Dave Dobson


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Daros and the SPSFC

Daros ended up coming in 15th out of 377 entries in the first ever Self-Published Science Fiction Competition run by Hugh Howey, missing the finals by a bit. That’s disappointing, but it was a really great ride, and I very much enjoyed getting to know the authors and bloggers as the competition progressed. There were four published reviews from blogger judges, and there may be more coming, because a lot more judges read the book as part of the process. Here are those reviews:

At Boundary’s Edge

Weatherwax Report

Eclectic Theist

File 770

Two other favorite moments were:

(1) when a fellow author Ben Roberts made pixel art of Guzma after reading the book

And (2) when one of the finalist judges invoked Captain Torlo:

May be a Twitter screenshot of text that says 'Rogers Cadenhead @rcade Daros was an absolute romp I thought worthy of the #SPSFC finals. It's rare to read a novel with alternating protagonists and be instantly charmed by both. Captain Torlo would have something to say about it not winning this contest. amzn.to/3w51cll Dave Dobson @GCDaveDobson May 11 Even as congratulate the excellent #SPSFC finalists, for the 23 of us who made the semis and got bad news today, feel your pain and hoist a Diet Mountain Dew in your honor. 3:59 PM May 11, 2022 Twitter Web App 1 Retweet Likes'

I won’t have another sci-fi book ready in time for the 2nd competition, but I am working on a new one and would love to enter again.

I am the very model of a Russian Major General

I saw this prompt on Twitter, and thought I’d take a stab. I hate the Russian invasion and love Gilbert and Sullivan, so it seemed worth a shot.

Despite my orders to advance my forces are unraveling.
They have no food or bandages and… Oops! Incoming Javelin.
Our army’s prowess constantly the Kremlin now intones.
But all my supply vehicles fell prey to Turkish drones.

Our plan to take the country in four days is all now cheesed.
My rubles are now worthless and our oligarchs’ yachts seized.
The condemnation coming in is nothing short of global,
And all we’ve really conquered is the ruins of Chernobyl.

The Kremlin leaders vanish and our stock market remains a sham.
We thought we had good hackers but they now have banned our Instagram.
Zelenskyy asks us to desert and soldiers are amenable.
My convoy’s stuck – a sitting duck – and that is quite untenable!

Our military strength’s a myth as you must have surmised.
We’re hated and the Russian name is constantly despised.
Though Putin’s arrogance has left us bleeding from the femoral,
I am the very model of a Russian Major General.

The Woeling Lass arrives!

I’m so pleased to announce the release of The Woeling Lass, my fourth book in the Inquisitors’ Guild series. The ebook is up now on Amazon, and the paperback should be coming as soon as they approve it. Click the button here to go there:

Here’s the blurb to whet your interest:

A Death Denied

An assassin hunts Inspector Gueran Declais through the streets of Frosthelm, and she is not acting alone. Just as he learns that his family may have been attacked and slain, Gueran is struck down as well. Despite the odds, he lives. Barely. Whisked away from the city for his safety, he struggles to recover from his injuries, learn his family’s fate, and uncover the identity of those who want him dead. Far from Frosthelm, he becomes caught up in investigating another bloody attack, one that may or may not have been perpetrated by vengeful spirit of a woman wronged long ago, and one that threatens to expose him to his enemies. The locals are certain, though: the killer had to be the Woeling Lass, her hands cold as the grave and her feet aflame.

Back in Frosthelm, Urret Milton is an apprentice in some difficulty at the Guild. She receives a mysterious note for Gueran, a man everyone thinks is dead. Rapidly embroiled in the effort to unravel the reason for the killings and bring the assassins to justice, Urret struggles to shed her troubles and show that she has what it takes to be an inspector. But all this leads her into far more peril than she bargained for, for which she can’t possibly be ready. Her position at the Guild, the security of the city, and her life itself are all at stake.

This tale from the Inquisitors’ Guild of Frosthelm is a fresh mystery full of swordplay, deceit, ancient magic, scheming nobles, and a healthy dose of humor. Combining the clues and hidden mysteries of detective stories with all the grand adventure of epic fantasy, The Woeling Lass is a wondrous journey through betrayal, murder, ancient legend, loss, courage, and redemption. And, it has really silly chapter titles.

Each book from the Inquisitors’ Guild series is a stand-alone mystery and a complete story. You can read them in any order. Dive into the treacherous streets of Frosthelm today, and make sure to bring your sword.

Wheel of Time Episode 7 analysis

[pretty big spoilers for Episode 7 and previous episodes follow]

Sorry for the gap in my series of cutting edge critiques here. Had holiday plans cancelled, then got COVID, then had some family events, then watched better TV than this. But we’re back, with two episodes to go.

D&D Theme for this episode: I can’t even. No D&D game I’ve ever played has been this bad, not even when I was ten and didn’t understand how to play. Nor have any players wanted to be like these people, ever.

In this episode, one thing happened of consequence, and it was barely of any consequence. This was:

— The party came out of a hole.

Most of the rest of it was taken up with emo whining about petty shit.

Like past episodes, we started in a completely different biome with people we’ve never met. If there were a WOT drinking game, this would have to be a sip of beer, not a shot, because otherwise players would be in the emergency room in no time. I fully expect episode eight to begin in the Sahara with a couple of accountants named Ed and Merle.

However, the start of this episode was totally badass, with well-choreographed fights, really cool action and camera angles, and emotional stakes as a pregnant woman fights off many attackers during labor. If they can make a scene this good, why does the rest of the show suck? This is a tantalizing glimpse of what the show could have been.

Then things go downhill.

There is whining about Mat being gone.
There is whining about Moiraine’s leadership.
There is whining about who cares about Mat more.
There is whining about the other people’s whining.

This accomplishes nothing other than the relentless crushing of my will to live. The group is admonished not to use magic for fear of summoning the Machin Shin, which would be REALLY BAD. Of course, they don’t say what the Machin Shin is, because telling vitally important potential Dragons valuable information about the risks you just described would be, you know, strategic.

Loial talks about how the Ways (or is it Waze?) used to be covered with grass and rather pleasant. I had several problems with this:
(1) they’re underground, where grass isn’t, and it’s dark, which grass can’t hack
(2) the Ways are composed of fresh columnar basalt conveniently and improbably arranged into walking paths, and grass doesn’t grow on that
(3) even if somehow the underground volcanic hellscape did have grass, it would still have the bottomless pits, which would tend to ruin any bucolic charm and make picnicking and frisbee hard, although it might make for an interesting golf course

They’re attacked by a Waze Trolloc, which somebody should have flagged on the app for them, and despite being warned not to use magic, they do, and as promised, the Machin Shin, which is not, in fact, a mechanical tibia, arrives. The way this was played up, I expected some disemboweling or plague of boils or fireballs descending from the sky, but instead the Machin Shin seems only to be a combination of a mild affliction of Mean Girls mixed with Impostor Syndrome. Given that the Dragon candidates are all, themselves, petulant teenagers trapped in 20-something bodies, maybe this is the worst opponent they could face, but it’s a bit anticlimactic.

Despite being told not to use magic so as not to empower the Machin Shin, they use magic to defeat the Machin Shin. Despite being lost in the Ways and needing at least a day to figure out where they are due to Trolloc vandalism, they emerge very close to where they wanted to be and completely unscathed. Someone is seriously overselling the perils of the Ways. I think it might be Loial, given that he’s also hawking his invaluable guide services that apparently nobody actually needs.

They emerge to a weird walled town on a desert ridge with no apparent industry or agriculture. Unlike other cities in this series, though, this place seems to have actual people living there and a variety of places to explore, although it’s a little hallway-heavy, and the throne room has the standard Monarch Brooding Balcony (Basic Model) installed. The people here also have their own custom salute which looks like they are giving themselves the Heimlich maneuver. Culture!

Nothing happens in this town. Nothing that advances the plot even one tiny little bit. The only thing of any interest that might matter later is that somebody comes out of the Ways behind them complete with ominous boot tracking shot, but that is just dropped completely, and we never learn who he was or what he was doing.

Otherwise, we just have a ton of brooding.

There is whining about Mat.
There is whining about the whining about Mat.
There is whining about who loves Mat, and who just like doesn’t get Mat and never gave him a chance, man.
There is whining about Egwene dumping Rand (who is eminently dumpable), even though she’s now actively hooking up with him again.
There is whining about the quest.
There is whining about some heretofore completely unhinted romance between Egwene and Perrin, which is put forward by Nynaeve, who didn’t even live in @&$#&$& Two Rivers at the start of the show and would not have any basis to know, and which there’s been no sign of up to now.
There is whining about not apologizing.
There is whining about the manner of apologizing.
There is whine-apologizing.
There is whining about the Amyrlin Barcalounger and the Aes Sedai.
There is whining about how harrrrd saving the world is.
There is whining about the gift of foresight.

Ugh. So bad. Watching Rand try not to cry while firing emo arrows in the torchlight was about the most pukeworthy this series has ever gotten, and that’s a high bar.

There’s a surprise clumsy and lifeless romance between Nynaeve and Lan, because what this show obviously needs is another passion-free lackluster love storyline. The only thing I kept wondering is if Lan keeps his headband on while getting it on, but the jury is still out on that, because we did a fade to black before anything even happened other than gratuitous Lan pectorals. (Dude is ripped – you go, Lan).

We learn shit that I don’t care about that has no bearing on the plot, and what we learn isn’t even spelled out very well. Lan is some kind of king of a dead land (grumble stolen from Aragorn grumble). There’s a seer here in this weird town who’s in some kind of witness protection program as a bartender. (Note: this is the second bartender-with-a-secret-identity, if you’re working on the drinking game.) We learn that Rand will be holding a baby someday, which is terrifying, because I was really hoping he never reproduces or tries to parent anyone.

We also learn that Rand was the baby born at the beginning of this episode, which is disheartening, because his rancid petulance is so far removed from his mom’s utter badassery. I would so much rather watch his mom do stuff for eight hours. This is the strongest presentation of nurture over nature I think modern media has produced.

Then, despite the seer not telling Rand he’s the dragon, he goes and tells Moiraine he is, and she believes him, and they leave without telling anybody, to the consternation of everybody else, who is now stuck in BFE with the self-Heimlich posse. In their final scene, we see Rand and Moiraine heading into an abandoned lot next to Fal Dora, where the HOA should get the landowner to cut back the weeds already. A little RoundUp would work wonders.

My working hypothesis is that Moiraine knows Rand’s not the dragon, and she’s taking him to the Eye of the World where he will be squeezed to a powder by the forces of nature and magic (that’s close to literally what they said would happen, and it is no small comfort to imagine Rand being popped like an Earth-zit). Then she’ll come back and get the others, and nobody will have to deal with his incel bullshit anymore.

Or, maybe, we can just have more flashbacks of his mom killing people. Please.

To wrap up, rating the would-be Dragons (in order of how much I want them to die):

RAND: Another week as the worst of the worst. I really hate this guy.
EGWENE: Pledged never to dump Rand again, which almost makes her worse than Rand. Except Rand is like the absolute zero of suck, and you can’t suck any more than he does.
PERRIN: He had barely anything to do, other than see stuff in the dark that nobody else could and deny scurrilous accusations that he didn’t love his wife.
MAT: Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film, yet gains some points for not accompanying this sorry set of saviors on this trip. Wise move, my evil-dagger-loving friend.
NYNAEVE: Still my favorite, but this was a weird stalkery episode for her, and PlayDoh has more chemistry going on than her love scene.

The audiobook of Daros is here!

Audiobook cover for Daros

I am so pleased to announce the release of the audiobook of Daros, performed by the talented and funny Jennifer Pratt. I so enjoyed hearing her bring the book and the characters to life. I hope you enjoy this new, enhanced version of my book (now a SPSFC semi-finalist, and still in the running for more).

Available on Audible:
and Amazon:

Apple Books/iTunes coming soon, as soon as they process the release.

Daros makes the semifinals!

Daros has made the semifinals of the SPSFC, the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition! 377 books were submitted, and only 30 now remain. The judges are busy reading those 30 now, and the finalists will be named at the end of June, 2022.

I’m thrilled to have made it this far, and I’m very grateful to the judges and contest officials for all their (volunteer, unpaid) work in getting this to happen.

Here’s the review from the first-round judges for Daros.

Wheel of Time Episode 6 analysis:

[pretty big spoilers for Episode 6 and previous episodes follow]

D&D Theme for this episode: This feels like the first ten minutes of campaign backstory where you assemble all the characters to go on the quest, except we’ve already somehow blown six hours on that.

Scene 1:
In consistent WoT show fashion, we start off with:
— Two characters we’ve never seen before and have no idea who they are or what their importance is
— Doing this in yet another biome (this time riparian)
They are happy fisherpeople going about fisherperson business. One of them is minus a hand, which is never explained or commented upon, although that level of ambiguity and unremarkableness is actually pretty disability-friendly, and I’m cool with it. The girl has an extensive set of expertly-inked tattoos all over her body, something that my kids definitely would not have sat still for at that age.
We see that the young girl can do magic, which she uses to mend a net. It seems like it might be of more direct benefit to use magic to, you know, just catch a fish, or make food, or short-sell Tar Valonian stocks so that they could afford a better riverside shack.
We are led to believe that the girl would be persecuted for using magic. This is perhaps the shortest-duration foreshadowing ever, because when they get back to the dock, their house is totally burned, and a glowing red symbol is left in the wreckage. This signifies four truths about whoever is persecuting them. This person (or persons):
a) has the time to come and thoroughly burn a riverside shack and then burn a rune into the wreckage
b) has the motivation to come and thoroughly burn a riverside shack and then burn a rune into the wreckage
c) despite (a) and (b), does not stick around to actually kill the people they hate, who are a one-handed dude with a fishing knife and a girl whose magical power is net-mending, i.e., not very fearsome.
d) wildly overestimates the difficulty of rebuilding an open-air riverside shack post-burning
This leads me to believe that perhaps the Westlands bus system has both a limited operating schedule, requiring an early departure by the persecutors, but also a liberal policy on the transport of flammable materials by riders.
The father and daughter seem also to subscribe to (d) above, and he puts her on a boat with a seriously over-the-top number of tearful fishing references, only some of which relate to river fishing rather than coastal fishing (e.g. the tides), suggesting that this guy is not the sharpest fishing knife in the basket. It is not entirely clear whether the reference to “pike” is the fish or Rosamund.

Scene 2:
Next, we fast-forward to Tar Valon and the White Tower, where we see that, when the council is assembled, despite being powerful feminist icons, all of the Aes Sedai get makeovers, have their hair done in new ways, and put on fancy dresses to stand in a very tall CGI room sneering at each other. One of them gets a bronze staff to pound on the floor, which she only does when she thinks there are moments of dramatic tension going on. It would be funny if she blew it once or twice.
The surprise reveal here is that fishing girl is actually the Amyrlin Seat. This title, despite being furniture, is what they call the Chief Executive Officer of the Aes Sedai. This seems remarkably stupid until you realize that our president has a cabinet and oversees bureaucracy. Her Royal Seating is dressed to the nines, including a very cool filigree hair ornament (bonus points) and an unfortunate massive bowtie that looks like an overgrown butterfly (points off).
We also see that there are some other colors of Aes Sedai. We finally meet a Laa Laa Aes Sedai and learn that they are gifted in healing, even though nearly every other color of Aes Sedai has already healed people, and we’ve never seen a yellow one do that. In a problematic development, there are three colors of earth-tone Aes Sedai which don’t match Teletubbies, namely, gray, brown, and white. I submit to you that Teletubby Ajah theory still applies: the White Aes Sedai clearly represent the SunBaby, the Gray the elephantine vacuum Noo Noo, and the Brown the ubiquitous bunnies of the Teletubby ecosystem. There is no description of what liberal arts major is represented by these Earth Toners. I’m guessing accounting, literature, and community justice studies, but I could well be wrong.
We see False Dragon Tim Curry guy again. He starts off on a good rant, claiming that even though he lost, the Aes Sedai still suck, and he gloats about killing one. The penal system in Tar Valon obviously has no freaking idea what they’re doing, because they have the guy in really fancy clothing but also in chains. Can’t a guy get an orange jumpsuit there? They have all the other colors of clothing. The chains are silly, too, because he melts steel things. But then we find out he’s “gentled,” which apparently doesn’t include making him unable to mouth off but does cancel his magic, which means chaining him up doesn’t do anything but stop him from writing “False Dragonz Rool, Bench Lady Droolz” on the walls of the White Tower restrooms.
In further evidence of a penal system gone awry, this dude threatens the court and gleefully confesses to murdering one of its members. They condemn him to execution by being drawn and quartered and fed to dogs in a bloody example of feudal power in the central square of Tar Valon. Ha ha, just kidding. His sentence is to be fed and housed for the rest of his life in the most luxurious setting in all the land and occasionally studied by the Aes Sedai, even though they just took all his magic away, which makes him about as interesting as a roll of paper towels. Despite this non-punishment, False Dragon guy immediately loses his shit at the thought of being a pampered and well-fed research subject and screams KILL ME! repeatedly as he’s hauled away, suggesting that the Aes Sedai do not have a well-functioning Institutional Review Board governing their investigative programs.
A hard-to-follow legal and moral argument follows, the upshot of which is that the Amyrlin Garden Bench then chastizes Liandrin for getting somebody killed and not following protocol. Liandrin, who I am now sure is just biding her time before revealing to nobody’s surprise that she’s actually an evil person working for the Dark Lord, pulls a standard 3rd-grade-bully move and tries to get Moiraine in trouble too, pointing out that Nynaeve is the most powerful weaver in 1,000 years and Moiraine, like, didn’t tell anybody. Everybody accepts this assessment of Nynaeve at face value, which is weird, because Nynaeve basically cast nothing more badass than Cure Moderate Wounds, and everybody else was, like, making the ground explode, launching people into trees, and chemically castrating the False Dragon. Also, Liandrin is maybe 40, so her assessment of the Top 10 Greatest Weavers of the previous millenium is suspect. My kids don’t even know many TV shows from the 90’s, people.
At this point, something weird happens, and it becomes far weirder in retrospect later on. The weird thing is that the Amyrlin Barstool asks Moiraine what she was doing for two years, and Moiraine refuses to tell her. Even though everybody knows there’s a prophecy about the return of the dragon, and everybody’s been out hunting for returned dragons, including the 30+ Aes Sedai who found Tim Curry, and Moiraine has already told lots of people that that is what she was doing. Her refusal to say what she was doing is profoundly stupid, because even though the Aes Sedai “always speak truth,” she’s already pointed out that you can say true stuff without saying all the true stuff, and later on, she basically lies to the five potentially chosen ones about what happens to the four not chosen at the end of the show to get them to walk into a magical subway cave. The Amyrlin Adirondack gets all pissy about this, as you’d expect a monarch to do, but THEN WE FIND OUT THEY’RE SECRETLY LOVERS, which makes this public question-asking and fighting and obstinacy profoundly pointless and easily avoided.
The Amyrlin Davenport then goes on an I-Am-The-State despotic rant about how she cannot be disobeyed and will destroy anybody who challenges her, which is massively inconsistent here because (1) she’s threatening her bae, and (2) she literally just said that the people need to be protected from abuse of Aes Sedai power by laws. Apparently the Amyrlin Sofa did not major in political science or philosophy. Elevating assistant fisherpeople to the presidency has predictable drawbacks.

Scene 3:
We then return to the one street in Tar Valon. I do not know how big the city is supposed to be, but it has only one street where anybody hangs out. In the matte paintings, it looks bigger, but we’ve only ever seen maybe 20 people here, and the White Tower only has maybe four rooms, all of which look like CGI-decorated soundstages. I suspect Tar Valon may be just a glorified strip mall or truck stop.
Moirane demonstrates some very unorthodox tea pouring and then goes to deal with Mat. At this point, Rand is comically idiotic, asserting that Mat has had the death curse for over a month, maybe more, but it’s not serious, and then he gets all whiny and tries to stand in front of the Aes Sedai trying to heal Mat, waving his sword, at which point he gets his ass handed to him by Lan, which was remarkably satisfying.
Moiraine sucks the evil magic out of Mat and puts it back into the dagger. The unexpected and unexplained part is the middle of this process, when the Shattered City Curse Mold swims over to her face and makes a silly beard-looking thing, like those old magnetic toys with the iron filings, and then retreats back to the dagger. Then, in a fit of brilliance, Moiraine drops the dagger on the floor. Note: this dagger is cursed and would twist anyone who touches it to unspeakable evil, but she doesn’t even pick it up, even though she says Mat would succumb if he touched it again, which you know he would do. If he doesn’t, apparently the maid service for the Tar Valon Red Roof Inn is in for a major surprise when they make up the room, not to mention a good deal of hissing and sweating and growling.

Scene 4:
The Blue Tinky Winky Aes Sedai are apparently related to the Russian mob, because they hold their meetings in saunas. Moiraine is castigated for sinking a ferry in the river. Thank you. Finally some accountability. However, Moiraine’s boss says they sent money to compensate. That money must be sitting on the ferry dock, because Moiraine drowned the ferryman, and his son got eaten by Trollocs. Moiraine’s boss says Moirane is now in time out in the White Tower.

Scene 5:
Moiraine puts her clothes back on and goes to see our other two Chosen Ones. Perrin seems to be in need of lots of healing for the seriously half-assed flaying inflicted on him by White Robe dude. Egwene says that this guy is no threat now, even though she stabbed him in the shoulder of his muscle tunic and didn’t at all check to see if he was dead. I would bet a lot of money that White Robe Arsenio Guy is not in the least dead. We find out that apparently werewolves are not popular, which is, like, duh, because they eat people.

Scene 6:
Lan complains that Moiraine has “masked their bond,” which seems like the Aes Sedai version of not responding to my texts. Moiraine has this discussion while wearing what looks like an actual lab coat, which is a super weird costume choice. Then, with a wink and a nod, Moirane goes through the Sex Mirror to visit the Amyrlin La-Z-Boy for some snu snu. They share one of the more awkward kisses I’ve seen in film and then fade to black.
When they return, we learn an unexpected Westlands custom: You go into snu snu wearing white, but you come out of it wearing red. That must make wearing red clothing out and about remarkably awkward, and it puts a whole different spin on the Po Aes Sedai branch. We hear yet another piscine reference from the Chair, when she calls her main squeeze a pufferfish. Note to the potentially romantically oriented: I would recommend extreme caution in using this as a term of endearment.
They reveal their master plan of the Aes Sedai to defeat the Dark Lord, which is basically to throw all the Chosen Ones they have at it until one sticks. Moiraine asks for exile as her punishiment for not answering the question everybody knew the answer to which her girlfriend-slash-royal-recliner should never have asked.

Scene 7:
Liandrin acts out a scene from Mean Girls, and Moiraine threatens her with slut-shaming. The female Chosen Ones have an audience with the Amyrlin Pew which is meant to be cordial but ends up sort of dysfunctional, and then Nynaeve cusses with an awkward late 20th-century idiom derived from smoke enemas. However, we do see developing a significant badassness differential between the male and female chosen ones:
Female (badass):
— Egwene: Defeats White Robe guy, returns rings of the fallen Aes Sedai
— Nynaeve: More powerful than you can imagine (I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit)
Male (weaselly):
— Perrin: Gets tied to furniture and flayed, lets wolves lick his wounds.
— Mat: Picks up cursed daggers even when everyone tells him the city is cursed and not to touch anything. Predictably contracts evil tongue herpes.
— Rand: Embarassingly forced to suck blanket by Lan after petulant misguided sword move. Will chop wood for food.

Scene 8:
Moiraine gets exiled for no earthly reason. This scene had three standout moments for me:
— Moment 1: Everything in this world has a stupid made-up name. Everything. Yet instead of being the Mighty Token of Zar’eth’al’al’al, the glowstick that Moiraine has to swear on is called… The Sacred Oath Rod. My gratitude for one tiny discordant moment of utilitarian nomenclature.
— Moment 2: Moiraine and the Amyrlin Beanbag have tears rolling down their cheeks. To me, this suggests that everybody knows they go through the Sex Mirror and wear red with each other. Like, everybody. All y’all Aes Sedai are just pretending it’s a secret to be polite, and so as not to be vaporized or exiled or gentled.
— Moment 3: When Moiraine turns around and everybody turns their back on her, she blows a major opportunity to flip off the entire rest of the Aes Sedai sit-in-circles-in-threes Council. I mean, nobody’s watching. She could have hopped from foot to foot displaying the bird to everybody.
Also, the exile lasts until you’re not exiled, which, if the exiler is your red-robe Sex Mirror partner, could reasonably be next Wednesday’s booty call, Glowstick of Truth or no.

Scene 9:
Everybody rides to a well-mown grassland, which is odd, unless the Brown Aes Sedai are the mystical school of landscaping. Rand and Egwene are reunited, at which point my gorge rises and Rand utters the cringeworthy line “It feels good to see you.” Like, what does that mean? Who says that? Ugh. Everybody hugs. They even hug the horses.
Loial the Ogier, who seemed like a minor throw-away character in Tar Valon (albeit one of the very few residents of the strip mall), is now revealed to be incredibly important, because he’s apparently the Uber driver to the Eye of the World, which place name does not make any anatomical sense whatsoever.
They arrive at a set of stairs leading up to a platform with walls, which seems like a misguided 1960’s garden sculpture meant to exemplify the futility of the Cold War. They spend a lot of time explaining what this is, but everybody who’s played a video game knows the players have discovered their first fast-travel point on the map. Why they didn’t use one of these to skip the 30+ days of eastwalking before, I don’t know. Maybe the Uber Ogiers were on peak pricing or something.
Moiraine describes the fate of the world if the Dark Lord wins, which is apparently:
(a) Trollocs and Fade eat everybody, and then
(b) Everything burns.
It seems to me that (b) pretty much makes (a) moot, and that the Dark Lord must be playing up (a) and not be telling the Trollocs and Fade about (b). Messaging is very important when you are Dark Lording.
They then send eight perfectly good horses away to wander the wilderness in full saddle. Apparently, the 20 people in Tar Valon do not include stablehands or ostlers. This seems tremendously wasteful and not that cool to the horses.
Mat asks what happens to the Chosen Ones who get voted off the island. Moirane gives him a weaselly half-answer, even though she knows they die. He sees through her bullshit. The party departs into the Ways, which look basically like the Ogier’s basement. However, Mat stays behind. Without any knowledge or precedent, Rand tells him the portal is closing, before it closes, which he’d have no reason to know, but whatever. Moiraine just watches Mat sit there. Maybe she asked him to deal with the horses after all.

Rating the Chosen Ones:
— Nynaeve gets points for cussing out the Amyrlin Wingback. You go.
— Egwene gets points for not being totally annoying, but loses a couple for being still into Rand. Girl, please. You can do better. Find yourself a mirror and a red robe and leave this dude behind.
— Mat is giving off bad-guy vibes, although not going into a dark hole in the air with random cryptic strangers who don’t answer your questions and are abducting your friends is understandable. Commendable, even.
— Perrin just takes up space in this episode. I don’t think he even had a line.
— Rand, OMG. Everything about this guy is annoying, from his stupid hair, his petulance, his bonehead attempt to stop his friend from getting healed, his terrible high-school romance lines. I so hope he gets washed down the Tearduct of the Upper Mantle when they get to the Eye of the World.

Wheel of Time Episode 5 analysis:

[pretty big spoilers for Episode 5 and previous episodes follow]

[these are getting far longer but no funnier – sorry about that]

D&D Theme for this episode: I made up this cool adventure for y’all to play, but I see now you’re just going to spend the session talking to random NPCs insteadFive episodes in, the show is actually trying to be cooler than it has been so far. They’ve made up interesting cultural bits, have finally (!) gotten to where the real action might start, and are showing a little bit of character development.
However, they still blew an entire episode doing essentially nothing. The Dark Ones put up a Gone Fishin’ sign, the main Po (Red) Aes Sedai is reduced to commenting ominously about persimmons, and the preening alt-right literal pencil-mustache villain is reduced to wandering around in a muscle shirt making idle threats and half-heartedly flaying people.

Total accomplished by the good guys:
— Losing one (1) Warder because Lan got floor-drunk when he should have been helping

Total accomplished by the bad guys:
— Nothing

This episode, like the last one, focused intensely on a minor character we just met and then completely wrote him out of the show. Last time, it was False Dragon Tim Curry dude, although he got to make an appearance here doing a slow-mo evil laugh. It was interesting that they had a spare iron cage to carry him around in, because he melted the last one, so that means they brought two bulky iron cages. At least two. Also, he melted the last one, so maybe putting him in another one is contraindicated.

In this case, the minor character was Stepin. (Side note: are his siblings named Jumpup and Walkout?) We lost Kerene last time, a Dipsy Aes Sedai we didn’t even know, to the Grand False Dragon Miscalculation, and even though Warders “feel all the wounds of their Aes Sedai” and “rarely outlive their Aes Sedai,” Stepin seems immune to this. We get some half-hearted backstory about his abusive father and belligerent past along with a story of Kerene’s seriously dubious human resources recruiting plan. We discover he’s maybe bi-curious, he hits up Nynaeve for Lunestra, and he gets to huff some incense. But it’s all for totally nothing. He’s a nobody we met last time, and now he’s gone, and no story purpose was served by spending an episode on him. We didn’t know him well enough for it to be tragic. And it’s all told in dialogue, no action, broken up by other people talking about moderately ominous characters we’ve never met in poorly realized castle rooms. There’s even a little Aes Sedai sleepover party thing.

Continuing struggles with physical geography:
— The scene opens with a snowstorm, which is poetically spot-on for a funeral, but a literal week ago we were all dark and ferny in the nearby temperate forest. Now we’re amidst boreal pine with snow. Nearby, people walked from grassland to temperate forest.
— And “a month later” winter’s not worse, and people are just wandering around in woven frat-boy hooded shirts or muscle shirts. Is it spring? Is it fall? Is it winter? Does it snow in the summer here?
— The Tar Valonians founding council apparently found the only volcano around and then built a massive city next to it. And that volcano has sides with slopes of about 45 degrees, which isn’t how volcanos work, unless you’re five and have been asked to draw a mountain.

Continuing struggles with continuity:
— Where’s the gleeman? We last saw him being screeched at by round-mouthed needle-toothed Dark One middle management. Now the gleeman is absent, Mat is saying he’s “lost,” and there’s no other follow up or explanation. Did his tour T-shirt not include Tar Valon? He had to go do a one-song gig in Cleveland instead?
— Speaking of that, where’s the round-mouth needle-teeth guy? Did he kill the farming family so that he could use their place as an AirBNB for a month, taking his four weeks of accumulated leave? “Screech, this is Jenna from HR. You need to use your leave or you’ll just lose it.”
— What have the Trollocs been doing? Scratch that, I know what they’ve been doing. They visited a peninsula and then somebody hauled a shattered city in to the ithsmus behind them, so they were trapped by their own rules.
— “A night at this inn costs the same as a month in Two Rivers.” Sure, buddy. You were totally broke in the mining town, so much so that you had to split wood for a homicidal barmaid for a dirty cot. How are you paying for this? I note you’ve sold your sheepskin coat, but nobody’s paying much for that shit. Also, this city has wicked expensive hotels, but it gives out free bread to anybody who walks by? Is Tar Valon run by Costco?

Cultural insights gained:Each of these had a cool part and also a part that didn’t bear up to further thought.
— Cool: They indicate somebody’s dead by putting their boot backwards in the stirrup. Very cool visual symbolism. Huh?: They do this for an entire month post-mortem. At least. Maybe the horse just goes around like that forever.
— Cool: When there’s a mass fatality event, they bury people in radial spoke graves. Huh?: The graves are five inches deep, plus their cemeteries must be extremely confusing.
— Cool: They have a miniature office-accessory-size Mount Doom with RealLavaTM in case anybody needs to dispose of magic rings. Think how much easier Frodo’s job would have been. Huh?: Lava is hot, and you don’t want to be by it. For more lava bullshit, see the Mandalorian. Also, the Aes Sedai must not have an OSHA.
— Cool: They wear white for funerals. At first, I thought they had just all stolen the bathrobes from the Tar Valon Courtyard by Marriot executive suites, but then everybody had funeral-wear-slash-karate-uniforms. Huh?: Except they don’t wear white for radial funerals in the woods. Instead, while desperately trying to save the known world, they carry along a large supply of bulky funerary candles just in case 20 of them get whacked by a False Dragon. These people do not travel light, but they are prepared for many contingencies. Which they precipitate themselves.
— Cool: They hire Mongolian throat singers for funerals, too, and make them wear bathrobes also. Huh?: The highlight of the funeral is when the best friend gets to scream several times and pull open his shirt, at which point you know it’s thump your chest time. This is weird, but it must be far easier on the grieving parties than writing a damn eulogy. Ritual is comforting.
— Cool: Badass Aes Sedai escort False Dragons through town on an exhibition cart with imperious chairs. Huh?: At which point they get pelted by vegetables by the villagers. This means (1) somebody didn’t think this out all the way, and (2) Aes Sedai are much less scary than they think if people are willing to hit them with an onion, and (3) this will likley create a headache for the Tar Valonian Bureau of Tourism.
— Cool: The Tinkers’ grand strategy when confronted by domineering alt-right thugs is to link arms and get punched, which is noble, if ineffective. Huh?: They are like the worst dog owners ever, letting their dogs just up and kill anything that walks by. It’s like they’re some kind of weird Mennonite Michael Vicks.

— If this is Tar Valon, is this like the first city you can build in a computer RPG? Next will be Bronze Valon, once they save enough coins for an upgrade, then Steel Valon, then Diamond Valon, and then in the expansion pack, Uranium Valon?
— Breakbone fever sounds cool, except that Two Rivers folks must have a severe calcium deficiency for that to actually work that way.
— They may have spent ten million dollars per episode, but it was not on CGI. Holy shit. This was the most basic-ass fantasy city I think I’ve ever seen since The Beastmaster (1982). The entire Aes Sedai castle is maybe four textures and ten models and three rooms, most of which don’t even have furniture. Tar Valon is one street with a single polygon and tiled stone texture as the road surface, with a crappy lighting model thrown in for the weird dawn sequence.
— Moiraine fail: “I have eyes and ears watching every gate.” Even if you spot her the idea that ears can watch things, she didn’t spot two obvious magic-infused and demonically-cursed rubes wandering into town scarfing up free bread, renting a room, and then (weirdly) going to the library for no apparent reason. Even after False Dragon guy looked at them for a solid minute cackle-laughing in slo mo. Maybe Moiraine should hire him instead of the earwatchers.
— With all the warnings Nynaeve got, the Aes Sedai internship program is starting to sound a lot like Bob Packwood’s office in Congress.
— The Red (Po) Aes Sedai don’t take Warders, hate all men, and love persimmons. They seem kind of like what Paul Gosar imagines lesbians are like.
— In a castle that houses probably thousands, Lan knew right where to go to find Stepin. There’s apparently an official Stabbing Corner in the White Tower. They should maybe rope that area off.

Ranking the chosen ones from most cool to ones I most wish were dead:
— Egwene – Cool this week. Gets better the more she doesn’t talk about Rand. I liked her resistance to Arsenio. It was actually really funny seeing what happens when you roll a crit fail on your magic attack on a high-level NPC – a great moment. I hope she continues to move the needle away from whiny douche-lover toward badass. She’s got potential.
— Perrin – Still maybe the coolest overall, although points off this week for the crisis of confidence. Confessing about killing your wife to your friend came maybe 29 days too late here, and it was also awkwardly written and acted. You’ve had all this time on the road with the Tinkers eating curry, and this never came up before now?
— Nynaeve – Bonus points for distrusting Aes Sedai, no-nonsense attitude, and general badassery. Points off for completely ignoring the “don’t talk to anybody” warning. If she’d been in the shattered city, she’d have been picking up cursed daggers too. “Show me your tongue” is apparently step three in the Wisdom patient intake protocol, which is weird.
— Rand – Pulling a sword on a racial minority in a library is exactly what I would have expected him to do. Apparently Rand’s an Aielman, because wise minority characters are always insightful and accurate in schlocky movies, but I don’t know what that means, nor do I care. It might be the homicidal red-haired mask-wearing people that the suddenly-absent gleeman was talking about, but I’m too uninspired to try to connect those dots.
— Mat – OMG, I thought you were cool, but now I just want you to hurry up and die already.

Wheel of Time Review and Self-Indulgent Complaining – Episode 4

Wheel of Time Episode 4 analysis:

[pretty big spoilers for Episode 4 and previous episodes follow]

D&D Theme for this episode: OMG, DM, we understand you wrote all this backstory, we just don’t need to hear about it

Our heroes return to the job of walking eastward following cryptic strangers. We found out that even the mystic Siberian gypsies are just walking east. That’s what everybody does here. Just eastwalking.

Very little was accomplished. This series was billed as “an epic adventure that cannot be contained.” However, in this episode, we can sum it up as follows:

Net total things accomplished by the good guys this episode:
— One (1) barn cleaned
— One (1) wagon wheel fixed
— One (1) Trolloc disease cured [remarkably quickly and without comment, considering this had been a major plot point for 3 episodes]

Net total things accomplished by the bad guys this episode:
— One (1) rustic family killed

The rest of the episode was either wasted effort, swirly-power mongering, philosophical discussions, fighting people who aren’t actually important at all, random conversations that went nowhere, and walking east.

Places we spent time:

— A random farm, where everybody has a bow and knows how to use it. This is the Westlands version of Texas, I guess.

— A Siberian gypsy caravan. I thought I heard them referred to as Tinkers in the recap at the beginning, but then there was a lot of talk about the people of the Leaf, by which I do not think they mean they all drive Nissans when not in their caravan. They are referred to as Tuatha’an at some point, because what this show needs is more weird words with superfluous apostrophes.

— A LARP community, where everybody has their own mismatched period costume and hairstyle, and there are campfires with ale, lots of synchronized dance-like weapons training, a fully-equipped cell cave, and a place where you can pray to rocks. You get bonus points for spouting backstory lore that we’ve never heard before nor will likely ever hear again. If you have a confusing name we probably don’t need to keep track of, and a confusing place name for where you’re from, all the better. More apostrophe-bearing words are obviously worth bonus points.

— In the pre-credits flashback, we also spent time at a castle under siege. It was one of those sieges that looks kind of serious, but when you get down to it, there are really only four people in the entire walled citadel, and there’s plenty of time to just sit and talk by a well while the city burns. Note to bad guy: If you’re just going to convert the king to your side, do not burn the city first. That way, you get a king on your side and also a perfectly fine city.

Major plot focus:

— Much of our time was spent with a low-rent Tim Curry dude who called himself both “The Dragon Reborn” and also “Logain” (rhymes with Rogaine, of which he had no need). We saw this dude at the end of Episode 3 being carried around in a cage. Much of the screen time with him this episode was spent talking about how much power he had, and what ratio his power had to other power, even though all of the power in question seemed just to be making little white lines in the air. His power was assessed to be supposedly extremely high (~2 Aes Sedai Sister Units), but later on in the episode, he surprised them, and it rose to about 15 ASSU, but then was inexplicably reduced to maybe 4 ASSU, and then, when the Aes Sedai begain their United Colors of Benetton synchronized dance routine, it was reduced to zero. Also, unlike jet fuel, ASSU apparently can melt steel beams. Later in the episode, it is asserted that 6 ASSUs is more than enough to defeat an army, although when they test that hypothesis, it is not supported at a 95% confidence level.

— I was never clear why you need to keep a Dragon Reborn in a cage, AND ensorceled by Aes Sedai, AND defended by the LARP community, AND in a cave. The cave part was the least clear of all of these. They’re on a journey that is supposed to be over 100 miles to the east. Are they only going to stop at locations with cell caves? And, beyond that, do they ever actually move? I mean, they showed no urgency or sign of moving at all. Putting up and taking down the pavillions must take most of the day, so they probably only get about a quarter mile between takedown and setup.

Times when the show was a metaphor for itself:

— A terribly confusing bad dream sequence where a glowy-eyed Jeff-Bezos-ish character is holding everybody hostage

Things we learned:

— Magic power is mostly just smoke, meaning the 1940’s must have been a time of great sorcery. It is hardly ever used to any significant effect, although at least this time, they used it to stop arrows and rain them down on the attackers. Safety tip for fake-dragon-reborn followers – if somebody has suspended a bunch of your arrows in the sky, do not run under them. They also used it to blow up dirt near the attackers in little fountains, although this did not seem to harm anybody but the local soil fauna.

— Gleemen are seriously overrated. This guy’s one, single, master plan was to wait until dark and then sleep in a barn, and he couldn’t even accomplish that.

— You might be called a Wisdom, but you still don’t grok polyamory

— [Learned only because we had subtitles on] – The Old Tongue is composed of at least 30% apostrophes.

— “Nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past.” – This is obviously a gleeman who has not met many historians, very few of whom are, in my experience, say, homicidal ninjas.

— The Aes Sedai are apparently broken into colors, which are reflected in their dress and their attitude. This immediately brought to mind the Teletubbies. Dipsy Aes Sedai are some kind of warriors. Tinky Winky Aes Sedai are spies for justice, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Po Aes Sedai go around taking away people’s birthright magic without due process, kind of like Republicans do with the voting franchise. I don’t think we’ve met a Laa Laa Aes Sedai yet.

— Even though Logain was supposed to be massively powerful and could smoke-murder people and melt cages, his power (between 2-15 ASSU), which the Aes Sedai had great difficulty containing, was a tiny fraction of the power of a random village mystic’s apprentice. Everybody seemed to think this was normal except Tim Curry guy. In his case, it sapped him of all will to conquer, although he retains his great hair and intriguing accent.

— Circle-mouthed needle-tooth bad guys get frustrated every once in a while, leave their Trolloc hordes behind, and just go murder agrarian families. If the family has a little girl with a doll-slash-painful-over-the-top-symbol-of-loss to bludgeon the viewers with, all the better. It doesn’t help their cause at all to kill the farmers, especially when Chosen Ones are right nearby and available to be killed, so it must just be a feel-good, time-for-me kind of thing.

— If you pick up a cursed dagger in a cursed city, do not be surprised if you end up wandering around with haunted eyes and barfing up black goo that unbarfs itself when people approach. You were stupid. This is the price.

— We learned a lot about the Tuawhatever gypsy people. They are pacifists. There was a leaf metaphor that suggested that they think that their corpses will eventually produce living people, which is not how either human reproduction or fertilizer works. They are looking for a lost Song that will produce peace in the world, which may or may not be “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” They have a Rumspringa thing they do when they’re young, where they sometimes go kill people to see what it’s like. The center of their culture is a lot like Amway, Herbalife, or Tupperware, or other multi-level-marketing chain-letter scams. If you buy my pacifism package and then sell it to two of your friends, and they sell it to their friends, you can create a steady pacifism income for yourself! “Lose wars now! Ask me how!” They also clang pots together when it’s time to leave, which seems silly, because they could just pack the pots up ahead of time and tell everybody that it was time to leave, and then they wouldn’t have everybody walking along carrying pots the whole way.

— If smoke people are telling you to kill monarchs and mention that you’ve lived a thousand lives, it’s time to discontinue your medication and consult a physician.

— The word “army” must mean something different in this culture than it does in ours. Here, “army” seems to mean like ten guys. A “battle” is ten guys fighting ten other guys. “Tactics” are apparently running one at a time through a forest waving your weapons. How the Aes Sedai are such a fearsome force in the world when all they do is wander around with frustrated dude companions and make smoke swirlies and dirt fountains, I don’t know.

Ranking the four chosen ones (now five!) –

— Perrin didn’t do squat but fix a wagon, for which he received far too much praise. However, he wasn’t annoying, and watching him get mic-dropped by old lady who pointed out that his record with axes was kinda bad was fun.

— Egwene is apparently into drum-only raves, which for me is points off. Apparently “she would know” if Rand didn’t love her anymore, which doensn’t make any sense unless the Westlands have Facebook and Rand changed his relationship status from “it’s complicated” to “single.”

— Rand is still a douche, but he didn’t do anything bad this time other than continue to do manual labor and let his lazy-ass pals not do any work.

— Mat was my favorite early on, but he’s now deep in the bad-decision weeds and dropping fast.

— Nynaeve, the newcomer on the scene, spent a lot of time being surly, then one campfire and she’s all like, y’all cool now. Apparently all you needed to do to get her to like you (and raise you from the dead, later) is pray to a rock, make up some shit that ancient phrases mean, and pour out a cat bowl worth of water. But she at least used magic for something cool, and she’s not buying into this whole Aes Sedai thing yet.

Favorite subtitle:

— When a Dipsy Aes Sedai was smoke-murdered by low-rent Tim Curry, she fell to the ground. The subtitle for that event was “[THUD]”

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