Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Men At Arms

Today I finished reading Men At Arms, another Discworld book about Sam Vimes, Carrot, Nobby, Colon, and the other entertaining members of the Ankh-Morpork Watch.

This is the book that introduces Angua (a woman with a secret...and an "Understanding" with Carrot that neither quite understands...), Detritus (a troll), and a host of other colorful characters that get conscripted into the Watch.

Someone in Ankh-Morpork has a "gonne," a strange tubular device that shoots balls of lead with great precision at great distances to great damaging effect.

No one can figure out what it is, or who exactly is using it.

Murders are being committed, assassins from the Assassin's Guild are suspected of assassinating, and assassins from the Assassin's Guild are unexpectedly suspected of having been assassinated.

Vimes has to lead the Watch to save the day again - but he's getting retiring to get married. And the Watch has just been disbanded.

Who's going to step up to save the city? Maybe Carrot, who has a crown-shaped birthmark, a regal presence, and a kingly charisma that draws everyone to him...

This was another exciting, entertaining, amusing Discworld story. Even better because it introduces characters like Angua and Detritus.

I'll be taking a short Terry Pratchett break (sad day) because I need to get some reading done for a class in the fall, but I shall eagerly await my next Discworld novel.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Last week I read The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams. It's the sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the second book in the trilogy of five*.

*You read that correctly: trilogy of five.

This book was pointless because, in line with the series' main theme, there is no point to anything. But don't worry about it, and above all:


*Fortunately, this advice is printed in large, friendly letters on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
The Restaurant in question is not at the end of the universe in the sense that, "I am at this end and you are at that end."

It's at the end of the universe. As in:
- the opposite of the Big Bang
- the destruction of the universe
- the very last chance saloon

Fortunately, the restaurant is strategically positioned in such a space-time position that it survives the end of the universe, and anyone can travel to the restaurant from any point in the past to the future where they can see how it all goes down. Every night, if you can afford it.

You might need a reservation.

The book, however pointless, is a fun read if you want more scenes with Marvin, Zaphod, Ford, Arthur, and Trillian. (The Marvin scenes are particularly funny.)

So that makes 9 books for the summer, and now I'm reading more Terry Pratchett.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not Alone in Doubt and Suffering

This week I had the privilege of writing a guest blog post for Brent Osterberg, an associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church.

The post is about "God and the Problem of Evil," Job, and C. S. Lewis.

Not Alone in Doubt and Suffering

Monday, June 18, 2012

Color of Magic and Feet of Clay

Another week gone by, and two more Pratchett books read!

The Color of Magic

I read The Color of Magic, Terry Pratchett's first Discworld book.

The best parts of the book came from the world-building, a highly-detailed explanation of the continents and the various directions (something about "Rimward," "Hubward," and..."Widdershins"?), and the introduction of various characters and gags that I've come to know and love from Discworld.

Rincewind the incompetent wizard, Lord Vetinari, Death, and the Luggage were the four characters that I recognized from the other Pratchett books that I've read. In The Color of Magic, Death is a far more sinister character than he is in later books. But (I cheated and read on Wikipedia and) I have heard that Death evolves over the series and becomes a more lovable and sympathetic character.

Er, as much as you can love a hooded skeleton with a scythe who escorts you to the afterlife. Still, he's got a sense of humor, and you have to love it when it speaks in all caps.


Besides, we all meet him sooner or later.

Unfortunately, The Color of Magic is the worst Discworld book when it comes to plot and structure.
However, in spite of the chaotic story-telling, the chaos of the story was entertaining, so I abandoned any hopes of following a true storyline and just went along for the ride as Rincewind and Twoflower got into terrible trouble and explored Discworld.

I probably won't read this one again, unless I have an obsessive need to read the entire series in chronological order someday. But I'm glad that I read it.

I have to point out that while I love Pratchett's writing, most of his adult covers are some of the most uninspiring and uninteresting covers that I've ever seen. Pratchett's stories are so imaginative and exciting and bizarre and wonderful that that deserve better covers.

The Tiffany Aching series have good covers, but so many of the adult Discworld novels are sadly lacking.

Case in point, Feet of Clay. I absolutely loved this book - as much as I loved Going Postal and Guards! Guards! - but I probably wouldn't have picked it up unless my friend James had recommended it.

Feet of Clay

And I'm glad that he did. Feet of Clay is another Watch story about Sam Vimes, Carrot, Lord Vetinari, and the rulers, watchmen, and ne'er-do-wells that inhabit Ankh-Morpork. Great humor, great excitement, an intriguing murder mystery to solve, and all within the delightful city of Ankh-Morpork*.

*When I say delightful, I mean delightful to read about, because there is nothing whatsoever delightful about Ankh-Morpork. The place (literally) oozes with not-delightful. But there are heroes and villains a-plenty.

Feet of Clay is about golems which you can think of as clay robots. I met golems out of chronological order in Going Postal. Golems are tools that receive life from magical words written on parchment placed inside of their heads. Whether they're "living" or not is disputed by the religious figures of Ankh-Morpork.

But Feet of Clay is a wonderful (and sad) story about golems discovering self-awareness, individual thought, and freedom. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is another Pratchett book where he explores the idea of animals or inanimate objects achieving self-awareness. The golems' introduction to self-awareness provides for some profound and touching scenes in Feet of Clay.

It seems like every new Vimes / City Watch story I read is another Discworld favorite. Feet of Clay was marvelous. I'll be reading it again sometime.

(And that brings my summer tally of books to 8...huzzah!)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

After being introduced to the novel about four years ago by my friend Nicole, I finally read The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

The book is about Henry DeTamble (the Time Traveler), a man who involuntarily travels through time. The Time Traveler's Wife is Claire Abshire. Henry (as an adult) meets Claire as a child, and shes grows up with his strange appearances and disappearances until their love blossoms and they finally get married. Then they live together with the tremendous curse of involuntary time travel, enjoying their time together before Henry gets whisked away again, trying to find a cure to this genetic disease, and attempting to have a child together.

Lifelong romance
Involuntary time travel +
Multiple child/adult versions of a main character
= very interesting premise

The book is written in first person present tense, which usually doesn't agree with me, but I managed to survive. Niffenegger has an easy and familiar writing style punctuated with big, fancy words that enhanced the literary feel of the novel. The book is 500 pages, so it took me a while to finish, but I was never bored.

I didn't appreciate the graphic sex and profanity in the book, but the R-rated material fit the raw, emotional tone that Niffenegger was striving to achieve. Because of the heavy adult content, I don't know if I'll ever read the book again.

The characters were generally sympathetic. There were occasions where I hated them and their lack of moral scruples. Other times, I admired their constancy and dedication to each other. The book reached me on an emotional level, and I got teary-eyed twice.

It's been two books since I've read Terry Pratchett. Time for a return to Discworld!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 - June 5, 2012)

One of the great writers. Rest in peace.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Speaking (and Writing) Take Courage

I am a member of Afterburners Toastmasters, a Toastmasters International Club.

(If you've ever been afraid of public speaking, or you want to improve your public speaking skills, you should visit a Toastmasters club near you.)

I recently wrote a guest post for my club's blog:

Speaking (and Writing) Take Courage

The post is about public speaking, writing, and my new book.