Monday, January 22, 2018

Trading In Danger by Elizabeth Moon - Book Report #216

Now this is what I am talking about!

Humans, in space, trying to make a living, making mistakes, dealing with competitors, bureaucrats, the outbreak of war, ship repairs, mercenaries, mutinies, murder, running out of fuel, running out of money ...

Yup.  People being people.  In space.

Ky Vatta is the daughter of a vast family-run interstellar shipping company who breaks with family tradition and joins the military instead of the business.

She is thrown out of her unit and discharged under a cloud of controversy and dishonour.  The family takes her in and givers her a simple job to get out of the limelight and time to recover from the blow.

But the character traits that lead her into the military compel her to deviate from the plan of taking an old freighter to the scrap yard and she tries to use the opportunity to earn enough money to repair the ship and go into business for herself.

But the galaxy of other humans have plans of their own that conflict with hers.

It was terrific fun and I love this kind of SF, where being is space is no different to humans than being at sea. 

Elizabeth Moon has a terrific way of just making the character believable.  Ky Vatta makes all kinds of decisions that just make sense - they are logical.  I especially loved the moment in the book where Ky has an epiphany and decides that doing what is expected is exactly what got her into trouble (Other than the original decision to deviate from the flight path that is.) and starts making decisions instead of following orders from everybody who feels they have the right to tell her what to do.

Terrific.

Elizabeth Moon's website - http://www.elizabethmoon.com/

Elizabeth Moon

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Outliers by Nicole Feldringer

I liked this story.

What happens when a smart, dedicated gamer plays a game meant to help crunch data to model global warming weather patterns?

When a flaw in the game is discovered we get to see how game design is affected by political desire.

I believe the story gives us a glimpse into the machinations of political influence of what we hear in the media about the Climate Change.

Nicole Feldringer's webpage - http://www.nicofeld.com/

Nicole Feldringer

Monday, January 15, 2018

PostCapitalism by Paul Mason - Book Report #215

I had a difficult time with this book.

It was mostly me, I just could not penetrate Mason's writing.  I found myself reading a passage and having to re-read it again to understand what he was saying.  It was like that for most of the book.

The subtitle was certainly a bit misleading - A Guide to Our Future it hardly was.  3/4 of the book was spent on describing capitalism's long history.  Over and over again the author would take us on a tour of the past.

Finally, in the last section, he began to apply theory to a new economic model.  It is interesting to contemplate the effect the digital realm is having on the economy.  It was also a challenge to imagine how a society would work without money.  Try it.  Every single aspect of our way of life relies on it.  It's like water.  We need it.

I found the book a difficult read but that has only spurred me on to wanting to learn more about it.  It is a curious notion to think that we are in the first decades of this very transformation.  Like everything else, I believe a solution will be found.  You have to believe that otherwise living is just too bleak.

I am not so sure I would recommend this book as I had such a difficult time with it.  But, without it, I wouldn't know where else to look to try to get a better understanding of a world without money.

I a search for more understanding on the subject I found The Postcapitalist Future website.  Try reading the manifesto first and see if that sparks any new insights.  -  http://postcapfuture.com/manifesto/

Paul Mason's website - http://www.paulmasonnews.com/

Paul Mason

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

REAL by Django Wexler

This was a cool, dark story.

A mysterious person goes looking for a recluse game designer who helped create one of the most addictive and believable games. 

The game has a deadly quality that the designer investigated and tried to correct. But then other powers worked against him. 

Once the narrator finds the designer the truth is revealed. 

I loved the dark quality of the city and found the writing captivating. 

It was another terrific entry in what is becoming a favourite anthology of mine. 

Django Wexler's website - http://djangowexler.com/

Django Wexler

Monday, January 8, 2018

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein - Book Report #214

Here is another terrifying book that may well make you throw up your hands in the hopelessness of it all.  Humanity is polluting itself right out of existence and it seems there is no way to stop ourselves.

But Klein pulls back, just in time, at the very end of the book, to show us that there is a way out, that things can be done and there is a strong grass-roots movement underfoot that can lead us out of our mess.

Klein is a heavy-handed author but she does do her job by injecting some balance into her book.  Nothing frustrates me more than an author that will only write about the problems without offering solutions as inspiration to make things better.  Klein at least makes an attempt to show us alternatives.

One thing she touched on that caught my attention is the notion that there is a way of life that does not involve capitalism.  Post-capitalism, because it's such a new idea that capitalism's replacement has no name and barley a framework.  But if you can imagine a society without money, then you can see where this kind of structure could lead us out of our current mindset of resource based extraction economies.

It was one of those moments where an author gave me an entire new avenue of thinking that I find intriguing.

I do recommend the book but, be warned, it can be a bit of a slog.

Naomi Klein's website - http://www.naomiklein.org/main




Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Survival Horror by Seanan McGuire

At first I groaned when I began the story.  I am no fan of fantasy, magic and weird creatures.  I am never in the mood.  Although I like science fiction, and you can certainly see the parallels, I at least enjoy "plausible" SF.

A couple teenagers are in the basement reading comics and installing a new computer game.  Once loaded all the lights go out and the evil magic begins.  The my groaning began.

But there was always a line of humour in it that kept me reading.

I certainly enjoyed how, when the parents got involved, everything got mundane and still quite funny.

It was a good story because the twist ending worked well for me.

Seanan McGuire's website - http://www.seananmcguire.com/




Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Years Resolution


Normally I look at my reading accomplishments and just want to read more.

This year, my challenge to myself is to read books that I actually own.

Most of my reading has been through the Edmonton Public Library.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that but I am, what is charitably called, a bibliophile.  I buy books and simply shelve them.  I love books and want them around me but there is always something I don't own that I am interested in reading and the library enables me to do so.

But I have so many books that I have been forced to box up most of them and store them in the basement, and yet I keep buying more.

So this year the only books I will enjoy from the library are audio books, which I listen to while delivering the mail.

My books deserve my attention and this is the year I will make a dent in them.

Not a bad goal, eh?

My idea of heaven.

Below are pictures from my basement of shelves and boxes packed with books I have not read.  My house should look like the image above but, since it doesn't, I have to start unpacking and read, read, read.







Wednesday, December 27, 2017

1Up by Holly Black - Short Story Reviw

Oh!  This was terrific fun.

A trio of gammer friends, who have never met in real life, travel together to the funeral of another internet friend.

Proving that friendships can and do form online, the trio go on an adventure to unravel a mystery.  There are clues in the dead boy's room that lead them to a computer game that leads them out into the real world.

This could easily be made into a movie.  It reminded me very much of Ready Player One.

Holly Black's website - http://blackholly.com/

Holly Black


Monday, December 25, 2017

More Fool Me by Stephen Fry - Book Report #213

I love Stephen Fry.  He is such an unusual person and a towering intellect with a complete gift of language.

The book was self-deprecating and read like a conversation with the man.  He played nicely with structure and kept my interest throughout.

But there was so much name-dropping that I was lost on many occasions.  But that is the nature of the business that he is in.  Success and longevity rely on contacts; meeting and knowing lots of people.  Where the book lost my interest was the Dear Diary portion - 143 pages of parties, openings, dinners, cocaine, late nights, writing, voice overs, drinking and plays.  It got to be a bit much.

But, the last few pages brought it all together and made me think, "This is why I love you so much Stephen!"

Sometimes I like an actor instinctively and just don't know why.  I have found that it is because their real character has a way of seeping through, colouring their work and it is that that I connect with.

I came away from reading the book a bigger fan.  No, I don't like that word, let's go with admirer.  He is much more than his acting, which is how he came to my attention in the first place.

Renaissance Man - that is what Stephen Fry is.  What a joy it is to be able to spend some time getting to know such a person, in his own words.

Yes, I admire Fry even more.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Nevertheless by Alec Baldwin - Book Report #212


I have a soft spot for Alec Baldwin.

He seems he could be a gruff person but there is something about him that I find interesting.

I loved that he started the book by stating that he did it for the money.

He then goes on to explain why that is.

Sure I was into the book because I am a fan and I wanted to hear about The Hunt for Red October.  But I also wanted to know what the business of being an actor is about.

What I got was a complex story about the man himself, what motivated him early on and what moves him now.  His struggles with drugs and his marriage to Kim Basinger played enormous roles in who he is today.

I came away from the book feeling that I had a pretty good measure of the man before I started it.  Say what you will about movie stars, their lives are not easy and a regular person can still learn a lot from those willing to lay themselves out there.

I was lucky enough to enjoy the audiobook, which was read by Baldwin himself.  That voice.  Honey and gravel. 

Loved it.

Alec Baldwin - like you needed me to tell you.


Monday, December 11, 2017

The Penguin History of Canada by Robert Bothwell - Book Report #211


The history of Canada?

What?

All of it?

Yes.  A book like this needs to be looked at as a table of content.  By reading through it you can be pointed to further exploration.

There are periods in our history that capture my imagination more than others.  Through reading this book I have a better understanding of how events fit into our current time.  It also gives me a better insight into what to look for when I am trying to find other books that explore specific events in more detail.

I took a long time to get through the book.  I put it down for months at time but once I got into the last 150 years, my interest solidified and I gave the book the attention it needed.

To think that a nearly 600 page book as a good start, an index, a table of content can be a bit daunting.  But now I feel that I have done the hard part and I can dive into the subjects that stand out to me.

Great fun awaits.

Recommended.

Robert Bothwell - http://www.history.utoronto.ca/robert-bothwell

Robert Bothwell

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Skull by Philip K Dick - Short Story Review

This was a cool time travel story.  One that plays with the grandfather paradox.

A prisoner, his name being Conger, with skills in hunting, tracking and killing is dispatched to the past to prevent the rise of a religion that upsets the status quo.

I liked how so many of the aspects of the story are now hardwired into storytelling today.  Messing with the timeline can have unexpected consequences.

It was well done and terrific to know that Dick helped to lay the foundation in this type of story.

You can read the story online here - https://www.gutenberg.org/files/30255/30255-h/30255-h.htm

Philip K Dick

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dust to Dust by Chris Roberson & Robert Adler - Book Report #210

In anticipation of the new Blade Runner movie I dug into my old comic collection and read this two-volume story.

It is a prequel to the original movie, however the esthetics are the same.  The art was wonderful, it was dark, dirty, dusty, mouldy and just as wet as Ridley Scott's creation of 1982.

The main story is the same - six rogue androids are on a list to be retired.  Charlie Victor, a replicant himself with a terrific backstory, engages the help of  a "special" human, Malcolm Reed, who can discern humans from replicants.  This talent is a burden all it's own.

Together they navigate an intricate world of violence, morality and "human" rights.

I found the story to be a nice addition to the world of the original Blade Runner movie.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dilithium is a Girl’s Best Friend by Neil Bryant - Short Story Review

Oh!  What fun.

Harry Mudd, ladies and gentlemen, gets his hands on the Genesis Device.

This idea will perk up life-long fans of Star Trek.

The thing I like best about the written universe of Star Trek is the ability to play around with characters and ideas.

Not only did the author pick a popular character but he made the focus of the story be a less known one, that of Eve McHuron, one of "Mudd's Women" from the original TV series.

The plot was terrific, Bryant took the MacGuffin from the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and put it in the hands of Eve.  This is precisely when Mudd shows up to make a deal for the device.

The story was fast-paced and there was some welcomed humour throughout.  It's the humour that makes Star Trek work because it brings the characters to life.  The author had a nice light touch with it and never made it come across as campy.

In any case, I liked the story and it was a terrific opening to the whole collection.



Monday, November 27, 2017

The End of Dieting by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - Book Report #209


To be honest there is not much new here that wasn't covered in Eat for Health.

What I did like about this version is how the book was laid out and presented in simpler way to understand.

Dr. Fuhrman also expanded the nutritional information that had to be taken on faith in Eat for Health.  In this book he goes into greater depth to explain what each nutrient does for the body. He also explains why it is better to cook some foods while raw is best for others.

One of the most convincing parts of the book is how he breaks down some of the most popular diets and explains the limitations and dangers of each one.

Dr. Fuhrman promotes eating a balanced diet, one rich in plant-based nutrients.  He never comes out against eating animal products but you can certainly see how a vegetarian, near-vegan or vegan diet fits snugly into his research.

If you haven't quite bought into his eating plan this book may help to convince you.

I do like that Dr. Fuhrman never comes out to say that you should follow his plan to the letter.  He asks only that you try to incorporate the parts that interest you the most.  By dipping in your toe you can still benefit simply by introducing more nutrients into your body.

Good nutrition comes by replacing the processed foods with fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans and legumes.

I have already benefited from the plan.  I know this because, when I indulge in processed foods, I can feel the difference.  Sometimes I even get a low-grade hangover the next day.  It is surprising.

Recommended.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D. website - https://www.drfuhrman.com/


Dr. Joel Fuhrman


Monday, November 13, 2017

The Food Revolution by John Robbins - Book Report #208

Originally published in 2001 this was the updated 10th anniversary edition.

I won't lie about the book - I did not finish reading it.  I didn't have to. I couldn't read on.

I am already convinced about the health benefits of a vegan diet.  I was intrigued by the profound impact of a meat-based diet on the environment.  But once the book got into the animal welfare and cruelty of modern factory farming I couldn't take it anymore.

I stopped reading right there.  Not only did I find the treatment of the animals deplorable but it made me sick just to be human.  Our ability to be cruel is profoundly depressing to me.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that it is important to get the word out about our farming methods.  It's just that I could not stomach the knowledge.

That said this was the book that committed me to leading a better life by choosing to eat things that give me the best nutrition and the least impact on the environment.

The first question people ask is, where do you get your protein?  Well, it turns out we are getting far too much as it is and that there is plenty of it in plants and in the right proportions that you need not worry.

I've been on an nearly vegan diet for almost a year and I have seen the benefits already.  My blood pressure is down, cholesterol too.  And I've dropped 20 pounds.

I liked that the book looked into the complete impact of eating.

Even if you are not moved to make a change after reading it, you will come away from it with a deeper understanding of our food.

The Food Revolution Network - https://foodrevolution.org/

John Robbins website - https://www.johnrobbins.info/

John Robbins

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What Happened to the Girl? By Wade Bell - Short Story Review

I liked this one.

It was a one-sided transcript of a police interrogation.  I enjoyed the back and forth between the suspect and the investigator 

The only thing that made this SF was the points system.  Which gave the setting a darkness that could have been right at home in the Blade Runner movie. 

Well crafted and fun. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Eat for Health by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - Book Report #207

I went back to my old way of eating and gained the weight back that I had lost in 2016.

I had my yearly physical looming in September so I decided to get back to healthy eating.  This was back in the spring of this year.  I dusted off my old copy of Eat for Health and decided to re-read it.  This time I was ruthless with the book; I dog-eared and highlighted everything that was important to know and I dug into the recipes at the back of the book.

In the same way that I discovered Dr. Fuhrman's book I pursued my interest in health using this book as my launch pad.  I took what I learned the first time I read the book and applied it with more determination than the previous time.  In '16 I was really just trying to lose some weight and not really trying to change my life permanently.

Now that I was back where I started and feeling ill, I decided the change would be permanent.  This is when I realised that Eat for Health is really just the first step.  Through the spring and summer I began to lose the weight again and started to feel better.

By researching the Standard North American diet I discovered just how much stress eating meat can put on the body and how many conditions, that are associated with being middle-aged, are actually caused by the food we eat.  It was surprising.

From there I found my way into the world of industrial farming, which was hinted at by the book Real Food, Fake Food.  When I discovered how farming has changed in the past 50 years and how it has affected the quality of the meat and the lives of the cattle, well, I was repulsed.

By the end of the summer I was at a weight that I was confident to see my doctor in.  But I wanted to do more to change my diet and I decided that, while I was on vacation I would switch to a vegetarian diet.

When I returned to work I had actually lost a little bit of weight.  The doctor's appointment came and I had improved on all the metrics; blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and of course weight.

I owe all this to Eat for Health and the doors it has opened for me.

Not only highly recommended but it has become a reference book in my home.  I go to many of the recipes regularly.  It is always in sight.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Frosty by Jason Kapalka - Short Story Review

A fun twist on an “origin” story of Frosty the Snowman.

Dark and funny. 

It would make an interesting story to tell around Christmas. 

On-Spec Magazine is still around:  https://onspecmag.wordpress.com/


Monday, October 30, 2017

Just Getting Started by Todd Babiak - Book Report #206

I am an active member (user?) of the Edmonton Public Library.  Whenever I go down a literary rabbit hole, the library has been there to provide me with books to satisfy my curiosity.

Lately, I've been interested in history: Canadian and local history in particular.

And what could be a better read than the history of the Edmonton Public Library itself?

Babiak did a terrific job of blending local history to that of EPL.

In the early days of Edmonton, we were punching above our weight in the pursuit of a library but since Calgary had built a Carnegie funded branch, Edmonton felt it needed one too.  But, interestingly, the Carnegie group had many strings attached to any money gifted to build a library.  This did not make the "founders" happy so they went it alone to build the Strathcona branch.

This was in the times when Edmonton and Strathcona were two separate towns.  How can Strathcona have one and not Edmonton, the capital city?  Edmonton's own library was rushed into being in a space above a liquor store and meat shop.

You see?  This is actually quite interesting.

I was captivated by the book.  The writing was crisp and never lacked a sense of humour.

It was a terrific read that coloured in part of Edmonton's past for me.  I enjoyed learning about the library that I love so much.

Todd Babiak - http://toddbabiak.com/

Edmonton Public Library - https://www.epl.ca/

Todd Babiak

Edmonton's own Carnegie Library - Demolished in 1968