July 28, 2016

The Beginning of the End of Shannara



As mentioned in a previous blog post (“Of Elfstones and Tolkien” I believe I titled it) I’m a newcomer to Terry Brooks and the main Shannara books (from Elfstones forward, timeline-wise).

I have discovered and read an interview with Terry Brooks from a few years back when he was in Montreal. He’s going to end Shannara.

His latest set of books, “The Defenders of Shannara” (The High Druid’s Blade, The Darkling Child, and the most recent Sorcerer’s Daughter) is meant to serve as a ‘pre-conclusion’ to the final trilogy which will end the entire Shannara saga. So Defenders will lead into, or be very closely connected to the final trilogy, would be my guess.

As of that interview, the first of the final three books is scheduled to be published in 2017. That interview mentions august 2017, but on his website, Brook mentioned that the ‘target’ date will be May. I’m guessing on how well the writing goes. If it goes well? May or sooner. If not as well as he hoped? Possibly August or later, but still 2017.

Since that the final trilogy will be the FINAL trilogy, I’m curious what the trilogy will be called, as well as the individual book titles. Now, I’ve yet to read any Shannara books, despite owning some of the books. I haven’t been reading any spoilers or sumamries of the books, just the names of the series within Shannara as well as the titles for the installments within. So I can't really gauge or guess what, or how, this final trilogy will go. But I’d like to make a few guesses, based on titles alone, and following a few patterns I’ve noticed. This next section of the post is all speculation, and thoughts and opinions I have.

First of all, what could the trilogy’s title be?

I’ve noticed that all the series within Shannara have the word ‘Shannara’ in them. Would it be too simple or insulting to call it “The End of Shannara”? I don’t think Brooks would go that route. It will most likely be indicated on the packaging of the book, somewhere somehow, that this trilogy will be the last. Brooks, as well as other authors, would want the title to SOUND cool, rather than “Hey! It’s the final trilogy!” or “we’re finally here….”

If “Defenders of Shannara” is meant to be a ‘lead in’ (you know, like The Two Towers, Half-Blood Prince, Towers of Midnight…) to the endgame, then perhaps the name could also mirror, relate, or reference the title of that series. So I’ve got a few that mirror it but I’m not sure how good they’ll sound as titles: “The Attack of Shannara” or “The War of Shannara” come to mind, in terms of thinking of the term ‘defenders’. But really who knows at this point! That was just me guessing. It will be interesting to see what the trilogy will be called, as well the individual book titles.

Either way, the first of the last three books will be published in 2017 sometime if all goes well for Terry. Based on his writing and publication dates of his books in the past, the final (main?) book of Shannara to be out in 2018, or 2019.

I intend to start reading them at some point - perhaps this year. I have two sets of 'reading' : physical books, and ebooks for traveling, commuting...basically on-the-go.  I'm very close to reading both movie related Warcraft books by Christie Golden (Durotan, and the novelization of the film), then I hope to delve into Shannara - could could very well be just as 2017 starts out.

[my intended reading order is, in order: Elfstones of Shannara, Wishsong of Shannara, Heritage of Shannara series, Voyage of the Jerle Shannara series, High Druid of Shannara series, Dark Legacy of Shannara series, Defenders of Shannara series, and the final series of Shannara] 

July 25, 2016

Tolkien Tuesday: "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun"


And now for something completely different! Moving down my shelf, this week’s post covers The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. This book is quite different from the others thus far: a) it’s not connected to Middle-earth b) it’s a poem in verse!

But don’t let that put you off – it is one of the best posthumous Tolkien publications ever. This book was published in 2009, so the only formats its seen are ebook, paperback, hardback, deluxe and super-deluxe.


So let’s have a look at my edition on ‘the shelf’, the hardback.

The dustjacket is made of the glossy material, that most hardcovers are, or, in the case of these Tolkien books so far, The Children of Hurin is made of similar material. Removing the dustjacket, the book itself is brown with both title and author’s name foil-stamped on the spine in gold. Inside, we are treated a plasticized facsimile of a portion of Tolkien’s own hand-written manuscript. Following that, is the table of contents. There are chapter opening illustrations throughout the book before each ‘segment’ begins, and these are in black and white. They are quite nice, and match the art style and theme of the book (also matches the artwork if you look at paperback, deluxe or super deluxe).

And that’s about it! Because it was published in 2009, this is the only edition, content wise, offered in standard hardback. The text itself is the same in all editions, and formats, is what I was getting at.

Why did I get it: I got this one, and in hardback, because it was the next major Tolkien publication. I don’t have that much experience with verse / epic poems, but the fact that this is Tolkien’s version (not translation, but his version of a story) of a story that sounded pretty interesting, I went for it. With this release, as well as others down the line, you get to see more of Tolkien as the Professor, whereas with his Middle-earth legends, he is more an ‘author’. With this and some other releases, it’s him ‘contributing’ to his field of interest on a scholarly level.

Who would I recommend this edition to: Anyone who wishes to add this title to their collection in hardback.

“Should I wait for a better one?” : Because it’s so recent, it’s very hard to say. I don’t see a better one coming up anytime soon. Will it even get an anniversary edition at some point? Who knows….

Overall: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun is a vastly different type of Tolkien book, compared to the others I’ve covered thus far. It’s his own version (not translation of an existing work) of some old tales he was quite fond of, and wished to elaborate on, or further flesh out. This is actually one of the best posthumous publications, along with The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The Children of Hurin. Despite it not being Middle-earth material, and told in verse, it’s worth checking out. Not that there’s anything wrong with neither of those, but one, or both, could be potentially off-putting.   

SDCC 2016 Thoughts

So another Comic Con has come and gone, and I’ll share some of my thoughts. This post will be about the Marvel & DC live action films.

DC:

We got previews for both Wonder Woman and Justice League. The wonder Woman preview didn’t really do much for me. It reminded me of a mix of Captain America and Thor. However, this is the first time we get a live action treatment of the character (part of a cinematic universe), and Gal Gadot looks awesome in the part, not counting her brief appearance in Dawn of Justice. There were a few moments in the preview that were supposed to be funny, but I didn’t even smile…awkward humor attempt.

Justice League got the better looking trailer. We get a good look at some of the core members (I’m guessing Green Lantern will join the ranks for the second film, as well possibly Martian Manhunter). I’ll wait for home viewing for both of these, due to my wariness of live action DC treatment. Plus there could be potential director’s cuts. I learned in a good way, sometimes it’s better to wait and see a director’s cut raw; as it can save a film, or take it from ‘rotten’ to ‘fresh’.

I’m slowly warming up to Suicide Squad, but will again await the home release. I’ll do that for the entire DCU, most likely. Also, I didn’t catch / find anything in regards to DC animated movies, or the Arrowverse.

Marvel:

OK, so I won’t talk about logos here (who cares?! It doesn’t affect the movie itself! Sheesh people…) but what was seen / revealed at comic con.

I know I’ll be seeing Doctor Strange, so no need for me to watch any more footage (I like to limit myself to one trailer per film). Likewise, I’ll be seeing Spider-Man, but it’s too bad the footage shown hasn’t (properly) made its way online yet. Black Panther seems to be getting better and better. Also, I would have wished to seen footage from Thor 3 and Guardians 2, but nothing online yet…but I’m looking forward to both. Thor 2 wasn’t the greatest, but it was by no means a terrible movie. Just not one of the better films in the entire MCU, yet certainly not the worst.

Still nothing official in regards to the next Avengers movies. No, I wasn’t expecting a trailer, poster etc…but a proper title reveal. They were initially called Infinity War: Part 1, and Infinity War: Part 2, but one (or both) have been renamed, I’m just looking forward to what…not that it matters, I’ll see all the MCU films in cinemas. Granted, some I’m more looking forward to than others, but I’ll be there! Also, I’m not sure what was presented in regards to their Netflix shows…

So that’s about all. It seems that Marvel is still ‘on top’, but because of the backlash of the cinematic version of Dawn of Justice, DC is still going very strong despite that.  Release date wise, the DCU could get back on track when Suicide Squad is released, yet I’m still cautious. “THE” movie I’m looking forward to the most from Marvel would be Guardians 2.

Other:

Fantastic Beasts and Skull Island are of zero interest to me. I believe that’s it in terms of major news, but I’ll keep digging online to see what exciting things came out of Comic Con 2016. 

July 24, 2016

"Dawn of Justice" (Ultimate Edition) Review



I was very skeptical with the pre-release and initial release of this film. I'm not choosing 'sides' but I need to stay that I'm a Marvel fan....of live action movies. I really enjoyed Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, but outside of those, DC hasn't fared that well on the live action movie releases. I quite like some of DC's comics, their animated movies are awesome, and the DC tv series ("Arrowverse" I think it's called) have my got attention better than S.H.I.E.L.D did...but then again those Netflix Marvel shows are pretty great thus far.

I wasn't overly fond of Man of Steel (granted, I only saw it once and may need to give it another watch. Sadly, there isn't a director's cut or extended version to check out) so I was very skeptical to initially see Dawn of Justice. Last year's Comic Con preview was the best of all the previews for this movie. Then one of the last previews hit (Wonder Woman, Doomsday...) and my skepticism was more cemented. Finally, the movie came out, and I hadn't heard that many good things about it, so I definitely decided to wait to see this at home.

However, there were talks of a director's cut (dubbed 'ultimate edition') that was longer than the theatrical release. I figured, since I was waiting for the 'at home' release, that I'll just watch the ultimate edition instead. Luckily, it came with the initial home viewing launch of the movie, and I didn't have to wait longer for the ultimate edition (you know, like how the Middle-earth movies got the extended editions after the initial at home release).

Now, where to begin with this review....since I never saw (and never will see) the theatrical edition, I was eagerly anticipating the longer version. I went in completely raw (save for seeing a few previews.) The film opens on a street-level view of the climax of Man of Steel, and offers as a 'counter' to the devastation caused by that film, and shows why not everyone doesn't regard Superman as a savior, or completely good. Essentially, Superman's intentions and ctions are called into question due to the events in Man of Steel. Even then, sure Superman saved the planet, but lots of people died (either by his actions directly, or the initial earth attacks) so you have someone becoming handicapped (loss of legs), or a oung girl losing her mother. I won't go into the entire plot, but rather what I thought of the movie....it was interesting to see the how and why of why Batman and Superman meet, and what drives it. Also, this is a 'low point' for both characters as well.

The casting is pretty good. I didn't imagine liking Jeremy Irons as Aflred at the outset (nothing against him, I had just thought it would be a bad fit) but he does the role well - in this universe. One of the biggest complaints pre-release was Ben Affleck as Batman. Long ago, I would have agreed with that statement. But, have these naysayers actually seen Affleck in The Town or Argo? "Affleck 2.0" is a lot better than the Ben Affleck of about 10-15 years ago. He is definitely awesome as Batman. The cast from Man of Steel also return, with a few newcomers.....namely Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. That was one of the big problems for me - I'm not a fan of this universe's approach, or angle to Lex. But as to why, is that it's vastly different from previous takes on the character I've seen before. Jesse Eisenberg, acting wise, does a job with him, but it's not to m taste.

Also, Gal Gadot is welcome as Wonder Woman! We finally get to see Wonder Woman in live action! And, with that comes another complaint of mine. Despite deleted footage being reinserted into the film I still believe that this could have been two films, rather than one. I would have liked to have seen a "Batman / Superman" combo film, and then a "Dawn of Justice" as its sequel, and you can introduce Wonder Woman in there, and hint at a few more future Justice League members. I call this film "Dawn of Justice" for a reason, as opposed to it's Batman-Superman title' and that's because it feels like a big set up to the Justice League, rather than focusing on Batman and Superman and their interaction and confrontation.

At times, it feels like it's going into separate directions, or, trying to put so much into one film. Marvel knows how a handle a cinematic universe, whereas it seems that DC is trying to cover too much, too fast. Even with a longer running time, that's a problem I recognized in the movie, as well as a few things here and there I wasn't a fan of.

The action scenes were quite good, when we got them. This is definitely a 'super hero drama' (the ultimate edition runs at 3 hours, give or take a few minutes) but there are some good action moments. It's also quite clear in a few instances that this movie was made for comic book fans, as opposed to 'all movie goers' that the MCU is friendly for. This also a hindrance for Dawn of Justice.

Now, the ultimate edition won't necessarily fix what problems currently exist within the theatrical edition, it does smooth out a few bumps and wrinkles. Remember how the extended edition for The Hobbit: Part 3 saved the movie? or how Kingdom of Heaven made for a much better viewing experience with the director's cut? Then there's The Lord of the Rings extended editions, as well. In the case of Dawn of Justice, it improves on the original version. You do get the theatrical content, plus more footage...this isn't a 're edit', which I believe, would have 'saved' this movie, or made it a lot better.

I'm giving the ultimate edition, having not seen the original version show in cinemas, a solid, rounded-up, all-around

7 /10
Marvel definitely excels at live action films, but I look forward to seeing what else DC has up their sleeve in the future of their cinematic universe...I'll just be wary, wait for the 'at home' releases, and watch any directors cuts, should any more be released. To me, it's not a 'competition', but Marvel has been building up their cinematic universe up since 2008, while it seems DC is trying to 'get there' a lot quicker.

It wasn't perfect, but I enjoyed it. Some things I would have changed, or handled differently. I agree with a few of the critical points raised, but I must say, if you've never seen this movie before and are interested, opt for the ultimate edition. Likewise should you wish to revisit the film. Ultimate edition is the way to go; again, going by me not seeing the original theatrical release.

July 22, 2016

"The Story of Kullervo" Paperback

Anyone waiting on a paperback edition of The Story of Kullervo, I’ve got great news for you!

August 24, 2017 will see the paperback edition published. I’ve checked the dimensions of the book, and it will ‘match’ most of the other Tolkien books in paperback in terms of size. If you own Sigurd & Gudrun in paperback, for instance, it will be of very similar size and of the same height.

The ISBN for the paperback by Harper Collins is:  
9780008131388.

The world first publication of a previously unknown work of fantasy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the powerful story of a doomed young man who is sold into slavery and who swears revenge on the magician who killed his father. Kullervo son of Kalervo is perhaps the darkest and most tragic of all J.R.R. Tolkien's characters. 'Hapless Kullervo', as Tolkien called him, is a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny. Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and who tries three times to kill him when still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and guarded by the magical powers of the black dog, Musti. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruellest of fates. Tolkien wrote that The Story of Kullervo was 'the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own', and was 'a major matter in the legends of the First Age'; his Kullervo was the ancestor of Turin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. In addition to being a powerful story in its own right, The Story of Kullervo - published here for the first time with the author's drafts, notes and lecture-essays on its source-work, The Kalevala, is a foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien's invented world.”

July 18, 2016

Tolkien Tuesday: "Tales From the Perilous Realm"



Time for another Tolkien Tuesday post!

Moving right along my shelf…next up is Tales From the Perilous Realm. This book is actually a compilation of shorter material by Tolkien (one of which relates to The Lord of the Rings / Middle-earth). All of these stories have appeared elsewhere before, but this is the first time that they have all been published in one book. Plus, it is illustrated in pencil throughout by Alan Lee. This book also ‘fits in’ with The Hobbit quite well. By that I mean it’s written in the same ‘tone’ as The Hobbit – very ‘whimsical’.

So, onto my copy.

The dustjacket is made of a paper-y / matte type material, and features a cover illustration by Alan Lee; I believe from Farmer Giles. Remember earlier how I mentioned taking care with this type of material and stickers? Yeah, it happened to this book sadly. Luckily, I was able to ‘reapply’ the sticker. I’d rather have a sticker on a book, then a messy / destroyed portion. (some other books I have here and there I left stickers on avoiding that issue) Removing it, the book itself is blue, with Tolkien’s logo, and the book title embossed in gold on the spine. The table of contents, as one would expect, lists everything in the book. As mentioned above, there are also pencil sketch illustrations by Alan Lee throughout the book.

Why did I get it: well, it was the next main Tolkien book published by Harper Collins, so of course! I admit, it (mostly) not being part of Middle-earth did not initially peak my interest, as well as the fact that it’s a ‘children’s book’. That changed though. It ‘pairs’ quite well with the other Tolkien books in design style, and dimensions (and in tone, The Hobbit.)

Who would I recommend this edition to: anyone who has been ‘following’ my Tolkien Tuesday post series covering my editions! But ideally, anyone wanting a copy of this book in hardback. Due it to being published in 2008, there aren’t many (if any) editions of this book, beyond ebook, paperback, hardback and deluxe.

“Should I wait for a better one?” : I don’t think there will be a better edition coming out anytime soon, so no. Especially considering that this is a collection, masking deciding on an anniversary tricky (unless we’re going by ‘2008’ that is…)

Overall: Tales From the Perilous Realm is sort of a hidden gem that gets to shine by way of this release. It pairs quite well with The Hobbit (no matter what version you have, but in particular if you own any of these in hardback: ‘classic’ (art by Tolkien), illustrated by Alan Lee, or illustrated by Jemima Catlin). Also, the book goes well ‘on the shelf’ with the other Tolkien books, both Middle-earth and non-Middle-earth.

Whether for yourself or for someone who really liked The Hobbit, this is a recommended title (much like the others but this one deserves mention due to it being lesser known.)  





Special mention: There is also a somewhat similar publication of the contents published recently called “The Tolkien Treasury.” It is a box set of the tales as separate books, and they are expanded.  The ISBN for that is: 9780008116644.

The Elder Scrolls




In the language of the dragons:

Dovahkiin, Dovahkiin, naal ok zin los vahriin,
Wah dein vokul mahfaeraak ahst vaal!
Ahrk fin norok paal graan fod nust hon zindro zaan,
Dovahkiin, fah hin kogaan mu draal!

...
Huzrah nu, kul do od, wah aan bok lingrah vod,
Ahrk fin tey, boziik fun, do fin gein!
Wo lost fron wah ney dov, ahrk fin reyliik do jul,
Voth aan suleyk wah ronit faal krein
Ahrk fin zul, rok drey kod, nau tol morokei frod,
Rul lot Taazokaan motaad voth kein!
Sahrot Thu'um, med aan tuz, vey zeim hokoron pah,
Ol fin Dovahkiin komeyt ok rein!
Dovahkiin, Dovahkiin, naal ok zin los vahriin,
Wah dein vokul mahfaeraak ahst vaal!
Ahrk fin norok paal graan fod nust hon zindro zaan,
Dovahkiin, fah hin kogaan mu draal!
Ahrk fin Kel lost prodah, do ved viing ko fin krah,
Tol fod zeymah win kein meyz fundein!
Alduin, feyn do jun, kruziik vokun staadnau,
Voth aan bahlok wah diivon fin lein!
Nuz aan sul, fent alok, fod fin vul dovah nok,
Fen kos nahlot mahfaeraak ahrk ruz!
Paaz Keizaal fen kos stin nol bein Alduin jot,
Dovahkiin kos fin saviik do muz!
Dovahkiin, Dovahkiin, naal ok zin los vahriin,
Wah dein vokul mahfaeraak ahst vaal!
Ahrk fin norok paal graan fod nust hon zindro zaan
Dovahkiin, fah hin kogaan mu draal!

In English :


Dragonborn, Dragonborn, by his honor is sworn,
To keep evil forever at bay!
And the fiercest foes rout when they hear triumph's shout,
Dragonborn, for your blessing we pray!

Hearken now, sons of snow, to an age, long ago,
And the tale, boldly told, of the one!
Who was kin to both wyrm, and the races of man,
With a power to rival the sun!

And the voice, he did wield, on that glorious field,
When great Tamriel shuddered with war!
Mighty Thu'um, like a blade, cut through enemies all,
As the Dragonborn issued his roar!

Dragonborn, Dragonborn, by his honor is sworn,
To keep evil forever at bay!
And the fiercest foes rout when they hear triumph's shout,
Dragonborn, for your blessing we pray!

And the Scrolls have foretold, of black wings in the cold,
That when brothers wage war come unfurled!
Alduin, Bane of Kings, ancient shadow unbound,
With a hunger to swallow the world!

But a day, shall arise, when the dark dragon's lies,
Will be silenced forever and then!
Fair Skyrim will be free from foul Alduin's maw!
Dragonborn be the savior of men!

Dragonborn, Dragonborn, by his honor is sworn,
To keep evil forever at bay!
And the fiercest foes rout when they hear triumph's shout,
Dragonborn, for your blessing we pray!

This is what players will hear should they leave the Skyrim main menu screen on long enough, or the first track of the soundtrack. Skyrim is the most recent ‘main’ Elder Scrolls game, and the fifth main one. The other entries include the very first game (Arena), Elder Scrolls II (Daggerfall), Elder Scrolls III (Morrowind), Elder Scrolls IV (Oblivion), Elder Scrolls V (Skyrim), and the sixth game is in early stages of development. There is also an MMO, titled Elder Scrolls Online.





So, what is The Elder Scrolls? It’s a series of role playing video games set in the fictional world of Tamriel, with most games taking place within a specific continent (or province). Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Skyrim are all named after locations on the Tamriel map. The game world is completely open ended to the point of it being possible to completely level up without even touching the main quest. Players can select a class, but are not limited to that class, and can buold and level up their character however they wish (in my instance, I tend to favour a ‘spell sword’ type class: light armor, destruction magic for ranged, and sword and shield for up close.). there also various species to choose from, which are customizable in appearance – but do remember you’ll most likely wear a helmet or headgear for most of the game.

The game series became truly popular with the release of Morrowind. That game is pretty much the beginning of The Elder Scrolls titles we know today. From that entry onward, the games have given us incredible graphics, an immersive game world (to the point that there is its own calendar – days of the week, names of the months, times and even the citizens have schedules.) and deep, detailed lore. It’s possible to spend a vast amount of real time in the in-game libraries leafing through books that exist in the game world.

The game world is littered with towns, forts, caves…all one would expect from a traditional fantasy game. Even wildlife. Be wary of wolves and bears. Bandits and highway-men prowl the main road, hoping to overtake travellers.

So much has gone into thee games, you feel immersed not necessarily because the games are addicting (they CAN be) but because the world is actually alive. Also, you can’t do much with playing approximately half an hour in real time. I tend to commit 45 minutes – 2 hours per sitting or playing, though I admit sometimes I’ve gone from 2 -4 hours without noticing the real time go by.

The music is also incredible. Some of my favourite soundtracks happen to be video game ones – Morrowind onwards by Jeremy Soule. [I’ve yet to listen to the entire score to The Elder Scrolls Online]

This post doesn’t really have anything to do with Tolkien, but I’ll quickly add that these are the games he would definitely love, or be interested in – especially Skyrim given it’s Nordic influences. Also, at this point, I’m not sure how deep my own lore will go for my book series, but the quality I strive for is Tolkien’s Middle-earth stories, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Elder Scrolls.




My introduction to the series was when Morrwind came out. Sadly, I did not play it when it was ‘new’ but that’s when Ifirst heard of the series. Possibly, I may have seen a few pictures or a review when Daggerfall was out. But my first game I played of the series? Oblivion. For that game,a s well as MOST games, I either wait for the “Game of the Year Edition”, or all the content to be released. That way, I go in completely raw, and hopefully, get all the content for the price of the game when it was first initially released. With Skyrim, however, due to the nature of how dlc was working, I was not sure if there would be a Game of the Year (dubbed ‘Legendary Edition’), so I bought all the content individually, but all at once. And now, because I have a PC good enough to run Skyrim (on ultra high, of course) I’m playing through that game. I won’t post my stats etc here, but I’m having quite a bit of fun with it.



Also, some gamers have been saying that this ‘generation’ is the ‘remake generation’ because of the abundance of remakes, remasters, etc… In the fall, Skyrim will get that treatment. Called “Special Edition”, it will be coming to PS4, XBOXONE, and PC. The Special Edition is a remastering, and will feature all the content present in the Legendary Edition (Dawnguard, Dragonborn, Hearthfire…) Since many of us have mods, or the ‘hi res texture pack’ a remaster may seem unnessecary. Perhaps so. This release is aimed at the console gamers. But, to not screw over PC gamers that are interested in this that already own the game, it’s offered for free if you own either the Legendary Edition, or all the content. I’m going to hold off on installing that release once available, but when I get my NEXT PC, I’ll give it a shot, so that I may run it on ultra high graphics settings well. I guess you could say those are my ‘demands’ for The Elder Scrolls games: all content available (be it by way of Game of the Year or not), and the ability to run it in ultra high quite smoothly and worry free.

As you can see, I quite like this series of games. Skyrim became the most popular, but that’s not why I like it, or these games, is not because of ‘hype’ but because the games and the content itself is of great interest to me – me being a fantasy fan (since about the age of 6).

I look forward to finishing my first playthrough of Skyrim, as well as my second character. Depending on how long a wait it will be until The Elder Scrolls VI, I will also enjoy another playthrough of Skyrim by way of the special edition once I can run it on ultra high.

July 11, 2016

Tolkien Tuesday: "The Children of Hurin"



Next up in my “Tolkien Tuesday” series, is The Children of Hurin.

This was the ‘newest’ of the main Tolkien book when I began collecting Tolkien books. After seeing The Lord of the Rings films, I became interested in the books. For Christmas 2001, my parents got me the one-volume edition hardback with cover artwork by John Howe: the one of Gandalf walking. This worked out very well, because A) it was cheaper for them. Not that things were extremely rough financially, but money saved potentially means more gifts :P (when you have a set budget). B) I wanted The Lord of the Rings in hardback, so that’s what I got
J That’s going back quite a few years. I still own that edition for sentimental reasons, and will give that, as well my older edition of The Hobbit (the same as my 70th anniversary edition but older.) to my future kids someday.

So, The Children of Hurin became the first NEW Tolkien book I ever got. Since this book onwards are so new, there’s fewer editions of them. My copy is the hardback edition.

The dustjacket features artwork by Alan Lee, which is a traditional glossy type. Removing it, the book underneath is blue with Tolkien’s logo and book title embossed in gold. The interior art is on both plasticized paper as color illustrations; and pencil artwork all throughout. At the rear is a fold-out sheet of a map of Beleriand.

And that’s really about it for the hardback edition of The Children of Hurin.

Why did I get it: since this is a new Tolkien book (well, nearly 10 years old now..) due to it being new, that was pretty much the only standard hardback edition available. I got it because it could very well be the last new Middle-earth material published, not counting future anniversary, deluxe, expanded or illustrated editions of existing text.

Who would I recommend this edition to: This EDITION, not BOOK….well, anyway who wants to celebrate the fact that it’s more Middle-earth material, in hardback format. In stand hardback edition, this is pretty much it.

“Should I wait for a better one?”: Well, since it’s so new, I doubt there will be a better one…save for 20th anniversary edition or older, but that’s not guaranteed. It’s still in print so may as well get it!

Overall: This book may be ‘unnecessary’ to some due to the fact that fragments or portions have been published before in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, as well as The History of Middle-earth. This is the first time that the entire tale has been published between its own covers, and focussing on the beginning and ending of the story, with minimal editing involved. Alan Lee’s artwork compliments the story quite well, as well literally giving us a look into the past of Middle-earth history, and one of Tolkien's earliest tales. 

July 10, 2016

J.K. Rowling: Some Thoughts Since "Deathly Hallows"


To begin with, I need to state that I am a big of both the Harry Potter books, as well as the films. Hundreds of hundreds of peoples' lives have been changed, or affected, by her Harry Potter series. She made reading 'cool' again.

However, ever since Deathly Hallows (both film and book) had ended, I can't help but notic something 'odd', especially of late.

I've got "The Complete Harry Potter Collection", which includes all 7 of the Harry Potter books. It was I believe 2011 or 2012 that she launched Pottermore. From the looks of things, it was going to be an impressive, interesting and expansion of the world she created in the books. In fact, it would 'cover' the books, while going off in a few different directions. This was fine, as its been said that she would create new content for Pottermore (such as little short stories to actually creating the Sorting Hat questions.). I thought that was pretty neat of her to get involved like that. I mean, who can say no to more of Harry Potter / the wizarding world? I only wish she would have actually printed or published some of this info as a physical book, rather than through the website. Though I'm certain it's got something to do with the rights of the book.

Well.....there's been a few instances where it's how she's revealed some information that I haven't been fond of. The first example I can think of, is making Dumbledore. I have no issue with Dumbledore, or homosexuality, or both. It's the fact that she stated or revealed this information (not that it affects the plot) after a book's been published. Nowhere in any of the Harry Potter books are lead to believe the character's sexual orientation. OK, so he was 'close' with Grindelwald way back when. That's completely fine. If you want to make your character gay, don't openly SAY it in the text, but don't be vague about it either. If it doesn't state this in my "complete" box set, it's not canon; despite what she says after the book's been printed.

Another potentially sore topic to discuss is the fact that Hermione is black in the Cursed Child play. Again, I have absolutely no issue with black people, hermione, or hermione being black. It's a play, so of course you're going to want to have the best actress/actor for the part. Again, it's Rowling's attitude towards this issue. Sure, you never explicity or directly say that she's non-white in the books, but if she's supposedly been non-white all along, wouldn't that be something you would inform the artists doing your book covers? Or, perhaps, telling the film producers so that a black actress can be casted? If it's not said so that 'any girl can picture herself as Hermione' that's perfectly fine. But don't say she was black all along, when you had many chances in the past to correct us, or 'reveal' this info. Again, what bugs me is Rowling's attitude on the topic.

I also have another issue with Cursed Child. Not the play, and this is more of the marketing of the 'book' that's coming out.

First of all, this is not "harry Potter book 8". Yes, it continues the story, but it's not a novel or story - it's a transcript of the play: see the front cover? "Special REHERSAL Edition". Also, there are other names on the front of the book: J.K.  Rowling did not write this play. She came up with the idea, or plot outline, but she didn't sit down and write the whole thing out.

BECAUSE it's by J.K. Rowling, and is associated with harry Potter, lots of people will most likely buy it. Some knowing it's a ply script, and not by J.K. Rowling, others not knowing and being potentially disappointed on publication day. Others, may not care one way or the other as long as its MORE of the wizarding world. I don't blame you, it's just that I'm a tad 'sore' at Rowling's attitude and opinions of stuff. I also recall that Deathly Hallows would be the final Harry Potter book. I see that as HARRY POTTER, not wizarding world. If she expands Fantastic Beasts as an actual story, I'd be up for that. Or the Four Founders, or something about the Marauders. Or something far in the future, such as about 'The Trio's' grandchildren. Or, as revealed, sets of stories about the other schools of witchcraft and wizardry. I will likely 'forgive; J.K Rowling in the future, as she long she keeps the random publicity 'stunts' down to a minimum (ie, changing what's been published by way of random interviews or twitter tweets, as opposed to put it in printing /publishing.)

It's her fandom, her universe, so she can do what she wants; I've just noticed a slightly odd, or prickly demeanor in her attitude since Harry Potter has finished. I would do things differently myself if I were her. But that's the thing: I'm not J.K. Rowling. No matter happens, I am glad and grateful for the 7 Harry Potter stories that she has given us. Just that some of her recent decisions or opinions and attitudes, cause me to shake or scratch my head.

July 4, 2016

Tolkien Tuesday: "Unfinished Tales" (30th Anniversary Hardback Edition)


For this week’s Tolkien Tuesday post, I’m going to examine my copy of the last ‘you have to read / own this!’ Middle-earth essential books – Unfinished Tales.

Again, I won’t go into what the book is about; but this should pretty much answer any remaining questions you may have after reading The Silmarillion, and part so The Lord of the Rings. So let’s go into the book.

Much like The Silmarillion, there hasn’t been that many editions of this book since original publication. And, even more focal, I don’t think the text or contents of the book itself has changed at all. Regardless, here’s a look at my hardback edition, which I believe was published to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The cover, like all the others before it, is painted by Tolkien, and is definitely visually excellent. The dustjacket, like the others I've blogged about, has a matte / paper-y feel to it. Removing the jacket, the book underneath is black, and Tolkien’s logo and the title are embossed in copper – brass on the spine.

Now to open the book. The contents, is pretty much identical to any and all other editions. What is different from the rest of them is the maps are in red and black in. At the rear, is a fold out sheet featuring a map of Middle-earth. But, hey, this edition will match the other Tolkien books going all the way from The Hobbit – The Silmarillion.

And that’s pretty much it! I will go into my other ‘main’ Tolkien books in the coming weeks, but with Unfinished Tales, that marks the end of ‘essential Middle-earth books you need to read / own.’ The “complete matching set” has now ended. The other titles I will cover are so ‘new’ that there is really only one edition of them in hardback. They are part of my collection, so I’ll still cover them.

The ISBN for my hardback edition of Unfinished Tales is:
9780261102156. If you want the same editions I own, I suggest: your national bookstore, amazon (uk to be specific), tolkien.co.uk, or bookdepository.com .

Why did I get this edition: much like The Silmarillion, it’s the book in hardback, and it also matches my other titles by the author(s). They all look great on the shelf together.

Who do I recommend this edition to: much like The Silmarillion, anyone who has the other matching editions of Tolkien’s works. They all complement each other quite well, and this is a great title to round off / finish ‘that’ collection with.

“Should I wait for a better one?”: In regards to Unfinished Tales, as well as the rest, unless there’s a newer / better one coming out at some point. But to hold off any of these books in favor for an even better edition? No. This are pretty much ‘the way’ to go (not counting the deluxe editions, which I’ll cover alter. They are essentially the same, content wise, as these editions, except more high end (the paperbacks I’ll cover are the ‘lower end’ versions of my hardbacks)

Overall: I quite enjoy the fact that I’ve got the main Middle-earth books in a matching format and style. They are of great quality, are attractive, and (near as I can tell) error free, in regards to typos etc to the text, or very close to it.

Who knows what lies on the horizon for future editions of the Middle-earth books? And, will they all be uniform once published?