31 January 2013

This is amazing

This Disney short is just beautiful.

Daylight War trailer - Peter V Brett

Just saw this. I do not really understand why book trailers exist, since I do not think they can be successful. That's just my opinion. The previous two books in this series was damn good, so I'm sure to get my hands on this one as soon aspossible.

25 January 2013

Redshirts - John Scalzi

The BlurbEnsign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.
This was my first Scalzi book ever. I've been reading his blog, whatever since well, forever and twitterstalking him for a good few years as well. He's a funny guy and his blog is probably the best one out there.
I do not know why it took me this long to pick up a Scalzi book. I really should have done so sooner. I've been keeping my eye on Redshirts since I've heard about it and I've read good and bad  reviews for it. The worst thing people seem to have to say about it all is that it's badly written Star Trek Fan Fiction. I wholeheartedly disagree with this.
Yes, the book is heavily influenced by Star Trek. Well, mainly influenced by it. By the poor, nameless Redshirts who gets mauled and killed so that Kirk and Spock and the rest can escape. By the shaky science and huge gaping plotholes that are present. Those poor bastards no one ever really thought about or mourned. They are the focus of this book.
Scalzi is one hell of a writer. The comedy he can inject into his scenes are sublime. The brilliant turn of phrase, the startled response and quick wit are all there to be read and enjoyed by the bucketful. I do not want to spoil the book for anyone, so go and read it. I will say it's not straight up sci-fi, it's more than that. The book isn't perfect and that's ok. Some parts drag a bit and are a bit vague.  The solutions to some impossible problems are hilariously handled and it makes me laugh even now thinking about the Box. 
If you liked Star Trek, please read this. If you like a laugh, read it as well. It's that good. You'll laugh at least ten times through this book and that alone makes it worth the price.

15 January 2013

The Long Earth - Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

The Blurb1916: the Western Front, France. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No man's Land gone? 

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson has returned to the burned-out home of one Willis Linsay, a reclusive and some said mad, others dangerous, scientist. It was arson but, as is often the way, the firemen seem to have caused more damage than the fire itself. Stepping through the wreck of a house, there's no sign of any human remains but on the mantelpiece Monica finds a curious gadget - a box, containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a...potato. It is the prototype of an invention that Linsay called a 'stepper'. An invention he put up on the web for all the world to see, and use, an invention that would to change the way mankind viewed his world Earth for ever. And that's an understatement if ever there was one... 

...because the stepper allowed the person using it to step sideways into another America, another Earth, and if you kept on stepping, you kept on entering even more Earths...this is the Long Earth. It's not our Earth but one of chain of parallel worlds, lying side by side each differing from its neighbour by really very little (or actually quite a lot). It's an infinite chain, offering 'steppers' an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And the further away you travel, the stranger - and sometimes more dangerous - the Earths get. The sun and moon always shine, the basic laws of physics are the same. However, the chance events which have shaped our particular Earth, such as the dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, might not have happened and things may well have turned out rather differently. 

But, until Willis Linsay invented his stepper, only our Earth hosted mankind...or so we thought. Because it turns out there are some people who are natural 'steppers', who don't need his invention and now the great migration has begun..

So, a new Pratchett collaboration. I'm a self confessed Discworld nut, so of course I wanted to read it. I've never read Mr. Baxter's work, but I've heard good things about his work.

First off the bat. This isn't Discworld. Nor was it aiming to be. The multiverse suddenly opens up and we have infinte worlds to play with. The possibilities are almost endless. Humans can step sideways, onto new, virgin copies of earth. I say almost, seeing as you need a stepper box that you constructed yourself, a potato, you can't take any metal across worlds and you throw up violently after each step. So there are some real boundaries attached to the stepping. To most people. 

Joshua Valiente isn't most people. He can step without a box and without getting sick, so he can explore further and deeper than normal. He's an interesting guy. Josjua attracts the wrong kind of attention and then he meets Lobsang, a brilliant AI computer who swears to help Joshua if he agrees to accompany Lobsang into the Long earth.

Up to here the book was pretty good. An interesting premise has been created, there are main characters that's been introduced and who have grown, the AI is a cool touch. Then nothing much of anything happens.

They explore the earth. Slowly, disjointedly, confusingly. The book really starts to splutter along from here.There are too many improbabilities and weird decisions made to really make sense other than to drive the plot. I understand that the book was written as a collaboration over quite a long time, but it should have been polished better. I know this isn't Discworld, but Pratchett's touch seemed mostly absent from the book. The sharp wit and pregnant pause that made his work amazing is sadly missing from The Long Earth. 

It was a real promising premise that failed to engage me, and that makes me quite depressed.


08 January 2013

The Whitefire Crossing - Courtney Schafer

The BlurbDev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel - where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark - into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution - and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.

Yet Kiran isn't the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other - or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.

I know this book was published in 2011 and generated quite a bit of buzz at the time. It was more an accidental Amazon purchase more than anything else to be honest. 

First off, Ms. Schafer knows what she's doing. Her sentences are beautiful and flowing, sucking you into the story. Dialogue is effortless and the worldbuilding that went into the book brilliant.

The two books that I read before this was a struggle to get through. I just could not get into the flow of them at all. The first few chapters of this book was a joy to read. Ninavel is beautifully constructed. The city is bustling, characters and cast varied, and it sounds like it's rich in history. The whole book could have been based in the city and it would have been good.

The thing is, Dev is a smuggler and outrider, both quite extramural careers. So of to the mountains we go! It becomes clear that Ms Schafer is a mountain climber, since it's a big part of the story. Dev scrambles up everywhere. It's not my cup of tea, but it was introduced in a smart way, so I'll take it. The journey over the Whitefires are a huge chunk of the story, but there are enough conflict to get me by.

The magic system isn't fully explained in the book, which I like. There are enough explanation and hints of how everything fits, and it's quite unique and done well. I wish magic was used more. Kiran, an apprentice mage, is quite a wet blanket for most of the story. He rolls over easily in most situations. I understand that it's because he has been shielded from the outside world for his whole life by his master, but I expected him to get some more backbone as the story progressed. I know he is a mage being hunted by his master, but some personal strength shining through would have been welcomed. 

There are a few twists and turns and some weird decisions made along the way to force the story in a certain direction. The bad guys are solidly bad, not grey as most are these days. Murder, torture, power hungry. All the classics. 

All in all it was an enjoyable holiday read  If you like magic and mountain climbing, it's a definite must read.


07 January 2013

Happy 2013

Well, it seems I've survived 2012, but only by the skin of my teeth. My wife and I had a wonderful holiday with great friends, then Christmas with the family was fun. I got some nice presents and drank some awesome wines.

My car got stolen from inside my yard on Boxing day, and that put quite a damper on the festivities. Bastards.  New Years was a blast as always.

So, I'm not going to do a best books of 2012 or most awaited books of 2013, seeing as I'm lazy at the moment. I will share some of my plans for 2013. I do not call them resolutions, seeing as resolutions gets broken in no time flat.

1. Buy a new car as soon as the insurance people sort their stuff out. Bastard thieves.
2. Lose 15kg. Needs to be done
3. Only read good books. Nothing depresses me more than a bad story. Not sure how I'm going to pull this one off, but here's to hoping!
4. Blog more
5. Write more. That is the big one for this year.
6. Take my little motorcycle on a weekend trip.

I'm not going to say drink less and exersize more, seeing as lying to ones self seems stupid.

I managed to finish three books on holiday. The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer, The Long Earth by Pratchett & Baxter and Redshirts by John Scalzi. Reviews are in the pipeline.

Here is to hoping that 2013 is better than 2012.