the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for March 2019

I’m late to Discovery, and I’m fine with that.  After watching the first season, i have a lot (holy shit a lot!) of thoughts.  I wasn’t sure how to get them all down, so I cheated, and interviewed myself about my experience.  This is not a review or a critique, it is a ramble.   Cuz I got thoughts, and what is the internet good for, if not rambling?

 

Yeah, so this blog post is less about ST: Discovery and more about how I react to things.  But I finally watched the first season, and I Have Thoughts.

 

Very minor spoilers ahead.

 

This showed on CBS All Access like a year ago. Why did it take you this long to finally watch it?

 

Biggest reason: I don’t find CBS All Access to be worth what they are charging for it. There isn’t enough there there.    I love subscription streaming services, when those services offer a lot of stuff I’m interested in watching. Netflix could double what they charge and I’d still be ripping them off.  CBS All Access was asking me to pay however much a month for one show. I still find that idea laughable. Discovery looked interesting, but this was a simple value equation: was the cost of CBS All Access a value match for what I was buying? Nope.

 

A friend bought the 1st season on Blu-ray and offered to let me borrow it. So that’s how I ended up finally watching Discovery.

 

What did you think of the overall design of the show?

 

I love the artwork of the opening credits. I’m a sucker for anything architecture-y.  I liked the interiors of the Klingon ships. The color schemes for the Discovery sere darker than I’m used to for a Star Trek story,  it was more Deep Space Nine (a station that wasn’t designed by the Federation), everything was more Battlestar Galactica than I was expecting.

 

Battlestar Galactica? What makes you compare this show to BSG?

 

Design. Color scheme. Dark plot elements. Tension.  The focus on non-verbal communication and body language. Even how it was filmed.

 

I’m used to Star Trek sets being of neutral color schemes, I’m used to the camera angles being more “old school”, so that one set, one hallway, could be made to look like many.  The set designs, camera angles, and filming style felt more Battlestar Galactica or even Firefly to me. Grungier sets, more sharp edges and fewer softened edges, more hallways that looked like actual hallways.  I grew up on Next Gen and Voyager. Those scripts were written almost “cozy mystery” style, where you knew from the first minute of the episode that everything would be neatly wrapped up and sanitized in 42 minutes with minimal tension, no anger or arguments, no issues with integrity,  plenty of diplomacy, and that in a few weeks the characters would forget everything that happened in this episode. Deep Space Nine left that episodic-ness behind somewhat, which was nice.

 

Discovery didn’t feel sanitized. It didn’t feel like anything was going to be wrapped up in one or two episodes. The character’s non-verbal communication added a ton of tension and suspicion. I didn’t feel like the characters would forget what happened in a few episodes. It felt like a scifi soap opera. It felt like Battlestar Galactica. I mean that as a compliment to both shows.

 

You posted on twitter that you’re afraid of Jason Isaacs. What the hell?

 

He’s a really great actor.  Has a metric fuckton of presence.  He walks into the room and your eyes are on him (ok, maybe that’s just me?).  I saw him in a Netflix original tv show called The O.A., which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it.  Isaacs plays the villain, and boy is he sociopathically villainous. I left the first season of The O.A. scared shitless of him.  The 2nd season of The O.A. comes out soon, and in the promo, it looks like the characters are now friends with him? What the fuck! Why aren’t you running away from him as fast as your legs will take you? He’s the bad guy!!!

 

So when he showed up on Discovery, a loud voice in the back of my head was screaming “RUN”.   It wasn’t the words that were coming out of his mouth that made me nervous, it was all his non-verbal mannerisms, that he looked away from people while talking, the angle of his shoulders, his not quite smile when things were going the way he wanted.  Watching him on screen was like noticing a big spider crawling down behind the sofa. I know it’s there, i just don’t know exactly where, or when it’s going to crawl out, or if it’s two centimeters from my shoulder, right this second. Oh, hai anxiety!

 

I was so freaked out by him that I had a tough time paying attention to what was happening on the TV screen.    It made me feel a little better when some stuff is revealed about his character, i felt justified in my anxiety and unrelenting fear.

 

What about other actors and characters? Who did you like? Who didn’t you like?

 

I love Michelle Yeoh.  She makes everything better.  Every scene with her is my favorite scene. She looked like she had a TON of fun filming her scenes, and I just love everything about her and her character.

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

 

woah, sorry for the garbage photo!  not sure what crappy setting my phone was on!

 

Immortal Clay by Michael Warren Lucas (2014) – Remember the movie John Carpenter’s The Thing? or one of the million tie-in novels or comic books, or even the original story that movie was based on, Who Goes There by John Campbell?  This creepy but super fun novel asks the question  What if the “thing” had won?

 

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson (2018) – I DNF’d this one, don’t remember why. Someone convince me to give it another try (or not?)

 

Contact by Carl Sagan (1985) – I frikken love this book.  Loved the movie too, even though they changed a lot of stuff.   This poor well loved paperback is nearly falling apart!  I think this is going to be my next comfort read.

 

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson (1977) – I remember liking this book, but I don’t remember what it’s about.

 

The Squirrel on the Train by Kevin Hearne  (2017) –   These cozy mystery novels are a)adorable, b)hilarious, c)told from the point of view of a very smart dog, d) did I mention they are hilarious? I think there are three Oberon’s Meaty Mystery novellas floating around these days?  don’t @ me, i like these Oberon cozy mysteries more than I like the Iron Druid novels.

This is a post about pressure.

I haven’t finished any books lately, so I don’t have any book reviews to post. I’ve DNF’d a TON of stuff lately, flipped through a few non-fiction books, been spending time with lots of cookbooks, and the one fiction book I am reading I’m reading slower than I usually would because it’s for a read along and I don’t want to get too far ahead (or behind! Eek!) where my friend is reading. I read for a while before bed, but honestly, the rest of my free time that I’ve had this week I just want to sit in a quiet room and listen to the world.

And I’m not going to blow through a book, or a novella or two, or a graphic novel, or a manga for the sole purpose of kicking out a review.

So, yeah, no book review this week. #sorrynotsorry

but holy shit, the pressure! Am I a book blogger, or what? Aren’t I supposed to be giving you that sweet sweet content that you crave? Aren’t I supposed to post something interesting, be it a discussion post, or a meme, or a book review, or something that will foster conversation and community in the comments, foster conversation and community on the socials, and make my hit counter do something? the pressure!!   the self imposed obligation!

Well pressure, I feel ya. I just don’t got anything for you. Thems the breaks.

 

 

oh, ear worm? You’re welcome.

Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

 

I think this is the first #5forFriday I’ve done where I’ve actually read all the books!  I even got all organized and fancy and put links to my reviews below! this may never happen again . . .

 

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey (2016) is a quiet and unassuming urban fantasy that doesn’t go in the directions you expect.  I loved it.   So many urban fantasies feel all the same to me, this seemed refreshingly different.

 

In The Garden of Iden by Kage Baker (1997) – if you want to get addicted to a series about immortal cyborgs, where the plot gets so zany and dark you’re not sure if you should laugh or cry, this is the book for you.  I’ve not read the entire series, because there will never be any more. When I’ve finished grieving and processing that thought, i’ll be ready to finish the series.

 

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (2010) – This was my first Jemisin, and I read it as a read along.  Maybe it’s a Jemisin thing, or maybe it was my group of read along readers, but I’ve become a firm believer that Jemisin books are best when read with friends. You are gonna want to talk about this stuff!  She’s written a ton since this series came out, and this is still my favorite of hers.

 

Nova by Samuel Delany (1968) – so I’m 100% sure I missed all the subtext in this story.  This is one of those books that you read a million times because it is a damn fun adventure story.  Great characters, fast moving plot, intrigue, jealousy, hella cool everything. Maybe I’ll read it again next Vintage month, and see a few more layers that I missed last time?

 

How to Install Linux on a Dead Badger by Lucy Snyder (2009) – this little book is freaking HILARIOUS!  short stories, fake news articles, satire, you will be laughing your head off. I’m laughing just thinking about this book! Especially if you’re an IT geek. oh, you’re not a programmer, computer science person, or IT person? Buy a copy of this book for the IT guy at your work, you can thank me later.

 

Last week, I reviewed Derek Künsken’s The Quantum Magician. This hard science fiction thief story takes place generations after we’ve figured out how to manipulate our own genetic code to create subspecies of humans.  If you like biology and quantum mechanics, or anything that touches either of those sciences, this is the book for you.

 

I like me some hard science, but what I like even more is a book that makes me think about science, and how science and society and inextricably linked in ways I hadn’t thought about. This book also got me thinking about how when the equation doesn’t give me the result I need, it’s time to change the equation.  Design the input around the result, instead of the other way around. I’m a nerd, so that was a ton of fun to chew on.

 

But let’s go back to the genetic manipulation thing, because I got some stuff I gotta unpack. I gotta get it out of my head. If I’m going to enjoy the fun stuff, then I need to  stare this other shit in the face.

 

Nothing in this post is a spoiler, or at least not exactly. There’s just more than you ever wanted to know about the subtext of The Quantum Magician. And all this seemed a bit too much for the review, you know?

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Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee

Published in January of 2019

where I got it:  purchased new

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About half way through Raven Stratagem, I realized I wanted to read everything Yoon Ha Lee had written. The Machineries of Empire series only has three books, and I needed more of this kind of writing, of this style of story weaving. So, I ordered myself a copy of Conservation of Shadows, and bought a copy of Lee’s middle grade book Dragon Pearl.

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Dragon Pearl was very cute, and it is definitely book aimed towards the 8 to 10 years old crowd. My niece justs turned six, I can’t wait for her to be old enough to read this. I hope this is the book that has her asking her parents a million questions about how the world works, why adults do the things they do, if she can be a fox spirit when she grows up, and how terra-forming works.
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When Min’s older brother Jun joined the Space Forces, his family hoped he’d return home to a better world. When Min’s mother receives word that Jun abandoned his post to seek the Dragon Pearl, the family is shocked. Min knows her brother would never do something like this. She knows what he was looking for, out there in the deepness of space, and she knows why it would tempt him so much. But his letters home make no sense, she knows something is very wrong! Knowing that she can’t let anyone outside her immediate family know that she is a fox spirit who can shapeshift, she leaves home (a little Binti like, actually!), in search of her brother’s ship and his last known where abouts.

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Dragon Pearl is very fast paced, and in short order Min loses her possessions, is embarrassed to learn exactly why her family doesn’t want their children ever using their fox-spirit magic such as shapeshifting and Charm in public, escapes the gravity well of her impoverished planet, gains a ghost, and ends up having to shape shift to imitate a dead boy who was posted on the same ship as her brother. Speaking of not using her Charm magic in public, I got an absolute kick out of the scenes in the casino.

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What started out as “find out what happened to my brother” has now turned into avoid the scary tiger captain, keep a ghost happy, quickly learn how to be a fifteen year old male cadet, somehow gain access to the planet of the dead (literally. It’s covered in ghosts and when you go there they kill you) and most importantly, don’t get stuck in this physical form forever! Some members of her brother’s ship were on a secret mission to find the Dragon Pearl, and if Min can understand what happened, her dusty, unfinished planet could become a paradise. It sounds very convoluted, doesn’t it? Luckily, Lee is a fantastic writer, so while it is fast paced, it isn’t convoluted at all.
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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear (2010) I  bought this a few years ago, haven’t picked it up to read yet.  A lot of readers swear by Bear’s writing.  I’ve dipped my toes into her work a few times, and found myself stumbling over word patterns and phrasings. Maybe this will be the book that turns me into a Bear fan?

 

Big Damn Hero  by James Lovegrove (2018) – bought this for the Hubs, who is a huge Firefly fan. He said it’s fun! and there’s a sequel coming soon!  I should give it a read, it does look like a fun weekend read.

 

The Million by Karl Schroeder  (2018) – I am embarrassed to say I don’t know a thing about this novella. Anyone read it? is it good?

 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss  (2008) – hello to one of my all time favorite fantasy novels!  This is one of the books that got me into fantasy way back when, I still remember getting it in hardback out of the library. I remember putting in a request at my library for them to order the sequel (the person who places the order gets the book first!), and taking PTO from work to stay at home and read.  I want to reread this, but it is a ridiculous and unnecessary gazillion pages. Is there an abridged version?

 

Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss (2019) –  lots of very short stories and very short poems, all fairy tale retellings or related.  I enjoyed most of the short stories, was pleasantly surprised how much of the poetry I enjoyed. Poetry is usually lost on me.

The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken

published 2018

Where I got it: purchased new

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Belisarius Arjona gets bored easily.  A homo quantus, he’s able to enter a savant trance to access the quantum computing parts of his brain, giving him the ability (and undeniable urge) to understand the patterns of the universe, the mathematical why behind how everything works.  His kind were designed by a banking group, determined to create people who could see where the markets would go. He’s as close to a mentat as we’ll ever get.

 

Uninterested in financial markets, and even less interested in the mostly naval gazing of his peers, Bel keeps himself busy doing easy things that keep his mind distracted. Easy things like confidence schemes.   He might be known as “the magician” in crime circles, but even he thinks his new con job is ridiculous: he’s been hired to get twelve warships through a public and very expensive wormhole. Even if he can get the first ship through, by the time the rest start coming through the game will be up and the local defenses will be on super high alert. Why did he take this crazy job again? Well, the pay is pretty good, and there’s also that other thing. . .

 

In Ocean’s Eleven style, Bel spends a few chapters collecting his team – meeting up with new resources and recruiting old friends.  I felt thrown in the deep end the first 20 pages or so, so those handful of slower chapters where Bel is getting the band together were the perfect way for me to learn about the world, the different genetically modified sub-species of humans that we’ve created, the politics of the situation, and Bel’s place in the world.  His art gallery suddenly seems so much creepier.

 

With all the “quantum” being thrown around, I was super nervous that The Quantum Magician was going to read like a Greg Egan, where I couldn’t keep up with the math.  Yes, this book is jam packed with physics and biology and quantum mechanics (why didn’t someone tell me before how cool quantum entangled particles are!!), and zero g maneuvers and adjusting for so many atmospheres and triangulation and the insides of wormholes.  Here’s the thing – math is the language of the universe, and if presented correctly, it becomes the poetry of the universe. Künsken made math and physics as fun and as beautiful as I know it can be, he made it into the sweeping architecture of a cathedral. Books like The Quantum Magician are why I love hard science fiction – if the math supports it, anything is possible. Even though sometimes it looks like magic.

 

“The math was comfortingly inescapable”, says Bel.  It may be inescapable, but math gives you the blueprints to do anything in the universe.   Similarly, the inescapable math tell Belisarius that next time he goes into a deep savant mode known as fugue, he won’t be able to come out of it. The need for knowledge will overwhelm his physical need for survival.

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

The Nine by Tracy Townsend – I’ve not read this, but I keep hearing really good things about it.  Also, this photo doesn’t do it justice, that cover art is freakin’ gorgeous!

 

Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks – This came highly recommended.  I had a slow start, I eventually put it down. I should really give it another try.

 

Starless by Jacqueline Carey – she did a book signing event at a bookstore near me, so of course I got the book!  But I haven’t read it yet.

 

Inversions by Iain M. Banks – Great book!!  If you’ve read any Banks Culture books, you should read Inversions! and if you haven’t read any Culture books but want to try Banks without committing to a big series, read Inversions! it’s the not-a-Culture book that sort of is. This is one I want to reread sometime.

 

The Moon and the Other by John Kessel – I’ve not read this. I’m worried it’s just going to be on the bookshelf forever, looking pretty.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

published January 2017

where i got it: borrowed from a friend

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I’d thought this book came out way more than two years go?  I got quite the surprise when I flipped to the copyright page and saw that Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology came out in 2017.  When the book came out, I remember seeing tons and tons of hype, gorgeous cover art, and being so buried in Marvel Thor movies that the last thing i wanted was more Thor fiction.

 

When my friend lent me his copy of Norse Mythology, I ran my hands over the embossed cover, tried (and failed) to find constellations in the scattering of stars, and thought to myself “yeah, I’m finally ready for some Thor fiction”.  Thing is, and and I’m so pleased to say it, this is not “Thor fiction”. This book is literally what is says on the tin – this is not reimagining of Norse myths, or retellings, or modern takes on them.  Gaiman studied the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, read the commentaries, and dug into the dusty, cobwebby corners.  He sought to understand where these stories may have come from, how they may have evolved over the centuries, he mourned what has been lost because it was slowly forgotten through the oral tradition and never written down. This volume is a selection of Norse myths, told in Gaiman’s signature style of deceptively simple prose that pulls you in, and just keeps pulling.  His introduction alone is a brilliant piece of writing.

 

If you have ever read Edith Hamilton’s famous Mythology (ok, so it isn’t Norse), and wished for something a little easier on the eyes, something that didn’t assume you had already studied for years, something that was a joy to read, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is for you.

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Told as short stories, Gaiman starts you with the birth of the Gods and Goddesses, and takes you all the way to Ragnarok. The stories happen chronologically, so once Thor is gifted with his hammer, he has it in future stories. Once Frey gives up his sword in payment, he never has it again. Once Balder is dead, he’s dead.    Once it becomes known that Loki has other children that Odin didn’t previously know about, those children become part of the mythology for the rest of time. Once Loki loses the trust of his fellow immortals for the last time, there is no escape for him. And Thor is . . . nowhere near as smart as certain movies would have you believe.

 

This was the perfect bedtime book.  None of the entries are very long, they functioned perfectly as something to read to calm my brain down. Keep in mind tho, that due to the stories being in general chronological order, it’s best if you read them in order.  Treat this book like a mosaic novel made up of various smaller, interlinked stories (wait a minute, is this a fix up novel? lol!).

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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.