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Posted on October 3rd, 2014 in games
Destiny! A revolution in gaming that will finally justify the new generation of consoles! That will seamlessly fuse the compelling plot of single player games with the freewheeling interactivity of multiplayer ones! That offers tense gunplay in vast open-worldy vistas with oceans of content and customisability to explore!
So I was led to believe, anyway.
Destiny is OK. Pretty good, even. But revolutionary it is notably not. In fact, rather than feeling like an ingenious combination of the best features of a load of lesser games to make an utterly new and more compelling whole, it feels like a combination of features rather cynically poached from a load of better games to make something calculated to be maximally commercial but lacking any real soul or personality of its own.
It’s a 1st person co-op gunplay game like Borderlands but with less guns and no wit. It’s an open worldy multiplayer like GTA V but with a far smaller world and that a strangely sterile, empty one. It’s a random-drop equipment-grinding role-playing game like Diablo but with no role to play and all the equipment’s the same.
It gets a little bit of what makes each of those games work, but doesn’t really excel anywhere. The background and texture of the game is just woefully generic and bereft of humour. Your character offers nil personality, not even a name. Non-player characters are little better. Single player campaign makes no real sense and doesn’t dovetail at all with the multiplayer (can one really imagine one is the sole saviour of mankind when there are hundreds of other players around self-evidently having the exact same experience?). Enemies, settings, and equipment are exactly the sort of enemies, settings and equipment we’ve seen in space games a thousand times. This all leads to a repetitive experience. Get mission, blah, blah, something or other which comes down to following the white dot on your radar and shooting stuff on the way. Press square to deploy your personal Peter Dinklage for some phoned-in waffle bereft of emotion and onto the next white dot.
I’m being harsh, but really, the end of the previous generation, with games like the Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, proved you can do an awful lot better than this from a characterisation, plot, and emotional involvement point of view. Destiny just feels so safe, sterile and over-produced.
Having said all that, I have been playing it pretty happily for some time, and I do keep wandering back. An intense and hugely monotonous grind though it is, requiring an unholy amount of hours to make progress at the higher levels, they have managed to winkle out whatever it is that makes that kind of experience compelling. I can’t say why, cause they’re basically just like the others, but I do seem to really want that pair of special boots that guy’s selling, and it’ll only take me 15 hours of grinding to save up… The saving grace is the action – it is repetitive but it is great – smooth, exciting, plenty of satisfying impact, easy to learn but hard to master. The worlds are a bit generic but they are beautifully realised, full of texture and detail, you just find yourself ignoring it all a bit in your urgency to chase the latest white dot on your radar. Adding a couple of friends does improve things but you’d better have a few who are online a lot because the game makes it strangely hard to get an ad hoc crew of strangers together for the most challenging tasks.
Destiny does do a lot of things reasonably well, it all knits together into a pretty compelling experience and after the opening fiasco of GTA V you’ve got to applaud the technical achievement of making such a massive online experience run smoothly. But it’s nowhere near as big, as varied, or as original as promised, and for me completely fails to supply the much-vaunted knitting together of single and multiplayer experiences. Maybe the additional content they’re planning to drip in will gradually offer more variety, more reasons to grind away for untold hours, and there is a solid foundation there to build on, but without anything truly innovative or, more importantly, any personality of its own, I can’t see it pulling me back much as the months wear on…
Posted on September 26th, 2014 in announcements, artwork
Apologies for the limited posting around here of late, it’s many years since I didn’t make at least one post a week on the site, but my nose is to the grindstone after all the events trying to get a decent second draft of Half a War together by year’s end, plus various finishing tasks for Half the World. Tis a busy time. But I do love a nice piece of art, so I thought I’d bring to you the recently revealed cover for the French edition of Half a King, from those wonderful folk at Bragelonne, art by my old friend Didier Graffet (who produced the weapons that adorn Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country):
Nice, huh? Evocative, atmospheric, dramatic. Draws you in. And it sits very comfortably alongside Jon McCoy’s excellent vision of the same world for Subterranean’s limited editions, I must say. Some nice clean lettering too. I particularly like the contrast with the more graphic covers in the US and UK. The book’s coming out in French translation late October, with the other two books in the trilogy both following in 2015. Further details over on Bragelonne’s site…
Posted on September 8th, 2014 in film and tv
Recently watched, that is…
Vikings Season 2
It’s as if a set of TV Executives sat down with the express purpose of making a show Joe Abercrombie would really like, and they largely succeeded. Love, hate, violence and pagan strangeness abound as Scandinavia’s shiftiest opportunist, Ragnar Lothbrok, becomes embroiled not only in Viking blood-feuds but Saxon politics. I doubt they’d make any high claims of historical accuracy but there’s vastly more authenticity on the bone than one might expect from a Hollywood treatment of the material and lashings of drama, shocks, shield-walls and wonderfully strange, inscrutable, and morally dubious characters. There’s a real stylistic boldness creeping into this second season as well, with gripping dreamlike sequences and whole episodes in which Ragnar barely speaks, communicating all that is necessary though his trademark unblinking wonky death-grin.
Orphan Black Season 1
Whenever Tatiana Maslany isn’t on screen this sfnal thriller looks decidedly wobbly, but she’s usually on screen at least once, and often more than twice, in a barnstorming multiple performance as a set of clones caught up in a sinister conspiracy. The first few episodes are driven by breakneck pacing and the dialogue can seem pretty creaky, but soon enough we get almost soap-operatic glimpses beneath the skins of the characters. You never for a moment doubt you’re watching a set of entirely distinct people who happen to look the same.
Hell on Wheels Season 3
I’m a sucker for a western, and I enjoyed the first and especially the second season of this railroad-based effort in which an ex-confederate soldier hell-bent on revenge gets drawn into the efforts of the Union-Pacific to cross the continent with ensuing political shenanigans, gunslinging, fist-fighting, Indian entanglements and moral ambiguities. This third season was a bit of a disappointment, though. Still some strong characters but while the pace was always full steam ahead before here things slowed to a crawl, with an awful lot of circling around, great attention given to sub-threads that never amounted to much, and a slightly baffling turn at the end. I’d watch another but, boy, they need to get themselves together and strike for the Pacific.
House of Cards Season 1
This is just as great as it looks on paper, a re-invention of the classic British series based on the books by Margaret Thatcher’s ‘baby-faced hit man’ Michael Dobbs (who is an exec on the US show). Ian Richardson’s supremely manipulative tory whip Francis Urquhart has become Kevin Spacey’s supremely manipulative majority house whip Frank Underwood, and the skullduggery has been updated for the mobile-phone and internet generation, but otherwise the basic formula of ruthless political manoeuvrings translates easily from Whitehall to Washington, along with the central character’s almost Shakespearian soliloquies to camera, coaxing the audience very much into complicity. Kevin Spacey makes for a hugely charismatic and likeable Machiavellian megalomaniac but there are plenty more strong performances, including Robin Wright majestic as Underwood’s equally ruthless wife. Well into Season 2 now and enjoying it just as much, particularly a masterfully executed shock in the first episode.
Suits Seasons 1&2
This was a very pleasant surprise, I must say. Hot-shit doesn’t-play-by-the-rules New York corporate lawyer Harvey Specter is asked to interview for a new associate and the only candidate who interests him turns out to be a genius drop-out who wandered into the interview to avoid the cops when a drug deal went south. Sounds like a recipe for cheese and indeed the pilot is pretty wobbly, but the writing quickly finds its feet and I ended up burning through two seasons of this in nothing flat. It won’t change your world but it’s hugely watchable, with some zinging lines and some great characters, especially Harvey’s bitter, pedantic, tragic, weirdly loveable nemesis Louis Litt. There is a tendency to run over and over the same ground, though, with endlessly will-they-won’t-they relationships that nearly do then don’t, and rivalries that become friendships that become rivalries that become friendships that etc. etc. At some point you have to crap or get off the pot and I wonder if they can get enough variety into the formula to keep it fresh.
Arrow Season 1
Enjoyable enough superhero hokum based on the Green Arrow comics, in which pampered rich boy Oliver Queen is shipwrecked on a mysterious island and returns after 5 years with superhuman powers of archery, handsomeness, looking troubled, and working out, powers which he is determined to use for (kind of) good in ridding his city of a deadly conspiracy and etc. etc. I guess they’re going for a comic book over-the-top shininess but the result is that everyone is so improbably pretty they all end up looking strangely average. Attempts to complicate the standard superhero narrative are somewhat hamstrung by, for example, our hero’s habit of ruthlessly slaughtering three dozen bodyguards who one supposes are just doing their job before he lets their malefactor boss off with a harsh warning. Still, an enjoyable, if relatively predictable, way to while away a few hours…
Posted on August 29th, 2014 in progress
Half a King came out in early July and made no. 3 on the Sunday Times hardcover list, and at a competitive time of year too. Even more pleasing is that it then stuck in the top 10 for 4 weeks. Preorders give you a big boost that first week, so you’ll often see books pop onto the list strongly the week of release but drop straight off. Sticking around tends to mean your book is not only selling to your committed fans but also selling strongly off the shelves, which is a very promising sign.
With all the touring and events however, including Comic Con in San Diego and Worldcon in London, most of July and August got swallowed up by travel and signing and blah, blah, blah. What with the stress and the jet lag and the convention hangovers I’ve always found it tricky to make a lot of progress with writing while on the road, usually sticking to a bit of light reviewing, planning and reading over rather than drafting new stuff, but things do grind inexorably forward.
I did my last reading through and checking over the detail of the language on the second Shattered Sea book, Half the World, at the start of July, and in a highly nimble bit of production work Harper Collins had proofs of the book ready for Worldcon in mid August:
‘Andsome, eh? Once again they’ve gone for an impactful quote on the front with the title on the spine. These will be making their way out into the world over the coming weeks and are to excite folk in the trade, of course, the actual hardcover will have a cover in keeping with the previous one. Half the World is now copy edited too and therefore, aside from the proof-reading phase, basically done. Nothing (at least on the creative side) stands in the way of US and UK publication in early February 2015.
I’m now half way through the first draft of the last book in the trilogy, Half a War. This is pretty much always my lowest ebb with a book. The excitement of starting something new is far behind, but generally you’re still a way off getting the plot and the characters completely straight in your head and the whole thing feels plodding and dull. Oh god will I ever write a good book again? It is some help, though less than you’d think, that I know I’ve felt this way about every book since I finished the First Law. These shorter books do give you less time to get into character, as it were, though, and it doesn’t help that I’ve gone from one point of view character in Half a King, to two in Half the World, to three in Half a War, therefore there’s less time spent with each and at the moment they’re twisting about like snakes with their heads cut off as I struggle to smash them into a shape that fits the (constantly changing) plot. Still, I think I’ve now got a decent plan for the second half of the book which should provide some interesting moments. I just need the characters to be the people who’d do the type of stuff I’ve got in mind, and that means a fair bit of rewriting in the earlier parts. Sigh. So it goes. I’m still a heavy planner, but I find over time my process is getting more and more fluid. The basic plot I have in advance, but the details of how and who and why I get there shift around a lot more than they used to.
Anyway, this year’s big clutch of events is behind me, and though I’ve got a couple of much smaller commitments, the next three months are largely clear to get a full first draft of Half a War together, so I can spend December doing the heavy lifting of rewriting the first half of the book and have a decent, coherent second draft by the end of the year. That should leave ample time to get the book out by its planned publication in July 2015. Such is the hope, anyway.
That is your progress report for August…
Posted on August 19th, 2014 in announcements, Graphic Novel
For folks in the UK, getting a book delivered from amazon.com can be a little steep, which is why I’m delighted to announce that the trade paperback collection of the first four issues of the First Law Graphic novel is now available direct from amazon.uk for a shade over £10 with delivery free.
Adapted by Chuck Dixon, art by Andie Tong, colours by Pete Pantazis, all closely supervised from a spiked throne atop a hill of skulls by yours truly.
The trade paperback version is a really slick piece of work by Blind Ferret, even though I say so myself, and gives you about 100 full colour pages, plus 30 or so pages of extras including annotated character designs, pencils and inks.
The project is on hiatus right now, so there’s no guarantee there’ll be more issues forthcoming, but if the uptake on this trade version is good, we may well see more.
Posted on August 7th, 2014 in appearances, news
More events? Are you insane? Well, yes, I very well might be, but there is no rest for the grimdark, my friends. Here’s my appearance schedule for the next couple of months…
Tuesday 12th August
11.30 – Google Hangout for the Gollancz Online Festival.
18.00 – Fantasy in the Court, Goldsboro Books, alongside a whole host of other writers including but by no means limited to Ben Aaronovitch, James Barclay, Lauren Beukes, Paul Cornell, Peter F. Hamilton, Joanne Harris, Adam Nevill, Sarah Pinborough, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and those are just some of the ones I know well myself.
Wednesday 13th August
18.30 – Fantasy Faction’s Grim Gathering, Waterstones Kensington, 193 Kensington High Street, London, alongside authors Peter V. Brett, Myke Cole, and Mark Lawrence.
Thursday 14th - Sunday 17th August
LONCON, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention where I will be hanging out and haunting the bar, but specifically can be found:
Friday 15th August
12.00 Kaffeeklatsch, London Suite 4 (1hr)
Saturday 16th August
11.00 – Panel: Moving Shelves: Famous Adult Writers Who Have Written YA with Carrie Vaughn, Kelley Armstrong, Ian Macdonald and Peter F Hamilton in Capital Suite 15 (1hr)
13.30 – Signing: Big Autographing Space (90mins)
18.00 – Panel: Writing 101: Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction with Ruth Frances Long, Amy H Sturgis, Laure Eve and Sanna Lehtonen in Capital Suite 5 (1hr)
19.00 – Panel: Meet the New King, Same As The Old King with Juliet E McKenna, Peter V Brett, Rjurik Davidson and Delia Sherman in Capital Suite 14 (1hr)
Sunday 17th August
12.30 – Reading: London Suite 1 (30mins) – and this will probably be from the forthcoming Half the World.
16.30 – Panel: Book Covers: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly with John Picacio, Bella Pagan, Greg Manchess, Maurizio Manzieri and Irene Gallo in Capital Suite 4.
Sunday 28th September
18.00 – Bath Children’s Literature Festival, The Guildhall, High Street, Bath BA1 5AW. An event with Garth Nix, chaired by John McLay
Friday 10th October
20.30 – Cheltenham Literary Festival. An event with Sarah Pinborough, Ben Aaronovitch, David Barnett and Mitch Benn.
So that’s me taken care of for the next couple of months…
Posted on August 4th, 2014 in appearances, news
I have finally returned from my quick tour of the US, San Diego Comic Con, and Celsius 232 in Spain. It’s only a couple of weeks ago that I left but it feels like months. 10 flights in less than two weeks and a hell of a lot of signing, hand-shaking, and talking to readers, authors, publishers and other folk of all kinds.
San Diego Comic Con is quite the event – beyond massive. The focus these days is obviously on the big media stuff but there’s still a hell of a lot going on with writers and publishers. I’ve since realised there were all kinds of people there I know and never got to see. I did many dinners, lunches and breakfasts. I was driven in a golf cart through some dirty service tunnels beneath the convention centre wedged between George RR Martin and Diana Gabaldon and with Lev Grossman on the back. Truth is, indeed, sometimes stranger than fiction. I did four signings and was on two panels, one the yearly epic fantasy panel this year moderated by my arch-nemesis Brent Weeks (and I shall be revenged upon him, oh yes I shall), and featuring no less than eight authors. Great authors, but that’s actually way too many, I think, it makes it impossible to really get any flow or conversation between them. The introductions take ages, then you maybe get a response from each to one question, half a response to another, an effort from the audience and you’re basically done. Still, you can watch that one over here. Much better was a five-author effort with GRRM, Diana Gabaldon, Lev Grossman, and Pat Rothfuss, covering various elements of world building and writing epic stories. There were maybe 6 or 700 people in the audience, I’m told (all there for me, I’m sure) and it was one of the best panels I’ve been on. You can watch that one over here.
I also did some great events at independent bookstores – University Bookstore Seattle, Mysterious Galaxy San Diego, and Borderlands Books San Francisco, and ended up at the Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe being interviewed by GRRM along with Cherie Priest discussing our careers and approaches to writing.
I then set off from Santa Fe for the Celsius 232 festival in Aviles, Spain. They started this event three years ago and I’ve been every time – it’s amazing to see how the attendance has increased year on year. It was always going to be a gruelling journey but as luck would have it the first plane was delayed, then broke down in Albuquerque, so I missed my connection from Dallas to Madrid and instead had to get to Madrid via Heathrow, and work out a new connection from Madrid to Oviedo. To call it a total nightmare would be unfair to other nightmare journeys I’ve been on, it took 30 hours, 4 flights, 2 of them delayed, plus two lengthy car journeys, a bag mislaid, a bag search (though the officers did appear to have pressed my jacket afterward, which was nice).
The downside was that I missed my panel in Aviles and therefore the chance to talk at length about how great I am. The upside was that Pat Rothfuss agreed very kindly to fill in and talk about how great I am instead, which I’m sure had far more impact on the audience, and I was able to do a great panel along with him and Brandon Sanderson the following day.
All in all an amazing time, but it’s a good thing I don’t have any other events coming up.
Until Worldcon in London next week…
Posted on July 16th, 2014 in announcements, appearances, news
Greetings American cousins, my new book Half a King should now be available across the nation in hardcover, electronic, and audio formats. But that’s not all, for on the 22nd July I shall be flying out to be present in your country in my actual person. The main event is San Diego Comic Con, so I’m afraid there’s a West Coast flavour to my visits this time around but, fear not, I’ll hopefully be fitting in some east coast action early next year with the release of the sequel, Half the World.
Here’s the full itinerary, including my panels and signings at Comic Con:
Wednesday, July 23 – SEATTLE, WA
4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
July 24 – July 27 – SAN DIEGO, CA
Thursday July 24, 4:00-5:00pm
PANEL: Putting the Epic in Epic Fantasy
Panelists: Robin Hobb, Raymond Feist, Django Wexler, Morgan Rhodes, Sam Sykes, Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks
*Signing to immediately follow in Autograph Area
Friday, July 25, 11:00am-12:00Noon
SIGNING, Random House booth #1514
Saturday, July 26, 11:00am-12:00pm
SIGNING, Orbit booth #1116
Saturday, July 26, 3:00-4:00pm
SIGNING, Random House booth #1514
Saturday, July 26, 4:15-5:15pm
PANEL: Rulers of the Realm
Panelists: George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, Lev Grossman, Patrick Rothfuss
Sunday, July 27 – SAN DIEGO, CA
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111
Monday, July 28 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
866 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tuesday, July 29 – TORRANCE, CA
Barnes & Noble
21500 Hawthorne Blvd
Torrance, CA 90503
Wednesday, July 30 – SANTA FE, NM
Jean Cocteau Cinema
418 Montezuma Ave
Santa Fe, NM 87501
*event with George Martin and Cherie Priest
And THEN it’s straight on to Celsius 232 in Aviles, Spain, along with Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson, among others, with further details in due course. I shall hope to see some of you at these events…
Posted on July 15th, 2014 in announcements, news
Yes, celebrate, my cousins across the pond, for Half a King is published throughout the Land of the Free today. It’s the Sunday Times no. 3 Hardcover Bestseller that GRRM called, ‘A fast paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page one and refused to let go,’ while Robin Hobb found it, ‘Enthralling. An up-all-night read,’ and Rick Riordan said it had, ‘eye-popping twists and rollicking good action.’ I could go on, but I already have, over here. Take a look if you fancy seeing a trailer, reading an extract or further reviews or, I don’t know, maybe finding some buying options…
Posted on July 7th, 2014 in appearances
I have returned from a week of events for the UK publication of Half a King, and they went very well, I must say. On previous tours there have always been a couple of great events but a couple of … less great ones, especially with the daytime events where you’re not talking or reading, just signing. This time around the rooms were pretty much full throughout, which makes the whole business a pleasure. You’re largely reliant on the staff of the bookshop to publicise it and get people in the door, a good bookseller really making all the difference, so thanks to all the staff who helped to make the events happen, and to all the readers who turned out, not to mention my long-suffering publicist Jaime, whose unenviable task it was to get me from A to B.
HOWEVER, if you were unable to make any of last week’s events but STILL BURN TO SEE ME IN THE FLESH, I’ve got a few appearances coming up over the next couple of weeks in London, Bath and Derby:
Friday 11th July
6.00pm – Signing at Forbidden Planet London, 179 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8JR. For more information contact the store on: 020 7420 3666
Saturday 12th July
10.30am – Talk and reading at YA Lit Con/London Film and Comic Con, on the book zone main stage, followed by a signing.
Wednesday 16th July
7.30 for 8.00pm – Talk at Toppings Bath, The Paragon, Somerset BA1 5LS. Tickets are £6 and available in store or on 01225 428111
Saturday 19th July
Edge Lit festival Derby - For further details check here.
3.00pm – Panel: Are We Entering a New Era of Fantasy Fiction? Graham Edwards, Janet Edwards, Freda Warrington, Joe Abercrombie in Cinema 2
4.00pm – Guest of Honour Interview/Q&A in The Box
I’ll also be sit-down signing at some point in the day, impromptu signing at any point in the day, AND, I believe, later on, I will be presenting the Raffle. That’s right. Can’t say I ever expected to present a raffle. But it’s happening.
Hope to see some of you at one or other of these…