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Mind Meld

  • Apr. 16th, 2014 at 12:55 PM

So I recently participated in my first Mind Meld, a feature on the SF Signal website wherein they pose various questions to a group of science writers/editors/etc. and post their answers.  This week's question: If you were imprisoned for life and your genre-loving (but slightly deranged) warden allowed you to read work from the bibliography of ONLY ONE author, who would you choose?  Why?

Livejournal is acting all glitch-y at the moment and won't let me use the link feature, so I'll paste in the entire link the old fashioned way if you'd like to read my and everyone else's answers:

OK, I like my chances of getting this week's prediction right because if you're reader of the books you realize after the trailer for episode that it's damn near impossible for it to be anything else.  Read on for spoilers people:

Episode two will end with Joffrey's death at his wedding (woo hoo!)  That is the obvious stopping point, but more specifically I would imagine it will end with Cersei accusing Tyrion of killing Joffrey.

And speaking of Cersei, this brings me to something I forgot to mention in my write-up of episode one that I feel is worth mentioning.  In that first scene between Cersei and Jaime, Cersei thanks Qyburn for helping with some other matter.  When Jaime asks what it is, Cersei becomes evasive.  I don't recall any interactions between Cersei and Qyburn last season, so I think we have to puzzle out what was going on here.  It seems to me that the likeliest explanation is that Cersei discovered she was pregnant and Qyburn gave a tincture to kill the child inside her womb.  In the books (and I believe in the show as well at this point) it's been established that Qyburn was stripped of his maester chain after conducting experiments to understand the nature of death.  If Qyburn was fascinated with the nature of death, killing an unborn babe with a potion would almost certainly fall under his expertise.  As to Cersei, Jaime noted how surprised he was that she let Qyburn touch her.  This would suggest that she needed a damn good reason to let him--a pregnancy would qualify.  And that is a baby she would need to get rid of, because with the king dead and rumors flying about her incest with Jaime, the last thing she needs is suddenly becoming pregnant about a child that likely belongs to Lancel.  Cersei's pregnancy would be a deviation from the books, but it does fit in rather neatly, and it would tie Cersei and Qyburn together closely early on, which sets things up for later.

More from next week after episode two. 

And here we go.  For starters, I missed out on this week's prediction to the episode's ending.  Well, I did say that these predictions are getting harder to make as the show takes more liberties with the books.  In this case, the ending they depicted takes place later on in A Storm of Swords.  So it goes.

Anyway, on to the episode itself.  As always, be warned of spoilers for all the books and the seasons of the HBO series at any time.  There is a lot to cover with this episode.  First, we were introduced to three new characters from the books: Oberyn Martell, Ellaria Sand, and I have to assume the one speaking for the the Thenns was the Magnar of Thenn.  The acting was fine, and while I don't pay too much attention to casting in the off-season, it's my understanding that there was a big online to-do about the casting of the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell.  I wonder if some of the other characters who looked noticeably different from their appearances in the books like Sallador Saan and Lysa Arryn received such outcries?  Meh.  Truth be told, I don't care what the answer is.  There are some casting choices that have bothered me, but Oberyn's didn't prove to be one of them.  What I will say is that I'm quite happy to see Oberyn  introduced in episode one of this season, and that the show runners seem intent on fleshing out his character properly.  I thought they did a very poor job bringing Qhorin Halfhand to the screen--in the books he had limited page time but was rather nuanced all the same.  Oberyn was the same way.  So I'm glad that they seem to be getting it right this time.  Part of me wonders if Oberyn will die in episode nine of this season.  The show runners have  a thing about blowing people's minds in episode 9: season one was Ned Stark, season two was the Battle of the Blackwater, and season three the Red Wedding.  The fight between the Red Viper and the Mountain would be a good means to get the same strong reaction out of the audience in the penultimate episode of a season.

On the reverse side of things, I noticed a mention of Preston Greenfield when Jaime was discussing how the Kingsguard would be distributed during the royal wedding.  In the books, Preston Greenfield died all the way back in A Clash of Kings when Sansa and a number of the Lannisters were briefly caught in a riot that broke out in King's Landing right after Myrcella was shipped out to Dorne.

What else?  Well, we got a few new locations on the map in the opening credits, in Mereen and the Dreadfort, and they also traveled across the globe in reverse this time to take us to Mereen.  I thought the flayed man on the Dreadfort was a very nice touch, but I wish they would finally take us beyond the Wall.

That opening scene before the credits caught me by surprise since by my recollection they haven't done that since the very first episode back in season one.  This said, I really liked the choice.  First, it looked nice on a visual level.  Second, I liked the symbolism that scene represented, of this being a new a chapter in the game of thrones, one where the Starks no longer have a part to play (little does Tywin know ...)

That covers the broad strokes, so let's hone in on the individual storylines a bit more.  It's interesting to note that while they did an excellent job of covering a lot of ground this episode, the overall story has gotten so big that there was no screen time for Bran and company, Stannis and company, Theon and Ramsay, Yara, Rickon and Osha (if they decide to show them at all this season), nor did we see Varys, Littlefinger, Loras, Lord Bolton, etc.  This despite the fact that Robb, his wife, and Catelyn are all gone (let's not get started on Catelyn) and not demanding further screen time.  I think going forward we just have to get used to the fact that the story has gotten so big it's going to be a very long time before we see all the screen characters appear in the same episode again.

So while I've covered Oberyn, I will say that I was slightly disappointed in that scene where Tyrion, Bronn, and Pod are first waiting for the Dornish guests to arrive.  There is a point where Pod starts talking about the various sigils he sees--this is directly out of the books, which is cool.  But one of the sigils Pod identifies in the book is that of "House Jordayne of the Tor."  This is a subtle reference to Robert Jordan of Tor Books.  GRRM has a habit of sneaking in these subtle tips of the cap to other fantasy authors throughout his books--off the top of my head, I can recall such nods to Robert Jordan as just mentioned, along with authors (or their fantasy creations) such as Tad Williams, J.K. Rowling, Mervyn Peake, Jack Vance, and L. Frank Baum.  This is something that those steeped in fantasy have grown to appreciate, so it seemed like a missed opportunity not to do this at least once in the HBO series--if you're going to leave out one of the sigils in the show in this scene, House Jordayne of the Tor seems like the worst choice since none of the houses mentioned have really played a major role in the story to date--they're just extra world-building.  So why not give a tip of the cap to George by including one of his sly references?

One other interesting tidbit on Oberyn: I'm reasonably sure that the young man that Ellaria Sand called "the procurer" was the same young man who slept with Ser Loras a little while back in the HBO series while doing some spying for Petyr Baelish.  Bringing him back is a nice touch.

On Jaime and Cersei Lannister, I noticed one interesting change: in here, Cersei seems to want to end their relationship.  In the books, she was all too willing to sleep with Jaime again, and it was Jaime who first fended Cirsei off when she tried to perform some fellatio on him, and only after that point did she become embittered toward him.  It's curious that they're taking things in the reverse direction here, though it doesn't really hurt the thrust of the plot either way. Jaime's scene with the White Book--the book chronicling the deeds of the Kingsguard--was also more effective in the novel, as we actually see him sit down and write in the book, which in some ways marks the beginning of him "turning the page" to a new life.  Of course, this could still happen in the HBO series, and I wouldn't be surprised if it does--it's probably easier to set up a mention of the White Book in advance in the manner they did.

Dany's scenes seemed fine, but they've clearly gotten a new actor to play the role of Daario Naharis.  That's fine since I wasn't that big of a fan of the last guy ...but it would have been nice if they at least made a modest attempt to bring in an actor who looked a little bit like his predecessor.  They didn't even try, and that was jarring.  On the flip side of things, it was nice to see that in Sansa and Jon's scenes, the same actors are back playing Janos Slynt, Ser Alliser Thorne, and Ser Dontos despite the fact that none of them were part of the show last year.

That brings us to the most interesting part of all from this episode: the Hound and Arya.  This scene was great--the acting in particular was just phenomenal--but I was really surprised that it happened in the first episode.  In A Storm of Swords, the equivalent scene takes place much closer to the end of the book.  Sandor receives a bad injury to his leg, and Arya has a chance to finally kill him.  Instead, she takes the horse and leaves him to die.  Soon afterward she uses the coin from Jaqen H'gar to book passage on a ship to Braavos.  That is the end of her arc in ASOS.  So now I'm curious what will happen with her arc going forward this season.  Will it spill into chapters from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons?  Is there another fight coming that's not in the books that will injure Sandor, or do they part ways somehow else?  If Sandor doesn't receive some grave injury, that is a big detour from the books.  In terms of the material they can use for Arya's arc this season, they can also backtrack some and use some of the other chapters from earlier in ASOS, such as when the two of them make that crossing of a river during a bad storm (which river escapes me).  But even so, if they do some backtracking here and there, Arya's storyline (and the Hound's) is now open to a ton of speculation concerning the rest of this season.

Polliver getting killed by Arya is also a slight variation from the books.  In ASOS, he is there in that scene, but it's the Hound who kills him and Arya retrieves Needle from him afterward.  Instead, Arya kills the Tickler, and instead of repeating what HBO's Polliver said to Lommy, she repeats what the Tickler said to those innocents he was torturing in A Clash of Kings: "Is there any gold hidden in the village?! Silver?! Gems?! Where is Lord Beric?!"  She was far more vicious when she did this, maybe sobbing (can't remember) and I found it far more powerful and effective in the book, but really, this is no judgment on HBO or Maise.  Her scene was great, just stating my preference here.

There are probably some other little things I could get into, but this is more than enough.  Until next week!

Another season of HBO's Game of Thrones is upon us, which means I'll spend another season guessing how the episodes will end, as well as offering some thoughts after each episode. There are spoilers below the cut for those not read up on the books (note I said books--I'm going to get into some stuff beyond A Storm of Swords).

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Oz Reimagined: Amazon Bookshelf Favorite

  • Apr. 3rd, 2014 at 3:23 PM

I have been informed by the powers that be that Oz Reimagined has been selected as an Amazon Bookshelf Favorite.  For the month of April you can purchase the trade paperback version at 10% off the usual price.  

Realms of Fantasy: August 2010 (Issue 95)

  • Mar. 15th, 2014 at 12:07 AM

ROF August

Part ninety-five in my comprehensive retrospective as I read the fiction in Realms of Fantasy and offer my thoughts, right up to the final issue.  This time around I’ll be dissecting the August 2010 issue.

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Realms of Fantasy: June 2010 (Issue 94)

  • Feb. 16th, 2014 at 8:28 PM

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One of my old Realms of Fantasy slush survivors has found its way to PodCastle: "Sand Castles" by Desirina Boskovich.  When Sovereign Media canceled the magazine, this was the last story in the last issue, so until Warren Lapine bought the magazine, this story held the distinction of being the last story published in RoF.  You can listen to it here.  

Realms of Fantasy: April 2010 (Issue 93)

  • Jan. 16th, 2014 at 12:24 AM

Part ninety-three in my comprehensive retrospective as I read the fiction in Realms of Fantasy and offer my thoughts, right up to the final issue.  This time around I’ll share some thoughts regarding the April 2010 issue.

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Oz Reimagined: U.K. Kindle Monthly Deal

  • Jan. 7th, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Oz Reimagined is part of the U.K. Kindle Monthly Deal.  From today until February 3rd you can purchase the Kindle edition for $.99 (pretend I inserted the symbol for British pounds instead of American dollars).  Get your copy here.   


Douglas Cohen

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