Beyond the Boundaries of Light

Believe it or not, there’s an actual plot in The Farthest Shore. Yay! for all those out there who care about plot. Not so much for all those who love suspense, catharsis, magnificent final fight and the clear-cut triumph of good over evil. Not so much for all of those who like to be shocked when they find out who the evil master mind is. Not so much for those who like action. Nope, not so much.

Yay! for all who love magnificent writing, ominous atmosphere, majestic scenes and meaningful messages. Yay! for all who love a book which makes them think about life, society and the human race. Not so much for those who like dragon-slaying, flamboyant coronations of brave and fearless kings and the use of amazing magic.

All in all, Yay! for me.

I’ve already reviewed two Earthsea books, so I decided to keep it light this time (there’s three more coming up, and I doubt I’ll be able to resist writing a line or two about them…). One interesting thing that keeps recurring during my reading of the Earthsea books, I keep hearing Freddie in my head:

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.

Now, some quotes from The Farthest Shore.

“Try to chose carefully, Arren, when the great choices must be made. When I was young I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.”

On every act the balance of the whole depends. The winds and the seas, the powers of water and earth and light, all that these do, and all that the beasts and green things do, is well done, and rightly done. All these act within the Equilibrium…But we, in so far as we have power over the world and over one another, we must learn to do what the leaf and the whale and the wind do of their own nature. We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility. Who am I – though I have the power to do it – to punish and reward, playing with men’s destinies?”

“In all this, and in its sure, ponderous movements, and in a deep frightening calmness that it had, he saw the sign of age: of great age, of years beyond remembering.”

I almost forgot.

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Proof of Reality

 

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The Unbearable Beauty of Human Insignificance

It has been calculated that, since the dawn of human kind, 107 billion people have walked the Earth.

There are 400 billion suns in Andromeda.

Read more @ 4. 3 Gigabytes and 100 Million Stars in a Single image – Andromeda

How I Got Cheated by a Manhwa (Dangu)

WARNING: What follows is another post in which I go apeshit about being cheated out of hours of my life. Before I go apeshit, I’ll sum up the issue: DO NOT READ DANGU (a.k.a. Shaman Warrior).

Manhwa: Dangu
Artist/Writer: Park Joong Ji (CURSE YOU!!!)
Genre: Seinen, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Mature…
Status: Completed (MY ASS!!!!!)

But really? What the fuck. You cannot, cannot just decide and call something finished. Prerequisite of something being COMPLETE is for it to be complete, whole, entire, unified… There’s this fine line between being cancelled and complete – it’s about the size of the San Andreas Fault.

Can you honestly tell me, Park Joong Ji, that this is the way that you decided to end your story? No you didn’t. Someone made you randomly stamp END?

There are reviews saying Dangu is “awesome”, “great”, “epic”… But how? Here I am, feeling cheated and people out there actually enjoyed it.

When you write a character with special abilities, isn’t it customary that, after building up expectations about that special ability, you SHOW that special ability to its fullest?

This was a marketing move to boost sales, wasn’t it? Because nobody is going to buy a cancelled manhwa. No matter how awesome the parts of the incomplete whole are.

Ok, yeah. The art is amazing. The fight scenes are drawn with unimaginable fluidity and attention to detail that you can almost see the characters gliding through the pages. Additionally, unlike Gantz (couldn’t even finish this one) and Wolf Guy, the female character isn’t a useless heap of boobs and ass. She kicks ass. But you cannot tell me this is completed!

If Park Joong Ji avoided one of the common manga/manhwa pitfalls (getting too busy with side stories) would he have finished it properly?

All in all, it was a pretty good read until the very last page. Kept me interested and every once in a while I would *gasp* at the artwork. The only thing that I found lacking (aside from previously mentioned side stories) is the fact that the focus was largely on fighting and spilling blood all over the place. Normally, I don’t mind that, but I felt there could have been a bit more plotting and political intrigue.

The recommendation stands. Don’t read it. You’ll only feel cheated. Here’s some stuff that might make you disregard my advice.

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She Danced Across the Centuries, Barefoot

Title: The Tombs of Atuan  Author: Ursula Le Guin Published: 1970 Summary: The second part of the Earthsea Cycle focuses on Arha, the Priestes of the The Dark Ones. She feeds them with the souls and bodies of Godking’s prisoners and is the only one allowed to enter the Labyrinth in which the Nameless Ones rule. With nothing in her heart or mind but rules and regulations of worship, fed to her from an early age by other priestesses, she lives a sheltered and barren life until a man, a heathen, a wizard invades the Labyrinth in search for the ring of Erreth-Akbe.

When she breathed in the drug-fumes to dance at the dark of the moon, her head grew light and her body was no longer hers; then she danced across the centuries, barefoot in black robes, and knew that the dance had never ceased.

Print In The Tombs of Atuan  Ursula’s (yeah, we’re on a first name basis now) anthropological background comes to the fore in the creation of the belief system of the Kargad Lands. Once again, the reader is treated to her amazing ability to create an entire culture, without  going into over-explaining mode which leads to absurdity. This time we follow the story of Arha, or Tenar, ever-changing, but constant, just like Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea. I disliked Arha, then I liked her, but I could always find reason behind her behaviour. If there was ever any doubt about the affection I felt for Ged, The Tombs of Atuan dispersed it. He i s powerful, yet  strikingly human and vulnerable; his power is mentioned only once or twice and for a reason – never to show off.

If I can hold off an earhtquake, do you fear to meet one human soul with me?

I cannot resist to quote a passage which, for me, embodies Geds character :

His face in sleep was stern, almost frowning; but his left hand lay relaxed on the dirt, beside a small thistle that still bore its ragged clock of grey fluff and its tiny defence spikes and spines. The man and the small desert thistle; the thistle and the sleeping man…

After struggling with A Wizard of Earthsea, I was a bit surprised when I found myself effortlessly gliding from page to page of The Tombs of Atuan. I guess it took the first part of the Cycle for me to get accustomed to Earthsea. I really, really, really loved The Tombs of Atuan (in case you didn’t notice). I enjoyed the stark beauty of it, the way the black and the white are used to paint all the nuances of life and civilization, as is often the case in Ursula’s writing. The long narratives such as the story of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, are written in a way that makes you want to know more; you want an entire book about it, not just several pages. Nothing is superfluous in this book; every word and sentence, each story told fit in. Only a few sentences are enough to fill you with a sense of calm or cold dread. The dark depths of the Labyrinth and the desolate desert are infused with such warmth and understanding, the source of which is possible to find only in the beauty of the language and the complexity of society and culture. Continue reading “She Danced Across the Centuries, Barefoot”

Fourteen Pages

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 pages to ruin one of my favourite characters.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 pages to make me question my opinions

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 pages to make me wish there was such a thing as an altar of Gods of Wasted Ink and Paper on which I could sacrifice them. And this is the worst. I don’t hate books. There are books I loathe, abhor and/or dislike. I don’t hate books. But the first fourteen pages of Karen Marie Moning’s Burned made me want to start a little fire with them. I cannot even explain how sad and disappointed I am, how wrong I was.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 little pages ruined the entire Fever Series.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 pages turned Jericho Barrons into an asshole. Into one of those male characters I detest.

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A Little Movie About a Big Thing

I’m yet to find a Simon Pegg movie which I dislike. Most are awesome, some are good. Hector and the Search for Happiness falls into the “awesome” category. It’s a little movie about a big thing. Hector goes through quite a lot, and I think everyone can find a little bit of their own life and their own notion of what happy means.

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As is the case with most abstract notions connected with human condition, happiness is a largely elusive thing. At the same time it’s universal and individual, which is what makes it so special.

This movie will remind you there are great things in your life which should make you happy. It will make you realize there are things that could make you happy if you worked on them. If it doesn’t make you wonder about life, you’ll still have a lot of fun watching it.

A Wizard of Earthsea

If anyone other than Ursula Le Guin wrote this book I wouldn’t have finished it. It’s slow-paced, thick with imagery and impressions. Perseverance paid off, because it’s precisely all that which made me think about moving on to something else turned out to be the most beautiful thing about A Wizard of Earthsea.

It’s unlike anything else I have read. There really isn’t any real plot to talk about, there’s scarcely any catharsis at the end. It’s just somehow there and it’s beautiful. It’s all about feelings and impressions, about fear and loneliness, about not belonging. There is only one comparison that springs to mind when I think about this book. Reading it felt like trying to run through water. It was difficult, but strangely rewarding.

What I love about Le Guin is the way she does not create new worlds. She just tells you a story which takes place in a world you didn’t know existed. She’s unassuming in her writing, careful with words; almost shy in her respect of the story she’s telling.

By far, one of the most interesting reading experiences I’ve had, and I’m looking forward to reading The Tombs of Atuan.

Interestingly, whenever I mention Le Guin to someone, if they’ve heard of her, they’ve heard of her as the author of “that fantasy novel…what its name?”. I’ve started with The Left Hand of Darkness, moved on to The Dispossessed and onwards to the Lathe of Heaven. I’ve decided to give this fantasy thing a go, and I was not disappointed. The future seems more bright knowing that there’s a lot more of her work out there, waiting to be read.

In the end, bear in mind, I’m not much of a fantasy reader, so this might not be the most representative review.

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Proof of Reality