Monday, July 27, 2009

Game Time: Vote for the Ennies!

Vote for your favorite games. Dark Heresy, Mouse Guard, and A Song of Fire and Ice got my votes. What about you?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this now, prior to seeing the movie. I was not captivated by the series enough to gobble them all up as they came into print, but I enjoy them enough to read them before seeing the movies.

One plus to reading this now, is that I knew Dumbeldor is gay. Which Rowlings never says in the books, but has said in interviews since the series ended. So I got to see the little clues.

The plot carries the story. Harry, for me, is still just the sum of his dire problems. I feel like I know the character of many of the supporting cast better than the protagonist's. I was disappointed that the tragic aspect of Luna has faded and she's just a joke again. The plot, however is strong and kept me turning the pages.

Even at 650 pages, it's a two day read. Now I can see the movie.

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Book Review: Arthus by Christie Golden

World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King by Christie Golden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Arthas, the central, defining bad guy in the World of Warcraft on line roleplaying game, and the good guy gone bad from Warcraft III is one of the strongest characters ever introduced in a computer game. He sets out to save his family, protect his lover, and serve his people as their prince. He ends up destroying everything he touches or is touched by.

This novel of his life is about as good as you could get and stick to the very convoluted script already set down in the game, and memorized by the gamers.

As a straight fantasy novel, there are too many characters, too many details that divert from the story, and little to no tension.

However, the central story is a great one, and Christie Golden does a great job of putting the reader in Arthas's head. Arthas is the main point of view character, but there are some scenes in other PoVs, such is Jaina Proudmore's.

If you have played either of the games, it's great to live though the life of one of video games best loved and loathed anti-hero. If you play WoW, read this book. It's a quick read, and loads of fun.

If you are a parent thinking about this book for your child, the Arthas / Jaina love story is very PG, and all the fun stuff happens off camera. The readability level is in the Y/A zone, albeit with a lot of (game driven) minutia. But your kid probably knows that minutia already.

If you just want a good fantasy novel, there are many better ones.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Apollo in Slow Mo?

Now that we just had the 40th anniversary of the first time humans ever landed on another world, it made me think. Reading the stories of that era, one thing that struck me was how fast moving it was. Apollo 11 in 1969 to Apollo 17 in 1972.

Only the last mission, Apollo 17 carried a scientist. While amazing science was done on earth with the moon rocks returned by Apollo missions, there really wasn't a lot of time to maximize the scientific discoveries between missions. We are now fairly certain that the Moon was formed when a Mars sized planetoid smashed into the Earth 4.5 billion years ago. When we study the moon rocks, we also study the earth. Cool stuff.

My thought experiment. What if we had spaced out the missions, to study the science and technology between missions? Say every five years, back to the moon? And after the first mission, always bring a scientist?

I'm sure there were economies of scale pumping out a mission every few months, but that was also a problem. The mission was to get to the moon. NASA did that. But when you rush, you miss things.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Book Review: Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler

Ten Second Staircase (Bryant & May Mysteries) Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is my first Bryant & May mystery, but it won't be my last. So funny.

The Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU) is assigned case of a woman who was dunked into a vat of formaldehyde filled with floating fetuses. This was her provocative art piece, and provoke it did. The PCU is in danger of being closed down, but if they can solve this case, they can stave off closure. Their only witness, a young boy who was at the museum on a school trip, describes the killer as a 19th century highwayman on a horse. Which makes no sense.

But the highwayman keeps striking minor celebrities throughout a section of London . This patch of London has history that goes back to the Knights Templar, and was where they brought back a jar of Chirst's blood from the holy land.

There is nothing to do but enlist the powers of logic, white witches, cat burglers, police sergeants with a fetish for dressing like 1950s pinups, hackers, and every other loony they can find to stop the highwayman before he can kill again.

I did find some of the social commentary overly pessimistic, but it worked well with the plot.

Bryant & May are both well beyond the normal age for retirement, and are dedicated eccentrics. Bryant is haunted by his past over-reliance on mystics and mumbo jumbo. And toothbrushes. May is haunted by the loss of his daughter, used as bait to capture a vampire (as described by the press). Both have to get beyond their pasts and solve the case before it's too late.

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