Review: Backup by Jim Butcher


Jim Butcher

Subterranean Press, 2008

SPOILER NOTE:  If you aren’t up-to-date on Butcher’s Dresden Files (at least up to Death Masks) now would be a could time to stop reading this review.

The titular wizard from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files is mostly absent from Backup, a short novella available from Subterranean Press, which instead focuses Thomas Raith; Harry’s vampiric half-brother.  It is a standalone story that does little to advance any of the plots from the main series but manages to flesh out Thomas as a character and add an interesting new detail about the world of Harry Dresden.

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Review: The January Dancer by Michael Flynn

The January Dancer

Michael Flynn

Tor Books, 2008

Everything in the universe is older than it seems.  Blame Einstein for that.  We see what a thing was when the light left it, and that was long ago.  Nothing in the night sky is contemporary, not to us, not to one another.  Ancient stars exploded into ruin before their sparkle ever caught our eyes; those glimpsed in glowing “nurseries” were crones before we witnessed their birth.  Everything we marvel at is already gone.

So begins The January Dancer a modern space opera full of the action, politics, and mystery told with poetic language and deft touch.  The book opens up with the appearance of a mysterious bard seeking the story of the titular January Dancer (which goes by a number of other names throughout the story) a mysterious stone that twists its shape. Thereafter the novel unfolds on two levels: the story, told by the scarred man at the harper’s behest, and the interaction between the bard and the scarred man.  Both are interesting in their own right with the italicized sections detailing the conversation between the bard and the scarred man providing a kind of running commentary not only the story itself, but on the nature of stories in general.

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Not Quite Nirvana: A Look at Fallout 3

Title: Fallout 3

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Platform: PC (my specs below)

Intel Core 2 Duo 6750 OC’d to 3.0 ghz
4 GB DDR2 (CAS 15)
Nvidia 8800 GTS 512 (some minor OCing here too)
Resolution: 1680×1250
Windows Vista Ultimate, 64 bit

Progress: 20+ hours on normal, not yet finished the main quest.

Performance: Solid throughout.  I didn’t do any true benchmarking; I’m not anal enough to monitor my frickin’ FPS all the time.  I only noticed some occasional  chug in areas with complex lighting.  Settings are on high with 2x AA and (I think) 8x AF.  I’m sure additional tweaking on my part could get things running a bit smoother.  A more modern GPU (Radeon 4870, or 4850, or the newest nivdia chips) should not struggle at all with this game.

Review: I’m addicted to Fallout 3.  When I’m not playing it, I’m thinking about and when I am playing time seems to just disappear.  It has been a long time since a game has done that to me.  Stalker, came close but it never dominated my out of game thoughts quite as much as Fallout 3 does.  That being said I’m going to jump into the negative aspects first because they are there, and they’re glaring.  While the game certainly deserves praise for its entertainment value, art direction, and sheer detail I find the mound of perfect/near perfect reviews a bit embarrassing.

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RIP Michael Chrichton

For those that haven’t read already Michael Crichton passed away on Tuesday.  While I wasn’t a big fan of some of his later work his earlier novels certainly had an impact on my reading during my adolescent/teen years, and at the very least are strongly entwined with my memories of that time.  Strange as it might sound he is an author I will always associate with long car rides.

Back when we had time for big family ski vacations we would always pick out an audiobook to listen to during our car rides to Vermont.  My strongest memories are of Crichton’s books: Jurassic Park (to a lesser extent, The Lost World), The Sphere, and Congo.  I remember falling asleep during the way home and rushing to my room when we finally arrived so I could listen to the end.  While he isn’t often seen on lists of “genre authors,” and he never won a “genre award” (he did win an Edgar Allan Poe award though) Crichton was was probably my first introduction to science fiction.

So Mr. Crichton, thanks for the memories.  You will be missed.

Review: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight Twilight
Stephanie Meyer
Little, Brown and Young, 2006
J: I mean I’m sure it’s written well and that’s kind of why I don’t want to read it.

Me: Wait, you mean you don’t want read it because you’re afraid you might like it?

J: Um….yeah.

That little snippet of dialogue occurred with me and a co-worker at the bookstore a couple weeks ago when discussing Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight.  I’m not sure if those feelings accurately reflect the majority of the male demographic but I begin to suspect it consists of more than are willing to admit.  As for me, well I already had a number of facts working against me; at the top of that heap is probably the fact that I watched every episode of Dawson’s Creek (I’ll barely mention my near miss with a dangerous Hills addiction;I have since made sure that any background television programming is of the harmless cartoon or sitcom variety).  So, needless to say, my tolerance for teen angst and melodrama is, in a word, enormous.  It is probably worth mentioning my belief that every book, no matter how terrible/ridiculous, has its audience (see “Oh No John Ringo!” for excellent reference).  Unfortunately, for those expecting a sarcastic review laden with outrageous incredulity, I found Twilight to be far from terrible though occasionally veering sharply into the ridiculous.

Read on for my review or skip it and head over to the Toasted Scimitar for the review you probably expected.

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Review: An Evil Guest By Gene Wolfe

An Evil Guest

Gene Wolfe

Tor Book, 2008

I was extremely excited to read this novel.  A noirsih pulp action title by one of my favorite fantasy authors?  How could I not like it?  Well, it turns out I was only partially right.  I didn’t “not” like it but I didn’t love it either.  To make matters even worse Caitlin R. Kiernan’s spotlight review (from Publisher’s Weekly) mentions the Lovecraft Mythos as what I took as a prominent factor but I found that element wasn’t as apparent as I would have liked.  I admit my expectations were rather high when I picked up the novel so maybe the fault is mine.

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