Posts Tagged ‘Brandon Sanderson’

Yesterday, Bart and I made the one-thousand mile, fifteen-hour trek from Arkansas back to DC. We spent about ten days visiting family for Christmas, and while we had a great trip, we were definitely ready to be home.

We always drive to Arkansas when we go back to visit, both in the summer and around Christmas. We usually have ample time to spend driving, and it’s way more cost effective for two adults than flying (time really is money). That also keeps our schedule more flexible in case of weather (always a possible problem, particularly around the holidays). We can also bring Murphy, who loves nothing more than to “G-O” (he knows the word, so we have to spell it); he gets lots of attention from our family, and he’s a very good traveler. Plus, we can haul way more presents each way in the car than in luggage!

All these positives somehow manage to outweigh the brutal exhaustion of long-haul road tripping. We’re still young and crazy enough to usually do our trips in one long day instead of breaking it up in sections, but it’s one really, really long day. I find it hilarious that the trip is exactly the same length from DC as it was from Colorado, just in the opposite direction; we didn’t gain ground, but we didn’t lose it, either. And thank heaven that Tennessee and Virginia are vastly more interesting than Kansas and Eastern Colorado. After eight years, twice per year, of that route, I had every exit and gas station memorized, and I will not miss it in the least.

The weather was pretty good for both trips. It began pouring rain with about an hour left in our incoming trip (and it proceeded to pour without letting up for the next 24 hours…and I’m not exaggerating), but we made it just fine. We thought we’d be in pouring rain for the entire trip yesterday, but thankfully the front that moved up the east coast was a few hours ahead of us, leaving us with a clear shot all the way home.

Our saving grace on roadtrips are audiobooks; they are absolutely magical for making the miles quite tolerable, at least if you have a decent one. On our way down, we opted for some sci-fi/fantasy: we listened to the novella “The Emperor’s Soul” by Brandon Sanderson and most of “Wyrms” by Orson Scott Card (author of the recently cinematized “Ender’s Game”); we finished it up in the first few hours of our trip yesterday. “Soul” was very good, as expected from Sanderson, and a quick story. “Wyrms” was not bad but pretty weird…that’s about all I can say for it.

Yesterday on the way back we listened to “The Innocent” by David Baldacci. It’s a crime thriller set in Washington, DC, so having first-hand knowledge of the metro area gave us a unique appreciation for the book. He nailed most of the aspects of the town (traffic, housing prices, seedy parts of town, road names, etc.), and even though I think he took one or two liberties about locations, I can understand artistic license in that regard. At any rate, I thought it was a sufficiently entertaining book that kept us engaged and paying attention to the sinuous plot line for 11 hours. Most contemporary authors in this ubiquitous genre tell a good story, but it’s downright challenging to find one that isn’t completely stuffed with gratuitous language and sex (not our preferred plot devices). This one had a little bit of each, but it was tolerable and considerably better than a lot of books we’ve attempted cross-country. It was a bit specific about violence, but thankfully it wasn’t pervasive.

So, thanks to good weather and an engaging story, we made good time and arrived home around 10:00 p.m. Unfortunately, we were greeted by a house with an internet outage and a broken boiler. The pilot light was out, and we have no idea for how many days. Internet I can live without, but heat is one of those things I consider a must-have in the winter. Bart attempted to relight the pilot, but it wouldn’t stay lit. We exhausted our limited knowledge of heating systems and decided to tough it out overnight until we could call someone today. It wasn’t too bad, as we stayed toasty under the covers with an electric blanket, but hopefully the repair guy will come out today and get it fixed. Hopefully it won’t cost a bazillion dollars, either, but such is the life of a homeowner.

Every last surface of our house is icy now; with every bit of heat being sucked out of it for who knows how many days, the entire house is frigid. I suspect that even when we have heat again it’s going to take days for the ambient warmth to resorb back into all our belongings. But I’m still thankful to have shelter from the outside, plenty of food, a roaring, cozy fireplace, and a husband and pup to share it all with. I’m also thankful for a great visit with family and a safe trip home. I’m glad to be back and ramping up for a brand new year!

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Our 101-in-1001 deadline is drawing near, and I’ve already accepted the fact that we just aren’t going to complete all 101 things on our list. We might have gotten there under normal circumstances, but moving was a fatal disruption to some of our list items. However, I’m quite satisfied that Bart and I will have accomplished 101 very interesting things in that time frame, just not every last one we set out to do back in 2011. It has accomplished its purpose of making us intentional about the things we say we want to do.

I haven’t totally given up on the list, though. In fact, just this week I finally completed another item, #82: read another book by Brandon Sanderson. You may know him as “the guy who finished writing the Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan died,” and, I’ll be honest, that’s where we first learned of him. However, he is a fantasy writer in his own right with quite a few original novels and series of his own. Bart and I have read most of them to date, and it seemed like an easy enough goal to tack on a new one when it came out.

Sure enough, a couple of years ago Sanderson released “Alloy of Law” as a complementary book to one of his best known series, Mistborn. It’s not a sequel, just a separate story set in the same world. We got it, and Bart read it immediately. However, I tried three separate times to start the book and for some reason every time I got distracted before I could finish the first chapter. Finally, last month when I had jury duty, I picked it up again, determined to succeed this time while I was a captive audience in the jury waiting room. However, I’m afraid I was going to get distracted yet again until Bart intervened. He happily volunteered to read it together with me, so over the course of a few weeks, we read it aloud together in the evenings. We finally finished it on Tuesday night. It was a good story, so I have no idea why I kept putting it off! Plus, compared to every other fantasy novel I get sucked into reading, it was only 300 pages or so instead of 600 or 700. So I had no excuse before, but I’m finally off the hook.

I’ve decided that I cannot recommend “Alloy of Law” to anyone who has not read the original Mistborn trilogy. However, I cannot recommend Mistborn highly enough. I really don’t read a ton of fantasy series, but I personally found it to be one of the most unique and interesting premises I’ve ever come across. Sanderson takes an unconventional approach to “good guys” and “bad guys;” where sharp lines are usually drawn between camps in most stories, he blurs and greys the lines and leaves you guessing until the end. I found it to be a refreshing departure from the predominate type of stories and worlds one tends to find in the genre.

But once you’re familiar with the world of Mistborn, “Alloy of Law” is an engaging exercise in exploring the same world with the same magic system, only in a different culture a few hundred years later. The original Mistborn is set in a traditional fantasy kind of world, with largely pre-industrial civilization and technology. “Alloy” is set in a late-1800’s or turn-of-the-century type era, with fledgling technologies like automobiles and electricity; it almost has a steampunk feel to it. The plot and characters are fun and engaging, and not intended to be developed in the same depth as the original series. It’s by no means superficial, but it’s an easier read with less commitment than, say, Wheel of Time. :p So, go read Mistborn right now, and then read Alloy of Law after that.

Of course, why read just one book when you can read two? Brandon Sanderson released a new book, “Steelheart,” just last week. Bart insisted on picking it up, and we’ve started reading it together the last couple of nights. This is the first book in a new series, and it’s completely different from Mistborn. It’s set in future Chicago where evil anti-heroes control and oppress the population, but one group of ordinary humans still fights back to overcome these “Epics.” We’re only half-way through, but we like it, and so far I can recommended for another fun read. If I finish, can I check another item off my list?

You can check out Brandon Sanderson and learn more about his writings at www.BrandonSanderson.com.

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