Monday, March 29, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 2

I am bleary-eyed today, courtesy of some unscheduled essay-editing for my still-in-school siblings. I'm also in a hyphen-at-will kind of mood, which could be because of my lack of sleep. But who has time for sleep when there are kingdoms and thrones on the line?

Disclaimer: There are some spoilers. If you haven't read all four books, surprises could be ruined. The intro post is here, Part 1 was here, and all entries are being logged with the "ASOIAF re-read" tag.

That's enough official business. Now for Part 2 of the Re-read, in which we get up close and personal with the people of Winterfell, and I find it hard to be brief.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 1

Hi there! Bienvenue! Welcome to the first re-read post for the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as A Game of Thrones. This post will cover the Prologue and Chapters 1-3. Est cet assez bon? (And I think I've exhausted the limits of my French. It's probably for the best.)

WARNING: There will be spoilers. If you haven't read the series yet, or if you are reading the books but you haven't finished them yet, please keep this in mind as you follow along. I will mention things that happen in all four books, and it will ruin the surprises for you. (As an aside, a few hours after putting up the intro post yesterday, an article in The Toronto Star caught my eye. The headline? Do yourself a favour: Don’t read this book. The book? A Game of Thrones, and its sequels. It's a cheeky article, and here's how I sum it up: Read these books, and sooner or later you'll do something crazy, like blogging about them in detail.)

For a complete list of recaps and posts related to this series, look no further than the A Song of Ice and Fire master index.

One more thing: I'm assuming that whoever reads this will have read the books as well, so I will spend as little time on back-story as possible.

Now the warnings are all out of the way. If you've made it this far, thanks for tagging along. This is a bold, bloody, and sexy story. I would throw in more adjectives, but why not just get on with the re-read? Let us proceed!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Winter is Coming: #ASOIAF Re-read

Hello, and welcome to the introductory post of a fun project about re-reading George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Some of you may know that the first book, A Game of Thrones, got the green light for production by HBO, and it should be ready within a year. And if you know that much, then chances are you also know that the fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, could conceivably come out some time this year. In anticipation of both events, I’ve decided to go through the published books one at a time, chapter by chapter.

(For a complete list of recaps and posts related to this series, look no further than the A Song of Ice and Fire master index.)

For anyone who doesn’t know me, my name is Francesco, and this is an extra-curricular labour of love. I work in publishing, and I do a little of this and that for fun on the side, but I'm a bookworm at heart; reading and writing are what I like to do best. Mostly, I just wanted to re-visit one of my favourite series and do some in-depth analysis instead of just racing through the books at top speed. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

I was introduced to A Game of Thrones about two and a half years ago by an old friend of mine, who loaned it to me after I let her read my Wheel of Time books. Then I realized that my girlfriend’s roommate had the same books, and he told me a bit more about the series. It sounded intriguing, so I started reading. And you know what happened? I became another obsessed fan of this series, and of Mr. Martin. As if being WOT-crazy wasn’t enough. All that’s left is for me to start watching Lost.

I’d be lying if I said I got this idea out of the clear blue. No, this re-read thing isn’t new. Over the past year and a bit, I’ve been following Kate Nepveu’s writings on The Lord of the Rings and Leigh Butler’s take on The Wheel of Time. If you’re a fan of either series, I highly recommend reading Kate and Leigh’s work. I’ll essentially follow the same convenient outlines, with a “What Happens” recap, followed by commentary. I don't have the savvy web guys at Tor to make handy indexes and pages for me, so I'll make do with tags or #hashtags to keep the related posts together. We'll figure something out.

My aim is to have two regular posts a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, covering as many chapters as possible. There is a lot of information to cover, and I can’t possibly go in-depth on every single detail, so I’ll have to pick and choose which parts get mentioned. Disagree with my choices and interpretations? That’s what the comments are for. Share your insight.

It’s been over a year since I last read these books, and I don’t remember all of the theories and the lesser events. I hope that this re-read will provide a better understanding of the series at large and the finer details, while at the same time whetting my appetite for the HBO series and the new book. (As if it needed whetting.)

I hope this will be fun, because otherwise, what’s the point? Part 1 of A Game of Thrones will go up tomorrow, and I hope you’ll join me in reading along and commenting. See you then!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Invaded by Amazon?

There's been some news recently about Amazon setting up shop in Canada. already exists, but it's operated from cyberspace and distribution goes through Canada Post. Understandably, Amazon wants a physical presence in the country. Also understandably, Canadian booksellers want to keep Amazon out. So where does that leave book buyers?

For one thing, you'd have competition for dollars. In one of the more intelligent pieces written so far, Roy MacSkimming likens the possible shift in bookselling to the Wal-Mart effect. The immediate benefits for consumers would be lower-priced books, at least for a while. Independent booksellers already find it difficult to compete with online retailers and Indigo, the biggest bookseller in Canada. Amazon could cripple them further, but hey, people will save a few bucks on their purchases.

Now assume that precedent is set, and foreign-controlled companies are allowed to operate in the Canadian bookselling business. Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo, said: "Supposing I should decide three years from now that, in order to expand some of my capability, I'd like to partner up with a foreign company [...] I do not want to be disadvantaged." Reisman could partner with a client such as Borders, like she tried to back in the mid-90s before buying Chapters, resulting in even more competition.

MacSkimming writes: "Decades of public investment in the industry would be lost. And for what?

"Abandoning the book industry to the free play of market forces would result in Wal-Martization, the law of lowest cost, lowest common denominator. This would be portrayed as a victory for the consumer but would, in fact, be the very opposite. Readers would be able to buy all the imported bestsellers they wanted, very cheaply, but would be deprived of the current rich choice of Canadian and international titles."

If MacSkimming is correct, that means there would be cheaper books, and more choice, but a smaller Canadian percentage due to increased volume of foreign content. Years of investing in Canadian culture and authors would be undone, all to let one retailer in and drop the price of books by a bit.

So, is it worth it? My mind isn't made up on the issue. It probably depends on vested interests. This arguement is more about business and less about culture, but I think the culture arguement is a valid one.

One more thing to note about the cost of books in Canada: It costs more to have books in Canada because of the country's small population and large land mass. Fewer people means smaller print runs which actually cost more than the larger print runs because it costs less to print in bulk. And because most warehousing is in the Toronto area, it costs more to ship and distribute over a territory as large as Canada. So, blame higher Canadian prices on geography.

If it's not one thing, it's another.
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