Monday, December 24, 2012

The Time Traveler's Wife

I expected to enjoy The Time Traveler's Wife more than I did. Part of the problem may have been that my expectations were higher than usual, since I'd heard so much about it and felt like I was rather late to the party when I did finally get to read it.  But somehow, it didn't quite measure up to the hype.

That's not to say the book was bad, because it wasn't.  There were parts of it that I really enjoyed.  But something about it just didn't quite strike a chord with me.  What I did like was the structure of the novel, and the way the past, present and future all unfolded simultaneously.  I liked most of the characters, too, but did feel there was something of an uneven quality in the narration — little bumps along the way that made the read a little less smooth in some bits than I was ready for.

It's not a complete waste of time to read the book, especially if you are interested in the question of time, free will, etc.  But it wasn't amongst my favorites from my 2012 reading list either.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fish Eats Lion

Apologies for the recent hiatus.

Now... Fish Eats Lion!  This anthology of speculative fiction from Singapore was quite a pleasure to read.  It includes one of my own short stories, and we had quite a good time at the recent launch.  But I don't mention it here simply because it includes my story.  The fact is, I thought the quality of fiction included in the anthology was pretty impressive, and the range of themes and styles was much broader than I expected.  Jason Erik Lundberg did an outstanding job editing the volume, and the book is a beautiful product in its own right.

You can visit the Books Actually website for more details.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Virginia Woolf's Orlando isn't the sort of book I usually mention on this blog, but a recent rereading of it made me think it worth a plug here.

For any who don't already know, Orlando is a bit of weird tale, a time- and gender-bender (not genre-bender, but gender-bender).  It is fun how the novel plays with the question of time and the development of humankind and culture in a survey of several centuries.  At the heart of it is the development of gender issues, and I like the way the story offers a playful treatment of what is (not only in real life, but in the text's treatment) deadly serious.

And of course, it's Virginia Woolf.  What other recommendation does one need?

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Source Code

A friend recommended Source Code to me several weeks ago, saying she thought I'd like the concept, even if the movie were not 100% my thing.  As it turns out, I enjoyed it very much.  I like the concept, and I like the storyline too.

I don't want to say too much because I hate coming across spoilers of shows I haven't seen yet.  But I can say that if you like movies that explore the nature of time and the human mind and how the mind experiences time, then you'll probably enjoy Source Code as much as I did.

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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Player Piano

Player Piano is not my favorite of Vonnegut's works, but that's not to say I don't like it.  Though it was written early in his career, and is somewhat dated in the world it presents, still the themes and concerns examined in the story are real and meaningful today.

Player Piano examines the idea of how the problem of the divide between the "haves and have nots" may be heightened in a knowledge-based society.  It looks at the mechanical (and therefore meaningless?) nature of a life lived out in such a society.  What we find there is pretty sobering.

Though the story is not as enjoyable, for me, as much of Vonnegut's writing, it is still worth reading and thinking about.  I find it has stuck in my mind since I read it, with that sort of haunting act that is the sure sign of a good book.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vulcan's Workshop

I recently read Harl Vincent's "Vulcan's Workshop,"  which was first published in Amazing Stories in 1932 and is now available as a free download at Project Gutenberg.  And I'm happy to give a little plug to Project Gutenberg, since I probably wouldn't have come across the story elsewhere.

Though the story takes a turn toward the end that wraps things up too neatly, making too big a leap in terms of the changes we see in the main character for my tastes, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story.  It is well-written, and the ideas underlying it are good old fashioned sic-fi-style fun.

You can download the story for free, put it on your e-reader, and read it all in an hour or so.  It's an enjoyable story, certainly well worth the effort of popping by the website and doing the download.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


A month or so ago, I read and reviewed Joseph Bayly's classic work of Christian science fiction for the Christian fiction website.  I enjoyed the novel, especially the way it dealt with some difficult ethical questions and how Christians might respond to those questions.  It isn't a novel that says how Christians should deal with such issue, but presents the different possible ways one might respond to the problems in real life.  Not all the answers are equally palatable to some Christian readers, if the afterword by Bayly is any indication of the sorts of responses the novel provoked from that community.  I like this approach that the novel took — not showing some black and white, moralistic approach to difficult situations, but presenting the possibilities and showcasing the difficulties attached to each route one might take.

You can read my full review here.

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

His Master's Voice

I recently finished reading Stanislaw Lem's His Master's Voice.  It was the second of Lem's works I've read in the past couple of months.  While it might seem I'm on a bit of a Lem kick at the moment, it isn't really that.  It just sort of happened that these two books came up at the same time (or in relatively close proximity) in my reading.  They've actually both been on my to-be-read list for a while.

I really enjoyed His Master's Voice.  It's a different sort of work than The Cyberiad, which I'd read a month or two earlier.  It is a very thought-provoking novel — perhaps more thought-provoking than traditional novel, come to think of it.  The thoughts it offers on the spectacular failure of the (fictionalized) SETI research presented in the book are amazing.  It really made me ponder about the possible weaknesses in our real-world research in this area, particularly in regard to the control political and business interests have in the endeavor.  Even more, it made me think about what is missing in the whole field — something of a human touch, if I can put it that way.  For some odd reason (perhaps more convoluted thinking than I want to go into at the moment), Martin Buber's thoughts on the I/Thou relationship kept coming to mind as I read the book.

A more obvious connection, however, lies in Gregory Benford's The Martian Race, a book I read several years ago.  The ideas presented in both books about how we might interact with an alien race that does not synch up nicely with our expectations of what extraterrestrial intelligence should look and act like create a nice dialogue.  It might be worth reading these two books as companion stories, as they seem to me to be works that comment nicely on one another.

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Illustrated Man

I have had The Illustrated Man on my must-read list for a while, and had set it aside to read just as I heard news of Bradbury's death.  It was a good time to read that book.  I wrote a fuller version of my thoughts at my main blog.  You can take a look at my reflections there.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Distant Shore

I read John Houghton's A Distant Shore a month or so ago, reviewing it for the Christian Fiction website (you can see my full review here).  While the book is more allegory than speculative fiction, that allegory is captured in a fairly interesting secondary world.  It's well written and addresses some interesting dilemmas.  While it's probably of most interest to Christian readers, I think it might appeal to some speculative fiction fans as well.  Be prepared for the allegorical nature of the book, of course, and I think you'll enjoy it.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman

When I saw that another new version of Spiderman was coming out, my first thought was "too soon."  And I probably would have left this one aside and not bothered to watch it had my nephews not been visiting for the summer — and pestering me from Day One to take them to see it.

As it turned out, I liked this better than the previous Spiderman series.  At least, I liked the cast better.  I thought the storyline a little weaker, but the cast made up for that.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field as the aunt and uncle were wonderful.

We enjoyed the show overall, with my nephews giving it two thumbs up (no surprise there).  It was a fun outing for the three of us and the friends who went with us, and we all agreed that we liked this version of Spiderman pretty well.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

I saw Snow White and the Huntsman when it was in theaters, and forgot to review it here.  Forgive the tardiness of this review, but if you haven't caught it yet, it's not too late to find the DVD.

When I saw the movie trailers, I went back and forth on whether I wanted to see this one.  I am very glad I did though.  It was enjoyable, quite funny, and a nice take on the Snow White story.  I took my 2 younger nephews to see it.  One of them had asked if it was going to be scary, maybe a little concerned that it would linger in his dreams longer than he'd like.  As it turned out, it was actually not even as scary as I expected it to be.  Though there were some dark elements, they weren't treated with any unnecessary gore or anything.  And the humor in the whole surprised me a little.  It was funnier than I had expected.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Legends of the Fallen Sky

Legends of the Fallen Sky is a poetry, short story, and art collection by Marge Simon and Malcolm Deeley.  I include art in that list because the drawings by Simon were the root of all of the writing in the book, according to the introduction by Deeley.

The world that unfolds in Legends of the Fallen Sky is mystical, magical, and quite poignantly presented.  I am a real fan of works by both Simon and Deeley, and found this collection especially delightful.  I enjoyed going through it section by section, savoring the verse, the prose, and the art at leisure.  I think that is the best way to partake of this particular feast, because there are riches available in it that invite a luxurious enjoyment.

You can get your copy from Sam's Dot Publishing.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

American Empire: Blood and Iron

I picked up Harry Turtledove's American Empire:  Blood and Iron without having read any of the rest of his Southern Victory series.  When I first got started, I thought, "Oh man, what have I gotten into, starting mid-series?"  I expected it to be difficult to catch up with what was going on and how different this alternate history might be from the reality we live in, but as it turned out, after a couple of chapters, it was all very easy and natural to keep reading.

Turtledove's writing is captivating and the story interesting.  I'm most sure I want to get sucked into the whole series, but I can certainly understand how some people would do so.  It's fun reading, and the action moves along at a nice pace.

Alternate history stories can be lots of fun, when done well.  And Turtledove certainly does it well.  If you're looking for a very involved, well-developed alternate history to lose yourself in, you could do worse than this one.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Black Maria

Kevin Young's Black Maria is a wonderful Beat-inspired, film noir-influenced poetry collection.  I enjoyed the pacing of the tale as much as the meter of the verse.  It is a collection I'm very glad I purchased and read.

While Black Maria is more in the genre of the hard-boiled detective than sci-fi, I thought it worth giving the collection a shout-out here (even though this is more my blog for reviews of sci-fi or speculative works).  Kevin Young is an outstanding poet, and Black Maria is an excellent read.  So, even a little out of the normal genres covered here, I thought it worth the mention.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Personifid Project

I've had the Personifid Project on my shelf for years, and kept pushing it further and further down on my TBR list.  It finally pushed its way to the top recently, and I am glad it did.  I enjoyed the read.

You can read my fuller review at the Christian Fiction Shop.  Enjoy!

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Friday, June 29, 2012

The Hunger Games

It's hard not to like The Hunger Games.  It is a page-turner of a tale, loaded with action.  Katniss is a pretty likable main character, and even the minor characters carry their weight in the book.  If you are a character-driven reader or a plot-driven reader, it's hard to complain about The Hunger Games.

The same goes, of course, if you are a reader more interested in social critique.  The Hunger Games shares something in common with weightier books such as Infinite Jest, where the notion of entertaining ourselves to death comes under fire.  In The Hunger Games, the idea of a few wealthy individuals getting their thrills out of the hardships of the world's downtrodden is foregrounded.  If it isn't a message built to make those of us in a consumer-driven society think, I don't know what is.  (There's some irony, of course, in the typical entertainment-industry hype that's come to surround the book and film itself.)

I suppose if I had to point out a weakness in The Hunger Games, it would be the writing. While the story is gripping and the prose moves it along at a good pace, there were several spots in the book that I felt the writing not smooth.  And while I can see why both first person and present tense were the chosen modes of storytelling here, I did think that these techniques were not particularly well executed (especially the present tense).  Other complaints I would make about the writing might have more to do with stylistic choices, as I'm not a big fan of dropping conjunctions in order to make for fast-paced prose.  I'd rather see that done with real economy of language than with lazy shortcuts.

All in all, though, The Hunger Games is a fun read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Poetry Collections by Erin Donahoe

I'm spending most of this month getting caught up reviewing books and movies I read/saw in May, and so I don't want to overlook Erin Donahoe's poetry collections Beast and Through the Woods.

Donahoe is especially adept at recasting fairy tales into modern poems.  I really enjoyed both collections (available from Sam's Dot).  They are short, and can be read in one short sitting, or stretched out poem by poem over several reads.  I read Beast in a single sitting in a waiting room, and Through the Woods more slowly, and found either way works perfectly.

If you like to see old fairy tales re-imagined for today's readers, or like seeing them mined for meaning that makes sense to contemporary thought, then you'll absolutely love Erin Donahoe's poetry.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Men in Black 3

I should have posted about this movie last month when I first saw it, but I got a little behind on these things.

I really enjoyed the movie.  Agent K was really well matched in his younger and older versions, and it made for a pretty fun film.  I wouldn't say I am exactly a Men in Black fan, but this third installment was pretty entertaining.

If you missed it at the cinema and are looking for a good DVD to entertain you for an evening, you could certainly do worse than this one.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Cyberiad

I can't remember who first recommended The Cyberiad to me, but I ordered it a year and a half ago, and didn't get around to reading it nearly as quickly as I thought I would.  I did finally get to it last month, and finished it last week.  It is a really good read.  Very smart, and a little challenging at times.  It's a novel any sic-fi fan should pick up and take the time to read.

The collection of stories are all set in a world that is mostly robotic.  Though humans do still exist, they rarely make an appearance in these stories.  The tales all center around the work of two constructors, Trurl and Kapaucius.  It is their adventures in various parts of the galaxy that make up The Cyberiad.

Lem's tales are clever, and in them he manages to poke fun at all sorts of thoughts, customs, and habits that make up our every day lives.  He takes a tongue in cheek look at the development of our philosophy and where it has gotten us.

The stories are fun and the language games amusing.  It amazes me that the book was written over 40 years ago.  It is still very readable and relevant today.  It doesn't have the "dated" feel that much early sic-fi can have.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Some Interviews of Interest

I've recently posted a couple of interviews that should be of interest to readers here.  You can check them out at Hub Pages.

The first is an interview with Patrick Todoroff, author of Running Black.

The second is an interview with speculative poet and fiction writer (amongst the many other roles he plays), David C. Kopaska-Merkel.  You'll find a video there of Kopaska-Merkel reading some of his own poetry, accompanied by art from Dreams and Nightmares, the speculative poetry magazine he edits.

I'll have more of these coming up in the future, so keep an eye out.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Catching Up

Since I got back to Singapore from Shanghai, I've been able to do a bit of catching up on my reading.  While I've read several books (I'll review some of those lately), I think what I've enjoyed most has been catching up on the magazine subscriptions that have come in while I was away (3 months' worth of 'em).  And, best of all, I've still got several to go, so I've got things to look forward to.

I just finished the most recent (April-June 2012) issue of Star*Line today, the official magazine of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and found lots of good things there (including reviews of a couple of books I intend to buy). "How Things Change," by James Door, had me laughing out loud.  I really enjoyed that piece.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Devil You Know

I finished reading Mike Carey's The Devil You Know today. The book gets something of a mixed review from me. There were parts I found very clever and entertaining, sometimes catching myself just on the verge of laughing out loud as I read. But somehow, the book didn't hit me just right overall. It wasn't as "un-put-down-able" as some books, partly because there seemed to be a few parts where I saw what was coming a little too easily.

 I do like the premise of the tale, though, where the world of the future is one in which the dead and undead have come to mix in with the everyday lives of the living. Seeing how the people of that possible future world cope with the changes — and their moral implications — was actually pretty engaging. There's a lot of wry humor and a jaded tone overall, but underlying it there is a thoughtful consideration for whatever beings make up the vast race of humanity. I thought that was pretty well-done in the book, and it is probably the aspect of The Devil You Know that I liked best.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Graveyard Book

I finally got to spend a bit of time on some reading suitable to be reviewed at this blog, and I sure hit on a good one! I finished Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book in 2 days. I finished it that quickly because I just couldn't put it down. It was a very entertaining read.

The story was a typical well-paced Gaiman tale, with his usual dash of wry, clever humor. I found the character Bod particularly endearing. I really liked the trouble he kept stumbling into, and loved the resolution of his story, and how it formed him at last into a man instead of a boy. The heartbreaks he suffered along the way and lessons that he learned in the process all make for good read. It's a story I think is very good for sharing with older kids (preteens and teens), and is also an excellent read for adults.

I'm glad I finally got to this one. In between some reads I "need" to do, it was a real pleasure to get to squeeze out some time for something I wanted to do.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012


I saw the animated film Bolt for the first time recently. It was pretty cute, but what I really liked was the idea of how we often blur that line between reality and fantasy. The little dog in the film buys into the notion that he is the character he plays on the screen. He doesn't know there is another "real world" outside of the fictionalized world he lives in. It's a lot like the movie Truman, or even The Matrix.

There are so many levels at which to consider the nature of reality vs. illusion. It's kind of fun to see it treated in a kids' film like Bolt.

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cat Country

I recently finished reading Lao She's Cat Country, one of the earliest works of sic-fi in Chinese. It is a fun read, and really gets you into what was going on in China in the 1930s. The tale is about a traveler to Mars and his interaction with the Cat People there. That's not to say that China was traveling to Mars in the 30s (nor meeting races evolved from cats), but the Cat People society is supposed to be a reflection of the problems in China at the time.

It's a good read. There's a reason Lao She is such a renowned name in modern Chinese fiction, and Cat Country is just a small part it. It happens to be a part I really like.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

a Poem by K. A. Hays

I love this poem, "Just as, After a Point, Job Cried Out," by K. A. Hays, and the animation that goes with it at the MotionPoems version.

JUST AS, AFTER A POINT, JOB CRIED OUT a poem by K.A. Hays from Motionpoems on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Idylls of the King

I have to admit that when I recently read Tennyson's Idylls of the King, it was bad timing. I am a little burnt out on Arthur at the moment. Or to be more accurate, I am a little burnt out on anything to do with Empire, thanks to some unpleasant encounters with a few neoColonialists over the past year or so. The Arthur story, then, probably wasn't the best thing for me to be reading, but I'd had it on my reading agenda for two years, and felt I ought to get to it.

That said, how can you not like Tennyson's poetry? (At least the blank verse.) There are moments where it just transports you to another time and place. I loved the grandeur of what he's done, though there were some aspects of his take on Arthur that wore on me as I read, particularly how unflawed the king was.

Still, he's Tennyson. The verse is beautiful, and that alone made the read worthwhile.

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Monday, February 06, 2012

Harry Potter's iPhone

I came across this funny post recently. That's an bunch of apps I wouldn't mind having!

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Sunday, January 29, 2012


Frederick Turner's Genesis is something we just don't see enough of these days: a well-thought-out and well-written epic poem.

Genesis is a tale of the beginnings of life on Mars. It is written in verse, and is about 300 pages long. The poetry, however, is not difficult, and it makes for the perfect form for this particular narrative (which might surprise a lot of readers who think poetry is hard to understand).

The story is complex, the ideas are rich, and the unfolding of the story is managed well. I got my copy secondhand from Amazon, and before I'd even finished reading it, I ordered Turner's other epic poem, The New World, for my Kindle.

If you can get your hands on a copy of Genesis, it's definitely worth the read.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Last Dragonslayer

I am a big Jasper Fforde fan, and have enjoyed all of his books. When I saw, in Dec. 2010, that he'd written a book for kids called The Last Dragonslayer, I immediately picked it up. With a series of events that happened on the personal front, I was left without much reading time, and ended up not getting to read the book until about a year after I'd purchased it. I am very glad I finally found the time to do read it, despite being later than I'd like.

Something about it had a feel that was a bit like another of my favorite authors, Diana Wynne Jones. I was glad to see that Fforde's use of magic The Last Dragonslayer had a flavor that was much like that found in DWJ's books. But the humor was firmly Fforde's (Ffordian?), and the humor is always a big part of what I love about his work.

The Last Dragonslayer is a wonderful quest story, raising questions of fate, magic, and the world in which we live. I highly recommend it for readers of all ages.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

On Metallic Wings

What a fantastic poetry collection!

I actually picked up my copy of On Metallic Wings in 2010, and put it on my Reading Agenda for 2011. It took me until the year was almost over before I finally got to Angel Favazza's little gem, and what a treasure it was.

On Metallic Wings explores many of my favorite themes, including technology and how it fits into our future. The blurb on the back cover compares it to 1984, and that's a good starting point for thinking about whether or not you might like to read this volume.

I really enjoyed not only the themes and ideas examined in the book, but also the variety of forms Favazza employs. I'll be keeping an eye out for more of her work, and hoping to see much more of it in years to come.

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Friday, January 06, 2012

Ancient Robots

I recently came across this video, which shows a robot designed after the robots made in ancient Greece. While there were no electronics involved, these "robots" were automated objects that were mostly used to impress people with the operator's "magical" abilities.

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