Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cemetery World – Book Review

Author – Clifford D. Simak

A review of Cemetery World

I first read this back when I was twelve or so and since then barely remembered any of it.  I had to do a book report on it so I was in essence being forced to read it.  Let’s face it book reports were always the worst and before the internet it was difficult to fake one that looked like you actually read it.  That’s probably why I remember so little of it however it’s not all bad.  For old time’s sake I decided to snatch this book from its safe confines on the shelf and bend open a half deteriorated bundle of pages.  When paperbacks sit for awhile they go to the grave so to speak for sake of this title.  Pages tore easily, the front cover wanted to fall away like an autumn leaf, it was awful.  I did manage to prove too much for this tiny book and read it no matter how much it’d rather just die.

                The idea for the book was better than the story.  What I mean is that Earth is no longer what we know it as today but simply a gigantic graveyard.  The universe uses our planet as a burial ground which is creepy and sad for us but it’s interesting enough for me.  The groundskeepers (corporate raiders) of Earth run the planet while keeping their image as a sort of ‘preservation of mother Earth’ mentality.  It’s a neat setup.  The main character finds his way to Earth trying to make some sort of a record of what the real Earth is like but along the way it gets a tad confusing.  It’s the kind of adventure where the main character gets paranoid of everyone he meets and assumes the corporation is out to get him.  It’s not so bad but his main goal sidetracks so much that you get led around with other somewhat less interesting ordeals most of the time.  By the end you’re basically glad it’s only 159 pages.

                The one aspect I didn’t really go for was when the time travel entered into the story.  It was a solid mini science fiction plot up until then but then I found myself not caring as much how the time travel worked because it was made to be confusing for the sake of being confusing.  That’s annoying to me because if an author can’t nail it then try something else.  It’s possible that I wanted the story to go another direction that caused me to be disappointed in the ending.  Anyway it doesn’t get to that point until the final ten or so pages so it’s easy to plow through.

                This is all I’ve read of the late Mr. Simak and I don’t plan on any further reading of his.  If you’re into science fiction you’ll probably enjoy this short read, I did after all and it wasn’t the greatest.  If not then skipping it wouldn’t be a bad idea.  Oh, if you’re someone into the notion that people are like a disease and should be destroyed for ruining the planet you might like it too.  Cemetery, oh yeah.   

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Making of Jurassic Park – Book Review

Author – Don Shay & Jody Duncan

A review of The Making of Jurassic Park

I’ve never wanted to know more about a movie than Jurassic Park but that’s because it’s my favorite film.  Yes, I’ve seen the movie countless times, read the novel it’s based on time after time but I never came around to reading this book.  I’ve owned it for years dating back to my teenage years which feel as ancient as CRT monitors.  True I scanned through the book several times, mostly fixing my eyes upon the pictures over that time, but now that I’ve actually read it I wonder what took me so long.  It has plenty of behind the scenes detail that shows how much was put into this movie.  It’s broken down into four parts so I’ll skim over those now.

In a stage like this we learn how the author of the novel, Michael Crichton, eventually grew tired of writing anything more to do with Jurassic Park.  It shifted hands to others a few times to get down a plausible screenplay idea.  It also introduces the magnificent Stan Winston and his astounding team as he builds the robotic dinosaurs step by step.  The process is long and some of his work goes to the wayside.  There is plenty to learn and if you’re a fan of Jurassic Park than you’ll enjoy it very much.  I’ll leave you with these few trickles of knowledge so you have no choice but to read the book for further information.

The cast enters now and I liked the point of view Sam Neill offered when he was quoted in the book.  I became a fan of his because of this movie so that’s a cool bonus for me.  It also has the likes of Richard Attenborough, who played John Hammond; discuss how he felt about being in the movie.  If you like hearing the actor’s thoughts then this section will satisfy in that regard.  The genius of Spielberg is shown in more depth as he cuts costs, shortens shootings and makes the movie saving decision to go CG with some of the best dinosaur scenes ever seen on the big screen to date.  Again if you like Spielberg this book showcases what makes him such an extraordinary director, he’s not perfect but the job he does is almost unbelievable.  I would have liked to get some insight from Bob Peck, he played Muldoon, but sadly there is none.  This section also covers photography and the rigorous efforts of making sets but instead of getting into that I’ll let you read for yourself.  It’s rather interesting how they went about some of those challenges and the results are yet again mind boggling.

This would be the area when CG gets put on the spot to finish up those memorable dinosaur scenes including the epic finale when the T-Rex saves the day.  This was groundbreaking territory and brand new to ILM, the company who did the CG.  It was the same company that worked on T2 making the liquid metal Robert Patrick.  Spielberg really took a big chance that ILM would come through since there was basically no history of this type of work to draw from.  It ended up being possibly one of the best decisions he’s ever made.  John Williams also came aboard to do the score which is again probably one of the best ever in a movie.  Every team from sound, concept artists, music, writing, cast, crew, creature effects and anything else I can’t name was pretty much the best Hollywood had to offer.  In the end it would have been a shame if this movie was anything less than what it turned out to be.  What excuse would they have to come up short?  Spielberg was aware of this and thus knew he couldn’t be lacking in anyway.  It’s an amazing experience where everyone involved might possibly have had their career year.  Anyway if you would like to know more about the unsung heroes in the movie industry you’ll find them all here in this section.

Describing pictures isn’t easy so I don’t have much to add here except it’s really neat to see the early ideas behind some of the scenes in the movie.  Some of the characters were removed or switched from scene to scene which I found interesting but other than gazing over the sketches there isn’t much here to see.  It’s neat to visualize what could have been but never was.

It’s an easy read with plenty of pictures to support the writing.  I recommend all Jurassic Park fans to spend an afternoon reading this as you won’t be disappointed.  It’s probably even fun for a movie fan in general to read it since it breaks down the creation of the film extremely well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

High Hunt – Book Review

Author – David Eddings

A review of High Hunt

This here book is amazing.  It’s easily my favorite David Eddings novel, although I’ve only read the ‘Tamuli’ set and ‘Redemption of Althalus’.  Out of the five total books ‘High Hunt’ is perched on the top comfortably grinning down toward the others.  I expected a different read because this one is fiction but I got more than I bargained for.  It’s a side of Eddings I didn’t see coming in comparison to what I’ve already read if you want to know then pick up this book.  It took me two days to open then close this one and that’s 340 pages worth of smaller font size.  I swear the book seeped glue onto my hands as I progressed in the story.  The word usage is remarkable but maybe that’s the 1970s feel of it either way this book has a powerful vacuum effect.

                The characters are diverse enough to complement each other masterfully.  Is that too strong a word?  Nah, I liked the book so yes masterful is appropriate.  They range from very likable to very despicable in quite an equal balance.  Some are rather flawless, and then some fall into that category of mostly OK but a few personality detractors, to plain awful.  I’d hate to ruin any aspect of the characters but the majority of them would probably die from cirrhosis of the liver.  They take boozing to a whole new level, getting tipsy before noon is commonplace.  I do apologize if that takes away from any enjoyment you would have gotten from the book but I was constantly shocked with the drinking escapades.  It made for great character support though considering all their personalities. 

                A drawback that may alienate some readers is that the story is centered on liquor (as mentioned), guns, a choice selection of language and trailer trash (to be blunt).  Why I enjoyed it is still a bit of an enigma but if these things aren’t your thing you could find yourself tossing this one aside.  I guess it’s the characters that powered me through.  I really had to know what they would do next and try to learn why they were the way they are which gets explained but the trick is you must read to know, kudos Eddings, got me.

                If you’re interested in Eddings and haven’t read his stuff yet then this is as good as any to start.  It’s not fantasy so don’t expect a knight to show up although that would have been hilarious at a few points in the story.  If you have read his fantasy books but not this one then be prepared for a bit of a change up because if you’re not careful only a sailor will know what the *%$# you’re talking about after you finish reading this one.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Great Train Robbery – Book Review

Author – Michael Crichton

A review of The Great Train Robbery

I didn’t know what to expect when I learned that Crichton wrote a book that appeared to be a western.  If you read the title, see the old style train cover art and his name dominating the rest of the front what else could it be?  I’m accustomed to his science driven stories, mostly, and was curious about a setting such as 1854 for him.  I found out later it was based on true events which finally pushed me to read it.  It’s a great book. 

                I’ll point a few things out; if you like learning about the 1800’s in any fashion then this book will give you enough taste to satisfy.  If you’re interested in London during that time even better.  I’ve come to enjoy reading books from that time as well as learning how life was back then.  There is something about no cellular phones, internet, automobiles or any other technological marvel in this day and age that is fun to read about.  I grew up in the era when computers reached up and grabbed us all then drew us close to its bosom so now I’m curious as to how it was prior.  Going back to the 1800’s will quench that desire.  I’m no fanatic of years long ago but Crichton sets the stage for that era well.

                A slick man with a plan and a few accomplices go to unimaginable lengths to rob a train.  I can say I wasn’t interest in the few beginning pages when I discovered it was in London.  I’m American why should I want to read how these great Englishman pulled a heist.  I want a shootout old west adventure right?  It didn’t take long for Crichton to knock that notion aside and get me hooked anyway.  The story of the robbery is mixed in beautifully with the history of times back then.  Following the main character around, who is always so smooth, is a joy to read.  The fact that London was young in its law enforcement at the time makes the chance of success even greater for the alleged criminals.  This really is one train ride you better not miss. 

                This is a simple read and can be enjoyed by any who enjoy a clever heist.  Remember its 1854 so quirky gadgets and computer passwords to a vault don’t exist so put our current era on the shelf when you grab this book from it.  If you set your mind to a time in the distant past you’ll have a pleasant memory to recall upon later in life.  All aboard for thievery at its finest!  These train puns are so addicting.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Disclosure – Book Review

Author – Michael Crichton

A review of Disclosure

Sexual harassment, two words that lead most people to think of a similar scenario.  A man has advanced on a woman in the workplace against her will.  This man is of high ranking and is getting what he wants through his position.  The woman is clearly innocent and is but another victim of a corrupt business world where man rules.  I believe that sums up the general idea here.  What Crichton has done is put a role reversal on it which stirs the pot in ways I never thought about.  It’s not mind blowing but for a book not revolving around science as he often does it will still make your fingertips bleed.

                As a man I can understand how men behave in the workplace, they can get wild eyed and close to women.  They try to hold reserve but I’ve seen it come close to boiling over into something too hot for the woman to handle.  My experiences don’t come from men of power though, more along the lines of men of similar standing position as the woman in question.  ‘Disclosure’ pits an individual’s power of position against either sex.  That’s what interested me when reading; I never put much thought into how sexual harassment occurred.  That being said, seeing the woman in a position a man is usually in makes you think.  Can a man be raped?  Is he as ‘helpless’ as a woman?  Does he have the same rights as a woman in the exact same situation, simply reversed?  Questions mount throughout as you get pulled into whether or not this man can make a case for himself.

                The science side blends well into the story which involves CD-ROM drives and state of the art VR!  Those sound funny to hold as top tier technology now so when reading you’re better off pretending it is 1993.  Internet, what’s that some nerd convention?  The main character is in a conundrum in dealing with sexual harassment and problems with the drives simultaneously.  If you like reading about an individual or a small group of them battling through extreme hardships then I’d say this is a story for you.  The situation goes from bad to worse, then a bit better, then back down the toilet.  It’s an easy read and you can learn something if you’re open to it.  The main character isn’t pushed so far down that everybody wants to cheer him on but rather you see flaws within him to question who really is being wronged. 

                This is one of the better Crichton books I’ve read and I recommend it for any who may be considering one of his.  If old computer type technology, real world characters and a nasty dose of sexual tension interest you then look no further.  If you’re more of a close minded person who believes a man of power will always be the evil whereas a woman in the same position would be an angel then put the box back on your head.