I’ve just finished reading The Third Policeman and it’s left me a bit uneasy. I think, in a number of ways, for a number of reasons, that it’s very much like a book I might have written. This is uncomfortable because, I didn’t particularly like it. Mostly I failed to connect with it. I didn’t care about the characters and what should have been intriguing was just bizarre. I’m heartened that I recognize elements that I should have enjoyed so perhaps it just wasn’t executed well. Then again, I read it as part of my quest to read the 1001 list, so I hesitate to dismiss it. Food for thought here I think.
In my last real update I talked about two books by Jack McDevit. I’ve knocked off four of his now and I’m quickly becoming a big fan. Most recent and possibly my favorite so far is The Engines of God. It’s in the sub genre of Archeological Sci Fi, which makes it an easy sell for me. In this universe (unrelated to the series I’ve previously mentioned) humans have expanded out into the stars but they’re the only sentient species of note. At least, the only one still around. What they have found is the ruins of several civilizations including one that had been far beyond their own technological level. Why these civilizations are gone is a matter of great debate, as is the meaning of the strange monuments they left behind. It has a bit of the same flavor as Nightfall or Calculating God but comes at it from a different angle. Loved it. There are several more in the series, plus a couple more series and standalone. I expect he’ll have a steady place on my reading queue for the foreseeable future.
Other books of note that I’ve finished recently, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, Flash Forward by Robert J Sawyer and SuperFreakonomics by the other two Steves: Levit and Dubner. If you’ve read Freakonomics, the sequel is more of the same and thus well worth the read. If you’ve not, go check it out. The highlight of the book can be summed up in two words, monkey prostitution. Priceless.
Flash Forward was the source material for the ABC tv show Flash Forward but they’re really two different stories. I loved the series and I’m still pissed about its cancellation, especially since they kept the far less compelling V, but alas. The book doesn’t have quite the same mystery to it as the series and ah heavier Sci Fi bent, but it’s still a great read. I’m happy to recommend anything by Robert J Sawyer, Calculating God for example, and there should be more from him coming up in the queue.
Old Man’s War explores a fascinating situation. In this future humanity there are two major groups. The colonists out among the stars and those left back on Earth. The colonies have effectively quarantined Earth. They hold a technological advantage and control Earth’s access to anything off surface. Efforts to alleviate overpopulation and poverty allow those populations off planet to start new colonies but for developed nations there’s only one option. When you’ve reached the age of 75 you can enlist in the Colonial Defense Force. Yup, they only let you off planet to join the army in retirement. Survive up to ten years of service and you get a second life out in the colonies. More technologically advanced indeed. Great book and a good fun romp. Another series for my queue.
NanoWriMo verdict? I’m a slow writer and completely incapable of sufficient time management to allow time to write. I got 800 words. Seriously, that’s it. All the months leading up to it and chewing on my story have been wonderfully fruitful, but if I don’t get to actual typing of words I’m not going to get anywhere. So, more updates here for now, get my fingers and brain attuned.
So tomorrow starts NaNoWriMo and I’ve failed to complete any update since May. My chances are looking bleak!
I finally get a couple weeks under my belt and then I fall apart, of course. I actually had one about punched up but then I ran into some account problems @ WordPress (totally my fault) so I couldn’t post it on time and the my schedule went to hell (well, further) and so here we are. I’ve got much to report on so many updates to follow.
In other news, the house is progressing at a snail’s pace. I have WAY too many unlisted books, I must get working. We now officially own too many cars. I don’t have a free weekend until July though most events I’m looking forward to on their own. After getting frustrated enough with my 2nd POS Samsung printer I’m getting ready to buy another (long story). And there should be some fun here come November. I’ve decided to finally get up off my lazy ass and participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I will fail hard.
Not much to report this week. Trying to do some consolidation and get my ‘in work’ list whittled down. Polished off Stork Naked by Piers Anthony, the 30th book in the Xanth saga. I’ve been working on the series since I was in Middle (?) School so there’s not much unknown here. It was the typical punish adventure and despite the occasional I need to use up reader suggested puns sessions fairly good overall. One of the better of the recent offerings. I’m still partial to the early books but I’ve not decided if that’s due to external factors or the inherent qualities. Still though, there were storks, centaurs, demons and much quasi-sexual fooling and fun. Despite being fantasy there’s even plenty of alternate reality romping as well.
Missing from my last April update was Seeker by Jack McDevitt. This was one of the original ebooks that Megan loaded up my Kindle with, I should have read it sooner. It’s a bit of a SciFi version of Atlantis with a little less Plato and a bit more Archeology. The main characters are somewhere between archeologists and antiques dealers, with a strong leaning towards the more profitable of the two. They come across a relic from a ship called the Seeker, such an old legend that they don’t recognize the connections at first. They go on quite the trek to track it down, because hey, there are more profits to be made. In the end they find…something, I won’t say what but it’s more bizarre and fascinating than I expected. A great read. I love archeology in SciFi and this is why.
An interesting side note. I read this on the Kindle which comes with a feature called Text-To-Speech. You turn it on and the Kindle reads to you. I don’t think I ended up using in on this book but I’ve used it before and it’s a great feature. It’s not an audiobook, it’s more like the uncomfortable in class reading from school than that. What it is more like is a crutch. It lets you keep reading when you need your eyes/hands back but don’t want to stop reading. It’s likely as close to the utopian book (where you can switch between a hardcover, ebook and audiobook having it automatically pick up where you left off.) as we’ll ever get.
Say you download a sample of another McDevitt book like Time Traveller’s Never Die. Because it has a bloody great title, you only discover later the amusing coincidence that it’s by the same guy you just finished. Say you give it a go over breakfast. Say you enjoy it, enough that you want to punch up Text-To-Speech while you get dressed. It doesn’t work, hmph, must be a limitation of the sample. Amazon’s weird, no biggie. So you finish it later, it’s not the most amazing book ever but you’ve got to know what happened! So, you go to the Kindle store to buy it. Hmm, $12 is more than you really wanted to spend just yet. So you look some more at the listing (further investigation eventually revealed that it’s still in it’s hardcover phase, $12 isn’t horrible then.) and you discovered that TTS (Text-To-Speech) is disabled. WTF. Between this and the price, you don’t make the purchase. Or maybe you’re me and I don’t. Something like that.
You see, when the Kindle 2 came out with TTS the head of the Author’s Guild (if I ever get around to finishing a book, I won’t be joining) had a shit fit. OMG, you’re infringing on audio rights! You can’t do that! Amazon, and just about everyone else with a brain called it for the BS that it was but they weren’t yet ready to have a pissing contest with the publishers (like over pricing) and so they added an option to let the publisher opt-out. Of course, TTS does not infringe upon audio rights, no more than reading the book aloud yourself. So unless you want to start calling classes and bedtime readings infringement, this isn’t either. Sure you can argue that they’re not the same, TTS is inarguably inferior. Even if TTS perfectly replicates human speech in the future, it’s still inferior.
Perhaps even if it’s not really infringing it’ll still cannibalize audiobook sales. This is even more laughable. I should take a moment to point out that I’m a major audiobook fan, they make up on average 2/3 of all the reading that I do. Not only that, but because I have more hardcovers than I know what to do with ebooks are a great way to pick up classics through public domain copies for free, Audiobooks also make up maybe 90% of all the money I spend on new books. That is, the ones that the publisher/author actually get paid for. I’m not going to buy two copies of a book. If I want the audiobook, that’s what I’m going to buy, the TTS speech in an ebook isn’t going to cut it. If I want the ebook or hardcover, then that’s what I’m going to buy.
The one place they might have an argument is in pricing. Audiobooks are often significantly more expensive than even the full retail hardcover. It could be argued that TTS might be enough to push me over the edge to the cheaper ebook instead of the more profitable audiobook. I think it’s mostly crap, but fine. The Kindle price? $11.99 (it’s since dropped to $10.79) The Audible price? $12.24 (after member discounts) Essentially they’re both $12 and even both in the same store (Amazon owns Audible)
So where does this leave us? (Other than a rambling tirade) I put Seeker on my Audible wish list a year+ ago, never made it up the list enough to buy it. Megan picked it off and got me the Kindle version. Because I came to Time Travelers Never Die through the Kindle and I’d already read the sample and a full McDevitt book via the Kindle, I really just want to read this on the Kindle. I don’t want to swap over to the audiobooks and anyway I’ve actually got a pretty good audiobook backlog right now so I’d get to it sooner on the Kindle. I wasn’t wish listing it, I was ready to buy. I only needed to check the price against the space in my book budget. Then I saw TTS disabled, it had already inconvenienced me and philosophically it just pisses me off. So did I buy the disabled book? No. Did I buy the audiobook? No. And the hardcover? Hadn’t even considered it.
So now I still don’t know what happens, I have no book and Ace/Penguin/McDevitt has one less sale. Will I buy it eventually? Of course. Which format? I don’t know. Most likely? I’ll wait until a used copy comes along, I’ve got enough other books waiting to be read that I don’t need to go looking for more. I might be wrong and have a completely backwards view of it but the fact remains that it kept me from buying the book. The related argument about ebook pricing? That’s far to complex and has legitimate arguments on both sides so I’m not looking to get into a full discussion on that right now. But. Had it been at the $6-$8 range I had in my head initially (again, it’s still in HC stage and has already dropped the price once so this is not really a complaint, just a comment) I would have just bought it and never paused long enough to even notice that TTS was disabled. Just some food for thought.
…I’d put this back up primarily as a place to babble on about my reading. We’re coming up on a year now and I’ve done little of this.
Worse. In the past year I suffered a hard drive crash while committing the cardinal sin of not sufficiently backing up. I’m my own worst enemy. Seriously, you have no idea. Of all the things I lost in the crash the biggest personal loss was my Reading History. I didn’t loose it entirely, I came across an older copy attached to an email. Thank dear FSM for GMail’s encouragement to never delete email. Those insanely large archives continue to be the source of great convenience when least expected.
Still though, I lost a lot. The better part of a year. It did interestingly enough provide an opportunity to reset my ‘reading year’ from May-April to line up with the calendar year. How are we doing closing up the first quarter? Poorly. Actually, I just checked and while my 18 completed and 10 in progress feels insufficient it’s actually on track for a good year. Still getting used to the remapped year.
Anyway, I’m digressing. I wanted to touch on my recently completed books.
Just completed? Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’d earlier read The Virgin Suicides in at a racing pace (I was trying to finish while still in my friend’s dorm room whose book it was. I didn’t quite succeed but I was close enough to merit borrowing it before she’d read it and returned it like the next day.) It was lovely and solely a result of watching the equally lovely (lovely really isn’t the word but how do you really go on about how much you liked reading/watching suicides?) movie. When Megan and I entered into the realm of the 1001 list, there it was. I’d always been interested in seeing what he had in the equally enticingly titled yet much longer second book also listed among the 1001.
Now I know.
Middlesex is quite likely one of the best books I’ve ever read. At once I can’t believe they’re by the same author, and again I see it. I don’t want to spoil a word of it. It’s both epic and intimate. I wasn’t a quarter of the way through the book and I already knew why it won the Pulitzer Prize, It was a masterpiece.
Further back was Atonement by Ian McEwan. This was my third McEwan book, all from the list. Black Dogs was my first because it was short. It was good but I struggled through it, especially for as short as it was. Followed by Amsterdam which I inhaled in only a day or two. I went to lookup how long, and lo and behold, that’s one of the missing books from the crash.
Atonement is on a different level altogether. I struggled a bit at first. I loved the beginning but the novel changes perspectives several times and the first threw me, I lost my momentum and it languished in my pile of incompletes. I eventually came across an audiobook version and made a second run. The relentless pace of the narrator pushed me through and I went on to adore the book. It’s the best McEwan I’ve read and now one of my favorite books. It reexamines events from disparate points of view. It has the fascinating layer of being a book about itself, in a way. I loved it.
Two more, then hopefully I start updating on books as they’re finished. Maybe.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Advertising works folk. I heard about this through a banner ad, clicked through to it’s trailer. What? You didn’t know that books have trailers? They do. They’re usually bad, but they’ve got ‘em. It went on my Reading Queue and waited until I got my Kindle and tried a sample but wasn’t looking to spend money just then so I didn’t buy it. Then to Christmas when Megan almost bought it for me but couldn’t decide if it’d been one I’d mentioned or not. (I like contractions.) Then a month or so ago we came across the REALLY pretty blue hardcover and I almost bought it. So for my birthday, Megan settled the issue and bought it.
I inhaled it. Strictly speaking it took my 4 days but really only 72 hours and the bulk of the reading was in a frenzy over about 24 hours. Ah life, you provide so much time not to read. The book is told by Enzo the dog. I flat don’t like dogs so even I’m surprised that I took to it quite so much. His master is a semi-pro race car driver who excels at racing in the rain. Enzo’s recounting his life as a wise sage as he prepares to die in hope that he’ll soon come back as a human.
It’s heart breaking. The tragedies of the story cut a bit too close to real events in my life. My Dad’s would probably most enjoy the book and find it the most heartbreaking. I’m about crying just thinking about the book. It was brilliant and masterfully done. It’s not the literary achievement of some of the books above but it had the emotional impact of a dagger.
Lastly we come to God’s Debris by Scott Adams (I discovered in discussing it that I’ve been mispronouncing Debris my whole life.) It’s interesting reading a bit of philosophical fiction from a guy who made his fortune writing office jokes. Indeed the publisher was so hesitant to do anything non Dilbert that they put it out initially as a it doesn’t cost us anything to print ebook. Though that’s impossible if you consider their arguments against Kindle pricing. hmmm…
I picked up the ebook for free several years ago, I don’t recall where but I believe it’s still freely available. Now that I’ve finally got to read it I wonder what took me so long? Interesting how some books can be completed 4 days after receiving them and others have sat for 4 years or more still waiting. God’s Debris is a self described ‘thought experiment’. The story is a loose framework around a philosophical Q and A session. Much of it is Scott having read just enough philosophy to be intrigued but not enough to be interesting. Then again, I have a degree in Philosophy so I may have a skewed point of view.
Eventually though he gets to the interesting bit, the thought experiment. What is god’s motivation? Omnipotence precludes the challenge of the unknown, there is nothing to accomplish. The asker of the Q|A poses that he can conceive of only one challenge for an omnipotent being, the challenge of destroying himself. Does omnipotence include the answer to the question, what would happen if I cease to exist? So if god lacked this one bit of knowledge, it might be sufficient motivation to destroy oneself. What might such a destruction manifest as? What might be god’s debris? Fascinating little thought experiment.
Say that you want to read the Left Behind series, but you just don’t have time to work through all 14 (or 20, or whatever they’re up to now). Did you think that what it really needed was a heavy dose of Scientology?
Have you ever gone to a Michael Bay movie (Transformers, Armeggedon, you know, big on boom not so much on plot) and thought, ‘I wonder what the book would’ve been like…’
Do you like Dan Brown books but wish it was a bit more obvious what was factual basis for the fictional story and what was twisted manifestations of the the author’s imagination?
Well then. I’ve got just the books for you.
At Meg’s graduation Matt gave me a book he had read and thought I would enjoy. It was In His Image by James BeauSeigneur, the first book of The Christ Clone Trilogy.
The premise is that when the scientific team took samples from the Shroud of Turin, they found skins cells that were still alive. Really. Yet instead of telli g the rest of the team the scientist took it home and used it to clone Jesus. Really. He then thought it proper to name the clone in the spirit of discovery and exploration so he named him Chris. As in Christopher Columbus, not Chris-t.
I’m really not making this up. Seriously.
The subsequent events in the books, the Rapture, several World Wars, plagues, aliens, Armaggedon, giant killer Asteroids and even the occasional red herring take it so far off a cliff that not only does the base premise seem downright plausible but it goes so far off the edge of reason that even the lemmings turned back.
I loved it. I read all three. They were so bizarely absurd that I couldn’t put them down. No matter how bad they got I couldn’t put them down. Right now I’m thinking about seeing 2012 for a dose of reality.
Hyperbole aside, no, wait, that’s right in line with them. I did stick it out for the 14 book run of Left Behind (at least until the second coming which came maybe halfway through the last book, i was still teying to figure out how they stretched it that far when they started adding more books. I quit then. Seriously guys, it was a great 7 book series, know when to let it go) and I’ve gotta say this somehow got more death and destruction (it is the end of the world you know) into three books then LB did in 14. Yet it still managed to be just as overly drawn out in the final book. That, my friends, is skill.
I must admit there was one moment, one turn of a character arc that I did truly emotionally enjoy (I’ll leave it to you to find). But by the end I was so totally fed up with either side that even though I could clearly see where the author was pointing I just couldn’t bring myself ’round.
A totally enjoyable romp but total, complete trash. You should check it out.