the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for November 2011

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Published August 2011

Where I got it: Library

Why I read it: Heard it was nerd heaven!

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In the future, everything is online, in the OASIS. What exactly is the OASIS? Think Second Life meets World of Warcraft meets Star Wars Force Unleashed meets The Sims, meets any other online sim or MMORPG you can possibly think of. OASIS isn’t just a game, and it isn’t just a sim. It’s an online space where everything happens: schooling, gaming, business transactions, and of course all the fun stuff that gaming is all about: PvP, leveling up, space travel, planet creation, armor, character design, and awesome weaponry. In OASIS, your avatar can fly the Serenity, land on Gallifrey, and listen to Klingon Opera all afternoon, or do any one of a billion other activities.

In the year 2044, humanity is happy to live their lives online, as the Earth is pretty much a mined-out shithole anyways.  Wade Watts lives online just like everyone else. He’s orphaned, desperately trying to finish high school, and hasn’t a penny to his name. But he has got a free internet connection thanks to his online OASIS based high school.

James Halliday, the creator of OASIS left nothing to chance.  He may have had the social skills of an unplugged toaster oven, but he was a brilliant programmer, and designed his online world to be free, accessible, and open source. An online playground where everyone was welcome and everything was possible. He wanted to make sure people like Wade had hope that life could be better than living with an abusive Aunt in the world’s worst trailer park.

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Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, book 2) by Ben Aaronovich

Published 2011

Where I got it: purchased new

Why I read it: Loved the first book in the series, Midnight Riot

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Picking up shortly after the events of Midnight Riot (Rivers of London if you’re in the UK),  Moon over Soho opens with Thomas Nightingale being on medical leave, Leslie May literally afraid to show her face, and PC Peter Grant investigating dead bodies. Grant gets called in by the Murder Team when something strange is going on. For example, when the dead guy hasn’t got a face anymore, or other body parts are missing, or was burned to a crisp. If it’s strange enough that the regular cops don’t want to deal with it, they call in Grant and Nightingale, because you see, these guys do magic.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Midnight Riot, you really aught to. This is a tight knit series, and if you pick this book up on a lark, I’ll bet you’ll feel a little lost. Besides, Midnight Riot has the freakiest most disturbing Punch and Judy puppet show on the planet. Good stuff, funny, fast paced, scary as hell. go read it. Then read this one.

Moon over Soho starts out with a simple murder. As much as Peter hopes the jazz musician died of a simple heart attack, it’s never that simple, and Aaronovich doesn’t leave guns on the table to not be used later.  Peter immediately picks up vestigia, or magical residue on the body, and this body is screaming a famous jazz tune. It’s not long before another body shows up, this one horribly and disgustingly disfigured. The vestigia and circumstances are too similar to ignore, and this is where the policing part comes in. You’d think Peter interviewing people, and putting puzzle pieces together would get boring, but it doesn’t.  He’s sarcastic and distractable, and life doesn’t stop just because you’re investigating a string of supernatural murders that appear to be caused by jazz vampires.

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Final battles, eagles, and a final trip to Rivendell. The story of the Lord of the Rings is at a close with the final chapters of The Return of the King. Middle Earth will never be the same again, and a bittersweet ending for our characters.

(By the way, want more hobbitses, more Middle Earth, more epic mythology?  Look for discussion posts of The Children of Hurin during the month of December. Posts won’t be as formal as these, but Geeky Daddy and Stainless Steel Droppings and I look forward to your comments!)

To lighten the mood, I can’t help but post the original How Lord of the Rings should have ended:

now that you’re laughing, here’s this week’s discussion questions.

What do you think Gandalf was going to speak with Tom Bombadil about?

What did you think of the two weddings? Do you think Eowyn will eventually find happiness with Faramir?

What did you think of their meeting with Saruman on the road home?  I was half expecting someone to just kill Saruman.

Holy Cow I was not expecting the scouring of the shire.  If this is your first time reading, were you surprised? And if this isn’t your first time reading, does the shock get a little easier to swallow on re-read?

What did you think of the very end, of the departure of the Havens?

Characters are supposed to change and develop during a story, right?  Who changed more, Sam or Frodo?

other blog disussions:
All Booked Up
The Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf
Lynn’s Book Blog
Book Den
Geeky Daddy
Stainless Steel Droppings

and my answers after the jump!

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The Mote in God’s Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

published in 1974

Where I got it:  Might have swiped it from my Dad

why I read it: was in the mood for some good old hard SF.

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Even in the 1970’s, hard science fiction and first contact stories were nothing new.  But the masterpiece by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote in God’s Eye, was something brand new. Sure, it had spaceships and aliens and detailed explanations of FTL travel, but it had something more, something new, something unexpected. The aliens in this ultimate first contact story were nothing like anything ever seen before.

If you’ve ever read any of the Pournelle CoDominion books, you’ll be in familiar territory, as The Mote in God’s Eye takes place on the edge of CoDominion space. Although teeming with futuristic technologies, the empire is saddled with a bloated aristocracy and an old fashioned view towards women.  Old fashioned and futuristic all at the same time, does that make this book horrifically dated, or did Pournelle purposely design it into the original CoDominion novels?

The six word sentence plot summary of The Mote in God’s Eye is: Aliens are weirder than we thought.

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Mondays suck, don’t they?  Let’s have some fun stuff instead!

If you’ve been following Angry Robot on twitter, or the feeds of plenty of folks in the blogosphere, you know Angry Robot Books has recently made two huge, massive, wonderful announcements: First, they’re starting a YA imprint called  Strange Chemistry. Great news for all you YA fans looking for what Angry Robot tends to specialize in: SF, F, and WTF.  And the second announcement? Even better than the first!  Guess whose heading up the new YA imprint? Again, if you’re active in the SF twittersphere or on heavily trafficked SF blogs, I’ll be you already know her. In fact, you may have already congratulated her. If you haven’t, get your butt over to Floor to Ceiling Books and congratulate the blogosphere’s own Amanda Rutter. She’s shutting her blog down, but you can still catch her on twitter.

Huh, maybe I should have left that for last, since the rest of this post is just random inconsequential fun stuff? ehh, whatevs.

Teh random fun stuff:

I recently picked up Cory Doctorow’s Context from the library. This is a collection of essays he’ written over the last few years on everything from kids and the internet to copyfighting to politics and parenting. Some have appeared on BoingBoing, others in Locus, others in The Guardian, and yet others were articles published on Publishers Weekly while he was self publishing With a Little Help.  There’s a lot of good stuff in this little volume, I’ve been flipping through the pages and reading essays here and there, and all have been informative, well written, and entertaining. If you’re a fan of Doctorow, this is definitely a little book that’s well worth seeking out.

Random item number two, is what should you do if you’re the first human to have contact with aliens?  Appropriate to think about, since I’m slogging through the Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle epic space opera first contact story The Mote in God’s Eye (ok, I should say slogging, but it’s not a fast read. Imagine if 2 seasons of Battlestar Galactica were mashed up with 3 seasons of Deep Space Nine, take out all the romance, and then cram everything that’s left into 500 pages. It’s a lot!).  I think I’ll take this guy’s hilarious and helpful advice.

wanna see some fun artwork?

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Hi Everyone,  welcome back to our Lord of the Rings read along! This week we’re getting through The Return of the King.  Sauron’s forces have been properly distracted by the siege on Gondor, the troublesome Rohirrim and Aragorn’s forces of old.  The eye of Sauron would never even notice too people meandering through his backyard, would he?

This week’s questions were provided by Carl of Stainless Droppings.  It just goes to show, Tolkien and Skyrim aren’t mutually exclusive. ;)

here we go!

1.  After witnessing the events of Denethor’s demise, what are your thoughts on him as a father and as a ruler, especially when compared to what happened with Boromir and the Ring.

2.  Instead of riding into the city with pomp and circumstance, Tolkien pens the king’s return as a clandestine act in which he demonstrates his rightful place through the act of healing the wounded.  Your thoughts?

3.  For one chapter Sam got to be rescuer and ring-bearer.  What are your thoughts about Sam’s brief time as a ring-bearer in comparison to the others who have born the ring, or wished to?

4.  In a twist unexpected in many hero tales, Tolkien ends the journey into Mount Doom with Frodo ultimately failing at his task.  How did you feel about this and ultimately how does it make you feel about both Frodo and Gollum?

5.  Given that The Lord of the Rings is largely about an all male cast, what are your thoughts about Tolkien’s portrayal of Eowyn now that we’ve seen the course of her journey through these culminating chapters of her story?

6.  Much of this section of our reading has been filled with desperate acts with little hope of success.  How do you feel about the mood Tolkien created in the build up both to the battle and the final push into Mount Doom and what are your thoughts on how these sections ended?

7.  The “assigned” sections for part 3 only take us to the end of the actual story. Will you be reading the appendices?

my answers after the jump!

Other blog discussions:
Lynn’s Book Blog
Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf
Geeky Daddy

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The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

published in Sept 2011

where I got it: purchased new

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I knew it was going to be a busy couple days, so I planned to take at least 4 days to read this book. I started it on a cloudy Saturday evening, and finished it the following Monday. I hate sounding cliche, but I simply couldn’t put it down. I admit that from the blurb on the back I was expecting something run of the mill – Wounded war hero Bronwyn Hyatt returns home to recuperate, giving her hometown it’s fifteen minutes of fame.  And that’s where the “run of the mill” ended. Bronwyn’s parents seem oddly disappointed in her, in a way that’s got nothing to do with her military record. Her ex-boyfriend can’t wait to get back into her life, a ghost is hanging out in her backyard, a confuddled preacher is wandering around town, and worst of all, she can’t remember how to play her mandolin.

Bronwyn, her family, and her entire hometown are Tufa. Not white, not black, not Hispanic or Native American, not anything, the Tufa clans have been living in the Tennessee mountains since before the white man came.  They keep to themselves and do their own thing, and they don’t like strangers. The last thing they need is every local news station in the midwest descending on them to interview a war hero with a busted up leg.

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The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Published in 1992

Where I got it: purchased used

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In the future, historians don’t just study the past, they visit it.  In 2048 the technology that allows time travel is still rather new, so calculations are double checked and triple checked. At Oxford, Kivrin has been studying for years with Dr. Dunworthy to qualify to travel back to the early 1300s.  Armed with inoculations against the plague and other diseases, a translator, and a recorder embedded in her wrist, Kivrin is as prepared as anyone could be. What could possibly go wrong?

Kivrin refers to her ‘corder as the Domesday Book, in reference to the records of life in the middle ages that were created for William the Conquerer, and she starts recording as soon as she arrives in the past.  But something has already gone wrong. If she can only get to the village in the valley, perhaps someone can help her. Maybe they know the name of the town, or of the village. But she is so cold, and so dizzy all of a sudden. . .

Meanwhile, back in merry old modern (comparatively) times England,  other people aren’t feeling well either.  As a dangerous illness spreads across Oxford, quarantines are put into place and medications start to run low.  Dr. Dunworthy needs to be sure that Kivrin arrived in the right place, and even more important, in the right when.  With a narrative that jumps back and forth between Middle Ages England and 2048, Willis keeps keeps the suspense high.

 

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Happy Saturday everyone!  do you have snow?  How about annoying Christmas ads on tv?

Let’s get to some fun stuff, shall we?  This week we’re talking about the first section of The Return of The King.  This is the book where it all happens, where everything ends, where all the cards are on the table and the time for bluffing has come to an end. In this first section, we jump back and forth between Merry and Gandalf who are in Minas Tirith,  Pippin who is in Rohan, and Aragorn who is on the way to the land of the Dead. Sounds a little dramatic, no?  Well, yes, and verily.  ;)

This weeks questions were provided by Clint over at Geeky Daddy, and they are some good ones!  As always, leave your link in the comments or tweet it to me at @redhead5318 with #LOTRreadalong .

1.With the company that went with Aragorn through the Paths of Death. Would you have volunteered knowing it may be curse and ghosts haunting the paths?

2.What were your thoughts of Merry and Pippin in the preparation to the Battle of Gondor. It seemed that each ruler just thought that each hobbit could not be a contribution to the battle.

3.Did you think that the preparations to the Battle sparked your interest and all or did you find that the flow was bogged down a bit?

4. I thought that it was great that both Eowyn and Merry made it to the Battlefield. Yet against orders of the King and made a huge contributions. What did you think both of them doing this and would you have done this if it was you?

5. What do you think of Denethor’s rash decision to send Faramir to hold Western Osgiliath against the hosts of the Enemy that outnumbered their own greatly?

Check out these other discussions!
Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf
Geeky Daddy
Lynn’s Book Blog
Polishing Mud Balls
Book Den
Stainless Steel Droppings

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Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day

For me, it all started with a love for Astronomy, I just didn’t realize it until later.  (and Star Wars, but that’s a different story. Or maybe not. . .)

I loved Astronomy as a child.  My Mom would take me to our local science museum on nights they let people look at the Moon or Mars through their telescope.  To me, it seemed a special treat to stay up late at night and go to the science museum after hours to look through a telescope. Thinking back, I was usually wearing a coat and mittens to these telescope viewing parties, so it was probably in the winter at about 9pm. Not very late after all.

English class in elementary school often involved writing short stories and poems. Write a story about what you did over the weekend, or what you did over summer vacation, or try to make up an adventure, or something. They wanted to make sure we could tell a story that had a coherent beginning, middle, and end, and that our non-run-on sentences were grammatically correct along with having the requisite subjects and verbs.  No dangling participles, and no sentences that started with “and” or “because”.  My stories usually had something to do with astronomy, or weather, or animals.

For no reason at all, the other day this memory popped into my head.  It was some story assignment. And mine, of course, was about Astronomy. Or at least, a nine year old’s version of astronomy.  Those of you involved in NaNoWriMo might get a kick out of this.

The story went something like this:

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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