Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thraxas and I are Visiting Elves at the Moment

Thraxas and the Elvish Isles has just appeared as an ebook. Turai being as cold the Ice Queen's grave, Thraxas sailed south for a while. It was a rare excursion from his normal life in the city streets, though not from his excesses of food and drink. Even while surrounded by Elves, Thraxas never loses sight of the central importance of getting a lot of food and drink inside him.

Kindle: US, UK, CA - iBooks -  Kobo

Thraxas and the Elvish Isles is book four in the series. So, with book nine, Thraxas and the Ice Dragon, already being published, I'm now more than half way through my ambitious project to unleash the entire Thraxas series into the world of ebooks. This is going well. Once again, thanks to the people who have given them good customer reviews when they've bought them.

I have also been surrounded by Elves, in a way. It's been snowing in London in the past few days, making it a very poor start to Spring. Not having any Elvish Isles to sail to, I've turned the heating up, and retreated permanently to the couch, applying myself to the first Skyrim downloadable extension, Dragonborn. This, scandalously late, was only recently released for Playstation, though other formats have been available for a long time. So I am once again battling my way through hostile environments, mowing down all opposition, and generally giving hostile wizards, Elves, dragons and bandits a hard time.

In-between I've been reading a biography of Somerset Maugham, one of my favourite authors. Maugham was a great storyteller, even if a reluctant one at times. He really wanted to be a playwright rather than a novelist, because he found it tedious describing things. He thought it would be easier just writing dialogue. I can sympathise with this. Who wants to be describing things all the time? It can be really tedious. Nonetheless, Somerset Maugham was a really fine novelist and short story writer, and I've learned from his technique.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Let Down by Tomb Raider

I'm a huge Tomb Raider fan but I'm disappointed in the new game. I've played the Tomb Raider games right from the start, on the Playstation 1. I've always enjoyed them - apart from the aberrant Angel of Darkness - but I'm not enjoying this as much as I thought I would. It's not that it's a bad game, it's just not Tomb Raider.

Previously I've liked Lara Croft's solitary exploration of gigantic, fantastic tombs. It's like entering in to some sort of brilliant alternative world. Her solitude felt peaceful. So far in this game, there is nothing like that. All the tombs I've come across are small, grubby locations, put in almost as afterthought, and there is certainly nothing peaceful.

Really it's just a gigantic fighting game. You land on an island and fight your way through. There really is a lot of fighting. Sometimes it feels endless. It's well done, but it is not what I want from Tomb Raider. I'm puzzled as to why they've gone this way. Aren't there enough fighting games already? I'm sure there must be. While shooting my way through yet another horde of enemies, I keep thinking 'I wish I was in a big Egyptian tomb, exploring and solving puzzles.'

The game is annoying at the start too, when Lara is so weak. For some reason the game makers decided she needed a new origin - though Lara Croft already had an origin - and this involves making her weak and frightened. She does become stronger later, which is better, but I didn't really see the need for her to be so puny in the first place. When they make new games with male heroes, I don't think they generally make them frightened and hopeless at the start.

Sometimes with games you get moments which are just so good you can hardly believe they did it in a game. I've had that feeling playing Tomb Raider in the past. I recently had it again playing Portal. But there are no moments like that in this Tomb Raider game. Just endless sneaking and fighting. There is nothing beautiful in it, like in previous games. No astonishing graphics like recent Final Fantasy. It's all grime and dirt, and it's all the same really. And if this isn't bad enough, Lara's voice is nowhere near posh enough. I expect Lara Croft to sound like an English aristocrat, not my next door neighbour.

So I am disappointed by this game. It's high quality fighting I suppose, but it's really not Tomb Raider.

[ Character note 1 - If you're going to have a voice-over actor doing a Scottish accent, make sure he can pronounce 'Loch' properly. 'Lok' is fine for non-Scots, but no one from Scotland would pronounce it like that. ]

[ Character note 2 - They made Lara's breasts smaller. Obviously, this is a step forward for the world. As soon I saw her new, smaller breasts, I immediately thought - That's good, how dare the previous games objectify women by giving the character huge breasts. No doubt it is a great relief to everyone that they are smaller in this game. ]

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

After Seven Years, a New Thraxas Novel

Seven years after the last Thraxas novel, I've finally produced a new one. Thraxas and the Ice Dragon, book 9 in the Thraxas series, is now available at Kindle (US), Kindle (UK), Kindle (CA)NookKobo, eSentral, iTunes/iBooks.

There are many reasons why it's taken so long: some publishing problems, some other things I was busy writing, a little poor health. Then there was Tomb Raider, Oblivion, Skyrim, Portal 1 and Portal 2 to get through, among others. It's not like I could just ignore these games. And when you add in my ever-present desire to lie on the couch staring into space, you can see that it's not easy finishing a book these days.

But here Thraxas is at last, stepping ashore from the small boat in which he left the City of Turai in the company of Makri and Lisutaris. I don't want to give anything of the plot away, but will mention that in the overwhelming crisis which is unfolding all around him, Thraxas does show his mettle with a spectacular victory in a pie eating contest, demolishing all opposition.

Thraxas and Ice Dragon

'Thraxas and Makri drift ashore in the distant land of Samsarina, in the company of Lisutaris, Head of the Sorcerers Guild. After a miserable voyage on a leaky fishing boat, Thraxas just wants to drink beer, but there are other matters to attend to. Turai has fallen to the enemy, and the armies of the West are gathering. Before war breaks out, there's the great sword-fighting tournament, which gives Thraxas the chance of almost unlimited gambling, if only he can persuade Makri to enter. Makri is surprised to find herself looking after a baby dragon, and even more surprised to discover that Thraxas has a romantic past, one which leads them into a murder investigation in an unfamiliar land, where hostile forces oppose them at every turn.'

This is an ebook only. There won't be a print edition, at least not in the foreseeable future. If you don't have an ebook reader, you can download free apps from Kindle, Nook, Kobo etc that will allow you to read their ebooks on your computer.

Thraxas books 1, 2, 3 and 9 are now available as ebooks. Books 4 to 8 will appear soon.