Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hollows: What will become of Rachel Morgan?

Oh Rachel Morgan, what is going to happen to you? You’re not the white earth witch we met in Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison. Now you’re tainted with demon smut and, it would seem, contain some demon DNA.

Sometimes when reading a series, it’s easy to forget how little time actually passed. It seems as if Rachel should have more of her life figured out by now. She’s still a bit clueless at relationships (no love triangle, thank goodness). She lacks finesse. The Ivy question feels as if it will never end. 

Rachel Morgan is one of the better female leads in fantasy literature. She made a difficult choice at the beginning of the series to set out on her own. She works as a witch detective/apprehension agent with the living vampire, Ivy, and the pixie, Jenks. She continues to make sacrifices for those she loves and cares about at the expense of her status and soul. Gone is the pure gold, now stained with black.

What makes Rachel’s story so appealing is the setting and morality issues. The story takes place in an alternate reality where thousands of humans died from contaminated genetically modified tomatoes. When the humans began to die out, Interlanders (vampires, werewolves, pixies, witches, warlocks, ect) saved the race. Now the two groups live in a somewhat peaceful, if separate, setting. The Interlanders walk around as the humans do. Most stories like Harry Potter and Twilight require the magical or mythical creatures to live in hiding. The combination of the two worlds adds a touch of intrigue. 

Rachel starts out using earth magic, determine to keep her aura smut-free. Her charm use is quite impressive. It’s clear that those who use darker forms of magic can wield a more obvious power, but Rachel doesn’t want to go there. That is, until she has no choice to save those around her. She eventually finds herself in a situation that requires dealing with demons, namely Algaliarept. Where as many would willing give into the temptation to embrace all the power demon magic has to offer with no qualms, Rachel works to maintain as much of her white witch beliefs as possible. 

She does use demon magic a little too often as the books continue, but the core of Rachel still exists. The demon magic question causes readers to think about ends justifying the means. Is it acceptable to taint your soul to help a friend recover his wayward son? What about to save yourself from an eternity in the demon’s land, the ever-after? Do the facts regarding Rachel’s relationship with demons regarding her DNA give her the right to harness ley line magic?

The cure for Rachel’s blood disease opened her up to a different set of rules than regular witches. As there are no others like her, she’s held to the same standards as the other witches. Revealing her heritage would only harm her more. Despite being shunned and disowned, she continues to do everything possible to save those who need help.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SWTOR: BioWare, we need server mergers

SWTOR needs server merges. 

Yesterday around 4:45 p.m. EST, 11 players were on the Republic Fleet and 100 on the Imperial Fleet. Yes, other players were on other planets, their ships and other locations, but 11 is still a horrible number for that time of day. The server I play on isn’t one of the smaller ones, either.

The players need server merges just as much as BioWare does. There’s no way to balance out the number of Republic and Empire players. More people play Empire, especially Sith Inquisitors it seems. As Star Wars fans know, the Dark Side is more seductive. Force Lightening looks cooler. Chocking someone in the Force creates a Darth Vader moment. Quite frankly, the imbalance doesn’t matter. Huttball makes the PVP queues more bearable for the abundant Empire players, as they can play themselves. 

It’s incredibly difficult to find a group for a Flashpoint or a full PVP during certain points of the day due to the sheer lack of players per server. Not only do group activities suffer, but also the Galactic Trade Market. Finding gear, mods and other items is an incredible challenge when nothing is up for sale. 

BioWare needs to merge the servers before they lose more players. The key aspect of MMORPG is the interactions with other people. While the game needed more servers back at launch, this is no longer the case. Trim the numbers down. 

Weekend evenings see more players logged on both sides. It’s the rest of the time that suffers the greatest. Players want to see scads of features, like dungeon finder and cross-server PVP, but none contains the urgency like server merges do. 

Some players reroll characters on other servers. Many of us don’t want to redo the entire class story and that should not be necessary. As customers, it’s not our job to find workarounds for such an issue. Playing guess what server contains a high amount of players on a regular basis is frustrating, pointless and annoying. Players needed to redo the same classes repeatedly just to interact more with other players will not keep current players or attract new ones. 

Server merges benefit everyone. The players aren’t scrambling for others. BioWare eradicates the risk of losing subscriptions due to frustrated customers leaving because there aren’t enough people online. It will take a bit of tech time, but in the end, it can only improve the gameplay experience.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mercy Kill cover updated

The Star Wars Books Facebook page announced that the cover of Mercy Kill received a bit of an update.

Old cover
 Even though the font looks a little odd, the artwork is stunning. It captures the essence of the X-Wing books. It feels open, like space. An enemy can approach at any angle.

New cover
The addition of the symbol makes the cover look a bit crowded. The space seems too closed off. The white/silver coloring makes it appear somewhat washed out at parts. It also reminds me of the anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire.

The question is why it was changed. Using a cover design that reminds fans of books they loved makes more sense marketing-wise. If someone quit reading the books for whatever reason, and then saw a cover at a bookstore that looked kind of like a set of books she liked, it seems more likely that she'd pick up a copy.

If anything, the new cover further separates the book from previous X-Wing novels.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Katniss in the arena
Few movies manage to capture to true essence of a book. Fortunately, for fans, The Hunger Games succeeded where films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Eragon failed. There were changes, as expected, but not ones that were detrimental to the feeling of the story. 

Immediately fans see how terrified Primrose Everdeen, the main character Katniss’s sister, is of the reaping that day. It’s clear from the beginning how much Katniss cares for her sister—and how emotionally distant she is from her mother. This scene sets the feel for the rest of the film beautifully.

The casting choices for The Hunger Games fit perfectly. Willow Shields broke hearts as young Prim. Woody Harrelson captured Haymitch perfectly—and hilariously. Josh Hutcherson portrayed Peeta’s feelings towards Katniss and his own life in a moving, meaningful way. The spirit and soul of Katniss comes out brilliantly through Jennifer Lawrence.  Each cast member brought his character to life in a believable, fitting fashion.
The addition of scenes not from the books didn’t detract from the story; they enhanced it and set up for Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The scenes with President Snow brought chills to the skin while the moments in the Gamemakers room contained a mixture of horror and fascination. The ones orchestrating the obstacles in the area seemed proud of sending children to their deaths. The technology, though, is quite interesting to see. Think Iron Man’s computer system. 

Katniss and Gale
As with any adaptation, some scenes don’t make the cut while others face alterations. The only real complaint in this department is that if a person hasn’t read the book, she may find herself confused on a few points. Fortunately, through the role of Caesar Flickerman, there’s some explanation throughout the Games. It’s almost like sports commentary. It’s easy to miss details like who Foxface is, that Peeta and Katniss trained together at first and that Haymitch was a former tribute. 

As expected, the movie contains dozens of incidents of violence. Through shaky camera work and angled shots, viewers see what happens without it being gratuitous. The shaking shots can make viewers a bit dizzy or disorientated, so this is definitely not a movie to watch up close. The amount of blood is enough to make the point without taking it too far. There’s a certain feeling of wrongness accompanied with watching children fight to the death; a feeling present in the books and that fans should never lose. Director Gary Ross captured the horror in an effective method.

Katniss and Effie
Because of the extreme violence and emotionally gripping scenes, The Hunger Games is somewhat hard to watch. From the moment when Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place to the trials in the area, it’s impossible to remain completely calm. Be prepared for tears, laughter and anxiety. It’s difficult to watch characters die, especially ones that worm their way into the hearts of fans without us realizing it. It’s worth it, though. 

The Hunger Games is a must-see not only for fans of the book, but the general public. Katniss Everdeen is a true heroine, one that we can all admire. If the box office numbers tells us anything, it’s that the a movie lead by such a fantastic character with an amazing story can and will take the world by storm.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Zahn's Han Solo novel has a name: Scoundrels

Timothy Zahn's much-anticipated Han Solo novel has a title: Scoundrels. EW. com has the cover art for all to see. The cover art features Han, Chewbacca and Lando.

The release still stands at Dec. 26, as mentioned in the Random House catalog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Han Solo book blurb and Troy Denning Suvudu interview

The Random House Fall catalog is up and lucky for us, there's some information about the much anticipated Han Solo book penned by Timothy Zahn.

From the catalog:
Ocean’s Eleven meets Star Wars in this classic adventure set just after Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. From #1 New York Times bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

The Death Star has just been destroyed and Han Solo still needs the money to pay off the bounty on his head. Now the opportunity to make that money and then some has walked into his life in the form of the perfect heist. With nine like-minded scoundrels, he and Chewbacca just might be able to pull it off and live to tell the tale!
Sounds like a fun read!  The listing states Dec. 26 as the release date. That, of course, can change at a moment's notice. The only question I have thus far is about Lando's participation (see Key Selling Points). Is Zahn going to create a different "swindle" than what we read about in the Han Solo trilogy?

In other news, check out Eric Geller's Troy Denning interview on the Suvudu blog regarding Apocalypse. It contains many eye-brow raising remarks regarding Abeloth (no real explanation), Ben, Vestara and an illogical look at Jaina (this is Star Wars. Stories happen all over the place. Not an excuse to keep her and Jag apart).