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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Foundation (Foundation, #1)Foundation by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I once read that tbe only genre that can get away with not having rounded characters is science fiction. This book tries that philosophy, but doesn’t get away with it, in my opinion. Hari Seldon could be called the main character, as his presence is felt throughout the book, and he’s the only one who lasts more than a few pages, but even he’s gone early on in the book, as this covers hundreds of years of history with a short story covering every crisis. The premise is that Hari can tell the future analyzing the flows of the greater population, although not individuals, and foresees that the galactic empire is going to fall and descend into barbarianism. If a group of people follow his plans and build a research center at the far end of the galaxy, that fall would take 1000 years instead of 30000. He then records himself for every crisis that will happen, to give future generations the answer they need to survive. Interesting idea, but as each generation goes by, I find myself caring less about the new characters that keep popping up and don’t bother keeping track of them. Plus, there were some strange ideas about the technology. For example, these supposed ‘barbarians’ still have faster than light travel (FTL), but they lose nuclear power. It seems like FTL is more advanced than nuclear power, since, well, we have access to the latter now and not the former. Aside from all of these issues, everytime I read the Galactic Empire, Emperor Palpatine came to mind. The good ideas deal with combining economics, politics, and religion into science fiction, instead of relying so much on gadgets. I know many people like this series, but I could never get into it much.

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In this technologically advanced society we live in, where science rules and anything coming close to magic belief is ridiculed, including religion to an extent, why hasn’t fantasy gone the way of the Western, to a niche group of loyal readers but rejected by the mainstream? Why have movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings ranked in millions while the recent Lone Ranger failed to impress (aside from quality issues)? Why is fantasy a viable genre in books, video games, and movies (albeit limited in that last regard)?
I may not have all the answers, but I do have some ideas. First of all, people need something to believe in. So with religion being derided on all sides, or people disenchanted with it, many turn to make believe magic, because really, science doesn’t give a lot of comfort. Science doesn’t tell you what happens to you when you die, except that your body decomposes. Science doesn’t tell you whether there is an ultimate being looking out for you; it can’t even tell you if there is life out there or not beyond our planet. You can’t pray to science or believe that science cares whether things will work out in the end. But what does this have to do at all with fantasy? You may ask. Fantasy books can’t give me that comfort. World of Warcraft doesn’t tell me what happens when I die. I can’t use the Force to get revenge on the kids who pick on me at school. Well, there was one guy where I worked before who talked about all the nerdy things, especially Star Wars, as if they were real. He even asked once the guy who trained me what the difference between the Force and other religions were, to which he got the response, “No matter how much I believe it is real, it can’t be. It was made up by a guy named George Lucas for entertainment purposes, and he doesn’t even believe in it.” That incident got me thinking. In no way do I advocate being like that guy who was kind of deluded, although even he knew that Star Wars wasn’t real. But it served him just the same, filling some need of his to believe in something guiding the universe. The truth is, fantasy often introduces religious ideas that would never be accepted in any other form, but in fantasy, it can be integrated into the subconscious while the conscious mind dismisses it as entertainment, something made up. So while someone might not have organized religion in their life, they might believe subconsciously in some ideas like there is a guiding force, which gives them reassurance.
Secondly, fantasy usually calls back to simpler days, when there weren’t so many people, when technology didn’t complicate things. People didn’t have to worry about 20000 pages of Obamacare that no one’s read all the way, they didn’t have to worry about getting likes on Facebook and Twitter, they didn’t have to worry about navigating health insurance, car insurance, mortgages, credit card debt, remembering passwords, identity theft, software skills, and confusing government forms. Now, obviously things weren’t all great back in the day. There were repression, caste systems, tyranny, wars, diseases without cures, few rights, unsanitary conditions, and overall poor living conditions. But the romantic part of us believes in a world where the peasant can take up a sword and save the world. Where he can find true love with a princess. Where good triumphs over evil. These things that we see in fantasy that we don’t in the real world.
Finally, fantasy allows us to use imagination in a way that would be mocked in other genres. Worlds where people fly on dragons, or can fly by their own willpower. Where flowers grow to be a hundred feet tall. Where other creatures besides humans interact with us. Where the world doesn’t have to be a ball spinning around the sun, but can be flat on a turtle’s back. Fantasy takes us back to our childhood, where things didn’t have an explanation, but that didn’t keep us from exploring them. The world was wonderful, exciting, new. Not drab and gray like we so often see it now.
And the world needs more people who can see and enjoy it with child-like wonder. Image

Koracki

Koracki are a race that live in the water. Generally friendly, they are not seen often by humans except at ports.

Dwarves

An explanation of how dwarves differ from humans.

The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1)The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was enjoyable, even for a YA book. Unlike the Alcatraz books, this one is serious, but keeps it’s tone pretty light, especially with the main character, Joel, who is so enthusiastic that it is contagious. He’s devoted to learning about rithmatics, making chalk drawings come to life, but unfortunately, he’s not one himself, so he can just study it when allowed, but can’t actually do it. Most of the book, you’re wondering if he’ll become one himself or not, I won’t spoil it here, but at least at the beginning, you get the point of view of someone who isn’t a rithmatist, which helps, having Joel not be a superpowered rithmatist who can use all 8 or 10 or 12 metals, I mean, knows all the defenses. Sometimes having a powerful hero is appropriate, other times, we want a Frodo, who has no magic but gets things done. At first I thought it would be a stand alone book, but at the end there were some twists that entail another book, maybe more, as well as keeping it from going into the Harry Potter zone. It was easy reading, a brisk adventure set in an alternate history. The world wasn’t explored much, but there are plenty of things to explore later on. While no Way of Kings, it is fun to read. I can imagine an IPad app coming out, where you can actually draw out the circles and defenses and send out little chalklings. I mean, Sanderson already wrote a book for Infinity Blade, now he can have his own game out there. We’ll see.

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elf

An explanation of how elves differ from humans.

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