AEL: The Sword of Summer, Sense and Sensibility (1995), Rick Astley album, The Hammer of Thor, WoW

So it’s kinda sad… I’m very glad I started doing these logs, because I feel like my experiences with these works of art are enriched by the process of writing my thoughts down (disorganized as those thoughts may be); and, for as few logs as I’ve done at this point, I already like to look back at them. But everything takes time, and the time I’ve been spending writing about art I’ve experienced has eaten into the time I’ve had for experiencing art.

I used to read manga at lunch most days, as well as between Dominion turns at home. I used to watch episodes of stuff whilst waiting for my dad to pick me up after work. But now all of those moments tend to be spent trying to catch up on my latest AEL. Well, OK, it’s possible I’ve been putting off the next waiting-for-dad-after-work episode because it’s Boogie-Woogie Feng Shui, the most boring episode of anything ever, but still. Kinda sad and ironic how these logs, by their very existence, lessen the amount of stuff I have to log. Anyway. Moving on.

The Sword of Summer — With The Hammer of Thor coming out, I wanted to reread the first one so as to remember what the crap was happening. I enjoyed it all over again, and had some of the same thoughts as the first time through and some new ones.

To start out with, I think Riordan kinda backslid with this book when it comes to characterization. Not that strong characterization has ever been his major selling point, but I thought he did pretty well in THoO. And while these new folks aren’t as flat as in PJatO (particularly the first two or three books), I don’t think they’re as well defined as Piper, Leo, et al. Magnus and Sam in particular are basically Percy and Annabeth all over again, and that’s kindof annoying.

So obviously Magnus needs someone from whom he can learn stuff having to do with the Norse world and his new life, and Sam has been a valkyrie for three years. But she seems to know fucking everything, down to specific runes and what they do, and can identify pretty well every figure in the Norse world… That kind of extensive and minute knowledge made sense in a daughter of Athena, but in Sam it seems a little out of place. And do they have to have the exact same “You idiot” relationship Percy and Annabeth do? Oh, yeah, they do, because Magnus is essentially Percy.

One thing I adore about their relationship, though, is how dedicated a friend Magnus is to Sam with no hint of romantic interest between them. I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating: despite being a serious romance fangirl, I love to see male-female friendship without even a hint of romance. It’s wonderful that Magnus is so devoted to Sam’s goals and well-being without any thought of being “rewarded” the way male characters in fiction so often are. I don’t necessarily know that Sam is an equally devoted friend to him in return, but we don’t get to see her thoughts the way we see Magnus’.

On that note, I am a little sad that Riordan went back to first person narration for this series when he did so much better with third in THoO, and I kinda feel like that’s what caused this book to read a bit like a retread of some of PJatO. I’m already over it, though. Riordan’s prose has long since improved to passable, and overall I enjoyed this book as I’ve enjoyed everything else in the Riordanverse.

One of the things I (and probably the rest of his fanbase) love best about Riordan is the seemingly pointed and deliberate inclusiveness that has grown along with the quality of his prose. It’s true that Percy, Jason, and Magnus are all the industry standard, which could be better, but Riordan has still gone out of his way to build a diverse cast in many cases. In this book we’ve got an Arab-American lead whose story has nothing to do with terrorism and who wears a hijab whenever she fucking feels like it, and I absolutely love it.

An interesting choice Riordan has made that I’m not quite sure how I feel about is often not to establish skin color in narration. Samira al-Abbas is the daughter of a second-generation Iraqi immigrant. Thomas Jefferson Jr. is the civil-war-era son of a runaway slave. It’s a pretty good bet that each of these is a character of color despite having a Norse god as their other parent, but the narration offers no comment on the skin color of either. And while I’m always glad to see a departure from the common assumption that everyone is white unless specifically described otherwise, I also feel like good, affirming representation should be unequivocal. I don’t like the idea of bigots being able to whitewash these characters because their skin colors aren’t explicitly mentioned. I don’t want another assholish pushback like we saw against Noma Dumezweni as Hermione. So I’m not quite sure how to react to this.

Riordan’s attempts at inclusivity have not, I feel, been quite as successful when it comes to disabilities. Everything along those lines in PJatO was worse than disappointing when it turned out to be some indication of being a demigod or non-human in disguise. I understand the desire to write books for a kid with dyslexia and ADHD that say, “These stumbling blocks you’ve grown up with are actually signs of a secret badass destiny,” but it’s poor representation to write a character with ADHD and dyslexia that turns out… not to actually have ADHD and dyslexia.

But in The Sword of Summer we have Hearthstone, who is genuinely deaf. His deafness does not define him as a person, yet is ever-present in the story as it is in his life, does not grant him compensatory super powers, and is not magically healed even in a world that actually has magic. In fact, despite his deafness having caused specific difficulties in his life, the idea of its being healed is never even brought up. (Which might actually be a bit of a Misapplied Phlebotinum Fantastic Aesop, but I’ll take that over a magical disability cure, thanks.)

Prior to this, Castle of the Winds was the extent of my exposure to Norse mythology, so all my real first impressions on the subject are coming from Mr. Riordan. And I’m interested to note not only the sense of inevitability that comes with all the prophesy in this world, but the almost meticulous predestination they’ve got going on. It’s like they have this very specific schedule everyone’s going to have to follow come Ragnarok, leaving the only real mystery exactly when it will all start. It’s kinda comical, but it also brings the same trapped feeling predestination always does, and I think the author was wise to implement the “Change what details you can” and “Live for today” messages he did.

This book did not end with a whammy of a Riordan Cliffhanger™, but the first book in each series rarely does. I look forward in great anticipation to what he will come up with next.

Sense and Sensibility (1995) — My brother finally finished reading this book in July or August after years of not finishing it, so we planned to watch the movie for my birthday to show him what is, in my opinion, the best movie adaptation of a book of all time. However, we ran out of time on my birthday. But a few weeks ago (in case you’re curious how far behind on AEL’s I am) we opted not to drive over a snowy mountain pass to a concert we had cheap tickets to, and thus had a few free hours. So we ate snacks and watched Sense and Sensibility.

Aaaaand it’s still the best movie adaptation of a book I’ve ever seen. As I mentioned last time, I think a lot about the transition between media, and tend to decide that the book-to-movie transition simply doesn’t work… except for the occasional Jane Austen adaptation. In this case, I feel like they captured the essence of this story as well as they possibly could in the runtime they had.

Yes, it absolutely is disappointing to see Marianne oversimplified, to miss seeing everything I really love about Mrs. Jennings (besides her hilarity, of course), and to hate Willoughby (if possible) even more. But the heart and purpose of the story remains intact, and the result is still thoroughly enjoyable.

Does anyone else daydream, as they experience the adaptation of a novel, about having the author of the novel at their side? I can never help wondering what Jane Austen’s thoughts would be if she were to see this. (Setting aside era/culture-shock, of course, because, while that’s entertaining to think about too, it’s not what I’m actually wondering.)

I’d like to give more specific thoughts on this movie and everything it did right and the few very minor complaints I have and what changes I think I’d have to explain to Jane Austen in my long conversation with her after watching it, but detailed memories are already fading. AEL’s are not very useful or meaningful when I write them up this long after the fact! Still, gotta move on now.

50 by Rick Astley — Well, I have to admit that all I’d heard of Rick Astley prior to this was his Greatest Hits. I always enjoyed the sound of his voice and the catchiness of his songs (despite their consummately idiotic lyrics), but I’ve never known anything about him or followed his career at all.

But when he released the first song off this new album, Keep Singing, as a single a couple of months back, my brother emailed me a link to listen to it, and I loved it so damn much I’ve been listening to it constantly ever since — and when the second single, Angels on My Side (the second song on the album, interestingly), came out, I grabbed and loved and listened a lot to that one too. So of course I was excited for the entire album.

And, damn, has he ever found his niche. This soulful style is exactly what he was meant to do, as he himself is clearly aware. Without giving up any of the catchiness (or, in some cases, the idiotic lyrics) of his cheesy pop songs, he’s added depth and weight to his music by shifting styles and focusing on faith and hope with his message. I may not be Christian, but I find this entire album very uplifting, and that’s awesome.

I don’t think any of the tracks are better than the two pre-released singles, and normally I would consider this a sad indication of an artist’s lack of confidence in his work — that he would feel it necessary to lead with his strongest pieces in order to generate enough interest to ensure sales of the whole product, rather than teasing with #2 or #3 and letting #1 come as a huge, wonderful surprise for those that bought the whole thing — but in this case, when it’s been eleven years since his last album and he’s essentially reinventing himself, it seems like a very good idea to give people a taste, beforehand, of exactly what this new Rick Astley is all about.

You can probably tell that I did eventually read up on him (as far as looking him up on Wikipedia counts), but I didn’t do it for the reason you think. I did it because, during the very obnoxious spoken part of Let It Be Tonight, the last (otherwise pretty good) song on the album, I was bowled over by the astonishing realization that Rick Astley is British. I had to look him up in order to confirm what my ears were telling me, but I still almost can’t believe it XD

The Hammer of Thor — I’m so far behind on AEL’s that I’m not even going to try to remember all my minute thoughts about this book. Here we go with the bigger stuff:

FUCK YEAH REPRESENTATION. Shipping Magnus and Alex pretty hard, yo.

Speaking of which, did I mention above how much I ship Hearth and Blitz? I forget. In any case, that hasn’t changed in this book.

Digging Sam’s increased onscreen religiosity. Did I mention representation? Also liking Amir as almost a Badass Normal member of the team, as well as the continued support and friendship of Sam’s friends for her well-being and life goals.

Getting more than a little tired of these “we only have five days” plots with their manufactured “crap, I was passed out for ten hours?!” attempts at increased tension. It was much nicer when he abandoned that in THoO.

I feel sad now about these truncated thoughts on this book. Gotta keep up better in future.

World of Warcraft — OK, Leryssa’s quest chain in Borean Tundra drives me crazy. It’s fun quests and a good story… unless you’re playing a Death Knight, in which case you have to assume that the game is roleplaying on your behalf in never allowing you to mention that you know Thassarian. I’m even playing an Alliance Death Knight, so Thassarian is my specific point of contact (and one of my favorite WoW characters, incidentally). And yet at no point in any of the conversations I have with Leryssa is this brought up. You’d think she would ask at some point, seeing that I’m a Death Knight just like her brother.

Then when you find Thassarian, he immediately addresses you in a comradely fashion that seems perfectly appropriate between Death Knights but perhaps not so much for characters of other classes that have never met and worked with and reported to this guy before. And Corporal Venn, who sends you in to where you’ll find him? He has this to say: “See, he’s a Death Knight… and I know they’re on our side and all… but it wasn’t too long ago they were servants of Arthas. But not Thassarian, he’s a good guy.” And I’m like I’M A FUCKING DEATH KNIGHT TOO YOU ASS ALSO YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN A COMMA TO CONNECT THOSE LAST TWO CLAUSES.

This is one of the areas wherein WoW suffers, methinks. Playstyle may be slightly different for different classes, but overall the game is very, very generalized. Outside of the starting quests, it’s extremely rare to see any content unique to a particular class. This would have been a wonderful opportunity to let Death Knights have a different experience from any other class because of their specific history, but it didn’t happen. Very sad.

Aight, I’m down to two books and two TV episodes left that need to be logged. Let’s see if I can get on it this week!!

2 Replies to “AEL: The Sword of Summer, Sense and Sensibility (1995), Rick Astley album, The Hammer of Thor, WoW”

  1. Shipping Magnus and Alex pretty hard, yo. <– this makes me laugh because I'm currently shipping Magnus and Alec (Shadowhunters) pretty hard. Malex vs. Malec!

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