Archive for Brandon Sanderson

a journal of the plague year [december reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2020 by xi'an

Read only a part of a Brandon Sanderson’s novel, Steelheart, that I found incredibly terrible (given the achievements of the writer). With a few cardboard characters, incl. the (compulsory) nerdy teenager with unique skills and a David Copperfield childhood (also named David) and cartoonesque villains with superpowers. Until I realised, while looking at its Wikipedia page, that this was intended as a (very?) young adult novel… And did not try to finish the book (first of a trilogy) before leaving it in the exchange section in front of our University library.

Cooked (and enjoyed) a fennel and (local) honey tarte tatin and a broccoli polenta with Vacherin (cheese). Made several rye breads as I find them easier to knead and bake than other flours, once I found that I could get fresh yeast by the gram from my favourite bakery.  Fell into a routine of cooking winter vegetables, like pumpkins, butternuts, and cabbages, Jerusalem artichokes (a pain to peel!) and (expensive) tuberous chervil. Plus the available mushrooms.

Watched a few episodes of the Korean drama Two Cops (투깝스), more for the scenes showing bits and pieces of Seoul, than for a very thin and predictive plot. Following a radio broadcast mentioning Carol Reed’s The Third Man as one of the best movies ever—although I had read Greene’s novel a long while ago—, I tried to find it online but ended up instead watching for the first time Fritz Lang’s Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse,  which is his third Mabuse film and the last film he shot (in 1960). While the harsh lights and grainy surveillance TV screens, along with absolutely everyone smoking, put some perspective to the story, connecting post-war West Germany with its immediate past, I did not enjoy much the acting, which sounded very artificial, and the plot was quasi-nonexistent.

Read Olin Steinhauer’s The Bridge of Sighs, which was his first novel, as I had greatly enjoyed The Tourist. It takes place in an unnamed Eastern European country that could be Moldova (since Hungary and Czechoslovakia are described as West, while Romania is mentioned as another country, but the city could well be Szeged, both for having its own Bridge of Sighs and for being crossed by the Tisa), right after the War, as a Stalinist regime is under construction and a rookie cop, grand-son of a communist ex-hero, tries to navigate the new regime. I really liked the book: it is very well-written, meaning an attention to style and perspective that stays away from the usual endless dialogues in crime novelsand the characters have depth and originality, I enjoyed also the somewhat Mediterranean cum Balkanic feel of this post-war Soviet satellite. And will presumably seek the following volumes from UK resellers…

The Bands of Mourning [and mourning we should]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2018 by xi'an

While in Brussels last week, I happened to spot a W.H. Smith bookstore near where I stayed and a “new” book on the Mistborn series, namely one I had not yet read. It was actually published in 2016 and is the continuation of the (homely) Shadows of Self, itself a sequel to Alloy of Law. Sounds like endless regress?! This time and this volume, it truly feels like it…

“But that is the sort of statistical anomaly that plagues my life, so I’ll plan for it nonetheless.”

The characters in the Bands of Mourning are pretty much the same as in Shadows of Self, the story being a continuation in another corner of the Mistborn universe. (Truly at a corner of the map printed at the beginning of the book.) Except for a few ones that in my opinion completely ruin the plot and the appeal of the story.

“The proof,” Marasi said, “will be in the numbers.” She leaned forward. “Do you know how many crimes can be proven by statistics?”

The link to statistics is continued as well, although pretty shallow when considering that almost every situation is dealt with by superpowers that get increasingly boring and predictable. When characters can [spoiler?!] resuscitate from about every possible form of death, one starts looking for another story and another book. But definitely not the next one in the series, The Lost Metal, not yet advertised for sale…

a faint memory of ice

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2018 by xi'an

 

During the past week of vacations in Chamonix, I spent some days down-hill skiing (which I find increasingly boring!), X-country skiing (way better), swimming (indoors!) and running, but the highlight (and the number one reason for going there!) was an ice cascade climb with a local guide, Sylvain (from the mythical Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix). There were very options due to the avalanche high risk and Sylvain picked a route called Déferlante at the top of Les Grands Montets cabin stop and next to the end of a small icefield, Glacier d’Argentière. We went there quite early to catch the first cabin up, along a whole horde of badasss skiers and snowboarders, and reached the top of the route by foot first, a wee bit after 9 pm. A second guide and a client appeared before we were ready to abseil down, and two more groups would appear later. On touring skis. Continue reading

Shadows of Self [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on April 8, 2017 by xi'an

“He’d always found it odd that so many died when they were old, as logic said that was the point in their lives when they’d the most practice not dying.”

Now this is steampunk fantasy, definitely! With little novelty in the setting of the universe. If mixed with a Wild West feeling, though, just like the half-made World

“Mirabell had been a statistician and psychologist in the third century who had studied why some people worked harder than others.”

Actually, this is the same universe as The Mistborn trilogy, but 300 years later,which allows for some self-referential jokes and satire. Including the notion that the current ruling class could be exactly what the heroes of The Mistborn had fought against!

“Not guns,” Wayne said with a grin. “A different kind of weapon. Math.”

More precisely, this is the (a?) sequel to the Alloy of Law, which I had almost completely forgotten, unlike The Mistborn trilogy, which does not help with the reading as the book refers rather insistently to this Alloy of Law!

“Sir, you said you hired me in part because of my ability to read statistics.”

Nonetheless, it is an interesting plot, with a very nice ambiguity of the main characters, who (again) often feel they may be closer to the dictature that set The Mistborn revolution than to the revolutionaries themselves! And one of the heroes is a statistician (as obvious from the many quotes around!).

“Wayne felt a disturbance stir within him, like his stomach discovering  he’d just fed it a bunch of rotten apples. Religion worried him. It could ask men to do things they’d otherwise never do.”

In short, good story, nice style, entertaining dialogues: perfect [mind-candy] travel novel!

a memory of light

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , on February 16, 2013 by xi'an

It is now over: I have finished reading the last volume of the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light. When considering that I started reading the first volume in Ithaca in the summer of 1990, while visiting George Casella, there is something momentous (and bittersweet) in reading the last page and acknowledging it is now over. For good. As many other WoT fans, I grew attached toJ some of the characters, despite the repetitions, the often immature psychology, and attitudes that varied from one volume to the next… It is thus a wee sad to see them vanish with the last page (or, worse, die within the last volume for three of them). Even though 14 volumes plus a prequel is more than enough. Of course, this feeling is nothing compared with what the second author, Brandon Sanderson, must feel! As he mentions on his blog, he had read the very final scene in 2007, soon after Robert Jordan’s death, when he was asked to complete the series…

I will not get into details about this last volume as I do not want to post spoilers. And because Leigh Butler did a much better job! (Warning: many many spoilers!) Let me mention however that the book stands to the previous volumes written by Sanderson, at the very least, and certainly above some of the weakest volumes written by Jordan. The battle that occupies a large part of the book has enough shifts and surprises to make it bearable, even though there are too many “happy endings” in my taste. Including the very final scene. Maybe not so surprisingly the two major characters in this volume are Perrin and Matt (thanks to the nice trick about the great captains). They have certainly grown in stature and depth from the first volume, even though they are not free from the occasional relapse. The roles of Rand, Nynaeve and Moiraine are somewhat anticlimactic as they seem to be doing nothing! (Of course, they only seem!) The forces facing each other sound very disproportionate and it is hard to understand why the dark side does not make use of those superior forces from the beginning. (The same question applies to the whole series, somehow!) I must also acknowledge being a bit disappointed by the (homely) final chapter. (Nothing terrible like the very final chapter of Harry Potter of course!) I can understand Jordan’s motivations in writing it and it somehow makes sense. Still, not the ending I would have liked to read for this superlative epic! Nonetheless, I think Sanderson did a magnificent job in merging the notes of Robert Jordan into a coherent and enjoyable ending. That it took three rather than one volume is more a testimony to the complexity of the universe Jordan created than a nuisance (now that the series is over!). May he always find water and shade!