Book Review: Double Solitaire

Friday, 10/09/2010 ≅03:45 ©brainycat

Double Solitaire (Wild Cards, #10)Double Solitaire by Melinda M. Snodgrass
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I couldn't finish it. What made this series so great at the beginning was the premise: an alternate, contemporary history filled with aces and jokers. It became a soap opera couched in a classic fantasy story with too few characters, none of which really had true dimension, lazily winding their way down the "fated last battle" story arc we've all read a gazillion times. It got so bad that I was finding websites to waste time at rather than dig my ereader out of my backpack, and that's BAD. I've got hundreds of books to read and there is no prize at the end of this series. I give up, and I'm moving on to better books.

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Book Review: Jokertown Shuffle

Monday, 06/09/2010 ≅00:23 ©brainycat

Jokertown Shuffle (Wild Cards, #9)Jokertown Shuffle by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

WTF happened to this series? It's like the authors all got together and decided to ignore all my favorite characters (the ones that are still alive, anyway) and come up with ridiculous plots that aren't hardly believable, even in the Wild Cards world of the late 80's.

The "jumpers" are so contrived and unbelievable it's painful to read about them. The conspiracy around them and the Shadow Fists finally has a chance to finally die; I hope since they killed off major players in that plotline we can finally move on to something new. These last two books really miss the point of alternate history, IMHO, by focusing too much on wild card characters and not taking the characters and the storylines into the broader world around them.

Part of the book falls into torture porn, another part dips dangerously close to self-serving navel gazing, and the whole book is dreary and unsurprising. Maybe that was the tone of the time it was written; I was too self-absorbed to notice what the rest of the world felt like. They did introduce a new joker who promises to be interesting if only because he's the only new multifaceted character in the last few hundred pages, but again the amount of disbelief they're asking me to suspend makes me feel this series is tipping towards fantasy and away from scifi.

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Book Review: One-Eyed Jacks

Monday, 06/09/2010 ≅00:15 ©brainycat

One-Eyed Jacks (Wild Cards, #8)One-Eyed Jacks by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not the best book in the series. Firstly, I'm not very interested in the Jerry character. He's written with no arc to speak of, just a flat pathos that is perpetually stuck in the same monotonous routine, over and over.

A new type of ace is introduced, the "jumpers". The way this power works, and the way it's introduced into the Wild Cards world, seems contrived and in retrospect (I finished this book a few days ago and I've finished the next book, too) a desperate attempt to breathe some new life into parts of the story that really should have been finished already.

I like the multisodic, simultaneous timelines of the other books. But this book feels like it plods along like a donkey, not really caring where it's going or how long it takes to get there. If you're committed to finishing out the series, it's palatable, but PLEASE don't read this book as an introduction to the world of Wild Cards.

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Book Review: Dead Man’s Hand

Monday, 06/09/2010 ≅00:08 ©brainycat

Dead Man's Hand (Wild Cards, #7)Dead Man's Hand by George R.R. Martin

One of the best books in the series. It takes place at the same time as the previous book, but most of the action is in New York rather than Atlanta. A few scenes were retold from the 6th book, but from a different character's perspective, and I really enjoyed the way that was done.

This reads like a noir whodunnit. There really aren't a lot of new characters, but Yeoman's storyline is rounded out very well. Also, Popinjay gets a lot of screen time, and since he's one of my favorite aces that makes me happy.

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Book Review: Ace in the Hole

Saturday, 28/08/2010 ≅13:29 ©brainycat

Ace in the Hole (Wild Cards, #6)Ace in the Hole by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book makes up for volume 5 of the series. It's storyline is like a tragedy, and not everybody gets to live happily ever after. It's set during the Democratic Convention in Atlanta in '88, where Senator Hartmann is trying to win the nomination against the far right candidate Reverend Barnett.

The chickens come home to roost, as the histories of all the biggest players in the series come barrelling down out of history and demand their due, while the aces and jokers desperately try to get the right candidate nominated. Hartmann's secret slowly gets out, and as he rallies his forces the body count - and the tears - mount.

A gripping book that reads almost like a political thriller, this may be the best of the series.

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Book Review: Down and Dirty

Saturday, 28/08/2010 ≅13:09 ©brainycat

Down and Dirty (Wild Cards, #5)Down and Dirty by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lot of people think this is where the series starts to noticeably weaken, but I still liked it a lot. The stories weave around a gang war between the Shadow Fists and the mafia. Some of the characters and situations seemed a bit contrived - a mafia princess working as an assistant DA in NYC, and nobody knows about it? But, that's the sort of thing you put up with when you read pulp. Another issue I have with this book is there wasn't any real transcendence for many of the aces and jokers we've come to know and love, this book's main characters are nats who are using wild cards for their own ends. I like the new ace, Wraith, and I hope she has more appearances in the rest of the series.

In all honesty, I'm writing this review a couple of weeks after I finished the book, so I can't really go into any details. In retrospect, it feels like it's less about the wild cards and more of a gangwar thriller with some superpowers thrown in. There were lots of characters, perhaps more than we've seen in the other books, but nobody really gets an indepth treatment of their inner life. I felt that was disappointing, I was hoping Jack and Bagabond would have a chance to tell more of their story.

In a series this long, there always has to be some volumes that are a bit weaker than the rest, but that doesn't necessarily take away from the series. This book is an example of that phenomena.

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Everything you need to know about science in the news

Sunday, 31/05/2009 ≅16:21 ©brainycat

The Science News Cycle

This is courtesy of the always entertaining and enlightening Mental Indigestion blog. It seems like everytime I see something interesting in mainstream media, the reality of the alleged research isn't as definitive as they would have you believe. But the reality of the reseach is also vastly more interesting, nuanced and ultimately enlightening. No wonder it doesn't make it into the pablum they spew into our tvs and all over our internets.

How many Youtube videos start out “I Lost a bet…”

Tuesday, 14/04/2009 ≅19:36 ©brainycat

These are the crucial questions that come up at work. So I decided to find out. The answer: about 6,150. Unfortunately, hilarity does not automatically ensue. The vast majority, at least from my cursory sample, seemed to be of the "I'm too lazy and scatterbrained to gather my thoughts into cohesive or even grammatically correct posts, so instead I ramble in front of a camera" genre.

She's cute at about 2:45:

I don't understand. Am I supposed to be turned on? Epic Fail, girl. Try again.

Do us all a favor and STFU

Humanity may be generating more data every year than in the entire 19th century... but not all of it is worth keeping

0:19 "Like, Ohhh My Gawd! You guys are like so totally brutal! Gag me with a spoon fer shure!"

Linux Video Contest

Monday, 13/04/2009 ≅11:59 ©brainycat

Some time ago, the Linux Foundation sponsored a contest to create a video adverstisement for Linux. The winners have been announced. All three of the selected videos take different approaches, but they're all really good.

The first video feels like a Mac video to me; it's all touchy-feely artsy. Very well done, but not my cup of tea. The second is my favorite - it covers the breadth of linux, captures the excitement of OSS and engages and involves the viewer. The third is a great skit, but I don't know if most users could relate to it - it makes the point that Linux is different, but not why or how.

This my favorite video:

The Origin... from Agustin Eguia on Vimeo.

Book Review: Still Broken by AJ Rossmiller

Monday, 16/03/2009 ≅22:39 ©brainycat

Book Review:
Still Broken: A Recruit's Inside Account of Intelligence Failures, from Baghdad to the Pentagon
AJ Rossmiller
MobiPocket ebook
ISBN-10: 0891419144
ISBN-13: 978-0891419143

I enjoyed reading this book. I felt it was a small glimmer into a world that I will never be a part of, but affects me everyday. AJ was hired out of college into the state department, and worked as an intelligence analyst. This book chronicles his rise from a young, idealistic junior adminstrator to young, idealistic junior intgelligence analyst, and his subsequent resignation from his post after explaining to his management exactlty what's wrong with them. Piqued? Read on...