Reviews

For the Win

May 13th, 2010  |  Published in Reviews, Uncategorized, writing

I just finished reading Cory Doctorow’s new Young Adult Novel, For the Win, yesterday.  The book covers a very possible future in which gamers (especially those working within the game, gold farmers) unionize and the consequences of that action. It was good, very good, even considering that it has a lot to do with MMOs (think World of Warcraft), which I simply don’t play.  One of the interesting parts about the book, however, was the use of sections that were just straight exposition, with no characters or plot, just Cory talking to you directly about economic principles.

I know that it violates the rule about infodumps (the recieved wisdom is that they are bad), but the conversational and engaging style kept them from being annoying.  What was weird, though, was that he didn’t put in any sort of framework for them, such as Econ 101 articles from the Webblies web site or entries in Ashok’s notebook, and since there was no single central character (like in Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps, where the main character has a fascinating section at the beginning of each chapter on parasites), every time they came up, I was pulled out of the story a bit.  Fortunately, the rest of thes story was strong enough that it didn’t matter, I tore through it anyway.

Overall, I would say that the book is both good and important, although how good would depend on the degree that the target audience feels they are being preached to.  At first, I was worried about how his short story, Anda’s Game would translate to novel form, but it made the jump quite well.


More New Media

May 6th, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, News, Publishing, Reviews

I should also mention that Cory Doctorow released his new novel, Little Brother, recently.  I had the good fortune to read an early draft, and it was simply fantastic.  I won’t go into too much detail, but basically the plot revolves around a hacker kid who is treated poorly (read: realistically) by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack on San Francisco.  Everything is based on current tech (like a nearer-future Doktor Sleepless), lending it a feel of future history.  If that isn’t enough, its available under a Creative Commons license, which means that you can download it in its entirety (the site also has instructions on how to do a bunch of the stuff in the book).  So go on and give it a read, you won’t regret it.

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Tofu: The Best Document Reader Ever Devised

April 25th, 2008  |  Published in Misc, Publishing, Reviews, Software

TofuLast week I stumbled upon a program for OS X called Tofu. Like it’s namesake, its simple, flexible, and awesome. So what does it do? Basically, it allows you to take any text or RTF file and presents it in columns. I won’t go into depth on the subject, suffice to say that there is a good reason why almost all commercial print is done with narrow columns (there’s more about it on the Tofu site). Even if none of this has convinced you, it’s totally free, so there’s no reason not to try it.

So what could you use it for? Well, reading that transcript by Charlie Stross would have sucked if I hadn’t done it in Tofu. More importantly, it makes reading digital fiction much more enjoyable, I currently use it to proof anything over one page in length that I write. In any case, you read a lot on your computer (or else you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?), why not make it enjoyable?

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Book Review: The Little Book of Pandemics

January 26th, 2008  |  Published in Fantasy, Fiction, Reviews, SciFi, writing

The Little Book of PandemicsWhen I first started flipping though The Little Book of Pandemics, by Dr. Peter Moore, my first thought was that it would be really useful for writing post-apocalyptic fiction. It quickly dawned on me that if you’re writing about a superbug, this probably isn’t the book for you. Although there is plenty of scary stuff in here, if you’re looking for something of truly civilization-ending proportions, you would probably be better off inventing something new like airborne AIDS or something that has a Children of Men sort of effect.

Where a book like this really comes in handy, though, is with fantasy. Most fantasy relies on the assumption that things like cholera and typhoid are simply dealt with by means of magic. If you want to include that sort of detail (or possibly write a story where magic or technology simply ceases to work), this is the book for you. It does a fantastic job of describing how, exactly, these diseases are spread, how they affect the body, and what environments they are found in, as well as other interesting information.

Aside from it’s already mentioned utility, the book is well laid out and interesting in its own right, although some may find it a bit grim for pleasure reading. This book definitely has a spot on a writer’s reference shelf, regardless of what sort of story you write. Highly recommended.

A final note: My wife bought this book for me while we were in Canada. Unfortunately, it will not be released in the states until February 12, 2008. If you need it now, you can order it from Amazon Canada.

Bean – A Free Word Processor for OSX

August 3rd, 2007  |  Published in Misc, Reviews, Software

Bean ScreenshotSo, as a writer and a student, I spend a fair amount of quality time with my word processor.  Although I use CopyWrite for doing work on Caldera, its too powerful to do short stories in.  I’m not a big fan of Word, its a resource hog with insane feature bloat, and I used to use Nisus Writer, which is a damn fine program, but still a bit too much for fiction (although for school and business, its the best word processor that I have ever used).  Then I tried Bean, an open source word processor that was designed by a guy who wanted to use it to write fiction.  Its simple and clean, doesn’t hog resources, and does everything I need it to.  The only reason I would say that its not suitable for business or school is that it doesn’t support headers and footers, although according to the site, that has more to do with Apple’s implementation of RTF than anything else (and therefore may change in the future).  Best of all, this awesome program is totally free,.

Night Watch

July 17th, 2007  |  Published in Reviews

NightwatchThe other night I watched a Russian movie called Night Watch. It was fantastic, the best vampire movie that I’ve seen in a long, long time.

The entire movie was well done, but the thing that made me enjoy it so much was that they didn’t try to make it PG 13 to maximize profit, but seemed to stick to aiming it at adults. It was nice to see something with rough edges in a world that is all too often filled with pastel Disney niceties (not that I don’t appreciate those, as well, I just want to see other stuff too).

The visuals were great, creating the feel of the movie: dark, rough, somewhat ambiguous. The story was good, too, but I want to read the books now to see if they have a bit more character development.

If you rent/buy this (and you should), the disc has two sides, subbed and dubbed. I watched a few minutes of the dubbed version, and it was pretty good, but the subtitles were fantastic. This is what subtitles should be, not something tacked onto the movie, but something that blends into the movie. I’ll let you know what I think of the books when I read them in a few weeks here.

Sicko

June 29th, 2007  |  Published in Reviews

I just got back from seeing Sicko, Michael Moore’s new documentary on the American health care system. The movie was great, his best yet, everything about it was an improvement over his earlier works. In addition, it isn’t restricted by partisan politics, as health care is something that affects us all. It pissed me off and made me sad. Everyone should see this film.