Today marks the birthday of Woody Strode (1914-1994), one of the first African-Americans to play in the NFL and one of our favorite character actors. He is pictured above in John Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge (1960), a flawed but interesting film that features Strode as one the screen’s first heroic African-American cowboys.
“The Rithmatist” (Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Read May 17, 2015
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
“The Rithmatist” by Brandon Sanderson is a young adult fantasy/alternate history novel set at the beginning of the 20th century. Joel, a teenage boy whose mom works as a cleaning lady at the prestigious Armedius Academy, desires to be a Rithmatist and have the power to animate his chalk drawings in order to protect humanity from the terrifying two-dimensional creatures known as the wild chalklings. The fact that Joel has not been chosen to become a Rithmatist does not prevent him from knowing ins and outs of Rithmatic theory. When Rithmatist students start disappearing under distressing circumstances, Joel’s knowledge comes in handy as he is assigned to help Professor Fitch to solve the mystery.
1) Impressive world building. In “The Rithmatist,” Sanderson creates a wildly imaginative yet very convincing world with its own history, politics and a wonderfully detailed magic system. Although at first I was wary of the premise that a Rithmatist’s life might depend on his ability to draw, Sanderson does a great job elaborating this idea and making Rithmatics, an ingenious mix of geometry, strategy and art, into a unique and surprisingly complex system that totally makes sense.
2) Helpful illustrations. Every chapter begins with a one-page annotated diagram explaining different aspects of Rithmatics (fundamental rules, different types of lines and various defense strategies). Not only these illustrations bring authenticity to the story as they look like actual pages from a Rithmatic textbook, but they also are extremely useful in understanding intricacies of Rithmatics and keeping track of different types of Rithmatic defenses mentioned throughout the book. Since these illustrations are a crucial part of the book, I would not recommend the audio version of “The Rithmatist.”
3) Engaging read. “The Rithmatist” is a fast-paced, action-packed and well-written mystery with quite a few twists and very likable main characters that are perfect in their imperfection. I love the fact that, despite all the gloomy events, the tone is upbeat. By the way, I cannot but mention this book’s resemblance to the Harry Potter books; however, such resemblance does NOT diminish the originality of “The Rithmatist” in any way.
COULD BE BETTER:
1) Plot. Although I like the story a lot, certain revelations seem poorly timed or a bit unnatural. For example, it bugs me that the author keeps in secret the meaning of the new Rithmatic lines for SO LONG, despite the fact that the answer is kind of… obvious. On the other hand, some plot twists, such as the identity of the Scribbler, are so unexpected and random, that they seem kind of forced. However, there is quite a number of unexpected yet very satisfying plot twists as well.
VERDICT: 4 out of 5
The most impressive feature of Brandon Sanderson’s “The Rithmatist” is a wildly imaginative and elaborate magic system that, thanks to annotated diagrams throughout the book, actually makes sense. Although certain plot twists could be improved, I nevertheless enjoyed this fast-paced and action-packed mystery and look forward to reading the sequel.
Travis Louie, “False Tree Spirit” graphite and acrylic wash on wood
Oscar Pennington researched the “tree spirit” stories from Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). He had heard of a disembodied head that crawled up and down trees in the forests at night. Described as having a beard and mustache, it sounded like a fantastic story and required some further investigation. It turned out to be a rare large tree spider with twig-like tendrils that it used for camouflage.
Antarctica remained untouched by human habitation in recorded history
until 1602, when Māori settlers arrived at the fertile “southern”
coastline. A few more settlements were made in the following years,
while unknown to them (they were unknown to the Europeans at the time
too) early settlements from the English, Scottish, Dutch, and French
were being made. Contact between the groups was made in the 1620s but no
European settlements were made in Māori-settled areas until Portuguese
settlement in 1631.
The main focus for settlement was in the
“northwest” part of the continent, which was lush, temperate, and very
hospitable. Late settlements by early powers are not shown unless if
they are of greater significance in new territory. Latecomers such as
Russia, Austria, and Denmark often had to settle in areas that seemed
less desirable, though later it would be realized that they had found
some of the better areas (similar to how Europeans often thought areas
such as the great plains weren’t worth settling at first), leading to
later wars. But I’ll save that for the next map.
I’ve tried my
best to provide appropriate names, which all refer to the settlements
themselves rather than the colonies which often consisted of the name of
the settling country prefixed by New. There are many similarities to
the settlement of the Americas in our world, although due to whatever
was going on in Europe at the time, Spain in particular had less of a
presence and Scotland had a much greater one.
For more information and maps about Habitable Antarctica:
Do you like to dance, but find that you can’t stay awake to go dance with the cool kids for who fashionably late is 4 hours after your bedtime? You are in luck! Kelly from @designcrush and Matt from @alternatehistories have the solution - a dance party that starts at the end of happy hour. This Friday at the new Spirit Lodge (in Pittsburgh directions: the new Spirit Lodge is on the old Moose in Lawrenceville). I can assure you they will have some of the finest djs in town playing the most danceable hits for Pittsburghers of all ages. https://www.facebook.com/events/959744384077504/ (at Spirit)