Summer reviews

Reviews

It’s been a while since I did reviews, and I’ve already spammed too much writing advice. So, some reviews of what I’ve read, seen, and played.

Books

I read Blood Song by Anthony Ryan last month, and am now devouring part two of the series. Ryan uses the same way of telling his story as Patrick Rothfuss uses in the Kingkiller Chronicles. The main character, Vaelin al Sorna, is relating his tale to an interested historian. The book tells about his life and how he came to kill the successor of the Emperor of the Alpiran Empire. Vaelin’s tale is a lot more brutal than Kvothe’s is in the Kingkiller Chronicles.

What I find fascinating is that the book takes the over-used coming-of-age story and manages to do it so well that it is a riveting read. I can highly recommend it. The second installment is also quite good, but not quite as terrific as the first book.

Television shows

I’m grinding my way through Sense8. I say ‘grinding’, because the show is so terribly slow. Build-up is fine, but you have to find some way to keep viewers interested at the same time. I’ve watched the first five episodes now, and it doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

The writers of Sense8 seem to feel that the fact that eight characters occasionally share experiences is intriguing enough to fill episode after episode of them having shared experiences. The idea is interesting, but aside from that, there isn’t really much to the show. It’s eight inactive people whose backstory is chewed out in slow-motion and who don’t actively pursue anything. This leads to repetitive scenes of people discussing the state of their lives. After five episodes, only one of the eight main characters even has a clue what’s going on and in response he’s tried to talk to guy who might know something… and failed at that.

In contrast, Daredevil is also twelve episodes and also builds up slowly to the end of the season. However, this show focuses on a smaller cast of characters that all actively pursue opposing goals, bringing about a lot of conflict. It feels far more dynamic and quick-paced, while the story can be summarized far more succinctly.

I’m still giving Sense8 a chance, but I don’t think it’s going to end up on my list of favourites.

I’ve also been watching Orphan Black. The premise is interesting – a woman finds out she’s a clone when she infiltrates one of her look-a-like’s lives to steal her money. The execution is somewhat messy in the beginning, because there are a lot of clones and we know none of their backgrounds. On the plus side, the show doesn’t shy away from running with its premise and seeing what you can do with clones.

One thing that I also found interesting is that both Sense8 and Orphan Black have gay characters in them, but Sense8 has characters that are defined wholly by being gay and their role in the story is almost an afterthought, where the characters in Orphan Black have a role in the story and they happen to be gay. I like the latter better, because being gay is just one thing about a character, like being a red-head or a book-lover, and you need more to make them actual characters.

Video games

After the massive DragonAge 3, I’ve dug into the equally gigantic Witcher 3. Just like DragonAge 3, the game tries to combine an open world with good storytelling. Miraculously, it succeeds even better than DragonAge 3. The storytelling is brilliant. Every side quest, and I mean every one of them, has cut scenes with spoken dialogue. Some of the quests are better than others, but the entire world feels alive with a myriad of stories against the background of a medieval war. There is no clear good or bad side in this war, just two sides, making it so intriguing.

That said, the Witcher 3 is not very friendly to women. You can gauge the more importance of a female character to the story by the amount of cleavage she’s showing. Most of the people in power are men, and the women are often just the damsel in distress. All in all, the game is somewhat sexist, although I’ve seen worse.

Also, the game has been completely white-washed. I see a lot of people on the internet claiming that this is because ‘the game is set in medieval northern Europe where there were no black people’. Nice theory, unfortunately, it’s bullshit. There were black people in medieval Europe, but because of the thorough white-washing of all television and video games, people have come to believe the myth. So, good call on that, developers.

Still, I love the game, and have sunken over a hundred hours into it.

Conclusion

That’s it for this post. I’ll have more to review in the future. Now I’m going to sink some more hours into the Witcher 3.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands