Monday, June 10, 2013

Words Devoured: The Curiosity

When I started reading The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan, it was slow-going for me. I stuck to my guns, though, and really enjoyed it quite a bit. It offers some interesting science ideas, and poses some head-scratching questions as well.

The chapters of the novel are point-of-view, featuring three characters (at first): Kate Philo, a biologist; Daniel Dixon, a reporter; and Erastus Carthage, an incredibly rich man who backs a scientific endeavor.

This endeavor involved reanimating life found flash frozen in icebergs. On one expedition, a human being is found inside of one. This human was a judge from 1908 named Jeremiah Rice (who also happens to be the fourth point-of-view character).

Rice is brought back to life, though it is unknown how to keep him alive. His metabolism is in overdrive and he is capable of just burning out. With opposition from Carthage, Kate seems to fall for him, so a love story develops as well.

The ideas behind the science are more realistic/believable than, say, Jurassic Park. They make you think about what modern science is capable of. Could we reanimate someone who has been frozen (the novel speaks of a freezing process that is different than cryonics)?

Then that leads to the question (though I don't believe in God) should we play "God" and reanimate people, or should the dead stay dead? The question of the ethics is raised by protesters in the novel.

Kiernan handles the science well, and the character development, too.

Jeremiah is an intriguing character, because he comes from a time long before our own. Seeing him "catch up" on years of history is great, if heartbreaking.

Seeing his relationship with Kate, Dixon, Carthage (and the others) sets him into contrast with them. His ideals are quaint, and make for fresh storytelling.

I really enjoyed The Curiosity, and am glad I stuck with it. No matter how slow-going it seemed, it picked up and moved along at a rather good clip. I definitely recommend it!

Words Devoured: Shot All to Hell

A couple months ago I finished reading Shot All to Hell, by Mark Lee Gardner. Here's what I thought:

I chose this book because the synopsis seemed really interesting. It was more interesting than the synopsis lead me to believe. To be honest, the synopsis did draw me in, but then I thought to myself, "This is going to be bland..." as history-based books are wont to be. I was wrong. (Please note I did not judge the book by it's cover!)

This book covers what leads up to, and the aftermath of, the last bank robbery committed by Jesse James and his gang. The James Gang were responsible for quite a few robberies, and netted themselves some good spoils. Sometimes they didn't net so much...

Gardner gathered the facts, and represented them well, even giving them somewhat of a "story" kind of spin in parts. Some of it was story, really, when it features the wives of some of the people robbed, wondering what happened to their families. I am sure accounts were taken from them, but it still lends itself to being a story.

I knew little of the James gang before reading this, and little of where Jesse and his brother began. Gardner shed some light on those two, and the other members of the gang that committed the last robbery. The members of his gang (aside from his brother, Frank) I knew nothing about. Learning about them, and their backgrounds, were just as interesting as learning more about the Jameses.

Gardner tells the tale well, even getting information from the residents of Northfield, Minnesota (where the robbery took place). Seeing how some of the residents acted to what happened in their town was quite interesting. People actually stepped up, and helped to keep some of James' gang at bay.

I would definitely love to pick up an actual biography of Jesse James, after reading Shot all to Hell! I think you guys might enjoy it, as well!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Words Devoured: Paper

Paper, by Ian Sansom, isn't a history of paper--so he says in the beginning of the book. Rather, Paper is a look at how something as taken-for-granted as paper is, it remains one of the most important substances mankind has created on this Earth.

In the first chapter of Paper, Sansom describes creation of paper at it's beginning, then goes on to outline how paper was created then and now. It's a remarkably similar process, just...updated.

After the discussion of how paper is created, each chapter of Paper is based on one of it's myriad uses. Uses that the average person--i.e. me, the reader--mightn't know existed in the paper world. I mean, who knew that there was a paper clothing phase in the US? I knew that some Japanese wear, even through today, are sometimes made of paper. But here? Interesting.

Paper does more than just tell the reader about the uses of paper. It also stresses the importance of paper. How you, the human being is as much paper, as paper is you. If that makes sense. If not, it basically means you exist on paper--and because paper says so, as proof--and this paper is you. It contains everything about you, more or less.

Many people believe that this digital age we live in spells the death of paper, but Sansom does not. I tend to believe along the same lines as he does. Paper is as important now as it ever was, it's just... as I said before... taken for granted.

Anyone who is interested in reading about the importance of such an innocuous product as paper, should think about picking up Ian Sansom's book. Paper was an interesting read, and should not be passes by because it seems to be a "boring" subject.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Awesome deal is... well... AWESOME!

As a huge fan of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy, I would be an idiot if I didn't share this link with you. It seems that Amazon has a sale on The Hunger Games Trilogy Kindle edition!

That's The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay  for FIVE DOLLARS!

FIVE DOLLARS US! That gets you three amazing novel! THREE!

Here's the link. BUY BUY BUY!

Do yourself a favor and go download them if you don't already have them. And read them if you haven't already read them. Doooooooooooo it!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Words Devoured: NOS4A2

I’ve decided that I was going to post this review of Joe Hill’s (amazing!) novel NOS42 both here, and on my Pickle Spectrum blog. This poor blog has been neglected, and needs to see some reviews posted. I'll begin again, and keep 'em coming!

What can be said about NOS4A2? I mean, the title alone is great. It’s a freaking license plate that reads Nosferatu! I am quite partial to the film Nosferatu—though this novel isn’t based on it, the main antagonist is somewhat vampiric—and find Nosferatu to be one of my favorite types of vampires.

(You see, when I was younger, I used to love making characters for the role playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. Nosferatu was a kind of species of vampire modeled after Count Orloff in the silent film.)

Here’s a rundown on what happens, I’ll be spoiler-light here:

The novel hinges on two people, an antagonist named Charles Manx, and a protagonist named Victoria McQueen. These characters have special abilities that allow them to use their minds to create links to special places Manx calls inscapes.

When we meet Manx in the opening of the novel, he is all but dead in a prison hospital in Colorado. This is because he is a convicted child-killer and kidnapper. He doesn’t remain in this state very long.

We meet Victoria McQueen at a young age, and touch on her at different points throughout her life. Her abilities allow her to find lost objects, or meet people—as long as they aren’t on the move. She does so by way of (at first) her Raleigh Tuff Rider bicycle.

(This bicycle is called a”knife” by another character. I like to believe this is a reference to Philip Pullman’s subtle knife in the novel that bears that title.)

Victoria rides her bike, lost object in mind, and recreates a bridge she has seen—the Shorter Way Bridge—from wherever she happens to be, to wherever said item is. No matter if it’s across the country, or down the block.

Manx has his own “knife” in the form of a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith. This car (bearing the NOS4A2 license plate) allows him to take abducted children to a place of his own creation: Christmasland. Though this may sound like a cheerful place, it really isn’t.

Manx kidnaps children who he believes will suffer at the hands of their parents. With the help a sidekick (a character we meet named Bing Partridge who becomes known as The Gasmask Man) Manx abducts children from bad parents, and the parents are…well…dealt with.

On the road to Christmasland, through Manx’s inscape, the children are drained of everything about them that’s human, and Manx’s fragile hold on life—he’s very old, you see—is restored to him.  

At one point in her teenage life Victoria, after an argument with her mother, rides her bicycle in search of trouble. When the Shorter Way Bridge appears, she crosses it and lands (literally) in Manx’s back yard.

After a run-in with Manx—that burns down his “Sleigh House”—and a barely human kidnapped child, Victoria is rescued by a man on a motorcycle, a man name Lou Carmody. They travel to a store to inform the police of Manx’s kidnapping of the child, only to have Manx arrive.

With his wicked Wraith—his “knife” and its abilities—he kills those who confront him. Police arrive, and haul him to prison. When his Wraith it taken away and scrapped, Manx enters a coma and ends up in the Colorado prison hospital. Ultimately he “dies”.

Victoria, in the meantime, pushes all her memories—even those of her abilities—back into her mind. She has a child with Lou, a son named Wayne. She tries to live her life, ignorant of what she used to be able to do.
That is until she begins receiving calls from the children inhabiting Christmasland. They miss their “father” Manx, and blame Victoria for his disappearance.

Manx is revived when his Wraith is rebuilt by an unknowing man. He then decides to get his revenge on Victoria McQueen by kidnapping her son Wayne and taking him to Christmasland. The rest of the novel is a struggle for Victoria to find her son, and evade police as well.

Part of what I dislike about reviewing is deciding when I have shared enough. What I have shared here takes up a bulk of the first two-and-a-half (or so) quarters of the novel. It’s all great exposition, and shows the reader how flawed (in a good way) these characters are.

Hill writes really interesting characters. 

Victoria is an unlikely heroine, not just because of her “mental” setbacks. She's a tattooed motorcycle riding mother who writes children's books!

Manx is a delightfully giddy type of villain, and he’s a little easy to sympathize with—not wanting to see children suffer.  It’s odd to say that, really.

Bing is child-like in his own right. He’s a bit mentally stunted, but able to live on his own.

Lou is a fat guy, a real geek, and easily one of my favorite characters. Finally, I am represented in a novel, and even slightly heroic!

The stories of these characters are riveting, really.  And they weave together really well, culminating in a really interesting way. Even if it is a bit sad. (Again, no spoilers here.) The pacing of the novel is great as well. I didn’t get bored at all, and the near 700 pages seemed like half that!

What I loved is the geekery included throughout. References to comic book characters (Victoria’s son is Bruce Wayne Carmody, though he goes by Wayne), TV shows (like Firefly!), movies (like Star Wars)and even a nod to Cloud Atlas (Frobisher’s sextet is mentioned) make this a geeks paradise in novel form!

Also, anyone who name drops my hometown (Plattsburgh, New York) in a novel gets big props. We’re really underrepresented in modern works (though Vonnegut did mention the Ausable Chasm in one of his, it’s in Ausable…but I’ll take it!)

I really really really enjoyed this and think you will, too!

I have been reallllllly neglectful...

Hey! I am back! Just a quick not to preface the next post. I read, and have reviewed (a review copy) of Joe Hill's NOS4A2!

On the list for review are copies of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Ian Samson's history of paper, aptly entitled Paper.

Reviewing books AGAIN! So much fun!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Words Devoured: The Infernals

I had already read "The Gates", and was thrilled to find a sequel. I must have forgotten about it, or something. "The Infernals" picks up a bit after the events of "The Gates".

Mrs.Abernathy, having harnessed energy from the LHC at CERN after it had been reactivated, brings her hated enemy Samuel Johnson (and his little dachsund Boswell) to Hell to get her revenge.

John Connolly creates demonic hordes very well! His cast of characters--demons and humans alike--are easily loveable/detestable. His worlds are also amazingly rich, and lovingly crafted.

Connolly's writing is hilarious, and the footnotes--often offering the author's own opinions--are well done! I love his writing-style, and this book was just as well done as any of the others he has written