The Way of Kings Read Along: Week Seven

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I can’t believe there’s only 30% of this book left to read!  These last seven hundred pages have been amazing and I’m excited to see how this book will end in a couple weeks~  I’m so glad I decided to participate, haha.  Anyway, this week we’re discussing chapters 43 through 50, with Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers hosting!  MAJOR SPOILERS ARE IN THE CHASMS BELOW, BEWARE.

1. What did you think of the replacement for the delightful Lamaril, or rather, what did you make of his wife, who seems to do all his work? She assumes that chasm duty is the worst punishment that she can throw at the bridge crew, so were you surprised that Kaladin saw an opportunity in it so quickly?

Everyone’s got it out for Bridge Four, I swear.  I mean, I suppose they don’t want the other bridgemen to follow their example, as broken bridgemen seem to be what Sadeas prefers.  They’re arrow fodder, barely even human in these people’s eyes.  I’m glad Kaladin didn’t let despair overcome him again with the new assignment, and though this opportunity is essentially their last hope, he is dedicated to this (likely) futile plan.  I can only hope things go well in the end, but with his track record thus far, I’m afraid we’ll see disaster.  But, we have three hundred pages left and the rest of the series, so maybe they will prevail? :O

2. Please use this opportunity to list all the imaginative ways that you would like Roshone to suffer for forcing poor little Tien into the army. 😦

That man needs to fall into a chasm in the Shattered Plains (or pushed, perhaps?), somehow survive the fall, and then get dismembered one limb at a time by a chasmfiend.  And then subsequently eaten.  Or he could be soulcast into fire.  I could also go with him being dragged behind a chull for as many miles as it takes until he is barely alive, then leave him for whatever equivalent of buzzards Roshar has.  If the “buzzards” don’t get him, the highstorms will.  *laughs maniacally*

3. Finally, somebody is asking questions about the inconstancy of the Parshendi artifacts and how Gavilar changed in the months leading up to his death. What do you make of the accounts that Shallan is reading? Also, what do you think about Shen, the Parshman added to the bridge crew?

The Parshendi have to be getting their Shardblades and plates from SOMEWHERE.  Whether it’s from ruins they’ve stumbled upon or if some figure is gifting them, I don’t know.  But it seems to be the root of most of the problems.  As for our Parshman, he’s definitely got more to him than meets the eye.  As do the rest of the Parshmen, I would think.  I wonder when they came to be used as slaves by everyone else?  And if they have a hivemind type thing like the Parshendi?  If they do… I would be afraid of what happens if they all decide to rebel at once.

4. Shallan has some seriously bizarre visions or hallucinations. Do you have any new ideas about the nature of the symbol-headed figures: are they good or evil? What about the alternative world and the beads: could that really have been the soul or essence of the goblet that she spoke to before it changed into blood?

At first I thought they were malevolent beings… Now I’m not so sure.  They definitely have something to do with Shallan figuring out how to Soulcast, but the connection with the king and a supposed future demise also bothers me.  Or maybe I’m reading too much into things?  The alternate world with the beads made me think almost of the atoms binding the goblet together, or seeing the goblet at a more molecular level.  At least, this seems like an interesting way to think about it.

5. Does Kaladin’s dream / vision seem similar to those that Dalinar has been having? He is called the ‘Child of Tanavast, Child of Honor’ and there is mention of an entity called Odium, who appears to be rather bad. Do you have any speculation about these two beings, how they fit into the world that we have seen so far and why the name Odium makes Syl hiss and fly off?

It is definitely of a similar source, for sure, but they obviously have different roles to play and therefore receive different messages.  I don’t really know what they are, to be honest.  Odium sounds like the embodiment of evil from the information we have so far, but perhaps that is too broad of an assessment.  Whatever they are, they definitely have a connection to the impending calamity that Roshar will likely face in the near future.

6. We have learnt some more about the events following Cenn’s chapter way back at the beginning of the book. Were you surprised that Kaladin defeated a Shardbearer almost singlehandedly? This still does not explain why he is a slave, but does it bring us closer to guessing?

Kaladin is the best, I swear.  I’m not entirely surprised he managed to do it himself, but I WAS surprised that he relinquished his rightful prize to another.  I mean, from the past info I thought it was stolen directly from him… But now I can only assume it could have been taken from the man he gave it to.  We are definitely closer to the heart of the truth in this matter.  Amaram was NOT prepared for that at all.  Which begs the question… Why WAS there a Shardbearer in that battle in the first place?  *ponders*

7. I think I made it quite clear last week that I did not trust Kabsal, so I am now feeling rather smug. However, I did not guess at the poison in the bread: did it surprise you as well? Can you see any way that Shallan can reconcile with Jasnah now that the theft has been revealed?

Oh, Kabsal.  Oh, oh Kabsal… The poison was completely unexpected, especially with the antidote in the jam.  Though, Kabsal was acting rather suspicious and I had already thought he had ulterior motives, I just didn’t believe he would actually go to such lengths.  At this point, I don’t know if Shallan can reconcile at all with Jasnah, though I think Jasnah has a lot more up her sleeve than I think.  She had to have known before.  She had to…

So we’ve got a big spooky force that makes our lovely spren hiss, ehh?  Sounds like signs of big things going down. 😀  See you next week, guys~

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The Way of Kings Read Along: Week Six

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I’m slightly late this week, I know — catching up after snow days has been rough on the classwork front.  I liked this section a lot, though I feel like I’m saying that every time, haha!  The Way of Kings has made me a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson and I’m pretty sure as soon as Words of Radiance releases I’m diving right in.  I mean, I’ve got it preordered and by the time it releases the read along should be finished~! ❤

Anyway, this week we’re discussing chapters 33 through 42, and There Were Books Involved is kindly hosting this week.  OBLIGATORY MAJOR SPOILER WARNING FOR MID-BOOK CONTENT. 

1. Both Kabsal and Jasnah have spoken to Shallan about stealing the Soulcaster, and both have done so in a pretty lighthearted manner, considering how serious it would actually be to steal it. Do you think Kabsal was telling the truth when he brushed off Shallan’s questions about his plan to steal the Soulcaster? Is he still interested in stealing it? Does he have other, deeper motives??

Oh, I want to like Kabsal so much and think he just likes Shallan for how she is.  But the cynic in me keeps saying that there are ulterior motives.  I wonder if Kabsal somehow knows that Shallan switched the Soulcasters?  Maybe that’s a bit far-fetched, but maybe he’ll use that fact to his advantage.  Though, like he said, if he DID steal it, there would be hell to pay and perhaps even war, so… Maybe for once I can be optimistic~

2. By the end of the section, Shallan has found out that she’ll be able to return home in one week, but she’s torn between wanting to continue her studies, and being able to take the stolen Soulcaster home. So far it looks like her theft hasn’t been detected, but do you think she’ll be found out before that time? Do you think she should leave, or might decide on her own to stay? Could something else happen to make her stay? 

I seem to have a feeling that Jasnah already knows and is waiting to see what Shallan ultimately decides to do before calling her out on the theft.  Really, I WANT Shallan to stay and feel that she probably will end up doing so in the end, but an alternative will have to be figured out in order to keep the family going.  Perhaps it may be considered selfish of her, but I think going through with the plan will become more trouble than it’s worth and Shallan deserves some freedom after living confined for her entire life beforehand.  I suppose I just like seeing scholarship win, hehe.

3. How much do you think Jasnah actually knows about the theft of her Soulcaster? Is it even remotely possible that Jasnah is still in the dark about it? If she knows, did she in fact dupe Shallan with a fake, as Shallan theorizes? Or did Jasnah let her steal it? Why??

Like I said in the previous question, I think Jasnah already knows and is maybe even testing Shallan to see how her actions pan out.  I don’t think the discussions on philosophy were a coincidence, and it could even be an additional lesson on that front.  If, in fact, she does know, it is also quite possible Jasnah realizes Shallan’s family situation and maybe will even find it in her heart to give some form of assistance if Shallan chooses to stay in Kharbranth.  Or maybe my prior optimism is growing too much and I’m being too hopeful, I dunno.

4. During the Highstorm, Kaladin experiences a lull during which the wind and rain stop, he feels no more pain, and he sees an enormous “face of blackness, yet faintly traced in the dark”. The face is described as, “Inhuman. Smiling.” Was Kaladin just hallucinating? If not, do you think this being had something to do with recharging the sphere? With Kaladin somehow feeling better before the storm kicked up again? Or could this being be malevolent? Thoughts/theories??

I wonder if this is the Stormfather figure that keeps getting mentioned now and then.  I mean, I don’t think Kaladin was necessarily hallucinating…. And it would make sense that the sphere was recharged due to the energy it would take to manifest such a being or at least some aspect of this theoretical “Stormfather” that we don’t know the details about.  Since Kaladin survived the highstorm’s judgment, I don’t think the being is malevolent, but nor do I think it’s good either.  Indifferent is probably the best answer to that — I mean, humans are likely puny in comparison, so why should it have a necessarily good or evil disposition when it comes to humanity?  I’m curious to see if it shows up again and if so, what we’ll learn about the nature of the highstorms from that.  *sits patiently*

5. Before Kaladin is forced to endure the Highstorm, he tells his men to come out after the storm is over; he says he’ll open his eyes and look back at them, and they’ll know that he survived. Kaladin obviously survives, and everyone in Bridge Four is really glad about that. But we haven’t yet seen a reaction from anyone other than Kal’s men. Do you think Kaladin’s survival could have a wider impact than just giving his own group of bridgemen hope?

Perhaps once word spreads, it may both give other bridgemen hope as well as scare the everliving shit out of the rest of Sadeas’s army, if not the entire army.  I mean, he survived a highstorm and that’s unheard of.  Therefore he’s a source to be reckoned with and it might make the lighteyed soldiers and even perhaps the highprinces feel threatened.  Kaladin should be watching his back after this, for certain.  Who knows if someone would want to take him out because of his survival?

6. We learn quite a bit about Teft in this section… kind of. But pretty much everything we learn just leads to more questions. What do you think about these “Envisagers” Teft mentions? How much do you think Teft knows about Kaladin’s ability to use Stormlight? It seemed like Teft became wary of Kaladin after he recovered – why? Do you think he’ll tell Kaladin about what he knows?

Kaladin can use Stormlight.  Szeth can use Stormlight.  Perhaps they are both of this same class of people that Teft mentions?  I mean, if he’s familiar with this happening, then it must not be quite as uncommon as we are lead to believe, but perhaps the Envisagers, rather than keeping the peace or being inherently good, have caused quite a lot of problems in Teft’s life.  He knows more than he lets on, that’s for certain… And I’m kind of afraid as to what the information will entail, if he does decide to tell Kaladin.  The threads of complication are being woven ever tighter…

That being said, I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

Other things:

Jasnah’s philosophy lesson!  Putting down victim blaming!  She is one of my favorites, I swear — perhaps because I relate to her and to some extent Shallan more than anyone else in the novel.

Gaaaah, I’m already itching to be reading the next section even though I have so much schoolwork I should be focusing on.  But booooooks.  BOOOOOOOKS.  I like reading something other than textbooks every once and a while, you know?

The Unsettling, the Frightening, the Horror: Welcome to October

Now that we’ve begun the month of spooky delights, I am proud to announce the extent of my involvement in Horror October, hosted by Leanne at Literary Excursion!

Horror October @ Literary Excursion

I’ve never had an incredibly strong relationship with the horror genre, even though my Anne Rice obsession in high school could be loosely mentioned in this case.  Since the event can include the paranormal, such as vampires, werewolves, demons, elder gods, and such monstrosities, much of my schedule shall be focusing on such creatures.  Yes, many of these reviews DO involve vampires, but not the sparkling vegetarian pretty boys that have come to plague the genre as of late.  And I’ll be finally giving my first Stephen King novel a shot, in honor of Doctor Sleep‘s release!  I have been meaning to read his novels for a very long time, and unfortunately I’ve only read a short story of his, so this is going to change.

My Horrific Schedule:

October 11th: Short Story Friday review of “The Call of Cthulhu”
October 23rd: Review of Let the Right One In

October 30th: Discussion of Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth Rewatch and Thoughts)
October 31st: Review of The Strain

Funny enough, three out of four of the novels I’m reviewing have film counterparts – and I haven’t actually seen The Shining.  This should change, yes?

This schedule is subject to change, meaning I may add certain posts, postpone, or forget some altogether.  It really just depends on the time I have, since midterms and registration occur this month as well.  If there are any additions, they would include horror-based short stories and novellas (I own an entire compendium of The Weird to dig through~) and possibly the giveaway novel I received about a week ago that involves horror elements as well.  Any edits will be highlighted in this initial post, so check back if something doesn’t seem right!

October shall be quite busy and fun~  I am planning on finally seeing a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast as well (I’ve seen the film plenty of times, I promise!).  And I may need to rewatch Repo! The Genetic Opera.  So many ideas.  So little time.  Grrr.

Edit: Midterms and things have been quite grating on my time, as well as doctor visits, so my review list had to be chopped.  This is rather frustrating for me to do, but I can’t put myself under more stress than I’m already under, unfortunately.  There are things still being posted though, so don’t worry~

Stand Alone or Series? My Internal Struggle

As I was compiling my ever growing backlog list of books I wish to read in the future, something occurred to me.  Especially in the fantasy/science fiction genres, though definitely not limited to those, there’s the dynamic between this:

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Caption: An Example of The Stand Alone Novel

And this:

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Caption: The Massive Wheel of Time series, not all included in this picture. @___@

Now, there’s certainly advantages to both of these methods of storytelling.  With the stand alone novel, you can compactly (I use this term very loosely) tell a story and still do a good bit of world building if needed.  But, there’s only so much content you can put in a stand alone novel before it becomes too long, scaring off the casual reader from the dictionary-esque size of your novel, the book ending up as some old granny’s door stopper.  You do have the advantage of, generally, NOT DYING while you’re trying to complete your book.  (Obviously there have been plenty of authors that have died trying to complete a single stand-alone novel, but you get the picture).

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I’m looking at you, GRRM.  YOU BETTER NOT DIE BEFORE FINISHING ASOIAF.

But many times writers have more to tell, more to explore, with certain worlds, characters, and creations.  And that’s where we get the series.  Which is an absolutely wonderful medium, don’t get me wrong.  There are a great many series that are well written and should not be told in a single novel because it would cut short what the author would deem necessary content.

However, the depressing thing is… lately I’ve been associating series of novels with YA vampire/werewolf/fairy/some sort of supernatural creature shit that plagues the shelves of Targets and Wal-Marts everywhere.  I don’t think I HAVE seen a stand alone novel of that genre (I’m sure you can prove me wrong, but it’s what gets shoved in my face so often it’s hard to have another opinion). It also seems like it’s being used as a money-maker more than anything for a good amount of authors.  Additionally, the quality of writing sometimes suffers as the novels go along, as I’ve really noticed with the recommendations to ONLY read the first book of, say, Dune for example.  Getting invested into a series can be daunting, certainly, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above.

It’s why I’ve decided to really listen to recommendations and advice given on each series I even think of starting, and at least give the first novel a chance.  But I hate that I’ve ended up with this sort of view of novel series, and I probably am not the only one.

So, my question is this.  Which do you prefer?  What do you think of the issues I’ve raised?  What issues would you raise about each medium?  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, though not so eloquently put in this post, I’m sure.

Blogger’s Log: Yes I am reading Lolita.  No, I haven’t finished it.  Klonopin is one hell of a drug.  But I’m being switched off of it so I can be more alert and focused instead of a walking zombie, so yay!

Embassytown: “I don’t want to be a simile anymore,” I said. “I want to be a metaphor.”

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Embassytown —  China Miéville
Released: May 17th, 2011 by Del Ray
Source: Purchased (Digital)
Rating: ★★★★★

Links: AmazonBook Depository

I will admit I haven’t had much experience with science fiction in the literary sense.  I’ve been an avid viewer of various Sci-Fi television series and films in the past (note to self: finish watching Battlestar Galactica before the semester starts back up), but my experiences in an honors college seminar based on science fiction and fantasy literature this spring gave me the drive to begin delving into this genre of fiction.

I was introduced to China Miéville and his work through this class, though we only read his short story “Details”, which I highly recommend reading if you’re into “weird” fiction.  The PDF is available for free online with a simple Google search, but I digress.  This is about my first experience with a full length novel of one of the proprietors of The New Weird.  I’m glad to say that I will be going back for more , like a deprived addict.This is the science fiction novel linguistics lovers might be driven to ecstasy with.  Though I’m no linguistics major, so I may need to do some empirical — and hopefully ethical — testing on some of my college friends.

Far off into the future, where mankind has had, in what the book terms their diaspora, there’s this small colony on the edge of known space known as Embassytown.  The most interesting aspect of this colony are the host species, known as the Ariekei.  Their manner of Language is entirely unique to the novel’s universe.  They can only speak what is true, what exists or has existed, what has happened.  Rather than their language symbolizing anything, their Language IS what they’re speaking.  Lying, therefore, is an impossibility, unheard of until the arrival of humanity.  Even further complicating the matter, they speak in two voices and while humans can learn to understand them, only those specially trained and altered can speak to the Ariekei themselves.  The concept is a bit complicated for me to explain — there isn’t anything like it in our world.

To help advance their Language and be able to express certain concepts more properly, the Ariekei make an effort to create similes.  And this is what our main character, Avice Benner Cho (ABCs, anyone?) is.  A living simile.  The girl who was hurt in the darkness and ate what was given to her.  She is an immerser, has traveled into the “Out” and has returned with her new linguist husband, Scile.  But as a new Ambassador arrives, a catastrophic event occurs that changes the dynamics between the Ariekei and the humans forever.

I think that about summarizes the main points of the plot without giving too much away.  It’s a complex novel, with Language being a central point to everything.  If you’re not familiar enough with the intricacies and jargon that comes with linguistics, you might have a bad time.  Though the Kindle dictionary function helped with that immensely, my intellectual pride dropped a considerable amount from how many times I actually had to use it.

But Language is not the only theme.  You get a bit of politics, war, interpersonal conflict… It’s certainly not a one dimensional book.  And if you’re like me, it will take some time to digest.  But I found that I learned a lot, especially about the nature of language, lies, and the psychology of people under crisis situations.  And the world building involved with this novel is absolutely stunning.  Learning about the concepts of the immer, which the best way I can describe it as is a sort of “ocean” in space, was probably my favorite part of this future world.

My utter enjoyment of all of  these topics mentioned ended in me rating the book as five stars.  However…. There were a couple of points that rather frustrated me.

I HATED Avice.  Absolutely loathed her.  She takes pride in “floaking”, which is described as “the life-technique of aggregated skill, luck, laziness and chutzpah”.  She is, at least to me, arrogant and seems to take advantage of her novelty of actually leaving the planet itself and being an “immerser”.  At one point in the novel, she seems to have a superiority complex regarding the other similes, not wanting to initially have any sort of contact with them.  This sort of attitude continuously grated on my nerves like that one annoying rich kid who gets by doing as little as possible and still ends up immensely successful.  Yet she still is intelligent enough to actually be of some use if she, you know, ACTUALLY APPLIES HERSELF.  She still does rate lower on my list of “Most Hated Central Character” than Raskolnikov.  Oh god, that man made it impossible for me to finish Crime and Punishment because how much I absolutely fucking hated him.  Literary PTSD……

The other characters didn’t get as much fleshing out as I would have liked to see in them.  In fact, one of the characters, her automaton friend than I can’t seem to recall the name of, was practically useless to the story line, other than showing the dynamics between human and machine.  But then again, this tale is less about the characters and more about the overall world and language.  Therefore, to me that is something I can overlook.

The last thing is, regardless of the descriptions Miéville gives on the host aliens, I had a really hard time visualizing them.  Maybe it’s a deficiency in my imagination, I have no clue.  They were utterly unlike any alien species I’ve ever encountered in television, movies, and the little bit of science fiction I have read.   I even took it upon myself to look up artist renditions after I finished the novel.  They’re absolutely fascinating creatures, I just wished I could have more fully recreated them in my mind at the time of reading.  Here’s the recreation I found online, though I cannot find the actual source of the image, so I apologize.

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Overall, I recommend this book if you’re looking into getting into a deep read with a complex, alien world and concepts that will take you quite a few pages to work out completely.  It’s an arduous journey, but to me, it was worth it in the end.  I am better for it.  And I can assure you I’ll be reading more Miéville in the future.  I have a physical copy of Perdido Street Station laying on my desk, actually…  Tempting.

Note: It was also, interestingly enough, my first full read on my new Kindle, which I enjoyed more than I thought I ever would, coming from one of those physical book only mindsets.  Though now I really want a physical copy for my bookshelf, but there’s that problem of “I’m a broke college student and need to buy textbooks and pay my apartment’s rent” issue.  First world problems at their finest.