Archive for the Books Category

Leviathan Wakes and Deadhouse Gates

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2014 by Aaron

I used to read a ton of books, all at the same time. I would be between five or six books, reading the book I most wanted to, or even the one that was closest. Sometimes I would come across a classic like Frank Herbert’s Dune, or Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land that would grab me and I would put everything else aside until I finished it. Other times I would fall into a series that felt like one long book and I would stop reading other things. Series like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game books, and even Anne Rice’s Vampire chronicles (for a while anyway).

I don’t read as much as I used to so to be reading more than one book at time probably means I am not that invested in one of the books. I am in the middle of reading two books right now, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, and Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson. I am also at page 123 and 115 respectively. I though this would be a good place to write my thoughts about the two books. Both of these books found their way to me by way of another person as gifts.

Leviathan Wakes takes place in a not too distant future when humans have colonized the solar system but don’t yet have the means to go further. It is the first book in a series. The story follows two main characters viewpoints. One of them is a executive officer of an ice transport who comes across something very strange. The other is a private security detective on one of the major asteroid colonies who is looking for a missing woman (who happens to have been at the very strange occurrence). Without giving anything away, whatever is going on seems to be related to a power struggle between three main powers, Earth, Mars, an underground resistance force in the outer colonies, and a possible unknown fourth power. The book is clear, gripping, and has plenty of mysteries to keep me wanting to read more. The only reason I put it down just now was because I wanted to write here.

Deadhouse Gates takes place on a different world in a different universe. There is plenty of magic and even many different kinds of creatures, gods walk the world. It is the second book in a series, I read the first one a couple years ago. This story starts with a glossary of characters (there are a ton) broken out by who they are allied to. As far as I can tell, there is an empress who is trying to consolidate her power as she recently took control of the empire. It seems like the main storyline follows a physically disparate group of people who are trying to assassinate her amid a brewing revolution. A lot of the time when I am reading it I find myself not being sure who, where, or even what side the characters are on. Part of this is my fault for not giving the book enough attention due to its density.

These two books are both very good. I bet you weren’t think I would say that after the last paragraph. They are very different from each other. Leviathan Wakes is an opera that is written very simply but in a compelling way. it takes place in our world, in about five thousand years. Deadhouse Gates is also written fairly straightforward, but it drops you into a foreign world with little explanation. The characters there don’t explain the mundane (and confusing to a non-native) things because they are not important to them.

Leviathan Wakes is a great book in that the plotline it is creating is really interesting. The characters are memorable and three dimensional and all the words in the book are directed at pushing that story. There is a mystery unfolding before my eyes.

Deadhouse Gates is a great book in that it has built a world that is really interesting. There is a hidden set of rules that govern it as it is so different from our own. Discovering and figuring that out can sometimes get in the way of appreciating the plot, but discovering that world is part of the story.

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The Wheel Weaves

Posted in Books, Crafts with tags , , on September 18, 2014 by Aaron

A long time ago I read the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and finished off by Brian Sanderson). An overarching premise is that everything has happened before and will happen again. Everyone has a destiny and “The Dark One” is trying to destroy the world by destroying the cycle. A common premise. Throughout the books he uses the metaphor of weaving to illustrate destiny. Phrases such as “the wheel weaves as the wheel wills” are common.

A friend started reading the books recently, so when I took my loom out of the garage and started working on a new project with my daughter and I almost immediately started connecting the dots. When you are weaving on a four harness loom, like I am, you have to make a plan before you ever touch a piece of string. Every inch of string has a plan from the moment you start. If you deviate from the plan there could be major implications in the finished product.

Good job Robert Jordan with a very precise metaphor.

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Winter is Coming

Posted in Books, Movies with tags , , , , on June 14, 2010 by Aaron

For years now I have been waiting for the next A Song of Ice and Fire book to come out. As soon as one does I am again waiting for the next one. They are amazing and it is all about the characters. I don’t want to give anything away for anyone who hasn’t read them. I just want to mention that HBO finally released a teaser for their TV series based on it.

Watch it here.

I just recently started reading the series again in anticipation of this!

The best video ever!

Posted in Books, Movies, Space with tags , , , , on October 5, 2009 by Aaron

My friend at work sent me this video the other day. I found myself stopping it every minute and looking over at him and telling him things like: “You made my day!” and “This is the coolest thing ever!” and “This is so inspiring!” and even found myself singing to him… Check it out!

What strikes me the most right now after watching this video is how amazing Cosmos is. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch it.

Ender’s Game

Posted in Books, Movies, Space with tags , , , on June 13, 2009 by Aaron

Ender’s Game is probably my favorite book. I only say that because I have read it and reread it more than any other. In fact, the first time I sat down to read it, I didn’t stop until I had finished it. It probably took me 16 hours to do it. Luckily I had a long car ride and stayed awake until 2 in the morning.

When I heard that they were going to be making a film version, at first I was excited, and then about 3 minutes later I said, “Oh god no. Please don’t.” Now it has been almost 10 years since I heard about it and it still hasn’t come out.

Wolfgang Peterson was originally supposed to direct it. Since usually he makes is big budget, not very good films (most recently Poseidon, Troy and The Perfect Storm) it made me even more unhappy. Now that he isn’t I am a little relieved.

I hate to say it, but I think the only way to successfully portray what the book is about is to do an animation. I say this for a few reasons. One, most of the main characters are under the age of 13. Where are you going to find at least 4 really good, or even decent, kid actors? Two, some of what I believe to be the most important scenes in the book for character development are very violent. Real kids and violence don’t go together so well. Three, I believe it will be easier to stay truer to the book in animation form due to the space battles. Pod Racing is not what I want to see.

Look at the animation for Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Even though it is hand drawn and totally 70’s it gets the point across. I highly recommend watching the whole thing if you have time. You can find the whole movie on YouTube.

So, I don’t know how to feel about this film. Regardless of what people say about it, if it does ever come out I will go and see it. I know it is hard to hold a film up to the book but it has been successful. Starship Troopers, by Paul Verhoven, a great movie, although it isn’t much like the book at all. The Shining, by Stanley Kubrick, was an amazing movie, again not like the book. Fight Club, by David Fincher, same thing.

The only books I can think of that I really enjoyed where the films stayed totally true are the new Lord of the Rings films by Peter Jackson. He did an amazing job of staying true to the book while still making an fantastic film.

So, since I can only think of 4 live-action films that did a good job coming from a book, isn’t it obvious that Ender’s Game should be animated? A lot of people would argue that even the following animation makes Lord of the Rings better…

The latest news that I can find about this project is that Warner Brothers has lost out and their option has expired. Odd Lot Entertainment has picked up the tab…

The Infant Human Species

Posted in Books, Space with tags , , on June 3, 2009 by Aaron

“We are set irrevocably, I believe, on a path that will take us to the stars – unless in some monstrous capitulation to stupidity and greed, we destroy ourselves first. And out there in the depths of space, it seems very likely that, sooner or later, we will find other intelligent beings. Some of them will be less advanced than we; some, probably most, will be more. Will all the spacefaring beings, I wonder, be creatures whose births are painful? The beings more advanced than we will have capabilities far beyond our understanding. In some very real sense they will appear to us as godlike. There will be a great deal of growing up required of the infant human species. Perhaps our descendants in those remote times will look back on us, on the long and wandering journey the human race will have taken from its dimly remembered origins on the distant planet Earth, and recollect our personal and collective histories, our romance with science and religion, with clarity and understanding and love.”
Carl Sagan, “Broca’s Brain” 1974

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Virgin Galactic

if I only had a couple hundred thousand dollars to spare …

Robots vs. Dinosaurs

Posted in Books, Movies, Random Musings with tags , , on May 28, 2009 by Aaron

Monkeys.

The first time  I saw the film Project X, with Matthew Broderick I fell in love with monkeys. Especially monkeys who know sign language. I don’t think I even began to understood until recently why this idea is so intriguing. Basically I think that if a monkey can learn to “speak”, that means that we, as intelligent beings, aren’t all that exciting. I always wanted to know what two monkeys who can use sign language would say to each other. You could even take it a step further, what would they talk about with their monkey babies?

projectx_fenceObviously if you have read any of Carl Sagan’s books you can tell that I just did as well. If you haven’t, Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence is a fantastic read.

Carl says that monkeys are able to tell the grammatical difference between “Monkey likes banana” and “Banana likes monkey”. Think about that for a minute.

The inherent difference between those two phrases is nil. I am not an English teacher and I was never very good at grammar but this leads me to believe that if they can understand this that means they can comprehend complex language rules. If this example is understood by a prepubescent  (according to Sagan, they euthanize the monkeys once they reach puberty as they become too dangerous to work with) genetic cousin of ours, what is to stop them from gaining a firm grasp on language? And then what is to stop them from taking over the world? That seems to be pretty much how we did it.

Unfortunately most of my current research online about the subject (Dragons of Eden was written in the 1970’s) seems to be very unsure if any language is actually being spoken by the animals. A lot of the criticism seems to think that they aren’t truly speaking language but have been conditioned to be able to use sign language. I still want to know about the babies.