Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Top Ten - 9. The Hobbit

I don't think it really would have mattered when The Hobbit came out, it would have been successful. It just has that timeless quality about it, and it contains elements that never go out of style in a story. There's treasure, tricks, magic, adventure, action, and it contains a sense of wonder that many others don't. It introduced a new type of magical creature into modern mythology. I can't ever remember reading anything before that referenced a hobbit. Out of respect to Tolkien, and possibly because of legal action from his estate, books published after don't do more than mention hobbits. The kender in the Dragonlance books do remind me a little bit of them, but they're kind of like a cross between hobbits and gnomes that went wrong somewhere along the line.

I first read The Hobbit when I was a kid and it hit me with the sense of wonder one gets when they discover something truly original. I can remember it was one of those books I'd say to myself just another chapter and then I'll put it down, but that final chapter didn't come until I was almost finished the book. To just think of it as the prequel to The Lord of the Rings is to do it a great disservice.

It can be read and enjoyed entirely separately. I don't think you have to read the better known, more highly respected sequel at all. I always felt that they made the films backwards. The Hobbit should have come first (it may have meant that they didn't have to include needless parts of the story and put certain characters into a narrative that they never were in at first because they were played by stars), then The Lord of the Rings. If anyone has read The Lord of the Rings, whether they liked it or not, and not read The Hobbit, then they should redress that. If they haven't read The Lord of the Rings and have no intention of reading it, then still read The Hobbit and find out how a real fantasy adventure works.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Top Ten - 8. Harry Potter.

Before I talk about the books and my relationship with them to try and explain why they wound up on the list a few words about the above covers. I personally prefer the original covers that adorned my post about the series in the earlier list, but I thought I'd put these there for some variation. Yes, this is a series and not a single book. Trying to pick just one book out as the favourite of the series is like trying to pick out your favourite chapter from a loved book. While they are relatively self contained in that each book covers a school year of Harry's life, it's still one continuing story told in 7 books.

I wasn't an early adopter with Harry Potter. I had seen the first book a few times, picked it up and had a bit of a flick through, but it always struck me as too young for me (I was an adult when they came out), then Goblet of Fire was published and caused a big enough stir that stories were shown on the news about people camping out to be first in line to buy a copy and maybe even catch a glimpse of the author. I began to reassess my earlier stance and once the first film hit the box office and went bananas I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Despite my earlier feelings about how 'childish' the first book was, I found myself drawn in by it. I think by the time I hit the Mirror of Erised I was hooked and in for the long haul. What J. K. Rowling did that I couldn't remember many other similar authors doing (she didn't create the idea of child wizards or magical schools) was let her title character grow up physically, as well as mentally and emotionally, with each successive book. Even if the characters in similar series age physically and chronologically there's generally not much growth mentally or emotionally. What Rowling set out to do was have Harry and his friends age with the target readership. Philosopher's Stone came out in 1997 and The Deathly Hallows in 2007, so 10 years overall, which was only a few more than the years Harry actually spent at Hogwarts. So a reader could have conceivably started reading the books at the age of 10, and have turned 20 by the time the final one came out and therefore grown up with Harry.

For it's failings, and they are few despite what the many nay sayers want to claim, the Harry Potter series introduced a generation to the joys of reading and to magic in books. If a reader also wants to scratch the surface they'll find some very clever writing tricks and deeper meaning behind the words on the page.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Richmond V Fremantle - 25/07/2015 (MCG)

4 lousy points! 

I'm going to go away from normal protocol this week and not really review the match as such. Suffice it to say that the Tigers lost by 4 points and did it in the dying stage of the game. 2 points up with less than a minute to go and then...

This one is going to be about two players, who I kind of feel encapsulate the game on the day.

First a celebration.

Troy Chaplin is a fairly unfashionable key position defender who started his career at Port Adelaide (although he's from country Victoria), got hit by injuries and then crossed to the Tigers a few seasons ago as a free agent. Port claimed that his body (especially his legs) would no longer hold up to the rigours of AFL football. Funny how the Tigers have managed to get 60 games out of him playing in one of the toughest spots on the ground at centre half back. Not bad for a bloke his original club said was buggered at the end of the 2012 season. Anyway this game against Fremantle was his 200th career game. Despite playing most of his football for Port, he's become a Tiger and comments he made last year when Richmond beat Port in the home and away season, haven't exactly endeared him to his original club. People hook into Troy for some reason, and I'll admit he does tend to start his seasons off badly, and I don't get it. He's a very important person to the team, he plays a loose man in defence a lot of the time, and he cuts off countless forward thrusts most games. His 200th was no exception. He started like a house on fire and it was still burning when the final siren went. Clearly best on ground. So great milestone game, shame about the final score. I'd actually go so far as to say it was Troy's best game, certainly at Tigerland, if not his entire career.

Then we come to Bachar Houli.

Bachar always has his head in the news, and it's not because he has the most awesome beard in football.

Isn't that a beard and a half? It's almost bigger than his kid's head!

Bachar has become the poster child for diversity in Australian Rules football. He was born in Australia, but his parents are Lebanese immigrants and as such are devout Muslims. Bachar also follows the faith. I think he's one of the few practicing Muslims in AFL playing ranks and he was the first to be drafted. He started his career with Essendon and then moved to Richmond. He's an example of diversity in the game and he's a wonderful role model for anyone, not just Muslim kids who want to play footy.

He plays mostly in defence. He has his pluses. He's good at rebounding the ball from defence, he can run hard, if not all that fast and break lines. He also has a huge kick, which is accurate most of the time.  9 times out of 10 if he goes for a shot at length on the run he'll kick the goal. Despite being a defender he's not a great tackler or blocker, he's a bit of an outside player like that really. Not exactly a receiver, but not far off it. We use him a lot to take the kick out from defence. It always makes me nervous, he's not actually that bad a kick as I've said, but he's prone to making bad decisions. His go to move when he's not sure what to do or can't see an obvious option to kick to, is to tap the ball on his boot and go for a run. This allows him to get away from the opposition's goal and use his long kick to put it out of the danger zone.

For some reason with less than a minute left on the clock on Saturday and Richmond leading by 2 points Bachar had one of those brain explosions. Richmond players had congregated on the flank. If Bachar kicks it there, it becomes a contested ball, and it would more than likely end up in a pack and be locked in forcing a ball up, or get knocked over the line for the same result. This eats up time and makes it harder for Fremantle to kick the goal they need. Maybe Aaron Sandilands could have marked it. At 211 cm he's 10 - 11 cm's taller than any Richmond player on the ground. Maybe they could have gotten it out of a pack, but maybe a Tiger could have marked the ball or gotten it out of the pack. The only Richmond player down the centre was Kane Lambert and he was going to have to run bloody hard and bloody fast to get the kick out. Lambert made moves and Houli put it down the guts, it was marked by Fremantle's Garrick Ibbotson with poor old Lambert desperately trying to make ground. Ibbotson gave it to David Mundy, who kicked the goal and left Richmond not enough time to answer it.

A proud man bows his head after the game.

I don't blame Bachar. We had multiple opportunities to score during the game (hit the post 6 times) and put the game beyond Freo. Kick just one of those goals and it doesn't really matter what Bachar does with the kick out, the Dockers are still two points adrift.

Lost opportunity. At least we have the opportunity to redeem ourselves next week against the Hawks. Given their form a win is unlikely, but it's a funny game football and anything can happen.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Top Ten - 7. The Eight

I said in my review for The Eight with the favourite authors and books that not many regard this as a fantasy, but it is, even though it's status as part of the genre is probably a little tenuous. It's one of those books that is very hard to classify as so many elements go into making up its whole, and it's an example of how far the boundaries of this genre that I love can be stretched and why it remains one of my favourite novels, ever.

Katherine Neville, while she has lived a remarkable life and is a brilliant writer, has never quite been able to recapture what she did with The Eight. Someone else on a forum a long time ago, described it as 'lightning in a bottle', and that's what it is. The stars aligned and everything came together for both readers and writer with The Eight. All of the elements in The Eight: history, the French Revolution, chess, Charlemagne, religion, modern politics, mystery, adventure, intrigue and the secret to eternal life, combined to make a wondrous whole.

It's a book I've read a number of times (not as often as The Lies of Locke Lamora, but I don't think I'll ever read any other book that much), and I always find something new to appreciate and something familiar to fall in love with all over again. Cat Velis is one of my favourite fictional heroes.

I have occasionally wondered why Hollywood hasn't jumped on this. They often claim to be searching for something new, which The Eight definitely is, however I think what they really want is something safe that they can pass off as new, and whatever else The Eight is, it is most certainly not safe. In some ways, while a movie or TV production of The Eight (and in recent years with the success of episodic multi season productions like Game of Thrones, I can see how filming The Eight over a 6 or 10 episodes, or even more fittingly 8, may actually benefit it better to give viewers a greater sense of the entire story) would be interesting to see and probably increase the book's profile, I'd also be scared of how I felt if they cast the wrong person as Cat, or any of the other characters, or what they may have to change to make the book film better or be more relevant (it was published in 1988 and is set in 1972, so they may have to make allowances for modern sensibility and knowledge), which would affect my view of the whole thing.

It really is a marvellous book with something for nearly every reader and I urge anyone who hasn't read it to do so.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Top Ten - 6. The Lies of Locke Lamora

Did anyone ever doubt that this would find it's way onto the list? I'm not one to definitively say what my favourite book of all time is, but if really pushed I'd say The Lies of Locke Lamora. There's just something about the book that hits me where I live every single damn time I read it.

I recently participated in a thread on Fantasy-Faction where readers were asked to name one of their favourite lines from a book and one of mine comes from The Lies of Locke Lamora. It's the opening sentence and the book had me hooked from that one line. I picked it up one lunch time after succumbing to the hype around it, and read the start on the tram on the way back to work and I was enthralled. It actually really sucked that I had to work that afternoon, because I could have quite happily jumped on the train and gone home reading the book.

I recently reread it (I think that was read number 16), and it honestly gets better with each subsequent read. It's not flawless, nothing is. There are occasional holes in the plot and some of the interludes are unnecessary, I personally like them, but I can see someone making the point that a couple could have been cut, although I think they add to the sense of reality that the setting (the city of Camorr) had. Camorr was like this extra character in The Lies of Locke Lamora, and while the sequels (Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves) have been excellent books, they lack a little something for me. There are a few factors, but the absence of my old friend Camorr is definitely one of them for me. 

It's about as close to a perfect work of fiction that I can ever remember reading, and after 16 reads I'm still not sick of it, despite being able to quote slabs to near word perfection when I do read it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top Ten - 5. Bridge of Birds

I raved about this one in the Authors and Books post, and nothing has changed. I only reread it fairly recently, too. There's just something about it that speaks to me. In the current market it shouldn't work, but it does. A fantasy set in a non existent ancient China about an old fairy tale and it's two main characters are a large and strong, but extremely naive young farm boy and a rascally old scholar, who lies as easily and naturally as most people breathe. It has adventure and humour and there's this sense that somewhere along the line this place really did exist, but you know in your heart of hearts that it didn't.

The other two books that Barry Hughart wrote featuring Number Ten Ox and Master Li were also entertaining, but they just don't have the same sense of wonder that Bridge of Birds evokes in readers. I used to think that maybe he made a mistake in not continuing with another publisher when the original one gave up on the idea, but the reread convinced me that he may have made a wise choice, they were becoming rather formulaic and farcical rather than genuinely comical and whimsical.

Monday, July 20, 2015

St Kilda V Richmond - 19/07/2015 (Etihad)

This game was largely overshadowed by the concept that it had been built around. 

Earlier this year, Maddie Riewoldt, the younger sister of St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt, passed away after a battle with Aplastic Anaemia (a rare, but deadly, blood disease). Maddie was also the cousin of Richmond's Jack Riewoldt. So when the Riewoldt family decided to honour one of their own with a game, and raise some money for investigation into the disease that claimed her life, it made sense that the match should be between the clubs that contain members of her family.

On the face of it this was a game between St Kilda and Richmond. The Saints are in rebuild mode, and while they have improved over the course of this season, they're not going to feature in the finals. Richmond on the other hand is on the up and looking very likely to make their 3rd finals series in a row. Some are even talking the club as dark horses for a tilt at the Premiership.

I don't like St Kilda. Because they've been pretty bad for most of the last 50 or so years, a lot of people give them the sympathy vote and make them a second team. Even though my grandmother barracked for them (mainly because she came from Elwood) I've never liked them. Their supporters are seriously obnoxious during their rare periods of success. Despite feeling for what Nick Riewoldt went through with his sister, I don't like him as a player. He has talent, but spends a lot of time sooking to the umpires about how hard done by he is.

Cousins Jack and Nick tossed the coin and shared an embrace before the match.

Richmond had a couple out. Ty Vickery was suspended and Shane Edwards was injured. We elected not to really replace Vickery, although it could be argued that the return of Ivan Maric covered him and Ben Lennon came in, as well as Matt McDonough in place of the omitted Steve Morris.

Despite their ladder position the Saints can't be taken lightly. They outplayed the Tigers a little bit in the opening quarter, but then succumbed to the greater skill and experience of their opponents in the 2nd and 3rd quarter. The word machinelike was mentioned when Richmond scored against St Kilda at will in the 3rd quarter.

We had a 52 point lead and went into the final term in cruise mode. I think the Saints were fired up at 3 quarter time. They were probably urged to look at Nick Riewoldt on one leg and doing it for his sister, and their own pride. They came at the Tigers hard. Once a team gets a run on and the other team has switched off mentally it becomes a hard thing to reverse. To their credit the Tigers did lift enough to defend, shut down some of the Saints and get a win, but their lead was significantly cut by the final siren.

Have to eradicate that complacency for Fremantle next week.

The cousins shake hands in a mutual mark of respect.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Top Ten - 4. The Eyre Affair

Firstly apologies. I know I said this was going to be every week day other than Tuesday, but I had stuff on on Friday, so didn't get around to it, and I looking at the calendar and thinking of what's on for this Friday I'll more than likely miss that one as well.

That's some fan art for The Eyre Affair, featuring Thursday's marvellously psychedelic car. Seriously I want that car, with that paint job!

I think it was possibly the one line review by Sir Terry Pratchett (something about watching Jasper Fforde's career nervously) that probably made me pick The Eyre Affair up. It's odd really, because other than being quite funny, The Eyre Affair (and all of Fforde's work really) has nothing in common with Terry Pratchett.

I had never read Jane Eyre at the time I first read The Eyre Affair, although I did get the central joke, so I must have taken something of the classic in by osmosis. I have read it since, mind you. That's the wonderful thing about the Thursday Next books, they're so whacky and nonsensical, but at the same time they make perfect sense to the reader. Who wouldn't want an alternate 1985 where books are revered (they put on Rocky Horror style audience participation performances of Richard III), Wales has seceded from the UK and croquet is a full contact sport? Plus you can even have your own pet dodo.

If that weren't enough The Eyre Affair is a bibliophile's delight, especially when Thursday enters the Bookworld and finds out that it's totally different to how she as a reader may have thought it actually was.

After I'd read it I recommended it to everyone and I even gave my copy to a friend as a going away present. A wonderful wonderful book. Cannot recommend it highly enough, even though it has cheese as only available on the black market.

It isn't necessary to have read all the works Fforde references in The Eyre Affair and the other Thursday Next books to get the jokes, but it does help. Silly books for smart people.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Top Ten - 3. A Man of His Word

I bang on about this series a lot, and while many people would probably disagree with me, putting it here, I think it deserves it's place among my top 10. It's also one of the few entire series I'll rate this way. There was a sequel quartet (A Handful of Men) written by Dave Duncan after this, but A Man of His Word stands by itself quite happily without any need to know what happens next, and A Handful of Men was set on the same world with the same rules, and had some characters in common, but mostly it was it's own series.

Aside from Don Maitz's enchanting covers (why oh why did they ever reissue the series with other less stunning covers?), its the characters and the idea of magic as well as the world that Duncan created that make it unforgettable for me. I love Rap and Inos and even Little Chicken. The wonderful and varied kingdoms of Pandemia with their jotuns, imps, goblins, fauns and pixies. Then there's that marvellous magic system where words are power, the more words you know, the more powerful you become, unless of course you happen to learn 5 words, then you explode. The 5 people in one form, which is a key player in it all, was also something I'd never encountered before and I haven't seen it done quite as well anywhere since.

It's a largely unknown gem and deserves way more press than it's ever received.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top Ten - 2. Weaveworld

Despite the fact that it's been one of my favourite books ever since I first read it, I was more than a little wary of Weaveworld when it first came out. I think most of my reluctance stemmed from the fact that Clive Barker was better recognised as a horror writer at the time, and Weaveworld was classified as a horror. An occasional flirtation with the work of Stephen King aside, I wasn't really enamoured of the horror genre at the time. Weaveworld does definitely contain horror elements, but it's since been more correctly reclassified as dark fantasy.

There are so many elements to the book that just can't be put into a review. As I said when I wrote it up in the books and authors post, it's the sheer idea that an entire world can exist within the weave of a carpet that makes it so stunning. That, coupled with Barker's incredible prose, and his totally revolutionary view of angels, is something that makes Weaveworld an unforgettable experience and probably why it stands up to multiple rereads so well and why it makes so many best of lists even now, nearly 30 years after it's original release.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Richmond V Carlton 10/07/2015 (MCG)

It's hard to know what to say about this game, because as a spectacle it never reached any great heights. I can only think of two highlights and I'll talk about them later.

It has been a season of contrasting fortunes for the two clubs this year. Carlton started it off with their coach optimistically saying that he couldn't see any reason why they'd lost a game this year. Richmond kind of blew that out of the water in the opening round by giving them a handy opening quarter lead and still running them down to record a win. Things didn't improve and they sacked their coach midway through the season, replacing him with assistant John Barker as the caretaker coach for the remainder of the season.

The former Fitzroy and Hawthorn player has done a little better than his predecessor. The Blues don't win many games, but at least their losses are competitive.

The Tigers on the other hand wanted to improve on last season's effort by not just making the finals, but aiming for top 4 and actually winning final. It looked dire after the loss to North Melbourne, but since then they've had two winning streaks, one of 4 matches and were in another one approaching this game.

Despite their relative ladder positions and the evidence that the Tigers are a far better side than Carlton this year, this was still a danger game for Richmond. Carlton often do well against their old rival, and it had been some years since we'd racked up 3 consecutive victories against them, or beaten them twice in a season. (The fixturing is the reason we get 2 games against the Blues before we've even played some sides once).

It was a dour struggle played in cold, damp conditions. After Jack Riewoldt kicked the first goal of the game inside the opening minute, Richmond were never headed, increasing their lead a little at each change. The Blues hung on for most of the game, but were blown by a ten minute burst in the 3rd quarter where Richmond kicked 4 or 5 unanswered goals and extended the lead to 35 points. The Blues fought back a bit and got to within 4 goals, but were eventually sunk by 5 in the end. While it was an uninspiring game against sub standard opposition I wasn't that upset about it. I enjoyed the 10 minute blitz. I've been to plenty of games where I've watched the same thing happen to the Tigers. It's a sign to me that we're getting better if we can do this to other sides. Yes, good sides do play poor opposition away, they also do what they need to to win games without extending themselves overly to do it.

Those highlights I mentioned earlier? One was a goal to Carlton forward Levi Casboult. He received a free kick in the middle of the ground and launched a bomb from outside 50 that sailed through the goals. Has to be one of the goals of the year. The other was Alex Rance, he held the highly rated Lachie Henderson to 3 possessions in the first half, while picking up 18 himself, that's unheard of for a defender, but the competition hasn't seen many defenders playing like Alex Rance has in 2015. There are people out there going to the games purely and simply to see what he does. It's not possible for anyone to award the 1, 2 and 3 votes to a single player, but if it were, Alex Rance would have received that for his efforts against Carlton on that night.

Alex Rance breaks his opponent's heart yet again.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Top Ten - 1. The Gnole

I know I said I wasn't going to do this, but I had so much fun going through the alphabet and picking out my favourite authors and works that I didn't want it to end, so I gave it some thought and came up with my 10 favourites of those. It will be numbered from 1 - 10, but that's as much for convenience sake as anything. This is not in any order as such, I don't rate one book as better than another, they're all equally loved for different reasons. I am doing it alphabetically, which is why The Gnole, written by Alan Aldridge is first cab off the rank. In terms of posting schedule, I plan to do one book a day until I hit 10, I'll take weekends off, and Tuesdays are still reserved for football reviews.

After posting my first lot of favourite authors I embarked on a big personal reread project, and the first book I decided to reread was The Gnole. So having reread it recently altered my view of it a little. It's still a favourite, it always will be, but I did find myself viewing it differently this time. Fungle, the Gnole of the title, is still the major character, but he's a rather static hero. What you see with Fungle is pretty much what you get and that's how he stays for the entire novel. The real hero of the piece and the one that goes through the most change is his friend Ka the earth gnome. When Fungle gets taken by the world outside their hidden home, it's Ka who goes after him, it's Ka who pushes Neema to accompany him on the great Fungle rescue. Ka finds qualities he never knew he had. Heroes aren't all big strong brave characters who laugh in the face of death, sometimes they're timid creatures who burrow through the earth, have questionable personal hygiene and just want their lives to go on as they always have. Ka doesn't embody the accepted heroic conventions, but he has qualities, he's loyal and dependable, he values friendship and personal freedom, he's brave although he doesn't realise it himself.

Over the years The Gnole has dated a little, but it's ecological message still applies, even more so now than when it first came out. The author's personal experience of the media allowed him to make some subtle comment on the nature of modern media and he nailed it. If a previously unknown creature wandered out of it's hidden home deep in the depths of the wilderness and showed itself to be interesting, intelligent and entertaining, the media would be all over it and said creature would find itself the property of the public as a mega star in high demand.

The Gnole is a real modern fairy tale and Fungle is a hobbit for the rock and roll age.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Richmond V Greater Western Sydney 04/07/2015 (MCG)

I'll start this off with a few words about the Greater Western Sydney Giants. I don't like them. Not because they're any good, they're fairly average, but more because they are a soulless corporate entity that the AFL are pouring money and time into in a shameless exercise to move into the western suburbs of Sydney. This made up club, that count themselves lucky if they can draw more than 10,000 people to their boutique stadium, has been given enormous draft concessions at the expense of the traditional clubs that actually made the AFL.

That's their logo and their colours. I'm not joking. They paid someone (probably an advertising agency) good money to come up with that. What a joke!

Despite my personal opinion that the Giants are no good, will never succeed and after having millions upon millions poured into them by the governing body will eventually cease to exist and join University and the Fitzroy Football Club as the only VFL/AFL teams to do so, they haven't had a bad season and were a threat.

Games like this bother me. It stems from years of disappointment as a Richmond supporter. We faltered against West Coast after the Fremantle win and would the same thing happen following the great Sydney victory?

People were seeing it as a lay down misere, and it wasn't. The Giants have fallen away a bit after their encouraging opening to the season, largely due to some unforeseen injuries, but they've still got a very talented young list.

Despite being a rather uninspiring matchup (the Giants would have to have close to the lowest membership in the AFL, if not the absolute lowest) it was still an important game with plenty at stake. The Tigers and the Giants were locked on the same amount of points from games won at 28 each, with Richmond being higher on the ladder courtesy of a superior percentage. The winner would go a game clear and climb a rung or two, the loser would possibly fall out of the 8. Once a team falls out at this point of the season, it's damn hard to get back in.

The entire round was rather sombre due to the tragic events surrounding the murder of Adelaide coach Phil Walsh. No songs before or after the match and no banners, each side marked the passing of the coach with a minute's silence before the game and a minute after where they huddled together in a circle.

The wet cold Melbourne day did nothing to lighten anyone's mood.

The first quarter was a scrappy affair, and the Tigers looked rather lack lustre. The quarter reached no great heights as a spectacle and the Giants eked out a small lead.

No panic stations, Richmond haven't won many first quarters and they've overcome bigger deficits to win some of their games this year. Kicking for goal was pretty awful though and both the umpires and the commentators seemed to be willing GWS on. A bit about the commentators here. It was one of the most shockingly biased calls I've ever heard. (I don't include the guys from the old 3GL and K-Rock, because they were Geelong based and only ever called Cats games, and I let the South Australians out of it, because half the time I'm sure they're taking the piss). There had to have been a directive from the AFL to make them talk up the Giants. The entire team should honestly be ashamed of themselves for that call.

The Giants also led at half time. I could even cop that, but despite Alex Rance, Jack Riewoldt and Trent Cotchin, busting a gut to keep the Tigers in it, they still took a 15 point lead into the last quarter.

That must have been the final straw for Damien Hardwick. He's had the occasional dummy spit during a game. I've seen him throw water bottles and smash the phone on the desk, but he's generally fairly calm when he gives the address in the huddle. Not this time. He had a forehead vein going that would have done David Parkin proud, he shouted and even pushed a couple of players. This was some passion!

Trent Cotchin really took it to heart. For the second week in a row, the captain stepped up and said to his players 'C'mon boys! Follow me!' He was unstoppable. Alex continued to defend gallantly, and I have to pay some credit to the unfashionable Jake Batchelor. Cam McCarthy has been a handy and dangerous forward for the Giants this year, and Jake kept him to two touches for the game. Can't ask for much more than that from a second tier defender. Riewoldt remained dangerous and creative, but the guy who really took it away from the Giants was Shane Edwards, one goal was pure magic. Sharked the tap out in the centre, ran away from the pack, bounced once, got to just inside the centre square and then let go with a big bomb from outside 60 and it sailed through. It was like that was the catalyst and it broke the Giants. Edwards also kicked the final goal that put the Tigers up by more than a goal. This is what good sides do, they find a way to win.

Shane Edwards celebrates after his match winning goal.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Favourite Fantasy Authors and Books A - Z (W)

I'm kind of sad that this will be the final post in the series. I can't find any X, Y or Z authors that I can add in the list. Yes, there is Jane Yolen and Roger Zelazny, but I've only ever read one Jane Yolen that I can remember and it didn't stay with me, so I can't very well rate her a favourite, and for all my good intentions I've never been able to get around to reading Zelazny's Amber series.

I did however find a few W's, so here we go for one last time.

Jo Walton is probably not that well known to people unless they're very into the genre, or attend conventions. She was born in Wales, but moved to Canada in the early 2000's, after the publication of her first book and lists herself as Welsh-Canadian. Her first book, The King's Peace, part of the Sullen series, appears to be rather standard high fantasy, with the harder edge that was just starting to appear at the time. Jo Walton is a keen student of the genre and she rarely writes the same thing. Her published works have dabbled in high fantasy, alternate history, I'm not even sure how one categorises Tooth and Claw, but it's definitely fantasy. She rose to high prominence in 2011 when her semi auto biographical love letter to the genre; Among Others, won the 2011 Nebula and the 2012 Hugo. A series of essays she wrote as a passionate and thoughtful reader for appeared in the collection What Makes This Book So Great? and created a lot of buzz. It connected with me even though I hadn't read a lot of the works spoken about, but more because they were written as a reader and not a reviewer, a very personal, warts and all look at a book and what effect it has on the reader at the time and later on. Jo Walton is an advocate of rereading.

She's published 3 books since that: My Real Children (2014), The Just City and The Philosopher Kings both in 2015. Jo Walton blogs regularly, most often at and she's also a regular attendee of cons, during con season in the northern hemisphere.

My introduction to Jo Walton's work was Among Others, I actually voted for it in the 2012 Hugo, and I read and enjoyed What Makes This Book So Great? I'd seen Tooth and Claw before, I loved the idea and I knew it won the World Fantasy Award in 2004. The idea definitely did appeal to me. It's hard to categorise and even harder to explain. The best way to tell someone about Tooth and Claw is to imagine if Jane Austen was a dragon and wrote one of her books about other dragons and their society. That's what it is, it's a book about dragons and their dealings with each other. I can't remember reading anything else quite like it. Sometimes when authors try to emulate Austen's style, which has become popular of late, it grates on me, because they very often can't pull it off successfully. Jo Walton did it in Tooth and Claw. I find it hard to believe when reading the book that she didn't somehow find a portal to an alternate reality where Jane Austen was a dragon and wrote books about them. If you like either Jane Austen or dragons, possibly both, then you MUST read Tooth and Claw!

Further and related reading: as encapsulated above, Jo Walton does have a body of work. I can also highly recommend Among Others, for anyone who loves the genre and has ever been looked at funny for admitting it. As it's set during 1979 - 80, it has plenty of recommendations of older genre work, largely science fiction, but there are a few fantasies in there as well, which may encourage a reader to delve deeper into the genre and expand their horizons a little. For things that have something in common with Tooth and Claw by other authors, there's Susannah Clarke's acclaimed Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which features that faux Austen style and language, and an alternate England in which magic works. I recommend the Patricia C. Wrede/Caroline Stevermer collaboration, the Cecy and Kate books, which also contain that Regency setting and language, I felt they did it better than Susannah Clarke did, it came across as less forced. Neither of those have dragons, but Naomi Novik's Temeraire series does, and it's also set in an alternate reality where both sides had access to dragons during the Napoleonic Wars.

Chuck Wendig was named a couple of years ago as a young writer to watch. I'm not sure how young he actually is, but he first came to my attention with the publication of Blackbirds in 2012. In additional to the Miriam Black urban fantasy series, of which Blackbirds was the first, he also writes the Mookie Pearl series, which reads to me like it's directed at younger readers, but has the same gritty violent style as the Miriam Black books. Chuck Wendig was originally published by Angry Robot books, but recently split from them and is now publishing the Miriam Black books with Simon and Schuster, according to the new covers (personal aside here: they're nowhere near as good as the original Joey Hi-Fi covers) it's also going to be a TV series. I'm not sure on the status of the Mookie Pearl series. Chuck has also written scripts and for role playing games. He tweets often as @ChuckWendig about pretty much anything that comes into his head and he also blogs at terrible, often about writing, but also about whatever takes his fancy at the time.

As readers of this blog, or anyone who has seen me post as Elfy over at Fantasy-Faction, would know, I enjoy urban fantasy. I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting into when I picked up Blackbirds. It had some good buzz from people whose opinion I respect, and I couldn't resist that cover. Joey Hi-Fi's covers were as important to the Miriam Black books as Josh Kirby and later Paul Kidby's were to the Discworld series, that's part of why I'm little cheesed off that Simon and Schuster have had to repackage them and don't seem inclined to use the artist in the future. If you look closely enough at the covers they contain little hints as to what the story is about. Despite being urban fantasy, no one could ever accuse the Miriam Black's as being paranormal romance. Not a vampire or a werewolf in sight. Miriam has been cursed, if she so much as touches another person she can see the moment of their death and knows when, where and how they will die. This ability ruins her life and forces her to the fringes of society and while it may destroy her life, it may also save it. It's the visceral descriptions Wendig uses to illustrate Miriam's hand to mouth existence that I love about the books, especially Blackbirds. There's also Miriam herself, if I met her in real life I'd probably run a mile, but in the books she's sort of tragic and a proper hero, even though she openly and often admits that there's nothing heroic about her.

Further and related reading: I wasn't as enamoured of the first Mookie Pearl book; The Blue Blazes, as I was of the Miriam Black's. To be honest I didn't like it at all, and even though it contains the same sort of language, there's just something about it that turned me off. There are however three Miriam Black books: Blackbirds, Mockingbird and The Cormorant. Simon and Schuster has Thunderbird listed as forthcoming. There's not a lot else like it really. The closest I can come is V. E. Schwab's Vicious, which is about people cursed with powers not dissimilar to Miriam's and it contains that same short, sharp punchy style, if the author is less foul mouthed about it.

T. H. White May 29, 1906 - January 17, 1964. T. H. White is best known for The Once and Future King, considered by many to be the gold standard by which all retellings of the Arthurian legend since have been judged. The interest started early, with the author writing his thesis on Le Morte d'Arthur, which saw him graduate from Queens College, Cambridge in 1928 with a first-class degree in English.

He taught for a time, and wrote a number of novels on various subjects. He began The Sword in the Stone (the first part of The Once and Future King, and the part of the story that was later filmed by Disney under the same name) in 1938. He later completed the second and third parts, and edited the first one, and they came out in 1940.

He continued to write novels, most often fantasy, and wrote two further parts of The Once and Future King (The Candle in the Wind became the 4th part of it in 1958, and has never been published separately), the sequel; The Books of Merlyn, was published post humously in 1977. He did live to see the musical Camelot, which was based on his book, and also the Disney version.

The Once and Future King has become a classic and is regarded by many as the definitive Arthurian retelling. I don't know that many people know T. H. White wrote anything else, other than The Books of Merlyn, which is a sequel to this work. It's not the best Arthurian retelling I've ever read (that honour goes to Parke Godwin's Firelord), but it is up there and it became recognised as THE one, being required reading at plenty of high schools and having a Disney film based on it (it''s not one of Disney's better films, though) and the huge Broadway hit that was Camelot. There's an epicness to The Once and Future King that other works don't have for me, despite the subject material. I also find it remarkably accessible, and it's started many a person's interest in all things Arthurian.

Further and related reading: T. H. White did write other novels, and he seemed to like to put new spin on old ideas, one of his other works concerns a young girl discovering a group of Lilliputians living near her house. However his legacy is The Once and Future King, and there's so much Arthurian work out there that takes part or all of the legend that it's become a sub genre of it's own. Stephen Lawhead and Bernard Cornwell have published interesting takes on it. My personal favourite is Parke Godwin's Firelord, which also has a sequel Beloved Exile, which looks at what happened to Guenevere when Arthur fell.

I'm a big fan of Tad Williams. Before becoming a full time author, Tad Williams was in a band, he worked for radio and TV and even as a technical writer for Apple between 1987 - 90. I first encountered his work with Tailchaser's Song, an odd little fable about the mythology of cats. That in no way prepared me for the epic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. The final book of that series, To Green Angel Tower still holds the record for longest single volume of anything in English, weighing in at a whopping 520,000 words. He followed that up with the cyber punk series Otherland, which showcased exactly the sort of weird places the author's mind went. After Otherland he took a real chance with The War of the Flowers, while it was long enough to be broken up into a trilogy or a duo logy, it was a standalone. While The War of the Flowers is classified as portal fantasy, Tad Williams himself has said that he actually regards it as urban fantasy. The Shadowmarch series saw him return to high fantasy and then he surprised everyone by doing an urban fantasy about a fallen angel called Bobby Dollar.

One of the things I've always liked about Williams is that he rarely does the same thing twice, or go over old ground. Plenty of authors find a nice comfortable little niche and then just continue to mine it. Williams never really has. That takes guts and talent.

The final book of the Bobby Dollar series came out in 2014, and after that it was announced that Tad Williams would return to the world of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn with The Last King of Osten Ard. He has also co-written The Ordinary Farm Adventures, a series aimed at younger readers, with his wife Deborah Beale, or as she tweets @MrsTad.

Tad Williams keeps a blog at and tweets along with MrsTad as @tadwilliams.

The War of the Flowers is epic in every sense of the word. It's huge, and really could have been broken up and worked quite successfully as a multi volume epic. It's many things, portal fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy. It's about the fate of two worlds and drifts in and throughout the history of both of them. Despite it's length it's a book I've read a few times, and I'm alway struck by how damn good it is. Maybe it's because I like his version of faery a lot better than others, maybe it's the marvellous character of the feisty little faery girl Applecore or maybe it's because like the hero Theo Vilnius I also think there are other worlds out there that we just don't know about. This one just worked on every level for me, and if I put up a top 10 of my favourite works, it's up there.

Further and related reading: As I said in the bio of Tad Willliams, he's a literary chameleon, so it's hard to go wrong with him. There's epic fantasy with Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, science fiction with Otherland, portal fantasy with The War of the Flowers and urban fantasy with the Bobby Dollar series. I rate Clive Barker's Weaveworld as being a little like The War of the Flowers in that it also contains a unique view of faery and is about the struggle for the fate of it. Seanan McGuire's October Daye series often goes in between our world and the kingdoms of the fae as does Yasmine Galenorn's Otherworld series, although that deals more with our world than it does with that of the fae.

David Wong is the pen name of Jason Pargin. As well as writing off the wall fantasy novels he was also the editor of the humorous website While working as a copy editor at a law firm, he began the website Pointless Waste of Time (later absorbed into and it was there that he posted a chapter of a web serial every Halloween, this web serial would later become his first novel John Dies at the End. The sale of the book and the deal with enabled him to write full time. The success of John Dies at the End (it was also made into a film), allowed the publication of the sequel This Book is Full of Spiders. I was hoping there may be a further book about David, John and Amy following This Book is Full of Spiders, but nothing has been forthcoming, and as far as I know David Wong limits his creative appearances now to his work on

Reading John Dies at the End is rather like watching the film Tremors. I rewatched Tremors recently, and as I was watching it, I had the thought that the casting of Kevin Bacon aside, nothing about that film should work, but somehow it does. John Dies at the End is like that. It should be a horrible mess of a book, but somehow it all hangs together and is a bloody good ride. There's part of everything in there, it breaks every rule ever written about how to write a book, but again it just works. At times it's rather like Douglas Adams, Ben Edlund and Stephen King all got together one night, spent it smoking pot and then thought, hey let's write a book. The sequel is somewhat more structured, although it's every bit as chaotic. I only read John Dies at the End because of This Book is Full of Spiders. I have serious arachnophobia (one day I'll write the story of how I found a huntsman in my car), and when I saw a book that had little paper spiders crawling all over the cover I just had to pick it up. It does say at the start that you don't have to have read John Dies at the End to get This Book is Full of Spiders, but I did it anyway, and I was glad that I did so, because it was one of the weirdest and best things that I read that year.

Further and related reading: there's only This Book is Full of Spiders, which is more zombie apocalypse, rather than alien invasion, which is kind of what John Dies at the End is. For the same sort of sheer free form weirdness I'd recommend Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which in my opinion is fantasy masquerading as science fiction. Ben Edlund's The Tick also has that sort of lunacy, but that's a comic book, not a novel.

I'd never heard of Chris Wooding until I started to see rave reviews for a book called Retribution Falls. He had however been a published author since the age of 21 and had a few children's books behind him, including the highly acclaimed Braided Path series, for adult readers. Since the first book of The Tales of the Ketty Jay in Retribution Falls, he has gone on to finish that series with 4 books all up, and do a number of works for younger readers. His first book after completing The Ketty Jay series is Velocity, which I believe is due out sometime in 2015. He keeps a website at

Despite being a rather steampunky secondary world fantasy, Retribution Falls has a rather Firefly feel to it. If you really want to you can probably find direct analogues among the crew of the Ketty Jay to the crew of Serenity from the short lived Joss Whedon science fiction cult hit. Retribution Falls just has this wonderful mix of characters and concepts. There's a lot going on in it, from the roguish captain Darian Frey, to the battle between the ship's cat and the twitchy pilot Harkins, and the continual game of one upmanship that the other pilot Pinn plays with everyone else on the ship and seemingly himself, then there's the background's of the ship's tortured resident magic user and his golem Bess, as well as what happened to the ship's doctor the alcoholic Malvery and just what is the new hire Jez? All 4 of the books are great fun, but the opener just had more going for it than the other 3, although if you read one it will be hard to resist the 3 sequels.

Further and related reading: Chris Wooding has written at least 10 other books that are not Tales of the Ketty Jay, but I have the feeling that this will be what he's remembered for. I can't think of anything I've read that is really like Retribution Falls, and I have to go back to Firefly. If you've seen and enjoyed Firefly, then you'll like Retribution Falls.

Sadly this brings me to an end of the series. I can't promise anything, but I'll have a think and may do a top 10 from the list next week.