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|Tuesday, June 16th, 2015|
|Book Review: American Gods
My previous experience with Neil Gaiman consisted of one chapter of this book (assigned in an informal college course) plus two pretty family-friendly silver-screen adaptations I rather liked: Stardust
. I also knew that he claimed to have been "bitten by a radioactive awesome," which fits the image that fans have of him.
Well, while I see a little of the same elements from those movies, they didn't really prepare me for this experience. In terms of language, sexual content, and comprehensibility, it is one of the most adult stories I've ever read. Some classify it as horror rather than fantasy, but I think that has less to do with horrible things happening and more to do with bizarreness, which can intensify fear. And much in contrast to the book in my previous review, it has no shortage of unimportant details (e.g., what song happens to play on the radio), which also intensifies fear by both making the scene realer and keeping us alert for subtle hints. This being the author's preferred text, it runs longer than most versions and thus contains more detail.( Cut for lengthCollapse )
All in all, it feels a bit like a text-only version of Watchmen
-- which I think I'd like better than the graphic novel, if only because my brain can downplay the unpleasant parts more easily that way. Hey, both Gaiman and Alan Moore are gritty British comic book writers who opted for American settings and took other people's characters in an inspired direction. (Gaiman, at least, did a lot of hands-on geographical research.) Sometimes, especially in Shadow's quite meaningful dreams, it reads like a description of a Salvador Dali painting. I love Dali, but a mere description of his work would kinda freak me out.
To put it another way, I reacted to AG
almost the way Shadow reacted to mead: appreciating the initial vivid tang, but finding a peculiar aftertaste that made completion something of a chore. Note I said "almost." It's more pleasant than that; I just have trouble figuring out why.
I have now started Garry Kilworth's Hunter's Moon: A Story of Foxes
. Another British author, but undoubtedly cuter and shorter on swear words. Of course, if it's anything like Watership Down
or Tailchaser's Song
, it still gets troubling.
|Wednesday, May 20th, 2015|
|Book Review: Redshirts
I think sleepyjohn00
recommended this John Scalzi comedy to me. By some chance, I had put the novel on the shelf next to one by Patrick Rothfuss, who's one of the people praising Redshirts
on the back cover. He says he'd never laughed harder at a book. Of course, Rothfuss doesn't do much in the way of humor himself, so I took his taste with a grain of salt.
For those not well acquainted with Trekkie culture, a "redshirt" is a minor character likely to die horribly and/or bizarrely for the sake of cheap drama and soon be largely forgotten. More often than not, such characters on "Star Trek: The Original Series" were security officers, whose uniforms included literal red shirts. I had assumed that this novel would make fun of ST:TOS in particular, but the afterword assures me that the same cliches have turned up in many sci-fi series since (and Scalzi dismisses rumors that he had in mind "Stargate Universe," for which he was a creative consultant).( SummaryCollapse )Redshirts
is pretty funny, especially in dialog. It almost makes me want to rewatch ST:TOS (or move on to a poor imitator) to keep an eye out for the dumber aspects. Reading went quickly. But I can see why the story isn't any longer: However intriguing the concept, there's only so much you can milk from it. Understandably, the characters aren't very fleshed out; we don't even learn the first things about appearances unless absolutely necessary. And I had to get used to more frequent use of the F-word, including in its literal sense, than usual for my reading.
Scalzi's no Terry Pratchett, but I may try him again some time. In the meantime, I feel ready for another tome, so I picked up Neil Gaiman's American Gods
. So much for taking a break from the F-word.
|Sunday, May 3rd, 2015|
|Book Review: Owlflight
I wanted this book more for an introduction to its first credited author, Mercedes Lackey, than for Larry Dixon. I may have to read something by Lackey alone in order to guess how much was Dixon's work. Judging from the scarcity of female characters, I wouldn't be surprised if her name came first only for commercial purposes.
Despite genre and titular similarity, it's nothing like Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight
. Unfortunately, it also has very little to do with some of my favorite birds. That's all the more a shame because the bond between individual Hawkbrothers (humans so sylvan, elite, and shrouded in legend that I mistook them for pseudo-elves) and their assigned birds is one of the few elements that lend this medieval fantasy a feeling anything like originality. Well, I gauged as much early on and continued regardless, because originality is slightly overrated.( PlotCollapse )
This may sound hypocritical coming from the cartoonist of "Downscale," but man, things move slowly. Never mind the scarcity of women, owls, and originality; how about action? Not that it feels like the narrator's buying time; in a way, the pileup of little things like chats and brooding adds to the credibility. I wouldn't say I was bored. I just wanted more.
I suspect that the 342-page book was written with early teens in mind. I also suspect that the entertainment improves considerably in later volumes in the Valdemar Saga, when Darian becomes more competent; and perhaps in a prelude, with more details about Justyn's past. Dang it, didn't I determine before that I need to do more research for when it's better to start in the middle of a series?
Next up is John Scalzi's Redshirts
. Good thing I finished watching "Star Trek: The Original Series."
|Monday, April 6th, 2015|
| Not for the first time,
I disagree with an assessment in Entertainment Weekly
-- and not on a matter of personal preference, or I wouldn't bother posting about it. I would quote the article directly, but I can't seem to find it online and didn't hold onto the hardcopy.( Comic book movies and TV showsCollapse )
We'll see whether "Daredevil" lives up to the hype of maturity. But I guarantee it'll still be regarded as nerdier than a summer blockbuster.
Remember when I went to Piratz Tavern
? Well, it had a going-out-of-business event on Saturday. Reportedly way too many people came. Ever heard of a long line out the door of a bar?
It's strange: I never cared to visit the place again, yet I feel sad to see it go. Is that because I have a co-worker who loved it? More likely, I appreciated it adding color to the business district. Or at least black and white in the form of Jolly Rogers flapping in the breeze. I can still see them from my office window at the moment, but it won't be long.
Seems like we ought to give it a stylized funeral of sorts. I just don't know how.
|Friday, March 27th, 2015|
|Book Review: Sailing to Byzantium
My prior experience with Robert Silverberg was limited to Science Fiction 101
, a collection of 13 short stories by other writers. While I didn't always agree with his taste, the stories were generally fun, and his introduction and follow-up commentary enhanced them a little. I may yet make use of his lessons.
Now that I've read his five novellas in this collection, I'm undecided on whether Silverberg does better at writing stories or writing about
them. He's no John Ringo, thankfully. I suspect that the main problem is the medium: From the few novellas I know, they're less like abridged novels and more like stretched short stories. They keep to simple themes, and their endings are unsurprising if not predictable well in advance.
Still, it wasn't just stubbornness that got me to the end. I can see why three of the novellas either won or were nominated for esteemed awards. The other two have less obvious merits; one had gone out of print, but Silverberg thought it deserved more popularity. More on that later.( In order of presentationCollapse )
Next up is Owlflight
by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. I can't tell that it'll feel original, but it's high time I returned to pure fantasy. At least I dig owls.
|Friday, February 27th, 2015|
|Book Review: Emerald Sea
I don’t recall which online acquaintance got me interested in John Ringo’s Council Wars series or how. I would’ve liked to start at the beginning with There Will Be Dragons
, but my family must have found the second volume easier to acquire as a timely present. Many references therein to past events sound pretty interesting. Alas, I don’t expect to read any more of the series, or even another Ringo novel, unless I get assurance that it’s very different.( PulpathonCollapse )
I decided to pick up Robert Silverberg’s Sailing to Byzantium
next. It’s a collection of sci-fi novellas, of which I’d read the titular first many years ago. This should be easier to put down if not so hot.
|Wednesday, January 28th, 2015|
Years ago, I noted on LJ that 1984, 1994, and 2004 were all great years for movies. (I don't know 1974 well enough to judge.) In response, ceruleanst
theorized that the turn of a decade inspires more creativity and the results take about four years between the start of writing and the screen debut. I don't know how accurate that is, but it seems worth following up.
So far, I've seen only a handful of 2014 features. It'll be a while before I've seen enough to judge the year as a whole. But what do you think of it?
|Monday, January 19th, 2015|
|Book Review: The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise
My mom read this and kept saying I would enjoy it, but I didn't show much interest before she gave it to me for Christmas. I picked it to read next because it's just over 300 pages, shorter than other books I have waiting. Still set a quota of one chapter a day to finish more quickly than I felt like reading.( Tickling, but not as much as I"d hopedCollapse )
Now I'm reading John Ringo's Emerald Sea
, second entry in the Council Wars tetralogy. I haven't tried the first entry or anything else by Ringo yet, but at least this way assures me of a main conflict established in the prologue.
|Friday, January 9th, 2015|
|A shallow post to break up the quiet of LJ
In 2011, LMFAO gave us "Party Rock Anthem." In 2012, PSY gave us "Gangnam Style," which got compared to it. In 2013, Ylvis gave us "The Fox," which got compared to both the others. They're all deliberately goofy (at least in videos), infectious, similar in beat, similar in associated dances, and originating from someone you probably hadn't heard of before that hit. You should find them either guilty pleasures or mockable nuisances.
Today I realized that I can think of no such song from 2014. The first to come to my mind was Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," which really doesn't match. What else even had a lively dance sound to it? (Remember, "Happy" is from 2013.)
We don't really need
another song like them -- you may even be relieved not to have one -- but I can't help feeling that 2014 dropped the ball.
|Wednesday, December 31st, 2014|
|Book Review: Robot Visions
This collection was first printed in 1991, shortly before Isaac Asimov's death. The cover on my edition claims 36 stories and essays, but I keep counting 35 in the table of contents. Anyway, I had read six of the stories before, leaving me with mixed feelings: less new stuff to enjoy, but less time needed to get thru it all.( Not badCollapse )
I will definitely continue to dig into Asimov. Maybe I'll even take a chance on another Foundation
volume when I run out of robot novels.
In the meantime, I'll start on Julia Stuart's The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise
(published in its UK homeland as Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo
). Mom's been recommending it for a while, and it sounds quirky.
|Thursday, December 18th, 2014|
So, yeah, that move I talked about?
It happened. My fears were unfounded: My new apartment has more than enough space, I had room in the two vehicles to move all my property in one timely trip (thank you, family), and I notified all major concerned parties in time.
The first five days have made for some pleasant living. I set my alarm an hour later now and easily arrive at work on time. The trip is short enough that I don't worry much about which coat to wear. I literally walk right past the Giant on the way home, and it's more gigantic than my previous one. The heating system keeps the apartment as I like it. And while I don't expect to meet any more neighborhood cats, I have found myself in elevators with nice dogs.
Any unpleasant surprises? Well, the main room may be both too bright and not bright enough. The giant window's blinds don't do a great job of keeping out the light pollution at night. (I had thought that one slat was missing, but it turns out they could be pulled shut further.) At the same time, part of the room is far from the nearest overhead light, and my desk lamp does only so much. The provided lights seem inconsistent in intensity as well, probably due to the bulb type. Other problems include little storage space in the bathroom (by no means an issue anywhere else in the apartment) and a questionable plethora of keys -- in short, nothing worth a complaint to the staff. I make do.
So far I've found two clear signs that I'm no longer in the District of Columbia: (1) I live on a higher floor than any allowed in DC, and (2) I can walk from home to a gun shop. Not to say I will. Current Mood: complacent
|Monday, November 24th, 2014|
|Book Review: Gravediggers: Terror Cove
You had best refer to my review of the first novel in the series
(or read the book itself) for starters. The three designated Gravediggers reappear in their alternating narration: athletic Ian, studious Kendra, and cinematically minded PJ. Only a few months have passed, so they're still all 11 or 12, but they have changed a bit: Ian craves adventure but has developed a nasty habit of freezing in the face of danger; Kendra faces emotional confusion in the wake of her parents' divorce; and PJ, no longer timid but also no longer fond of zombie movies or much of anything else, reminds me of my most curmudgeonly years. All three repeatedly feel like the most useless member of the group, which is almost funny all things considered.( PlotCollapse )
To call the book credible is a stretch, despite R.L. Stine's praise. Even accepting the vaguely defined magical premises left me thinking at times, "Would someone really do that?" or "Are these things really that slow/fast?" But just like its predecessor, it succeeds at immersion and thus intensity. That alone merits a tentative recommendation.
I have now started Robot Visions
. Since the collection includes many stories from I, Robot
, I can hardly guess how many pages I'll actually read herein.
|Thursday, November 20th, 2014|
For those who missed it before, I have a movie-themed blog, Watched and Learned
. For those who sampled it early on and didn't care to continue, I assure you that I've seen a greater variety of movies since Halloween. And my later reviews haven't been much like my first; I do more to avoid spoilers.
|Friday, November 7th, 2014|
I have been shamefully late in telling my LJ readers that I am moving to an apartment close to my office on December 13. It will be my first non-college address outside DC, albeit a short walk from the DC border.
You may recall how I wanted to move in part because a long subway ride would get expensive. Well, my parents persuaded me that I could afford to spend a bit more than the equivalent of my current rent plus two subway rides every workday. My new budget gave me more promising options, and I decided on something about 15 minutes' walk from my office, half a block from the subway and bus stops, and not even that distance from a large supermarket.
I spent a while fretting that I would forget to do something important in the process of moving. Now that I have a written list, it doesn't bother me as much. Instead, I'm fretting that I may have chosen the wrong apartment. First, I didn't actually visit the one in question, just a similar but slightly larger and differently shaped one; floor plans had to help my imagination along. Second, I might have underestimated how much space I need. I hadn't thought of a dinner table, for example. Mom keeps telling me I have so little stuff, but I'd say it does a pretty handy job of filling my current space. Third, I may have been too hasty in my comparison to a nearby competitor apartment, which feels less like a hotel room and more like a one-story house.
Still, it's bound not to have some of the drawbacks to my current residence. It's on a high floor and less open to the outdoors, with readier temperature adjustment, so I'll be warmer in the winter and have fewer bug invasions the rest of the year, and no one outside could look thru my window. The kitchen includes a full-size fridge and a full-fledged oven. The complex seems to have a better reputation than others in my geographic and price range.
That leaves the time to steel myself for shifting a lot of objects in a short time. Think I'll bring some more to my office and discard more of what I'll probably never use (again).
|Friday, October 31st, 2014|
Today, for the first time since I bought the mask in my icon in 2006, I wore it for Halloween, along with a pair of black gloves. Specifically to a pizza lunch at the office, where we voted for the best costumes in three categories. I almost didn't get listed, since I had the mask off for eating -- not that I stood a chance in any category. Didn't bring a tail or anything to disguise the rest of my head. I wasn't even clear on whether I came as a plain red fox, Fantastic Mr. Fox, a furry convention attendee, a Venetian carnival attendee, a kitsune, or an extra in an Ylvis music video (somebody did ask what I say).
At least everyone I voted for won. Scariest was a similarly minimalist Jason Voorhees, whom I persuaded to try Michael Myers next year. The best look-alike was a friend of mine as Blankman, whom I probably remember better than most co-workers (he brought a DVD case for reference). Most creative was another friend as "the ocean." She's still wearing a squeaky plush otter on her head at the computer as I type. We also had a mouse and a rabbit, as if to taunt my fox.
I think I'll wear my mask on the bus after work, partly so it doesn't get damaged in my bag. I will have to be alert, tho, since it limits my vision.
|Thursday, October 30th, 2014|
|Book Review: The Dante Club
My mom gave me this book some years ago, along with her old copy of John Ciardi's translation of The Inferno
, because she thought I might need a refresher course. I didn't; after 14-15 years, I could remember every punishment for every sin in chronological order, which was more than I needed.( SynopsisCollapse )The Dante Club
doesn't feel like a first novel. Pearl did plenty of research, spelled out in detail in the back; I felt that I learned many things, even if a few terms are tricky to look up ("fussock," not "fossock"). He makes no blatant rookie writing mistakes. And he defied my worries that the stuffily old-fashioned academic setting would make it boring or that the premise would turn unenjoyable like an extended Se7en
. (It helps that the victims are less innocent herein.)
The book also includes the first chapter of Pearl's Poe's Shadow
, set a bit earlier in Baltimore. I expect to read that someday. Incidentally, I heard last night that my dad, who grew up in Baltimore, never read a full poem or story by Poe. I set out an anthology from school so we can read it together in between trick-or-treaters tomorrow.
In the meantime, maybe it's my Halloween mood, but I picked up the second entry in the Gravediggers series, Terror Cove
. One thing's for sure: The heroes will need a different tactic from last time.
|Friday, October 24th, 2014|
|Something must change
( Bus bluesCollapse )
So why don't I revert to the relatively comfy and reliable subway on a regular basis? Mainly because it costs more than twice as much to go where I need and saves little if any time with a circuitous 14 stops. An extra $2 per ride will add up fast.
And forget about driving. I have more reasons not to own a car than I care to list.
After nearly 7 years in the same house, I'm finally taking seriously Mom's suggestion to look into an apartment in walking distance of my office. It'll be a pain to move, but that pain will pass. Current Mood: annoyed
|Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014|
At my mom's suggestion, I have started a third blog
, this one specifically for my thoughts on movies. Expect updates about twice a week on average, in keeping with my viewing rate. The blog is a bit of a work in progress as I navigate Blogger for the first time.
I have to say, as unpopular as LiveJournal is nowadays, it's still my favorite platform.
|Friday, September 19th, 2014|
I used to dislike Talk Like a Pirate Day, until I realized it didn't have to be about just hackneyed talking. Some of you have seen me quote particular movie pirates in years past. For a more concrete example, Krispy Kreme today offered a free donut to anyone talking like a pirate and a free dozen to anyone dressed like one. (A certain co-worker might just have done that.)
For a short time, I lamented that I no longer work in walking distance of a Krispy Kreme, even tho I never gave them much business when I did. Then I remembered that my new office is just a few doors down from Piratz Tavern! Why pine for junk food of low repute when I could get dinner in a piratical environment?
To my slight surprise, the menu is less surf than turf. I guess they thought pirate = macho = meat = not fish. My meal was about par for restaurants in the area, but I had the added pleasure of costumed wait staff (who didn't react when I said things like "I be needin' a table for one") and interesting music I never hear anywhere else.
And the designated "grog." I never knew it could be so strong and yet so tasty. My waiter identified it as "rum, rum, rum, lime and ginger beer." I don't think it had a visible effect on my behavior, but walking out did feel a bit like walking on a ship at sea. This must be the closest thing to a drunk post I've ever made (a low bar, no pun intended).
Now if you'll excuse me, I plan to play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
tonight, at least until the pirates reappear. Current Mood: dorky