Winter Is Coming: A Review of A Game Of Thrones

In the epic series A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin creates a world of noteworthy political intrigue and drama with complex plot lines and dozens of characters and even more supporting characters to keep the reader thoroughly interested from start to finish. The first book in the series, A Game Of Thrones, introduces the reader to a time when kings rule the land and dragons and direwolves, enormous canines, are as common as deer. In this beautifully crafted fantasy, summers span years, winters last for decades, and winter is coming (figuratively and literally) as two pivotal families pit against each other for the race to rule the kingdom. As the tension rises, sacrifices are made on both sides. These incidences lead to a rising war for the throne. The knights and strongholds of the seven kingdoms are forced to choose sides and everyone is out for blood. After all, “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

When George R. R. Martin first came up with the idea of A Song Of Ice And Fire in 1991, he had envisioned the story being a detailed trilogy, but nothing more. After the first installment, A Game Of Thrones, which was released in 1996, he says that he had to rethink his strategy as more characters began to develop and plot lines grew thicker. Many critics of Martin suggested that he had gotten in over his head with the immense detail and the overwhelming number of characters that the reader is introduced to in the first book. Martin insists, however, that while he may have made it “too big,” he is still determined to see the story through and he promises to not disappoint his readers.

With all of the characters being so spread apart at the end of A Game Of Thrones, now also an award-winning television show on HBO, the reader is left to wonder how they will ever find their way back to each other and where the story will continue from here. Fortunately, Martin states that it has “always been [his] intent, as with The Lord Of The Rings, that eventually it would curve around and they would start moving back together.” Although the project has certainly expanded beyond the original trilogy limitation—the series currently consists of five books but is predicted to have as many as eight—Martin assures readers that “if [he] can pull it all off the way [he] want[s] hopefully it will be great.” The first book in the series is proof enough that George R. R. Martin is a skilled fantasy writer and definitely possesses the talent to be able to wrap up the story the way he wants to do so. In the end, I am quite confident that he will have “something huge and epic, with a cast of thousands and many different settings” as he set out to have when he originally began The Song Of Ice And Fire series over a decade ago.


The Exciting World of Literary Readings

It is one thing to read a poem or a short story, but it is quite another to hear it in the author’s voice, as it was meant to be read. The Meacham conference, held in Chattanooga each semester, is a perfect opportunity to take part in this type of experience. This conference brings together a variety of talented authors to share their work. One such reading this year consisted of authors Sharan Strange, Caleb Ludwick, and Stephen Corey. Each author illustrated a different side to the literary world, which was exciting to witness.

Strange, a poet, showed a reverence for the things she writes about. It was clear from the tone of her voice that she takes her subjects seriously and wants to share their importance with the world. Ludwick, a short story writer, had a different style to share with the audience. His story showed a realistic account of young boy’s life. This showed Ludwick’s tendency toward the realistic and how to make it pop for his audience. Corey was the most informal of the authors at this reading. He engaged the audience and made them feel involved in his pieces, which I appreciated.

This reading was an exciting experience for any fan of the literary world. It was rewarding to hear authors from such diverse literary positions come together and read their work. It gives the audience the sense of how the author hears the work in their head, and this opens up a whole new perspective on the piece. I would recommend everyone to come out and attend a reading in their community.

Meacham Highlight: Rebecca Makkai

by Lauren Staten—Every year, The Meacham Writers Workshop brings a weekend full of reading and critiquing to Chattanooga and some of its finest writers. Whether your work is in the midst of others, waiting for you to nervously clutch the paper and read it for the eager listeners, or whether you are in the body of those eager listeners, The Meacham Workshop is always rewarding. In the past, guests such as Ralph Burns, Ted Howard, and even Tim O’ Brien have been among those in the crowd as well as those who read their work. This year, Rebecca Makkai, the successful Chicago-based short story writer released her debut novel, and made a debut appearance at the Meacham Writer’s Workshop.

Makkai’s first book, The Borrower, was published in May, and those who attended the workshop in Chattanooga this weekend were granted the priveledge to hear her read several excerpts from this piece. Makkai also held conferences with students and guests, sharing advice and personal experience to writers of all levels. Many who met with her said Makkai gave extremely helpful information that was a fresh breath compared to what they knew and usually hear. Her approach is very different from most, which called for quite the publicity at the workshop this weekend. Her name has been repeated around campus and among those who prepared the events of the weekend, praising her work and anticipating reading more of her work.

Meacham Writers Workshop has met many great writers, published writers, as well as not-yet-published writers. It encourages practical steps and revision techniques for a writer to reach their potential, and allows the writers to get fresh and new opinions from other writers, including writers like Makkai. It is always gratifying to hear an author read his or her work aloud, as it captures the full affect of their work, and magnifies its’ beauty. For Makkai, awareness was raised on her debut novel, and for her as a writer. For Meacham-goers, Makkai breathed her wisdom and experience into their work, giving those of us whom are nervously clutching our paper in fear of reading it to the eager listeners, a final push to just go for it. After all, the worst circumstance would be that some great writer such as Ralph Burns, Ted Howard, Tim O’Brien, or Rebecca Makkai are lurking in the body of listeners. And really, how bad is that?

Baddest Bad Guys in Literature

Here’s another Top 10 list, this time about the worst bad guys there are (in literature):

10. Claudius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet
He killed his brother and married his sister-in-law, which makes him a pretty bad guy.  But he didn’t even have the guts to murder King Hamlet with dignity—no, he poured poison in his ear while he slept.  Claudius is a coward on top of a murderer, which is what gets him on this list, though only in the 10 slot.
9. Dr. Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes
He’s the anti-Holmes.  All the skill and wit and none of the desire to do good.  An evil mastermind with no hesitations about killing innocents to get to Holmes.  The “Napoleon of Crime,” he is the only one that is able to defeat the great Sherlock Holmes.
8. The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia
Cold, cruel, and beautiful, the White Witch claims the throne as Queen of Narnia and brings with her a winter that lasts 100 years.  She is conniving and evil, seeking out the weaknesses in human character and exploiting them to further her power over the inhabitants of Narnia.  Anyone who stands against her, or simply annoys her in the slightest, is turned unforgivably into stone.
7. Big Brother from 1984
Dictator of the totalitarian state of Oceania.  His name has become synonymic with corrupt government and power abuse.  He is the all-seeing entity that is “Watching You” always, and is a source of total fear in the people he rules.
6. Jekyll/Hyde from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
While Jekyll is considered the “good” side of the character, he is truly only the lesser of two evils.  Hyde is always somewhere in the back of his mind, his experiment merely brings that part of him into the open, rather then hiding it from the people around him.  Hyde is the most disgusting version of Jekyll—he tramples a child with no second thought, but the instant his own safety is put in danger he goes crying to Jekyll to save him.
5. Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter
He was willing to split his soul into fragments for the sake of gaining immortality.  He killed his father for the sin of “impurity” and destroyed numerous innocents for the same reason.  A literary version of Hitler, Voldemort has no capacity for remorse for his actions and is portrayed as so cold and heartless he seems completely inhuman.
4. Count Dracula from Dracula
Though the idea of Dracula has become something almost desirable in recent culture, Dracula is truly a vile, wicked character that preys on the innocent and feeds babies to his “wives” to please them.  FlavorWire calls him “a brutal, smelly, scheming, foreign, abusive, wife-stealing, wife-beating, arrogant, bigamous, presumptive, bigoted, thieving, monomaniacal invader of decent British homes”.  He is the definition of everything a vampire is supposed to be.
3. Sauron from The Lord of the Rings
The most power being in all of Middle Earth, folk from the Shire, Gondor, Rohan and the rest of Tolkien’s world fear and loathe him.  He murders anyone and everyone who stands in his way and destroys homes and villages without provocation.  His thirst for power drives him to do unspeakable things to his enemies and his allies alike, and corrupts whoever comes into contact with his rings of power.
2. Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello
Originally a trusted friend of Othello, Iago tricks him into killing his wife because Iago lies and tells him she has had an affair.  His only reason for this seems to be spite, rather than any reasonable motive.  After Othello kills his wife and her alleged lover, Iago then tells what Othello has done and Othello is tortured to death because of it. Iago has no motivation. NONE.  I mean really…what the hell.
1. Satan from Paradise Lost
The archetype himself, Satan is the example for everything that a bad guy should be.  He’s a fallen angel, something that was once beautiful that is spoiled by greed and power.  His famous quote, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven,” displays the corrupt nature of Satan’s character because he believe that to have power over the worst of the worst is still superior to living under the command of the best of the best.

What do you think? Did we totally miss one? The order messed up? Let us know in the comments.

The Host: a Review

“The fight for your world has ended. The battle for your future has begun.” Look out, fans of the Twi-verse, because Stephenie Meyer has another hit coming up fast and hard. In Meyer’s novel The Host the threat is no longer warring vampires and werewolves, but aliens. No, not the squishy little green guys the mainstream has had us come to expect, but an enemy so powerful they take over the world with humans none the wiser. To live in a world where aliens with human skins called “Souls” outnumber the natural born humans and any second could be your last as a free being would be a living nightmare. This is Melanie Stryder’s reality. In an attempt to save her aunt and cousin who are hiding in Chicago, Melanie is ambushed by a group of Souls and is implanted with a Soul named Wanderer. Unlike the other human hosts, Melanie refuses to be pushed aside and slowly fade away. After Wanderer witnesses Melanie’s memories, she and Melanie form an unlikely partnership as they set off to find the humans they have both come to love.

This novel has all the elements we’ve come to expect from Meyer: action, adventure, and an impossible love triangle. Once again Meyer has pulled these elements into an entertaining thriller that makes us believe that love truly can conquer all. I highly recommend everyone, Meyer fan or not, to put aside your opinions of the Twi-verse and dive in. For those who want to visually dive into yet another Meyer world, you’re in luck. On 29 March 2013, the takeover begins as theaters across the country release the movie adaptation to the masses. So grab a copy and prepare yourself for the takeover.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: a Review

“We are infinite.” The tagline for the national bestseller and critically acclaimed The Perks of Being a Wallflower says it all. The novel, published by Stephen Chbosky over a decade ago, has become a household name to most young adults. It is written in the main character, Charlie’s, point of view in letters to an unknown friend describing Charlie’s anxiety about starting high school, meeting new people, and ultimately, about the two seniors that accept him as part of their group and show him how to live life and accept who he really is inside. Charlie faces many trials and finds himself facing many of the experimentations that most adolescents must go through in order to really know themselves. The novel is an enlightening look into the mind of an extraordinary student that isn’t even aware of his own worth. It is a must read for all young adults that have ever gone through something difficult or oppressing, which, of course, is all of us. With the novel being made into a feature film to be released on September 20 of this year, there will be plenty of publicity about it, but don’t let it’s newfound popularity discourage you. The film, starring Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller, will just be a bonus after diving into the wonderful world that Stephen Chbosky has produced. And, for the movie buffs out there, the film’s screenplay and directing are both being done by Stephen Chbosky so the film should run very close to the book. So, grab a copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and get ready for the film on September 20!

“Life of a Narcissist’s Daughter” – Jessica Kitchens

0500 hours

The sound of the alarm pierces my eardrums. I had been muting out her yelling the night before by swiveling the volume knob to “max” on the portable CD player. I had chosen something intense like Nirvana. Her voice is still in my head, and I can’t recall how I had angered her last night. Maybe I accidently used a possessive pronoun again. She can’t stand it when I say I’m going to my room. Or maybe she misjudged a glance. She looses it when she thinks I looked at her forehead wrinkles. She now sleeps soundly on the couch. She hasn’t been there long, because she was fuming with insults from 1:00-3:00. Background arguments on Jerry Springer sound like calm discussion.

0506 hours

Time for lunges, crunches, and push-ups. My body runs on nothing but the adrenaline given from the drum beats in my headphones. I have become an expert at working like this. My energy looks strong. It’s not natural. Continue reading ““Life of a Narcissist’s Daughter” – Jessica Kitchens”

“Duck, Duck, Noose” – John Carr

The last time i saw my father he was standing beneath the rafters from which he’d later hang. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in September, it was the last day of summer. He was working in the garage. I remember lumber laid across wooden work horses, and an electric saw; he was building something. The picture painted in my memory places the four of us standing portrait-like looking in on his work. Mom has my little brother in one arm as she holds my hand with the other and on the other side of Mom, my sister stands: her tiny hands clutching something, a doll or a pair of flippers maybe.

“Honey are you sure you don’t want to come?”

He smiles, “No, you guys go ahead without me, I have work to do.”

* * *

We got home and the garage door was closed. We were herded inside by my mother who set the pool bag down by the door and the keys on the kitchen counter as she absent-mindedly picked up a note from the kitchen table. She gently shook as she held the phone to her ear. Almost before she could hang up the phone, our next door neighbor thundered through the door. He caught her before she hit the floor and guided her into a chair at the kitchen table. She was trying not to cry, I wanted to give her my bear. We were taken next door to play with our neighbors kids while necessary services were called. I remember the lights of the ambulance exploding like fireworks on the 4th of July. Continue reading ““Duck, Duck, Noose” – John Carr”

“Columbines” – Gavin Cross

As they sat cramped together on the little taxi speedboat, the two of them smug behind the driver, Colin never looked at his wife, his eyes glued to the red reflection of the setting sun against the Pacific. This was just another job. Some millionaire’s summer cottage that needed a facelift. Lacey didn’t look at him either, pressing her dress to her knees in the wind.

They pulled up to the client’s island, a spoonful of dirt in the sea, and stepped off the boat. The cottage was tall. Four floors, each staggered smaller than the one below, with a tiny room at the top. Pots of various shapes littered the island, each with a single blue flower, a columbine, standing tall.

“I’ll be back to get you in four days,” the driver said.

“Thanks.” Colin paid the man, grabbed their things, and walked up to the house as the speedboat pushed back to the mainland.

“The key’s in the porch light,” Lacey said, her eyes fixed straight ahead.

“I know.” Colin slipped the key in the door. It felt a bit like walking up to their honeymoon villa in Santo Domingo. When he had opened the door that time, he had feigned surprise at the dozens of candles lighting the room. But there were no candles here, just a dusty chandelier above the entryway. He flipped it on. The home had that ancient, lived-in smell, like butterscotch and cigar smoke. Continue reading ““Columbines” – Gavin Cross”