Thursday, January 17, 2013

Obliterated - Review

C.J. Hall has written an interesting story about a future apocalypse and surviving it. Set in the Southwest, Obliterated begins with a woman hearing noises and looking to downtown area and seeing a lot of destruction. The destruction is being caused by some otherworldly type vehicles in the air. She begins getting things together so that she can leave her house. She calls her husband and they take to the hills. The way they survive, trying to avoid the invaders as well as people who are panicking because of all the destruction, is extremely interesting and very well researched. The description of the hills and mountains where they take refuge is very believable.

I don't know that I would have as much common sense as was shown by the characters in this book. The subtitle, Would you know how to survive, is very apropos. I don't think most people would know how to proceed if their world was suddenly devastated and they were forced to live by their wiles.

The alien invasion was a good setup for this type of a story, but it could just as easily have been some horrible natural disaster, or political upheaval. By giving it the space invaders touch, Hall has managed to keep this from seeming like a extremists survival manual. Some of the information got a bit long but at the same time it was all very important, and is especially important if you are interested in knowing what to do under circumstances similar to these.

Characters were distinctive, although the dialogue often got lengthy. Generally well written.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Foxy' Tale - Review

My goodness a book about vampires.? Not something I would usually read. The word vampire was right there in the title but I bought the book anyway. Maybe it was the delightful cover design. At any rate, Karen Cantwell's Foxy's Tale: The Reluctant Vampire Book 1) Foxy Anders getting a new life together in the heart of DC was lively and really interesting. It had some really funny parts, too. Fortunately, for my reading tastes, they vampire part didn't show up until late in the book--actually that's not true, the vampires were hinted at from the very beginning but it was subtle and it didn't interfere with this story about Foxy.

Throughout the book there was a switching of point of view many times and that took some getting used to. Sometimes it seemed omniscient, but other times it was just a third person presentation. I'm rather picky on this type of thing, but I kept reading and got used to the style. Not only did we get Foxy's point of view, but that of her teenage daughter, Amanda, her two tenants, Myron Standish and Knot, and her daughter's boyfriend.

All of these characters were very interesting and sometimes whimsical. They were distinctive and well-written. Near the end of the story when the vampires showed upf or real, the action moved very swiftly--almost too swiftly. Because of this, the ending felt a bit rushed.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Chief – Review

I borrowed The Chief from my Public Library.

It is interesting to have read prolific sport writer Robert Lipsyte's book right now when I am actively following and have even participated in, Idle No More—the First People's protest that began in Canada. The Chief, ends up being about American Indian heritage and reservation discord, with the feature person involved being Sonny Bear, a young prizefighter who wants to try for the heavyweight title. The story is told in first person by his friend, an aspiring writer, Martin.

The story started off rather slowly with way too much information about boxing for my taste; but I guess knowing the ins-and-outs of that sport is important. The real story seems to be Sonny accepting his heritage, and trying to do something about the discontent on his reservation in upstate New York.

The writing was smooth, although I felt the story was a bit convoluted. I'm not sure how Lipsyte would have gone about making the story more focused on the Indian situation, and without doing that it seemed The Chief was a little disjointed: boxing, Indian rights, boxing… Even the title is misleading, since that moniker never gets used. It is suggested by Hollywood people who want to make a TV movie, but it is rejected by Sonny and Martin.

In all, I found the book interesting, even with what seemed to be indecision about the book's focus.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Abacus Protocol: Sanity Vacuum - Review

I received this book from the publisher through Net Galley.

I'm always interested in science fiction books especially those about future colonies and New World type things this was sort of that way in that it takes place in the 31st century when space colonies are nothing new. What is new for the protagonist is that she's getting a new job she's always been very interested in artificial intelligence and supercomputers. Our protagonist, Vivian Skye, is from a small colony planet that doesn't like the idea of supercomputers. In fact, Vivian's family has ostracized her because of her interest in her study at school into this realm of science. Now that Vivian has graduated, her first job is very exciting to her; she is going to be working and isolated Extra-Galactic Observatory with one of the original AI computers that is close to sentience. But of course no one wants any of the AI computers to be sentient. That's what the Abacus Protocol is all about--to make certain that the computers do not become sentient.

At the Observatory, there are two scientists and a tech who maintains all of the space mechanical equipment, and there is her boss, Bryce Zimmer who oversees it all. Vivian's job is to study the computer, do updates and basic maintenance to see that everything is working well. Unfortunately, she discovers that no maintenance has been done on the AI, whose name is quirk--that's, quIRK--, for nearly 12 years. Quirk has a personality all his own that Vivian likes. Work has even had cats brought onto the station because he feels they are good for the human mindset. It's also a fact that quIRK likes the cats. A hint at his near sentence.

Everything would be working fairly well if it weren't for the fact that Zimmer, her boss, has grandiose ideas about himself and the planet that he comes from which is an oligarchy and he is trying to get back to the top rung of the political heap. Not only is his planet and oligarchs setup based on old Earth Rome, but he's also a chauvinist. He sees Vivian as a threat. He manages to put a sub-routine in quIRK's programming that causes various accidents to Vivian. His neuroses become so great that it threatens the entire space station. During all this quIRK become sentiment.

The writing in this story was very good. I could picture each scene and imagine the space station and all people very well. I like stories that are visually pleasing through words. Thea Greg's background in physics and other sciences has made this story very believable. Character development was good, and Vivian Skye, is quite likable.

The download I received for my Kindle had some formatting problems: lost paragraphing between dialogue, run-on sentences, and such. This surprised me, since I follow the Curiosity Quills (the publisher) blog, where several articles have been posted about e-book presentation. I hope the formatting for the final product has been cleaned up.

I had a bit of trouble with the ending. It seemed a little too tidy and rushed. There were several things that didn't really add up to the detail that had been in other parts of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. This was subtitled, Sanity Vacuum, and I get the feeling there might be another ABACUS Protocol story in the works.

The ABACUS Protocol

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Publishers: Did You Know?

It's a well-known fact that most of the major publishing houses have consolidated and merged and rearranged themselves many times over. This has affected magazines as well as book publishers; many of the controlling holding companies are not in the U.S.

Simon & Schuster, is an exception. Founded in New York City in 1924, S&S is currently owned by CBS. Still headquartered in NYC, it is a bastion of fiction and nonfiction, producing more than 1000 titles a year from 35 different imprints, including Pocket Books, Scribner, Atria, Fireside, Touchstone, and Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Baen Books is a more recent stalwart of American publishing. It was founded in 1983 when a huge reorganization of Simon & Schuster was underway. S&S approached Jim Baen with an offer for him to head up the S&S science fiction line (Pocket Books division). Baen, however, had different plans. He obtained financial backing from some friends and proposed to start a new company named Baen Books. The deal was done and, at the beginning, Simon & Schuster handled the distribution.

Unfortunately, many of the book publishers we have taken for granted as being American-owned and run no longer hold that distinction.

  • Houghton Mifflin Company, founded in Boston in 1832, is now HMH (Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt), with the company having purchased Harcourt (formerly Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) in 2007. Several mergers and buyouts have ensued and HMH is now owned by Education Media and Publishing Group (EMPG), an international holding company registered in the Cayman Island. HMH is a leader in the educational publications marketplace. NOTE: Although primaries in EMPG are from Ireland, one of the major investors is Guggenheim Partners, a U.S. investment corporation.
  • Alfred A Knopf, Inc founded in 1915, was purchased by Random House in 1960. Random House also bought Doubleday, and now there's a KnopfDoubleday company under the RH umbrella. It's a publishing consortium of its own, with a half dozen or so imprints. Random House, Inc. has been owned since 1998 by the German mega-media company, Bertelsmann.
  • The Free Press was founded in 1947, became an imprint of Simon & Schuster, was sold in 1960 and merged into the Macmillan Publishing Company. Macmillian, founded in London, opened its first U.S. offices in 1969. It is now part of the large German holding company, Georg von Holtzbrinck. MacMillan's American publishers include Farrar Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt & Company, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Picador, Roaring Brook Press, St. Martin’s Press, Tor Books, and others.
The publisher umbrellas have a wide span, with most of the imprints belonging to three or four houses. Along with S&S, Random House, Harper-Collins, and Penguin Group (USA) produce the majority of books we see on commercial bookshelves across the country. Former independent companies have become imprints: Farrar Straus, Henry Holt, Little Brown; and some have vanished (Fawcett, Carol Graf, Arbor).

But there are plenty of small and Indie publishers. Check out the Wikipedia page to see the more than 500 companies that are competing with the big guys.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Words and Meanings

There are many whimsical lists around that give words with the same spelling and vastly different meanings. Most often those words are from different parts of speech--comparing a verb to a noun (wind up the clock vs. the wind blew hard).

But here are some nouns that are spelled the same and have different meanings. I pulled these randomly from Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh edition.
  • tender (n)
    1) an unconditional offer of money or service in satisfaction of a debt or obligation made to save a penalty of forfeiture for nonpayment or nonperformance.
    2) one that tends as a ship employed to attend other ships (e.g. to supply provisions).
  • barrow (n)
    1) a large mound of earth or stones over the remains of the dead.
    2) a male hog castrated before sexual maturity.
    3) a cart with a shallow box body, two wheels, and shafts for pushing it.
  • date (n)
    1) the oblong edible fruit of a palm
    2) the time at which an event occurs
  • gimlet (n)
    1) a small tool with a screw point, grooved shank, and cross handle for boring holes.
    2) a drink consisting of sweetened lime juice and gin or vodka and sometimes carbonated or plain water.
This list could get quite long, but I'm stopping with the word (second meaning) I like best. :-)