Among the OASIS and Shardblades

So this has been an eventful week for me.

Work things have occurred. Things that are forcing me to move forward with plans, no matter if I like it or not. One day, I will speak of these things openly. But not today. As of today, it’s still time to just say that things outside of my control have begun…and now I must stay ahead of them.

In addition, I took the time today at lunch to use the program “Aeon Timeline” to plot out the existing timeline of “Steam and Magic.” Why is this important? Because it’s been driving me crazy on the length of time it will take for the Rose to reach one point from another. And now that I have that planned and plotted, I finally got to look and realize where I needed plot points to happen and how they could fit together. I finally have a few things to write. I’ve been stuck in this forever.

At the moment, I’m still waiting for my very busy friend to get a free moment to finish the critiques on “Beyond the Waterfall.” I promised not to publish until she was done. And since she’s so busy with her own work, it might be a bit until that sees the light of day. Just be patient. It’s coming, I promise.

I had a lovely day with Tali yesterday. Just a wonderful day. In fact, we spent a vast majority of the day listening to “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. And that’s the main topic for today’s blog. I want to write down my thoughts on “Ready Player One” and Brandon Sanderson’s “Way of Kings.”

Oh yes, I’ll try and avoid any spoilers.

The Stormlight Archive: Book 1: The Way of Kings

I’ll start with the official synopsis, taken from Sanderson’s website.

Widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, Brandon Sanderson now begins a grand cycle of his own, one every bit as ambitious and immersive.

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars are fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by overpowering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under the eminent scholar and notorious heretic Jasnah Kholin, Dalinar’s niece. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of more than ten years of planning, writing, and worldbuilding, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths,

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

I should mention that I listened to this through Audible.com, which is my go to source for all Audiobooks. It was narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer. Let’s start with them. I’ve listened to these two before, since they were the two who did the “Wheel of Time” series…and they drove me batty. But I started to realize my problem was so much with the narrative, but the books as well. I had been used to the narrator for the Discworld series, Stephen Briggs and Nigel Planer (Planer is just freaking AMAZING). These two readers were powerful, entertaining and just slightly crazy. However, Reading and Kramer are much more subtle. They’re a bit monotone. They don’t really get passionate in their readings. Don’t get me wrong, they’re total professionals, but it can come across as dull.

However, it’s more about the book, right? Way of Kings takes a long time to get moving. And it’s huge at 45 hours for the Audiobook version. It’s very slow going at the beginning and it’s frankly not until the end where the three main character threads intertwine. However, the sheer richness of this world is almost overwhelming. I can’t handle it all. Even after reading the entire first book, I get the feeling that I’ve only seen a corner of the world, a tiny sliver of an enormous boulder. Sanderson has world-built this place better than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s astounding.

And the characters? Amazing. Simply amazing. You really get in connection with these characters. What drives them, what they hate, what they love and what they dream. I don’t think I’ve read any of his stories where characters have been so richly defined.

The magic system is also very interesting, but instead of revealing most of it like he does in his other books, Sanderson takes his time. You get the feeling he’s only touched the surface as to what the magic system can do…and what’s really powering it. In the end, you’re left with more questions than answers.

The finale is simply EPIC. Sanderson is well known for his spectacular fight scenes and this one does not disappoint. We have a full scale WAR going on here at the end of the story. But the true shockers are the brief one-perspectrive chapters at the end. The final revelation at the end of the book? That twist will probably pop your head right off. I’m still reeling from it days afterward.

In the end, this is Sanderson writ large. While it takes a good long while to get going, it’s worth the wait. It doesn’t grab you quite as powerfully as the others, but by the time you reach the end, you’ll find yourself unable to stop. It’s a great ride. And I’m looking forward to the next book which I just might read next. You definitely need to check it out. 

 

Ready Player One

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.

A quest for the ultimate prize.

Are you ready?

Okay, I’ve had friends recommend this to me before, but I was in the middle of Way of Kings at the time and got away from audiobooks for a while. Once I finished Way of Kings, this was the next book on my list. And I think I finished the audiobook version, all 15 hours of it, in three days. In fact, I was listening to it with Tali most of the time. Every commute that I could (save for those with Caitlyn, because she could repeat some of those words…and the main characters tend to enjoy their colorful language), too.

Let me first get one thing out of the way: there are plenty of infodumps in this book. Especially when you’re listening to the Audible version of it. Sometimes they can be so long that you forget the events the characters were going through. However, I was willing to forgive it because the backstory on the world, the OASIS and the characters was so damn interesting. I kept losing myself within these miniature stories-within-a-story. It was somewhat jarring to come back out of them, but the flow was good enough that it pulled you right back into the main story. (So imagine if Lost had actually told a story well…, but I digress).

While I’m not the greatest fan of Wil Wheaton’s narration (I don’t feel he does that great with different voices or accents), this story was just amazing. I love all the nostalgia. While I’m about five years too young to enjoy all of the references, I do remember the Colossal Cave Adventure. I played Joust on the Atari (when most kids were playing with Nintendo…my parents didn’t exactly help my gaming career save for some PC games). I remember the tales of Dungeons and Dragons, though sadly I’ve never actually played a game (something I still regret to this day).

This book is a celebration of some of the most iconic pop culture that still defines our era.

But the best part to me was the relationships and the revelations. More than anything I wanted to see the answer to the “will they/won’t they.” I love seeing these people who are unabashed shut ins and social pariahs building real relationships that move past the borders of fantasy and into reality. They become real people even as they fight for a virtual reality. And I think that’s the greatest accomplishment of this book.

The OASIS currently has a present-day counterpart. Second Life. You could also argue that it also lives on in Everquest, SW:ToR, WoW and all the other MMORPGs. I know how addicting being someone else can be. I was insanely addicted to Second Life…so much so that it almost wrecked my real life in ways that are a bit too personal to discuss on a public blog. Needless to say, I made a vow to myself and my wife that I would never enter Linden Lab’s game ever again. The temptation is just too strong.

And that might be the reason this book resonates with me so very much. I’ve been in the main character’s shoes. I’ve created new personas online and metaphorically passed through the screen, becoming this other person. It happened before I was married and sadly, a few times afterwards too.

And I think that’s why I loved this book so much. Because of the ending. Because we all have villains in our lives we would love to fight using giant mechs, plasma rifles and elven swords. They might not be the world-crushing baddie, but we all have bullies and jerks around us that we wish we could challenge to single combat. And in the end, we all want to be heroes of our own lives. This book has that in spades.

Good characters, great references, fantastic action. This is a required read for anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s…and doesn’t mind playing the occasional game. 😉 A must buy.

 

Well, this is already at 2138 words. Way longer than my last few posts put together. But I was super-passionate about these two books, especially “Ready Player One.” I admit I’m sad that I don’t get to listen to Wil’s voice anymore for the story. I’m sorta hoping we might get a sequel someday. Maybe, maybe not. No matter, it’s still a damn fine book. Both are.

I don’t have a PMV for you today. I regret to inform you that my favorite MLP fan-animation studio “Jan Animations” got hit with a Cease and Desist order a few days ago due to trademark issues. It’s a long story and there’s someone who’s already talked about it far more effectively than I can. I’m hoping Jan and Hasbro can work out some sort of deal…but I’m also glad I saved all of his amazing videos to my computer.

So tonight, I will just wish you good luck and have fun.

-rks

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Dimensions, Scrolls and Blocks

Right now I should be writing. But allergies are kicking me in the tail. Either that or I’m actually sick. So this is about all I got within me. And in all honesty, I don’t even want to do this. I might even have a fever, but need to work since I need the money.

Ah, such is the way of life.

This week I managed to do a pretty serious critique of “Beyond the Waterfall” due to one of my good friends’ kindly (and occasionally brutal) critique. I think the newer version sounds fantastic. She requested I not publish it until she gets a chance to do the full critique, so that’s why it didn’t come out yet. But soon. Still, it was hard and I don’t enjoy editing. But at least I’m over halfway there.

I found out recently that my dimensions and scaling may have been wrong for my map of Taylin. My math was wrong during my initial calculations. Why is this important? Because I want to have an accurate length of time for travel time, important especially if a new style of airship is crossing entire nations.

Blocks!

Something cute Caitlyn’s been doing lately. She’s insisted the last two days that I take some of her large building blocks with me to work. I now have 2. Heh. And yes, I am reading Warbreaker again. 🙂

The last thing to talk about today is Elder Scroll Online. I got into the beta this weekend and was very impressed. I don’t have the mind for a full-blown review right now, but I think it’s excellent. It’s quite polished, very little load time (SWToR drove me crazy with incredibly long wait times). But it’s the combat I really enjoy. Most of the MMOs I play are based of the d20 method…using random rolls to figure out damage. I cast a spell and the computer calculates resistances, misses, armor, etc. However, Elder Scrolls Online has a reactive combat system. In fact, if you’ve played Oblivion or Skyrim…it’s the exact same combat system (at least with weapons, I didn’t really explore magic). That alone makes things interesting. It means it’s much more based around talent and ability than simple gear. Blocking at the right time can stun an enemy. Stealth works the same too.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my time in the beta. I’m considering getting the game.

Well, that’s it for this week. I know it’s not a lot, but since I skipped so recently, I needed to do something.

Here’s your PMV for the week.

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Distortions in Reality

I hope you’ll excuse my lack of a post last week. Things remain extremely difficult for me at the moment. Emotions can be quite overpowering, quite overpowering indeed. The panic attacks have not stopped. Indeed, I seem to be getting them more often, but also getting them at very strange times, like after good social events. It doesn’t make sense to me. But what else is new? Emotions are not logical or rational.

But let’s talk about the writing shall we?

I’ve actually made some progress lately. I did another edit of “Beyond the Waterfall” and I hope I get the time tomorrow to actually finish the edits I’ve been doing. I’ve been sitting on it for too long. Some folks have had the chance to give me critiques and reviews, some have become too busy. And that’s okay. Life happens. But I know I’ve waited too long already. This was supposed to be out at the end of January.

So…let’s just put this on the books, shall we? I’m aiming for next Sunday for the release date, if not sooner.

Steam and Magic is slowly progressing. I managed to have a single day with 910 words, which was a personal best lately. The emotional state continues to drain my creative energy…and I haven’t found an effective way to combat that. The discipline I had before I returned to work seems to have crumbled in the wake of my new responsibilities…namely dealing with both Tali and Caitlyn. Harder than I expected…especially lately as Tali has become almost insanely fussy at times. *Sigh* Such is the life of a parent of a 4-month-old.

The OC Inklings is going very well. People seem very happy with it. And I got to meet some of those I hadn’t met in person this last Thursday when Laura had a shift that allowed me to attend the Lake Forest Panera Bread Write-In. I think that was the 910 day. There’s also potential for another story of mine to be launched sometime in April. But it felt so good to actually get to go to my writing group. I’ve missed it terribly. There’s something so energizing about meeting face to face with other writers, even helping other writers with different perspectives on their work.

Job wise? Nothing to report, sadly. Nothing at all.

I don’t really have a lot else to say personally. I have no desire to dump my depression issues onto the internet and subject you to such things. Well, there’s a little bit of a desire, but I’m not going to do it.

However, I do want to share something close to me. You all know the story of Michael Morones and his struggle after his attempted suicide at the end of January. I just searched for an update on him…and was shocked to see my initial blog post the SEVENTH entry under a Google search for his name. Good Lord, didn’t see that coming. How many people have read that post?

Anyway, that’s not what this is about. I wanted to share the latest update, taken directly from MichaelMorones.org:

***Update from Michael’s Mom***: As of late, we have not posted an in-depth update about Michael. Not because we don’t want to share, but because we have been busy and I have become a little shy about what we share because some people have said very unkind things. But I really want to share with you guys! So, here we go!

Michael has been making huge strides. For you and I, they are things that seem small and simple, but we have to keep in mind that Michael has brain damage and everything is huge for Michael. We DO NOT know if he can see. We suspect he has SOME vision, but to what extent, we just don’t know yet. He has a neurological condition that is common with his brain injury called myoclonus. What this means is that his brain and spinal cord are working to reconnect, but the transmission of signals has a bit of static so he shivers or when startled, jerks uncontrollably. This could resolve in time, get better or never go away. The brain is going to heal to some extent or completely, we just do not know. Only time and patience will help us see where it will go. Michael is not speaking, yet, and he may or may not be able to. We are trying to start the very long process of weaning him from the trachea. It may or may not be successful, but we are incredibly hopeful that it will be. During physical therapy, Michael will sometimes hold his head for a few seconds, but more often than not needs support for his entire body. As you could see in the video, we believe that he hears and comprehends, but to what extent or how delayed his reactions are we don’t know. Only time will help us know these things.

So what does this all come down to? Michael, for the foreseeable future and according to doctors, will need medical care and will be dependent on others for the rest of his life. While he is FAR beyond where they saw him being on the night of January 23 when he attempted suicide, he is a LONG way from being where he was on January 22.

Our lives, not just Michael’s, will never be the same. Something terrible and tragic happened, and you just can’t go back to like it was before. But out of this tragedy, something wonderful will rise. My son is still alive against the odds. A community of people full of acceptance and love for a complete stranger has come together. Not only to support Michael, but also each other. It is a truly amazing thing, and will only continue to grow and get bigger. The love and strength from all of you in the GUMC Community, the Brony community and the human race in general has kept me going for Michael. The moments I have felt weak, or simply not good enough for this task set before me were when all of your cards, comments and well-wishes kept me going. I will make sure that something good will come from this, that Michael will always be safe and loved. Thank you everyone for your love, support, prayers and positive thoughts.

Hugs and loves,
Tiffany
#TeamMightyMichael

This is a wonderful thing. There have been a few YouTube videos showing his recovery…but I can’t bear to watch them. Because I’m worried I’ll start crying and won’t be able to stop. You can check out one of them at Equestria Daily’s Post.

Anyway, as life continues for me…I understand this kid more than I ever expected to.

But let’s stop for something fun. It’s PMV time folks. If you’re a gamer, you’ll love this.


Until next time folks. Good luck and have fun.

-rks