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Consciously Careless - Part 1 of X

my friend mika and I get into these interesting discussions sometimes. One such discussion that became worthy of blogging about, is the general state of technology. I like to use the phrase 'half-assing it' but he prefers the more elegant phrase 'consciously careless'.

Before I start discussing (and this is something that does not end with a single post, hence the title Part 1 of X) the actual topic, perhaps a simple definition for the fresh recruits - Consciously Careless (CC) or Half Assing is a term that I would like to coin, which refers to the attitude of developers build something (half assedly) now, and then 'hope' to fix the many, sometimes known, issues later.

Let me dig a little deeper into that now. As always, I will start with an example. Instead of using someone else's example, I will start with my own example. A long time ago, I built this app called alert nildana. As of now, the servers of the alert nildana app as well as the web site no longer work. It's a project that has been sun set. However, even back when the app asset's were alive, the app did not do everything it claimed to do. I was in such a hurry to publish it, I skipped on even the most basic features, basic testing, basic UI and basic everything and released it anyway. I was aware that the app lacks the essential stuff, but I simply did not care.

I simply told myself that, I should release the app, and then 'fix it as time goes'. In other words, I was half-assing the whole thing. In additional, other words, I was consciously careless. The reasons for this are many, but I dont wish to give excuses. There are many times in my life when I own up to my mistakes, and this is one of those times. I made a mistake. I was suffering from CC and I let it dictate the life cycle of my product.

We see the effects of CC all around us. Everyday I am now forced to use applications that are only half-built.

For instance, I remember when my favorite mail app on android, the Outlook mail app, could not attach more than one attachments. In fact, it could not do that for months after it was officially released. Even at the time of this writing, the outlook mail app cannot open emails that are more than a few months old, especially if you were to search for it. that's right. A huge company such as Microsoft, the company that I love and adore, is cheerfully sitting on an app that cannot even open old mails. This is the same company that gave the world and continues to give the Office suite of applications, applications on which the entire world's productivity depends on.

Then, I remember how horribly optimized Android Studio was. That thing took ages, even on an high end machine to build and deploy almost anything! Then, when you realize that the this is the official IDE of the most used operating system in the world, you begin to see a pattern.

Think about that for a moment.

This is what happens when CC is in full effect. Another side effect of CC is that, it puts a lot of emphasis on 'status quo'. In this case, the idea is to let things be, simply because it is working 'just fine'. Perhaps the biggest example of this is what is happening in the smartphone industry for the last few years. Every year, phone companies make claims that the next big announcement from them will change the world. Then, when the actual announcement happens, it is usually the following.

  • more RAM (like 1 GB more!)
  • better processor (oh my god! the processor is like 2 percent faster!)
  • larger screen (now with 10 extra pixels per inch!)
  • vague claims like, 'the best phone camera' in the world! I mean, who is going to verify that?
  • stuff like, your phone will now use less local storage because we will uploading everything to the cloud. Wow, what an innovation! Uploading files to the cloud! I have never heard of that before.

Other than that, there really is nothing else to showcase. Almost every manufacturers phone looks so identical, they might as well be designed by one person in one single room. Perhaps, there is not much innovation left to do in the smart phone space. If so, the phone making folks should just admit it. Alternatively, perhaps, not much effort has been put in innovation because the people with power are just happy with 'status quo'. They consciously don't care if the last time they put something innovative out there was ages ago. As long as the bottom line is green, everything else can go to hell.

I cannot change stuff like this. I am but a lowly developer who earns just enough to pay his bills. Further, nor do have any influence over other developers who can move the earth.

However, i can self-promise a few things. I can promise that what meager projects that are conducted by study nildana, CC will no longer have an influence. study nildana will 'build to last' instead of 'build and fix later'. Further, once we have something that is build to last, we will strive with whatever god given capacity we have, to come up with something new.

May the force be with us.

Goodbye Old Friend - Microsoft Wireless Desktop 2000

I have talked in length about the virtues of using a wireless keyboard (read about it here). Of course, I have to walk what I preach and I myself use wireless keyboards and mice for maximum productivity.

That is where today's post comes into the picture. This is also where I question the entire concept of 'friends' and what they actually mean in a person's place. When one thinks of friends, we think of people who have come (and gone) from our lives. Folks we meet at colleges, at clubs, at work place and even folks we bump into while gaming online or sitting at a bus stop. However, do friends have to be other people? We read about people getting attached to their dogs, cats and even fish!

As a technology guy who is almost always traveling, I would like to extend that non-human thing into non-living things. My own Microsoft Wireless Desktop 2000 keyboard and mouse set has been with me for more than 2 years now. I have traveled the length and breadth of India, and this keyboard and mouse has been with me everywhere. It's been abused upon with things ranging from water spills to coffee spills to curry spills. It has been banged on, sat upon, thrown around, crushed with other items in the bag. It has been lent and used by many users. What do you call something, on which you can rely on to be with you through the thick and thin? A friend and that is what this pair of Microsoft Wireless Desktop 200 has been for me.

Of course, I am using past tense here because device stopped working over the last week. I don't know about other people but these everyday gadgets make me productive, which in turn helps me earn a living. For that and more, I thank this keyboard and mouse.

You wont be forgotten.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich - William L. Shirer

The last time I blogged about a novel/book, it was the last published book of Game of Thrones. You can read about my thoughts on the same, right here.

After having finished dance with dragons, I wanted to read something non-fiction. Perhaps because of Game of Thrones, I had gained some kind of a child like curiosity for history. While GOT is fiction, much of its story is drawn from actual history. Of course, as a guy who has gone through over 10 novels (I must have read like ten thousand pages worth of novels in the last 6 months alone!) in the last six months, one thing is obvious. All fiction owes itself to real stuff. Heck, my own novel (which you can buy here, ah!) draws inspiration from things I see around me everyday. After all, writers write what they know.

So, with that it in mind, I wanted to read a little bit of history. I have written one novel, and my second novel is on the way (no, no, its not stuck in development hell) and a thorough knowledge of history might help me write better. That is when I decided to ask my good friend mika, advice about a solid book that will tell me about world war 2. World War 2 is the most devastating war the planet has ever seen, and then, I was advised to check out 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich' by William L.Shirer.

And, what a book it is! I knew a fair bit about the world war even before I picked up this book. I read through pages and pages worth of world war stuff on both wikipedia and TV Tropes. Yet, this book gives an almost first hand and thoroughly background verified and cited narrative. It starts off with the early child hood of Hitler, and goes all the way till his death, and includes notes about the Nuremberg trials as well. The author is American, so it might be 'okay' to assume that the book itself might be biased.

Surprisingly, the book is not biased. Throughout the narrative, there are plenty of opportunities to give personal opinion, that are very much warranted. Yet, the author restrains himself and allows the facts and his own writer's skill show things. If the book has one issue (its not as issue but worth pointing out here) is that it strictly focuses on the point of view from the Germans. It does not show, unless when it is absolutely necessary, the perspective of other players. Of course, this is a more practical choice. Even with this 'German' only view, we still have about 1200 pages worth of content (the editing on this book is just marvelous. Not a single line seems extraneous, and not a page seems excessive. I wish the editor on this book was hired to edit and re-publish some of the later GOT novels). If the author were to include other perspectives, the book would probably never end.

The actual narrative warrants multiple re-reading. There were times when I could not believe that one person would go from where he was, and become what he became, and do what he did. It's almost like science fiction (not in terms of technology but rather in terms of the events that transpired) except it all happened for real. Also, i was amazed at how much general entertainment borrows from the events that transpired or happened during the reign of the Third Reich. I see now that so much of this stuff has been borrowed by the makers of Star Wars (all seven movies) and Half Life 2. Those are just the stuff that I recognize and I am sure there is more than that elsewhere. Then, the propaganda tools!

Nevertheless, for history buffs (I dont think I am a history buff, yet! Although, I am now looking to read even more history and see where that takes me) this is a must have book. Of course, the book is long, and very thorough. It will take lots of hours, and plenty of patience to go through. Also, speed reading is not allowed here. Further, be prepared to read it again to really see how things are panning out. Another thing to remember, is to have a map handy. Preferably a map of the world that was drawn before 1937 (when things were slowly kicked into motion by the Third Reich), and then follow the map to see how the armies started moving.

Access to the internet is also a good choice while reading the book because the world map changes so quickly as the narrative progresses, its impossible for the mind itself to keep up. Also, the book does not too much on World War I for obvious reasons. So, you may have to read through that on your own. I would recommend this page on TV tropes.

whatever happened to innovation and cool stuff?

There is this one novel, that I read so many times. Actually, it is a series of novels written by Isaac Asimov (the most awesome science fiction author ever) called the Foundation Series. In that, the universe is spread across many systems and planets. As the series beings (chronologically, not the publish date of novels) innovation has slowed down and is about to come to a screeching halt. Folks don't seem to realize that with innovation dead, the entire system will collapse. Then, one guy decides to do something about it. He cannot stop the collapse but he sure can speed up the recovery process.

Today, I looked at two news item. One concerns the mega corporation of Sony. Another concerns the much bigger corporation of Apple. Both of them are talking about the latest iteration of their respective products. I read the news and it is the same old stuff. Bigger processor, better display...and not much else. Of course, I personally haven't created anything impressive nor do I have the money to buy the products on display by these incredibly successful companies.

However, this has become a general trend in technology. It has become a trend in entertainment as well. Every year, we are getting the same stuff we had last year, only a little better. Last year we had 4 GB RAM on our phones. This year, we shall have 8. Next year, we will probably have 16. Same goes to cameras and stuff. Same goes to pretty much everything else. In entertainment too, we see the same things. Just sequels and spin offs and reboots.

Sometimes, I wonder if things have really plateaued? Is there no other cool stuff that can come out of the tech world or the entertainment world? Is everything that can be invented already been invented?

I hope not. I really hope not.

free to play - hearthstone - the good and bad and the worst

Thanks to the lengthy commutes of my daily grind, I am forced to mobile game on the go. Of the many games I could pick up, I decided to go with Hearthstone , about which I heard some good things. One of them being that the game strikes a decent balance between being a 'free to play' title and not a 'pay to play' in disguise.

So, I downloaded the hefty (almost 1 GB of download) and started playing. I was intrigued by the game play. It is a online version of the good old fashioned trading card game. You place your cards on the table, and let the opposite party do the same. Then, using a combination of smart thinking, combo attacks and patience, you try your best to defeat your opponent. In the beginning the game was very cool. In fact, I was convinced that the game is indeed 'free to play'.

Some sections of the game, like the Arena, were actually locked out if you dont pay. And, there were some optional adventures which were locked behind a pay wall. So far so good. I want none of that stuff, so its alright. Then, I started building my deck, and i started playing. Eventually, I became pretty good at it and the effect was a pleasant experience.

Then, the grind started!!!

The game has a ranking system which allows you to play with folks who are similarly ranked. After winning back to back for days together, I eventually plateaued at rank 20. No matter how well I play, and how good my cards were, I could no go beyond that. Even when I had excellent card collection, good health and what not, I always ran into opponents who had cards (like restore full health if your hero is less than 5!!! I mean, what the hell is that all bout?) that I could not find in my deck. Nor could I earn them.

That's when it hit me. Hearthstone is just another 'pay to play' game disguised as a 'free to play'. You pay, you get more packs and you get more cards, and you get better cards. It's just as simple as that. Now, let it not be said that I am too cheap to pay. God no! If the product is worth it, I don't mind. I spend thousands on entertainment anyway. However, the actual price and what you get in return is just bad. For a decent set of cards (I am talking about 100, and you are not guaranteed that you will only get new stuff or stuff that is actually useful) I am looking at a bill of 3000 bucks (yep, three thousand rupees) per month. That's right.

The game releases new stuff every so often, and that means, the 'powerful cards' that you have this month could be outdated (or even removed) in a few months. That is when I realized, this is really just another free to play. You pay you win. I had given up on free to play games a few months. And now that I have seen it again, I see that, it is the same old horse and bull stuff all over again.

Please folks. When downloading these free to play games, think what you are getting into. As for me, I have chucked hearthstone out of my devices, and now engaged in Tomb Raider, Hitman Go and Hitman Sniper. All paid games (with some optional purchases) with excellent value for money no plateauing. Thank god for such small baskets of joy.

donating to feed 4 kids :)

A few months ago, I got a call from a charity organization called Akshaya Patra. The telecaller lady said that they have been helping kids get food for a while now and it would be super cool if study nildana could help.

So, I asked her to do a follow up call a few days later. Meanwhile, I went online did my usual checks to see if it is a legit outlet. From what I could find, it does sound like a legit outlet. So, when she called back, I agreed on behalf to study nildana, to fund 4 kids, which costs a total of 3000 bucks for the entire year. The amount seems reasonable and it is for a good cause. So, study nildana is officially donating and helping 4 kids eat every year.

Thats pretty cool I think.

Now, I would also like to take this opportunity to invite other study nildana interns and pro-interns to do something similar. Contact me through the usual channels, so next year, study nildana can fund even more kids to get timely meals.

Awesomeness, signing out!

Game of Thrones - what next

In the last few months, I have managed to read over 4000 pages worth of GOT narrative. When the year began, I told myself that I would get back into the reading habit, and how I have kept my promise. So, that's good.

Okay, so what happens next in GOT? Let's see what I think.

Perhaps, the biggest topic is Author Existence Failure. The author may simply never get the necessary time he needs to finish the next two books. Going with the assumption that the book 4 and book 5  are actually one book, the author has only written one book in almost 16 years. So, he would need another 32 years to write the next two books. So, I dont really know how that would even work. Of course, the series is his to keep. he can write or he can not write. that is totally up to him.

I personally think that the book series will never be finished.

On the bright side, the TV show seems to be heading towards its conclusion in the next two seasons. So, what started in the book will end for sure in the TV screen at least. We can be sure of this because, while the author has no such hurry, the producers of a TV show cannot wait 32 years to film 10 to 20 episodes. Thank god for such small luxuries that life gives. However, the TV show is already digressing from the book in so many ways, they are not even the same any more. For instance, when Dany makes her escape with her first dragon ride, Tyrion is yet to meet her. In the TV show though, he is already with her, sporting a cool beard. So, so much of stuff has been moved around.

That means, the conclusion in the TV show wont be the actual conclusion of the book series. It will one variant of conclusion.

Now, assuming the books do make it, the bigger question is, who will actually win the game of thrones.

One outcome is that Dany would take the throne and rule with Tyrion. Both of them have been alone (sort of) for the entirety of their lives. Dany has her cool army, she has a goodness about her that people like (kind of like that Robert Baratheon guy who died in the first book) and she has those awesome dragons. Tyrion is the rightful heir to his house, and his house has lots of gold. Of course, Tyrion knows how to play with others, and he makes sensible decisions. He is also sort of friends with the little finger guy and the spiders guy. Tyrion also some ruling experience and he is good at making alliances. In fact, he does not have any enemies other than his own family. Tyrion has been good with the starks. He pays well. He talks well. So, Dany and Tyrion combo might end up winning.

On the other side, I have lost hope that the starks will every do anything significant anymore. Jon is just not smart enough to learn from his mistakes. I dont think he is dead in the books, and he is definitely not dead in the TV show. However, he is not smart or wise. Same goes to Arya, who is essentially an assassin who hides in the dark. Then, Sansa cannot do much on her own. The other two boys, one is learning magic tricks and the another is somewhere, somewhere, god knows where.

The other houses are simply not strong enough to stand on their own. The only one's who can go up against Dany and Tyrion combo would be the weird and so far, hiding in the bushes, The Others. However, their weakness is dragon glass, and Dany has dragons. So, that should not be a problem. However, I do think that they will be the ultimate big bad and the story would conclude.

Those are my predictions and let us see where it goes.

Game of Thrones - Dance With Dragons

[This blog post is rated A for Adult. If you are less than 18, don’t read] 

[Spoiler Alert if you havent watched Game of Thrones or read Game of Thrones]

I have already written about GOT here (Book 1) , here (Book 2) , here (Book 3) and here (Book 4). After the thrill ride that was book 1 to book 3, things came to a screeching halt in Book 4. I also assumed and declared in my earlier blog post that there is no possible way that Book 5 can be any worse than Book 4. I was right. Book 5 is definitely not as bad as Book 4, but it looks like GOT has already peaked with the first three books.

I would say, Book 4 and Book 5 are the matrix sequels. In some ways, I would prefer that the matrix sequels were never made because matrix was so awesome. However, I am already so invested (with the first matrix movie), I had to watch the next two movies. The experience is similar here as well. Okay, I will complain more later but let's get to the stuff in the book 5 now.

Fortunately for all of us, the actual characters we care about in GOT (like the Imp, Jon, Dany and to some extent Theon) make a comeback. Now, I understand that Book 5 runs parallel to Book 4 and eventually overtakes it. It's like following two threads and then, they combine to one narrative. It is explained in Book 4 that the author took this approach because there is so much stuff happening and there was no way to bundled them together.

I for one, am not happy with this approach. Now that I have read Book 4 and Book 5 (and they are essentially one single, albeit big, book), I think the author got too into his own world. It was no longer about following narrative and filling it with characters. It is now all about making a long list of characters, and adding characters for the sake of adding. It's like the author is in a race with himself. He wants to keep adding even more characters, and give each character a setting and then keep giving them backgrounds and motivations.

When the series started, there were a few major houses and they were all connected in some direct ways. that made the plot dense but it still made a lot of sense.  Now though, there are like so many houses, I have lost track who is doing what and why. Sure, the internet is there and Wikipedia is there and there are hundreds of resources. The issue is, the author forgets that there are no magical means of traveling means.

I have read my share of books with loads of characters like the stand and harry potter series. In these books, traveling never took too long. All essential parties were heading towards the same destination, and they were in modern settings. that made things fast.

In GOT world, people can only travel as fast as their animal legs can take. So, the key characters (and now there must more than 3 million characters in the book, and all of them have already had sex with each other) are spread out all over the world. Each character is dancing around on the morality scale. They keep flitting from one side to another. They are making new friends, new enemies and new 'something somethings'. Everybody is backstabbing everybody, and in turn they are getting back stabbed in return. Each time one character has to meet another character, dozes of pages are spent explaining how their journey was.

One road trip is fun. However, if the entire novel is a series of road trips following 3 million characters, it seizes to be fun.

The love of having loads and loads (as I said, 3 million) characters is a personal obsession of the author. It would be nice if each character is given its due, but even an author as accomplished as this guy cannot do justice to all the 3 million characters. That means, we see character development 'halted' for the sake of the narrative to pick up.

The worst offender is what is happening with the dragon lady, Dany.

From the first time we are introduced, it is clear that Dany is that black horse which just might win against all odds. Alone and helpless. Over the books, she is slowing building up her army and now, she has finally amassed her things. And, her dragons are big enough too. They are no longer pets but big monsters which can kill people by hundreds. So, everything is set and she should start marching towards her throne. That is what is expected, but hello, she does not do that. In fact, Dany is almost just as bad as Cersei when it comes to making decisions. Just like Cersei, Dany is all about the dick. If she does not get some on a regular basis, she will pine and pine and...well, keep pining even more.

In some ways, its almost like a stealth parody , Dany and Cersei are. On the outset, it seems like GOT wants to give us strong female characters. For instance, Book 4 gave us so many boring and endless chapters of Brienne (the lone female knight). Dany and Cersei are both pretty powerful characters. Yet, it seems like they still need men and their parts to keep them happy. It's like they cannot do without. "Dany, you have your dragons, army, advisors, council, claim on throne and the list just goes on. Stop pining over the bodyguard's dick and go get some throne, please" is what I was screaming to the book as I was reading it.

Then, when her narrative ends, it is the standard GOT ending. It's kind of like a cliff hanger. It's also kind of lame because the author has done this in almost every chapter since the first book. One cliff hanger is cool. A hundred? Well, its part of the expectations now.

The same parody of women characters continues with the Stark mother as well. Remember how she was 'reanimated' and she is now some weird zombie, badass lady? Yep, it's been two books since she became that, but she has had zero effect on the narrative so far.

At this point, it is clear that Dany's narrative in book 4 and book 5 have zero effect on the rest of the story. The only 'effect' she had was stop slaves from being transported. Apparently, this has had a huge impact on the economy. The thing is, in the original 3 books, and the place where the throne is, no mention is made of everyday slavery. Which means, the actual kingdom cares for naught if slavery is not working or actually working. That means, Dany who is essentially a anti-slavery figure in both of these books, is not affecting the story in any meaningful way.

Also, half the story revolving around Dany is about who will marry her. Yup! that kraken people, want to marry her. Those people on Dorn (for me, the Dorns are the most boring people in the entire book. They almost look like they were tacked on at the last minute) want to marry here. There is some hidden guy, son, something who wants to marry her. Wealthy cities want to marry her. It's like she has an endless list of suitors here. Major chapters are dedicated to people road tripping to meet her. And, continuing the theme of people being stupid in GOT, they all kind of assume that, just because they show up, she will marry them. Why would they just assume that? When she was lonely and helpless, may be. Now she has an army and 3 fully grown dragons. why in the seven gods name would she marry any person who just shows up?

Moving on from Dany, we finally see some consequences of all the dicking around Cersie has been doing. So, that was done. However, I still do not know what impact her shaming has on the overall story. She is back in the castle now. She is back talking to her son. and she is still doing the same scheming stuff. All we know is her bro is no longer supporting her, but that much has been evident for some time now. So, that is not going anywhere either.

Another thing that still upsets me are the Others beyond the Wall. They were teased way back in book 1. Now, 5 books are over, and zombie winter weirdos are still apparently, yet to attack. Sure, they are waiting for winter to come. But, winter has been coming for 5 books now. Move on already. Do something. For me, these white zombies have become like the pirates who dont actually pirate. It's just sad really.

Now, those are all boring stuff which took half of the 5th book (as against the entirety of the 4th book). Moving on to the good stuff, we have some serious activity happening on the wall itself. Jon is the character here, and then there is Stannis. To me, these two present the most logical, honor bound characters in the book. Of course, if you are a honor bound character in GOT, you will be imprisoned, and killed eventually. The trajectory so far in the books indicate that good deeds will be punished.

The thing about this Jon guy, is that, I kind of hope that he would realize that doing the rightful thing is not really valid. I thought after seeing what happened to his dad, he would be a slightly more smarter character. He does not seem to understand that. Is it because he is so young, and hence inexperienced? It is because of the way plot is structured in GOT. Good guys should not win at all. Is that the point? Whatever it, Jon sections are the best in the book.

The same extends to Stannis. In fact, I dont know why Stannis and Jon just make their arrangements, and raise an army together. Stannis of course, has agreed work with this witch doctor lady, so his belief system is definitely corrupted. After all, he did get his brother murdered. However, in GOT that is not unheard of. Further, the bro was acting all smart when he should not be. So, there is that. Also, Stannis army actually seems to like him, and the same probably goes to the people who live under him. He does not indulge in the usual scheming and mistreating and all the other cruel stuff folks do in GOT world. So, overall he is a cool character.

Then, Tyrion as always is a cool guy. However, he is burdened with another lengthy road trip. He is without any power and influence and that means, he cannot do his usual 'chess playing' thing. When you look at how the narrative starts and how it ends, all he did was roam around, get drunk and finally sign up with an army. That is pretty much all he did. Still, he is cool and we have to admit to that.

Lastly, an unlikely, likeable character emerges in the darkness. That is Theon, who is essentially a guy who always exceeds what he can grasp with his hands and fails hilariously. He gets his share of sufferings, and surprisingly he gets some nice arcs to work with here. He goes from being a odd guy who is simply a plot narrative device to becoming a plot essential guy. I kind of see him becoming important in the next few books.

So, that is what I thought about Book 5. Since I am suffering from the 'matrix sequel' syndrome, I have no choice but to buy and read the next books in the series. So, it makes me want to think about what will happen next. I write about that here.

Game of Thrones - Feast for Crows

[This blog post is rated A for Adult. If you are less than 18, don’t read] 

[Spoiler Alert if you havent watched Game of Thrones or read Game of Thrones]

Ah! The book that managed to kill my interest in GOT literature. Perhaps, it was my fault for reading GOT back to back (you know the first three books). Perhaps, it was because this book is actually half a book which killed the narrative. Perhaps, it was because the story has peaked. If there was a single theme that runs through the book, it is 'understanding the aftermath and rebuilding of a world that was destroyed by war'.

In fact, the book plays almost like a documentary at times. The POV characters are simply author avatars. The author wants to tell us how people suffer when a war is over. If I were to summarize, the first book was about how people scheme to bring down existing authority figures. The second book was to illustrate how fragile this world really is. I mean, one king dies and suddenly every kingdom decides to become the main kingdom. The third book is about how ugly things can really get. So, this book is about the rebuilding stuff that happens.

This is good and bad for many reasons. It is good because, as readers we should not be thrilled with all the hefty action stuff but we should be appreciating all the post war stuff as well. It's like, 'yeah, you enjoyed watching the party. Now, you have stay and watching the clean up as well'. In a way, it is good and a nice approach to take. Most books don't spend much time talking about the post-war stuff. This book gives something that is not usually done.

The bad is, this book is actually a half of the book. The next book is the other half. That means we are getting two gigantic volumes of 'post war repair process'. Ah! As a reader, I can handle a chapter or two on the humanity's undying passion towards survival, which lends itself to rebuilding. However, two whole books of rebuilding is just too much to ask. That means, the fourth book took a seriously long time for me to finish. In fact, its outright boring. It wont be a stretch to say that it is more boring than my own novel. It's truly astoundingly boring and god help me, when and if I will ever finish the 5th book (which I purchased!).

Anyway, as I have mentioned previously, this book is about the aftermath of the war, you get a lot of 'road trips'. You mostly have characters walking around watching stuff and seeing how horrifying everything has become. Since, there was no clear outcome from the war, there are power centers everywhere. In some places, there are no power centers at all. That means, there are pockets of power zones which are literally lawless. Folks change their alliances at their own whim and fancy. In fact, half the time, folks dont know why they are fighting with and what they are fighting for. It's very confusing for the people, the POV characters and by extension, us the readers.

What we really have in this book is that there are even more people trying to claim the kingdom. The problem, in the previous books, the people who wanted to weild power were clear cut. For the lannisters, it was the Tywin guy. For the north people, it was the young wolf. For the sea guys, it was the king who listens to the fire girl. on the wall, it was that other guy king. For the dragon people, it is the dragon queen. In this book though, most of the obvious king candidates are all gone. Now, the leftovers (which makes the title of the book all the more appropriate) are fighting with each other, rallying the troupes. That means, along with road trip type narratives, you also get consolidation narratives. There are some small battles here and there, some usual kidnappings and killings but nothing major happens.

In fact, when the book is over, you keep thinking, what did the book really accomplish? Sure, it gives us proof that Jaime is just some young man who was clouded by some false romance. Sure, the book gives a truly badass female knight (who gets caught almost all the time with a constant threat of rape) but to what effect? She has not completed her mission at the end of the book. Cersei finally gets what she has been asking for since 3 books, so that is something. Littlefinger finally starts explaining what his true plans are but he is doing just that. Waiting and planning. That is all. Not much else.

Perhaps, more important, the book spends a lot of time with the female knight and that fat guy (who has slimmed down now, I think) from the wall. Way too much time with them. They dont achieve much which means, it is all just filler. The book has no cool moments or wham episodes which defined GOT till now. If all this is enough, the narrative is all jumbled because, it's half book. That means, the usually cool characters Tyrion and Jon Snow are completely missing. The dragon lady is also missing. Overall, almost everything that makes the GOT stuff cool is missing here. There are way too many filler episodes which just burnt my patience right out. Seriously, it was an exercise in boredom just to finish this book.

Overall, yeah, the book would have been a lot better with shorter chapters, less filler and more of the interesting characters. I am so bummed out after reading this book that I have only read a few chapters of the next book. I hope it is slightly better than this. It has to be because, I doubt GOT can get more boring than this book.

Game of Thrones - Storm of Swords

[This blog post is rated A for Adult. If you are less than 18, don’t read] 

[Spoiler Alert if you havent watched Game of Thrones or read Game of Thrones]

At the point of this writing, I am struggling to read the book 5 of GOT series. It's probably because GOT 4 (feast for crows) is so bad, I am almost depressed to the book 5 which promises to be just another long, winding, boring, 'nothing ever happens' novel.

However, I did not end up hating GOT series (the novels, I mean) until I read book 4. However, when I finished book 3, I was on a total high. So much stuff happened. Like hard hitting things, back to back, I got to admit GOT hit its peak with storm of swords. Sadly, it went so high, the two books that follow (who are technically one book according to the internet and the author himself) look depressingly bad. Anyway, I am sure I will still read the rest of the series because, well, what you gonna do? You are half way through a bad experience. You might as well wait till it gets over.

However, coming back, storm of swords is pretty awesome.

The book picks up right where it stopped. All the new players are pretty established. The stark boy is doing his thing where he is winning wars. The lannisters are doing their thing where they are scheming and paying for everything. The wall side things are happening as expected, now with a heavy dose of under cover stuff happening. Then, on this side, the sea guy is convinced that he is on the right path, although he just lost his face and a major battle.

Speaking of battle, the actual hero of the battle, Tyrion is nothing but upset with the turn of events. You see, his dad is back and he is taking away all his powers. Further, the king ( the incredible joffrey) is hell bent on insulting Tyrion aka his uncle, as much as possible. Then, there is the scheming stuff by the Tyrell's who are marrying off their daughter to the joffrey guy despite knowing he is a complete monster.

On the other side of things, the sea guy who lost the major battle is still convinced that his red hot priestess is still real. So, he continues to support her and they both hatch together a major plan to head to the wall. Of all the places, they go to the wall. And of course, Jon Snow (the totally bad ass guy) is doing his under cover stuff at the wall. All his undercover comes to nothing at the end because, he ends up returning to the wall anyway. So, sometimes I wonder why he bothered to go undercover in the first place. I mostly think that the author had him go undercover so Jon can finally get laid. I really cannot think of any other reason.

Of all the things that happened here, two things stand out for me. The two weddings and the sudden deaths they ensue. The Frey's completely kill their guests. Which is just cruel and also goes to show the the GOT series is ready to showcase humanity at its worst nature. Killing people in the battle is one thing, but killing them at the wedding of your grand daughter (or daughter) is just way too bad. This also makes me think about how stupid the starks are. The young wolf is really that stuipid to think that he can just break alliances without consequences? Why would he think that? Sure, he got a big crush on this other girl and sure he loves her and all, but he must have realized that the people he is doing business with are pretty wary. The alliance is shaky as it is, and the young wolf just goes on with his own personal love stories.

The same stupidity extends to her mother as well. While her son is busy making babies (and simultaneously upsetting a key ally) the mother is busy releasing a key prisoner (the lannister twin guy) with a promise of 'honor'. What!!! We have already seen entire kingdom's break their promises for petty reasons. How would releasing one guy based on some honor promise make a difference? The mind boggles when you think about it. Rightfully so, a lot of other ally's lose confidence in the young wolf after what his mother did.

That death of joffrey was a welcome relief to all those who were upset with him, but the results of that were just equally cruel. Of all the people, Tyrion gets blamed. That's pretty bad because, the lannisters for all their smarts and money, still fail to realize the greatest asset they have. The short, waddling dwarf is their greatest asset. The simple fact that in a world filled with magic, great warriors and swords, this dwarf guy has somehow managed to survive. Instead of keeping him close, the lannisters are too busy insulting him, throwing him in jail and losing his trust. In many ways, whatever is happening to them is kind of what they deserve.

Yes, that dragon lady is still there somewhere but I must admit, her stories are the most boring parts of this book. What to do though, because, she is kind of there.

That is a quick rundown of the key events. Now, one thing which bothers is to try and figure out where is the end game for all this. I am looking at some patterns and try to guess where this is all heading.

At this point, there are no clear winners for sure. The game is even, so all the major players still have an equal chance of winning. Perhaps the once who are clearly on the losing track are the lannisters and their allies. First up, they have lost Tyrion as their friend. Of course, there is the key fact that in the world of GOT, physical prowess matters less than the lineage. Now the head of the lannister family is dead (and Jamie cannot own stuff), Tyrion is the head of the lannister castle. That's a pretty cool situation to be in. Sure, he killed his dad but that does not mean he cannot lay claim to the throne. So, although Tyrion may win, the rest of the lannisters are clearly going to lose. What with the (true) incest rumors, women not being allowed to rule and money running out, they would be wise to make friends. Of course, with the way the remaining key lannister players act, they wont make friends at all. It all looks bad for them.

On the wall, yeah, Jon Snow seems to be in control, but he is under the care of that fire priestess who seems to think magic always rules. However, magic comes at a cost, and so that may not last long.

The north guys are completely lost, so that is a dead end. Now, the book does hint at some new players, and overall, it looks like it is the low key players (like that Varys guy and the Littlefinger guy) may come out the winners. Still though, they dont have prestige or armies. You can play arm chair strategy all you want, but eventually, someone has to go out and fight it out. So, this path may not go far either, although these folks seem to get the most cool moments.

Ultimately, I think the greatest chance of success has to come with the dragon girl. She is away from all this hubbub happening in the main land. She is slowly raising her army. She is slowly building her managing skills. She is slowly learning to build her team of advisors. Lastly, she has dragons who can be serious game changers. Of course, just like the smartness of the Littlefinger, dragons alone cannot win kingdoms. People have and will kill the dragons as well. Still, the dragon girl seems to be leveling up slowly and surely. So, she might eventually end up getting everything she wants.

Of course, there is this unknown factor of The Others. The Others might end up taking care of everything (because, you know, winter is still coming) but for me, The Others are a frustrating part of GOT. They were introduced in the first book. Yep, and since the first book, they are still making their trek towards the wall. Seriously, they were introduce in the very first chapter. And, 3 books in, they are still missing in action. If they are being setup as one big red herring, man, that would be so disappointing.

Overall, Taken together, the first three books of GOT make for perfect reading material. Someday, I might actually re-read them, just for the heck of it.