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Frost Giant

Werthead's page

1,772 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


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Every third book in the series is a mosaic (where each story is basically a chapter in a single story). The rest are linked anthologies, where each story stands alone but some threads and ideas continue through them (and characters guest-star in other writers' stories). The first one is the most diffuse, as it spans 40 years (the rest all seem to span just weeks, days or, in the case of the third book, hours), but even that has elements carrying on from one story to another.

I still have to finish the BLACK COMPANY first :)

Wild Cards #1: Wild Cards


An alien species decides to use Earth to test a new bioweapon. An airborne criminal seizes the weapon and tries to use it to blackmail the city of New York. A former WWII flying ace tries to stop him. And, on 15 September 1946, the world is forever changed when the wild card virus is unleashed in the skies over Manhattan.

Ninety percent of those infected by the virus die instantly. A further nine percent develop crippling deformities or abnormalities, becoming known as 'jokers'. And one in a hundred of those infected develops a wondrous superpower. They become the 'aces'. As an alternative history of the 20th Century unfolds, the American government first tries to use the aces for their own ends and then, in a paranoid frenzy, turns against them, before they finally win some recognition for themselves. But for the jokers, forced to live in a ghetto in Manhattan, their road to recognition and respect will be much harder.

Wild Cards is the first book in the series of the same name, which of this time of writing spans twenty-one volumes with two more planned. This isn't a series of novels, but collections of stories written by many different authors. George R.R. Martin (of A Song of Ice and Fire fame) and Melinda Snodgrass provide editorial control, ensuring that each volume has its own narrative drive and point beyond just collecting random short stories together. The stories are set in their own milieu, with authors sharing ideas, using each other's characters and building up a consistent, coherent shared world.

The first Wild Cards book opens with a bang, with Howard Waldrop giving us the origin story for the entire setting in 'Thirty Minutes Over Broadway'. This is a terrific slice of fiction, with Waldrop fusing pulp energy with his own idiosyncratic style to give us something weird, resolutely entertaining and rather tragic in its own right. Roger Zelazny - yes, that one, the author of the Amber series and Lord of Light - then provides the origin story for Croyd Crenson, the Sleeper, one of the original aces whose powers shift every time he goes to sleep. Crenson's periods of hibernation provide a handy way of fast-forwarding through the immediate aftermath of the crisis, showing how New York, the USA and the world adapt to the arrival of the virus. Walter Jon Williams and Melinda Snodgrass then show us two sides of the same tale through 'Witness' and 'Degradation Rites', the story of the Four Aces and their betrayal by the American government. These opening four stories provide a quadruple-whammy of setting up this alternate history and doing so whilst telling stories that are well-written (superbly so in both Waldrop and Zelazny's cases, though the others are not far behind), finely characterised and as gut-wrenchingly unpredictable as anything in the editor's fantasy stories.

Later stories remain highly readable, though perhaps not quite on a par with this opening salvo. Martin's own 'Shell Games' is, perhaps unexpectedly, the most uplifting story in the book, the story of the bullied boy who becomes a superhero. Michael Cassut's 'Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace' and David Levine's 'Powers', two new additions for the 2010 edition of the book, are both decent, filling in gaps in the history. Lewis Shiner's 'Long Dark Night of Fortunato' introduces one of the setting's less salubrious characters and makes for effective, if uneasy, reading. Victor Milan's 'Transfigurations' shows how the anti-Vietnam rallies of the late 1960s and early 1970s are changed by the presence of the wild card virus (and gives us an ace-on-ace rumble that is particularly impressive). 'Down Deep' by Edward Bryant and Leanne Harper is probably the weirdest story in the collection (which in this collection is saying something), a moody trawl through the underbelly of New York (figurative and literal). It's probably a little bit too weird, with an ending that is risks being unintentionally comical, but is still reasonably effective.

Stephen Leigh's 'Strings' and Carrie Vaughn's 'Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan' (the latter being another new addition in this edition) return to the quality of the opening quartet. The former depicts the jokers' battle for civil rights, resulting in riots and chaos in Jokertown and New York that a shadowy figure is manipulating for his own ends. 'Ghost Girl' is a straight-up adventure with the titular character teaming up with Croyd Crenson to find her missing friend. 'Ghost Girl' could be a novel in its own right, with the battling criminal gangs and dodgy drug-taking rock bands providing a canvas that's almost too big for the story, but Vaughn's method of keeping the story under control and resolving it is most effective. Finally, John J. Miller's 'Comes a Hunter', in which a 'nat' sets out to avenge the death of his friend by going up against some criminal aces, is a superbly-written thriller which examines how 'normal' people can stand up against aces and jokers.

The book as a whole is excellent, with the stories entwining around real history and changing it in a way that is mostly organic and convincing. There are a few issues with plausibility here - most notably the way no-one seems particularly bothered about the proven existence of an alien race that has just tried to poison the entire planet - but for the most part the writers use the premise to tell stories about the changed history of the USA (from McCarthyism to civil rights to Vietnam) in an intelligent, passionate manner.

Wild Cards (*****) introduces the world, setting and many of its memorable characters through a series of well-written, smart stories. There isn't a weak card in the deck, and the best stories (those by Waldrop, Williams, Snodgrass and especially Zelazny) are up there with the best of their original work. The book is available now in the UK and USA.

GAME OF THRONES renewed for TWO more seasons. Because that's how HBO rolls.

Look, GRRM hasn't even said, maybe the planet's not spherical at all, maybe it's got more of a Pratchett shape to it.

Actually, he has. People asked this years ago and GRRM said it was a spherical planet, and possibly slightly larger than Earth.

I might be mistaken here, but I'm pretty sure that the seasons are ONLY wobbly in Westeros, so the concept of the "year" comes from elsewhere in the world.

Nope, Essos suffers from them as well. The winters are just not as noticeable as Essos is located further south. But if you read the latest book, there's reports of canals freezing over and the grass of the plains starting to die.

Hitdice wrote:
(How do people who live on a planet without regular seasons even invent the concept of a year? You'd have to ask GRRM himself.)

They simply count the number of times the moon circles the planet: twelve times makes one year. The jury's out on if this means their year is slightly shorter than ours or if Martinworld's lunar orbits fit the year more exactly than ours do.

Another great episode. Anyone know the exact timeline when Jaime/Robert etc took the throne and when the story takes place now. I dont remember Jaime's age coming up in the books but i would have to assume its been 20 years?

In the TV series, Season 1 is 17 years after Robert's Rebellion. Season 3 is two years later, so 19. Season 4 is still 19 until we hear otherwise, but yeah, getting on for 20. Tywin is also probably rounding up a couple of years for Jaime's age.

In the books, the first novel opens 15 years after the Rebellion and by the end of ADWD between two-and-a-half and three years have passed.

As far as government tax revenue goes, the money has disappeared off the face of the earth

In individual circumstances of waste or corruption, yes. In theory, it shouldn't. It should go on spending for the military, public services, the cost of governance, police, schools etc, all of which provides a tangible return for everyone in society.

The response to a government wasting money shouldn't be the abolition of taxes (which is basically a call for the abolution of the nation-state, a curious desire), but for the government to become more efficient and less wasteful. How you do that when the tendency of any large government is to become less efficient with the more people it has to deal with is altogether less clear. The USA and the EU certainly seem to indicate that there are severe limitations to how efficient a government can be when dealing with 250 million+ people. OTOH, the experiences in Scotland and Wales in the UK, where government spending has been much more succesful and transparent, seems to suggest devolution and putting those spending decisions in the hands of smaller authorities may be an answer.

I'm sure Elio would have namechecked Douglas Adams for the deadline comment, which is where that one came from :-)

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Now I'm not saying our system is the best in the world, nor am I saying that America sucks, it does many things better than where I am from. But healthcare is not one of them. You pay more for a system that does not cover everybody and generally offers inferior care to most people.

Yup. And what's really ludicrous is that Americans pay more of their taxes towards healthcare than we do. But we get a free health service out of it and they have to go off afterwards and spend huge amounts more on medical insurance. Then, when the insurer wriggles out of paying for an operation because the small print says they don't have to pay for operations on days ending in a 'y', they have to go and find the money to cover the full cost of the procedure.

This is a situation that that is quite blatantly ludicrous, and it's beyond me why anyone - left or right - puts up with it. There are solutions from both sides of the political spectrum which would be preferable to the current one (either full social health care or fully private health care which is not subsidised by taxes).

There is no reason that having a national health service should automatically make a country socialist, any more than having a national crime-fighting service or a national fire service or a national army should. It's just about where you draw the lines on what you consider to be a basic human need that government (either local or nationa) should fulfil. For many people around the world and many countries, few if any of which would call themselves socialist (apart from Cuba, of course, which happily owns it), health service is definitely something that counts as a basic need that private corporations should have absolutely no hand in whatsoever.

The UK currently has the most right-wing government it's had in thirty years and despite a lukewarm government attempt to sabotage the NHS through constant interference and cost-cutting (although some cost savings are essential), the NHS is still here and still works just fine. It's certainly overly-simplistic to say that a British NHS that works means an American NHS would as well (the two countries, for all their similarities, have vastly different methods of funding public services), but the simple fact that many countries have public healthcare and don't 1) explode or 2) turn into Commie dictatorships indicates it is at least possible.

One question that comes to mind that if we accept that the American federal government couldn't find its backside if it used both hands and thus shouldn't be put in charge of looking after people's kidneys (although it appears to be fine ot let them look after enough nuclear weapons to burn off the surface of the planet down to the bedrock), is there no mechanism whereby the individual states could institute their own public healthcare systems? Presumably massive states with low populations couldn't make it work, but it looks from over here that places like California, New York and Texas certainly could without letting the federal government have to take oversight.

Novella 2: Labyrinth


In his disguise as commander of the Dendarii mercenary fleet, Miles Vorkosigan is dispatched by Barrayaran intelligence to rendezvous with a defector on the anarchic world of Jackson's Whole. However, it isn't long before Miles is up to his neck in political intrigue between three feuding houses, with the defector, a mutant and a werewolf to worry about...

Labyrinth is a short novella featuring Lois McMaster Bujold's signature character of Miles Vorkosigan, once again up to his neck in trouble after a simple mission goes wrong (as they usually do). It's a fun little piece, featuring lots of Miles getting captured, smart-talking his way through interrogations and then escaping whilst throwing an entire world into turmoil but retaining deniability for Barrayar.

Whilst it's good, it's slight. There's some interesting stuff about genetic engineering, not to mention the first appearance in the Miles timeline of the quaddies, people who have had their legs replaced with arms to better cope with life in zero-gee. Between the quaddie, the werewolf (actually a genetically-altered super-soldier), the dwarf (Miles) and the hermaphrodite (recurring character Bel Thorne), the novella can be said to be about people who are outcast from some societies due to unthinking prejudice. Unfortunately, the novella's short length prevents Bujold from exploring any of the issues in any real great depth, especially as the fascinating sociological stuff is put on hold for most of the story as we instead follow Miles trying to break out of a prison.

That said, Labyrinth (***) is a fun read which cracks along fairly smartly and packs a fair amount of character development and action into a short page count. It's just a shame that Bujold didn't flesh the story out into a full novel, as it feels like the characters and issues being explored could have warranted it. Without that exploration, the novella ultimately feels too slight and disposable. The novella is available now in the UK and USA as part of the Miles, Mystery and Mayhem omnibus. Oddly, it is also reprinted in the Miles, Mutants and Microbes omnibus as well.

My father-in-law is from England and has told me horror stories about the government run healthcare in the UK.

The NHS, when it is properly funded and overseen, is excellent. When it is improperly funded, as is usually the case under Conservative governments (who want to privatise it due to ideological dogma, but cannot because the British public overwhelmingly supports it because we see the horror story alternative of the US insurance system, so first they must make it fail), it can turn into a mess. When it is improperly overseen, as was the case under the overly-bureaucratic New Labour period, it can become too expensive. The problem we have right now is that it is suffering from both, with some hospitals on the verge of bankruptcy.

Despite all of that, the quality of the service you usually get is pretty good, and waiting times are a small fraction of what they were in the 1990s when people died on waiting lists on a regular basis. There is no real practical or viable alternative either: any government which told people they'd have to get private insurance instead (at a higher cost) and then spend months battling insurance companies on each claim would be thrown out of office so hard they would bounce, and would remain unelectable for generations.

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One occasionally-mooted suggestion is that Noah two representatives of every animal type on the ark, rather than every single species and subspecies. However, I believe it's been pointed out that this merely reduces the number of animals on the ark from millions to a still-impractical several thousand.

The Stormlight Archive Book 2: Words of Radiance


The world of Roshar is under threat. A mysterious assassin is slaughtering the rulers of the nations. In the east, the armies of Alethkar and the Parshendi are clashing on the Shattered Plains. Signs are appearing that the evil voidbringers are returning to bring about the Desolation, the destruction of the civilised world. But there are also signs that the Knights Radiant, humans empowered with amazing abilities, are returning to stop them.

Words of Radiance is the much-delayed second volume in The Stormlight Archive series (expected to last for ten volumes) and the sequel to 2010's The Way of Kings. Brandon Sanderson's work on this novel was delayed by his commitment to completing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time sequence. With that accomplished, Sanderson is now free to focus on his own mega-epic and bring out future novels in a more timely fashion; the third Stormlight novel (working title: Unhallowed Stones) will likely follow before the end of 2015.

Like much of Sanderson's work, the novel balances traditional epic fantasy tropes with highly original and interesting worldbuilding, logically well-thought-out magic systems and hints of a much grander plan lying behind everything. Whilst only the second book of The Stormlight Archive, this is also the eighth novel set in his Cosmere universe (following on from Elantris, Warbreaker, the four Mistborn novels and of course The Way of Kings). Whilst previously the Cosmere links were fairly subtle and mostly of interest for Easter Egg hunters, in this series they are much more overt. Hoid (aka Wit), who only appeared in minor cameos in the other books, plays a much more important role here.

Words of Radiance is also big. At over 400,000 words, it's the longest epic fantasy novel published since George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons, approaching 1,100 pages in hardcover (so yes, the UK paperback will be split for publication next year). It's an immense novel, not because an enormous amount happens but because Sanderson lets events unfold at a fairly relaxed pace. We only have four major POV characters (Shallan, Kaladin, Dalinar and Adolin) and a whole host of minor ones in remote parts of the world that we flit between. The minor POV chapters are highlights, with Sanderson crafting each one almost into a separate short story set in the midst of a grander tale. The story about the trader who has to make a bargain with a bunch of people who live on the back of a vast creature dwelling in the sea is effective, as is the story of a young burglar who turns out to be more than she appears. Whilst these stories are enjoyable, they also feel a little random sprinkled throughout the longer book, especially since their consequences may not be explored in full until the second half of the series.

The main narrative, unfortunately, is much slower. After we spent most of the first, 1,000-page volume on the Shattered Plains we then proceed to spend most of the second, even longer, volume in the same place. The first book had the advantage of introducing the location and its weird alien landscape, but by at least a quarter of the way through Words of Radiance the setting has lost a lot of is lustre. Fortunately, the end of the novel suggests that we have left behind the Plains and won't see them again, which is well past time. The interludes show that Roshar is a fascinating, well-designed and evocative location and getting to see more of it in future volumes rather than just one broken landscape will be a relief.

Whilst the story is slow to unfold, it does at least move things forward significantly. More Knights Radiant appear, we learn more about the world, its history and its cultures and there are some surprising and shocking deaths (although at least one of them turns out to be a disappointing fake-out). Readers of the other Cosmere books will also have a head start in working out what's going on, which is good for them but possibly a little unfair for more casual readers. Up until now - even arguably including The Way of Kings - the Cosmere stuff has been optional background only, with it not being necessary to read every book in the setting to enjoy the next one. Words of Radiance is the first time I felt like being familiar with the Cosmere was necessary to fully appreciate what the author was doing. This is made clear in no uncertain terms when the novel ends with an event which will won't make much sense unless you've also read Warbreaker.

On the character side of things, Sanderson is definitely improving novel to novel. Shallan, the least-developed character in the previous novel, takes centre stage here and becomes a much more rounded and interesting figure. Her forced humour and defensiveness, which was previously just annoying, is fleshed out a lot here as we get to know the reasons for it. Given it's not something he's known for, Sanderson successfully turns Shallan's story into an effective and unexpected tragedy. Adolin also graduates from 'heroic buffoon' to a slightly darker, more complex character (though not until quite late in the novel). Kaladin's unrelenting emoness continues unabated (despite his transformation into a fantasy version of Neo from The Matrix), but he's a much less dominant character this time around and he does lighten up as the book goes on, which is a relief. More problematic is the dialogue, which often feels clunky and sometimes incongruous. Roshar isn't Earth or even particularly reminiscent of any of our own time periods, but the use of modern language and terms ('awesomeness', 'upgrade') may be distracting for some readers.

Sanderson's signature magic systems are present and correct, though it's possible he's gone overboard in the Stormlight books. There are something like thirty magic systems on Roshar (even if they are variants on similar themes) and the relationships between Surgebinding, Lashing, Truthspeaking, the Old Magic and so forth are not very clearly defined. It also doesn't help that some of the magic systems of the other Cosmere worlds are also alluded to (one character is even a Misting from Scadrial, the setting of the Mistborn novels, though he barely appears). Whilst previously Sanderson has outline his magic systems with clarity, here it feels like he's been taking some lessons from Steven Erikson and just decided to drop the reader into a confusing maze which they have to work their own way out of.

Words of Radiance (****) is a good book beset by minor problems: dialogue issues, a languid pace and often irrelevant-feeling (though often individually fun) side-chapters. At the same time it features much-improved characters, superior worldbuilding and some impressive action set-pieces. I don't think Stormlight is ever going to be as era-defining an epic fantasy as The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire and The Malazan Book of the Fallen are, with Sanderson sometimes definitely 'trying too hard' to match those stories for scale and scope and missing their strengths with character and plot, but it's still a readable and fun series. One thing I think Sanderson definitely needs to do with future volumes is make them smaller, trim the fat and give a more focused story each time. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.

A much longer (18 minutes) video showing navigation, docking, hyperjumping and combat.


Bear Simulator is a game that simulates you playing - wait for it - a bear.

That's right: a bear! You can go fishing, beat up pigs and crush butterflies for no discernible reason. You can engage bees in mortal combat and pick berries.

And the end of the video suggests there may be a more to it than that...

It's out, but was released as an exclusive for the A World of Ice and Fire app from Random House (which also includes a big update which includes all of the official world maps and information on the new locations).

I suspect it'll be an exclusive for a while (3-6 months?) and then we'll see it on GRRM's website.

PILLARS OF ETERNITY will now be published by Paradox.

This doesn't affect anything at all - it's a partnership, not a subordinate thing - apart from the fact that ETERNITY will now have more of a marketing campaign and Paradox can push the game on their huge European fanbase a lot more, as well as Obsidian being able to target Western markets. The game will be released via GoG and Steam as planned (a physical release hasn't entirely been ruled out either) and backers will still get a copy of the finished game plus their other rewards.

Good news all around, I think. The game is still due to come out in late 2014.

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Then again, we have to consider Robert Jordan as well -- in which case there is no finished product.

Apart from...the finished product?

Sanderson finished the series off, but based closely on Jordan's notes and with a fair bit of Jordan-written material scattered through the conclusion (including the very last chapter). So that's not a terrific comparison.

you would be waiting a long time. As of now it 17 years since he wrote the first book. It took Tolkien 12 to finish his series and that was during the war.

18 years since the first book came out. 23 years since he started writing the series (in July 1991).

The comparison to Tolkien is a little weak. THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the whole thing, is only slightly longer than A STORM OF SWORDS and A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by themselves. On pages-written-per-year, Martin is way ahead of Tolkien who often took months on end off because he didn't know what to do next with the story. And of course Tolkien took 66 years to write what turned out to be a relatively short 450-page book (THE SILMARILLION), published after his death.

I truly believe he wont finish the series. He doesnt seem to be in the best of health

GRRM is in pretty good health. Obviously, he's overweight (though he was actually at his biggest around the time AFFC came out, and is down on his weight since then) but that doesn't mean he's going to drop dead tomorrow. GRRM is, obviously, hugely wealthy and has a very good health plan. He and his doctor also monitor his weight (and he points out on his blog that he makes efforts to lose weight, which are hampered by his job, which is not conducive to it).

There certainly isn't a 50% chance he's going to die in the next two years! I have family members who were larger than George who happily made it into their late 80s and passed away from totally unrelated causes. Gene Wolfe is a bit on the rotund side and is now in his early 80s. Jack Vance was fairly big (not as big as GRRM though) and made it to 96. You also had Robert Jordan, who spent quite a few years overweight and then lost most of it on a strict diet, only to almost immediately develop a totally unrelated cardiac condition and pass away at 59. Or Aaron Allston, who appeared to be in good shape before having a series of heart attacks and dying at 53.

For a trilogy i would think a 5-7 year window wouldnt be unreasonable.

That depends on the size of the books. Three 300-page books are a very different prospect from three 1,000-page ones.

If i were the publisher i would require updates throughout the year, place limits on other activitys and extend if needed. Sure theres creativity involved but at the same time publisher has deadlines as well.

GRRM sends each chapter, as it is finished, to his editor who edits it and requests changes on the spot before it is finalised. So the process isn't that the whole book is done in one go, edited in one go and then published, but a constant, ongoing back-and-forth between the writer and editor.

she never promised another novel, and she published a bunch of short stories to appease the hardcore fans like me, so maybe that's a poor analogy.

Clarke did say that she was writing a sequel focusing on less-prominent characters almost as soon as JS&MN came out, and there has been no word on it since.

In contrast, Jack Vance wrote the Durdane triology in two years, and the third volume was, if anything, infinitely superior to the first. The 4-volume Tschai series took two years, and the 3rd book is the highlight. Lyonesse took him 6 years total, and Cadwal 5. His 5-volume Demon Princes series is the oddball, having been completed on a random basis from 1964-1981.

Well, there's also DYING EARTH, which was written over a period of 40 years, with a fairly substantial cliffanger between Books 2 and 3 that was left hanging for 16 years (and Vance even allowed a desperate other author to resolve it as a stopgap through official and published fanfiction before he continued the series).

Ok, so available when?

It was supposed to be April, but that's not happening now. I think there's a feeling it might be the autumn, if not early 2015. It's difficult to say because they're going quite a few weeks at a time without showing anything, and then suddenly whacking us with multiple videos, blog updates and an already-playable alpha (now in its third release).

I think end of the year is certainly possible at this stage.

Sanderson is a solidly entertaining writer. He is very creative, with a tremendous imagination, but he does seem to focus a little on worldbuilding and magic systems over characterisation, prose and dialogue. The latter aren't bad, they just tend more towards the functional end of the spectrum.

I'm actually very hesitant about starting Stormlight Archives, since it is planned at a 10 book series. I don't think I'm willing to commit to reading such a long series when only 20% of it are done so far. I don't want to start another open wound like A Song of Ice and Fire...

Congratulations, you have fallen for the Sanderson Gambit :) He has tricked you into reading four volumes of what will be a 36-40 volume 'megaseries' comprising numerous sub-series set on multiple planets. So at this point you might as well dive in.

Especially as a plot point from WARBREAKER re-emerges in importance in WORDS OF RADIANCE.

Also, STORMLIGHT is a 10-volume series that has been divided into two five-book arcs. Sanderson's plan is to focus on finishing the first arc off, which will have a natural break point, before writing the MISTBORN II trilogy. The rest of STORMLIGHT will then follow.

I think in tone there is a comparison to the CAINE books, although Stover is a better and more ambitious author.

In terms of plot/setting/character, they are very different however. They're even focused on different genres (CAINE is SF with a fantasy twist, whilst the THORNS books are epic fantasy with occasional nods at SF).

The EW article is brand new, the interview happened the day before it was posted. The Vanity Fair interview is about a month old, maybe more. It's clearly a decision HBO and Weiss and Benioff have reached just in the last week or so. GRRM hasn't commented on that story since it broke.

Not happening. They still have the rights, but the development deals (first with a New Zealand TV company, then SyFy) have been shot down. The fan reaction was universally negative as well, after it became clear they were seriously toning the show down (Blake being framed for the murder of his wife rather than being a child molestor) and making the setting way too close to the present day (the reboot is only set 150 years in the future, as opposed to the 900-odd years of the original).

A new B7 would be a great idea, but so far these guys have shown they don't understand the property at all.

How to dock your spacecraft in ELITE: DANGEROUS.

Extremely impressive. The original ELITE made docking your starship with a space station a rather lethal affair, with it being rare to end a docking attempt within the bay rather than reduced to flaming debris. The two sequels automated it, which made more sense but was less fun.

ELITE: DANGEROUS strikes a balance by allowing you automate your spin to lock onto the station but still permitting manual docking (docking computer upgrades will be available later on). More impressively, you can fly around inside the docking bay before you land on your designated pad.

New ingame footage.

At the moment it's looking pretty much like SYNDICATE WARS with much bettter graphics, which is what I think most people were hoping for.

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ADWD is an interesting book. It does, contrary to hyperbole, push forwards quite a few storylines substantially. However, because of the timeline issues this is not constant for all characters, and some characters only get 2-3 chapters whilst others get 9-12, but they almost seem to get the same amount of development (i.e. the lesser-appearing characters get very busy chapters and the more frequently-appearing ones get slower or even 'filler' chapters). There's definitely a weakness to ADWD stemming from the split, and that's even more pronounced in AFFC which feels weirdly claustraphobic as a result, as if it's happening in a bubble unconnected to the wider world. ADWD is also odd in that it's very focused on past events and revelations about them. Whilst all the books have expanded on the series backstory, none of them come close to what ADWD does. I did some research for the publishers recently which required rereading all five books and counting statistics, and ADWD has four times as many major backstory/mystery revelations as any other book in the series, a lot of which is important to the present-day storyline as well.

However, almost none of that material is present in the TV series (or, if it is, it's fairly trivial), which gives them quite a lot of material they can shave off.

The best solution is to read AFFC and ADWD as one super-book (there's some great lists online showing how to do this), at which point they both improve immeasurably.

Book 6: Ethan of Athos


Ethan Urquhart is a doctor on the all-male planet of Athos, which is reliant on important genetic cultures in order to increase their population. When the latest culture shipment is contaminated and destroyed, Ethan is dispatched by his government to the transfer point at Kline Station to investigate. Almost immediately after his arrival, Ethan is drawn into a web of intrigue and conspiracies featuring agents from the Cetagandan Empire and the unnerving (for Ethan) presence of a female intelligence agent from the Dendarii mercenaries.

Ethan of Athos is, chronologically, the sixth novel in the Vorkosigan Saga, although it was the third to be written. Even more confusingly, it is often omitted from counts of the series due to the total non-appearance of the series' main character, Miles Vorkosigan. However, Ellie Quinn, who appeared briefly in The Warrior's Apprentice and goes on to make more important appearances alongside Miles later on, plays a major role and this book establishes a fair bit of her character and backstory. So my recommendation is to accept it as part of the saga and move on.

I enjoyed Ethan of Athos a lot. It's what Bujold does best, a comedy-of-manners romp taking in scheming, intrigue, wheels-within-wheels, deceptions and double-bluffs, and a thin layering of real science (a more thorough exploration of the uterine replicator technology mentioned in previous books) and social commentary on top. There's some nice character scenes and moments of humour, and Bujold writers her typical wit.

However, the book feels like a somewhat missed opportunity. There are a few SF novels which take a look at societies where either women are put in charge or are dominant (such as David Brin's Glory Season), or where the normal genders don't exist as we know them (obviously, The Left Hand of Darkness), but surprisingly few about the idea of a planet where only men exist. The early and closing chapters set on Athos show that Bujold has put a lot of thought into this idea and how it works, and the resulting commentary it offers up on male gender roles is facinating. But as a concept it only bookends the novel, the bulk of which is a more basic - if still fun - SF thriller.

Ethan of Athos (***½) is a solid, enjoyable SF novel, but one that feels like it could have been a lot more than that if the story had remained on Athos for its duration. Otherwise, this is a reasonable addition to the Vorkosigan series. The novel is available now in the UK and USA as part of the Miles, Mystery and Mayhem omnibus.

The EW article did float the idea of a possible 8th season, Wert. :)

The head of HBO said that the longest they've ever gone on a show before is 7 or 8 seasons, but he didn't mention that the only shows they've done for 8 seasons have been comedies on a relatively low budget (ENTOURAGE, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM). Of their long-form dramas, only TRUE BLOOD has gone 7 seasons. Even the mighty SOPRANOS only managed 6 (though they fudged it a bit with a double-length final season stripped over two years).

Note that after he said that, he again says that 7 seasons is the plan for GoT ("It's a long run for us,") and that throughout the rest of the article everyone keeps saying 7.

And yes, GRRM has told them how it ends. Benioff, Weiss and Cogman flew to Santa Fe and spent a whole week at GRRM's house, discussing how the rest of the story will unfold:

"Last year we went out to Santa Fe for a week to sit down with him [Martin] and just talk through where things are going, because we don’t know if we are going to catch up and where exactly that would be. If you know the ending, then you can lay the groundwork for it. And so we want to know how everything ends. We want to be able to set things up. So we just sat down with him and literally went through every character."

The UK and Ireland have a free movement between them agreement outside of the EU framework, so it'd probably be quite easy to incorporate Scotland into that as well.

HBO confirms that GAME OF THRONES will last 7 seasons in total.

And yes, that means the TV show overtaking the books is almost inevitable.

I should have said that doing both without the cost benefits (i.e. paying a lot less either in taxes or private fees, or both) is what's insane. The 'part and part' system is used successfully by quite a few nations - most notably I believe France - but there are clear cost benefits to the consumer to doing it that way. Not so much the American model, where the prices of the two systems seem to be almost combined, as well as the worst features of both (government bureaucracy and commercial interests dictating what drugs are developed and bought).

Ah, it appears that Spain has said it will not veto Scotland joining the EU, which is more encouraging.

I have to say, having completed M&M6 and played 7 and 8, that one thing M&M6 did not have was a lot of visual appeal. It looked pretty old-school and ropey even when it came out in 1998. If it hadn't been for the fact that M&M6 was one of the very first games I got for my first PC (after upgrading from a geriatic Amiga 500), I probably wouldn't have completed it.

If you look at the 3D games of the year (HALF-LIFE, SIN) or even the 2D ones (STARCRAFT, BALDUR'S GATE), M&M6 looked distinctly primitive. Enjoyable, though. And the scale of some of the environments (like the giant pyramid in Dragonsand) was insane.

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Someone please explain it to me.

The statistic that got me is that Americans pay a slightly higher percentage of their taxes towards government subsidies of the supposedly-private healthcare system than people in the UK do. However, we get a fully-functioning (when not being starved of resources by the Tories so they can claim it's failing and then try to privatise it, as in the 1980s and now) and pretty good national health service out of it, whilst Americans have to go and pay a ton more money in insurance and/or direct hospital fees on top of that.

That seems to be insane. Not paying any money at all towards health care out of taxes - because it's all private - makes sense. Paying taxes and not having to pay more towards healthcare afterwards makes sense. Doing both is crazy.

I must say I'm a bit bewildered by the SNP and the pro-independence's response to their recent setbacks. There've been two massive blows against their independence plans and the SNP has failed to realistically answer either one.

1) Scotland wants to keep the pound, which requires the full agreement and cooperation of the British government and the Bank of England. All three main UK parties and the Bank have said, "No, not under any circumstances." The SNP now needs to begin putting plans in place for the creation of a new, Scottish currency since the Euro is also barred to them (for the time being). Instead, their stance is, "Oh, they're bluffing, if we win they'll roll right over." This seems a highly irresponsible position to take.

2) Scotland wants to join the European Union, which requires the full agreement and cooperation of all of the EU powers. However, Spain has flatly said it will oppose and veto such a move (fearing for the precedent and what impact it will have on its own independence movements, most notably in Catalonia). The SNP now needs to begin putting plans in place for Scotland's existence outside of both the UK and EU as a country going it alone. Instead, their stance is, "Oh, they're bluffing, if we win Spain will change its mind and let us join." This seems a preposterously irresponsible position to take.

These two factors could destroy the pro-independence campaign between them. The SNP needs to get on top of them with concrete, realistic plans on how they will be addressed rather than just wishful thinking.

New trailer.

And yes, you saw what you think you saw.

Though don't expect to see it when you expect :-)

I'm just finishing up ETHAN OF ATHOS now. I think I'm settling into a run where every 4th (or so) book I read will be a VORKOSIGAN one until the series is done.

If they plan on releasing the start set in 2 months

4 months. And with most books, at about 4 months from publication they're finalising the typeset, page lay-outs and final text. At this point they can probably still change things, but not too much (and they might be at the stage where they can only change things if the replacement text uses the same space as the original, so it won't disrupt layouts). Usually printing begins 2-4 weeks or so before publication, but with this kind of big, illustrated book it's usually more.

Major, sweeping rule changs at this point would certainly appear to be out.

One question that remains not wholly answered is why Levine could not have left Irrational to set up a new, 15-person team elsewhere. By most accounts, the majority of INFINITE's team did not work on BIOSHOCK anyway, so staff turn-over at the studio (as at most) was fairly high.

The answer would appear to be that Take-Two belived that Levine WAS Irrational, which itself is an, erm, irrational viewpoint. For most people Peter Molyneux WAS Bullfrog and WAS Lionhead and both teams survived (at least for a few years) his departure.

Levine taking his core team off to make his narratively experimental game whilst the rest of Irrational made a relatively fast-turnaround BIOSHOCK INFINITE 2 to help offset the costs of the original would appear to have been a viable strategy, and certainly worked with BIOSHOCK/BIOSHOCK 2 (BIOSHOCK 2 seems to have been reasonably well-received and sold well even without Levine's input). It's curious that this question has not come up more.

Apparently the Escapist WotC for a comment on the release date and they basically said, "No comment." If it was wrong, they'd have said so, so the Escapist (at least) are convinced that those release dates are final.

Gearbox lift the lid on HOMEWORLD REMASTERED.

They confirm they are going above and beyond the call of duty. They are upgrading the ship models as well as the textures, putting in upgraded music and changing the gameplay so you don't have to sit around waiting for harvesting any more. They are also redoing all of the cut scenes at a much higher resolution and the games will support resolutions up to 4K (!).

The original, unaltered (but compatible with modern OSes) games will also be included for the purists.

No new news on SHIPBREAKERS, but it's starting to look like a 2015 release.

Oh, and you can vote on whether you want a 12", light-up model of the Mothership included in the Collector's Edition.

STELES OF THE SKY hits on 8 April. The first two books were VERY good.

THE WINDS OF WINTER is currently expected by the publishers in the latter part of 2015. Hopefully GRRM should give us a more robust progress update in the next few weeks.

It's been confirmed that Kevin Conroy will return as Batman (after sitting out ORIGINS), Nolan North will be the Penguin, Wally Wigbert will by the Riddler, Tara Strong will be Harley Quinn and Troy Baker will play Two-Face.

It's also been confirmed that:

'Arkham Knight' is actually a new supervillain created specially for this game.

Lord Snow wrote:
How do both the highlighted parts make sense?

Because you highlighted the wrong bit ;) ON CONSOLE, the game is exclusive to those two platforms alone. It'll also be on PC, and you can bet Valve will be whispering to WB and Rocksteady about the benefits of a SteamOS version. But there will be no 360/PS3/WiiU versios.


Something about Origins

It wasn't a bad game by any means but it just didn't seem as good as Arkham City. I can't quite put my finger on why exactly though.

It wasn't made by the same people, written by the same people or had (much) of the same voice cast as the first two. As a prequel, it also didn't further the narrative elements of the prior two games either.

It was, basically, a stop-gap game to give WB Games another BATMAN game to make up with ARKHAM KNIGHT not being ready for another year. As such, it was really not too bad at all. Compared to the first two, it was pretty lacking. And very heavily bugged.

This may mark a death knell or low point in the series. I only know of one person who owns a Ps4 and/or xb1.

Current sales worldwide of both consoles are about 7-8 million. That will increase a lot by later in the year, but probably not more than doubling at the most.

So that means that the install base for ARKHAM KNIGHT to tap into isn't going to be that high. I'd be surprised if they could sell more than a million or so copies on console.

However, the previous BATMAN games have sold hugely on PC. I'm guessing that they're banking on that to prop them up and get into profit. It's certainly probable that PC will be the biggest-selling format this time around, which is amusing :)

More importantly, it's a statement of confidence and intent, and it means that they can finally move on from the limitations of the prev-gen (particularly in memory, which severely limited how big the physical city could be).

BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT has been announced by WB Games.

It will be a sequel to ARKHAM CITY, picking up a year after the events of that game. The primary villains will be Harley Quinn, Two-Face and the Scarecrow. The game will also be set on the streets of Gotham City proper, featuring wide streets and long boulevards. Why? So you can drive the Batmobile down them, of course :) The playing area will also be substantially larger than ARKHAM CITY/ORIGINS.

The game will be exclusive on consoles to PS4 and XB1; there will be no prev-gen versions. The game will also launch on PC. Release date unconfirmed, but probably October-November.

Rocksteady, who made the first two games, are back for this one. It is unconfirmed who the writer is.

If they clarify that the PHB is 500-odd pages long with all of the races/classes that were previously in all of the 4E PHBs, I think a lot of people will be happy with that. The PATHFINDER core book's RRP is also $49.95 (£30 here0, but is so huge it's quite reasonable value for money.

If it's another 200-300 page book with iffy artwork, I don't think that will go down so well.

Release date leaked.

The starter set will release on 15 July for $20. The Player's Handbook will follow on 19 August for $49.95. Presumably the DMG and MM will follow in the months afterwards.

So far, reception to the PHB price has not been positive [/understatement].

Book 1: Half a King


The abrupt death of his father and elder brother puts Prince Yarvi on the throne of Gettland. It's not something he ever wanted: born with only half a hand, he's spent his life training to become a Minister, a man of learning and science. Thrust onto the throne, Yarvi must instead take up the sword to avenge his dead kin and defeat his kingdom's enemies, from within and without.

Half a King is the first novel in a new trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. It's also his first novel for a new publisher and the first set outside his signature First Law world, not to mention his first Young Adult novel. It's a change of gears for the British author, and there's a fair bit riding on how he manages to pull it off.

Those hoping for a radical change in direction or prose style will be disappointed, though conversely those hoping he'd stick doing at what he does best will be overjoyed. This is still very much a Joe Abercrombie novel, meaning there's an air of both cynicism and humour to proceedings and there's a fair amount of violence. There isn't much swearing and no sex at all, but beyond that the only way you'd know this was a YA novel is because the author said so on his website.

The main character is Yarvi, initially presented as a crippled, intellectual man forced to exist in a society where valour with a sword or axe is praised above everything else. Yarvi is constantly on the back foot until put into a situation where his wits and education can be used to the mutual benefit of himself and a band of companions. Abercrombie paints deftly the relationships between Yarvi and his new companions, such as the enigmatic swordsman 'Nothing', the master navigator Sumael and the bowman Rulf, fusing them into a genuine fellowship over the course of many trials and adventures: a harsh overland march through a frozen, barren wasteland is particularly vivid. Working with less than half the word-count of any of his previous books, this is also his most concise, focused novel to date.

The benefit of that is that there are not many wasted words and the story moves extremely briskly. The downside is that the worldbuilding doesn't get as much of a look-in as it sometimes needs to. My review copy didn't have a map and it doesn't look like the final version will have one either, which is a shame because the geographical interrelationships between the various kingdoms of the Shattered Sea and the northern wastes from where Yarvi has to make his overland journey are not strongly presented in the text. Characterisation outside of the central group is also a little vague: the machinations and plots of the main villain seem a bit random without further exploration of his character. These issues mean that Half a King does not satisfy as much as a complete package as Abercrombie's prior novels.

However, whilst this is the opening of a trilogy it is surprising that Abercrombie is able to bring as much closure as he does to the novel. There are still loose ends to be addressed in the sequels, but there are no cliffhangers. Given the relatively rapid release schedule of the trilogy (the second volume is due at the start of 2015), Abercrombie could have been forgiven for adopting a more serialised approach than he does.

Half a King (****) is in many ways vintage Abercrombie: action-packed with a vividly-told plot and characterisation is which straightforward on the surface but gives way to hidden depths underneath. The concise page count makes for a focused story but also doesn't leave much room for deeper explorations of the world. Still, this is a fast-paced, gripping story with a few nice twists. The novel will be published on 3 July in the UK and 8 July in the USA.

Book 1: God's War


The world of Umayma is divided between two warring superpowers, Nasheen and Chenja, and a whole host of neutral nations surrounding them. The nations are divided by religion, each preaching a different version of their holy book split along gender lines. Nyx is a native of Nasheen, a bel dame assassin sent out to do dirty undercover missions too dangerous to entrust to standard law enforcement. When Nyx gets in over her head, she ends up in prison and is eventually released as a free agent, a mercenary for hire. When the Queen of Nasheen gives her a special mission that can set her and her team up for life, Nyx jumps at it...only to find herself trapped behind Chenjan lines unsure of who is the enemy and whom she can trust.

God's War is the opening volume - volley may be a better term - of The Bel Dame Apocrypha. This is an SF take on the New Weird, set on a planet well over 3,000 years in the future where the natives practice different forms of Islam that have evolved from the various present-day versions of the religion, but along very different lines. Nasheen is a matriarchy where women have the power and do everything from ruling to fighting (either on the front or in boxing rings). Chenja is a more conservative and repressive nation where women are kept firmly in the home and not allowed much in the way of freedom.

The New Weird elements creep in the form of technology. For reasons not really explained in this opening volume, the colonists on Umayma does not use traditional power sources. Instead everything from lights to weapons to computer consoles are powered by bugs of varying size and capability. Special types of people, 'magicians', can manipulate these bugs for offensive and defensive purposes, sometimes to devastating effect. Also, there's other people who can transform themselves into animals, somehow. This isn't really explained either, although one revelation suggests it's a form of long-forgotten genetic engineering.

Kameron Hurley is also not an author particularly interested in exposition or infodumping. The novel opens in media res and leaves the reader scrambling to keep up with what the hell is going on. Chapters alternate between Nyx, a bel dame assassin who later turns independent contractor, and Rhys, a Chenjan refugee and magician who reluctantly teams up with Nyx for protection from her racist countrymen (and women), as well as employment. There are occasional chapters from the POV of other members of Nyx's team, but for the most part the novel is a two-hander alternated between these two very different characters and their worldviews. Rhys and Nyx are studies in contrasts, with him being religious, a man of deep conviction and faith, whilst Nyx is all but an atheist with occasional forays into depression and nihilism, whose answer to most problems is violence. Oddly, they complement one another well and most of the setbacks they face come about when they are separated.

Hurley is balancing a huge number of issues and ideas in this novel: religion, politics, gender issues, war, science and morality all play their parts against the backdrop of a mystery thriller plot. Occasionally the book staggers under the weight of these elements and bogs down. There's a few too many times when our 'heroes' are betrayed, captured and interrogated before escaping/being rescued, like an unusually violent episode of mid-1970s Doctor Who. Hurley's prose is razor-sharp and intelligent, but sometimes bogs down in quieter moments between the action into repetitive character introspection, giving a somewhat stodgy feel to some passages.

But when God's War catches fire, it catches fire like petrol thrown on a bonfire. There's a fearsome mixture of violence, attitude, politics, religion and action at work here, resulting in the most caustic and driven SF debut novel since Altered Carbon. But whilst that novel didn't seem to know quite what to do with its attitude and drive beyond fuel a mildly diverting techno-thriller, Kameron directs her writing skills here in much more productive directions. This is an exhausting, nerve-shredding and vital novel.

God's War (****) is an action-packed, smart book which occasionally stutters in its pacing and is a bit too often just confusing. But it also brims with attitude and verve and represents the arrival of a refreshing new voice in SFF. It is available now in the UK and USA.

Got it, not played it yet. The reviews seem a lot better this time around.

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