May 23, 2017

"The Wheel of Time Companion" Review

I got this book a little bit ahead of publication date. Sometimes that happens.

I finished The Wheel of Time series a few years back (I believe it was 2013 or 2014 sometime, I forget which year; but I've documented all my Wheel of Time reviews.)

I haven't "read" this book, and that's because it's essentially an A-Z companion of the entire saga. One COULD read the book, cover to cover, AS a book but that's the intent for its existance.

So how can I review it then??

Because judging from the size, and nature of the contents, I know enough to give it a rating, and write about it.

First of all, the edition I got was the (trade) paperback (which, size-wise is about the size of a hardback, except it's made a paperback). I've always gotten The Wheel of Time as paperbacks. Way back when I started reading / buying the series, I believe the most recent book to be published in (mass market) paperback would have been Book 10, "Crossroads of Twilight." Since then, I strive for uniformity / matching formats within a series. Anyway, so the (trade) paperback of the Companion is the first published. there very could be the smaller, thicker, mass-market someday...but it wasn't the first to be published. In fact, to better explain, the book DEFINITELY matches the re-issues that TOR have been putting out here and there over the past few years. It'll definitely match with those. But since it's a Companion book, and not "Book #__" for instance, it's ok if it doesn't "match" the other titles. The fact that it's a Companion benefits the larger size. Maybe because of that it won't exist as a mass market brick of a book?

Like The Wheel of Time series, this book isn't perfect. There are possible errors in it, as indicated in the foreword itself. This is because the body of work is quite vast (14 books long, each being no shorter than 700 pages long, in mass market) and that Robert Jordan has passed away; therefore fact-checking more difficult than usual because of that.

The book serves as a great companion to the 14 books. There isn't a Table of contents, as it's A-Z formatted. However, the back cover [picks book up] states: "included in the book in A-Z format are: an entry for each named character, an inclusive dictionary of the Old Tongue, new maps of the Last Battle, new portraits of many characters, histories and customs of the nations of the world, the strength level of many channelers, descriptions f of the flora and fauna unique to the world, and much more. However, looking at what the book contains, finding some of those may be a tad tricky, if you don't know what to look under. the maps of the Last Battle, it makes sense they would theoritically be under the Last Battle entry. However, it could have been benefecial to separate portions of the Companion into sections. Not the entire thing. Have an A-Z listing, and then afterwards, perhaps group all the maps. Following the maps section, perhaps give the Old Tongue its own section. For all I know, that may have come up, but it's something I noticed about the book.

Another point I wish to address is spoilers. They mention spoilers in the beginning of the book. But how 'spoiler-y' are they? Would one ruin the reading experience if they were to use the Companion AS they read?? Again, as I haven't 'read' or 'used' this book yet, it's difficult to say. In fact, I just looked up a character and the book tells you EVERYTHING about them. Because of this, for anyone who's familiar, the book appears to be more akin to what Robert Foster's Comple Guide to Middle-earth is to The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, rather than a 'guide'.

So I can easily recommend this to anyone who owns, and enjoyed, all 14 books. As well as those that plan to buy, or are purchasing, the 14 book series. I will caution its use, however, as it appears to be beneficial for re-reads, or best use post-series.

There is lots here that the readers and fans will love. If you've got all 14 books already, go for this one. If you are buying, or plan to buy all 14, get this; but get it last.

4 / 5

May 15, 2017

Beren and Luthien Tease

Pictured above is the backcover from the forthcoming Beren and Luthien. Before I get into this post, I will say a big thanks to "Tolkien Italia" for providing this info on The Tolkien Society's Facebook group page. What follows is what they've posted to the group:
News about "Beren and Luthien" with extracts from Christopher's Preface.Here's the table of contents:


- List of plates (p.8)
- Preface (p.9)

- Beren and Lúthien (p. 27)
- Appendix: Revisions to “The Lay of Leithian” (p.257)

- List of Names (p.274)
- Cat3 (p. 286)

In addition, some extracts from the preface of Christopher Tolkien.

«After the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977 I spent several years investigating the earlier history of the work, and writing a book which I called “The History of The Silmarillion”. Later this because the (somewhat shortened) basis of the earlier volumes of “The History of Middle-earth”.
In 1981 I wrote at length to Rayner Unwin, the chairman of Allen and Unwin, giving him an account of what I had been, and was still, doing. At that time, as I informed him, the book was 1,968 pages long and sixteen and a half inches across, and obviously not for publication.
'In theory, I could produce a lot of books out of the History, and there are many possibilities and combinations of possibilities. For example, I could do "Beren", with the original Lost Tales, “The Lay of Leithian”, and an essay on the development of the legend. My preference, if it came to anything so positive, would probably be for the treating of one legend as a developing entity, rather than to give all the Lost Tales at one go; but the difficulties of exposition in detail would in such a case be great, because one would have to explain so often what was happening elsewhere, in other unpublished writings.'»

The transition living resource is particularly significant because it shows the massive problems of a curator that, even if I wanted to give prominence to individual legends in their specific evolution, can't ignore the difficulties that readers would face without having available to all the other legends in their interdependent and sometimes Contemporary in the same evolution; he does it with the words of the same curator Christopher, extrapolated directly from a letter of the period. This is also the first public admission of Christopher Tolkien about the existence of a book prior to "the history of middle-Earth" dedicated to the history of literary works paterne he designed and produced in those years; Rayner Unwin had spoken, without Titolarlo indirectly, in a book review published in 2000 (Flieger & Hostetter 2000, " Tolkien' S Tolkien's legendarium "), while the words " the history of the silmarillion " appeared only in private matches of Christopher.

We understand how easily, soon the idea of presenting the whole corpus of legends divided into periods the diary of composition took over. The following may disappoint many fans.

«I seem now to have done precisely that - though with no thought of what I had said in my letter to Rayner Unwin thirty-five years ago: I had altogether forgotten it, until I came on it by chance when this book was all but completed.
There is however a substantial difference between it and my original idea, which is a difference of context. Since then, a large part of the in close store of manuscripts pertaining to the First Age, or Elder Days, has been published, in close and detailed editions: chiefly in volumes of “The History of Middle-earth”. The idea of a book devoted to the evolving
story of 'Beren' that I ventured to mention to Rayner Unwin as a possible publication would have brought to light much hitherto unknown and unavailable writing. But this book does not offer a single page of original and unpublished work.»

No news text, so, despite implicitly Christopher admit that further textual material exists. What Relevance, unfortunately, we cannot know, even if we can be reasonably trust not crucial. Of course Christopher one is to explain what it is, then, the sense of a similar publication and her explanations will be satisfactory.

«What then is the need, now, for such a book?
I will attempt to provide an (inevitably complex) answer, or several answers. In the first place, an aspect of those editions was the presentation of the texts in a way that adequately displayed my father's apparently eccentric mode of composition (often in fact imposed by external pressures), and so to discover the sequence of stages in the development of a narrative, and to justify my interpretation of the evidence.
It is an essential feature of this book that these developments in the legend of Beren and Luthien are shown in my father's own words, for the method that I have employed is the extraction of passages from much longer manuscripts in prose or verse written over many years.»

What can we infer the composition of this new book?

First of all, we can be sure that this book is not an operation identical to that accomplished for "the children of hùrin". this new book will be organized as a literary history of deeds of beren and lúthien, presented in the form stages of different versions of the various Periods, intact, without a summary narrative (often failed) on the model of the chapters of "the silmarillion".
Then we can safely conclude (see also the table of contents) something about the versions that are derived from:
- the poem "the lay of leithian" will be brought back at least for large steps of the versions of the 30 s, with in appendix revisions of the early 50 s;
- the first version, contained in the " lost tales, it will be just as present.
Hard instead exposure about versions synthetic more present in the various annals and in the drafts of The Silmarillion.
Source: Images And texts preview of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from harpercollins license: © Tolkien Summer Limited 2017, preface by © CR. Tolkien, 2017 illustration by © Alan Lee.

Spinoffs of Ice and Fire

There's been quite a bit of buzz going around lately about the recently announced Game of Thrones spinoffs. George R.R. Martin himself sets the record straight via a blog post:

So while I was on the road out California way, the story broke about the four GAME OF THRONES spinoffs that HBO is developing. And of course the news has since spread everywhere, all over the web and all over the world.

Yes, it's true. More or less. Though, as is all too common these days, various distortions and misapprehensions have crept into some of the reports along the way. And television being the fast-moving business that it is, there have already been some further developments.

For what it's worth, I don't especially like the term "spinoff," and I don't think it really applies to these new projects. What we're talking about are new stories set in the "secondary universe" (to borrow Tolkien's term) of Westeros and the world beyond, the world I created for A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. It is a world, and a pretty big one, and if there were eight million stories in the naked city back in the 50s, just think how many more there are in an entire world, and one with thousands of years of recorded history.

None of these new shows will be 'spinning off' from GOT in the traditional sense. We are not talking Joey or AfterMASH or even Frazier or Lou Grant, where characters from one show continue on to another. So all of you who were hoping for the further adventures of Hot Pie are doomed to disappointment. Every one of the concepts under discussion is a prequel, rather than a sequel. Some may not even be set on Westeros. Rather than 'spinoff' or 'prequel,' however, I prefer the term 'successor show.' That's what I've been calling them.

Yes, I am involved, and have been for months. I had my first meeting with HBO about the possibility of a successor show back in August, when I pitched them two possible series. (One of those is among the concepts being developed, one is not). In the months that followed, other writers were brought in and pitched other ideas. Ultimately HBO decided to go ahead with four separate developments, to be written by Max Borenstein, Jane Goldman, Brian Helgeland, and Carly Wray.

It was stated in some of the reports that I am working with two of the four writers. That's not quite right. I've actually been working with all four of the writers. Every one of the four has visited me here in Santa Fe, some of them more than once, and we've spent days together discussing their ideas, the history of Westeros and the world beyond, and sundry details found only in The World of Ice & Fire and The Lands of Ice & Fire... when we weren't drinking margaritas and eating chile rellenos and visiting Meow Wolf. They are all amazing talents, and I am excited to be working with them. In between visits, I've been in touch with them by phone, text, and email, and I expect there will be a lot more back-and-forth as we move forward.

And there's more. We had four scripts in development when I arrived in LA last week, but by the time I left we had five. We have added a fifth writer to the original four. No, I will not reveal the name here. HBO announced the names of the first four, and will no doubt announce the fifth as well, once his deal has closed. He's a really terrific addition, however, a great guy and a fine writer, and aside from me and maybe Elio and Linda, I don't know anyone who knows and loves Westeros as well as he does.

Some of the reports of these developments seem to suggest that HBO might be adding four successor shows to the schedule to replace GAME OF THRONES. Decades of experience in television and film have taught me that nothing is ever really certain... but I do think it's very unlikely that we'll be getting four (or five) series. At least not immediately. What we do have here is an order for four -- now five -- pilot scripts. How many pilots will be filmed, and how many series might come out of that, remains to be seen. (If we do get five series on the air, I might have to change my name to Dick Direwolf).

The one goal that EVERYONE involved shares here is to make these new shows just as good as GAME OF THRONES itself. No easy task, mind you. David Benioff and Dan Weiss are a tough, tough act to follow, as all those Emmys demonstrate.

I can't tell you what the shows will be about (well, I could, but I won't), but I will tell you a couple of things they WON'T be. Which will disappoint some of you, sure, but better to do that now than later, I think.

We're not doing Dunk & Egg. Eventually, sure, I'd love that, and so would many of you. But I've only written and published three novellas to date, and there are at least seven or eight or ten more I want to write. We all know how slow I am, and how fast a television show can move. I don't want to repeat what happened with GAME OF THRONES itself, where the show gets ahead of the books. When the day comes that I've finished telling all my tales of Dunk & Egg, then we'll do a tv show about them... but that day is still a long ways off.

We're not doing Robert's Rebellion either. I know thousands of you want that, I know there's a petition... but by the time I finish writing A SONG OF ICE & FIRE, you will know every important thing that happened in Robert's Rebellion. There would be no surprises or revelations left in such a show, just the acting out of conflicts whose resolutions you already know. That's not a story I want to tell just now; it would feel too much like a twice-told tale.

More than that, I will not say. Feel free to makes your guesses, if you like... but I am not going to be confirming or denying anything, so don't expect replies.

And yes, before someone asks, I AM STILL WORKING ON WINDS OF WINTER and will continue working on it until it's done. I will confess, I do wish I could clone myself, or find a way to squeeze more hours into the day, or a way to go without sleep. But this is what it is, so I keep on juggling. WINDS OF WINTER, five successor shows, FIRE AND BLOOD (that's the GRRMarillion, remember?), four new Wild Cards books, some things I can't tell you about yet... it's a good thing I love my work.

So there you have it!!

The important things to take away:

- it won't be Robert's Rebellion
- it won't be Dunk and Egg (yet)
- he's still writing The Winds of Winter.

George's blog post can be found here:

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eat & Western Finals

Well this is definitely a surprise!!

Ottawa has made it to the Eastern Final against Pittsburgh (and won the first game, as well).

I am definitely pleasantly surprised that Ottawa has done so well thus far during the playoffs to make it this far. Keep it up Ottawa, you can win this.....

In the West, the final two teams are Anaheim and Nashville. I'm pulling for Nashville; with hopes of an Ottawa - Nashville Cup Final....with Ottawa winning, of course.

We'll see how it goes, but the playoff hockey has definitely heated up now!

May 9, 2017

"I'll Netflix That" - Snow White and The Huntsman

"I'll Netflix that" is an expression I use. Most of the time, it means I want to see a movie, but I don't want to pay the prices of seeing it at the cinema, nor do I want to "rush out and see it."

This is usually determined by how the trailer looks, as well as various other aspects about the film. It could even be due to how it's received. I usually don't follow or pay attention to reviews or feedback; but if a movie gets bad enough feedback, then I'll skip out on seeing it at the cinema; opting to watch it "whenever" it arrives on Netflix.

So, the first movie I'll cover in this new trend (or 'banner, rather) is Snow White and the Huntsman.

There a few reasons why I  chose to skip this one at the cinema, but mostly was due to the casting of Kirsten Stewart. Those Twilight films have left a sour taste in my mouth, to the point that I'm quite wary over anything that stars cast members from those films. I haven't seen Stewart in much outside of the Twilight films.

One thing I do not like is what Disney is doing lately by live-action remaking most; if not all of their animated films. The reason for my dislike is, as far as I can tell, most of them are exact copy + paste remakes from the cartoons! I got this impression from Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book...One that I did that was different was Maleficent. It wasn't a flat-out remake of Sleeping Beauty, it had a twist to it, a unique spin, if you will. If you're going to remake or redo your classics, why not make it different? Or add a twist? or something creative; rather than flat-out making the exact same film.

So, that's why I welcomed checking out Snow White and the Huntsman - it wasn't a 'remake' of the cartoon....and that's because it's not a Disney movie.  This film is more original and unique in its approach to the Snow White story. I have not yet read it, so I'm not sure how accurate it is to the actual source material. However, you don't often see Snow White donning armor.

Charlize Theron was the best aspect of this film to me, as her role of Queen Ravenna. She was both powerful yet vulnerable. It was quite interesting to see an antagonist in a fairy tale movie not being 'all powerful'; ass he is weakened most of the film.

The visual effects are quite impressive, as well. Scenes like those in Sanctuary make me welcome "new" fantasy. Again, I'm unsure what is original to this film, and what was in the original tale.

Another thing I noticed, is this: The Hobbit was published in 1937, and Snow White came out in 1938 (the film). Both Snow White and the Huntsman and The Hobbit: Part 1 films came out in 2012. Both feature dwarves.  I remember a video Peter Jackson posted, close to one of The Hobbit films release (I'm fairly certain it was for Part 3) where he took questions (videos, e-mails etc.) from other celebrities. One of them sent him "Our dwarves are better than yours." I forget which cast member from Snow White (or The Huntsman, however you want to shorten it ro) said it, but since then, I've been curious to see how this film handles the dwarves. I must say, I prefer Peter Jackson's overall, however I like the design, look and style aesthetic for the dwarves in this film a bit more than in The Hobbit films. Sure The Hobbit is a "children's" book, but the tone that PJ went for is more in line to a Lord of the Rings prequel than a children's tale. However, his dwarves looked a tad overly comical. It was mostly the hair and beard styles. "'s because they're dwarves" you're thinking. Not so. Gimli in The Lord of the Rings did not look overly goofy. So, the dwarves in Snow White and the Huntsman were well done as well - in terms of how they looked.

All in all, I found Snow White and the Huntsman to be a success on a technical and visual level: the costumes were great, it was well-filmed, well designed aesthetically, great visual effects, and I enjoyed the unique take on the story. However, it wasn't a perfect film, as some of the performances (barring Charlize) left something to be desired. Of course, I may have been reaching by comparing parts of it to The Hobbit films, though I wanted to address my thoughts on that regard all the same.

On a scorecard, I would probably give the film a 2.5 / 5; or something like a 5.5 / 10.

The film scratched a very specific itch I had for fantasy, quite successfully. It was what I was after, and I was not disappointed in that Regard. Then again, I wasn't expecting much to begin with. I liked it enough to keep an eye out for The Huntsman: Winter's War when/if it arrives on Netflix, as well.

May 4, 2017

SWCU: The Star Wars Cinematic Universe

Today, as you may well know is "May the Fourth." Which, I get - it's a silly play play on words, or sounds like someone has a lisp. You see, Star Wars (or, Star Wars: Episode IV) did NOT come out on May 4, but May 25 instead.

Anyway, this year, this month, in fact Star Wars turns 40.

As we know, Disney now owns the Star Wars franchise, much the same in how they own Marvel. There have been a few projects already (Star Wars: Episode VII, Star Wars: Rebels, Rogue One, the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VIII, Han Solo and Star Wars: Episode IX), plus a few others in the works.

A few months ago, it was revealed that there is about 15 years of Star Wars movies ahead of us. Upon hearing this, I got reminded of Marvel's Cinematic Universe, and calling the new 'Disney owns star Wars', the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, or SWCU.

I am curious to see what these post-Episode IX projects will be. I'm expecting a few more spin-off films here and there, but most importantly I'm also expecting another trilogy. Will that new trilogy be Episode X, Episode XI and Episode XII? [I wanted to write that out to see how'd it look.], and take place about 30-4 years after Star Wars: Episode IX? Or will it truly be a prequel trilogy, taking place during the Old Republic era? Heck, it could even take place about 30-40 years before Star Wars: Episode I, and setup the main franchise as we know it. The possibilities are somewhat endless. Rogue One showed us that's possible to revisit old territory in a new way, and at a different angle. 

So what would you like to see post-Episode IX, as part of the next 'phase' of the SWCU??

May 2, 2017

"Beren and Luthien" Waterstones Events: An Evening With Alan Lee

Waterstones, national bookseller of the UK, is hosting a series of Beren and Luthien events close to the book's publication.

You can read more about them here:

 "Celebrate the launch of J.R.R. Tolkien’s "Beren and Lúthien" with Alan Lee, the book’s illustrator and the man behind much beautiful and iconic Tolkien artwork, for a discussion and book signing."
Living in Canada, I won't be able to make it, sadly. It would be wonderful to meet Alan. He is renown for illustrating The Hobbit in 1997, the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King) in 2002, and The Children of Hurin in 2007. He was also involved with the art direction of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

So be sure to swing by, my UK readers, whichever location best suits you to get your copy of Beren and Luthien signed, as well other Tolkien books he illustrated. If you are only allowed one other book tog et signed [I am unsure of the exact details and rules, check with Waterstones] I suggest bringing, or picking up, The Children of Hurin as well.

If you're interested in some illustrated Tolkien books, check out this post: