I finished season one of Amazon’s The Rings of Power show adapting material from the appendices to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I also did two other things since my last post on the show that affect how I view it: I rewatched the Peter Jackson LotR movies and I read (reread) academic historian Bret Devereaux’s posts dissecting the battle of Helm’s Deep and the siege of Gondor. The rewatch raised things a bit, with the show holding up well and benefiting from the careful touches of foreshadowing that are including. Revisiting Jackson’s LotR adaptation lowered things a bit.
My final estimation stayed where my initial estimation landed. Rings of Power is good, not great. It didn’t fall off a cliff like The Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones adaptations. It isn’t remotely as atrocious as Jackson’s Hobbit . . . thing (do not attempt to defend those movies or compare them with the show, as I do not suffer fools). But nor does it rise to the heights of Jackson’s LotR movies or, especially, the source material.
Revisiting Jackson’s LotR adaptation did solidify something that had been oozing around the dark corners of my mind. The basic problem with the show is that Jackson’s movies are its urtext.
The summer’s swelter retreats as cool fog and brisk mornings creep in. Soon the leaves will begin to change and yards fill with skeletons. Weekends have come to be dominated by football. It is fall, the very best season of the year.
Miles Cameron’s epic fantasy is an auto-buy for me at this point (I am still working my way around to his historical fiction and science fiction). His Traitor Son Cycle and Masters & Mages series are two of my favorite series of this century, if not of all time. Against All Gods is the first book in his latest epic fantasy series. I will continue on with The Age of Bronze series, but its opening volume is the weakest yet from a Miles Cameron series.
Did I watch the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime (Rings of Power from here on out) on Thursday evening as soon as they dropped? Well, I tried. I didn’t quite finish the second episode, or even really make it quite halfway. I can’t blame Amazon for that one so much as a schedule that has me up and moving early every morning. I was intrigued enough to finish episode two while I ate lunch at work on Friday. But when Jim Cornelius from Frontier Partisans asked my opinion on the show, I couldn’t muster much passion in response. I’m just not that invested, and the first two episodes didn’t change that.
SPOILERS for the first two episodes below the fold.
It was a hectic quarter, even if thinks have started settling down as the baby transitions from newborn baby to just baby. The big wrench in my plans here was my wife and I both finishing leave but only having two days of childcare for the baby each week. I haven’t figured out a sustainable, reliable posting pattern for that new reality (although by the end of the coming quarter the baby will be in childcare five days a week).
Another week, another new series from one of my favorite new writers of the last decade. Last week it was Brian McClellan with In the Shadow of Lightning, this week it is Ed McDonald with Daughter of Redwinter. McDonald’s Raven’s Mark trilogy is one of my favorite fantasy series period. Sadly, Daughter of Redwinter doesn’t begin to live up to that series, although I don’t have much in the way of actual complaints.
Brian McClellan’s opening salvo in his latest series, In the Shadow of Lightning, didn’t immediately grab me. The opening scenes, which take place some nine years before the events in the bulk of the novel and setup Demir’s character arc, were not as effective as, say, the scenes of revolution that open Promise of Blood. The glass-based magic system is clever enough, I suppose, but at some point, you read about so many different magic systems—from McClellan or Brandon Sanderson or whoever—that there are diminishing returns. And it isn’t as distinctive as the powder mage sorcery from Promise of Blood, for example. But McClellan makes great hay out of it, and the story picks up steam as it goes.
I’ve been saying for a while that we need more stories that fall into the overlap between country noir and speculative fiction. The hollers and dark dirt roads that host country noir yarns have their own rich tradition of myths and folk tales. And speculative elements, perhaps especially horror, dovetail well with the bones of a country noir story—better than, certainly, romance or even mystery. In his novel The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones combines supernatural horror and rez noir (a kissing cousin to country noir). Four young Blackfeet Indians committed some great sin on an elk hunt years ago, and an angry spirit of sorts is looking for bloody restitution.
Firestarter is the story of Andy McGee, possessing mild powers of mind domination, and his young daughter, Charlie McGee, possessing very un-mild powers of pyrokinesis. The story begins with Andy and Charlie on the run from agents of a mysterious government intelligence agency called the Shop. We learn how Andy and his wife got their powers and how she died from flashbacks interspersed with the main story. The antagonist the government, as represented by the Shop, and the primary antagonist from the Shop is Rainbird, kind of a poor man’s Anton Chigurh, so loaded with traits and quirks something the whole is less than the sum.