Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thoughts and Links

I don't typically do link posts these days, but I've seen a lot of fun and interesting things, so I decided it was worth a full post.



  • I can't say that I watch much many beauty pageants so it's through the links of others that I found out that the latest Miss USA show actually asked contestants if evolution should be taught in schools. As a scientist (and also as a religious person) I find the very concept horrifying and fear the future of a country that refuses to believe in science. Thankfully I'm not alone, and others are much more humorous than I - should math be taught in schools? (trust me, it's brilliant) Oh, and the actual winner was one of the few who stood up for evolution (and she's a big fan of George R.R. Martin).

  • I posted a mini-review* of Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound) last night. The good folks over at @tordotfantasy retweeted the link. Apparently M.D. Lachlan (@mdlachlan) - a pseudonym for author Mark Barrowcliffe - didn't like that @tordotfantasy would tweet an ultimately negative review. I find that sort of public reaction fascinating, amusing and a bit troubling and unprofessional. I also find it troubling that @tordotfantasy quickly tweeted a link to a more positive review that Lachlan suggested. It's not so much that @tordotfantasy tweeted another review, it's the apparent influence that the author has. The inevitable question is do authors advocate for what reviews get tweeted (or not) for folks like this?



*For me, a mini-review is something short and to the point. There is very little detail or supporting evidence, just my quick opinion of a book. Basically, either I don't have the time or I don't have the inclination to write a full review.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mini-Review: Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan

Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) has a lot going on – it’s a Nordic epic as a young prince falls from grace and fights through the known world to find the woman he loves, it’s a historic journey through the Viking world, it’s an urban fantasy in a time and place without a true urban setting, it’s a classic tragedy about brothers separated at birth and star-crossed lovers, and it’s the mythic beginning of werewolves as the Norse god Fenrir seeks to fulfill his destiny to kill Odin with a little help from trickster, Loki.

Unfortunately, for me, even with such a variety of interpretations, Wolfsangel largely falls flat. I believe that this is due in large part to the characterization – I simply didn’t connect enough with any of the main characters to care much about the outcome. Additionally, the epic adventure across Viking lands fails to feel epic – it felt like an uninspired re-telling of a great story with an annoying teenager at the center. However, I think it was the unrealized potential that disappointed most – that and relatively high expectations from so many positive reviews.

In spite of my disappointment, I am rather excited to see where Lachlan goes from Wolfsangel. It appears that this will be an epic series that spans the ages as the main players are re-born again and again through history and into modern times. The series continues with Fenrir (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) with a Viking siege of Paris 100 years after events the events of Wolfsangel. Perhaps I’ll feel the potential is realized in these future volumes – I hope so.

A Room With A View: Las Vegas, Nevada

I was at a conference in Las Vegas last week and the view below is from the hotel room. It was nice - I managed to avoid ever going into a casino even though I was close to The Strip and literally right across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe Casino. The coolest parts - I stood on the edge of a crater created by an atomic bomb and saw the now completed Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (which I did the geologic investigation for). As for around here, I'm hoping to have an actual review or two up this week. We'll see.

Books Received: June 13 - 27

Books Received: June 13 - 27, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Update

I'm off to Vegas for a conference, so real content will be light around here for a bit more. I have a mini-review of Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) to write and I'm still slogging through The White-Luck Warrior by R.Scott Bakker (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound). I also have a whisky review mostly written and I'm sure I'll post a couple of pictures, but the real content is still a bit off as I'm overwhelmed in life and work.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Room With A View: St. George Utah

I had to do a fast-turn-around project at the end of last week outside of St. George, Utah. I'd never been there before, so it was nice to see. Especially since I spent a few hours in Zion National Park on the way.

St. George, Utah

Books Received: May 24 - June 13

Books Received: May 24 - June 13, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Something Completely Different

A short-fuse project came up this week that required me to go to southwest Utah. The challenges of getting around the Grand Canyon from where I live meant that I drove accross norhtern Arizona and southern Utah to get there - which is some of the most spectacular scenery in the country and world. Included was a brief stopover in Zion National Park. In fact, about the time this post goes live, I'll probably be back in Zion on my return home - I plan to spend a few hours hiking before making the 5-hour drive back to the house and family.

Zion National Park, Utah

Monday, June 06, 2011

Review: Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) is the first book in a series of (mis)adventures of the crew of the Ketty Jay. Combining a ramshackle mix of fantasy, science fiction and steampunk into the swashbuckling tale of an unlikely crew of privateers, Retribution Falls is the sort of adventure story made for so-called summer reading.

The first and most obvious comparison Retribution Falls literally begs you to make is with the Joss Whedon television show, follow-up movie and comics, Firefly, which has endeared a dedicated and cultish following. Firefly is also the story of a mis-matched crew of freebooters, always on the run and in need of cash – the comparison is completed by the aristocrat passenger on the run who joins the crew. As a fan of Firefly, I have to admit that I cringe a bit at the comparison because the strength of Firefly is in Captain Mal and his harsh honor and wit. Captain Frey of the Ketty Jay is no Mal – he’s much less honorable, nowhere near as witty, and all around less likeable, in spite of the charm that Wooding repeated attempts instill in him.

This is not to say that it’s all that it’s unfortunate that comparisons between Retribution Falls and Firefly don’t hold up all that long beyond the surface – the last thing I want is an attempted clone of Firefly. The crew of the Ketty Jay are all flawed and on the run – whether it’s a disgraced doctor, broken pilot, idiot kid, freed slave, or mysterious woman who doesn’t quite seem right, these people feel very real. Wooding takes the time to explore this in a way simply not possible on a television series (at least one as brief as Firefly).  Even Captain Frey, who is a thoroughly unlikeable, selfish, and lecherous jerk, has a charm about him that eventually seems to win over his detractors. We’ve all met the type in real life – in Retribution Falls he’s the captain of dirigible and its crew as they struggle for survival at the fringes of society.

The story itself is a fun adventure that introduces us a world of steampunk-ish technology, mixed races and species and a good bit of the supernatural with demons and a sort of vampire. One of Wooding’s most interesting imaginings is the ace-in-the-hole of the Ketty Jay,  its golem – a possessed metal creation (robot analog) that truly kicks ass and eventually is the source of the most touching (and skillfully written) parts of the book.

Wooding’s writing style is honestly a bit coarse and not as polished as I’d have expected from someone who’s published 16 books. Or perhaps Wooding feels that when writing about a crew such as the crew of the Ketty Jay, polished writing just doesn’t fit. For me, the humor was a bit off and feels forced – it seemed to get better as the book progressed, which indicates that I either got used to it, began to enjoy it more, or simply ignored it. My guess is it’s a mix of all three. I think the biggest issue I had was that far too much of the book passed before I felt any sort of sympathy for the characters, which can make for tough reading.

Retribution Falls is in the end a fun and creative adventure of a motley crew that’s in way over its head. I enjoyed it, but with a few reservations as I was often left cold and uninterested in the rather unlikeable Captain Frey. The obvious comparison is to Firefly, but don’t get hung up on that – Retribution Falls belongs with the many adventure tales of various genres involving pirates, freebooters, privateers and other crews of people struggling to survive in the dangerous fringes of society. Oh, don’t read the back cover blurb of the book – it contains a reveal that is best left for the text. The adventures of the Ketty Jay, Captain Frey and crew continue with The Black Lung Captain (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) and at least two more forthcoming books.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Update

Hello all. I know it’s been a bit quite around here lately, so I thought I’d chime in with an update. Things are just hectic – work is picking up (which is a good thing even if it does impact blog/reading time) and I had a couple of trips in there. And with all the time I’ve spent travelling or in the office (where things like Twitter are blocked), I’ve been pretty silent on all fronts.

I’ve simply not found the time to write a couple of reviews – so, for my own sanity and keeping my interest, I’ll probably do ‘mini-reviews’ rather than full on reviews of a couple of books just to keep up. This will be for Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) and Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound). I’m currently slogging my way through The White-Luck Warrior by R.Scott Bakker (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound). It’s good, sometimes very good, but it’s also a very dense and slow read. So, it’ll take me a while to get through with the 15- to 30- minute reading chunks I get. I’m not sure what’ll be next since I have quite a few books that I really want to read, but I imagine I’ll choose something a bit lighter.

So, I’m still here, though it’ll probably be a bit quite around here for a little while longer.

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