Prometheus: Quickfire Thoughts

Spoilers for Prometheus and Alien: Covenant below.

The biggest flaw in the movie Prometheus is in its attempt to answer a question we don’t need answered by asking a different question we cannot answer.  Rather than exploring the question, “Where does the xenomorph come from,” Prometheus instead asks us, “Where did WE come from?”  To ask the former question at all undermines the thesis of the original film.  In Alien, the antagonist is nature.  The xenomorph is an unknown evil with unknowable motivations.  It is a symbol of the dangers of the frontier.  The xenomorph IS space.  The xenomorph is science fiction’s equivalent to the sea monsters drawn on the fringes of Old World naval charts.  

Trying to provide a concrete explanation for what a xenomorph is erodes the horror of Alien.  That Prometheus approaches this question with vague questions about the genesis of ALL LIFE is deeply unsatisfying to me.  That it does so with such an atrocious script is criminal.  Prometheus asks us to accept a multibillion tech juggernaut would entrust a vital scientific mission of space exploration to fools.  The characters are wildly inconsistent and often make idiotic decisions to further the plot rather than to further their characterization.  It is an incredibly well made film.  But it is a badly written one which commits the great sin of being unnecessary.  

The cinematography is gorgeous.  I love the design.  The proto-xenomorph c-section scene is effective body horror.

Prometheus is a mess.  But it’s ambitious.  It’s a big budget sci-fi movie which largely sidesteps action in favor of abstract philosophical meandering.  It doesn’t do it very well.  But even trying was admirable.  It would have been better if it wasn’t a prequel to Alien, but it anchors itself down with franchise baggage.

Alien: Covenant succeeded, for me, by sidestepping Prometheus‘s concerns with the creation of horror to tell a story of the horrors of creation.  Which felt more in line with Alien to me.  Like Prometheus it largely betrays Alien by trying to explain it, but Alien: Covenant tells a more interesting story for me.  David as a flawed Creator reflecting back the flaws of his Creator worked for me.  It’s a more thematically effective spiritual successor for me.  Alien shows us the horrors of the unknown.  Alien: Covenant suggests WE create those horrors.

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Breaking A Rusty Cage

I won tickets to see Soundgarden live last week. I felt abysmal the day of the concert (the result of catastrophic allergies), so I was trying to decide if I wanted to attend the show or stay at home and drown in phlegm. The tickets were free, so I wouldn’t be losing anything, right? But I eventually convinced myself to attend the concert. As justification, I explained to my wife, “If we don’t go, I will regret it.”

I mention this not to illustrate my innate ability as a soothsayer. I mention this to show I suspected the cost of missing an opportunity to see Chris Cornell in a live setting. And I was right (or would have been if I’d foolishly missed it). Soundgarden played nearly 90 minutes of material from the entirety of their catalogue, and Cornell gave an earth-shattering, sky-splitting performance. He hit every note with vitality and passion. He toed the line between tender and furious. It was transcendent.

 

I woke up this morning to heart-rending news.

 

I discovered Soundgarden as a teenager. Mostly by accident. I was a big Nirvana fan at the time, and I was doing some research in the catacombs of the early 2000s internet on the record label SubPop (which released Nirvana’s debut album Bleach). I first checked out Soundgarden, another SubPop band, purely because I liked the name of their EP Screaming Life. Something about the title fascinated me.   The production wasn’t great, but the opening song “Hunted Down” piqued my interest.

From there, I graduated to their debut full length album Ultramega OK (another title I loved as a teenager). Here was something special. A cover of “Smokestack Lightning” by Howlin’ Wolf.  Like the rock acts of the 70s, Soundgarden was mining inspiration from blues music. With Screaming Life, they had my interest. Now they had my attention.

It was these early forays into Soundgarden that made me buy the album Superunknown on a whim when I found it at a local Goodwill. And then we were, as the saying goes, cooking with gas. THIS was something different. Something new. I’d heard a handful of Soundgarden songs before. I liked them. It was like someone threw Thin Lizzy in a blender with Black Sabbath. But Superunknown? It’s impossible for me to describe the feelings I experienced listening to it for the first time.

At this point, I was enamored with Soundgarden. I got a copy of Badmotorfinger. It blew my mind too. Then came Down on the Upside. Which I listened to so often in my shitty, cheap portable CD player I eventually had to retire the CD because the disc had been scratched to the point of no return. When I listen to Badmotorfinger now, I can hear the band transitioning from Ultramega OK and Louder than Love to Superunknown and Down on the Upside. Metal songs like “Slaves & Bulldozers” and “Rusty Cage” are situated alongside more accessible tracks like “Outshined” and “Mind Riot.” The band was evolving on Badmotorfinger without ever sounding like anyone other than Soundgarden.

I’m rambling, but I’m trying to demonstrate how important Soundgarden was to me as a teenager. And the frontman of the band was a huge part of that. So, I happily followed Chris Cornell when he fronted Audioslave. I even listened to his solo albums.

When I try to consider what kept me listening to Chris Cornell whether he was fronting Soundgarden, fronting Audioslave, performing solo, or even recording a Bond theme, I keep coming back to a single reason. And that’s range. And, no, I don’t mean Chris Cornell’s ludicrous vocal range as a performer (though anyone who doesn’t respect the four octave range of Cornell’s voice is a possible alien). I mean his emotional range. Chris Cornell was a wildly versatile singer, able to communicate a vast array of emotions across the body of his work. Compare the tender, forlorn sadness of his cover of the Michael Jackson song “Billie Jean” to the Audioslave song “Cochise” for instance. Even within the Soundgarden songbook, we can compare the Badmotorfinger song “Face Pollution” to the Down on the Upside song “Burden In My Hand.” And how could we forget the immeasurable swagger of his Bond theme “You Know My Name” (in my opinion the best Bond theme)? Or the playfulness of “She’ll Never Be Your Man’?

The soaring heights. The echoing lows. The anger. The compassion. The voice of Chris Cornell. It was a rare source of stability for me during my teen years. While I struggled, Chris Cornell’s music was there for me. In my headphones. What the music of Chris Cornell could not be, we learned today, was there for him. And this is the horror of depression. Even a man as successful and beloved as Chris Cornell, who had dealt with depression and drug addiction for much of his adult life, was swallowed up by it. There seems to be this assumption depression is a thing for the youthful alone, but Chris Cornell was 52 years old. These struggles are no less real at age 75 than they are at age 14. And he, like many people, was put in the position of being unable to trust his own feelings. He had a family, he had a successful career. But his mind twisted the good in his life and drowned it in blackness. Some would call what he achieved the American dream. But depression doesn’t answer to such a concept. And last night it drove him to take his own life.

So, let’s aspire to unwrap the misconceptions of mental illness. Let’s be supportive and understanding when the people we care about disclose their struggles with mental illness. So many people jump to conclusions and make assumptions about the experience of being depressed. Let’s be there for those people who are unable to be there for themselves. Success doesn’t defeat depression. Time doesn’t defeat depression. Winning one battle doesn’t mean you’ll win the next. But you don’t have to fight alone. If you or someone you know struggles with depression, please reach out for help.  We are here. We are listening.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

We’re going to miss you, Chris.

In Defenese of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: What’s the Beef with Indy IV?

 

Many fans of the Indiana Jones franchise can identify the moment which made them lose all hope with the franchise with the utmost clarity of a Vietnam flashback, and that moment involves a refrigerator. In modern pop cultural parlance, the phrase “jump the shark” has been replaced by the invective “nuke the fridge.” Coming a full 19 years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the previous finale to the franchise, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has proven to be quite the divisive film. For all its flaws (of which there are many), I think it’s a fun, underrated romp for the beloved Professor of Archaeology.

To my knowledge, the hate for this entry in the franchise derives from three sources consisting of the following: Shia LaBeouf, shoddy CGI, and aliens. As far as I’m concerned, only the first two are a real detriment to the quality of the movie.

Harrison Ford recaptures the spirit of Indiana Jones while realistically showing what happens when a gunslinger archetype begins to age out of being able to back up his bravado. He still swings punches, but he can’t take as many as he once could. Indy is out of practice. And many believe the franchise was as well. The movie is certainly flawed.

The first big problem with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the casting of Shia LaBeouf. The movie spends much of its runtime seemingly trying to set up his character Mutt as an eventual replacement for Indy, and it doesn’t work. LaBeouf doesn’t have the effortless charm and loveable curmudgeonly rogueishness of Harrison Ford. Anyone who thought he would was a fool. There’s not much to say here other than to acknowledge just how much LaBeouf sucks the soul out of most of the scenes in which he appears. Unlike someone like John Boyega, he had no business sharing the screen with a cinematic legend portraying another cinematic legend.

The excessive use of CGI is a second sizable problem. Many of these sequences haven’t aged at all well in the 9 years since Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released. Comparatively, consider how well the special effects from 1977’s Raiders of the Lost Ark have aged. I think this is largely because of the way modern action films are produced. I have high hopes the success of practical effects in The Force Awakens will be a positive influence on the production of the impending fifth entry in the Indiana Jones franchise.

And then there are the aliens. Of the 4 films in this franchise, the alien MacGuffin in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is most similar to the sacred stone from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I think the sci-fi elements of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull represent a logical step in the mythos of Indy’s recycled pulp tropes. The setting has moved from the 40s of Nazi punching to the Cold War 50s. The pulp fiction this franchise seeks to replicate saw a similar shift from spiritualism and patriotism to a technological boom. The 50s was a dawn of sci-fi. So, it seems entirely reasonable to me for the Indiana Jones franchise to make this leap. This is a post-nuclear (oh god, I’ve reminded you of the fridge) Indiana Jones. The content of the films evolves in much the same way fiction did during the period of time the film itself covers. If we can accept the Lost Ark melting Nazi faces, the literal Holy Grail offering immortality, and Sean Connery being Harrison Ford’s father, then why can’t we accept sci-fi trappings in our pulp fiction?

I guess what’s most important to me about this entry in the franchise is whether or not it FEELS like Indiana Jones. And for me? For the most part? It does. The character feels authentic. Indy’s interactions with Marion feel real. Like the relationship has felt the weight of time much like the performers themselves did in the gap between their onscreen appearances together. The hinted at backstories between John Hurt’s Ox and Ray Winstone’s Mac remind me of the feeling I had, watching the original movies, I was witnessing one adventure in a life that included many I just hadn’t seen. I think Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels more like Indiana Jones than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom did. So, for all its flaws, I think Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an enjoyable albeit minor entry in the franchise. But really anything other than Raiders or Last Crusade has a lot of work to do.

A Quest Postponed. . . In Which I Reflect on the Changing Trajectory of My Reading Habits

I realize I initially Frankensteined together this blog as a tool with which to share my thoughts on Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time as I read it, but that task would be far easier if I had continued reading it at the freakish pace with which I approached the latter half of the first book, The Eye of the World. In the intervening period of time since I last blogged, I finished the first book in a mad dash (and read about 30 pages of the second novel, The Great Hunt, before setting it aside), and I can say with the utmost certainty I enjoyed The Eye of the World far more than I ever expected. I was correct in my preliminary estimation of the first book in that it was a pretty shameless clone of the story beats of the Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring at least), but I didn’t end up being remotely bothered by that once I was able to get past the huge chunks of info-dumping exposition in the first few chapters. And, to be honest, it felt pretty euphoric to abandon what limited infatuation with literate snobbishness I wore as a façade for much of high school and college. I felt free to read and guiltlessly enjoy trope heavy fantasy novels. It’s been a pattern which has been further solidifying over the course of the past couple of years, but I’m no longer hiding behind fantasy like it is some aberration or diversion from more serious works. I’m not reading solely fantasy; there are more traditionally “serious” works on my bookshelf as well. But I’m not trying to limit myself to things adored critically by the long arm of the organized cult of “literary” fiction (I say as a Literature minor).

I’ve mentioned in passing conversations with some of my friends the existential crisis I experienced after attempting to read Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Pygmy. To quote myself from elsewhere:

“Fight Club is the book I’d be most likely to reread. When I read it in high school, it was this explosive, revolutionary, dark, funny novel which appealed to me and really struck a chord. It was my bible. But the last time I tried to read a novel by him [Pygmy], I could see through the narrative, stylistic MacGuffin which made the structural and compositional flaws apparent. I was no longer caught up with the gimmick but bored by it, so I realized how little it contributed to the novel in saying something which really wasn’t that inflammatory. So, I’m wondering if Fight Club was lightning in a bottle for me. Did I just read it (and the other books by him I read around the same time) at precisely the right moment in time? Or would his work hold up to me now despite my knowledge of Palahniuk’s particular bag of tricks?

I have a much wider worldview now because I’ve just experienced more, so would I find his work as revelatory as it once was to me? Or would I see it for what it maybe always has been — a dry husk hiding behind novelty writing choices? I used to hold Palahniuk up alongside Vonnegut as one of my favorite writers; I know Vonnegut holds up for me, but I’m doubting Palahniuk would.”

I was required a pretty substantial amount of emotional release to admit this to myself. Realize how huge a shift this was for me. I attended a Chuck Palahniuk book signing at the age of 17. I essentially had to sneak in because the event was 18 and up only. At the time, this was one of the most exciting, stimulating events of my young life. I received a signed book, a signed signature hound, and a signed blow-up sex doll. And I was indescribably proud of these belongings (except for a single isolated incident in which it was revealed to a new girlfriend, without proper context, I owned a sex doll). If Chuck Palahniuk had offered to give me a chemical burn kiss (a la the scene from the novel and film Fight Club), I would have immediately agreed. I used to carry the rules of Fight Club on a business card in my wallet. I was obsessed with this man for reasons I couldn’t explain then and struggle further now to understand. In the way young people in the 60s were bonkers for The Beatles, I was gobsmacked for Chuck Palahniuk.

In some ways, I regret attempting to spread his work among my social contacts as if it was some sort of intellectual salvation. I was a missionary for Palahniuk’s works. I was a TV evangelist for Palahniuk’s work. I loudly proclaimed his divinity and spread his word with the gusto of a door-to-door faith slinger. I was spreading the blessed, Good Works of Palahniuk.

For me, it’s become more a slowly rotting infection than anything else. It became necessary to amputate the infected mass to save what was left of me.

I’ve grown out of many of the things I enjoyed when I was younger, and I’m realizing how ridiculous some of my pseudointellectual flights of spoken fantasy were in discussing some of the books I most enjoyed as a teenager. I’m prepared to admit to myself Chuck Palahniuk was really a one-trick pony, and Fight Club was a superficial, barely concealed, obvious commentary on precisely the sorts of topics (materialism, masculinity, fight-the-man-ness) which most appealed to me as a rebellious, angry teenager. But Palahniuk’s work lacks subtlety or depth. It’s exactly what it appears to be and nothing more. What I viewed as clever at the time was really just a result of my underdeveloped palate as a reader. I felt I was able to taste various flavors in his work, but he was often as full of bullshit as the things he claimed to be railing against in his novels. In retrospect, for me, Chuck Palahniuk is the Diet Coke of satire. Chuck Palahniuk is the Michael Bay of “literary” fiction. There’s enough glitter sprinkled on the finished result to almost distract from the festering mass growing and pulsating at the core.

There are still some books from high school which I enjoy. There are fewer yet which I can still say, with total sincerity, remain hugely influential in the way I currently live my life. Reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X at the time was a huge deal for me; I still point to that book as the one which taught me to be discerning about where I gather information and to avoid putting faith in any single source. I approach information like a scientist or a historian now, mindful of bias (both mine and the source’s), as a result of reading Malcolm X’s autobiography. I learned compassion and understanding and empathy from Malcolm X’s autobiography more so than I have from any other book I’ve ever read. As the various philosophies I accept have shifted with time, it’s one of the few books which remains a concrete influence in my day-to-day interactions with people and the world around me.

In some ways, I am reading more on science and history of late (more so now than ever) as a result to better understand the world I live in, and I can trace that impulse back to Malcolm X’s autobiography. In recent months, I’ve read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens, and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I’m currently working on The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins and The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. I have a long list of philosophers and scientists whose work I intend to read including individuals such as Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Carl Sagan. These are all things I would have avoided reading in high school because of an ingrained philosophical belief which encouraged me to avoid these sorts of texts. I had been brainwashed into avoiding topics I disagreed with, and I’m now finding I often get the most impact out of books which explore things with which I am unfamiliar.

It’s been a weird journey. Opening myself up to fantasy fiction allowed me to fall back in love with reading. Falling back in love with reading encouraged me to reevaluate what it was I loved about the books I used to champion. Questioning what I once championed forced me to confront ideas which I could no longer abide. Confronting ideas which were now irrelevant to me inspired me to read about scientific and historical topics I (as a result of a somewhat limited rural American education) had never really explored. Exploring new ideas sparked a renewed obsession with learning. Obsessing over learning and new information has brought me back around to pursuing “literary” fiction.

Except now I’m going to select works I know will challenge me rather than being content to read books other people have incorrectly categorized as challenging. Except now I will select things I know I will enjoy rather than allowing a reviewer’s words to contort the way I respond to a particular work. I don’t need the faux shock of Chuck Palahniuk anymore. I will not accept shock alone as a substitute for substance. I can pursue things like The Count of Monte Cristo (and eventually as much Dumas as I can possibly consume) or the various works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, or Vladimir Nabokov alongside works of fantasy and science fiction by Robert Jordan, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter S. Beagle, Kameron Hurley, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin (among many many others).

I will read whatever I want. Because I want to. And not because someone else has said I should. And I will think what I want about the things I read. Not what another person has stated I should think about them.

(Though I’m still more than happy to accept book recommendations. I’m still going to read The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Stephanie Proffer. I’m just going to take some time getting there because my to-read pile rivals the rapidly expanding reaches of a recently big-banged universe.)

And after all this, I haven’t even begun to address the cosmic shifts in the music I consume. But that’s a tale for another day.

Checking In!

It’s been an extraordinarily long time since I’ve written a blog. There’s a handful of reasons for that.

1. I’ve been super busy getting ready to move (trying to find employment and an apartment).

2. I’ve been playing video games instead of reading. I’ve been playing the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for Playstation 2 to work my way through the original Mega Man games. Damn, there’s some pretty difficult stuff in those games. I really like the art and music though, and I find the gameplay super addictive. I’ve even been getting “cravings” to platform like a fiend. I’ve also been sporadically playing Metal Gear Solid for the original Playstation. It’s a lot of fun too, but it’s difficult in different ways than Mega Man. I have also spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME playing the first Torchlight game. Way too much. I’ve developed an emotional connection with my pet in the game, and I had mini panic attack when I fed it a fish which turned it into a spider. Partially because I have crippling arachnophobia and I thought I’d modded the game to remove all spiders. But mostly because it wasn’t the cute little lynx which has been with me thus far. Yeah, it’s lame.

3. I’ve been watching a lot of TV on Netflix. My wife has been binge watching the program Supernatural. In the past two months, she’s consumed eight seasons of the show. I also spent an entire day watching the first half of the anime show Attack on Titan. I haven’t finished it yet, but I had to take a bit of a break after watching so much in a single sitting.

4. I’ve been doing a fair amount of cooking. I made shredded buffalo chicken and served it as sandwiches with spinach and goat cheese. I also made gyro pizzas with a modified tzatziki sauce (also with goat cheese), chopped onions, ground lamb, spinach, and peppers. Both recipes which were new for me, and I think both turned out delicious. I also made a rosemary simple syrup which got combined with club soda and lemon juice to make a rosemary lemon soda. Also delicious.

In any event, it’s probably clear I haven’t been doing an awful lot of reading. Well, that’s not completely true. I have been doing a lot of really sporadic reading, reading multiple different books in chunks rather than focusing on a single book.

Needless to say, this means I have not achieved much traction on the original purpose of this blog. I haven’t read a single page further in The Eye of the World since my previous blog. I’d like to blame some of that on stage fright after having committed to the blog, but it’s really just because I hit a bit of a wall in the book. These days I’ve been working on Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole, The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan, and the short fiction of Dorothy Parker. All of them are excellent.

In the meantime, I also read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Never in my life have I spent so much time highlighting and underlining in a book (I tend to baby my books), but I went to town on Dawkins’s book. His prose is compelling, clear, and communicative. I find myself agreeing more and more with much of what he said in the book. As a follow-up to this, I watched two or three of Dawkins’s debates and a TED Talk he did a decade ago (before he wrote The God Delusion). I also watched TED Talks by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Douglas Adams.

So. . . I’ve been keeping busy.

This doesn’t even address the multiple movies I’ve watched or albums I’ve listened to in the interim. I may write some on those in the near future too.

I intend to jump back on the Wheel of Time soon, but I thought I ought to check in on this blog.

The Eye of the World Pt. I (Up to Chapter 31)

First of all, I want to give people an idea of the state of my copy of The Eye of the World.  It was lightly used when I first got it, but I’ve just about destroyed it as I’ve been reading it.  And keep in mind I’m only a little over halfway into the book.  So, I give you an interior shot (of broken binding) as well as an exterior shot of broken binding.

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This is the inside of the book at this point.  This is one of a few page breaks where I’ve had to make some internal repairs with tape.

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This is the outside of the book which I also attempted to repair with tape.  In this case, it was just to tighten everything together in a foolish attempt to prevent more breakage from occurring.

So, it’s pretty safe to say I’ve not really been going easy on this book as I read it.  That’s for a variety of reasons, chief of which is the transportation this book has suffered.  I’ve been reading it for awhile, and I tend to toss books when I take them with me places (toss them into the carseat, toss them onto a desk, toss them into a drawer).  But I’ve also been trying to sneak paragraphs and pages, if I can manage it, in a number of locales.  While I’m at work, while I’m in bed, while I’m waiting in line at Taco Bell, while I’m sitting at the table in Taco Bell, while I’m in the drive-thru at Taco Bell.  I’m realizing I’ve been to Taco Bell too many times this week.  (Insert shameless plug for the quesarito which is delicious)

I’ve attempted to read this book multiple times over the years, and I admit this level of infatuation with the experience is new for me.  In previous attempts, I usually read about 50 pages, get bored, and stop.  There’s something about the first few chapters which doesn’t quite meet the promise of the Prologue for me.  Each time I start this book, I finish the Prologue with this immense desire to discover what’s going on in this new world.  Each time I start this book, I get four or five pages into the description of Emond’s Field and the Winternight festivities and realize the interesting stuff is a long way off.

Something about this attempt stuck.  I’m currently 455 pages into the book.  So, just over halfway.

So, what happened?

 

Spoilers abound below.

 

I pushed through the beginning of the book and got to the good bits is probably the short answer to that question.  In the beginning, I struggled with all the Tolkienesque names and shenanigans.  A group of misfits was fleeing their humble country beginnings across rivers to escape various monsters working for a “Dark One.”  Hobbits fleeing Nazgul on the Buckleberry Ferry much?  But the more I read, the more I became invested.  And then I got to the first dream shared by Mat, Perrin, and Rand in which they meet the Dark One (known here as Ba’alzamon as opposed to Sauron) which is filled with prophecies, unknown magic, and general spooky badguyness.  Rats are killed in dreams which turn up dead upon waking as well.  In other words, shenanigans started going down.

Being so far into the book, it would be difficult for me refer to specific passages or moments as sticking out to me with this volume (something I’m hoping to be able to do with the later books).  But I will discuss a few of my favorite moments thus far (and keep in mind I’m not even finished with the first book yet, so I may not have encountered events yet which may change what’s happening thus far).

First half of book one:

I adore Thom Merrilin as a character.  Just love him.  At this point in the first book, it’s implied he’s been killed protecting Mat and Rand from trollocs and Myrddraal.  And that’s truly depressing to me.  I love Thom’s confidence, swagger, and stage presence throughout the first half of the book.  He seems wiser than he lets on, and it’s hinted there’s more going on with him than the surface level gleeman life.  Being a fantasy novel, it’s very possible Thom may turn up again still alive in the very next chapter I read.  Even if he doesn’t, I really want to know more about this character.  I’m also really enjoying Perrin’s POV chapters thus far.  I’m also really interested in this character; the wolf connection is a very exciting element.  Perrin has yet to accept this gift, but I’m assuming it will become a key element in the series as things move forward.  Unfortunately, Jordan’s weaknesses as a writer are apparent in this volume because of the way he’s been handling his female characters.  I’d love to see his women (Egwene, Moiraine, Nynaeve) better written, so I’m hoping that improves moving forward. 

Some of the set pieces have been fun.  The chapter(s) about the gang’s stay in Aridhol/ Shadar Logoth is a fast-paced and interesting development; it further enriches the mythology by introducing some additional supernatural threats to our heroes.  The picture I have of Whitebridge in my head is very impressive as well.  Jordan spends a lot of time on description.  Sometimes this works in his favor (as in the Shadar Logoth and Whitebridge sections), other times it seems to slow the pace of the story to a crawl.  I get the sense this will remain a problem for Jordan as the series moves forward.

I need to take a moment to complain about the cover art for these books.  I know Darrell K. Sweet is considered a behemoth in the genre.  He painted the covers for many a fantasy novel in his time, and I know a lot of people are fond of his work.  But I just can’t stand the weirdly proportioned figures on his covers for The Wheel of Time.  The cover for the first book isn’t a particularly compelling or evocative image.  It’s just a mid-ground portrait of some minor characters.  There’s not really anything about the image which suggests fantasy to a reader either.  I am hopeful another artist will be able to design more exciting covers for a new edition in the future; I wouldn’t mind having a handsome hardcover of The Eye of the World to add to my collection eventually.

To bring this unfocused ramble to an end, I’m enjoying this first book so far, and I’m looking forward to continue reading the books.  I’ll continue to blog my thoughts about the series.  With increased regularity, I’m hoping to spend time focusing on just a few chapters at the time, so I can get a little more specific about my complaints and compliments.

As the Steve Turns. . .

On a whim, I’m starting a blog. Initially, I was just planning to use this to write out and share my thoughts on the Wheel of Time books as I read my way through the series. After some thought, however, I’ve decided to let this thing be a general blog with which I will discuss movies, books, music, TV, video games, comics, foods, plants, animals, or whatever else I can think of to discuss. I’ll try to title and tag posts according to their subject, so I can keep the actual Wheel of Time posts distinct from other random things. I’ll write up a post about my thoughts on The Eye of the World so far (as I am halfway through the book), so I can almost guarantee my next post will be the inaugural Wheel of Time/Robert Jordan related post.

I’m almost totally new to this blog thing (a few years ago I threw together an online blog for a college project about the film Network), so I’ll have to experiment some with formatting things. If I can pull it off, I hope to share photos and videos as I desire, but I will have to learn how to do these things first. I’m also hoping to update the look and feel of the blog a little, but I’m not sure how much of that I can do with just a free WordPress membership. So, we’ll see. If you’re reading this later on and the page isn’t all the default settings, I worked something out.

I’ll see you later folks as we disembark on MY journey through The Wheel of Time.