Here’s a throwback post to some of my work over at Comparative Geeks. Give them a look and tell them I sent you!
When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to hunt and kill monsters. Such a desire led me through many interests over the years, as well as the inevitable realization that the only real monsters in the world were all human beings–something that Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher, also realizes in his own adventures. My first experience with Geralt came in the second Witcher video game. After that, I read The Last Wish (a collection of early short stories about the character), played the original Witcher video game, began working my way through Andrzej Sapkowsi’s other Witcher books, and then lost several months of my life to The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I have no regrets.
The appeal of Geralt as a character is manifold. He is different; he is other. The mutations that allow him to hunt and fight monsters also make him a pariah, and Witchers are often seen as half-monsters themselves. His outsider status within his own story coupled with his deep, heartfelt distrust of authority have always been positives for me, and his near-inability to be impressed with anyone else effectively makes Geralt my spirit animal. He has little time for the artificial institutions of self-important humans, and is usually far more comfortable on the road or knocking a few back with a band of dwarves than within a city’s walls. I must say that I agree in total.
I eagerly await Henry Cavill’s performance in the upcoming Netflix Witcher series.
A disaster strikes your home, and you have to get out quick. You’re risking leaving a lot of things behind, but the important parts of your life–your family and pets–are already safe. You only have a few moments to grab at most seven books from your shelves and run. What will those seven precious books–the backbone of starting over–be? Here are my choices. Consider sharing your own.
Forgive the condition of some of these; my books have been through a lot with me, which is why it’s nearly impossible to make this decision. This is a background anxiety I believe a lot of us with large book collections likely possess, and I wanted to interrogate mine a bit. If you had to pare it down and start over, where would you begin?
We’re going to try a little something different today, both to explore something(s) awesome and to commemorate Claudia Gray’s newest Star Wars novel, Master and Apprentice, which came out last week. The two Star Wars novels of Gray’s I have read so far are among the franchise’s most fantastic recent offerings: Lost Stars (2015) and Bloodline (2016).
I never, ever thought I could become enamored with a YA love story, but here we are. Lost Stars is an absorbing journey through the entire original Star Wars saga told from the points of view of two entirely new characters who grow up together on a backwater planet and who both join the Imperial Academy on Coruscant. The love story goes star-crossed after Alderaan, with one character remaining in the Imperial Navy and the other joining the Rebellion. The depth and nuance of Gray’s understanding of human emotion are staggering, and will impress even the most cynical and hard-hearted Star Wars fan. I cannot recommend this book enough!
While the sort of emotional power found in Lost Stars is also strong with Bloodline, it is foremost Claudia Gray’s gripping effort to set a political thriller in the Star Wars universe. Focusing primarily on Leia and her closely-guarded secret about her true parentage, Gray also paints a disturbing picture of an up-and-coming generation who did not witness the Galactic Civil War and who have developed an unhealthy fascination with the Empire. This, as we know, is one of several factors that leads to the rise of the First Order. It is also unsettling to witness this same sort of fascination among many young, white American teenagers with Nazism. If you are a Star Wars fan and you worry about younger generations forgetting the past far, far too easily, I heartily recommend this book to you.
Don’t worry; I’m not going to try to defend the vampire sub-genre here. While some of the older, campier versions of Dracula can be fun, my favorite iteration is the one portrayed by Gary Oldman in the Francis Ford Coppola film from 1992. It also hearkens back to my favorite section of the original Bram Stoker novel, and what, for me, redeems the monster at the center of the entire story.
In the original novel, there is a scene where Dracula and Harker stay up all night just talking, and as dawn breaks Dracula has to run away to hide from the sunlight. I loved this moment. It demonstrates the lonely old immortal Dracula, and that he truly did just yearn for companionship. The novel gets really tedious after this when it swaps to Mina’s letter-writing perspective, but that one small section always gets me.
I feel that the lonely Dracula longing for a human connection (despite, you know, eating Gypsy babies) is the one best embodied in Gary Oldman’s performance. I love this movie, and I can’t recommend it enough if you have never seen it. The cinematography is fantastic, and the central story line that develops of an immortal, heartbroken being chasing a lost love throughout time is one certain to catch the attention of fans of horror, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance all at once.
Conan is a character continually returned to in prose, comics, and films since his first appearance in 1932. Created by Robert E. Howard, a man who found it difficult to reconcile his views of the world with modern life, Conan is the ultimate misanthrope. Conan despises civilization and prefers a life in the wild, though he continually drifts back for wine, women, and opportunities to hone his craft and shed some blood.
I’m not saying I wish the world were exactly like the ancient age of Conan, but can you honestly say you’ve never just wanted to get away from it all and experience a version of the world entirely different from the urban jungle-dominated landscapes that can be seen on every continent except Antarctica?
What does speak to me on a level my life experiences and education push back against is the idea of riding free and making your way in life at the point of your sword. Friends, wealth, adventure, booze, sex are all there waiting for you, without the burden of a structured life to go with it all. I have to say, a life in fur briefs and an Atlantean sword at my hip beats the office grind any day.
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