Dec 312016

Ok, so as I posted earlier, I didn’t do any reviews this year, but I consumed a ton of content. Some may be from 2015, but it is hard to remember. I’m going to provide a list with some highlights and recommendations

  • Audiobooks
    • Elantris – Brandon Sanderson: Good stanalone book, one of his earlier works. Interesting premise – people get a disease and are forced to live in the remnants of a once great city. They cannot be killed, but also cannot heal. Each injury never heals, and never stops hurting.
    • Mistborn Trilogy (1-3) – Brandon Sanderson: One of my favorites this year, very unique set of magic systems
    • Alloy of Law / Shadows of Self / The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn novels)- Brandon Sanderson: continuation in a different time period, also very good
    • The Rithmatist – Brandon Sanderson: Another unique magic system, aimed more at the YA audience, but I enjoyed it.
    • Pandora’s Star / Judas Unchained – Peter F. Hamilton: Second favorite series of the year, be warned, some explicit adult situations
    • Lock In (Amber Besson’s narration) – John Scalzi: unique premise, police procedural
    • Android’s Dream – John Scalzi: another unique premise, enjoyable
    • Redshirts – John Scalzi: must read for any Star Trek fan! won 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel
    • Agent to the Stars – John Scalzi: I didn’t really care for this one, too much focus on talent agency politics, interesting premise though.
    • Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi: Good book, reboot of “Little Fuzzy”
    • The Dispatcher – John Scalzi: Novella, another interesting premise by Scalzi
    • Ready Player One – Earnest Cline: One of my favorite standalone novels of the year – must read for anyone that grew up in the 80’s
    • Armada – Earnest Cline: Lackluster followup, skip it. Cline doesn’t dodge the fact that he ripped the premise off of “The Last Starfighter” movie from the 80’s.
    • Undying Mercenaries Book 1-4 – B.V. Larson: Sci-Fi Military fiction. Lots of violence, a little sex. I got these super cheap at $1.99 a pop, would not recommend spending a full Audible credit on them.
    • Year Zero – Rob Reid: I read this in book format back in 2012. Premise is that aliens unwittingly pirate enough music from Earth to bankrupt the galaxy. The solution? Destroy Earth! Remeinds me a bit of The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    • Altered Carbon / Broken Angels – Richard K. Morgan: Great audiobooks, a couple of my favorite from this year. Lots of violence and a little sex, so be warned. I’m finishing up reading the 3rd book Woken Furies as the narrator changed and didn’t bother to read up on how to pronounce the main character’s last name.
    • Alien: Out of the Shadows (An Audible Original Drama – Full Cast) – Tim Lebbon & Dirk Maggs: Free from Audible, OK if you like the Alien universe
    • American Gods (Full Cast) – Neil Gaiman: Maybe the best standalone audiobook of the year. The performances were perfect and the story engaging. This is soon to be made into aTV series on Showtime I think.
    • Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman: Decent book, narrated by Gaiman himself
    • Hyperion (full cast) / The Fall of Hyperion / Endymion / The Rise of Endymion – Dan Simmons – ABSOLUTE FAVORITE SERIES OF THE YEAR. I cannot count how many times I cought myself thinking back on the stories. I’ll definitely be listening to these again in the future. A good amount of violence and some sex as well, so be warned.
    • The Fountains of Paradise – Arthur C. Clarke: decent book that introduced the idea of the space elevator
    • Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke: ending literally gave me shivers up my spine – The Syfy TV miniseries was just loosely related to the book. Skip that and read this!
  • Books
    • Old Man’s War series (Book 1-6) – John Scalzi: Very interesting premise. Each book seemed to have a new perspective, not like a continuation of the previous ones. I’ll try to explain it a bit more if I have time to go back and review the books individually.
    • Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue – Hugh Howey: YA related, checked it out and it really wasn’t for me
    • Beacon 23: The Complete Novel – Hugh Howey: guy stuck on the edge of the galaxy, a bit of a psychological thriller toward the end
    • Stories of Your Life and Others – Ted Chiang: good collection of stories
  • Short Story
    • Paper Menagerie – Ken Liu – ending gave me shivers up my spine as well, very good story

That’s it for now. I don’t think I have time to list TV. maybe next year!

Posted by Stettin
Dec 312016

I think the theme of 2016 for me was procrastination regarding this site. I had planned on reviewing The Force Awakens when I got back from Christmas vacation, but I kept putting it off. I certainly did not stop listening to, reading, or watching Sci-Fi. The last movie I watched was actually Rogue One, which was great! I guess I’m a bit selfish, as I certainly could have carved out the time to write reviews, but I had other priorities. I was working with my wife on a  job search that took up almost all most of my free time, and hers. What free time I did have was spent watching TV to unwind after applying for jobs. We didn’t start keeping track until June, but between then and October we applied to 50 different jobs. In the end I found possibly the best job out of them all, in an area we want to live. Hopefully in 2017 I can possibly circle back and write up some high level reviews of stuff from 2016. My commute now is just over an hour on public transit, so I’ll be plowing through audiobooks like crazy at roughly 2 hours a day. I’ll try to take some time for posts about new books, movies, and games in 2017, but no promises!

Posted by Stettin
Sep 302015

Book Cover

When I was looking for what to spend some of my first Audible credits on, The Martian by Andy Weir stood out. This still ranks at the top of roughly 15 audiobooks I’ve listened to for two reasons. First, the story and writing was engaging. This was “hardest” sci-fi I’ve read so far. There is a lot of math, chemistry, physics, and botany (yes botany). I’m sure that many people would be put off by such dry and detailed descriptions, but that leads me to my second point. The performance of the narrator, R.C. Bray, was superb. He made the “hard science” interesting and entertaining. His voice strikes me as a perfect fit for the main character, Mark Watney. Do yourself a favor and listen to the 5 minute sample on Audible and judge for yourself. While the book focuses on his Watney’s mission log, R.C. Bray does voices for other characters in NASA back on Earth. The voices are OK, nothing but nothing spectacular. I can’t say there is anything wrong, but there are other narrators with a stronger skill for differing character voices. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Sep 032015

I recently started using Overdrive, a digital library site that my local library participates in. I stumbled across Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction. A Princess of Mars was just the first of dozens of stories, novellas, and novels strung together with commentary on Science Fiction as a genre. I thought it would be interesting to branch out to some older stuff that I normally have not had a chance to get to.

A Princess of Mars was originally published in 1912 in All-Story Magazine under the title “Under the Moons of Mars” by Normal Bean. The story begins with the narrator explaining that he is relaying a manuscript given to him in book form. He goes over a brief biography of the main character, John Carter, known as Captain Jack Carter of Virginia — an American Civil War veteran. John finished the manuscript the shortly before his death in 1886. The manuscript begins normal enough, talking about how John and one of his friends were prospecting for gold out West. They found a good spot, and the friend was going to head back to get proper papers for staking the claim. John happens to notice three dots in the distance in the direction his friend departed, and after investigating is convinced that Apache Indians are pursuing his friend. Not much of a spoiler, but here it goes — he tries to save his friend and fails, then finds himself chased into a cave. This is where the story takes a turn toward science fiction. After a brief series of events that I won’t get into, John finds himself in some type of out of body experience then wakes up on Mars. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Jun 232015

HeirToTheEmpire.jpg
HeirToTheEmpire” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

When I heard about production of Star Wars Episode VII and the ensuing controversy about the Expanded Universe vs canon, I started thinking about reading Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy again. I first read the books almost 25 years ago! I decided that I didn’t really care if the new movies conflicted with the books. I remembered being blown away, so figured they were worth reading again. These books were a very important to me at the time because it was my first real taste of Star Wars outside of the theatrical films. There were other books released before this, but the Thrawn Trilogy marked the resurgence of my interest in Star Wars.

I’ll admit that I’ve been a bad reviewer and powered through the series without stopping to write my reviews. I normally read on my lunch breaks at work and have not had hardly any time outside of work and family life to devote to reviews as I did just a few years ago.

After reading just a few chapters of Heir to the Empire, I realized that there was quite a bit that I didn’t remember, including a rather large plot line that ran through the last two books (Dark Force Rising and The Last Command). Toward the end of The Last Command, I came across a huge plot twist that I had absolutely no memory of until just before it was revealed. I’m simply amazed at how much of this series I couldn’t remember. In a way, it was a blessing because I almost experienced the book for the first time again. This was kind of weird for me as I always thought I had an excellent memory when it came to books. I gave my wife a hard time about not remembering some fairly important stuff in the Wheel of Time series, despite her reading it at least 3 times through from beginning to end as new books came out. At the time I had only read the series once through. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Dec 302014

Book Cover

I usually prefer reading books, but I have about a 15 minute drive to work which over time adds up to a lot of wasted time listening to the radio. A few years ago I listened to Steven King’s Dark Tower series, which took me over a year of trips to work. After Robert Jordan died and his Wheel of Time series was finished up by Brandon Sanderson, I revisited the books I already read on audio as I didn’t want to dedicated reading time to catching up, then read the new ones. This time I wanted ONE book, not a series so I after some digging around I came across Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I’ve previously read Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon. I really enjoyed Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, however Cryptonomicon was insanely long. I about half way through, I started to feel fatigued and found myself just looking forward to the end. Given the length of Anathem, I knew I didn’t really want to dedicate that amount of reading time to the book. I normally read about 15-20 minutes a day during my lunch break at work, so it would have taken forever for me to finish. The audiobook format seemed like a good fit. In the end, it took me about 2 months to make it through the 32 + hours. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Nov 102014

Home_Alone_Boy1

Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

This is it! Isaac Asimov’s Foundation will finally make it to visual media. After the rights passing through a few hands, they’ve finally made their way to HBO. Check out the entire article at The Wrap where Jonah Nolan talks about the new project. I’ll definitely keeping tabs on the development. No dates were given, so I’ll try to hold back most of my excitement until I hear more.

The Wrap via The Verge

Posted by Stettin
Oct 062014

I’m going to try something new and post a deal on a book that I plan on reading. There’s a Kindle edition sale on The Robot Chronicles for just 99 cents! This is a compilation of recent stories from a wide range of authors. I’m a huge fan of robot stories so this is sure to be a dollar well spent. Reviewing Asimov’s complete Robot & Foundation Universe was one of the main reasons I created this site.  One of the newer authors I’ve been reading is Hugh Howey, featured in this compilation. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his Wool/Shift/Dust series (sadly not reviewed yet) and look forward to his approach on this subject. This will also be a good opportunity to explore some other authors.

The print price is $15.99, with the Kindle edition going to $5.99 just over 5 days from the time of this posting. Buy now, for less than the cost of a soda!

Posted by Stettin
Jun 082014

For anyone interested in an “open Internet” (not as the big cable companies and wireless carriers define it), take a look at this entertaining coverage of the new Net Neutrality proposal by the FCC. Please comment on the new proposal at the FCC website.

You can also learn more at the Entertainment Consumers Association website here. Through the ECA website, you can provide your information and it will generate form letters for your local representatives in Congress, the President of the United States, and the FCC.

Posted by Stettin
Jan 022014

I just ran across an article on Isaac Asimov’s predictions for 2014 from 50 years ago. I was thinking of a blog post to start out the year, and this popped out as a good opportunity. As anyone that reads this blog should know, Isaac Asimov is my favorite writer. His birthday is unknown for certain, but he chose to celebrate it on January 2nd. More information here. Anyway, back in 1964 at The World’s Fair, he made a few predictions. Some of the more accurate ones are below describing video phones, Robots, vehicular robots (Google car?), “Wall Screens” (not quite yet but very close), and a eerily accurate population estimate.

“Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”

“Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”

“Vehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”

“Wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set; but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible.”

“The world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000.”

Some of the more comical misses are below:

“Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014.”

“The most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!”

I also have a prediction for today, the birth of a friend’s baby that is now one week overdue. It would be awesome to share a birthday with Isaac Asimov, right?

For the complete list and link to the original article, click the links below.

Via Open Culture

New York Times

Posted by Stettin

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