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Coursera: Online Games Week 2

This week in Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative

This week the class is going to dig a little deeper into Tolkien, the social aspect of MMOs and take a look at one of my favorite epic poems: Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Readings
– J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring (complete novel)
– Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

Gameplay
This week’s in-game activities ask you to explore (or if you are a more experienced player, help others to explore) the social world of LOTRO. You have two options for completing the in-game assignment:

1. If you are in one of the four Coursera kinships, participate in the games planned for Saturday, July 26, 2014. Take a screenshot of yourself and some of your kin mates at the games.
OR
2. If you are not a member of one of the Coursera kinships, you should join a kinship and have a conversation with another member of the kinship in /kinship chat. Then travel to your kinship house and take a screenshot of yourself in front of or inside it. If your kinship does not have a house, travel to one of the housing areas on your own and explore. Find an interesting place to take a screenshot of your character in the kinship area.

I’ve started watching (well, listening) to the videos for this week already. I’m SUPER excited about Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came! I first ran across this poem in college and I even got a chance to study and discuss it one-on-one with a professor. Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came was also Stephen King’s inspiration and muse for his magus opus: The Dark Tower series (which was originally titled series titled “Wizard and Glass.”

I have to admit – I’m a little behind. I haven’t completed all of the readings and gameplay for last week as of yet. O_O I need to get on it as I have some assignments to turn in.

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The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

the wee free men

“Another world is colliding with this one,” said the toad. “All the monsters are coming back.”

“Why?” said Tiffany.

“There’s no one to stop them.”

There was silence for a moment.

Then Tiffany said, “There’s me.”

Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home. Forced into Fairyland to seek her kidnapped brother, Tiffany allies herself with the Chalk’s local Nac Mac Feegle – aka the Wee Free Men – a clan of sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men who are as fierce as they are funny. Together they battle through an eerie and ever-shifting landscape, fighting brutal flying fairies, dream-spinning dromes, and grimhounds – black dogs with eyes of fire and teeth of razors – before ultimately confronting the Queen of the Elves, absolute ruler of a world in which reality intertwines with nightmare. And in the final showdown, Tiffany must face her cruel power alone….

In a riveting narrative that is equal parts suspense and humor, Carnegie Medalist Terry Pratchett returns to his internationally popular Discworld with a breathtaking tale certain to leave fans, new and old, enthralled.

I really enjoyed this!

My friends have raved about Discworld for years…but every time I tried to read The Color of Magic I found myself dying of boredom.

One of my friends recommended that I start with The Wee Free Men…thank you! This was quite cute and I really enjoyed it. That’s 1 Discworld down, only 5,895,986,856 to go.

Four Stars!

The Gods of Dream by Daniel Arenson

teh gods of dream

Visited Narnia and Middle Earth? Now escape into Dream.

THE GODS OF DREAM — a fantasy novel by Daniel Arenson

What are dreams? Some think they are figments of our mind. But what if they were wisps of a distant, magical world… a world you could visit?

Twins Cade and Tasha discover Dream, the land dreams come from. It is a realm of misty forests, of verdant mountains, of mysterious gods who send dreams into our sleep. Cade and Tasha seek solace there; they are refugees, scarred and haunted with memories of war. In Dream, they can forget their past, escape the world, and find joy.

Phobetor, the god of Nightmare, was outcast from Dream. Now he seeks to destroy it. He sends his monsters into Dream, and Cade and Tasha find their sanctuary threatened, dying. To save it, the twins must overcome their past, journey into the heart of Nightmare, and face Phobetor himself.

Discover a world of light and darkness, of hope and fear, of dreams and nightmares.

I really can’t review this book very well so I am not giving it a star rating.

I did not like the writing – the prose felt choppy. The descriptive language was great in some instances and downright atrocious in others.

The characterization felt…forced and it gave me a…decided lack of empathy towards the characters. I didn’t feel sympathetic towards the main characters at all and I know I should – the constant references towards the incident that scarred the twins but is never explained was rather annoying.

The dialogue felt choppy and immature…and I’m feeling that this should have been structured towards YA/MG crowd rather than adults (with the exception of the gross descriptions of Nightmare and the sex that goes with it. *shudder*).

And just to be honest – The butterfly winged kittens through me for a major loop… and dammit! Sir Grendel??! *face palm* Not the name you want to invoke when being even remotely serious. The moment I saw that I was taken completely out of the book (again).

I don’t know…maybe I didn’t have the correct mindset for this one. I was expecting something closer to Narnia (my all-time favorite) and I saw the Narnia inspiration (talking hawks and human children fated to save the land) but… it’s a solid DNF for me. I’m kinda upset about this because I really wanted to like this book.

DNF

Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines

goblin quest

Jig is a scrawny little nearsighted goblin-a runt even among his puny species. Captured by a party of adventurers searching for a magical artifact, and forced to guide them, Jig encounters every peril ever faced on a fantasy quest.

I first heard about Jim C. Hines via a mention the Dear Author blog. Jim Hines created a hilarious poem based off of the song Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot. I laughed so hard when reading his poem Baby Got Books that I had to chase down his blog.

I learned that Jim Hines wrote comedic fantasy in the same vein as The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Another Fine Myth. Delighted, I poked around his back list to locate a good starting place. I decided to start with Goblin Quest and I’m so happy I did.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk this year. There’s not been much that has caught my attention. But this? This was wonderful! I had so much fun while still getting every single bit of a typical fantasy adventure. !!!

I loved Jig. He’s a great character. It was funny to read the point of view from someone who is normally considered “the bad guy.” Instead of being the bad guy, Jig is a totally awesome good guy. He helps others, he loves and cares, he’s smart and canny.

I’m currently waiting for the rest of this series to arrive. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Jig the Goblin Hero.

The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams

war of the flowers

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Returning to the fantasy genre that made him a coast-to-coast best-selling phenomenon, Tad Williams has written a new stand-alone contemporary novel set in Northern California-and also in the strange parallel world that coexists in the farthest reaches of the imagination.

Theo Vilmos is a thirty-year-old lead singer in a not terribly successful rock band. Once, he had enormous, almost magical, charisma both onstage and off-but now, life has taken its toll on Theo. Hitting an all-time low, he seeks refuge in a isolated cabin in the woods-and reads an odd memoir written by a dead relative who believed he had visited the magical world of Faerie. And before Theo can disregard the account as the writings of a madman, he, too, is drawn to a place beyond his wildest dreams…a place filled with be, and has always been, his destiny.

This book.

This book should be called “Depression in 5 easy steps.”

It starts with our hero. 30 y/o Theo who sings in a garage band with high school students.

It progresses to his girlfriend having a horrible bloody miscarriage while he’s out playing around with said teenagers.

Moving on from there, his girlfriend dumps him and kicks him out (agreed) and then 30 y/o Theo moves in with mom.

Depressed yet? No? Don’t worry, I have more.

Turns out Mom has cancer…and she dies after a few months.

So Theo then sells mom’s house…to a couple who get brutally murdered inside that same house within the month.

Guess what page we’re on? 88.Yeah, there’s no way I want to read more of this. But Carol has a wonderful review of what else depressing and asshole-ly actions Theo gets up to here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/161167442