Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie.

I finished listening to the audiobook today and it delivered great grimdark stories and has nearly every character in the First Law Trilogy and World Books either referenced directly, hinted at, or even a small cameo. I think the book shines with the newer characters of Shevedieh and Javre and their stories interweave wonderfully between stories that are more related to the First Law Trilogy or World books. The narration is top-notch, it’s great to hear Steven Pacey voice old and familiar characters as well as creating great voices for newer characters, even Joe Abercrombie narrates a story pretty good. This was a highly anticipated book for me this year and it did not disappoint, that makes 2 in a row for great audiobooks this week (the other being The Last Werewolf.)

  1.  A Beautiful Bastard: Story about Colonel Glokta and the infamous bridge. A cool backstory for Glokta with numerous cameos of the First Law Trilogy and a couple from the Heroes.
  2.  Small Kindnesses: Shev and Javre, their first meeting and formation of their long working relationship. Severard is also featured.
  3.  The Fool Jobs: Curnden Craw and his Dozen in the east of the Crinna. Cracknut Whirrun, Wonderful, and Jolly Yon featured, what’s not to like here?
  4.  Skipping Town: Another Shev and Javre tale, and another fun story.
  5.  Hell: Temple and Haddish Kahdia experience of the tail end of the Siege/Fall of the Dagoska. This one was extremely good. It features the fruit of the desert, thrice blessed and thrice cursed.
  6.  Two’s Company: Shev and Javre meet Cracknut Whirrun, need I say more?
  7.  Wrong Place, Wrong Time: This one features the little people who get caught in Monzcarro Murcatto’s epic plot for revenge.
  8.  Some Desperado: Shy South/Smoke backstory before the events of Red Country. Listening to this story in Dangerous Women is what lead me to picking up the First Law Trilogy.
  9. Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden: another backstory before the events of the Heroes, featuring Bremer dan Gorst and Pale as Snow. I enjoyed this one as the Heroes, over time but not initially, became my favorite novel in series.
  10. Three’s a Crowd: Shev, Javra, and Carcolf. This one is my favorite out of the whole book. Some cool references and backstory for some of my favorite characters.
  11. Freedom:  This is the one Abercrombie narrated, it’s a retelling of the events in Red Country where Cosca sacks a town sheltering supposed rebels. I liked this one too, Abercrombie is a decent narrator, he really goes over the top in the already over the top account of the sack of Averstock.
  12.  Tough Times All Over: Another great tale featuring numerous First Law characters.
  13.  Made A Monster: This one is another awesome tale. It was close to being my favorite of the book. It’s a story of infamous event of Rattleneck and his son, it provides a great insight to how the Bloody-nine came about.

So this was an audible credit well spent. Abercrombie’s First Law series (trilogy and world books) delivers on satisfying fantasy that also has great humorous bits to round out the grimdark story. Shev and Javre, they quickly became some of my favorite characters (along with Logen/The Bloody-Nine, Glokta, Cosca, Monzcarro Murcatto, Shylo Vitari, Shy South, Bayaz, Craw and his dozen.)

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The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan.

I rarely try to listen to audiobooks in 1 or 2 sittings, meaning nonstop listening over a 1 or 2 day period, but god fucking damn it The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan narrated by Robin Sachs was just that fucking good.

First off, a great story with an unforgettable and compelling character in Jake Marlowe. It reads like a hardboiled noir-ish type story but with werewolf main character. The writing of the character and the story are done so well, I particularly enjoyed the slow burn type of pace the story moves in. I’m a huge sucker for any story that involves werewolves and vampires and the Last Werewolf definitely has both but the conflict of a 200-year-old man looking for a reason to go on living is what really drew me in. I’m not one for a heavy romance type of story or even remotely interested in Paranormal Romance genre stuff, however, I felt it added a nice layer to an already multi-layered story, it done pretty good without being too sappy.

I also liked that the story didn’t pull any punches when dealing with sex or violence (and in some cases both at the same time.) It’s refreshing when such things are not just fade to black type of situations. It reminded me of Richard K Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs type of sex and violence, meaning it definitely had its place in the story. I’m glad I didn’t pay much heed to the negative reviews claiming the sex and violence was over the top or gratuitous or even that crossed lines. I’m kind of sick of the Victorian era type of morals and values that people seem to have now when dealing with any type of sexual activity or violence. It’s fine that you don’t personally like a lot of sex or violence in your fantasy or sci-fi but I really don’t care for the attempt to dissuade others from reading something just because you find it personally uncomfortable.

The narration is top fucking notch, Robin Sachs (who played the very memorable Ethan Rayne in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and voiced Zaeed Massani in the Mass Effect Trilogy) did a marvelous job telling the story. It was one the best narrated audiobooks I’ve heard ever. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration either, it is a simple fact.

I definitely will pick up the next book in the series, Talulla Rising, based solely on how much I liked the Last Werewolf. I’m not expecting it to surpass or even equal how good the Last Werewolf is, I just want to finish off the story of Talullah and see how the story turns out.

I would recommend picking up this book, good werewolf stories are rare and this one delivers on so many levels. It was definitely worth picking up.

Zero World by Jason M. Hough

So this was one I picked up from audible based solely on Felicia Day’s goodreads recommendation, it definitely did not disappoint. It delivered on every level and was something refreshingly new that touched on all my genre preferences. I was not able to predict where the story was going to go or end up and that was pretty nice in itself. It’s also rare for a book to have a non white dude as its main character and so many good female characters. The world building was also pretty good and it was nice to have a story where the mirror world of earth wasn’t just role reversal or twist on some aspect of our own society. I particularly liked the setup for the other worlds and the wardens for those worlds.

Gideon Emery, a voice actor of renown and had a small but memorable part in the first season for Netflix’s Daredevil series, narrated/performed the story very well. So well in fact, that I may end up picking up Charles Stross’ The Laundry Files, where Emery also does the narration. Emery does a great job with dialects, gives a distinct voice and tone for each character, and tells the story very well.

I hope that this book is the first in a series, it’s a good story and with a couple of great characters with multiple worlds to explore.

For the people who haven’t yet read and are looking for something new that has a Takeshi Kovacs type vibe to it, pick up this book.

The Revenant

I picked it up on blu ray on thursday and watched it last night, definitely a good movie. I liked that native people were not shown like they are in every other hollywood movie. I also liked that the motivation for revenge for Glass, Elk Dog and Hikuc is shown for what it is, a bad motivation to base the rest of your life on.

The movie definitely deserves all the credit it gets and Dicaprio definitely deserved his oscar.

I also enjoyed the 44 minute documentary as well, it provided a lot of insights on the various characters and the transformative themes that the director wanted to achieve with the movie, the setting, and the shooting in chronological order. I also liked Dicaprio’s break down of modern capitalism vs the frontier capitalism and his own view at what cost is enough for us to break the cycle of destroying the environment.

Definitely a great pick up and well worth the wait to watch it at home.

The Division post patch 1.1

After about 288 hours in game, I can say for sure that Massive/Ubisoft has something there. If they don’t fuck it up by overtuning/nerfing or by being high handed in their dealings with the playerbase. Which is just another way of saying, they really need to tread carefully or risk a very steep drop off in their player base. They have a good thing going and the game is fun with friends but the darkzone grind to get crafting patterns is a pretty bad design choice, as it was stated by the devs that you didn’t need to grind out levels in the Dark Zone for PVE. And then they just add 2 blueprints (a First Wave Vector 45 and First Wave M1A, the 2 best weapons at the moment) at Darkzone level 75 and a huge darkzone credit cost. I’ve put nearly 300 hours into this and I’m Darkzone level 60 for context purposes. So it makes zero fucking sense for them to do that and then take away those patterns after a few days, which numerous players were able to pick up, creating a clear gear/weapon gap that is already pretty wide. The Division has had numerous glitches/exploits that allowed many players to get a crazy amount of gear, which created another gear gap. The Darkzone still has it problems as well, going rogue in groups of 4-8 players namely, signature skills in pvp, the crazy amount of Damage Reduction from talents, and the pretty crazy amount of hacking going on. The crafting nerf was pretty harsh and Division Tech crafting mats are still a pain to get. Also, since there is no PTR and no Beta Testing changes, the game is a mess sometimes. 99% of the exploits are due to Mobile Cover and others are poor collision detection with walls.

The Incursion Update, while a cool free update, is just a room with spawns of enemies that attack in waves and a dodge grenades/missile mechanic. The turrets with an off/on switch is just a bad design mechanic. It’s a bad mechanic because you already have to clear waves of enemies until a wave that has an explosive charge carrying mob spawns and then planting it. It would have been better to have to defend it for 10-15 seconds while more enemies spawn to try and defuse it. Challenging Mode Incursion is the same thing but the enemies are just bullet sponges, even more so than they were already. It just a matter of having 200+ Gearscore weapons combined with your preferred 4 piece set (Sentry’s Call at the moment, it’s so much better than the others although you really need 1 person with Tacticians to buff with Pulse and Smart Cover) and your preferred 2 piece bonus.

Despite all that criticism though, the game still has it moments and is something different from the numerous other “Looter Shooters” out there. I did buy the season pass so I’m already committed to playing it and have no regrets, as it took blizzard 3 years to get Diablo 3 where it is now (meaning accessible, fun to play, and a worthwhile experience) and it took DICE a couple of patches and a year to get Battlefield 4 a decent FPS. So I’m hoping Massive/Ubisoft will get it eventually.

As a side note, the game looks pretty good and plays very smoothly. I think the Division is just a testing bed for Ubisoft, as it is pretty obvious that the snowdrop engine will be used for future Assassin’s Creed and Farcry games.

April 2016 update post.

Figured I would do another of one these since 3 things came up this month.

I subbed to pick up CraveTV for a lot of various tv shows but mostly for Deadwood and The Wire. It’s 10 shows I have tracked in total: Deadwood, The Wire, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Band of Brothers, Battlestar Galactica, Carnivale, Flight of the Conchords, Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, Ray Donovan, and Penny Dreadful.

I’ve started to watch the Wire and Deadwood, I’m about 8 episodes into the Wire and 4 into Deadwood. Cravetv is definitely worth it for me as buying the Blu rays or DVDs for each would be about 200+$ and it costs 7.99$ per month for Crave.

I picked up the new Star Wars and the Hateful Eight, and I was impressed by both. The special features for Star Wars The Force Awakens were pretty good and impressive. They were both definitely worth it and it definitely reaffirms my preference to watch movies at home.

I also finally got started on Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher: The Last Wish narrated by Peter Kenny, it’s good so far and I wish I started listening to this first before Blood of Elves. It’s also apt timing because some new Witcher 3 news hit today, a rumor on Blood and Wine’s release date (apparently May 27th.) Making May a pretty good month as the Fireman by Joe Hill is out on May 17th, The Witcher: The Tower of Swallows by Andrzej Sapkowski is out on May 17th as well, and Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie is out on April 26th.

I’ll probably do a relisten to the Witcher series because I have Sword of Destiny to listen to next and leading up to the Tower of Swallows release. I also have Zero World by Jason M. Hough to listen to and also have Sharp Ends at the end of the month. So I will have to find some time to listen to them both. I am looking forward to listening to both, I picked up Zero World on goodreads recommendation from a post by Felicia Day and Sharp Ends is a short story compilation featuring new and old short stories in the First Law World.

 

“if I’m to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

“Evil is evil, Stregobor,” said the witcher seriously as he got up. “Lesser, greater, middling, it’s all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I’m not a pious hermit. I haven’t done only good in my life. But if I’m to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

― Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish