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Tyre (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 05 August 2018 00:00

’ll bet you know why I read this little informative book, no?

Actually, this one came from a lady on my bus, a dynamic Vietnamese woman who got me to ride Critical Mass with her and her husband. I couldn’t place his nationality but when we saw each other on the bus again, she told me he was Lebanese. And that they were going to see his family soon. And with that, I started babbling about Tyre (see my books on the beg-link, below). Turns out she was going there. And she picked up this nice small reference book that I’d have killed for back when I was ripping apart library shelves (yes, it was that long ago, children) trying to find anything I could on Carthage and Tyre. Well, Carthage I’ve been to. Tyre, no.

But this book took me there.

Author Ali Khalil Badawi supervised the later excavations of the city. He provided a neat explanation of the city’s long history, its people, its rulers (and conquerors, and ransom-demanders), and its occasional destruction. The book provides sharp little maps showing the layout of the north and south ends of the island and the various eras of ruins to be found in each. There are beautiful photographs that, with a little imagination, can let you see the peoples of history, the traders, sea-voyagers and dye-makers, moving through its columned marketplaces, speaking their tongues from around the known world. For its small size (142 photograph-heavy pages) it contains a sizable volume of information.

Like I said, I’d have killed to get a book like this back when I was doing my historical writing.

Worth a look. If I ever get to Tyre, I’ll buy a box-full of them to give to my friends.


Reamde (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 29 July 2018 09:53

his one comes from Neal Stephenson, they guy who swept me away with Snow Crash all those years ago. It’s a vast and glorious tale that runs a modest 1044 pages. Yeah, you gotta really wanna here.

So Reamde is, in a nutshell, a fictional tale about a bit of Chinese malware that locks up your files and leaves you a “reamde” file that tells you how to pay them off to get your files unlocked. Of course the file is typoed because they are Chinese hackers and English is not their mother tongue. But the unique thing here is how you pay. It’s not via bitcoin, no, but inside a vast online game. You have to proceed to a certain longitude/latitude location and drop 1000 gold pieces ($73 US dollars). Then, presumably, your files will be opened.

So the payoff method is unique (since there exist methods of getting money back out of the game). But the situation is even more so, as Zula (the niece of the game’s owner) has the bad luck to be hanging with a shitty boyfriend who is selling stolen credit card information to the Russian mob. Of course, he borrows a zip drive from her uncle (the game’s founder) to transfer the file. And of course, Reamde is on his zip. So it gets into the mob’s agent’s computer and locks everything up, all those critical crime files, gone. The agent returns to force Peter and Zula to try to help him with the unlock payoff but now there is a full-scale war in the artificial world as small armies rage across the drop points, killing those coming in with gold and stealing it off their dead bodies. And suddenly the Russian mob (headed by a guy overextended and at risk) show up and then it’s no longer a game.

The mobster wants his files back and his effort is Russian-direct. He flies all concerned parties to China, to attempt to locate the Chinese hackers and convince them that returning his files would be in their best interest. But there is a bit of confusion as to which room the hackers are in. And the one the Russians barge into (one floor up) is packed with Islamic terrorists. Monitored, across the street, by a English female spy. And does the shit hit the fan.

And we’re only getting started.

I really liked this. The characters (I can’t even tell you how many there are) are interesting, the situations are interesting, and the story just moves on and on. On the bad side, it’s huge and vast. And the battle, with the terrorists attempting to slip across the Canadian border, murdering everyone they come across, with Zulu as their captive and all the other characters slowly orbiting in, is a long and lengthy conflict that crawls across miles and seems to go on for hundreds of pages. Because Stephenson is an established author, he gets all the elbow room he wants for his story and he uses every inch.

When it was done and I finally closed this one up, I could only sigh. I thought back across the full span of this, from the events in China, the flight of all involved to all points of the compass, their trips across the Pacific and America, the characters they met, the methods they used to find the murderous terrorists out in the middle of nowhere, and felt as if I’d been involved in their saga was well.

It’s a big book. A good book but a big one. You’ve been warned.


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 July 2018 09:56
Green Eggs and Ham (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 22 July 2018 00:00

oke up this morning wondering what I could review. I’m still working through Reamde, all 1042 pages of it (you can use this book to chock the wheel of your car if you need to change a flat). And then this Seuss classic popped into my mind and I figured, “Why not?”

So, Green Eggs and Ham is a story about choice and acceptance of new experiences, in this case the titular foods, both shown as nauseating and possibly dangerous to ingest. The protagonist, an unnamed sort of man/canine hybrid, seems to view himself as his own worldview center; he takes great exception to Sam, a smaller canine creature who seems also comfortable with a less-stringent view of the world as he declares self and soul on his series of signs.

This proceeds to the famous pursuit, of Sam dogging the protagonist, attempting to get him to try this strange cuisine. The rhyming couplets come faster and faster as Sam attempts to assuage the protagonist’s open rejections by proposing various settings (houses and boxes) and various dining companions (mice and foxes) where the meal might be sampled. And so it goes on, faster and more frenetic as the velocity of the action and rhymes come quicker.

I remember, as a child of five, being quite concerned in a railroad that would allow their passenger trains to fly across bridges seemingly incomplete. From all that my father told me about trains, it seemed like (literally) a bad way to run a railroad. And once the horrific train/boat collision of over and the survivors have dragged themselves to the shore, we see the protagonist’s reluctance faulter in the face of Sam’s unbounded determination. So, does he eat the plate of green breakfast victuals? I do not wish to spoil the ending; you’ll have to get it for yourself. But across the works of the Doctor, I’d have to say that this was one of my all-time favorites.

Get it. Five green eggs!


Last Updated on Sunday, 22 July 2018 18:12
The Carnivore (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 15 July 2018 13:25

he one good thing about sites like Project Gutenberg – when for reasons too strange and distracting, if you find yourself tugging your Brompton folding bike by bus to a train station without the least expectation, without a book or a laptop, you can always hop into the site five minutes before go time and print off something really quick. And that’s how I ended up with The Carnivore, a very short tale out of Galaxy Science Fiction from 1953.

In it, Earth is wiped out (pretty much as it usually is, not by meteors or sun-explosions but tin-plated ass-clowns who launch their nukes and die in the fallout). So everyone died, save for a couple of people who managed to find hiding places to slowly starve until, a bit late, the alien confederation arrives.

And they are so sorry, these gentle beings from a thousand worlds. Sorry they are late, sorry for what happened, sorry sorry sorry. The survivor in question, a woman who watched her colleague die before her eyes, is trying not to be bitter as she lies in her recovery bed, consoled. The aliens confirm that, yes, carnivore races are usually too hot-headed to survive, that all these aliens can do is show up and try to aid the survivors, to give them a life of comfort and ease after the horror they’ve been through.

But there is a nice twist at the end of this once, an interesting gotcha that might give you a blink when you get to the final page. And what is it? You’ll have to check HERE (for the full story) and see what happens.

So a good read that made the train come all the faster.



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