I had a very different take on the novel as someone who started off knowing very little about the lore of Guild Wars. I had to have a bestiary open on...moreI had a very different take on the novel as someone who started off knowing very little about the lore of Guild Wars. I had to have a bestiary open on my browser just to look up the races of some of the main characters. Needless to say, there had to be some details of important events or figures that were surely lost on me.
Despite that, I was able to enjoy the book. At first, I thought getting through it would be a struggle because I had expected to lose interest the moment I realize I have no idea what’s going on. That and I had gotten used to the fact that game tie-ins are notoriously bad about giving background information, as if they expect anyone picking it up to be an uber fan of the game and already have all that knowledge. So I was a little surprised to find that I did not have this problem with Ghosts of Ascalon. While there were many details I wish the authors could have elaborated on, all the relevant information was there so I could follow the story with ease, and not once did I feel confounded by the timeline of the major happenings in the lore.
The characters were also a pleasure to get to know, even though most of them were corny cliches that adhered to familiar and therefore standard and very specific archetypes, but that’s to be expected. The way I see it, at least each individual character has a personality, even if they are two-dimensional and never stray too far from their roles. I enjoyed the dialogue and the witty banter, and found myself drawn to the main character Dougal Keane and especially to Kranxx the Asura.
The story itself was also straightforward, conventional and everything you would expect from game fiction, and I would have lost interest if not for the quality of the writing. While it may be cliched and excessively flowery at times, I have lots of respect for authors who can tell a story and express their characters’ intents without overtly giving that information away. My favorite writers always show, not tell. Through the descriptions of Dougal’s actions alone, his emotions and motivations became clear to me, and that should be the way it is. Authors who give a play-by-play on every single thought in their characters’ heads drive me nuts.
A part of me even wishes the novel could have been longer, but it ended well and for the most part it was well-paced. It seemed like every other chapter saw our adventurers getting into yet another fight, but at least the story was moving forward. There’s no doubt this book has gotten me even more excited for Guild Wars 2, and has even renewed my interest in playing Guild Wars, if anything to discover what other tales the rich lore and land of Tyria can offer me.(less)
This is going to sound really nerdy, but I do love game lore. I love it a lot. Books based on video games aren’t always all that good, but I’m not rea...moreThis is going to sound really nerdy, but I do love game lore. I love it a lot. Books based on video games aren’t always all that good, but I’m not reading them for the award-winning writing. I pick them up for what they bring to the table in terms of the back story and character development. It’s why I choose to read them in the first place, and not just some brief article on the game’s wiki page.
And I do get pleasantly surprised every once in a while. I just finished reading Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider, which I must say is one of the best video game novels I have ever read. There are parts of it that feel rushed (what I like to call the “primer effect” that plagues so many works of this genre), but despite that I was still quite happy with the depth of the story. I also felt that character development was done surprisingly well — so well that I don’t think I can bring myself to hate Teyrn Loghain anymore. If you enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins and would like a little background information on the events that took place before the game, I would definitely recommend this.(less)
The first thing I want to say is, I did not expect that much from this book.
That said, it’s not like I ever expect much from any book based on a video...moreThe first thing I want to say is, I did not expect that much from this book.
That said, it’s not like I ever expect much from any book based on a video game, but I do like reading them for background information. And I’ll confess, I would not have even considered checking out The Needs of the Many if I wasn’t subscribed to Star Trek Online. Before this, STO players only had The Path to 2409 (included in the book’s appendix) to rely on for the story elements behind the game, and here’s the problem — a series of events detailed impassively through a bunch of web pages just wasn’t enough for me. This ultimately led me to pick up the book.
Unlike other works of this genre, however, the story behind The Needs of the Many is told through a string of interviews, along with a handful of letters, news articles and other documents thrown in for good measure. The overall format and tone of the book has been compared to the writing style employed in World War Z, the post-apocalyptic zombie novel. Knowing this beforehand wasn’t a problem, but it did lead me to believe I would not be as drawn to the story as I would have been if the book had been done in a more traditional style.
I could not have been more wrong. Was the book a literary masterpiece? Of course not. But that’s never the point when it comes to these kinds of books. I wanted a fun read, and I got one. “Jake Sisko” is compelling enough as a narrator, and the author has done a good job of capturing his and the other characters’ personalities through well-written dialogue. Each interview presented itself as a unique vignette, and while the main focus of the story remained on the events of the Undine War, I was not opposed to getting a look into the personal experiences and opinions of Jake and his interview subjects.
Were there moments where this made me feel like I was reading a current-day political commentary? Yes, I’ll admit it felt like the author was using Jake as a proxy to communicate his socio-political views at times, but this to me is just par for the course. It’s not like any of the Star Trek series have never been used to make strong and blunt comments on the major social issues of today.
And speaking of the TV shows, I wonder if my unfamiliarity with the Star Trek IP has affected my views on this book. I thought I would be completely lost, but I was surprised to find that I wasn’t. Maybe it was because I had little idea what was going on lorewise in the first place, so the book having no sense of chronology did not affect me as much. After all, you can’t technically be lost if you have no destination to begin with. In any case, my time with The Needs of the Many took me to memory-alpha.org more times than I care to remember in order to cross-reference events and characters.
Coincidentally, I must add that the Voyager episode that came on TV today was the first part of “Scorpion”, or the popular episode that introduced Species 8472 (the Undine) to the series. Funny how life works out that way, eh?
In the end, I think the purpose of this book was more about bringing the average STO player up to speed with the events that have unfolded over the course of the “Long War”, and less about telling an actual traditional Star Trek story. So if you’re looking for something like the latter, I would pass on this. However, it’s helped me understand more about the game and its missions.
Anyway, maybe it’s the fact I know less about Star Trek than the average fan, or my low expectations to begin with, but overall I have to say I enjoyed this book. If I have to pick some memorable moments, I would say the interviews with Quark and Geordi La Forge come immediately to mind. And there was also that one snarky line about Kathryn Janeway’s hair…(less)
Unless a book really hooks me, I know I can take much too long to read. So maybe I didn’t devour Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Allliance in no ti...moreUnless a book really hooks me, I know I can take much too long to read. So maybe I didn’t devour Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Allliance in no time like I had expected, but at the same time I delighted in taking my sweet time to read it. I’ll cut to the chase here — if you can look beyond the faults that are so typical of novels based on video games, you will probably enjoy it. Keep reading for further thoughts, though I’m not going to go into the plot too much (if you want that information you can find it here as well as preview the first chapter) and I promise there will not be any spoilers.
I’d like to mention that I am a big reader and fan of Star Wars expanded universe books, and I can honestly say that Fatal Alliance can stand next to any of them. I’d even go as far as to say it was better written than most of the Star Wars books I’ve read. Sean Williams’ writing style is easy to follow, without feeling like you’re being talked down to. Dialogue can get cheesy and positively cringe-worthy at times, but it’s made up for by the author’s excellent handling of the characters’ relationships with each other.
The story, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing. I realize, however, that storylines that work for a game don’t necessarily translate as well into book form, and I’m sure much of characters and plots from Fatal Alliance were developed under such game-to-novel constraints. At times you may find the story predictable, and inevitably, you will come across parts in the book which will make you stop and think, “Wait, that doesn’t make much sense!” Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to look past these flaws if you can maintain appropriate expectations for an MMO tie-in of this nature.
Fatal Alliance is also blessed/plagued with a large ensemble of characters, depending on the way you look at it. The novel follows the activities of no less than eight characters, no doubt for the sole purpose of showcasing all the classes of the SWTOR game. Consequently, you can expect to find the points-of-view constantly switching around between and even within chapters, sometimes rehashing certain events over and over again. This may annoy some readers, but I think most will end up appreciating the author’s attempt to give equal attention to both the Republic and the Sith.
I also found the character development sufficient, but perhaps die-hards will still find it unsatisfying. In some ways, I believe the book was written with the expectation that the reader is already familiar the Star Wars universe, as well has decent background knowledge of the SWTOR MMO. Indeed, the class archetypes (Smuggler, Jedi Knight, Trooper, etc.) and their traits are well reflected in the novel, and readers will greatly benefit from having existing knowledge of them. Otherwise, you may find the story background and characters’ histories severely lacking and even confusing, and admittedly character development will not go that much further beyond what has already been established and/or understood about the archetypes.
Nonetheless, I am impressed with the way Williams handled the characters and the classes they represent, especially considering how much of it is obviously required to correspond to the game. It’s a challenge to create characters that are based on such prominent archetypes and still make them unique and interesting, but he manages well. Particularly, if you are interested in the Smuggler or Imperial Agent and are disappointed by the limited information Bioware has revealed on them so far, Fatal Alliance will be a treat. While reading, I also picked up on many hints regarding class abilities and other game mechanics, so SWTOR addicts might also have that to look forward to.
While some of my criticisms of Fatal Alliance might seem a little harsh, I do want to make it clear that I enjoyed the book. I think most people who are looking for a fun, casual read will enjoy it too; just don’t expect an epic tale. If you are a fan of Star Wars or the expanded universe, this book is worth checking out. And if you’re a fan of SWTOR, this is a must-read.(less)
I knew before reading this book that it was a mystery thriller, so after the first few chapters, I still remember wondering if Amazon had screwed up a...moreI knew before reading this book that it was a mystery thriller, so after the first few chapters, I still remember wondering if Amazon had screwed up and sent me the wrong book. The story doesn’t pick up until after about the first quarter, when the plot elements finally come together and I start having a better idea of where the mystery part of the story was going. Several themes like the ugly truth of violence (especially against women), fascism, and financial crime are also interwoven into the main story along with multiple plot lines, and after a while you start to see how it all comes together. At times shocking and unpredictable, by the halfway point of this book I was completely hooked and I couldn’t put it down until its conclusion.(less)
Not wanting to wait, I jumped right into the second book of the trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire. Again, more thrills and investigations when th...moreNot wanting to wait, I jumped right into the second book of the trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire. Again, more thrills and investigations when three people are murdered on the same night — and Lisbeth Salander is the main suspect.
I didn’t like the second installment as much, since once again it was slow to take off and took even longer for the story to take shape. Also, I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for the mystery and the clue-hunting by the novel’s protagonists. On the other hand, The Girl Who Played With Fire, while having its mysterious elements, is more a thriller than a mystery. Again, there are multiple plots and themes, but they all come together less coherently that I would have expected. The focus here also clearly shifts to Salander, though Blomkvist still plays an important role in trying to prove her innocence.
Despite its flaws, The Girl Who Played With Fire is still a solid book, even if it doesn’t pack a punch like the first one did and drags on at times. At least I liked it enough to continue with the third and final book in the series, and I’m glad I did.(less)
In a way, I like to think of The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest as one big novel. For one thing, the latter picks...moreIn a way, I like to think of The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest as one big novel. For one thing, the latter picks up right where the former left off so we don’t miss a single beat. In this one we go hunting with Blomkvist for the people who framed Lisbeth for the murders and turned her life into a living hell. It is a book about collecting information, preparing for a trial, and ultimately bringing those who are responsible to justice.
If you read the second book, the third one is a must. It. Is. Good. Again, perhaps not as strong as the first novel, but definitely in my opinion better than the second while providing it with a satisfying conclusion which answers all the questions and ties everything up beautifully as well. For the ending of this book alone, I feel both are worth reading. What a shame it is that the late Stieg Larsson will no longer bring us more adventures of Blomkvist and Salander. After finishing this book, I was actually overcome with a little sadness.(less)
World of Warcraft: Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak is the latest game-related novel I finished. I’ll admit I picked this one up solely due to my fascina...moreWorld of Warcraft: Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak is the latest game-related novel I finished. I’ll admit I picked this one up solely due to my fascination with its eponymous protagonist because in fact, I am not a big fan of Knaak’s writing at all. The War of the Ancients trilogy, for example, is the last thing I read by him and it was a torturous ordeal just to try and force myself to get through all three books. I find his style overly simplistic and at times vapid and flavorless, though to be fair, I’ve only ever read his WoW-related books even though he’s known for being quite a gifted author for his works in many other titles in the fantasy genre.
I decided to give this book a chance in the end, because if anything, my love for the Druid class made reading this a requirement. Malfurion Stormrage is also one of my favorite characters in WoW lore, and I figured maybe I’ll have a better time getting through Knaak’s writing when it’s not about Rhonin or Krasus/Korialstrasz.
Anyway, my final verdict for Stormrage is that it’s readable, but I think avid fans and readers of more established fantasy authors will be very disappointed. I realize it’s a game novel and that it’s a challenge to write for a series intended for a wide audience which may include younger readers, but there were times where the simplistic writing style made me feel like I was reading a comic book, or a very bad fanfic piece.
To Knaak’s credit, it’s clear he’s done a lot of research into the characters and locations of the WoW universe. In many ways, the book is also a nice follow-up to the War of the Ancients trilogy and ties in well with the WoW comics, though one doesn’t have to have read either to follow the story. I would still recommend Stormrage to any fans of Warcraft lore, since it provides answers to a lot of questions regarding Malfurion Stormrage and the encroaching Emerald Nightmare. WoW players will also be treated to a whole slew of appearances by well-known NPCs including Tyrande Whisperwind, Hamuul Runetotem, and the duplicitous Fandral Staghelm who may or may not have some crafty tricks up his sleeve, plus many, many more.
Oh, and that last part isn’t really a spoiler, since everyone knows Fandral Staghelm is batshit crazy anyway.(less)
Let me just preface this by saying I don’t read a lot fantasy, and I certainly do not consider myself an enthusiast of the genre as I get through only...moreLet me just preface this by saying I don’t read a lot fantasy, and I certainly do not consider myself an enthusiast of the genre as I get through only about a handful of fantasy-themed books every year. I find my preferences gravitate towards historical fantasy, but I’ve pretty much given up on the magical, heroic, or epic sub-genres. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck choosing titles on my own, but most of what I’ve read have either made me sick or bored me to tears.
Not so with The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. In fact, I was overcome with a sense of contentment soon after I turned the last page. It’s the sort of feeling you get after finishing a satisfying read, complete with just the hint of sadness at the fact the book has finally come to an end. That’s saying something, seeing as the hardcover version of the book is a whopping 1008 pages. And this is just the first of what is planned to be a 10-novel series! Considering the author has other projects to work on, including finishing the Wheel of Time series, I’ll probably be in my early 40s by the time the last book comes out. Ah well, I’ve always known that committing myself to an epic fantasy series often means a whole lot of waiting.
The Way of Kings takes place in Roshar, a land affected by powerful weather phenomenons called Highstorms, which are pretty much hurricanes on steroids. The flora and fauna have all adapted to these conditions, resulting in bizarre creatures like heavily-shelled animals or plants that can suck themselves back into the ground when disturbed. All around the world are also these spirit-like things called spren, which are either caused by or attracted to emotions or particular circumstances. It is a fantastical setting, but one that is still very believable at the same time. Sanderson spends the time to craft an in-depth environment with his writing, and it’s clear the ideas for this world weren’t just thrown together overnight.
The book has four main characters who are all connected in some way — Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar and Adolin, though there’s a rather large cast of other background characters to get acquainted with. Kaladin is the most prominent protagonist, and his story almost feels like a comic book hero’s journey. Indeed, he reminds me of Peter Parker/Spider-man in many ways — a young man in bad times who has had to deal with the deaths of people close to him, who’s constantly struggling to save everyone around him with his big heart that cares way too much for others when it should be caring for himself. That said, at times the characters in the book can feel a bit one-dimensional, but this is made up for by some interesting plot turns and the great lead-up to the novel’s climax. Towards the end I could scarcely put the book down, when all the story groundwork that has been laid down finally comes to fruition.
I also appreciate the author for his efforts to constantly keep the reader in the characters’ heads. I felt that this aspect was a huge improvement over his Mistborn series that I couldn’t get into, even though I tried. In those novels, it got too tedious to read pages upon pages of description about the gravity-defying stunts, which would have been much more captivating if I was watching it happen on-screen in a movie or video game. But the nice thing about books — and their greatest strength — should be the way they allow you to peer inside a character’s head to see what they are feeling or experiencing. Without that emotional aspect for me, reading about the combat or action-filled scenes simply feels bland. However, I never once felt this way while reading through The Way of Kings‘ many battle scenes, and I realized it was because Sanderson has managed to keep me sufficiently in touch with the characters this time around.
And while we’re on the subject of Sanderson’s writing, I have to say I enjoy his style. He’s a good storyteller, and his writing, while not too terribly elegant, is straightforward and undisguised without being too simplistic. I mean all that as a compliment; sometimes you just want to get to the meat of the story without poring over a page multiple times to contemplate all its artsy-ness or symbolic meanings. That stuff is for another time, another book. But when all I want to do is sit back and relax to enjoy an epic fantasy with a good story, The Way of Kings delivers.(less)
Sexy sequel to Naamah’s Kiss, tells the story of a god-touched young woman’s journey across a continent in search of her wandering lover/soulmate. I f...moreSexy sequel to Naamah’s Kiss, tells the story of a god-touched young woman’s journey across a continent in search of her wandering lover/soulmate. I first got hooked onto Carey’s writing due to her original “Kushiel Legacy” books featuring Phedre no Delaunay, and I’ve followed all her work ever since, though my preference is still for her novels set in the Terre D’Ange universe. With these books, Carey has created a world and a mythos behind it that really can’t be beat. Anyway, I liked her second trilogy featuring Prince Imriel well enough, so I was quite excited when I heard she was going to be writing another series focusing on a new character in a different time, but still set in the same world. Naamah’s Curse is the second installment in this series, which I feel is progressing nicely. The characters, though not as well-written (especially Moirin, who I feel is more of an air-head and a Mary Sue than all of Carey’s other protagonists), still shine in their own way and the stories continue to interest me. (less)