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1
I know this is a sci-fi film and not fantasy, but there is a sci-fi book club, so I reckon a fair few of us will have watched this film.

What did you all think? I saw some reviews that said it was full of plot holes and inconsistencies, but I'm not sure I agree. The action scenes were great and so were the performances. I also loved all the subtle (and some not so subtle) references to Star Trek history.

There are certainly worse films as far as plot holes go, but they did slip up by saying that Kahn was frozen 300 years ago (which would have been 1958!).

I was also quite impressed with the 3D, especially in the opening scenes. Arrows being shot out of the screen is the sort of thing 3D was made for.

I think seeds for the third film were planted in this one. The Klingons disappeared as quickly as they arrived, but presumably they are not pleased with events and a war looks inevitable for the third film.

2
This is how authors should end a trilogy.  The second book was pretty dire and uneventful, but that is more then compensated for in this 700 page masterpiece.  Clearly Sanderson new what he was doing with this story from the very beginning.  Pretty much every lose thread is dealt with and nearly every question answered.  I can wholeheartedly recommend the Mistborn trilogy.  Spoilers ahead for the first two books in the trilogy.

The second book spent 700 pages talking about the positioning of armies and other nonsense, before finally cramming quite a lot into the last few chapters.  Vin ends up selflessly not taking the power at the Well of Ascension, however this causes something far worse to be released–Ruin.  Ruin is what the Lord Ruler was protecting the world from during his reign.

While at the Well, Elend gained the powers of a Mistborn.  This was a surprise, but it changed the entire book for the better.  The first book was nearly entirely focused on Vin.  While Kelsier was no doubt important, we were always seeing him through Vin’s eyes.  In the second book, we saw a lot of Elend, except it was mainly just him moping about how useless he was and how he didn’t deserve Vin.  Vin was doing something similar.  In The Hero of Ages, we see he story through the eyes of Vin and Elend, but also Sazed, Spook, TenSoon and others.  It feels like a real group effort and is much more believable as a result.  There is also far less moping.

We pick up the story a year after events at the Well.  The mists are now coming during the day more and more.  The ash is falling from the sky at an increased rate.  It is becoming difficult to grow food.  Vin and Elend have been on the trail of messages left by the Lord Ruler dotted around the land.  We pick the story up with just three remaining to be found.  It seems the Lord Ruler realized his end may come one day and tried to leave the world in a position to survive.  The Lord Ruler clearly knew what may happen should the power at the Well be released and so he left behind food and other information.  The rest of the story is about the struggle to find the Lord Ruler’s stashes while keeping as many alive as possible.  The insight into the Lord Ruler is absolutely fascinating and one of the best things about the series.

Right from the beginning, Sanderson starts throwing you answers to the questions you would have had from the first two books.  The chapter introductions are especially informative this time, although they do perhaps get a little repetitive in places.  In some ways the book is your typical good vs evil scenario, but it is also so much more than that.  Sanderson created a world built on rules that cannot be broken, like gravity on Earth.  The explanations to the unknown factors had to fit within the world’s design otherwise the illusion would be broken.  Thankfully Sanderson pulls this off superbly.  Although I was struggling to keep up at times, I have no doubt that it all makes sense.  The pace of this novel just leaves me even more confused about the second book–they are almost complete opposites and I can barely believe they are by the same author.

Many readers did not like the ending to this book.  Personally I though it was perfect and wouldn’t change a thing.  Mind you, I also really enjoyed the ending to Battlestar Galactica and that one wasn’t too popular either.  I really am struggling to find any faults with this book.  Perhaps it could have been a little shorter and there is repetition.  Elend still has a tendency for self-reflection that can drive you crazy after a while.  That really is nitpicking though.

This is definitely a series I will read again at some point.  The first book in particular will be an entirely different read with all the additional information.  It is a shame that book two is such a drag, but the overall quality of the series is difficult to beat.  I am now eagerly looking forward to reading everything else Sanderson has ever written!

10/10

p.s. Someone needs to make this into a film!!

3
Before starting this review, I just wanted to mention that I would love to hear from people who have read more of Robin Hobb's work to get their opinion on whether I should read more of her books.  Even if you don't have time to read the review, it would be great if you could comment (especially if you can tell me that her endings get better!)  I think she is a great writer, but as you will see, this ending left a bitter taste in the mouth and I am now not sure whether to read more of her stuff.

I have not felt this strongly about a book in a long time.  Unfortunately it is not a good feeling this time.  This review will contain spoilers for the first two books in the trilogy and this book itself.  I figure that given the date of the books, there aren't many people who have read the first two but not the third.

Just to quickly set the scene, I will talk briefly about the first two books.  The first book worked well as a stand alone story, but also as something setting the scene for bigger events.  It was about Fitz growing up, but it also introduced the two main threats facing the Six Duchies: the Outislanders and Prince Regal.  It was always obvious that we would get no resolution on those stories in the first book, and I remember thinking that the book must have been planned as a trilogy from the beginning. 

In the second book both the threats are really developed.  Prince Verity struggles to keep the Outislanders away and Prince Regal is slowly killing the King and positioning himself to take over.  It all came to a head in a brilliant ending where Verity had to go beyond the Mountain Kingdom to get help from the mythical Elderlings and Fitz had to fake his own death to escape Regal.  So far so good.  It also managed to avoid a common problem with trilogies--the boring second book syndrome. 

At this point I will say that I had a view of what was going to happen in the third book and how it might pan out.  I always saw the Regal threat as the more minor of the two, so I thought Fitz would kill Regal in the first half of the book and then Verity would arrive with the Elderlings and the second half of the book would be about the battle of fend off the Outislanders.  Well, if I was given 100 attempts to predict the third book, I still would have failed. 

Before I start criticizing this book (and that may take a while), I will discuss the positives.  Hobb is brilliant with characters.  Fitz is certainly one of my favourite protagonists in fantasy fiction.  The whole book is told from his perspective so it is crucial to have a likable, but not boring, character.  The only comparison I can make is to Kvothe in Name of the Wind, however Fitz is actually flawed and in my opinion that makes him more interesting.  Hobb is also great with relationships.  The relationships Fitz had with Nighteyes, the Fool, and Verity, could have come across as cheesy and unrealistic, but Hobb deals with them brilliantly.  In fact, despite my displeasure with this book, I can safely say that Hobb is a great writer.  Unfortunately, she may not tell a great story.

I said this book would include spoilers and I am now going to spoil 98% of the book with one word: walking.  It is basically all that happens.  Fitz walks from one place to another.  Sometimes with company, and sometimes without.  He meets other characters who often play no part in the story and then moves on.  Imagine Lord of the Rings (spoilers coming up - although if you haven't read LOTR yet then shame on you :-)) without all the battle stuff--just Frodo and Sam.  And then imagine that they don't meet Gollum.  And they don't come across any significant dangers along the way, except maybe a mountain that is tricky to climb.  And then they throw the ring in the fire and Mordor collapses.  That is kind of this book.  It is just so boring!

Even the dragons are boring!  I mean, an old weak Verity slowing chipping away at a stone to make a dragon, is hardly exciting.  I also think it is cheating a little.  I would have preferred the ending to have been based more on the magic system set up in the first two books.  I appreciate that it leans heavily on the Skill, but I still was a little surprised to see Dragons featuring in the story (although with hindsight the huge dragon on the cover should have been a minor clue).  It just didn't feel like a world that had dragons in it.

Another problem is the lack of urgency.  We are constantly told about the threat of the raiders and Regal but it is hard to really think that is important.  In the second book there was a real sense of urgency, but in this one they spend months walking through woods and building dragons.  In fact, I have no idea how much time passed in this book, it just didn't seem to be an issue.  Occasionally we see a raid through someone else's eyes, but that just makes you wonder why there is not more of a rush.

Needless to say, the ending was a huge disappointment.  Not with regards to the characters.  I liked the endings for them, even though it was a little sad in places.  The actual story however, had one of the worst endings I have read in fantasy literature.  I may have been happier if Fitz had woken up in New York in 2012 and it had all just been a dream.  I have no idea what possessed Hobb to take what little story there was here and stretch it out over 758 pages.  It seems to be part of a common pattern though.  The first book starts off short and is a success.  The author gets carried away and writes two huge sequels, which lose the pacing that made the first book such a success (see also the Mistborn trilogy I think).

The book gets 5/10 because of the character development.

4
Only minor spoilers for this book, but big ish spoilers for Game of Thrones (GOT), so don't read this if you haven't read the first book.

My main motivation to read this book was the upcoming second season of the Game of Thrones TV show, however another significant factor was the huge ending to the first book.  To say the shit hit the fan at in the last 100 pages of that one is a bit of an understatement.  The book went from a simmering tension of discontent to all-out war in the Kingdom.  A Clash of Kings (COK) picks up where GOT left off.
I was initially a bit apprehensive about this book.  I had some concerns that the series would struggle without my favorite character--a certain Lord who is now headless.  Although I was also a fan of Tyrion Lannister, I was not sure if he would be enough to see me through the sometimes more tedious Sansa/Arya chapters.  Although few new first-person characters are introduced, the events are such that you can't help but get swept up in the world again.

The theme of most of this book is how the various factions are setting themselves up to claim the Iron Throne.  In Kings Landing we have Joffrey Lannister on the Iron Throne with the might of House Lannister behind him.  However, it is now fairly common knowledge that he was born through incest and is therefore not the rightful King.  Technically it would appear that Stannis Baratheon has the best claim and it is probably Stannis that contributes most in terms of intrigue to this book, even though we get little direct contact with his side.  Renly Baratheon is Stannis’s younger brother and seems to base his claim to the thrown mainly on the fact that Stannis is not charismatic enough to be King.  Robb is the recently proclaimed King in the North and engages in a number of battles with House Lannister. 

There are also other more indirect claims to the throne that are not quite so imminent, but are boiling in the background.  We continue to follow Daenerys over the see.  She is now the owner of three dragons, but is struggling to put together an army to march on King’s Landing.  We also now have Theon Greyjoy chapters.  Theon is potentially heir to the Iron Islands and his dad, Baron Greyjoy, seems to be making a claim to a throne as well.  And lets not forget the threat from north of the Wall.  Mance Rayder is continuing to threaten, although those outside the Night’s Watch are ignoring him for the time being.

This book takes an unusual approach to its battle scenes, because for the most part it ignores them.  The majority of the battles are related to the reader through off-hand comments by other characters and you miss out on most of the detail.  I am not a big fan of battle scenes, so this suits me.  I am much happier spending time with the political intrigue than reading about who hit whom where and with what.

GOT hinted a lot at magic, but only through stories, so you never really knew if it existed or was just myth.  Well COT clears that up.  Magic exists and you see it first hand.  It is limited to a few instances, but it is certainly there this time and may be connected to a new comet that has recently appeared in the sky.  Speak to anyone in the Kingdom and you will probably get a different story about what the comet means.  Stannis believes it is a message from the Lord of Light and has teamed up with Melisandre, a messenger of that Lord.  Judging by some of Melisandre’s activities, it appears Stannis may be on to something.

If you have watched the TV series, you are probably a huge Tyrion fan due in part to the fantastic performance of Peter Dinklage in that role.  If you are, you will love this book, because Tyrion really steals the show.  In fact, I found that I was always awaiting the next Tyrion chapter.  Unfortunately this was in part because some of the other chapters did drag on a bit.  The nature of the series is that it is a slow burner that is clearly leading to something spectacular.  That does mean that we have to follow storylines with little happening, for example Daenerys.  And some of the Sansa/Arya/Catelyn chapters can be a little dull on occasion.  Still, those are minor complaints in the grand scheme of what is a phenomenal book.

10/10

5
Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / The Gunslinger (Dark Tower I)
« on: May 27, 2011, 09:13:38 PM »
Hi all

It's been way too long since I have been on this excellent site!

Anyway, I am interested in getting people's thoughts on the Dark Tower series. I just read the first book, and to be honest, I was left a little underwhelmed. It wasn't necessarily that bad, but it has put me off reading the other books. The first one was pretty thin, but they start getting quite big and will involve a big time commitment. There's a bit more detail of my thoughts on my blog: http://definitivereviews.blogspot.com/2011/05/gunslinger-dark-tower-i-stephen-king.html

So what is the opinion of the FF crowd towards this series? Does it get better? Would you recommend it?

6
There doesn't seem to be a lot of Terry Pratchett love on these boards, so I thought it would be a good idea to post a review of his latest book, which I finally got round to reading last week (and finished already!). Anyway, this is from my blog - http://definitivereviews.blogspot.com/ (it's also up on my goodreads page - chrisdavis1083). I'd love to get comments from anyone else who has read it or wants to read it.

This was my first time reading a Terry Pratchett book in 2 years.  Man, I have missed his books! So much so that this book has probably nudged me towards a re-read of the entire series at some point.

Most Discworld novels these days seem to revolve around the introduction to Ankh Morpork of something that to us is old and often mundane.  In recent years we have had Going Postal (about the introduction of a post office), Making Money (about a new bank), as well as classics like Moving Pictures (cinema).  As you can probably tell from the cover, this one is about football (or soccer for you Yanks).

Foot-the-ball has existed in Ankh Morpork for a number of years, however it has evolved into a sport unrecognisable from the one we follow.  This all changes when an urn is discovered that contains the original rules of Football.  Simultaneously, the wizards of Unseen University realise that they have to play a football game soon, or they will lose access to a trust fund.

Four new characters are introduced to us. We have Trevor Likely, son of a famous footballer who passed away playing the beautiful game. Juliet, a gorgeous, but somewhat simple kitchen assistant. Glenda, a not so gorgeous cook. Finally we have Nutt. A professional candle dribbler in the University. Nutt is also, well, weird. We don't really know a lot about him, but he has definitely different.

If you've read many Discworld novels then this will all sound very familiar. In fact, you can probably predict where it is going to go as well. Something magical will take place alongside the main story. Let's say, the game of football will become a form of magic, and defeat some great evil at the last minute. EXCEPT, well, this time it doesn't really go like that. My main gripe with this story is that it doesn't really go anywhere. Sure, we have the main story about Nutt, but this is nothing that hasn't been done in a very similar way in other books. In fact the book just seems to meander along and just seems to finish in a bit of an anti-climax.

So why 7 out of 10.  Well, it's Terry Pratchett.  His use of language is nothing short of fantastic, and the first half of the book had me laughing out loud on every other page.  As I mentioned at the beginning, this is the sort of book that reminds you what he is capable of and makes you want to go back to The Colour of Magic and read them all again.  Ok, so it isn't vintage Pratchett, but it is still a lot better than most other attempts at comedy and fantasy out there.  I know of no other author who is capable of this kind of humour.

There are better Discworld books out there, but I would still recommend this to any fans.  This also works quite well as a stand alone book, so if you haven't yet read any discworld books this is not a bad place to start.

7/10

7
Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Trudi Canavan
« on: January 21, 2011, 03:52:19 PM »
One of the books in my to-read list is The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan, however I am hearing mixed things about the author and the books.

The criticism that strikes me as most relevant is that the books are a little basic and predictable. I'm not pretentious (I'm a huge Harry Potter fan!), but I do generally prefer more mature fantasy e.g. Song of Ice and Fire over Riftwar series. I enjoyed reading Magician as a form of light relief, but I soon got bored of the series.

Any thoughts on this? Is Trudi Canavan more akin to Feist than Martin? General thoughts on the author and the trilogy?

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