Humanity Has Failed

I generally have a massive boner for the human race. What it represents. How we made this planet our bitch, and how we keep on making it our bitch. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face. Satan has nothing on us.

But when we falter, we falter massively. Where are the cyborgs? Where are the clones? Where are the killbots, the radioactive mutants, and the godzillas? I’m getting bored here!

Jokes aside, the tech is stagnating and the people keep getting stupider. Doing as little as visiting social media becomes an exercise in cringe. Gathering data in order to maximize the effect of trolling used to be an art. Now all you need to do is voice your opinion and someone will be outraged.

Feels are the new reals. And the extent people go to in order to protect the idea that their feels matter grosses me out to no end. We have spines for a reason. I don’t see why we shouldn’t have them metaphorically as well. Oh, something makes you feel bad? Congrats, you are literally the only person who cares about that.

If I were God, I’d pull the plug this instant. Terminate the experiment. End this misery. “You had your chance,” I’d say.

But there is no God, no karma, no nothing. If any kind of higher power existed, it’d mean that the universe somehow cares. About you. About me. And we all know that isn’t true.

As things stand, approximately six million years of evolution can be summed up in one picture:

flat,800x800,075,f.u1

Positively brutal.
M. T. Miller

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Quick Guide To Malazan Vol. 2

I want to talk races. But this isn’t an easy thing to do without spoiling, so I’m going to make a compromise. I will list only the stuff that’s relevant for reading Gardens of the Moon. Whoever doesn’t quit that book will be more than prepared to learn about the rest through the act of reading.

Informally, Malazan races fall into one of three categories: founding races, the offspring of founding races, and the invading races. Here are the relevant ones:

Founding Races (And Their Offshoots)

Ancient civilizations. Most of these are no longer present by the time we tune in for the story. Those that are have either changed or mixed with something else. As said before, I will only list those that are relevant for Gardens of the Moon.

Imass: The Imass are the ancestors of humans, as well as a lot of others. Examples are the Barghast (token barbarians) and the Moranth (a weird caste-based civilization whose members are never seen without being fully covered in chitinous, insect-like armor).
This is a very, very minor spoiler, but the majority of Imass didn’t really die out. A long time before the series’ start, they undertook a huge ritual that transformed them into the undying T’lan Imass. The passage of millennia was not easy on these immortals. The physical deterioration was bad enough, but the mental strain of having to exist forever has made most of them choose to stop thinking independently. They now voluntarily comprise the Malazan Empire’s undead legions.
This negative effect of immortality on one’s psyche is one of the series’ recurring themes.

Jaghut: Visually, these are basically orcs, with tough, grey skin, and prominent tusks. The Jaghut were a peaceful people, but had their share of bad apples. Occasionally, a so-called Jaghut tyrant would emerge to subjugate other, weaker races. This eventually spelled the Jaghuts’ doom, as the Imass grew tired of having to deal with these tyrants and turned themselves undead in order to gain an edge in the war. The T’lan Imass were successful, and pure-blooded Jaghut were exterminated.
Jhag is a catch-all term for those born with Jaghut blood, but Jhag aren’t technically a civilization.

The other founding races don’t feature heavily in the first book, but I will mention the K’Chain Che’Malle, who are intelligent dinosaurs. With blades for hands. Yes. There’s a bit more to it than that but yes, Erikson actually put this into the series. Genius, I know.

Invading Races

These aren’t technically invaders (at least by this point in the story), but they did arrive from another world, so they are at the very least foreign and alien.

Eleint: Dragons! Anything else would be spoiling, but they’re in the series!

Tiste Andii: Ancient and immortal creatures of immense power, visually similar to dark elves, minus the pointy ears. They originate from the Warren of Darkness, and their existence predates the current shape of the world. They even predate the very existence of light!
By nature, the Tiste Andii are a melancholy and introspective people. They know that their time has passed, and the zest for life has left them a long time ago. No pleasure of this world or any other is new to them, and they rarely even bother to procreate anymore. In essence, they are waiting to die out. Their leader, however, keeps trying to invent new ways to shove them out of their funk.

There are other Tiste races, but they aren’t relevant to the plot of Gardens of the Moon. I’ll say this much: I have an immense dislike for elves, but I love these guys.

 

This should be enough for now. Have fun learning the rest!
Next time we will talk about some important characters.

Stay brutal.
M. T. Miller

Spontaneous Wisdom

Knowing other people isn’t that difficult.

Just look at two things.

1) the long-term result of their actions

2) their choice of companions

Chances are, someone who has displayed deep-seated moral corruption will prefer to associate with people of similarly rotten ethics or morals. They are also extremely likely to cause mayhem. I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner!

At the end of the day, people aren’t really that complex.

Raw brutality.
M. T. Miller

Quick Guide To Malazan Vol. 1

I’m enjoying Deadhouse Gates a lot. Its predecessor was a bit rough around the edges, but this book is where it all really comes alive. There was simply too much stuff in Gardens of the Moon for the reader to just sit down to enjoy. When you’re spending half of the time thinking “have I missed something vital?” then you are not having as much fun as you should be having.

It is for this reason that I am making this quick and to-the-point guide to Malazan. In it I will list and elaborate the concepts, cosmology, races, and main players of the setting, both for my easier reference, and yours.

Let’s begin. Malazan: Book of the Fallen takes place in a universe (technically a multiverse but let’s keep things simple) where intelligent races have existed long before humans, and the wonders they created tend to outshine what we’ve made in the comparatively short time our civilizations have existed.

Magic is a big, powerful factor here, and it is accessed by tapping into an alternate dimension For example, in order to cast Death magic, one needs to access the world of Death. Same with Shadow, Healing, etc. These alternate dimensions are called Warrens, and to access a Warren in order to cast a spell is referred to as opening a Warren.

Some Warrens are home to gods. A god is a powerful entity who has grasped a position of power within a particular Warren. So there is, say, a King of Shadow, a Knight of Shadow, etc. But not just anyone can become a god. In order to qualify for godhood, one first needs to ascend.

Ascendants are basically heroes; individuals with larger-than-life skills and abilities, who are immune to natural death. Most can use magic of some sort, and all can become gods by (among other ways) getting a large enough cult. The means by which one can attain ascendancy are vague early on, so let’s keep it mysterious.

Most humans who can use magic are born with the talent, then hone it through various means (depending on where they are born) in order to become mages. Most can access only one Warren, though some (Quick Ben for instance) can access more.

But enough about the metaphysics. Basically, Malazan chronicles a series of military conflicts centered around the (surprise surprise) Malazan Empire. This Empire is kind of antagonistic early on, though it’s difficult to say in a series with so many shades of grey. It is definitely a utilitarian, expansionist regime that aims to dominate the mortal world. Too bad it can barely hold itself together.

The Empire is actually quite young. Some time before the start of the series, a man called Kellanved led a group of capable individuals and forged the Empire out of basically nothing. He didn’t rule for long, though, as his spymistress (hilariously known as Surly) had him assassinated and took the title of Empress. Having renamed herself Laseen (meaning Thronemaster), she now struggles to maintain her grasp on power.

Bit by bit, the world Kellanved conquered is starting to reject Laseen, who now has the unenviable task of preventing the Empire from disintegrating. And how does she do that, you ask? Why, by conquering and looting new territories. This always works. Ask the Romans.

Early on in the series, Laseen sets her sights on fully claiming a continent called Genabackis. There used to be something called the Alliance of Free Cities there, most of which have been conquered. As of the start of Gardens of the Moon, only Pale and Darujhistan remain free. She would change that. But some big names have decided to put a stop to Laseen’s expansion right then and there, and this is where it all begins.

I won’t spoil the books, at least not on purpose, so let’s leave it at that. Next time, I think I will talk about races.

Stay brutal.
M. T. Miller

Sort Of Back To Writing

I’m working on the final Azure Flame thing. I’m not pushing for speed, just moving from milestone to milestone while relaxing in the meantime. Once it is done, I’m done with interactive stuff for a while.

As for other things, I’m reading Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson. It is a huge work in more ways than one. More on that later if I have the time. Or the passion/rage (for me it’s pretty much the same thing).

I’ve finished Transistor, and it is magnificent. As with Bastion, Supergiant Games made me tear up at the end. Minimalism and style at their finest. Bravo.

I’ve seen the Justice League movie. I don’t see where all the hate comes from. It is easily the best thing DC has put on screen yet. Those angry at its dark tone need to grow up.

That’s it for now. Stay awesome.
M. T. Miller

Sabetha Belacoros Is Horrible.

Let me just repeat something before I start this. The Lies of Locke Lamora is among my favorite books of all time. I think Scott Lynch is an amazing writer. But I also think he can do better. I know he can do better because I’ve seen him do it before.

I’ve finally read Republic of Thieves. I generally disagree with fandoms, but this is one of the few occasions when my impression matches the popular opinion. Namely, that the book starts with the possibility of being the best in the series, but (like most things in life) ends up the worst. Which still isn’t that bad, because the overall quality of Lynch’s writing is so high. The man could write a phone book and I’d read it.

There’s a lot to love here. Locke is fun (except when he shares a scene with Sabetha, but more on that later). Jean is a guy everyone would like for a friend. The late Sanza twins steal every flashback they are in. The book continues from (and resolves) the poison cliffhanger, which is something we’ve all been dying to see. The aforementioned writing quality is through the roof. Lynch has toned down the descriptions prevalent in his older work, and the end result is a much tighter prose. Good stuff.

But it’s not all good. The book strays, which would be fine if what it becomes was as engaging as what it started out as. Namely, we are teased with insight on the workings of the bondsmagi, and then tossed into a long ride with Locke’s love interest. With Sabetha.

I’m not opposed to the element of romance. On its own, it warms the heart. If used in contrast with darkness, it sears the soul like little else does. But in order for someone to enjoy, or even care about a romance, that romance needs to have some kind of positive element. Something good. Warm. This can be a lot of things, but Locke and Sabetha don’t have any of it.

No one would ever want Sabetha. The real Sabetha, not one of her acts and personas. Aside from masochists and those who admire capable women solely for being capable, I cannot imagine anyone voluntarily spending time with her. And she never really warms. up. Even the rare moments of tenderness she gives Locke (and us, by extension) are explicitly self-serving. She does what she does because it feels good. This is fine as a character trait. But in order for us to get invested in the romance, we need something to grasp. A straw, if need be, but the woman the protagonist pursues needs to have some element that would make us, the readers, want him to succeed. Instead, what we get is a petty thing who spends most of her time as a criticism dispenser. And when she isn’t doing that, she is either angry or waiting for a reason to go off.

But what is worst is the stifling effect she has on Locke. In a series focusing on cleverness and wit, she has the power to turn our protagonist into a bumbling idiot. This is one more thing that would be fine on its own. Men become idiots in the presence of women, and women tend to use it. Good. But mix it with someone whose only redeeming trait (at least as far as we get to see) is that she refuses to inflict physical harm on Locke and Jean, and what you get is a character whose effect on this book is entirely negative.

Yet Locke doesn’t stop pursuing her, which creates huge dissonance between the protagonist and the reader. The greater the dissonance, the greater the damage to the reading experience. Which brings me to the way in which Locke’s obsession was explained. Yes, the bondsmagi-reveal thing.

I’m sure there are people who liked the reveal. I found it out of place at best, and retroactively damaging to the previous events at worst. When we learn to love a character who had to crawl his way out of the gutter, then are told he was special all along, a part of the reason we liked that character disappears. Locke is still great and fun, but he didn’t need any of this. Perhaps his origin will be put to good use in the future, but for now it just dilutes what he is.

Given how much fury I’ve unleashed here, one might think I hate the Republic of Thieves. I don’t. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, and the character development and world-building it contributed to the series will no doubt serve it well in Thorn of Emberlain. But (ironically similar to Sabetha) this time, I choose to focus on the negatives. They don’t dull my enthusiasm toward the next book, whenever it may come.

Good luck, Mr. Lynch.