Thursday, 31 July 2014

Equal Rites

Soooo….this *might* be a little filler before I start on something bigger. If you are the obnoxious anonymous reader I think you are and you’re criticising me just because you read the title and you’re rolling your eyes and sighing “another Discworld novel? That goddamned bitch deserves a smacking with a pogo stick” well then FUCK YOU.

If, on the other hand, you’re delighted to read my review, I apologise, and please do carry on reading.
(I will not ever censor my cursing. As Stephen Fry put it: “The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest is just a fucking lunatic.” Also I think this is the second time I quote Fry on my blog. Obviously he’s a very wise man.)

Equal Rites is the third volume in the Discworld series, and the fourth I’ve read so far. It’s very different from the others; there is not a trace of Rincewind, who was the main character in the previous Discworld novels. This novel is all about witches and in particular a young girl who is chosen to be a wizard, since she is the eighth daughter of an eighth son (eight being the magic number on the Discworld). One problem remains: only men can be wizards, and the thought of a woman, or even a nine-year-old girl to be a wizard is preposterous. Hence the pun in the title.

The characters were brilliant and very original, as usual with Terry Pratchett, and I do love how he can bring life to inanimate objects – sometimes literally. But all in all there was less humour in this story than I was used to. Still, there were some great one-liners like “magic has a habit of lying low, like a rake in the grass” and “the Things had all the grace and coordination of a deck-chair”.

I do think that I like the Rincewind stories more than I like the Witch stories. It might be a bit early to say though – I still have 47 Discworld novels to go.

I’m not sure if I’m despairing or rejoicing when I think about that.

Until next time,


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Nerdy Manic Pixie Dream Girls

I keep seeing this on all sorts of social websites like Pinterest, 9gag and facebook.
I want you to take your time and read this through.

Read it?

All of it?



First of all – the picture. I already did a blog post about girls posing prettily in positions that are absolutely uncomfortable to read but I think this one tops them all. One: you’re lying on a pile of books. Two: your arm will get tired. Three: I hope that book is going to hit you in the head when it slips. Four: how dare you lie on a pile of books?

But let’s focus on the words now.

- My expectations of the ideal guy aren’t THAT high to think he will have read enough Murakami to have a real opinion of him. I point to my first impression to Shakespeare compared to the last one.
- If you did not get through the first chapter of The Fellowship, get out.
- I am saying this as a girl who is obsessed with books; don’t buy me books unless you know my library by heart. Even I don’t know my library by heart. It isn’t any fun to say “oh, I’m sorry, I already have three editions of The Hobbit; sorry you had to spend 20 euros on another one”.
- I will never try to make my life a little like my favourite book. I’d like to keep the ringwraiths *out* of reality, thank you very much.
-lie to me and I will cut you. There is never an excuse to lie. Fail me? On purpose? Oh well if that isn’t my ideal of fucking prince charming then I don’t know anymore. Not. I care for imperfections, but if you fail to fulfil my basic requests of loyalty and trust I’m going to kick you the hell out of my life.
- Yes, people change, or as you put it, develop. But I know I can’t control that. I am not the type of girl who’s going to start going out with a guy I have nothing in common with just because I think I can change him. That’s dating 101 right there. You twat.
- I am not that much of an idiot to give my future kids strange names. We have a customer at the library who actually has a really silly Disney princess name (the sort of princess that gets her garderobe sown by mice) and I think that’s very cruel.
- People stare when you recite things under your breath. That’s because it could be Keats, but it always sounds like an incantation to summon the devil.
- I will make out for myself if you deserve me, thank you very much.

All in all, this is a typical case of Manic Pixie Dream Girl applied to girls who are geeky about books. I’d like to think I’m part of that group, and yes, I sometimes act a bit crazy about books, but I’m also just another normal human being. There are women out there who adore books but are bad mothers. There are girls out there who obsess over bad chick lit but that doesn’t make them obnoxious.

I guess my point is this: take me as I am and not as how you want me to be. If you want me to be a Nerdy Manic Pixie Dream Girl, then you’re fucked because I am not nearly that energized, cruel, fashionable, happy or whimsical. And you know what? I am fucking happy with exactly the way I am.

Until next rant,


PS: a few days after I wrote this a girl I follow on Youtube made this. It’s basically the same rant about a different subject.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Lies of Locke Lamora

This book was a birthday present from a good friend who had also given me The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss for my birthday the year before. So I basically knew I was going to love this book.
And I did. This is one of the books where I just sat on the couch reading for an entire day because I had that ‘I need to know what happens next right now’ feeling. God it feels good when you read that kind of book for the first time.

This book by Scott Lynch is about Locke Lamora, a con-artist mastermind who learned the trade from Chains, a priest who’s more than he seems to be. Locke is damn cunning, bluffing and double-bluffing his way to thousands of crowns. He has his gang called the ‘Gentlemen Bastards’ to help him; Jean, who is deadly with hatchets; Calo and Galdo, the quick-fingered twins; and bug, their eager to learn apprentice. Of course his luck and wealth can’t last, and a man called the Gray King has it in for him, and soon Locke has to lie his way out of several deadly tight corners.

The beginning of the book was a bit slow: Lies of Locke Lamora uses an interesting classification system of parts, chapters, interludes and subchapters to jump between young Locke and adult Locke, and this confused me at first until I got the hang of it, although that might have just been me and my damn brain being glitchy when I started. But I got sucked into the story pretty soon.
One of the traits, or I guess I should say qualities of this book is that Scott Lynch can be brutal with his characters; he can easily be compared to George Martin on his best day. He’s not shy about cursing or murdering in horribly graphic ways. Where it differs from Martin’s writing style is that it is in no way historical fantasy. The element of fantasy is way more present in this novel: the very foundations of the setting are magical (or alchemical, if you want to be specific). Yet Lies of Locke Lamora is no run-of-the-mill fantasy: there is no coming-of-age factor; no quest. Just survival of the best thief. If there is a learning process for the main character, I haven’t found it, and if it’s a good ending… well, that might be what part two and three are for, and I will let you know as soon as I possibly can.

An example on how good Scott Lynch is. When I type ‘fantasy books’ in google, I see this.

It’s the twelfth most mentioned fantasy book on the internet, people.
Pretty sure that says something.

Until next time,


Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Two Towers

Part two of the widely known and much-loved Lord of the Rings. When I reviewed Fellowship of the Ring in March I focused mainly on the parts that were not put in the movie or were less known – this time I just want to focus on one very interesting character.

You guessed it – Gollum.

Having said that, I realise I should probably start explaining the One Ring before I start my rant about Gollum. So let’s get that done and over with first.

I don’t think I’ll need to go in specifics about the Ring’s history – Sauron pretended to be nice and beautiful to trick the elves into sharing their knowledge about forging rings, and he used that knowledge to forge a master ring. The ring is a part of him - he literally forged his power into it - which is why he was weakened to his lidless eye form when the ring was cut from his hand. Thus, we can see the ring as a sort of psychological copy of Sauron: and we all know Sauron is known for being a deceiving, tempting, and greedy bastard. You don’t become Morgoth’s favourite making giftbaskets. When he hears that the dwarves of Erebor (watch the Hobbit and you’ll know who I’m talking about) know more about the One Ring he sends messengers first, promising the dwarves gifts beyond their wildest dreams if they would only share the location of this ‘lesser ring’. He could probably have captured and tortured one of them instead – but he likes tempting the dark side in people (and dwarves): he wanted them to betray their friend Bilbo. Sneaky bastard.

So let me clarify: the ring does not simply turn good people into bad people, not even over a long duration of time. Gollum isn’t evil, or at least not because of the ring. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
What the ring does, in my humble opinion, is wakening a feeling of greed. This is why Gandalf and Galadriel refuse to have anything to do with the ring: they are already so ancient and powerful that they’d easily conquer Middle-Earth, or at least a large part of it- but at what cost? They are probably some of the last people to want Middle-Earth to change, even though they know it’s inevitable. Galadriel especially, who got into so much trouble just because she wanted a piece of land to care for when she still lived in Valinor, would think twice before doing anything foolish.

as if she needs to be given more power.
They do not want to feel the overwhelming urge to have more. Even Sam, who bears the ring when Frodo is drugged on spider juice, suddenly gets a vision where he overthrows Sauron and creates a giant garden in Mordor before he shakes himself and realises all he really wants is his little garden in Bag End.
So no taking over minds. More like taking over priorities. The people bearing the ring would only want to do good – thinking that if they ruled things would be done right and proper. But they would want to do so at whatever cost, and that’s the catch.

So now let’s talk about our dearest Slinker & Stinker. After all, he’s such a deliciously layered character.

Gollum, of course, started out as Sméagol, a hobbit who was a bit introverted and liked to study roots. He enjoyed listening to Grandmother, who was a leader of their village, and he often tagged along with Déagol when he went fishing so he could dig in the mud.

"Smials. A word peculiar to hobbits (not Common Speech), meaning 'burrow'; leave unchanged. It is a form that the Old English word smygel 'burrow' might have had, if it had survived. The same element appears in Gollum's real name, Sméagol."
― Tolkien

And then he obtains the ring out of Déagol's dead hands. My theory behind this is that the ring was quite tired of lying in that river for so many years, so when these hobbits got close he boosted up his power so he’d definitely be found – he wanted to be owned again (or I guess when he’s worn he kinda becomes the owner). Both hobbits feeling this urge, this powerful desire could only lead to murder.
Sméagol, being a hobbit and sturdy of mind, did not immediately feel the overwhelming urge to kick his grandmother off her throne, but as he was not warned for the ring’s powers he did become greedy for little things; he became what you could call 'naughty'. He started to steal from others, which is quite easy when you can be invisible. Eventually the grandmother grows tired of his shenanigans and sends him away. And even then Gollum doesn’t exactly become greedy: he looks up and sees the Misty Mountains, and he thinks "It would be cool and shady under those mountains. The Sun could not watch me there. The roots of those mountains must be roots indeed; there must be great secrets buried there which have not been discovered since the beginning."  All things considered, Sméagol seems to be quite the biologist to me, maybe even a philosopher. He has ambition, yes, but not to own or to lead.

So then he begins his hermit existence in the deepest of caves in the Misty Mountains for a couple of hundreds of years. And of course such a thing changes you. He forgets his own name and starts to call himself Gollum – quite frankly, he reminds me of a half-senile grampa that demands to be pampered and spoon-fed but still manages to flick the beans to the TV with deadly precision. Quite a stereotype indeed. Gollum’s desires are simple: fish and darkness. And while these two are amplified to the extreme, they do no damage to the world beyond the one he has created around his hypothetical hospital bed: plenty of fish nearby if you live on a giant lake, and you can’t get pitch-blacker than being under a frickin mountain.
Then Bilbo comes and goes, taking the Precious with him. The only thing that had any value to Gollum, the only memory from his past, peaceful life – never mind the inner turmoil (the ring, whilst still influencing Gollum by merely existing, must be less powerful when it’s not in such near vicinity) when The Ring loosens its hold over his mind. Speaking of a major existential crisis of elephaunt proportions.

Then Gollum starts to wander all over Middle-Earth,following Bilbo’s footsteps all the way to the Lonely Mountain and back, and then eventually to Mordor. And there he meets a 'friend'. I’ll give you a clue. She has too many legs and eyes.

Shelob is pure, pure evil. She’s the essence of evil. She will kill your kittens and dribble their intestines down your throat when you’re sleeping. She’s fucking gross and eeeeeeevil. She literally vomits darkness.
Nobody owns her, though Sauron likes to claim ownership – she does and eats whatever she damn well pleases. And for some reason she “spares” Gollum. Maybe it’s because he loves darkness, all we know is that she takes hold of his mind, clouding it with darkness.

This is important.

When Gollum was alone in his cave under the Misty Mountains he was always talking to his ring or just complaining out loud, which sounds relatively sane. But the Andy-Serkis-Should-Have-Gotten-An-oscar-For-This scene where Gollum talks to himself? That’s Shelob. She is “the green gleam in his eyes” when he is up to something – like luring hobbits to their graves, which happens to be Shelob's lair. It isn’t the ring that gives him the split personality: it’s literally Shelob being a fucking long-distance parasite (creeped out much?) that Gollum can only seem to control when Frodo is being friendly to him.

Guys, this is why Gollum is such a relatable character. Because we all have a bit of Shelob’s voice in us that we try to suppress, no matter how often it hisses at us that we don’t have any friends and that nobody likes us. And it doesn’t matter how often we yell at it to leave now and never come back, it will always sneak back up on us when we’re alone. We just have to hope that we’ll have a friend to stab our Shelobs in the stomach so the voice will temporarily back off - which might even be done by a stupid, fat, hobbit.

And people still ask me what I see in this ‘fairytale’.

Just one more thing. There is a very important scene with Gollum in chapter 2 of book 4 where Gollum is talking to himself and Sam overhears him plotting.
“Gollum was talking to himself. Sméagol was holding a debate with some other thought that used the same voice but made it squeak and hiss. A pale light and a green light alternated in his eyes as he spoke.”
I won’t put the whole hissing debate here where ‘green lights’ is trying to convince ‘pale lights’ to take the ring and kill the hobbits. Green lights is convinced that if they take the ring, then they are the master, and since they promised to be nice ‘to the master of the ring’ it would be okay to kill the hobbits. Pale lights doesn’t want to kill Frodo, because Frodo is nice to him.
“No, sweet one. See, my precious: if we has it, then we can escape, even from Him, eh? Perhaps we grow very strong, stronger than Wraiths. Lord Sméagol? Gollum the great? The Gollum! Eat fish every day, three times a day, fresh from the sea. Most Precious Gollum! Must have it. We wants it, we wants it, we wants it!”
At this point poor Sméagol is battling the power of the ring over his mind. The power of the ring grows stronger the closer it gets to its true master, and for the first time Gollum truly becomes so greedy that he wants to rule. Let me remind you that it only took Galadriel five seconds. I think that deserves some recognition.
I am not sure how much of Shelob is present in this debate – the greed is definitely the ring, the tricking as well. But I do recognise the feeling of wanting to push everyone away when I am feeling very, very sad. I think it is partly Shelob who wants to destroy Gollum’s only chance of healing emotionally.
Green lights eventually reminds Pale lights of ‘her'. Shelob can kill them for him so he can take the ring after she’s thrown away the bones. Sméagol doesn’t give in yet, but he does lead them to Cirith Ungol. He’s not sure if he will warn Shelob that there’s a meal of fresh hobbit meat coming. But then Frodo ‘betrays’ him in Ithilien. He surrenders Gollum to the hands of the men of Gondor, yet Gollum doesn’t know that the other option would have been his death. So it is this, this last betrayal by the only one who was truly nice to him, that pushes him to malice.

I just thought I needed to explain this.

Until next time,


PS: compare the emotional state between 'Hobbit' Gollum and 'Two Towers' Gollum. PJ, you're awesome.