Tag Archives: George R.R. Martin

Long-Awaited Fantasy Books: Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Wheel of Time, Ice and Fire

Back in 2005, Tokyopop started working on manga-style graphic novels based on Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. They released one volume of three planned for Legends of the Dark Crystal, taking place centuries before the movie, and two volumes of four planned for Return to Labyrinth, focusing on Sarah’s brother Toby as a teenager…and just sort of stopped. After two years, the third volume of Return to Labyrinth eventually came out, but it was unclear when the final volume would arrive.

Earlier this year I noticed an August release date for the conclusion of Return to Labyrinth. I checked a few days ago and was surprised to find that not only was it actually available…but so was Legends of the Dark Crystal volume 2. (Interestingly enough, the main thing I can glean from the Return to Labyrinth v.4 reviews on Amazon is that the Jareth/Sarah shippers hated it.)

Of course, when you start thinking about long-delayed fantasy books, one in particular always comes to mind: George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, the long-awaited fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s already been nearly five years since the last book, and while the cover art has been ready for most of that time…there’s no sign of the book being finished anytime soon. This is the book that indirectly prompted Neil Gaiman’s (in)famous essay in which he stated, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.” The really funny thing? People are reviewing the book on Amazon. Actually, they’re reviewing the wait for the book!

In addition to fan frustration, some readers are concerned that George R.R. Martin might follow in the footsteps of another fantasy author and die before he completes his magnum opus. Robert Jordan, fortunately for his fans, was already working on the conclusion of his epic, The Wheel of Time, and left extensive outlines and notes. Brandon Sanderson has been writing a trilogy to conclude the series based on Jordan’s notes and partial manuscript. The Gathering Storm came out last year and was surprisingly good. On Tuesday, Dragonmount reported that Sanderson has completed the final draft of Towers of Midnight, and is on track for its November 2 release. The final book, A Memory of Light, should be out next year.

Crossover Names

Have you ever run into a name that you can’t help associating with a completely different context? Like when people realize that one guy in Office Space is named Michael Bolton? Or when you look at “AD&D,” and instead of “Accidental Death and Dismemberment” your first thought is “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons?”

Yeah. Especially in IKEA.

For example, here we have Harry Potter’s favorite instructor in Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, magically transformed into a set of venetian blinds.

Lupin blinds

And here’s the thief who ends up as one of Blake’s 7 on the Liberator…as a set of sheets. (Nine of them, no doubt, to the wind.)

Vila sheets

And it’s not just IKEA. Robin of the Teen Titans has his criminal counterpart in this bottle of wine:

Red X Wine

Or the older daughter of Eddard Stark, playing music instead of the Game of Thrones.

Sansa MP3 Players

So, what good crossover names have you seen?

Finally Finished “A Game of Thrones”

Well, it took 2½ months during which I took breaks to read at least three other books, but this weekend I finally finished the first book of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones.

A Game of ThronesBy all rights I should have liked this book. I frequently like big epic fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Greg Keyes’ Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Actually, Wheel of Time is probably the best comparison, given the sweeping scope of the series, the number of viewpoint characters, the emphasis on political intrigue, and the length of the books.

On the other hand, no Robert Jordan book has taken me longer than a month to read.

About a year ago, a friend recommended the books to Katie, and gave her the series so far (4 books) for Christmas. It took a while before she got to them, but when she did, she tore through them in about a week. (It helped that she had the free time.) She recommended them to me, but I didn’t pick up the first book until sometime last November.

And I just couldn’t get into it. The characters I found most interesting seemed to get the least attention. Of those, one character’s chapters were difficult to read because she’s in the wrong genre: a girl of 10(?) who wants to grow up to be a warrior princess in a world that would casually kill her before she had the chance. And while I’m sure it’s a matter of morally gray=interesting, it’s basically “Kingdom of A—holes” (maybe not as poetic as “The Knights Who Say F—” but more accurate, at least for the first book). The only adult character who isn’t morally gray or worse is so stuck on honor that he can’t handle the compromises necessary in politics. So it’s not so much a question of who’s the best choice to be in charge, as who’s the least bad.

The first book is about 95% straight medieval-setting political/military drama, with hints at supernatural elements here and there. The prologue sets up an otherworldly menace that is subsequently ignored for most of the book, there’s the occasional sword described as magic, it gradually becomes clear that the dragons are a historical fact, rather than legends (the previous king had dragon skulls mounted along the walls of the throne room) and that seasons frequently last years. “Winter is coming” is a key phrase, and the motto of the family that provides all but two of the viewpoint characters.

After 400 pages of tedious setup establishing just how brutish, brattish, or manipulative everyone is, things start going off the rails. And boy, do they go off the rails. You know how, when reading a book, you get to a point where you figure it can’t get worse? It does. Repeatedly.

About 200 pages from the end I decided I was going to make an effort to finish the book and get it out of the way. So I had a marathon reading session one Sunday, then made an effort to read during lunch over the next week, and then finally finished it over this past weekend. (For contrast, with each of the first two or three Wheel of Time books, when I got within 150 or 200 pages of the end I had to finish, even if it meant staying up until 2am on a work night.)

Actually I guess it’s kind of like some of the later Wheel of Time books in terms of sheer detail and trudgery. Except those have the advantage that you’ve probably read the earlier ones, which were quite good. (I’ve often described the WoT series as 5 novels of one book each followed by one novel that spans 7 books.)

The last 50 pages or so, particularly the final chapter, are considerably more interesting. If it had stopped at 750 pages, I’d probably be inclined to just leave it there, but I might actually pick up the second book at this point.

Just not now. For now, I’m picking up Julie Czerneda’s stand-alone In the Company of Others.