Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heat Wave

Book review: 2010.06

Author: Richard Castle

This is a novel written as a tie-in to the ABC show Castle. Supposedly, the book is the product of fictional fiction author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), after spending the show's first season shadowing city homicide detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic).

If you've seen any episode of the show, then you've read the book. Heat Wave follows the same pattern as Castle and features the same characters, only with different names.

The story is okay. It would make a good episode of Castle, but as a novel, it falls short of thrilling or, well, interesting. I was bored as I walked through the adventure. I expect better from this particular fictional author. It's not that it's poorly written or plotted; the story pans out well and is a good mystery. But I kept thinking that I'd rather be watching the story unfold on TV the way they usually do. The most entertaining part of the book was the author's acknowledgements at the end; they were cute and a little tongue in cheek.

Instead of reading the book, I suggest catching up on the TV show, which is very entertaining. Fillion and Katic have a great rapport, although naturally Fillion steals the show, and they're surrounded by an excellent supporting cast. Richard Castle is easily the third "perfect role" for Nathan Fillion, with the first two obviously being Malcolm Reynolds and Captain Hammer.

Now listening to: The Secret World Chronicles via
(superhero fiction by Mercedes Lackey and Steve Libbey)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Of cowboys and pirates

Today I have to share my newest musical finds: a pair of metal bands called Ghoultown and Alestorm.

Ghoultown - Life After Sundown
Ghoultown is best described as 'spaghetti western horror metal' and it's damned good. The music captures the mood of the songs' stories perfectly. It is melodius and haunting, and the band blends it seamlessly into pure hardcore metal. But as usual for me, it's the vocals that bring it all home, and these vocals are hauntingly delivered by frontman Count Lyle. Icing on the album cover is artwork by one of my favorites, Dan Brereton, creator of the Nocturnals.

I'm looking forward to purchasing another of their albums.

Alestorm - Captain Morgan's Revenge
Alestorm is, plain and simply, pirate metal. Fun, frolicking party music. It thrashes hard and fast as only true European metal can, and dragging you along as the band jigs and reels its way across the seas and stops only for carousing in pirate-friendly taverns. The art work here is good too. The band has released a second album, so I might check it out too.

I don't like Alestorm as much as I do Ghoultown, but it's not fair to judge them against one another. Yes, they're both metal, but one is pirates and the other is Old West horror. See? Not the same thing at all. I have to say the reason I like Ghoultown more that Alestorm has as much to do with the fact that I like westerns and undead more than I like pirates, as much as it does with differences in musical styles.

Both bands capture their genres perfectly in their music. If pirates put together a metal band, they'd sound like Alestorm, only not quite as good. And ditto for gunslingers fighting undead in Sergio Leone's Old West.

Finally, in a completely different mood, I picked up my favorite songs by Dave Dudley. Good, old truck driving music. You just can't escape your roots, and not that I'd want to. Any of these three collections keep my very happy as I cruise down the highways.

Now watching: Some of the old Tom Baker-era Doctor Who. I love Netflix streaming.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Drive-By Truckers and other distractions

Man, I've been distracted and busy lately and fallen behind on my posting. So here's an update.

I finally kicked off my game of Savage Worlds, and am trying to keep to a weekly playing schedule, but I don't know how long I'll be able to keep it up. We're all to a fun start, but I'll put all the details on that blog rather than here.

Last weekend, a friend and I went to see Drive-By Truckers. Awesome show. They played a good mix of old and new songs, power tunes and ballads. I'd like for the pedal steel guitar to see a little more use. They closed the show with Steve McQueen, one of their top dozen songs. As they wound it up to a finish, they broke into Warren Zevon's Ain't That Pretty at All, and after that, jumped back into the chorus of Steve McQueen. Holy crap, they know how to rock.

This is the third time I've seen the Truckers, and they haven't given up an inch. I didn't stay for the encore because I had to get my car out of parking garage before lock up, so I don't know if they played as long as they used to. In the previous shows I've seen, they finished the encore set with Jim Carroll's People Who Died, another incredible piece of rock & roll that fits right in with the Truckers' style of story telling. There were way too many t-shirts for me to choose from, so I settled quickly on DBT's logo pint glass and drove all the way home with a goofy grin on my face.

Last week I sent my laptop to reform school to get its wireless network card repaired. There was a note on HP's website calling for a free warranty repair of the exact problem I've had since November, namely, the computer forgot that it had a wireless card. Then last week, I found out that my sister-in-law's Toshiba laptop was having the same problem. Is there some network card conspiracy at play here? Are they all fizzling at the same time for some reason? Anyone else out there in this boat?

I've also fallen in love with the TV show "Bones," and have been spending every waking moment watching that. TNT started over with the first season last week too, so that's even more exciting! Combine that with season 3 of Dexter (via Netflix), and my evenings are full.

And on top of all these FUN distractions, I've been busting my tail at work for the last few weeks. Not really working any additional time, but working harder and more intensely, so it's the same as working more hours. I'm exhausted at the end of the day and don't want to touch a keyboard again until I have to.

That's the quick version; more to come. Meanwhile, I have to crank up Decoration Day.

Now reading: Echo by Terry Moore

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox

Book review: 2010.05

Author: Eoin Colfer

In the interest of full disclosure — I love the Artemis Fowl series. This series is a wonderful example of urban scifi. I don't know if "urban scifi" is a real subgenre, but it's certainly not an urban fantasy. There is magic and fantasy creatures (fairies, pixies, trolls, and the coolest dwarf I've ever seen), there are also lasers, jetpacks, and underground spaceships. And I'm pretty sure that lasers trump fairies when it comes to genre classification.

The central character in the series is a quintessential wealthy evil genius — who happens to be 8 years old when the series begins. Artemis Fowl is the criminal mastermind that I always wanted to be. He plots world domination and is assisted by his bodyguard, Butler, who is another one of Colfer's amazing characters. (If you know Brock Samson from Venture Brothers, the you know Butler.) In the first book, Artemis encounters a young fairy, Holly Short, who is a reconnaissance officer for the Lower Elements Police. That's right, Holly is a LEPrecon officer.

In this book, Artemis and Holly have to travel back in time to procure a cure for Artemis' mother, who is suffering from a rare and deadly fairy plague. I dreaded reading this book because of the time travel. Time travel is hard to do well, and rarely succeeds. But Colfer, with his usual panache, embraces those dangers and twists them to his will. The paradox of time travel is a central plot point, twisting the story into a Mobius strip held together with a Gordian knot. In other words, he makes it work and uses the paradox in a very simple way.

This book is probably my least favorite of the series, but there are five previous books for you to enjoy before you get here. Actually, I realized quickly that I haven't read the previous book, so I'll have to go back to that one soon.

These books are full of humor, great characters, good story, and lots of criminal activity: spying, heists, and mayhem. They are really worth checking out, especially if you listen to audio books. The audio version is read by an incredibly talented voice actor who really brings the stories to life.