Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Hobbit by JRR TolkienVia /Film, Guillermo del Toro on leaving his position as director of the upcoming film version of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit:

In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming “The Hobbit,” I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wish the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director.

Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and producer of The Hobbit, confirms that del Toro will be staying on as part of the writing team:

Guillermo is co-writing the Hobbit screenplays with Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and myself, and happily our writing partnership will continue for several more months, until the scripts are fine tuned and polished…New Line and Warner Bros will sit down with us this week, to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition, as we secure a new director for the Hobbit. We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to ongoing pre-production work

Disappointment aside, the big question is who’ll fill del Toro’s shoes. The obvious choice, to me at any rate, is Jackson. Despite being a fan of del Toro, he’s always struck me as too dark a director for the project, and one of The Hobbits biggest strengths (and why I much prefer it to The Lord of the Rings, is its whimsical, storybook nature. That’s not saying del Toro couldn’t have pulled it off (and we know it’d have been stunning visually), but Jackson nailed the look and feel of The Lord of the Rings, and I have no doubt that he’d do justice to the spirit of The Hobbit.


Looks like Jackson might direct after all, if no other suitable director is found:

Sir Peter Jackson says he will step into the breach and direct The Hobbit himself if it becomes the only way to ensure the US$150 million (NZ$219m) film is made after the sudden departure of director Guillermo del Toro.

Good news, if true.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Down in the laundry room with the bloody- wet floors and the ceiling- high stacks of sheets, wraps, and blankets, Vinita Lynch was elbows- deep in a vat full of dirty pillowcases because she’d promised— she’d sworn on her mother’s life— that she’d find a certain windup pocket watch belonging to Private Hugh Morton before the device was plunged into a tub of simmering soapy water and surely destroyed for good.

Why the private had stashed it in a pillowcase wasn’t much of a mystery: even in an upstanding place like the Robertson Hospital, small and shiny valuables went missing from personal stashes with unsettling regularity. And him forgetting about it was no great leap either: the shot he took in the forehead had been a lucky one because he’d survived it, but it left him addled at times— and this morning at breakfast had been one of those times. At the first bell announcing morning food, against the strict orders of Captain Sally he’d sat up and bolted into the mess hall, which existed only in that bullet- buffeted brain of his. In the time it took for him to be captured and redirected to his cot, where the meal would come to him, thank you very kindly, if only he’d be patient enough to receive it, the junior nursing staff had come through and stripped the bedding of all and sundry.

None of them had noticed the watch, but it would’ve been easy to miss.

Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, a tale of Steampunk Seattle beset by zombies, is hugely popular, into its seventh printing and collecting nominations for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel. It’s easy, then, to imagine the excitement building for the stand alone follow-up Dreadnought. To sate some of that exicement, Macmillan, the parent company of Tor Books, has posted the first chapter of Dreadnought for free on their website.

Dreamsongs by George R.R. Martin

Prior to releasing A Game of Thrones, and subsequently becoming one of the brightest and most respected authors in the Fantasy field, George R.R. Martin was perhaps best known for his short fiction, much of it in the Science Fiction genre, and a far cry from his current bread and butter. Foremost among those is Sandkings.

He flew his skimmer to Asgard, a journey of some two hundred kilometers. Asgard was Baldur’s largest city and boasted the oldest and largest starport as well. Kress liked to impress his friends with animals that were unusual, entertaining, and expensive; Asgard was the place to buy them.

This time, though, he had poor luck. Xenopets had closed its doors, t’Etherane the Pet seller tried to foist another carrion hawk off on him, and Strange Waters offered nothing more exotic than piranha, glow sharks, and spider squids. Kress had had all those; he wanted something new, something that would stand out.

Near dusk he found himself walking down Rainbow Boulevard, looking for places he had not patronized before. So close to the starport, the street was lined by importers’ marts. The big corporate emporiums had impressive long windows, in which rare and costly alien artifacts reposed on felt cushions against dark drapes that made the interiors of the stores a mystery. Between them were the junk shops-​narrow, nasty little places whose display areas were crammed with all manner of off world bric-​a-​brac. Kress tried both kinds of shops, with equal dissatisfaction.

Then he came across a store that was different.

Set in the far future city of Asgard, Sandkings tells the lamentable story of playboy Simon Kress, a man ruled by passions, but lacking in wit. Kress is a purveyor of exotic (and dangerous) animals, which he uses to entertain his guests at parties. A lonely attention whore. To this end, he acquires four sets of Sandkings – rare, insect-like hiveminds drawn to tribal warfare and worshipping their owner, all within the confines of a large aquarium. Just imagine being a kid and watching your pet turtles, or the ants in your ant-farm, war with each other over land and food. They promised to be the crown jewel of Kress’ collection.

Martin’s strength of creating characters you hate, yet understand at the same time, a hallmark of A Song of Ice and Fire is evident even in his early short fiction. Sandkings follows Kress’s travails as he raises the sandkings, cruelly using them to his amusement, wading into an addiction to the popularity they bring him. In a remarkably short space, Martin manages to make Kress both despicable, but interesting and likable at the same time. As the reader, we can see all the mistakes the man makes, but, equally, we understand his reasoning for making them. It all comes back to that loneliness, that cry for attention.

Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is known for its uncompromising twists and turns, for setting up plot twists hundreds of pages in advance, but only clear to the reader upon reflection. Sandkings is no different, and shows the roots of the storytelling that would go on to make Martin famous and rewards the reader with a cruel twist ending, that leaves several juicy questions to gnaw on.

Equally viable as a horror story and a psychological profile of the downfall of a greedy, lonely man, SandKings is an absolute pleasure to read, and justifies those that claim Martin’s true strength lies not in his Epic Fantasy but in short fiction. Speaking also to its quality is the fact that despite being published 30+ years ago, the story holds up to every one of its contemporaries, with not a wrinkle or liver spot to be seen. If you’ve only read Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, or haven’t read anything by Martin at all, do yourself a favour and pick up Dreamsongs Volume I & II, and discover Sandkings, and the other roots of one of the most compelling storytellers of our generation.

From Dragonmount:

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Like The Gathering Storm before it, the first image available of the cover for Towers of Midnight was an early mockup, giving a good idea of the final cover, but lacking polish. Unlike The Gathering Storm, the final cover for Towers of Midnightturned out… not half bad! For a Darryl K. Sweet cover, at least. Much, much, much better than flatulent Rand!



I stole this from James at Speculative Horizons:

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins the Bonds Magi. It is a fall-out that will pit both men against Locke’s own long lost love. Sabetha is Locke’s childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke’s life and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds Sabetha has just one goal – to destroy Locke for ever. The Gentleman Bastard sequence has become a literary sensation in fantasy circles and now, with the third book, Scott Lynch is set to seal that success.

I’m rather partial to the original style of covers for the series (well, the original UK covers, at least), but can’t deny that the art is astounding. I’m not terribly sold on the nebulous grey background/buildings, but the characters fit the Venetian vibe of the novels, and are suitably garbed in black and red (a colour scheme you couldn’t botch if you tried). I like the originally leaked cover better (or was it the cover for The Bastards & The Knives? I can never tell…). Either way, Lynch has to be happy with the covers he’s been getting. Hopefully the novel’s so successful a mix of sophistication and bloody daggers as the cover!