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review 2017-04-29 20:33
Review: The Great Ordeal
The Great Ordeal: Book Three (The Aspect-Emperor Trilogy) - R. Scott Bakker

So . . . enough of this series, then. Book two's long, boring segments turned out to be setup for more long, boring segments. This was 180 pages worth of content spread over 497 pages of endless tedium. At some point repetitive slaughter is just boring. I was so bored with the Battle of the Bastards that I almost fell asleep watching it, and this is hundreds of pages of the same slaughter without giving me even a single character to care about.


Admittedly, there are some cool scenes, but I am just so done with this whole tedious sausagefest.


I will never get those hours back, y'all.


Please send whiskey, chocolate, and bad ass ladies.

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text 2016-10-06 03:24
Millions of Peaches
The Great Ordeal: Book Three (The Aspect-Emperor Trilogy) - R. Scott Bakker

Had a chat with a friend about this one a few days after it came out. Five years ago, we read the previous book in this series. This is the third book in the second trilogy in a post apocalyptic brutal fantasy series. We read the first book about 12 years ago. 


He said he knows his reading tastes have changed and that he wonders if this will seem more misogynistic than he recalls the series being, not because it is, but because he knows he has a different perspective. 


I told him I could still remember the feeling of relief when reading the previous one, that the soldiers started calling the women's camp "the grainery" because, at last, 5 books in, there was finally a term for women other than peaches - a derogatory term that crossed all class and culture boundaries in the original trilogy. 


I'm not sure how far my friend has gotten, but I'm only a little into this door stopper. There's a summary at the front of each one to remind the reader of the various plot threads from previous giant door stoppers. Well, that and to make sure we know some woman's clothes were ripped off - a detail I can't seem to be convinced is plot relevant, but is apparently something super important for us to recall 5 years later. 



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review 2016-07-29 17:41
Their lives mattered only in their sum
The Great Ordeal: Book Three (The Aspect-Emperor Trilogy) - R. Scott Bakker

It would be impossible to discuss anything that happens in the third book of R. Scott Bakker’s Aspect Emperor series without massive spoilage so I’m only going to hint at what’s happened since the end of The White-Luck Warrior and offer a few thoughts on the series [NB: I’m going to assume readers of this review have read the latter book and will not avoid mentioning events from it].

The last book ended on several cliff hangers: In Momemn, Maithanet had been assassinated and Esmenet had seized total control only to have the Fanim arrive to besiege the city; Kelmomas lurked in the crevices of the Andiamine Heights, a poisonous little half-Dûnyain toad. In the Ordeal, Sorweel and Kellhus’ children Serwa and Moënghus traveled to Ishterebinth, the last Nonman Mansion, to be hostages in an alliance. And Achamian and Mimara finally reached Ishuäl, the Dûnyain retreat, only to find it in ruins. Book three picks up on all of these threads and adds that of Nersei Proyas, Achamian’s erstwhile student and Kellhus’ second-in-command:

Momemn: Kelmomas continues to manipulate Esmenet as only an eight-year-old child can, though with the abilities of a Dûnyain, and becomes fascinated with and terrified of the White-Luck Warrior – Maithanet’s assassin – who now lives at the palace. The New Empire teeters on the brink of dissolution.

The Ordeal: Kellhus reveals to Proyas the real motivations behind the Ordeal and provokes a crisis of belief in the Believer-King. The army as a whole continues to be tempered in the fires of battling Sranc and Bashrag, and this thread ends with a catastrophic battle at Dagliash.

Ishterebinth: The hostages immediately find that things are not as they seem in the last Mansion (though there are hints that Kellhus and his children were aware that something was not quite right about the proposed alliance), and Sorweel is key to awakening an ancient Nonman power.

Ishuäl and environs: Mimara and Achamian fall in with the last two survivors of Ishuäl, a son and grandson of Kellhus, and continue their journey to Golgotterath. Their thread ends in the wilderness south of Agongorea, where they fall in with an old acquaintance of Achamian’s thought long dead.

As I said, to expand further would almost immediately get into spoilers so I’ll leave it at that. If you’ve gotten this far in the series, then you have to read The Great Ordeal and hope Bakker gets the final book out soon because he’s ratcheted up the stakes and I honestly don’t know how he’s going to end things. Though I and others have commented on the parallels between this story and Tolkien (especially the journey through Cil-Aujas), Eärwa is not Middle-earth, the Hundred Gods are not the Valar, Achamian is not Gandalf, and Kellhus is most certainly not Aragorn. While you can’t possibly root for the Consult to win, its opponent – the Great Ordeal – is as damned as they are; fanatics who would find a comfortable home in any real-life fundamentalist extremist movement whether Christian, Jewish or Moslem (or Buddhist or Hindu, for that matter). Bakker’s universe is extraordinarily bleak from humanity’s point of view - Their lives, they understood, mattered only in their sum. And since this is the grim truth of all human life, the insight possessed the character of revelation (p. 268) – and yet some souls are saved and there are hints that life is not as crushingly hopeless as it appears when stripped of the comforting delusions humans create.

I can’t help but recommend this book and this series. It’s not for everyone, however. Bakker succeeds (IMO) in combining epic fantasy with serious philosophy but the philosophy is pretty deep and I can see where many will be put off by it. If you’re looking for something with a little more intellectual heft than Games of Thrones or nearly all other fantasies, then this is the one for you.

[A complaint about the editing: Whoever proofed the galleys for this edition should be fired. There are an unconscionable number of typos and grammar errors that even a novice copy editor should have caught. Overlook Press is living up to its name, unfortunately.]

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review 2016-06-17 00:00
Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists
Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anth... Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists - Adrian Collins,Mark Alder,R. Scott Bakker,Bradley P. Beaulieu,Michael R. Fletcher,T. Frohock,Alex Marshall,Peter Orullian,Jeff Salyards,Courtney Schafer,Shawn Speakman,Brian Staveley,Adrian Tchaikovsky,Marc Turner,Matthew Ward,Kaaron Warren,Mazar More than successfully funded on Kickstarter :D!
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text 2015-06-13 12:40
Worldbuilding: Harrison vs. Bakker

Wm. Timlin - The Seven Sisters

In my ongoing exploration of worldbuilding, I've gotten a great deal of inspiration from the observations of writers like Harrison, Le Guin, and Moorcock. Harrison's essays in particular helped me to put voice to my concerns about the worldbuilding obsession, my attempt to understand how it operates, and what purpose it serves. Yet, I've found relatively few writers able to write eloquently on worldbuilding's behalf, which is unfortunate, because it makes the issue feel one-sided. Of course, if it is as Harrison says, and the worldbuilding urge comes out of a desire for control, simplification, rote memorization, and authority, then it would make sense that individuals who are on the side of worldbuilding would not tend to be theorists, questioners, and underminers, searching for reasons.


I had heard that author R. Scott Bakker's response to Harrison (in this interview) was precisely the well-constructed, pro-worldbuilding manifesto I had been looking for--but unfortunately, far from presenting his own theory of the utility and purpose of worldbuilding, the response quickly devolves into a disappointing 'us vs. them' distraction, the tired old narrative of the Average Joe tilting at Ivory Towers, attacking Harrison's person and motives without ever presenting a clear refutation of his views.

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