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December 28, 2017

Book: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:18 pm

imageThis is the second book in the series King Killer Chronicles, the exhilarating first book, The Name of the Wind, was reviewed earlier here. I don’t want to repeat myself but I am frustrated by the reluctance of authors like Patrick Rothfuss and George RR Martin to finish what they have so gloriously started but I realize I am not alone in this one!

 

This story takes off where the old one ends. The setting is the same. Kvothe tells his own story to the Chronicler, so all of this is really a reminiscence of the past by Kvothe. But apart from the breaks where we come back to the ‘present’ the story flows coherently and effortlessly from Patrick’s skilled narration. Here is the gist of the story.

 

Kote appears very tired and Bast is worried sick. When the Chronicler returns from his long sleep, Bast privately pleads with him to make Kote remember who he really is.

 

The story continues exactly from where it left off in the first book. Kvothe (the ‘real’ Kote)  now is desperate to collect enough talents to continue his studies in the university. He is unable to find a patron and plays a musical joke on the audience in his performance at the Inn.

 

Elodin takes him up as a student and also has his access to the Archives reinstated. Kvothe also discovers that the mad Master Elodin knows Auri.

 

He meets Denna again and realizes that Ambrose took a ring of sentimental value and never gave it  back. so he goes to steal it for her. Ends in a miserable failure and also realizes that he is the target of wizardry and protects himself by initially having someone watch him when he sleeps and keeping his Alar (defence) up when he is awake. He burns bridges with Devi when he suspects her of having provided his blood to someone at Ambrose’s request.

 

Finally realizes that Ambrose is to blame and tries to lure him with the stunningly beautiful Fela whom Simmon, his friend, is beginning to fall in love with.

 

He also thinks his lute is stolen until he realizes that it is returned to him with a great case as a gift by Deanna.

 

He takes revenge on Ambrose by starting a fire in his apartment and destroying the wax / clay puppet used to target himself by Ambrose.

 

Kvothe loses Denna for a while. (What is she? The book implies that she does favours to her patrons, but does not explain what those favours might be). He also demonstrates a device that will stop arrows shot at any particular target.

 

He is arrested for “sorcery” – the earlier incident of Calling the Wind – and that scene is fabulous  to read. Then he is released but it has deep ramifications on his future.

 

He is forced to take a term off from University and then goes to serve a very rich man in Vinitas, the Maer. He foils a plot to poison him by his own medic Claudicon who is also an arcanist. He then successfully helps his benefactor woo the woman the Maer wants. He goes to catch bandits. All beautifully told and really more interesting than the dry narration above. Read the book for the full effect.

 

He then  meets Denna and has a flaming row with her. Then the Maer sends him hunting for highway robbers who are threatening the tax collectors and hence his income. Kvothe learns tracking skills with Marten, one of the team mates. Tempi, the funny Adem warrior, slowly becomes a friend. All this until Kvothe realizes that the Maer has sent him deliberately to what he hoped would be his, Kvothe’s,  death.

 

When they find the bandit camp, in spite of Dedan getting almost captured, Kvothe saves the day in an unbelievable set of amazing feats which are fantastic to read. The leader of the camp seems to have escaped, indeed vanished into thin air so to speak, but before that Kvothe glimpses something familiar about him but could not put his finger on it. A wicked tree later tells him that it was the chief of Chandrian in disguise.

 

Then he meets, on his way back, Felurian, a faerie that lures men like a siren into her clutches and never lets them go. He manages to escape unhurt using all his wiles. Brilliant narration again. He gets a cloak of Shadow from her and returns. He also meets the tree that can tell the future.

 

Tempi, glad to have him back,  teaches him Adem language and also the way of the Lathani, he goes with Tempi to Adem to defend the latter. A lovely description of Adem culture, the significance of hand gestures (which Kvothe always thought of as fidgeting initially) are all very well told.

 

How he gets admitted to the Hammer, his serial humiliations and his triumph in the Test with the spinning leafs tree are all wonderfully told. Patrick seems to be able to create an entirely new culture and city and seamlessly take you through its intricacies, which is fun to read. (And increases your frustration that the third installment is nowhere to be seen, with not even a publishing date announced!)

 

Some parts are contrived, where Adem think that sex has nothing to do with babies. Kvothe’s  final farewell and leaving Ademre is interesting. He then joins an Edema group and finds out that they are not Edema Ruh at all and also rescues two girls and takes them back to their town.

 

He is back with Maer now. There is a thrilling interlude where, to your horror, the invincible Kvothe is beaten up badly by just two ordinary thugs in front of the Chronicler. You don’t realize how much you identify with Kvothe and his powers until you realize that you are in shock!

 

How he decides to leave the Maer is also very interesting. Maer’s  wife’s visceral hatred of the Edema Ruh plays a part.

 

Back at the University, he finds Simmons and Fela are together now and he catches up with Deanna again. His arrangements with the bursar makes him rich for the first time ever.

 

Exhilarating narration. At least as good as the first one . Can’t wait for the next (and the last, as this is supposed to be a trilogy) installment.

 

8/10

–  – Krishna

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Movie: Spiderman – Homecoming (2017)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:53 pm

imageThis is another reboot on Spiderman. This takes a completely different tack. If you have read the comics, you will know that the Spiderman comics always has a different feel to it than Superman, Batman, or almost any other comic.

 

Spiderman comics always has some humour flowing right through it, with the self-deprecating Peter Parker kind of humble and even gauche in his own way unlike the supremely confident Iron Man or Batman or any other superhero really. This movie brings out the humour in loads. It also overdoes it, a little bit.

 

There is a deadly twist in this movie too, like Hollywood does in almost all of the fantasy movies (Be it fairy-tale told differently a la Maleficent, or even the famous Frozen, which is a great movie but so twisted from the original that someone had to tell me that it is basically the story of the Snow Queen!) And I think it is a good development because it makes the story that much more interesting; otherwise, however well done, it will be all gadgetry and special effects and not much more.

 

The story is about the boy Peter Parker (done well by Tom Holland  – I don’t mean to be unkind but so much better than Toby McGuire indeed). And here is the other thing; they skip over the part where Peter Parker (in the original comic book) got his powers by being bitten by a rare (genetically engineered? I don’t remember) spider. He simply is an apprentice of the Iron Man. Was this the case in the comics? With so much improvisation, I can hardly tell anymore.

 

The story takes off from the Captain America : Civil War where Tom Holland plays Spiderman too. Sidelined after the action, Peter Parker decides to go solo solving crimes, against the advice of his mentor Iron Man (reprised by Robert Downey Jr who has a sense of comic timing that keeps him famous in that role). After a few unintentional disasters when he was trying to do ‘the right thing’ he wants to stop. In the meanwhile his close friend Nat discovers his secret.

 

He tries to put it away but when he realizes that Liz, a girl in his school whom he has a great crush on (and refreshingly from a different race in conformance with the times), has a crush on Spiderman, he is conned into wearing the suit again, as Nat blabs that Peter ‘knows Spiderman well’. A lot of scenes are hilarious like the one where he finds that the web making fluid has run out and he has to literally run to catch up with a moving van instead of jauntily swinging from conveniently placed objects as he is wont to do usually.

 

The supervillain in this movie is Vulture, who hates Iron Man for costing him his job and also halting his research. He goes rogue with the superhuman technology that he has managed to smuggle out (Yes, this is a supehero movie; many people routinely invent/ come across/ inherit technology that can ‘wipe out the world’ or at least a small part of it.)

 

After some extremely spectacular stunts where Peter is saved by the timely arrival of Iron Man in some cases and making very mature choices to stand on the side of justice in spite of the fact that it hurts, Peter is finally acknowledged as a super hero inside as well as outside by Tony Stark, the Iron Man.

 

Nice story and nice twists and great visuals and action. (Not the jerking motion of camera in some of the older action movies that leave you confused and with some headache). But with all the hype, if your expectations are raised to the level that mine were, also mildly disappointing.

 

7/10

–  –  Krishna

December 21, 2017

Book: World Without End by Ken Follet

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:15 pm

imageThis story happens many years after the events in the Pillars of the Earth, in the same Kinghtbridge area. You will see quite a bit of parallels – interest in architecture by some, the church hierarchy in the story etc but this is still quite a different tale in the same style and atmosphere.  What follows are the details of the story, as this preamble gives fully my impressions on the book.

Eight year old Gwenda in Knightbridge Priory with Ma and Pa and an elder brother Philemon and a baby.

Gwenda is forced to steal the coins from a merchant, who happens to be the father of Merthin. Also there is Tom Builder’s son, who is now a fairly rich merchant, and we hear about Prior Anthony who is his brother. The daughter of the merchant meets a knight who is waylaid by by queen’s men but manages to kill them and gets Merthin’s help to bury them. Gwenda’s dad steals from the dead men and gets into trouble with the guards when he tries to sell the stolen stuff. They let Gwenda and her dad  go alive after recovering the bodies.

 

Merthin and Claris are in love but Merthin, in a moment of weakness makes love to Griselda.

He is also interested in building, like Tom Builder’s son in the first novel, Pillars of The Earth

Godwyn is an ambitious monk who catches Richard, a monk, fornicating with a girl and uses it to his advantage. He also plots against Prior Anthony, who in his weakness and old age has gone soft, and allows the sexes to mingle in the church instead of banning females from entering the church.

Merthin, in the meanwhile, finds that his labour of love, the door, is destroyed by a vengeful Elfric, Griselda’s father, and learns that Griselda is pregnant.

He tells Claris, his real love, of his infidelity but at that moment, the bridge on the town breaks with tons of people, horses, carts etc on it, falling into the river.

Godwyn continues to plot, and places Thomas in place of privilege. He destabilizes Carlus the blind priest, who will not be controlled by him and makes him fall while carrying a sacred relic. In the meanwhile, Gwenda cannot attract Wulfric away from  Annette even when she tries all her wiles and uses love potion.

In the meanwhile Godwyn plots to humiliate Carlus and exclude him from the election to the prior and he wants pliable Thomas in his place. He then  brilliantly engineers his own election to the Prior.

In the meanwhile Caris and Merthin have sex and then Merthin’s design for the new bridge is pitted against Elfric’s in a town council meeting. He wins but is stopped by his own brother Roland who instigates the Earl to levy tax on the quarry and in the resulting quarrel also kills one of Merthin’s men. A judge in England rules in favour of Merthin. But when the work on the bridge starts, Caris realizes that her dad Edmund is becoming a pauper.

They patch up and Ralph becomes a lord. In order to ensure that Wulfric gets his inheritance, Gwenda agrees to have sex with Ralph but he betrays his promise nevertheless and Wulfric and Gwenda live together when Annette spurns him and goes on to marry another man.

Calris lies with Merthin, becomes pregnant but decided to abort and not marry Merthin. He is devastated but when he turns his attention to Liz, his assistant, Caris is torn.

Gwenda also becomes pregnant and gives birth to a boy. When there is a recession, Caris learns that her father Edmund may become a pauper and devises a way to increase revenue by using dyes and weaving.

Meanwhile, Caris takes the battle with Godwyn. Having won the battle with Earl, he gets cocky and asks everyone to pay toll for grinding the grain and Caris loses the battle when the wily Godwyn ensures that the King’s court does not hear the case as the townspeople are in effect serfs.

Ralph rapes Annette and Wulfric is furious, only stopped from killing Ralph by Gwenda. The case goes to trial and Merthin realizes Ralph could lose his life over this. He persuades Wulfric to tamper evidence to release Ralph for a lot fo money.  He refuses and Ralph runs away when he realizes that he will surely be hanged, becoming an outlaw and a fugitive from justice.

He is captured, and pardoned by king if he joins the army. In the meanwhile, with Edmund falling ill, Caris and Elfric stand for alderman election and Godwyn plots to get Caris killed as a witch to eliminate the competition. As Caris is about to lose, she gets the help of the senior nun and escapes death by promising to join the convent and become a nun. Godwyn is furious but helpless. Merthin is crushed because now he cannot have Caris, ever.

He leaves for Florence and eight years pass.

Caris uncovers theft by prior Godwyn and his sidekick Philomen and has to go find the Bishop who has left for France.

The French are numerically superior, but to Ralph’s surprise (he is in the English army, with the king now) they fight stupidly and keep losing. Ralph, saving the crown prince’s life, finally earns his knighthood and becomes a Lord.

Merthin nearly dies in a plague but loses his wife and comes back to Knightbridge a very wealthy man, and meets Caris. He pleads with her to marry him and ‘look after his daughter’. She seems to tell him that she wants to continue in the monastery, much to his consternation!

He tries to get Wulfric pardoned but Ralph will not listen.

The plague reaches Knightsbridge and people are popping off. Godwyn will not let Merthin build a new cathedral. When the head sister dies, Caris and Elizabeth contest in the election but Godwyn plots the downfall of Caris. When she has about given up the plague strikes the sisters who refused to wear the mask calling it witchcraft and a heathen practice.

When Petronella herself succumbs to the plague, Godwyn panics and gets all monks to run away with him in the middle of the night and with bishop coming in, Caris gets anointed as prioress and also acting prior, much to Elfric’s rage. When an outlaw reveals where Godwyn is, Caris and Merthin go together to confront him, only to find all monks dead except Thomas and retrieve the hidden church treasure stolen by Godwyn. Elfric dies and Merthin is elected alderman in his place. All because of the plague, which tapers and stops finally. Merthin and Caris rekindle their passion and resume carnal relationship in secret.

The town is afraid that it has come back when Lord Edward succumbs to it and Petranella fears losing her children to it too. Ralph decided to kill Tilly so that he could marry Petranella and become the Earl in place of Edward.

Ralph executes a daring raid on the abbey, kills a nun, gets to know the treasury and steals all scrolls. He is in a mask, and also takes coins and jewellery to make it look like a robbery. In addition, he manages to kill Tilly and drop her into a burning room but Merthin recovers the body and they realize she was killed by a sword wound.

Ralph promised Gregory Longfellow, the unscrupulous royal representative, the scrolls. When he delivers them to Gregory, his step to Earldom seems almost done, provided he can convince Philippa whom he adored anyway from a young age, despite her being older than he.

Merthin and Caris guess it was Ralph who was behind the “robbery” and why but are powerless to prove any of it.

Philippa is forced to give Odilla, her daughter, in marriage to Ralph by the king’s orders “conveyed by Gregory, his lawyer” upon pain of being accused of treason if she refused to comply.  She accepts her fate and marries Ralph, thereby finally making him an earl. He is now bored with her and agrees to get Odilla, the daughter married to another earl David, in return for Philippa to go into a monastery. When she reaches there and Caris again walks away from Merthin, choosing religion over him, he walks out on her and Philippa and he fall in love.

When Philippa gets pregnant, she seduces Ralph so that he will believe the child is his and has to move back to him. Caris finally decides to renounce being a nun and takes over a second hospital being built by Merthin. She is now married to Merthin at last but Philomen wants to become the archbishop next!

Gwenda’s son Sam runs away to the next village to work illegally and when Gwenda goes to see him, she is followed and they try to catch Sam. He kills Ralph’s man and flees but is captured (due to his limited intelligence).

When Ralph realizes that Sam is his son from a talk with Gwenda, he pardons him but insists that he join Ralph as a squire. In addition, his other son is thwarted both in his attempt to plant the dye making plant mandrag and his request that he marry Annette’s daughter. Gwenda is fully crushed.

Merthin’s daughter Lolla falls into bad company and keeps running away from home. Meanwhile Caris and Merthin try to thwart Philomen’s new ambition to become Bishop and enlist Henri’s help.

When the plague comes back, the monks run away again. Gwenda is repeatedly made to submit to Ralph who seems to have a thing for her.

The end of Ralph and the final solution for Philomen are loose ends that are tied up to everyone’s satisfaction at the conclusion of the book.

Great story, absorbing reading. 8/10

    – – Krishna

Movie: Wonder Woman (2017)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:04 pm

image.jpgThis one took the world by storm and launched Gal Godot, the Israeli actress into the world of US Sequels. Some of you may know that she won this solo role based on the smaller role she did as Wonder Woman in the earlier Batman vs Superman movie but based on the buzz that this one received, she is now one of the sought after stars, as they say ‘in the Hollywood firmament’.

 

But I have multiple gripes about this film. I confess that, even though I grew up reading comics so long ago, I have not read the Wonder Woman series when it came out as comics and so this movie may be truthfully following the comic books but I still do not like it. What am I complaining about? Mixing jingoism with a fast paced story. I know that some of you will point out that the entire existence of Captain America is jingoistic. That I can take. After all the entire army of Superheroes seem to make America their primary home and protecting other countries is just an incidental benefit when they primarily save Americans from evil forces. But at least they fight the supernatural villains. Here, the whole story is about fighting the Nazi Germans. They just gave a double twist – one of them being who is the real super villain who is orchestrating the whole thing; and the second, making that person a divine deity taking human form to deceive others.

 

In spite of this, this is all about an all American pilot Steve Taylor (played well by Chris Pine, he of the newly rebooted Star Trek series fame) and Diana aka Wonder Woman, who does not realize her own divinity until very late into the movie, played to perfection by Gal Godot. They battle the evil Germans to the bitter end, and also face Ares, the God who turned evil and wreaks destruction upon the whole world through Nazis, silently, until forced at the end to take on the elemental Super Villain form to battle it out one on  one with Wonder Woman.

 

The movie is fast paced enough. Well made with tight sequences with a faux evil man fronting all the time – and it is a genuine surprise when he (relatively) tamely dies in the hands of the Wonder Woman. Minutes later, we realize who the real deal is. This is a nice surprise!

 

Let us briefly think about the story. Diana grows up in an Amazonian island where God Zeus hid them to escape the wrath of  Ares, the fallen God (Shades of Satan, the fallen angel, right?) She learns to fight in spite of her mother’s reluctance because the mother realizes that the fight is coming with Ares and that only the God Killer, the special sword that they have as a gift from Zeus. She becomes superlative in her fight and unwittingly hurts her teacher through anger translate to a powerful blow. That is a hint to us about her supernatural abilities (as if we could not tell from the title of the movie) though she does not understand what it is. The fact of her supernatural origins is kept a secret from her. Of course.

She meets and falls in love with the pilot Steve Taylor when he and the Germans following him crash into the hidden Amazonian world. The Germans have guns and the women have only swords and arrows and predictably a slaughter ensues even though ultimately, by sheer expertise in war, the women win. One of the slain is the teacher, dear to Diana’s heart.

 

Diana leaves with Steve knowing that Ares is behind the evil force of the Nazis (huh? This is where I lost the ‘even cartoon world’ logic that they were trying to portray) and that she had to find and kill him. She of course takes the God Killer with her with her mother’s consent.

 

Hilarious scenes follow of her trying to understand modern American way of life – it is kind of predictable but still cute and endearing. They both predictably fall in love and in the end, she is left alone – no doubt to pursue or be pursued by suitable other romantic interests in the sequels.

 

Ares tests her to the limit and she almost gets killed a number of times, escaping by a hair’s breadth. So it is all interesting and fun but the nagging entanglement of the War and the Good Vs Evil still seems out of place in a superhero movie.

Good entertainment but I would give it a 6/10, perhaps shocking many of you.

–  –  Krishna

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