Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Moore, Alan & Kevin O'Neil. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2. New York: DC Comics, 2004. 228pp.

I read the first volume quite some time ago and was not that impressed. The movie comes out, finally get around to watching it on DVD -- not the best flick ever but not as bad as most of the reviews led me to believe. So, the second graphic novel comes out, still the same great reviews as the first volume. Do I gave it a try or a pass? I guess my faith in Alan Moore's basic talent won out. I give it a try. And, I have to say, I really liked this one. The first seemed to spend all it's time setting up the plot and introducing the characters and very little on the actual story. This one, the story is front and centre from the beginning. And I think I liked the plot here more as well. Basically, it's Moore's take on Wells' War of the Worlds with a little John Carter and Dr. Moreau thrown in for good measure. The story was involving and interesting, with a few good twists and turns. Moore doesn't neglect character development either, with a good mix of insight and surprise. O'Neil's art still isn't my favourite, but I didn't notice it as much this time around.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Young scientists are perceptive readers of science fiction

That's a cute little quote from the article Science Fiction and Science Fact by literature professor John Sutherland. It's an interesting article exploring the reading habits of Caltech students and how those habits reveal their core assumptions about the relationship between science and society. I posted this on the other blog too. via Locusmag.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Books bought today

Dropped by Bakka today for the first time in about four months, and of course the first time in their new location. It's a huge improvement over th Yonge St. location: much more space, better layout, less claustrophobic. Unfortunately for me, it's in a location I'll be able to visit much less frequently that even the 3 or 4 times a year on Yonge.
  • The mammoth book of best new horror: 15 edited by Stephen Jones.
  • The hedge knight by George RR Martin, Ben Avery, Mike S Miller and Mike Crowell.
  • Shadows over Baker Street edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan.
  • The bloody crown of Conan by Robert E Howard.
  • Lust by Geoff Ryman.
  • Air by Geoff Ryman.

Most of these were no-brainers. The Jones Year's Best is automatic for me -- I've been reading it every year for about 10 years. The volumes are quite variable in quality, with always a least a couple of stories I detest. However, there's always a few that reward my time. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire is the only fantasy series I'm following right now, and it's a keeper for sure. The Hedge Knight is a graphic novel adaptation of a story he published in Legends a few years ago. Since I never read that book, I'm really looking forward to this story and I expect to get to it fairly soon. The Conan collection continues the series of definitive editions of Howard's tales so it's something all fanatasy & weird fiction fans should have. It'll also gives me an excuse to reread all the old classics and lets me clear out a bunch of other editions that I have. I plan to eventually get the (already published) Soloman Kane and (forthcoming) Bran Mak Morn collections as well. As for the two Ryman novels, well, they both have received great reviews and I've really enjoyed the Ryman books I've read so far.

SoBS is more of a wildcard. The Gaiman story "A Study in Emerald" won the Hugo and is very widely acclaimed, however the rest of the book has had a mixed reception. The idea for this theme anthology is Sherlock Holmes meets Cthulhu. Hopefully it won't be as lame as it sounds.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Reviews from Lostpages

I published a set of book, film & music reviews at Claude Lalumière's LostPages webzine here. The items up for review were Next, After Lucifer by Daniel Rhodes, Island of Terror dir by Terence Fisher and Times of Grace by Neurosis.

Ullman, Ellen. The Bug. New York: Anchor, 2004. 368pp.

This is quite simply, a novel about how crazy it is being a software developer. It revolves around the a software project in the mid-1980's and a huge, impossible bug that creeps into the user interface code. The bug only appears sporadically and unpredicably, make it very difficult to figure out the underlying cause. The main characters in the novel are the programmers, Ethan Levin, and the tester, Berta Walton. Each of them have troubled personal lives that parallel the progress of the bug, while the view each other with distrust and suspicion. The soap opera aspects of their lives doesn't work as well as the portrait of the programmer's life; at about page 300 (of 350) we learn something about Ethan's relationship with his girlfriend that totally changes our view of him and the root cause of their breakup, which I think is unfair to the reader. Nevertheless, the characters and plot are certainly strong enough to support the more interesting aspect of the novel from our point of view here. For those of you who want to understand what it's like to be a programmer, working with flakey systems, uncertain requirements, killer deadlines and and the limitations of the human capacity to understand very large and complex systems, this is the novel for you. Ullman is a former software developer and it shows. Having been a software developer myself for 12 years, it rings very true. (Intially from the other blog.)