Thursday, January 27, 2011

So, How About That Short Story Anthology?

I've been working more on my other blog lately - Alternative Airwaves - and have really come to neglect this one.  I feel bad, but then again when I started this one I neglected the other one, so it's sort of evened out.  I hope eventually the forces of entropy (is that a thing that applies here?) combine to lead to me keeping BOTH blogs updated on a regular basis.

Anyway.  An update on my poor short story anthology.  I say poor, because it's suffering.  I've barely worked on it at all, especially the lead story for which the anthology is named.  I have started writing a few other stories here and there that are pushing out the stories of inferior quality, so that's a good thing.  I'm still aiming to have all my stories written & collected by February 20th, so that means I'll likely buckle down and do some last minute writing / editing in the few weeks to come.

Other writing stuff: I have two episodes of Battlestar Galactica left to review; the thing is, I only have one of those episodes downloaded, and I can't get it to load properly on my computer.  I'm working on that.  I hope to get it and Caprica done before the new series, Blood and Chrome, airs.  I'm not sure when that's airing, but I think they only JUST released casting info, so I'm not sure they've even started filming.

That's it for now - go read Alternative Airwaves! ;)

Friday, January 21, 2011

eBook Review: His Robot Girlfriend

eBooks are definitely on the rise - and most authors out there will actually tell you eBooks have risen and are the top of the publishing game - so I decided I'd try out an eBook reader.  Chapters (or Indigo or whatever they want to be called) is backing the Kobo, which from their marketing I suspect they're trying to say it's Canada's answer to the Kindle.  I haven't read many comparisons, but from the sounds of things it's at least decent.  I tried out the Kobo app for both the iPod Touch / iPhone and for my Blackberry.  For a small screen, the apps do a very good job of making the books readable.

I snapped up a bunch of free titles, a mixture of classics and some free sci-fi fare.  One of the titles I downloaded was His Robot Girlfriend by Wesley Allison.  It's a very short piece, more of a novella than anything else.  To be honest, I wasn't really impressed by the book; it would be unfair to say I hated it, but I do have some criticisms.  I'm going to at least try to be fair in this review.

First, I recognized from the start that it seemed like Allison put some decent effort into world-building for this novel.  He definitely has a vision of what a possible future might look like, with vueTees and texTees replacing Televisions and books / computers / anything electronic.  He does a fairly good job of establishing a world that is at the same time different from what we know today, but believable in development.

My biggest problem with the book though is not his attemps at setting up the future world his characters must explore.  It's the writing as a whole.  Allison describes every little detail - such unimportant things as what the main character, Mike, does when he wakes up.  And then repeats it every time he wakes up in the novel.  Actually, it felt like reading an un-edited National Novel Writing Month book: there just seemed to be a lot of mundane activities going on in this novel to contribute to some word count that didn't really allow me to get into the story.

And that, too was a problem - there wasn't really much of a story.  As good as his efforts were to create a unique vision of the future, he fell flat in the story-telling department and as I was reading, I generally felt unsatisfied with the number of themes left unexplored.  What probably should have been the main story - the robot girlfriend company trying to pull off a massive identity theft scam - was relegated to the sidelines and dealt with in just two pages.  Instead, Allison focused on the romance between Mike and his titular girlfriend; that would be okay, except it wasn't even much of a romance.

It really just seemed like the main character, Mike, was a pseudonym for Wesley Alison, and this story was just an elaborate sexual fantasy (oh yes, there was quiet a bit of robot-on-guy sex in this ebook).

Like I said I was impressed enough with the level of thought Allison must have put into this beforehand, but disappointed in the execution.  That seems to be the general consensus among other reviews I've read online - great concept, poor delivery.

Anyway, it is free, so you get what you pay for in this case.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ottawa Senators 2010-2011

Since I don't run a sports blog, it's hard to justify writing my opinion about the Senators.  However, this does count as a piece of writing, and it's practice, so I'm doing it here.

I think everyone can agree that this season is toast.  Ottawa is not going to make the playoffs (barring a miracle), and even if they did, they would likely get swept.  Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with this - you can't win every season in sports.  The problem this year is that the team is losing horribly.  They're not even making a game of it.  When I see them play live, I would like to be able to watch an interesting game, but this team is not even capable of doing that.

So what's the problem?  Do the players just not care anymore?  Is it the coach?  The GM?  Unfortunately, the answer is likely "all of the above".  I think it's time that the organization moves on after this year with a new look. Both Bryan Murray and Cory Clouston's contracts are done at the end of the year, so that makes it easier to get a new GM for the team.  Not that I'm entirely upset with what Murray's done - he's brought in a great player in Erik Karlsson, as well as other young dynamic players - but I think he's just about at the end of his rope in Ottawa.  At least as a GM - if he stays on as a scout, that wouldn't be so bad.

The only players I really want to see here next year are Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson.  Other than that, everyone is fair game.  Up until this year I probably could be accused of being sentimental for the likes of Chris Phillips or Mike Fisher or Chris Neil, but it's clear that this team needs a new face.  There are some young players down in the AHL that will come up to replace some expiring contracts, and then the rest should be traded.

It would be really nice if next year, for the 2012 All-Star game, for Ottawa to be a competitive team; however I don't think that is really going to happen.  I would at least like to see a young, fresh team that shows signs of promise.  I can wait for a couple of years for another chance at the Stanley Cup; just give me a team that shows that they WANT to play.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex

I got this book for Christmas, and it's probably the first new Star Wars book I've read since I stopped reading the New Jedi Order series.  I was kind of getting tired of the whole "the universe is doomed we're killing everybody" tone that the books were taking.  I don't know when they moved on, but we're now 43 years after A New Hope.  I'll get to that timeline bit in a minute.

Anyway, I thought I'd do a short review series of the book.  In part one (this post), I take a quick look at the production quality put into the book and my first impressions.  Part two will be after I hit the mid-point of the novel, and part three will be my final impressions upon finishing it.  On we go...

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex: Episode I: First Impressions

Come on, I had to go with the "Episode" route for this.  Surely you saw it coming?

Vortex is written by Troy Denning, who is no stranger to the Star Wars novel universe.  Including this novel, he's written 18 Star Wars titles, which includes 10 novels, 2 eBooks, 2 short stories, and a few gaming-related stories.  Like many other SW authors, he's also got a lot of Fantasy & Science Fiction novels under his belt.  So I think it's safe to say that Denning knows what he's doing with a typewriter.  Specifically to Star Wars though, most of the stuff he's written has been set in the new universe (and I mean like 20+ years after Return of the Jedi), with a few set around the time of the novels written in the mid-90s.  This sounds confusing but what I'm trying to get at is that Denning is part of the "new blood" SW authors.

Onto the book itself; it starts off with a very detailed timeline of Star Wars novels.  This also doubles as a shopping list of books I want to buy now.  As I mentioned before, Vortex is set 43 years after A New Hope.  Assuming Luke is 18 in ANH, that makes him 61 now.  Or roughly what I assume Obi Wan Kenobi is in ANH.  Why is this important?  You'll see...

The book also follows the X-Wing series' example and includes a dramatis personae at the beginning.  It is very useful, especially to somebody who hasn't read a Star Wars book in quite some time.  Even though it just gives you the most basic information available, it helps paint a little picture of who is doing what in a universe that is still somewhat familiar, but very different.

The book itself has high production value: cool little graphics at the start of each chapter.  It's very easy to read.  The type is apparently called "Galliard" - see the write-up from the book here.  Actually, I thought that was also a neat inclusion, something that you don't often see.

OKAY now we can get to the story.  We start off with an excellent hook: Lando Calrissian (yessss) and Jaina Solo (daughter of Leia and Han) are floating in an old rustbucket of a ship - in the wrong system.  Aiming to arrive at Coruscant, they instead show up near Kessel.  Somebody has impersonated Lando's voice to redirect their flight path and generally disable their ship.  Who would do that?  Why would they do that?  I don't know, but it's a great scene to start off and Denning has painted a pretty neat picture of the old ship.

AND, in just 14 pages, I've been given the makings of a cool story as well as given some back story.  Holy carp - Jaina had to kill her own brother???  Because he turned to the dark side???  That is just nuts, and I'm sort of glad that I didn't have to read - God, I think it's at least 20 books - to get that information.

Oh yeah, and Lando must be what - in his 70s?  80s?  Let's remember, Han and Lando were at least 5-10 years older than Luke.  Let's be generous and say he's in his 70s.  I do want to point out a nice scene where Jaina remarks that Lando hasn't taken the time to dye his hair.  Hard to explain but I thought it was funny anyway.

That's as far as I've got so far - 14 pages.  But I am enjoying it; high-paced action to start the story mixed with some "here's-what-happened-for-those-of-you-who-don't-read-star-wars" fluff in the background.