Monday, October 29, 2007

Rambling of a....

I guess, I'll let the lot of you decide just what these are the ramblings of.

Anyways, we've gotten the house mostly unpacked, and have finally gotten that wonderful cable package which includes high-speed internet. Let me tell you, I am glorying in the feel of once more being connected to the world at large.

Of course, this brave new world that I've managed to stumble into (colloquially called Madison) does provide some interesting odds and ends. First, there is an active Star Wars group in the area. Secondly, there are a number of used bookstores (one just down the street from me). And finally, I'm still amused by the architecture of the place.

Of course, my boys are enjoying themselves here as well. For the past two days we've been dodging my eldest boy's Galactic Heroes, and of course there is this:

Yes, that is my son coming back from the backyard, lightsabre in hand, looking for all the world like a fine rendition of Darth Emo. Of course yesterday evening, me and the boy there went out into that backyard and proceeded to smack the two sabres together. I looked over to the door to find my beloved taking photos of that.

I fear that they'll soon find their way to MySpace or something similar.

Or worse, she used the video option.

Anyways, related to Star Wars, I do have a few books I need to procure in that particular franchise. And then read and write up reviews for them.

Leading on to my other bit about reviews, and the fact that I need to finish up my reviews for Hal Spacejock and His Majesty's Dragon, and I should be adding The Jade Throne to that list in just a few days as well.

Finally, on the anime front, I've so far behind I could cry. Sadly (well, not really sadly, but you get the idea) I've managed to inundate myself with the potential for anime. I now have Anime Network On Demand and Adult Swim On Demand, in addition to having a handy-dandy DVR these days to record anime when it comes on for later viewing.

I so love technology.

But, AnimeMonday has nothing at all for tonight as they're caught up in the Halloween mishmash of stuff. Next week (Nov. 5) has Karas The Revolution airing. It's a movie, so I'll give it a try. The week after that we go back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Suddenly Sci Fi

Well, physically, I have completed the move from Pensacola to Madison, MS. Spiritually; around half of our worldly possessions are still in boxes in the garage. Additionally, I've started my new job with my new company, SAKS, Incorporated. Yes, that SAKS. Bad news is that while I have connectivity at work (provided that it is not abused) I am still lacking it at home. More information about THAT can be found here. In theory, Comcast will have someone out there on Sunday to hook up my brand spanking new digital cable, DVR and high-speed internet.

I'm all giddy like.

I mean it's been days upon end without the 'net and that sucks big time, and then couple that with the fact that it's been cold and rainy all week, and that means the boy is going a bit stir-crazy, and driving my wife bonkers as well. I mean, we have that big yard, and it's too cold and wet to banish… err… send him out to play in it. Regardless, I managed to get the TV and DVD player hooked up, just in time for my son to watch our brand new copy of Meet the Robinsons, ah, the future as Art Deco.

Personally, I still cringe at the thought.

Anyways, I've been horridly neglectful of all things online while I systematically ripped apart my life and began the long process of rebuilding it in a highly-divergent way. The good news is that I have a few reviews to put together for the site, including ones for Hal Spacejock, His Majesty's Dragon and The Jade Throne. Also, I'll hopefully be getting my copy of the Death Star novel sometime this upcoming week. Then, I have two stories that were emailed to me (they're online in blogs) which I'll take a peek at and write reviews for.

But back on the digital cable/DVR bandwagon, I now have the ability to record shows without the hassle of tapes, so expect me to be more interested in the television. Also, I should have access to the OnDemand library of anime from the Anime Network. That should be interesting.

Speaking of anime though, I came across a website in my RSS Reader this morning entitled AnimeThat. An interesting concept, basically it's a link index for animes that appear on VEOH or YouTube. At first I was highly interested, but as I read more, including their legal notice, I realized that it wasn't quite as interesting as I had initially hoped.


Sadly, I'm lacking anything really interesting here beyond this. After all, I've been without TV and the Internet for a bit, and to top it all off, I didn't even get my PC set up until last night (and I've still not hooked up my printer or scanner).

But, come Sunday morning, I'll have my lifeline back, and once more be able to immerse myself in the heady flow of information and digital images.

Good times…

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Morning Rambling....

Well, it's another Monday morning, and yet again time for some more random thoughts from yours truly.

First and foremost, be aware that I've don't have a lot of time these days, as I've stated in the past, I'm in the midst of moving, and lack a lot of time, what's worse is that all of my books and movies are in various boxes, save for two novels: Hal Spacejock and His Majesty's Dragon. Speaking of Hal Spacejock, Simon Haynes, the author of the series, runs monthly contests on his website for free copies of the novel, I can't tell you encourage you enough to go here and apply. Second bit about Hal Spacejock is that I've finished the novel and am in the midst of writing the review. Like everything else in my life at the moment, it's rather slow going.

There are two episodes of Noein tonight, two episodes next week, and then AniMonday takes a week off for Halloween. While I should get to watch tonight's episodes, I'm not certain that I'll have cable yet for next weeks. Nor am I certain that I'll have internet next week to actually update the blogs.

Other anime news, there are a few SF based series out this season, including Dragonauts and Blue Drop. I'm not certain how many episodes of Blue Drop I'll watch, as the manga it is based on is yuri, but the first two episodes of Dragonauts do look good. Outside of that it's the usual mish-mash of anime tropes, with a healthy dose of magical/fantasy based ones. Lastly, we can't forget Key's Clannad, which is the same folks that created Air and Kanon, is out there and being shone. As always from the Key/Kyoto Animation folks it's some beautiful work.

Saturday, I had a cute story to put up here about my kids and something one of them said that was highly Star Wars-ish, but apparently I didn't write it down and thus I've forgotten exactly what it was.


Finally, as is to be expected, I've once more given up on television. I don't know what it is, but most shows on there just don't hold my attention. Most of the time, I'm happy about that, but occasionally, I do wonder about what the rest of the nation is doing in relation to entertainment. I mean, one of my good friends told me that Flash Gordan had come up with an actual plot line. Anyways, I think it might be because, despite some things being labeled SF, most things that are show, really aren't. Anyone else has thoughts on that?

Friday, October 12, 2007

The New Captain America has revealed the new outfit for Captain America to mush gushing love from their PR department. Understandable, because that's what PR departments are for. It's a design by the undeniably wonderfully artist Alex Ross.

Personally, I'm of two minds of the thing. Part of me WANTS to like the outfit, but in the end, I fear it's just giving me a headache. I liked the chain-mail outfit, but I can see the appeal of this new body armor version.

What I don't understand is the need to include a gun and a knife.

Cap was supposed to be this great hero who embodied the American Ideal, which included not being an offensive hero, but rather a defensive, reactive.

But, I guess that's more the modern age, and even after a while, I can handle the gun.

At least until I read the article, and the reasonings for the inclusion of the gun. Ross said this about the new design:

It's a more brutish interpretation, at this point, for the modern age.
That annoyed me. A lot.

Rather than having a hero that did things the old-fashioned way. The way of the non-brutes. We now have another dark, depressing hero who is willing to kill to defeat the bad guys. Ho-hum.

If I had wanted that, I'd have read the Punisher.

Bad form, Marvel.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Darth Bane: Rule of Two Covers

I guess that the Rule of Two is now the official title for the Darth Bane sequel, because that's what the Official Site is reporting in addition to the front/back covers.

Go see!

Do You Read Your RSS Feed?

I spent all last night goofing off with some friends who were in town from Kentucky, top that all off with the packing, and I managed to not read or watch or even think about SF last night. A sad state of affairs to be certain, but one that appears to be the case.

So, when I got up this morning and went to consider which bit of text I was going to put up this morning, imagine my surprise when I had nothing. Zilch. Nothing at all. In shock, I rushed over to GoogleDocs and hunted for unposted reviews.

And came up with the exact same thing.

So, what's a SF/Geek blog to do on such things? Why turn to GoogleReader of course!

So, the first thing I stumbled across was an article at entitled Video and the Anime Star. It's an article discussing AMV's (Anime Music Video) and specifically the AMV Hell series. Sure, it ultimately ends up as a nearly 800 word endorsement for AMV Hell, but it's still an interesting read.

Next there's the stuff about a new version of Land of the Lost, one starring Will Ferrell and promises to be as funny as a broken nose. That same website also posted an interesting article about Fox's well-known hate of all things SF. Frankly, I think they're still upset that George Lucas talked them out of the licensing rights to Star Wars.

In the "oooo, I want" category, there's reports of a new near-mint copy of Detective Comics #27, which debuted Batman, surfacing and getting into the market place. One has to wonder why my parents/grandparents couldn't have kept such things for me to find in various and sundry attics. Oh well.

And finally, we're still getting fallout from the brouhaha over the SFWA's illegally formed DMCA take down notices to SCRIBD. Specifically, is reporting that Dr. Burt (who I still think just wants money out of SCRIBD for his content search algorithm) has lost his objectivity and attacked Doctorow over this situation. What's saddest is that Burt used the Critters.Com newsletter to push through that particular attack against him.

I've got to admit that I'm highly interested in this whole situation. The latest is Dr. Burt and Jerry Pournelle talking about Doctorow's repost of a story by Ursula Le Guin that he found on Ansible.

One which he had edited to strip most of it away once he discovered that she didn't want him re-posting the article. And he didn't even need DMCA take-down notices to do so.

Of course what amuses me is that Burt and Pournelle are whining that Doctorow's posting just happened to create all these pirated copies of the Le Guin piece, forgetting that it was posted in its entirety on another website first.

The final thing is an interesting comment that Pournelle wrote in regards to the Le Guin issue:

One presumes that Doctorow will plead his copyright violation was a mistake. It is not an explanation that he would accept from SFWA.
Frankly, I believe that it is not an explanation that he should accept from SFWA. Burt in his rush to push out DMCA takedown notices did two things wrong:
  1. Did not obey the LAW in ensuring that he had the right to take down every requested document
  2. Did not obey the LAW in how he formed his DMCA takedown notices
Additionally, Burt was acting as an officer of the SFWA when he did this, legally he was the SFWA. Doctorow's mistake was as a journalist, and it was a mistake which he corrected and retracted.

Pournelle has also written that he's surprised that so many people are jumping up to defend pirates. I'm confused by that statement, and surprised that someone who builds software, and in theory should know how the internet works, would make such a statement.

First, let us remember that SCRIBD is NOT a pirate. They are a file share repository. Huge difference. This is how SCRIBD describes themselves:
Scribd is a Silicon Valley startup creating technology that makes it easy to share documents online. You can think of Scribd as a big online library where everyone can publish original content, including you!

Part of the idea behind Scribd is that everyone has a lot of documents sitting around on their computers that only they can read. With Scribd we hope to unlock this information by putting it on the web.
Then consider that they don't generate content. Nothing on their website is theirs. All they do is provide the tools used to share the data. It's the same way that BitTorrent, Flickr, YouTube, and thousands of other sites work. It's a business model that the DMCA protects by saying that a website is not responsible for what the users of that website pushes up to its servers.

Calling SCRIBD a pirate because their users post copyrighted works to the site is the same as calling Wal-Mart a thief because they take your money.

Sure, from a certain point of view it's true, but it's not the whole truth.

SCRIBD provides a perfectly legal function, and can be used as described in their TOS and their "About Us" in a perfectly legal manner. In that same way, they can be used in an illegal manner. But again, the DMCA protects them, provided that they obey any and all legally created DMCA takedown notices.

Well, that's all the time I have for this today as I've got to get to work, and have a few other odds an ends to do. But, I do wonder what everyone else thinks about this whole SFWA issue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Review: Shakugan no Shana

Shakugan no Shana (灼眼のシャナ or literally Shana of the Blazing Eyes) originally started life as a light novel (basically, it's an illustrated novel aimed primarily at children). Then in 2002 it was translated into a manga, and got the anime treatment in 2005, and even generated a couple of video games. This review though is for the movie version released in 2007. The synopsis on Anime-Source for the 2005 anime is listed as thus:

Not long after he had entered high school, Sakai Yuji's normal days were finished. He saw something strange on his way home; people were frozen in fire, and a monster looking like a large doll assaulted them. When he was about to be killed, a girl in black cloth holding a large sword appeared, and cut the monster into halves. Although Yuji pulled though the crisis, the girl informed him of a hopeless fact..... He's already dead.
Fortunately, it fits the movie just as well as the anime. The movie basically tells the story of the original novel. How that fits in with the first season of the anime I'm unsure as I've not seen it.

Anyways, the plot is a decent bit of fantasy fluff, building up to the big fight in the end. For what its worth, it's a decent plot. There's nothing exciting or necessarily new about it, but it's handled efficiently and is well done.

For the characters, there are three main characters. The first is Sakai Yuji, who is the male protagonist. He's an average high school student, at least until he discovers the little fact that he's dead.

Second is the female protagonist, named by Yuji as Shana. She's a "Flame Haze" someone who fights the creatures that are going around eating the existences of regular humans.

Finally, the antagonist is called the Hunter, Friange (at least if I remember correctly). Truth be told, we're not given a whole lot of characterization for him, which seems to be a bit of a drawback with things based upon light novels.

Probably the character who gets the most characterization growth is Shana herself. At the start of the movie, she considers him an object, and considers herself about the same. It is Yuji, and his need to humanize her, that she acquires a name and slowly comes to accept Yuji as human.

Artwork is really well done. Of course since it is a movie, that is to be expected. The character designs themselves I liked, and enjoyed the particle effects that her hair and eyes would take when she was in "powered" mode.

As usual, I was fairly oblivious to the music.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. There were a few scenes that served no purpose outside of fan service but that was just lingering too long on a character's legs or something similar. At the moment, I'm hoping that it'll provide enough of a background that I can understand the second season of the anime and not feel hopelessly lost while watching it. Yet standing on its own as a movie, it's a fun story, with great characters.

In the end, I have to give this a 3.5 out of 4.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ani-Monday for October 8

Okay, last night was Ani-Monday as usual. I didn't watch the first two episodes they offered, but did manage to watch two episodes of Noein. The first was about Huraka's capture by Shangri'la, while the second deals with another of the Dragon Knights coming back to Huraka's time plane in order to destroy Karasu. She then disconnects herself from the pipeline and stays behind in this time plane with Karasu.

So what does all that mean? I have no clue. All I know is that I'm still enjoying the series.

Anyways, next week we have two more episodes of Virus Buster Serge and two episodes of Noein. This state of affairs will last the rest of October, with us getting a movie on November 5 (Karas: The Revolution) and November 26 (Black Jack). Mixed in with those movies are more Serge, Noein and a single episode of Street Fighter Alpha.

After Ani-Monday went off the air last night, I grabbed up my DVD of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi (涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱 Suzumiya Haruhi no Yūutsu) volume 1 and spun it up on my PC.

Have to say that it was quite enjoyable. Now, all I've got to do is convince the wife that I need the rest of the series.

Monday Morning Rambling

As those who read this thing over the weekend knows, I'm in the process of moving, and spent the weekend in my new city hunting for a house. While there, I did buy a DVD, and pointed out to my wife how lovely a ForceFX lightsaber would look on all those mantles we saw. When I went to watch the DVD (as I was in dire need of an anime fix) I discovered that the WinXP laptop I had with me did not come with DVD playback codecs, despite the fact that it contains a DVD player. I was less than pleased with HP over that, of course it's probably not their fault as that's a company laptop, so it probably got left off on purpose. Which also explains why I didn't bother downloading a codec for playback. Of course that gave me more time to read, so it was a fine trade off.

But I digress.

SF-wise, I don't have a lot to report. I'll have finished reading Hal Spacejock this week, so I should have a review of that up for you kind folks soon. Second thing is that last week there was a bit on Gizmodo about a 21 foot X-Wing model that was designed to fly with solid-state rockets. The kind that are in model rockets and all. Well, they launched it, and you can see it here. I found it... amusing.

Beyond that, I've got nothing.

Of course, on the anime front, we have Ani-Monday tonight, though I'll only be watching the last hour of it, to catch the two episodes of Noein. As far as fansubs are concerned, this weekend must have been the great release date for the fall series. I come back, and find a whole host of things with 1's by their names. What new shows I downloaded are:

  • Clannad
  • Goshuushosama Ninomiya-kun
  • Da Capo II
  • Shakugan no Shana Second
  • Blue Drop
Of course, I'm not certain if I'll keep up with all of those, as I've not even watched all of them.
Then to top that annoyance off, I've also just downloaded the Sky Girls and Nanaho StrikerS series so that I can watch and review them as well (because I was starting to lack in the animes that I was watching regularly). Sky Girls is a 12 episode series that's finished airing already while Nanaho is at least 25 because that's the last release they made. I'm still waiting for ef-A Tale of Memories to get released, but there's been no movement there.

Oh well, in the end it's not that important.

On final note, don't forget that Transformers and The Invisible get released on DVD on October 16, and Spider-man 3 on Octorber 30. In re-release news Poltergeist and A Clockwork Orange are getting special DVD editions pushed out this month. What movie are you eagerly anticipating as an arrival on DVD? If any.

Friday, October 5, 2007


If you've been paying attention then you'll remember that we're in Jackson doing some house hunting stuff. Well, after dinner (yummy sushi!) we thought it would be a good idea to drive around a bit, do things like locate the local Salvation Army corps. Well, we drove past the mall, and decided to stop. While wondering around, I spied an FYE. I like FYE, unfortunately, we lack one in Pensacola. Well, I went wondering, and found myself in the ANIME section.

That's when I spied it.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya volume 1 on DVD.

It's not surprising that I found it, after all, they even have one of those plastic placards for it. What is surprising is the price. It had a big ole $9.99 sticker on it. I've been wanting to see this series, so I quickly snatched it up and bought it.

Anyways, while we were checking I saw something else.

A Luke Skywalker ForceFX Lightsaber. I picked up one in the box, and then the guy behind the counter turned around and snatched up the display model, and passed it over. So, there I was, a big smile on my face, swinging around that ForceFX saber. I've long loved the Master Replica lightsabers, and since I first heard about them have wanted one. I've always wondered which I'd want more, the limited editions hilts or the ForceFX sabers. Frankly, the answer is both, but unfortunately, my money is needed elsewhere.

Well, my wife finished buying the DVD and her CD and walked over to me. She frowned, and asked "Just where do you think we would put that?"

I looked up at her, and realized something. Every house we looked at today had a fireplace. So, I grinned at her, and answered with full honesty, "Why, it goes on the mantel dear."

She just rolled her eyes and shook her head.

Friday Morning Rambling...

Well we're here in the middle of Mississippi, and are about to go forth to look at houses. I'm about a third of the way into Hal Spacejock and am enjoying it. More on that in a week or so. Of particular interest is that Mr. Haynes autographed it for me as well. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I didn't notice it at first. It was on the second page, and I just didn't see it until today when I was flipping through the front pages looking for publishing dates (which since it's an Australian novel, happens to be at the back).

My own obliviousness aside, I'm on a slight dearth of good SF news at the moment. I'm a bit too tired to think critically enough to generate new essays, and since I'm just under 5 hours away from my desktop and my own internet connection, I don't even have any anime's to watch this weekend. Oh well, sometime soon I'll get caught up on Nanaho StrikerS, Sky Girls and actually watch School Days.

This month we are going to get some new Star Wars novels and Transformers comes to DVD. I'm happy about that. I got a great kick out of that movie, though my son was a bit... bored during the first hour or so of it. Basically, the entire portion of the movie where there were no Transformers. Got so bad, that he was asking to go home. Maybe it just needed more spaceships.

While looking through the cable company information, it is possible that I could get the Anime Network VOD channel. I can imagine it now, all anime all the time, and it's included in the price of Digital Cable. I can hear my wife groaning already.

Alas, time to go to the hotel's lobby and get some breakfast before the realtor arrives.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Review: Sōkō no Strain

Sōkō no Strain (奏光のストレイン), also written out in English as Soukou no Strain, is a 12 episode anime series that ran from November 1, 2006 until February 14, 2007. This is a scifi/mecha/seinen show, which means it's basically the same thing as a prime-time drama here in the States. This is one of those cartoons that I'm talking about when I say that not everything animated is for children. Interestingly enough, this particular anime plays with some of the standards for its genres/demographics. For example, most mecha series are populated by a predominately male cast, while here it's predominately female, and most of those men are killed off. Especially if they're romantically interested in the lead character.Anyways, has this as a synopsis:

Ralph Werec becomes a highly respected pilot and the best "Reasoner" of the military. The one now following his footsteps is Sarah Werec (his sister). Hoping that they once again will meet, Sarah trains to become a respectable Reasoner. During schooling, the area she resides in goes (sic) under attack, and she loses important colleagues. She becomes reunited again with her beloved brother; however, she discovers that he is instead the enemy.
Frankly, that describes the first episode nearly perfectly, which of course sets up the series, and the main conflict of Sara needing to find out why Ralph has done what he did. That overarching storyline of conflict between siblings is the basis of a number of the episode's plots, and frankly is incredibly emotionally damaging for the lead character.

Who of course is Sarah Werec (and goes by the name Sarah Cruz after her brother attacks Grabera). She starts out the anime as a fairly well adjusted young woman, who seriously wants to see her brother again, which means going to the front lines of the war as a Reasoner. She was pretty much the best of her class at Grabera, with a close circle of friends/squad-mates, including a romantic interest. But after the massacre at Grabera she develops into something of a moody, introvert, and loses her status as a Reasoner. It is from this state that she must once again climb from the ranks of the lesser pilots to a Reasoner. Yet despite everything she suffers, she is completely focused on learning the truth. She wants to know what happened to her brother, and once she starts to learn, that translates exactly into a desire to stop her brother at all costs. Of particular interest is Sarah's love life here. She seems to be oblivious to the males who are interested in her romantically, and then they die. Frankly, it's emotionally draining, and even during a re-watch session of this anime, I felt bad for the girl.

Opposite of Sarah is her brother Ralph. I complained the other day in my review of The Stonehenge Gate that that novel was in dire need of a antagonist. Well, Ralph here fits the bill perfectly for an antagonist. While his motives start out mysterious, they are defined by the end of the series, additionally, he propels Sarah on the course of the anime. He is the reason she fights so hard to get to the front lines-at first just to see him again, then to ask him why and finally to stop him no matter the cost. Frankly, he's one of the better villains that I've come across recently. Insane enough to be fun, but understandable enough to remain fully human.

The remaining characters all have well defined personalities, but we don't get to spend as much time with them (outside of Lottie and Emily) as we do with Sarah. Frankly, the wikipedia entry details these characters better than I would, so just go read about them there if you're interested.

Since this is a mecha series, we need to talk a bit about them. Basically, there are two types: Strains and Tumors. The Strains are used by the Union forces (the good guys of the series) and Ralph Werec. They're piloted and in general very powerful things. Tumors are used by the Deague (the bad guys here), they're fully robotic and display hints of a swarm intelligence. The final bit of robotic technology is also Union, and those are the Gambees, they're the "worker bees" for the Union, but much slower and less-advanced than the Strains.

The art is well done, but the battle scenes could have been better, they tended to be a series of lines and then explosions. One bit of realism found here that I liked was the fact that most of the mechas here were all the same, which is a far cry from traditional mecha series where everyone has a customized robot. Additionally, I love the character designs, especially for the lead and the rest of the "Space Squadron" that she joins up with after she becomes Sarah Cruz.

Of course, outside the pretty pictures, the character development, the fighting or even the mechas, the emotions and situations which the characters find themselves in are the diamonds for this show. The lead starts out happy, with her MIMIC (a couple of her brain cells removed in vitro , and raised to help a Reasoner control a Strain) and a wide circle of friends. Before this episode is done, that entire world of hers is shattered. Her MIMIC destroyed, her friends dead, and her name slandered all because of the actions of her brother. Then it is from this, emotionally devastated, point, that the character really starts to suffer.

I can admit that I like this show. A lot. It does have pretty pictures, but above and beyond that, it has a great plot, and wonderful characters. The only drawback to the series is the occasional ecchi-factors. They served no true purpose for the characters or plot, and are there merely as fan-service. I can understand the reasoning that it was put in, after all, this is a show that ran at night, aimed at men 18-30 years old. Yet understanding why something is there is a far cry from there being an actual need for it being there.

In the end, I'll give this a 3.7 out of 4, with that .3 drop being solely due to the unnecessary fan-service.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Used Bookstore!

In my continuing research into my upcoming move, I'm doing random searches on the internet as I think up of things that I'm interested in. This led to my discovery of Galaxy of Stars SF convention. I'm still wondering about the legitimacy of that particular con. I think it would be so awesome to have a con to go to, but at the same time, I'm hesitant to throw money at that company in order to do so.

Oh well, back to my continuing research and NET adventures in moving.

Today, those searches have led to my discovery of a store in Ridgeland called the Bookshelf whose website claims to have 125 thousand paperback/hardback books in stock. You should see the people around the office cringe at the happy dance I'm doing.

Of slightly less interest is the Book Rack, which has stores in Jackson, Clinton and Pearl. I'm less interested because their website describes them as a paperback reseller. While I don't mind paperback, hard covers are what I really like.

Much to my wife's dismay.

And my back's dismay as I pack them all up and move the boxes around the apartment.

Google gives a few more returns for used bookstores, and also remember that a lot of these used bookstores don't have websites. So it's highly possible that there's all sort of used books for me to peruse and get. I mean, I've been wanting a copy of Niven's Ringworld for a while now, yet neither of the two used bookstores in this town has a copy, though it has been months since I've been to one of them as it's out of the way.

And just to make this post a bit more SF related, DrewK has updated his blog over at saying that he's handed in the manuscript for the PoD sequel to the powers that be. I can admit to looking forward to this novel. In fact, I'm doing another of those happy dances that gets me odd looks from co-workers. Additionally, the blog lists a December 26 release date for the novel, so I won't be getting it for Christmas. Now Boxing Day...

Review: The Stonehenge Gate

Well, this is the final review of the last batch of books I got out of the West Florida Regional Library, and will probably be one of the last book reviews that I write for a week or so (tomorrow's review of the anime kō no Strain will be the last review until I can get settled in a new house). I'm in the midst of moving, so I have very little time. I am reading Hal Spacejock but since I'm spending a lot of time packing most of my reading this week will probably be at the end of the week as we go on a house-buying trip to our new city.

But all of that is neither here nor there. We're here to talk about Jack Williamson's 2005 novel The Stonehenge Gate (ISBN: 0765308975). It's a moderate sized novel, with the hardcover edition clocking in at 316 pages. The dust jacket blurb reads:

A dark mystery has been buried beneath the sands of the Sahara desert since the beginning of time. In a basement in New Mexico, four poker buddies find reason to believe that a startling secret is out there...

These four amateur adventurers are about to uncover the key that could unlock the vast reaches of the universe.

A sudden burst of curiosity propels mild-mannered English professor Will Stone and his three friends to the Sahara to excavate a site where radar has evidently detected huge, assembled stones hidden beneath the sand. There they stumble upon an ancient artifact that will change their lives, and the world, forever...a gateway between planets, linking Earth to distant worlds, where they will discover wonders and terrors beyond imagining.

Jack Williamson, the dean of science fiction writers, weaves an exciting tale that takes the friends to the far corners of the universe. One leads an oppressed people to freedom. Another uncovers clues that could identify a long-dormant civilization of immortal beings. Now each traveler must play a crucial role in unraveling an ancient mystery, the solution to which may reveal the true origins of the human race.

If they can just survive their journeys back to earth...
You know. I wanted to be excited about this. I did. Really. Sure, this is a story that has been done before; one of my favorite movies, and my third favorite Heinlein novel uses a similar concept. Of course they're not done exactly the same, but I just loved Stargate and while I know that not even Stargate originated the concept of linked gateways to different locations (as it's been a fantasy trope for many-many years now, and Heinlein used it in SF the mid-fifties), I think that Stargate did it best (though, like I said, I am fond of Tunnel in the Sky).

But, all that aside, this is still a review of this book, and despite the overt similarities, I'll try to not allow my love for that particular movie impose on this review.

The plot of this book is simple. Four friends find these stones that look like Stonehenge, and will take you to various worlds. At which time they get separated and start spending a lot of time plodding around the universe trying to find one another and earth. Basically, it's Stargate mixed with Sliders (I know I said I would try to not let my love impose on the review, but that's a comparison, so it's fine). Execution wise, there's nothing wrong with this plot. It is pushed forward relatively swiftly but a decent pace does not always make a good read. After all, no matter how well a plot is executed, piss-poor characters can leave it quite dead.

The primary character here is Will Stone, professor of English at some university in New Mexico, with his three co-protagonists. He's an odd duck for POV character, in the fact that he's not a scientist, he's not athletic. In short, he's not the sort of person that one usually reads stories about. Frankly, he's a bit of a boor, and I didn't particularly care for him one way or the other. Which lead to a serious lack of dramatic tension in those parts of the books where we're supposed to care for him.

Will's poker buddies are as follows: Derek Ironcraft (astronomy & physics), Lupe Vargas (archeology) and Ram... well, it was something, but I couldn't find it in the first dozen or so pages when I looked for it. Nor is it explained exactly what he teaches. Ram is said to have assisted Vargas on a dig, but I think that's as close to anything as it gets. Sadly, because the story is in first person, and Will's that person, we don't get a lot of characterization from these guys. Of course compared to the various antagonists that pop up throughout the story, these four have well defined personas, with unique views, thoughts and emotions all succinctly expressed.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

Settings though... ah, the beautiful settings. There are some beautifully described settings in this book, but for an English professor, this guy sees a lot of things. Truthfully, it's just another point deducted from the character, as he's an English professor. Now, if he had been an art professor or someone who taught something like mechanical engineering or biology, or basically anything where he would be constantly looking at the environment, and trained to notice details, well, it would have made sense. Yet, Stone is an English teacher - and please don't think I'm smacking on English teachers but let's be honest, unless they have a background in art or some other details-oriented field, most people don't see the details unless they're specifically looking for something. Things would be shoved into pre-existing concepts, rather than new detailed analysis. For example, most people would see a forest, and thus describe it as trees, as opposed to a description on the types of trees appearing most predominately, the lone tree that is different different colors of bark, etc.

Oh well.

Beyond that, the mechanics were well and good, I can't remember anything that my mind flagged as an issue.

In the end though, I just didn't like this book, and am extremely glad that it came from the library rather than a purchase I made at the bookstore (even the used bookstore which I frequent). The lack of a dedicated antagonist left us without a sense of something happening, and that coupled with the poor protagonist made me not even care when he was in danger from one of books mini-antagonists. Those two influences, cancel out the well wrought mechanics and execution of the plot itself, leaving me with a lackluster feeling about the book in general.

Frankly, I just did not like it that much, so I have to give it a 1.0 out of 4.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Ani-Monday for October 1

Well, last night we got the first two episodes of Virus Buster Serge. Frankly, I was highly disappointed. This anime was produced back in 1997 so I'm not sure what I was expecting. Scratch that, I was hoping for something as interesting as Ghost in the Shell. Wikipedia offers this synopsis for the series:

In the year 2097 in the city of Neo Hong Kong, man and machine have melded nicely and the city has been blooming with technological advances. However, an entity that takes over the machines called the Virus is becoming a problem. For this problem, there exists the organization STAND equipped with their Gears (machine suits) led by the mysterious Raven. The latest member of the team is Serge, a man who cannot remember his past and thought joining STAND and confronting Raven would help him better understand. Little does he know how important he will become to the whole Virus conflict.
From it I had thought there might be something interesting. Yet nooo... we get horrid character designs, fan service and female characters who occasionally display cat's (or maybe vampire) teeth and wear thigh-high go-go boots as part of their duty uniform (as opposed to the body armor they use during combat situations). Then to top all of that off, it was boring.

I was very sad, as I was hoping for two solid hours of interesting anime, but I was bored by the first episode, and struggled to watch the second. To be honest, I was probably more focused on the pc monitor than the television during it.

But hey, at least we got two episodes of Noein last night, which were great as usual.

In the first episode, Memories, we get to see Yuu being jealous of the attention that Haruka pays his older self, Karasu. Additionally, we get some emotional angst from Haruka as her powers flip her through time and then a heart-to-heart between Karasu and Yuu makes him realize a thing or two. The final bit of happening here involves Haruka learning a bit more about her power, what's she capable of, and what she's able to actually see in relation to her past. It's a nice break from the action of the previous episodes, and furthers the characters rather decently.

For episode two of Noein (SHANGRI-LA), we get to see a bit more of the main antagonist of the series, Noein. We're right on track for the usual track for these animes, in that the early antagonist has now joined forces with the heroes, as the real bad guy appears. Additionally, the action appears to be ramping up again, and it promises to be a fun ride. Well, at least that's my hope.

Next week, we get two more episodes of Virus Buster Serge and then two more episodes of Noein. What that means is that I'll probably once more resort to watching a single hour of Ani-Monday's fare and ignore Virus Buster Serge, I just wish they hadn't pushed Noein back to the 11 PM slot.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Monday Morning Rambling...

Monday morning has once more reared its fearsome head, depriving us mere mortals of our beloved weekends. I did have a sci-fi based story about my eldest son all ready to go yesterday, but for some reason, this morning, my mind's drawing a blank when I try to recall what it is. As for my youngest, we tried on his Halloween costume on Saturday, and I've got to say it's great! We'll have pictures of it up later on this month.

Personal news is that I'll be moving from Pensacola, FL to Jackson, MS to take a new job. Later this week, we're taking the weekend for a home-hunting trip, so we'll see how much time I have at the end of it to do anything site-wise. Expect no, to little, updates the week of Oct 15th as that is the week we're actually moving.

This week on Animonday, we have two episodes of Noein in the last hour, but for the first hour we get the first two episodes of Virus Buster Serge. It's a mecha series, which Wikipedia provides this as a synopsis for:

In the year 2097 in the city of Neo Hong Kong, man and machine have melded nicely and the city has been blooming with technological advances. However, an entity that takes over the machines called the Virus is becoming a problem. For this problem, there exists the organization STAND equipped with their Gears (machine suits) led by the mysterious Raven. The latest member of the team is Serge, a man who cannot remember his past and thought joining STAND and confronting Raven would help him better understand. Little does he know how important he will become to the whole Virus conflict.
We'll have to see how well it comes out. Speaking of mecha anime though, I re-watched the anime Sōkō no Strain (奏光のストレイン) over the weekend (like I really had time for it) and will be putting up a series review sometime soon. Anyhow, here's what has to say about it:
Ralph Werec becomes a highly respected pilot and the best "Reasoner" of the military. The one now following his footsteps is Sarah Werec (his sister). Hoping that they once again will meet, Sarah trains to become a respectable Reasoner. During schooling, the area she resides in goes under attack, and she loses important colleagues. She becomes reunited again with her beloved brother; however, she discovers that he is instead the enemy.
Well, that's enough about that.

On the review front, I've finished The Stonehenge Gate and have started Hal Spacejock. As I mentioned above, I'm taking a trip this weekend, so I'll probably be reading Hal Spacejock during that drive. has an interview with Adrian Paul (Highlander: The Source) regarding the future of the Highlander franchise in light of the death of William Panzer (the creative side of the duo that produced the original film) earlier this year. Personally, I'm hoping that they'll let it die a slow, comfortable death, surrounded by its family and friends. After all, there's only so many times a franchise can be kicked and mauled by raving tigers before the fans decide it's not worth watching the next bit of drivel produced.

Though what really irks me from that particular interview is this quote attributed to Paul:
They do have an animated series that they're about to launch, which lends it to a younger [audience].
Someday, I really, really hope that the general populace of North America will get it through their collective thick skulls that animated does not equal children's. There are a number of anime's that I wouldn't let a young child see, just because they're not emotionally ready to deal with the things being shown and the themes of the series--and that's even before we get into a discussion on ecchi or hentai.

That said, how much younger of an audience do they expect for a franchise who's prime gimmick is the chopping off of other people's heads?

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