Category Archives: Books

1Q84 fills up 3 MP3 CDs

And I am lucky such things exist

I get a lot of audiobooks from the Chicago Public Library and most of them are at least a few years old. The result of getting these Old-In-Internet-Years books is that, while the do come on CD (as opposed to cassette), I have to rip all the CDs and then convert them to audiobooks in iTunes. It’s not usually that bad, when I get something like Storm Front or Murder on the Orient Express, but (after waiting 2 months for it to arrive after placing it on hold), my next audiobook is 1Q84. Amazon lists it at 944 pages. The back of the audiobook lists it at 46 hours, 46 minutes or 38 compact discs. That’s a lot of discs to rip.

But, the back of the audiobook also says this:

Thank you Brilliance Audio! It might have taken me another 46 hours and 46 minutes to rip 38 CDs to my computer (or at least like 10% of that)… But instead, I was able to transfer the 3 MP3 CDs in about 15 minutes. With all that extra time, I was able to write this blog post and still have plenty of time to get back to more reading and writing…

Top 100 SFF Books from NPR

Here’s an annotated version of the list of the Top 100 SFF Books as voted by NPR listeners. Bold for the ones I’ve read, and because I’m a bit concerned about how pathetic that’s going to look, I’m going to put Italics for ones that I actually have a copy of on my shelf, just waiting to be read. There’s a summary at the bottom for anyone who wants some analysis and introspection.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin (I’ve only read the first one, but at 900 pages, that’s no small accomplishment)
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov (started reading it and just couldn’t get into it…)
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

I’ve read 13. Though #1 is a Trilogy, and #23 The Dark Tower Series is actually 7 books, so I could say I’ve ready 22 of the Top 110, which gives me slightly better percentage (20% vs 13%). Of course, if you do that, then you probably have to expand A Song of Ice and Fire and all the other Trilogies or Serieses (Wheel of Time is at least 10 books) and then my percentage would probably end up lower than the original 13%. So, I guess I’ll just have to increase my number the hard way: actually reading.

Have copies ready to be read: 13. I’ve managed to up my monthly word intake to (a very roughly estimated) 100,000 words. So, if I say that each of the 13 books is about 150,000 words, then I’ll be through those 13 in a little over a year and a half. Not bad considering it took me 30 years to get through the first 13.

Neal Stephenson talks about new book Reamde

It took me a couple days after seeing it recommended on Amazon to realize that the title had the ‘m’ before the ‘d’. Whatever the case, it sounds like a good cyberthriller… though I’m a little put off by the subtitle “A Novel” which I thought was usually reserved for literary novels. I’m not trying to knock on Stephenson at all when say that because when I say “literary novels” I really mean “pretentious novels.” Because really, who had to say their book is a novel? People won’t know? They won’t be able to figure it out?

And the UK cover, which is not quite as “literary” and also probably a lot more informative:

Americanized Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

(Please note this is a red band trailer and should only be viewed by people who are allowed to view that sort of thing)

While it may seem simplistic or thick-headed to say “This preview looks awesome” when compared to the (perhaps) more high-brow Swedish version (I don’t know if it’s necessarily more high-brow since the book was not compelling enough to make me want to see the movie). But when I watch the preview I realize how much I could have liked The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo if it had filtered some of the historical back story while simultaneously sharpening the action and tension. Perhaps there is something to be said for drawing things out – I’m sure some people would refer to it as ‘pacing’ – and I probably don’t read enough mysteries to have a great feel for how long they take to build the requisite amount of tension. But, I usually grade a book in a series on whether or not it makes me want to read the next one in the series, and I wanted nothing to do with the other two books in the Millenium series after finishing The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. When the movie comes out (after building hype for another 7 months), I will judge it by the same criteria and see if I want to see the next movie. If it lives up to the promise of the trailer, I think I will.

The Athena Project by Brad Thor

Come on now. I was just reading this 7 Deadly Questions interview with Joanna Penn and while talking (or writing, I suppose) about kick-ass female protagonists, she mentions a book by Brad Thor called The Athena Project. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I published Episode 1 of the Valkyrie Project only 6 days after Thor’s release date for The Athena Project, because I will be the first to admit that the premises sound very similar. Although mine is clearly speculative near future fiction while Brad’s takes place in a contemporary setting.

Another key difference is that the first 4 episodes of The Valkyrie Project are currently available in all electronic formats for free on Smashwords, while Mr. Thor’s book will set you back $14.99 for an electronic version (though the hardcover version is somehow available from 3rd party sellers starting at only $5.82). The Athena Project is also available at The Chicago Public Library, which is probably where I’ll get it from because I’m not a fan of hardcover books (especially owning and storing them) and there is no way I’m going to pay $14.99 for an ebook.

And it looks like another key difference is that The Athena Project is being made into a movie. Since it sounds like a book I would probably like, it sounds like a movie I would like as well. I’m all about kick ass female protagonists: Buffy in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Sydney in Alias, Kate in LOST, Sarah Connor and Cameron in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Echo in The Dollhouse, Olivia in Fringe, Kate in Castle, even Nikita in Nikita. Also, from that list that I was able to come up with off the top of my head, it appears that I’m not the only one who likes a strong female presence in their sci-fi (or detective or spy comedramas). Also, it should be obvious from that list why I am writing an episodic sci-fi serial with a female protagonist. In fact, if Facebook still allowed free form text in their Favorites section, I could probably just put: Episodic Sci-fi Serials with Female Protagonists as my top favorite thing.

Final key difference (for now), Athena was the Goddess of War (among other things, of course, but mostly war) who sprung forth from Zeus’s head while the Valkyries decide who will die in battle and then select from among those who die the ones that will join Odin in Valhalla to prepare for Ragnarok (sort of making them eternal warriors, which is kind of awesome). I will be interested to see if Thor’s book uses the Athena aspect at all or if it just comes as a name for strong females that the government though sounded cool when they named the project. The Valkyries in The Valkyrie Project take on tasks that at least resemble those of their Norse predecessors, and I am trying to make the correlation as strong as possible within the context of the story.

Kind of a Big Deal

Evidently a very old and very large publisher of mass market paperback books is moving entirely to eBooks. I’ve never heard of Dorchester Publishing, but they have an extensive list of authors.

ReadWriteWeb asks:

The e-book format has inherent multimedia possibilities: trailers, background and reference materials, interviews, actors reciting the poems the book contains. But will these ultimately be considered enrichment of the text or just distractions from it? Perhaps these sorts of experiments will go the way of Flash splash pages and manically hyperlinked documents. In the end, the portability may be the fulcrum, the only fulcrum. Are e-books simply the paperbacks of the future, the cheapest way to publish the cheapest books for the largest number of readers?

I tend to think the last question is the most important as well as most easily answered. Sure, there will be books with ancillary bonus features, but I think people will view that kind of content as they do the bonus material that accompanies some DVDs. There will be some opportunity for authors like Mark Danielewski to take advantage of these feature in avant guard ways. But mostly, eBooks will be cheap, light, and easy to buy, just like mass market paperbacks are now.