Sunday, January 31, 2010

Books of January 2010

January 2010 books
23 books (or 25)
9148 pages
Twenty five books if you count the Paksenarrion trilogy as three.  I don't think I normally read this much.  Got into the Harry Potter series and then was into reading mode.  Its funny, I go on and off reading.  I'll read a bunch (like this month) and then not very much for a while.  I can't imagine keeping this pace up through the rest of the year.

Dead Lines
Greg Bear
ISBN 0-345-44838-3
299 pages
Jan 31

An interesting sci-fi premise - discovery of a new communications bandwidth - turned into horror.  I'm not a big horror fan.

Greg Bear
ISBN 0-812-51996-5
151 pages
Jan 30

Two pronged book - search for absolute zero, and cryogenically preserved heads.  Interesting in that apparently one of the first sci-fi novels to postulate quantum computing.  Interesting prediction of future blend of corporations/family ties.  Basically the book is an indictment of the cult of "Logology", a very thinly disguised version of scientology. 

Rob Grant
ISBN 0-140-28975-5
290 pages
Jan 30

I loved the Red Dwarf television series, so picked this up (Rob Grant with Doug Naylor wrote Red Dwarf).   A front cover review said "Cruel, cynical and very funny".    Generational ships is another fairly common sci-fi idea.  In this one, inbreeding leads to stupidity.  Its in the style of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but not as good or funny.  Maybe equivalent to one of the later Hitchhikers books.  Funny bits, but overdoing it without success.

Beyond Heaven's River
Greg Bear
ISBN 0-812-53172-8
192 pages
Jan 29

Not my favourite Greg Bear book, not my favourite "earthling abducted to far planet for nefarious purpose" book either.  Bogs down on philosophy too much.

Robert J. Sawyer
ISBN 1-55082-295-0
297 pages
Jan 28

A great Canadian science fiction writer.  I've enjoyed some of his other works, this one is a collection of short stories.  Its fun(ny) and very uncommon to see Canadian locations inserted into popular fiction.  .  He writes a lot of alternate universe stories.

The Sands of Mars
Arthur C. Clarke
206 pages
Jan 27

Some retro science fiction by one of the all time greats.  Written in the late 40's, published early 50's.  Had to laugh at the cigarette smoking on the space ship.  Also the typewriter and carbon paper that was brought on the voyage to Mars.  A good yarn despite the plant and animal life discovered on Mars.  Funny how that seemed a possibility such a short period of time ago.  An early instance of what has become a common theme in 'Mars colonization' books - namely the economic/political/scientific conflict between the colonists and the mother planet.

Darwin's Radio
Greg Bear
ISBN 0-345-42333-X
418 pages
Jan 24 

An apt followup to the DNA expression question of the last book.  An existing section of human DNA expresses itself as a virus with unexpected consequences.  My OAC biology class was far enough in the past that I had a hard time following some of the science in the book.  Not until I finished did I discover the "short biological primer" and glossary at the back.  Should have been at the beginning!!  Bear is one of a trilogy of authors known as "the killer b's", the other two being Gregory Benford and David Brin.  I read everything I can find from all three.  They all write hard science fiction (books that incorporate both scientific detail and scientific accuracy), which I like. There is a sequel to this book which I'm going to try and track down.

Resistance: The Gathering Storm
William C. Deitz
ISBN 78-0-345-50842-3
 340 pages
Jan 20

Scanning bookshelves at a used book store or thrift store is an art.  Zone out romance/teen/crap while keying on interesting looking things at speed.  Noticed this yesterday at the thrift store, picked up on author, having just read another of his books a few days ago.  I was torn about buying it though.  This book is based not on a movie or a tv show, but a video game!  I never realized such things happened.  Never heard of the game, but not surprising since I don't have a playstation 3.   Reads like a video game too.  Two dimensional characters fighting monsters, then more monsters but with better weapons, then different monsters, then the boss monster.  A quick interlude, then repeat.  Then repeat again.  The most interesting part is the premise of alien invasion - not via space ship armada, but by virus.  (The book alludes to the virus arriving in the real life Tunguska Event of 1908).  Its interesting in that without FTL travel, a spaceborne virus would be a workable, albeit slow, method of interstellar travel.  Human DNA has about 3 billion base pairs (750 mb of data), 95% of which is for functions unknown.  Whats in there waiting to express?

Any Old Iron
Anthony Burgess
ISBN 0-09-173842-3
339 pages
Jan 18

Took a while to get used to the style.  Picked it up because I liked A Clockwork Orange and I like the Arthurian legends.  Turned out not to be my cup to tea.

Where the Ships Die
William C. Deitz
ISBN 0-441-00354-0
277 pages
Jan 17

One of the interesting concepts of this book was the idea of data as trade.  Wormholes for spaceship travel but no FTL communication.  Data became a valuable commodity that was traded by traveling freighters.  "Knowledge, plans, designs, entertainment, and other forms of digitized data."  One of those small things slipped into a hard sci-fi novel that I think will be an accurate prediction of the future.

Peter Hernon
ISBN 0-515-12713-2
460 pages
Jan 16

I've been in two earthquakes.  First when I was living in Jamaica was barely noticeable.  As if a heavy truck had just driven by.  Second when I lived on Vancouver Island.  Woken up early one morning by the racket the neighbourhood dogs were making.  Few minutes later the ground started to shake.  Kind of cool, it wasn't very strong, but definitely noticeable.  I think it was 3.5 richter magnitude.  This book wasn't what I hoped it would be.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
J.K. Rowling 
ISBN 1-55192-976-7
607 pages
Jan 15

I cried.

Pole to Pole
Michael Palin
ISBN 0-14-025743-8
277 pages
Jan 14

I don't often read non-fiction in this manner - cover to cover.  Most of the non-fiction I read is reference style - a couple of chapters, or flipping through when I'm looking for information.  Less now that we have the magic of internet.  The book is a collection of snippets that make me want to see the BBC series, although the book itself wasn't great.  Quite an adventure though.  I miss traveling.

Night of Thunder
Stephen Hunter
ISBN 978-1-4165-6514-7
448 pages
Jan 12

Checked the mailbox yesterday hoping my Deathly Hallows had finally arrived and found this instead.  I had forgotten about it.  Picked it up on Bookmooch.  A pretty cool site for bibliophiles.  It is a free site.  A really free site, not a faux free site, or I wouldn't have bothered.

Basically, you trade books for points.  I started by listing 10 books I was willing to 'trade' in my inventory, got 1/10th of a point each.  Used that point to request someone else's book.  Arrives in the mail.  Someone requests one of my inventory books, I get a point, I mail it off to them.  One point if you give or receive a book in your own country.  Two points to request and 3 points to give a book out of country because of higher postage costs.  I've been a member almost two years, mooched about 130 books, sent a few less.  My mailing costs average about $2 per point earned.  So mooching a book from Canada costs me about $2, from US or overseas $4.  Pretty good deal.

The book itself confirms my 'later books by popular authors aren't good' theory.  My least favourite Bob Lee Swagger novel.

The Day Before Midnight
Stephen Hunter
ISBN 0-553-28235-2
415 pages
Jan 11

Going the other extreme, early book by popular author.  Writer of the Bob Lee Swagger series, one of which was made into the terrible movie "Shooter" starring Marky Mark.  I find the 'technology' in older books (1989) so funny.  Entertaining but far from Hunter's best.

Playing for Pizza
John Grisham
ISBN 978-0-440-24471-4
308 pages
Jan 10

My ebay purchased HP & the Deathly Hallows hasn't arrived yet.  Its been three and a half weeks so far.  Annoying.  Found this one while cleaning up.  Haven't read any John Grisham for years.  Not a big law story fan, not a big fan of superstar authors.  I find their work gets worse as time goes on.  Doesn't have to be as good when people buy on name alone.  Anyway, book about football in Italy should be interesting.  Except it is pointy egg ball, american style.  I missed a lot since I have no idea what all the jargon meant.  Basically the book was boy redeems and rediscovers himself while meeting girl the end.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J.K. Rowling 
ISBN 1-55192-756-X
607 pages
Jan 9

A little more interesting, a little more background, a little more action.  I don't understand why, if non-verbal spells are better for combat, they aren't used in the combat scenes.  Other than because it makes it easier to write.  Harry is a little less of a whinging prat in this one, but still took away from the empathy built up for the character in the series.  We're going to watch the movie this weekend, been holding off until I finished the book since I didn't want to take away from the enjoyment of reading it.  Books are so much better than movies.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

J.K. Rowling 
ISBN 1-55192-570-2
766 pages
Jan 7

Far too much Harry Potter feeling sorry for himself.  Took away from the empathy one is supposed to feel for the protagonist.  While a good yarn, I didn't enjoy it as much as the earlier ones.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling 
ISBN 0-7475-4624-X
636 pages
Jan 6

Thunk.  This book is twice as long as any of the previous ones.  I kind of missed Pottermania when it started, I wonder if the series became popular enough that Rowling could write something longer.  No longer seems like a children's series - death and violence that wasn't present in the first three novels.  Original readers growing old enough to deal with it?  A couple things made me smile.  The description of  Dobby's clothes had me remembering the week when Mars went around with a tea-cosy on his head because it was 'his hat'.  The climactic scene with Voldemort's return that seemed straight out of a James Bond movie.  Hero tied up while villain goes on and on...  Parodied so well in the Austin Powers movies...  Should've busted a cap in Harry's head, Voldemort!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K. Rowling 
ISBN 1-55192-246-0
317 pages
Jan 5

I like this one best so far.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
J.K. Rowling 
ISBN 1-55192-244-4
251 pages
Jan 3

Another quick read.  For a while, I wondered if I couldn't handle a second reading of this one, but warmed up to it in the end.  Too much introduction and rehashing of Philosopher's Stone in the beginning.  Again, surprised to see so much packed into a short little book.  Some small little things that make more sense having read/listened to the whole series before.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
J.K. Rowling
ISBN 1-55192-398-X
223 pages
Jan 3

Having just said I pretty much think fantasy is rubbish, of course I picked this up to read next.  Decided to spend some of my ebay money on HP & the Deathly Hallows & then re-read the whole series.  Have read the first 6 before, listened to 7 as an audio book.  The first is a pretty quick read, enjoyable, and interesting to see how much is packed into such a small book.

The Deed of Paksenarrion
Elizabeth Moon
ISBN 0-671-72104-6
1024 pages
Jan 2

I don't generally read fantasy.  Too often insipid, with annoying themes, and hard to follow made up languages and names.  I much prefer science fiction, because what could be interests me far more than what never will.  However, I quite enjoyed reading Elizabeth Moon's science fiction novels, so I thought I'd give this a try.  Its actually a trilogy: Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance, Oath of Gold.  Follows the story of Paksenarrion running away from home to become a mercenary then hero then paladin.  Pretty standard stuff for Fantasy, except better.  Didn't get too hammy, though plot a little predictable at times.  Liked the first book best, could almost be historical fiction rather than fantasy - magic/elves/orcs don't figure much until the last two books.  Training and combat well told, enjoyed reading about a strong female protagonist.

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