Tuesday, July 30, 2013



- Paolo Bacigalupi -

I've been meaning to read this book for about two years now. It was one of those highly acclaimed, sci-fi, Hugo award winning, much talked about books that 'everyone' needs to read. Which was why it was on my radar. This month is dystopian novel challenge month, which is my real motivation for finally getting around to cracking this one open. And, I have to say it is not a book that 'everyone' has to read. It is one of those books you will either love or hate.
Set in the near future the world is a wreck, mostly because of genetically modified foods and the genetically modified viruses that destroy that food. It is a tough look at corporate greed and the potential disasters we could face if the food scientist go too far. We have a contrasting crowd of characters from questionable corporate men, corrupt politicians, zealous military officers, slum dogs, illegal immigrants, to the 'windup girl' (a genetically modified test tube baby).
I have read a lot of this genre, the dystopian type book, and I have to say this one did feel original. Not your typical post apocalyptic journey through wasteland or an overly aggressive government who's mustached face is all up your face. The difference was subtle. Perhaps it was the writing style, how the differences between our real world and this futuristic dystopian world were told through examples in the storylines. There was no one thing in particular that I can pull from this novel, just the general feel I guess?
One thing I was not impressed with was the entire storyline. It didn't go anywhere. Actually that is not true, the storyline did a complete loop of the block. Started with a corrupt government, turned the corner with a revolution, came back to the original corrupt government situations and put it in park. It was a bit of a journey, but, nothing too mindblowing. Which surprised me since this book was a Hugo award winner.
On a bit of an aside note (more like rant) I haven't been impressed with any 'award' winning book that I have read in the past couple of years. You'd think if a book won an award it would be outstanding. But, I'm beginning to realize that is not the case. If a book wins an award that seems to mean only that the book is not terrible.
Another problem I had was the setting. Set in Thailand was a big downfall for me. I have very little knowledge of the country, it's people, the culture, even the geography. Paolo did a fair job of explaining the flooding problems, the neighboring countries, and the religion issues when needed. But, I didn't feel drawn into the setting at all. Which makes me think if it had been set on another planet or fantasy world it would have felt more real, had a bigger impact on me. Instead of leaving me half guessing and hoping for more.
So, a bit of a downer review I realize. But, I just didn't get the warm and fuzzies from this dystopian type book. Yes, that implies I do get the warm and fuzzies from other equally sad and scary tales. Again, the book was ok it just didn't meet my expectations.



(Mack Bolan The Executioner #56)

If you've ever watched Corner Gas and you have fond memories of the book club episode you will be familiar with the Mack Bolan series. That can be one motivation for reading this book. The other can be a dare by another bookworm. Ah, the ultimate book dare - read a Mack Bolan book! Either way I ended up with this book in my hands and actually read it.
It turned out to be a mixed blessing. I enjoyed the 'man-adventure', which is code for explosions and an excessive body count (which I believe topped out at forty or forty two?) But, I also realized I'm the kind of guy who likes reading about needless explosions and one man killing machines who have their own brand of justice. Who am I?
You may look at yourself in a whole new light after reading this book. I know I did.


Monday, July 29, 2013



One of my literary challenges this year was to delve into the world of the "Graphic Novel" (aka comic books). This genre is continually coming up in my booklife. Online, I seem to be in a crowd of Graphic Novel readers and lovers. Offline, I noticed our library had set up a Graphic Novel section...right near my regular haunts in the Fantasy and Western section. Which makes me think a couple of things. 1) Since when did comic books become 'literature'?  2) Maybe I should take this genre a bit more seriously...I would probably enjoy it anyway.

After some quick google-wikipedia style research, one name kept coming up again and again - Tintin. I've decided to start my journey at the beginning. Apparently the Tintin series was a ground breaker in this genre. Shock to me as I remember reading these books when I was young. Why not reread them and see what they are like through adult eyes?
So, off I go to the library to search out a Tintin.


According to reviews this book is the best of the series. Um, ok, I guess I was expecting more on the 'novel' front. Perhaps I'll have to read a few more before I come to any conclusions of my own.
The 'graphic' front was great. I was very surprised by how good the 'comics' were. The detail in the pictures was outstanding, especially the crowded marketplace scene. You could easily get a good feel for the time period, the location, and the action that was happening. You could even follow the story just by the pictures alone.
The story was good but felt too rushed...is that to be expected when pictures are added? To sum it up, Prof. Calculus invents a sound machine that could be used as a weapon. He is kidnapped by some secret agent types from what appears to be a cold war era communist country in an attempt to steal his idea. Tintin and the Captain go on a whirlwind tour of what looks like Eastern Europe or East Germany in an attempt to save the professor. As shown by the cover of the book they do save him, but, it was a close one. Thrown in with this action packed adventure was a humorous bit involving a pushy insurance salesman - that was a highlight for me.
But, I did have a hard time dealing with the lack of a backstory. As I stated, I am a novel reader.


Ahh, I'm reading these things all out of order. But, it doesn't make any difference, they are all essentially stand alone stories. Or, at least it seems that way to me after reading two.
This 'episode' was great! Tintin and the gang mistakenly board a spaceship to the moon. Somehow they manage to land the ship on the moon without any mishap. Then, Tintin takes the historic first steps on the moon. The Captain joins in and they go exploring a bit.
In the meantime, an evil villain has stowedaway on the ship...I guess a lot of this is explained in #16...he comes out of hiding and takes over the rocket. Luckily, Tintin is there to save the day, using only a wrench and a pistol I might add.
Explorers was actually kind of humorous with the Captain continually being the brunt of physical harm type jokes (he must have bashed his head two dozen times!) or the Captain getting drunk on his smuggled whiskey.
Onto #10.


Shooting Star was more like the Tintin I remember of my short stint reading them in my youth. This one was far fetched and was so full of scientific holes it could have been mistaken for swiss cheese, haha. But, that is what made it fun.
An earth shattering juggernaut of a meteorite smashes into the Arctic and causes little damage b/c it lands in the ocean. Tintin and crew decide to go find it on the theory that it contains a new mineral non native to Earth. However, a rival gang has the same idea. Tintin and crew win, of course, however, there is more to this meteor than meets the eye. Strange things happen, like the giant mushroom as pictured on the cover. This fantasy science was one part I found pretty amusing. The race was also full of adventure including a harrowing plane flight. There was also a lot of that repetitive humour (The Captain and his drinking problem the majority of the jokes). Ahh, the perfect Tintin.