the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for August 2011

I heard something wonderfully (or frightfully) science fictional on NPR the other day.  They were talking with a security firm who figured out how to unlock car doors via text message.

The firm sounds all Sneakers-esque, and breaking into a car through a text message sounds like something Cory Doctorow or William Gibson would write into a SF book, doesn’t it? And if it wasn’t in the most recent James Bond movie, I’m sure it’ll be in the next one, although sadly not provided by Q.

read or listen to the full story here it’s quick and truly fascinating.

The most fun (or most scary, depending on how you look at it) part of this is thinking about the next step, from both sides of it. Up here in the north, we love our remote car starters. Text message car starting means you can do it from far away. from your bedroom, or your basement, or penthouse apartment, or the luggage pickup at the airport. Claudia (who I adore!!) hacked into someone’s GPS on Warehouse 13 last night . . . .

you see? fun and scary! aannnnddd . . . . .  I think I’ll be walking or biking to work for a little while!

Bitter Angels by C.L. Anderson

Published in 2009

Where I got it:  Purchased New

why I read it:  met the author at a bookstore book signing

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Ever heard the phrase “it’s not that you don’t like insert-subgenre-here, it’s that you just haven’t read the right one”?  I’ve read a few military SF novels over the years, and they’ve never done much for me, so I figured I just didn’t care for military SF.

Turns out I just hadn’t read the one that was right for me.

Bitter Angels may fit most neatly into the subgenre of military scifi, but it’s a hard scifi action political thriller murder mystery, and it stars a kick ass female protagonist.

It’s been over 20 years since Terese Drajeske retired from the Guardians a damaged woman. She retired after her last mission, after she was captured, tortured, had her bio-companion ripped from her head and was left for dead. Over 20 years since she left her mentor, Bianca Fayette, left all that pain behind.  But now Bianca is dead, and the Guardians are asking Terese to return to active duty, to leave her husband, her children, everything that’s kept her sane all these years, to investigate Bianca’s death.

Anderson throws a lot at the reader in the first hundred pages of Bitter Angels. A lot of set up, a lot of characters, a lot of politics and star system socio-economic culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love a quick read, but this is one that would only have benefited from being 200 pages longer.  We get a lovely intro with Terese and her family, and her heartwrenching emotions when she has to tell her husband she’s voluntarily returning to active duty.  We get some character point of views from the Erasmus system where Bianca was killed.  There’s a lot going on, and a lot to follow.
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a 1938 ad for The Hobbit


Hi Everyone,   welcome to the final portion of our read-along of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. We  hope you enjoyed your journey to Middle Earth, and hope you’ll join us for our upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy read along. If you haven’t already signed up, just post a comment in this post or over here at Geeky Daddy, or you can tweet me or Geeky Daddy and we can add you that way.

This week’s discussion questions were provided by Clint at Geeky Daddy who I’m so thankful for this week. In the middle of my e-mail meltdown, Clint took the helm and rescued the day and has already started organizing the chapter breakdown  discussions for the trilogy. Go Clint!!

and three. . .   two . . . one. . . discuss!

What were your thoughts of how Smaug was killed? If you did not like it what
do you think Tolkien could have done differently?
Were you satisfied with the ending of *The Hobbit*?
What or who was your favorite part of the book?
What were your thoughts when Bilbo gave Bard the Arkenstone of Thrain?
After reading the book will you be going to see The Hobbit in theaters?

(BTW, the photos in this post are from The Annotated Hobbit, edited by Douglas Anderson, who my husband and I were lucky enough to meet last weekend. Mr. Anderson was a ball to talk to, and he autographed the book for us. If you’re a Tolkien fan, I highly recommend both The Annotated Hobbit, and Anderson’s “Tales before Tolkien”.  Good stuff.)

Other discussions can be found at:
Geeky Daddy
The Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf

(Leave a link to your discussion in the comments, and I’ll edit the post to include your link.)

Read my answers and see the discussion after the jump!

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sorry for the crappy photo. . .

Nightflyers (short story collection) by George R R Martin

published in 1985 (stories written from 1973-1980)

why I read it: cuz I lurves me some Martin

where I got it: have no idea, it’s been on the bookshelf for a while.

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Thanks to HBO and a rather infamous 5th book,  just about everyone knows who George R R Martin is.   I’m not ashamed to admit it, Game of Thrones was my first Martin, and before I read it (this was maybe 5 years ago?), I’d never heard of him.  Many people know him as “that epic fantasy guy”.

what if I told you he wrote tons and tons of stuff before Game of Thrones was ever a twinkle in his eye? That he’d been writing short stories since the early 70’s?  Dreamsongs volumes one and two were released a few years back, and are known as the Martin short story collections. Containing everything from essays to short stories and novellas, to tv scripts to his thoughts on different parts of his life,  when it comes to page count they are just as epic as his fantasies.  However, if you’re looking for a smaller dose of early Martin, allow me to recommend a skinny little short story collection called Nightflyers. It’s unfortunate this little gem is out of print, it’s well worth the search on Amazon or ABE or e-bay, or you favorite local used bookstore.   Along with the novella Nightflyers, written in 1980, it includes 5 more short stories written during the 70s.   no dice? no worries, all the stories in Nightflyers are also in the Dreamsongs collection.

Another thing I’m not ashamed to admit is that I don’t read a lot of short story collections or anthologies. Just personal preference, I typically want something novella length or longer. Well, Martin and his Dreamsongs turned me into a short story fan, or at least a fan of his short stories.  And you know what?  I like his earlier science fiction based short works better than A Song of Ice and Fire, and Nightflyers is part of the reason why.

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Am I a traitor to my gender?

Congrats to Connie Willis for winning the Hugo. She’s a “new to me” author, and I have her Doomsday Book at home but haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet.

if you are easily offended, you may want to skip this post. seriously, dangerous waters are ahead. to the point where I’m tempted to leave this up for 24 hours, and then take it down and deny it ever existed.

I’m not kidding, you might be really offended. don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It seems like only yesterday I was reading blog posts left and right about how we don’t have enough female scifi and fantasy authors. We don’t have enough women editing, writing, or winning awards for scifi and fantasy, and that’s a travesty. There are scifi/fantasy reading clubs and challenges that focus on female writers, and discussions that go round and round nearly into their own Klein bottles about how SF/F fans are obligated to read female authors or books with strong female protagonists.

you know what? it is a tragedy that women historically haven’t had the opportunities that men have. hate to say it, but that’s been going on for a really, really, really, really long time. We are not the first generation to be talking about gender (in)equality. I’m thankful to the strong willed women who paved the way for me to vote, have a career, have family planning options, to have the same rights as anyone else to pursue a life of happyness. I ain’t knockin’ it. I’m just on a soapbox is all. If we were the first generation to be having this discussion, I hope I’d be one of those suffragettes.

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you know how Indy hates snakes? I’m like that with spiders.  When I see ‘em in the apartment, someone else hasta squish ‘em. And if no one else is around, I vacuum ‘em up, and then throw the vacuum out.  Ok, not exactly, but you get the picture.

I for one, am shocked! i say shocked! that I survived the spider scenes in The Hobbit. I could barely get past the spider scenes in Harry Potter, and those were (sort of) nice spiders!

Anyways, welcome to part 2 of our The Hobbit read along! Interested in joining? sign up here, or here.  We’ll be picking up The Lord of the Rings trilogy next month, so there’s more excitement to come!

This week’s discussion questions are for the middle-ish chunk of The Hobbit:

there’s some thought that Gandalf purposely didn’t prepare the dwarves and Bilbo very well, that much of their trials is him testing them. What do you think of that theory, and what do you think he’s testing/preparing them for?

what did you think of Bilbo’s escape plan from the Wood-Elves?

do you like Tolkien’s writing style?

What did you think of Smaug? how does he compare to other fantasy novel dragons you’ve come across?

How in the world is a hobbit and a bunch of unorganized dwarves who have hardly any weapons going to defeat an angry and greedy dragon??

Everyone else’s responses:
The Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf
Geeky Daddy

Leave your comments and a link to your answers below!

that's actually really creepy looking!

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The Order of the Stick: Dungeon Crawlin’ Fools (graphic novel type thing), written & Illustrated by Rich Burlew

where I got it: husband’s stack of webcomic goodies

why I read it: he kept laughing his head off.  Redhead want to laugh head off too!

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I follow a handful of webcomics, but when push comes to shove, I’d rather read them in book/graphic novel format.  Good thing Rich Burlew, creator of Order of the Stick is just as cool for old skool.

Ahh yes, Order of the Stick,  the webcomic that started in 2003 out as a dungeon crawling group of role playing adventurers, who broke rules, hated the new rules, forgot some really important rules, found an plot-arc, awkwardly flirted with each other, and slaughtered plenty of goblins in the meantime. This is a little like Looking for Group but with more seniority and farcicalness, and Dungeon Crawlin’ Fools is like the Directors Cut with commentary (literally) version of the webcomic. And did I mention it’s laugh out loud hilarious? Seriously, if you’ve ever been into role playing, or gaming, or D&D specifically, this is the comic for you.

The first few pages of Dungeon Crawlin’ Fools includes an introduction by RedCloak, and a few bonus pages that introduce the characters so you don’t go into the first strip deaf and blind.  We’ve got Roy Greenhilt, the fighter and party leader who spends most of his time trying to keep the rest of the party under control; Haley Starshine the sexy (as sexy as a stick figure can be) rogue thief, who when she’s not stealing everything that’s not nailed down has a burgeoning crush on Elan the bard. Vaarsuvius the genderly ambiguous elf wizard, Durkon the dwarven cleric and Balkar the grumpy ranger halfling round out this team of treasure grabbing, dragon smashing, ogre killing player characters.  Wait you say, I’m missing a dark elf? Bah, that’s not a player character race, is it?

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Storm Front (Dresden Files, book 1), by Jim Butcher

Published in 2000

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

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Everyone knows who Jim Butcher is, how can you not?   I even watched the short lived Dresden Files tv show that ran as an aperitif for Battlestar Galactica. I must live under a rock, as I’ve never read a single Harry Dresden novel.

Until now.

It’s Chicago police noir, except the expert on retainer to the police department is a wizard. And broke. And usually in some kind of trouble with the wizard-y council. And electronics hate him. And as the bodies start to pile up, Harry Dresden, wizard, quickly becomes the prime suspect.

Juggling the lovely but cold Karrin Murphy at the Chicago Police department, his new private client Monica Sells, the flirtatious tabloid journalist Susan Rodriguez, and a deadly vampiress who runs a high end brothel, Harry Dresden has enough on his plate that he shouldn’t have to worry about some dark rogue wizard ripping the still beating hearts out his victims.  Too bad this weekend is all work and no play for the only professional wizard in Chicago.

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The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

Published July 2011

Where I got it: rec’d  a review copy from Harper Voyager

Why I read it: have been following this doctor for a while, and I want to get my hands on anything Jeff VanderMeer is involved in

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In homage of the Neatorama game that would have an utter nerdgasm if faced with Dr Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities, I offer you the ultimate meta’d “What is it?” game: The Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities itself.

Well, what is it? Exhibition? Self guided museum tour? Self referential satire? A massive inside joke? Eulogy? An unearthing of the madness of a harmless eccentric? I think a line from the movie Catch Me if You Can, (which coincidentally came out the year before Lambshead’s death) sums it up nicely: “people only know what you tell ‘em”.

Dr Thackery T Lambshead was born in 1900. Trained as a physician and scientist, but a true renaissance man, Dr. Lambshead travelled the world, collecting things here and there, making sure other things got back to their home countries, filling countless diaries with descriptions along the way. Briefly married in the 1950’s, the doctor may have never fully recovered from his wife’s tragic death in a car accident. Filling his home with collectibles and oddities, and occasionally culling the collection by permanently lending items out to museums, he became more and more eccentric. After his death in 2003, appraisers made their way through his home, discovering wonder after bizarre wonder, and trying to connect the objects to descriptions and references found in Thackery’s diaries. And then they happened on the secret underground bunker, a cabinet of curiosities that made the upstairs collection look like nothing more than a museum gift shop.

The Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities then, is a collection of remembrances of the doctor himself, descriptions (and some outright guesses) of the strange items found in his home, and most importantly it is an attempt to discover what would cause a man to fill his home with such strange and disturbing things. With entries by Ted Chiang, Rachel Swirsky, Charles Yu, Michael Cisco and Reza Negarestani, Lev Grossman, Naomi Novik among many, many others, along with corresponding artwork and photographs, this is a book that’s more than a book. It’s a curiosity unto itself, an experience, a portal, a self guided tour through the mind of someone whose collection created him as much as he created his collection.

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Welcome to our The Hobbit read-along, part one! These questions are for chapters 1-7.  Post your answers here, or on your own site.  If you do a post, leave your link in the comments, and Geeky Daddy and myself will edit our co-hosting pages to include a direct link to your post.

Interested in joining us in our epic journey through JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and  The Lord of the Rings ? It’s easy! Check out the reading schedule here, sign up here, or here, or leave a link in the comments to your blog discussions post, and we’ll add you to the mailing list.

This week’s questions were provided by Geeky Daddy:

1. What were your expectations starting The Hobbit ?(If you never read it before)
(For those who have read the Hobbit) Did you learn something during reading that you missed from the last time you read it?

2. What would have been your thoughts if 13 strangers came in your house and wanted to fed and housed in a moments notice?

3. What has been your favorite part of Bilbo’s journey so far?

4. Where do you think the group would be without Gandalf?

Visit these other blogs for their discussions:

Geeky Daddy
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My answers, after the jump!

my preciousssss. . . .

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.