Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs
Quirk, 2011

I stumbled across Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children while flipping through an issue of Entertainment Weekly several months ago. Written by Ransom Riggs the novel was inspired by a number of old and peculiar photographs discovered by the author. The pictures are strange and frequently creepy. This is a bit unfortunate since the book really lacks any sense of disturbing or strange atmosphere. This is more and adventure story but one that while enjoyable felt surprisingly bereft of anything truly memorable outside its use of photographs.

The novel centers around and is narrated by a young man named Jacob. As a child Jacob was very close to his immigrant grandfather who would share stories and pictures of the strange children at the orphanage where he grew up while simultaneously warning Jacob that there were monsters in the world. As he grew older he began to doubt his grandfather’s tales as mere flights of fancy. Then the sudden and strange events surrounding his supposed senile grandfather’s death shake Jacob’s world to the core and send him on a quest to find the truth regarding his grandfather’s youth.

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Review: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

A Feast for Crows
George R. R. Martin
Bantam, 2005

When it was first released A Feast for Crows was the target of a lot of anger for fans longing to reader more about many of their favorite characters. Roughly 400 pages shorter than A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows was a disappointment to fans more what it did not include than on the actual merits of its content. While on my first read through I’m willing to admit that I was amongst the displeased masses on my second read through I’ve come to appreciate many, if not all, of the different characters whose perspectives Martin uses in A Feast for Crows.
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Food for Though: Tyrion and Miles

While reading A Storm of Swords and A Clash of Kings I got to thinking of how Tyrion in many ways reminds me of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan.  And I noted that the patriarchal and martial-minded society of Westeros wasn’t too far off from the harsh and militaristic society of Bujold’s Barrayar.  Tyrion’s mother is often hinted at being one of the few people to get through Tywin’s hard outer shell much like how Cordelia Naismith was in some ways a softening influence on Aral Vorkosigan.

Miles and Tyrion are both quick-witted and intelligent and looked down upon by societies that value physical prowess over mental acuity.  Both overcome their infirmities and manage to participate in battles of various kinds (Miles as Admiral Naismith, Tyrion in the defense of Kings Landing) and both suffer a debilitating secondary injury that increases their physical frailty and/or deformity (Tyrion in the defense of Kings Landing and Miles is almost killed and suffers from seizures as a result of his cryofreezing).

Both characters offer up interesting examinations of the nature versus nurture discussion but I think in both cases either side of the argument might prove viable.  As my brain drew the links between these characters I had to wonder that if Joanna Lannister had survived his son’s birth who or what her son Tyrion might become.  Tywin is an interesting character in and of himself and several characters comment on his feelings regarding his wife over the course of the series and you might wonder at the kind of father he might have been with his wife at his side.  I’m sure it wouldn’t have been all sunshine and roses, this is George R. R. Martin we’re talking about here, but it is an interesting thought.  I think both Tyrion and Miles are products of their environments both in regards to the world they inhabit and the people that surround them.

They aren’t quite two sides to the same coin but they are about as close two characters in different genres can be.

The Reinvention of @thatkevinsmith

My road to becoming a podcast listener starts with radio. It was in the mid to late aughts when I was brought low by the collapse of CBS Radio/Clear Channel’s “Free FM” movement. The move to turn the two big radio stations in the two nearest cities into talk stations was one I had initially been against but over the year or so this lasted I had really come to appreciate the Free FM stations (94.1 WYSP in Philly and 92.3 WXRK in New York) populated with some often talented and frequently entertaining programing from the shock-jock stylings of the Kidd Chris Show, to the broader humor of the Penn Jillette’s Penn Radio, to the anger infused rantings of Nick Dipalo, and the return of Opie and Anthony to terrestrial radio the Free FM years, and the months following were a veritable gold mine of some creative, occasionally offensive, radio. It all ended of course. By 2007 92.3 WXRK (aka WFNY aka KROCK) had reverted to their original formats. In 2008 94.1 WYSP returned to its classic rock format and by 2009 Opie and Anthony were gone as 92.3 abandoned rock and talk to switch its format to Alternative as Now FM.

I haven’t really listened to radio since. While I was never a pest I had absolutely no desire to listen to Danny Bonaduce. Thankfully, it was about this time (maybe a little earlier) that I stumbled across SModcast and the world of podcasts. If you’ve been living under a rock it is suffice to say that podcasts are sort of like radio shows without the bullshit and typically free. SModcast is the podcast of writer/director Kevin Smith and his frequent collaborator and friend Scott Mosier. As a guy who grew up and still lives in New Jersey and who bonded with friends over all of Smith’s films (except Jersey Girl) stumbling upon SModcast was a major win.

Over the last several years SModcast has grown into a rather large collection of podcasts. In fact, it has grown so much that in May of this year Smith launched SModcast Internet Radio, or SIR, a 24/7 stream of live and archived content. Monday through Friday Smith hosts a show with his wife (Plus One Per Diem) followed by a show with Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob Get Jobs). Those two shows alone generate roughly 5 hours of content a day, but throw in the other podcasts hosted on SIR and you have a veritable mountain of aural content available for your listening pleasure.

All of it uncensored.

All of it unburdened by regulations.

All of it absolutely 100% free.

Who the hell wants to listen to the radio?

The strange brew that brought about this strange network of similarly humored yet surprisingly diverse individuals really hammers home the power of 21st century social networking. In a little more than a year Smith and the SModcast crew opened up a live theater to host podcasts, Smodcastle, and were successful enough that the operation outgrew its home and moved to a new location, The Jon Lovitz Podcast Theater (aka the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club) (for more details on SModcastle listen to SModcast #176). Through a combination of creative energy, excessive tweeting, and a tremendous enthusiasm Smith has reinvented himself as he heads into his self-proclaimed final years as a director and we’re the ones reaping all the benefits.   As the media goes batshit criticizing how Smith is handling his own creative child (Red State) the emergence of SIR has been soundly ignored.  As an information professional the emergence of SIR is a fascinating confluence of the right level technology at the right time with the right people. As Smith himself said in a recent podcast, “We’re in the 21st Century bitch!”

If you want to check out SIR and the SModcast family you might start by visiting Smodcast.com, or downloading Stitcher to your mobile platform of choice, or heading on over to the SIRmon.

On Dolorous Edd. Also, A Clash o Kings

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings
George R. R. Martin
Bantam, 1999

Some people might tell you that A Clash of Kings broadened scope and fresh perspectives are what make it such an engrossing read. Some might say that Tyrion’s scheming is top notch, or the Hound really gets some fantastic character moments. But really the thing that makes A Clash of Kings worth reading is one man. Dolorous Edd Tollett.

Introduced on page 180 (of the ebook version) as follows:

 Jon was paired with dour Eddison Tollett, a squire grey of hair and thin as a pike, whom the other brothers called Dolorous Edd. “Bad enough the dead come walking,” he said to Jon as they crossed the village, “now the Old Bear wants them talking as well? No good will come of that, I’ll warrant. And whose to say bones wouldn’t lie? Why should death make a man truthful, or even clever? The dead are likely dull fellows, full of tedious complaints—the ground’s too cold, my gravestone should be larger, why does he have more worms than I do…

That last bit is brilliant. But it only gets better. I chuckled at this line “All I smell is the shit of two hundred horses. And this stew. Which has a similar smell now that I come to sniff it.” Dolorous Edd has a pretty strong following on the internet, particularly as he is a character whose primary job is to complain with droll humor. I can’t say why in particular Dolorous Edd enchanted me as much as he did but I found myself looking forward Jon Snow’s chapters in A Clash of Kings more as a result. For such an event and plot driven novel that Martin has such command over the characterization of even the most minor players is impressive almost beyond belief.

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Review: 7th Sigma by Steven Gould

7th Sigma by Stephen Gould
7th Sigma by Stephen Gould

7th Sigma
Steven Gould
Tor, 2011

Steven Gould is perhaps best known for his novel Jumper originally released in 1992 and later adapted into a film in 2008. I found the film enjoyable if somewhat forgettable and regrettable only in that it managed to line the pockets of Hayden Christensen. Burried in a box of ARCs from Baker and Taylor I found Gould’s most recent novel, 7th Sigma, and immediately cued in on the idea giant metal eating bugs.

In 7th Sigma a plague of metal devouring bugs of mysterious origin overran the American southwest some 50 years ago. The government cordoned off the region with a bug-repelling barrier and the area, now known as the Territory, has become something a no-man’s land populated by the stubborn, the hardened, and often the unwanted. Our story, or stories depending on how you look at it, center around the irascible rapscallion known as Kimble. Kimble, a young teen, has been surviving on his own in the Territory ever since his drunk of father passed away using his wits and martial arts skills to say on the up and up. Life still isn’t easy and he quickly latches onto Ruth Munroe, a pioneer type setting out set up a new Aikido dojo.

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June Summary

The Last Page by Anthony Huso

The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larsen

Dreadnought by Jack Campbell

Star Wars: Conviction (FotJ #7) by Aaron Allston

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

City of Ruins by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Evermore by Alyson Noel

June looks a lot more productive than it felt.  I really fell off the wagon with the 30 Day Challenge Posts, I might still do a catch all for the last couple, but I think its time might be past.  Summer is always a bit rough, what with the siren call of sun and fun but I’ve been trying to keep up with my reading.  I’ve also been playing a lot of  Dragon Age II.  Despite my grumbling during pre-release I’ve really been enjoying it.  With some minor exceptions Dragon Age II is in many ways an improvement over the first game.  I’m almost done with A Clash of Kings which leaves me at sort of a crossroads.  I had initially pegged A Dance With Dragons as a late July release but everywhere now says July 12.  My ability to hold off and wait is extremely suspect so I don’t know if I’m going to attempt to buckle down and power through A Storm of Swords  and A Feast for Crows (that’s a lot of pages for 13 days of reading).  This will likely be a last minute decision.  The bizarre decision on my part to read Evermore will tie into a few more YA reads starting with a review of Stephen Gould’s 7th Sigma; on deck are The Dead-Tossed Waves and Rot & Ruin.  I am also in the middle of Hexed by Kevin Hearne (in audio) and even took a detour to checkout Preston and Child’s latest Gideon’s Sword (not-sff) in audio.