Firsts, lasts, and onlys this week.
First, the first in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones. Been hearing about this one for years, of course, and even more since the HBO series started. But it's a heck of an undertaking, and I wasn't crazy about the narrator in the sample I listened to, so I put it off a bit. (Read it to myself? A multi-volume fantasy epic? That's what audio at work is made for! As long as I can Wikipedia the odd name or map, etc.) But all in all, I'm glad I got on with it, and look forward to my library bringing the second one off hold so I can see what happens to my favorite characters (Jon, Bran, Arya, Dany - it's all the young generation. The adults, give or take Catelyn and Tyrion, are all a wash for me.) And the narrator grew on me - he was a little too gruff while I was trying to both absorb all these new people/places and calculate the weekly payroll. But once we were over the learning curve, and things like casual violence and incest were assimilated into the pattern of the story, I was happily swept away by the action and intrigue and the constantly shifting political and moral ground that the characters had to tread.
In a much simpler (and less morally repugnant) way, Suzanne Collins also played with shifting political battlegrounds in her Underland Chronicles. The last of these - Gregor and the Code of Claw - brings Overland and Underland humans together for yet another quest, but this time, Gregor is questioning not his place in the Underland (he found peace with that earlier in the series) but the place of all humans in Colllins's strange land under New York City. In many ways it did resonate with the Martin saga - various kingdoms vying for supremacy, outliers trying to break in, more bloodshed than is healthy, broken trusts. Although, Luxa is a way better 12-year-old monarch than Joffrey, by a long shot. At any rate, I read the first of this series years and years ago, before Hunger Games was a twinkle in Collins's eye (I presume) and liked it, but I don't think I'd have gone back and finished the rest of the series if I weren't so overcome with love for Katniss and her story. Gregor doesn't come close to packing the same wallop, but it's still a great, imaginative world full of some most excellent characters.
And just because he talks about his two favorite Georges constantly (Lucas and Romero), I'll also talk here about Simon Pegg's memoir, Nerd Do Well. Actually, before that, I'll do you a favor and tell you that if you haven't seen Hot Fuzz and, more essentially, Shaun of the Dead, you need to rent them. I know, I don't care about zombie movies, either, but trust me, okay? And how about that, I'm not even in the "male 17 to 40" demographic that's crazy about the film. (Come to think of it, no one in my house is, either. D is 2 years too young and R is 2 years too old. Sorry, marketers, best to go next door instead - they have 3 teen boys in high school / college, they're perfect for you!) Anyway, this is of course a bit of a silly book, full of in and out-there jokes, but it's light and interesting and actually made me view Star Wars in a different light. Thought I'd figured out all kinds of stuff about it already, given the boy-heaviness of my home and all. So: funny stories, sweet bits of nostalgia about childhood adventures in school and on stage, tons of palpable love for his mum, some insight into the weird world of professional actors/comedians, and a goofy subplot to pad the pages. Well worth checking out.