A Song of Fire and Ice

A Song of Fire and Ice is a series of fantasy novels written by George R R Martin. Now I don’t say that I am an expert in fantasy genre but I have read my own share. In my humble opinion, IT IS A MUST READ! It is perhaps on par with the Wheel of Time series, hundred times better than Lord of the Rings, a million times better than the Harry Potter and infinite times better than the Twilight Series (Thankfully I have not read the twilight series).

Of the seven expected books in the series, four have been published and I have just finished the fourth.

What makes the series so good is that there is no love for the good guys in it. They die more easily than the bad guys. When you think that you know how a battle is going to turn out, you are in for a surprise.  When you read the first book, you start liking a character and you believe that he is the hero. Bam! His head rolls. That does not mean that all the good characters die, they do have luck going there way too. But you can never get too comfortable. And then there are the gray characters. When you start, you feel that certain characters are definitely bad. Babykillers for example. But later you start seeing it from their perspective and you feel that they are not so bad after all. The cunning characters like Varys, Tyrion, Littlefinger and Tywin are perhaps the most complex characters that you can hope to read.

Unlike the classic fantasy genre, there are no absolute good or absolute bad (may be except “The Mountain” who is definitely a bad one). The dialogues are masterful, especially Tyrion’s. Yea and it has lots of gore, sex and swearing. Its not a novel for kids.

The first three books won the Locus awards and were nominees for the nebula awards.

Now the bad part. The third book came out in 2000 and the fourth one in 2005. Its been five years and still no word of the next books. Many fans must have died waiting for the next book! If you cant bear the waiting don’t read ’em.

Now the really really good part!

HBO is making an original series on the books. 🙂 Expected to debut in Spring 2011, the series is going to rock!

Sean Bean would be playing Ned Stark. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Towers of Midnight

So the thirteenth book of the Wheel of Time series is out and as expected it is AWESOME! Spoilers ahead, so read at your own peril. Those not familiar with the WoT can safely ignore the post.

Moraine is back finally but much weakened. Perrin is no longer boring and Galad and Gawyn are no longer irritating. All the pieces are finally getting into place for the Last Battle. The Generals Ituralde and Gareth Bryne are inspiring. Bryne had a very beautiful quote:

“A man is more than one drive, one goal. No woman wants that in a man. It seems to me that men who spend time making something of themselves – rather than professing their devotion – are the ones who get somewhere. Both with women, and with life itself.”

The book has many situations that makes you think. Many characters of the book realize the enormity of the situation facing them. Rand, Mat, Moraine, Lan, Cadsuane, Nynaeve all realize that there are some things in life that is more important than even your life. They know that Tarmon Gai’don is what matters and nothing else. Somehow I feel that Elayne and Egwene do not realize that. Lan is leading a lost charge of twelve thousand against an army of one hundred fifty thousand. Mat sacrificed his eye and Rand is sacrificing everything for it.

In our lives we lack this goal. There is nothing that we can look as something that is worth sacrificing everything for. Our forefathers had that objective during the freedom struggle and the world had that objective during the Great Wars.

I can see our situation similar to what Cadsuane faced. She lived for more than three hundred years waiting and preparing for the Last Battle, knowing that what she did and what she learned will have a great impact on how the things turn out in the end. We need to also look at things which are far down the lane of time and realize that even if we do not have an immediate choice to make, we still can work at things which matters. The important thing is to know what that is and how you can make a difference. The important thing is not to lose sight of the goal and keep forging ahead. The important thing is not to let yourself be distracted by everylife’s triviality and realize that you are part of the greater pattern of things. The important thing is to work for it. We need to believe in the Chaos Theory. Even a small contribution that you make now can make happen the thing that you are working for in the distant future.

As Yama rightly said to Sam in another great novel (Lord of Light),

An army, great in space, may offer opposition in a brief span of time. One man, brief in space, must spread his opposition across a period of many years if he is to have a chance of succeeding.
~ Lord of Light (Roger Zelazny)

The only question

*****Major spoilers on The Gathering Storm. Proceed at your own peril*****

In his famous work “The myth of Sisyphus”, Albert Camus asserts that the only philosophical question worth answering is the question of suicide in the face of absurdity and meaninglessness of life. Dragon Reborn Rand is faced with this same question at the end of book 12 of The Wheel of Time.

Rand is wielding enormous power capable of unraveling the pattern (Space time continuum in our world) thus destroying the creation itself. Rand/Lews Therin Thelamon/Dragon has been brought to life again and again in a cycle of time similar to the Hindu concept of reincarnation and the circle of time. Again and again the Dragon fights against the Dark One and again and again the cycle repeats. Rand questions the logic of continuing the fight when he knows that it would end with his death and a world worse off. Why not instead destroy everything and end the struggle once and for all. Why not kill everything and let men have their final peace.

Lews Therin, for once completely sane, answers Rand’s question by saying that may be it is because we can have a second chance. Because each time we are given a chance, we get a chance to love again. Tam’s voice adds to this saying that sometimes we do not have a choice in the duties that are given us but we have a choice in deciding why we fulfill those duties.

This scene is The Most Amazing Scene of the entire series. Rand’s character is one of the most stoic character in fiction. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheStoic 🙂 Check the literature section). When he loses his hand, Min sums up what he feels in the following words

“He’s not in shock,’ Min said sadly. The bond was full of sadness. She had taken hold of his arm as if to hold him up again. “He lost a hand, but there’s nothing to do about it. so he’s left it behind already.”– Knife of dreams

Rand recites the names of all the women who have died in his quest and ruthlessly takes forward his battle irrespective of what the cost is. Slowly and steadily over the course of 12 books he is pushed to the edge of insanity and only his sense of duty keeps him from giving up. That is until the moment when he loses his cool and tries to kill his own father. That is when he realizes that this has to end. It was about time that he gave vent to all the suppressed emotions that he feels. While finding a worthy reason to continue his struggle, he also provides us mere mortals an answer to the doubts that we are bound to have in life. It tells us that when the next time you are defeated, remember that that gives you another chance to correct your mistake and try again. Realize that even if the situation does not give you any freedom to act, you can at least choose to decide why you do what you are supposed to do. Like Sisyphus, we are bound to push the stone up the mountain and the only escape is to realize the absurdity of the situation and decide to revolt against it.
Harry Potter also realized this
It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high.  Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew – and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents – that there was all the difference in the world. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

In conclusion, know why we fight. Once you have a why you can bear with any how.

The Gathering Storm

I have been reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan since the past two months. I am on the last leg of this marathon with having read 11 books of the series and currently reading the last published book of the series “The Gathering Storm”. I must say it has been a fascinating journey. In no other work of fiction have I seen the complexity in character development and the darkness. The last book so far seems to be the one that I liked the most and the one that has exceeded all others when it comes to dark theme. LOTR comes a littler close to the stoic character that these books seems to espouse. WOT though takes it to a new level. Some of the quotes in the book are really good.

Battle was always a mess. The only neat battles were the ones in stories or history books. Those had been cleansed and scoured by the abrasive hands of scholars looking for conciseness.
— Ituralde – The Gathering Storm
Arad Doman needed to fight. They would lose, but their children would always know that their fathers had resisted. That resistance would be important in a hundred years, when a rebellion came. If one came.
— Ituralde – The Gathering Storm

When you knew you were going to hang, the only thing to do was grin at the noose.

— Mathrim Cauthon – Crossroads of Twilight

“He’s not in shock,’ Min said sadly. The bond was full of sadness. She had taken hold of his arm as if to hold him up again. “He lost a hand, but there’s nothing to do about it. so he’s left it behind already.”

— Knife of dreams

I understand, Egwene thought. I didn’t realize what the Aiel did. I assumed that I just had to be harder, and that was what would teach me to laugh at pain. But it’s not hardness at all. It’s not strength that makes me laugh. It’s understanding.

— The Gathering Storm

I have always been an admirer of stoicism. I believe that you have to do what you have to do, irrespective of how hard the path is.

Reading The Gathering Storm is giving me the kind of pleasure that I have not experienced in reading a book in a long time. Last time when I had such fascination towards a book was when I was reading works the Foundation series and the Robot series and that was a few years back. Why aren’t there more such Intelligent books?

I was in Crosswords yesterday and I could see many books with barely a decent story. I could not find a single book to buy that could interest me. Why do people write such crappy books and more importantly why do people buy them?