The Toll by Cherie Priest

the toll

First I would like to address that I listened to the audio book, second some of the audio drags, but setting my player to 1.15 playback speed fixed it or made it less noticeable.  Spoiler Free.

This book is a take on the troll under the bridge, and it is done well.  I am not usually one for horror, I tend to keep my reviews at least to time travel sub genres. I do read a lot of other stuff, and Stephen King is one of my favorites.  Although I will never read, listen, or watch ‘IT’, I seriously am creeped out by clowns.  This book feels like a King book. Don’t get me wrong it is not a clone. It has its own voice that is very different than King’s work.  I think it was the surrealness of the events Miss Priest describes.

The book was good, real good. It was one of those books that you read/listen to in a day and feel a sad once it is over.  The ending sets itself up to have more to the story, but it has a satisfying ending.  There are some parts that I didn’t like. I feel like there is a serious lack of comeuppance for one character in particular. Maybe we will see a sequel that addresses the few loose ends that are floating around.

I really like the concept that there are 6 bridges going one way, but every now and again there might be a 7th going the other way.  The monster of the book was well thought out and described just vaguely enough to kick my imagination into overdrive.  I would love to explore the world of where the monster came from.  I love to delve deep in to this kind of lore.  There is some back story that we get a partial glimpse, but not enough to form the full picture.  The character Cameron’s backstory is something I would like explored in depth in a future sequel.  There is plenty of room in that backstory for a prequel for the cousins.

It has taken me a few days to formulate just how I felt about this book.  I think this has been one of the better novels I’ve read in the last few months if not the last year. Looking through Miss Priest’s bibliography I notice that I have read several of her book, I can confidently recommend any of her works.  The first novel I read by her was Boneshaker, and it is of the SteamPunk/zombie sub-genre.  If you like sleeping with your lights on for the next couple of weeks, check her out!

If you have something you want me to review just let me know in the comments section.

The Girl in the Moon

See the source image

This review will be heavy in the spoilers, you have been warned.

I had high hopes for this book, I really did, but it fell flat.  The main Character Angela is wooden and unrealistic.  Some may argue that that’s the point, she is wooden because she can’t feel anything unless she is torturing and killing other killers.  But who can relate to that?   It’s so far away from the way normal people feel and function we cannot make a connection to Angela.

The writing is poor, I expected more from Terry Goodkind. He takes every opportunity to remind the reader what Angela means in Italian, and forces down our throat at every corner how Angela’s power works.  It’s as if he doesn’t trust his readers to be lead along by his story telling so he leaves large loafs of bread on the trail and not bread crumbs.  The whole novel feels more like it random fight/rape/murder scenes that were written with a vague idea what the overall story might be, then stitched together in to this Frankenstein’s monster.

Character development ends in the first few chapters.  Angela’s reaction to being raped and almost killed left little to no psychological scars.  I would expect her to have some lasting effects from a quad or men raping and hanging her to die, but no she just wants revenge.  Can she feel emotion or not? Come on Terry this is just muddling the character design.  I feel everyone could understand the numbness of depression and the toll it takes on the psyche, but Terry Goodkind doesn’t even explore why she “can’t feel”.  At every twist and turn he stomps all over the “can’t feel” bit and writes her with anger and a need for revenge even some empathy.  I don’t know what was more annoying, the premise that she can’t feel emotions, or the fact that she is constantly out of character feeling emotions all over the place.

As a fan of Terry Goodkind, I was very disappointed.

 

(EDIT: Fixed some grammar issues and spelling.  I was angry writing when I originally wrote this and it showed.)

Off To Be The Wizard and Faction Games

Off To Be The Wizard and Faction Games
imagesOff to Be The Wizard
by Scott Meyer
2013
Book one of Magic 2.0
Audio version was narrated by Luke Daniels.

What can I say about this book. I loved it so much, I’ve read it twice and listened to it on audio with my 12 year old son. On the surface it is a comedy about computer hackers that find a file that lets them change their real world parameters.  Do to poor choices, in its use the main character Martin flees to medieval times to be a wizard.  Hilarity ensues.

At its core the book is much deeper than a funny story. It is a commentary on theft of intellectual property, It also takes a look at digital characters and the moral ramifications of misusing them.

The later is something I have a hard time with while gaming. For me, I can’t just go off and kill whatever I want, I feel a need to stick to a moral guide to play the good guy or as close as I can get. The Fable games comes to mind. I played through all three games several times and never once could I bring myself to become evil. When I tried it was not a rewarding experience for me and I abandoned that play through.

If you enjoy playing the bad guy that’s fine by me, it just isn’t for me. I dont know if these Good/Evil choice games have a name so to coin a term, Faction Games. I feel that these kind of faction games are wonderful and the choice to be good, evil, and everything between makes for intriguing game play. There should be more games like this.  It is also why I dislike strict alignment games so much. You must be a good or bad guy you have to leave your personal morals at the door. I want the choice to be the hero, not forced to be the hero.  A game that forces me to be one or the other takes away the emersion.  GTA wouldn’t be much fun driving around in a car you legal bought, obeying all the traffic signals and rules, but that is how I would try to play it.

Off To Be The Wizard explores the moral consequences or the lack thereof when your whole world ends up being algorithms and code.  If you and your fellow man are nothing more than bytes in a computer program is it moral to kill knowing that you and your whole world is computer generated?

Reading the book was great, I love reading I recommend it to everyone, but the audio performance of Luke Daniels is probably one of the best I have even heard.  And it has time travel!

List of Faction Games that I have played:

Beyond Good and Evil
Mass Effect
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2
Bioshock 1 and 2 (maybe Bioshock Infinite)
Fable 1, 2, and 3
Skyrim
Fallout 3 and 4
Many more but I can’t think of them right now.

Just a Quick Update.

I haven’t abandoned this blog, but I have been struggling with what to wright about. I have about 20 started/half-finished articles that I stopped because I felt they were preachy or did not convey my true thoughts.   It’s funny, sometimes when you sit done to write you have a clear picture of what you want to say, and then the words just come out and mean something different than you wanted. Other times you spit out a perfect article and looking back it is all a haze.

 

If anyone has a book, movie, or game they would like me to review, or an idea for an article that you would like to read my thoughts. Leave me a comment and we will see where this goes.

Dreams Are What We Make Them

explorers

Far as long as I can remember, I have had this reoccurring dream about flying/falling or reverse falling. It starts out with me high above the landscape and instead of falling I am pulled upwards, but he ground never seems to get any further away. Features of the dream that stand out to me are the horizon. It’s a far off city lighting the dark horizon with glittering lights and a mountain scape further in the distance. If this sounds familiar to you? You too, may have seen ‘Explorers’ as a kid. (My dream isn’t exactly like the movie, but it is very close. No circuit board diagrams form aliens in my dream.)

explorers

I saw this movie as a child and forgot about it, but this last Saturday I saw it on Netflix. When this particular seen happens in the movie I had experienced sever déjà vu. I couldn’t tell you what happened in the movie, but several scenes were very vibrant in my memory. It was very… disconcerting.

The movie was full of plot holes and very predictable, very much a kids movie of the 80’s. Something of this movie spoke to the 8-year-old me when I first saw it and it stuck with me. I loved the idea of building a backyard spaceship. I remember a certain notebook I kept as a kid with ideas of space travel and that may or may not have started with this movie. Having watched the movie ‘Gravity’ my dreams of space travel have reverted to a “NOPE, I’m staying right here on good ole ground” status. I also recall talking to a therapist several years ago about this dream. She wrote it off a symptom of anxiety, but I think it was the crippling panic attacks that were the true symptom. So, she wasn’t wrong about the diagnosis.

There are many, and I mean many books, website, and self-help videos about dream interpretation. None of them seem to agree on what falling means in a dream let alone reverse falling. Falling dreams are some of the most common dreams people have. Dreams of flying and of teeth falling out are common, being nude in public and sex are all natural dreams that normal people have all the time, but no one can agree on what or if they mean anything. I have my own theory though, I think that that movie scared me as a kid. Simple as that it is a nightmare, and having recently seen this movie again I now know where the dream came. The dream hasn’t really scared me in a long time, so just knowing where it came form is a closed chapter.

Outlander, Time-Traveling Romance.

Outlander-TV_series-2014

Maybe you’ve seen Outlander on Stars. I watched the first few episodes during one of the free Stars weekends, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Several years ago I attempted to read the first book written by Diana Gabaldon, and I did not stick with it. Not because I didn’t like it but because it was a large book and the first in a series. At the time I wasn’t prepared to make the commitment to a series this large.

Outlander-blue-cover-198x300

It wasn’t until last year that I picked it up again, but this time it was an audio book. I must say it is one of the best audio book productions I have ever listened. I am secretly in love with Davina Porter’s voice.

The series currently contains eight hefty books and several short stories and could provide a reader with several months of material, especially if you read the spinoff series Lord John that take place between, or during events of the main series.

Lord_John_series-cover-220x290

The main series follows a nurse form 1945 England named Claire Randall through a not-so-technical-event (read magical) finds herself in 1740’s Scotland. She meets and falls in love with a highlander Jamie Frazer. The books is full of adventure and romance, but not enough of either to be singly classified as an Adventure or a Romance book. It is a good mix of the two, and its fantasy/sci-fi roots are so subtle you hardly feel that it’s a sub theme that could be considered out of place.

I have always had a soft spot for a good romance. I feel the best stories all include a great romance. The love story between Claire and Jaime is wonderful and throughout the series we get to see them age and grow old together. I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, but don’t feel like you have to wait until the last book in the series is written. The last book does leaving you wanting more and somewhat sad that there isn’t another one to read.

The time travel in this book is magical and not technical, and it doesn’t rely on complicated explanations, the time travel just is. As the character learn more about the phenomenon so does the reader. Never once did I feel like the author was purposely talking over my head to gloss over the glaring problems with time travel.

I recommend this series for fans of romance, adventure and fantasy. It truly is the perfect blend for opening minds up to other genres.

Replay

replay

Time loops like in the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ and the more recent ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ are an obsession of mine. ‘Groundhog Day’ is the first thing I had ever seen that had a time loop, but my all-time favorite is a 1986 novel by Ken Grimwood called ‘Replay’.

‘Replay’ follows the life of a Jeff Winston. Jeff dies of a heart attack in 1988 and wakes up in 1963 when he was 18, with all the knowledge of the last 25 years. He quickly makes a fortune betting on major sporting events and works hard and does his best to maintain his cardiac health, but at the same time on the same day he dies from a heart attack.

He wakes up once again in his 18-year-old-self, but several hours later than the last time he experienced a replay. He discovers that he cannot prevent his death and his replays are getting shorter and shorter.

There was talk some years ago that this would be made into a movie with Ben Affleck as the lead, but the author died of a heart attack himself and there hasn’t been much interest since the mid 2000’s. It’s a shame, I think this would translate very well to the big screen.

I don’t wasn’t to give full spoilers on this book, because I believe everyone should read it. There are some deep philosophical issues that are dealt with over the course of this book. It has changed my outlook on life, and inspired me to do the things I want to do and not be complacent waiting for them to happen to me.

The book is a quick read and is well written. The characters are likeable and you really feel for their loves and losses.

If you get the chance, I recommend this as a must read.

[HYPE] Stormaddedon to Destroy Oklahoma [\end HYPE]

I survived the storms last night.  A few downed branches and leaves….EVERYWHERE, but I survived.  I lost power twice and internet didn’t come back on untill this morning. There were no hail dents on my car. The only damages that I found were a blown over trashcan and a cracked pane of glass in my spare room.

Work this morning was surprisingly mild.  We only had one major event that did not resolve itself. After an energetic night storm like this we usually have four or five sites that are down for one reason or another.

I understand the dangers of powerful storms, I’ve lived in oklahoma most of my life. It is nothing new, but the storm hype seems to grow each year.  I don’t think the TV channels make a lot of money by preempting everything (even commercials) on a storm night.  I have seen several FB post and tweets angry with the preempting of the entire night. Saying that they only need to interrupt TV when danger is impending.  I think it might be too late if they do, but I can’t help think that it isn’t done out of pure goodness and interest in public safety.

As it turns out I am not wrong that they don’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts. If a television station that has weather service does not preempt TV for a disaster warning they can lose their FCC license. The guidelines say that tv stations are free to use the airways as long as it is clear that they are providing a public service.

‘…each radio and television licensee is required by law to operate its station in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”’ – FCC

In effect they are providing this public service in their own self interest. This trade off benefits both parties.  The hype though, that needs to stop.  I have been reading FB posts for a week before this storm.

Weather Fright

For the last week the weathermen have been going crazy predicting the perfect storm conditions for today.  I have my doubts, but I also do not have a storm shelter.  If indeed a tornado is headed my way I race the 5 miles to the nearest public shelter or I head to the office.

The public shelter is a truck stop that is near I-40, we all hunker down in their showers (I hesitate to say smelly, unpleasant chemical odor is more appropriate.) and wait out the storm.  I have done this on multiple occasions and have had some very interesting chats with cross country truckers.

One such conversations was with a couple from England that had come to the U.S. by Canada.  They enjoyed the open road so much they decided to do it full time, alternating driving shifts as often as they could.  They had been married for 30 years and been truck driving as a couple for the last 20 years. They truly seemed happy. They had owned a tattoo shop in Edinburgh Scotland before moving to Canada to join some friends on a business venture that fell through and left them stranded across the ocean, broke, and homeless/countryless.

We talked for a couple of hours and I wish I had thought to exchange email addresses or some other contact information.  I think about them sometimes. In my darker thoughts on life, their happiness reminds me that not all is lost, no matter how lost you are.

Another time, I met a biker that was very upset at being stopped by this storm.  He was trying to get home to Arizona and had had nothing but bad luck on his journey.  When I said he was a biker that might not be the right term. This was his first long trip on a bike and he was clearly disillusioned with the road life.  As we talked I learned that he had quit his job and bought a bike. He felt trapped in his life and needed something new, but I think this wasn’t what he wanted.  Now he just wanted to go home and wash off the road dirt, sell the bike, and work a dead end job till he died.  The grass is always greener…

Now with this pending weather event, that may or may not happen, I will probably will be sitting in a public shower with strangers, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. I think I might be looking forward to it.

Let Me Count The Ways

True time travel (yes, it’s possible) is called time dilation.  The faster you go the slower time will pass. This is the core of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.  As I have explained to my son, a scientific theory is not the same definition as a theory.  Scientific Theory is taking all the available information and forming an explanation of the natural world using the scientific method and repeated testing. You may be wrong, but with the information at hand that may be the only explanation.  As you gather more data points form experimentation and testing, you can adjust your theory to fit your data.  Just because your initial theory was incomplete doesn’t mean it is wrong. That is the great thing about science, once you learn more you can make better and more stable theories.

There are many effects on time, and there are several theories about time and space. Speed effect on time works like this, if the Earth were to come to a sudden and complete stop, no spin, no rotation around the sun, and no movement in the Milky Way galaxy, time would be faster for us that it is now. Not by much but it would be measurable.  On the other side of this idea is the faster you go the slower you experience time.

There are universal speed limits though, nothing can go faster than the speed of light and nothing is slower than a full stop. The amount of energy to accelerate an object close to the speed of light is exponentially greater the faster you go. The energy to go from %99.99 light speed to %100 light speed is would be infinitely greater than %99.98 to %99.99.  It is impossible to achieve. If you traveled at %99.99 the speed of light time would dilate for you, and from your perspective you would have time traveled into the future.  There have been several experiments with nuclear clocks that prove this theory.

A full stop, could be achieved by showing down the molecules in your body, by cryogenesis, or freezing. It’s the unfreezing that’s the tricky part.  If you were frozen today for 1000 years when you were revived, to your perspective you would have traveled into the world of tomorrow.  At absolute zero, all molecular movement stops, but it cannot be achieved by thermodynamics alone. Scientist have come close and discovered quantum effects like superconductivity and superfluidity, but have not achieved a complete molecular stop.

Gravity is theorized to have an effect on time as well.  Gravity slows time the greater the gravity the slower time passes. Black holes are so dense, and the gravity is so great that even light cannot escape. If you entered a black hole you would never experience the entry into the black hole (you would probably be dead, but if you didn’t die…).  Time would stop and you would forever be on the edge of the event horizon.  If by some miracle you were able to pull away from the black hole and return to earth, again from your perspective, you would have time traveled into the future.

These effects on time only dilate time and give the appearance of forward in time travel.  In the travelers point of view he has traveled in time to the future. Traveling back in time that is a whole other problem. Paradoxes that would result from stepping on a butterfly in the primordial past could alter the present so greatly that you would not recognise it.  There are several multiverse theories that prevent a paradox.  If you did travel from the present into the past and squashed a bug that would alter the present, maybe it just spawns a second universe line from that point forward leaving the original intact.  One with the living bug and one with it dead.  (If you don’t know what a paradox or a multiverse is, never fear there are many web pages that can explain them to you.  You may need to time travel into the past to read them all, but they are there.)

It may be that time travel into the past can never happen.  If it did happen would it even really be time travel and not just hopping onto another parallel world?

In reality we are all time travelers, we are passing through time in a bubble of about 2 to 3  seconds called the present.  We are trapped in this bubble, zooming along time. Even if we experience time dilation, once it has ended we are back in the same present as the rest of the universe.