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Archive for October, 2014

The Hobbit

thehobbit

Alright, so I read The Hobbit a long time ago and before rereading it I had only the vaguest memories and some choice vivid ones. First off, I forgot that this was a children’s book….so I was taken by surprise at how simplistic the prose and dialogue were. Perhaps that’s why I was able to read this book as a child/teenager but not able to get into the Lord of the Rings. Anyways, I’ll expand on that later. I definitely remembered about the encounter with the trolls and I had even remembered one of their names (Bert). I remembered about them turning to stone. For some reason, I distinctly remembered that there was a chapter with the word, “barrel” in it’s name but I couldn’t remember how the barrels were used in the story. I remembered that Bilbo and the dwarves got lost in the forest but I didn’t remember about the elves AT ALL. I think the spiders was a vague memory but not much more than that. I forgot all about the goblins and wargs but I remembered the encounter with Gollum for the most part. I definitely didn’t remember what the riddles were but I did remember that they had a game of riddles. I remember Bilbo sneaking into Smaug’s lair and talking with him but I seemed to had remembered the conversation differently from how it really happened in the book. I definitely remembered that Bard killed Smaug and I ALWAYS was pissed off about that. Bard was introduced about 2 pages before he kills Smaug, and I distinctly remember feeling cheated and annoyed about that. I always felt it should have been Bilbo or one of the dwarves who had the honour of killing Smaug and not some no-name character we only just met. I hardly remembered the Battle of the Five Armies….and yet I always remembered that Thorin, Fili, and Kili died at the end of the book. I guess I just couldn’t remember HOW they died, or I simply forgot the context of the battle they died in. I also couldn’t remember if any other dwarves had died in that battle but it was just those three.

OK, so for the most part, that’s what I did and did not remember from my initial reading 10+ years ago. Now, as I said before, I was taken by surprise at the simplicity of the writing. I definitely forgot that this was written as a children’s novel. The character dialogue felt so weird to me, as if the characters were not real and just acting on a stage. Gandalf didn’t sound wise at all, and the omniscient viewpont revealing Gandalf to be afraid in some scenes didn’t help Gandalf seem like the strong and confident wizard I had always imagined him to be. Thorin’s dialogue made him seem rather silly, and definitely not how his character is depicted in the recent movies. Though he had some snappy dialogue, he always seemed easy to silence or reason with. Bilbo was constantly making snappy comments whenever the dwarves complained about the mess they were in, or the method of their escapes, and Thorin would just apologize and leave it at that. Definitely not the tough king the movies make him out to be.

One thing I was impressed by, was the swift pacing of the book. By page 40, we’re already reading about the trolls, and by page 100, Bilbo is having his riddle game with Gollum. At about 350 pages, I could’ve read this book in about 4 days but I took my time and it was about 6 or 7 days that I read it in.

So besides Thorin, the other 12 dwarves were kinda just there. A few of them were given actual personalities and dialogue but many of them probably spoke two lines of dialogue at most throughout the entire book. Balin was probably the most rounded dwarf, as he was constantly sympathizing with Bilbo and helping him when the others would not. Fili and Kili were at least given the distinguishing feature of being the youngest of the dwarves, and therefore they were often doing some of the tasks throughout the book. Bombur was fat….and that’s kind of it. That fatness seemed to elevate him to a status where he actually got more than 5 lines of dialogue though. But Dwalin, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur and Bofur? They had no personality and hardly any dialogue. Now I’m not really criticizing the book….having twelve dwarves all with distinct personalities and spotlights would have made the book much longer than 350 pages, and doing so may not have really added anything to the story being told. I’m merely pointing out that of the 12 dwarves, four of them had any real use to the story.

Well, I think that’s all I have to say about The Hobbit. I enjoyed the reread of the book, especially as clouded memories started to clear up as I progressed. The main reason I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the book was so that I could go into the third hobbit movie with a more solid recollection of the events as told in the book so I could be more certain which scenes were fabricated in the movie.

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Elantris

Elantris_cover

It took me about two weeks to read Elantris. Actually, from the day I started reading it, it was about 3 weeks afterwards that I finished. But I had to beta-read someone else’s book partway through my reading of Elantris and so I put it on hold for a week. This write up is approximately 1 week late from when I actually finished reading Elantris. This is more of a recording of my thoughts on the book and not a review. Really, I’m writing these so that years from now, when my memories of reading these books becomes more vague, I can consult these write ups and remember specifics more.

So, I really enjoyed Elantris. It’s my first Brandon Sanderson book and I’m looking forward to reading more from him. I liked how the story opens up right from the get go with a mystery. What happened to Elantris? Why do people randomly get struck with the Shaod? This really felt like the driving force of the book. I trusted the answer to the mystery to be satisfying, and it was a fairly cool discovery when you figure out what happened. The main problem is that there didn’t seem to be much foreshadowing because the logic behind the magic system was not really known to me. Raoden was slowly learning more and more about the AonDor, and it was very interesting as more and more became revealed but at no point did I feel like I was educated enough to make a proper guess as to what had happened and therefore when Raoden figures out the mystery, you can’t REALLY be surprised. There wasn’t any sort of twist. Basically, a chasm appears randomly (I don’t even remember how the chasm was formed as the chasm really wasn’t given any significance before Raoden learns how it affected the Aons), and its presence disrupts the logic of AonDor. AonDor’s glyphs use shapes based off the surrounding land, and so when the chasm forms, it requires a new stroke to be added to every glyph in order for the magic to continue working properly.

I thought this whole system was COOL. But I guess I had been expecting a plot twist or at least be able to make a guess myself instead of just having the answer revealed at the player when the plot required it. I was also quite confused when Raoden fixed the AonDor. Why did he charge to wherever it was he charged? Did he have to charge to a specific location when he drew that one specific glyph, added the new stroke for the chasm, and restored the AonDor? That part didn’t make sense to me. It never really explained WHY that glyph even restored the AonDor. Or maybe it did and I missed it but either way, it was kinda confusing.

Anyways, I liked how he used the three point of view characters. The fact that they interacted and you would see a particular scene from two different perspectives was pretty cool and it reminded me somewhat of playing Suikoden III. Sarene annoyed me a bit because of her demanding personality, and how she was sly and knew it and just manipulated people so she could get what she wanted. There were times where I didn’t like that she would resort to certain tactics to get her way. I kept perceiving her has always giving herself a pat on the back each time she spun things around in her favor. I started to feel sorry for Hrathen and found myself rooting for him instead because Sarene just started to get really annoying and spoiled.

And while the book was written with a specific pattern (each chapter rotates to the next character: Raoden -> Sarene -> Hrathen -> Raoden), each character’s chapters weren’t of equivalent length. Very quickly I noticed that Sarene’s chapters were twice as long as Raoden’s and Hrathen’s, and as I got farther into the book, Hrathen’s chapters became only a couple pages long. After like 6 consecutive Hrathen chapters being just a single page or two pages, it almost felt like he wasn’t even needed anymore as a point of view character. All the while Sarene gets her 20 page chapters and does Sarene things.

So I liked Hrathen but I didn’t really care for his death at the end. First the book makes you think he dies, and then when Dilaf keeps thwarting everything Raoden or Sarene throw at him, and it starts to feel like a hopeless battle, Hrathen has to come back (LOL I’M NOT DEAD YET I HAVE TO KILL THE OVERPOWERED VILLAIN FIRST) and kill Dilaf for the others because it was clear that no one else could. And then he just dies afterwards…

I’ve always felt that to be a cheap trick. There are some RPGs I’ve played that do similar things where a character appears to die, but he comes back JUST to kill someone crucial and then finally dies again right after. See, I liked Hrathen, and so I was already disappointed that he had to die. So when he comes back and kills Dilaf, I found myself regaining a bit of hope and satisfaction that he was still alive…only for him to die pretty much the same page he comes back on.

Now, one thing I really appreciated was Adien’s number mumbling. I knew it wasn’t just a random trait given to him — I felt confident that it was going to play a significant role later on in the book and the payoff was nice when it allowed him to safely teleport Raoden all the way to Teod. It fit very nicely with the particulars of the AonDor teleportation spell (requiring a specific number of steps input when casting the spell) and I was very pleased with that.

Now one thing that I don’t remember ever being explained or addressed is how an ordinary person became struck by the Shaod. Is it random? The book explained what the Shaod WAS but not how or why it happened. Let’s assume that the AonDor was fixed. What determines if someone is going to transform into an Elantrian? That wasn’t addressed and it was one of the bigger mysteries right beside “What caused Elantris to fall?”

As much as it sounds like I’m just complaining, I really did enjoy the book.

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