Tag Archives: John Scalzi

Book Review: Old Man’s War

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi has been described as a book worthy of the “late, great Heinlen,” and while I’m certainly not as well read in that particular author as some, I would say that _OMW_ definitely has a very Heinlenesque feel to it. ((The book actually felt like a cross between Starship Troopers and I Will Fear No Evil.))

_Old Man’s War_ was wildly entertaining, riddled with wit and humor that kept me laughing all the way through while opening a window into a possible future where humanity has to fight in order to live and expand. The chronicles the experiences of John Perry as he leaves Earth at the ripe age of 75 to enlist in the Colonial Defense Forces and travels the universe fighting battles on numerous planets, battles which will help ensure that humanity will continue to survive in the universe.

_OMW_ is a quick read – it’s done almost before you realize it. It’s a simple read – light on deep philosophical ponderings ((Unlike a number of other science fiction novels I’ve read recently.)) with a smattering of hard sci-fi throughout (see, skip drives). The sarcasm and humor will keep you chuckling with almost every page turn, and the descriptions of technology and events will keep you entranced.

This was a _very_ fun read and much more light-natured than I expected. ((In hindsight, shouldn’t have been such a huge surprise; I have, after all, been reading Scalzi’s blog for quite some time now and have become fairly well-acquainted with his particular brand of humor.)) I’m already eager to get my hands on a copy of The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony, as well as a copy of The Sagan Diary. I think I’ve just become a Scalzi fan.

Upcoming Reviews: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Reading List

I’ve got a rather well-rounded speculative fiction reading list to start off the new year, courtesy of my wife and sister. Wanna see it?

  • “_Forever Odd_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780553588262&itm=1 – I’ve been a fan of Dean Koontz’s work for years. I’ve always enjoyed his ability to cross genres in nearly every single book. In high school and college, I’d collected a number of his titles. My interest scaled back in recent years, however, as some of his more recent books seemed, well, a little boring (i.e. _Ticktock_, _Intensity_, etc.). And I was disappointed that (to my knowledge) he never completed the _Fear Nothing_ trilogy – he left far too many questions unanswered at the end of the second book. His “_Odd Thomas_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780553584493&itm=1 trilogy, however, is fascinating and has drawn me back to his work. My wife bought me the second book in the trilogy, and it’s high on my priority list of books to read.
  • “_By the Light of the Moon_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780553582765&itm=1 – Continuing with the Dean Koontz theme, this book again adds to my Koontz collection. (I really need to take stock of my Koontz books again and figure out which ones I still need to get copies of.)
  • “_Eldest_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780375840609&itm=2 – My sister thrilled me by giving me a Limited Edition copy of Christopher Paolini’s second novel. Now, there are folks who think it’s ridiculous that adults have been so captivated by YA fiction like the _Harry Potter_ and “_Eragon_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780375826696&itm=2 series. Critics further complain that both series read like a junior high writing assignment. In Paolini’s case, it should be noted that he wrote _Eragon_ while still in high school and self-published it. Later, it was discovered by an editor of a major publishing house and reprinted on a large market. As such, I don’t mind the writing style of the first book. It’s a fun and interesting story, and I’m looking forward to digging into _Eldest_ and seeing how Paolini continues the story. I will, of course, have to re-read _Eragon_, though, since I need a refresher on events that have happened there.
  • “_The Protector’s War_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780451460776&itm=1 – This one is the sequel to S.M. Stirling’s “_Dies the Fire_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780451460417&itm=1. An unknown extraterrestrial force has rendered all technology on Earth useless, forcing people to fall back to more primitive ways of living. _Dies the Fire_ tells how people come together in tribes in order to survive. _The Protector’s War_ takes place eight years later, as one particular warlord seeks to destroy two tribes and take their lands. It’s an interesting and fascinating story, and I’m looking forward to checking in with some familiar characters again.
  • “_Old Man’s War_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780765348272&itm=2 – I’ve been eager to get my hands on some of Scalzi’s books since I stumbled across his blogs this past year. _OMW_ is the first in a trilogy and is Scalzi’s debut novel. It is followed by “_The Ghost Brigades_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780765315021&itm=1 and _The Last Colony_ (forthcoming), both of which I’ll be looking to lay hands on later this year. He’s also written a rather tongue-in-cheek novel titled “_The Android’s Dream_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780765309419&itm=1 that’s just hit bookshelves in the last couple of months.
  • “_Elantris_”:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780765350374&itm=1 – I first heard about Brandon Sanderson’s debut novel through Orson Scott Card’s writings. He had talked about it in one of his semi-frequent reviews, and being the OSC fanboy that I am, if he endorsed with such high praise, then it was something I definitely wanted for my own library. I was finally able to land a copy of _Elantris_, and I’m eager to tear into it.

I’ll be writing reviews for all these books as I complete them, so stay tuned here. Currently, I’m in the midst of Peter F. Hamilton’s 6-volume _Night’s Dawn Trilogy_, so once I complete that, I’ll begin working my way through the rest of these.

Regina Spektor

Thanks to “John Scalzi’s crush”:http://journals.aol.com/johnmscalzi/bytheway/entries/2006/12/29/your-friday-music-regina-spektor/6932, I’ve discovered talented pianist and singer “Regina Spektor”:http://www.reginaspektor.com. The piano talent alone captures me, but she has a beautiful voice, as well. ((She reminds me a little bit of Norah Jones.)) Her website has a number of her music videos. I especially liked the one for “Us.” ((And _that’s_ saying something – anyone who knows me knows that I don’t generally like music videos.))

I think I’ve just added a new artist to my list of favorites for CDs to collect.

End of Cursive?

John Scalzi “reported a little while back”:http://journals.aol.com/johnmscalzi/bytheway/entries/2006/10/11/cursive–doomed/6600 that, according to an MSN article (which is no longer available online, it seems), cursive handwriting is on its way out the door. While I can’t say as I’m overly surprised by this news, I do think it’s unfortunate. It could be the artsy-fartsy part of me, but I think there is a certain value to be found in being able to write by hand — and to be able to do so legibly. Printing your letters is all well and good; cursive is much faster. I have vague recollections of handwriting classes in the first and second grade, and I remember being ecstatic about learning how to finally write those mysterious letters I’d seen my parents use time and again that I (badly) tried to imitate. Later, when I was older, I found that cursive was a much faster way to write things down and that I actually had (and still have) rather nice penmanship.

Of course, the irony is that now that I’ve become more of a writer, handwriting is no longer practical for me. My brain rushes on much faster than my hand can keep up. I’ve noticed on multiple occasions that when I’m handwriting a long narrative, words and phrases just mysteriously drop off the page, sometimes making it difficult to figure out during the revision process what it was I had _intended_ to say. I type very quickly, and it is the only saving grace I have to make sure that my thoughts make it down to the printed page relatively intact.

With the advent of the computer, Blackberries, and text messaging, it’s no wonder that handwriting skills are flying the coop. We live in a digital age, where most forms of communication now speed along electric wires in the blink of an eye. There’s less need of handwriting in today’s technological world. And the bookworm in me thinks this is both sad and unfortunate.

Entertainment Value

John Scalzi has an interesting write-up on “Star Wars as entertainment”:http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004532.html. He posits that the _Star Wars_ series cannot be classified as entertainment because George Lucas didn’t create it to _be_ entertainment. Rather, Lucas, by his own admission, created it to be a mythology. Scalzi further states that this does not negate the fact that many _have_ been entertained by _Star Wars_, merely that it cannot, in and of itself, be classified as such. It’s a very interesting read, both from a fan’s perspective and from a writer’s perspective. The ensuing discussion in the comments natters on a bit, I think, about trivialities ((John does an excellent job of fielding the important points leveled.)), but the essay itself is well worth the read.

A Cause Worth Killing Trees For

“John Scalzi”:http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/ “writes on writing”:http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004072.html today and talks a little bit about the e-book. I think we both agree that the e-book will never completely replace the physical ink-on-paper book because:

bq. It’s convenient, the access is intuitive, and it’s cheap.

I completely agree. I have tried reading e-books, and it’s not easy. Scrolling down the screen is clunky and cumbersome, hitting the ‘Page Down’ button every time you are ready to move on, or using the scrollwheel on your mouse, or clicking repeatedly on the down arrow on the scrollbar. I did manage to read through a book on my Palm, at the expense of killing my battery and nearly wrecking my eyes. ((And it was a pretty bad book. No wonder it was a free download.)) It’s just difficult to flip through the pages of a book that has been digitally rendered.

Besides, there’s just something about holding a book in your hands. Books are highly portable, they’re easy to flip through and find just what you’re looking for, and they smell good (usually). There’s just something about reading a good book from actual, physical pages that going digital will just never be able to capture or replicate.

I have a fairly extensive personal library that is constantly growing, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the digital books in the world. As much as I love computers and love the storage capacity of digital, I still want all of my books sitting up on the shelf where I can see them and grab one if I want to.

I do agree, though, that digital is a potential boon for the short story. Already we are seeing a lot of bloggers who write short stories and post them out to their sites. Plus, I’m a regular subscriber to the IGMS(Intergalactic Medicine Show), which is a SF&F magazine that exists exclusively in the digital medium. And that works very well. It is nothing to sit down for a half hour or so and read down through a short story. But I sure wouldn’t want to read an entire novel like that. Give me my books any day.