April 19th, 2012

Books

Book 30: The Lone and Level Sands (graphic novel)

"The Lone and Level Sands"

By A. David Lewis, mpMann, Jennifer Rodgers



I'll put this behind a cut for pottential spoilers, but really if you read the bible or saw 'the ten commandments' there is nothing here that will spoil anything... just being mindful of others:

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I gave it three stars out of five, because I know some of why I disliked it was the religous angle it took- others may find that perfectly comfortable, where I did not. But the biggest failing was the lack of motives and the artwork's gritty nature.

Bummer.
Books

Book 31: The Golem's Mighty Swing

"The Golem's Mighty Swing"
By James Sturm


I read one of James Sturm's other books and was pretty pleased with his work, so I set out to read a few others- This particular one is about a baseball team... but you needn't know anything about baseball, to get something very significant, very REAL out of it.

In the 1920's, there was a phenomenon in which travelling baseball teams (usually 'themed' in some way, weather real- like an all-black team- or fake, like a 'hillbilly' team playing the fools) would go around the country booking themselves to play with local baseball teams for a game...

...one of the disturbing aspects of this, was that in that era, minorities were pretty much forced to do this, because they couldn't easily get into big leagues and STAY there- inevitably, someone would hurt or attack them, and they'd be out again.

This is the story of one team of jewish baseball players, "The Stars of David" ... and of how it was to BE them, struggling to make a living this way... and how one promoter tried to get them to take advantage of the recent movie about the jewish "Golem"... a creature made from earth that eventually goes mad because it has no soul.

The ending wasn't an ending, which usually ticks me off so much I dislike a book, but I am feeling more forgiving here- I just wanted to go FURTHER in the story, the epilogue, that's all. It ends abruptly, and that irritated me to no end.

But the question- who has a soul, and who goes mad, is an understandable one, especially in that time and place... and the story really touched me in a deep way. This is the way 'historical fiction' should be. :)

I give it the full five out of five stars, and hope it gets wide readership- it's well worth it.
reading robot

Book 40: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Book 40: Robopocalypse.
Author: Daniel H. Wilson, 2011
Genre: Techo-Thriller. Science Fiction. Action. War.
Other Details: ARC 347 pages. Unabridged audio. 12 hours, 43 mins Read by Mike Chamberlain.

We are a better species for having fought this war. - Cormac "Bright Boy" Wallace.

Set in the near future a quiet revolution begins to take place when Archos, a powerful artificial intelligence with a child-like persona, escapes the confines of an experimental laboratory and begins to take control of the global network of machines that regulate the human world. This doesn't happen overnight, a series of glitches and malfunctions are at first only noted by a few people. When the Robot War (designated Zero Hour) ignites humans are unprepared for the violence as they are decimated and enslaved by their robot overlords. Of course, the survivors band together and fight back. The format of the novel is an attempt by one of the leaders of the final battle against Archos to put together a history of the war for future generations from fragments of reports, film footage and interviews along with his own recollections of events.

I've had this as my audiobook in the car for the past few weeks and its format of a series of compiled chronological reports about the events leading up to Zero Hour and its aftermath worked well in this format. I also had received an ARC from Simon & Schuster, which I kept with me and read sections while out and about.

I had purchased Wilson's previous book 'How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion' a few years back for my late husband, who was very keen on robots and anything with apocalyptic themes. Obviously Robopocalypse is a lot less tongue-in-cheek with a strong emphasis upon action and at times quite gory encounters between robots and humans.

The science felt sound throughout and reflects Wilson's academic background in the field of robotics (he earned his PhD at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute). As a result it felt throughout a very realistic take on a war between man and machine. Characterisation was not a strong point though in this kind of thriller that is often the case. Here especially the emphasis is upon reporting events over responses. The audiobook's narrator, Mike Chamberlain, did a good job throughout conveying the no-nonsense reporting style of Cormac Wallace.

Overall, I enjoyed it and it was fairly different than my usual fare of fantasy and crime fiction. I felt the cover art for the book was brilliant with the starkly beautiful, impassive robotic face. So innocent but within the book's pages, so deadly.

Robopocalypse web-site - includes link to excerpt and other bits and pieces.
  • krinek

4. Codex by Lev Grossman

Codex
Title: Codex
Author: Lev Grossman
Publisher: Harvest
Year: 2004
# of pages: 348
Date read: 2/3/2012
Rating: 3*/5 = good

Description:

"Edward Wozny, a hotshot young banker, is about to leave for vacation when he is sent to help an important yet mysterious client. His task: search the family library for a precious, centuries-old codex that may not even exist. Enlisting the expertise of medievalist Margaret Napier, Edward is determined to solve the mystery of the codes and to decipher the parallels between the codex legend a a computer game that absorbs him in the dark hours of the night.

Weaving the medieval and the modern aspects of its plot in a chilling twist, Codex is a thriller of the highest order." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a good thriller. I liked learning about medieval writing and how bookmakers often used old pages as book covers.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

I did find enough time to finish reading another ebook:

Osprey Men-at-Arms #39: The British Army in North America 1775 – 1783 - this book goes through the basics of their uniforms and rosters, as well as giving lists of which units were where. I found it a quick read.
book and cup

#42 I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith (1948)


It had seemed to me that everyone always knew how wonderful I Capture the Castle is, but I only discovered the fact for myself about 6 years ago when I read it for the first time. This year one of the World Book Night titles is I Capture the Castle – and so having signed up for the second year I opted to give away this book. In preparation for giving away copies of the book on Monday night – I decided to re-read it. It is always much easier to talk about a book to people when one has only just finished reading it.

The story is narrated by the wonderfully engaging Cassandra – who as the novel opens is sitting on the draining board her feet in the kitchen sink writing in her journal. Cassandra wants to be a writer – she uses her journal to hone her craft and in the course of the novel fills three notebooks – she has taught herself a way of speed writing which she hopes will be unintelligible to others. In this way she records the ups and downs of her life in the broken down old castle in which her impoverished family live. Living alongside her are her father, who once wrote an ingenious book but hasn’t written anything since, her stepmother Topaz, her beautiful sister Rose, brother Thomas and Stephen who is a sort of friend and un paid employee – who adores Cassandra. The Castle is merely leased to the Montmains, although they haven’t paid any rent to the Cotton family for ages. When the two young American Cottons arrive at their nearby ancestral home Scoatney, it creates great excitement for their tenants. Rose, who hates poverty more than any of them, is immediately determined to marry the eldest Simon, and Cassandra and Topaz aid her in her ambition.

Cassandra is a breath of fresh air – her imagining’s and fledgling steps along life’s rocky road are beautifully observed. Through Cassandra’s eyes we see the often funny consequences of the family’s poverty – Cassandra and Rose’s journey to London, and especially their return – having picked up some ancient furs that belonged to a deceased aunt – is especially hilarious. The Cotton family start to draw the Montmain family into their circle and it soon begins to look like Rose really will marry Simon. Cassandra however is thrown into wild confusion over her own feelings both toward Simon – and toward poor young Stephen. Her writing helps her to understand what is happening, and the reader watches as Cassandra grows up – and develops a greater understanding of the people around her. Although there are some wonderfully funny moments there is also plenty that are really poignant. This is a truly delightful read, warm, rewarding and gorgeously cosy.

I couldn’t help but be sad however that this reading experience is not as precious as the first time. One can’t ever repeat that first reading of a book – however many times it is read and however much it is enjoyed – that first reading of a book is always the best and the one I envy people who have not yet read it. I can only hope that the people to whom I give a copy on Monday evening love it as much as I do.