Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mellow Going, Old Man's War and Strawberry Fields Forever.

Dang! It's been almost a full week since my last update! What, may I ask, is WRONG with me?

Well, I'm here, no biggie. It's not like I've been too busy or some such. The week just slipped away from me, that's all. I won't let it happen again, fear not! Yeah, I bet you were all fearful about it, weren't you... uh, yeah. Sure.

Let's see, what happened this week that's exciting? Not much. And therein might lay the problem. I should do something wacky, like go streaking at the mall, and then blog about it. I bet you'd all appreciate that...

Well, I have a surprise book review for you -- so get ready to skim past the next few paragraphs of uninteresting, rambling text! Who knows! Maybe I'll post a Funny Picture after it! Nope, it isn't a review of one of the three books I mentioned earlier - but a different one! Surprise!

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi: A Review
So, I was lurking over on Logan's blog, reading his recap of his trip out to visit Pat Rothfuss, at the signing of Wise Man's Fear, and in the recap, Logan mentioned a list over at of the Top Ten SFF Novels of the Decade (from 2000 to 2010). With some level of interest, I checked the list out, since such lists usually include books I'd never heard of, and occasionally will lead me to a good read. Such is the case here.

The people who voted on the list voted Old Man's War, by John Scalzi, as the best SFF book of the past decade. I'm not much into Science Fiction (as you all know), but I'm not one to buck the suggestions of those that know more than I, so I popped for the digital (Kindle) version and filed it away on my iPad, thinking I'd get to it sooner or later. Well, turns out it was sooner! I read it over the past couple days.

It was a fast, fun read. The premise was a good one, but nothing really struck me as outstanding or challenging or mind-bending at all. Best SFF of the decade? Well, personal preferences being what they are, I would have to beg to differ.

In the Earth that Scalzi crafted, human beings (male and female) can join up for space military service at the age of 75, if they wish to. This may seem like a ridiculous thing to do, but it has its advantages as well as disadvantages. Rumor has is that joining up for the Colonial Defense Forces at age 75 is not a problem, since they have a way to make people young again. Of course, this has never been confirmed, since those that join up for service in the CDF never get to return to earth. But the chance that it's true is enough for many to say goodbye to everyone and everything they hold near and dear, and head out into the wild black yonder.

John Perry and his wife Kathy planned to join together, but she died before she reached the required age of 75. Bittersweet, to say the least, but ultimately it made it that much easier for John to sign up when his day came. What will he (and the rest of the old folks) do out in space, after they sign up? Well, according to the recruitment papers that they sign, the term is a ten year term of service, during which the recruit will agree to be trained by the CDF for use in its program of interstellar colonization. Basically, if it comes to it, they get to meet and kill all sorts of fascinating alien creatures. After ten years, if they're still alive, they can join up with a group of settlers in a colony on an appropriated (conquered!) planet, and live the rest of their life in peace.

Old Man's War is the story of what happens to John Perry (and others) after they leave earth, to begin service in the CDF. Seeing as how I will end this review by recommending this book, I hesitate to explore even a bit of what happens, at the risk of ruining your sense of discovery. Not spoilers, per se, but even the very act of reading what happens has a fun freshness to it that I wouldn't want to sully in any way.

The book is well written, solid, if not particularly rich or intriguing. It is told in first-person. The story tells itself, and no real attempt is made at using clever turns of speech or word play or polish that might have really made the experience sing. Much like Brandon Sanderson, the author (Scalzi) is content to stand back and let the story tell itself. Again, a fast, fun read. It may not seem like high praise coming from me, but keep in mind, I'm not a SciFi fan. You may wonder, then, why I chose to buy/read it in the first place! Well, #1 books on lists often have strange appeal to me...

Being that the story is told in a military setting, keep in mind there will be some salty language, especially from Drill Instructor types and soldier-under-fire types. And there is some adult activity, if you catch my drift. But overall, it was fun (though occasionally depressing) to follow John Perry across the universe.

Summary: 3.5 out of 5 A good space yarn that tries (mostly successfully) to avoid "going Hollywood" too much. That having been said, I did read that the book has been optioned by Hollywood to turn into a movie, but that can be said for just about anything.

Now, here's that Funny Picture I promised...

It was three Funny Pics in one! See how generous I am!?

So, Vye came over on Saturday afternoon and fixed a bunch of little computer-related problems I was having with my systems. As much as I like to think I know what I'm doing around a computer, I don't, really. Vye is The Man, and his efforts were greatly appreciated. Plus, he laughs at my jokes, so he gets extra love for that... He and Rebekah are getting married soon! June 10th (I believe)! What are they, crazy!?!?! Kidding. I wish them all the luck and a blessed life and living happily ever after and all that. Heck, it has to happen for someone, it might as well be Vye and Rebekah!

Here's a pretty cool video. It's mellow, so don't fall asleep! A whirlwind moves its way through a strawberry field, whipping the plastic covering strips around and waaaay up into the air, all graceful-like...

Anyway, I thought it was cool...

Taxes are almost done. Still making progress on the novel I'm writing. Car still has a cracked windshield. Eldest Daughter's 21st birthday is soon. 2 more credit cards almost paid off. Lots of books, movies and games calling out for me. Why do Jahovah's Witnesses always come to the door when I'm half-asleep? I love my iPad.

And that, my friends, is all for now.


EDIT: I wasn't going to post any more tsunami videos, but I just saw this new one, and it blew me away. I cannot imagine experiencing this in person.

Un... be... lievable..

EDIT #2: Pat Rothfuss just posted a link to this interview he did with Brandon Sanderson, which is a great read. They talk about the craft, and their recent tomes, Wise Man's Fear and The Way of Kings. Great stuff, click THIS LINK and go give it a read, eh!

If I stumble upon an Edit #3, I'll just make a new post!


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

You know I've heard off and on about Old Man's War too. I've not had the chance to read it but was curious what the buzz was on it. Thanks for sharing. The premises didn't strick me as something that amazing, but one never knows by just those synopsis. Thanks for sharing on it.

The Writer Currently Known as Rory said...

I checked "Old Man's War" out of my library a few times, but was continually sidetracked by other books. However, I have Scalzi's "Agent to the Stars" in one of my stacks in my room, and it's clearly fallen victim to the same thing, because I can't find it as easily as before. I wonder if I moved it to the stacks next to my bed.

Fortunately, it's not a library book. I bought it for cheap off of, so it's just a matter of finding it whenever when I have the yen for it again.

logankstewart said...

Dude, I would have went all Elijah on that whirlwind. What an awesome (and graceful) video.

Scalzi's book is on my TBR, and one of my good friends from college really likes the series. I've never read anything by Scalzi, so this should be fun whenever I get to it.

Mmmmm. Random paragraph goodness. A favorite (and insensitive) joke of mine:
"Knock knock." "Who's there?" "These Jehovah's Witnesses just won't leave me alone!"

The tsunami video is no longer available. Apparently the uploader has closed their account.

David Wagner said...

Melissa: Thanks for dropping by! The book was a good, fun, solid read (if not spectacular).

Rory: Whoa, you checked it out more than once but never got to it? Does that happen often, or just with that particular title? Are you one of those awe-inspiring folks I see always leaving a library with a giant bag-full of books? That's so cool - I wish I were that brave...

Logan: I didn't know it was a series starter! It works well as a stand-alone. I think I'll pretend I never read in your comment that it was a Book One... I can't commit to another series right now! I have too much GRRM to wade through before June!

I'll see if I can track that tsunami vid down and replace the embed, thanks for the heads-up.

The Writer Currently Known as Rory said...

Rory: Whoa, you checked it out more than once but never got to it? Does that happen often, or just with that particular title? Are you one of those awe-inspiring folks I see always leaving a library with a giant bag-full of books? That's so cool - I wish I were that brave...

It depends on what I feel like reading. It doesn't happen as often as it did before. Now it's just books I checked out, but I read the first few pages and find that I'm not as interested in them as I thought. I don't have patience for writing that doesn't impress me.

And yes, I am one of those people. And depending on how many books I have on hold, my library sometimes puts my holds on my own cart which they keep in the back and bring out after I've returned books.