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Monthly Archives: January 2013

11/23/63 A Novel, Stephen King, 2011

I really enjoyed this one.   Hardcover is over 800 pages, but it didn’t feel like a long book.

stephen king

I haven’t read a lot of Stephen King.  I have always associated him with horror, and I guess I was a bit freaked out by Carrie.   This one was on the library shelf with the cover facing out, and for some reason I picked it up.

I think Stephen King has a good spin on the time travelling tale here.  Time travel plots can get overly complicated, but the premise here is nice and simple.  A secret portal to the past, specifically to 11:58 AM, Sept 9 1958. To return to 2011, just come back through the portal.  Every trip to the past takes 2 minutes present time, no matter how long you are in 1958, and every trip to the past causes history to reset.  So, if you manage to change history in a bad way, you just go back again to “reset” it.  You can appreciate the temptation to “fix” something then to go back again to fix it again, but better.

Main character average-joe English teacher Jake Epping goes back.  He actually goes back and forth a couple of times (testing), but the big trip back is to prevent the assassination of JFK on Nov.  23 1963. Sounds easy, since he knows a lot about Lee Harvey Oswald and the events of the fateful day. Jake has to live in the past for several years; he places bets on sporting events ($), teaches English, meets a girl, and watches Oswald and plots ’till November 1963.  He has the best of intentions, and he is a well rounded, sympathetic character.

Of course time travel is not quite as simple as presented. I’ll leave it at that.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Fantasy

 

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X-Wing Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston 2012

This one was on the New Books shelf in the library, and I picked it up.  I enjoyed it as a light piece of entertainment.   I am a Star Wars fan, of the New Hope generation.  One of my most prized posessions is a t-shirt with Kermit the Frog holding a Lightsaber; it combines two fantastic ideas!

Mercy Kill is in the middle of a series, and that would put it out of the running for me if it were Fantasy. I thought I may be familiar enough with the Star Wars universe to overcome the potential “not first in the series” problems.  Plus, nothing lost in returning it to the library if necessary.

mercy kill alternate

Turns out this is one of those looser series that don’t follow a single storyline through several books, but share characters and reference assorted past events. It’s not difficult to follow as a stand-alone read.

This strongly reminded me of the A-Team in the Star Wars universe. The good guys are Wraith Squadron.  Flashback to the squadron working for the good guys in military intelligence.  Current time, the squadron is still working for the government, has new quirky members and the bad guy is a corrupt general in peacetime.  The squadron leader (get this A-Team fans, the leader’s moniker is Face) convinces an original member, Piggy, to come out of retirement.  Piggy is the central character of this story.  There are disguises, deceptions, squadron tensions, firefights, fighters, technology – everything you may expect.  There  are references to the Solo family and Luke Skywalker but no appearances.  Only Wedge has a 1 paragraph part.

The story moves along briskly to an expected, satisfying, and entertaining end.

As I was searching for a book cover image, I came across this:  http://www.starwarsreport.com/2012/08/03/book-review-x-wing-mercy-kill/

Clearly, we are on the same page, and the writer put it very well.

I have also read a Star Wars book called Death Troopers, set 20 years before A New Hope.  This is a stand-alone book that I got a kick out of.  This one unexpectedly had some well known figures as major characters.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Shadowmarch, Volume 1 by Tad Williams 2004

Well, I have mixed feelings.  I pulled this from the library shelf based on the author and the promise of non-human characters in a medieval setting. High Fantasy. I remember that several years ago I enjoyed Williams’ 3-book series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

Shadowmarch

Shadowmarch is the first in the 4 book Shadowmarch series.  It begins to setup the invasion by the Qar (faerie folk) into the human lands, with all the required heroes.  The invasion has just begun in the last chapters, the heroes are losing and many have been forced to run.

The Qar are fearsome, deadly, and very much alien creatures.  In history, they were persecuted by the humans and chased into restricted northern lands where they surrounded themselves with a protective magic fence of mist and shadow.  They want their lands back.  The secondary threat is the insane and powerful ruler of a rival kingdom. Real problems with this ruler are obviously pending.

The heroes are the Shadowmarch castle defenders, including a teen-aged female regent (Briony), her dream-tormented and unstable twin brother (Barrick), a mysterious scientist (OK, probably a wizard) plus assorted nobles and soldiers. Political intrigue abounds in the castle. Nobody can be trusted.  By the end of the book, Briony is being spirited away into hiding from traitorous courtiers.

A side story involves Funderlings (aka Dwarves – stonemasons according to stereotype) and some small pixies called Rooftoppers who live in the city around the castle, and a mysterious artifact.  The side story will at some point loop into the invasion defense but at this stage in the story it is parallel.  Of course, the Rooftoppers are clearly friendly Qar who have lived among humans unseen.

This book alone is over 600 hardcover pages. It opens with a dragon hunt – usually a good sign – but in the end it was around 200 pages too long and didn’t progress the plot enough for me to be really engaged.  While I like the idea of the female hero, Briony is whiny, weak, and unworthy.  Clearly the intention is to mature her as the series continues, but as of now I don’t really much care.

I finished Shadowmarch, and overall it was allright.   But it is telling that it took me around 10 days, a long time given I was on vacation with more leisure time than usual.  I am not going to go out of my way to get my hands on book 2 and another 600 long pages.

Note that I have also read the first Otherland book from Tad Williams.  That verged more into what I consider SciFi, with a virtual world adventure.  I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t continue with the series. However, I have also tried other books with similar concepts, and didn’t enjoy them either. The idea is just not for me. Didn’t really like The Matrix either.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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