Deep One

zadok_allen


Don't lay hose in a ditch.


just finished
Deep One
zadok_allen
lwtnc

Leviathan Wakes certainly deserves all the praise it receives from sci-fi critics. I see it frequently described as a space opera, which it is, but it's also at least 1/3 crime noir, and a fair portion of it is horror as well, along the lines of Dead Space (the only video game for which I had to drink to play, because it made my nerves so bad) or The Thing. All of the main characters are complex and believable, Detective Miller of the crime noir portion of the novel being my favorite. Miller is an aging detective who becomes obsessed with a missing woman case, eventually finding himself dragged into the larger events in the novel. As the story progresses he finds himself willing to take greater risks and make larger sacrifices in order to find her, to include putting both his safety and his mental health at risk. He has a tragic, haunted part in the novel that I really enjoyed. Caliban's War is next in the trilogy. It's another 600-pager but Leviathan Wakes never lost my attention so I'm hoping the sequel will be the same. Go pick it up, sci-fi fans.

The Naked Communist was written by an ex-FBI agent at the height of the Cold War and is a treatise on the dangers and failures of Communism. The middle of the book deals with the history of Communism from the murders of the Romanovs to The Bay of Pigs. I found it to be immensely interesting despite the brief amount of time he was able to dedicate to each major communist-related incident during that 40 year time span - the amount and breadth of Communist espionage that occurred openly and secretly in America was especially shocking.

The rest of the book I had problems with. For starters, the book is absolutely rife with grammatical errors. Missing words, incorrect words (tail instead of fail), punctuation, numerical errors (the year 2939 instead of 1939) - all stuff that would have been missed by spell check but should not have been missed by any high school newsletter editor. There was a huge number of these errors; I'd say one every two or three pages. It makes the reader wonder if the fact checking was as sloppy as the editing. The beginning chapters deal with the motivations and beliefs of Marx, Engels and Stalin, and go on quite a bit about Communist philosophy (especially "there is no God; Man is God"), theories on Nature and the origin of life (Communist short answer: it was random and that's all you need to know). Not real bracing stuff. The end of the book addresses the future threats of Communism and what we can do about it (Skousen short answer: be a good Christian), and also includes a relatively famous 45-point list of Communist goals, many of which have since been reached. Skousen seems pre-occupied with the fact that Communism is an atheistic organization and concludes that adhering to western Christian values is integral to protecting against the Red threat, even going as far as to suggest that western atheists and agnostics are human petri dishes for the Communist agenda. It was a narrow, myopic defense strategy in my opinion, particularly since it seems to me that just a history of the atrocities, tactics, and failures of Communism ought to be enough to teach western nations why a defense is necessary. Maybe I need to look for *that* book.
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just finished
Deep One
zadok_allen
softf

The worst thing about Stone of Farewell is the cover. Honestly, why would he be holding the arrow and mirror like that, and why is he holding the sword like it's a walking stick, and what's up with the Flock of Seagulls haircut? And YES, that IS a wall of butterflies behind him. What's really weird is that the cover art for the preceding and following novels is pretty normal. I'm willing to bring them to work with me, at any rate.

Most of this novel follows the survivors as they make their way to the Stone of Farewell, which I think might be their Helm's Deep. The pacing is great with frequent character switches similar to Game of Thrones - I never lost interest in the story. Character development slows down a little bit, with the biggest jumps being made by Miriamele - Simon's presumptive (really presumptive, considering her "development") love interest. Looking forward to starting the next book in this fantasy epic.

The Night Eternal is the final book in Guillermo del Toro's vampire trilogy. The world is completely overrun and controlled by the vamps with blood camps and human work details. It's almost a bit more dystopian than post-apocalypse in that respect. I think Guillermo had two major successes with this series. The first is the manner in which the three novels spanned the outbreak of the vampire menace, the fall of human control, and the emergence of a dark new world of oppression and predation. It was very organic. The second is the incredible amount of character development. I'm a big sucker for stories that show a character changing over time - good to evil, weak to tough, naive to wise, whatever - I like to see the change. By the end of this series many of the characters had turned 180 degrees in dramatic fashion. Doing that slowly over three novels takes some skill.

I've been happy to see that the FX series adaptation has gotten quite a bit better now that the vampire outbreak is in earnest. I was initially worried that the series might be cancelled before they had time to complete the plot, but Season 1 has 5 more episodes to go and it's already been renewed for a second 13-episode season. Looks like I'm in it for the long haul!
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NOW TO FILL THEM! (rubs hands together with glee)
re-animator
zadok_allen
shelves1

shelves2

Cost was about $120; pine boards were $70 (I didn't even price MDF - might have been able to save some there), braces were $30, and then $20 for paint, screws, etc. The shelves would have been fine with only three braces each, but I wouldn't have been able to space them on the studs with that number. I could have used drywall anchors, but that's more work and cost, and they still wouldn't have been as strong as screwing to the stud.

My initial plan was to try to use wooden braces - maybe a furring strip or a vertical divider, but again the stud placement came into play. The metal braces will be hidden by books eventually and then I suppose I'll finally be able to forget and forgive my lack of ingenuity in the carpentry department.

A much better use of space, though, eh? I'm pretty stoked about how they turned out and excited to start filling them up. :-)

just finished
Deep One
zadok_allen
tstf

Vampires novels usually rank pretty low with me largely because of the hyper-sexual, corsets-and capes, emo-goth, life-is-such-pain androgyny that follows the genre. I can't imagine how anyone can take those pop-collared tossers seriously. The vamps in Del Toro's trilogy, however, are much more similar to the nasty, wasted, stinking wall-crawlers like the Nosferatu, the Reapers in "Blade II" (also a Del Toro creation), or the Subsiders from "Daybreakers", and I vastly prefer those kinds of villains for vampire stories. I flew through both of these novels pretty quickly - they have perfect pacing in my opinion. I found it interesting that there are characters who are fairly analogous to Van Helsing, Quincey Morris and Jon and Mina Harker, but I think those similarities were unintentional. It appears that each book in the trilogy deals with a stage in the global vampire catastrophe - The Strain covers the discovery of the pandemic, The Fall covers the global collapse and other disasters associated with the pandemic, and I'm going to assume that The Night Eternal covers the human struggle to (maybe) overcome the vampires and survive in the new world.

My only criticism, aside from a grossly incorrect description of the visible effects of carbon monoxide poisoning on a corpse, is that Del Toro explains the characteristics of his vampires with both biological and supernatural properties - I'd prefer the author pick one or the other. I mean, if he wants to explain it as a virus or a parasite that modifies the organ structures of its host, I'll buy that, but if they turn to dust in sunlight, or all of the vampire's "children" die when the master is killed, he's got to come up with a biological explanation for that as well - not just go with "it's magic" or "that's how these vampires work".

There's currently a mini-series on FX for this trilogy. It's watchable but really pales in comparison to the books. The lead actors are pretty good, and the guy who plays Setrakian (Van Helsing) is the actor who plays Walder Frey in "Game of Thrones" and Argus Filch in "Harry Potter". My favorite character from the books, a Russian pest exterminator named Fet, (named after another famous mercenary, perhaps???) is played by Kevin Durand, who is unfortunately incapable of faking a good Russian accent. I probably wouldn't bother to follow the TV series if I haven't been enjoying the books so much.
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FML
Secrets of the Sith
zadok_allen
How to reduce 20 pounds of tomatoes to only four quarts of salsa:

romas
spilledsalsa2
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just finished
Deep One
zadok_allen


The Dragonbone Chair is a derivative but good fantasy epic. Williams admits freely in the prologue that he was heavily influenced by The Hobbit and "Gormenghast" and borrowed from their styles, and readers who have spent any significant time with the fantasy genre will certainly recognize the formula. It's a fun story, though, with knights, elves, trolls, dragons and the undead, so I'd expect anyone who digs that stuff to enjoy this book. One aspect of the novel that stood out to me is that the main character, a boy who becomes a young man over the course of events, is really not especially likable throughout most of the story. He's kind of a brat, really, and I'm anticipating that Williams is setting up a long game for character development over the duration of the trilogy. That kind of forethought is a great way of making readers fall in love with characters similar to Bilbo or Wulfgar or Raistlin, so I'm looking forward to getting into the rest of the series.

Stalingrad is another book I picked up just to learn more about the conflict in that area during the second World War. It's one of the most popular books I could find on the subject and much of the material is the latest that has been released by the Russian government. Considering the atrocities that occurred, it's frightening to imagine what they are still unquestionably keeping secret. The stories about gangrene, lice, starvation, typhus, frostbite, and treatment of POWs and wounded are as shocking as one might expect, but what especially surprised me was the way the Russians (soldiers, command, and political leaders) placed so little value on their own people. They seemed to sacrifice Russian lives as readily as they took German lives. They looted their own villages, refused to change tank and infantry tactics despite horrible losses, and they summarily executed their own men (estimates up to 30,000 of them) for as little as being seen reading enemy propaganda leaflets or griping about the war. They were victorious over the Germans by weight of numbers only - a true war of attrition. The book does tend to read like a casualty report at times, but there are enough anecdotes to make it read more like a story than a record. I'd have liked a little more detail about the weapons and equipment used during the war, but it's already a 400-page book so some limitations to scope are required.
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multiple nerdgasm
re-animator
zadok_allen
Fallout 4 Release Date (rumor)

"First and foremost, the game will take place in Boston...with buildings more on par with cyberpunk and retro-futurism...

Bethesda is currently looking at Lovecraftian fiction since Boston is around 'Lovecraft Country'..."

Still just scuttlebutt-level intel, and late 2015 even if it is true, but oh god do I hope they're right about the rumor of a Lovecraftian story line!

Coincidentally, yesterday I ordered the Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition ($17 on Amazon) since GTA V has not had the replay value I was hoping for.
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(no subject)
Deep One
zadok_allen


Armor is a military sci-fi novel, the title referring to the physical and mental constructions people utilize to protect themselves during times of violence. Humans are engaged in a war with a species of giant ant-like aliens, and the military equips its soldiers with suits of powered armor that give them superhuman strength and speed. They have rifles and grenades and other weapons, but the seemingly limitless numbers of ants means that they frequently deplete their ammo and resort to hand-to-hand fighting. It made me wonder why the human soldiers never develop or improvise weapons like the swords or axes you see in All You Need is Kill, but that's never addressed. The Ant War primarily follows Felix, a soldier who is repeatedly forced into high-threat combat drops due to a bureaucratic error but has the luck and uncanny skill to survive the odds. A second story line, involving a space pirate seeking to steal a fuel source from a rural planet, takes up a significant portion of the novel and is eventually tied in to Felix's story. This is a good sci-fi adventure novel - Steakley goes into great detail on the Ants, the power armor and the combat, and I also noticed a theme of surviving combat by assuming one's death is pre-ordained; a theme that is often seen in non-fiction accounts of war. There were a few details I didn't get - like whether or not there was some other quality that made Felix capable of surviving impossible odds (maybe something to do with the "Guardian" title later revealed), and also who "Eyes" on the planet Sanction was supposed to be or represent, but these unanswered questions didn't reduce my appreciation for the story. I think anyone who enjoyed Starship Troopers, All You Need is Kill, or The Forever War would also like Armor. I think The Forever War has still got my vote for favorite in the genre.

Hatchet is a superb wilderness survival novel involving a thirteen year-old boy stranded in the Canadian wilderness. It's definitely written at a young-adult reading level - I might put it at the 4th or 5th grade level but that number is clearly subjective. At any rate it was a little jarring for me to go to that kind of writing style since most of what I've been reading lately has been written for an adult audience. The only other minor gripe I have with the novel is that Brian's parents are getting a divorce and it keeps coming up in the story, but I couldn't figure out why it was important to the plot. After reading Gary Paulsen's biography (holy shit!) I'd conclude he was just working out some of his own demons. It's a quick, interesting read, though, and there's little wonder it's recommended so highly by folks who have an interest in bush craft, camping, hunting, and appreciation of the outdoors. Also, Brian's last spoken words are priceless. If anyone has continued with the Brian's Saga series I'd be very interested in hearing your opinions on it.
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Violence Erupts Over Scope Ring Shortage
Deep One
zadok_allen

full size

a break from the dirt bike
Deep One
zadok_allen
sdowtits

I picked up Six Days of War because I didn't know much of anything about the '67 Arab-Israel conflict. The war was an unmitigated disaster for Egypt, Syria and Jordan - it was so lopsided that it's quite easy to draw comparisons to the destruction of the Iraqi army by the Americans in the Gulf War - perhaps even more impressive since it was fought on three fronts. The first third of the book is an exhaustive account of the political maneuvering by the Arab states that provoked Israel into war, which moves a bit slowly but completes the important job of showing some of the grave mistakes the Arabs made. Nasser got caught up in his own propaganda, enjoying the swell of popular support he received when making threatening statements about "pushing the Jews into the sea", and removing UN peace-keeping forces from the border and replacing them with Egyptian tanks. He was like an obnoxious tourist at the zoo who provokes and teases the lion in its cage and realizes, too late, that he was within the reach of the lion's claws. Syria badly overestimated how much support from Russia it would receive in the conflict. Jordan allowed itself to be bullied into joining the aggression towards Israel - King Hussein signed his military over to Egyptian control only to see them used as cannon fodder for the Israeli army. There really are just too many interesting little details that would be missed by only reading a Wiki article on the war. And a final recommendation for this book: it has lots of maps and pictures. With all of those middle-eastern names, I'd have been lost if I hadn't been able to associate them with faces.

Tunnel in the Sky is a sci-fi survival novel that involves several groups of teenagers who are accidentally marooned on an alien planet during a practical final examination that was only supposed to last a matter of days. Struggles to find food, shelter, protection from wildlife and to establish a community are hashed out alongside struggles for power, often with violence. It draws inevitable comparisons to Lord of the Flies but I think it presents a more optimistic conclusion on human nature. I definitely enjoyed it more than Starship Troopers. The only thing I didn't get was, why is "stobor" the word "robots" spelled backwards?
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