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The World House (review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 27 November 2011 17:59

I picked up Restoration because it looked like interesting scifi, and had a cool cover with an English steam engine on it. It was only when I got home that I realized I got played in the airport bookstore way, that this was the second part to The World House. I only figured this out once I started reading and had no idea who all these characters were, and what they were talking about. It's sure not clear on the cover. Anyway, read something else and started The World House once it came. Read the set back to back.

It's a good read. Basically, there is a "house" patterned off both a Victorian dwelling and our own nightmares, a place hyperdimensional beings created to imprison one of their criminals. And in our dimension, there is a wooden box that bounces across time, getting picked up by unfortunates who, if holding it while in mortal danger (such as commuting by bicycle) they get transported to the House.

And in the house, horrible things happen.

People die in the worst ways. There are small groups who have formed, a savage band inside the grim conservatory, and a ship sailing about in the endless bathroom tub. Into this come a mixture of characters from the Victorian age to the present. And not only do they have to save their own asses, they also have to keep our reality from being destroyed.

Overall, I liked it. Guy Adam's has a sense of dialog and description that rivals (at times) that greater English Adams. For example, Her colossal thighs clapping together like retarded seals... Loved that. Made me shiver.

Still, the books are not without their blemishes. First off, I could do with a little more description. For example, my eyes popped at the fact that the characters appear at Church Street Station in Orlando in 1974 (I remember it from 1980). But there is not a single descriptive note about what it looks like, the Navy Base sailors, the towering CNA building, the bright arcades, the iron pedestrian bridge. Nothing. The characters just arrive, go in, have drinks. And the Intrepid, the ship endlessly sailing across a gigantic tub, I have no clue. Is it a sailing ship? A old steamer? I know they were beamed to the house sometime after World War One, and the ship seems to be made of wood, but as to what makes it go, I don't remember. Perhaps it should have been christened Enigma.

But really, the hardest thing about reading this is the punctuation, or lack thereof. Adams seems to be dead-set about using commas; they simply don't show up in the most basic locations. For garbled punctuation, I'll note this prime example...

It wasn't that long a walk back to his apartment thank God - he was sure neither his head nor stomach could deal with taking a tram - but just long enough to brush some of the drunkenness from him; to pull him back from the certainly of heaving up in the gutter and making even more of a fool of himself.

Comma before "thank God", and swap another for that semicolon. Angry Robot Books really needs a sharper editor, I think.

But still, fun reads. I recommend them.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 January 2012 13:10
 
Snow Crash (review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 28 August 2011 15:58

If you are going to nit-pick Snow Crash for anything, you can bag it for being 20 years old. Okay, so there are light pens, some of the computer stuff is dodgy, Hong Kong was still independent and there are a lot of people whose pops fought in WW2. So in that, yeah, it feels old.

But even on the third reading, the story swept me up again. I can distinctly remember picking up a copy in a downtown bookstore and going to Pizza Unos for lunch (the brick-n-mortar store, the pizza chain, even the cutzy shopping district are as gone now as they are in Stephenson's gritty near-world). I fell in love in the first few pages, with Hiro Protagonist (yeah, what a name!) as a black/Japanese independent hacker and pizza delivery guy. The world we know (knew?) has fallen apart. The United States? Pretty much gone. Franchises run everything, the mafia is into pizza delivery, a televangalist (with a telecom mogul's backing) is making dangerous discoveries in ancient Mesopotamia, a wave of Asian raft people is about to beach along California: yes, the world is going to hell.

The book burbles with futuristic-wit and cyber-charm, doing what true scifi does best, mainly extrapolating a facet of our world and expanding it in the future. And here, Snow Crash  goes after everything - the numbed middle class, the drones of a consumer culture, the privatization of everything, the swell of multinationals, the realignment of power from nations to corporations.

Oh, there are some long detective bits where Hiro attempts to pick apart history, to understand the makings of civilization and the Babel infocrash. I found these bits more interesting now as my own interest in ancients has broadened since '92. But overall, there will be enough action, fun, paybacks and turnarounds that even some of the action scenes can be mockingly hyphenated:

After that - after Hiro gets onto his motorcycle, and the New South Africans get into their all-terrain pickups, and the Enforcers get into their slick black Enforcer mobiles, and they all go screaming out onto the highway - after that it's just a chase scene.

And that's what Snow Crash is, one glorious, hightech, message-dripping chase scene. Brilliant!

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 January 2012 13:13
 
The Potter legacy PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 18 July 2011 19:35

The end of the world came and I didn't notice it, what with the bike rides, the model train constructions, dinner with friends, work and wife. The last Harry Potter movie hit the screens.

Facebook had rung like a gong when Casey Anthony got off. Now it was ringing against from all the Potter fans bellowing about what a wondrous thing this series was, how it taught their kids to read, about morals, ethics, the importance of good vs. evil, of fellowship, of commitment.

Yadda yad.

That the adult fans point to their children as the justification for their canonization of this water-weak story is bad enough - you'd rave for a children's book but have nothing else to rave about? That, in itself, is sad.

But their kids have read the books a dozen times and watched the movies a hundred. So what?

So...

What?

How as it made anything better? Most obviously, do you see children reading anything else? Some do, some don't. But those who do largely dovetail into vampire crap or knockoff nonsense. No gain there - you couldn't get your kids to eat their dinners so you gave them desert first. Now all they eat is Jello. Improvement?

And where is the gain of all this? Are they more literate? Are they more thoughtful? Do they seem more in touch with the world at large, more empathetic to their fellow man, more courteous, more adult? No. Over the last decade, for all this smoke and these mirrors, no difference.

When I was a kid, my dad told me about the books he'd read, of the Ten Thousand, of the Old Guard at Waterloo. He taught me (though old Avalon Hill games) about Jutland. We watched Moby Dick together. He had me tally the deaths in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and gain its life-lesson. He didn't give me to someone else to inspire and instruct - he did it himself.

And that's the sad thing - all you Potter mommies and daddies couldn't take enough interest to give your sons and daughters your unique perspective on the world, to communicate the good and bad, to teach chess (I sucked) and poker (even more). No, you joined the lemmings, tossing your children's curiosity and creativity to a publishing house and a studio conglomerate to give them make-believe good-evil stories that they don't really believe in, not really, because its just a book and a movie, just for fun, because everyone knows that all it is.

Watership Down

The Diary of Anne Frank

Treasure Island

Huckleberry Finn

The Book of Merlin

Fighting the Flying Circus

Ensign Flandry

War of the Worlds

20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea

Charlotte's Web

...to name a few.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 18 July 2011 20:20
 
Rivers of grass (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 16 July 2011 00:00

Imagine reading a dramatization of a cancer or degenerative disease that has been slowly spreading through your body, one you were not fully aware of. You read of the wonderful nature of each organ, their function and interplay, and cringe as you follow their demise. The whole is breaking down. And you realize it is probably too late to reverse the process.

This is pretty much what reading this beautiful, painful book is all about. Rivers of Grass follows the history of the Florida Everglades, from its geological makeup, its biological processes, its discovery and settling by nomadic Indian tribes, then the coming of the Spanish. And here's where the book begins its long and painful spiral.

The many Indian wars (which is a polite way of saying Make deals with the savages you are in the process of screwing are documented. There are pages of slavery, greed, murder, deal-breaking and religious buffoonery. It's like the seven deadly sins set against a pristine environment.

But not pristine for long. Soon there are passages about the canal proposals, the detonating of the limestone ridges that kept the water in and the salt out. And the bird hunts for plumage (for women's hats) in which men with shotguns strolled through the vast nesting fields, blasting swaths through the unsuspecting ranks. There are the efforts at cultivation, at big sugar, at the injection of fertilizers and poisons into the teetering biosphere. And then there is the ravenous thirst of the Miami megaplex, gallons and gallons of water spread across ever-parched lawns.

Rivers came out in 1947, and already its fate was grim. There is an additional section included on the revenges of the last fifty years. While this book is wonderful, to paraphrase, it's a difficult book to pick up. Every page brings more heartache.

What truly amazes me is that Orange County Libraries does not have this on their shelves. I tried to get it from them and failed. You can get any number of Harry Potter books but not this classic of Florida natural history, which explains why the glades are dying in the first place.

Of course, it is with a sense of deja vu that I hear our tea-bagger governor Rick Scott is gutting environmental regulations across the everglades. He only represents the most recent white wave of invasion, the self-centered retirees.

So, on your next trip to Disneyland and Universal, maybe you should swing south to see the rivers of grass. Look fast. They won't be here much longer.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 July 2011 09:13
 
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