Saturday, October 31, 2009

Things & Stuff

There are things and stuff going on. Lately, I've been going back and forth with a couple of other bloggers. Harry, over at Temple Library Reviews, put together a Halloween special of bloggers' favorite scary stories. Harry and I go back and forth with conversations and my blog has done, at least, this one favor for me - bringing along someone very interesting to talk to. I've also gone back and forth with 'The Otter', over at his blog. It, too, is a great site. John (AKA, The Otter) is putting together a group of bloggers' favorite book endings. While mine may seem an 'easy' pick, my explanation will hopefully clarify.

Otherwise, I received my first publisher's edition of a book for review. In this instance, I have shelved what I was reading in order to give this book full attention. It was nice to be noticed, so I'll give the book the complete dissection. Initially, I was nervous that I would dislike it and end up having to write up a bad review for it. Currently, I purchase all of my own books, which I thoroughly vet and examine long before committing actual money. In this case, the book (Servant of a Dark God, by John Brown) is a total unknown element for me. Luckily, at ~150p in, it is going rather well. We'll see what we really have once I've finished.

It's that time of year again, so let me scare you with this: PUMPKIN-HEAD (AKA, Milk-Beard, the Pirate).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fully Completely

Getting ready to queue up the latest DVRed episode of my new favorite television show, Dexter and started thinking. I see mood indicators on some authors' live journals (notably GRRM) and thought, "Hey, that's kinda neat." Well I'm going to do it with a little YouTube video. Getting ready to watch this show has me in mind of my all-time favorite musical act - The Tragically Hip (specifically, Locked in the Trunk of a Car). I recall, many a moon ago, standing about in Memorial Auditorium (Burlington, VT) and listening to Gordon Downie make the comment, "you odd, hill people." Oh yeah, baby, je sais beaucoup odd hill people. N'est-ce pas?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review - Dave Duncan

Okay, just finished Duncan's second book in the Seventh Sword series. We pick up with the protagonist, and his 'fellowship', the day after the end of the first book. The entirety of the book takes place on, or beside, the flow of the mystical River that is symbolic of the Goddess worshipped by the peoples living near it. In this second book, we begin to encounter 'sorcerers', or peoples who have descended from the mountains to challenge the swordsman caste for local supremacy, town by town and village by village. Recently, every clash between sorcerers and swordsmen has resulted in total domination by sorcerers. By the end of this book, you will discover why. I would say that most will discover why half to three-quarters of the way in, since the answer is rather intuitive and the author does a fair amount to lead the reader into the conclusion, well ahead of the protagonist.


The Bad: 1.) Although I liked this book, many may dislike the amount of action, of which it is short on. Think Sherlock Holmes. Intellectually intriguing and teasing, but not a candidate for a blockbuster film laden down with huge, explosive moments. 2.) Though it is short and not belabored, there is some repetition. An obvious point explained, when I have long since gotten the gist of the matter, kills my reading appetite and I have to go and do something else.


The Good: 1.) The solving of the mysterious plot lines. I can't get too specific without hitting spoilers. In this case, I will only say that the above average mixture of observation and thoughtfulness will have the reader patting themselves on the back for their keen sense of intuitiveness. 2.) The development of Nanji is subtle, but very appreciated by this reader. This is the course I would have expected Nanji's development to take, considering he is regularly exposed to Wallie Smith. 3.) The Sapphire and her crew. It is slow to develop, but I have come to love the crew of the Sapphire by the end of the book. 4.) The honorable Honakura. Easily my most favorite character in this series. Imagine the combination of Yoda and Grumpy Old Men. I'm telling you, it works.

Next Up: I'm still working on question sets, so no Sunday Night Spotlight this week. As far as reading goes, I'm itching for a book with a strong hook. I will in all likelihood forgo finishing this trilogy, for now, in favor of something heavy. I'm thinking of Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind or Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. We'll see.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tired

Man, am I tired. With a 2½-month old doing his thing and six medical office building budgets coming down on me, I'm beat, but finally caught up. I've only got ~50p remaining in book two of Dave Duncan's Seventh Sword series and then I'll have a review up. I'm also working on a couple different question sets for the Sunday Night Spotlight.

Otherwise, I recently became a bit more aware of a particular author. My interest became piqued and I looked a little deeper into the author's bibliography, while reading trusted sites for reviews of his work. I stop and wonder, "How do I miss out on this?" The only answer I can arrive at, was that there is insufficient "buzz" about this author to draw my attention.

On his own blog, S. A. Swann has this recent blog title, "My cover can kick your cover's ass."


I love the sense of humor. So, I start looking around and, guess what? There are plenty of reviews out there, from reviewers I trust, and I still couldn't say that I had read any Swann. For instance, Swann's latest book had some fairly decent reviews from Paul and Graeme. Swann has also received a nice review from Rob for Prophets.

Swann has even been up on the radar over at Fantasy Literature and the Hotlist. I was suprised to read, from Pat's entry, that GRR Martin had given the book a testimonial. I doubt GRRM would do that, just for the asking. People can say what they want to about Pat, but there is no debating he is the most viewed SF&F blogger on the web. If Swann is coming up for reading consideration during Pat's extraordinarily limited amount of leisure time, then it must be better than average.

Well, my head is coming out of the sand and I shall be acquiring some Swann material. Anyone visiting this have any familiarity with Swann's work, either SF or Fant Lit? Let me know and give a quick summary and opinion.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Fine Blend

I finished reading Dave Duncan's The Reluctant Swordsman moments ago. Coming in at just under 300 pages, it is a quick read. The story is constructed around it's protagonist, a man who has transmigrated from his own dying corpse, on Earth, into the body of a dead man in a secondary world. Through the course of the story, the protagonist realizes that his own values, morals and opinions have less place in this world than the one from which he came. His values clearly clash with the prevailing culture and, from time to time, nearly cost him his life. While he begins to learn how to exist in this world, without utterly betraying his conscience, he begins to be effected while concurrently making an impact.

The Bad: I'm not sure I found anything bad at all. The story, characters, theme, action and other various sundries were fine. That all having been said, there was something that kept it from being truly great. I would say that it is the immediate locale within which this first book takes place. The reader gets one town, with temple and jail, for the entire tale.

The Good: The characters and storyline were above average. The truly noteworthy item was the depth and breadth of knowledge of the author. Without knowing such things myself, I might have skipped right over it. However, it is clear to me that Duncan is well versed in many matters. Given the exploration of the mysteries of faith by the protagonist, I would guess that the author is Catholic. Now, whether or not I would be right, it's clear to me that Duncan has, at least, had some formal, spiritual exposure. Also, I would guess that the author is well versed in Asian history. The story reads like an amalgam of Confucian legalism/meritocracy and Japanese bushido. As a student of history, I truly enjoyed the protagonist's dilemma regarding his rose-tinted, twentieth-century glasses view of society and culture. I often find people's historical arrogance/ignorance astounding (e.g. the currently PC vilification of historical figures - Christopher Columbus, et. al.). I am very interested to see what becomes of the protagonist and this part of the storyline as it proceeds.

Next Up: There is no Spotlight this week. I'm going to remain within Duncan's Seventh Sword series and read book two, The Coming of Wisdom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Scope of work

The political sprawl continues, here in the US. Now, the federal government is concerning itself with book blogs. Yes, book blogs. Uncle Sam wants to make sure he's getting his piece of the action here. Monitor, regulate, tax and do it again. This time, it's the Federal Trade Commission.

I'm not even bothering with the details, because I succumb to the temptation to get real negative all too easily where the federal government is involved (i.e. intrudes). Seriously, if the FTC really needs to go here, in this economy, then the money grubbing and power hungry nature of government is transparently obvious. With these clowns, I'm very minimalist. Less is more, baby. However, hit all the bases if you're looking to iron it out.

Now under FTC regulation, by Ken at Neth Space

Federal Trading Commission: Aims for a head shot. Should bloggers beware?, by Harry at Temple Library Reviews

About that FTC guides update that has some in a tizzy, by Larry at OF Blog of the Fallen

FTC Will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies, by The Mad Hatter at The Mad Hatter's Book Shelf & Book Review

FTC to Monitor Bloggers?, by Tia Nevitt at Fantasy Debut

Yet Another Post on the New FTC Guidelines, by Kristen at Fantasy Cafe

Smugglers Ponderings: On the FTC Guidelines & The Book Smugglers, by The Book Smugglers

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spotlight o' Sunday Night

Recently, I managed to convince Rob Bedford, of Rob's Blog o' Stuff and moderator at SFFWorld forums to stop in for an interview.

Rob, aside from putting together tons of stuff for his own blog, completes plenty of reviews for SFFWorld and helps to moderate the forums. So, we made a beneficial trade - he promised to stop by and I promised to no longer raise dead threads (the "necro-thread"), as well as relenting from creating unnecessarily redundant threads.

PW: What was it, in sf&f, that captured your interest and catalyzed your activity?

Rob: I’ve been a geek since a young lad, growing up watching Saturday morning cartoons like Super Friends and Godzilla (the cartoon from the late 70s/80s as well as the movies), and the Superman and Star Wars movies . From there, I was led to comics, which coincided with my early RPG days, playing Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as it was known then – the first edition that came as a boxed set of books. D&D led me to the DragonLance books, my parents were big Stephen King and Robert McCammom fans, which got me interested in horror. So really there was never any hope for me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dust of Dreams winner

Bryce Lee (Seak on sffworld forums) of Laramie, WY (USA) is the winner for Steven Erikson's Dust of Dreams for the Ubiquitous-Absence review challenge. Bryce correctly found and emailed the link from my review, posted on Harry Markov's Temple Library Reviews.


Tomorrow is Sunday night and the Spotlight will be on. The Ubiquitously Absent caravan will be blogcasting from New Jersey and ♫we're halfway there...oh-oohhhh♫.