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A Feast for Crows

I'm writing this in May 2020. Remember how this time last year we were all outraged about how bad the last season of Game of Thrones was? I was one of those people who hadn't heard of the books til the series came out, and around season three I started to watch it and then read all the books that summer. A Feast for Crows was my favorite and I'll tell you why-

Not a lot of Starks in it The Starks, which the exception of Sansa, are boring to read about but also just as morally awful as the Lannisters. Why? Cause they started a war that got thousands of peasants killed for 'honor' and honor is a bullshit construcst. Also, they are pretty stupid, like how Ned wanted to warn Cersei that he knew the kids were incest babies and how Robb didn't stick to his argeement to marry the Frey woman. But George RRRRRRR Martin portrays them as protagonists and I hate it. Arya I know is a fan favorite but she sorta rubs me the wrong way too. Jon Snow is alright I guess, he's sensible enough, but a bit too mopey for my taste. I like Sansa because she's a good character. She survives not in a typical tough girl way but in a way that's appriopriate for her character by fitting into her role.

Cersei's POV I loooooooove Cersei's POVs, they are so fun. She's so stupid and petty and shortsighted, it's great. GRRRRRRRRM does such a great job portraying how she's fucking everything up in each chapter but how she thinks everything is a good idea and clever and smart. It's so satisfying to read. Plus the Jamie parts are great too because he's starting to learn how to be not a shitty person.

It's better than a Dance with Dragons

It happens in the same time period as Dance with Dragons, but I've lost the thread as to what's going on over there. There's too many new characters and plot lines and locations and blah blah blah. GRRRRRRRM really needs an editor to tell him to stop rambling. I understand the urge as a writer to do so, but at a certain point it becomes unfollowable. I had to listen to a podcast-Radio Westeros, I highly recommend it-in order to get a handle on what was even happening. On the show I understand why they killed off so many secondary characters who are still alive in the books because it's just too much to follow.

Littlefinger I also love Litterfinger as a character since he's the only person in the books who understands how dumb monarchy is. He's like a modern person dropped into medeval days. He doesn't lose his cool and clever. The show done him so dirty, they turned him from a clever schemer into a moustache-twirling idiot. What was even the point of his plot to make Arya and Sansa fight? There was no reason other than to give him a reason to die! It was so dumb. Oh, and speaking of the show, what was the reason for Sam going to the citadel? None. They included it because it's how his story ends in the book but the Winds of Winter hasn't come out yet so they didn't know what to do. Man the show got bad.

I think I've heard that Feast for Crows is the least popular fan favorite, but that's bananas. It's clearly the best one. Most of the fans I guess like the Starks or Dany and I'm over here wanting more Cersei stuff cause she's the most enjoyable to read.


Spoiler Alert- I am gonna presume you've played Bioshock 1 and 2. If not, why would you care about 400 pages of flavor text for it?

It’s the prequel to Bioshock, which it’s self is the prequel to Bioshock 2. Where does Bioshock Infinite fit in in this timeline? Nowhere. This was published in 2011, right after Bioshock 2 came out and way before Bioshock infinite, so no one was trying to shoehorn in any of Bioshock Infinite stuff. And oh boy, does this shoehorn stuff in. Mostly Sofia Lamb, the antagonist from 2. In 2 they acted like ‘oh yeah, she was one of the great founding brains of Rapture, see? Here she is in a pic with Suchong and Tennebaum and those guys.’

Before we get into it, I should say that I looooooove Bioshock. It is bar-none the best setting for a game I’ve ever played. Underwater art-deco dystopia? Yes please, fill my bowl up. That being said, the idea of Rapture really falls apart when you think about it. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s a video game, not something I’m being asked to invest money in, so it’s not really a problem. Still though, the author spends a lot of time trying to ‘sell’ you on the idea that Rapture could exist. Not a bad thing, and he does a good job, but I feel that it’s wasted effort. Like I mentioned earlier, why are you reading a book about Rapture if you haven’t already bought the idea? I’d like read the book review of someone who hasn’t played the games.

Anyway, onwards and downwards.

So the book starts out in 1945 with Ryan being all “hmm yes I shall build a city under the sea cause I hate taxes and the nuclear bomb.” It’s been a while since I played the games, but I don’t remember fear of a nuclear holocaust being a big concern of Ryan. Maybe it was? I mostly remember him being mad about taxes and religion.

The biggest problem with this book – not to blame the author, he had some tight confines to work in – is that Ryan is really, really, really stupid. For being capitalisms number one fanboy he does not understand how capitalism works in that only a few people will have most of the money. This problem is only magnified in a sociopath-friendly full-blown nightmare capitalist structure that people cannot leave. Basically the exposition for Bioshock 1 is –

The book itself is short chronological scenes from beginning to the 1960 New Years Eve party. It covers all the big events, like the discovery of the sea slugs and the marketing of plasmids (also lol at the idea of that being an okay thing to sell) and you get acquainted with the characters from the game like the Wales brothers and Tennebaum and Dr Suchong. The author seems fixated on Frank Fontaine, he gets a lot of play, as does Bill McDounough, the limey engineer fella. Sofia Lamb also gets a fair amount of page time.

My biggest criticsm of the franchise, from a story telling POV, was making the polar opposite philosophy of libratarianism the bad guy in 2. It doesn’t make sense because the environment you’re playing in proves that Ryan was wrong, so Lamb’s whole deal is muddy at best. Like, she was right? It’s not a great antagonist. I liked exploring more of Rapture (or rather, it was my first time there, but there is enough space for two games, so I see why they needed a sequel) but I don’t think it was nessecery to have a Ryan-esque villain taunting you the whole way. It could have been some other mechanic pushing you through the environment, like you got to get a sea slug outta your butt or something. It would have made more sense to have a communist as a villain if it was in a Soviet gulag in a mountain or something like that.

It's also entertaining to see how the author tries to work in plasmids as a possible thing. The ones like fire and electrcity aren't so far-fetched cause some animals have bio-electricty, so fine, okay, but when it comes to the teleporting plasmids he goes "....electrcity....in the air?...." and we move along. Also they explain why there are audiodiares everywhere cause Ryan handed them out to everyone to have them record their thoughts for future historians.

All in all, I recommend this book if you find Rapture intriguing and want to read more about it before it all went to hell. The book clearly outlines why it went to hell, which I reckon you can figure out by playing the game, but it’s still entertaining. And for me, that’s the best kinda book. High art it isn't. It also made me want to play Bioshock again and I even bought the remastered collection for the Xbone. It's a very good game.

Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley

Plus a short discussion on the TV show Reign

I love Allison Weir, she’s number one at Tudor history. Her book on the six wives of Henry VIII was the first grown-up history book I read cover to cover when I was teenager, and whenever I see one of her books at the thrift shop I buy it. That being said, I don’t think you will enjoy this book if you are not already interested in Tudor history. It was a balls on crazy time in history and reading it you’re like “oh, I see where George RRRRRR Martin got all his ideas for ASOIAF” because it’s basically that, but without dragons.

Before I read this book I was only family with the real Mary Stewart as a side character in the life of Elizabeth I and with the fictional Mary Stewart as a character in Reign, the WB show that took some wild liberties with the life of Mary Stewart and co. I’m no scholar on the life of Catherine de Medici, but I don’t think she had her deformed first born daughter hiding in the walls of the palace. But you know, maybe she did. The show Reign was/is the definition of a guilty pleasure. The characters were all aged up so instead of dying at 16, King Louis the whatever died in his mid-20s and everyone wore either prom dresses or big comfy turtleneck sweaters. I only watched the first two seasons because it started to get too ridiculous.

Back to real life Mary. Allison Weir paints a portrait of an all around nice young woman who seemed like a decent enough human being but was pretty bad at being Queen. She made an awful lot of pretty obvious mistakes and put her personal feelings above that of those of state, which, tough titties, is what you got to do as monarch. Getting back to what I said about George RRRRRRRRRRR Martin, it’s the same stupid mistake Robb Stark makes in marrying whatsherface and not the Frye lady. The titular Lord Darnley is her second husband, who was murdered in an extremely dramatic way. The house he was staying in exploded and he was also strangled. He was for sure murdered by some Scottish Lords, but as to who was directly involved in conspiracy is up for debate because there’s a lot of documents and false documents and the latter half of the book is basically about all these documents. To be fair I skimmed a lot of the stuff about the documents because I’m a busy woman and I got other bits to get to.

What isn’t really addressed in the book is that blowing up a house with gunpowder is an insane, over the top way to kill someone, especially in a age before fingerprints and DNA testing. If you got the means to sneak into someone’s house and mine it with gunpowder (which was probably pretty damn expensive) you could just stab the guy. Which is what ended up happening anyway, Lord Darnley was found strangled in a field a block or so from the house. It’s an insane plot. Like, I get the plot to blow up Parliament Building with gunpowder, that’s making a public point, but they just wanted to get rid of Lord Darnley for some admittedly good reasons – he was a terrible husband and a threat to Mary’s power. It just would have been so much easier to stab him.

The crux of the author’s point in this book is that Mary was not aware of the plot to kill Lord Darnley. She lays out a good case for why Mary didn’t know/wasn’t responsible, but I feel like it could go either way. We’ll never know, it’s a five hundred year old mystery. It’s a helluva story that was made into a movie called Mary, Queen of Scots. I saw it after I read the book. It’s an okay movie, but sorta poorly paced. It was more focused on the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth and I think it would have been better if Elizabeth was a side character the way that Mary is usually portrayed in media about Elizabeth.

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