Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book #17

Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles, by Michael Moorcock. Paperback.

There is a subset of Science Fiction called "Hard SF," blending real-life science, technical detail, and realistic situations. Whatever the exact opposite of "Hard SF" is, that is what Michael Moorcock's first foray into the world of Doctor Who is.

This novel is a light-hearted, rollicking adventure that doesn't even try to make sense. That was fine with the me -- the novel fits the attitude of the TV show, which is about a crazy man with a blue box, plying the time stream to right wrongs and protect Earth from alien invasions. But this "fast-and-loose" attitude may turn off readers looking for something more substantial.

This novel features the eleventh doctor, as portrayed by Matt Smith. He is accompanied by Amy Pond -- there is not a single mention of Rory Williams. The Doctor discovers that the veil between this universe and the next is in danger of collapsing, and only a particular can save the multiverse. The artifact is the prize in a competition among Terrapihles, dedicated followers of old Earth history and customs. They weasel their way into a team competing in the 'Terraphile All-Galaxy Renaissance Re-enactments Interworld Series Tournament', a competition featuring a series of re-enacted Earth sports, many of which are not Earth sports at all, and the rest mutated versions thereof. These humorous descriptions are probably the highlight of the book.

Unfortunately, the Doctor is not the only one seeking the prize. An old adversary, Frank/Freddie Force and the Anti-Matter Men, also want the artifact. But they want to use its power to destroy the multiverse forever. The final round of the tournament comes down to the Doctor's team and anothers, and he and Amy have to give it all they have to win the tournament and save the multiverse.

Moorcock catches the light-hearted tone of the Doctor's adventures, and builds a sprawling world of interesting characters and situations. But his characterizations of the Doctor and especially Amy are a bit off-target, and the plot is so wacky that it is hard to take the work seriously. That being said, the humor worked for me, and overall I found it an enjoyable read.

Shameless Self-promotion (II)

My appearance on episode 34 of the Book Guys podcast is available on their web site now, and through iTunes.

We talked about the Hunger Games, Canadian painter and writer Emily Carr, comic books, and there was even an interview with Scott Sigler.

Go listen to it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Page 168 of Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, by Lauren F. Winner.

When I stand with the faithful at Holy Comforter and declare that we believe in one God ... I am saying, Let this be my scaffolding. Let this be the place I work, struggle, play, rest. I commit myself to this.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Shameless self-promotion

I am going to be a guest co-host on the next episode of the Book Guys podcast! It streams live Sunday the 25th at 9PM EST at All Talk 24/7.

The show will be available as a podcast on the Book Guys podcast and iTunes by noon Monday.

I am totally looking forward to talking to the Guys (and Gals) about books, comic books, audio books, audio dramas, and podcasts!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Book #16

My Lost Daughter, by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg. Unabridged audio.

There are three interesting plot threads in this novel: An FBI agent tracking down a serial killer who preys on people who want to die via suicide pacts, a municipal judge with a secret she desparately wants to keep secret, and a mental hospital committing insurance fraud on a massive and dangerous scale.

Any of these threads could have made for a terrific read, and I wish this novel was more cohesive in pulling these threads together. Things just didn't hold together as well as I had hoped, as a fan of Rosenberg's prior works.

A strength of Rosenberg's novels is that she does not write about the glamorous side of the legal system, as many authors do. She does not focus on high-priced defense lawyers and Supreme Court judges, but her characters are more likely to be on the lower-end of the legal scale. The protagonist of this novel (and at least 3 prior novels) is Superior Court judge Lily Forester, a woman just barely making enough money to support her and her family in high-priced California. I don't Forester to be a likable character, but I like appreciate the way that Rosenberg has

There are a lot of flashbacks in this novel to Forester's prior appearances, to the point that I actually checked my records twice to see if I had read this book before. That "pulled me out" of the book a few times.

Not my favorite of Rosenberg's novels, but I expect I'll be reading the next one.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book #15

Showcase Presents: All-Star Comics, vol. 1, by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, etc ...Paperback.

The "Showcase Presents" volumes are series of black-and-white comic book reprints. The lack of color and inexpensive paperback binding makes them DC Comics' least expensive reprint line. It is an adjustment reading a black-and-white comic book, and clearly color is an important part of the medium, but I can get used to the lack of color in Showcases by the second or third story.

This volume covers the Earth-2 (described consistently as a "world very much like our own, yet slightly different) adventures of the Justice Society of America, starting with the reboot in All-Star Comics issue 58, in early 1976. The work was groundbreaking in that it showed the original JSA members (Wildcat, the original Flash and Green Lantern, and a retired Superman) as 50-somethings, with age lines and graying hair.

The first few arcs show younger characters (Power Girl, Huntress, and the Star-Spangled Kid) being intergrated into the group. Doctor Fate and Hawkman were also integral members of the team, and many others rotated into and out of the stories of the course of this volume. This volume includes more than 20 separate stories, including the classic death of (the Earth-2) Batman.

These are definitely stories from the 1970s, with all the good and bad aspects of 1970s comics. Some of the character moments and plotlines are clearly from that era. But overall I enjoyed the stories.

The podcast "Tales of the Justice Society of America," part of the Two True Freaks feed, did a great job covering these issues in their first 20-30 episodes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Podcast marathon

Spring break from school + wife having appointment in evening + not much on the DVR = nothing but listening to podcasts all day long ... Yesterday I listened to these shows:

No Agenda. Finishing up one that I started yesterday. This is the best podcast in the universe. Veteran tech and business reporter John C Dvorak and technology pioneer (and former MTV v-jay) Adam Curry talk about news and politics, usually in the context of analyzing media coverage of these events. Probably my single favorite show, recorded every Sunday & Thursday.

The Babble On Project. British people re-watching the great SciFi show Babylon 5. This episode, #23, comes in at 2-and-a-half hours. This is well worth the time spent, as they cover the last 2 episodes of Season 2.

The Tony Kornheiser Show. A daily sports show (well, about half sports and half other stuff) from the former Washington Post columnist and current PTI host, on ESPN TV. March Madness is one of the times of the year that is heaviest on actual sports talk.

The Book Guys Show. Paul the Book Guy and his cohorts talk book news, book reviews, podcasts & audio books, etc ... I am a big fan of this show, especially since I WILL BE A GUEST CO-HOST on next week's episode!

The Social Hour. Amber MacArthur and Sarah Lane talking about social media stuff. Good info. This episode featured an interview with Guy Kawasaki, who is a huge fan of Google Plus.

The Mighty Thorcast. A husband-and-wife team talking about the Marvel comic book character Thor. In episode 44, they cover classic issues 172 & 173, and new issue 11.

The Doctor's Companion. Scott Carelli and Matt Smith (not that Matt Smith) talking about classic Doctor Who episodes. When the show is running new episodes, they cover those. In this latest episode they cover a boring, 6-part Patrick Troughton story called "The Ice Warriors." I may have fallen asleep listening to them recount the plot.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book #14

Falling Upwards, by Richard Rohr. Unabridged audio.

I heard an interview with Richard Rohr recently, about spiritual practices and disciplines, and decided to seek out one of his books. Maybe I picked the wrong one.

Rohr is a Franciscan, and I looked forward to learning from his unique perspective. And much of what I found in this book did encourage me, that my own desire to practice certain ancient church charisms was positive. His dividing of life into "first half" and "second half" was interesting, pointing out that as we mature, our priorities and perspective naturally change.

My biggest issue with the book is that Rohr universalizes his own experiences. He talks about his own journey from a "first-half of life" perspective to a "second half of life" perspective, but then presumes that everyone's journey will exactly mirror his own. I discovered about two-thirds of the way through the book, after finding much insight and value in Rohr's writing and experience, that I myself am not on the same journey as him. Rohr is very clear that having political and social views different from his own disqualifies one from the mature road of "second half of life" living. Rohr makes it clear that it is not possible to hold certain views (that are not in line with Rohr's) if one is on this path that he proposes.

Disconsolate by this assessment, I did nonetheless finish the book, but I admit that I was taken out of the book, and probably did not get as much out of it as I may have, had I been able to set aside the author's scolding of me for what I think about church and society and the world.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Chapter 6 of Falling Upwards: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr.

Creation itself, the natural world, already "believes" the Gospel, and lives the pattern of death and resurrection, even if unknowingly. The natural world "believes" in necessary suffering as the very cycle of life. Necessary suffering goes on every day, seemingly without question.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Book #13

Hiss of Death, by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown. Unabridged audio.

This is the 19th novel in the series, and from my records, it is the 16th that I have read.

There is a bit of a formula in these books. When the big social event at the start of the book was a breast cancer fund-raiser, it was no surprise that a character would later in the novel get the disease. What did surprise me was that the cancer patient was series protagonist "Harry" Haristeen. That was a bold move, and I won't give spoilers on that particular plot point.

The cancer plot basically serves as the "A" plot of the novel, as much time and space as it takes up, while investigating the suspicious deaths of hospital workers seems more like the "B" plot. Brown has always inserted political and social commentary into her novels, but in this case, these non-plot moments stood out more than usual.

The mystery plot is handled proficiently, Harry and Deputy Cooper being ably assisted by Harry's pets. Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker ably fill their "Greek chorus" role, as always.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book #12

Vanished, by Joseph Finder. Unabridged audio.

I have read and enjoyed many of Joseph Finder's novels, especially those set in the world of high finance.

Vanished starts a series with a new protagonist, Nick Heller. Heller is a former Special Services operative, now working as an upscale private detective. He is estranged from his father, in prison for financial fraud, and from his brother Roger, a high-level executive at a defense contractor.

One night in Washington, Roger and his wife Lauren are attacked. While Lauren lies in a coma, and Roger can't be located, their son Gabe calls Uncle Nick for help. What Nick Heller uncovers is a web of lies and conspiracy that may involve his employer, and maybe members of his own family.

The only thing I didn't totally but in this novel was the villain's plot to take over a publicly-held company. That is the sort of thing that the SEC would notice, but that is probably my background in finance that noticed that. That minor thing aside, I enjoyed the adventure, the characters, and the story.

The audio program for this novel was excellent. Holter Graham did much more than than just read the novel, he was truly a "voice actor" in his performance, especially how he voiced the teenage son Gabe.

The next Nick Heller novel is out, and I will pick it up soon.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


This is a 140-character-at-a-time conversation I recently had with Paul the Book Guy, host of the excellent Book Guys podcast.

Paul: Hey Alan, long time no tweet! What are you reading or listening to?

Alan: I just listened to a super hero (Green Lantern) audio. GraphicAudio has turned lots of DC stories into full-casts dramas.

Can you send me some links to the ones you liked. Sounds like something I'd love!

Alan: It does seem right up your alley!

Paul: I read and listen to it all...but I haven't really spent much time reading super hero books or audio dramas...

Alan: Comic books have been mentioned on your podcast before, if my memory serves.

Paul: Oh yes, we loves us some comic books! :) It's either Dickens or Dick Tracy, but its always books. :)

Alan: and there's nothing wrong with a grown man admitting that!

Paul: lol, yes! We call them graphic novels now, but they're still just comic books.

Cceck out his podcast -- it is excellent. They talk about books (even comic books), audio books, audio dramas, and podcasts.