Monthly Archives: January 2013

Throwback Thursday ~ Horus Rising

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Special Announcement from the Throwback team:

NEXT WEEK, we will put up a list of Throwback Book/DVD combo prize packs. No, I’m not telling you what the selection will be yet, but trust me, there will be something for everyone. There will be a Rafflecopter to enter. The giveaway will run for one week, and when it ends, the winner will get to pick the prize pack of their choice.

ALL THROWBACK THURSDAY POSTS AND COMMENTS FROM JANUARY WILL QUALIFY AS ENTRIES. There will be space on the Rafflecopter to let us know how involved you’ve been in Throwback Thursday this month. The more you participated, the better your chances.

So what are you waiting for? Link up, and we can’t wait to unveil our prize packs next week!

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett


I originally reviewed this book on April 20, 2010:

I’m always a little wary of tie-in books. Like many of the trendy 80’s TV series movie remakes, tie-in books are often commissioned to take advantage of a brand. They aren’t necessarily of good quality. I’ve read enough Star Trek and Star Wars novels to know this to be true. There is also some pretty good tie-in fiction out there. Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy probably did more to reinvigorate the Star Wars franchise than he’s given credit for, due in part to the solid nature of his work. But don’t think I encountered a tie-in that could stand alone until now.

I know a bit about the Warhammer 40K universe, but not much. … I’ve previously read a 40k novel. That novel was pretty disappointing. Still in my search for palatable military SF, I figured I’d give 40K a second try with a series recommended by Chris Morgan. The Horus Heresy novels are set 10 millennium before Warhammer 40K (the 40K here referring to the human race in the year 40,000) and sets up some of the conflict that pervades that universe. Abnett does a wonderful job in doing that, even though this novel (the first in the series) only really sets up that setup.

I enjoyed this novel a great deal. It has great writing, solid characters who don’t do stupid things, and lots of ambiguity. Abnett questions the concept of the righteous war against the backdrop of 40K’s nature vs chaos themes. He also presents the value of historians and journalists in such actions; an aspect of the story which I hadn’t expected. In many ways, this is a great war novel, but not such a great sci-fi novel. Much of that is due to the 40K setting. I question some of the lack of technical advancement in such a far-future setting. Only so much of that can be accounted for by technological dark ages. On the whole, I can overlook those things when the narrative is compelling enough.

Writing-wise, Abnett doesn’t go out of his way to explain technology, and I don’t feel that lack. The battle scenes are something to study. They are fluid and clear. He also plays with the chronology of narrative and does so effortlessly. These things can be done. You just have to do them well.

I plan on reading #4 in this series later on this year. As a note: this was a novel I read as part of the very first read-a-thon I took part in.

Review ~ Man in the Empty Suit

This book was provided to me by Soho Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

 

Say you’re a time traveler and you’ve already toured the entirety of human history. After a while, the outside world might lose a little of its luster. That’s why this time traveler celebrates his birthday partying with himself. Every year, he travels to an abandoned hotel in New York City in 2071, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and drinks twelve-year-old Scotch (lots of it) with all the other versions of who he has been and who he will be. Sure, the party is the same year after year, but at least it’s one party where he can really, well, be himself.

The year he turns 39, though, the party takes a stressful turn for the worse. Before he even makes it into the grand ballroom for a drink he encounters the body of his forty-year-old self, dead of a gunshot wound to the head… (via Goodreads)

Time travel. It’s basically a set up for narrative failure. Usually, a paradox is involved. A paradox is defined as “an argument that produces an inconsistency, typically within logic or common sense.” Those are things that a writer tries to avoid when writing. Time travel stories are usually saved by their fantasy quality. The technology is so far out that belief is pretty quickly suspended. Really, as long as a time travel story isn’t overly confused or obfuscatory, I’m good with it.

Sean Ferrell does a really good job writing a fairly complex time travel story without it getting muddled. For the first third of the story, the only character is the main character–or rather versions of himself. Yet, interactions between the character are clear and surprisingly interesting. Similarly, events that are repeated are given enough of a twist to keep them fresh. Ferrell is at his best when writing tense, paranoid, cat-and-mouse interactions. Basically, this book is most enjoyable when its being a noir mystery. After the first third, the book takes a bit of turn–out of the shadows and into the sun, if you will. It’s narratively important to move on to this, but not quite as interesting. There were points in the story when I really wanted beat the main character with a bat, but the ending of the book is good.

Man in the Empty Suit is slated for release on Feb. 5th from Soho Press.
(First book I read this year, third review.)

Genre: Sci-Fi Noir
Why did I choose to read this book? Saw it on NetGallley, sounded interesting.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Finished! It was the first book of the year.
Craft Lessons: It’s okay for a character to be unlikeable as long as what’s going on around him is interesting.
Format: Kindle eBook, read mostly on my Kindle
Procurement: NetGalley

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Winter’s Respite Wrap-Up & #NaNoReMo

A Winter’s Respite – Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict

Wrap-Up

When I set my goal for Winter’s Respite, I debated 400 or 500 pages. I should have gone low. Oh, well. I finished The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, read chunks of Behind the Scenes with Mediums and Carter Beats the Devil, and read a few short stories. All in all, ~373 pages. Probably more than I  would have considering the week I had. With the end of winter leagues, New Year Fest, and the beginning spring league, I’ve been pretty busy with website duties. New Year Fest was rained out, but I was still up way too early (for me) on Saturday and Sunday. Lack of sleep led to me doing less mentally intense things, like playing EQ2 & Vanguard and watching a disc of Homeland. Work-wise, I wrote a few faux news articles for my husband’s project and did some research for my next project.

#NaNoReMo

Starting February 1st, John Wiswell is hosting National Novel Reading Month. Last year, #NaNoReMo snuck up on me and I was left envying the hashtaggery and great discussion of classics. The rules are simple:

  1. Find a classic novel you’ve never read, preferably one you’ve been meaning to read for a long time.
  2. “Classic” is up to your definition. If you feel Beloved is a Modern Classic, you read it.
  3. Between February 1st and 28th, read the book.
  4. Join in on Twitter, blogs and Facebook to discuss your journey through the classic. You’re even welcome to come back discuss the books in comments threads on this post.

My pick is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Is it a novel? Is it a classic? Have I ever been known to actually follow the rules? Regardless, I’ve had In Cold Blood on my shelf for a while. As far as I can remember, I’ve never read any Capote either and I probably should though this book may be an outlier in his canon. My back-up is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It would be *the* choice, but I’m a bit mired in the 19th century with a few other projects and I figure I need some contrast.

Throwback Thursday ~ The Caves of Steel

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

ATTENTION! Next week, Mandi and Lauren will be hosting a Throwback Giveaway! That’s right, you will be able to WIN THINGS!

But here’s the catch: You will have the best chance of winning if you participate in Throwback Thursday. And comment on other people’s Throwback Thursday posts. You can do this after the giveaway goes live, but EVEN OLD THROWBACK THURSDAY POSTS WILL COUNT AS ENTRIES. In other words, browse your bookshelf or DVD collection, find something you loved, and HOP TO. RIGHT NOW. Get a leg up on the slackers.

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.

Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to help track down the killer. The relationship between Lije and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw. “R” stands for robot—-and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim! (via Goodreads)

I’m killing several birds with one stone this week, reviewing something I just finished rereading (Book 4 for the year) for Throwback Thursday *and* it’s Crime/Mystery too!

The Caves of Steel, first published in 1953, is credited as being the first science fiction mystery. The blending of the two genres was thought to be difficult to pull off because the use of far-future technology could be used as hocus-pocus to cheat the reader. Actually, you wouldn’t necessarily have to go too far future. How would any of the recent CSI TV shows look to a person from 1953 if they hadn’t seen the progression of science? Asimov manages to pull it off though, and better than I remember from my first reading of this book back in high school. I’m also not sure how prevalent the “buddy cop” trope was in the 50s, but Asimov presents an instance that I’m surprised hasn’t been adapted into a Will  Smith movie. (I, Robot (2004) was loosely based on other Asimov robot stories.) Lije and Daneel are a fun pair.

Despite being set in the far future, the book is very 1950s. People curse “golly.” Women are depicted as, let’s say, frivolous. Computing involved a lot of punch cards and tape. It makes me a little sad that Asimov passed away in 1992. He never got to see what computing would really become in only another decade. I’d like to think that he would have appreciated it. Despite its inaccuracies in predictions, the novel does hit on some interesting topics. What happens when robots (or some other population) move in to do jobs that others don’t want? What will happen as our life-spans continue to lengthen? I recently read a review of Asimov’s Foundation series in which the reader was disappointed that Asimov’s conclusion for the human race was that we’d continue on like we always have, no better or worse. That philosophy comes out in The Caves of Steel as well. Personally, I find that somewhat comforting. Asimov was a student of history as well as the sciences (there are biblical references in Caves) and knew that the past is not as rosy as we’d like to think and the future will never be as grim as we often fear.

I also realized that my writing style has probably been influenced by Asimov more than I thought. The way the story is paced and structured remind me very much of how I’ve come to write stories. I wonder what other habits I picked up from authors I first read in my teens?

My one problem is that, while Asimov doesn’t exactly cheat, the solution of the mystery relies on a piece of evidence that could have been addressed earlier without giving the story away. The mystery plot is actually a little thin in comparison to the time Asimov spends on the worldbuilding. It’s not a long novel and its the corner stone for two Lije and Daneel sequels.

Genre: Science-fiction mystery
Why did I choose to read this book? Someone from the Bout of Books Readathon was reading the second one which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to give the series a reread.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes!
Craft Lessons: That moment when you realizes you’ve been subconsciously imitating works you read 20 years ago.
Format: Kindle ebook
Procurement: Greater Phoenix Digital Library

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A Winter’s Respite Read-a-Thon

A Winter’s Respite – Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict

As with my previous read-a-thons, it will be a week of relaxed reading during which we can personally challenge ourselves and whittle away those ever looming TBR piles/shelves/libraries.  I hope you will join me! I will not be hosting any mini-challenges, as we learned from my last two read-a-thons, focusing on the reading rocks. However, if anyone else would like to host a mini-challenge, you are more than welcome. We will have a few scheduled Twitter chats again (and perhaps some more reading sprints). Our twitter hashtag is #WintersRespite

GOALS

I seem to do terrible during Michelle’s readathons, through absolutely no fault of the host. But, like an insane person, I will try again. Also, I seem more focused on working when I’m readathon-ing. At least this is the case in 2013. I haven’t gotten much done reading- or writing-wise since Bout of Books. My goal ~500 pages, mainly because New Year Fest is Saturday and Sunday. I’m playing as well as helping out, so I’m probably not going to get much reading done. List of possible reading materials:

BOOKS TO READ

Loaned to Me:
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (starting at 17%)

From the Library:
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (starting at 21%) Finished

ARCs:
The Revenge of Moriarty by John Gardner

From the Bookshelf:
Finish Behind the Scenes with Mediums by David Phelps Abbott (starting at pg. 181)
The Unknown Poe, edited by Raymond Foye
Maybe few Sherlock Holmes stories.

UPDATES

MONDAY
Number of pages I’ve read today: ~44
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~44
Books: The Caves of Steel (21%-42%, ~44 pages)
Writing work done: Finished a faux news article for husband’s writing project.
Notes: The evening was semi derailed by cleaning out the storage room in advance of getting a new water heater.

TUESDAY
Number of pages I’ve read today: ~52
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~96
Books: The Caves of Steel (42%-67%, ~52 pages)
Writing work done: Submitted Luck for Hire to another agent and Model Species to another agent.
Notes: I had a game of ultimate frisbee in the evening. My team won! Yay!

WEDNESDAY
Number of pages I’ve read today: ~80
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~176
Books: The Caves of Steel (67%-100%, ~68 pages), Behind the Scenes with Mediums by David Phelps Abbott (pg. 181-193)
Writing work done: Wrote another faux news article for husband’s project.
Notes: Had a game of frisbee at noon, had to update websites.

THURSDAY
Number of pages I’ve read today: ~36
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~212
Books: Behind the Scenes with Mediums by David Phelps Abbott (pg. 193-209), “The Problem at Thor Bridge” by Arthur Conan Doyle (~20 pages)
Writing work done: Also reread about twenty pages of my husband’s manuscript and rewrote part of an faux news report.
Notes: Just out of sorts today. I’ve not been sleeping well and have been feeling very hermity.

FRIDAY
Number of pages I’ve read today: ~100
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~312
Books: Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (17%-37%, ~100 pages)
Writing work done: None, though Carter Beats the Devil is kinda sorta research for the book I’m working on (as is Behind the Scenes with Mediums).
Notes: Haven’t slept well for the past couple nights. Spent much of today napping.

SATURDAY
Number of pages I’ve read today: ~30
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~342
Books: Via Multo, a couple of David H. Keller tales (~10 pages, I guess). Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (37%-41%, ~20 pages)
Writing work done: None.
Notes: Ultimate frisbee rained out. 😦 Caught up on sleep, somewhat.

SUNDAY
Number of pages I’ve read today: ~31
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~373
Books: Read “Intestate” by Charlie Jane Anders (~8 pages), “Surrounded by the Mutant Rain Forest” by Bruce Boston (~3 pages), Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (41%-51%, ~20 pages)
Writing work done: None.
Notes: Ultimate frisbee tournament cancelled. Back to being way behind on sleep.

Throwback Thursday ~ Young Sherlock Holmes

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Movie directed by Barry Levinson, written by Chris Columbus, produced by Steven Spielberg; based on the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle


If you’ve visited this blog at all, it should come as no surprise that I am a fan of most things Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are the first literature I remember utterly devouring. During one summer in the 80s, I went through pretty much the entire canon. Doubtless, my interest in Holmes was probably sparked by two things. The first, the Granada TV series featuring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes which debuted in 1984. (Which could be the subject of a Throwback Thursday too, but I’m probably going to talk about that series a lot as I reread the canon this year.) The second, Young Sherlock Holmes.

I didn’t see this movie at the theaters, but caught it quickly when it was released on cable. As with much Sherlock Holmes pastiche, you have to turn a slightly blind eye to canon and just sort of go with it. Instead of Holmes and Watson meeting during the events of A Study in Scarlet,  they first encounter one another as boys at a boarding school. When his eccentric mentor dies after suffering from panic-inducing hallucinations, Holmes is on the case. This movies is good fun. The characters are fairly true in spirit. Holmes is overbearing, pompous, and a know-it-all, which is pretty much required. Watson is a bit on the bumbling side, but is the grounding factor in Holmes’ life. The movie is a full-on 1980s Spielberg adventure. Young, daring heroes smartly solve problems amid a movie filled with eye candy. Young Sherlock Holmes features the first fully computer generated character: a stained glass knight that features prominently in one of the hallucinations. The effects hold up pretty well considering that the movie is nearly 30 years old!

Why watch it/read it today? Right now is a great time to dip into the Holmes mythos. Two of the three current franchises would seem to owe a debt to Young Sherlock Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock could be an on older, slightly more severe version of Nicholas Rowe’s wavy-haired Holmes, and Guy Ritchie’s action-filled movies could be direct sequels. Well, after Watson gives up custard tarts.  (CBS’s Elementary is the exception, and still good TV.) Doyle created an enduring character with Holmes and popularized mysteries solved through ratiocination. The stories are still entertaining, quick reads.

Review ~ Sorry Please Thank You: Stories

Sorry Please Thank You: Stories by Charles Yu

A big-box store employee is confronted by a zombie during the graveyard shift, a problem that pales in comparison to his inability to ask a coworker out on a date . . . A fighter leads his band of virtual warriors, thieves, and wizards across a deadly computer-generated landscape . . . A company outsources grief for profit, their tagline: “Don’t feel like having a bad day? Let someone else have it for you.” Drawing from both pop culture and science, Charles Yu is a brilliant observer of contemporary society, filling his stories with equal parts laugh-out-loud humor and piercing insight into the human condition. He has already garnered comparisons to such masters as Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, and in Sorry Please Thank You, we have resounding proof of a major new voice in American fiction. (via Goodreads)

I picked up this book, figuratively at least, after reading a rather dismal drawing room “thriller” set in the late 1800s. I needed something different and I found it. The thing I kept thinking as read Sorry Please Thank You is, “These stories are for me. ” Me, being defined as a pushing-40 product of the 1980s technology boom. Cable TV, VCRs, and personal computers gave my generation the ability experience the stories we enjoyed more easily than ever before. Gaming and BBSes gave us the ability to share our own stories more easily than ever before. And all these things have led us to asked slightly different questions about our lives.

This book has helped me further my view of what YA fiction is because Sorry Please Thank You is not. YA asks a certain set of questions: “Who am I? What is my place in this world? What is expected of me? Who will I love? Who will love me?” These questions are well and good, but they are sort of first order questions. The next set of “questions” isn’t what YA is about: “Wait, this is who I am? I’m not too sure about the place I’ve chosen in my world. And I’ve pretty much blown any expectations that anyone has had of me. I love that person though. And I sincerely hope that person loves me too (’cause they say they do…)” It’s not quite mid-life crisis, but it’s the sort of thing that rattles around a pushing-40 Gen-Xer’s mind on occasion.

Yu has a light touch with his stories. There are plenty of geek culture references and science fiction tropes (though many, many less than Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One), but it’s the characters and their place in the world that are the focus of the stories. As it should be. My favorite of the collection is “Hero Absorbs Major Damage.” Yu looks at destiny and choice and the amazing amount of insecurity that even a hero might face within the structure of characters in a computer RPG. It’s a really good tale. If I were one of those voter/nominators for sci-fi literature awards, I’d put Charles Yu’s name in the hat.

Genre: Speculative fiction short stories.
Why did I choose to read this book? Originally entered a give-away for it on Goodreads, it sounded good.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes!
Craft Lessons: A had a bit of a realization about YA/non-YA, but other than that I just sat back and relaxed and enjoyed the stories.
Format: Used Overdrive’s browser-based reading app, which was pretty nice.
Procurement: Greater Phoenix Digital Library