Netflix’s The Witcher (2019 – present)

Piotrek: When I first heard the news in 2017 I was excited. Ola proclaimed:

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Now we’ve both seen the first season, meditated on it for a while, and it’s time for our verdict 😉 We both like the books, a lot, so it’s not going to be a cool review of a random genre TV show. I definitely will be measuring it against my high expectations and a clear vision of who Geralt is and what world he has his adventures in. And against one of the best computer RPGs ever.

And boy, am I conflicted… It’s good they did it, there are many great things about the show, including most of the actors, but the story is butchered in a way that simply does not work for me. That is not to say I won’t be watching next season, there’s not that much solid fantasy on tv.

The problem starts with the first important decision Lauren Schmidt Hissrich had to make, about the show’s structure. Books start with many stories, two volumes of them, concentrating on Geralt and his adventures, often shared with Jaskier/Dandelion. It’s episodic, although some wheels are put in motion that will determine events volumes ahead. Yennefer appears, but is not yet one of the protagonists. Ciri is too young to really matter. The show, by starting the story with three separate timelines, gives us two heroines that are just as important as the hero, and gives us insight into their origins that we only glimpsed at reading the saga. The idea is good, execution flawed. Before I discuss the flaws, let me tell you what I think we missed, and I would miss it even if Hissrich’s idea was executed seamlessly.

Sapkowski’s short stories, stories I value more than the novels, introduced his world in a pretty comprehensive way. Culture, history, religion, politics, prejudices, brewing conflicts that will later erupt into wars. Nilfgaard is mentioned, but not visited, and we get to see the shades of moral grey of this universe before we’re told to hate the big bad. Sapkowski created a post modern cycle, where the bigotry of our own world was the main target. Here we got a cliche about the coming Nazis. I’d argue it’s because there was no time to get to know “our” side. One of the victims of that simplification is Cahir, reduced to a stereotypical Hitlerjugend officer. Whatever you think about the later seasons of the GoT, it’s early episodes showed how to present a complex fantasy world on screen with depth that is simply missing here. Ola?58-Copy

Ola: That’s one mighty rant ;). And an unfortunately justified one, I might add.

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Charles A. Fletcher, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World (2019)

A Boy and His Dog

Author: Charles A. Fletcher

Title: A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

Format: Paperback

Pages: 369

DNFed at 35% mark

This book has made its rounds in the blogosphere; almost universally praised by many of our fellow bloggers, it was hailed as a unique blending of post-apocalyptic dystopia with a heartfelt reflection on the current state of our world, spiced with an empathic portrayal of the bond between man and dog. It all sounded wonderful. To me, however, this book turned out to be a total hoax.

It is an unremitting diarrhea of words, generated by an old man masquerading himself as a teenager. And here’s the crux of the problem. Nothing in this book seemed even remotely realistic: not the setting, with the mysterious Gelding and a plethora of weird behaviours in response to the realization that end of the humans is near; not the worldbuilding, inconsistent and varying in the amount of details from nearly none to overabundance in just few short paragraphs; and absolutely not the characters. Everything seemed like an elaborate stage setup erected by the author solely for the purpose of expounding – freely and without consequences – on his own opinions on everything. Don’t get me wrong; literature in its entirety is predominantly focused on exactly that, most of the time. Here, though, the smug masquerade incessantly grated on my nerves.

There was nothing honest in this elaborate setup, and while I enjoy my share of subtle sleights of hand, I enjoy them solely on the basis of willing participation on my part, and not because someone sets out to make a fool of me. The total and unchallenged domination of one perspective – not questioned or undermined in any way by others – soon became exceptionally tiresome. For the narrator is a perfect example of der Besserwisser, happy to share with all the world his ruminations in a distinctly Sheldon Cooper-esque way – that it to say: whether the world wants it or not. Doomed to view the world from his viewpoint I soon started to feel deep disenchantment with the whole endeavor; despite that, I tried to finish this book – until I realized that I’m forcing myself to do something I actively dislike.

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Jean Lee, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen (2018)

Fallen Princeborn

Author: Jean Lee

Title: Fallen Princeborn: Stolen

Format: mobi

Pages: 673

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I’d like to thank her for the opportunity.

 

Set in rural Wisconsin, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen follows eighteen-year-old Charlotte and her younger sister Anna, escaping from abusive and unhealthy family situation in North Dakota to live with their aunt. While Charlotte is ready for the new challenge, gladly leaving the violent past behind and looking forward to her future, filled with her passion – music, Anna is clearly unhappy, dragging her feet and feeling forcefully uprooted. Before the sisters can achieve any kind of mutual understanding or compromise, however, they enter into a fairy-tale of their own. The woods and rivers of Wisconsin are the domain of velidevour – dangerous and powerful faeries, who perceive humans as fair game, kidnapping them, feeding on them and erasing any sign of their existence from human memory. As the velidevour subsist on veli: the dreams, emotions and sheer cognitive potential of humans, there was a time humans and velidevour lived in a form of symbiosis: the dreamers, the artists, the vagabonds all found their way to the land of faeries, living in the land of impossible and feeding the impossible with their rapture and imagination. Yet since a wall had been erected between the worlds, humans are no longer guests in the lands of velidevour – they are prey.

When Charlotte’s and Anna’s bus crashes down in the middle of nowhere, and a pair of shady characters with a weird-smelling vehicle suddenly show up as backup, Charlotte knows something is off. But caught in the current of events, each subsequent one more bizarre than others, she can do nothing – until it’s too late for retreat. Going head-on on a rescue mission into the land of magic, she finds her life and her family ties redefined.

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Brian McClellan, Uncanny Collateral (2019)

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Author: Brian McClellan

Title: Uncanny Collateral

Format: epub

Pages: 96

It’s been some time since I’ve read a really new genre book… Now, I finally did, but, despite it being from one of my favourite young writers, I’m not very happy about it.
Brian McClellan is one of our favourite new authors, his Powder Mage universe – one we greatly appreciate. Great ideas, great characters, constantly improving writing. I’m yet to read his second Powder Mage trilogy, but it’s only because I’m certain I’ll like it and I’m saving it for later.
When I read in his newsletter he wrote a short urban fantasy novel, I was intrigued and immediately bought an epub (pdf and mobi included in the package). I read the first chapter that very day, two further ones during the next couple of weeks, and finished this very short thing only recently, during a flight. Why? Well…

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Jay Kristoff, Nevernight (2016)

Nevernight

Author: Jay Kristoff

Title: Nevernight

Format: Paperback

Pages: 464

Nevernight went through various blogs with a force of natural calamity, garnering a lot of praise for originality and vividness of the story despite what seemed like a very clichéd plot. When I saw Aaron’s glowing review at Swords and Spectres I decided to finally forgo my misgivings and give the book, constituting – not surprisingly – the first installment in Kristoff’s new series, a chance.

Boy, I wish I didn’t.

I was close to DNFing this book thrice. The first time happened on the first page, when the contrivance of the interlapping opening  scenes hit me like a hammer between the eyes. The second time happened within the first few chapters, when I was so fed up with the narrator’s dubious personality charm that I didn’t think I could take any more of his/her blathering. You undoubtedly know what I’m talking about, O, gentlefriend, if you’ve read the book. Third time should be the charm, alas, I powered through by sheer effort of will just to write a vitriolic review later on.

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Nostalgia #1: Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986)

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It took us a while, but finally it’s here: our first nostalgia post. Digging deep into our pop-cultural pasts, we dredge up things sometimes forgotten, sometimes still living through many inspirations or even outright consecutive reincarnations – but always bearing a significant weight for our early formative geek years. We’ll be trying to introduce some old stuff, review it, and finally trace their significance in the modern pop-culture – we’ll see how it goes, our Two-shots are usually quite unpredictable 🙂

We’ve decided to start with a series which had had an enormous impact on our imagination back in the end of eighties, which had become a yardstick for all later Robin Hood retellings, serious or less serious, shaping the popular imagery of the character, introducing new, mystical elements to the old myths, and which – for all its significance and our nostalgia – we cannot bear to watch anymore…

Ola: First things first, however: the famous BBC series, Robin of Sherwood, had been created by Richard Carpenter for the ITV network. Meticulously researched, ambitious in scope, showing for the first time a fairly accurate image of 12th century outlaws (no tights for anyone!), the series won considerable acclaim and fame at the time. Consisting of three seasons, altogether of 26 one-hour long episodes, it ran in the UK in mid-eighties, and in Poland for the first time in the very late eighties/early nineties – which is when we watched it. Oh, those were the times! 😉

Piotrek: A long time ago indeed. I remember running home from school to watch an episode, and being angry at my parents for taking me for a Winter break trip – because I was going to miss some episodes. They were all played on TV, on fixed schedule, with no repeats and no chance to watch it any other way. Young readers won’t get that 😉

Ola: The series is notable for a change of the male lead – Michael Praed, who played Robin in the first two series, resigned from the role after two seasons, and Jason Connery took the role of the second Robin. As the two were nothing alike, [SPOILER ALERT] the first Robin ended being killed by the evil Sheriff. There was also a plan for a fourth series, but the producer, Goldcrest, resigned due to financial problems – and the whole plot remained mysteriously unresolved, somewhat adding to the series’ legend and cult following.

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Tom King, Mikel Janín, The War of Jokes and Riddles (2017)

The War of Jokes and Riddles

Author: Tom King (writer), Mikel Janín (illustrations)

Series: Batman

Format: Paperback

Pages: 200

Where do I start? Maybe with the hype concerning Tom King as the new Wunderkid of DC Comics, one of the few authors who allegedly could take the post-Rebirth Batman and put some life into the character nearing its permanent retirement age (80 years next May!). Tom King’s approach was supposed to be ‘cerebral’, his stories realistic and full of suspense. Maybe some of them are – I am not to judge, since I’ve read only the one and I don’t intend reading any other. Because, in short, The War of Jokes and Riddles was a smelly pile of horseshit.

Let’s start with the art, because later on it will be one long rant. Art is mediocre at best, with Riddler inexplicably beefed up and Joker looking like a drawing of himself from some really bad old comics. Batman and Selina look correct if quite generic, and that’s probably the best I can say about them. The main problem I have with Janín‘s art is that it lacks dynamics, and the eyes of the characters seem dead. They make faces, all right, but nothing reaches their eyes. The panels depicting the war don’t really make much impact – they are there, and they show what happened. Maybe I’m spoiled by other artists, I tend to choose my comics carefully knowing there’s a lot of fluff and a lot of trash out there.

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