“Dreamer” by Brandon Sanderson (from the “Games Creatures Play” anthology)

games-creatures-playDREAMER (from the “Games Creatures Play” anthology)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 6 April 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Welcome to the wide world of paranormal pastimes, where striking out might strike you dead. Editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner are your announcers for this all-new story collection of the most peculiar plays ever made….

Sports fans live and die by their teams’ successes and failures—though not literally. But these fourteen authors have written spirited—in more ways than one—new tales of killer competitions that would make even the most die-hard players ask to be benched.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson’s “Dreamer,” a game of cops and robbers is a new challenge when the players are able to switch bodies at will.

Disclosure: Of course I only decided to read this anthology because Branderson has a story in it. 😉

I must admit I was surprised to see Brandon Sanderson’s name included in an anthology by Harris and Kelner because their collections often feature paranormal elements. But I did say I will read anything he publishes, so…

In his blog post on the release of the book, Branderson classified “Dreamer” as a horror short story. As I was reading it, though, it didn’t feel horror or paranormal.

It begins in the middle of a deadly chase and, as the synopsis says, the people involved can switch bodies at will. The entire story is, in fact, one continuous dynamic chase scene reminiscent of those in “Steelheart”.

I always expect a certain level of world-building and a well-defined magic system from Branderson no matter how short the story, and he doesn’t disappoint here. But perhaps that expectation is what killed this for me in the end. See, after the action-packed chase and after unraveling the rules of the world, I expected the ending to reveal some strange creatures or people with out-of-this-world abilities, but no. It was simple. So deceptively simple. Maybe that’s the downside to reading too much Sanderson–you don’t expect him to write something simple anymore. embarrassed But that is also the charm of the story–that something simple was set up so creatively. I just wish it felt more paranormal considering the anthology it was part of.

Harris and Co.’s usual readers will definitely enjoy this story, especially if they are new to Branderson. Sharders like me are in for a nice surprise.

meep!

So I finished “Words of Radiance” by Brandon Sanderson around a week or so back (1,100 friggin’ pages; approx 24,000 e-book locations), and now I’m re-reading “The Way of Kings” because, predictably, I missed SO MANY THINGS from that first book. And now I am unable to move to any other book–not that very tempting “Black Ice” ARC, not even our book club book, “The Last Chinese Chef”–and I’m pretty sure I’ll re-read “Words of Radiance” after this. I feel like Branderson dropped me into one of the chasms in the Shattered Plains (Stormlight-assisted, of course) and did not leave a ladder so I can climb back out. Help! (or not.)

Dear [me]: Brandon Sanderson



Google Play released this video of Brandon Sanderson reading a letter to Robert Jordan after finishing “A Memory of Light”. I can’t believe he never met RJ before, not even as a fan! o_O

Also, I haven’t gotten into “Wheel of Time” yet, so I only know Sanderson by his original works. I’m sure there are a lot of readers like me, and a lot who have come to admire him after discovering him through WoT and then reading his original stuff.

No worries, Brandon. No worries.

Branderson won a Hugo!

Caution: O.C. Fangirl Blogging

What do you do when your favorite author wins a Hugo? *squee!* *blog!*

Congrats, Brandon! Indeed, “The Emperor’s Soul” is worth it.

✻• ✻• ✻• ✻• ✻• ✻• ✻

 
Meanwhile, in the Hall of Justice on the Orion Publishing Group website

Dude, why are the UK edition covers so pretty? It’s a good thing I don’t have physical copies of these yet because my collection would have been messed up.

“Steelheart” is out this month! [Read the excerpt from Chapter 1]

An excerpt from Sanderson’s “Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2)”!

WordsofRadiance-BrandonSandersonFriends and colleagues may have memories of me lugging around a HUGE book sometime in 2011. Readers of this blog might remember that I even talked about metaphorical relationships.

It seems like I have to get ready for yet another “relationship” with a Sanderson novel in January 2014 because he just tweeted the other day that he has turned in the first draft of the sequel to “The Way of Kings“.

 
I’m pretty sure we’re going to have another long, drawn-out date because he was tossing around stats like an 11,000-word epilogue, and an unedited, unfinished, 1,650-page draft.

gape GIF

 
So, anyway. Tor.com just posted an excerpt from “Words of Radiance”, the sequel to “The Way of Kings”. This is from an Interlude, which I talked about in my review of “Kings” before as one of those very short scenes that don’t necessarily fit in the main story, but are definite pieces of a larger puzzle.

This Interlude concerns Taravangian, King of Karbranth. He was in “Kings”, too, although my memories of him are not very pleasant.

This part, perhaps, is the most intriguing from that excerpt:

Life could be tricky for a man who awoke each morning with a different level of intelligence. Particularly when the entire world might depend upon his genius, or might come crashing down upon his idiocy.

Apparently, King T has trusted assistants who test him each morning to see what level of intelligence he woke up with, and they determine what kind of kingly duties he is fit to take on.

This brings up soooo many questions, like: What’s the royal protocol when he wakes up on a Stupid Day? Who gets to be King on Stupid Day, or does the court just…shut down? Just how stupid does he get on a Stupid Day? They only test him using Math problems, which is probably a very good indicator, but I’m not sure if that really captures his entire mental capacity for the day. And what is the Diagram?

Gah! So many questions for just that tiny Interlude. I can imagine how the whole book is gonna mess with my brain.

Hopefully, I don’t end up all Crabbe and Goyle-ish. crabbe_goyle

“The Rithmatist” by Brandon Sanderson

The RithmatistThe Rithmatist
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 10 June 2013
Goodreads Reading Status Updates: None. I was too busy reading and bookmarking on Kindle for PC!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: Adults will appreciate the layers and complexities in the world and in the plot that Sanderson so carefully constructed, while younger readers will definitely enjoy the brisk plot and the familiar YA and fantasy elements, as well as Sanderson’s trademark humor. And everyone will be creeped out by the twists and turns and the story’s villain.

✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.


 
To be honest, this must be Sanderson’s most WTF-inducing magic system yet. I mean, hello, moving chalk figures?! The thing is, it’s also one of his most inventive and exciting creations so far.

WARNING: Here There Be (mild) Spoilers. I won’t spoil major plot points, but I will discuss the magic system, and I have to mention a few significant events.

Continue reading

Other Stories: Despite the fangirling, somehow, it still comes around to books.

this is how i roll AVATARI’ve toyed with the idea of putting up another blog where I could write about non-book-related things and occasional personal stuff, but then I remembered that I put up a disclaimer that there will be non-book stuff in this blog because it’s The Girl Who Read and Other Stories after all, and stories are everywhere, not just in books. Besides, it’s just a pain to maintain too many blogs.

So, lest I protest too much, I will just go ahead and write, and…yeah, I’ll probably do this every weekend.

bag

Caution: Fangirl Blogging.

Continue reading

“The Emperor’s Soul” by Brandon Sanderson

Title: The Emperor’s Soul
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 20 December 2012
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.

Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal councillor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.

Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape…

 

☠ CAUTION: Detailed discussion ahead. Might be mildly spoilery, though no significant plot points are revealed.
Continue reading

Miscellany: Emo about AMoL + Steelheart Into Darkness + Book Nerd Confessions

“A Memory of Light,” the final book in Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” saga, was released in the U.S. today. And while starting the series is part of my Reading Goal this year so I don’t have much of a clue about the story, I nevertheless got kinda emo over Brandon Sanderson’s blog post about reading the final scene in the Saga. In truth, I even got emo back when I was reading a fan’s account of attending RJ’s funeral. I guess it’s the thought of RJ not being able to finish his magnum opus after years and years of effort. It’s a good thing he was organized enough to leave lots of notes and that he had enough time to leave instructions.

Or maybe I’m just plain emo at heart.

Also, it’s now a bit less intimidating for me to start “The Eye of the World” now that there’s an end in sight.

✿ ✿ ✿

steelheartSanderson’s next book up after AMoL is a dystopian YA (EDIT: Apparently this wasn’t the YA, it’s The Rithmatist) called “Steelheart”.

There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.

Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.

It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.

My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

It sounds epic! (And look, “epic” is now a pun in this context, so it’s very much intended.)

This is Sanderson, so I expect good humor and yet another fascinating magic system. It’s going to be interesting to see him do this kind of dystopian. The cover image hints at something a little more sci-fi-ish, so I also expect the world to be very different from his Cosmere-set epic fantasies.

Hrmmmm.

Okay, actually, the reason why this is giving me a sci-fi-ish, even a little steampunk vibe, is that cover art. You know, ‘coz there is this:

Star Trek Into Darkness

and THIS and THIS and…nevermind.

✿ ✿ ✿

Epic Reads has a fun post on the Undeniable Truths About Being A Book Nerd, and…dude, so many of these are true about me. But right now, I have a…

Book Hangover

And it’s all because I’m a bit drunk on Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One.”

Ready Player OneI would never call myself a gamer, but I do love video and computer games. My childhood favorites were The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.; I finished Diablo II, Final Fantasy VIII and several Resident Evils; I love the Mystery Case Files series; I obsessed about Angry Birds and Plants Versus Zombies, and I even have an NES emulator installed in my computer because I still want to play the old Zelda with the pixelized graphics. So I empathized a lot with Wade and his geekiness even though his life is a lot more extreme than mine.

I also related a lot with all the 1980’s references because I lived through those years and everything is just so familiar. I think there’s an added layer of enjoyment of this book for people who lived through the 1980’s or those who are very much immersed in that time’s pop culture.

It is by no means a perfect book even if I gave it 5/5 stars. The characters are pretty much game character archetypes (not sure if that’s intentional or just a product of the plot) and there are some rather cheesy analogies and story points. I had other pet peeves but I forgot them amid all the fun I was having. I loved the pacing of the story and the geekiness of it all, the effort Cline took to world-build the OASIS and its mini-games, and the way the narrative sucked me into the world. Reading this was more of an experience because I felt like I was actually playing along with Wade. His feeling of almost-emptiness after logging out of the OASIS to go back to the real world is akin to how I felt every time I had to stop reading the book to do some work.

So because I had so much fun reading this…5 stars! And a book hangover! I have to get over this so I can start our next TMRS Book Club Pick: “Open House” by Elizabeth Berg.

More geek confessions: Back when Steve Jobs died, I half-expected Apple to announce that he has a clause in his will that mandates the holding of some freaky grand Apple app-based tournament where the winner will get a million dollars. I really did. For serious. For realsies. Oh, well, I guess he’s saner than I imagined.

“Legion” by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Legion
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 9 October 2012
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Status Updates: click!
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Stephen Leeds is perfectly sane. It’s his hallucinations who are mad.

A genius of unrivaled aptitude, Stephen can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. However, to contain all of this, his mind creates hallucinatory people—Stephen calls them aspects—to hold and manifest the information. Wherever he goes, he is joined by a team of imaginary experts to give advice, interpretation, and explanation. He uses them to solve problems…for a price.

His brain is getting a little crowded, however, and the aspects have a tendency of taking on lives of their own. When a company hires him to recover stolen property—a camera that can allegedly take pictures of the past—Stephen finds himself in an adventure crossing oceans and fighting terrorists. What he discovers may upend the foundation of three major world religions—and, perhaps, give him a vital clue into the true nature of his aspects.

“My name is Stephen Leeds, and I am perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad.” That’s got to be the best opening line I’ve read in a while. It immediately made me laugh and set the tone of “Legion” perfectly.

Brandon Sanderson has another winner here, at least in terms of concept. The idea of a genius who copes with his abilities by creating hallucinatory people and having that same genius (and his hallucinations) be a kind of consulting detective ala Sherlock Holmes is just…well, genius. It’s rife with potential for so many interesting story lines.

So I was rather surprised that Sanderson chose the camera that can take pictures of the past as his MacGuffin for this story. It is intriguing and just as rife with potential as Leeds, but it’s difficult to get invested in something that I don’t fully understand. One of the draws of Sanderson’s epic fantasies for me is how much detail goes into the conceptualization of his magic systems. I like knowing how the magic works and seeing it at work, but by the end of the novella, we are back to square one with that camera. I understand that within the context of the novella, it’s difficult to explain the camera away considering the person who invented it is a theoretical physicist, and we would probably end up with a Michael Crichton-esque scientific exposition or something. But we didn’t get much of an explanation at all here, so I was left with more questions that not even Leeds and his hallucinations could answer.

Just as surprising to me is the choice of the secondary MacGuffin: photographic proof that Jesus indeed rose from the dead. But then I suppose if I had an unstable piece of equipment and I may have just a few chances of getting that camera to work, I would’ve gone for taking a picture of something as important and life-changing as the Resurrection as well.

Let’s go back to the camera’s inventor, Balubal Razon, because he’s significant to me more than anything else in this story. He’s “ethnically Filipino but second-generation American,” and he is intent on using science to prove his faith.

To be both a scientist and religious is to create an uneasy truce within a man. At the heart of science is accepting only that truth which can be proven. At the heart of faith is to define Truth, at its core, as being unprovable. Razon is a brave man because of what he is doing. Regardless of his discovery, one of two things he holds very dear will be upended.

I have no problems with how Razon is portrayed here, but I feel like he was written as ethnically Filipino so that the choice of villains can be justified. And who are the villains? Why, the Abu Sayyaf, of course–an Islamic separatist group based in the Southern Philippines, who has been responsible for what have been deemed as terrorist activities.

While in theory, a group like the AS could take advantage of the opportunity to disprove Christianity, in reality, their main goal is less grand than that. They are primarily concerned with the establishment of an autonomous Islamic region in the Philippines, and their resources and operations have always been geared towards that goal. Considering their circumstances, I find it a little hard to believe that they will pounce on something like this.

It is such a challenge to invoke suspension of disbelief when fiction strays a little too close to one’s reality because you can always find the smallest details to nitpick–like Salic speaking in Tagalog when I know it’s more likely he’s speaking one of the Mindanaon dialects.

SIDE NOTE: This aspect of the story is relevant now more than ever, by the way, because the Philippine government and the MILF just signed a framework agreement for the establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous entity.

I would really like to know what kind of thought process led Sanderson to this story line and why he chose the Muslim Extremists Out to Disprove Christianity route. I know that Sanderson is a religious person, but this is the first time a real-world religion has been at the forefront of one his stories, and I personally find it disappointing that he chose to highlight the antagonism. I’ve come to expect the unconventional from him, so I know that he is capable of thinking of something even more creative than the terrorist peg to give Razon some motivation and the story more of a thriller vibe. Og Mandino chose the safer route when he tackled the reality of the Resurrection in “The Christ Commission,” and that turned out to be an interesting approach, too. This is only my personal preference, though. To be fair, it does not take away from the story all that much.

When taken separately, the concepts of Leeds’ Legion and the camera are actually pretty awesome, but I didn’t like how they were used together here. I know from reading Sanderson’s novel annotations that he likes cannibalizing ideas from unfinished stories. When he did this in his other novels like “Mistborn”, it was never obvious, but this time, it feels like that’s indeed what he did–that Leeds and the camera were from two different stories. At least that’s how it came across to me.

Despite my misgivings about this particular story, I’d like to see Leeds and his legion take on other cases. I had fun with that aspect of the story so much, especially when the hallucinations started to have hallucinations. It’s just my kind of crazy.

“Infinity Blade: Awakening” by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Infinity Blade: Awakening
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 11 April 2012
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: Short and sweet!
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Trained from birth in swordplay and combat, a young knight named Siris has journeyed to the Dark Citadel with a single purpose: fight through the army of Titans to face the tyrannical God King in one-on-one combat. This was his father’s sacred mission, and his father’s before him, going back countless generations in an effort to free their people from enslavement. But when Siris somehow succeeds where all those from his bloodline previously have failed, he finds himself cast into a much larger world, filled with warriors and thieves, ancient feuds and shifting alliances, Deathless immortals and would-be kings. His quest for freedom will take him on an epic journey in search of the mythical figure known as the Worker of Secrets—the one being in the world who can unravel the secrets of the Infinity Blade.

Based on the bestselling video game from ChAIR Entertainment and Epic Games, this all-new adventure from acclaimed fantasy author Brandon Sanderson digs deeper into the fantastical world of Infinity Blade, a world of mystery and intrigue where magic and technology are indistinguishable, and even life and death are not what they seem.

Like he did in Mistborn, Branderson explores the concept of deities, their (im)mortality, and their place in a society whose traditions revolve around these entities in Infinity Blade: Awakening; it’s something that he does well.

I like the little plot twists that he managed to include even if this is just a novella, and of course, I love the dry humor. I also like that there are familiar fantasy creatures (trolls, golems–probably a holdover from the game) and that they are used in an interesting way.

Siris is not as compelling a character as Brandon’s other heroes, but he makes enough of an impression to at least carry the story. Same goes for Isa and even the God King. I’m not going to complain about this too much because there was little room to explore the characters in such a short story anyway.

I’m not sure how much of the magic system in play here is Brandon’s and how much is from the Infinity Blade game, but it works. I love how the basic concepts of our modern technology were integrated with fantasy tropes to create a rather entertaining system from a reader’s point of view, but one that also feels organic to the world of the novella. Looks like someone took Niven’s Law (“Any sufficiently rigorously defined magic is indistinguishable from technology.”) to heart. 😉

He glanced at his ring; its runes weren’t glowing. It hadn’t recharged yet. His hand brushed the throne as he moved, and there was a beep from the magical mirror on the armrest.

“Ring of Transportation,” the helpful voice said, “fifteenth generation, running service pack six. Please enter the password for activation.”

“Damn you!” Siris sputtered.

“Incorrect password.”

 
I can imagine all of it working nicely in the context of the video game, too.

It’s a pity this is just a companion piece to the game because I really want to see more of this world.