Category Archives: Books

Building a fort with books to keep the world at bay.

Defiant, by Karina Sumner-Smith – book review

23130269Defiant, by Karina Sumner-Smith, is the follow-up novel to her debut, Radiant, and the middle chapter of her Towers Trilogy. Picking up two months after the conclusion of Radiant, the book continues the story of Xhea, a girl with no place in a world running on magic, her friend, Shai, the ghost of a girl from the rich floating city, and what happens when the unwanted pair become the focus of powerful people. The book tells a fast-moving story fraught with danger in clear, readable prose and builds to a climax that packs an emotional punch.

Her dual protagonists Xhea and Shai continue to engage me as their friendship deepens and survives further tests. Sumner-Smith also expands Xhea’s background and history with some surprising reveals.

In Defiant, Sumner-Smith also builds unexpected depth to her setting from Radiant, which is a cool combination of post-apocalypse and fantasy, completely unlike the tired secondary worlds in most fantasy novels.

Immediately on finishing Defiant, I had to dive right into the concluding book in the trilogy, Towers Fall to see how it all turns out.

This Gulf of Time and Stars – book review

519djgw3qhl-_sx330_bo1204203200_Julie Czerneda brings the reader back to the site of her first book, the Trade Pact and spins a dramatic story full of surprises and twists. I can’t say too much about the story without giving away the surprises that make it so fun. As always, one of Czerneda’s strengths is the characters that inhabit her stories. And back for the first time in years are a host of characters familiar to readers. And it was great to revisit them. This Gulf of Time and Stars is essential reading for fans of Czerneda’s Trade Pact and Stratification trilogies. That’s the only shortcoming for the book, which is the first in a new trilogy titled Reunification; this is not a book with which you should start reading her works. Czerneda does a good job of providing backstory, but if you haven’t read the aforementioned trilogy then there is still what I would feel is too high a barrier to entry.

After a book packed with developments and revelations, I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. Only about five months to wait.

Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer – Book review

51dp9x2f0sl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer comes with a full freight of compelling ideas, one after another, and an intriguing set of twists and reveals. Excellent reading. Robert J. Sawyers always make me think, and in this novel, Mr. Sawyer deploys a modified narrative style to convey a densely-packed series of ideas. He’s cut down on the number of “info dumps” that often put me off hard science fiction. Instead, as he discussed at a recent book launch event in Waterloo, he’s content to let the reader put the book down and delve into  the ideas in more depth on their own. It’s a concession or accommodation to the way most of us are a few taps away from Google on our mobile devices. This both speeds the narrative along without a break for a lecture and allows for him to pack in a greater number of ideas.

The editor in me spotted only 1 typo, which is really clean for a first edition (or I missed others in reading it so fast). There were really only two issues I had with the book: one was the number of pop culture references I thought Jim Marchuk had that didn’t fit with his age and year of birth (but that’s subjective); the other was a plot thread that seems to have been left hanging. However, again in my rush through the novel, I might have missed its resolution. I’ll need to check back into the book to be sure.

My high esteem for the book comes from the book speaking to my conscience as a Q3. Or maybe, as a Q2, I’m rating it highly to try and get something in return from the author. Maybe still, as a Q1, I’m merely providing a response to a stimulus. Read the book for yourself and find out what the hell I’m referring to.

Radiant review

Finished Karina Sumner-Smith’s first novel, Radiant, and enjoyed it.

The setting is something I haven’t seen before. It’s post apocalyptic on one literal level, but then has a city that floats above the ruins. Powered by magic, it’s a collection of floating towers around a central spire. Sumner-Smith’s description through the book makes it a beautiful sight on the surface, but darker things hide within the tower walls.

In this setting we meet Xhea, a girl with no magical ability, which makes her the poorest of the poor, barely surviving in the ruins. She’s paired early on with Shai, the quiet, passive ghost of a rich girl from the city above. The bond of friendship that grows between them as they change individually and together is rewarding to read.

Sumner-Smith adds plenty of action and suspense in with the character development and world building. I’m looking forward to her next books.

A quick update on writing and stuff

Writing

  • Need to do a proof pass to see if my novelette is as error free as I can make it.
  • Plan to do some outlining to expand on my short story as my experiment in scriptwriting.
  • Practicing writing through fan fiction; another 400 words the other night.

Reading

  • Finished An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
  • Read Fables 4 and 5

Watching

  • Attack on Titan – giving up after 11 episodes. Too much shouting and melodrama.
  • West Wing – an old favourite now on Netflix Canada
  • Fringe – partway through season 1

Playing

  • Nothing at the moment, which is odd for me.

Godzilla about what you’d expect

I saw Godzilla on the weekend, and it was pretty much what I would expect from a giant-monster movie. And it was worth seeing in the theatre, but maybe more of a Tuesday night movie (in Canada, Tuesdays are cheaper nights).

The effects are good. The monsters are big. Godzilla looks like he should. There is much destruction and despite the serious tone, there’s a certain cheese factor that creeps in. But again, this is a giant-monster movie, so what do you want?

Too bad there aren’t any Godzilla flying side kicks.

So there also happen to be some humans in the movie. Their story isn’t bad, but they’re also not the reason you’d see the movie are they?

Astronauts are so damn cool

Reading Christopher Hadfield’s book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, I started to feel lazy; a lazy underachiever. Against a guy who’s done so much (astronaut, I.S.S. Commander, fighter pilot, top test pilot, engineer) how can anyone not be a bit intimidated by that?

What struck me was how thorough astronauts are. They plan for failure. They practice and practice, sweating the small stuff until it’s almost instinctive. Hadfield relates an incident where a fire alarm goes off on the space station and he and his fellow astronauts worked the problem with barely a raised heart rate.  It would be too much to say that everything is routine to an astronaut, but the tools at their disposal, and their reaction to crises enable them to deal with life and death matters calmly when the rest of us would be running around like headless chickens.

And this brings to the real point of this post.

People who get sent into space now, and probably in the future will be well trained, competent people that Hollywood will still portray unrealistically by making them react like us. In other words, humanizing them, or making them more sympathetic.

Gravity is a culprit in this. From a GlobeandMail.com article, Chris Hadfield himself said about the characters:

“The storyline and the characters are extremely non-representative of reality,” notes the Ace of Space. “They didn’t even try to get an astronaut’s character trait correct or the kind of person whom you would trust, or the training or level of skill that’s involved. Or the seriousness with which you make it your career for decades.”

And in the commentary for Apollo 13, an otherwise excellent film, Jim Lovell had a similar comment about a scene where the 3 astronauts raise their voices and start arguing. He basically calls BS on the filmmakers and said that never happened.

But as everyday people we apparently can’t relate to people who don’t yell, argue, or cry in a crisis. We’re not astronauts. And they’re right on one count, most of us don’t have the right stuff. But can we relate to people who do in a film or TV dramatization? Maybe not, maybe we can only admire them. I’d still like to see someone try.