27 June, 2009

Question: New York SF/F Resources


Just a quick question to, well, everyone. I am looking to start attending more science fiction and fantasy conventions, workshops, lectures--pretty much whatever is in the neighborhood. Is anyone aware of any of those in New York? Maybe a centralized resource or something along those lines? Anyway, I appreciate whatever knowledge anyone may have on the subject. Thanks!

26 June, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #26

Hello and welcome to a new issue of my weekly roundup. Last Sunday we entered the summer season in Europe, which is nice as long as we don't get temperatures above 25 °C. But I know we will get some hot days... Then I only want a leafy bower, an iced drink, and an awesome book. Another possibility is to watch a good movie in an air-conditioned cinema. Hope you enjoy summer and my roundup.


Even in this economic crisis it is possible to earn a lot of money with SFF books. Here are two examples:

Brandon Sanderson sold four books to Tor. A deal which could exceed $2.5 million.

Science fiction author Alastair Reynolds signed a 10-book deal with Gollancz worth £1m.
To be honest I'm not envious. I hope that both of them will write extraordinary good books which we will love.

And there is one more author worth mentioning: George R.R. Martin. Like a lot of other people I'm still waiting for the release of A Dance with Dragons. He mentioned on his Not A Blog that he has had a very productive period. Fingers crossed that this period will continue... because god knows we have all waited long enough.


Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors. This week, The Dragon Keeper, the first book of her new Rain Wild Chronicles series hits bookstores. The following book trailer contains more information. I can't wait to read it:

Hopefully you read the review of Hyperion by Dan Simmons on this blog. But he is more than only a science fiction author. He wrote books in other genres. I think during the summer you should read books with a cool background. And Mr. Simmons has something to offer:


Dan Simmons tells the story of the last expedition of John Franklin, who tried to find the Northwest Passage in 1845 with the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus. Based on the know facts, Dan Simmons presents an expressive and quite impressive metaphor of the expedition. I felt the cold on nearly every page. Let's not forget the intense description of the feelings of the expedition members. Beside all the obvious fun, the reader gets to learn a lot about the customs and traditions of the Eskimos.
The appendix contains the list of crewmembers, a glossary and explanations of Eskimo terms. I recommend this book warmly to everyone who is interested in Arctic Zones, Explorers, and the depths of the human soul.


Don't know whether you followed the heated debate over at OF-Blog in his "When Do You Stop Whoring Yourself Out" or not. I don't want to comment here--I left comments over there. From my point of view, Aidan responded very well and in a positive way. Please read A Dribble of Ink » Blog Archive » Article | Where’d the Enthusiasm Go?
Andrew Lipson likes LEGO. And I admire when he renders Escher pictures into LEGO. Visit his site. I promise you won't regret it...

Quote of the Week

The quote of this week just impress my love for books:

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them

Arnold Lobel, (1933 -1987)

24 June, 2009

News: FTC to Regulate Bloggers!?

Today started out as a terrible day--I forgot my morning commute book at home. Oh well, it was not that great to start with and AM New York is given out for free at pretty much every Subway entrance. Buried in the backpages, almost overwhelmed by adds, I found an insightful piece of journalism. Sadly, I could not find a link to the article on the AM New York website, but I did find the original AP article that gave it birth: FTC Plans to Monitor Blogs for Claims, Payments.

The timing of this article is impeccable--as many of you know their has been some heated debate going on over at OF Blog in his "When Do You Stop Whoring Yourself Out". The claim was that many blogs have given up on posting meaningful content, and tend instead to just spam viewers with giveaways and contests. Well, the FTC is going to change all that; apparently even so much as posting a graphical ad will be enough to trigger oversight from Big Brother (FTC).

Personally, I believe accountability to be essential to journalism of any kind, but trying to tame bloggers is just going to be a huge headache for the government, kind of like trying to stop file sharing. Not only that, but American bloggers will be put at a disadvantage against international bloggers who are not held to the same standards--it just isnt' fair.

What are your thoughts. Should we be regulated? Do I now need to post a huge disclaimer instead of my colorful header? I don't disagree that the system should be systematised, but being regulated by the heavy hand of Big Brother is not the way to go. Good honest blogs are quickly known as such, and become magnets for like minded visitors. So to all you "whores" out there, your time is coming!

22 June, 2009

Review: The Steel Remains, by Richard Morgan

     The Steel Remains (2009) is Richard Morgan's first stab at the fantasy genre, jumping the fence from his dystopian science fiction adrenaline rides. Much like his other work, it is a brutal assault on the senses that will leave you wondering what the hell just happened. 

The Setup

     Nothing fancy here. You get a court advisor, a depressed warrior, and a clan chief whose stories (big surprise) eventually merge. Morgan's science fiction origins come through with the introduction of an alien race (the bad guys) who travel through a determinedly mysterious space time. Skimping a bit on lore and history, The Steel Remains chooses instead to focus on sex and gratuitous violence. For those of you familiar with Morgan's earthy style and action driven plot, you won't be disappointed, but you also won't be surprised.
     To my disappointment, Morgan falls back on a decadent and decidedly unoriginal vision of Islamic culture as the backdrop for the novel. It seems to me too many authors are doing this of late--oh well--sign of the times I guess. For anyone familiar with Jacqueline Carey's highly textured and sensual historical fantasy, Kushiel's Legacy, The Steel Remains will seem like a pale, if more violent imitation. To sum up the action, you get an outcast warrior hero son who is asked by his mother to rescue a distant cousin form the chains of slavery--he obliges--while killing a couple people along the way. Almost forgot, as you can tell form the pic, our antihero also has a really cool sword. 

My Take in Brief

     As you can probably tell form my unenthusiastic summary, this is not one of Morgan's best novels; it is a good stab at his first fantasy book, but definitely not his best work. Some of you no doubt disagree, but that is only because you secretly reread the lengthy scenes of explicit gay sex. To be fair though, there are good parts, and yes, overall the book is worth reading. Morgan also leaves a number of loose threads that will make for some great stitching in the next installment. However, I can't help but think that he has made the switch for the money, fantasy being much more popular than science fiction.
     Let me emphasize, given all the negatives that I have mentioned, that The Steel Remains is still worth reading. My only real issue is that I did not enjoy it nearly as much as his Takeshi Kovacs novels. I have no doubt that this is partly due to my current infatuation with science fiction, but to try and remain objective, this fantasy is generally unimaginative--violence and sex fill the void that creativity has left. Why oh why Mr. Morgan have you abandoned Mr. Kovacs to the barren soil of novels past!? 

Ratings & Links

Amazon: Honestly how cares?
B&N: Yea, won't be using this dude anymore.
My Rating: 3/5

Piqued Your Interest?

     Don't let me have scared you away, you should even go for a signed copy of The Steel Remains. The cover art is pretty sick.

21 June, 2009

Review: Hyperion, by Dan Simmons

     Hyperion (1989), by Dan Simmons, won the Hugo award in 1990 and is the first book in the Hyperion Cantos Series. It is a truly masterful work of science fiction, done in the format of the Canterbury Tales, that sets a new standard for the genre.

The Setup

     Hyperion is structured around the intersection of seven different stories by individuals on a pilgrimage to save humanity. Legend has it that one wish is granted, and all the others are impaled on the Tree of Pain, to suffer for the rest of eternity. There is no central character in this book, as the story is weighted equally between the different pilgrims. Their past relationship with Hyperion and the story of how they were chosen for the pilgrimage make up the bulk of the book, and what great stories they are.
     From poet to detective, every account is genuinely moving, and is intended to shed light, little by little, on the mystery of Hyperion and the Shrike, a bladed and mysterious monstrosity from the future. Dan Simmons' visceral realism and prodigious story telling ability make Hyperion, by far, my favorite book this year--incorporating adventure, mystery, religion, and science, in an educated and highly intelligent narrative gives Hyperion a texture and body that any connoisseur of science fiction can not help but love. Sip slowly, this heady vintage runs out all too quickly. 

My Take in Brief

     I absolutely loved Hyperion, and have prostrated myself at the altar of Dan Simmons prodigious penmanship. It is truly rare to find such a complete and enticing science fiction novel that manages to remain original, provocative, and captivating without going over the edge of the believable. The fractal "Canterbury" perspective and setting combine to give the novel a historical texture that remains focused enough to provide the thrills and reader side revelatory quality of a detective novel. You get it, I am a Simmons convert--the book catered to everything I love about science fiction without falling for any of the typical pitfalls. Read Hyperion slowly and thoroughly; hoard its precious words and discover a gem of science fiction that deserves an honored place on your bookshelf. 
     Without revealing too much, I would like to add that Hyperion is a courtship with truth that is left unfulfilled; secrets are whispered and promises given, but climax remains evanescent. I strongly urge you to pick up The Fall of Hyperion if you are going to tackle this series, if not you will be left tearing out your hair until you can lay your hands on the next book. Ultimately, the first book is a titillating tease that reveals everything without giving enough away. Think on that for a while!

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 4.3/5
B&N: 4/5
My Rating: 4.75/5

Check out Dan Simmons official site for cool artwork and more.
Apparently Warner Bros. has the rights to this and announced in January that they plan to make a movie out of the series. Don't butcher it!

Piqued Your Interest?

Do it. You won't regret reading Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos). Best science fiction series ever? Quite possibly. 

18 June, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #25

Hello and welcome to a new issue of my Bona Fide Weekly Roundup. I received some e-mails concerning the last issue. I now know that it was a little overkill. Luckily, I got some helpful advice, so let's see whether I learned something or not...


This week I like to recommend a whole trilogy, even though I only read the first book: the
Shadows of the Apt trilogy, by Adrian Tchaikovsky and published by Pyr in US. For more information, check out Pyr bringing Tchaikovsky's 'Shadow of the Apt' to the US by Aidan and Tchaikovsky's 'Shadows of the Apt' to be released in US by James.
I read the first book of the trilogy - Empire in Black and Gold - and here is my impression:
There is a wise man, a threat, a “party”, a travel, betrayal, fights. Hmmh, sounds familiar. But there are no elves, dwarfs, hobbits or trolls. Instead we find steampunk elements and most unusual: insect-kinden. What are insect-kinden you might ask? There are several human offshoots who, long ago, took on the traits of prehistoric insects. As an example, mantis-kinden are warriors, beetle-kinden are similar to mechanics, wasp-kinden can fly and use stingers. Adrian Tchaikovsky combines all these things in a fast paced and an imaginative story.
The reader is but a fly, stuck in this literary spiderweb; once you’re captured you only can free yourself by finishing the book!
Lucky for me, the next web book, Dragonfly Falling has already been spun in bookstores (UK 6th of February 2009). The final novel of the trilogy – Blood of the Mantis – will be released in August 2009 (UK). If you like epic fantasy, and are a little tired of elves and dragons, then give the insect-kinden a try.


I hope you are not too disappointed, but this week you don't get a movie trailer. However, I found something really worth sharing with you. You may know the phrase size doesn't matter..... In this case case I can tell you size matters!!! Have you ever felt like an ant? No? Then watch following video and feel the awe:


From time to time, I enjoy following blog discussions sparked by authors. As a lover of epic fantasy - the longer the series, the more I like it - I read with great interest The Fantasy Series by Brandon Sanderson. He wrote two stand-alone epic fantasies - Elantris, Warbreaker - and the Mistborn trilogy. So far 42 comments have been made and there is some great discussion going on. What do you think about this topic? Take part and leave your comment!

Fantasy Maps

I know there are a lot people outside who like maps- especially fantasy maps. I must admit I like maps too. Did you ever try drawing your own maps - maybe a map related to a book you just read? There are several possible ways how you can create your very own: pen and paper, digitally with software on your PC, or a mix of both. In case you would like to try the pen and paper approach, and find you need some inspiration and maybe a little help, then watch the following video and follow the link to an extended instruction:

This is the mentioned link How to Draw Original Fantasy Maps for your Fiction - instruction
In case you want to try to draw maps using your PC and you don't want to spend money for software like Campaign Cartographer - then try AutoREALM.
AutoRealm is a free, open-source program for creating fantasy maps. Beside this World Builder Project has a lot of helpful links.

My Books And Me

I own a lot of books and every month I buy more. It is getting more and more difficult to keep track of
- the books I read
- the books I own and have already read
- the books I own and haven't read so far
- the books I want to buy and when I want to buy them
- the books I ordered in advance
- the books I want to read next and in which order
- and, and and.....
I started to use documents and spreadsheets. I appreciate Open Office, but it takes time to maintain all the different files. Fortunately I found my solution in the depths of the world wide web: Goodreads.
My first visit to Goodreads was like a trip to the land of milk and honey. A place where I can maintain all my book lists and share my opinions about books with other book lovers. The best part, it is quite normal to have book lists with thousand or more books! This year I created my first summer reading list. You want to know what I want to read from June to end of September 2009 then have a look at edifanob's 2009 Summer Reading List.
So what do you plan to read this summer? Please share your list with me.


I read a lot of comments about books and there are some where I would like to hit my head on the table. Of course I know that would only hurt me... Then I think of the following quote and immediately I feel a lot better:
Books are like a mirror.
If an ass looks in, you can't expect an angel to look out.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860), German philosopher

13 June, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #24

Hello and welcome to a new issue of my weekly roundup. Last week I spent less time playing ANNO. Instead I read - finished NIGHTS OF VILLJAMUR by Mark Charan Newton and only 100 pages left of MIRRORED HEAVENS by David J. Williams - and spent time with my family. But don't worry I found some stuff that is worth sharing with you. And here we go!


Guillermo Del Toro - director of films like Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy II: The Golden Army - released his debut novel THE STRAIN. The book is the first part of a vampire trilogy. Book two THE DEVOURING will be released in 2010 and book three ETERNAL NIGHT will be released in 2011. I remember when I read the beginning of the blurb:


I'm not a huge fan of vampire books - beside FEVRE DREAM by George R.R. Martin - but this one made it directly to my list. There are several book trailers available. I chose the Dog Shed Scene for you:

You would like to have more information? Then browse inside the book or visit The Strain Trilogy.

As a lover of epic fantasy I'm always looking for series - old ones and new ones. LAMENTATION by Ken Scholes aroused my interest. I read several reviews by Adventures in Reading, Fantasy Book Critic, Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, Neth Space, Reading The Leaves, King of the Nerds !!!, SF SIGNAL. I saw the interview which you find below and read an excerpt (thanks to Aidan). After all that work, I am pretty sure, THIS IS A BOOK for me!!! I expect the delivery of my paperback copy in September. Maybe I will post my reading impression. We will see...


I told you that I like to play PC-and Console based games. And to my great pleasure a German company is developing an RPG called RISEN. It will be available in several languages. The website of the game is worth a visit because they have a really cool interactive section. In order to get an impression of the game just watch the trailer below:


Jackie Earley Haley - yes, that's the actor who played RORSCHACH in the great movie WATCHMEN - posted a trailer of the next movie with his appearance SHUTTER ISLAND. The movie is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. In 1954, a murderess escaped from a hospital for criminal insane on remote Shutter Island. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule get the order to investigate. The movie will be released in October 2009. In the meatime watch the trailer below:

Did you see WATCHMEN? It is one of my all-time favorite movies. Via twitter I found a link where you can see the opening credits for WATCHMEN movie. Good movies have their fan base and sooner or later you find the first fan films. Fan Cinema Today featured WATCHMEN: The Highschool Years Fan Film Series.Part 1 to 5 have been released. The final part 5 will be release in two parts. I will let you know when they are avaiable.






Do you like cake? I must confess that I have a weakness for cake. Last year I found a gorgeous website where you find cakes you have never dreamed of. Go and visit CAKE WRECKS. Do you like Sweets? Baked Sweets.......

Thanks to Ken from Neth Space where I found the link to the wonderful quiz

Of course I couldn't resist and took part. And this is my result:

Your result for Which fantasy writer are you?...

China Miéville (b. 1972)

15 High-Brow, 13 Violent, -7 Experimental and -3 Cynical!

Congratulations! You are High-Brow, Violent, Traditional and Romantic! These concepts are defined below.

China Miéville writes in the British fantasy tradition of authors like Mervyn Peake and Michael Moorcock, a tradition which is a little darker than the Tolkien kind, but Miéville is also a great renewer, as he has taken care to challenge, for example, race-related (or, to be exact, species-related) stereotypes in fantasy. His great breakthrough came with the award-winning novel Perdido Street Station (2000), which is set in the sprawling city of New Crobuzon in the secondary world Bas-Lag. Apart from its urban setting, Perdido Street Station also differ from Tolkien-style fantasy by taking place in an era reminiscent of the Victorian age rather than the typical quasi-medieval setting of so-called high fantasy. This means that Miéville has the opportunity to explore his socialist beliefs in a fantasy environment, even if both Perdido Street Station and its two sequels also feature monsters, adventures and such.

Setting his book in a rather dictatorical society and occasionally spinning his sories around resistance against an oppressive government means that Miéville's books sometimes contain rather horrible violence, made all the scarier because it's often conducted legally by a ruling government. This also makes the boks rather romantic; although the struggle is difficult, the struggle continues and whether you are a socialist like Miéville or not, it's easy to sympathize with the message that the world can be changed for the better. It should also be pointed out that although Miéville is often inventive and has a love for spicing up his prose with archaic words, his books are, narratively speaking, traditional adventure stories. Actually, Miéville has made a point of taking genres such as the pirate story and the Western story and retelling them in a fantasy environment.

Still, Miéville has brought fantasy to new literary heights and can be said to represent hope for the genre's future.

You are also a lot like Michael Moorcock.

If you want something more gentle, try Susan Cooper.

If you'd like a challenge, try your exact opposite, Orson Scott Card.

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four different scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic. Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetical, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you're at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn't mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received 15 points, making you more High-Brow than Low-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, rather than the best-selling kind. At their best, high-brows are cultured, able to appreciate the finer nuances of literature and not content with simplifications. At their worst they are, well, snobs.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received 13 points, making you more Violent than Peaceful. Please note that violent in this context does not mean that you, personally, are prone to violence. This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you are, and you do, then you are violent as defined here. At their best, violent people are the heroes who don't hesitate to stop the villain threatening innocents by means of a good kick. At their worst, they are the villains themselves.

Experimental vs. Traditional

You received -7 points, making you more Traditional than Experimental. Your position on this scale indicates if you're more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, traditional people don't change winning concepts, favouring storytelling over empty poses. At their worst, they are somewhat narrow-minded.

Cynical vs. Romantic

You received -3 points, making you more Romantic than Cynical. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you'll find the sentence "you are also a lot like x" above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, romantic people are optimistic, willing to work for a good cause and inspiring to their peers. At their worst, they are easily fooled and too easily lead.

Author picture by the talented artist "Molosovsky". Visit http://www.flickr.com/people/25360041@N06/ for more!

Now I'm interested in your result................................


The quote for this week remind me of the hard-edged battle scenes you find in THE TEN THOUSAND by Paul Kearney. For a list of reviews please look at the Review Index by bossfan2000.

Kill one man, and you are a murderer.
Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror.
Kill them all, and you are a god.

Jean Rostand, Thoughts of a Biologist (1939),(1894 - 1977)

11 June, 2009

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

    The Left Hand of Darkness (1968), by Ursula K. LeGuin won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and is widely considered to be one of the 'great' works of science fiction. Original, provocative, and ultimately captivating, this is definitely a must read.

The Setup

    Meet Genly Ai, friendly alien representative of the galactic federation of worlds, sent to offer the planet Gethen a cozy little membership plan; unfortunately, the different rulers of the planet don't quite see it that way. As with most great works of fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness operates on a number of different levels. The sociopolitical fabric of LeGuin's world is both complex and imaginative, threading in themes such as gender perception, duty, and truth.
    As a thought experiment Le Guin's work is a remarkable achievement that successfully envisions the long term effects of a predominantly asexual and genderless society on cultural development. Principally of interest is the fact that inhabitants can either be the male or female during their monthly 'arousal phase'. Part anthropological exploration, part real politik, with a little adventure thrown in to stick it all together, The Left Hand of Darkness is a deeply intellectual work whose very purpose is to push the bounds of imagination.

My Take in Brief

    The first thing I need to throw out there is that I consider this book to be a subtle manifesto on the perception and role of women in society. Remembers that it is Mrs. LeGuin, and not Mr. LeGuin, let me give you line that stuck with me:

They tended to be stolid, slovenly, heavy, and to my eyes effeminate--not in the sense of delicacy, ect., but in just the opposite sense: a gross, bland fleshiness, a bovinity without point or edge. I had for the first time on Winter a certain feeling of being a man among women, or among eunuchs.

It is pretty bold, in my opinion, to characterize the feminine as such, and generally exemplary of LeGuin's quietly implicit treatment of gender perception in society. While the book deals much more blatantly and resolutely with ideas such as communism, mysticism, and patriotism, gender remains the ever present and ever important connecting element. While overt analysis of the subject is generally avoided, LeGuin lets slip (in the voice of Ai) that the planet Genthen has never know war because it lacks a clear male female sexual dichotomy and the consequent social dynamics. Regardless, every line was provocative food for thought as it required LeGuin to not only build a totally unique world, but narrate from the perspective of an alien from a different world, with radically different social dynamics, values, and beliefs. It takes a true master to make that work, and work it did.
    That said, classic or not, this was not my cup of tea. Intellectually, I understand how this is ranked among some of the greatest science fiction novels, but on a personal level it just didn't work. While the prose generally flows clean and sweet, I sometimes found it to be heavy handed and halting. It is difficult to weave a heavily anthropological narrative and still keep me interested on a level that isn't purely intellectual, and in that sense I did not enjoy The Left Hand of Darkness. Nonetheless, I still think that it is worth reading, and I am glad that I did so. If anything, it hammered home how subjective our understanding of the world is, and how the questions we most want answered are those we should never be given the answers to.

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 4/5
B&N: 3.8/5
My Rating: 3.2/5

A very candid interview with Le Guin at the LA Times that explains a lot about the book (wish I had read it before I wrote my review).
Ursula K. Le Guin's Home Page, failing me finding her blog. Does she have one?!

Piqued Your Interest?

The Left Hand of Darkness aches to be read, it deserves to be read, it demands to be read. Read it, because failing to do so will make it seem like the only reason you read science fiction is for the scripted action sequences.


    Want this book for free? Done. Just follow these simple giveaway instructions for your chance to win (giveaway runs for five days from the date of posting):

1) E-mail me your name and address with the title of the book as the subject. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning.
2) Sign up for site updates either in RSS or with Friend Connect on the side. This will also let you know about future giveaways; typically 2-3 per week.
3) Think happy thoughts.
4) (OPTIONAL) Share or link to any post on my blog--this earns you brownie points as well as increasing your (if you have made it this far) already significant odds.

06 June, 2009

Review: Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

     Starship Troopers (1958) is probably Robert Heinlein's most famous and controversial book. Even today, it generates a fair amount of debate, whether it be on Wikipedia or Amazon book reviews. Starship Troopers was written in only a couple of weeks in response to a nuclear testing moratorium. As with The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman, it's message is timeless, layered, and consequently often misinterpreted.

The Setup

      Meet your run of the mill highschooler, Juan Rico, who signs up rather accidentally for the Federal Service (army). "On the bounce", we are introduced to a masterpiece of futuristic military warfare as Juan decimates an alien city wearing powered armor. Then, flashback to boot camp and witness firsthand how the soldier of the future is molded. Part philosophical inquiry and part military science fiction thriller, Starship Troopers centers on Juan's trials and tribulations in the Mobile Infantry.
     Starship Troopers is short and sweet, if at times slightly heavy on the philosophizing, but that is just my personal take. What it ultimately boils down  to is an affirmation of patriotism and civic duty. Mr. Heinlein's world is constructed in such a way that only those who have served a "term of service" are allowed to play a constitutive role in society; in the wake of social fragmentation following a global war on earth, entry into politics is restricted to those who have proven their commitment to the 'greater good' through service. Rich in military, philosophical, and political history, Starship Troopers is an insightful and captivating look at duty, courage, and things that go boom.

My Take

     I would love nothing more than to delve into the philosophical underpinnings of Mr. Heinlein's masterpiece, such as the implicit references to Jean-Jacque Rousseau's Second Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality Among Men, but I will spare you but for this brief excerpt:

With this view, after laying before his neighbours all the horrors of a situation, which armed them all one against another, which rendered their possessions as burdensome as their wants were intolerable, and in which no one could expect any safety either in poverty or riches, he easily invented specious arguments to bring them over to his purpose. "Let us unite," said he, "to secure the weak from oppression, restrain the ambitious, and secure to every man the possession of what belongs to him: Let us form rules of justice and peace, to which all may be obliged to conform, which shall not except persons, but may in some sort make amends for the caprice of fortune, by submitting alike the powerful and the weak to the observance of mutual duties. In a word, instead of turning our forces against ourselves, let us collect them into a sovereign power, which may govern us by wise laws, may protect and defend all the members of the association, repel common enemies, and maintain a perpetual concord and harmony among us.
If you can't guess how that fits into Starship Troopers, you should be shot, possibly in the foot, but shot nonetheless. 
     That said, I could not have loved this book more had it been written with my tastes in mind. As you can tell from my personal top ten science fiction and fantasy books on the side, I enjoy a preponderance of military violence. In that respect, Mr. Heinlein pioneered the science fiction sub-genre of powered armor with this book, so give credit where credit is due. Given the stature and wide range of opinions on the book, it is difficult to dive into discussions of style and worth without upsetting someone, but I personally found the writing very agreeable; in fact, all of it was very agreeable. If you have not read Starship Troopers, you need to. If you think you don't need to, you are wrong. No self-respecting science fiction enthusiast can still lay claim to the title without having read this book.
     If I had to point out something that I felt was lacking from the book, it would be a certain amount of intrigue and suspense. Rico lets spill a little too much a little too early. However, given the narrative style and idea driven plot, Starship Troopers dispenses with the need for frivolous page turning shenanigans with a healthy does of plain old good literature. All in all an excellent, concise, and memorable must read. This is definitely being added to the top ten list, I jut can't decide if it should be socketed in above The Forever War or not... help!

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 4.25/5
B&N: 4.3/5
My Rating: 4.7/5

Piqued Your Interest?

     This is my book, there are many like it, but this one is mine. No giveaway for this book since I am keeping it, which is fairly rare for me. Get your own copy of Starship Troopers if you know what's good for you. 

05 June, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #23

This is my third weekly roundup. Since I started it seems like the weeks fly by, faster and faster. I had to divide up my my spare time this week -- the time that I selfishly reserve for life's little pleasures -- between reading Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton (currently halfway through), playing ANNO for Wii (which I praised in my last roundup) and following all the blogs I like (only 581 open items left in my google reader....). Anyway I found some interesting topics which I would like to present to you now, and I am sure you will enjoy!


I think most of you read this sad news on other blogs like Thephen Hunt's SF Crowsnest fantasy author David Eddings passed away on 2nd of June. If you want to get more information please visit Jack's David & Leigh Eddings site.


In 2008 I read a provocative, fast paced story that is set in a Victorian-type world. Any clue which book I'm talking about? To be fair, I guess it is not enough information. Let me solve the riddle for you: The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt. I enjoyed it and this review by The Book Swede lets you know why. And for all fans of book trailers: Just watch the The Court of The Air mini movie below:

Fortunately Stephen Hunt is still working on books featuring the same world:
The Kingdom Beyond the Waves was released in 2008. Sadly, the book is still on my shelf - unread - but I can offer you a review and Q&A. The Rise of the Iron Moon paperback will be released in September 2009. This week we know learned title of the fourth book, which will be released in 2010: Secrets of the Fire Sea
I spoke about Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton in the opening of this roundup.
There was/is significant hype around this book. What I have read so it so far is superb, but I don't want to jump the gun before I have finished reading it. Instead you get links to 13 reviews. Some call it overkill, I call it... weeeeee: Strange Horizons, King of the Nerds!!!, The Wertzone, Dave Brendon's Fantasy & SCI-FI Weblog, Nextread, SFFWORLD, Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, A Dribble of Ink, Neth Space, Speculative Horizons, The Truth About Books, Geek Planet Online, SCI-FI-LONDON. Wait, you say you want more information about the author!? Then read the interview at Falcata Times.
I have a profound interest in Steampunk. Therefore, I follow several steampunk blogs pretty regularly. There are a lot of people who wear steampunk fashion, decorate their homes with steampunk furniture and so on. The choices are endless. What I missed so far is a good Steampunk cookbook. But here is the solution and it's for free. Follow steampunk cookbook link and you can download the book in PDF format for free. The recipes are not guaranteed not to explode (wrap you mind around that double negative).


Once in a while I stumble on blogs or websites which have absolutely nothing to do with books. Today I would like to recommend WebUrbanist and WebEcoist. Visit them and I promise you, it will be time well spent.
Do you like beer? Doesn't matter whether you like it or not. Have you seen The History of Beer Cans? Have a look. you won't regret it. What do you do with your old beer cans? Here is an alternative: Creative Ways to give old Beer Cans New Life. Somewhat related and a fairly equal time-sink, I respectfully present 176 Great Geek Approaches to Desgin, Art & Technology.
Thanks to Aidan from A Dribble of Ink who posted about a new blog. Aaah, I hear you mutter: "New blog! New blog!? There are hundereds of new blogs every day! Phaw..." But I promise you that Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethies is really something special. If you like the blog you are reading give this new blog a try.
Are you interested in book blogs rankings? Then you should have a look at INVESP blog-rank.


I like Sci-Fi movies combined with action. If you like them too, you should mark the 25th of September 2009 in your calendar. This is the official release date of SURROGATES. Watch the mouth watering trailer below:

Do you know Green Lantern? I must admit I didn't. Luckily Fabio Fernandes who runs Post-Weird Thoughts posted a fan trailer for the Green Lantern movie which will be released somewhere in 2010.


I love quotes. That means from now on I will "torture" you with quotes which I like or which I find impressive or which just put a smile on my face. And this is my quote of the week:

"Never argue with idiots
They will you bring down to their level
and beat you with experience"
- unknown -

Hope you enjoyed this roundup. Let me know what you think!

03 June, 2009

Review: Name of the Wind, by P. Rothfuss

     The Name of the Wind (2007) is Patrick Rothfuss's debut fantasy novel, and is published by DAW. As far as first books go, this is a fantastic start to the Kingkiller Chronicles and a quick and captivating read. On a personal note, I finally took a break from hard/military science fiction and this was the perfect book to do it with. I am fairly certain that I overdosed on Richard K. Morgan, as I went through all of his books in about two weeks, and coming back to fantasy with The Name of the Wind could not have made for a better transition. It is simple, straight forward, and without pretension; exactly what the doctor recommended. That said, I will be deviating from my traditional review format for the sake of... laziness.
     Meet Kovthe, the protagonist and narrator, a brilliant Ender's Game like hero transplanted into an adult version of Harry Potter Land. It is perhaps unjust of me to compare Mr. Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind with these other works, but as a reader I had the definite impression that as archetypes of good science fiction and fantasy, they were front and center in Rothfuss's head when he birthed this book. Not to push matters too far, but I had the definite feeling that he had recently read the Wheel of Time; at a couple points in the book I stopped reading and just thought: "this guy is channeling Robert Jordan". Now that my little insight into our bearded author (its a great pic) is out of the way, lets get down to business.
     Like all decent fantasy books, this one took a little bit to get into. The story starts out with a young innkeeper and his apprentice. As these things tend to go, our innkeeper, Kovthe, is none other that a famous legendary hero hiding out and trying to live the quiet life. One classic turn of events later, he is found by a famous storyteller who has come to collect his story. This, my friends, is where things start to get interesting. Having the protagonist narrate his own story is a pretty ingenious idea if you ask me. It allows Mr. Rothfuss to poke plenty of fun at the classic fantasy story line, and still get away with using some of the most stereotypical plot twists. Cliche or not, Kovthe's story draws you in and keeps you there with its simple yet compelling plot. 
     I don't want to give out too many spoilers here or bore you with excessive details, but this was a really fun read and most definitely worth picking up. If you enjoy... well, any kind of fantasy at all, then this will tickle your literary taste buds plenty. That said, its not a work of art. Mr. Rothfuss clearly still has some work to do on his writing style. I am no expert, obviously, but it felt rough to me at times, as if I had just taken a bite of an apple that was a little too green. However, I can't wait to pick up the next book, The Wise Man's Fear, which should be out in the not to distant future according to a hilarious cominc by Mr. Rothfuss (he apparently has many talents).
     On a quick last note, I had a blast reading A Dribble of Ink's interview with Patrick Rothfuss. If you take a look at his picture you quickly understand how things can get wacky, and quick. I took a brief gander at Mr. Rothfuss's blog and lets just say the word "drugs" comes up pretty often. Most definitely a colorful author if I have ever met one... well I haven't met him, but you know what I mean. Make sure to check out Fantasy Book Critic's review for a more content based post, it seems we share similar ideas good sir!


Amazon: 4.25/5
B&N: 4/5
My Rating: 4/5