Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 3

Sorry for the delay on this part, I have been adjusting to quarrantine life, and unfortunately writing had to take a side seat for a few weeks.

But now I and ‘The Wardens of Corinthia’ are back, and we continue the story with part three of chapter one!

If you want to the earlier parts of this chapter you can check them out below:

Prelude
Part 1
Part 2

I hope you enjoy the continuation of this story and a huge thank you for joining me on this adventure!

 


3

‘What does it mean?’ the sharp-eyed Dragonborn asked the wizened wizard.

‘In truth Mojito, I do not know.’ Alysha said as she poured over her scrolls and tomes, consulting all of the divination mechania that filled her study. ‘The appearance of this star is not an accident, and it clearly has some connection to the very weaves of fate that have brought you here.’

‘But it wasn’t fate that brought me here master, I chose to come here of my own volition! I travelled seeking answers from you and found you after a long journey, I was not wandering aimlessly in the wilderness!’ Mojito took a breath after his statement. He had not been able to fully learn the habit of taking breath between sentences and often waited until all thoughts were out of his mouth before re-filling his lungs.

‘I do not disagree with you, but you have just so happened to arrive in our town at the same time as two other travellers who come fleeing significant dangers and are seeking help. That is an impressive coincidence. Particularly under the burning star that is shining today.’ Alysha turned from her books and stared into a looking glass. Mojito could see nothing but a simple reflection in the polished surface, but Alysha was focused on something beyond the glass.

‘Two? There is only the gnome, no other travellers have come since I have arrived.’ replied Mojito uncertainly.

‘There was only the gnome, but a second has now arrived. It’s time for you to go to Aggie again. Tell her to go to the town square, her final guest is arriving.’ Alysha’s eyes remained focussed on what lay beyond the glass. Mojito rose, and with a bow left the wizard’s study, making his way down the spiral stair to the base of the tower, and out to the Studregg Tavern.

***

‘So what exactly did Alysha say?’ Aggie asked as Mojito led her and Tana to the town square.

‘She said that another person is coming and we are to go to the town square to meet them, she didn’t explain more than that,’ replied Mojito, impatient to find out exactly what was going on and meet this final guest. Stood in the town square, the trio watched the bustle as townsfolk attempted to carry on their work, as much as they could, whilst keeping half an eye on the burning meteor in the sky.

‘What’s goin’ on Aggie?’ Willow, the owner of one of the town’s general good stores, asked as she walked over from her small shop front.

‘Well, Alysha an’ Hektor ‘ave asked us t’ meet one of their friends out here, apparently, they are new in town.’ Aggie replied with a shrug.

‘Oh! Well that can’t be good, can it?’ Willow replied, hesitantly. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I love them two, but I mean, it can’t be good news right? Wizards friends turning up at such a time?’ Willow tried to avoid looking at Mojito and Tana as she spoke, but her eyes could not help but flicker across the group. Tana shifted uncomfortably behind Aggie’s large frame as she avoided eye contact with Willow, whilst Mojito scanned the town. If he heard Willow he did not acknowledge her.

‘Come on now, that’s no way to talk! You know these two are friends, and ‘ave been nothing but lovely since they got ‘ere!’ Aggie replied, kindly but not softly. ‘Who knows what’s happening and we have no right t’ judge people who pass through-‘

‘Oh! Who’s that?!’ Mojito called out cutting Aggie short and causing both her and Willow to turn to his direction. Mojito pointed and hopped to see over the crowd, whilst Tana hopelessly scanned the crowd’s legs. She was getting used to not seeing much when there was a lot of large-folk around, but she did not resign herself to impassivity in such a situation. Aggie looked across the square and saw someone who appeared to just as startlingly tall as her, if not taller. ‘It’s a Firbolg!’ Mojito called out ‘It must be, I have never seen one but look! It’s all furry like a Goliath with hair!’ As the Firbolg made its way through town it kept attempting to engage townsfolk in conversation. Had it been any other day Harstead would have been more than welcoming, but people were on edge with the star hanging in the morning sky, and much to Aggie’s embarrassment, people were visibly avoiding the stranger and pointing them in any direction away from themselves.

‘Hiya darlin’ how’re doing?’ Aggie asked as she strode forward through the crowd, Tana and Mojito in tow, holding out a hand to the new visitor.

‘Oh! Hello! “I” am pleased to meet you!’ replied the Firbolg placing a hand over her heart as she spoke. Seeing Aggie’s outstretched hand she mimicked the gesture uncertainly.

‘What brings you to our town darlin’?’ Aggie asked as she reached forward and took the Firbolg’s hand and shook it with a smile, ‘You seem like you’re a long way from ‘ome.’

‘Well we are looking for help you see’ the Firbolg replied continuing to shake Aggie’s hand as she spoke, ‘we were sent by the people to find help, and so “I” came here.’

‘So what’s your name darlin’?’ Aggie asked as she subtly tried to break the handshake without outright tugging her hand away.

‘Darling? Erm.’ The Firbolg let go of Aggie’s hand as her golden eyes glanced down in thought, ‘Yes, Darling is my name?’ The Firbolg’s gaze fixed on Aggie inquisitively.

‘You ain’t sure?’ Aggie replied keeping the Firbolg’s gaze. ‘You can be Darling if you want.’

‘Okay!’ replied the Firbolg with a flash of relief crossing her face, ‘”I” am Darling!’

 

(to be continued…)

 

 

 

Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 2

The Wardens of Corinthia is back, and we continue the story with part two of chapter one!

If you want to catch part one of this chapter you can check this out here!

I hope you continue to enjoy this story and thank you for joining me on this adventure!

 


 

2

This was the furthest the firbolg known as the Lalar had ever travelled from her woodland home. She had heard of races cultivating the land and transforming it to produce food in vast quantities, but she had never truly seen it close. Stretches of uniform wheat growing within constructed barriers of deadwood prevented intruders from casually walking across the fields. It was a far cry from foraging in the woodland groves, but upon close inspection it was clear that even in this cultivated land many animals were able to make their home here.

A small family of dormice ran up and down the wheat sheave stalks, and many cottontail rabbits were enjoying the luxurious feasts that such intensive cultivation nurtured. Small birds built nests in the bushes that reclaimed the deadwood barriers, and sung tales of love and joy to the morning light; Chaffinches, dunnocks and wrens flitted from hidden perch to hidden perch. And where there are small animals, there are always larger animals to hunt them, and as far as Lalar could tell by their scent there was at least one family of foxes that had built a set nearby.

Nature always made a way, and no one could tame it for long.

Coming out of the wheat fields Lalar came upon a dirt path that lead to a dwelling built from deadwood and stone. She started towards the homestead before something caught her eye and her stomach turned. Across the top bar of the deadwood barrier that ran along the dirt path, little tiny bodies had been pinned. The bodies of many little, lifeless moles.

The grim trophies framed the dwelling darkly, and so, turning her back on the dwelling, Lalar followed the path in the opposite direction to what was presumably the large city that she had been told to go to.

Over the city she noticed a strange star burning brightly on the horizon. She had been so intent on the goings on the ground she had missed it completely until that moment. Perhaps it was a sign that fortune was with her.

***

‘THE SKY IS WHAT?!’ Tana cried out, rolling off her chair and running to a window of the Studregg Tavern to peak out at the sky nervously. ‘What is going on?!’ The sky was blue and clear, and not a flame could be seen.

‘Oh it’s nothing like that little one,’ laughed Hektor, choking on some bread that had been in his mouth as the deep gnome caught him off guard. Coughing he slammed his fist on the table several times, before settling his throat with some water. Aggie’s stared at him unflinching. ‘There is a comet in the sky Tana,’ Hektor announced as he stood up and walked over to the opposite side of the Tavern. ‘You won’t see it out of that window, but you can see it out of here, look!’ There was a rush and the sound of wooden chairs scraping on wooden floors as guests at the tavern scrambled to look out of the window that Hektor stood by, leaving Tana unable to get close. ‘BACK UP! BACK UP YOU LOT!’ Hektor called out at the crowd, making space for Tana to see the burning crimson and gold firebrand in the deep, cloudless sky.

‘What is it?’ Tana asked nervously, her large green eyes fixed on the burning sigil.

‘Tis a sign. An omen.’ Hektor replied solemnly.  ‘You know what that means?’ Hektor asked the small gnome who had pulled herself up onto the windowsill. Tana nodded darkly before turning her attention back to Aggie, who was still sat in her chair, looking past the tavern door. Hektor walked over to Aggie, through the whispering rabble, and sat back at the table, continuing to pick at his food.

‘I still thought I would’a had more time,’ Aggie said, turning to look at Hektor. ‘But I guess ye can’t really choose these things can ya?’ Hektor smiled the same warm, chip-toothed, smile he had had for as long as she could remember.

‘Course you can Aggie.’ Hektor said, in a quiet rumble, pushing his empty plate into the centre of the table. ‘You always have a choice. But what ye don’t always have is the opportunity t’do something truly different, t’go out there and see the world.’ Hektor’s hand gestured pointingly to emphasise his words, ‘You have always had a fiery ‘eart Aggie, and you ‘ave built somethin’ truly beautiful here.’ Hektor looked over to Tana who had turned back to look at the comet in the sky. Aggie followed his gaze to the small gnome. ‘There are others who need ‘elp, outside of ‘arstead. Help that me an’ Alysha can’t exactly do no more.’ Hektor stood up and placed his hand on Aggie’s shoulder comfortingly, ‘The last one will be ‘ere soon, after that it’s up t’you. Ye can’t make a wrong decision here Aggie. It’s an important decision, but it’s not possible t’get it wrong.’ Hektor dropped a gold piece on the table as he walked towards the tavern door.

‘Hektor wait!’ Aggie called after the grizzled veteran as he neared the door. Hektor turned around with raised eyebrows.

‘Hmm?’

‘You forgot your leftovers!’ said as she rushed into the kitchen to pack a fresh meal to go for her old friend.

(to be continued…)

 

 

 

Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 1

The Wardens of Corinthia is here, and we start with part 1 of chapter 1!

If you want to catch the prelude you can check this out here!

I hope you enjoy the beginings of this story and writing experiement!

 


 

1

It was a bright and cold Spring morning as Aggie looked out at the frost that still sat on the rooftops of her small hometown. Of the twin moons that hung in the sky, only Luna could be seen in the dawn-light, slowly waning like the closing eye of a lethargic god.

Hektor’s words stuck in her mind like a thorn. This town, this life was all she had ever wanted. It held her parent’s memories and love. Wasn’t that enough? Sighing, Aggie turned back into her tavern.

The wooden floor was clean and the tables and chairs had been arranged neatly. A well-worn bearskin rug lay before the simple stone hearth, which crackled with the morning’s fresh firewood. The creaking of the floorboards above foretold the rising of her guests from their slumber. And it would be amiss for any one of them to wake up without breakfast and a hot drink to greet them into the new day.

***

‘MOJITO!’ Aggie cried out, startling the mixed-blood Dragonborn, who had been quietly raiding the pantry before the other guests had awoken, causing food to scatter across the floor in the process. ‘How many times to I have to tell you to stay outta my kitchen?’ her southern drawl softened the tone of her loud Orcish voice. Mojito’s vibrant blue crest stood on end, like the fur of a kitten that felt threatened, as he reeled back coughing.

‘S…shhooryy…’ choaked Mojito, between coughing fits, which quickly became silent as he struggled to catch a breath. Aggie walked up to him and gave him a solid thump on his back, knocking him to the floor, and causing a large chunk of onion to come flying out of his mouth in the process.

‘Now you know that that tastes better cooked right?’ Aggie said as she helped her scaled visitor to his feet.

‘Well yes, quite,’ replied Mojito regaining his composure and intonation, before diving into a hurried explanation ‘I was hoping to set out early today and was very worried that I would go hungry because I am not sure when Alysha is planning to eat, if she wants me to be with her at all, and if she does not then I am uncertain what it is that would be good for eating around these parts, as I have grown rather accustomed to your home-cooking and figured that your raw ingredients would taste a hell of a lot better than whatever I could find in the woods.’

‘Well raw onions ain’t good for no-one,’ replied Aggie as she started grabbing food out of the pantry, and setting it out on the kitchen counter. ‘And if you can waitfur five minutes I will throw sumthin’ together that will taste a lot better than anythin’ you could scavenge on your own.’

***

Mojito, satisfyingly full, walked to the tall stone tower where Alysha had set up her study and observatory in the heart of Harstead. The chill was slowly breaking as the sun rose, and Mojito was excited about what the day might hold. As he strode past townsfolk beginning their days work, a small mote of light caught his eye. Floating on the wind like a dandelion seed, the small figure of an elemental landed upon Mojito’s hand. The translucent, vaguely humanoid spirit pointed skyward, and as Mojito shielded his eyes from the sun’s glare, something came into focus.

A comet slowly burned silently across the sky, brighter than the Morning Star.

As Mojito stood transfixed by this omen, those around him started to notice the celestial event as well. Worried and excited whispers and shouts came from the townsfolk as early birds roused their households to see this important sign.  Realising the hubbub that now surrounded him Mojito looked to his now empty hand curiously, before continuing onward to his teachers home.

***

Aggie had just started to eat her own breakfast with Tana, after serving the handful of guests that had rented rooms, when Hektor burst through the Tavern door. ‘Where’s my lil’ Aggie?!’ he roared to the startled and sleepy room of guests who were thoroughly underprepared for such excitement so early in the day.

Although he had not been taller than Aggie for many years, Hektor had always called her ‘lil’ Aggie, and hearing those words from the scarred, chip-toothed, bushy bearded veteran, always filled her heart with excitement, even after all these years.

‘Goodness Hektor, what are you shoutin’ about? Are you tryin’ to scare the skin off of everyone here?!’ She roared back, slamming her heavy fist onto the wooden table she was sat at as she spoke.

There was a moment’s silence as uncertain guests shifted uncomfortably in their seats, before Hektor and Aggie could no longer maintain their composure and broke into hearty laughter.

Embracing each other, Aggie lifted Hektor off his feet for a moment before putting him down again and bringing over to the table where she was sat with Tana. ‘How’re you doing little one?’ Hektor asked the small deep gnome at the table.

‘Okay,’ Tana said, averting her eyes from the large man that took a seat at the table opposite her. She found the way Aggie’s friend looked at her to be unnerving. He seemed to know who she was as soon as he had met her, four weeks ago, after Aggie had offered her the shelter she had so desperately sought. He had asked why she had come to Harstead back then, but he did not seem surprised by her story, it seemed like he had already heard it before. But Aggie trusted him, even if he wasn’t telling her everything.

‘So what’re you doing here?’ Aggie called out, as she returned from the kitchen with fresh bread and cheese, which she placed in front of Hektor.

‘The sky’s on fire Aggie,’ Hektor replied with a smile as Aggie sat back at the table. ‘And that means that the time has come for you to make a choice.’ Unmoving, Aggie kept Hektor’s gaze as he started to eat…

(To be continued…)

The Wardens of Corinthia

“After The Sundering the power of the gods was broken. Those that lived under their yoke were free to strike out their own path through history. People of all races and nations now had the opportunity to reach out beyond the mold that had been cast for them by their gods, to reshape the world to their own vision.

However, the ability to take advantage of this power vacuum was not isolated to the material plane…”   (read more)

Welcome to this new writing series!

Over the next several months I am going to be posting short episodic chapters for a new high fantasy story, which will form the Campaign Diaries of a current Dungeon and Dragons game I am running.

Dungeons and Dragons is a collaborative storytelling medium, and the story that will unfold will follow four main-characters, who were crafted and are acted by four real-world people. My role in this collaboration is to provide the setting and the story for these characters to explore and build on together. I have used several sourcebooks from the Wizards of the Coast to help build this setting and the adventure, but this campaign diary will be my own words; my own twist on the events and individuals that have come from a variety of sources, including my own imagination.

The ownership of a collaborative effort is hard to pin down, which is why we are sharing this experience with you for free.

I hope you enjoy the story that will unfold every week. I have ideas about what direction the story may head, but as I do not control the four main characters, they may, and do, undertake actions that I was not expecting, which adds to the suspense and drama of this storytelling experience as a writer.

The first part of this story is a prelude.

From the stage I set this week we will dive into the experiences that my players and their characters have had, presented with proper narrative and prose, for the enjoyment of everyone!

I hope you enjoy this writing experiment and that you choose to continue this exciting journey with us!

With all that said, let’s start the story first, by going back 15 years ago…

Book Review: ‘The Last Wish’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

‘Evil is evil…Lesser, greater, middling, it’s all the same.’

Last Wish book

My first exposure to the world that Andrezej Sapkowski created took the form of the critically acclaimed Witcher games by CD Projekt Red following the adventures of an amnesiac monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia.

The loss of Geralt’s memory ensures the player does not have to have a prior knowledge of the books the game was based on before picking up and playing, as the games are set after the events in the books, and Geralt cannot remember what happened.

That changes by the final game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, as Geralt has regained his memory, and his past from the books drives forward the story in the games.

One of the missions in that game is named the Last Wish, which calls back to the very first book in the Witcher series, a poetic curtailing of the world that Andrezej established.

But before we look at the end of the story we have to turn back to the begining if that story and that is what The Last Wish gives us.

The Last Wish has a non-standard narrative structure, taking the form of a series of short stories that establish who Geralt of Rivia is, tied together by the overarching narrative of Geralt reflecting on his during a time of recovery following an injury during a particular monster hunt.

This particular structure does leave you feeling like you are watching the clip show episode of your favourite TV series, but the fact that these stories are new prevents the creeping boredom that can be evoked by the often overused TV trope. Instead we are shown who Geralt of Rivia is by being given a selection of stories, such as might be told by a travelling bard, for us to understand who he is, even if we do not fully understand where he has come from by the end of the book.

The writing style is simple but paints an effective picture of a well-realised world where folklore and fantasy blend together with a realistic medieval setting. I understand the world well very early on in the book, but still have questions about the mechanics of its ontology, which is how a fantasy world should be introduced. The characters in the world don’t fully know and explore the mysteries of the world at the same time as we do.

The book is translated into English from its original Polish and so I will put some of the simplicity down to being lost in translation, as the rest of the world building is effective enough that simplicity is not distracting or unwanted.

A good sense of humour pervades the book with a smile being brought to my lips on several occasions, whether that be by characters own wit or happenstance to unexpected retellings of classic folklore tales.

If you enjoyed watching The Witcher on Netflix, this book is a nice read to see the source material, however all bar-one story in the Last Wish made it into the Netflix series, meaning you will not be reading much that you are not familiar with, and the Netflix Series is fairly close to the source material save for a few minor variations such as would be expected from any adaptation. As such if you read the Last Wish you will know a large portion of what to expect from the Netflix series and vice versa.

I fully enjoyed reading this book, it was a short but fun, slightly pulpy experience, which felt more than the sum of it’s parts by the end.

Having read this book I am now itching to read the rest that Andrezej Sapkowski has to offer. It is not the finest fantasy story ever written, but it is undeniably interesting and fun read, that does not overstay its welcome, and has left me wanting more.

One to Watch: The Witcher

‘Toss a coin to your Witcher…’

The Witcher Poster.jpg

So you watched Game of Thrones and were hooked. The deep character arcs, the bleak setting, the political intrigue and of course, the sex and violence. It was all looking so good…until Season 8 when it all turned to ashes. You never thought fantasy could work for you, and now you’re not sure what could compare to Game of Thrones at its peak. What could bring that excitement back?

From amongst those ashes, The Witcher steps up to the wicket with a grim-faced Henry Cavill leading the team, and boy does he hit it for six.

The Witcher follows Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher, a monster-hunter for hire, as he tries to live his life avoiding and navigating the schemes of mages and kings as destiny thrusts him into the limelight.

The Netflix series is 8 episodes long and is based on the book series by Polish author Andrezej Sapkowski. This is the same book series that was adapted into the award-winning ‘The Witcher’ video game trilogy, which has set the standard for immersive and narratively compelling sandbox games. But the Netflix series should not be reduced to comparisons to video game adapted movies; it is so much more.

The first point to note is that the video game series is set after the conclusion of Andrezej Sapkowski’s books, whereas the Netflix series based on the books themselves, which forms an interesting prelude for those who want to go on to play The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.

The acting and action are gripping and bloody and the political plots that are set up are intriguing; all the hallmarks of an exciting fantasy story. The story is not entirely linear, which can be confusing, however when I realised what was going on I found it enormously satisfying to piece together. Some of my friends enjoyed this less, and whilst it is not an issue I had with the series, it is definitely a matter of personal taste as to whether or not this element of the series would be enjoyed. One complaint I do have about the non-linearity of the storytelling is that several character relationships advance off-screen, which can make it hard to understand who has known who for how long at certain points. I think this could be remedied by having a few more episodes to the season to expand on these connections, but I believe that the directors have provided an excellent series given its relatively short number of episodes.

My only other complaint about the Witcher is the CGI in places is janky, and clearly on a TV budget, not a film one. This is not fatal to the series and understandable given this is an untested TV IP. Hopefully, future series will be given a higher budget to correct this.

Witcher BAnner

I thoroughly enjoyed this series and cannot recommend it enough to people who enjoyed Game of Thrones or who have played The Witcher video games. I am already itching for a season 2, and have started reading the book series to get my Witcher fix.

My final recommendation is not to watch this series on a commute. There is a significant amount of nudity, particularly in the early episodes, which might make for an uncomfortable public viewing experience.

The Shining: Watch It Or Read It First?

This article contains minor spoilers for both the book and film adaptation of The Shining.

If you are reading this there is a good chance that you know the drama that comes whenever a film or TV series based on a book comes out. Do you watch it straight away or try to read the source material beforehand?

I am a habitual read the book firstperson, and the worst kind of person to watch a book based film with. Throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Lord of the Rings films I have had to constantly consciously hold my tongue to stop me whispering my insider knowledge to my irritated family I am seeing the film with. Often with the announcement at the end of the film that the book was better’.

But with time I have learned to appreciate and respect the differences between the two story telling mediums. Following these points of personal growth, I did what once I thought was unthinkable, and saw a film before reading the book.

The film in question?

Stanley Kubricks iconic film The Shining.

The Movie Poster (Shining)

The film is so interspersed in our pop culture that many scenes in the film will be familiar to watchers by virtue of parody in other shows such as The Simpsons, which is why I thought it was a prime candidate for this experiment. And with the experiment now complete, I am ready to share the results with you, to help you make the decision on whether or not you want to break with tradition and watch this film before reading the book.

What are you wanting to experience?

Whilst both mediums tell a similar story each has a different focus that fundamentally changes the experience for the reader/viewer. Both book and film tell the story of the haunting experiences of the Torrancefamily whilst they are snowed in at the isolated Overlook Hotel over the course of several months. But how that story is told varies distinctly, and naturally when you have experienced one medium, some of the tension is pulled out of the other by the reader/viewers foreknowledge of the events that are going to unfold. In fact I believe that this foreknowledge is what was likely to be responsible for my issues with the pacing of the book, which I highlighted in my review last week.

The book has a distinct focus on the more supernatural elements of the story, looking into the dark history of the Overlook Hotel, and the obsession that starts to grow within the Torrance family, in relation to this storied history. In this regards it is much clearer what is happening in the book when compared to the film. There is some distinctly odd imagery in the film that seem unexplained and weird for weirdness sake, however it becomes more clear what this imagery is in reference to upon reading the book. Further the titular shiningis explored with much greater detail in the book and is a relevant plot point, whereas it seems to be a vestigial story element in the film, and could be entirely cut without removing anything significant from the story.

The film by contrast focuses on the mental trauma of isolation and the growing madness it causes. Haunting events still occur, but the question in the viewer’s mind is Is this happening or is it all in their heads?As a note of personal preference I find this horror to be more effective, as it feels more grounded in reality. The film continually utilises long cuts to build tension which works perfectly with the more psychological horror theme of the film. In a more artistic note the film uses single-point perspective extensively, clear inspiration for Wes Anderson’s later work. The combination of long cuts and single point perspectives build a sense of the enormity of the Overlook Hotel and the isolation the Torrance family are experiencing.

Both mediums explore themes of toxic masculinity and the damaging effect of patriarchal norms on men and those they love, however the book treats Jack Torrance in a distinctly more sympathetic manner than the film. Jack Nicholsons portrayal of the head of the Torrance house has a continual undertone of an unhinged individual, complicit in his own madness, whereas the book paints the picture of a sincere man struggling to fight his own demons despite his best efforts. Neither can be said to be objectively better than the other as each portrayal is directly linked to the greater thematic focus of each medium.

Does one story completely ruin the other?

The short answer is no. The long answer is that in addition to the different narrative and thematic focus of the book and the film, there are important set-piece differences between the two mediums, which I was surprised to discover. Without spoiling both the film and book completely there are distinct differences between the film and the books climaxes, which are each suited to their own medium and story, and would be less suited to the other should the scenes be switched.

Because of this you will not ruin the film by reading the book first and neither will you ruin the book by watching the film first. It comes down to a point of personal preference which you watch or read first, which hopefully I have helped to advise you on. In either case I would fully recommend experiencing both, as it is rare to find such an effective example of how to tell the same story in two different mediums and how one can effectively adapt a book to a film without sacrificing the artistic integrity of both mediums.

Book Review: The Shining by Stephen King

‘REDRUM’

The Shining Book Cover

When it comes to the horror genre there are few authors as established as Stephen King, with ‘The Shining’ being almost as well known as the author himself.

This is in part, due to Stanley Kubrick’s iconic adaptation of the novel, which launched Jack Nicholson’s career. But this is not the article to discuss the film. Here we are discussing the book.

‘The Shining’ follows the Torrance family as they take over residence of the Overlook Hotel, which closes down business for the icy winter months. Jack, the patriarchal head of the family is hired to be the caretaker of the hotel whilst it is closed, performing necessary maintenance and ensuring the central heating pipes don’t burst from the cold.

But the Overlook has a dark and sordid history, and as the snowdrifts close in, that history starts to come to life.

An Introduction to Horror

I do not have a large exposure to the horror genre when it comes to novels, so this book was something of a toe in the water for me. And I have been left intrigued in the genre, but would not consider myself sold yet.

The book switches from the perspectives of several characters, including each member of the Torrance family. This gifts the reader with interesting insights into the mental states of each character, which is particularly gripping when we are shown things through the eyes of Jack and Danny. But between moments of gripping tension are lulls that seem to go in for a bit too long. Wendy is not written sympathetically, and her self-doubt drags the tension built by the other characters’ perspectives.

There are also moments of awkward, hammy foreshadowing that feel too on the nose to compliment the subtle sensation of growing evil that King is trying to kindle in the reader.

But these hiccups do not undo what King does right. Dark toxic relationships and self-delusion are explored wonderfully, adding a grounding dose of reality to the growing madness that takes place at the Overlook. Whilst the book is undeniably a supernatural horror, the human, non-supernatural elements ratchet the tension, making the supernatural occurrences all the more terrifying.

The crescendo of the story has the feel of a false start, losing tension too quickly but when it does pick up the pace again the climax is tense and disturbing.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. The Shining is not a masterpiece of writing; scattered with a few too many obscure metaphors, and the pacing issues I have spoken about above, but what it does well it does very well. It is a satisfying read and I am looking forward to exploring more of King’s writings to see if they offer more of the tasty morsels that I found in this book.

This is art, not real life celebrates it’s first birthday!

This is so exciting!

This is art, not real life is officially one year old today!

Over the past year we have had over 900 views from over 300 visitors, which really picked up when I started to create content regularly in May.

Thank you so much to all of you who have read, liked, commented and engaged with my content!

I am still learning how to grow and develop this site, what kinds of content you want to see,  how to create a fun web experience for you, and I am excited to continue to develop this site over the years to come.

One of my most popular posts was a deep dive into Dark Souls, which I am excited to say there is a follow up article I have written that will be posted in just two weeks, and looks at From Software’s storytelling techniques!

Hopefully this website continues to be an enjoyable read for you, and I am excited to continue to share this experience with you!

– Aaron Surnaym

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Book Review: Barefoot Gen Volume 1

‘Gen is my alter ego and his family are just like my own.’

 

Barefoot Gen Volume 1

Japan is the only country in the history of the world that has had an atomic bomb used against it in war.

It went through that trauma twice.

When I finished reading Barefoot Gen I did not have any words to say.

I just sat there with tears in my eyes processing what I had just read.

This graphic novel tells the semi-autobiographical story of the author Keiji Nakazawa and his childhood experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

It is a passionate and emotive piece of anti-war literature, and one of the most deeply disturbing horror stories I have read.

Junji Ito may provide a visceral and terrifying supernatural horror experience on a graphic novel page, but Keiji Nakazawa’s story is real, that is the most disturbing thing of all.

This story is an important piece of modern literature, in the same vein as the war poetry of the frontline soldiers of World War 1, and it provides a unique insight into the domestic situation in Japan at the end of World War 2 and the impact of the atomic bomb being dropped that is not familiar to western readers.

I say western readers, but I can only speak from my own experience of history lessons taught in the UK. I knew about the atom bomb, I knew it was dropped to stop a long drawn out war to claim every individual island of Japan, I knew that it immediately ended thousands of lives instantly like turning off a switch.

Except that last part is not true.

I was taught a very sanitised understanding of atomic warfare, and Barefoot Gen breaks through that understanding violently.

The story told follows Gen, a child living in Hiroshima in the final days of World War 2, and his family. His father is opposed to the war, and living in a militaristic society this leads to Gen’s family being branded traitors.

The reader is introduced to the issues that the civilians of Japan were facing with food shortages and starvation being present in the face of a war that was slowly being lost, along with the pervasive militarism that permeated their society, blinding people to the fact that the war was not going well.

Gen's father

These struggles form the majority of volume one as Gen’s family try to cope with having their neighbourhood turn against them, simply because they are opposed to sending young men out to die for a war that should never have been engaged in.

And then the date ticks over to the 6th August 1945.

The final 35 pages of the manga address the aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb. It is haunting. You are given the slightest impression of what Keiji Nakazawa had to experience, and it enough to chill you to the core, and question what humanity is capable of.

The art style used is a very classic, simple, disney-esque cartoon style, lacking the detail that you get from other high quality manga or graphic novels, but this does not negate the emotional connections you build with the characters in this completely human story. You begin to feel like you truly know Gen’s family, and in this process Keiji Nakazawa gives us an intimate and deeply personal insight into his own relationship with his family and the life that he lived in Hiroshima.

There are further volumes of Barefoot Gen that deal with life after the dropping of the bomb. I have not yet read it, and feel I still need time to process volume 1 before I move onto the next part of the story.

Trampled Wheat

Barefoot Gen is, in my view, essential reading. Even if graphic novels are not your cup of tea, the story that it tells is an important part of human history, and it gives a unique insight into the events of 6th August 1945, that should form part of the education around the use of atomic weaponry, that is an ever present shadow in modern global politics.