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I agree. One of the big problems with the gender stuff is that Rand, Mat and Perrin are presented as our primary protagonists when, looking at the whole series, it's actually Rand and Egwene who have the most cohesive and contrasting story arcs. In an adaptation, I'd make the story more about those two standing in for the gender stuff and put the other major characters (Mat, Perrin, Elayne, Nynaeve, Aviendha, Min) on a tier just below.
I'd also massively dial back the idea that the genders are at war with one another and show a much greater variety of relationships.
If a book you love is going to be made into a movie, get ready to be disappointed. That's just how it is. With very few exceptions.
This used to be more true than it is now. Things like LotR (but definitely not THE HOBBIT) and GAME OF THRONES show it can be done very well indeed.
I'm not sure about this, but I suspect that the series takes some inspiration from oriental cultures such as Buddhism and Chinese philosophy, so the theme of duality is very prevalent. For example, the symbol that represents the split source of power clearly resembles the Ying and Tang real world symbol. The duality of males and females is somehow related to that (I'm not deep enough in the series to know if it is ever explained or not).
The series is very heavily based on Buddhism and Chinese philosophy, with a massive dash of Hinduism and Japanese mythology as well.
Not so much "transgender" as reincarnated into a body of the other gender. The metaphysical implications are that a person's soul, not their body, determines their connection to saidar or saidin; also that the soul has a gender independent of the body, but in the normal course of things the gender of the body matches the gender of the soul.
Jordan was asked about this and he confirmed it was down to the soul. He was also asked about someone being born male in one life being reincarnated in the next as a woman and said it was something that might happen, but it was a complication he wasn't going to be looking at (IIRC). Fan speculation was that channellers would be much more likely to remain the same sex due to their very connection to the Power.
One of the biggest problems in the whole thing is gender reassignment. Whilst the 'now' of the series is a medieval society, the backstory is set in the Age of Legends, a far-future, post-scarcity SF society (which gets blown up through hubris, returning everyone to the dark ages). This society is far more advanced than our own so things like gender reassignment should be more prevalent than during our time, but it never comes up. They don't spend a huge amount of time on the Age of Legends sequences, but there was missed opportunity there to complicate things.
I very much doubt that the Source gauges access to the types of magic based on how a person dresses, feels, and behaves. So if someone in this story had a female gender, lived, dressed, and in all ways behaved as a woman, but had been born male-bodied, they would be completely unable to access the female type of magic. (Barring apparently the possibility that they have a "female soul"). That brings to mind the accusations transgender people face routinely of "not being real", but with the accusation coming from the universe itself.
Jordan definitely failed to address this point. It's worth noting that not everyone in the setting can use magic as a matter of choice: it's a simple genetic quirk whether you can use the Power or not, and less than 1% of the population even has the potential to use it (and something more like 0.1% are 'inborn', that is will develop the ability to use it whether they want to or not). So my guess that Jordan may have tried to have dodged the issue by saying it never came up.
But it's definitely been discussed many times over the years by fans, especially given the fact that Jordan did nod at the issue through the forced reincarnation of one character in another person's body (of a different sex).
Something that Jordan also left very under-developed is that there is a hint that the One Power is not actually initially a natural ability but the product of genetic engineering in our near future (the series as a whole is set thousands of years in our future, and events from our time period are occasionally mentioned as myths and legends). Exactly how that works is completely left up in the air.
Incidentally, I would recommened Mark Charan Newtorn's four-volume LEGENDS OF THE RED SUN epic fantasy series which has a trans character in the third and fourth volumes that has been received very well.
It's quite possible it works that way in the series. It just doesn't come up because Jordan never brings up trans people - other than the one forcibly reincarnated into a body of the other sex. Which isn't quite the same situation.
There is a fair bit of discussion of other gender roles: Birgitte being a soldier and the later development of a female mercenary force, whilst the Aiel, Seanchan and Sea Folk all have considerably less (or none at all) restrictions on the roles women can pursue in their societies. In fact, the fact that only women can use magic does skew gender roles in the traditional medieval/Renaissance setting away from the norms. That's something Jordan does handle quite well.
What is interesting is that Jordan was very much a feminist (or feminist ally) in his own eyes, but that was from the POV of a middle-aged guy raised in the American South in the 1950s. He was probably seen as a progressive liberal by his contemporaries, but by other standards he did see things through a more traditional lens. Charitably you can say he was trying to present a revisionist take on epic fantasy where women are equal - or even superior in some respects - in society and he occasionally got it right, occasionally got it wrong. Definitely the early books suffer from the juvenile, junior school view of the sexes in constant opposition.
I think the story and concept is very strong, though. In fact, a TV show could improve upon it by having both male and female writers to show a more balanced perspective. And it would be interesting to see if they could bring more complications to the table.
They've done a lot of mobile games, so not much to judge on.
I'm interested that the lead director of DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS (who jumped ship in protest at the direction of DA2) and someone who worked on BioWare during the heyday of their classic era is at the helm for this game. That should be promising. Combat looks solid, graphics look pretty good since I'm guessing this isn't a high-budget project (the projected budget price backs that up) and it looks like a modern BALDUR'S GATE. Clearly inspired by recent KS successes like DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN and PILLARS OF ETERNITY.
I wouldn't expect too much from the game, it looks like it was made under a limited timescale and budget, but I'll certainly check it out. A new, proper, PC-only D&D game set in the Forgotten Realms and with some reasonable talent behind it shouldn't be sniffed at. I'm actually impressed they managed to restrain themselves from calling it BALDUR'S GATE 3 just to get more sales in.
Red Eagle's ability to operate as a legal company was suspended in August 2014, allegedly for tax issues in California. No-one's found any evidence that this status has changed recently, meaning they cannot legally sue anyone because they effectively do not exist. I guess that also means they can't have made this production and that the film rights have reverted automatically to the Jordan Estate.
I'm assuming that this actually isn't the case, otherwise the people behind Red Eagle are very daft indeed.
In addition, the actress who played Ilyena in the episode is Billy Zane's girlfriend, model Candice Neill. Either he's a huge fan of the books or he saw the potential in this going to series and decided to get on the action for the chance of an ongoing role or producer's pay-off later on.
That was Book 10. Even Robert Jordan, who was completely immune to criticism, later said it was 'misjudged', which was the closest he ever got to self-realisation.
To be fair, Book 11, which he wrote alone, was a huge return to form. Books 12-14 were excellent and did wrap almost everything up very well.
Anyway, new developments! Red Eagle are suing Robert Jordan's widow because, hey, there's a couple of fans they haven't alienated yet.
1) Red Eagle made a ton of money on the deal. They bought the rights for $600K and sold them for at least $1 million to Universal (potentially as high as $9.9 million, but that's improbable).
2) The initial purchase was for The Eye of the World by itself. Presumably the later one was for the full series. If so, Robert Jordan got some bad advice as that was peanuts to pay for a series that had sold 40 million copies by that point. If not, Red Eagle can't adapt the whole series (and won't have made that any more likely due to their behaviour this week). This would go some way to explaining why no adaptation of the biggest non-adapted fantasy series on the planet has gotten off the ground whilst far less successful works are getting picked up all over the place.
3) The same studio that made Breaking Bad was interested in a deal, and may still be. That's pretty big news.
The outcome of the initial legal clash between Hasbro and Sweetpea (backed by Universal and Warner Brothers, respectively) was inconclusive. Both sides employed sharp lawyers, arguing that Courney Solomon has had twenty years to turn D&D into a movie franchise and failed and that Hasbro now deserves the rights 'back' (slightly inaccurately, as the movie rights were sold long before Hasbro bought WotC, or indeed before TSR was absorbed into WotC), whilst Solomon's lawyers pointed out they have a script in development with WB as a 'tentpole' project right now. The judge seemed rather annoyed by the whole thing and asked both sides to settle out of court, but that's not happened.
Both Universal and WB can see the big franchise potential here: a franchise that can generate not just big character films like the DC and Marvel things, but a whole universe where you can dramatically switch genres between films. Neither side are going to give up that potential - however remote of actually being successful - easily.
Relax people. It was made for the same reasons (and apparently on the same budget) as the gleefully bad fantastic four movie: to keep the rights and nothing more.
Apparently it was a bit of a fail in that area as well. This was made internally by Red Eagle and aired in an infomercial spot on FXX. They paid FXX a substantial sum of money to show it.
On that basis, this doesn't fulfil the terms of the contract, which required an external studio/producer to fund the series and get it greenlit. Red Eagle doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.
A Japanese company offered Robert Jordan a reasonable sum of money in the early 2000s to make an anime based on the books. However, they only wanted the rights to the first 3 and to turn the battle at the Stone of Tear into the Last Battle and end the story there. Jordan said no. Interest in an animated series ended at that point.
Later on, the money floating around the Universal deal got into seven figures. At that level, the chances of animation being the way forward go out the window. It simply won't make the return necessary.
My take on the sorry mess here. I've been following this story for a long, long time and there's a lot of different players involved. The major legal sticking point is that Red Eagle sold the film rights, with Harriet McDougal's approval, to Universal in 2008. The current project was not made under Universal's auspices and officially they couldn't re-sell the rights again without some sort of involvement from the Jordan Estate. That's likely going to be the sticking point that any possible legal action will hinge on.
Pretty good timing actually, as version 1.1 hits tomorrow. They've done seven minor updates since launch, but this is the first big one that has a load of graphical updates, some important stuff setting things up for later on (the addition of cities to planets, although you still can't land at them...yet), some rebalancing and a few new ships.
The game is playable with keyboard/mouse, certainly against NPCs, but if you're going to go up against other players I would recommend a HOTAS set-up. Gamepad will work in a pinch (the game's main designer actually uses a 360 pad, surprisingly) but I think a good stick set-up is the way to go. The Thrustmaster T-Flight HOTAS is cheap as dirt and very well made.
The starting difficulty could do with some tweaking. It's nowhere near as bad as EVE ONLINE, but the game doesn't do as great a job as it could of explaining things. However, the tutorials are reasonable, the downloadable manual is actually useful and YouTube pretty much covers everything else. The only thing that could do with an overhaul is trading, which is obtusely baffling, and happily version 1.1 is going some way to fixing that with a better galactic map and route-finding. That said, exploration and combat/bounty-hunting are viable alternatives to trading for making big money. Mining is terrible, but that's going to be fixed later.
Another good piece of advice is to keep an eye on the GalNet news and don't be afraid to fly over to a sector of space where stuff is actually going on. The starting area is cool with lots of interesting systems and some fun missions, but it's also a bit too stable. I took off to the Dulos system, which is in a civil war and is also located along the Federation/Imperial border (such as it is) with lots of intrigue. Today the system blew up in a series of full-scale combat engagements, leading to quite a few good missions.
At the moment I'd say the game is in a pretty good shape and will easily give out about 30-50 hours of solid gameplay before it starts to drag a little. The good news about the iterative releases (especially as it's free) is that if the game does get a little too staid you can play something, come back 2-3 months later and likely find things have changed a fair bit.
Martin's publisher merely said it wasn't on the schedule and people went ape for no reason. If the book was finished tomorrow (unlikely but not impossible), it would then go on the schedule and be out in 3 months, so it doesn't mean anything at all.
And yes, HBO now have a roadmap to the end to the series. GRRM sat down with the producers at his house over a year ago and they mapped out a path from the end of ASoS to the end of the series as a whole. He told them how it ends, what happens to the major characters, who lives and who dies, and they banged out an alternate which will in some respects mirror what happens in Books 4 and 5 (and later) and in others will go differently. According to the producers, there's no way they can tie this up in 6 seasons, but it can be done in either 7 or 8, and HBO seems to favour 7 at the moment. They can't do everything even in just the fourth and fifth books in seven seasons, so they're taking a different, more concise path.
Right now, it's looking like:
The ironborn/Euron/Victarion stuff is going to be cut down or even removed altogether. I suspect Balon lives longer and is succeeded by either Yara or Theon (after Yara rescues him) directly with no further complications relate dto Dany.
It also looks like the Oldtown subplot is going to be cut altogether. Word on the street is that Jaqen H'Ghar will meet Arya in Braavos and tutor her there. With no Jaqen in Oldtown, no casting for Sam's father and with it not looking Sam is going there either, that whole story is looking dead in the water at the moment.
It also looks like Quentyn, the Golden Company, and the Griffs are all gone as well.
On the basis, I think it's more likely that Tyrion (and Varys?) will go straight to Dany in Meereen and light a fire under her to get her back to Westeros in Season 6, possibly with Dorne simply supporting her from the get-go (I suspect Quentyn's death in the books will push Dorne into supporting the Golden Company, which will backfire badly and likely leave Dorne in a bad state when Dany does show up).
It also looks like Stoneheart is also gone, which leaves where Brienne and Pod's story goes next up in the air, along with Sansa and Littlefinger's.
OTOH, the stories of Jon, Stannis (with the addition of Davos), Cersei, Dany, the High Sparrow and his followers and so on are all going to go down at least somewhat similar to the books. The Dornish story is also going to be similar, but with Jaime on hand (so to speak) and the Sand Snakes and Ellaria standing in for Darkstar and Arianne.
Wild Cards would be problematic do to the sheer number of authors you'd have to negotiate with rights from as well as the copyright status of the work itself.
Nope, it's all covered. Martin was working in Hollywood at the time so made sure the series could be adapted if necessary. The WILD CARDS Consortium (which consists of all the 20-odd authors who have written stories) jointly owns the work and the copyrights, and Martin and I believe Melinda Snodgrass have controlling votes in the Consortium.
The main deal is that I think authors' characters can only be used by other authors with their permission. Zelazny gave that before he passed away so his characters can still show up.
The rights to the series have been bought before and are now with SyFy, who I think are only a few months away from losing them. If they go, I fully 100% expect HBO to make a play for them.
Fey'lya's poltical career was essentially built on him saying to anyone who argued with him, "Many Bothan spies died so I could sit my backside here, and I'm not budging".
Not the best bit of the series (that was Ganner Rhysode in TRAITOR) but still a reasonable end to a character who'd been really annoying for about a decade by that point.
a few good spots and an overall plot that was actually fairly decent were not in the end generally enough to counteract all of the bad writing it had.
Yeah, but a good plot and some cool scenes overcoming bad writing is pretty much what the entirety of STAR WARS is :) If superb prose and dialogue was a requirement to enjoying the franchise, the only things that people would like about it would be EMPIRE, KotOR II, maybe some of Zahn's stuff (although that's more good-pulp than actual good writing) and Matt Stover's TRAITOR, the finest piece of prose writing in the franchise. And of course, part of the NJO :)
There's actually an entire prequel-era novel - Greg Bear's ROGUE PLANET - which features information on this. It's not tremendously convincing, being a retcon, but the initial Vong scouting incursion was extremely limited and no-one believed the reports of some extragalactic fleet that was still decades away. For some reason Palpatine took it a bit more seriously and filed it away in his, "Things to look out for 60 years down the line" pile of things to do, firmly low-priority at that point.
The Republic military officer who was actually on hand for that limited encounter was, IIRC, Tarkin, which may explain why he was later able to convince the Emperor to go for the Death Star project. A couple of Death Stars running around when the Vong showed up would have made it a very different (and far shorter) conflict.
It depends on the model they are following. One suggestion I saw was that SyFy was treating this series more like a HBO model, where the whole series is written and filmed and the majority of post is done before they launch, allowing for a big marketing campaign and better writing and editing.
This is the most expensive series ever made, so it's certainly possible SyFy are doing something different with it. But yes, they could launch in the summer if they really decided to go for it.
Leads me to think the copy protection isn't what we'll have to worry about as it may be online only anyways (which is...basically...copy protection for these types of games).
The game will certainly have a singleplayer campaign. It's a TOTAL WAR-style affair with a turn-based campaign before shifting into a real-time battle mode.
Always online or not will be a different debate. Focus are usually not hugely restrictive on that, so I see no reason why it won't be playable in offline mode.
Honestly, this formula is getting old and tired. Why can't we see some of the other races of the universe? there are, like, a dozen, right?
Indeed, but I gather from sales of games based on the other races (particularly FIRE WARRIOR, which was Tau-focused) that the Imperium, Chaos, Eldar and Orks are the most reliably bankable. In addition, the game appears to be retelling the story of the 12th Black Crusade, aka the Gothic War, in which the Imperium and the forces of Chaos were in direct conflict with the Eldar and Orks getting involved on the fringes, so they are limited there by the source material.
Update: X-WING ALLIANCE, X-WING VS. TIE FIGHTER (including the essential BALANCE OF POWER expansion) and KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II were released earlier this week. EMPIRE AT WAR (including FORCES OF CORRUPTION), ROGUE SQUADRON and SUPREMACY (aka REBELLION) were all released today.
JEDI KNIGHT: DARK FORCES II (probably including MYSTERIES OF THE SITH), STARFIGHTER and REPUBLIC COMMANDO will all be released on 27 January.
So very, very good games in there.
The game will feature the battle for the Gothic system. The Imperium will be defending against Ork, Chaos and Eldar invaders. The game will use a turn-based strategy mode where ships and fleets are built and deployed and a real-time combat mode where fighting takes place.
Captains and crew will have their own AI and grow and become more skilled, and ships can be upgraded. This will lead to situations where fleet commanders may choose to save ship crews (with escape pods) to fight another day and sacrifice the ship instead. On the other hand, badly-treated captains and crews may rebel or mutiny.
Captured/conquered planets in the system can also be cleansed through an exterminatus if necessary.
Sounds pretty promising at the moment.
but the idea that the Vong could get that much intelligence on the rest of the universe without anyone else finding out and moving to counter it is a bit much for me.
The Empire did get wind of the Vong, although not the size of their invasion force or their true objectives. It was enough for the Emperor to prepare contingency plans. Unfortunately, he didn't tell anyone (possibly apart from Vader) so those plans were lost when he died.
there was nothing in story to suggest that the protagonists could do anything but constantly retreat and hope for a miracle before the Vong took over the entire universe.
That's not quite what happened. The Vong had limited military forces. They only succeeded as much as they did because they made use of conquered/allied forces, used blitzkrieg tactics and used diplomacy to keep the Empire and the Hutts out of the war. Once that failed and the Empire and Hutts entered the fight, the Vong became both seriously outnumbered and out-resourced economically. There was also the fact that the Vong were counting on a knockout blow. The heavily centralised Empire half-collapsed when the Emperor was killed and most of the reset followed when Coruscant fell and then Thrawn died. The New Republic, OTOH, was much more decentralised and Coruscant's capture did not have the same impact on the organisation, which the Vong were not expecting.
Ironically, the Vong's major advantage - their invulnerability to the Force - was completely useless because the number of Jedi and other Force-users around opposed to them was so tiny that it mostly fell back on traditional fighting, and in that arena the Vong's lack of numbers was always going to result in their defeat.
There's nothing to get excited or invested in because any solution was obviously going to come out of nowhere and when it did, the invasion would be over in the course of a single book (or at best, a half way decent trilogy) and the rest of the books in the middle had virtually no impact on the storyline whatsoever.
Again, that didn't really happen. STAR BY STAR, in the middle of the series when Coruscant fell, also showed the New Republic and their allies the way of fighting back. It was in that book that the Vong suffered a calamitous defeat and the Republic discovered that the Vong had lost over a third of their forces just getting to Coruscant, and then a hideous number more taking the planet. For much of the second half of the series the Vong are stalled because of their lack of numbers, allowing the new Galactic Federation to gain the initiative and then win. By the final couple of books, it's clear that the Vong are doomed, and Zonama Sekot showing up and convincing them to surrender simply prevents a final Gotterdamerung annihilation of the species (oddly similar to the Dominion's final defeat in DS9, actually).
Well, at least a pilot, anyway. Amazon Prime have released it to see the response before going to series.
The good news is that the critical and popular acclaim for it has been universal, so it's quite likely to make it to series.
For those not in the know, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is considered one of the greatest SF novels ever written. It's written by Philip K. Dick, who also gave us (by way of movie adaptations) TOTAL RECALL, BLADE RUNNER, A SCANNER DARKLY and MINORITY REPORT and is often said to be his finest novel (although this is disputed). The book is set in an alternate history where Germany and Japan won the Second World War (helped by Germany developing nukes long before the USA) and have occupied the United States, partitioning the country along the Rocky Mountains.
Based on the clips (being in the UK, I can't see the full pilot yet) it looks absolutely excellent. If this makes it to series, I'll be a day one viewer.
I'm not sure. The TV show looked pretty good in that it depicted the zero-G environments as being actually zero-G, instead of handwaving it. Even BSG and FIREFLY, with their nods to realism in other areas, completely shrugged off gravity as an issue. The last show which really made a thing about it was BABYLON 5, with the non-rotating Earth ships not having any gravity.
SyFy are certainly putting some serious money into this. Apparently it's their most expensive show ever, eclipsing any of the STARGATEs or BSG.
The Creative Assembly have - rather accidentally - confirmed that their next game will be based on the WARHAMMER fantasy licence. It's the first game in the long-running strategy series to be based on a licence, and their first move outside real history.
The game will likely be released in late 2016.
That the Vong knew the Republic better than the Republic knew itself plus needless infighting in the face of an enemy that really wants to destroy everything (I consider the type of biotechnology the Vong implement to be a form of scorched earth tactics) isn't even barely plausible to me.
Why? The Vong had been scouting the Star Wars galaxy for c. 60 years before the main invasion fleet arrived. The amount of intelligence they had gathered themselves was enormous, and then of course they captured Vergere and extracted a vast amount of info from her, particularly about the psychology of the various races working together.
It's also said, quite a few times in the series, that the Vong got lucky in that the New Republic was undergoing some serious democratic crises when they arrived (although some of them had been instigated by the Vong's agents). If the unified Empire had faced them, especially with a Death Star or two (to one-shot the worldships from millions of miles away, which would have made life a hell of a lot easier), the outcome would have been dramatically different. The Imperial forces smugly point that out a lot.
As for the infighting, that is completely plausible. Even in the face of overwhelming threats, vested interests continue to fight one another. You can see that right now, from nations shying away from dealing with terrorists or rogue states because they don't want to pay the price, or governments and corporations choosing to continue (or even accelerate) wrecking the planet in the interest of short-term monetary gain. Quite a few of the races in the NJO don't believe in the Vong until they're quite far advanced, and then consider themselves out of the firing line as they're too far away, or can barter with the invaders, or benefit whilst the invaders and the Republic fight one another to mutual destruction.
Sanderson has made it abundantly clear that he would not be able to finish ASoIaF. His writing style is very different from GRRM's (it was much closer to Jordan's to start with) and he won't use graphic sex or swearing. In fact, apparently even aping Jordan made him uncomfortable at times, and Jordan didn't use those things much at all. With Jordan it wasn't too much of an issue, but ASoIaF finishing with two or three PG-13 rated novels after five or six 18-rated ones would be weird.
Martin has said, contrary to some reports, that if he had a medical condition and years of warning, like Jordan did, he would take steps to allow someone else to finish the series, either directly or by publishing his notes. And in either case, I think the most likely candidate is GRRM's friend, and fine fantasy writer in his own right, Daniel Abraham, possibly helped by Abraham's co-writer and GRRM's former assistant, Ty Franck (Abraham and Franck write the bestselling SF series THE EXPANSE as James S.A. Corey).
Might you recommend some of those writers? I'm always on the loolout for good new stuff :)
Well, counting newer as authors debuting from 2006/07 onwards, I'd say Scott Lynch, Daniel Abraham, Joe Abercrombie, Kameron Hurley and N.K. Jemsin to start with.
Just started Firefight, I don't think that world is a part of Cosmere.
It isn't. Earth apparently doesn't exist in the Cosmere (the human race originated on a planet called Yolen instead, where the DRAGONSTEEL series will be set) so if a Sanderson story is set on Earth it automatically takes place outside the Cosmere. That includes the RECKONERS series and the ALCATRAZ books, along with the WHEEL OF TIME books.
From the horse's mouth:
Sanderson is indeed a great guy. There's a couple of my blurbs floating around on his books and we've swapped emails and tweets a few times.
However, I think the main criticism stands: he comes up with cool magic systems and enjoyable worlds (although his planet-by-planet worldbuilding can be sketchy and variable, his universe-building is superb), but that's the window dressing. The main course has to be the prose, which in Sanderson's case varies from clunky to reasonable, and the characters, which in Sanderson's case rarely venture above the "okay". For lack of a better term, there's a missing link in his work to date which is the ability to pull the excellent settings together with better prose and characters and deliver something incomparably good.
His plotting is also fairly straightforward, he just tends to put in twists resulting from the magic system or from starting his narrative in a different place to where writers normally start, like for example MISTBORN being set on a world where the Dark Lord won and ruined the world. That's clever and to some extent original, but not quite as mindblowing as is sometimes claimed. He does seem to be getting better at it, though: the plotting and structure in the STORMLIGHT books is a lot better than in MISTBORN, even if the characters are less well-realised.
To follow up on the comparison, the Cosmere is indeed a much more fleshed-out and fully realised setting than GRRM's Thousand Worlds (although you'd hope so, with 8 big novels and several novellas compared to 1 short novel and a few short stories). But nothing Sanderson has written compares in terms of lyrical prose or memorably-defined characters to some of those Thousand Worlds stories like A SONG FOR LYA, SANDKINGS or THE WAY OF CROSS AND DRAGON.
It sounds like I'm down on Sanderson, which isn't the case. I think he's one of the stronger fantasy authors around at the moment, certainly a lot better than the likes of Peter Brett or Pat Rothfuss (Rothfuss is a somewhat better prose writer, but his glacial pace and inconsistent characterisation are much bigger weaknesses), and has an extraordinary imagination. But there are better writers around than him who don't get as much coverage.
Sanderson has been planning his Cosmere mega-series for over 20 years, with early (and far more primitive) versions of many of his books written as far back as the late 1990s. So yes, his worlds, storylines and magic systems are impressive, but he's had a lot of pre-planning going on beforehand. It hasn't come up out of nowhere.
It helps to see the NJO in the context of when it came out. For almost decade beforehand, Bantam had run the book franchise into the ground. They got off to a brilliant start with the Thrawn books, but then hired Kevin J. "Franchisekiller" Anderson who dealt a series of blows to the franchise with some beyond-awful novels. Allston and Stackpole did some good work, but the books descended into horrible, repetitive messes with rogue Imperial generals, Force-using bad guys and superweapons tougher than the Death Star showing up on a near-monthly basis.
When Bantam lost the licence, the new guys decided, supported by Lucasfilm and even Lucas himself, that they were going to shake things up. Lucas had decided that Eps 7-9 were never, ever going to happen so he gave the writers permission to really go nuts with the setting and do a really big story and they went for it.
In that context the NJO worked, at least to start with. It was different, it genuinely developed and changed characters and events rather than returning to a status quo at the end of every book, and it had some different and interesting ideas. It eventually went too far into grimdark territory, with the war against the Vong eventually killing dozens of times the combined casualties of the Galactic Civil War and the Clone Wars combined, which was totally insane. Some of the books were also really bad, though quite a few were pretty good.
Also, fun trivia: Mark Hamill's sole appearance as Luke Skywalker post-Ep. 6 and pre-Ep. 7 came in TV spots for the first NJO book coming out.
Also, the senior editor on the NJO was James Luceno, possibly better-known as one half of the writing team Jack McKinney who wrote the ROBOTECH novels. There are some very strongly ROBOTECH-like aspects to the NJO that are quite amusing to ponder, from the massive fleet battles involving thousands of ships to the fact that the Vong feel like being somewhere between the Invid and Zentraedi, and the Force occasionally feels treated like a less corporeal version of protoculture. The parallels are certainly interesting.
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Matthew Stover's "Traitor" is worth the entire series all on its own, one of the best SW books written.
TRAITOR is one of the best bits of STAR WARS in existence. The only things batting at the same level IMO are KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and, on a good day, Ep 4. Ganner Rhysode's last stand is jaw-dropping stuff.
In fact, it's so good it even got George Lucas (who is apathetic about most of the EU) to hire Stover to write the Ep. 3 novelisation, which just about everyone seems to agree is vastly superior to the film itself.
That said, it had some great books (both Allston books, the one by Stackpole, and Greg Keyes did one great book and one good one, both featuring the best young character of his generation, Anakin Solo (and Tahiri Veila, also a very good character). Whom then was killed off in the most stupid Star Wars editorial decision since, I guess, the Star Wars Holiday Special.
This was down to Word of Lucas. The original plan was to kill Jacen and keep Anakin. And then Lucas decreed that it was too confusing to have two Anakins running around (the NJO books came out alongside the prequel trilogy) and ordered him killed off. It apparently threw the plans for the series and the following books off-kilter, and it shows.
Cain isn't a coward at all by our standards, but his cautious tactical appraisals and reluctance to lead from the front are certainly cowardly by the standards of the Imperium. He definitely underrates himself, as Vail points out repeatedly in the footnotes. He's more likable than Flashman, certainly, but there is a similar riff in the fact that eventually his stellar reputation becomes so essential to his survival and identity that he actually can't turn down dangerous missions or run away from trouble because the resulting disgrace would be worse than death.
They're certainly great books. And I have to give a shout-out to Jurgen, Cain's bodyguard who is a cross between Gregor Clegane and Baldrick. Brilliant. Also, General Sulla, the psyochopathic, lunatic general whose crazy and incompetent career seems to have been accidentally launched by Cain's patronage, despite the fact he utterly despises her.
Oh, and the books reference an Imperial treatise on Orks which is called WAAAAGH! AND PEACE, which is the greatest 40K joke ever uttered.
Are the books set in the universe good? like, actually good? Would reading them be advisable to someone with the portfolio I described above?
Sandy Mitchell - who writes the CAIN books - and Dan Abnett are both top-notch, good writers. They're both writing excellent SF war stories that just happen to be set in the 40K universe. If they took them out of the setting and used different races/backgrounds, they'd still be as good. Abnett is particularly impressive for mixing his styles, with the GAUNT'S GHOST series being solid military SF (think of the SHARPE novels in space) but his EISENHORN/RAVENOR/BEQUIN trilogy-of-trilogies being more hardcore SF noir, more like someone like Richard Morgan (just with less swearing and no awkward sex scenes).
Paul Kearney, an excellent, top-tier fantasy writer, is also releasing his first 40K novel in May. He should be a superb fit for that universe.
Doomed Hero wrote:
There are others who keep up that kind of pace. What sets Sanderson truly apart is his quality. The only person I can think of who is as prolific, and reliably great is Terry Pratchett.
Dan Abnett is also as fast, if not faster (counting his comics work actually pushes him ahead of Sanderson), and probably a stronger author overall. Steven Erikson was also faster and more prolific (and certainly better in several key respects) than Sanderson back in the day, but Erikson's dialled it right down now his main fantasy series is complete. Daniel Abraham isn't too far off, with writing three series in three separate genres simultaneously with a new book in each a year, plus lots of short stories, several comic books and now several episodes of a TV series each year as well. He's also a better writer than Sanderson.
I'm a fan of Sanderson's, but his speed does come at a price. The pre-planned nature of his books helps them come out faster, but they sometimes do feel a little too well-oiled and mechanical. He also has a problem with creating really good, compelling characters. Vin, Kelsier and Sazed are definitely up there, but the main STORMLIGHT cast are a bit dull by comparison. Wax and Wayne are more entertaining, and the non-pre-planned nature of that series (which was a short story that got completely out of control) might have contributed to that.
I'm sure they'll honor their grandfather's wishes.
If anything, JRRT was a lot less maniacal about the books than his son was. Tolkien was up for different adaptations/alternative versions of the books and even fanfiction, as long as no-one tried to make money out of it.
Christopher has a strained reputation in Tolkien fandom because he hasn't done what JRRT said he wanted, the canon opened up for different people to take a look at.
I gotta say not knowing where those goats came from just really ruined the movie for me.
The Extended Edition :) When Dain shows up some dwarven cavalry (!) on war-goats (!) are also supposed to be shown, so later on we know where they've come from. There's also supposed to be a longer sequence with Radagast and Gandalf where Radagast gives Gandalf his staff and there's more on Radagast going to recruit Beorn. Also, a funeral sequence with Thorin, and more of a reflection on what happens at the end.
I haven't been moved to get the EEs of the other two films, but this one sounds like it'll have a lot more stuff in it that's actually important and relevant to the story.
Ed Reppert wrote:
Jackson may want a different timeline, but screw him. :-)
Different canons. The film canon omits the 17-year-gap between Bilbo leaving and Gandalf returning to kickstart the Ring quest. It all happens in a few weeks. Coupled with the 60-year gap to THE HOBBIT mentioned in FotR (it should be 60 until Bilbo leaves and 77 to the start fo the quest), that bumps Aragorn's age up by 17 years as well.
Apparently Aragorn was even going to have a cameo, but Viggo said no and that he didn't want to continue acting against tennis balls.
For Christopher Tolkien...never going to happen.
For 90-year-old Christopher Tolkien, it's never going to happen. What happens after his time is up remains to be seen. Not to wish ill on him (my own grandfather is actually a lot older and still going strong), but this decision will be in another generation's hands at some point.