The Witcher – Netflix series

It’s all over the internet already, and deservedly, but with all the attention we paid Andrzej Sapkowski’s universe lately… here’s Tor.com version with all the details, and here the statement of Platige Image, one of three forces behind the planned series.

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1) Netflix is great. Its series – less consistently good than HBO’s, but there are hits aplenty. Same amount of care and effort they dedicated towards Daredevil or Stranger Things should give Game of Thrones a worthy competitor, at least from a genre lover’s point of view.

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2) Platige Image means Tomasz Baginski. Big name in animation, not only in Poland. Oscar nominee (for this), and, that is important, author of cinematic trailers to Witcher games. Great credentials for someone like me, a huge franchise fan, but will Grandpa Sapkowski be happy? He apparently is, despite his lack of enthusiasm towards games. Well, he’ll get more money out of this, while having more influence, as creative consultant. Good to have author involved, although it did not help Shannara.

“I’m thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and the themes that I have spent over thirty years writing,”

said Sapkowski, jabbing at the games yet again…

3) Producers? Guys behind The Expanse, and that is more good news. Expanse is a great genre show, with very good special effects done on budget, so chances of Witcher being a success are significant.

It’s already said to be a multi-season enterprise (“Bagiński will also direct at least one episode of each season”).

Sweet. If you’ve read the books, or even just our reviews, it’s clear there is a lot a lot potential. Short stories provide excellent basis for an introductory season or two, and then the novels… complex, sophisticated stories with likeable characters.

I’ve never be so excited about stuff like that, not even when GoT started, Witcher is more important for me personally.

If Netflix screws that up, I’m cancelling my subscription.

Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last (2015)

The Heart Goes Last

The Heart Goes Last is one of the newest books published by a prolific Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. She had already secured a place among the classics with The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian story from 1985, currently viewed by some as a prophetic account of the US under Trump and/or alt right. The Handmaid’s Tale is once again in vogue due to a new and currently airing TV series by Hulu, which has garnered glowing critical reviews and very positive audience responses. It won the 2015 Red Tentacle Award (British Kitschies) for the best novel, leaving behind such acclaimed works as Dave Hutchinson’s Europe at Midnight (sequel to Europe in Autumn) or The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, whose earlier book, The Killing Moon, is reviewed here.

Atwood’s credentials are known. She has written dozens of books, all one way or another touching upon contemporary social issues, exploring the themes of security and freedom, equality, violence, sexual exploitation, human liberties, etc. She has a following, and even if her prose is only rarely categorized as a fantasy or science-fiction, many of the themes and  ideas are similar in vein to our blog’s main interest. There’s usually a typical s-f, or at least near future, element, be it a social change or innovation, or a biological/medical one.

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Tad Williams, The Heart of What Was Lost (2017)

Tad Williams is a writer I’ve mentioned here a few times, and I reviewed his breakthrough trilogy, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. It got three posts altogether, so it’s clear I liked it. Having been published between 1988 and 1993, it’s one of the links between earlier post-tolkienian fantasy represented by authors like Brooks and modern, grimmer epics from Martin to Abercrombie. George R.R. claimed Williams had been an influence on The Song of Ice and Fire and it is quite possible, because despite Memory… predates Game of Thrones by eight years. So, the blurb you’ll see in a moment on the cover is not as annoying as many other of dozens upon dozens of GRRM’s stamps of approval.

It’s not the most sophisticated of fantasy series and lacks some of the shades of grey so important to books fashionable today, I admit, but it’s a well written story happening in a rich world. I particularly liked the important role given (closely based on Earthly examples) religion, something astonishingly rare in a genre where miracles actually do happen… and the elves, unusually alien and complicated. And the protagonist were likeable, and actually good people… does not happen that often now.

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Joe Abercrombie, The Heroes (2011)

Piotrek: Two armies march to battle. Black Dow’s Northmen and three divisions of Lord Marshal Kroy’s Union soldiers. They meet and fight for three days, and 500 pages, upon a river, next to a small town of Osrung and a famous hill called The Heroes.

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For a teenage me that would be the good parts distilled. Like what the little boy wanted to hear from his grandpa instead of all the talking and kissing and other boring stuff.

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Oh no, no it isn’t. It’s a fighting book. But not about glorious adventures of dashing heroes. It’s about the blood and piss and human stupidity. With very little magic it’s basically a detailed depiction of a fictional battle between Vikings and an early Renaissance army getting medieval on each other.

Ola: Very much a fighting book; nothing less and nothing more. And it’s not even about a whole war, just about one, maybe not even the most important incident, of this war. It’s Abercrombie at his best, reveling in gore and misery, depicting the primitive, intimate and brutal human fighting in all its terrible glory.

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Pierce Brown, Morning Star (2016)

Morning Star

I should start with the old and worn saying: “never say never”. For despite my scalding review of the second installment, Golden Son, and doubts the size of Godzilla I did reach for the conclusion to the Red Rising trilogy. Availability is key, you might say, especially on long train trips 😉 Aaand a promise of mindless entertainment 😉

Godzilla VS. The Smog Monster

I’m therefore pleased to say Morning Star is better than Golden Son. As the trilogy’s finale, it has all the advantages of tying up every unfinished thread, and bringing logical and emotionally satisfying conclusion to the story, in the hopes of becoming the crowning achievement of the author.

Red Rising trilogy, just like an old-fashioned computer game, lines the problems up from the easiest – the Institute in Red Rising – to the most difficult – i.e. the whole solar system in Morning Star. The villainous bosses are also gaining weight and powers as the books flash by, and this time the main villain is the Big Bad herself, the autocratic ruler of the solar system, Olivia au Lune, and her sinister right hand, Aja. Not to mention the Jackal, the scourge of Mars, the evil twin of Mustang and the terrible alter ego to Darrow. A double Mr Hyde for the price of one! :).

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Henry H. Neff, The Tapestry (2007-2014)

A few months ago I was looking, quite consciously, for good Harry Potter clones, or school-of-magic series in general. I’m brave enough to admit I loved The Magicians by Grossman (season two of the tv series is still good, by the way!), dubbed Potter for adults, but this time I’m back to children-oriented books. Or… middle grim-grade? I once showed Coraline to my then-three-year-old niece (sort-of by accident, long story, sorry Madzia, the most important thing is there was no lasting psychological damage 😉 ), but I won’t be reading her this one any time soon.

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Max McDaniels lives a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago, until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. Many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him.

Does not sound very original? And it isn’t, at first. Then it gets less derivative, and quite good. The five book long saga gives us likeable protagonists and develops their stories coherently up to a very satisfying ending. Seriously, there are many imperfections, and sometimes it felt rather dull, it definitely could be a book shorter in my opinion, but the ending itself made it worth my time. Melancholic, happy, but hard-earned. Even a bit tolkienesque, toutes proportions gardées.

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Another Tolkien link

Tolkien is too big, and too well-known for a simple review. For me, he is the god of the genre, chief of the pantheon, and I don’t accept dissent here. What irks me the most, is any criticism of LotR as not being realistic. It’s not Stendhal, people… But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

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Tolkien mythos is way more than Hobbit and The Trilogy, published before his death in 1973. They were finished and polished (almost) to their creator’s satisfaction, but there was so much more. And Christopher Tolkien might not be a giant of his father’s calibre, not even Guy Gavriel Kay, who helped to prepare The Silmarillion for publication, is, but we would be poorer if they didn’t prepare and publish it. And the rest of it, it’s actually quite interesting when we get all the unfinished and lost stories. Children of Húrin might have been a step too far, but even of that I’m not sure. It’s not Tolkien at his best, it’s only partially J.R.R. Tolkien at all, but it might be a nice supplementary reading for someone who’d shy away from The Silmarillion.

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