GRACE OF KINGS is a Tale Worth Telling

My initial attack plan for 2015 was excruciatingly simple: one book per week, followed immediately by a review. I’d have no limits on the genre except that I would attempt to read books more recently published than something bound and printed decades, or centuries ago. Every book I started, I promptly finished in the allotted time I allowed myself. Until this book. GRACE OF KINGS is a extensive story of over half a thousand pages that belies the traditional definition of a novel. It is in a very real sense a modern epic.

The story is that of the Tiro states, an assembly of various city-states that focus around an archipelago of islands. These islands were long conquered and forged into a single, albeit oppressive, empire. Largely unfamiliar with Asian history that predates the Boxer Rebellion or outside of the Sengoku of Japan, I was unable to create the correlation that many others did with Liu’s retelling. To me, this was a fairly new story. Having reflected on a handful of reviews on Amazon, I felt it necessary to make that known as many complained that Liu’s story was merely a retelling of older, Asian tales. I’ll have you know this is the way of things on other continents, as well.

My initial thoughts within finishing THE GRACE OF KINGS is that it should not be a single book. This may derail it from it’s encapsulation as an epic, but this is overlooking the the explicitly signification predication of how books are viewed in 2015. Equivocally, this book’s plot tells about the length of George RR Martin’s first two books and perhaps even into the third as far as the scope of the plot goes. A Song of Fire and Ice would not be so critically acclaimed I think, if it crammed into two books in it’s entirety instead of the current. Splitting this book into two would do a very important exercise for the reader: allowing them to breathe.

There are few moments of downtime in GRACE OF KINGS. From assassinations to airships to gods bickering, the world is infinitely flushed out and because of it’s length is a long winded story that forgets to take a breath. In fact, there is such a well placed point of divergence between the first and second half of the book, I admittedly stopped and said aloud: “This would’ve been the perfect ending point for a Book 1.”

This is a minor complaint, abbreviated more by my overlapping complaint about it’s existence as a modern epic. I don’t mind that and I think epics as they are are just as important as the standard novels that have become the norm of the 21st century. GRACE OF KINGS fully embodies all the necessary characteristics of a modern epic. This, to me, is the primary culprit behind my lack of enjoyment. Held side by side to the Iliad, it exists almost more as a functional tool of education than a story of entertainment. I remember in my junior high English A.P. classes recognizing and analyzing the various tropes behind Achilles and Agamemnon. Not once though did I ever feel connected to Achilles’ plight, or Hector’s nobility. I feel this same apathy here.

When a character was introduced, within a few paragraphs I could correctly deduce their fate. This isn’t terrible, as these tropes and stereotypes are perfectly designed. A half century down the road I can imagine a book like this implemented in a classroom to identify character ideologies and motives, as they are so well lined out. So well lined out, that they seemed traced.

There are two primary characters: the brash rogue Kuni Gari and the headstrong, albeit close minded Mata Zyndu. These characters are dynamically written and change throughout the course of the story, providing a stark dichotomy of how quickly friends can become enemies. I wish there were other characters that evolved as well as the two primary protagonists. I will say that I was ultimately disappointed with the depiction of Kuni’s wife Jia, who stands strong in the beginning of the story and then falls flat on her face in the second and third act.

Ken Liu’s prose is simple, but pays attention to the details that are required. There were a few set pieces that I felt could have been brushed up but were ignored, and other events that were wound up in intrinsic detail that I felt could have been skipped. Overlooking this however, Ken is a writer who knows how to convey a story. Though he may never read this (there are much more extensive reviews on the Amazon page of this work, both for and against) I hope he hones his penmanship to bring Book 2 of the Dandelion Dynasty a little closer to home.

Bonne journée, mes amis.

Turn Off Your Cellphone: An Essay on Gaming and Friendship

When you first think of a board game, I would not fault you if your first thought was of Monopoly, or perhaps Sorry. I would, however, question you on your imagination. While it may be true the capitalistically inclined real estate roller coaster that is Monopoly may be the most well known board game, it may very well also be the most boring.

There exists a frighteningly large and even modern sphere of gaming that only months ago I was unaware existed. For anyone that doesn’t spend hours a day keeping up with the Kardashians, you may very well understand the existence of several of sub spheres: Dungeons & Dragons is and has always been the premier role playing game, but it is not a board game. Similarly, Magic: The Gathering is a card game that has become so popular I’ve read that some lesser head of states have played and enjoyed it.

So popular have board, card and roleplaying games become that there are episodic venues on YouTube where celebritiesthose people you’re so obsessed withplay these games. I first came to understand the ubiquity of board games in this very way. Though non-religious, if board gaming were a monotheistic religion, Wil Wheatoncurrently the host of the Geek and Sundry sponsored Tabletop—would be it’s sole deity. Though he is not the creator of board games at large (though he did design one: Titansgrave) he is the industry’s undeniable champion. It is thanks to Wil that I discovered board gaming, and in it, a very real rekindling of friendship that I had been missing.

One semester shy of finishing my second, third and final college degrees, I’ve experienced the full gamut of the various phases of friendship. I’ve spent the long nights with comrades, tasted the second bottleor should I say, started the second thirty packand enjoyed the sun rise beside them. I’ve entertained similarly existential experiences by living abroad for a summer in France, backpacked to Colorado, and partied on the beaches of Panama City Beach. These are excellent experiences and I wish them upon you, as well. The sustainability of many of these activities, however, is easily called into question when you and your comrades both see the inevitable curve in the road: graduation.

Similarly, perhaps you have already graduated, or found the paved road of your dreams without ever stepping foot inside a college class room. Good on you. You have my envy. Whatever the case may be, the truth is this: finding the time to embark on such extravagant affairs as those I listed above are not so easily accomplished within the scope of day to day life. The alternative however, is damned good. Board games.

Allow me first to defend my statement. Board games will notcannot, trulyreplace such an adventure as skiing in Colorado, or taking in the sights of Europe. They are however, fathoms better than what the predisposed alternative often is: loitering about on social media, lamenting the mere absence of such adventures. Answer this question, and you may very well find yourself better equipped to take on the presupposition of what I am asking. When was the last time your phone was off, your were among friends and comrades and you were having a reasonably wonderful time? I would not be surprised if you could not recall such a timeor, due to the generation that we live in, you can immediately recall a time of great candor because in this generation nobody is ever wrong.

I have personally found the merits of friendship much more lucrative in the addition of gathering around my kitchen table with my dearest friends and playing board games, and it is for this reason: take the standard societal constraints away, the social gravitas you and your friends maintain like a shield of armor and let them know it’s okayif for a short whileto be themselves. I think few things do this better than board games, as many of my friends and girlfriends have attested. It is the second injunction howeverturning off their cellphonesthat has been truly gratifying.

Like the Matrix itself, our smartphones have become crucibles of instant connectivity. At the quite literal touch of a button someone else phone buzzes, announcing our presence, our demands, and so ingrained in our cerebellums is is the Pavlovian response to the ding! of our phones that it becomes impulse, rather than habit that drives us to keep our phones close.

Truly, when was the last time your phone was off? You can do it. I believe in you. People have lived, flourished happily even, for thousands of years without that infernal device by your side. You can do it also. I would never have the audacity to suggest you to simply disconnect without an long-term and sustainable alternative. So find it. Mine is gaming: not of the video variety, but rather of cardboard and plastic.

Find yours. Do it. Turn your fucking cellphone off.

My Book, ROGUE COSMOS is Available Now!

It’s here! Actually, it was here yesterday! [insert sadface here]

My first book, a collection of science fiction short stories, ROGUE COSMOS, is now available on Kindle and paperback on Amazon!

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Here’s a tidbit to catch your interest:

Criminals—they’re here today and they’ll be here tomorrow. ROGUE COSMOS is a collection of seven short stories about criminals in the far future, from a train heist to a man who preys on beautiful women. Included are HALF A TRILLION, in which a trio of brothers attempt to negotiate a hostage swap and TRAIN 714, a suspenseful heist of a fast moving gravity train. See a young criminal take his first steps when Jasper Lockette does anything to prove that he’s the fastest gunslinger around in NO SURVIVORS. See if martian drug runner Casper can escape the clutches of a hunter from the Interplanetary Bounty Commission in TRAPPED. These stories go from high stakes to heart racing—from gun toting mercenaries to knife wielding femme fatales.

You can pick it up at here: http://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Cosmos-Theo-Taylor-ebook/dp/B01320FS6K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1438808348&sr=8-2&keywords=theo+taylor

If you pick it up, whether you love it or HATE it, a review be nothing short of a remarkable blessing.

Bonne journée, mes amis.

A Man’s Unimportant Opinion About A Podcast

There exists innumerable reasons that Twitter has—and forever will—possess my unending affection as a powerful method of acquiring ideas. Like a food sampler, Twitter exists as a Lazy Susan of sorts, offering me grand and minutely sized details each and every day I scroll it’s infinite timeline. These ideas infect me quite frequently and I’ve felt possessed to spread this infection unto you.

Twitter is not so dichotomous as to exist in a simple black and white notion, but comes quite sincerely in a rainbow of different cliques. I am, by no choice of my own, attached first and foremost to the very succinct and basic opposite of “black twitter,” which would be white twitter. Allow me to be the first to tell you: white twitter is boring. Favorites are handed out like cars on the Opera show, retweets are reserved for the 10k+ club and @’ing someone you don’t personally know to criticize or challenge their opinion often results in the very ubiquitous “Do I even know you (bro)?” Parenthesis added if you are a male.

Black twitter on the other hand is an amusement park of laughter, strong minded opinions and an otherwise open minded culture that I attempt—poorly, at best—to be apart of. Overlooking the very sullen and disturbing fact that every day on Black Twitter will often have you soaking in the details of another lost life at the hands of a law enforcement officer, it is much more than that. There exists a certain glue, an ethereal fabric that does not exist within any other clique of the Twittersphere that I can neither quantify nor measure, but it is in some form tangible.

There are a handful of Twitter users—dare I say, personalities—that once followed, open your timeline into a much greater world. These followers are given a shout out at the end of this post for purposes of terseness. The subject of this penning however is not any of these users at all, but rather the product of several of them: a podcast. The NWAP, or Negros With a Podcast.

This episode, named simply for it’s categorical number is 47. I listened mostly out of intrigue and a lack of new material during my workout and I will say I was impressed. This will not be a critique, rebuttal or examination of any of the matter covered on the podcast but rather my own opinion on the podcast as a whole. From the jump one must be impressed with the NWAP crew by establishing themselves and bringing forth the first of several topics five minutes into an 80 minute show. Let me be clear when I say this: that’s why I’m fucking listening.

When I (and I would say many others) tune into a podcast, I don’t want to hear about your cold, or why your voice sounds like gravel shaking in a cup or your long, overworked weekend. I don’t care. The assembled gentlemen here waste very little time in beginning the discussion, all of which are contemporary socio-political issues, many of which derive from past Twitter discussions. Good on you, I say to them.

The men arrayed on this podcast are well versed, articulate and thoughtful of the other members opinions. They are easily champions of an unfortunately very well underrepresented distinction within the African American community and their inevitable popularity is easier gestured than predicating rain with thunder on the horizon. I may never listen again—for reasons that my own phone is used mostly for Twitter and not music/podcasts—but I was glad I gave it a go at least once.

Bonne journée, mes amis.