Book Blog
Artemis (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 31 December 2017 00:00

he new one by Andy Weir of The Martian fame, a story of a crazy wild-girl living on a mundane suburban moon base. Which, as I write this, I see the irony the author was going for. And I like it.

So Jasmine Bashara has been wild in the past. She’s gotten into trouble with the Dudley Doright station security chief. She’s slept around and even burned her welder-father’s shop down. So let’s just say that their relationship is distant and cold. Now working as a porter (moving cargos from ships to destinations), she’s got plans to go big. Her small-time smuggling gig is getting her the ears of the right (or wrong) people and she’s open to pulling a get-rich-quick captor to get all she wants in one go.

But you know it’s not simple or straightforward, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t have books, you’d have pamphlets.

Overall, I liked the characters and the setting. Weir does capture a lot of what a hanging-on-to-existence settlement might be like. He’s got the moon down pretty well (through the picture on the cover surprised me in that it’s not (geographically) the moon that floats in our sky (it looks ‘moonish’, but that’s it)). Jazz’s dialog is fun and like as she chatters her way through her endeavors. The other characters (her father, the cop Rudy, her Earth-side pen-pal Kelvin) are all interesting and dimensional. So yes, a fun read. Not as deep and compelling as his earlier book – I’m not sure what was missing here but yeah, close but not quite.

And I know how these things work – almost happened to me with Fire and Bronze. There is a bit where she’s pulling the classic “how did you know he was shot” bit, where someone is tricked to reveal more than they should know. However, I blinked and looked back a page. No, Jazz, you actually said it yourself. I can see it in the text. So, woops, minor point there. And the end was a little frenetic and rushed, as if the main character was in the boss level of a video game (or the book was being written with a movie in mind). Just sayin’.

But really, it’s still a good book. If you want to learn all about the moon (and how it might be used) check out Artemis. Good fun on a cold lifeless rock.


Last Updated on Saturday, 23 December 2017 11:04
In the City of Bikes (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 24 December 2017 00:00

isclosure – I’m a bike activist. I ride in the most dangerous city in America for this, three days a week. I’ve even spoken on the subject in this podcast. There is a gigantic photo of me on the wall at my work, with me pictured on my bike. Everyone knows I’m a man who rides a bike.

We’ve also been to Amsterdam and saw the bikes – even went on a tour (with helmets – how geeky we must have looked). That trip was cut short by my wife breaking her arm – another story there, this is a review, right?

So Pete Jordan is also a fan of bikes, more than me in that he immigrated to Amsterdam to become a citizen and learn about the bikes. In that, the book is a fascinating mix of the two-wheeled history of the city and his own experiences as he began to fit in. It’s fascinating, to learn of the occupation by the Germans, of their attempts to loot bikes from the citizens, of their resistances, and of the repercussions to Germans across the decades to follow. Also fascinating – to learn how Amsterdam was always a crazy bike town, how it started going over to the car in the 50s, and of the various efforts by different people and groups to wrest back control of the city (which they have done, for the most part).

There are the negative aspects, too, the running of red lights and especially the thievery of bicycles (the author’s loose survey shows that citizens tend to lose a bike a year to thieves). That part was a little eye-opening to me – I’d had this view of Amsterdam as a two-wheel utopia and yet it’s got its own problems (like canals filled with bikes that have, for whatever reason, been thrown in – sacrilege!). But for the most part it does capture what is, in my opinion, one of the most elegant, friendly and human forms of transportation (second is trains).

I only wish more people could read this and then look at their Americanized world, really look, and see the asphalt plains and the societal isolation we experience in this land of cars and convenience, where our neighborhoods are empty places and nobody walks or bikes in for fear of angry motorists and their two-ton killing machines (looks like a little bit of my own options are showing through here).

Anyway, great book of human possibility and positive change.


Last Updated on Sunday, 24 December 2017 13:23
Cool Japan Guide (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 03 December 2017 00:00

ought this one for the wife, a sort of statement of intent thing for our trip next year to Japan (which I want to do cold in Tokyo and she wants to do prepped on a tour. So yes, still sorting out things). But it’s a very interesting approach to trip-planning, a girlish comic book of traveling to Japan, all filled with bright burn-your-eyes-out color and girlish comics of all the things you’ll need to know.

Look, it’s not Fodars, but it’s a lot of fun.

So Abby’s been to Japan lots. Of course she has – she’s young and into Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen (sez so right on the cover). But she has traveled the island nation up and down it and has all sorts of advice, from language tutoring to train ticket purchasing. It was actually lain out in cleverly organized order (the section on food has me wanting to try a lot of different dishes, and for people who know how food-finicky I am, that’s saying a lot).

And it’s not long, just a colorful first step. But I kinda have a better expectation of what JB and I are getting into. So yes, there is that.

Anyway, for people prepping for a trip to that wonderful land on the other side of the globe (or simply for older people who’d like to know how young people think and view the world (and yes, she is one cheerfully-positive girl)) this one’s for you.

Can’t wait to go now!


Last Updated on Sunday, 26 November 2017 09:47
Tom Jones (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 26 November 2017 00:00

ix weeks. That’s how long it took me to get through this thing. Six weeks. 874 pages of tight, olde-english text. My literary albatross.

So this classic is not what you’d expect a classic to be. It’s like falling in love with a substance abuser, a love-hate relationship. And it’s massive and sprawling, but also repetitive and editorial. But what (or, better yet, who) is Tom Jones.

Tom is the son of unknown parents, smuggled into the bed of Mr. Allworthy, local landowner and (as his name implies) a just and charitable man. Well, up to the point where he believes the absolute worst about Tom (supplied by his scheming nephew Master Blifil and some toad-sucking clowns Allworthy permits to freeload in his mansion) and casts him out. But, see, Tom is in love with Sophia Western, the beautiful girl from the next estate over (who Blifil would like to marry, as well).

Now, point in fact: Tom isn’t a very heroic hero. Let me put it this way – he’s like a literal tomcat in that he fights and most certainly screws everything within thirty miles of Allworthy’s estate. Yet while he is a libertine, while he associates (and even beds) all the lower orders, he actually cares for them. Yes, he’s a corrupted fellow yet he still sacrifices for the good of those less fortunate then himself (such as Black George, the gameskeeper and poacher, who rewards Tom’s goodness by stealing from him). But suddenly he’s tossed out of doors and left to wonder and wander, a penniless drifter.

But, as luck would have it, Sophia the love intrest is fleeing to London, attempting to escape controlling forces at home who would see her advantageously wed to the despised Master Blifil. And so much of this novel is a travelling one, with Tom attempting to overtake his love, bypassing his love, just missing his love, or being caught in his usual uncompromising circumstances by his love. It’s got all the misunderstandings and misjustices classic English novels have and through it all, Tom does good deeds and ill-corruptions at every turn.

Eventually Tom gets to London where things grow quite dark. Tom saves a little family from disaster, yet gets caught in a duel and framed for a murder (though “he’s not dead yet”) he did not commit, while Sophia absolutely rejects him. Can you even save a hero at this point? But rest assured, happy endings when it all comes around to that final much-sought-after page.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m just bitching because this was such a difficult novel to get through. Scenes tend to be (as was the style) overlong and overdialogged. This isn’t helped by the author editorializing on anything that peeved him – essentially blogging – at the start of each book. So yes, I limped through the long passages and machete-hacked through the author’s overgrown verbosity (and I’m saying that, knowing what he thinks of critics). And you know what?

I still liked this novel. Very much. It was wind-baggery of the highest order, but it was also a great deal of fun. And I had to like Tom, with all his carousing and wenching  - he was breath of fresh realism in this world of stilted convention. In fact, I felt sadness when I got to the author’s final editorial, at which point he admitted that this was it, we were done, and that we would soon part like travelers who have shared a carriage on a long and bumpy journey.

Yes, it was long and epic and scandalous, a vast novel with dozens of characters and millions of words. But it was also great fun. I recommend it only for my most serious of fellow readers. You’ve been warned – this is not simply a read, it’s an investment on adventure. Good luck with it.


Last Updated on Sunday, 26 November 2017 09:28

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