The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi I have reached an important conclusion concerning my identity as a reader. I am officially a science fiction fan. I can go on to add a willing and excited reader of science fiction. I am new enough to the genre to know I still have a lot to explore, but my first few forays in the world of science fiction have been a triumph. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi is no exception. In fact, since finishing this book I have already gone on to begin book two. In my mind that is the highest compliment I can give to an author; to immediately read more of their works. I learned that for me to truly invest myself into the world a fantasy or science fiction author creates, there has to be a certain level of familiarity. A blend of what truly exists in our world and the unique features of the universe that they have created. It is a delicate balance to borrow and adapt without seeming to “steal” too much of our reality. It is a dance I face daily in my own writing, and one that I think Scalzi executes masterfully. Being a relative newb to this genre, I often find myself rereading passages to make sure I understand what is being conveyed. When reading The Collapsing Empire, the rules of the world were presented in such a fashion it was almost as if I had always known of their existence. I hesitate to give away too much of this gem, but the book is set up as the possible future of the human race after Earth has been lost, or at least deemed uninhabitable. The majority of the population is spread throughout the universe and living on planets that are not truly inhabitable. The only civilization that lives on a planet’s surface, is the End. In order to survive they make use of The Flow, to sustain trade and keep each planet supplied with that they need to survive. The Flow, which is essentially a one-directional worm hole between planets is essential to the survival of the entire Interdependency. The question becomes, what happens when this pivotal network no longer functions as it should? Since its founding, the Interdependency has been led by the Emperox from the Wu family, and as the story begins the leader of the Universe is dying and his unwilling daughter is preparing to assume the weight of the entire system on her shoulders. As is true of any ruler, there are those who wish to control, or even replace her right from the first moments of her rule. While most of the story is told from only three characters' point of view, we are shown the deep impact of their decisions on the fate of the human race. This succinct and captivating novel can easily be finished in one midafternoon reading marathon, and Scalzi’s characters are so engaging that you truly won’t want to put it down. As I read the last sentence, I found myself feeling very grateful that I was able to immediately begin the next book in the series. I think having to wait for the next book would have been a reader’s torture. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book to have on hand for when you have a few hours to yourself. I can confidently say that you will enjoy this highly accessible Space-opera. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi is available from Dragonmount's store as a DRM-free ebook. You can also purchase it on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and your local independent bookseller.
Rajiv Moté is Dragonmount's book blogger with a lens on the craft of fiction writing. When he's not managing software engineers, he writes fiction of his own, which can be found cataloged at his website. Spoilers below for The Wheel of Time books, and the prologues or epilogues of The Handmaid's Tale, A Game of Thrones, The Deathly Hallows, and The Return of the King. The Eye of the World begins with one of the most memorable prologues in epic fantasy, a confrontation between a fallen hero-turned-madman and a villain who takes no joy in his apparent victory. It drops tantalizing hints of a world that is never fully explained, along with the idea that this battle has raged through an endless cycle of ages. And in Chapter One, on an empty road, thousands of years later, the actual story begins. I love prologues and epilogues. They let authors--and their readers--play at the edges of the story. They bridge the installments, expand the world, or just provide more emotional build-up and release. The early-release Wheel of Time prologues, beginning with “Snow” from Winter’s Heart, were like trailers for long-awaited movies. The epilogues of comic books--and the post-credits scenes of the movies comic books inspire--suggest possibilities sometimes more exciting than the stories themselves. “The Grey Havens” in The Lord of the Rings taught grade-school-age me the notion of beautiful melancholy. In The Wheel of Time, the only books without a prologue are New Spring and The Shadow Rising. In the former’s the first chapter, “The Hook,” Lan’s witnessing the end of the Aiel War feels isolated enough from the main story to feel like a prologue. In the latter book, parts of the first chapter were, in fact, a prologue in the advanced reading copy before being integrated. The Shadow Rising’s first chapter surveys a number of points-of-view, a technique both Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson used in subsequent prologues. “Snow” and the prologues that followed, seemed to be written specifically for advance release, checking in on several characters--major and minor--to tease the upcoming book. By contrast, Lord of Chaos is the first book where Robert Jordan used an epilogue, a practice he did not pick up again until 2003-2004, with Crossroads of Twilight and New Spring. But even as early as The Eye of the World, when Moiraine told Lord Agelmar what must be done with the Horn of Valere, and spied on Rand while declaring “the Dragon is Reborn,” Jordan used the final scenes less to conclude the arc of the current novel than to set up the next one. The final chapter, “After,” of The Great Hunt, was even more explicitly an epilogue, switching to an omniscient point-of-view to describe how the ending of the Hunt reverberated across the continent. Prologues and epilogues, whether labeled so or not, are consistent features of The Wheel of Time. They give readers a look at the story’s place in the larger world, either through new point-of-view characters (in a story with dozens already), or sweeping narration across ages and geography. Most Western notions of story demand that it begins when the protagonists face a threat to their status quo, and ends with a new status quo. In big, secondary world stories, prologues and epilogues allow readers to break outside the structure of Aristotle's unities (action, place, time) and Gustav Freytag’s dramatic acts (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement). We glimpse people and events that inform--but are not part of--the story to come, or linger in the denouement, seeing how the story ripples beyond its bounds. We get to enjoy further the world in which they are investing hours of imaginative immersion. The Eye of the World’s prologue puts Rand al’Thor’s story into the vaster context of an eternal battle between the Dragon and the Dark One, where Rand’s struggle becomes Lews Therin’s second chance. This widening scope shares similarities with the epilogue of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It occurs hundreds of years after the events of Offred’s story. An academic puts Offred’s harrowing and uncertain fate into the context of the rise and fall of the oppressive regime of Gilead. In both novels, these story fragments, separated in time, reframe the main tale. Both offer hope in the long arc of history. They imply other stories. The “Dragonmount” prologue introduces readers to the saga’s real stakes. On the way to Tarmon Gaidon, though, there are hundreds of pages focused on the Aiel, the return of Hawkwing’s armies, the Shaido, the Bowl of Winds, Andor’s royal succession, and the schism and healing of the White Tower. The prologue keeps readers’ eyes on the prize. The prologue in George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones does the same, letting the readers know that the Iron Throne is a distraction from the real threat: the Others are coming (someday?) with The Winds of Winter. The scope of epics means not every plot thread gets wrapped up when the core story ends. Falling action and denouement can be a narrow frame for the catharsis readers want. In “To See the Answer,” the epilogue to A Memory of Light, we know that the Light triumphed in Tarmon Gaidon, but we still want hints of what the future holds for our surviving heroes in the Fourth Age. The answers give us just enough to imagine the future. And like Sister Night stepping out onto a swimming pool at the end of HBO’s Watchmen, a mysteriously lit pipe suggests an entirely new set of possibilities that will only live in our imaginations. The Wheel turns. Sometimes we want more than just assurances that the story goes on. It’s not essential to know that, at the end of The Lord of the Rings, the mallorn tree that Samwise Gamgee planted became famous, and the beer of 1420 was remembered for generations. But it feels good. And fans young and old were glad to know that after Voldemort’s destruction, Harry married Ginny, Hermione married Ron, they all remained friends, and their children attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, surely to have adventures of their own. After spending years invested in a story world, readers take comfort not only that the world continues, but that it’s a better place for the struggles of its heroes. Readers need structure to navigate a sprawling epic. But they want emotional payoffs too, and everyone has a secondary plot line, character, or detail they hold especially dear. Prologues and epilogues, the stories around the stories, give the reader this richer satisfaction. When I return to these worlds, they’re the first parts I revisit. What’s your favorite prologue or epilogue?
The latest casting announcement for the Amazon Prime Wheel of Time television show has been announced. Darryl McCormack as Aram Maria Doyle Kennedy as Ila Narinder Samra as Raen These new announcements shouldn't come as any real shocker. Darryl McCormack and Maria Doyle Kennedy were introduced as characters ages ago. Many speculated that Darryl McCormack could be Aram, but most thought Maria Doyle Kennedy was sure to play an Aes Sedai. It's nice to finally have confirmation for these two characters, and the addition of Narinder Samra as Raen. I personally love the idea of the Tuatha'an within the series. Their way of life is simplistic and idealistic. But like Perrin, I agree it's not really applicable in society. Still, I cannot wait to see the Tinkers on the screen. Perhaps the show will even give more closure for their society than what we received in the novels. Maybe they'll find their song. You can check out the latest edition of The Wheel of Time Community Show where Thom gives you all the details you'll need about our beloved Tinkers. Did anyone anticipate Maria Doyle Kennedy as Ira? Let us know in the comments!
The latest casting announcement for the Amazon Prime Wheel of Time television show has been announced. Darren Clarke as Basel Gill Basel Gill plays an important role in reuniting our beloved Two Rivers characters, and this announcement could mean we're getting closer to the in-book scenes in Caemlyn. Will Elyane be revealed next? Or maybe Morgase? Gareth Bryne? Maybe Elaida? Or is this an indication that Master Gill's character is changing or evolving from his role in the books? The Twitter feed for @WOTonPrime seems to be aligning their announcements with what's happening in the books--based on the #TwitterofTime book club reading of The Eye of the World. If we get this information when Basel isn't even mentioned (they read chapters 19-22 this week), it could be foreshadowing about changes to the storyline. What do you think? Is the Two Rivers group heading to Caemlyn? Or will Basel Gill appear elsewhere? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Things have been surprisingly busy since our last check-in, with Amazon revealing multiple new castmembers for the show. To quickly get up to speed, the new characters announced are as follows: Christopher Sciueref as Abell Cauthon. Juliet Howland as Natti Cauthon. Mandi Symonds as Daise Congar. Lolita Chakrabarti as Marin al’Vere. Michael Tuahine as Bran al’Vere. David Sterne as Cenn Buie. Abdul Salis as Eamon Valda Stuart Graham as Geofram Bornhald. Jennifer Preston as Mistress Grinwell. Pasha Bocarie as Master Grinwell. Izuka Hoyle as Dana. With the exception of “Dana,” these are all characters well-established in the books, consisting of a sizeable chunk of the Emond’s Field supporting cast, two of the Whitecloaks and two farmers met by Rand and Mat on their journey. There are two questions that the latest casting announcements encourage: who is Dana and why haven’t we heard anything about Elayne or Min? There is no Dana, there is Only…? In the Wheel of Time novels, the name Dana is notable by not actually existing. The closest approximation is “Dena,” the name of a young gleeman whom Thom takes on as a student (and lover) in The Great Hunt. Changing “Dena” to “Dana” seems fairly pointless, but it is possible that they will introduce Dena much earlier in the TV show and perhaps have Thom meet her after he parts ways with Rand and Mat. Keeping Thom’s story on screen saves it disappearing for a large stretch of time (probably well into the second season), which is useful for keeping the actor gainfully employed in the meantime. It is also possible that the producers have already decided not to feature Dena (a very minor character in the books) and borrowed her name for Else Grinwell. With several “E” names already present in the first season (Egwene, Elayne, presumably Elyas), introducing some name variety is a good idea. It seems a bit silly, but other shows have also done this kind of name-changing on occasion (most famously, turning “Asha Greyjoy” in Game of Thrones into “Yara Greyjoy” because they deemed it too similar to the already-introduced wildling character of Osha). The fact that Dana was announced at the same time as the Grinwells adds credence to that theory, although you’d assume that they’d also have just announced her as “Dana Grinwell” in that case. There is also the possibility that “Dana” is a codename for another role, ranging from Mili Skane (the last Darkfriend standing, first introduced in The Eye of the World) to the intriguing (if somewhat farfetched) possibility that she is actually “Dana Bornhald,” the genderflipped daughter of Geofram Bornhald. That seems unlikely, but remains a possibility, since Dana and Dain are closely related names. Is Min MIA? Another discussion engendered by the announcements is the fate of Elmindreda Farshaw, or “Min,” a fan-favourite character who appears early on in The Eye of the World. Min only has a small role in that book but goes on to have a much bigger role in the rest of the series. Min first appears in the town of Baerlon. Curiously, we have not heard any casting at all for notable characters in Baerlon (such as Dain Bornhald, despite his father being cast) and the episode titles suggest that if our heroes are stopping in Baerlon at all in the show, it’ll be for a very brief visit (the second episode is called Shadow’s Waiting, suggesting that most or all of the Shadar Logoth storyline will take place in that episode, which limits the time that can be spent in Baerlon). This has led to the speculation that Min has been cut from the first season and will appear in Tar Valon in Season 2, or, more intriguingly, will show up in the Queen’s Blessing Inn instead, working for Basel Gill. The rumour mill suggests that Gill has also been cast, but we have had no official confirmation from Amazon yet. This latter idea has a lot of promise, since it means that Min and Rand can meet up and spend several days together rather than the comparatively brief meeting in Baerlon. My strong suspicion is that Min has been cast for Season 1 but not announced yet, and appearing later in the season would explain why the announcement has not yet been made. Of course, it could be that “Dana” is a code name for Min. Trakands or Not Trakands? Another question is hovering over the fate of the entire family Trakand. The royal family of Andor has a small but key role in The Eye of the World, when Rand’s curiosity gets the better of him and he ends up in an ad hoc royal audience with Queen Morgase and her court. Particularly important in this sequence is that he meets Elayne Trakand, Daughter-Heir of Andor, but many characters critical to the later storylines show up at this point: Gawyn, Galad, Gareth Bryne, Elaida, Morgase, Lini and Martyn Tallanvor. That’s seven characters with multi-season roles to introduce at once, which is why I’m increasingly sceptical that it will be adapted faithfully. It might make more sense, especially from a budgetary point of view, to skip this scene and introduce Elayne, Gawyn and Galad in Season 2 instead, and potentially Morgase and Gareth as well (Lini and Tallanvor are relatively minor characters who are ripe for the chopping, although I think fans would hate to see Lini and her endless quotes cut from the series). The only problem with this approach is that Elayne and Elaida are such major characters that introducing them as early as possible seems like a much better idea. They could also cut the difference: cut the court scene but introduce Elayne and Elaida via the expanded Logain storyline, as we know there will be new material for Logain relating to his capture in battle and subsequent journey to Caemlyn and Tar Valon (it’s also likely that this is where we will meet Alanna and Liandrin). These are key questions that will, of course, keep fans guessing until Amazon confirm the full cast for the first season. As usual, let us know your thoughts in the comments and keep checking in with the Dragonmount TV page for the latest developments.
Harriet McDougal is best known for her illustrious career as a book editor, including for her work on the Wheel of Time. She's also been an acclaimed sponsor, donor, and all-around humanitarian, but now she can add one more thing to her list of accomplishments: being featured on TV. Recently, TV personality Monty Don featured her home on his program, Monty Don's American Gardens. In this particular episode he explores the gardens of the Southern United States, including Harriet's hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. We coved this topic in our latest episode of The Wheel of Time Community Show on YouTube. Take a look: Tell us what you think in the comments, and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Amazon Prime announced today, via social media, the casting of three actors for The Wheel of Time TV show. Jennifer Preston as Mistress Grinwell Pasha Bocarie as Master Grinwell Izuka Hoyle as Dana There’s already been some debate on who Dana might be. Listed with Mistress and Master Grinwell, logic would say she’s Else Grinwell but with a different name (we already have two major characters with E names—Egwene and Elayne—so this change might be to cause less confusion for TV viewers). There’s also Dena—Thom’s apprentice in The Great Hunt. It seems too early to have her appearing, though. But in the world of cinematic storytelling, who know! Let us know who you think Dana might be in the comments below!
Amazon Prime announced today, via social media, the casting of 2 actors for The Wheel of Time TV show. Abdul Salis as Eamon Valda. Stuart Graham as Geofram Bornhald. . These actors have been rumored for a while, but we've only now reported on them because of Amazon's confirmation. Production on the TV show has been halted since March due to the global COVD-19 pandemic. It's believed that filming will resume this summer, perhaps as early as July, in Prague where most of the show has been filmed. So far 6 out of the first 8 episodes for Season 1 have been shot. Casting for the TV show is primarily handled by the KVH Casting Agency in London. For more information on The Wheel of Time TV show and cast, visit our TV section. Check out what we thought about this casting announcement on The Wheel of Time Community Show on YouTube. Tell us what you think of these casting announcements in the comments!
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor There is great beauty in a willingness to see the world through someone else’s eyes. I have come to find it even more important in our world’s changing and uncertain times to surround myself with media that helps to broaden my worldview. In my opinion it is truly one of the best things about literature, more so than any other medium. Reading requires you to use your imagination and visualize. A well written book can take you to another world and allow you to walk in someone else’s shoes. Binti is a 2015 award-winning science fiction novella by Nnedi Okorafor. Our main character Binti is a sixteen-year-old minority prodigy. She is offered a position at the prestigious Oomza University, something that no one else in her village would ever consider. Part of the Himba people, Binti was always destined to succeed her father in their business. The Himba people are deeply tied to their ancestral land, and they believe that if you move away you will begin to diminish. They even coat their bodies in a special material “Otjize” made from a red clay from the earth and the oil from local flowers. It is what makes Binti’s resolve to venture out into the universe even more inspiring. Surrounded by people foreign to herself, Binti finds similarities in a love of learning. She quickly makes friends and becomes more comfortable with the idea of being so far from home. Much like in real life, Binti’s leap of faith is not met with an easy road. She is faced with challenges and strife and is forced to find her own inner strength. I would recommend this book to fantasy and sci-fi readers alike. It is a quick read and offers a story that is richly woven with ethnic issues. I am excited to read the next two novellas in the series. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is available from Dragonmount's store as a DRM-free ebook. You can also purchase it on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and your local independent bookseller.
Amazon Prime announced today, via social media, the casting of six actors for The Wheel of Time TV show. Christopher Sciueref as Abell Cauthon. Juliet Howland as Natti Cauthon. Mandi Symonds as Daise Congar. Lolita Chakrabarti as Marin al’Vere. Michael Tuahine as Bran al’Vere. David Sterne as Cenn Buie. Christopher Sciueref as Abell Cauthon. Juliet Howland as Natti Cauthon. Mandi Symonds as Daise Congar. Lolita Chakrabarti as Marin al’Vere. Michael Tuahine as Bran al’Vere. David Sterne as Cenn Buie. Several of these actors have been rumored for a while, but we've only now reported on them because of Amazon's confirmation. These specific roles are likely limited in their scope, with the actors appearing only or primarily in the first couple of episodes of the season. Production on the TV show has been halted since March due to the global COVD-19 pandemic. It's believed that filming will resume this summer, perhaps as early as July, in Prague where most of the show has been filmed. So far 6 out of the first 8 episodes for Season 1 have been shot. Casting for the TV show is primarily handled by the KVH Casting Agency in London. For more information on The Wheel of Time TV show and cast, visit our TV section. Check out what we thought about this casting announcement on The Wheel of Time Community Show on YouTube. Tell us what you think of these casting announcements in the comments!
Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Money may not always make the world go around but it is certainly important when you want to make an expensive fantasy TV show featuring nonhuman creatures, sorcery and vast ruined cities. It’s been known for a while that Amazon have dramatically increased the money they are spending on their shows. A few years ago, Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon and Richest Man on Earth™, told his TV division to start spending big and look for the “next Game of Thrones” to help popularise Amazon’s streaming division. They took that to heart, snapping up not just The Wheel of Time, but also J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth for a new prequel TV show set in the Second Age, telling the story of the forging of the Rings of Power and the original rise of the Dark Lord Sauron. The budget for the Middle-earth show is widely-known, having been discussed in the trade magazines at the time. The Tolkien Estate sold additional rights to the Middle-earth books to Amazon for an unprecedented sum of $250 million. They also included a stipulation that each of the show’s seasons was to have a budget of between $100 million and $150 million. With apparently ten episodes per season, that gives the show a budget of $10-15 million per episode. For comparison’s sake, HBO’s Game of Thrones was given a budget of $100 million for each of its final three seasons, which, due to a declining episode order per season, gave them a per-episode budget of approximately $10 million (for Season 6), $14 million (for Season 7) and $16.7 million (Season 8), so the Tolkien series will be in the same ballpark. The budget for the Wheel of Time TV show has been much more of a secret, at least up until recently. WoTSeries.com did some digging and found publicly-disclosed funding which seems to indicate how much money is being spent on the project. The Wheel of Time TV show is being shot in the Czech Republic, in studios in the capital city of Prague with location filming in surrounding areas and across the border in Slovenia. As is common, the Czech government has tax rebates and incentive funding available for shows that film in the country, the idea that by spending a certain amount of money to encourage the production to remain in the country, the production will spend more money and the local economy will benefit, encouraging more shows to shoot there. This has been successful in recent years, with the Czech Republic becoming a hub of filming with numerous projects setting up shop there (Carnival Row is shooting in studios near the Wheel of Time production base, for example). The rebate is based on the idea of “Czech spending,” how much of the budget is being spent in the country itself, with the production able to expect 20% of the budget refunded by the government. In the case of The Wheel of Time, we now know that $14.9 million was refunded by the government to Amazon for Season 1 of the show. Some rather simple back-of-the-napkin maths shows that Amazon must have spent $74 million in the Czech Republic to qualify for a $14.9 million rebate. Of course, that’s not the total budget for the show. Casting was carried out in the United Kingdom and a large chunk of post-production is likewise being handled in the UK, by Cinesite Studios and several other CGI companies. There is also editing, mixing, musical composition and other post requirements taking place in the United States. All of that comfortably lifts the total budget to well over $80 million and likely significantly more (the CG effects requirements for the show will be enormous). With showrunner Rafe Judkins recently confirming eight episodes for each of the first two seasons, that puts the per-episode budget of The Wheel of Time at well over $10 million per episode, comparable to Game of Thrones circa Season 6 and not far off the budget of the new Lord of the Rings project. It’s worth noting that Game of Thrones’ budget only started at $6 million per episode when filming started in 2009 (about $7.2 million in today’s money, thanks to inflation). The Witcher’s first season had a budget of around $70 million in total (about $7.7 million per episode), although some figures place it at closer to $80 million (around $8.8 million per episode), so Wheel of Time will certainly outrange its Netflix competition. The show will live or die on its writing, direction and performances, but it’s good to see that Amazon is providing enough financial resources to bring Robert Jordan’s grand vision to life. In other news, WoTSeries has an interesting feature on the set of Emond’s Field being removed and on the logistics of location shooting, as well as finding confirmation that the Emmy Award-winning Ondřej Nekvasil is the main production designer on the show. Daniel Henney (Lan) has posted the second part of his recent online Q&A, confirming that he sees himself working on The Wheel of Time for many years to come. Zoe Robins (Nynaeve) has also been interviewed in her native New Zealand, in which she discusses the show and seems to confirm the previously-mooted 2021 release date (although how the pandemic impacts on that remains to be see). As usual, we will bring you all the latest news here on Dragonmount’s TV page. Also, sure to watch our latest video on The Wheel of Time Community Show on YouTube where host Thom talks about this budget topic.