Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tales of the Slayers (graphic novel)

Tales of the Slayers (graphic novel)

As previously mentioned, I don't usually read graphic novels, but the library had a bunch of them and I had time during the summer. I picked up a few of them.

There were a few Buffy, the Vampire Slayer comics, almost all featuring the characters from the show. Casually flipping through them, I wasn't interested. However, Tales of the Slayers was different. It was a bunch of short stories featuring Slayers from the past and the future, filling in more of the mythos rather than simply supplementing the series. I enjoyed it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Batman: Terror (graphic novel)

Batman: Terror (graphic novel)

I don't usually read graphic novels, but the library had a bunch of them and I had time during the summer. I picked up a few of them.

This one was quite good featuring Batman squaring off against both Hugo Strange and Scarecrow (who has plans of his own that Strange is unaware of). Catwoman also puts in an appearance. Worth reading.

I'm glad this was the first one I picked up. Otherwise, I might not have read any more.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Star & Stripes Triumphant (Harrison)

Star & Stripes Triumphant, Harry Harrison (2001)

The satisfying conclusion to an excellent trilogy finds the United States at war with Great Britain, with Ireland playing an important role. The rules of engagement have changed as warfare has moved into a new age.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stars & Stripes in Peril (Harrison)

Stars & Stripes in Peril, Harry Harrison, 2000

Book two of this alternate Civil War tale finds the Union and the Confederacy taking the fight to Great Britain and the rode to freedom may well be in Ireland.

Very well done. Excellent read.
(I believe I give my copy to the guy who loaned me the other two books because he couldn't find his copy.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Star & Stripes Forever (Harrison)

Stars & Stripes Forever, Harry Harrison, 1998

Standing on line at Barnes & Noble's, I glanced over at the discount books and saw a book called Stars & Stripes in Peril, an alternate history book set during the Civil War, that takes the Union and the Confederacy into Ireland. Sounded interesting, so I scooped it up. It looked so interesting, that I hadn't noticed that it was book two of a trilogy. This was pointed out to me about an hour later by a couple of friends. The first reminded me that he had told me about the series at least a year earlier. The second was the one whom I gave the Net Force books to, and he in return loaned me the other two books in this trilogy. This is the first.

Harry Harrison does an excellent job with alternate history, and this is no exception. The premise is simple: what if Prince Albert had died a month earlier than he actually did. That is no small change for history. Prince Albert was key in defusing a standoff between Great Britain and President Lincoln, which could have ended in the United States fighting a war on two fronts.

Naturally, this would've ended badly for the Union and very quickly, so Harrison adds an extra twist. The British intend to attack Mississippi under cover of darkness. Unfortunately, the ships get lost in the fog and when they invade, they realize too late that they have actually attacked Louisiana, committing unspeakable acts.

The British decide that they'll have to take it all. The Confederacy can only respond by putting aside their differences and joining forces with the Union. And, no, I didn't give away the ending to the book. This happens around the middle, if I remember correctly.

I enjoyed this book. If you like alternate history novels or stories set in the Civil War or just have an interest in General Sherman, read this.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vulcan! (Sky)

Vulcan!, Kathleen Sky, 1978

One of the original Star Trek novels, and an early edition of it (with the original artwork, not the updated cover). Unfortunately, I don't remember much about it other than the blurbs I found online.

I don't think that this is the only Trek book I've read by Kathleen Sky.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tom Clancy's Net Force: CyberNation (Perry)

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Breaking Point, Steve Perry (2000)

This was the last in the pile of Net Force paperbacks I'd acquired. Unlike the others, this one had a title that actually had something to do with the plot. There was an online community called Cybernation, which wanted to be an independent entity among other nations. You can imagine what kind of Revolution would be required to bring that about.

Enter Net Force, which once again wins the day, but never entirely nor convincingly. Something always slips through their grasps.

Anyway, I thought enough about these books to pass the bunch of them on to another Tom Clancy reader, even if these aren't technically by Clancy

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Grim Grotto (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Grim Grotto, Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)

After a bit of a wait, this 11th book in the series was released. I picked it up at a special appearance in a crowded theater on the Upper West Side where Lemony Snicket was too afraid to appear, so Daniel Handler appeared instead. (Some parents were concerned until their children clued them in.)

We unfortunately sat in the back of the theater and so we were the last to get on line to meet him and get an autograph. I read more than half the book while standing on line for two hours waiting to meet him on a lined that snaked through a corridor with numerous doorways, so you were never really sure how close you were. The "Evening with Lenomy Snicket" started about 7 pm. I left with two children about 9:30 pm. He was personable and spent a minute or two with every child, but that's what caused the backup. Unfortunately, some of his fans fell asleep on line or their parents gave up when they were getting close (though still a half hour away).

That said, the book was a little bit of an improvement over the last couple, but it still felt like it was being dragged out, and you had the feeling that the mysteries within would probably not be solved before book 13, if ever.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Point of Impact

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Breaking Point, Steve Perry (2000)

Another book in the series, which overall I enjoyed even though I can't remember much about the individual books other than I was started to get tired before I finished my stack of them. Again, I didn't have Perry's name written down, so I didn't know it from looking at the cover. This one had to do with drugs capable of inducing super-strength and intelligence being sold over the Internet. Drama ensues.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

X-Files: Whirlwind

X-Files: Whirlwind, (does it matter who it's by?)

Another novel based on the show, but not an adaptation of any particular episode.
I don't remember anything about it in particular, but I would remember if I ever liked an X-Files novel.

So far, I haven't. What works for a one-hour television episode doesn't seem to work for a couple hundred pages.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Kingdom of Infinite Numbers: A Field Guide (Bunch)

The Kingdom of Infinite Numbers: A Field Guide, Bryan Bunch

Every summer I try to read a book about math to expand my knowledge of the subject. I usually fail. I get part or even most of the way through the book and then I haven't a clue what the author is talking about anymore.

This book from the summer of 2004 was different.

Bunch writes a "field guide" for numbers, picking interesting numbers and describing what's interesting about them, starting with natural numbers like 1, 2, 3, moving on to 0, particular negative numbers and fractions, decimals, and specific really, really big numbers.

It was an interesting read. And I made it all the way through.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Breaking Point

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Breaking Point, Steve Perry (2000)

Don't remember it much except the personal lives of all involved move forward. A little research tells me this one had something to do with Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) driving people mad.

This was the book that got me wondering -- not that it was going to stop me from reading the next two -- if this ragtag team was ever actually going to be successful at something. Oh, sure, things get resolved but no one is going to confuse these books with real life operations at the FBI, not even those ten years in the future (which is almost now). So if the evil scientist geniuses can make quantum computers and manipulate radio waves to control minds, why do these technologies always get lost forever and how come, with all these evil scientist geniuses running around, none can duplicate the results? And how dumb are the folks who run Net Force if they can't recruit some of these geniuses who always seem to outshine their geniuses?

It's science fiction, whether they want to admit it or not. So if they want to establish that the FBI's Net Force suddenly have super-duper super computers, what's the problem? They're trying to keep it realistic?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Night Moves

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Night Moves, Steve Perry

The apostrophe-s lets you know that Tom Clancy didn't write the book although I would've been hard-pressed to tell you who did. It's not in my list. I had to look it up online.

I received the 2nd book in the series, "Hidden Agendas", as a stocking stuffer a few years earlier. It was an okay book, although it had a bit of filler, mostly dealing with a character that I assume was important in the first book, but was totally ancillary to this story. It takes place in a future that would probably be here about now and deals with a unit of the FBI that fights crime on the Internet, and since they use virtual reality, they really do fight crime on the Internet.

This book, which is the third in the series, brings the team to England after one of them has a stroke induced over the Net and they must find who it is that can break into what should be secure computers.

Quick read.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, (Truss)

Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss, 2003

With a title like that, accompanied by cover art featuring a homicidal panda, not to mention reviews I seen, I had to get a copy of this book because I was sure it would be a hysterically funny read.

It was not. It was the most dry book I'd read in quite some time. I guess I was expecting something along the line of William Safire's On Language columns. This was much more straight-forward and no-nonsense -- despite the book's title. Not to say that the author didn't make some excellent points on punctuation, she did. It just wasn't as enjoyable as I had hoped.

However, there's one anecdote that stands out in my mind. Truss takes "Warner Brothers" to take over the movie, Two Weeks Notice, which should have an apostrophe: Two Weeks' Notice. She returns to that point several times and mentions "Warner Brothers" quite a few times. What Truss fails to realize is that Warner Bros. is spelled with a period.

(I know that because I read it in Safire's column.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Maybe (Maybe Not), (Fulghum)

Maybe (Maybe Not), Robert Fulghum, 1993

In the mid-90s, I had a 50-mile, one-way commute to work to Parsippany, NJ. I got a library card for the Morristown library (which was easier to get to than the Parsippany branch) and started checking out books on tape, mostly abridged.

This was the book that I had checked out in 1996 just before a blizzard, which dropped two feet of snow in New York City and more in New Jersey. I listened to this book on my Walkman over the course of a two-and-a-half-hour commute by subway and railroad. I bring this up so that you can get a complete picture of how early I got up, how long I traveled and how much snow was piled on the ground outside that Morris Plains station where I waited for a bus that went near my office complex. Imagine that you were in a car driving down that street just as I was listening to Fulghum explain the events surrounding the time he conducted the Minneapolis Chamber Symphony as it played the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth.

You would have asked yourself, why is that guy in a suit, carrying a briefcase and standing in a three-foot drift with the frozen wind blowing snowflakes in his face laughing hysterically??

When I saw a copy of this book years later, I had to read it unabridged. It was as good as it was eight years earlier although I didn't have Fulghum's voice reading it to me. Even if you don't read self-help or inspirational or religious books, this is one to read.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Let Freedom Ring (Hannity)

Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism, Sean Hannity, 2004

The syndicated, radio-talk-show host and Fox News commentator's first book is filled with his opinions, which you are free to disagree with, and facts, which you aren't, although how you interpret those facts might vary. If you're a fan, or just like-minded, you'll probably find a lot to like in this book. If you're not and you're still reading this, you're probably seething by now.

Feel free to read this as opposition research. Read it to find the "flaws" and "fallacies" and the stuff that he's just making up. However, also note that everything is sourced. I didn't check the sources, but if you think he's lying, you're free to do so. I'm sure many did back in 2004 when this book was first published.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The King of Shadows (Marston)

The King of Shadows, Ann Marston, 1998

Book five is an improvement over books three and four as it weaves together the stories of two descendants of the Celi who fight for justice and freedom and that of a Somber Rider who has the blood of the original, ancient and magical people of that land flowing through his veins. Events will set these three on a collision course and shape the future on the island.

Unfortunately, I had to do some research on this one, as I did with the last one. I don't remember anywhere near as much as I thought I would. Without checking, I wouldn't have remembered the title of the book, which is technically Book of the Swords in Exile trilogy, not book five in the Celi/Skai/whatever series.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rogue Pirate (Betancourt)

Rogue Pirate, John Gregory Betancourt, 1987

I remember almost nothing of this book. I did a little research and found out that it was a TSR book for AD&D, and it had pirates in it. And sorcery. And mythical creatures and a big battle at the end.

I've read Betancourt's short fiction in the past, so I'm sure that I liked this (or, at the very least, didn't NOT like it), but I'm puzzled as to why I'd pick up such a book, which was #3 in a series, apparently. Library sale? Book raffle? The old used book store that had a 2-for-1 (and later a 3-for-1) trade-in policy?

This is the kind of book for which I needed a web log like this five years ago.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Oops, Wrong Order

Not that anyone who know the difference, but I haven't been consulting my list of books from 2004. I just assumed I read all the Snicket books together. Apparently, there were stretches in between when I had to wait for the next book to get to me. So I'm going back in time with the next few selections that get posted. Oops.

Cloudbearer's Shadow (Marston)

Cloudbearer's Shadow, Ann Marston, 1998

This is the first book in the Swords in Exile trilogy, the sequel to Marston's Rune Blade trilogy. In my opinion, it is all entirely one series because the first trilogy had no ending. In fact, this story starts one generation after the previous one ended, which was standard for the first three books.

I don't remember much about this one, which says something in itself because I remember much about the first two books and I could tell you all the things I hated about book three. This book was more like Broken Blade than the first two books, but it did move the story along. Heavy on the romance and coming of age (and magic).

Still, I'm glad I reserved it at the library and was able to track down a copy so many years after picking up that discount copy of The Western King.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Unauthorized Autobiography of Lemony Snicket (Snicket)

The Unauthorized Autobiography of Lemony Snicket, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2002

Although this book of background information (not necessary to the story) was published either just before or just after Carnivorous Carnival, I didn't read it until I was (then) current with all the other books. I didn't want it to give anything away.

Actually, it wouldn't have done that. In fact, it would have been extremely helpful as we finally see that the tattoo of the eyeball on Count Olaf's ankle in the first book and alluded to numerous times in the series looks absolutely nothing like, say, the CBS eyeball, or for that matter any other eyeball that anyone else would ever draw. Or, co-incidentally, the eyeball image used in the film. As mentioned previously, this is the worst kind of retconning, and the sloppiest of plotting and writing.

Handler was obviously running out of ideas but committed to 13 books, which explains why they started coming out a year apart.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Slippery Slope (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Slippery Slope, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2003

When we each received our books for the family reading club, this one was mine, which meant I got to read it first. And because it was the last one available at the mine, everyone was anxious for me to read it. (Envious, really.)

The Baudelaire children, having finally found out what V.F.D. stands for and what it's significance is, start to wonder whether you fight fire with fire or do you fight fire with water. And does fighting fire with fire make you no better than Count Olaf? Or something like that. And since we know what V.F.D. stands for, a new mystery is introduced -- namely, the sugar bowl and what's so important about it. Along with the search for the possibly living parent of the Baudelaire children.

I found it getting tedious, but I figured I was almost done with the series so I plowed through it. I was actually a little upset to discover that there would be a bit of a wait before the 11th book would be published.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Carnivorous Carnival (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Carnivorous Carnival, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2002

This book in the series had the worst example of a retcon, a word here that means retroactive continuity, which happens when you go back in the past and add to or change what has happened and pretend that that's the way it has been all along.

The series is filled with retcons, such as the fire with killed the Baudelaire parents was not an unfortunate event but a case of arson; Count Olaf is not a greedy villain who happened upon the Baudelaire fortune but a murderous, greedy villain who went after it from the onset; Count Olaf was not a murderous, greedy villain who went after the Baudelaire fortune but the member of a secret organization who went after members of an opposing faction of that secret organization; etc.

But this book had the most glaring retcon of all. In the middle of the book, the children see yet another eyeball, as they have seen so many in the past, but when they look upon it very closely, they realize that it isn't an eyeball at all, but rather the letters V - F - D. I had to think about that for days before I could figure out how those three letters could possibly look like an eyeball. I finally gave up and just accepted it, but it still bothered me. It wasn't until I read The Unauthorized Autobiography of Lemony Snicket that it became clear that the eyeball that I had been imaging in my head for NINE BOOKS -- an image which was also used in the feature film -- was WRONG.

Up until now, the two things that got me to continue with the series were the fact that my kids were reading it (and loving it) and Handler's amusing writing style, but that was almost a deal breaker.

That and the fact that the kids worry that they are starting to become the villains that the press says that they are, which might be because they are doing things like starting fires and hanging around Count Olaf too much.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2001

To be honest, I don't remember much of this book other than this is the one where the kids find a page in a file that suggests that there was one survivor of the Baudelaire fire, but it doesn't say who that survivor might be. Instead, there is just a reference to another page of another file that is never seen.

I guess V.F.D. was getting old as a macguffin, so he switched to the search for a parent, which at least gives the three kids some hope, unlike the search to discover the meaning of the letters V.F.D.

Lots of anagrams and cultural allusions for the adults. I think I remember enjoying this one because I thought that they were getting somewhere ... sooner or later. And I was somewhat surprised because the existence of a parent would be a very fortunate event, which is out of place in this series.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2001

Out of relatives for the Baudelaire children, Mr. Poe places the children in the care of an entire town, the Village of Fowl Devotees. Oooh, look! There's that VFD again, which at the moment, still doesn't actually mean anything or stand for anything.

This is also the book where the author starts inserting himself by inserting family members, in this case Jacques Snicket. Things go from bad to worse as the usual cast of characters return. There was enough going on here where "Snicket" could have chosen to wrap some of it up or decide to drag everything out until the 13th book in the series. He chose the latter and is painfully obvious about it. The fact that Snicket is just as much in the dark as to where he is going as the Baudelaire orphans are is also painfully obvious.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2001

The is the entry in the series that didn't just bend willing suspension of disbelief, but shattered it entirely. The title elevator refers to a hidden elevator that runs from the basement to the 66th floor of a building, a floor where the main occupant is the newly-introduced relative and recurring-villain-to-be, Esmé Squalor, who worries about what is "in" and what is "out", fashionably speaking, but in every aspect of life.

What will have adults -- and probably kids, too -- shaking their heads is that during the course of these unfortunate events, the three Baudelaire not only climb down the shaft the full 66 stories, but they make several trips up and down, including the baby, Sunny, who hangs on by her teeth.

The basement holds secrets and sparks more questions than it provides answers (certainly not to the "VFD" question), fueling the next few books in the series.

One hopes that this basement is the lowpoint in the series. Unfortunately, that might not turn out to be true.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2000

How do you keep a series fresh after four repetitive volumes? Add lots of new characters.

The Baudelaire orphans find themselves staying not with yet another distant relative, but rather at a boarding school. Now, if this was allowed under the terms of the will, why not just give custody to Count Olaf's neighbor from Book One? Okay, let's not go there.

The Austere Academy introduces new tragic figures, such as the two Quagmire Triplets (that's right, two), along with a new nemesis (more of an irritant), Carmelia Spats, a new handy tool, the commonplace book, and a macguffin, the "VFD", which will drive the plots of several books to come even more than finding a permanent home for the Baudelaires.

Up to this point, I was still enjoying the books because, repetitive as they were, they were still written in an interesting style and "Snicket" had a way with words, an expression which means here that he can talk to kids without talking down to kids. But the old storyline was wearing thin and the new plotline didn't seem much better.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2000

Another day, another destination, another guardian, another run-in with Count Olaf.
This book has a building shaped like an eye and a doctor named Orwell. The latter pun will go over kids' heads, but the former will remind them that Count Olaf has a tattoo of an eye on his ankle.

The eye motif really gets going in this book, and it isn't until several books from now that you find out that everything you thought you knew about the eyes is totally wrong.

Not terrible, but you wonder how much further Snicket can go with this.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 2000

I have found that the third installment of the Harry Potter books was not only of my favorite in the series but also the best standalone story. Now there are several theories about this: Rowling was just hitting her stride with that novel, her popularity was such that the editors gave her more latitude, etc. Here's my opinion: It's the only book without Voldemort! Yes, he's mentioned, and you expect him behind every corner because of the first two books, but he doesn't magically reappear (and obviously, that would have been possible).

Likewise, Snicket's third entry might have benefited from a lack of Count Olaf. Barring that, a conclusion to the Olaf saga. We get neither. We only get the knowledge that these same three children will be running from the same villain not for seven books (as in Rowling's case) but for astounding and improbable thirteen books. I hope we can last that long.

That said, the book isn't bad but it isn't up to the standard set by the other two. The biggest problem we see, however, is that more and more of these unfortunate events are less of a case of bad things happening to good people and more of bad people causing bad things to happen to good people. Their unfortunate situation could improve vastly except there is a maniac looking to nab them and their fortune (which they never seem to benefit from) but no one seems to notice.

If you bought a trilogy edition, you may want to stop here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 1999

A pleasant follow-up finds the Baudelaire children with their kind, friendly Uncle Monty, a herpetologist, who raises reptiles. Unfortunately, some unfortunate events happen ... except that these don't seem to be random events. It's the work of the greedy Count Olaf, who is back again to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune.

No sophomore jinx with this book.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning (Snicket)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, Lenomy Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), 1999

Possibly due to the popularity of the Harry Potter books with adults and children alike in the family, my wife came up with the idea for a family book club and for Christmas bought all the Unfortunate Events book available at that time and distributed among the kids and adults in the extended family. We thought it a great idea. Eventually, I read them all. Each book will get its own review.

The first book follows three young Baudelaire children when an unfortunate event, a fire, destroys their home and kills their parents. Unfortunate events seem to follow as they wind up in the "care" of Count Olaf, a distant relative who is nearest in location. Trials and tribulations occur with almost a happy ending. However, Snicket goes out of his way to make it a miserable ending, a theme for the series, through another unfortunate event. Despite that, it was still an enjoyable book, and it left the series open for more unfortunate tales.

A good start for a series even if a bit depressing (which is, after all, the hook for books). There always seems to be hope for an eventual happy ending.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Broken Blade (Marston)

The Broken Blade, Ann Marston

I was incredibly happy when I got the call that this book had arrived at my local library, by my request.
I can't remember being so disappointed in a book. It was still a good book, but it wasn't up to the level of the previous two books, nor was it a satisfying conclusion to the first trilogy. (I wasn't too happy about that "first" business, either.)

Where the stories in the first two books spanned years, this book spanned four months -- one week followed by a four-month gap followed by another week. Most of the action is centered on a couple of individuals. We rarely, if ever, lose their point of view even though an entire island nation is under attack. One character was dismissed with "and we never saw him again". Is that a fitting farewell for a character that was supposed to be the King's greatest ally? (That designation was according to a prophecy, mind you.)

Yes, I went on to read the next three books.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Return of the King (Tolkien)

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien

After a long wait, I finally read The Return of the King. Great ending (or maybe I should say "endings") to one of the greatest fantasy tales ever told. By this point, I had already seen the Rankin-Bass cartoon, heard the BBC radio series, and seen the Peter Jackson epic. I still enjoyed reading it and making my own comparisons.

I didn't realize how much of this book was made up of appendices. The climatic scene actually occurs relatively early in the book.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Books 2004

Sometime in 2003, I stopped writing mini-reviews in my mini-journal (seriously, it's about 2 inches tall, so it fit in my jacket pocket), probably because I was taking classes at night. Likewise, there weren't many books read because I was commuting by car again, instead of subway, and I didn't bother listing the textbooks that I was reading at the time. (Psychology ... education ... ick)

In 2004, I started listing the titles of the books read only in a file named Books04. So the reviews for these books are new, based on five-year-old memories.

There were a lot of books read, but there were a lot of series books and children's books.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling

OK, I'm caught up with the Potter books now. Liked it better than four, but I thought that some of it was either forced or unnecessary.

I believe this got me caught up with the Harry Potter books and I had to wait for the new books to be published. I thought that the tournament was a little strained because it didn't really fit into the one book per year format that Rowling had set.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling

Didn't thrill me as much as the others. The "one year per book" rule was a little strained as was the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Could've been shorter.

It was still a good story and better than a lot of stuff I'd been reading, and it did move the series along, but it was a little bit of a letdown after the third book.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Star Trek TNG: Dyson Sphere (Pellegrino, Zebrowski)

Star Trek TNG: Dyson Sphere, Charles Pellegrino, George Zebrowski

Liked the use of the Horta, didn't like the story or the ending. Lots of possibilities wiped out quickly.

Thought it would be good, but I didn't particularly care for it. Like the use of Hortas, hated the story and the ending.

The story also ended long before I thought it was going to because there was a science essay at the end about Dyson spheres. Ringworld is wasn't.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Prime Evil (Gallagher)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Prime Evil, Diana G. Gallagher

I don't even remember it.

I debated leaving this one out because there isn't a review of it.
Then I realized that for some people, those five words are a very powerful review.
In fairness to Ms. Gallagher, the review obviously wasn't written as promptly as most of the others, but I should've remembered something a few weeks later.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Holes (Sachar)

Holes, Louis Sachar, 1998

Read it in two days. It was almost a novelization of the movie. (I saw that first.) Good adapatation to film.
Fun little story.

Saw the movie, so I read the book. I'll rank it as the best movie adaptation of a kids book that I've seen. Enjoyed the book, and appreciated that there was a little more to some of the characters in the book.

This is either a "kids" book or a "young adult" book. I've recently found out there are different sections in the library but sometimes a book from one section at one branch of the library is in the other at a different branch. This recently happened to me.

I also just labeled it "fiction" because it isn't really "fantasy" although there almost seems to be some magical or supernatural element holding it together (rather than just amazing co-incidence).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Western King (Marston) -- reread

The Western King, Ann Marston

Even more fun the second time around.
The next generation continues the story years later. And there is another generation coming.
Third book is on reserve.

I had to reread it after reading part I. Still as good on the second read-through. Better, because I had part I as an intro this time.

This is still one of my favorite fantasy books, and it was better for having read the preceding book.

Update: There was a review in my log book. My computer log doesn't have the same sequence for some reason. One of them was out of order.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kingmaker's Sword (Marston)

Kingmaker's Sword, Ann Marston

Excellent. I'm glad I reserved it from the library. I'm rereading the Western King right after it. I have a few Harry Potter books to read before I reserve part 3.

First part of a trilogy I stumbled across a few years back. I found book 1 in the library. Great book, and it didn't matter that I know how some of it would turn out
because I had read book 2.

A great fantasy tale. The story is completely told in one book, but the overarching theme spans generations (and books). It explained a few things that I had to take for granted when I had read The Western King.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Destiny's Road (Niven)

Destiny's Road, Larry Niven

Excellent worldbuiling. Hard SF. Quick read.

Enjoyed it, very much. A world-building travelogue with a story wrapped around it so that you don't realize that you have a world-building travelogue. (That's the way to do it.)

This was made quicker by the fact that it was a summer reading book, so I had more time. Someone afterward told me that he borrowed heavily from his "Known Space" books, but I haven't read those, so if he did, it didn't bother me.

It had a good story, and he was able to give a tour of the world he built along the way that made sense in the story.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling

Excellent. She keeps expanding on the characters without betraying or retconning anything we already knew.

Probably my favorite one to date (though subject to change). I was totally taken in by this one, waiting for something so fricking obvious to happen and then have an alternate, which I didn't suspect, happen.

The second entry came from a file on an old hard drive, not from my log.

Of the series, this was probably my favorite standalone book. It was better than Goblet of Fire, and the final three books were more of a continuous narrative working toward the climatic battle.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Babylon 5: In the Beginning (David)

Babylon 5: In the Beginning, Peter David, based on a teleplay by J. Michael Straczynski.

Very good. Not like the last novelization I read. (I haven't seen the TV movie.)

Peter David did an excellent job on this book. It read nothing like a script. It read like a story. I appreciate that. As for the story, it tied in a lot that I already knew about the Babylon 5 universe from watching the series. Good job.

Mostly Harmless (Adams)

Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams

Mostly crap.
A couple of good pages.

It was sad how bad this book was. The Hitchhiker's series declined steadily with each book and struck dirt with this one.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unnatural Selection (Golden, Holder)

Unnatural Selection, Christopher Golden, Nancy Holder

Another Buffy book that had to do with faeries and Anya before she started dating Xander, by the author of Ghost Roads. They even referenced it. Not half bad.

some "Buffy" book about Faeries by the author of Ghost Roads (another Buffy book I read a couple of years back). Actually, it was a good thing that I had read Ghost Roads because the author makes a lot of Buffy references, most of which I think
I caught, from the show. When she tossed in a Ghost Roads character reference, I was thrown at first. (hey, that's non-canon stuff!)

The second entry came from a file on an old hard drive, not from my log.

Another brief entry. So brief that I forgot to write down the title. I had to look it up from the description, but I recognized it when I saw it.

Edit: found a second review that I had written. I still hadn't written the title of the book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Congo (Crichton)

Congo, Crichton, 1980

Good book. Worth reading.
Library sale book.

From this entry (and the next one), I'm surmising that this was during a period where I either misplaced my log book or I just didn't have time to write anything down. When I finally did, it was a brief entry.

Basically, scientists have a smart gorilla (like Koko) who can communicate somewhat with humans. For whatever reason (I don't remember exactly what), they wind up taking the gorilla, along with a team, to the Congo. Drama ensues.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Halloween Rain (Golden, Holder)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Halloween Rain, Golden, Holder, 1997

An episode of the show which I hadn't seen. Killer scarecrow that comes alive during the rains on Halloween. Samhain can see through the eyes of any pumpkin and move if it's on a scarecrow.
Quick read. Should've been quicker.
Mind candy.

There's a line that I left out that says, "Cute line about coupe....", except that I can't read my own handwriting, nor remember what the cute line was actually about.

I'm also not sure if this was actually an episode, or if it was my belief at the time that it was based on one particular episode and not based on the characters from the series. Ultimately, it was forgettable.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien

Finished months after I saw the movie.

I guess nothing else needed to be said?
Tolkien isn't the easiest thing to read, but I did enjoy the book, especially because so much more happens in this book than happens in the movie. Changes were obviously made for cinematic storytelling.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Executive Orders (Clancy)

Executive Orders, Tom Clancy, 1998

Ryan's the president and the other countries are taking advantage. Fun to read (although I listened to the book on tape a couple of years ago), but the end was a hard read because it was a long simulation of a wargame. The mountain men subplot went nowhere. Literally.

For such a HUGE book, I don't remember why I wrote such a small review. But some memories about reading it:

I picked it up at a library sale. It was the LARGE PRINT edition. Of a TOM CLANCY book. I was lucky I was able to lift the darned thing.

My wife was amused watching me read this monstrosity in bed ... moreso when I was tired and the thing started tipping over.

And I photocopied the pages about the spleen and mailed it to some friends. Private joke.

This one could've been a good movie, but Harrison Ford already made Air Force One. It would've been confusing as to which character he was playing. Plus, the ebola virus got overdone in Hollywood really fast.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Ghost Roads (Golden, Holder)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Ghost Roads, book two of the Gatekeeper Trilogy, Christopher Golden, Nancy Holder, 1999

I didn't realize that it was book two when I picked it up, but that just meant that the action started that much sooner (although I had to figure out who everyone was). Oz, Angel and Buffy are touched by the paranormal, so they can travel the Ghost Roads, where spirits pass on their way to their final destinations. Many ghosts wander the roads because they are afraid of what that destination is. Breaches are opening and the villain (Il Maestro, not to be confused with The Master, whom I did confuse him with) wants to open the Gates of Hell through the Ghost Roads.
The Flying Dutchman makes an appearance and takes Giles on board.
The ending was a downer, and not because [edited] dies, but suddenly there's a way for humans to travel them.

I edited who dies, but let's face it, you know that that person has to come back to life in the next book. The series was still on the air at the time!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Oakdale Affair (Burroughs)

The Oakdale Affair, Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1918

The story of the theft of jewelry from Miss Abigail Prim by the Oskaloosa Kid, or at least by someone purported to be the Kid, and the disappearance of the same Miss Prim, who may be in league with the criminals, possibly including the real Oskaloosa Kid.
Misidentification is key to the complications that beset the Kid, the runaway girl that doesn't want to face her father, and a gentleman hobo named Bridge, as they avoid some dangerous killer tramps, the police and even a gypsy with a bear and still managed to surprise me with the ending (though if I had read little more or had done this in one sitting without putting it down a few times for other things, I might have caught on sooner!)
Good, fun, quick read.
I wonder if the movie was any good.

I was attracted to the book because I've read Burroughs's Mars books, and the bear on the cover was cool. I really didn't know what to expect from this book, but I did know that the imcomparable Deja Thoris wasn't going to make an appearance.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Star Trek: The Great Starship Race (Carey)

Star Trek: The Great Starship Race, Diane Carey, 1993

Not bad. Romulans are "attacked" by a strange race that can project their emotions. Everyone dies except one "coward" who blows the ship and escapes in a pod. 74 years lates, the USS Hood discovers the aliens' homeworld beyond the edges of Federation space. Happy that they aren't alone in the universe, they try to quickly join the Federation and ten years later try to organize a big race.
Then a Romulan ship shows up, commanded by the "coward" who has spent his life looking for the Rey, knowing that some day they will be a great weapon to use against the Empire.
Vulcans are sensitive to their projects.
The Romulans attempt a suicide mission. It fails.

I don't believe that I gave away the ending. If I did, I apologize. This is what I wrote nearly a decade ago. I used to have a lot of the Timescape Star Trek books -- more than I read. I couldn't keep up with them and stopped collecting before the 50th book came out. Nowadays, there are hundreds of them. Had I read faster, I might've bought those instead of comics. Just as well that I didn't. Too many aren't good -- even ones by good authors get messed up before they hit the shelves.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Cusick)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Richio Cusick, based on story by Joss Whedon, 1992

Total movie fluff. Not a good novelization. Too bad Joss didn't do it, but as I understand it, the movie doesn't bear much resemblance to what he originally wanted (aka the TV show).

I don't think I've ever actually seen the film. Maybe parts of the ending in the school gym. I caught up with most of the episodes of the TV program, which I didn't start watching until sometime after she had been in college.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Souls (Russ)

Souls, Joanna Russ, 1982

Hugo winner. Tor SF double #11
The better of the pair. A boy (now much older) recalls the remarkable Abbess from his childhood and how she handled an invasion by sacking Vikings.
The ending was confusing. Was the Abbess so bright because she had been from the future from the day she was born? Had someone from the future taken over her body at some point?
Good story. Fun read. But when I was finished, I was a little unsatisfied as if some part of the tale had been missing.
(They also might have been aliens because everyone was bald. I don't know.)

I confess: I don't remember a thing about this story now. I do remember some of the tropes involved in the other part of this double, but probably because of the tropes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (Tiptree)

Houston, Houston, Do You Read?, James Tiptree, 1976

Hugo and Nebula winner (for novella or novel?), part of Tor SF double #11.
Not so good. Quite confusing. Starts off with a full cast of characters on one ship -- suddenly it's a year before and they're on different ships. I missed the transition line, which was important because the main character was being drugged at the time, and I'm still not sure what happened at the end. It seems to end before it began, or something like that.
I knew I was in trouble when it began on page one with a guy alone in his shower holding his "[vulgar term deleted]"
Three [men] going around the Sun lose contact with Earth -- they were shot into the future. In the meantime, Earth is hit with a plague that wipes out most of humanity. Guess what -- only women are left.
Nice scientific explanations, but the story was lame.
Didn't like it.

I can't read my own handwriting. I have no idea what I wrote in place of "men", what the word could be, but I'm assuming I was refering to three male astronauts.

I thought I would've enjoyed it more for the awards that it had won, but it might've been that the story was just a little dated and the subject of numerous B-movies in the intervening years.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Time Flies (Cosby)

Time Flies, Bill Cosby, 1987

Cosby turned 50 in 1987 and tells about it. It reads like his comedy act (and I think I've heard him do parts of it).
Quick, funny.

I should've added, "Not that that's a bad thing".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)

The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien

I've heard the radio dramatization and listened to the book unabridged, and I've seen the old (horrible) movie. Now I've finally read it.
It's dense and slow in many parts and not good too read when going to bed. Sitting on the couch, however, I could knock off 40 pages in a sitting. It's a great story but it drags in parts, and it moves faster once they get to Bree and then Rivendell. (Skip the poems for the most part.)
Slow reading, but worth it.

You do have to wonder about a classic that even it's ardent supporters will tell you has parts that you should skip the first time through.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (Rowling)

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, J. K Rowling

I finally got around to reading this just before the movie came out. A simple and quick read, but deceptive. It reads like a series of misadventures at school, but they all tie together at the end (which is partly why the movie fell a little short). The "pre"-school bit went on too long and the ending was a little lacking. Actually, it's the kind of story that's fun to read when you're reading it, but if you think about it too much, it loses something. But it's still better than a lot of the dreck out there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Kahn)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, James Kahn, 1984

Not as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark, but then the movie wasn't as good either. It was better than the typical movie-to-book treatment, but just below the Raiders benchmark.
Fun to read, but some parts didn't translate well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"B" is for Burglar (Grafton)

B is for Burglar, Sue Grafton, 1985

I've listened to several Kinsey Milhone books, but this (I believe) is the first one I've read (and it isn't one of the ones that I've listened to).
About average for the series and a good read. Nothing spectacular in the way of a mystery novel, but they'd be a good basis for a movie-of-the-week series for sweeps months.
(My wife didn't find it to be anything special. Her sister, on the other hand, has read most, or all, of the books available at the library.)

I like the series. I've picked more of them up since then.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Games for the Super-Intelligent, (Fixx)

Games for the Super-Intelligent, James F. Fixx, 1982

Picked it up in the 80s. Not a read, but a re-read, mostly for the barometer and roast beef stories. It has a lot of old puzzles, including a few that I didn't figure out and an IQ test (Mensa test?) that I filled out partially, and I could see how wrong I'd been.
Fun to read. Time to recycle it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Western King (Marston)

The Western King, Ann Marston 1996.

I knew that this was book two in a trilogy when I picked it up. Bought it anyway.
Loved it.
The story takes place 20 years after the first volume and doesn't require that you know anything about book one. This story spans several years and flows well. It's not like, "Here's one afternoon's events, and here's another afternoon five years later." It's a well-thought-out tale of three brothers -- one a Prince, one destined to be King, and a younger twin who will have three sons, according to a prophecy -- their father, who is the Regent, and the rest of their family.
The try to unite their island against an enemy that has occupied a portion of land for 20+ years, even as the raider's home territory -- indeed, the entire continent -- is falling before a darker evil.
Half of the prophecies are fulfilled before the end of this book. Others deal with the future and should be resolved in the final volume.
Great book at a great price. I stayed up late reading extra chapters.
This book makes up for the crap I bought at the same time at the same price.
I may have to look for the other two books.

I eventually used the Public Library system to track down the other five books in the two trilogies. These reviews will show up eventually, but I was disappointed to learn that the story didn't have any closure at the end of book three and I had to find three more books.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Batman (Gardner)

Batman, Craig Shaw Gardner, 1989

A promising prologue, but then it fell apart. Little more than what passed the screen hit the pages. Harvey Dent got a few mentions, but no more action or appearances. The narrative was uneven -- at times, dark and cynical; others, too sarcastic. And not just when the Joker was in the scene. The narrator's voice blended with the characters' thoughts too freely.
Could've been so much better.
Quick read. (Day and a half, maybe)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Starcruiser Shenandoah: Squadron Alert (Green)

Starcruiser Shenandoah: Squadron Alert, Roland J. Green, 1989

a book from the used book store (a trade-in). I grabbed it for a change of pace -- I haven't read any military SF that I recall. I didn't realize that I'd picked up the first book of a proposed trilogy. As such, a lot of time was spent introducing a lot of characters that I'd later confuse with one another (despite the handy, but incomplete, roster in the front of the book), and the book moved slower than an old steam freighter despite a promising start.
Didn't do enough or have enough story to cover a full book rather than a third of a trilogy.
Didn't suck though.

Apparently, there have been six books, not just a trilogy. I've seen sequels at the library, but since I don't remember the first book all that well, there's little point in reading farther.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Star Trek: TNG: Unification (Taylor)

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Unification, Jeri Taylor,
story by Rick Berman and Michael Piller

Adaptation of two-part TNG episode. About standard for a novelization; mediocre for a book. You could see the scene fades and cuts. Some dialogue could've been cut and replaced with description or exposition.
Or they could have just told the damn story!
Quick read even though I've only seen a portion of part two (and none of part one) on TV.
Recycled it.

And by "recycled", I believe I mean that literally. It didn't go back to the used bookshop to exchange for another. It went out with the newspapers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Timeline (Crichton)

Timeline, Michael Crichton, 1999

Fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable. Better than Pastwatch. The ending with Daniger was a little wanting. Sure, he deserved whatever he got, but how it was delivered wasn't quite right.
A group of historians goes back in time to find "the Professor", who is lost back there, using technology of an evil, greedy, corporate scientist, who uses the past to shape the future. The past also supplies detailed floor plans for excavation work in France. Twists and turns galore wrapped up in 32 hours. It would be a shame to make a movie out of it. A mini-series (a real one: 6 or 8 hours) would be better.

Of course, a movie was made from the book. I haven't seen it as of this writing, so I don't know how well it translates. Then again, at this point, I might not remember enough to notice how different the adaptation was.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Empire of Time (Kilian)

The Empire of Time, Crawford Kilian, 1978, 182 pages

Short but boring. I fell asleep too many nights without finishing two pages. Dense and too long. Might've made a good 90-page Analog story.
Interesting premise: Other timelines are discovered, all parallel to ours, all in the past, except for two future ones where the world has been destroyed.
I bought this book for a quarter and picked it, probably, because of the word "Time" in the title and the subway train (No. 1 line) on the cover (with rats). Subways allow more people to travel through the I-Screen quicker --- saves energy.
It started off well, though with lots of exposition, but the middle gets bogged down as the plot unravels.
You never get to like the characters at all.

Another book that I'd forgotten that I'd read. I don't remember any of it. Not even the cover that I seemed to have liked.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus (Card)

Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus, Orson Scott Card, 1995

Apparently a result of anti-Columbus propaganda from 1992 (the 500th anniversary), but it was an interesting premise nonetheless. A science group can observe the past and find that under certain circumstances, they can affect the past in small ways. They start a group dedicated to pinpointing when Columbus made his decision to sail west so that they can change history and prevent suffering. What they discover is that someone has already changed history so that Columbus went west instead of going to Constantinople on a Crusade.
Interesting theories about the American Indians rising up from the ashes of the fall of the Aztecs to eventually take over Europe (having been innoculated by a small group of Portuguese that land in Brazil).
Interesting historical "footage" of Columbus.
And a nice association of Noah, the Great Flood and Atlantis (and the last Ice Age).
Enjoyable book.
Long, but good.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lord Demon (Zelazny/Lindskold)

Lord Demon, Roger Zelazny, Jane Lindskold 1999

Billed as the last work of the great master, it was also the first Zelazny book I read. I wanted to read at least one Lunacon book raffle book from last year before this year's Lunacon, and this was an excellent choice.
Fun to read, interesting characters, and only one really stupid part. Well-paced, and you can never be sure where it'll go next -- literally, as they cross several odd planes. (The Hangers plane got dumb and the Socks plane was nearly too much. It was silly at a time when it should have been serious.)
The one thing that got me was a character that was mentioned a couple of times and when he finally showed, he was nothing like my mental picture because no description had been given beforehand. Not a big deal.
Enjoyed the planes-hopping with the demons, gods and fu dogs.

The other thing that I remember about the book is that I had previously read Roald Dahl's "The BFG" (Big Friendly Giant), and I could've written an interesting essay comparing and contrasting the two. There were enough similarities to make reading Lord Demon that much more interesting.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Harold R. Foster's Prince Valiant

Harold R. Foster's Prince Valiant, Martin Delrio, 1998
screenplay by michael Frost Becker, Anthony Hickox, Corsten Lorenz

I was warned that the movie (which I hadn't known existed) was bad. This book only confirms it. Not a very good story on its own, and not very well-written for an adaptation, the story goes on to decimate the storyline from the comic. Major characters die. The Singing Sword is lost. And Valiant doesn't even meet Areta.
The story is that Excalibur is stolen (and Sir Tristan is killed along the way). The sword is brought to Thule, where almost comedically it is dropped into the stone floor, where it becomes stuck. And the rest of the movie concerns getting the sword back and getting it out of the ground.
Quick read.
Didn't like it.

Just plain awful. Avoid.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

News from the Edge: the Monster of Minnesota (Sumner)

News from the Edge: the Monster of Minnesota, Mark Sumner, 1997.

The cover is laid out like a tabloid newspaper -- first clue that this book wasn't going to take itself seriously. (Actually, after the characters were established, it did turn serious.) The cover compares it to The Cat Who... and X-Files, but it was more X-Files because they had an episode with a lake monster years ago.
"Savvy" was mostly Scully, looking for the truth, but she's willing to believe that something is there.
The ending is set up to go either way (which is disappointing) except for one minor detail mentioned earlier in the book that comes back.
Fun to read. Quick. Light.

If anyone has read this and wants to classify it, let me know. I'm just calling it "not-too-serious" because I don't know anything better to call it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Hidden Agendas (Pieczenik)

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Hidden Agendas created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik, 1999.
(technically, I never actually saw the name of the author in the book)

An elite government computer force with cool equipment set 10 years from now. Second in the Net Force series, but the characters were well-enough introduced if you weren't familiar with them. (I wasn't. I didn't read the first book.)
Lots of "hidden agendas", lot of double-crossing, but borrows two much from Die Hard.
Not overwritten like many of Clancy's books and I guess that "apostrophe s" is the reason.
The romances were interesting: two couples get together, one broke up, and one never got together (and if they did, it would've been way too cliche).
Only one subplot seemed to go nowhere. The boss's kid was having his heart broken by a girl -- big flippin' deal as far as the rest of the story is concerned. He only briefly interacted with his father in two key scenes, neither of them key.
Overall, a good read. I'll pick up the first book sometime if I see it at the library.
(Glad I broke the adaptation cycle.)

Just thinking: 10 years into the future would be this year.
I still haven't read book 1, but I did read the next few as I found them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Raiders of the Lost Ark (Black)

Raiders of the Lost Ark, by Campbell Black, based on a screenplay by Lawrence Kasden, based on a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman, 1981

This is what a movie adaptation should be. Lots of background and descriptions, not a scene for scene, shot for shot regurgitation. There are a few differences from the film, probably last-minute production changes made after the script was sent off for novelization.
In fact, it has some changes in it that I remember being "wrong" when reading the comic book many years ago.
Quick read. Excellent.

This book is the Gold Standard for movie adaptations, along with Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Babylon 5: Book #8 - Personal Agendas

Babylon 5: Book #8 - Personal Agendas

A total and complete abomination! The jacket says that Al Sarrantonio has won several awards -- he won't win any here!
A 200-page book with 61 chapters??? First indication that something was wrong.
Such a blatant and direct translation that he might as well included the camera angles and lighting instructions.
Two saving graces: 1) 50 cents went to the Brooklyn Public Library for this purchase.
2)No one else will ever take this book out again.

Five or six years later, I'm still bitter.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dark and Stormy Rides Again (Rice)

Dark and Stormy Rides Again, compiled by Scott Rice, 1996

The best (?) from the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest to write the worst opening line to a fictional novel.
Numerous bad puns, wildly inappropriate imagery, and clever wordplay.
Amusing read, though reading too much at one sitting lessens some of the humor.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Roar (Kiernan)

Roar, Sean Kiernan, 1998
based on the TV series created by Sean Cassidy and Ron Koslow

Very enjoyable. A keeper. Based on the series pilot (which I didn't see -- I only saw 1 or 2 later episodes). The story starts with Longinus and the Crucifiction, jumps 400 years and shifts to Ireland and spans another 25 years. The story has solid characters multiple interwoven storylines that don't all end with someone dying. A little open-ended, but it was a series pilot, so that is to be expected.
Well-written, especially for an adaptation.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Independence Day: Silent Zone (Molstead)

Independence Day: Silent Zone, Stephen Molstead, 1997

Starts with a day-after "Prologues", jumps into a 1970s timeframe and ends without really refering back to the prologue and without an epilogue to close what's left hanging.
Explores the Area 51 story, centering on Brackish Okun and introducing Dr. Isaccs along the way. Nimziki, a major player in the beginning, fades away fast, though he pops up occasionally.
Good read as long as you didn't hate the movie, but it contradicts some of what the author wrote (and what the characters would seem to know) in ID4. (Stupid acronym, by the way.)

Not much to add, except the two Independence Day books were worth the spare change that I spent on each of them. I wouldn't have paid full price though.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The X-Files: Ruins (Anderson)

The X-Files: Ruins, Kevin J. Anderson

Better than Goblins (whatever it was called -- read it years ago), but that doesn't say much. Real like a complicated episode, which never would have had this kind of budget to be made.
As good as the average Trek novel. (Hmmmm, that doesn't say much either.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The X-Files: Fight the Future (Carter, Spotnitz, Hood)

The X-Files: Fight the Future, Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz (story), adapted by Elizabeth Hood

A Highlander-type adaptation, only much faster to read since I saw the movie. One day on the train, I read 150 pages (a lot more than I usually read).
Good story, could have been a much better read.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Independence Day (Devlin, Emmerich, Molstad)

Independence Day, 1996

Much better than the Higlander adaptation. And possibly improves upon the movie. It gives better background and doesn't belabor the onscreen action and dialogue.
Great read. Explains a few things that the movie leaves you guessing at. (If you hated the movie, or had problems with it, you'll hate the book, too.)
I enjoyed it and might pass it on. I have the sequel to read.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Highlander (Kilworth)

Highlander, adapted by Garry Kilworth, Harper Books, 1986

Never saw the movie. Didn't even remember it when Highlander 2 came out.
Clumsily written at first and annoyingly so at the end. It reads like a direct adaptation of the script with very little added. Worse, some of the visual gags seemed to be painfully drawn out. No quick takes in writing.
So to get into, but I knocked off the last 200 pages this past weekend.
I recycled it back to the bookstore. I don't think it has anything of interest to anyone who saw the movie.

This book ranks as a prime example of what a movie novelization should NOT be.
You don't know what a character is thinking on screen, so you have to read facial expressions and body language. You do know what they are thinking in books. So tell me what they are thinking. Do NOT describe their facial expressions and body language instead!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Bridges of Madison County (Waller)

The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller, 1992

True story of an Italian immigrant housewife, who is nothing like Meryl Streep, who has an affair with a traveling photographer for National Geographic, who rides into Iowa from the Pacific Northwest in a pickup truck named Henry. He stops for directions and is sleeping with her within two days while her family is at a state fair with a prize cattle.
The children find out about it when they're grown after she dies.
"Literary" work turned into a movie that miscasts both roles.
Quick read. Not bad.

I guess I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about, so I read it. Kids find out that Mom had had an affair. So they write the "true" story (which no one really knows) and publicize it to the world. That's the way to remember mama.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Time Blender (Dorn, Hemmingway, Lindsay)

Time Blender, Michael Dorn, Hillary Hemmingway, Jeffrey P. Lindsay, 1997
(not a Star Trek novel)

Samurai warriors battle Egyptian gods on the island of no return!
First off, that didn't happen. Close, but it doesn't happen. (Both groups do appear in the latter half of the book -- the samurai only briefly.)
The story starts Tony Miller, archeologist, and his buddy on an island in the path of a tsunami. The other guy falls and gets a concussion and Tony rescues him, tosses him in his plane, and mistakes the invasion of some foreign entity into his friend's body as the ravings of a man whose sanity is in doubt.
Half the book passes before they encounter The Artifact, the destruction of which sets off the Time Blender (not Time Bender, as I originally thought when I picked up the book).
He travels with a Celtic warrior woman, battles an Egyptian god, and makes his way to San Francisco, which is still where it should be despite all the other land masses and time periods intermingling. He has a fateful decision to make, but instead we get:
Here ends Book One of Time Bender

Nowhere on the cover does it say, "1st book in an exciting new series!"

The copyright page doesn't list a "Coming Soon".
There is no indication anywhere that this book is multiple parts.

I wasn't happy.

Good setting. Okay follow through. Lousy ending.

I was going to pass this on -- now I'm going to chuck it out.

Despite the tag, this is not a Star Trek novel. However, it might be of interest to Star Trek fans that care that the publicist of two nobody authors got Michael Dorn to put his name on their book so that it would sell more copies. I only paid 39 cents (might've been 79 cents -- I don't remember) for it, so at least I didn't waste much.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Street Magic (Reeves)

Street Magic, Michael Reeves, 1991

A runaway boy lives on the street dreaming of his own Middle Earth, which is a conglomeration of every fantasy he's ever read. One day, he meets a fairie, and she insists that he (the boy) is the Keymaster that can bring them back.
Many ill-defined or under-defined characters, like the boy's father, who hires a P.I. to find him, several of the fairies that Danny meets, and some Nazi skinheads that appear to be just stuck in there for no reason.
Too many little in-jokes and scenes that go nowhere. The tone of the book changed in a couple of places.
Disappointing overall.

I think I remember what the cover looked like for this book. Not much else. I don't think I know anyone else who has read this -- or anything else by Michael Reeves.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I'm Only One Man (Philbin)

I'm Only One Man, Regis Philbin, 1995

A year in the life, with anecdotes of the past. Interesting way to do a biography -- especially since the slow speed O.J. chase happens in the first week -- but overall it dragged a little.
A straight bio might have been better but then there wouldn't have been as many "cameos" by the celebrities on his show that year.
Not bad. But not great.