Sunday, November 6, 2016

[Book] Shadow of Victory - Shadow of Itself

I am a serious Weber fan. I have put up with a few other mediocre titles in some of his minor works because his name was on it...no more. I will never pay full hard cover price for another one of his books again. If his name is on it, I am going to be reading reviews on anything that he writes to make sure he doesn't use another ghost writer since I simply cannot believe her wrote this. HOW could he have made such an insult to his readers? I loved the first two books of the Talbot series that, even though it was mainly B list characters, I loved the set up, then suddenly he writes trash about a bunch of people I dont care about revolting abunch of other people I dont care about. I tried skipping from page 100 to page 300 and still didn't care.

I LITERALLY THREW THIS BOOK IN THE TRASH. It has been fifteen years since I threw a book away that I didnt have to due to moving; at least a used book store or library could help find a good book a good home. I used to like Tom Clancy, but Tom Clancy took advantage of my good will by slapping his name on whatever CRAP hack writers could produce. The thing is, at least Clancy had the decency that he was farming it out to a ghost or minor writer and just exploiting his brand name. This is some junior intern that showed a thorough understanding of Weber's notes and began to churn out the crap and Weber didn't even READ it since he's having too much fun with his former peers writing the Manticore prequels. I say former peers because Weber has given up the right to call himself their peer; not because he doesn't have the talent but because he simply stopped giving a damn and either by himself or by abrogation to a ghost writer of writing fan fiction to himself. Every writer indulges in a little vanity. to himself, and this is a fine thing, hell Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings because he wanted to have something to do with the language he invented, so writing entire characters based on a world so you could have it rescued; sure why the hell not? And if you knock it out of the park again and again you can screw your fans once and still make buckage.

Yes, he's right. But the thing is...this is not a cheap money grab...this is neglect. I would rather he HAVE contempt for me rather than neglect, for you see the one thing that made Tolkien and Martin and Weber's betters at Baen SHINE is attention to detail. And I simply no longer trust that Weber will have it. This book was SLOPPY. I did not keep the book to measure; perhaps it was merely in my own mind, but I swear I felt that the very pages themselves were set wrong and that the image in the software made it so that the test at the top was at an angle compared to the bottom. Optical illusion? I don't know.

But after reading the pig slop that this was...I simply don't trust. Every writer makes mistakes, but King only gets better over time. Martin made mistakes but while he dithered in his books it is obvious he still CARES. Weber's affections are with Safehold. His passion for Honor is nothing but a whore to make him money for whatever it is that he spends his money on.

And will I read his books still? Sure. Likely. If others approve of his works. But I will never trust him again. I will never buy another book blindly again. He will never get another $21 of my money again because his name is on it.

Never. Again.

Friday, September 16, 2016

[Audio Book] High Midnight by Rob Mosca, Narrated by Bernard Setaro Clark


There is a short story I like a lot called "Second Game Counts" where the con man always loses the first game and bets low to see how the guy played, only to bet more once he can 'really' play the game.  I thought I had read and enjoyed and reviewed High Midnight before.

Boy was I wrong.

I got SO much more out of the audio book it wasn't even funny.  The characters are so much richer, the voices make the characters come alive, and the prose is majestic and beautiful.  Let's start with the first delta here, award nominated Bernard Setaro Clark really makes this thing sing.  He knows the characters, and makes each of them have a distinct narrative voice while maintaining the third person limited view point that is fictional standard these days.  His voice is clear, nuanced and interesting; except when it needs to be something else.  The timing is perfect, and the mixing (done by Grayson Bergman) is perfect because the mixing never gets in the way.

But there is just as many props to be given to Rob Mosca here.  It paints visual pictures that paint an urban legend that becomes a grind house seventies Texarcana Majesterium of the absurd.  Chimps, Clowns, Zombies (well....ghouls), Carnies, Drunkards, Mexican Wrestlers, Ghost Hookers....hell...the only thing he didn't cram in were Robots, Pirates and Ninjas...and those are likely waiting for the sequel.  The action is highly interesting, realistic but also cinematic at the same time.  You can feel yourself walking amongst the dilapidated dump that is Unity Texas and empathize with how completely over matched and fucked they are.

The story follows tropes of the "grade B" action genre; something you might see on the Syfy night movie (ala 'Sharknado') but manages to go all Hemingway with depth and thematic richness at the same time.  It's carnival sideshow circus with Tolstoy ground into the chili so you don't even know you're tasting it until its done.

In short, if you get a chance, listen to the damn thing.  Better, read it, then listen to it and get the '3-D Imax Directors Direct Neural Link' cut that I got the second time around.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

[Movies] Ghostbusters and Star Trek

Saw Ghostbusters and Star Trek.
Star Trek pretty much matched the reviews. The problem was the villain...good director and fantastic cast...script made by committee.
Ghostbusters is not what I thought it was. It is a REBOOT not taking place after the fact. Pretty fun and some really good ideas. My favorite part is the secretary...
This movie works well and ...despite what the ratings say, I liked it better than Star Trek in term of moment I could say "That does not need to be in that movie...." whereas the number of "hehehehehehe" moments including Rob Zombie, Balloons, This is My Mentor, and the whole idea behind the villain were quite fun
hmmm...I take that back..."Did he really just do the finger thing?" and "Ima gonna dive in and save"  
Both worth seeing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

[Movie] Priceless

Short Version: It's a movie that's the Pretty Woman for gold diggers.  It's a Comedy.  Everyone lives happily ever after. 

Medium Version: A woman whose whole existence seems to move from one rich gent to the other eventually goes too far when she flirts with a hapless member of the hotel staff right in front of her current patron; causing her too lose everything.  Mr. Hapless feels guilty and also has no meaningful life on his own so he spends his life savings buying her things only to be seconds away from prison.  Another woman uses him as a boy toy, and through a series of fortunate events, they end up together at the end.

Verbose: So, I've discovered that I like French Comedy.  Maybe I need to go back and see Jerry Lewis again to see if its something I appreciate.  I think the resemblance between Pretty Woman and this for me is interesting; but on multiple levels.  I think the author of the script clearly had to have met this kind of person, because the shallow dishpan level mentality of using another human being (often equally shallow) who seem to just want as much pretty crap as they can get or who believes that by being around a young person by proxy they will be staving off death.  It's actually really really morbid, but once you see it, you can't unsee it and its echoed in the beaches around Miami or in any number of works of fiction.  It's not just about an elderly person 'purchasing' a younger person for sex, but the very definition of toxic codependency.

There are a few things that bother me about the story though.  Amelee gets away with a lot of what it does with a minimum of coincidences, but at the same time its ABOUT fate.  Strong writing (ie Pixar) uses coincidence to make life difficult for their protagonists, never solving it for them.  Mr Hapless has at least three incidents where he is helped by luck.  The first one makes sense, since mistaken identity is going to occur on a regular basis, the second one is a bit of a stretch since how many regular human beings randomly have older people suddenly willing to pay their bill? It does give a second act to what would have otherwise been an interesting if tragic short film.  But the third one in which the first electric gigalo just happened to be there for Mr Hapless to woo for Hooker with a Heart of Gold?

I don't buy it.  The truth is, they didn't need him.  It's like the unfortunate experience I had cowriting my fourth novel in which we had to reuse EVERY character no matter how pointless in the 2nd act.  I put WAY too many characters into my third novel, but the opposite is just as much of problem.  Comedy allows for a certain number of coincidences to make a plot interesting and surrealistic or whimsical comedy does that more.  The first two work; the third doesn't, but it is presented as a complication rather than helping things a long, so perhaps I'm reading too much into it.


Friday, December 25, 2015

[Book] The Mountain of Fame

I am amused at the plus one this received, despite my initial place holder publishing the article.  Still, it humbles me to realize some of you had read this despite the total lack of content.  I guess my previous reviews were of some note.

Short: This book  is an amazing short but comprehensive history of China.

Medium: The book works primarily through biographies of individuals who live at key points in China's history, starting in the almost mythological past, and going up to the Tienamin Massacre.  It is fairly tone neutral but at the same time does not hesitate to make judgement when obvious that it adds weight and substance to the history presented.

Verbose: This is an excellent book.  It is said in 1984 and now elsewhere that those who wish to control the future control the past.  If knowledge is power, then controlling the past can be better accomplished through understanding it, and if there is any country on earth affected by its Past, that would be China.  I gained vast insights into their current behavior, including the important of identity in terms of nationality (Taiwan) as well as their obsession over the seemingly harmless Fu Lon Gong.  The current government may have its flaws, but they have clearly learned (some) lessons of the past and are determined not to have them happen again.

Still, the more interesting sections of the book are comparing the vibrant eras of their past, with the eras that led to decline. Some things apply to any culture, especially our own; though some most definitely do not.  What fascinates me is what I see of the echoes of the Beuaracacy and how it still haunts in some elements of the Communist Party today, though I make as few assumptions as I can in that vein.

I knew a lot about China before I read this book because I read a lot of news.  What I learned in this book after the fact forced me to go back and look at a lot of recent events in a whole new light.  I would highly recommend reading it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

[Audiobook] Taming Shadows by Fiona Skye

I loved it.

Edited version.  I got this for free and promised a review of it.  I have already reviewed the book.  And I had high praise for it.  Listening to it the second time around got me a lot more insight into Riley and a lot of the careful insight Fiona has put into the setting and the characters.  The narrator has a good capture for the sound of the character and a good vocal range, and is quite pleasing at a neutral tone.  She's an easy read, but she did the entire narration in a boston accent and I didn't immediately get it.

The bostonian accent threw me for a loop but I had forgotten her close family ties to Massachusetts.  Those family ties go back to the Summer Queen.  Those ties are, I believe, deeper than immediately let on, and key to Riley's history.  In short, what seems like a fun and quick urban fantasy read is actually an interlocking series of clockwork deeply involved and a serious contribution to the genre.  Each of the characters feels like a well drawn person, and is worthy of exploration.

PJ Morgan is very talented.  She has done a lot of other books including "How to Be a Man", "1Night Stand" and "The Muse" but judging by their blurbs it explains why she is so good a fit to read for Riley in these books.  She will be an excellent fit for the other two books in the trilogy.

In short, if you have read the book, listen to the audio book.  If you have listened to the audio book, read the book.  Taming Shadows is definitely worth your time.  I will now be listening to the second book in the series,"Silver Shackles."

Sunday, October 11, 2015

[Movie] The Martian

This is a really great movie.  In some ways, it is my favorite of the year except Pixar's "Inside Out."  I love the spirit of exploration and cooperation that it hints at.  Its the kind of feeling that Tomorrowland tried for, but just didn't connect with.  The movie managed to capture many of the meticulously researched details in the book without actually dragging the plot down.  There was a villain in the form of the political head of NASA but they kept him fairly realistic.   The argument of how many are saved is a very real one and by the pure numbers made sense.

The basic plot is about an astronaut that gets stranded on Mars without enough time to survive.   The solutions that he thinks of are quite interesting and very realistic.  It is also a gorgeous movie as well, well filmed and pretty to look at.