Those other books I meant to review

August 5th, 2008

The number of books I read in a month is hugely variable. If I pick up a book, find some time to get into it, and really enjoy it, then I can finish it fairly quickly. Most often, though, I pick up a book, like it, but get distracted. By, for example, a desire to sleep. For some reason my daughters have both been waking up in the middle of the night quite a bit lately, so what I've been reading has been confined to the stuff that I can read while shaving, or eating dinner (if that option is available). Since novels don't lay flat very easily, that leaves magazines and articles that I've printed from the Web.

But I did manage to finish Three Days to Never and World War Z.

Three Days to Never: I haven't read a Tim Powers book that I didn't like. Some I like more than others, but he hasn't written a book that's disappointed me yet. But I really like well thought out secret histories, and more "realistic" magic (at least, magic that comes with some undesirable consequences), and non-invulnerable characters. With Powers, you know that his protagonists won't come out of the novel unscathed; they get beaten, disfigured, scarred, and you certainly feel that they're lucky to be alive at all.

After Declare, though, this book just felt...less epic. It's not bad, it's just smaller. The ending feels rushed, and the big nasty secret suppressed technology almost feels tacked on, even though it does stem from things that we'd been shown before. The odd thing is that I can't decide whether I liked the characters, or whether they felt a bit flat. Maybe it's both.

So the novel is good, but not great. But as a Tim Powers book, it's better than the vast majority of other stuff out there.

World War Z: A coworker recommended this, and damned if he wasn't right. I wasn't expecting much, certainly nothing this ambitious. I was initially unsure about the documentary interview style of the book, but it works really well.

It also did something that make me like it immediately, and willing to actually bother with the book. See, I'm fine with zombie stories; however, I don't like nihilistic stories where the end is "Everybody dies!" Screw that. So if the zombies are ultimately going to win and take over the world and kill every human? Nah, I have no interest in reading it.

But Max Brooks begins the book with the narrator explaining that the zombies were a huge threat, and maybe almost won, but didn't, and now humanity is regrouping and rebuilding.

And then, just as you start thinking that stating that upfront will reduce the tension, he launches into "interviews" with the survivors that just get better and better. This is one of those books that I picked up and kept finding excuses to read.

Holy monkey on a stick

July 28th, 2008

Where the hell did July go? Honestly, I thought that I had forgotten to post for a week...ok, two weeks. Yeah, two weeks. Right?

Four weeks (almost)! What the heck happened?

You know what happened? July was busy. Not just your typical sort of everyday (-month) busy, but a special mid-year, brain-bending sort of busy that makes four weeks (or 26 days) go by like that.

A new temp writer starts tomorrow. And then we'll have four weeks to write a metric crapload of docs for a product release coming at the end of the month.

And I still wanted to talk about those others books I read...

Bastard lying devices

July 28th, 2008

Dan provides interesting, if annoying, truths.

I certainly knew that the little "signal bar" display was almost meaningless, just from my own experience. Walk around inside my office, and you'll see the bars flicker all over the scale. Doesn't seem to mean much. And they'll even show up inside the elevator, where I've seen more than one person lose their connection when the doors close. So I treat them as a very vague guideline.

Plus, of course, we're way the hell out on the bay, anyway, a few miles east of 101. If not an actual dead zone, it's at least in a trough between cell phone towers.

As for the battery life meter...well, I'll be at full charge, make one call, and then be at half charge. And then, a while later, it will show full charge again. Obviously, it's due to the powerful battery-charging field generated by my molten iron core.

Curious behavior

July 2nd, 2008

I received my copy of the 4th edition D&D Player's Handbook today. I was actually giddy when I opened the box and cracked the cover, and I keep stealing longing glances at it.

I think part of my problem is that it's been a long, long time since I bought an RPG book (not counting PDFs). There's something about a hardcover book that says Dungeons & Dragons that stirs far too many pleasant, intensely geeky memories. Even though this book is far removed from its forebears (piled into too-heavy boxes in my attic), and I have had a somewhat adversarial relationship with the d20 rules, something changes when you have the actual rulebook in your hands.

Oh, sure, it's much glossier than my D&D, with all of those full-page fact, there's a disturbing lack of amateur line drawings. As it says right there on page 7, "It's bright and shiny." Ok, yes, they're talking about the ruleset, but it obviously applies to the book, as well.

I'm sure that once I dive into the rules, I'll emerge as my cynical, d20-hating self, and all will be right with the world.

Things that look like other things

June 30th, 2008

I was in a Wal-Mart recently, looking for something that they didn't have,"wandered by" the toy aisles. I ended up in front of a large display of Hot Wheels cars: 97 cents each! And yet, I resisted. Even at under a dollar, I don't need more stuff cluttering my desk at work, and, to be honest, none of them looked particularly interesting.

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