Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Let's Get Lost by Lawrence Block - short story review

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
September/October 2000

Matthew Scudder in the early days; still on the force, still married and still drinking, hires himself out as a "fixer."
I'm always impressed at the ease Block can tell a story.

Lucky you, you can read this story for free on the Mulholland Books Website.

Part One

Part Two

The author's website is HERE

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Season of the Camel by Edward D. Hoch - short story reveiw

Season of  the Camel 


Edward D. Hoch

Combine a retired British Intelligence agent on vacation in Egypt, Camel fights in Turkey and stolen plans for a top secret microchip and you have a rather interesting story.

As far as I can tell this story was not collected.

You can read more about Hoch HERE

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Report #44 - Moneyball by Michael Lewis

My first exposure to the book was from watching the Brad Pitt movie of the same name.  Sue and I both loved the movie and placed it in our personal top 3 of 2011; which made giving me the book as a Christmas gift a sure thing.
The book centers on the Oakland A's and Billy Beane, the A's GM.  Oakland has always struggled against the big league payrolls of other teams.  Where top teams have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on players Oakland had a budget in the tens of millions.  Money can indeed buy championships but Billy Beane tried a different approach to build a winning team.  Instead of paying for stars he gathered undervalued players from around the league who had one thing in common - the ability to get on base.

Instead of relying on old school scouting that relied as much on gut feelings and how good a player looked in a uniform, Beane turned to something called sabermetrics.  Sabermetrics is the study of baseball statistics and it attempts to take subjectivity out of evaluating the performance of a player.  By looking for players with a strength in getting to first base rather than players who can hit home runs, Billy Beane created teams that had some of the best regular season records in all of Major League Baseball.

The book spent a lot of pages explaining the origins and value of Sabermetrics and on how many statistics are derived and calculated.  This made for some pretty dry stuff but Lewis was shrewd in the book's layout and sandwiched stories of marginal players, who'd been transformed under the encouragement of Billy Beane, between the necessary chapters that dealt with math.

Beane was by no means a saint who nurtured players, quite the opposite, he was ruthless in making deals and trades.  Some of his trades were mind-bogglingly complex and were a real treat to read about.

I am a baseball fan but I'm not fanatic about the game.  For a reader who is really in to baseball and the things that happen behind the scenes this book is a must read.  But for a guy like me this book has done a lot to explain the game that is played off the field; it's given me a better understanding and appreciation of the sport.

This is a very useful, intriguing, informative and entertaining book.

Billy Beane

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Just Like Old Times by Rober J. Sawyer - short story review

Robert J. Sawyer a Canadian SF icon.  This guy can write; there is something about his style that I find so pleasurable to read.  His writing seems effortless.

This came to me via the Best Science Fiction Stories email service and tells the story of a convicted serial killer sentenced to "death" by chronotransference - a method of downloading a person's mind into the brain of a person from the past.

The story touches on many subjects that Sawyer enjoys writing about; dinosaurs, time travel, the up/downloading of human consciousness.

The fun aspect of the story, and a distinctly Canadian one, is getting around the nastiness of capital punishment.  Downloading a mind into another mind, of a person from the past, who is about to die seems like a nice way to achieve an execution without getting our hands dirty. 

The convict convinces the judge to transfer him to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

I know, sounds strange but give it a try, it's only 3,800 words.

The story can be found HERE

The author's website is HERE

This short story was collected in Dinosaur Fantastic

Try the email service Best Science Fiction Stories

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The guilty pleasure of reading

Reading is held in high regard. It is my favorite pass time but it does come with a cost.

Reading is a solitary activity. It does not lend itself to conversation unless the parties talking have each read the same book. When I read I'm usually locked away in a room, by myself, not talking to any one.

That's part of the cost. As much as I love it, it is a bit of a selfish act. So it's hard to find the time to read guilt free.

Then there's the reading itself; what do you read? Classics, literary fiction, genre fiction, magazines, newspapers, etc.?  I love fiction above all other types of reading. But I sometimes come away feeling like I might have spent my time better by reading something more important.

I've decided that I read for my own pleasure and knowledge. I'll follow my heart as to what I read.

There is so much joy to be found in books that I can't help but be drawn to book shops of any description. Used bookstores are the best of all. There you'll find treasures long out if print at discounted prices.

One day eBooks will open the entire back list of the written word at an affordable price but right now the book readers are ahead of their time.

Content is still very expensive. I was looking for a Dirk Pitt adventure that is over 30 years old and was stunned to see it for sale as an eBook for over $10.00!! How can this be? Surely vendors know that you can get the same book for less than $2.00 in a used book store. Or Zero if you download a pirated copy.

You can wipe out most of the piracy in media by simply charging a realistic price for the product. $10 for electrons? No way. $2.99? Much better. Saves me the trip to the used bookstore. $0.99? I'm not even going to look anywhere else; I'll just download a copy.

If publishers embraced eBooks as simply another type of book they'd be able profit from it.  It used to be that the hard cover came out first then, a year later, the paperback.  Why not wait another six months to a year and then release the eBook?  And while your at it offer the entire back list of an author in eBook as well.  Some people, like myself, are completists and want to read books from the beginning.  Surely there is money to be made from that.

iTunes has sold billions (that's with a B) of songs at $0.99. Books would sell just as quickly at a reasonable price.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Report #43 - Shatner Rules by William Shatner


Following close behind his wonderful memoir, Up Till Now, Shatner Rules is a fun romp through the life and mind of William "call me Bill" Shatner.  There is quite a bit of overlap from his memoir but this books' tone is much more like sitting in on a conversation with the man.  

You'll hear a lot of the same anecdotes but with a sense of humor and the wisdom gained from the passing of time.  Mostly it's tongue in cheek but there are many moments of clarity.

In chapter 3, titled Busy is Measured in Units of Shatner,  he explains:

"How do I keep up on a two- to three Shatner day?  I keep mindfully aware that another day is around the corner, another day for me to play a part, another day for me to get things done, another day to make sure the dogs aren't setting their sights on the sofa.

That's how I do it.

The sweet spot of the book is how Shatner connects  his reaction to his 40th birthday compared to his 80th; which is at once touching, scary and hopeful.

He also goes on the tell the story of his lifetime achievement awards and concludes with:

"There's finality to this life achievement business that I want no part of.  As long as you're able to say "yes," the opportunities keep coming, and with them, the adventures.  Say "no" to fear and complacency.  Keep saying "yes." and the journey will continue.

In this, my eightieth year of my life, I should be settling down, taking it easy, resting on laurels.  Forget it."

My favorite rule?  (Use your best Shatneresque voice here)

Get. Out. Of. Bed.


Buy. This. Book

It's Shatner's World. We Just live in it.