Monday, November 21, 2011

Game of Thrones, Season 2 Production Video

Season 2 - In Production

Hmmm... April doesn't seem so far away after all, huh? Days turn into weeks turn into months... time flies when you're having fun.

I saw some new faces, new characters, and yet some were oddly familiar (Was that Anne Boleyn from The Tudors? Yay!)... I wonder if the DVD set of Season 1 will be out in time to put it on my Xmas wishlist, so I can rewatch the series again before Season 2.. hmm..

How many of you are excited for Season 2 of Game of Thrones?

Source: HBO

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gaming | The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Early Reviews.

Today is the big day, boys and girls. Maybe some of you lucky buggers already have your copy - me, it's going to have to wait until tomorrow, alas.

I was hoping to find some early reviews, beyond the ones I linked yesterday, but ... unsurprisingly, Aidan at A Dribble of Ink beat me to it.

But the reviews look good - as well they should be.

Game of the Year, says me - in theory. I'll get a dozen or so hours into the game and come back with a report, for those who are waiting before making the investment in money, time and social life. ;-)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lord of Souls: An Elder Scrolls Novel by Greg Keyes

Mmm, Skyrim week!

Lord of Souls: An Elder Scrolls Novel

Perfectly, or not, I received the "advance uncorrected proof" copy as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, back in July - then, unfortunately, it sat in storage for much longer than the two weeks I had planned. I actually finished reading it a few weeks ago, but I wanted to write about it this week, with the release of Skyrim.

Here's the blurb from Amazon:
Forty years after the Oblivion crisis, the empire of Tamriel is threatened by a mysterious floating city, Umbriel, whose shadow spawns a terrifying undead army.
Reeling from a devastating discovery, Prince Attrebus continues on his seemingly doomed quest to obtain a magic sword that holds the key to destroying the deadly invaders. Meanwhile, in the Imperial City, the spy Colin finds evidence of betrayal at the heart of the empire—if his own heart doesn’t betray him first. And Anna├»g, trapped in Umbriel itself, has become a slave to its dark lord and his insatiable hunger for souls.
How can these three unlikely heroes save Tamriel when they cannot even save themselves? 
Based on the award-winning Elder Scrolls® series, Lord of Souls is the second of two exhilarating novels that continue the story from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, named 2006 Game of the Year by numerous outlets, including Spike TV, the Golden Joystick Awards, and the Associated Press.

Having played a good bit of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, I was somewhat familiar with some of the world-building terminology... however, the first fifty pages went a bit slowly for me. I am unfamiliar with the first book in this series, and I can't help but think that it might be better to read that before reading this.

However, ultimately, the story stood well enough on its own, and as the novel progressed, certain gaps and questions fell into place.

This is a niche novel, not unlike those by Weis/Hickman - you need to be able to immerse yourself into a secondary world with a deeply established set of rules and protocols, some of which stray from traditional fantasy, others which mirror and echo what you might expect in the genre. In other words, fans of the Elder Scrolls games are more likely to enjoy this.

Greg Keyes does a fine job at characterization - none of the characters are perfect, and while the story itself is somewhat short at just over 300 pages, there's plenty of time to explore motivations, back story, and varying degrees of character growth.

Without giving too much away, the ending was not what I expected for a novelization of a video game. While there was certainly an element of resolution and "happily ever after", which may be too saccharine for some tastes, there were also as many, if not more, tragic resolutions which stayed true to not only the characters, but also the storyline.

The beginning of the tale seemed a little awkward with the prose - but I attribute that to the nature of an ARC - otherwise, Keyes is a solid wordsmith, with moments of levity, humor and vivid description enough to keep the whole work entertaining. What Keyes did not do, to his credit, was spend too much time on meaningless narrative. Perhaps a few spots where a character's introspection was mildly overwrought - but again, it fit the particular chapters where they were found.

Who should read this? Those who have read the first novel, of course. Those who have played Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and those gamers who want a little backstory before playing Skyrim.

Near as I can possibly tell, Lord of Souls has actually nothing to do with Skyrim, as it follows events following the storyline at the end of Oblivion, and takes place in Cyrodiil.

As you can see by the nifty map I snagged from the unofficial Elder Scrolls wiki, Skyrim is a region to the north.

Give it a read while you're burning up the time until you get your hands on Skyrim! I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Gaming | The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim (Part 3) Dragons!

First, this video with Todd Howard of Bethesda Studios.

Then, this IGN overview video, which shows some material I've not seen elsewhere.

The superlinkhappygoodness for today comes from the Bethesda Blog. Follow this link to find 9 different previews and commentary from a 3 hour tour of Skyrim, as well as a host of new screenshots.

To complete today's Dragon theme, enjoy these Skyrim screenshots.

One more day!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gaming | The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, (Part 2) Demo Videos

I did a little snooping and found the extended version of the E3 demo video, as presented by Bethesda Software on their Youtube channel.

Truly looks amazing - and Todd Howard's commentary is somewhat more in-depth than it was in the E3 sneak preview.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gaming | The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Part 1)

Friday is the big day, the day that Skyrim goes on sale. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the predecessor, is easily one of my favorite console RPG's of all time - in my mind, the only thing that could be better than Oblivion Game of the Year edition, is a whole new game.

From the official site:

The Empire of Tamriel is on the edge. The High King of Skyrim has been murdered.
Alliances form as claims to the throne are made. In the midst of this conflict, a far more dangerous, ancient evil is awakened. Dragons, long lost to the passages of the Elder Scrolls, have returned to Tamriel.
The future of Skyrim, even the Empire itself, hangs in the balance as they wait for the prophesized Dragonborn to come; a hero born with the power of The Voice, and the only one who can stand amongst the dragons.
Here's an exclusive video from G4TV, from the E3 convention over the summer.

This looks amazing! I've already reserved my copy.

Too many thoughts and too much excitement for just one post... but

... Improved graphics engine looks great;
... Improved character customization
- special moves
- Duel wielding (!)
- custom skill tree
... 16 miles of terrain, 150 dungeons
... He said, "You can climb to the top of that mountain." I remember being stuck on the side of countless hills in Oblivion.

I'm going to go find some more information and screenshots and videos; In the meantime, what do you think? Any readers of this blog looking forward to Skyrim's release?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Reading Journal, Fall 2011

Sometime this past summer, I put all of my books into storage... thinking that it wouldn't be in there long.

Boy, was I wrong. And then I've been busy. The last few months, I've read less than at any time in the last couple years. Shame on me.

Moving right along.

R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness that Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing), Book One.

From Amazon:

Strikingly original in its conception, ambitious in scope, with characters engrossingly nd vividly drawn, the first book in R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series creates a remarkable world from whole cloth-its language and classes of people, its cities, religions, mysteries, taboos, and rituals-the kind of all-embracing universe Tolkien and Herbert created unforgettably in the epic fantasies The Lord of the Rings and Dune. It's a world scarred by an apocalyptic past, evoking a time both two thousand years past and two thousand years into the future, as untold thousands gather for a crusade. Among them, two men and two women are ensnared by a mysterious traveler, Anas├╗rimbor Kellhus-part warrior, part philosopher, part sorcerous, charismatic presence-from lands long thought dead. The Darkness That Comes Before is a history of this great holy war, and like all histories, the survivors write its conclusion.
This book took me about a month to read. Bakker is a graduate philosopher, and it's obvious within the first 50 pages that this is not a light read. That's not a criticism - it is what it is. The characterizations, story arcs, and world building were all quite entertaining, and adroitly executed. The prose and the thematic elements are very dense, however.

It's not a tale for everyone. I found myself thinking quite a bit of Steven Erikson when reading this, though Bakker's style is somewhat different. It's perfect, in my opinion, that Erikson did the cover blurb. Fans of Steven Erikson would absolutely love this first book of the Prince of Nothing series.

George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons.

From Amazon:

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance once again--beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has three times three thousand enemies, and many have set out to find her. Yet, as they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.
To the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone--a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge yet. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.
And from all corners, bitter conflicts soon reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all. . . .
Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, George R. R. Martin has earned international acclaim for his monumental cycle of epic fantasy. Now the #1 New York Times bestselling author delivers the fifth book in his spellbinding landmark series--as both familiar faces and surprising new forces vie for a foothold in a fragmented empire.
Undoubtedly the most highly anticipated release of 2011, Martin's 5th installment in A Song of Ice and Fire finally brought us up to speed on all those characters missing from A Feast for Crows. More exciting, of course, with the debut of HBO's A Game of Thrones.

What can I say that hasn't been said? If you're this far along in the series, you're not going to quit reading it now. I think some of the reviews were generous, to be honest. But, in fairness, Martin's worst stuff is still much better than most of what's out there on the fantasy shelves.

Dragons has everything you've come to expect from Martin. Beautiful prose, story complexity, character growth and intrigue, and of course, realism, grittiness, grey morality, and death. It's amazing storytelling, and Martin is as good as people say he is.

However, for those who have been waiting years for this... the overall storyline hardly advances. Originally, he had meant to skip ahead five years in the story, and one of the reasons that he did not was because of the convergence of characters around Daenerys, the infamous Meerenese Knot. As a result, the pace within is glacial, and by the end of the book, barely anything has truly happened at all (and most of that takes place in the last 300 pages).

Some reviews were citing this as one of the best books in the series - I have to disagree. A Storm of Swords remains the strongest, without question. Dragons is on par with A Feast for Crows, in my opinion, and perhaps slightly better because the favored characters are present and the landscapes are more diverse.

The reality is ... it doesn't matter. You're going to read it if you've read this far. You're going to wonder and worry about who dies and who gains the throne, and what mischief Tyrion or Arya will get into. It could be years before book 6, but at least we have the HBO series to keep us entertained.

George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love

I've been picking at this one for months. It didn't resound with me as well as their other anthology, Warriors, did. I guess I was expecting more of a series of Shakespearean tragedies, and therein lies the flaw of an inexperienced author doing book reviews.

Love and tragedy go hand in hand in fiction, and this short story collection was poised to meet my ideas of how that should be. That's not to say the stories weren't good - they were excellent, if not unusual or unexpected. The Jim Butcher and Jacqueline Carey stories alone were worth the cover price of the books, juicy cherries for fans of their respective epic series.


That's all I've got for now. It's been a long while since I've posted about any of my reading experiences, and rather than procrastinate and postpone as I've been doing, it was time to just do it.

I've got some non-fiction sitting on my stack, (ancient Rome material, if you must know), but I feel the need for something lighter and I'm debating whether or not to read Charlaine Harris... or maybe you can suggest something?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Movie Trailers | Immortals, Underworld 4: Awakening

Just the week that I was going to get back to building content on this 'ere blog, I, uh, sliced my thumb open at work. The right thumb. You can laugh, it's funny.

Two movie trailers have me excited - one of them I just found out about a few moments ago.

This first one comes out next week - unfortunately, it's coming out the same day as Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (my most anticipated game release of the year) - let's face it, I'm far more likely to play video games than go out to a movie. Sad, but true. I see myself getting this on DVD for myself as a Xmas gift.

The synopsis, from their official site:

Visionary director Tarsem Singh and producers Gianni Nunnari (300), Mark Canton (300), and Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter) unleash an epic tale of treachery, vengeance and destiny in Immortals, a stylish and spectacular 3-D action adventure. As a power-mad king razes ancient Greece and threatens to destroy mankind, a heroic young villager rises up against him in a thrilling quest as timeless as it is powerful.

The brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and his murderous army are rampaging across Greece, demolishing everything in their wake with ruthless efficiency. Village after village falls to Hyperion's legions and each victory takes him one step closer to his goal: unleashing the power of the sleeping Titans to vanquish both the Gods of Olympus and all of humankind.

It seems nothing will stop the evil king’s mission to become the undisputed master of the world, until a stonemason named Theseus (Henry Cavill) vows to avenge the death of his mother in one of Hyperion’s raids. When Theseus meets the Sibylline Oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto), her disturbing visions of the young man’s future convince her that he is the key to stopping the destruction. With her help, Theseus assembles a small band of followers and embraces his destiny in a final desperate battle for the future of humanity.

There's some striking similarities between this, Clash of the Titans, 300, Troy, even Starz Spartacus, but I don't care. I love it.

Greek mythology is rich with tales that beg to be retold. This one seems even better, in the sense that it's about Theseus and Hyperion, who are less frequently referred to when people talk about the classical period.

In short, big thumbs (heh) up for doing mythology (always good for the genre), bigger thumbs up for doing a story that hasn't already been told too many times. To make it flashy, sweaty, and half-naked... eh, if it gets people into the genre of the fantastic, then it's all good.


The second one, however, for me, is 'must see'... if for no other reason than Kate Beckinsale in that outfit. HOT!

I don't know that 3D is necessary, but I guess that's the direction more movies are taking. Frankly, it just feels like another way to get a few more bucks out of the customer for those funky glasses.

This one has a Milla Jovovich / Resident Evil vibe to it... here's the plot outline from their facebook page, you can see what I mean.

After being held in a coma-like state for fifteen years, vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) learns that she has a fourteen-year-old vampire/Lycan hybrid daughter, Nissa, and when she finds her they must stop BioCom from creating super Lycans that will kill them all.
Mmhmm. The effects in the trailer look to be what I've come to expect from the Underworld series, dark and gritty, and Kate as the action heroine pleases me. I know everyone's tired of werewolves and vampires, but the Underworld franchise has always gone its own way, with more of a classic view on the creatures and realistic implications in terms of socio-political perspectives.

In short? Yay!!