Dragon Wing book cover

Yesterday, I finished reading Dragon Wing, the first of the seven books that are part of the Death Gate Cycle, an adult fiction series created by authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman during the 1990’s.

The whole series is set in a fantasy world where magic and technology are divided into five separate realms. The story depicts several fantasy races and cultures, including humans, elves and dwarves, but centers on races created by the authors, namely the Sartan, an ancient race of powerful wizards, skilled in the use of both magic and technology, who possess the ability to shape reality according to their will, who created the Death Gate, a portal that separates — and connects — the world into five realms; and the Patryn, a race of outcasts and rebels, skilled in the use of runes which allow them to manipulate reality through language and symbols, all of them banished to the Labyrinth by the Sartan.

Dragon Wing introduces us to Haplo, an assassin from one of the five realms, as he travels through the Death Gate towards the world of Arianus, to prepare for the arrival of his master, the Lord of the Nexus. Meanwhile, Hugh the Hand, an infamous assassin raised by Kir Monks after his mother died, is hired by Stephen, king of the human realm, to have his child, Prince Bane, murdered. Hugh then sets on a journey with Bane, with the excuse of fleeing the prince from its home because he’s being persecuted by people meaning to do him harm, during which they come across Alfred, the Prince’s chamberlain, who followed them in order to protect the child, but who has secrets of his own.

After leaving behind 433 very well-written pages and the first book, I have some thoughts I want to share.

First, considering that I came across this book entirely by accident, after I saw it mentioned in Mastodon, it beats me how come the Death Gate Cycle be seldom mentioned beside other fantasy series such as the LOTR by Tolkien, ASOIAF by George R. R. Martin, or The Wheel of Time, started by Robert Jordan and finished by Brandon Sanderson after the author’s death. After all, all these series share the greatness in storytelling and world building. From the ones I cited, only ASOIAF started to be written after the Death Gate Cycle, so I couldn’t find any explanations on its lack of mention. And it is a shame, I have to say, not seeing it mentioned more often.

Second, as I said before, this first book, at least for me is completely unputdownable. Now, I’m saying this being a non-native English speaker. As such, despite the fact of having been an English teacher in Brazil in the past, a good and well-written book with a fluent story considered, it takes me much longer to read books in English than it would in Portuguese, for obvious reasons. As the Death Gate Cycle has never been translated to Portuguese, my only option was to read it in English. Still, it took me only 13 consecutive days to finish reading (mind that I had to stop to do other things, as most everybody, meaning I wasn’t dedicated to reading the book). The story is very fine, so it was converted into a page-turner for me, automatically. And I guess I owe that to the authors, who have been able to wrap their intended plot in such a way that it is rich to the right point (yes, Tolkien, I’m looking at you and your veeeery long scenario and mostly everything else descriptions 😈) besides being filled with plot twists, so I came to the concluding chapters with so many open questions yet, and I loved that everything concluded in a way that seemed only proper.

Third, the Death Gate Cycle shares a characteristic with both LOTR and The Wheel of Time. The fact that these series have all been finished already (yes, George R. R. Martin, I’m looking at you and your unfinished business 😡). As such, it’s much more pleasing to me to have all the books already launched, so I can properly take my reading to an end. Now, I’ve read series while they hadn’t been finished yet (such as the Harry Potter books), but because I saw the commitment the author had to finish it. And I can’t see the same dedication, I’m sorry to say, coming from the author of ASOIAF. But this is not the main topic here.

So, in conclusion, as Limbeck Bolttightener, another of the marvelous characters in Dragon Wing, a dwarf from Drevlin, would say, I felt so compelled to write about my feelings for this book that I needed to do it as soon as possible. And I’d like to totally recommend it to anyone out there, interested in adult fantasy fiction books, as I know you won’t regret it. From my part, as I write these closing words, I’ve already started reading the next installment in the series, Elven Star, hoping that the story keeps the pace. I guess I won’t be disappointed.

I’m so disappointed that I only came to know about it this week — but, as they say it, better late than never, isn’t it? The thing is, Twitter user small worlds is creating tiny sci-fi stories in 2023, and publishing each one as a single image, one per day.

As someone who enjoys both reading — and, quite once in a while, also writing —, I was immediately drawn to the tiny pieces, both because they are science fiction micro posts, and because they follow the likes of Black Mirror, a satiric British TV series mixing sci-fi and the idea of modern technology, such as AI, running out of control and making humanity dive into obscure, alternative near and quite dystopian futures.

From all the pieces published so far, I’ve selected 10 that, to me, are very interesting, and I’m sharing them in this gallery below:

They’re all very good, don’t you think?

People who know me in person (and with whom I’ve already talked about TV series) know my belief that House M.D., which aired from 2004 to 2012, is not only the best medical series ever, but also the best series ever. I quite enjoy the main character, Gregory House — portrayed and, IMHO immortalized by English actor Hugh Laurie — for every trait he carries: his cynicism, his narcissism, his curmudgeonry. Even for his being a misanthrope.

House, while stating his misanthropic condition

Misanthrope, by the way, is a word I’ve only come to know because I watched House M.D. a lot. A misanthrope is someone who has made it their general practice, or general state of being, to hate other people. That is a person who has feelings of general dislike and distrust of humankind.

Skip to last Sunday, when I found out a small gem of a book (well, not exactly a book, because its author, Henderson Bariani, called it a opúsculo, Portuguese word that means “a very short book” or “a small work”), called “Como fazer inimigos e irritar pessoas” (something like “How to make enemies and irritate people”, freely translated to English by me), which was free for the day at Amazon, and that revealed itself to be, again as stated by the author, a manual for misanthrope people who believe they have too many friends and are interested in losing some of them, so they can better dedicate to the art of isolation and being on their own.

Now, despite all my admiration for Gregory House (and other famous, fictitious misanthrope characters, like Sherlock Holmes), I’m not a misanthrope myself. One, though, might think I have misanthropic characteristics, because after reading Henderson’s book — all the 29 pages which do make it a opúsculo —, I noticed, of course it is above all and everything a work of humorous relief, but also that some of his suggestions are things that I usually do, or, at least, would like to put in practice.

For instance, the author teaches how to annoy people with WhatsApp. In Brazil, WhatsApp has become so ubiquitous that I sometimes believe some people have totally forgotten it’s possible, for example, to call a person using the phone line. Everyone here, from dentists and butchery houses to doctors and locksmiths, has a WhatsApp contact. It’s so present that it’s difficult to ask people to move to Signal ou Telegram, because gosh, they have never heard about them most of the time. According to the author, to annoy people and turn out having less friends, a simple trick is to say you don’t have WhatsApp, and add “Sorry, I only use Telegram”, or then, “can you give me a call?”.

Why even laughing at the suggestion and identifying myself with it I’m not a misanthrope: I have a strong desire to use Telegram, Signal and other messaging apps. But the problem lies exactly in this ubiquity WhatsApp has in Brazil. Virtually no one I know wants to change apps, and they usually turn their noses at my suggestion. So, I keep hoping one day Telegram or Signal becomes more popular than WhatsApp. As to using the author’s suggestion to have less friend, nah. I’m a very social person and I like the (few, admittedly) friends I’ve got.

Another point mentioned by the author for those who want to become more misanthrope, is the usage of complicated and/ or not-well known words. According to him, people are intimidated when they see someone speaking in a more complicated way, but are usually ashamed of admitting it. So, instead, they develop a certain anger towards people who speak like that, what could potentially contribute with the goal one could have of diminishing their number of friends.

Why even laughing at the suggestion and identifying myself with it I’m not a misanthrope: I not only read a lot (a habit, by the way, the author also mentions as something that could irritate people, the average Brazilians specially, because our country is not one of many readers — thus, making me an outlier in my own country), but also have the habit of solving many crossword puzzles out of something I’ve early in my life learned with my mother. This makes me know a lot of different, uncommon words. On the one hand, this admittedly makes me write better, and I love it, because I love writing (there’s even a name for this need to write a lot ASAP, it is ). On the other hand, it doesn’t mean I do it publicly, or as a means to look down on someone. I like to teach some of these words, in the same sense people also teach me other words, but that’s it. No intention to irritate anyone with my vocabulary, even because no one knows every word out there, and learning new words, for me as a lifelong learner, is a bliss.

Last, but not least, the author included in his book a chapter specially dedicated to irritating young people. I have two teen sons, and reading such chapter automatically triggered, let’s say, personal memories. The book mentions the usage of old, unused slang as a means to irritate young people. Slang of the old people, more simply put. I could tell you not to sell me a dog for example, and maybe that would irritate you. There are, in Brazil, lots of expressions from my parents’ time, such as “ora bolas” (something like “why!” or “for Christ’s sake!“, expressing surprise, in English) or “supimpa” (something like “razzle-dazzle” or “cool” in English) that my children don’t even know, or that feels odd to their ears. It doesn’t actually irritate them, but when I use these, they call me old (LOL). While I’m writing this it’s almost possible to hear them, “Dad, you’re soooooo old“.

Why even laughing at the suggestion and identifying myself with it I’m not a misanthrope: Using old slang and other things I do with my children is part of our relationship, and by playing with them this way I feel our relationship grows and remains close. It’s just one of the ingredients, but that’s an important one. My children will call me grumpy sometimes, but that’s who I am (who isn’t grumpy sometimes, after all?), and it’s not something that makes me a misanthrope.

Having read “Como fazer inimigos e irritar pessoas” triggered this idea of writing about misanthropic behavior in me. Keep in mind I was moved by this humorous tone the book, written by a Brazilian author, has. It’s a very interesting read, even if you, like me, are not a misanthrope.