A Thought Experiment

After going through The Hero with a Thousand Faces over the course of the past week or so, I decided that I needed to pick up something a little quicker to read.  The book that I picked up is God’s Debris by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert.

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it is not a Dilbert book.  It’s not a comedy, and in the introduction to the book Adams brings up the question of whether the book should be considered a fiction or a non-fiction book.  He contends that it’s a fiction book because the characters in the book aren’t real.  Other people consider it non-fiction because the thoughts and ideas raised could have a lasting impact on the reader.  I’m going to label the book as he does and simply call it a thought experiment, and here’s where the fun comes in.

The last thing that Adams’ says in the introduction is that this book is best enjoyed in a group where you can have an ongoing discussion with other people.  I would like to host this and I invite anyone who is interested to partake in the discussion.  God’s Debris is a short novella, about 130 pages long, but you can easily read the book within an hour, and best of all, it’s available online for free at this link.

I encourage you all to read the book, as it’s very thought provoking, and to think about answers to the two questions that are asked in the book.

  • Try to figure out what’s wrong with the simplest explanations.
  • Try to figure out what’s wrong with the old man’s explanation of reality.

Right now I’m planning on putting up a semi-review of the book next Friday, and I would encourage everyone who reads this post to read the book and come up with your own answers to the questions and we’ll discuss them next week.

If you’re interested in reading the book and taking part in the discussion, just leave a comment to this post and look forward to my post next Friday discussing the book.

The Well of Ascension Blog Tour: Part IV

I hope everyone is enjoying this book as much as I did.  When Carl picked me to host this part of the blog tour I was thrilled.  This section of the book has some of my favorite moments in the series.  For those newly joining us, here are links to the first 3 parts of the blog tour:

Obviously this post will have spoilers for the book up through the end of Part IV.  So lets get started on the discussion.

One of the central ideas of this book has been watching Elend grow from being an idealistic young nobleman to someone who is truly capable of being a leader.  He shows in this section that even though he’s lost the crown, he still cares about the people of Luthadel.  The first way he does this is by telling the Skaa to move out of the noble houses because the more open Skaa tenements will be able to keep them warmer.  The second is by going out of the city and directly risking his own life to try and find out how Jastes is controlling the Koloss.  How far do you think Elend has come  on the path to being a good king?

One of the best scenes of the entire Mistborn trilogy is the scene where Vin and Zane assault Cett’s keep.  We’ll start with a little background information on this scene.  One of Sanderson’s inspirations for this scene was the lobby scene in the original Matrix movie.  It’s a beautiful scene, but it doesn’t show any of the consequences of the characters actions.  Sanderson wanted to do a similar scene in this book where he looked at how this affected the characters.  Obviously Vin is troubled by what she and Zane did, and it reflects in the fact that hides from the crew for a while – almost ashamed of what she did.  How do you think this changed her as a character?  Do you think this is something she would have done in the first book?  Is it something Kelsier would have done?

And now we come to something that was speculated on quite a bit in the earlier posts.  The identity of the spy.  A couple of people guessed correctly that OreSeur was the spy.  For those who weren’t sure, were you surprised?  Of course immediately following finding out that OreSeur was the spy we run into another fantastic scene in the book, Vin fighting Zane.  I think it’s interesting to see how Vin chooses to deal with Zane having atium while she doesn’t.  I also thought it was interesting that TenSoon was willing to break his contract and betray Zane to help Vin.  What do you think about how this scene played out?  And what do you think of Zane, what do you think the voice in his head was?

And my final question.  A lot of Vin’s character arc throughout this book is dealing with where she fits in the world.  Zane is obviously reminiscent of Kelsier, and as a Mistborn understands Vin in a way that Elend never can.  Is she the noblewoman that Elend fell in love with, or the Mistborn trained by Kelsier and used as a weapon?  What do you think about her choice?

So there are my questions for this section of the book.  What are your thoughts?

Mistborn Group Read – Final Week

So we’ve finally reached the final week of our group read for the first book of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.  I finally don’t have to worry about posting spoilers!  At least for this book, I suppose I still have to worry about posting potential spoilers from the rest of the series, but we’ve reached the end of the first book.  This week’s questions have once again been provided by our group read host Carl V over at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Thanks again Carl for hosting the group read and thanks to everyone who participated, It’s bee a lot of fun.

1.  So, what do you think of Kelsier’s plan now? Or his ‘plan within a plan’?  How do you feel the late introduction of the kandra and how it fit into Kelsier’s plan?

Can I say that it’s brilliant?  Even more powerful than Kelsier’s allomancy was his ability to influence other people and to get them to perform beyond what they thought they were able to do.  I think he realized fairly early on that the only way to get the skaa to finally revolt was to give them something else they could believe in.  I don’t know if it was part of his original plan, but it definitely was something he realized he could use once the rumors referring to him as the ‘Survivor’ started popping up throughout Luthadel.

You say the late introduction to the Kandra, but having read the book before there are some very subtle signs that Renoux was a Kandra all along.  Very early in the book the Skaa discuss how mistwraiths can disguise themselves as another person, so the idea of someone disguising themselves that way is introduced fairly early in the story.  There are also some other small hints spread throughout the course of the book.

2.  The final section of the book was very Vin-centric.  How do you feel about the choices she made and did you have any worries/fears about what might happen to her before everything was resolved?

I think the way that Vin approaches things at the end is a good way to show the difference between her and Kelsier.  Both are very impulsive, but Vin isn’t quite as ruthless.  When she’s making her way into Kredik Shaw at the end of the book, she doesn’t kill the guards standing outside, she talks to them and tries to get them to work with her.  Compare this to Kelsier earlier in the book when he simply kills the guards without giving them a second thought.  Having seen the power of the Lord Ruler at the end of the previous section, you have to be worried about Vin, but at the same time, there are two more books in the series and he already killed Kelsier, so I suppose somebody has to live for the next book.  (But that’s a bit cynical, even for me.)  The last section shows how far Vin has come throughout the course of the book.  From being the one who suggests early on in the book that they shouldn’t even try to fight the Lord Ruler to single handedly charging his palace.

3.  After all that we find out that the Lord Ruler wasn’t the prophesied one after all.  Surprised? Had you figured it out?  What thoughts do you have about the big reveal, including how it tied into Sazed’s people?

I didn’t figure it out, and it really is a big surprise.  The writer of the log book was originally fulfilling Terris religious prophecies, so the resentment that Rashek felt for him was kind of natural.  Just like everything else in the book, everything makes sense, but you really have to be paying attention to see it coming, but when it happens it just works.

4.  There was some back and forth about Elend throughout the story and we finally got to see him take a greater stand.  Any predictions about what might happen in book two with Elend taking on leadership duties?

I think he’ll have something to do with the leadership void following the Lord Ruler’s death, but who can really say what’s going to happen in the future?

5.  Lastly, provide a little wrap up of your experience with the book.  What do you think Sanderson’s strengths are?  How does this book stack up against other fantasies you’ve read?

I absolutely love this book, and I have beamed about how much I love Sanderson’s writing too many times to remember on my blog.  I think that his biggest strength as a writer is the quality of his foreshadowing.  There are so many twists and turns throughout the course of the book, but they all work.  There is subtle foreshadowing for every thing that happens, even the biggest twists in the book, if you look closely, there are hints.  (That’s really what the second read through of a book is for, to pick up on all the small hints, I really enjoyed my re-read of the series.)  As for how this book stacks up against other Fantasy novels, I don’t know if I’ve said it during the course of the group read, but I know I’ve said it plenty of other times on my blog.  Sanderson is my favorite author at the moment, and this series is a large part of the reason why.  As great as the ending to the first book is, the ending of the series is the best ending I’ve ever seen in any book I’ve ever read.  I also really appreciate the fact that this book works quite well as a stand alone book if you didn’t want to continue with the series (although how could anyone be content stopping here?).

Ok, time for me to ask a question.  I’ve wanted to ask this for a while, but I forgot which section of the book this line comes from so I figured I’d wait till the end.

One of the things that Kelsier tells Vin in the book is a simple line that is one of the central themes both of this book and the series as a whole: “There’s always another secret.”  How well do you think this applies to the book?  What did you think about all the twists throughout the novel?

And finally, how are you going to pass the time between reading this and starting the next book in a couple of weeks?

Mistborn Group Read Week 4

We’re up to week 4 of the Mistborn group read this week, which covers chapters 25-34.  First off to everyone who is participating in the group read, I have to ask if you were actually able to stop after chapter 34 or if you had to keep going.

Having said that, the group read once again is hosted by Carl and this weeks questions have been provided by Lynn.  On we go.

Kelsier figurine

1.       Well, we finally got our long awaited view of the Lord Ruler, firstly just a brief glimpse during the executions and then during the fight with Kelsier.  What do you now think about him and the myth’s surrounding him?  And, given his strength do you think he can be beaten?

I love the juxtaposition between his strength with allomancy and the fact that he really is just a man.  Vin says that he doesn’t look like anything special, and comments that he appears younger than Kelsier.  He also gives some credence to the myths surrounding him by taking a couple of spears to the chest and simply ignoring them.  In two short scenes Sanderson does an excellent job of supporting all of the myths around the Lord Ruler by showing his physical and allomantic power.

As for whether or not he can be beaten, we’ll have to read and see what happens.

2.       We seemed to suffer a number of set backs to the plans this week.  The army had already been all but destroyed and following a bit of a rethink/regroup/coming up with a Plan B things still have gone disastrously astray.  What do you think the Crew will do now??

Hmm, another question directly asking what happens.  I’ll just say that the crew is very tenacious and in many ways a little bullheaded about trying to accomplish their goals.

Inquisitor figurine

3.       What was your reaction to Kelsier’s response to finding Marsh dead?  I can’t help feeling that there are going to be some serious economic repercussions to destroying the crystals – what sort of impact do you think this will have, not just on the nobles but on the Skaa?

I think it’s fully understandable.  Every member of the crew knew what they were getting into when they joined Kelsier’s crew and his plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler.  At some level Kelsier had to know that they were going to lose someone from the crew, and while it hurt that it was his brother that died, he is still going to stick to his plans.

Ok, this analogy is not going to be PC in any way, shape, or form, but it’s the closest thing that I can think of that will fit.  Kelsier shattering the Atium crystals is essentially the same as the 9/11 attacks (and technically they are a terrorist group trying to overthrow the empire, so the analogy fits quite well).  Even for those who never see Atium the undercutting of the economic system of the empire is going to affect them.  I think it would affect the nobles more than the Skaa for 2 reasons.  The first is that they’re closer to the Atium to begin with.  And the second is that it would have to instill a little bit of fear in them.  If a group can undercut the economic strength of the Lord Ruler that effectively, what could they do to any individual noble family?  The Skaa might receive harsher treatment because of aggravated nobles, but the effect would be much less noticeable for them.

4.       Finally, each week we learn a little bit more of the Lord Ruler’s history.  And each week it has a different impact.  This week’s snippets had the same impact – I was really interested in the excerpt when he mentions that the Darkness is not as oppressive when higher up in the mountains – do you have any more ideas about the Darkness?

It’s really interesting watching how the snippets from the Lord Ruler are mirroring the trials of the crew. While the story of Kel and Vin is beginning to hit it’s low point the Lord Ruler is also struggling with his quest to defeat the darkness.  As for what the darkness is, can I simply say you’ll find out later in the series?

Vin

5.       (I did have another query – but it might be too much??)  I was wondering about Elend and Vin – they’ve also had their ups and downs this week but seem determined to work round them – can you see anything of a future for these two or is there too much history between the nobles and Skaa and too much difference and prejudice between the two?

There is a lot of history between the nobles and the Skaa, but I think that Elend is an unusual enough noble and Vin is forceful enough as a Skaa (especially after learning about allomancy) to where I don’t think their class differences would be a problem for them.

So there are the questions for this week.  I just have one last comment about this section – Kelsier is a badass.  During the questions last week I mentioned that my favorite section of the book was coming up this week.  Obviously it was Kelsier’s fight with the Inquisitor and then his encounter with the Lord Ruler.  It’s a very powerful scene and so much fun to read, even knowing exactly what was coming I still relished every moment of that fight.

Mistborn Group Read Week 3

We come to week 3 of the Mistborn Group Read.  At this point we’re past the introductory segments of the book and really getting into the meat of the story.  This week’s questions have been provided by Grace from Books Without Any Pictures.  The questions this week cover chapters 16-25.  On we go.

1.  During the past week there’s been a lot of speculation as to the quotes at the beginning of each chapter.  Now that we finally know the answer, does it change anyone’s opinions of the Lord Ruler?

I don’t know if it works to change your opinion of the Lord Ruler, but I think it works to humanize him a little.  Up until this point in the story he has been more of a nebulous figure than an actual person.  Any time that you’re fighting against a person, you have to dehumanize them.  By having them discover the Lord Ruler’s logbook at the part of the story where things start to go wrong with their overall plan, it adds to the tension of wondering whether or not they’re going to continue.

2.  What did you think of Elend’s group of subversive nobles?  Do you think that Kelsier is right to dismiss people who could be potential allies, or is this another case of his anti-nobility biases showing?

I think it’s interesting that they’re willing to discuss their plans of rebellion as openly as they are.  I’m also wondering why the Lord Ruler has allowed the books that they discuss to stay in society at all.  For the entirety of his reign he has quelled information that he didn’t want to exist to the point that there are entire cultures of history that only exist in the minds of the keepers.  Perhaps allowing them to exist is a way of subtly controlling the nobility by letting them think they have potentially more power than they really do, who knows.

I think that dismissing the group of nobles might be Kelsier’s biggest mistake at this point in the plan (even bigger than letting Vin follow him into Kredik Shaw).  It almost seems out of character for Kelsier to dismiss a potential weapon by not even trying to make use of Elend’s group of friends.

Vin

3.  What’s your favorite part of the book so far?

Would it be cheating to say all of it?  I’ve mentioned quite a few times on my blog that I am a huge Sanderson fan and I really enjoy all of his writing.  There is a lot going on in this book, the characters are all interesting and well written, the worldbuilding is solid, the magic is interesting, and the plot has plenty of twists and turns.  Having said all that, I’d probably say that the magic system is the most interesting aspect of the book.  Allomancy is a deep system with a lot of interesting powers that can be used in some very interesting ways.

If you’re asking for my favorite scene from the book, it’s coming up in the next section, you’ll all know what scene I’m talking about when you get there.

4.  Now that Kelsier’s plan has hit some major stumbling blocks, what do you think will happen next?  Do you think he can still succeed in defeating the Lord Ruler?

Can’t really comment on since I’ve read the book twice now.

Bonus:  For anyone who has read “The Way of Kings,” were you surprised at all to see Hoid pop up?  What do you think of his role here?

I’ve read a little bit about Sanderson’s idea of having all of his books take place in the same universe (the Cosmere) and it’s an interesting way to tie all of his books together.  Having Hoid show up in the various books is an interesting touch, especially when you see how he consistently appears as someone with a lot of information about the world.  (He’s an informant in this book, and a storyteller in both Way of Kings and Warbreaker.  I’m sure he’s in Elantris but it’s been too long since I read it and I don’t recall exactly how he appears in that book.)

Mistborn Group Read Week 2

We’re up to the second week of questions and answers involving Mistborn: The Final Empire.  This week’s questions have been provided by TBM and they cover chapters 7-15.  On we go.

1.  The nobility, the skaa, and the Lord Ruler have integral roles in the novel and yet we haven’t really interacted with them much.  Do you think there is a reason for this?  Have you formed an opinion about them?

Vin

I think there are several reasons we haven’t really seen much from people other than the crew.  The first is dealing with the learning curve of the world.  The first section hits you really hard with a lot of worldbuilding, whereas the second section is where we really start to get a lot of information about allomancy.  The second is that the more you know about someone, the more you tend to sympathize with them (unless they’re pure evil, which from meeting Elend we can see that they aren’t).  By keeping the scope of the book fairly small (all of our viewpoints with the exception of the prologue have been either Vin or Kelsier) it keeps the pace of the book moving.

2.  Religion plays a vital role in the story.  What is your opinion about the role of religion under the Lord Ruler?  What do you think of Sazed’s role as a Keeper.

Religion – specifically faith – is one of the central themes of the entire series.  (Some of this answer comes from my having read Sanderson’s online annotations.)  The religion isn’t really like any religion I’ve ever heard of, it’s run more like a business than a religion.  Granted, having your god living in your city does change things up a bit from most of Earth’s major religions.

I really enjoy watching Sazed discuss different religions throughout the course of the series.  It’s also really interesting to watch as he tries to ‘fit’ a different religion to each member of the crew.  Sazed is a very interesting character over the course of the book.

3.  Are you for/against/or ambivalent about Kelsier’s plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler?  Do you think his heart is in the right place or is it just revenge?

I’m all for insane plans that have almost no chance of working.  The setup of this book is similar to a heist movie (think Oceans 11).  It’s a lot of fun to watch a crazy plan as it is broken down into manageable chunks and then executed.

I think it’s partially revenge and partially a heartfelt way to help the skaa.  He’s obviously angry about the way that the Lord Ruler treats the skaa, especially considering how he and his wife were treated.  But despite the revenge being there, I really think that Kelsier does want to help the skaa to better their position in life.

4.  Vin and Kelsier are the main characters of the novel, yet there are many characters.  Is there a certain character who intrigues you more than the others?

Sazed

I mentioned above that Sazed is a really interesting character throughout the book, there is a lot more going on with him then you see at first glance, but he is a great character.  Reading the book this time I was reminded of just how great Elend is at this point in the story.  He’s a really interesting character, but I also think it’s because he reminds me of myself.  I never went to any dances or anything in school, and even today when my family gets together for whatever reason (birthdays, holidays, etc.) I still prefer to be on the outside a little bit.  I’ll show up and say hi to everyone, then go off and read a book or listen to music for a while.  Elend trying to read at a ball is something I could see myself doing far too easily.  Lastly, Lestibourne is fun because of his language.  Next time you go into your spam filter, read a couple of the posts in there, some of them sound like his street slang.

Mistborn Group Read Week 1

I mentioned when I posted my review of the first Mistborn novel that I’m participating in a group read of the novel hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Over the course of the next five weeks I’ll be posting a list of questions presented by various readers of the books and giving my answers to them.

I do have to include just a quick note about my answers and why some of them might be very different to answers provided by other people to the same questions.  I read the book several years ago, and I’ve already completed my re-read of the book for the purpose of this group read.  (Actually, as I’m writing this post on a Monday afternoon I’m already over halfway through the second book in the trilogy.)  I’ll be using the annotations that Sanderson has his website to remind myself of what happened throughout the course of the chapters.

All that said, for those who have read the series or are considering reading the series, the annotations on Sanderson’s website are wonderful.  They’re essentially a behind the scenes look at his writing process and his thoughts about the book.  He comments on themes running throughout the book, chapter structure, and character arcs.  All of the annotations for the Mistborn trilogy are up on his website and they’re all fun to read.  Anyway, on with the questions!

1.  This first hundred or so pages was packed!  What things are standing out for you in the story thus far?

I really like the way Sanderson sets up his books.  He really does a good job here of showing that the book takes place in a very different world from the one we’re used to.  I also think he does an excellent job with making the characters feel very real, and it usually comes from very small details (such as Vin being unsure about whether or not she’s allowed to take the baywraps right after seeing Ham do so).

2.  What are your thoughts on the magic system that Sanderson is unveiling in this novel?

(Once again, I’ve read all of the Mistborn novels already.) I absolutely love allomancy as a magic system.  It allows the characters to do a wide variety of things, and it shows them all being clever by doing them.  It’s not a magic system based purely on power, but it relies more on skill and intelligence to use it properly.

3.  Kelsier and Vin have held most of the spotlight in these first 6 chapters.  As you compare/contrast the two characters, how do you feel about them? Likes? Dislikes?

They both have strengths, but they show them in very different ways.  Even though Vin has been constantly beaten down throughout her life, she has a keen eye for danger and quickly sees ways to turn the situation to her advantage.  She shows this very early by convincing Camon that his attendants are too fine at the meeting.  Even though Camon is definitely in charge, he is willing to listen to Vin because he can see her intelligence.  While Vin works quietly from the background, Kelsier is the exact opposite.  Kelsier is confident to the point of arrogance, and everyone around him knows it.  He is an incurable optimist, and the fact that he has the power to bring about what he wants definitely isn’t helping to curb his ego at all.  I really enjoy both of the characters, and they work well to highlight each other because of their differences.

4.  Finally, how would you assess Sanderson’s storytelling abilities to this point?

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that I am a huge Sanderson fan.  I love everything he’s written.  So for once I’m not going to go on about that here, instead I’m going to share a quick little story about Sanderson’s writing.

As many of you know, Sanderson was chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  Shortly after Jordan passed away, Tom Doherty (President of Tor Books, Sanderson and Jordan’s publisher) sent Harriet McDougal several books by authors that he felt could possibly finish The Wheel of Time.  (Harriet was Robert Jordan’s wife and editor for The Wheel of Time.)  One of the books that she was sent was Mistborn, after reading the first 50 pages of the book, she had already decided that she wanted Sanderson to finish The Wheel of Time.

And there we have the questions for week 1, for once I think I even managed to avoid rambling on as much as I normally do.