Friday, 2 July 2021

Red Mars

In 1992 Kim Stanley Robinson published the first book in his phenomenal trilogy about the colonization of Mars. Taking a look at the information we had on Mars at the time, how it might effect people living there, and telling a very deep story about community, Robinson paints a fascinating picture of life on the Red Planet, and how humans end up changing the environment of Red Mars.

Come the year 2020, the first humans set foot on Mars. John Boone is the first man out of the lander, and in one small step becomes the most famous man in the Solar system since Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth or Neil Armstrong. Returning to Earth, he puts his heart and soul into creating a mission to settle Mars. Wrapped up in the heady wines of fame, discovery, and international popularity, Russia and the United States begin constructing everything they need to settle the Red Planet.

With a reasonably vigorous testing system, a faux Martian settlement in Antarctica, and lots and lots of psychoanalysis, the United States, Russia, and various others from numerous nations representing one hundred in number, set off to colonize Mars on the ship Ares in 2026. Led by John Boone, his American counterpart Frank Chalmers, the excitable Russian Arkady Bogdanov, and the other Russian leader Maya Toitovna, the First Hundred head to Mars.

From there we have an exciting series of landings, struggles against nature, and exploration. From the landing of the First Hundred on Mars, the exploration of the Martial North Pole, and the struggles of building in low gravity, the initial backdrop for the colonization of Mars is vividly realized. There's many poignant and breathtaking explorations of Martian vistas, the world around them, and the different skies people see.

Much like all of Robinsons work, the story is also very ideological. There are those who want to terraform Mars as fast as possible, known as Greens, while there are those who want to be slow and methodical, keeping Mars pristine, known as Reds. Then others want to simply learn how to live in coexistence with this environment, for as long as possible. This ideological debate informs much of the early story, and it seems there are those willing to go to any lengths to see their views come out on top.

There is also no agreement on how Mars should be governed, or even developed. Initially the UN supports the slow approach, but pressure from a world that is overpopulated, resource hungry transnational corporations, and other factors, push them along the quick path. Then comes the question of who exactly governs Mars. Who sets the laws, who polices people, and who profits from all the work being done? That is an extremely messy question with no easy answer.

I found that, from the trip on Ares on, the story hooked me. Personally, I enjoyed the more confined element of the ship over from a story telling view, but it worked very well introducing us to all the various characters. It established personalities, ideologies, and competing interests very effectively for the eventual struggles which would culminate in the final acts of the novel. None of the characters ever felt like a cardboard cutout, and many had interesting depths. Some were better than others, but they generally didn't interact enough outside the First Hundred to really flesh the world beyond them out, so one might say the story is told almost exclusively from their view of it.

Some elements were told simply for plot. The idea of a stowaway on something as sensitive as a colonization mission to Mars is a bit extreme. Then a few of the ideological and cultural patterns did stretch belief (no idea who the Big Man of Mars is supposed to be represented by) but nothing really pulled me out of the story or ruined it. Reading this story with all we know now in the 2020s - and without a First Man on Mars - is interesting, as we see what people thought of Mars in the 90s. It's definitely going to be interesting how many speculations from the novel end up being correct from looking at the Martian environment.

Red Mars is an amazing piece of the classic science fiction canon, and a strong opening in this trilogy. Definitely worth checking out!

Friday, 18 June 2021

Parable of the Talents

Lauren Olamina has, after losing everything, finally found family and community again. She's built a community on the land of her husband's family, a place where her religion of Earthseed can grow. From there perhaps it can spread to the greater world, and then to the stars. First though, she'll have to keep it against the rise of a much more terrifying temporal power seeking to make America great again. Will she multiply her talents, or find them buried in the earth? This is Parable of the Talents.

From goodreads

The story picks up five years after the conclusion of Parable of the Sower in 2032, she and her small group in the community of Acorn have grown and prospered. Lauren hopes to use the community as a base of operations to spread her new religion of Earthseed. However, America is still in decline, coasts are collapsing, violence and banditry is endemic, and the economy is in freefall. However, one man, a Senator and preacher named Andrew Steel Jarret, is promising a vision of Christian America which will "Make America Great Again" and restore the nation to the glory it once had.

Against this backdrop, Lauren must try and spread her religion, raise a family, and keep her people safe. 

The story, again deliver in epistle style, is buttressed by another viewpoint this time. Lauren's daughter Larkin (or Asha Vere) writes about her mother and the spread of her religion, how that affected her development, and the way it impacted history. It adds a very critical, and not necessarily sympathetic, lens to the story. I greatly enjoyed how this was seamlessly interwoven into the material and it actually created far more suspense than you might expect. It also adds a great element of tragedy.

Unsurprisingly, the book is one of immense suffering and loss. It follows the country through the years of President Jarret and his "Christian America" which merges the worst parts of theocracy and authoritarianism. Indeed, it actually impacts Larkin's development in a way many who had read of Franco's Spain would find very familiar. This does allow though, for the exploration of many aspects of authoritarianism, ideology, ministry and proselytism. 

The Christian America brand is selling a vision of America of old and - stop me if this sounds familiar - a time when things were better, American values were emphasized and America was a Christian nation. They preach from the pulpit and the political campaign, and they deliver charity, homeless shelters and project an image of American strength. That they also deliver witch burnings, vigilante justice, and fanaticism metted out by "Crusaders" is part and parcel.

In contrast, Lauren must try and spread her new religion covertly. To avoid drawing the ire of the more powerful (and quasi state-religion) of Christian America, she has to work with those she trusts. Eventually she has to get on the road and preach, in sequences that will be familiar to missionaries and pollsters from time immemorial. It makes for more harrowing tales, but does give a very good insight into how religions or movements can start. It was something I found fascinating, and these internal problems make up many of the asides in the book.

You'll be gratified (horrified?) to see there's action as well. It's one where we find, and lose, family and even see that family can be broken up pretty spectacularly. Religion can unite, and it can divide. To quote an old professor of mine "Religion is wonderful, until it's not," which you can broadly say is what many of the characters in this book discover! It does though, share how Earthseed develops, and that is well worth exploring for contrast.

I will admit that there were some scary parallels to contemporary politics, but considering this book was written in the 90s, well after the Reagan Administration and the Satanic Panic and Moral Majority era, it's pushing it to call the novel "prescient" in that sense, as the edition I picked up did. It does have a number of worryingly close parallels with the rise of climate change, authoritarian political activism, and others, but it isn't about those issues per-say, but about how Lauren and her family, and religion, live through those times. That may be an important message going forward.

The final act of the book though, for all the implications of Earthseed and its growth, did feel a bit rushed. There could have been a little more with a time skip to help, some more exploration of Lauren's relationship with her daughter, and more about the future, but all in all I did enjoy it. Not perhaps as much as the first installment in the series, but I greatly enjoyed how it did its best to wrap the series up. Well worth exploring. As before though, I leave you with the true Parable of the Talents:

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV)

Friday, 4 June 2021

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Once upon a time, a 16 year old boy penned a fantasy series that went on to be a best seller. Now that boy has matured and taken his work to the stars. Christopher Paolini's latest work is extremely divergent from his best selling Inheritance Cycle. Now, grounded firmly in our world, he sets out to deliver a new science fiction epic which tells the tale of war among the planets near and around Earth.

The story begins on Adrasteia, a small possibly habitable moon orbiting the gas giant Zeus in the Sigma Draconis system. There xenobiologist Kira Navarez is working with a survey team to help catalogue the planets few indigenous lifeforms while the planet itself is prepared for terraforming. However, during her searches, she stumbles across something she doesn't understand.

Finding herself bonded with an alien artifact she is first poked and prodded by the forces of the League of Allied Worlds and the UMC (United Military Command) only to then be attacked by sentient aliens in a first contact scenario gone horribly wrong. With humanity suddenly at war, she may be their only hope at peace, or humanity may ending up sleeping forever in a sea of cold stars.

Image is my own

This work is one which is well grounded in speculative science fiction. From the way humans travel between star systems, the power for ships, the ship design and the various other aspects, I found myself greatly enjoying the near future (2257) that Paolini presented. It was both enjoyably alien and utterly relatable. That made it easy to get lost in the world he crafted, and gave me many hours of pleasurable reading. That there's a handy glossary in the back helped immenseley with keeping the various technologies and ideas straight.

The aliens too were quite intriguing. It made them as alien as possible without being uninterpretable. I won't spoil too much about them, but audiences are bound to be fascinated by the Jelly's as humans come to know them.

We also have a very strong cast. Kira is our only view point character, and we largely interact with the world through her eyes and senses. She goes from being a completely normal human, to something very much beyond, that. She interacts first with her own crewmates on the small survey team, the UMC on the UMCS Extenuating Circumstances, and finally, the very eclectic crew of the SLV Wallfish.

Out of all these groups we get to know the Wallfish crew the best. There's the gruff but surprisingly deep Captain Falconi, First Officer Nielsen, the excitable young Trig, taciturn Sparrow, machine-boss Hwa-Jung, crew's doctor Vishal and finally the possibly insane ship's-mind Gregoravitch. They all mesh very well together and create a cast I was very fond of and wanted to see succeed. I truly felt the peril for them as Paolini does not spare anyone if he can help it. And through the diverse cast he establishes the world quite creatively.

The story goes through various acts, broken up quite cleverly by FTL trips. In these we get more introspective and emotional moments, ones that really help define Kira as a character. From those we get to different star systems different action scenes, and many, many exciting new discoveries. All of which come together in a reasonably satisfying conclusion.

Sea of Stars is a long book, and it covers quite a lot of ground. However, it throws a lot of information at you. I found that there was probably too much crammed into a single volume. Just as we're getting used to the idea that humanity is in a war for its survival from an alien species another curveball is thrown at you. Then another, then another. No spoilers but I went from understanding to what the Jellys are to having to try and understand what nightmares are, what the Heptarchy is, and why I should care. Even at over 800 pages, there's almost far too many balls in the air. After the second and third acts the book manages to calm down and focus, but it still left almost too much to be solved in the final act.

While the story does set itself up nicely for sequels in an expanded universe, it did leave me struggling to piece together more than a few disparate threads.

The story though, does a good job exploring the future. Human and alien relations, and of course, an expanded sense of the self and the impact on a person this would have. Well worth delving in to if you're looking for a great new science fiction read.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

The Battle of Ridgeway

In June 1866, the year before Canada would become Canada, a group of Irish patriots under the moniker the Fenians, crossed into Canada with a simple plan. They would invade Canada and hold it hostage in exchange for Ireland's freedom. If this plan sounds insane, it's because it is. However, many were convinced they could make it work, and many would die before the whole fiasco came to an end.

The Fenians were a group of Irish rebels who were determined to free Ireland from British rule. Active for roughly twenty years. Founded in 1858 by American Irishmen and former rebels from the 1848 rising, the Brotherhood would try to recruit men to fight for Irish independence. Their earliest successes came when many men gained experience fighting in the Irish Brigade and other bloody battles in the American Civil War. Indeed, many of the future Fenian leaders such as John O'Mahoney, Thomas Sweeney and John O'Neill would see their first action in the Civil War and gain experience leading men.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, there was a large number of armed men with experience in war, but no one to fight. Why not then, the Fenian leadership asked, lead an invasion of Canada to conquer the, at this point disparate colonies and hold them hostage in exchange for Ireland's freedom? This was not a universally popular idea, and it led to a split in the Fenian leadership. However, plans for an invasion went ahead anyways. It is estimated as many as 50,000 men volunteered to be a part of this invasion. When push came to show however, the Fenians only managed to get a few thousand men organized, and most were dispersed once the American authorities got into action.

On the Canadian side, British spies actually had managed to penetrate the Fenian organization. They had successfully predicted a previous Fenian raid on Campobello Island in April of 1866 which was dispersed without issue. This in turn, lowered the guard of the Canadian authorities in Canada West (Ontario) who felt there was nothing to fear from the Fenian menace. Alarms had been common in 1865 and in 1866 the Canadians felt certain that they could control a Fenian invasion.

When John O'Neill kicked off his invasion in June it was not a secret to either Canadian or American authorities. However, none could pinpoint the exact location the crossings would take place at.

It was actually meant to be part of a broader strategy. One Fenian force would march on Toronto, another on Quebec, and they would overwhelm the Canadians. In actuality, on O'Neill's invasion of the Niagara Peninsula got off the ground, and there were only a few other small skirmishes 

In a well planned action, the Fenians first disabled the only warship on Lake Eerie, the USS Michigan by subterfuge. This allowed O'Neill to begin landing men across the Niagara River. Without USN ships to stop him, he was able to cross nearly 1,400 men to the Canadian side. The quickly seized the town of Fort Eerie, and began trying to bring over Irishmen to their side. They received no local volunteers.

Meanwhile, the Canadians quickly learned of the invasion and ordered out the militia, calling over 14,000 men to arms. In Toronto, the men of the 2nd Battalion of the Queens Own Rifles hastily mustered in Toronto and was quickly delivered to the Niagara frontier by train. They were joined by a similar quick mobilization of the 13th Battalion of Volunteers from Hamilton and two other quickly mobilized companies of militia in an ad hoc brigade. They were placed under the command of militia Col. Alfred Booker who, like the men under his command, had no experience with war, unlike the oncoming Fenians. The Canadian forces numbered about 850 men, while their Fenian counterparts numbered between 700 and 800 men.

Learning of Booker's route of march (possibly by 'tapping' the Canadian telegraph lines) O'Neill swiftly night marched his men from their initial position at Black Creek to the Ridge Road near the village of Ridgeway which would give the battle its name.

Booker's men had bivouacked for the night at Port Colborne. He had originally planned to make straight for Fort Eerie and take the town from a supposed Fenian rearguard. However, early in the morning on the 2nd, he received orders from the superior authority, British Colonel Peacock leading the 47th Foot and a larger relief column with cavalry and artillery, that he was instead to move to Stevensville and meet this column where the joined group, then over 2,000 strong, would attack the Fenian positions.

For reasons never adequately explained, Booker followed the spirit of Peacock's orders, but not the letter. Instead of moving to meet the reinforcement column along Skerk's Crossing to Stevensville, he advanced to Ridgeway and took the Ridge Road. This would lead to the Fenians learning of the change and being ready to meet the Canadians on the afternoon of June 2nd.

The following battle was, for all intents and purposes, little more than a skirmish between infantry battalions. Though each was grandiosely a brigade, none was stronger than a full strength battalion of regular infantry. There was no cavalry or artillery, and so it would come down to the skill of each individual commander. Though the Canadians behaved admirably, advancing into the Fenian fire and driving off their skirmishers and discomforting the Fenian left flank, a series of events that has never been adequately explained soon drove the Canadians from the field.

For some reason, in the midst of the Canadian advance, the order to "form square" was given. Whether it was the sighting of a party of mounted Fenians who acted as scouts, or merely a mistake by a bugler, the Canadians dutifully carried out a formation which had been drilled into them. Booker, immediately realizing his mistake, ordered the men back into line. Other accounts maintain that an attempt to relieve the front line by bringing up a fresh company of men caused confusion. Whatever the case, the Canadian militia was soon milling about in disorder. Seeing this, O'Neill ordered a bayonet charge which promptly routed the Canadian center. In contrast, the Canadian flanks withdrew methodically, skirmishing with their opponents, but the men did not regroup, and individuals and companies disorderly withdrew to Port Colborne. 

Seven Canadians would be killed at Ridgeway, while another two would die of their wounds days later. A further 22 Canadians would die of disease sustained while in camp in the subsequent weeks.

Six Fenians died on the field at Ridgeway, with another three known to have died of wounds after the fighting ended. Fenian casualties are difficult to estimate as many fled to the United States afterwards. However, another four Fenians would die in the lesser known but nearly concurrent Battle of Fort Eerie. 

A small Canadian force on the tugboat W. T. Robb, led by Colonel Stoughton Dennis who in his first action of bravely running in the face of danger, led 50 men to hold the town and hopefully capture any stragglers from an assumed Canadian victory. Instead, they encountered over 800 Fenians retreating from Ridgeway and other positions. In a doomed last stand the Canadians fought, but many were wounded - miraculously none killed - and captured. Other than this brief humiliation though, the Fenians let them go as they had to flee the oncoming British reinforcements.

In the aftermath, much blame was passed for the defeat. Only a victory at Pigeon Hill by the Canadians would salve the bitter wounds of what happened on the Niagara Peninsula. Booker was ultimately found to be moderately to blame for the fiasco, but the Canadian government at the time was quick to try and pass off the blame to the individual soldiers themselves, rather than admit it had not handled the crisis properly. O'Neill meanwhile, would be feted as a hero to the Fenian cause, and it would be celebrated. He would subsequently lead two further failed invasions of in 1870 and 1871. The Fenians themselves would peter out by the 1880s, replaced by later incarnations of the Irish Republican movement.

It was Canada's first real test of battle. The nine men who died in battle or afterwards have never properly been remembered. While most Canadian students have learned the story of the Fenian Raids and their roll in helping shepherd the various colonies towards Confederation, it is a battle itself which is rarely explored. Peter Vronsky has written perhaps the best single volume on the battle, and I myself used it as a guide to this piece. It is a book well worth reading, and may enlighten many people on a sadly unappreciated piece of Canadian military history.

One can only wonder what might have happened had the Canadians not gone the way they had, or what could have happened had Booker gone straight to Fort Eerie instead. That though, is speculation for another time!

Friday, 14 May 2021

Into the Light

In the early 21st century, mankind made unexpected first contact with an alien species, the vulpine Shongairi. They did not come in peace. In mere hours, kinetic strikes wipe out over half of the human population, but the Shongairi are shocked that when they come to Earth's surface, the humans have not surrendered, and they will fight to the death. Deciding that humans are more trouble than they're worth, the alien invaders decide to exterminate the human population with a biological weapon.

However, they did not realize that the Earth was home to two sentient species, and so in their error they find themselves overrun, their technology seized, and their own homeworld open to attack. Having found solace in allies stepping Out of the Dark, humanity itself must now step Into the Light

The sequel to the short story turned novel from David Weber, with the help of Chris Kennedy, Into the Light picks up in the horrifically post-apocalyptic world and the devastation left behind by the alien invaders. Political disorder, famine, rampant disease, and destroyed infrastructure takes its toll. Humanity has been reduced to only a few billion souls, and a county level government operating at something like half efficiency is considered a prime achievement worthy of praise. Can humanity build itself back up, all before the alien masters of the ancient Hegemony which dispatched the Shongairi in the first place realize what has happened?

From goodreads

Split into three parts, the novel tells the story of the rebuilding of the human population from scattered enclaves, first in North America where governments with shaky legitimacy are attempting to rebuild, and with some other hope spots from around the world. Then it tells of the startling discoveries humanity has made, and finally, a foray into the stars. 

It's not strictly necessary to have read Out of the Dark to enjoy this story, and you can read either the 2010 novel, or the original short story and not lose too much in translation. That does make it an easily accessible to casual readers, which should always be appreciated.

Part One does a great job exploring the dislocation caused by the Shongairi invasion, and from refugee camps to shattered government offices, we get a good story on how leaders from Canada to Brazil are trying to piece the world back together. I probably enjoyed this section the most as it had a more, human element, and was a really fun romp regarding the fallout from the invasion, and just how badly humanity has been pushed back.

Part Two is interesting, only insomuch as it does some fun exploration with the technology established in this little universe Weber has created. From experimenting with space platforms, warships, the fun use of railgun technology in small arms and tanks, and the intriguing Heinlein Armor, it is really setting us up for the book's climax.

The final section in Part Three is fun as it manages to tell a fairly intricate first contact story in just over one hundred pages. It sets up the good guys, the bad guys, and a great cast of secondary characters you can root for. There's been a lot of work put into the alien species for how much screen time they're given, and it was a nice touch that they were very well developed. It did invest me in the climax more than I anticipated, and the way it was handled made me laugh out loud with how clever it was.

If you enjoy a good military space science fiction story with some clever elements, look no further than Into the Light.  

Friday, 30 April 2021

Babylon's Ashes

After the events of Nemesis Games have, almost literally, broken the world, the Solar System finds itself engaged in the most destructive war in history. Governments have fallen, countless are dead, and the crew of the Rocinante find themselves struggling to keep up in a world choking on Babylon's Ashes.

Going forward, there are major spoilers for the series, so below the cut will include a much richer review.

In broad strokes, Babylon's Ashes more than Nemesis Games is a war story first and foremost. More so than even Caliban's War was. Picking up in the immediate aftermath of the status quo shattering events of the last book, we're thrown right into things as our cast, the crew of the Rocinante and a legion of new and familiar faces, are attempting to adjust to how much the world has changed once again.

We're given a sweeping narrative that runs from Earth to the edge of settled space and in the slow zone we first saw in Abaddon's Gate. Taking many familiar faces, Avasarala, Prax, Bobbie Draper and Anna, there's a wide amount of latitude to explore the tragedies of a solar system at war. Economic dislocation, creeping tyranny, and tragic loss from piracy, starvation and battle. It does an amazing job at humanizing war, especially one on a scale not before seen in human history.

It also does a wonderful job of humanizing people. So many stories about war too easily devolve into "us and them" stories, but this one doesn't. It acknowledges that people, whether from Earth, Mars or the Belt are people - no matter the physiological differences. One of James Holden's best traits shines through as, in response to Free Navy propaganda, he makes videos about the lives of average Belters trying to eke out an existence in the most hostile living arrangements known to man. He tries to show that, regardless of ideology, birthplace, or distance, everyone is human. It's a truly touching moment that tries to dismantle the usual dichotomy of war.

Alongside those moments, it manages to give us a gripping story of ending a solar system wide war. It begins as the forces of Earth and Mars are trying to consolidate and defending themselves from flying rocks thrown by the Free Navy. Holden and his crew go on a daring mission to blind their opponents to finally give the beleaguered Earth some breathing room. From there, it's a series of feints, attacks, and chases to try and gain advantage.

One of the small things I will criticize with this novel is that, while it nails the human element of war very well, the specifics of the war are left very vague. Outside of some moments near the end of the story where I have a definite idea of the numbers, the stakes involved in various battles and chases are extremely vague. I never know who held the balance of power, how many ships were involved, and whether one side really had the upper hand. The book could have been made so much more tense by the breakdown of what was lost, and what assets were where so I could sense out the course of the war. 

However, since the human element is more important, I can forgive it. As one character puts it, "war isn't just torpedoes and battle lines."

Through the character of Michio Pa, a tertiary character from Abaddon's Gate, we get the divided loyalties of someone who believes they're doing the right thing in war. To some, she's a pirate, from her own perspective she's a freedom fighter trying to bring justice to the people of the Belt. The vision put forward by the Free Navy, a Belt no longer under the heel of Mars and Earth, economic justice for Belters, and true void cities, is intoxicating. However, the increasingly brutal means put forward to make that a reality, are at odds with her own morality. 

It also examines the rolls of leaders. Even the flaws with the Great Man Theory of history. It shows us the leaders we have, while great, are not necessarily infallible geniuses. One of the best moments is when Fred Johnson simply says, he's doing what he knows in the best way he can. 

The narrative climaxes in a satisfying way, trying to seek solutions to the problems which led to the war in the first place. I quite enjoyed the effort to look at humanity through a full glass, and with the major players earnestly trying to find methods to solve the problems which caused the war, but with just enough ambiguity for the future to keep you invested in what comes next.

Moreover, it has some amazing moments which will probably not be forgotten in this series, but many spoilers follow.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Game of Thrones: Retrospective

Ten years ago, Game of Thrones burst into the television scene and rammed itself into the collective psyche of millions the world over. It was common for people to talk more about the politics of Westeros than the politics of their respective countries for a while! Almost overnight, the show leapt to meteoric heights, praised as "The Sopranos in Middle Earth" and having a talented cast of dedicated actors who worked their way through some of the most intensive scenes we've seen on television.

For all that though, not many people talk about Game of Thrones today.

Unlike say, The Sopranos or The Wire, or even other big name science fiction and fantasy shows like Merlin or Stargate and Battlestar Galactica; you don't see many people sharing memes about the show, it isn't often referenced in contemporary discourse, and often times people seem to act as though it didn't even exist. Where once you couldn't scroll through reddit, Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter without seeing something related to that series, now you only find it on dedicated fan sites and amongst people who still care about the (as of 2021) unfinished series.

Why that is, is hard to explain. For one thing, the show has possibly the most divisive ending in television history. From some who praised it, to millions of fans who were so pissed off they petitioned to have the ending re-filmed. In fact, the show seems to have ended on such a bad note that people who were fans seem to be almost unwilling to talk about having ever liked it in the first place. Hyperbole sure, but I certainly don't run across many people who I know loved the show who say they're going to re-watch it any time soon.