Tag Archives: Star Wars

A week in reading

Sometimes reading feels like famine or feast. I go through periods of brilliant books, then can’t find a damn thing to read anywhere (and when you consider that I work in a library…)

This last week has been a feast period. I started with two fun Star Wars books, downloaded a gripping audio book and found a bargain e-book written by a friend. So let’s start with that one.

Jane Turley is an English writer who I have come to know through G+. She’s cheerful and friendly and encouraging, and has often mentioned that she’s been working on her novel. That novel is “The Changing Room“, and she posted it online this last week. I downloaded a copy, keen to see what she’d produced, expecting – hoping – to enjoy it.

What I didn’t expect was to be totally swept away by it. The book is written from the point of view of Sandy, a wife and mum who is a great salesperson. She doesn’t love her job at the furniture store, but she likes people, and her work helps support her husband’s building company in the tough times of recession. During the course of the novel, Sandy moves from her sales job at the store to a more flexible one working from home, then finds a surprising extra source of income when a friend reveals she runs a sex chat phone service.

Throughout all this Sandy is caring for her mother, who is sliding deeper and deeper into Alzheimer’s. Sandy wants to put off taking her mother into care, but it has to happen eventually, for her own safety as much as for Sandy’s sanity.

I won’t detail everything that happens in the book, but suffice to say, I read it in two sittings. Sandy’s life is busy, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s unexpected and familiar at the same time. More than anything, this book feels REAL. I have no hesitation in recommending this book.

The two Star Wars books I read this week were “Allegiance” and “Choices of One” by Timothy Zahn. Both these books are now available under the “Star Wars – Legends” banner, since Disney decided all books produced after “Return of the Jedi” were non-canon. HERESY! Ahem.

I thought I had read both these books before, but I was delighted to discover that I had made a silly mistake. “Allegiance” is the first of the two, and I had only read the second book. When I picked up “Allegiance” last time, I read the blurb and thought it sounded familiar, so I assumed I’d read it. Here’s why:

The first book deals with Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand. She’s got a mission to fulfill. A group of stormtroopers, disgusted with some Xeno-cleansing they have been ordered to take part in, accidentally kill a political officer and go on the run, fortuitously stealing a fully-equipped and disguised ship. They elect to continue as rogue stormtroopers, serving their image of the Empire, as a just bastion of stability and order. Meanwhile, three very familiar rebels are also on a mission – Han, Luke and Leia (and Chewie!) – that takes them into the same area of space.

What follows is a clever dance. Zahn introduced the character of Mara Jade in the first post ROTJ book “Heir to the Empire” and showed us then that she had not met Luke Skywalker previously, though she knew of him and hated him for killing the Emperor. By writing these prequels, Zahn risked contradicting his own work, so he has managed to manipulate the characters and events so that the stormtroopers work with both rebels and Jade, but those two groups never communicate directly with one another.

It’s not world-changing stuff, and it’s really most fun if you’re a fan of Zahn’s previous work and want to see Mara in her prime and Luke as a know-nothing proto-jedi. Read them in order, and be surprised at how you can come to admire a group of stormtroopers.

The audio book I’ve been enjoying this week is “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith (Or JK Rowling, as he’s also known….). Mrs Dim and I both enjoyed “The Cuckoo’s Calling”, finding it mildly less grim than “The Casual Vacancy”, and “The Silkworm” is in much the same vein. Of course, since solving the high-profile Lula Landry murder, Cormoran Strike and Robin are on a much better financial footing, and Cormoran himself has finally found a new place to live, so he’s not sleeping in the office any more.

The book is slower to start, lingering more on the details of Robin and Strike’s lives, but I was perfectly happy with that. Rowling didn’t go into a great deal of detail on her principal characters in the first book, and I was interested in how things had gone for them in the intervening time. There’s still plenty to be told – mention is made several times during the book of the traumatic events that made Robin drop out of her course at university, but unless I missed something, we never found out exactly what it was. Her fiance does express surprise that she wants to become an investigator herself “after what happened”, so there’s a clue there, maybe…

I found myself making excuses to plug my headphones in so I could listen to the story, and inevitably got cross with myself after finishing it. What am I going to listen to now? I enjoyed it so much, i found it hard to understand the negative reviews it garnered on Amazon. Not many, certainly, but I think most were still looking for another Harry Potter book.

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A perfectly useless hobby.

What are you supposed to do as a hobby when your real job is something other people do as a hobby?

When I was a kid, one of the things I wanted to do was work in the movies. Specifically, I wanted to work in Special Effects. Back in those days, that meant modelmaking, creating real props, and, occasionally, blowing stuff up.

When I was eighteen, I actually had the chance to visit a real effects workshop, and saw some of the machinery they had. They even owned their own fire engine to produce rainstorms when the weather wasn’t co-operating with filming schedules. More sobering was the owner’s right hand, missing two fingers after an effect went disastrously wrong.

But I didn’t get into the movie biz, and modelmaking does not suit my short attention span. Every model I make ends up looking like it was hit by anti-aircraft fire, even when they’re sailing ships.

Costume on stand

But the Cosplay bug bit a few years ago, once we had settled down into a house where I had a workshop to call my own. I made my Mandalorian helmet, using trial and error and error and error. Once I’d stopped working on that (not once I’d got it right…I’m fairly realistic about my efforts here) I decided to tackle the Scout Trooper Helmet.

I don’t know why I coveted this particular helmet. It’s probably because “Return of the Jedi” was the first Star Wars film I saw at the cinema, and the Speeder Bike chase scene was burned onto my brain ever since.

Remembering the frequent disappointments with the Mando helmet, I swore that this time I would take things slow. Not rush stages and spoil things.

I found an old ski helmet at a sports sale and decided to use it as the base for the helmet. Then I decided the two other main materials were going to be the foam flooring tiles available in stores everywhere ($11.99 for four) and lots and lots of filler. Filler can be bought in big tubs, it’s almost stiff enough to mould and hold a shape, and you can sand it smooth. If you have patience.

I cut a disc out of a flat piece of floor tile and settled it on the helmet, then replaced the disc to make the raised section on top. The side pieces are held in place by a foam insert (white). Filler round the top attempts to smooth things over.

I cut a disc out of a flat piece of floor tile and settled it on the helmet, then replaced the disc to make the raised section on top. The side pieces are held in place by a foam insert (white). Filler round the top attempts to smooth things over.

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I used some pipe insulation to make the raised section that goes from ear to ear around the back. This is the first place where careful measurement and symmetry comparisons would have been good.

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The “jigsaw” lines are the result of using the straight edge of the floor tile, then filling the gaps in the jigsaw edge with glue. Amateur mistake. The glue resists sanding, either sticking to the sander, or melting and flinging glue everywhere.

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As usual with projects like this, I can’t help spraying on some paint in the hopes it will start to look really good. It never does.

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Heavy application of filler begins to cover over the glue jigsaw disaster. I start to use the filler to flare out the “ear” portions. Again, I did this without carefully checking the various reference photos I have of the real helmet.

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I removed the foam inserts and immediately saw that I hadn’t got the front cut straight, or attached evenly. I SHOULD have taken it apart then and there. Instead I decided to try and press on and fix it as I went.

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I was quite proud of this front piece. After so long staring at the cowling, it was nice to see the face of the trooper helmet emerge. I cut the visor hole freehand, and did not use any measure referents. It is not even. I did have scalpel blades to cut the foam tile, but no scalpel to hold them in. This is not an optimal situation.

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Adding more filler helped the shape of the face plate, and emptied the filler tub. Please don’t imagine this is taking place in one or two extended sessions. Each advance takes place over five or ten minutes grabbed here and there amongst other adventures. On the plus side, this means the filler dries before I attempt to ruin the next bit.

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The faceplate is way too long, so I need to cut it down. Plus it doesn’t go all the way around to the back, so I have a piece to put in. I added the purple piece because it’s raised detail on the actual helmet, and I felt putting in a piece of thin foam would be easier than sculpting it in filler.

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This shows the gap at the back that needed sorting out.

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With the faceplate cut down, the helmet sits at a more pleasing angle.

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More filler and some determined sanding starts to get the right surface finish. I also cut and reshaped the corners of the cowl. It’s too high, but it’s the right shape.

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The reshaping has left one side looking oddly angled. Naturally, I tried adding paint to see if it helped. You can see how well that worked.

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Shaping the snout was moderately successful, and actually, adding more paint makes the whole thing look more of a piece. The contour lines running out from the snout are wrong though, and in remodelling I’ll get them wrong in a different way.

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When I found the visor material (an old school binder cover) I couldn’t resist sticking it in temporarily and trying it on. It’s hard to see through, steams up, and is impossible to take selfies in, because you can’t see what you’re doing.

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More sanding has improved the surface, but left the thing looking like it barely survived a fire.

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This shot shows how badly asymmetrical the faceplate is. A devoted cosplayer would either start afresh, or tear the helmet down a few stages. I tried adding more paint.

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Oh yes, that’s much…er…shinier.

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In the real helmet, that cut down the side is where the faceplate lifts up so you can put it on. That doesn’t happen with this one, but it still has to be there.

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Shots like this make it look pretty good. Mostly because they don’t include the reference photographs showing where I was going wrong.

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The surface of the snout wasn’t smooth enough, so I decided to add another piece of the thin craft foam. This picture is just checking the fit – I sprayed it black before gluing it in.

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Real dedication would have been continuing to sand and paint and sand and paint. But I lost all patience and glued the visor in instead. Now I couldn’t spray anymore, unless I went to the trouble of covering the visor. And you know how likely that is.

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Couldn’t resist trying it on. Vaguely reminded of Snoopy.

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With all work on surfacing pretty much abandoned, it was time to add on the little details. Measuring for pinpoint accuracy and comparisons with photo referents were just two things I didn’t do….

I added the "Enhanced comlink" piece to the bottom of the snout.

I added the “Enhanced comlink” piece to the bottom of the snout.

Now I needed the extra pieces to complete the snout. Here, measuring would be vital to get them looking exactly right.

Now I needed the extra pieces to complete the snout. Here, measuring would be vital to get them looking exactly right.

But unfortunately, I didn't do any.

But unfortunately, I didn’t do any.

WP_003656This whole project took around six months. Along the way, Mrs Dim reminded me that I’m not very good at this sort of thing, and I had a serious think about WHY I still do it. I can see the flaws in what I’ve made, even while I’m making it, but making it is something I enjoy doing. I don’t mind that I never get whole days to work on it. Probably wouldn’t enjoy it if I did. I know this is nothing like the 501st produce, but that’s ok too, because I don’t think I’m really doing this for the Cosplay aspect. It’s just something I do for me, something that isn’t writing, or cleaning, or cooking, or parenting. It may be less practical than knitting, less aesthetically pleasing than painting, but it’s my hobby.

Any suggestions for my next project? I quite fancy taking on a Clone Trooper helmet…..

Dear Disney: An open letter about the Boba Fett movie

DSCN7100Dear Disney (or at least, the parts of Disney under the Lucasfilm banner),

I read on the internet this week that there is some trouble over the proposed Boba Fett movie. Problems with a satisfactory script, say the rumours. Well, it’s the internet isn’t it? Who can believe what they read there?

But in this case, I think I can see there would be an issue.

My friend on G+, Eoghann Irving, says the problem is that Boba Fett is an over-rated character – two dimensional and actually uninteresting. It’s certainly true that he doesn’t get to do very much in the films that actually feature him : “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”. In the first he is merely persistent, tracking Han and Leia to Cloud City and taking possession of Han’s frozen body for delivery. No action at all. He does get to fight and fly in “Return of the Jedi”, but he’s not very impressive there, using a cord-projector to try and trap Luke Skywalker, who has no trouble cutting the cord with his lightsabre, then getting knocked off the skiff and into the Sarlacc pit by Han Solo even though Han’s still blind.

Despite this lack of brilliance, Boba is beloved of fans, and even before the prequels gave us Jango Fett showing a more combat-savvy Mandalorian fighting style, there were legions of Boba wannabes building their own dented helmets and jet packs.

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I suspect the problem you’re having with the movie is that you want Boba to be the hero. You want him wisecracking, and fighting for good. And you want him winning some fair maiden’s hand. And taking his damn helmet off, too.*

The fundamental dichotomy here is that you have a niche character, and you want to make him appeal to a huge demographic so they will all pay lots of money to see his movie. But that’s not going to work. Boba achieved iconic status DESPITE his lack of action, and the fact he only speaks a handful of lines in the trilogy. (I would bet that kid-Boba has more lines in “Attack of the Clones” than his elder counterpart has in the two movies that feature him…) To make a good Boba Fett movie, you have to have him BE Boba Fett, not Indiana Jones in a dented helmet and jetpack.

My appeal to you, Disney (and I know it’s no more likely to succeed than my letters to Microsoft or the UK Revenue) is to let Boba do what Boba does best. Send him off on a hunt for a bounty. Stop thinking he’s a hero, and start thinking ANTI-hero. Hell, why not model him on Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Western character, the Man with No Name? I can see Boba playing two sides off one another in a war so that the way is clear for him to collect a whole bunch of bounties.

The point is, you’re not going to end up with a movie that you can use to sell plastic toys to seven year olds. I mean, sure, you can make the toys and sell ’em, but the movie should not cater to kids that age. It should cater to kids like me, who are forty odd years old, and have loved Star Wars since our first visit to that galaxy far, far away. Boba’s a bounty hunter, just a working stiff trying to make his way in the galaxy. We don’t want to know more about his motivations and his back story – we want to see him in action, shake off that “Vader’s lapdog” image and be the badass we all hope he really is.

If you want a better idea of Mandalorian culture, go read Karen Traviss’ books. She took those brief hints from the movies and created a warrior race to be proud of, complete with language and traditions. You could do a lot worse than use her ideas in your movie. A lot worse.

Boba Fett: A Practical Man: Star Wars (Short Story)

Please, whatever you decide to do, don’t go with “worse”.

 

May the Force be With You.

 

 

*It’s like this : I’m a Judge Dredd fan, and I saw what Stallone did to that character. Karl Urban did a stand-up job, but seriously, Sly, what the hell? Did you even READ the source material?

And yes, I am writing a screenplay for a Boba Fett movie. Why, do you know someone who might be interested?

Fan Expo Vancouver 2014

Thor and Loki, fighting as usual...

Thor and Loki, fighting as usual…

This was our third visit to FanExpo Vancouver, but only the second year we actually got inside. We’d been planning the day for ages – tickets bought well in advance, Weasels’ costumes worked out – but the last couple of days before were a blur of activity. Somehow, this did not include me getting the adjustments to my own costume done. Next year. Maybe.

Tiny Weasel had settled on a version of Ana from Frozen who is only onscreen for a few moments during the song “Do you want to build a Snowman?” but it came out pretty well, thanks to Mrs Dim’s sewing skills and some decorating on my part.

Tiny Weasel on the right, with a borrowed Olaf, meeting an older version of Ana.

Tiny Weasel on the right, with a borrowed Olaf, meeting an older version of Ana.

Middle Weasel had chosen the slightly more obscure computer game character Juno Eclipse. I built the hat, the gun rig, the rank badge and belt buckle, and Mrs Dim produced an awesome uniform jacket that will see plenty more use in everyday life.

These two members of the 501st made a good honour guard for Middle Weasel's arrival.

These two members of the 501st made a good honour guard for Middle Weasel’s arrival.

Eldest Weasel is usually quite shy and retiring, but she wanted to be a Time Lord, so Mrs Dim produced some fabulous robes, and I put together a headpiece based on the one worn by Timothy Dalton as Rassilon. She walked everywhere with an amazing poise and confidence, even though she was stopped every few feet by people wanting photographs – even at Subway!

This TARDIS cosplayer has used latex to make Gallifreyan writing appear burned into her skin. Amazing job.

This TARDIS cosplayer has used latex to make Gallifreyan writing appear burned into her skin. Amazing job.

This year the venue was larger, and we arrived early on the Sunday, so things were quieter for the first hour or so. We had a good chance to wander the booths and chat to the vendors and exhibitors, and saw some of the big names arriving for their signing sessions – Tom Felton, Charisma Carpenter, Eliza Dushku, Robert Englund…. (No photos of them this year, sorry!)

Attending in costume, even if only through the Weasels, was a very different experience to last year’s plain clothes day. There’s more of a sense of cameraderie with the other cosplayers, and it’s such fun meeting with other groups and taking photos together, or swapping notes on costume choice and construction.

I’m going to end with a photo reel without comments : These pictures have been posted on my Facebook page and my G+ account, so I’m all commented out, but feel free to ask for explanations or identifications!

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Books of September

Fall seems an appropriate time to leaf through some new books…

Ok, maybe I’ll start that again.

Kate and Lily in leaves

This Fall image comes pre-loaded with cute – but has nothing to do with books. Sorry.

Now the long days of summer have passed, there actually seems to be less time for reading. I blame this more on the fact that I started the month with huge brick of a book by George R R someone-or-other which took up quite a bit of time, as well as sapping enthusiasm for fantasy epics. Well, let’s get to the list:

A Feast For Crows – George RR Martin

I really wasn’t going to get into the Game of Thrones. Really. Honestly didn’t want to. But then there was all the flap over the Red Wedding, so I wanted to catch up with that. And then Tyrion goes and…well, I won’t drop THAT bombshell if you haven’t got there yet, but suffice to say I wanted to know what happened next.

But Feast For Crows is a bit mean. GRRM says (at the end, helpfully) that he was a long way into it when he realised it was too much for one book, and rather than only tell half the story for everyone, he decided to tell the whole story for half the characters. Thus it was that, halfway through the book, I was wondering why we hadn’t heard from so-and-so, or thingummy. Because they were in the next book, that’s why.

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Star Wars : Force Heretic Remnant – Sean Williams and Shane Dix

I thought this might be one of the many Star Wars Yuzhong Vong War books I had on audio but failed to listen to all the way through. It turns out it isn’t. None of this stuff is familiar, but it has got more of the story of Tahiri Veila between the death of Anakin Solo and the rise of Darth Cadeus. And if you don’t know what any of that means, then you have lots and lots to read before you can pick up this book.

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A Dance With Dragons – George RR Martin

Like “Feast for Crows”, but the other half. And then a bit more, and just when you think you’re sure who’s going to come out on top, there’s another brutal stabbing. Not HIM…. I swear, I’m not reading the next one, just flipping to the last page in the bookstore.

How to tame an out of control writing project in 20 steps – R. Lynn Cole

I picked this book up because of a piece of self-promotion on G+ and it was well-worth it. R.Lynn Cole has some great ideas about getting the harder aspects of writing done. Editing is the thing I hate most, and because of that I avoid it, or do it badly. It’s like my weasels and math homework. Anyway, her method sounds good, and it’s something I haven’t tried before, so I’ll be giving it a go on the next book I’m going to publish (My YA book, that was called “Tribute” but now needs a new title along with everything else. I hear one word titles are big this year. Any suggestions? The heroine is a singer songwriter with parental issues. Something about harmony would be ACE…) I seriously recommend this book if you’ve reached the end of your first draft and you’re facing the long uphill slog of editing.

Surfacing – Jim McGregor and Natasha Jones

I gave Surfacing its own blog post here.

The Last Jedi – Michael Reeves and Maaya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

This is a neat Star Wars book. It springs from a series that’s almost Star Wars PI, with an ex-Jedi trying to hide out from Darth Vader just after Order 66, but doing it on Coruscant, while still doing the kind of things that Jedi do – help the helpless, uphold the good and the right etc etc. The characters are interesting and the plot fits into the SW universe, as you’d expect. Have a look at the first in the series : Jedi Twilight, Coruscant Nights Vol.1

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Star Wars: Force Heretic Refugee – Sean Williams and Shane Dix

I’m just going to say “Yuzhong Vong” again, only this time I also get to mention the Srri Ruuk and Bakura. Honestly, I’m not making this stuff up. I’m looking forward to getting through the third book to fill in the gaps in my own memory about the search for Zonama Sekot and Tahiri’s journey from Jedi apprentice to knight, to Vong, to Jedi and then to Sith. And then back to Jedi. Sort of.

What makes your brain happy and why you should do the opposite – David DiSalvo

I don’t read as many non-fic books as I’d like to, but working at the library means I see a lot of great-looking ones, most of which promise to improve things, or reduce things, or increase things. This one tells you a lot about why your brains prompts you to do or like things that aren’t always the best for you, and why there’s nothing you can do about them. For example, our brains “like” the feeling of being right, so they will add weight to your certainty on something because it “feels” right. Doesn’t mean it is right.

There were some interesting points. One chapter showed that people will quickly follow on if one person in an office environment starts to point the finger of blame at someone else. However, if all the people in the office are invited to write down (ie, express) their own values, then they are far less likely to act in such a negative way – we want to live up to the ideals we’ve expressed, but only because we’ve expressed them. There’s some great content here, written in a very accessible style. Just not a lot of practical help, or not enough to balance the bad news.

I’ve also been reading “The Meek” by Brad Poynter, another previous post subject. Unfortunately, due to some technical glitch, the book isn’t showing up on my Kindle, and I’m having to read it on my phone. That seems ironic, since the story deals with everyone in the world suddenly shrinking, and I’m having to read it on a tiny screen…. Full review next month, I promise.

Books of July

For some reason there’s a lot of books in this month’s “read” list. Don’t remember having more free time than usual. Maybe I just didn’t get as much sleep…

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The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

To be honest, I was little surprised to find myself picking this book up. The first volume had set out a complex world with a long, involved history that was part myth, part song, part imaginary dream etc etc etc. The lead character was a damaged orphan with unexpected magical ability who is given a letter that leads him to a magical education establishment.

But, despite my misgivings, I wanted to know what happens next, which has to say something about the writing, doesn’t it? And there’s plenty more of what happens next. There’s foreshadowing aplenty, since this is a tale being told in the present over the course of three days, and this book is day two. The hero is an old man recounting the tale of his youth in a tavern he owns, and there are hints that his past is catching up with him, and not in a good “marry your high-school sweetheart” kind of way.

The bad news is that book three isn’t around yet, and there could be another long wait for that. I should ensure all the books in a series are written before I begin reading.

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Joyland – Stephen King

This one surprised me. It says on the cover it’s published as part of the “Hard Cases” crime series, so I was expecting a fairly straight story, even though it’s Stephen King. But, inevitably, the supernatural sticks a hand in. It’s a great read though, and I devoured it in a day and half. The story follows a young man who spends a summer working in an amusement park, though it’s a place that has shadows in its past. Even if you think you don’t like Stephen King, try this one.

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The First Days – Rhiannon Frater

As you know, I’m writing a zombie book myself, so I picked this one on a whim. It turns out the author was writing this story periodically on her blog, and was pressed into publishing by friends, fans, and ultimately an agent. She did a good job, creating an interesting and real zombie apocalypse, with the added fun bonus of characters who are aware of, and reference, zombie movies and tropes. I liked the fortified enclosure she created for her city survivors, and the fact that there may be more of these books out there already. I’ll be looking out for them.

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The Girl in the Steel Corset – Kady Cross

There has to be some Steampunk in the mix too, and this one caught my eye because of the beautiful cover art. Yes, I judge books by their covers. That’s what they’re for. The storyline is neat enough, combining elements of Jekyl and Hyde with the notion of Professor Xavier’s academy from X men and the investigations of the X files. I wasn’t too sure about the tech involved – how exactly does a portable telegraph actually work? But it’s sufficiently different from others in the genre to be interesting. However, I did feel that some of the character’s thoughts got rolled out again and again. Someone would be striding around their room, thinking to themselves how insufferable so and so was, then they would encounter so and so a minute later and recount their thoughts of the previous page. So and so would then storm off, mulling over the things just said to them. All that may happen in real life, of course, but the upshot here is that we, the poor readers, go through the same stuff THREE TIMES.

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Halo: The Fall of Reach/ Boot Camp/Covenant Graphic novels

Eldest Weasel is playing her way through the original Halo game, and I saw this pair of graphic novels come into the library where I was working. I waited til they were out on the shelf and other people had had time to see them, then booked them out to me. They’re good adaptations of the books, which are extrapolations of the game and back story.

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Prey – Michael Crichton

I haven’t read a Crichton novel since “Airframe” nearly put me off flying for life. But this one looked neat and I thought it was time for a grownup book again. It’s the usual mix of tech and hubris, and while I struggled with some of the technical details, the actual plot and procedure all made enough sense for a gripping read. If you’re interested in nano technology or organic/tech interfacing, then this is a book for you.

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Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian – Eoin Colfer

My memory of finding the first Artemis Fowl book is that I read about it in the same “Summertime reading suggestions” article that mentioned a book about a boy called Harry Potter. Neither were big yet, and I bought both over the same weekend.

I liked Artemis Fowl’s adventures for the first four books. After that I felt things went a little off the rails, and I missed “The Atlantis Complex” and this book altogether until last month and this month. I’m glad I went back to them. This book was back on track and is a good way to wrap up the series. I hear Disney is making a movie of the first book, and will be interested to see what they do with it.

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The Girl in the Clockwork Collar – Kady Cross

This book takes the characters from the first book and throws them across the Atlantic to mess with a criminal gang in New York. There’s some historical accuracy, some guest-starring by everyone’s favourite scientist (Tesla, of course) and more mucking about in the Aether. Oh, and clockwork. My previous dissatisfaction remains, but I still read the whole thing. The characters are interesting, and it’s nice to have a strong female character in a period book.

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Songs of Love and Death – Various

This book collected together tales whose only connection was – you guessed it – love and death. And now I can’t remember any of them. Maybe seeing the cover in a couple of minutes will help, but right now, none of them leap out. It’s been a big month for reading, and some of the books have been blinders, and some of the ones I’m reading NOW are obliterating my memory completely.

Yes the image helped. Neil Gaiman’s story was as twisted yet enjoyable as you’d expect, and I was disappointed by only one or two of the stories in this volume. Worth a try, certainly.

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Imaginary Me – Desmond Shepherd

This was a brilliant (and free!) download I came across on G+. Written from a first-person perspective, which is always hard, the difficulty is compounded by the fact that the person narrating is the imaginary friend of a little girl and only exists when the girl thinks about him. The story brilliantly conveys the miserable circumstances of the girl, the world around her and the desperate plan that might, just might, save her life. Brilliantly done.

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The Good Thief’s Guide to Venice – Chris Ewan

I donated this one to Mrs Dim, since she’d run out of things to read, and she was unimpressed. I have to say that after a good start, introducing the narrator who’s a reformed (ish) cat burglar turned novellist, everything went downhill from there. The plot was wild, unlikely, difficult to follow and ultimately unsatisfactory.

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Halo: The Flood –  William C Dietz

I picked up this book from my shelf after watched Eldest playing more Halo and being re-energised about the stories thanks to the graphic novels of earlier this month. This book really is the novellisation of the first game, and though it’s been criticised for being little more than a book-length walkthrough, there’s actually more characterisation and some back-story development and some filling in of the gaps that you don’t get in the game, since your perspective there is limited to what the Master Chief can see. And if you don’t follow that, go play the game. It’s ACE!

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Scoundrels – Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn had some work to do to recover from the dull “Night Train to Rigel” thingy I read last month. Fortunately the cover alone made this book worth picking up. I thought at first he’d written a standard heist book and converted it for the Star Wars universe, but soon realised he’d written this book with Star Wars in mind all along. It ties in with later events, later characters and only works with the gadgets and people of the SW universe. However, the scene where he puts a whip in Han Solo’s hands and makes him run along in front of a huge boulder…well, that was just grandstanding. Worth reading just so you can shake your head at that bit. Not to mention the inevitable manipulation of dialogue so Han can say the line “Well, I shot first…” which seems to be de rigeur for any book featuring Solo these days. I think the Star Wars writers have a bet on….

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Plugged – Eoin Colfer

So, Eoin Colfer isn’t writing any more Artemis Fowl books, and if there’s any justice in the world he won’t be writing any more Hitch Hiker’s Guide books either. This is the kind of thing he’ll be writing instead – the adventures of an ex-army bouncer, inadvertantly caught up in a drugs-related gang war, hunted by cops and villains alike, trying to save the few friends he has and maybe make some new ones on the way. It was grim fare at times, but the lead is likeable and the plot moved fast. Plus it was unpredictable and ended well. Please leave the Hitch Hiker (and Dirk Gently) books alone, Mr Colfer, and give us more like this!

As usual, I haven’t included the audio books I’ve been listening to this month, like the excellent “The Ocean at the end of the Lane”, since I often revisit old favourites for a chapter or two, and keeping track of what I listened to when isn’t as practical as noting which book is going back to the library. I read on a website this week that it’s recommended that people “try to read at least one book a month” to improve and broaden their minds. If this is true, my mind should be so broad I could pull it out my ears and tie it under my chin.

The Books of June

June has been a pleasant month, especially when compared to the misery of last year – We had Juneuary last year…. This time around it’s been better because of the good weather, the visit of my In-Laws (which was great) and the new job (which was unexpected).

The return of the sun has permitted the Weasels to enjoy the garden.

The return of the sun has permitted the Weasels to enjoy the garden.

Of course, none of the above have slowed my reading, and since the new job is at the library, I could pass off collecting more books as “job research”. Here’s the latest research I have compiled:

It- Stephen King

See my earlier review

Night Train to Rigel – Timothy Zahn

I really enjoyed Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, so I thought I’d give this trilogy a try. It’s a private investigator story, a real Bogart Knight Errant, once a man of the Authority sort of thing. I liked it, but found the politics a bit heavy going, and the hard sci-fi made my brain hurt a little. The idea of real tubes of metal through hyperspace carrying trains….Too much material, I thought.

Storm of Swords – George R R Martin

A long time ago, I had the chance to read the screenplay for the first episode of the TV version of “Game of Thrones”. It was good, but ended too soon, and I wanted to read more. Naturally, I took the book out of the library, but re-reading material I’d already seen in the screenplay was dull, since the book made much heavier going of it (compared to the screenplay, which is by necessity faster and more superficial) I gave it up as a bad job. Since then, I’ve been kept informed of the rough progress of events on GoT by my friends on G+, and when the storm broke about The Red Wedding, I had to go and find out more. Reading the third book without having read the others was tricky, and it wasn’t until I was about halfway through that I felt comfortable with all the characters. It feels like George RR Martin is playing a chess game on a board that has seventeen sides, and he’s doing it in the back of a van driving fast down a cobbled street. And he’s wearing a blindfold, and the rules change every ten minutes.

That said, I’ll be having a go at book four at some point. Just to see who else dies. To be frank, there aren’t many people left.

Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

Zombies. Love ’em, even if I don’t get to watch many zombie movies these days. I loved the trailer for this movie, and was delighted to find the book delivers even more. There’s the humour, the unique premise of a zombie being “cured” by love, but also some deep philosophical thinking about what life is and how we choose to live. Best of all, I left this lying around carelessly and Middle Weasel picked it up and read it (in three days! That’s my girl!). Now she’s not so bothered about zombies, at least in daylight.

Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick

I don’t think I’m ever going to watch the movie of this story, even though I like both the leads. The book was easy to read, but the story is tough, coming from the point of view of someone suffering from a traumatic head injury and a fairly sad life too. His up-beat outlook doesn’t quite cover all eventualities, but it’s worth sticking it out to the end of the book. Mainly because you’ll have an idea how his accident happened, but you don’t get it confirmed until you reach the last chapter.

The Return of King Doug – Greg Erbe, Jason Oremland, illustrated by Wook Jin-Clark

I haven’t read a graphic novel for a while, and the cover of this one looked like it promised to be fun. And it was! Doug visits the kingdom of Valdonia as a boy, enjoying himself as he escapes from the real world of his parent’s holiday home, down the well and into the magical land beyond, but when the creatures who live in Valdonia ask Doug to lead them in rebellion against the Evil Queen, he runs away. Years later, Doug is living a loser lifestyle, failing to be a responsible father to the child he shares custody of. When that son finds the entrance to Valdonia and is captured by the Queen, Doug must – finally – face up to his responsibilities as a ruler and a Dad.

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Some time ago, someone on G+ posted this article about fantasy novels that are good despite their bad cover art. Mrs Dim said we should track some of them down and give them a go, but every time I found myself in the library, I had forgotten to note any of the titles. The only one I could remember was the name “Patrick Rothfuss” and so I got hold of this book. By then Mrs Dim was stuck into another novel, and didn’t have time to read it, so I tried it.

It’s a fantasy epic, it’s really, really big in scope, though it’s the story of one man. The clue to the scope is the fact that this book could crush a small pony if dropped from the height of four feet, yet it is only “Day One” of the three days the main character is taking to tell his life story. There’s a whole world and tons of history and myth woven through the tale, so the best thing to do is just nod and let it flow through you. I ground my teeth in frustration more than once, but at the end of the book I made a note to get the next in the series. It’s about the same length and is subtitled “day two”. Frankly, if there was a pamphlet with a summary of events, I’d be happy with that.

I’m the kind of person who flips to the back of a gloomy novel to see if it’s worth reading right through to the end. And if it isn’t, I’ll give it up. Life is short enough.

Han Solo at Star’s End – Brian Daley

I mentioned that my In-Laws came to stay. They have a fondness for second-hand bookstores, and I drove them out to one of our local stores one rainy afternoon. Thus I got to browse the sci-fi and fantasy shelves and found this wonderful book that goes with the other two Han Solo books by Brian Daley that I have reviewed in past months. Now I have the whole trilogy again and it’s like revisiting a beloved former home. Also, this is the book that first mentions the Z-95 Headhunter, something that Lego have just produced as a kit because it’s featured in the Clone Wars tv series. I love canon consistency!

The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – Edited by Sean Wallace

I love collections of short stories. For one thing, it’s easy to get to the end of a tale and put the book down when you have something to do, which is harder with chapter books (Just one more! Just one, then I’ll start…) For another, if the quality is good, it’s like reading a dozen novels in a row. This collection only had a couple of stories that didn’t pull me in, though Steampunk seems such a vague genre that the stories vary wildly in time, location, technology, character and outlook. If you haven’t tried Steampunk, this might not be a bad place to start.

This post being late, I’m already into my next set of reading. What’s on YOUR bedside table right now?