Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Well, it came in today. I am now authorized to operate a three-thousand-pound piece of heavy machinery. Watch out, world: here I come.
That's right: I am now an officially licensed driver. Wee!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


It can be hard to tell whether spoilers make something more enjoyable, or less. Item I read recently would have been utterly ruined if I had spoilers beforehand. On the other hand, something I'm watching just now is extra-hilarious because I happen to know a detail that doesn't get properly revealed until later.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Insignia

So it turns out I don't necessarily like doing reviews. Oh, they're great when I can do some sort of snarking or something, but that's about it. Or something.
Anyways, the point is that I'm doing a review because I'm doing a review and for no other reason.

This book Insignia has a very cool premise and setting, don't get me wrong. This kid who's made himself pretty much a professional video-gamer/con-man by necessity gets recruited into the government's remote-warfare program. All the kids in the program have computers in their heads that they use to interface with the bots/drones/whatever. Catch is, these computers can also exert some major control/influence over their minds.

The main character Tom isn't that good of a programmer. Most kids in the program aren't, frankly. Some pretty silly situations result from this, especially when the resident superprogrammer/superhacker goes on a rampage.

Some pretty disturbing situations result from this, as well. A bigwig at one of the superinternational megaconglomeratecorps tricks Tom something bad, and manages to heavily rewrite his brain. Luckily, the superprogrammer is one of his friends and installs a firewall package that cleans him right up. Their revenge on the guy is pretty intense.

However, Tom's one of -- as far as we know -- only two people in the world with a weird, impossible ability to work with any networked devices, not just ones designed to work with their brain comupters. The other person's on the other side. An Tom has to fight her.

Rating: 6.5 out of ten. It's kindof a fun read, but I dunno. I'm kind eh.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review: Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman

I've been reading this collection of short stories called, simply, Stories, and edited by Neal Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. I try to make it a point to write a review, or whatever these things are, for everything -- or every hardcopy, anyways -- I read, but this presents a new and therefore interesting problem: How do you review an anthology?

Well, here's a li'l not-so-secret for you: I don't write these 'reviews' for you. I write them entirely for me. I read so much stuff, you see, that if I don't keep track of them somehow I will forget them. Which is, at least in part, why my reviews lean heavily towards plot summary. ( I'm sure there's a fair amount of "I'm not a good reviewer" in there too.)

So what happens in Stories? Well: Santa Clause is killed, and alternately revealed to be an alien. A character steps out of his story and becomes real. An author adds two paragraphs immediately after what could have been a "Lady and the Tiger" ending, and leaves us with no fewer questions, but a good deal more closure. Exacting, cold, and calculating retribution is taken for an unspeakable crime. A lunatic is put on trial, as is a sane man. Various forms of ghosts drop by. An impossible flying machine actually flys, and presumably gets picked up by aliens. A man climbs millions of stairs. Another man kills himself. Some rich nutcase gets it in his head that it'd be a good idea to literally give someone the things in the song "Twelve Days of Christmas". Through it all, they manage to stretch your imagination, give your brain a real workout. This is good.

The one I'm the most unsure about in the collection is one called, almost ironically, "Stories". It's got a unique flow, with a good number of commas. It's a little hard to follow at first, but it wraps itself up well near the end. The beginning doesn't make any more sense, but the context pulls it together and throws any need for the beginning to make sense out the window. There's less too it, in a poorly defined way -- I think 'having a moral' may have to do with it -- than with the others, even though it's longer than many of them.

Rating: an easy Seven or Eight for the collection. Not worth trying to rate the individual stories.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mini pseudo-review: Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath

I finished Scott Westerfeld's 'Leviathan' Trilogy recently. It was pretty good.

The trilogy is set in an alternate history where World Ware One split actually rather neatly along the lines between the 'Clankers', who use technology we'd recognize as rather steampunk -- and quite advanced for the time, frankly -- and the 'Darwinists', who make use of Charles Darwin's discovery of DNA to mold living creatures into forms they can use. It's a handy technique used to cleanly delineate the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys'. However, the story follows two kids from opposite sides of the war -- an Austrian prince named Alek, and a British airman named Deryn Sharp.
But this is (supposed to be) a conglomerate mini-review.

I can't speak properly to Leviathan, as it's been a fair while since I've read it. The cliff notes is that Alek's parents were killed, so he goes on the run and ends up in the Swiss Alps. Deryn (who's disguised herself as a boy so she could join the Air Force) and her ship end up there too, too badly damaged to escape on their own. They join forces, something that's presented as fairly odd in this book.

Behemoth takes us to Istanbul, which is rather blended compared to Europe. Though rather Clanker under German influence, their designs are heavily animal-inspired, and there's some minor indication that they use animals too. Alek and Deyrn assist a local revolution in order to prevent the war from ending unfavorably. There's lightning cannons and creative improvised weaponry, and apparently Deyrn's been in love with Alek and I missed it. Good book.

Goliath is probably the weakest of the bunch. It ties together a decent number of threads from the other books, and its tour of the Americas shows us that Clanker and Darwinist can get along. But its major plot, while well-written, seems rather cheesy, almost to the point of Deus Ex Machina (well, sortof -- God is the Machine, in the sense that the Machine doctor Tesla calls Goliath is supposedly going to end the war; but God has the machine, as Tesla has something of a god complex), compared to the other books. Still decent, just not as good. I wasn't fond of the way the core conflict was wrapped up.

Pass on Leviathan
Eight of Ten for Behemoth
Five of Ten for Goliath
Seven of Ten overall.