Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on April 15, 2017 @ 3:06 pm


Gateway by Frederik Pohl

This story tells about exploration, about the fear and wonder of it. It is told in first person, and we deal with his anxieties, passions and fears. The protagonist, Robinette “Bob” Broadhead, won a lottery, enough to got to Gateway and become a prospector. Gateway is an asteroid with Heechee ships, the Heechee disappeared millions of years ago leaving valuable artifacts. People risk their lives to find these artifacts on the potential of achieving independence.

There are only a few key characters besides the main character, most of these have very little development. The exceptions are Gelle-Klara Moynlin, Dane Metchnikov who are important to Bob and are key to his character development and his psychosis.

The author does a good job of describing life in a low-gravity asteroid, I found the descriptions interesting and insightful, although I think he missed a point or two. 🙂 Moving a heavy object would be very difficult, it may not have weight, but it’s inertia would be greater than the friction you would have with the floor. It recurred during the fight scene, it seems like it would be very difficult to maintain footing while struggling with someone. The problem did not detract from the book.

The story unravels along with a parallel path in the future where Bob is seeing a robot shrink, Sigfrid. These sessions provide a harbinger of events to come, but they aren’t very clear. At first, they seemed unimportant, but they help develop both Bob’s character and build to the climax. I found Sigfrid very interesting, even though a very flat character. Bob’s actions later in the book reinforce that Sigrid isn’t an individual, but he seems to walk a line between human and robot.

There are also one-page entries that help build an image of life on Gateway. These include classified ads, personal communications, rule and contracts.

Overall, I found the book very enjoyable and difficult to put down. There is something looming around the corner that needs resolving. The final revelation is unique and thought-provoking.

Impressionist Painting for the Landscape: Secrets for Successful Oil Painting by Cindy Salaski

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on April 11, 2017 @ 12:07 pm

Impressionist Painting for the Landscape: Secrets for Successful Oil Painting by Cindy Salaski

The book got off to a weak start for me. When describing materials, he describes what he has and insists it is the BEST available. He doesn’t give adequate information as to why it is the best and what you can do if his choice isn’t available or is too expensive for the reader. This doesn’t address why the best wouldn’t change over time. Everything he has is the best.

The book got a lot better when he got down to painting techniques and composition. However, the authors didn’t really address impressionism very much. The book includes some step-by-step painting examples, again, there is a discussion of techniques, but not as to why they would support an impressionistic feel.

There are a lot of references at the bottom of alternate pages to a website for additional material. This is just a blatant attempt to get you to a website to view ads. the extra materials consist of two pages, one of very basic suggestions already covered in the book, the second page is a nice painting with a few words about its composition. This could have been included on one page in the book. Instead there are three pages about the two authors and two pages that are selling a video.

The book does have value, don’t expect to come through it with any understanding of impressionism and you can enjoy it.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

Filed under:Philosophy,self-help — posted by Randolph on April 5, 2017 @ 3:27 pm


Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

This book is slow and I find the author demeaning. He isn’t teaching about how to improve your skills, it is more about choice architecture. It itself, that could be interesting, but the author is ‘nudging’ the reader toward libertarian paternalism. He starts arguments with ‘givens’ that the reader is supposed to accept, and I couldn’t accept them. He draws conclusions about medical care and retirement with his socio-political views that I don’t agree with.

He talks down to the reader, it felt like a waste of time. I will not finish this book.

Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Asprin

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy,Humor,Series — posted by Randolph on April 1, 2017 @ 2:23 pm


Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Asprin

This books is set earlier than some of the recent books, following Myth Directions. In this adventure, Skeeve gets hold of a treasure map that leads to a golden cow. At the thought of treasure, Aahz loses his senses, with Tananda, they begin a grand adventure. .

Only, the map is magical and changes as the proceed. They meet some odd characters, some peculiar dimensions. Meeting vegetarian cowboys, odd cattle, and redundant towns on their way to find gold, they face odd obstacles and find humorous solutions.

Tales of the Jedi by Tom Veitch

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 31, 2017 @ 4:05 pm


Tales of the Jedi by Tom Veitch

This is a small collection of short stories about the Jedi Knights in the age before the movies. These are stories of adventure of young jedi facing their first conflicts. I listened to the audio version of the book.

Unfortunately, the dialog is pretty bad. The characterization of the young Jedi is weak and poorly written. The author explains thing to the reader by using ignorance, often in the jedi, who do know know some of the basics in how the force works. I suspect the reader knows far more than the young jedi.

Art Techniques for Line & Wash by Paul Taggart

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on March 17, 2017 @ 9:44 am

Art Techniques for Line & Wash by Paul Taggart

This book looks at the quality of line and different washes, comparing different media and styles to generate lines. Then looking at different media for the washes including watercolor, ink and acrylic.

It includes media that serve both purposes, such as watercolor pencils, non-waterproof inks and washes over pastel.

I didn’t feel the book had a lot to offer, but it is a quick and easy read and has nice art. I think there are better books to learn about line quality from.

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

Filed under:Humor — posted by Randolph on March 5, 2017 @ 6:06 pm

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

My initial impression of this book was unfavorable. The book opens in a Wooster-Jeeves role reversal. I had a hard time accepting this, but read on. It took a bit, but the book did pick up.

This doesn’t quite have the same feel of Woodhouse, but it is a respectable homage. Faulks is making his own style apparent, and is adding his own twist, with what I suspect is a promise of more books to come.

Bertie is up to his usual antics, trying to help his friends in their affairs and everything goes south. In this story, Jeeves seemed a bit less than his usual on-top-of-everything-and-in-control self, but in the end, he manages everything for the best.

Any fan of Woodhouse’s Jeeves will recognize and enjoy this story.

So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams

Filed under:Humor,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on February 13, 2017 @ 10:13 am

So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams

The fourth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series was a bit disappointing. That is not to say it was bad, but it didn’t seem to hold up to the previous books. Arthur is on the Earth 2, about 8 years after the destruction of the original version. The book was disappointing to me because the plot was weaker and many of the characters weren’t as interesting as in the series.

Arthur falls in love with a girl, that seems to be a major plot point, but doesn’t develop. The girl’s reactions didn’t seem reasonable to me at times.

Another plot point is discovering why the dolphins have disappeared. But this point is just dropped in favor of another plot point – discovering god’s final message.

On the positive side, Adams displays his peculiar brand of humor quite well. Each turn of events is pretty much unexpected and often funny.

The Mythology of the Superhero by Andrew R Bahlmann

Filed under:Philosophy — posted by Randolph on January 9, 2017 @ 5:36 pm

The Mythology of the Superhero by Andrew R Bahlmann

This books posits that the superhero story has the same relationship with culture as does mythology. The author breaks the superhero story into unique tropes, then shows how they relate to a variety of superhero stories.

The book has four distinct sections:
In the first section, chapter 1, he defines the different tropes and discusses them in the scope of one or more superhero stories.

In the second section, chapters 2-5, he performs more of an analysis of four series that he considers marginally superhero stories, these are Green Arrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alphas and Beowolf.

The third section, chapter 6, discusses the core ideas of a superhero story. It is similar to the first chapter in some ways, but approaches the idea from a different direction.

The last section, the appendix, is a list of the relevant tropes. This is inadequate, but is supplemented by a web page with a lot of information on it.

Overall, the book is interesting, he mentions that it is a common topic among some researchers and the boundaries of what constitutes a superhero story are not well defined.

I felt the second section was a bit slow. The book had to provide sufficient details on the storyline for a reader unfamiliar with the story can keep up. A lot of the information on various storylines was provided several times through the book.

He built arguments that stories (myths) correlate to culture. He built on that commenting that the superhero story had supplanted the western in our culture, and would eventually be replaced with something new. I was surprised that he did not discuss the possibility that the marginal superhero stories he did discuss could be part of this new and upcoming story. Theses stories, excluding Beowolf, are newer and have a strong tv influence. This influence was probably intentional by the directors translating a comic to the screen. But this does correspond to a culture change, where the screen is replacing most written forms of communication.

I did find the book interesting. I felt it was too short, it had too little information and too much redundancy to be excellent.

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy — posted by Randolph on December 2, 2016 @ 7:49 pm

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green

This is the first book of the Secret Histories novels, in which a family, the Droods, uses ancient secrets of science and magic to protect the human population from a large assembly of evils, demons, monsters, aliens, etc. Except the official story conceals a dark secret.

Eddie Drood does what the family asks of him. Being independent, he isn’t satisfied living under the roof and rules of the family matriarch, so he works among the normal humans, fighting the family’s fight. Until he is sent on a mission, doomed to fail, and is declared rogue by the matriarch with a kill-on-sight order. Most of the book is his story of trying to find out why this happened.

The book is full of odd and fun characters, each is a creative creation with an interesting story. There is also a large array of odd artifacts, each also creative and unusual.

The author almost gets in the way of the story. He enjoys setting up a situation, and then adding a one-liner to build its opposite. This happens in the characters’ stories, in idioms, settings, all too much. Some of them are very good, which keeps them from getting entirely stale, it is just part of his sense of humor.

The book has several allusions to James Bond. Eddie operates under the moniker Edwin Bond, and has an uncle James Drood with a history that sounds like James. This character sets a high-mark for establishing Edwin as a major operative.

The beginning of the book was a bit difficult to get through. As the author set the scene, he set up Edwin Drood as a masterful and powerful agent with a powerful tool. It felt like Deus-ex-Machina as he pulled new skills out to defeat opponents. But this was all stage setting to familiarize the reader with his abilities. The book definitely improves.

Toward the end of the book, it became a page-turner for me. The situations were exciting. However, I was quite disappointed in the ending, in which an entirely misunderstood plot element suddenly just solved all the problems. Oddly, it didn’t feel like it ruined the book. The story was good enough to carry the novel, the humor was good, and it was interesting. I will make time to read the second novel.


next page


image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace