Image hosted by
Random thoughts of a Tennessee fan on life, sports and more TV shows than any one person should be allowed to watch.
About me
Name: Michael
Location: Nashville, TN
E-mail me!

View My Complete Profile
100 Things About Me
My Facebook Profile
My Wish List
Syndicate Big Orange Michael

The Latest News on the Vols

Also For Your Reading Pleasure
The Rocky Top Brigade
Image hosted by

For Your Listening Pleasure (Podcasts)
Slice of SciFi
Two Insane Fans: The Statler and Waldorf of Doctor Who commentaries

04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004
05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004
07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004
08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004
09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004
10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004
11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004
12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005
01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005
02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005
03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005
04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005
05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005
06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005
07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005
08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005
09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007
08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007
09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007
10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007
11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007
12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008
01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008
02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008
03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008
04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008
05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008
06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008
07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008
08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008
09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008
10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008
11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008
12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009
01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009
02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009
03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009
04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009
05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009
06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009
07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009
08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009
09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009
10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009
11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009
12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010
01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010
02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010
03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010
04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010
05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010
06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010
07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010
08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010
09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010
10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010
11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010
12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011
01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011
02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011
03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011
04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011
05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011
06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011
07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011
08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011
09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011
10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011
11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011
12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012
01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012
02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012
03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012
04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012
05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012
06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012
07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012
08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012
09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012
08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013
10/01/2017 - 11/01/2017
11/01/2017 - 12/01/2017

Monday, June 27, 2005
Beyond the 50 Book Challenge
Well, I've finished my 50 books for the 50 Book Challenge..but hey, that doesn't mean I've stopped reading. So, I will just keep a running total of what I've read and my thoughts on them. Be warned, I will try to be vague about SPOILERs but I may give away a few. And some of these rantings will be longer than others.

51. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
A couple of years ago, I joined a sci-fi book discussion group at a local Barnes and Nobel. My logic in doing this was that there was a lot of sci-fi out there and just about all of it claimed to be the greatest sci-fi novel ever written on the cover blurbs. I wanted to branch out and read some new (to me) sci-fi and I figured this would be a good way to do so and also to get recommendations from other fans who enjoyed the genre.

I joined during the summer those two competing asteroid movies came out and to tie into it, we read the novel Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle. After reading this book (I forced myself to complete it...and let me just say the best character was the asteroid (yes, you do get a lot of pages from its point of view before it crashes into Earth and stuff starts blowing up real good!)), I was so burned out by the experience that I swore off reading anything by Niven and Pournelle as a writing team ever again.

That lasted about seven or so years, until I decided to participate in SF Signal's retro Hugo and Nebula award project. And wouldn't you know it? Niven and Pournelle were on there with their novel The Mote in God's Eye.

So, I did what I swore I'd never do--I bought a Niven and Pournelle novel and sat down to read it. I kept justifying it to myself, saying that this was supposedly their best book.

The Mote in God's Eye is the story of humanity's first contact with an alien race, called the Moties. And when the story actually deals with humanity encountering the Moties and their secret, it's actually quite good and compelling. As a culture, the Moties are interesting, compelling and alien. Give Niven and Pournelle credit--they do a good job creating the alien civilization.

Alas, it will take you about 200 pages to get to the alien civilization and another 50 or so before you start sensing that things aren't what they seem. And those 200 pages are filled with the exact faults that made Lucifer's Hammer so intolerable for me--shallow characters, pedestrian action sequences and a whole lot of scenes that read like "wow, look at us create a super cool universe for our characters to inhabit." I understand that backstory of where humanity is at the time of our first encounter is important, but does the plot have to grind to a halt so we can hear about where we are in the universe and how we got to there? By contrast, one of the other novels nominated for the Hugo and Nebula that year Flow My Tears Said the Policeman logs in at a short 200 pages but yet creates a richer, more compelling universe and view of the future simply by putting us in it and assuming that we, the reader, can figure out what's going on and how the universe works.

52. Articles of the Federation by Keith R.A. DeCandido.
I have to admit, going into this Star Trek novel, the central hook didn't really compel me--a cross of the Star Trek universe with the West Wing. Honestly, I've watched West Wing a few times and I just don't find it all that compelling, interesting or entertaining. Well written with some great dialogue, sure. But not enough to jump into my appointment TV viewing rotations. So, I have to admit that I wasn't as intrigued by this novel as I was by this year's earlier Titan book. I did pick it up because I've enjoyed the word of Keith R.A. DeCandido up to this point and see him as a rising star in the Trek fiction universe. (Some have compared him to the great Peter David).

Now let me warn you--if you're a Trek fiction fan and you haven't read the A Time to... miniseries and the first Titan novel, stay away from this one until you do. It takes place after both and follows-up on events in each of the series. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. It took some interesting risks--the concept of giving us an entire story about the first year of a Federation presidency and the political manueverings that go on could have fallen flat on its face or been (worse yet) dull. Instead, DeCandido gives us a good story with some compelling characters. I will admit I didn't love this one as much as many of the Trek reading community have (I swear they're picking out china patterns with the book as we speak), but it was a good story and well told. It was a nice change of pace in the Trek fiction and it's not a novel that I'd mind a sequel to, provided that DeCandido gets to write it and can find enough compelling material for another year (I think he can). Just like Peter David, DeCandido is finding segments of the Trek universe that we can't or don't see shown on the small screen and expanding on them in new, compelling ways. And for that alone, I will encourage him to keep writing these novels and keeping the bar high for all of Trek fiction.

53. Fantastic Four by Peter David
Back in the days before VHS and DVD, novelizations were intended to give fans at home a way to relive the movie over and over again. Over the years, there have been some great novelizations of films I've seen--ones that really expanded the film and the universe in interesting, meaningful ways. Such examples are the original Star Wars novelization and the Vonda McIntyre novelizations of Star Treks II-IV. But as VHS and DVD have become more prevelant, movie novelizations have become more bare bones--just a basic retelling of the story without much added.

Except when you put the name Peter David on it. David has novelized each of the big Marvel super hero films of the past few summer and done a great job with each. His Spider-Man novelizations were great, expanding what were already great films. Even his novelization of The Hulk worked well, but I think part of that was that David wrote for comic version of the Hulk for many years.

Now he turns his pen to the beliguered and much-debated Fantastic Four movie. I will admit I picked up this novel and read it simply because it had the words Peter David on the cover. And I have to admit I enjoyed it. Will it be a great film? Not sure yet. Honestly, it leans more toward the Hulk side of things than the Spider-Man side of things based on what I read here. But again, I think the movie has some potential and it could be a lot better than people are giving it credit for. I will give the book a lot of credit-it's very readable and it's full of David's storytelling style. For that reaosn alone I enjoyed it.

How will it translate to the big screen? Remains to be seen. But after reading it, I can see how it could go either way. The stroy is a good one as far as retelling of origins go and updating them. My biggest beef is that I don't find the Dr Doom plotline all that compelling and it seems as if they've watered down one of Marvel's better villains for this storyline. I also found myself wondering if this might not be a great set-up movie like X-Men was for the superior in every way X2. And then wondering if this movie will make enough at the box office to warrant the sequel that could do better justice to the premise.

54. Dead Folk's Blues by Steve Womack.
Steve Womack is a Nashville-based writer. This novel is the first in a series featuring reporter turned private-eye Harry Denton. Half of the fun of this novel for me was reading about familiar places around Nashville that I see or hear about daily. It's fun to sort of map out the routes or imagine the areas of town that Harry is exploring in uncovering the crime. But, this is a murder-mystery and it must also be judged on those merits. And I have to admit, I enjoyed it for that as well. I've been reading some of the novels in the Hard Case Crime series and I think this one would fit in well there--a hard-boiled detective, a femme fatale, all those elements are here. And the mystery itself hangs together well enough. It's certainly not as strong as one by Minette Walters or Elizabeth George (my gold standard for modern mystery writing), but it's one that keeps the pages turning and did have me guesssing to the end. The real draw is Denton, who tells the story from the first-person. Denton's voice is compelling, interesting and keeps the pages turning even as red herrings and blind aleys are explored.

55. Just One Look by Harlan Coben
Advertised as a thriller, this one is anything but. It starts out well--housewife Grace Lawsonl collects some photos from the local PhotoMat. Included is one that she didn't take that is years old of her husband and some strangers. He sees it and bolts, thus sending Grace into a panic and trying to figure out why he left and what has happened. Turns out, her hubby is harboring a secret from his past and, well, to tell much more would give it all away. Honestly, this one is not as compelling as it wants to be and it loses steam quickly once the husband drives off. The plot is extremely convoloted and it comes with one-wince inducing twist after another (all telegraphed well in advance and seemingly from the "So you want to write a suspense thriller" handbook). By the time we got the revelations of what was happening and why I was just in it to see how it call came out and not because I cared two figs for any of the characters' fates.

56. The Amber Room by Steve Berry
This one is billed being in the same vein as the DaVinici Code and I guess I can see that. It's a blend of history and action adventure and it is a page-turner. It's part legal thriller, part historical novel and part action adventure story. I'm not sure the overall blend of genres works that well and some of the characters are a bit one-dimensional, but it will keep you turning the pages. This is what I'd honestly classify as a smart beach or pool-side read.

57. By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie.
58. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
59. The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie.
I guess you could say I was in kind of an Agatha Christie mood since I read these three pretty much back-to-back-to-back (not that they took that long mind you). Of the three, I found By the Pricking and And Then There Were None the most interesting. And Then There Were None is considered a classic of the mystery-genre and its certainly a formula that has been well-copied since in books, movies and television. I had to set aside my familiarity with the concept in order to enjoy it and I did find myself enjoying it. I was unaware of the resolution of the mystery going in and thankfully no one had ruined it for me (as happened with the Murder of Roger Ackryoid). By the Pricking of My Thumbs is the last novel to feature Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who were in two other novels. I have to admit this one is a bit different than most Christie novels and I enjoyed it for that reason alone. Also, the central mystery is one that works well and hangs together well. As for Labors, I found myself wishing I was enjoying it more. The hook at Hercule Poiroit wants to be like his name-sake Hercules and takes on cases that only bear a resemblance to the 12 Labors of Hercules was interesting. But the mysteries themselves are short stories and some didn't quite have the narrative hook or umph I was expecting. Christie can do well with short stories, but these stories don't show off her skills as much as others.

60. Flow My Tears, Said the Policeman by Phillip K. Dick
All the classic Philip K. Dick elements are here--paranoia, questions about what is real and what is the nature of identity, etc. And yet, this novel never felt dull, tedious or formulamic. If anything, it felt fresh and contemporary, even if some of the references to future technology do date the novel.

In the span of a day, Jason Tavener goes from being the kind of the media world to being a virtual nobody. The story unfolds as Tavener tries to piece back together what happened to his life and identity. He goes from being the most recognized man in the world to nobody in the span of a few hours and he must figure out just who and what he is and what has happened. There's a sense of paranoia and panic that is palatable as the story unfolds. Tavener slowly tries to reconnect with his old life and finds that no one remembers him.

As the story unfolds, Tavener's universe slowly returns to what it was--where he is a household name. Watching as Dick slowly puts these elements back into play is interesting and keeps the pages turning. And seeing how Tavener uses his ability (he is a six, a person created with exceptional personal magnetism and charm) to win friends and influence people is great.

But while Tavener is the focus of much of the story, Dick makes an interesting choice of not making him the central protagonist of this story. That goes to Felix Bruckman, the titular policeman character. Bruckman has a sister, Alys, with whom he has a less than above the board relationship (re: incestous..they have a child together). Alys is a drug-addict who pushes the latest and greatest drugs in her attempts to escape reality. The stories of these characters all cross and spin-off from there.

Weighing it at just over 200 pages, this novel feels richer and more complex than the lenght would suggest. Dick creates a dystopian future that feels authentic and real. He puts characters in it that are products of the universe. He introduces concepts and hooks that could be entire novels in the hands of other storytellers but are just presented as asides here (this society's solution to race relations is chilling). By doing all of this, Dick creates a universe that feels absolutely complete and real and one in which its easy to become immersed. The pages of this story turn quickly and I came away feeling as if the story had ended too soon. Not because the novels climax was rushed but because I was enjoying the universe so much that it seemed a shame that it had to close so quickly.

Make no mistake though--this is very adult sci-fi. There is an incestious relationship at the center of the dilemma that may make some pause. And I will say this--not all the woman come off that well in this novel. Many of them are just there to fulfill men's desires in a physical way and not much beyond that. That said, the sense of paranoia and the questions of what makes reality real are so strong and compelling that you'll find yourself sucked in and turning the pages quickly. Outside of the classic Man in the High Castle, this is Dick's best book.

61. The Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James
The second novel featuring James' Cordelia Gray. It's a decent enough mystery though I have to admit I found it shame that we couldn't get more novels with Cordelia in them. Apparently James sold the rights to the character to television and is unhappy with her development there and for some reason refuses to write more. It was intersting to read this and And Then There Were None so close together as they both have simliar elements to them.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/27/2005 08:47:00 AM | |
Comments: Post a Comment

Follow me on Twitter!

    Follow me on Twitter!
    This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from bigorangemichael. Make your own badge here.

    Recent Comments

    Best Middle Tennessee Blogs

    Web Sites I Visit
    Daily News Journal
    Doctor Who News
    Go Vols
    Go Titans
    The Tennessean
    The Tennessean's Titans Coverage
    Trek Today
    TV Guide On-Line
    Washington Post Redskins Coverage
    USA Today

    2007 Team Schedules
    Tennessee Vols
    Tennessee Titans
    Washington Redskins

    Favorite Authors on the Web
    Orson Scott Card
    Peter David's Blog
    Keith R.A. DeCandido's Blog
    Neil Gaiman
    Elizabeth George
    Philip Gulley
    Stephen King
    Donald Miller
    Lisa Samson's Blog
    Robert Whitlow

    Musical Links
    Carolyn Arends
    Sherrie Austin
    Lee Domann
    Dust And Ashes
    Fleming & John
    Sara Groves
    Jennifer Knapp
    Jars of Clay
    Carolyn Dawn Johnson
    Cindy Morgan
    The Monkees
    Nickel Creek
    Nothin' Fancy
    Rebecca St. JamesRay Stevens
    Steep Canyon Rangers
    Williams and Clark Expedition
    Rhonda Vincent and the Rage
    Jaci Velasquez

    Blogging Links

    Powered by Blogger Weblog Commenting and Trackback by Listed on Blogwise
    << ? Blogaholics Anonymous # >>

    My Blog Chalk

    Michael/Male/31-35. Lives in United States/Tennessee/Smyrna, speaks English. Eye color is brown. I am in shape. I am also creative. My interests are Reading/Swimming laps.
    This is my blogchalk:
    United States, Tennessee, Smyrna, English, Michael, Male, 31-35, Reading, Swimming laps.

    You Are Visitor

    Free Web Counter

    Looking For Something Specific?
    Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind

    Site search Web search

    Powered by Blogger