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Guitar Legends I – Stevie Ray Vaughn

May 18, 2010

I heard Stevie for the first time a few years ago on an MTV Unplugged session with another guitar legend, Joe Satriani. Although we lost him almost 20 years ago, he still remains one of the best guitar players ever.

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He Tells Of The Perfect Beauty – W.B.Yeats

March 12, 2010

O cloud-pale eyelids, dream-dimmed eyes,
The poets labouring all their days
To build a perfect beauty in rhyme
Are overthrown by a woman’s gaze
And by the unlabouring brood of the skies:
And therefore my heart will bow, when dew
Is dropping sleep, until God burn time,
Before the unlabouring stars and you.

He Tells Of The Perfect Beauty – W.B.Yeats (in The Wind Among The Reeds)

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Gitanjali (poem LIX) – Rabindranath Tagore

March 11, 2010

Yes, I know, this is nothing but thy love, O beloved of my heart – this golden light that dances upon the leaves, these idle clouds sailing across the sky, this passing breeze leaving its coolness upon my forehead.

The morning light has flooded my eyes – this is thy message to my heart. Thy face is bent from above, thy eyes look down on my eyes, and my heart has touched thy feet.

Gitanjali (Song Offerings), poem LIX – Rabindranath Tagore

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The Mystic Trumpeter – Walt Whitman

March 10, 2010

Love, that is all the earth to lovers — love, that mocks time and space,
Love, that is day and night — love, that is sun and moon and stars,
Love, that is crimson, sumptuous, sick with perfume,
No other words but words of love, no other thought but love.

The Mystic Trumpeter – Walt Whitman (in Leaves of Grass)

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Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

December 24, 2009

I wish all readers a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

With my wife in hospital, this will be for us the worst Xmas ever. We’ll be praying for better days.

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Book review – “Deadhouse Gates” by Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen vol. 2)

June 21, 2009

It is clear that Empress Laseen can’t hold the Malazan Empire together as well as her predecessor did. In an attempt to appease the people, nobles are being enslaved as workers in the Otaratal mines, but one of these victims is the sister of the current Adjunct. To make things worse, there is rebellion in Seven Cities and the 7th army is sent to quench it. The Fist and a bulk of this army are Wickans, a people “absorbed” into the Empire by the previous Emperor. Close by, there is a different struggle: Soletaken and D’ivers, shapeshifters with the power to veer into one or multiple animal forms respectively, are searching for a throne that is supposed to give them power above all others. However, inadvertently on their path, is Icarium, a kind and powerful but amnesiac half-Jaghut with a dark past that he does not remember – although his companion Mappo does…

In the 1st book, of the on the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, the action followed the Malazan army on the move to Darujhistan, but in this 2nd book there are three main story threads that eventually “tie up” together in a masterful way that is one of Erikson’s best skills.

As on other Malazan books, there is a clash between armies, in this case the Malazan 7th with the rebellious army of Seven Cities. Now although the ending of this story thread is very well thought out (and very unexpected!), I find it to be the least interesting of the book, as there are lots of unlikely close calls, and there isn’t much individual action for Erikson’s standards. I also didn’t find Duiker, the Imperial Historian with the army, to be a very interesting main character, as I never favor “perfect characters”.

In the other two main threads, following smaller groups, Erikson gives us the quality of character description that makes these series excel: in the Otaratal mines, Felisin Tavore’s suffering makes the thirst for revenge very palpable for the reader – the mysteries following her two companions augmenting the need to know what will happen next. On the other thread, the character of Icarium unravels slowly giving us an insight over is amnesia and the periods of rage… As mentioned above, both threads eventually merge together (even though Felisin’s will only become totally clear on the next book) in yet another very good ending – although surely not what I was expecting.

I have to say the setting for this book isn’t one of my favorites in the series but it’s still a very good book by any fantasy standards. The introduction to important characters in the series like Icarium, Heboric or Iskaral Pust make it a very important book to potentially re-read later in the series, even though only the story of Icarium is even linked to the past story/mythos of this fantasy world.

Final score: 7.5

Best character: In my opinion, it is Heboric Ghost-Hands, fallen priest of Fener, who is depicted more brilliantly in this book – even though my favorite character was Icarium and I assume Erikson’s intention was to make both Imperial Historian Duiker and Fist Coltaine of the 7th Army the “central” characters of the book.

(To whet the appetite for the next review, I’ll just mention that “Memories of Ice” is one of the best books of the series and that we get at last a deeper view over the history of the world and powers and Gods. Stay tuned!)

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Book review – “Gardens of the Moon” by Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen vol. 1)

April 18, 2009

 

The Empress Laseen, who has recently taken the throne of the Malazan Empire, continues the expansion started by her predecessor, through the continent of Genabackis. The rich city of Darujhistan is the objective, but Pale and its mages are on the way of the Malazan 2nd Army. This army counts with the experience of their High Fist (army General) Dujek One-Arm, the “sapper” brigade of the Bridgeburners, and a cadre of High Mages, but the Tiste Andii lord Anomander Rake does not intend to let Pale get captured easily…

 

Thus starts “Gardens of the Moon”, first book of the “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series, pre-reviewed here

 

Despite the apparently standard premiss of the book, as the reader goes through its early stages, many questions arise. What really happened to the previous emperor? Who are Amannas and Cotillion, who seem to be ready to thwart Laseen’s plans? Why are the Gods so interested in Ganoes Paran, new leader of the Bridgeburners? What really happened to the mage cadre during the fight in Pale? What is the secret plan of the Adjunct of the Empress?

 

The book quickly takes a fast pace, and all these threads become caught in each other. It becomes hard to put the book down, as surely something interesting is bound to happen in the next pages!

 

Then there’s a fantastic finale, where several of the book’s protagonists meet and face each other. This ploy, often used by Erikson throughout the saga, is called a Convergence, which basically means that powerful characters get attracted to each other and to powerful events, like moths to a flame.

 

Overall, this book is excellent, and starts my favorite saga since “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever”. If I had to point any negative sides of it, I’d say some of the interesting threads are left loose until later books, and also that some parts of the story are better understood after reading the follow-ups. Mind, this isn’t necessary a negative, since a few of the happenings of the book are described by the “opposing parties” in later books, revealing very interest other-sides-of-the-coin. For example, one of the most “hateable” characters in this book, will become one of the readers’ favorites after at least other books in the series.

 

Final score: 8 (first read – 8.5 if re-read after other books of the series)

 

Best character: The book introduces us to many interesting characters that will have interesting roles throughout the saga, like the mysterious Bridgeburner mage Quick Ben, the consciencious Daru assassin Rallick Nom, or Onos T’oolan the First Sword of the T’lan Imass. But it’s the Lord of Darkness, Anomander Rake, and his highly original sword that becomes central to the magic (pun intended) of this book.