Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Free Audiobooks?

Yes, free audiobooks. No, I didn't find a way to scam Audible. No, I'm not talking about anything in any way illegal, and no, these adiobooks do NOT sound like crap. Believe it or not, there's actually a website out there that offers free, quality audiobooks for you to download and enjoy at will; it's called Podiobooks.com.
I know, I sound like some kind of atrocious commercial just now. So be it - it was still the best way to state my thesis. Now, rather than boring you with a description of how the site works (sigh up, pick a book, start downloading), I'm going to suggest a couple personal favorites.

Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword

by Tee Morris Imagine, if you will, a "standard" fantasy dwarf. Big beard, battle axe...you know the guy. Now, send him through a hole in the multiverse so that he ends up stuck in Chicago, in the 1920's. Ofcourse he becomes a private detective...what else is there for him to do?
Of course, things really get weird when an artifact from his own realm shows up.
This one was really well done - the author narrates the story in first person (a la Sam Spade), but other performers voice the other characters - it's part book and part radio play.

Seventh Son (trilogy)

by J. c. Hutchins Do you like espionage stories? The kind that constantly make you wonder just what the hell is going on? Then this is the trilogy for you.
It all starts when the President is killed in cold blood by a four-year-old boy. A few week later, seven different men are sitting in a conference room in a secret installation, having been...acquired...by covert teams.
I don't want to spoil it, so I won't say anything more about the story, except to tell you that, while it's confusing at first, it just keeps getting better and better.
Since I first listened to it, the Seventh Son trilogy has been released as "real" print novels, and the story underwent some significant changes during the transition. The edition that I once knew is now called the beta version (clever in-joke there), with the new "print version" forthcoming.

A Different Point of View

by TD=0013 This one is pretty short - you can listen to all of it in a single evening.
TD-0013 is an Imperial Stormtrooper, and he's had just about enough of this hero worship directed at the rebellion and the Jedi Knights. In this book, TD-0013 hopes to set the record straight on a few matters, like stormtroopers being poor marksmen, the "awesomeness" of the Fetts, and the truth about the Battle of Endor.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trekkie or Trekker? Do you really care?

Recently, I was spellchecking an entry for one of my other blogs. One of the words that spellcheck tried to call me on was "trekkies." In itself, this isn't all that surprising; Trekkies isn't an "actual" word. What did catch my attention, however, was the word that spellcheck suggested that I might have meant.

So, spellcheck knows "Trekker," but not "Trekkie." Interesting.

As a longtime Star Trek fan, I'm well aware of the "controversy" surrounding these two terms. Once, I even knew a woman who took (mild) offense at being called a Trekkie, insisting that Trekker was the correct term. I'm assuming that at least one of the programmers behind spellcheck also has a very serious opinion in the matter.

This got me thinking...why is this such a big deal to some people, and does it still matter? To find out, I did a little research. The debate was summed up quite nicely by Wikipedia, which states:
Some Star Trek enthusiasts prefer the term "Trekkie", while some others self-identify as "Trekker". Self-identification as a "Trekkie" became even less popular after a famous national television parody in 1986; several self-described "Trekkers" were quoted as saying they "had a life" (contrasting themselves from "Trekkies").
In other words, the term "Trekker" was coined in reaction to a skit on Saturday Night Live win which William Shatner tells a convention full of Trekkies to "Get a life," the difference being that Trekkers don't need to be told to get a life.

Seriously.

A Saturday Night Live sketch.
Star Trek TOS - William Shatner SNL - Get A Life - MyVideo

Some people take things far too seriously.

For the record, I consider myself to be a Trekkie, and always have.

Monday, November 9, 2009

And Another Thing (part 2)

Last night, I finished reading And Another Thing... Now, it's time to report in.

Simply put, I liked it. Yes, it was different from the books that Douglas Adams wrote. To expect anything else would be utterly ludicrous. I've seen quite a few people complaining about this - "Adams would have done it better" and so on. This is, of course, true. However, it is also unimportant - like saying that liver would taste better if it was steak.

I went into this book with the mindset with which I approach a movie based on a book - I was determined to try to enjoy the book for what it is, rather than nitpick all of the inevitable ways that it isn't like what came before. This tactic was, as usual, quite successful. Eoin Colfer cannot write the same way that Douglas Adams did. He also did not try. What he did do was to write a new novel set in the Hitchhiker's Guide "universe," but in his own style. Of course, there were numerous homages to the original novels, but these appear to have been done in tribute to the late Douglas Adams, rather than in mimicry of him.

Story-wise, Colfer managed to very cleverly extricate our heroes from the rather unenviable situation in which they found themselves at the end of Mostly Harmless. I won't go into any great detail, but suffice it to say that a certain stolen spaceship was involved.

From this point, the author re-introduces a few minor characters from previous books (they become major characters this time around), the Vogons doggedly pursue the annihilation of the earth and all who dwelt upon her, a group of expatriate humans begin interviewing candidates for the position if God, and Zaphod reveals a new use for his second head.

Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I started chuckling on page one, and remained entertained through to the very end.

If you want this book to be another Douglas Adams novel, just walk away now. You're never going to be happy with this book, and it's better if you just don't read it. If, however, you're willing to take this book as something "one step away" from the Hitchhiker's Guide books, then dive right in. Just bring your own Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

This review will also be posted on Goodreads.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And Another Thing (part 1)

Recently, the sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy was published. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move, partly because the previous book appears to have tied the story up quite succinctly, but mostly because the book was not written by Douglas Adams (who is spending the rest of eternity dead for tax reasons).

Before I continue, I must warn you that this treatise will contain spoilers, so if you haven't read the first five books in the trilogy, turn back before it's too late.

I have not yet read And Another Thing.... I bought a copy about a week ago, and I will soon be reading it, just as soon as I finish the first five (for about the twentieth time).

My primary concern is that of how there can even be a new Hitchhiker's novel. As I recall, Mostly Harmless ended very finally, with nearly everybody being extremely dead in all dimensions of space, time and probability. It doesn't seem possible to come back from something like that.

Then again, the impossible is actually fairly common on the Hitchhikers' universe(s). Given the infinite size of the universe, the other universes and dimensions, and in fact the whole sort of general mish mash (WSOGMM), nothing can truly be said to be impossible. Don't believe me? Perhaps we can discuss it over breakfast at Milliway's.

Another concern, one which has been voiced ad nausaeum since this book was initially announced, is that of the author himself. The problem that most people seem to have can be summarized thus: "Eoin Colfer is not Douglas Adams." History has shown us time and again that it's the blindingly obvious that is often the most difficult to handle.

Personally, I'm not expecting this new book to be just like the others. As long as this book is a reasonably light, funny tale set in the increasingly bizarre WSOGMM that Adams created back in the seventies, I'm OK with it. Think of it the way one thinks of a Star Trek novel. It doesn't need to be written my the creator to be good.

All told, I'm quite looking forward to reading And Another Thing.... I imagine that it'll be a bit like seeing an old friend after a very long time.