Dan'l's Multiapostrophic LiveJournal
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19th December 2013
Marley was dead: to begin with
170 years ago today, the best Christmas ghost story of all time was published. :
18th December 2013
Read: Rage of the Fallen, by Joseph Delaney
Three years into Tom Ward's five-year apprenticeship to The Spook, our hero (and the Spook and Alice) find themselves in Ireland. Here, a Celtic witch plots and waits for vengeance on Tom; and here, some evil goat mages seek to call up the Old God Pan to bring them power. And to top it all off, the talisman Alice wrought to keep the Fiend away from Tom is failing. :
Things get desparate fast in this volume, and go from one sort of desparation to another. Tom has dealt with the dark in his time as a Spook's apprentice, but now he must go into the dark himself, and he and Alice will be changed forever.
Another auspicious day for birthdays
150 years ago today: Franz Ferdinand, the guy whose assassination was the spark in the tinderbox in the dynamite shack that started WWI. :
100 years ago today: Alfred Bester, author of two of the finest SF novels ever writ and some pretty good short stories here and there.
70 years ago today: Keith Richards, one of the truly great riffmakers.
50 years ago today: Brad Pitt. Oh, well, you can't have everything...
17th December 2013
Read: Hellbent by Cherie Priest (2013-95)
This is, sadly, not up to Priest's standard. It's good, but not very good. :
It's the sequel to Bloodshot, a novel about Raylene Pendle, a thief who happens to be a vampire (or vice versa). In Hellbent, Raylene is hired to steal some magical, well, penis bones. Then there are the people she picked up in the previous novel: Ian Stott, a blind vampire, and Adrian de Jesus, an ex-Navy SEAL and professional drag queen (as Sister Rose). Ian's home House is undergoing some serious changes, thanks to their Judge being killed as a guest of the Atlanta House; meanwhile, Adrian's sister Isabelle is also a vampire in Georgia and he wants desperately to find her.
Oh, and there's a schizophrenic witch who steals the penis bones first and complicates matters no end.
The whole ties together, but still feels a bit, well, unfocused. The Clever Solution to everyone's problems is just too clever, I fear.
14th December 2013
Read: The Blind Men and the Elephant by Daved A. Schmaltz (2013-94)
Subtitled, "Mastering Project Work," this book is more about what makes projects fail and how to avoid it. At the same time it's full of kind of newagey advice about finding your passion and your personal purpose. :
It may be a good business book, but it's not for me.
13th December 2013
Read: Live and Let Drood, by Simon R. Green (2013-94)
In the "Secret Histories" mashups of urban fantasy and spy thriller, Green shows a steady hand for action, suspense, and comedic detail. :
This one opens where the last one ended: with Eddie Drood and his girlfriend Molly Metcalf discovering that Drood hall is in ruins and surrounded by the corpses of dead Droods. After a while it becomes clear that this is not the Drood Hall Eddie grew up in, so perhaps the family is still alive...somewhere.
But where? And who's done this thing? Investigations will take Eddie to meet the Regent of Shadows (of whom the Droods never speak); to deal with an ancient enemy; to raid an ancient Egyptian tomb; and to face down the Most Evil Man In The World, one Crow Lee (yes, I know). Along the way several mysteries that have haunted the series to date are resolved, and Eddie receives a job offer.
12th December 2013
today is Edvard Munch's 150th natal anniversary. :
Edward G. Robinson's 120th.
Bob Barker's 90th.
Connie Francis's 75th.
And now you know.
10th December 2013
8th December 2013
Read: Medicus, by Ruth Downie (2013-93)
The problem, for me, with many mystery writers (*koff koff Christie koff koff*) is that they create clever puzzles, but forget to write an actual novel. Downie has written an actual novel here. :
Gaius Petreius Ruso is a medicus (doctor) in a Roman legion in Britain in 117 AD. (No, the date is not given that way!) He has money problems, roommate problems, boss problems. Recently divorced, his father recently dead leaving a substantial debt, Ruso is decidedly not having a good time, when a mysterious body shows up in the hospital morgue.
He has no intention of investigating murder. But the investigation keeps happening to him. And, to make matters worse, in a weak moment he buys an injured slave girl who offers challenges of her own.
The various threads of the novel tie into the mystery, as they must, but it never feels forced, and the solution is (a) satisfying and (b) not the end of the story.
Downie seems to have done her homework, the feeling of Roman Britain is ... well, I'm no historian, but it is substantial and plausible to me. So I give this a big thumbs up and look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Seen: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
By the time you get to the fifth episode of an action movie series, your expectations should be somewhat lowered. On the other hand, I really liked the fourth (Live Free or Die Hard), so my expectations weren't too low. :
They were met.
It isn't a brilliant film by any means, but Bruce Willis as John McClane is still a joy, and Jai Courtney as his son is quite good also.
The setup: Jack, John's estranged son, is arrested in Moscow for attempted murder. John goes to Moscow on his vacation time to help out, and finds himself in the middle of a huge and violent jailbreak. This leads, as it does in these things, to fights against desperate odds, multiple levels of betrayal, and the reconciliation of father and son. Massive destruction, many deaths. Things go fast and blow up.
6th December 2013
Another way the failure of the ACA website is the GOP's fault
We all know about the distributed denial of service attacks tea-partiers have been doing. But did you know that one of the main reasons the ACA website wasn't ready was because : the GOP defunded the Office of Technology Assessment during the Gingrich regime?
5th December 2013
Nelson Mandela, RIP
Just a note to regret, sincerely, the passing of one of the true great men of our time. :
3rd December 2013
Read: Viral Nation, by Shaunta Grimes (2013-92)
"First in a new series." Teenagers in a dystopic future, check. The beginnings of a rebellion, check. Ambiguous but hopeful ending, check. :
...this clearly isn't a ripoff. While the similarities to The Hunger Games may have influenced the publisher's decision to publish, the book is written with too much, well, sincerity to be a cynical attempt to cash in on an apparent trend.
So. Clover Donovan was an infant when the viral plague destroyed 99+% of the world's population. She has grown up in walled Reno, one of the fifty walled cities that are all that remains of the United States. Her mother died in the plague; her father and brother barely made it to the invention of the serum that saved them all. And the Company makes sure that everyone gets their dose of the serum, every day.
Somehow all this has to do with a portal in Lake Tahoe that lets some people visit the future -- exactly two years into the future -- for a limited period of time. Clover is brilliant but autistic, and, despite high test scores, is rejected from the Academy and sent instead to become one of the Time Mariners who make that trip.
In her own future, then, she learns something which starts a domino chain changing everything in her life. As you might expect, it leads to rebellion, desperate escapes, the gamut of dramatic and melodramatic stuff. But it works, largely because (a) Clover is very likable and (b) Grimes writes well.
1st December 2013
Read: Rise of the Huntress by Joseph Delaney (2013-91)
Seventh in this YA series, which keeps getting darker. The war leaves the Spook's house and library in ruins, there is little to keep Tom and company in England's green and pleasant land, so off they go to the isle of Mona (Anglesey). There they meet a foe seemingly vanquished in the first volume, only grown much more powerful. There, too, they face a people who don't want them around and consider Tom and Alice witches. Much darkness ensues and the Spook himself is put to a bitter test before all is done. :
Read: Culture Smart! China by Kathy Flower (2013-90)
As I mentioned, a door has opened. We have decided to step through it, so we will be travelling to China in June. :
This is a bit of preparation. The Culture Smart! books are basically about how to behave and survive in a culture that is notably different from your own (the default culture here is British, but it works well enough for an American). I like to know how not to make an ass of myself in a foreign country, so here we are.
Read: The Nano Flower, by Peter F. Hamilton (2013-89)
Third and last of the "Greg Mandel" future mystery novels, and notably the longest, this takes place (as do they all) in the mid-21st century after the Warming, and after a People's Party has nearly ruined Britain but the New Conservatives are bringing it back. (Yet ... there isn't much real political agenda in these books.) :
A young woman, a courtesan, brings a mysterious flower to Greg's friend Julia Evans, the richest woman in Britain and possibly the world. It appears to be a message from her husband, Royan, a certified and certifiable genius, who went missing several months ago. It also appears to be of alien origin.
The plot of the book is basically a hunt for Royan, with constantly upping stakes and plenty of unwanted (by Greg) violence. Hamilton knows how to write an action scene and does so with gusto; he also knows how to write a complex, believable future. The characters are vivid and the plot thickens considerably as it goes along. Me gusto mucho.
24th November 2013
Laurence Sterne and Padre Junipero Serra, 300. :
Charles Starkweather, 75.
21st November 2013
Read: Clash of the Demons, by Joseph Delaney (2013-88)
Ho. Lee. Crap. This is intense stuff for a YA novel. :
Tom's mother returns from Greece to enlist an army. She intends to destroy the Ordeen, a dark and evil Old Goddess, before the Ordeen is free to unleash death and destruction upon the world. Tom joins his Mam's army and goes to Greece. Also in the army: the Spook, Alice, Bill Arkwright, Grimalkin the Witch-Assassin, and a small horde of Pendle witches. (I know. If you haven't read the previous books you don't know what that means. Sorry.)
Terrible things happen; dark sacrifices are made. The book is better written than its predecessors. The ending leaves some very bad things hanging.
I am beginning to think this series may be better in its way than Harry Potter: it doesn't have quite the levels of meaning, but it has emotional power that gets stronger with each book.
19th November 2013
Read: Ganymede by Cherie Priest (2013-87)
The third novel (there's a novella in between there somewhere) of the "Clockwork Century" series. Our hero, Andan Cly, is an airship pirate trying to go straight. He lives in zombie-infested Seattle and wants to settle down with his love Briar Wilkes. :
Meanwhile in New Orleans, the heroine, Josephine Early, sends Cly a message asking for help. They had a thing years ago, and it ended, so she doesn't exactly want to call on him, but she needs a really good airship pilot and she's desparate.
Oh, by the way, Josephine is the madame of a strictly genteel bordello in the Quartier, and tough as nails. While she's awaiting Cly's response, she goes to rescue her brother, who gets caught when Texas -- by the way, it's 1881 and the Civil War is still going on, and Texas is an independent republic -- anyway, Texas raids Barataria Bay, where "the Lafittes" have their base. Yep, more pirates, both air and water. Her brother, Deaderick, is not a pilot but a guerilla and freedom fighter ... oh, did I mention they're free blacks? ... who happened to be there when the shooting began and got, well, shot.
Cly arrives in N'awlins and discovers that what she wants him to pilot is not an airship but a top-secret submersible called the Ganymede, which has killed a lot of people who tried to pilot her. His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to pilot the boat down the Mississippi to the Gulf and hook up with a Yankee "airship carrier."
That's the setup. As a bonus, New Orleans is also infested with zombies, though not as badly as Seattle. In fact, they're popping up all over.
This is good stuff, weakened only a little by Priest's occasionally having characters say things like "blowing my mind," which I'm pretty sure is a '60sism.
The Elephant in the Room
It is -- of course -- the seven score and tenth anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, a lodestone in American political rhetoric, short enough to memorize and effective enough to be worth committing to memory. :
It is, among other things, a reminder of a time when Republicans stood for, well, republicanism and were the Liberal party in these United States: a time when an honorable man could be a Republican: a time when the issues that divided the country were real and not trumped up.
My two favorite Presidents were both Republicans, but I did not abandon the Republican party; it abandoned me.
18th November 2013
An auspicious day.
Look how far we've come in ten years! :
Just ten years ago today, Massachusetts became the first US state to permit same sex marriage.
On the same day, the infamous Section 28 was repealed in the UK.
* * *
Also in past news, fifty years ago today the first Touch-Tone phones became available to AT&T customers in the US.
* * *
It's also Alan Moore's 60th birthday, for what that's worth.
16th November 2013
Seen: Thor - The Dark World (2013)
Okay, so there's this ancient evil that Odin's father Bor defeated and he told everyone it had been destroyed but he lied. Actually, there are two such ancient evils: the dark elves and the Aether. The latter is used as a weapon by the head dark elf, Malekith, who wants to destroy the Nine Realms and bring a return of the primordial dark. :
Much action ensues, but surprisingly good acting, particularly by Tom Hiddlestone (Loki), keep us engaged in the plot's many twists. If you've seen the trailer, you know that Thor busts Loki out of prison to help him go after Malekith. What follows is actually pretty damn clever plotting and good acting even by the beautiful but rather dull Hemsworth (Thor).
And there's a creature that might be an incarnation of Fin Fang Foom, just to keep things silly.
A decidedly worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.