Friday, January 29, 2010

Tales of the Shadowmen

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Steppe by Piers Anthony, which I finished last week, but have not had a chance to blog about. This was a fun read and very compelling. While I'm not familiar with the time period Piers references, I'm willing to bet he did his homework and got all that right.

The really fun part about the book is his idea on the effect serious computing power could have on games. This was a take on "virtual reality" games I've never seen before. Perhaps his really brilliant idea was the fact that people would watch other people playing these games on TV. Reality TV taken to the next level.

Don't be surprised if I read more of Piers this year. I have several books on the shelf I've never gotten around to: Chthon, Macroscope, Orn and a few of the Xanth books.

Since I finished Steppe I've been reading Tales of the Shadowmen volume 6. So far this is my favorite Shadowmen book yet. Jean-Marc really has a wonderful series on his hands as these somehow keep getting better and better. I'll give a review of this once I've finished it, but so far I've been blown away by the ingenuity of the authors. The ideas behind many of these stories are fantastic.

But, before then I'll be reviewing Stories from a Lost Anthology by Rhys Hughes, which I've nearly finished.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Quick Aside

I'm in the middle of two books and don't expect to finish either this week since my reading time is being cut into by a couple of projects. But, I just wanted to take a second to say, completely off topic, that the Beatles Rock Band for the Wii is awesome!

I've never understood the allure of Guitar Hero since you're not actually playing a guitar when you play the game. But, playing the drums is different, it is much closer to actually playing the real instrument. When I read the manufacturer's claim that if you can play a song on the drums on expert level you can pretty much play that song for real, I was in.

My secret plan was to use Rock Band to get my son (8) and maybe even my daughter (14) to play the drums. We have a real set in the basement but I can't get them interested in it, I'm the only one who plays (perhaps if I found some Star Wars drum heads, my son would...nah, never mind).

The surprise has been how much my wife enjoys playing the guitar and how much my son loves to sing! So much so in fact that everyone else in the house now refuses to be in the room during yet another rendition of Yellow Submarine. My daughter is the most versatile as she can play (the game version of) the drums, guitar, or sing, with relative ease, but she is the least interested in playing. I play the drums almost exclusively. I've only tried the guitar once and barely finished a song, and so far I am the only one in the house to FAIL while singing on the Easy level.

So, while my plan of turning my son into Ringo Starr seems to be floundering, I have been amazed at how much my kids are enjoying the music. I'm taking this as a great victory since I have had very little luck turning them onto good music so far.

Now if I can just finish, I Want You (She's So Heavy), on the hard level (current best is 87%), I'll be happy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I did it again...

Earlier this year I signed up with Planet Stories Ongoing Subscription service, which sends me a new book every other month or so. In the mail Monday comes their latest book, Steppe by Piers Anthony. I did not plan on reading this book next, but you know how it is. I opened it up, I read the introduction by Chris Roberson, I read the first couple of pages of the book to see how it grabbed me and the next thing I know my legs go numb from sitting so long. So, Steppe is now my "downstairs" book.

A quick word about Piers Anthony. I know a lot of people don't like him. Many dismiss his Xanth series as juvenile (hmmm, how are YA books selling these days?). I know he had a bad reputation with publishers for years because he actually expected to be paid the amount of royalties called for in his contracts (shocking!). I know he was involved in some famous feuds in the 1970s. Personally, I've read about a dozen of his books and enjoyed them all, especially the Incarnations series. But more to the point, I have reached out to Piers three times, each time asking him for something (always related to Philip Jose Farmer) and each time he came through. Came through big in fact. So in my book, Piers is a prince and a very good writer, I have nothing but admiration for him.

I finished reading Nick and the Glimmung yesterday. It was interesting to see Philip K. Dick writing for a younger reader. Written in 1966, the book didn't feel dated, though it did seem somewhat incomplete to me. It's definitely worth checking out if you have read a lot of PKD and are running out of his books (as I am).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

More Distractions

Before I had a chance to start reading the next big book on my list, a Subterranean Press chapbook arrived in the mail. Judge Sn Goes Golfing by John Scalzi is 32 short pages of laugh out loud fun. I would assume it is even funnier if you play golf, which I don't unless you count disc golf. This story is set in the same world as Scalzi's humorous novel The Android's Dream. Now I can get back to Nick and the Glimmung downstairs and start something new upstairs.

More as a reminder to myself than anything else, here is a list of authors I hope to read a lot of this year.

First, Fredric Brown, Randall Garrett and Wilson Tucker. These are three "classic" science fiction writers that I really enjoy reading, but haven't been able to read their whole backlist, yet.

Rudy Rucker: the only author who I think messes with your head more than Philip K. Dick.

Chris Roberson: I keep hearing great things about him, but so far I've only read one novella of his.

Rhys Hughes: (see the last post).

Stanislaw Lem: maybe. The first book of his I read was The Cyberiad, and I loved it, I thought it was just wonderful. I've read several others since, but haven't enjoyed any of them nearly as much.

Charles R. Saunders: I really want to finish the Imaro series.

Joe R. Lansdale: I don't normally read horror, which I believed most of Joe's work is. But Joe assures me that most of it isn't horror. I've really liked Bubba Ho Tep, Zeppelins West, and the first two Hap and Leonard novels, so I'm going to try some more.

No doubt I will discover several new authors this year and try to cram in a bunch of their books as well. However, the most important book I need to read this year is C# 3.0 Unleashed With the .NET Framework 3.5. At 966 pages, plus appendices, it will probably take me all year. Gains in knowledge should make up for the lack in pleasure...