I initially got the books. They are the trade paperback editions offered by TOR. They are about as large as a hardback, and easier to open than those tight, cramped, $10 editions. The larger format offers the text in a nice, readable font, as well as maps that aren't as small or squashed as the cheaper, smaller, paperbacks. The artwork itself is...let's say, more modern than the original editions. The only thing is, I'd wish they chose a different cover image for The Eye of the World in this format. The image itself is fine, though doesn't depict what the book, or series, is about.  

Here are the books, in order, and the ISBN's for the editions I recommend:

The Eye of the World:
9780765334336

The Great Hunt:
9780765334343

The Dragon Reborn:
9780765334350

The Shadow Rising:
9780765334671

The Fires of Heaven:
9780765334640

Lord of Chaos:
9780765334657

A Crown of Swords:
9780765336460

The Path of Daggers:
9780765336477

Winter's Heart:
9780765337801

Crossroads of Twilight:
9780765337818

Knife of Dreams:
9780765337825

The Gathering Storm:
9780765337832

Towers of Midnight:
9780765337849

A Memory of Light:
9780765337856

Companion:
9780765314628

The Stormlight books also exist in the same format, by the way. Here are their ISBN's:

The Way of Kings:
9780765376671

Words of Radiance:
9781250166531

Oathbringer:
9781250297143


January 10, 2020

Speculation: A Song of Ice and Fire in More Frequent, Smaller Books

A Song of Ice and Fire book collection box set cover.jpg

On this blog, I've sometimes stated that due to the wait times for George R.R. Martin's Ice and Fire books, I may prefer more, smaller books that come out more often; as opposed to fewer, larger books that come out less often.

On the basis of the UK paperback editions - where A Storm of Swords and A Dance With Dragons got divided into two smaller books each (a good move, as the font size and paper quality don't suffer because of that) - I'm going to examine what the publishing history would be like, if this division had initially occurred.

Before I proceed, a few things:

a) This on the assumption that the series will end at 7 books total
b) This is on the assumption that Books 6 and 7, once published in paperback in the UK, will also be two books each.

Ok, let's get to it:

Book 1 - A Game of Thrones (1996)

This title would be exactly as it really is, and still published in 1996.

Book 2 - A Clash of Kings (1999)

Again, same as with Book 1.

Book 3 - Steel and Snow (Part I of Book 3, A Storm of Swords) (2000)


Martin would, in this situation, publish the first part of Book 3 (using the same breaking point as the UK paperback) in 2000.

Book 4 - Blood and Gold (Part II of Book 3, A Storm of Swords) (2001)

Since that Book 2 came out in 1999 and Book 3 came out in 2000 - in "reality" - we can assume that Martin completed A Storm of Swords pretty much 'on time.'

The next instalment (again, reflecting the UK paperback break point) would follow in 2001, as there would be no delays.

Book 5 - A Feast For Crows (2005)

In this scenario, there would be a 4 year gap, rather than a 5 year one, in publication history. A Feast For Crows would still come along at the same time it "really" did.

Book 6 - Dreams and Dust (Part I of Book 5, A Dance With Dragons) (2008)

This is where the publication history of things would really change: In 2011, Martin published A Dance With Dragons, which was about the same size as A Storm of Swords. In my 'what if' scenario, since the first half (again using the break-off point that the UK paperback, Dreams and Dust did) we would get the next instalment sooner, as it's only half the size of what is known as A Dance With Dragons. Also, 2008 was the initial intended publication date for the book; so with it being half the size, in my scenario the 2008 date is obtainable with half of the book.

Book 7 - After the Feast (Part II of Book 5, A Dance With Dragons) (2011)

Follows the break point that the UK edition followed. In this scenario, with the first half being published a few years prior, the remainder of what is known as A Dance With Dragons would be published in 2011 - which was when Book 5 actually came out.

Book 8 - Part I of Book 6, The Winds of Winter (2014)

This is where it gets a bit trickier, as this book and the next aren't published yet.

Initially, the earliest that some were hoping that the book could come out was in 2014. I'm guessing that didn't happen due to the size and complexity of the book. But, if the first part were finished, 2014 would be a realistic publication date for what would be the first part of The Winds of Winter.

Book 9 - Part II of Book 6, The Winds of Winter (2019)

In my scenario, Fire & Blood is also taken into account. In my timeline, Martin still would have that book published as when it actually appeared. But, because of that, and possible writing delays (timeline issues, editing, knowing who to make a POV character, or whatever else Martin usually encounters while working on Ice and Fire) The second part of The Winds of Winter would come along slightly later no matter what. He was, after all, confident that The Winds of Winter would come out in 2019. Throughout the writing of the book, he never gave any indication of when  to expect it - the earliest of those dates was 2017, and the latest was 2019. My timeline allows for more time allotted to writing the second part, as well as getting Fire & Blood published.

Book 10 - Part I of Book 7, A Dream of Spring (2024)

Game of Thrones (the HBO series) is at this point over, and The Winds of Winter has been completed! Unsure of what Martin is up to in real life at this point beyond possibly consulting on the next HBO Thrones series, House of the Dragon (which is based on Fire & Blood), time has been allotted in my timeline for him to enjoy a bit of leisure, as well as any other projects he may be working on. Since that this is the final book, he should have a pretty good idea on how to connect things from The Winds of Winter into the final instalment.

On the assumption that Books 6 & 7 will be divided into two parts for the UK paperback publication, it's reasonable - in my timeline - that he would have the first half of A Dream of Spring published in 2024.

Book 11- Part II of Book 7, A Dream of Spring (2026)

Only a small amount of time here, as I believe at this point in my timeline, Martin knows the ending, and knows how to get there. He'll have the endgame in sight as motivation - he wants to finish the series as much we do. Also he'd take the time and effort it took to complete The Winds of Winter as a lesson, and work full steam ahead on the finale. 

So that's how I see the Ice and Fire books unfolding, if there more, smaller, books in the series. If The Winds of Winter comes out this year, then I honestly believe that we'll get the final book in 2026 - which is when I expect him to finish the series, even if the books were smaller, and came out more often.

What do you think - if there more, smaller, books that came out more often; as opposed to fewer, larger books that come out less often; would the fans still be salty about his writing habits? I honestly think "no."

January 2, 2020

What I'm Looking Forward to in 2020

Well, here we are already - another New Year! Nay, New Decade!

This post will run through things that I am interested in getting, based on my areas of interest.

BOOKS

- A Secret Vice in paperback. This could be my final Tolkien book, by the time it comes out
- Quidditch Through the Ages illustrated edition. This was announced by Bloomsbury, and should be out in Oct.
- The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin. I know I've been saying this since 2013/2014; however based on George's remarks throughout 2019, the book really should be in the final stages by now. At this point, I think I'd prefer multiple smaller books, rather than fewer larger ones.
- a Kobo Forma + Sleepcover. I prefer Kobo over Kindle (not because 'I hate Amazon!' or anything of the sort) because the epub file format, as opposed to mobi, seems to have fewer issues than Amazon's mobi. Look at a book review on Amazon - I bet there's bound to be at least one review commenting how the Kindle version isn't properly formatted. That, and you can upload .PDF onto Kobo. I have a Kobo Mini from 2012, and I think it's time to upgrade - sometime soon. It was a great value at $50 CDN (part of a Black Friday special) though I admit it wasn't my first choice. 

I'm fairly certain that's it for books to get....I'm also curious if any 'new' Tolkien books will get unearthed this year, as well as who the artist will be (and the theme) for the 2021 calendar.

WHISKY

- There isn't anything coming out in 2020 that I know of at this stage that I'm looking forward to getting. While it came out in 2019, I've yet to obtain Highland Park's third and final Viking Legends release: Valfather. That aside, I'm looking forward to anything else by them (Twisted Tattoo 16, or their 18 maybe...?), Kilchoman, Ardbeg, Auchentoshan, and I'm curious about Penderyn.

BEER

Again, nothing specific though I'm looking forward to seeing what certain breweries I like will put out.

VINYL

No titles coming out in 2020 that I know of, that I'm interested in at this point. However, there are some that are already out that I look forward to getting: Delicate Sound of Thunder by Pink Floyd, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. That set, unlike the complete recordings, is not limited edition. And the fact I bought all 3 myself, well, for finance reasons, I'd like to get it as a gift. Or, if I get gifted enough money to cover (most) of the price.

MOVIES

The following films I'm interested in seeing cinemas. I have subscriptions to Netflix, Crave, and Disney+, so I'd like tog et my money's worth out of those.

- Mulan (this is how you do a live-action remake!)
- Ghostbusters: Afterlife (the first trailer for this looks very promising. From the trailer, they seem to have it some vibes from Star Wars: Episode VII. I also quite like that Harold Ramis' character factors into the plot in a big way. Terrific way to honour him and pay tribute)
- Tenet (Christopher Nolan. IMAX. 'nuff said)
- Dune (I'm looking forward to reading at least the first book ahead of the film's release. It should be stunning in IMAX, and I have faith in the director)
- Raya and the Last Dragon (it sounds promising. Based on my impressions on the first trailer, I may wait until it arrives on Disney+)

TV

- The Mandolorian Season 2
- The Clone Wars: Season 7- Westworld Season 3
- The Dragon Prince Season 4 (and maybe Season 5? Depends on release dates)
- Vikings Season 6 [Part B] (what's currently airing on History is the first Part of season 6. Expect it to take a break of (hopefully only) a few months, and end the entire show at some point this year)
- Outlander Season 5 (To make my views 'count', I'll most likely wait for it to arrive on Netflix)

There are other shows that I watch, and look forward to, but in due time. There may be one or that I may be forgetting.

So I think that's pretty much it! I think I've covered all my interests. I'm currently reading The Elder Edda (and will continue to read the rest of Penguin's Legends From the Ancient North 'series'), and afterwards will be The Sagas of Icelanders, and, depending on the calendar (where I'm at in reading), either Dune or The History of Middle-earth. I also plan to read my mythology books. In terms of re-read, I plan to, at some point, re-read Harry Potter 1-7, as well as A Song of Ice and Fire, including Book 6 in the re-read. 

December 18, 2019

"Avatar" 10th Anniversary



Today marks the 10th anniversary of James Cameron's Avatar (no, not the incredible Nickelodeon animated series, nor the crappy live action adaptation of it called The Last Airbender - which, I admit a better title to avoid confusion; though it's associated with that terrible film).

The story should be the driving force of any film, and the story for Avatar.....well, it's been done before. Quite a few times actually. Cameron did a similar approach with Titanic - "Romeo and Juliet at Sea", essentially.

So, looking at this film for the first time in...prolly 8 or 9 years (I saw it in the cinema, in glorious 2D....) how does it hold up?

Truth be told.....not that bad. Avatar was a technical marvel at its time, with the 3D aspect being a 'bonus.' In fact, virtually every major blockbuster from 2010 - 2017 (when 3D started to fizzle out) was made into 3D - usually converted in post-production after the films have finished shooting (in 2D). By today's standards, it's not quite the technical marvel. Nor is it dated. At this point, it feels like.....just another movie.

Upon my viewing today, I've come to realize that Avatar's accomplishments aren't in the 3D department, but the technical field itself. You can't help but marvel at the visuals, as well as the fact that everything is visually original. Sure, the story is nothing new (it's essentially Pocahontas) but everything you see (and hear) is. The Na'vi language and cultute is original. The plants, and animals on Pandora are impressive and quite unique. In that sense, you can appreciate the time, effort, and talent that went into making it. I felt drawn in, in a similar manner as when I watch Peter Jackson's extended Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I would not say that Avatar is among my favourite movies, however I enjoyed it enough. Despite a contrived and derivative plot, it shines in the technical department. I enjoy it 'enough' to watch it once in a while (OK, my last viewing was about 8 years ago, but you get the idea) as well as see the sequels in cinemas. I'm curious to see what direction the future instalments, and franchise as whole, will take. I'm also curious of a few other things, such as 'should I wait for a possible vinyl box set of all the soundtracks?' 'Will there be multiple versions of the film?' Things like that. 

Speaking of, starting in December 2021, there's going to be an Avatar sequel in cinemas every two years until Avatar 5 in 2027. Doing the math makes this December the perfect time to catch up on the first film, or re-watch it - if you're a fan and are looking forward to the sequels.

Avatar can be found on a few viewing platforms - most notably, on Disney+.

December 16, 2019

HarperCollins to Re-publish Tolkien Illustrated Editions

HarperCollins looks set to re-publish the Tolkien illustrated editions. These have been in print ever since 1997, 2002 and 2004 from Houghton Mifflin (the US Tolkien publisher), though HarperCollins has discontinued these for a bit. Note these are the "UK editions" and as such, should be bought off of a UK-based bookseller: (Amazon UK, Blackwell's Waterstones, etc) to garuntee stock actually arriving to those retailers.

There is no official cover art yet, but it looks to be very close to the 1997, 2002 and 2004 publications of the illustrated titles. The price seems to be indicative that that's the case. In that sense, they should all 'match.' I know that's important to some of you - myself included - so I'll be following this until it's published to see what the size dimensions are, and relay the info here. Images used are from the illustrated editions of the '00s. All titles are to be released May 14, 2020. Here are the ISBN #s - a direct link to these forth-coming editions.

The Hobbit
The Hobbit
:

ISBN: 9780008376116

"Smaug certainly looked fast asleep, almost dead and dark, with scarcely a snore more than a whiff of unseen steam, when Bilbo peeped once more from the entrance. He was just about to step out on to the floor when he caught a sudden thin and piercing ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug’s left eye. He was only pretending to sleep! He was watching the tunnel entrance!

Whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in his hobbit-hole in Bag End by Gandalf the wizard and a band of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Although quite reluctant to take part in this quest, Bilbo surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar!

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by a wealth of beautiful watercolour paintings and delicate pencil drawings from Alan Lee."

The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring
:

ISBN: 9780008376123

"The Fellowship of the Ring is the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power – the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring – the ring that rules them all – which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by nineteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee."

The Two Towers
The Two Towers:


ISBN: 9780008376130

"The Two Towers is the second part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

Frodo and the Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard, Gandalf, in the battle with an evil spirit in the Mines of Moria; and at the Falls of Rauros, Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape the rest of the company were attacked by Orcs.

Now they continue their journey alone down the great River Anduin – alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by sixteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee."

The Return of the King
The Return of the King:


ISBN: 9780008376147

"The Return of the King is the third part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

The Companions of the Ring have become involved in separate adventures as the quest continues. Aragorn, revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, joined with the Riders of Rohan against the forces of Isengard, and took part in the desperate victory of the Hornburg. Merry and Pippin, captured by orcs, escaped into Fangorn Forest and there encountered the Ents.

Gandalf returned, miraculously, and defeated the evil wizard, Saruman. Meanwhile, Sam and Frodo progressed towards Mordor to destroy the Ring, accompanied by Sméagol–Gollum, still obsessed by his ‘preciouss’. After a battle with the giant spider, Shelob, Sam left his master for dead; but Frodo is still alive – in the hands of the orcs. And all the time the armies of the Dark Lord are massing.

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by fifteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee.

The Lord of the Rings

Boxed set:

ISBN: 9780008376109

"Boxed gift set of Tolkien’s classic masterpieces, fully illustrated throughout in watercolour by the acclaimed and award-winning artist, Alan Lee, Conceptual Designer on Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT films.

Since they were first published, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been two books people have treasured. Steeped in unrivalled magic and otherworldliness, these works of sweeping fantasy have touched the hearts of young and old alike. Between them, nearly 150 million copies have been sold around the world. And no editions have proved more popular than the two that were illustrated by award-winning artist, Alan Lee – the Centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings and the 60th Anniversary edition of The Hobbit.

Now, the new hardback editions of these beautifully illustrated works have been collected together into one boxed set of four books. Readers will be able to follow the complete story of the Hobbits and their part in the quest for the Ring – beginning with Bilbo’s fateful visit from Gandalf and culminating in the dramatic climax between Frodo and Gollum atop Mount Doom – while also enjoying over seventy full-page colour paintings and numerous illustrations which accompany this epic tale."

The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion (republished as of late 2018/2019. Included here for uniformity purposes):

ISBN: 9780007173020

"This sumptuous, oversized hardback beautifully presents a revised and reset edition of The Silmarillion, illustrated by way of almost 50 full-colour paintings by celebrated Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith – designed to match and complement the illustrated Hobbit and Lord of The Rings.

J R R Tolkien’s SILMARILLION is the core work of the Middle-earth canon. It is in this dense and often neglected masterpiece that the entire cosmology for the background for THE HOBBIT and, particularly, THE LORD OF THE RINGS is documented.
This revised and reset volume contains fabulous tales of heroes and monsters, and the history of the Elves and of the Silmarils – the magical jewels produced by the Children of Iluvatar, or Elves (humans being the Younger Children of Iluvatar); it tells of the creation of Middle-earth, and the coming of Men into the world; it chronicles the early battles between good and evil, forces of light and dark, which foreshadow the great conflict with Sauron, the Dark Lord, in LORD OF THE RINGS.

These tales of Middle-earth were published posthumously in 1977. Tolkien worked on THE SILMARILLION all his life – long before THE HOBBIT or LORD OF THE RINGS – and his son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien edited the material he left behind into its current form.

With the close collaboration of Christopher Tolkien, THE SILMARILLION has now been completely reset, using the Second Edition text, and redesigned and repackaged to complement the stunningly illustrated hardbacks of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and COMPLETE GUIDE TO MIDDLE-EARTH, providing the reader with a definitive text.
Furthermore, acclaimed Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith has been commissioned to provide 28 breathtaking new paintings, making this new illustrated edition of THE SILMARILLION the most sumptuous and desirable ever published."

November 26, 2019

Tolkien Christmas Ideas

With Christmas coming up, we often 'give' and 'receive' gifts.
With quite a few editions of each Tolkien book available, I wanted to showcase some - whether it's for you, or the giftee. There are a few other non-book items as well. I'm also providing links on where to get them:
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THE HOBBIT (paperback edition)



This copy is a great edition - whether you need a new one, don't have The Hobbit yet, or are looking to get someone you know into Tolkien. It's paperback, so yes, nothing special - however, it's size dimensions match the other HarperCollins paperbacks. Also, it includes chapter illustrations by David Wyatt, which can be presently found only in this edition.
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Online, the official product description may get messed up (some sites list this as an audio edition, others as an illustrated one) so here's the actual features: "This deluxe collector's edition of Tolkien's modern classic is boxed and bound in green leatherette with gold and red foil rune stamping on the spine and cover. The text pages are printed in black with green accents. It includes five full page illustrations in full color and many more in two colors, in addition to Thror's map -- all prepared by the author."
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Great if you want a nicer edition of The Hobbit to last for quite a while! Also worth mentioning, is that the design and style of the interior of the book itself is used for the Easton Press edition - minus the Michael Hague frontispiece. Great, alternative, and affordable way to own a special edition!
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"The Fellowship of the Ring, part one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic masterpiece, first reached these shores on October 21, 1954, arriving, as C. S. Lewis proclaimed, “like lightning from a clear sky.” Fifty years and nearly one hundred million American readers later comes a beautiful new one-volume collector’s edition befitting the stature of this crown jewel of our list. With a text fully corrected under the supervision of Christopher Tolkien to meet the author’s exacting wishes, two large-format fold-out maps, a ribbon placemarker, gilded page edges, a color insert depicting Tolkien's own paintings of the Book of Mazarbul and exceptionally elegant and sturdy overall packaging housed within an attractive slipcase, this edition is the finest we’ve ever produce."
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This would definitely be a treat for anyone that receives it! Also, it goes with The Hobbit collector's edition mentioned above quite well.
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THE LORD OF THE RINGS COMPLETE RECORDINGS





How many consider the extended editions to be the definitive version of the film trilogy, I consider these releases to be the definitive soundtrack. I've put the recently released CD+blu-ray sets (sorry, the vinyls are most likely well sold out by now, as they are limited edition) as it's nice owning something. However, depending on your tastes, the complete recordings also exists on digital music sources: Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, etc...
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I mentioned above that the complete recordings are the definitive editions of the soundtracks.....however, that doesn't mean that the standard editions aren't automatically 'not good' because of it. Many of us have listened to these versions music many, many times. I'm showcasing the vinyl edition (which collects all 3 soundtracks in one set) in case anyone missed out on the limited-edition complete recordings vinyl, they can still listen to The Lord of the Rings music on vinyl. Also, these editions exist on a number of formats: CD, and digital, such as Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, etc.
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This is a boxed set that contains matching hardback editions of The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin.
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THE TOLKIEN ILLUSTRATED COLLECTION







That's all I can think of to mention: some well-known items, and some lesser known ones. I'll close by saying that some other Tolkien books that haven't had that many 'versions' are:
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- The Silmarillion
- Unfinished Tales
- The History of Middle-earth (12-book series)
- Tales From the Perilous Realm (Alan Lee illustrated edition)
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In closing, here are some great works if you've enjoyed Tolkien:
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- THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis (first published book is THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE)
- HIS DARK MATERIALS by Philip Pullman (THE GOLDEN COMPASS/NORTHERN LIGHTS, THE SUBTLE KNIFE and THE AMBER SPYGLASS)
- THE EARTHSEA CYCLE by Ursula K. LeGuin (A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA, THE TOMBS OF ATUAN, THE FARTHEST SHORE, TEHANU, TALES FROM EARTHSEA and THE OTHER WIND)
- THE WHEEL OF TIME by Robert Jordan (The first book in the 14-book series is THE EYE OF THE WORLD)
- STORMLIGHT by Brandon Sanderson (is expected to be 10 books. The first in the series is THE WAY OF KINGS)
- A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George R.R. Martin (Is expected to be 7 books. The first book in the series is A GAME OF THRONES)
- THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle
- works by Guy Gavriel Kay
- THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN by Lloyd Alexander (THE BOOK OF THREE, THE BLACK CAULDRON, THE CASTLE OF LLYR, TARAN WANDERER, THE HIGH KING, and THE FOUNDLING)