Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dune - Review

Dune by Frank Herbert

A quick summary stolen from the back cover: Here is the novel that will forever be considered a triumph of imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad'Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family--and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

How I'd sum it up to another reader: It's the story of a boy believed to be the One, you know, the legendary Muad'Dib that will lead the Fremen of Arrakis to freedom. Plus, take revenge on those that sought to destroy his father and family. There's some sandworms and drugs and dueling, along with the creepy child and even creepier telepathy power scenes. Still, from the get go, Herbert lays the foundation of what is to happen and sees it through all the way to the end.

The cover sez and shows: An aerial shot that would make the Discovery Channel proud of some sand and a few people shuffling about in it. Lots of black, and then there's the word dune all nice, right justified, and purple. Evidently, this is a masterpiece as well. A supreme one, eh?

Number of dragons, wizards, and reluctant farmer boys: Absolutely zero unless folks out there would like to argue whether Mentats or Bene Gesserits are considerably wizardly. I'd say no, but that's just me. And sandworms are not dragons though I'd love to see a battle between such things, oh yesh. A fanboy can dream...

Hardest name to pronounce in my head: Surprisingly, and I mean really, really surprisingly, nothing too difficult here. Sure, I found myself stumbling over Paul-Muad'Dib and Thufir Hawat occasionally, but not even Lisan al'Gaib or Gaius Helen Mohiam could give me pause. That's right, nothing can stop me now!

Best part: Besides a main character named Paul that is more than emperor material? I dunno. The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is kind of a cruel way. He's the sort of villain you love to hate. And not just because he has a vividly obvious sexual love for young men. His death (spoiler on a forty-year-old book!), sort of fitting, mostly awesome.

Worst part: Initially, I was really put off with the fact that we could be in every character's head all at once, but slowly got over it. I didn't like Jessica thinking about traitors in one paragraph to have Hawat revealing a deep secret in the next. Then, towards the end, I just found it annoying. I guess I would've liked a little more mystery.

Random thoughts and theories: I still don't know if I fully understand Bene Gesserit. The women in Dune are so cold and bitter, even Chani who Paul will come to love. Despite the women having a lot of Mentat powers, this is a very manly book. Men are the leaders, men give the orders, women are not to be trusted blah blah blah. Plus, Fremen adopting a sick tradition of cannibalism by taking a dead's "water" freaked me out. Truthfully, it might never stop freaking me out.

If said book could smell like any scent: Spice, spice, spice! Orange melange! The beach! SAND!!! Man, this one was too easy to answer.

If said book was a ride in Disneyland it would go like so: It would totally be a roller coaster. First, you wait in line with a bunch of blue-eyed freaks then, after swiping your ticket, you run across a heap of sand and hop into a maker (a.k.a. sandworm) cart and go from 0 to 70 mph in under four seconds.

If in school its grade would be: B+

Come on, write us a haiku:
The Voice, making him
Steer the maker, go Paul go
Spice is really nice

Overall, y'all: I really liked the world of Arrakis and its politics, but found everything fairly slow going. The story is mostly a big buildup to an end that has already been revealed to the reader by the prophecy that goes along with Muad'Dib. Too much focus on superfluous thoughts and constant questioning of everyone's intentions. Still, Dune is what it is--a classic coming-of-age story where science extends itself beyond the reach of imagination and giant spice-producing worms control the sands. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, what with all the omniscience, but still a solid read that every fan of science fiction should tackle at some point or another.

Books I might or might not compare to: Er, other Dune books most likely, maybe Grass! by Sheri S. Tepper

Some linkage:
Behind the scenes stuff, or, more matter to the point, everything you might ever need to know about Herbert's world

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Huh, how about that?

I just reached the point in the novel-in-progress (which I'm not talking about yet) where Microsoft Word has informed me that there are too many spelling errors for it to keep track of. Nice! Personally, I was getting tired of seeing those squiggly red lines every time I typed a character's name. Don't blame me for their spelling, Microsoft Word. Blame fantasy as a whole.

Latest purchases

While home over the Thanksgiving weekend, I went to the local library to check out their book sale. Here's what I got for a grand $0.75, which, truthfully, came from the cup holder in my mother's car. Yes, I'm that poor, people...
  • Misery by Stephen King
  • Momo by Michael Ende
  • Carson of Venus (Pirates of Venus/Lost on Venus) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I'm mostly interested in seeing how Momo compares to the Neverending Story, if it can at all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Truth & Consequences" thoughts

Well, Heroes is still slowly getting a bit more interesting while retaining all the shtupid sludge that is teenage love drama, stolen comic books, and overly dramatic one-two lines that needed to be scrapped as soon as they were conceived. Still, things I liked:
  • Sylar killed someone! He's always more watchable when he's most primal
  • A woman keeping a shotgun in her peaceful garden
  • Elle spilling her slurpie, classic n00b mistake when staking out prey
  • Adam Monroe and that sneaky smile he wears with pride, how can you not like him
  • Mr. Muggles, watching quietly in the distance as HRG's ashes are laid to ocean, all while continuing to plot the end of Claire's stalker boyfriend existence
Things that sucked like a vacuum:
  • Um, the New Orleans chick? Does she even have a point? Her powers and storyline have absolutely nothing to do with the big arc, and frankly, she's kind of annoying. No one steals comic books anyway. Those thugs really wanted Micah's kickass Jansport backpack. Duh.
  • Nikki. Please, please, please let her take a needle to the neck in this short season's finale "Powerless"
  • Alejandro's one little moment of speaking English, used to show the audience that darn it he means business
  • HRG and his silly whining
  • This episode needed more Mr. Muggles
  • Maya hooking up with a mother-killing mofo, that's just kind of creepy, even by Sylar standards
I'm interested to see just how much they squeeze in the season's finale episode but I doubt it'll be much to get excited about. Personally, they never need to tell me what happened to the New Orleans chick. Everybody knows that when you get taken away in a windowless van, you don't come back. Right? Though a showdown between Hiro and Peter is enough to keep me curiously guessing which two "heroes" will fall. I guess Alejandro wasn't a "hero." He fell with a knife in his chest and NO ONE CARES HA HA HA YOUR SISTER IS MORE IMPORTANT WONDER TWIN #2.

Meh, I just wasted too much time thinking about all this...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Um, I read books

Here's some that I've tackled lately and not-so-lately...

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. In the world of dragons, it is a tradition for family members to eat the dead body of their parents when they've passed. Unfortunately for Bon Agornin's children, Illustrious Daverak, a greedy son-in-law, eats more than he was allowed. This is most upsetting, and eventually the dragon will be taken to court for compensation. Then there's a lot--and I do mean a lot--of drama concerning blushing dragons and the acquiring of gold, gold, gold. Politics get in the way, as is to be expected, and there's even some romance amongst the great creatures of lore. Though the book is somewhat based off Anthony Trollope's Victorian novels, there isn't much else out there like it. Fun, original, and interesting non-human characters make this a must-read. Alas, the book is out of print at the moment, I believe.

Scar Night by Alan Campbell. Deepgate, a magical city that hangs over a great abyss, is nothing at all like the kid-friendly Sanctaphrax in The Edge Chronicles series by Paul Stewart. So the book deals with a slew of characters: boy-angel Gill, the crazed Carnival, the poisoner Devon, Presbyter Sypes, Mr. Nettle, the assassin Rachel, and many others. The plot boils down to a race to stop Devon from creating angelwine, a potent drink that grants longevity. Well, Mr. Nettle really only wants to kill Carnival ever since his little daughter was bled dry as a sacrifice. The city is beautifully created, and the characters, while not too deep, all have their personalities which make them interesting. Actually, no. Gill is kind of boring, very passive, very emo sitting alone in his tower room hanging out with a bunch of snails. The book is fast-paced, with some epic scenes, but I was very disappointed to discover it was not a standalone. Spoiler alert, spoiler alert...the ending is a doozy of a cliffhanger. Kind of annoying.

The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) by Joe Abercrombie. Ah, epic fantasy. You bloated bastard. Unlike its uncles and great-grandfathers (George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, and Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series), Abercrombie's book moves blindingly fast. This is thanks to characters such as Logen Ninefingers, a brute of a savage, and Glokta, a once favored swordsman crippled into a twisted thorn. Both end up employed for the Union, and some adventures happen and people are tortured and a couple of magic spells are cast. You know the drill by now. Also, total cliffhanger ending a la Scar Night, but not as upsetting. It's grisly sword-and-sorcery, with all the staples that come with the genre, but Abercrombie does have a craft for creating engaging dialog and sympathetic characters, and it is for every single one of them that I'll be picking up the second book in the series when it is released. I do, however, hope some of the amateurish writing improves. I can only take so many "Arrrgh!" he grunted moments.

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult. Small New England town mysteries, teenage witches, a focus on rape, court room drama, and characters that make you want to dive into the pages and help them out...just because. Jack St. Bride has just been released from prison after pleading guilty to a charge of rape. He quickly takes shelter in the quiet town of Salem Falls, hoping to start anew. But within a matter of weeks, he stumbles upon a campfire in the woods where naked teenage girls are dancing for the moon, and finds himself in a whole new mess of trouble. It's a moving read, both in pace and its emotional grip, and I've found Picoult's writing to be the sort of thing that one can ease into without any trouble. Sure, some of her happenings feel a bit too convenient, and the twist at the end sort of came out of nowhere, but otherwise Salem Falls is an engaging piece that questions society on a dozen different levels, focusing on reputation and fear, and allowing the reader to judge for themselves what qualities actually make a monster.

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia. I was lucky enough to read this before it was released, and I've been wanting to talk about it for awhile, but...sometimes it takes time to let these things sink in. Structurally, the book is different from what I normally read. The focus, one might say, is on the woman Galina, who witnessed her recently pregnant sister turn into a jackdaw and fly away. She sets out to find Masha and the reason why this has happened. Along the way, Yakov, a quiet police detective trying to figure his shit out, joins her in the pursuit for answers. What they discover is a world beneath Moscow, a hidden place, where people hide and creatures of Russian folklore flourish. Sort of like how I enjoyed the historic legends and tales more than the true plot in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, I found the characters Galina meets underground, along with their pasts, far more intriguing than anything else in The Secret History of Moscow. Go, Father Frost! Still, the culmination of Galina's search is downright heartbreaking, making this the book that has stuck with me the hardest so far in 2007.

Er, I'm sure there's other books I've read and haven't commented on. I'll have to scan my shelves later and see which ones I'm forgetting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bakery, a good topic

So, as you know, I'm writing this novel thing and there's quite a few bakeries in my magical city. Why? Well, I like a nice fresh loaf of bread or honey scone just as much as the next fellow. Anyways, I needed to look something up about bakeries and thought to see what Wikipedia had to say on the subject.

Not much. But this comment, which has not been edited out yet, has just about made my night:


Oh, Wikipedia. You silly thing.

Here's the link to the article. I hope that line never gets removed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Boring metrics

Hey, Paul! Did you write a lot over the weekend? Huh? Huh? Didya?


Friday: 606 words

Saturday: 0 words (I blame all the beer at PhilCon)

Sunday: 548 words

Today: 524 words

Yeah, I'm basically just hitting quota and stopping at the moment. Too busy with a thousand other things to worry about. Thanksgiving break looks like it'll be relaxing, offering plenty more time to type, type, type.

Okay, time to see if tonight's episode of Heroes is any good...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Beer me strength, people

Here's what I managed for NaWriMo today: 1,354 words

Also, my review for Electric Velocipede #13 is now up over at the Fix. Go on and check it out!

Lastly, tonight is the last new episode of "The Office," and while I support the strike I think it'll be a bit sad knowing there's less to look forward to in the upcoming weeks. Well, least I'll get some reading done then.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

WOTF semi-finalist

Evidently, I'm a semi-finalist for the 4th Quarter. Though the bane that is my last name strikes again! So...someone smarter than me, please tell me what this means.

Ur doing it wrong

NaWriMo wordage for the day: 590 words

Just past the quota, but I did end up writing 1,700 words for a review of Electric Velocipede today. So take that and put it on a flag!

And lastly, here's my entry to John Scalzi's LOLCreashun Contest:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sporty Spec has arrived

NaWriMo wordage for the day: 586 words

I forgot to mention that I received my contributor's copy for Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic edited by Karen A. Romanko over the weekend. It's a nicely put-together book, and I'm not just saying that because I'm in it or that my story "The Sport of Kings" is first in the lineup. Though it helps! I kid, I kid.

Featuring work by 42 authors, there's bound to be something for everyone. Though I'm not afraid to admit that me and poetry get along like snails and salt. Or am I thinking of slugs? Eh, let's move on. So far, I've enjoyed "Perpetual Check" by E.C. Myers, a planes-traveling chess story with some emotional depth, and "Hang Twenty" by Jude-Marie Green, a lighthearted tale about a surferboy, his wolf, and their time amongst the waves. I hope to get to read some more of the stories later on, but I'm very much liking what I've seen so far.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bookworm alert

Damage done on NaWriMo today: 1,005 words

I finally finished reading The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie yesterday. I'll be saving my thoughts on the book for a real review, but it was slow reading. 432 pages of dialog, description, and action had nothing to do with it. I've just found myself not reading as much before bed...or any other time during the day. Spring and summer weather is my favorite reading weather, but the colder it gets the more I just want to cozy up with a blanket, some hot chocolate, and watch a flick.

At the moment I'm enjoying Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult. I've found her pacing and characters to be right up my alley, making the book go fairly fast. Then I'm off to tackle two Hugo-winning books one after the other: Dune by Frank Herbert and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.

After that I'm unsure of what I want to read next, which is...odd. There's probably a good 50 or more books in my apartment that I haven't gotten to yet. But where to begin? Oi, the trouble with being a bookworm...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Third marker passed

Well, here's my NaWriMo metrics for the last three days.

Friday: 913 words

Saturday: 562 words

Today: 553 words

I'm not as devoted to writing on the weekend as I used to be. That time is spent more on comics, reading, gaming, and just relaxing a bit. So the above totals are no surprise, but they are all past my 500 word quota which is all that matters.

In the beginning, I suspected that if I did 500 words a day for all of November that would net me a solid 15,000 words and put me right over the third marker of 45,000 words. Well, good news, folks. Since hitting those daily goals and exceeding them a smidge here and there, I've now crossed the 45K marker. Only two more to go though I suspect the novel to end around 70K. That's fine as there's a lot that I need to go back and fill in on the second work through.

The Waterways Novel

45,129 / 80,000 words. 56% done!

But woo...getting closer.

Gah, too much

Well, I can't avoid making a to-do-list. Clearly, it is the only sensible way I can actually think about--and see--what I have to get done. So, here it is, in all its glory:
  • Review The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  • Review Issue 13 of Electric Velocipede for The Fix
  • Read and crit a short story
  • Rewrite "Firefoot"
  • Rewrite "Pigment"
  • Get today's quota of 500 words done
  • Finish secret comic thing, deadline being before December 1st
  • More 200 Sad Comics? Meh, we'll see
  • Start the end of this week's MyLifeComics as well as beginning of the following week's because...
  • Philcon 2007 this weekend, which I need to get mentally prepared for
  • Grocery shopping
  • Car needs an oil change
  • I'm sure there's more, but I need to get to work on some of these thingies so...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Like start X-mas shopping

Here's what I did for NaWriMo today: 1,765 words

I was going to make a to-do-list, but now I don't want to. Weird? Just know, I have things to do.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hit my quota

NaWriMo wordage for the day: 514

Not a whole bunch, but I met my quota, which is really what matters at this point. Besides, I'm working on other stuff at the moment. Mostly secret comic stuff. That's how the rooster crows...

Evidently there's no Pushing Daisies on tonight. Gah! Stupid country music awards show!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The sound of crickets

Damage done for NaWriMo today: 1,539 words

Do I have anything else to say?

::crickets chirping::

Guess not.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Curse you to the moon

Well, here's the damage for today's NaWriMo: 2,367 words

I also did a search of my Word document. Evidently, I like to curse a lot in this novel. And this isn't fake cursing, such as: frak, frell, or Jupiter's rings. I use the bad words. The ones that might make grandmommies blush. Ah. Oh well. It happens. There's worse things in the novel, anyways.

Gawd, this month is going to be full of super boring posts like this one. I apologize in advance.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Some metrics

Yesterday for NaWriMo: 1,046 words

Today for NaWriMo: 533 words

Aiming for 500 words a day has been very effective so far. Except for today, I find myself crossing that line rather quickly and then not wanting to stop. So, yeah, that's good and all. I'd write more today, but I've got other plans. Also, I'm not in the right headspace to kill off a certain character...which is coming up real soon. Yeah, that'll be a good time. Luckily, in my world, not all dead things stay dead for long.

In other news, Karen A. Romanko announces the good news that Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic has been published! W00t! It's available at the moment at, but will eventually be seen on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the other usual suspects. This one has my piece "The Sport of Kings" in it. That should be enough incentive for all you readers out there to pick this anthology up! I kid, I kid. Or do I?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Words, words, words

Just a quick post to mark down today's damage for NaWriMo: 1,053 words.

That is all for now. Back to Beetlejuice.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Yup, I wrote today

So, I guess I wrote today.

For NaWriMo: 2,273 words

And then I did some more work on the latest short. Strangely, I don't feel exhausted though I suspect I should.

"She Brings the Light"

New words: 272
Total words: 536
Pages: Page and a half
Deadline: None
Reason for stopping: Just cause I can, people!
Stimulants: A mug of hot chocolate
Songs played loudly: "Fill My Little World" by The Feeling
Exercise: Nada
Mail: Nada
Darling du jour: The smoke made the city only half-visible, maybe not even that, with building outlines so faint it became difficult to tell if some of them still stood.
Other writing-related work: Nothing though I'm still working through The Blade Itself, which, at some point, will turn into a review
Random thought: I am not happy that it is getting darker earlier. That is all. Paul out.