An interesting aspect of Orson Scott Card's The Lost Gate was that it had a clear protagonist, and another character that was sort of half-protagonist and half-antagonist. On the full-protagonist side, you had Danny North, newly minted Gate Mage on the run from his family, who would try to exploit his powers to their advantage, but also on the run from the other mage families who would rather kill him than let his family use him.
(This is probably going to be very unclear to anyone who hasn't read The Lost Gate. It's worth reading, so go and do so.)
But on the other half-protagonist side, you had Wad, the enigmatic Gate Thief of Westil whose motivations as half-antagonist were somewhat unclear, though he seemed to be someone worth rooting for. So it was strange and sort of tragic to have a confrontation between Danny and Wad as the climax of The Lost Gate. (Though the other antagonists were also present.)
The Gate Thief goes a long way toward fleshing out Wad as a character and a definite PROtagonist of his own story, even if he still has a dark side. But Orson Scott Card subtly introduced the real Big Bad of the series in The Lost Gate, enough so that you didn't feel his lack in the first book, and the anticipation of his reveal consumed the second one.
It's interesting to me how middle books sway between being the Best of the Series and suffering from Middle Book Syndrome. For instance, I thought Catching Fire was the highlight of the Hunger Games series, but Xenocide is the unarguable low point of the Speaker series (counting it as three books and not including Ender's Game, which isn't really fair but it's my blog and hence my rules).
As far as all that goes, The Gate Thief is on the good side, being a really solid second entry in the series and setting things up beautifully for the third volume. Concepts alluded to in the first book finally come to fruition in the sequel, from the evils of Man Magery to the existence and dread of the mage or mages called Bel. We finally learn why the Gate Thief closed the gates and robbed so many aspiring gate mages of their powers. We even get a deeper (and terrifying) look at what kind of destruction wind and fire mages could cause.
I think I generally enjoyed both the Earth and Westil-based stories equally in the first book. In this one, I was much more interested in the Westil side, and maybe that means that OSC was right to go with the title he chose. Because the character of Wad was so compelling as to make most of the others look a bit ordinary. But maybe that's just me. I still enjoyed the portions of the story dealing with Danny and his gradual development as a character, particularly in his interactions with his group of drowther (Muggle) friends.
I think I'll leave it there for now. I'm very much looking forward to the final installment in this series, just to see what OSC does now that he's revealed the Big Bad. Plus there's this other thing about if Wad is going to be a hero or an anti-hero. But I should stop now.
Next up is Ben Bova's Farside, the first print (well, NOOK) entry of his in my reading ledger. I'm also reading probably eight other things, though I suspect I'll finish The Vegetarian Myth next. And it's a doozy.
I read all the time. I do my Bible reading first thing in the morning, generally before breakfast and over coffee (on coffee days, at least). Thenn between checking my work email and getting ready for the day, I'll often read a few pages in whichever book I'm enjoying (which is sometimes difficult if I'm reading seven of them!)
I read when I'm in a long line (or even a fairly short one), or when walking in from my car on days that aren't too rainy (NOOK Color stands up to a bit of precip without too much trouble and certainly better than a paperback does), and before bed and pretty much anytime I've got time. And sometimes when I don't.
But the sad reality of life is that it interferes with my reading, and I'm forced to point my eyes in the direction of less interesting but more profitable things (if we're counting earning a living as profitable compared with reading!). Fortunately, this non-reading time often allows my ears to take up the slack.
It's true that I listen to a dozen or so audiobooks during the year, but they're not a consistent thing. I'll often listen to during my commute (which isn't long, so it takes a while to plow through) or at my desk, or while working in my kitchen (yes, I cook). But I also listen to a variety of podcasts and radio shows of varying frequencies. Here's a quick list, with subheadings:
Science: (I'm looking for more of these, so recommend away.)
Star Talk Radio (~weekly)– This is Neil deGrasse Tyson's radio show, dealing generally with subjects germane to astronomy or astrophysics, but also veering into other sciences and topical issues. Science funding is one of his hobby horses, and I have to say he's got me on his side when it comes to increasing government expenditures for science. (If they'd stop wasting it on the Department of Education, maybe we'd have some leftover…)
The Guardian Science Weekly Podcast (weekly) – This one covers a range of subjects, and I pick it up when the introductory blurb looks good and ignore it the rest of the time.
Love, Sex, Death and Books (in its own good time)– Dan Wilbur of Better Book Titles hosts this intimate (often quite intimate) show with an author or authors, and despite my initial misgivings of Dan as a host, it's a terrific podcast. Warning: content may be unsuitable for the easily offended. Look at the title and consider.
Baseball: (I won't even pretend I'm interested in other sports.)
Behind the Dish (weekly but should be more frequenterer)– Keith Law's excellent snark-filled weekly baseball show, this is my new "Move to the top of the queue" show. (Previous holder of that title: Baseball Today---dearly departed---whenever Keith was on.)
Baseball Tonight (daily) – The successor to the departed Baseball Today, how we miss it, and not entirely equal to it. Buster Olney may not be the host Eric Karabell was, but he's had some terrific interviews on the show thus far. (His interview about hitting with Joey Votto a couple of weeks ago was awesome.)
Rob Has a Podcast (bi-weekly-ish) – File this under guilty pleasures. This is where I get my Survivor/Amazing Race recaps and commentary, from none other than "the smartest player to have never won Survivor," Rob Cesternino.
Sci-Guys Podcast (couple of times a month) – All things science-fiction, from TV to film to books, this is another one I take in now and then depending on the topic(s). I also like to tune in for Short-Shorts with William Van Winkle (I knew him when…).
Unbelievable (weekly) – Justin Brierley's terrific UK apologetics show, typically featuring a Christian and non-Christian in dialogue on a range of topics. Always interesting.
Rethinking Hell (no discernable schedule but still awesome) – This one is dedicated to defending the Evangelical Conditionalist view of Hell (sometimes called Annihilationism).
Woodland Hills Church Sermon Podcast (weekly)– Greg Boyd's challenging teaching. Sometimes I don't want to listen, which normally means I should.
The Preterist Podcast (all too infrequent) - Dee Dee Warren ably defends the partial-preterist position on interpreting Bible prophecy. Especially recommended if you don't know what I'm talking about.
Any other podlisteners out there? Did I miss anything?
Every time the NOOK Blog announces a Free Fridays title, helpful commenters point out other available free titles. Most of these have a tendency to be less than appealing to me, but when I saw Out of This World: All the Cool Things You Wanted to Know About Space linked there, I grabbed it figuring it was a.) a short science book, and b.) free. The fact that it's a Young Adult title was just so much gravy, because I really want to hook my son on science.
I actually figured that I wouldn't get much out of the book other than another title on my list of Books Read in 2013, but I was pleasantly surprised. I haven't really done that much reading about astronomy, so I guess I shouldn't have been shocked that I didn't know everything there was to know. (This is me being self-aware and humble. Or something.)
The first thing I learned, and that I hadn't really given much thought to, is that the dark side of the moon isn't, you know, dark. We just call it that because the view from Earth never changes, phases notwithstanding. Since the moon rotates in the same time as it revolves around Earth, we always see the same side. So the other side is unknown and therefore Dark, much as Africa was known as The Dark Continent before Europeans knew much about it.
As I read this book, I noticed a few not-quite-American turns of phrase and thought the language style was a bit on the British side, but not so much that just anyone would notice. But as someone who's a bit of a linguistics nerd (without knowing much about actual languages), I picked up on it. And sure enough, there's a UK version of the book subtitled All the Cool Bits About Space. And isn't that a much better subtitle? Thought you'd agree.
I'm having my son the Pancake Eater give this one a read, though he'd rather read the entire Percy Jackson & The Olympians series in a week than read what I want him to read (that's not hypothetical; it actually happened). But I'm prepared to say it's an excellent primer on Astronomy that should be of interest to most middle-school-aged kids and even older kids who aren't already really science-y.
So now I'll lob it over to you. Any recommendations on science books for the kiddos? I'd take titles in biology (no Young Earth titles, please), physics, chemistry, or really anything other than political science.
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As I mentioned in the last post, I've finished The Gate Thief, so I'll get a review posted for it next week if possible. And I'm working on a post about the podcasts I listen to. The list keeps growing!
Back when I was trying to become a more well-read science fiction fan, I borrowed Ender's Game from a friend and tore through it in a couple of days. Loved it. But I had no idea of there being a sequel, let alone more than one series of books related to it. So it wasn't until I happened across Speaker for the Dead in the books on tape (yes, tape) section of my local booklender that I even became aware of the larger group of books in the so-called "Enderverse." (I hear OSC doesn't like that term. Whatevs.)
I enjoyed Speaker enough (it eventually became my favorite book) that I picked up Xenocide on audio and then Children of the Mind in print (library didn't have the audiobook). So that was it for the Speaker series, which I later re-read in both print and audio. (I bought all the books in print, though I haven't got them all yet for my NOOK.)
At some point during my traversal of the Speaker series, I became aware of another series commonly called the Shadow series, starting with Ender's Shadow and comprising (at the time) three sequels all containing the word "Shadow." (You may or may not recall that Shadows in Flight was published last year and reviewed right here.) So after finishing the first series, I immediately grabbed Ender's Shadow and then proceeded to devour the rest of the series (taking Shadow of the Hegemon on audio since I was still skeptical), and ultimately deciding that I preferred the Shadow series even though Speaker for the Dead was my favorite single book of either series.
So, recently my son read (and enjoyed) Ender's Game, and I decided to do Ender's Shadow as a read-aloud. I can't say I'm thrilled with it in that capacity, since it's actually got some rougher content than EG does, but I decided not to do a strict read-aloud, editing a few things to make them more palatable (so my son didn't have to hear my mouth saying certain words). Quick poll: Is this consistent with how you do read-alouds? Any editing, or do you just try to choose titles that don't require edits? I'll admit I edited "ass" from The Chronicles of Narnia, because the modern usage has strayed so far from its much more respectable beginnings. (I went with "doofus.")
But back to the subject here. Ender's Shadow isn't a sequel to Ender's Game but rather a *parallel* novel, covering approximately the same time as the core story of EG. But the perspective shifts to the precocious and interesting Bean, one of Ender's platoon leaders and close friends. Why is Bean so smart, even by comparison with other Battle School students? Why is he so small? How did Dragon Army come to so dominate the rest of the armies in Battle School? What happened in Battle School after Ender was graduated? These are the questions to which you find answers in Ender's Shadow. The book starts at about the same time as Ender's Game, showing Bean's tough (putting it lightly) life on the streets of Rotterdam, and ends after the end of the war, setting up the events of the rest of the series nicely, developing a good antagonist in Achilles, and establishing Bean as someone worth rooting for.
Of course, in order to make Shadow work, OSC made a few changes to some of the events of EG, and the astute reader will pick up on them pretty easily, or it may be that I've just read EG so many times that the changes really stick out to me, though I have no problem with any of them, or even the idea of an author making such changes. (I only object when, say, JK Rowling pronounces that Dumbledore is gay even though she didn't have the courage to actually write it in the books.)
Who should read Ender's Shadow? Well, anyone who enjoyed Ender's Game will doubtless enjoy it, and I highly recommend the Shadow series even if you haven't read the Speaker series (though shame on you for not even reading Speaker for the Dead). The Shadow series is actually set before the Speaker series, so an argument could easily be made that it should come first. If you're interested in my suggested reading order, it's in the comments section of my review of Shadows in Flight.
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On the reading front, I'm a few books deep in my finished-but-not-reviewed stack, mostly because I was sitting in the stands for NW Age-Group Regional Swimming Championships last weekend. Four days. So naturally I finished two books and read parts of four others. So I owe reviews for Out of This World, The Gate Thief, and Farside. I'm also closing in on the end of a read-aloud of The Hobbit, but I don't think I'll post another review of it. Nutshell review: It's still kinda boring, though at least it's not three books or something stupid like that! (Plugging my increasingly irritated review for the film version of part of the book.)
I've got a bit of a problem here: I can't stop reading new books. Oh, I'm fine with doing a bit of shift-reading of disparate titles, say a science title and a theology title, but this is getting ridiculous. Most of the time when this happens, I'll eventually focus on one book to the exclusion of the others, but it's not happening thus far. So here's the list:
This is the only title I'm reading from an author I know personally. I had the pleasure of serving in the music ministry at my church with Tyler on many occasions, and his book is important and worthwhile. I'm really not giving it the attention it deserves.
One of two science titles on this list, this book started off as a very promising read but has unfortunately bogged down as I think any title about String Theory will. Bummer, that, but I'll slog through. Definitely best read in shifts.
Remember when I mentioned science and theology pairing nicely for shift-reading?
Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card.
This is my current read-aloud with the Pancake Eater. He recently read Ender's Game, so I thought I'd give him a slightly-edited reading of Bean's story. It's my third read-through of this one, which is interesting since I've read Ender's Game only four times in print. (Audio puts EG well over the top, though.)
This one really lends itself to shift-reading as each chapter stands alone. Plus, the title. Srsly. I'll try not to shift-read this one with the Holiness book. Probably makes sense.
BTW, I picked it up on the NOOK $2.99 and Under list. (Technically it's named "Under $2.99," but my title is more accurate.)
Farside, by Ben Bova
Another $2.99 and Under pickup. I've never read any Bova in print, though I enjoyed Jupiter on audio even though I hadn't read the rest of his Planet Series. This may be the next book to get most of my attention.
The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination, edited by John Joseph Adams
Another cheap ($1.99) pickup, this one's pretty much entirely awesome, an anthology of short fiction by a variety of genre authors. Perfect for shift-reading.
Yes, the $2.99 and Under list is working me over. Is it any wonder that only one book on this list actually used to be a tree?
Out of This World, by Clive Gifford
This was a free pickup from the NOOK Store, and I'm previewing it for the boy, as it's a young adult treatment of astronomy.
(Edit: Since I started writing this post I've actually finished this one. So this is the complete list of things I was reading when I started writing this.)
The Bible (ESV)
For the second straight year, I'm reading the Bible on my ESV app. I generally read before breakfast, usually five chapters of the OT and a Psalm (then moving on to other Poetical books as I finish them), subbing in the NT once a week for the OT. It gets my through the whole thing by early November most of the time.
I go through periods each year where I'm reading a handful of books, and then other times when I basically shelve everything in favor of a succession of individual reads. I find that I progress a little more quickly with the parallel reading than when I go serial, so I'll try to hold off on the switchover. (Usually it happens in the summer.) If anything's going to get shelved for the duration (and possibly permanently), it's usually about the time I switch to serial reading.
Anybody else have trouble with multiple-personality-reading-disorder? Or does the idea of parallel reading freak you out? How about shift-reading? I'm personally a huge fan of it, though it doesn't work so well with fiction. But since I'm about fifty-fifty on fiction and non-fiction, it works for me.
I'm thinking I may do a quick post on the Podcasts I enjoy, so you'll be able to see what I do with my brain while I'm not reading. (Hint: It's very similar to what I do with it while reading.)
I've been heavy, I've been lean, I've been out of shape, and I've been fit. Okay, so I've never been rail-thin or reeeeally overweight, but I've experienced the basic corners of the American fitness experience. I've never seen my abs. Nope, not even when I was a kid. I always had a bit of pudge around the middle, even when I was picked as Athlete of the Year in sixth grade, going out for every sport the school offered. (Broom Hockey and Gym Hockey were my favorites.)
We all know certain people are naturally lean, but we're much less likely to give heavy people that kind of benefit of the doubt. And it's certainly easy for lean people to look at fat folks and sneer that those people obviously don't have any self-control.
But what if it's not just a matter of calories in, calories out? I'm sure some lean people think it is, and they think (without really checking) that they must simply be burning more calories than they take in. And while this is possible, Gary Taubes's Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It would argue that it's not very possible. Because, as he points out, twenty extra calories a day is all it would take for a person to gain fifty pounds over twenty years. (That's one bite of your low-fat Subway sandwich.) What if there's something else at work?
Why We Get Fat is a distilled version of Taubes's much more scholarly (and lengthy) Good Calories, Bad Calories. In both books, Taubes turns the conventional wisdom on its head. Instead of "eating more calories than you burn will make you fat," it's "whatever makes you fat will cause you to eat more calories than you burn." It's a subtle distinction, but it puts the question in the proper light. Of course, obese people probably do eat more than lean people, but why do they do it?
I'll use an example Taubes uses to illustrate the difference. My son, The Pancake Eater, eats. A lot. Of food. And that food is making him grow, right? Or is it that the fact that he's growing that makes him eat a lot? Really, no one would look at a kid who's growing and say "He obviously eats more than he burns to grow so fast." No, we might comment that "he must eat like a horse" because of his growth spurt, but we really know deep down that something inside his body is causing him to grow, and that growth is triggering his eating.
So why don't we look at overweight in the same way? If something inside us is making us fatter, and therefore causing us to overeat, doesn't it make sense to find out what that thing is?
No one can argue that Americans aren't getting fatter. The evidence is all around us, especially when we look at kids these days. Adults, too, of course, but the disturbing trend is chubby kids. And all this despite the government's printing of tons of educational materials about how we need to eat more whole grains and less fat, and certainly less saturated fat, and get some exercise, and so on and so forth, etcetera, etcetera.
I grew up during the Low Fat craze. We took the skin off chicken. (This is a criminal thing to do, because crispy chicken skin is soooo good.) We had low-fat yogurt. We even tried Ice Milk instead of Ice Cream. Seriously. We used margarine instead of butter. Fast-forward a few decades and what is the result of the Low Fat movement? Corpulence of the highest degree. Isn't that evidence enough that Low Fat isn't the right way to go?
Of course, if you're going to eliminate fat, you have to substitute something back in. Normally sugar, but often enough it's just more grains. You know, because whole grains are so good for you.
No, no they're not. Long story short, grains (and sugars) cause insulin to be released, which causes your body to store fat. You then overeat because those carbs you were going to use for energy were instead stored as fat, so your brain tells you to eat again. Rinse and repeat.
I was never anti-carb, even after reading the Atkins diet book (and most other diet books). And it never occurred to me that when I had success on a diet program, it was because of the types of calories I was restricting: sugar and other carbs. Yes, I was also eating fewer calories in general, but the ones I really watched were carbs.
So what's the alternative? Not high-protein, but high-fat. So my breakfast the other day of spicy chicken sausage with kale and avocado, with a couple of nice, runny fried eggs was actually the right way to go. (We're currently eating a slightly-altered Paleo plan.) No, it's not easy giving up bread (BTW, don't try Paleo Bread. It's dreadful.) or rice or pancakes, but it's worth it if it makes us healthier.
It's not all about how many calories we eat. It's about the kinds of calories we eat. If the Low Fat craze has taught us anything, it's that a Low Fat diet makes High Fat people.
Taubes makes his case quite convincingly, and Why We Get Fat is a nice, quick read, with short chapters and easy to follow explanations of some fairly difficult topics. It probably helped me that I'd gotten a lot of the science-y stuff in It Starts With Food, but I still think he did a nice job keeping it concise and readable. If you're interested in a nutshell presentation of the material of the book, check out this video (1 of 4) embedded at the end of this post. (or just go to YouTube.)
I don't have anything else finished up and in the queue, so I may do one of those On The Bookshelf posts I see around. Because I figure I should at least explain why I haven't finished anything else. Quick answer: I keep starting new books before I finish the others.
As I was assembling my short list of upcoming books I was anticipating reading this year, I realized that one of them had already come out. Impulse is the third volume in Steven Gould's Jumper series, and I've thoroughly enjoyed each installment. (Okay, there's a fourth movie-tie-in that I don't anticipate reading, so I'm going with the canonical three.)
If you haven't read Jumper or Reflex and you're any kind of science fiction fan, let me nudge you in that direction and warn you that this post will have implicit spoilers for those two books. So I'll allow some Spoiler Space…
Okay, so Millie and Davy had a child. Think she might eventually learn to teleport? Not a bad bet, and I really don't think I'm spoiling much of anything to say that she does. But some of the really cool parts of this book are those detailing how she comes to analyze how teleportation works and figures out some tricks she can add to just Plain Jane teleportation. (Much as Davy did in Reflex.)
The interweaving plotlines of this book tell the story of Cent's (short for Millicent) attempts to blend into a new high school Smallville style while hiding her gifts, and Davy and Millie's work as uniquely-gifted relief workers somehow able to get aid to exactly the right places no matter the roadblocks either literal or figurative.
I wouldn't call the book fast-paced, at least not in the early going, but I appreciated that fact. Gould took time to establish the story before settling on What's Going to Happen? I will say that I'm fully expecting another book in this series, because there's nothing like a final resolution to the events that began in Reflex and eventually spill over into this volume. So when the next one comes out, I'll be buying it.
As an aside, what superpower would you choose if you could have just one? I always say flight, because my flying dreams are just awesome, but this book (and the series as a whole) made me reconsider. Teleportation could be pretty sweet. Especially since it'd make international travel so much simpler. But that whole government agencies chasing you down to exploit you thing…
I don't actually pay full price for many books these days, as the NOOK Daily Find keeps me supplied with cheap ones. And is ruining my life. Well okay, it's not ruining anything, but my reading is getting slightly out of control. I'm definitely reading at least five books right now. I pretty much set everything aside for Impulse, because it was just that enjoyable, but I'm totally shift-reading Ben Bova's Farside along with The Trouble With Physics, Why We Get Fat, Badass, and The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination. I paid about $20 for the whole set, and that includes full price on Why We Get Fat.
The problem with this kind of shifting around is that I'm really not sure I'll be finishing any of them in the near future. And this bothers me. I'll go maybe three weeks without finishing something and then finish four in the same week. I definitely prefer consistency.
(If I had to put money on which book I'd finish next, it'd really be a conflict of interest because I can totally win that bet, but I'd go with Why We Get Fat. Short review: you should read it, but not if you really like bread and stuff.)
Sometimes I read a book for the pure enjoyment of being intellectually stimulated. Reading So You Created a Wormhole: A Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel was not one of those times. This was one of those "give your brain a vacation" books, the kind you buy for the title and enjoy for its hilarities while basically overlooking its faults. Kind of a like a good Guy Movie. Sure, it makes no sense in any meaningful way. But…teh explosions and stuff! (No, not a typo.)
The book also isn't very science-y. (BTW, do you know there's apparently no valid way to spell "sciency"? What's happened to the English language?) Where was I? Oh, right. Science. Having read Paul Davies's excellent How to Build a Time Machine, I didn't need So You Created a Wormhole to be that book. Instead, I was able to enjoy it for what it was: A pop-culture-reference-laden homage to, well, pop culture and its treatment of the subject of time travel.
Off the top of my head, there were references to Back to the Future, The Terminator, Doctor Who, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Primer, Stargate, The Time Machine (duh), A Sound of Thunder, and now I'm going to stop because I can recall more but you probably don't care. Also, I was about to veer into references I got without having read/viewed the source material (The Butterfly Effect and Donnie Darko, for instance).
The book is structured, as you might guess, as a self-help guide, including sections on the various kinds of time travel (wormhole, quantum foam), the various vehicles (cars, booths) for traveling in time, and then advice on how to repair the timeline once you've wrecked it, and how to survive if your time machine is disabled in certain eras (the dinosaur-poop battery was particularly interesting).
There was a point while I was reading this book that the humor just wasn't working for me. So it came as a bit of ego-deflation when I realized that the problem I was having was that the authors were using the same jokes I'd use in similar circumstances. Meaning it was really my humor that didn't work for me. So I guess that makes all of us, eh? After that, though, I really got into it and mostly enjoyed the read even though there were a couple of passages of utter drivel. But I'll just highlight a couple of the funnier bits.
To that end, this chapter title: "TIME MACHINES---BUILDING THEM AND INEVITABLY DESTROYING THEM FOR THE GOOD OF HUMANITY." Heh.
About car-based time machines, specifically Doc Brown's DeLorean:
Its benefits were threefold: The steel body could better conduct the flux capacitor's energy to open wormholes around the car, and could also protect the occupant from the negative effects of a near-inconceivable electric charge. The third benefit was that it looked ****ing rad.
And here I should let you know the language is R-rated. Shocker, I know.
A bit about paradoxes:
If you see what happens to you in the future, and you don't like it, try not to make it happen by trying to make it not happen.
Well, of course!
On trying to repair the timeline after you've foolishly broken it:
It is your duty to repair time for the good of all the people you left twisting in the wind under the hegemony of some idiot with a name like Biff. That's not something you can just hoverboard away from.
On looking for someone who's lost in prehistoric times:
The good news is if you see a person in Prehistory, it's probably the person you're looking for. The bad news is, your maps are no good here, the accuracy of time travel decreases exponentially the farther you travel into the past, and your missing friend or loved one likely isn't sharp enough to survive in such an unforgiving environment or he or she never would have gotten trapped in The Land of the Lost to begin with.
On medicine in the Middle Ages:
They don't have Band-Aids in the Middle Ages. They have leeches. This is your first and only warning.
And possibly my favorite line:
WHEN CAPTURED BY NINJAS
- Ninjas take no prisoners.
Or this, from the About the Authors section:
NICK HURWITCH read his first book on theoretical physics at age twelve and ever since, has been both fascinated by the Universe's mysteries and content to let someone else figure that crap out.
So now you've got a good idea of the tone of the book, and I've really only given you a few of the better lines. As I said, there are some breathtakingly stupid passages, but they're pretty rare. On the whole, it was worth reading, and it made a nice companion for the really science-y The Trouble With Physics, which I'm still reading. I've also picked up Impulse, the latest entry in the Jumper series, and I couldn't help but pick up Badass from the NOOK Daily Find. Oh, like you could have resisted such a title? Give me a break…
(BTW this was another title from my 13 in '13 list. I may actually do this again next year!)
I like to say that I just set myself adrift and read "wherever the whims may take me," but the truth is that there are some authors I regularly return to, and books or series I look forward to. So, here's a short list of books I'll probably be taking up at some point:
Earth Afire, by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. Due to be published June 4, 2013, and it's the second of a three-part series about the Formic Wars, following the extremely enjoyable Earth Unaware from last year.
What We Talk About When We Talk About God, by Rob Bell. March 12, 2013 is the release date, so expect the outrage to start showing up in late February. I find Bell thought-provoking and frustrating, but it's a combination that works for me, and I thought Love Wins was a tremendous book. (He's also coming to Powell's in Beaverton, so I may have to attend.)
The House of Hades, by Rick Riordan. Coming out October 8th, 2013, and honestly he can't publish these fast enough for me. Just search his name on my site and you'll see I've enjoyed basically everything I've read from him.
Inferno, by Dan Brown. I'm generally always up for seeing if Dan Brown will reach a new low, as I'm a connoisseur of his work. Okay, that's a bit of a joke. I quite enjoyed Angels and Demons, thought Digital Fortress was a joke, The DaVinci Code at least made a good conversation starter, Deception Point was underrated, and The Lost Symbol was written by Dan Brown. So why not give the new one a look?
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What about you? Anything coming out soon that you're eagerly awaiting? Something you'd like to recommend and have me refuse to read just on general principles?
BTW, this list does not imply and kind of To Be Read obligation on my part. I'm simply indicating interest in these book and will probably read them all. But I won't be goaded into revealing just when I will do it. And if I had to guess, I'd wonder why I had to guess.
(This is two posts within a couple of days of each other. Try not to faint.)
A funny thing happened on the way to two bachelor's degrees: I never took Western Civilization or any kind of World History class. So my last experience with World History was Mrs. Gaffney's "Nothing was cool after Egypt and BTW did you know I've been to Egypt and it's exceedingly likely I was an important person in Egypt in a former life, because like my makeup may look freaky but it was soooo in style in Ancient Egypt" class.
And that's basically what I remember about it. But I liked the mythology, except for the part where the God of Evil was named Set or (sometimes) Seth, and he was a donkey, and do you know another name for donkey? Because high schoolers are waaaay too mature to make anything of that, you know?
So the fact is that it's been (quick mental calculation followed by outright horror at the result) 25 years since I last had a formal World History class. Which also makes 24 since I've had a U.S. History class. Dude. And even there it was Mr. Hadley's wonderful world of "how many times can I say 'uh' in a lecture?" (Answer: dozens.)
(BTW, here's the story of how I got through college without those classes. When I went to George Fox College—now University—there was no Engineering program. So I had to take three years of classes at GFC, then transfer and put in another two years at an Engineering school. So to make things tougher on us, we weren't allowed to take lower division Bible or History classes. So instead of New Testament and Old Testament Survey, I got Life of Christ and the Writings of John. Loved that, actually. But instead of Western Civ, I got England to 1688. Also basically cool, except that I missed a big chunk of Jeopardy! answers that I'm still trying to backfill.)
Anyhow, one of the very positive things that came out of my lack of certain trivia answers is that I also never developed that instinctive hatred all normal people have of the subject of history. (Yes, history nerd, you loved every minute of it. You still don't think that's weird?)
So these days, History is one of my favorite things. True, I generally favor History of Science, but I'm a big fan of well-written popular histories or concise histories of basically any kind. So you can probably guess that I thought Christopher Lascelles's A Short History of the World was terrific.
I picked the book up on a NOOK Free Friday and it was more than worth the expense. Lascelles takes the reader on a brisk tour through history, making quick stops in periods beginning with the Big Bang through the present day. The chapters are nice and short, with each being broken into subheadings spanning the globe during the given period. This was great for me because I really haven't gotten much study in on, say, the history of China or India. (Hint: They weren't Egypt and hence didn't matter.)
I'm sure it's not everything you'd want in a history of the world, but as a short history it did the job quite nicely. I don't think there's much more to say, so that's about a twenty-to-one ratio of words about me to words about the book I'm ostensibly reviewing. It's how I roll, folks. And I think my legions of readers prove it's working.
This was another book off my 13 in '13 list. I'm totally mowing down that list. In fact, next up is yet another from that list, So You Created a Wormhole. I'd been shift-reading that one with The Trouble With Physics, so I'm looking for another contender for shift-reading now. (String Theory begs for shift-reading. Seriously, it's part of the theory. I think.)