Book Review: Gods of the Mountain (A Cycle of Blades Book 1) by Christopher Keene

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Gods of the Mountain, Book One in A Cycle of Blades has all the ingredients that make a fantasy novel interesting.

There’s an original magic system… I know, I know. In this day and age, with the massive number of fantasy bestsellers that have already flooded the market, is there even such a thing as an original magic system?

Maybe not. BUT in Gods of the Mountain, there are no long-winded arcane chants or hard-to-get herbal concoctions. Magical effects are instantly activated simply through mental visualization of the Lunari symbols. Pretty handy in a fight. With that sort of system in place, the mages-are-rear-line-support trope no longer holds true.

And that alone gives Gods of the Mountain a fresher look than most fantasy novels.

While we are still on the subject of magic, let’s talk about the gods. After all, they tend to show up when magic’s out and about. Much like rats in a food larder. Well, the gods in the mountain are selfish and whiny so I don’t feel like talking about them, but which bestselling fantasy novel worth its salt doesn’t have heroes or villains rising against the gods?

Much like Raistlin Majere, the ambitious anti-hero of the bestselling Dragonlance series, Gods of the Mountain too has a protagonist who breaks the rules and challenges the will of the gods. Unlike Raistlin though, Faulk, our protagonist, seems to do it out of the goodness of his heart. And unlike Raistlin, Faulk actually gets laid… Oh no! Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!

But that brings us neatly to the romantic sub-plot. In one corner, we have Yuweh, the aloof and unattainable Messenger of the Lunari gods. She receives a mission to find and capture outsiders guilty of abusing their sacred symbols and journeys to the Tyrian city. In the other corner, also in the Tyrian city, is a former army officer laid low by the death of his former commander and father figure. He lives a life of crime, in squalor, a shadow of his former self. Oh yeah, he’s also one of the outsiders guilty of abusing the Lunari symbols.

Virginal priestess and broken hero. Naive cop and hardened thief. You can see where this is going, right? I don’t know about you but I really enjoy watching unlikely couples get together. And this particular trope also seems to appear frequently in popular Japanese manga.

And look, fans of blood and gore are not going to be disappointed! Because while Faulk warms himself by a naked priestess, a certain disgruntled former Messenger of the Lunari gods skulks around in the shadows as he pits his students, Kessler the Tyrian assassin and Pry the Inqusitor’s assistant, against one another.

As the two unleash the power of the Lunari symbols, hundreds of corpses pile up in the city. And here’s where the explanation for the series title comes in. Cycle of Blades. Because of all the flying swords that are used to create the corpses.

And that’s as far as my explanation goes. If you want to know how to make swords fly and why there’s a need to create mountains of corpses, go read the novel. You can purchase a copy from Amazon.

Loh Teck Yong

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The Problem With 24-hour Guards

So this morning, the regular day guard didn’t come. Because today’s his one off day per week. So the agency had to send in a replacement, right?

And so the manager thought it would be perfectly alright to call in a night guard who’s been working the night shift on the other side of the island. So that means this dude is pulling a 24-hour shift even as I am writing this blog post.

And obviously, since he had a night shift to complete and he’s on the other side of the island, he came in late. I was supposed to be relieved at 7 a.m. but the night guard came in at 8.30 a.m.

When I called the manager to ask about the day guard’s replacement, he told me, in a jovial tone, to claim O.T.

Why the f**k should I claim O.T.? I am already working 12-hour shifts for 72 hours per week! I need LESS hours, not more!

Anyway, when the day guard’s replacement came in at 8.30 a.m., I told him, “I am going to come in at 8.30 p.m. tonight because I don’t do overtime.”

The day guard’s replacement actually got indignant when I told him that. He tried to explain why he’s late.

“I was at Tuas! I need time to get here…”

“I am the only one who can do this!”

Yeah, I KNOW. I know how long it takes to travel from Tuas to our workplace. BUT if you knew that as well, then you shouldn’t have agreed to come in to replace the day guard! Why would you want to inconvenience someone else just so you can earn more money for yourself?

Have you ever considered that there are people who don’t want to wait an hour and a half for you to arrive? Have you ever considered how dangerous it is to ride your motorcycle on the road after completing a 24-hour shift?

HAVE YOU SPARED A THOUGHT FOR OTHERS?

However, I told him that I wasn’t angry with him. I was angry, and rightfully so, with the manager for arranging this. The manager already knew the day guard takes every Sunday off, so he should have arranged for a proper relief guard to come in every Sunday! And not make some overly enthusiastic guy work 24-hour shifts!

The manager* and the 24-hour guard both need to think hard about how they are inconveniencing others and endangering lives. Mark my words, and mark it well! Security guards have died in the past due to overwork, and they will continue to do so if this industry continues to turn a blind eye to 24-hour guards.

Loh Teck Yong

* I have always called him the manager, but the regular day guard told him his actual title is Senior Operations Executive. Oh well, whatever.

They Kept Their Promises

A few days ago, I made a blog post about my agency. I said that they might be breaking 2 out of 3 promises they had made when I first signed up with them.

Things have been a bit hectic recently so I haven’t found the time to post updates. But tonight is my only off day this week, so I have some spare time.

Here’s an account of what happened on 14/11/17 (Tuesday).

When I reached the train station near my work site, I went to an ATM machine to check my bank balance. And I found an extra 200 dollars in my bank account! Okay, that means they kept their promise to pay me a weekly advance every Tuesday.

And when I reached the work site, the day guard told me the manager had came down earlier with my uniform. Good. They finally managed to keep their promise to provide me with 2 pieces of uniform.

So far so good. I hope this good behaviour keeps up.

Some of you might think that I am being too skeptical, but I have seen too much of the ugliness of men in my line of work. Too many security guards have been abused or scammed by their employers, so there is no way I can trust an agency blindly.

Especially one that still HASN’T given me a copy of my contract.

Loh Teck Yong

Book Review: Birth, or the Exquisite Sound of One Hand Falling Off a Turnip Truck by S.T. Gulik

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It all started with the Divine Disturbance on April 12, 2148, Some musicians revealed their alien forms at a public park and melded into a god form. The unleashed psychic energy caused weird phenomenon such as the dead rising and humans evolving into, well, better humans who could heal amazingly fast.

But all that really has very little to do with this novel. Even the zombies just function as mobile props. Sometimes they are shot at and sometimes they carry messages for secret agents. The role of zombies in this novel could easily be replaced by carrier pigeons really.

So don’t go expecting Birth to be just another apocalypse zombie novel. This is a novel about humans killing one another. Oh no, it’s not as boring as it sounds! When I say “humans”, I mean sewer-dwelling mutants with super strength and surgically enhanced surface-dwelling nerds. It’s as bloody and gory as it gets. Birth is, after all, set in a world where damsels get killed and shoplifters get sent to the chipper.

And Maxwell Quick? Don’t expect him to be yet another good-looking, strong and intelligent hero with good intentions to save the world. He doesn’t work out, drinks like a fish and is currently missing both his kidneys. And he has never saved a damsel in distress either. He just uses them for sex, the bastard.

As for his intentions… He was forced into helping the “good guys” (whoever they are) save the world from the “bad guys” (whoever they are).

It can get kinda confusing, sorting out the good from the bad.

If you like morally ambivalent drama, bastard anti-heroes and government conspiracies hatched in sewers, then you might enjoy Birth by S.T. Gulik. Birth and its sequel, Sex, can be purchased via links from the author’s website.

Loh Teck Yong

P.S.: To better enjoy this novel, please do read the glossary of terms BEFORE reading the actual novel. It can get frustrating at first, trying to figure out what is what and who is who.

 

 

They Are About To Break The Second Promise

So when I showed up for work last night, I found out that the manager had broken his 1st promise yet again. The promise was to provide me with another uniform because I was supposed to get two. When he failed to deliver them to the workplace on Friday, like he had promised during my job interview, he assured me it would be sent down on Monday.

Okay, fine. I could still put up with it. I asked for permission to wear a white shirt instead of the official black polo shirt, and it was granted.

And then he told me he’s going to break his 2nd promise. Which was to pay me a weekly advance of S$200 every Tuesday. Since he had been breaking the 1st promise, I figured it would be safer to remind him about his 2nd promise.

What he told me was: “But you only worked for us for 4 days. We can’t pay you an advance yet.”

What the f**k? Did he mention this at the job interview? Did he say I had to work for a minimum number of days before I could get my advance? NO! What he told me was that there wouldn’t be any problem paying me a weekly advance of 200 dollars every Tuesday.  Read the rest of this entry

My Dream Self Was A Jerk

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* The above image is from Star vs. The Forces of Evil Wiki. It is not a picture of my sister. I think the crying girl is called Star Butterfly.

I had a dream about my work at this condominium. In my dream, my sister showed up in a security guard uniform halfway through my shift. She told me she wanted to check if this place’s okay for me to work.

My dream self probably resented the intrusion into his territory but he grudgingly agreed.

Now, during the night shift, the night guard is supposed to go on patrols around the condominium so my dream self did that too. My sister wanted to follow, to learn more about the place. Maybe so she could give a comprehensive report to friends and family.

I guess that annoyed my dream self somehow, but he agreed to let her go on the patrol in the end. My sister happily agreed and picked up a glittery smartphone and prepared to leave the guard post with my dream self.

That’s when my dream self turned mean. He roughly told her not to bring along the “stupid looking” smartphone because it would make all security guards look stupid. My sister tried to insist because according to her, it was an expensive phone choked full of precious memories. Read the rest of this entry

They Broke Their First Promise

Will I have trouble with my new job?

It appears so. When I took up the job, the agency promised me 3 things.

First of all, I would get 2 uniforms. But they only had one in my size when I went for my interview so the manager promised to send my second uniform to my workplace on by Friday.

Well, I went to the condominium on Friday, but there was no 2nd uniform waiting for me. When I called the manager, he said they could only send me one on Monday as the office’s close during the weekend.

Their second promise to me was that I would be receiving weekly wage advances (S$200) every Tuesday. This coming Tuesday, we will be able to see if they can keep their second promise.

The third promise is a monthly salary of S$2040 (gross). To find out if they will honor that promise, I will have to wait till the 7th of December. I never did receive a copy of my employment contract so I can’t be absolutely sure they will keep this particular promise.

3 promises but they already broke the first one the moment I started work. I think I might be able to have that new chapter for my book after all.

Loh Teck Yong