Log in

Cheesy Sci-fi: In Space!

So, today I have decided to concentrate my efforts on talking about only a couple of books instead of bombarding you with titles and names of authors before exhausting myself and waffling. I have also decided that as this account is now pretty old it is getting to the stage where it is embarrassing that I have never retained not only the original colour scheme but the same picture-less, word-heavy posts of the semi computer illiterate teen I was when I started this. Hopefully this will all come together and make future posts look a little more professional so please bear with me until then.

So the theme for today is Cheesy Sci-fi: In Space! Some of you may have heard me ranting on a while back about a book I found in a second hand bookshop entitled Dragons in the Stars. At the time I had nothing else with me to digest on the journey home and the title had made me laugh so I decided to read it. Like many old sci-fi novels of 20 or more years ago the author has created an extremely complex world, the logic of which he struggles to explain in a single small novel alone. In the end we get the basic idea of space ships that are navigated by the minds of young crew members, chosen specifically for this job. When navigating a space ship these crew members are locked in a place that is neither reality nor completely inside their minds.

It is here that our protagonist meets and rides dragons, takes part in dragon politics and learns how to not be such a weakling and to take charge of her own life. I am being a little mean here, after all she does get stuck on a spaceship with an abusive captain who tricks her into getting the futuristic version of a major drug addiction. However, she has pulls herself together eventually and goes on an adventure worth reading about.

The best thing about this book is that it is fairly original and does take you on one hell of an adventure. The bad points of the book are that it is completely unrealistic and over the top. It may not be written by a poet but for what I was expecting it was quite enjoyable.

Now, the real reason I brought up dragons in the stars is to give you a basis on which to compare the second book I found while rifling through a second hand bookshop one day: The Space Vampires.

Like the last one, I bought this book because the title made me laugh. It was about the same size as Dragons in the Stars if not a little smaller and seemed to have been published in the same era (this assumption was later proved false as Space Vampires was written in the 70's while Dragons in the Stars is from the very early 90's). The cashier in the bookshop where I found The Space Vampires seemed even more confused than my companion when I got the book.

It seems the author, Colin Wilson, is less known for his cheesy over the top sci-fi than for his books on philosophy. In fact, the inside of the cover of his most famous work The Outsider names him as England's most controversial intellectual. Thus it is that unlike the first book, which was amusing for its adventure, The Space Vampires is amusing for the way the plot will stall for pages at a time so that the characters can discuss philosophical views on the true nature of people and interpersonal interaction.

Many years ago I had the television on the discovery channel as I was doing work on one project or another and ended up being distracted by a documentary on the history of vampires. One thing that I hadn't previously known about was what had been referred to as "psychic vampires". This term was used to refer to people who sustained themselves by sucking energy out of those around them. The documentary listed some of the experiments performed in Russia to track psychic vampires by recording a person's life force by measuring electrical currents through the body.

This book is very reminiscent of that documentary as the vampires raise havoc by sucking the life force out of people and potentially killing them. As mentioned before the book throws around a lot of theories such as that all people have the potential to become vampires and that most mental diseases are caused by a disturbance of the life force that affects people's vital energies. The main protagonist starts off as being semi-likable if not a bit on the boring side as he spends most of his time analysing others and not actually doing much himself except for when work forces him to. He is married with two daughters that he loves but barely gives a second though to as he goes straight from being away for months in space to travelling overseas to meet and stay with a man who is thought to be knowledgeable on the subject of vampires.

As for things that I liked about this book, it did raise some interesting questions even if it tended to draw them out more than I would have thought necessary. My favourite bits of the book are mostly all from the one chapter where a vampire under interrogation reveals where their kind came from. This includes super smart, psychic squids and aliens as well as a planet of what would have appeared to be dinosaurs, but bigger! Given that all the main protagonists were men, bringing this up just seems like a fairly childish attempt to win them over with awesome stories. I almost expected the next part of the explanation the include hover-bike races on Mars. But instead it had to go on and on about how the squid things created Adam and Eve and taught humans about agriculture and probably gave them fire as well and all that other dull stuff.

Things that I didn't like about this book include that a lot of the things presented as logic seem like some dick's dream version of reality where everyone is just begging to be allowed to strip naked and lick his feet. This include conversations about things that are based the protagonists knowledge that all women secretly wish to submit and be conquered and that all clergymen are professional liars. This last statement is based on the assertion that if you don't want to be a slut and a whore (it doesn't matter if you are male or female) you clearly must be lying to yourself. This all becomes to much for me to ignore when, while staying at his hosts home, he gets seduced into making love with one of his host's pupils. After this he admits what he has done and that he is horrified with himself to his friend and his host while repeating that he has not even kissed a women in the whole five years that he has been married as if this is a tremendous feat to be proud of. (Personally not: if it is so difficult to resist cheating on the person you're with I would encourage you not to get married.) This isn't the end of the story though, because later on he goes out and meets another woman with which he participates in something equally intimate. In fact he then goes on to consider that she has the same expression on her face afterwards that his wife had after giving birth to their daughter. Immediately after having thought this he cracks a joke with the women about how he may need to leave his wife now and they both laugh it off. Great.

By the end of the book the protagonist is an old man and although we are never told what happened to his wife we learn that he is no longer with her. here's hoping that she and the kids made a clean escape.

Reading List Feb2013

Hi all

I have been dragged away from reading to work on something of much greater importance: the practice of avoiding having a life. Sadly, this could not last long and soon I found myself taking a long jog down to my local library after my own printer had broken down. I suppose it should be obvious that putting me in a library is like giving the internet to a porn addict. It is never a good idea unless you don't want me to see the light of day for a few weeks. So, at the end of the day, I shut myself away with a few books of my choosing after several weeks without so much as a single novel and renewed my addiction to the written language. I still have a lot of time to make up for but I am feeling optimistic that my time of fasting has ended for a while.

The few books that I have managed to read in the last four days include:

City of Dragons by Robin Hobb - This is the third book the The Rain Wild Chronicles. I had started this series a long time ago but have left of keeping up with it for various reasons. The first being that I generally don not like Robin Hobb's books. The first one I had ever read had been  Shaman's Crossing (the Soldier Son series) and from that point on I had her labelled as a hippy. I read books for enjoyment but If I feel that the author is strongly pushing for a point of view/logic that I don't agree with then it is hard for me to continue. So, as much as I was drawn in by the first book it took me a while before I decided to give the second, Dragon Haven, a go.

When I did I was pleasantly surprised. Not only had the plot become even more intriguing but if this series was anything to go by, my view of the author's belief system (as represented in the character's reasoning in each book) had been completely wrong. However, the next obstacle occurred when I found out that the only edition of the third book available had dimensions that were almost twice as bog as the first two books. I am picky about how my books look and in hopeful optimism I decided the not purchase or read the third book until I could get it as a perfect set with the first two books. This painful waiting continued for many months before I stumbled upon the book on my library visit.

It took my two days to finish and now that I have I am torn between wishing I had borrowed and read it months ago, and wishing that I had waited a little longer so I wasn't forced to endure waiting for the fourth book in the series to be published. Only recently I had been lamenting that many of my favourite series were now getting long and tiresome. However, the Rain Wild Chronicles is unique in the way that I am actually more intrigued and fascinated by them with each ensuing book.

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman - I don't think I have mentioned it before but my partner's mother is a librarian. As such a couple of years ago when the libraries in my area were doing an event to pick out new books to align the shelves she signed us up to come along. I was initially disappointed as the book picking was meant to take place in a large Borders bookshop that I new well. However, that year it was revealed that Borders was going bankrupt and instead the event was held at a much smaller store around the Croydon area. There was not much to choose from and the list I had made up of possibilities were all unavailable. In my haste I started reading back covers on everything that stuck out as looking interesting and this was the book I picked.

It was strange that years later I should stumble across it, after not even having thought about it since the event. Opening the book I found it well worn from use which was surprising considering I had only chosen it a few years ago. Curiosity and pride, I suppose, were what forced me to borrow it. The urge to know If I had made the right choice and if not, to find out why the book appeared to be so well used.

It is a fantastic piece of work. At first I was unsure if the similarities between Catholicism and the Redeemer's religion were an accident or the author's own fanatical dislike for organised religion. However, it soon became clear that many things such as phrases, place names and games had been taken from the real world and in some cases changed to the point that you really do feel like a stranger looking in at this strange new world. It is hard to describe how well put together this book is and if it could be done I do not think I would be the one to do it. It contains horror, but not the type of horror that is uselessly shoved in your face over and over again. Instead it is necessary in the plot and although the character's are changed by what they see they do not take on the now popular characteristics of the 'traumatised victim'. The main character is talented but flawed and there is a type of wit and dry humour to the book that makes you smile even through some of the darkest chapters.

The book is not overly suspenseful but it is always nearly impossible to guess what will happen next before it happens and that is half the fun of it. The book is only one of a series and as much as the ending could be viewed as a cliffhanger moment, it also did an almost miraculous job of concluding the story in a way that is satisfying without admitting many things which I hope will be revealed later in the series.

Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger - One day when I had gone to the city with my partner we stopped by a strange bookshop that neither of us had ever seen before. The window was lined with stuffed dolls of people such as Oscar Wilde and the Saggy Baggy Elephant and inside were two moderate sized rooms. The first room contained a small but smart collection of everything from fiction to philosophy and the second, smaller room was filled with kids books and shelves of children's book-oriented merchandise. I was busy perusing their selection in the first room when I noticed my partner had gone off to check out the second. My sister always tells me that the best, most imaginative stories, usually come from children's book writers but it has been a while since I have been able to peruse that section in a bookshop without feeling self-conscious. Luckily my partner is a better person than I because as I was rapidly and nervously scanning the shelves he was already properly looking through things and thus uncovered the Origami Yoda books.

Each book is about as thick as an adult's pinky finger and can be easily finished in an hour, which doesn't sound like such an impressive thing for a fully grown adult to be obsessing over but it is the concept that had me won over. Each book contains a story surrounding a group of highschool kids and their paper, finger puppet advisor which takes the form of Yoda from Star Wars. It is often speculated through the book that the finger puppet gives strange powers to the wearer or that in some way through the force each student really is receiving wisdom from Yoda himself. The books are fun and good for a laugh and if that wasn't enough, the final pages contain an explanation of how to make your own origami finger puppets like the ones mentioned in the book.

Reading List Jan2013

Good morning/afternoon/evening and night to you all

In the last year and a half I have gone through a lot. A have seen the funeral of my father, worked for a few weeks in a farming town, survived Halloween in an old hotel built in the 1800s with only the ghost-story-loving owner and her partner for company, I have completed my first Bachelor's degree and spent my time working hard as an admin officer/sometimes PA of the executive director, in a research organisation.
It is hard to imagine how I have come so far and yet still manage to feel so at a loss. In my last placement I worked 4 weeks at a high-ranking private hospital in the city. There I was told that I could go far if I was able to just get a job first, the only problem with that being that I am 'shy' which makes interviews rather difficult. In this scenario shy is defined as: terrified of other human beings, and, will his and arch up if approached. Okay... maybe not that bad, but bad enough that people have noticed and we all know that if you aren't a master at charisma you don't get very far in job hunting these days.

Anyway, moving on to the book section of this post. Recently I have had a strong craving for short stories which has been fed by 3 books in particular: Strange Brew; edited by P.N Elrod, Naked City; Edited by Ellen Datlow and Metro Winds by Isobelle Carmody.

Metro Winds
This is a fairly recent book and is one of only two short story books I have read by this author. As always she is writing her own fantasy style with stories that challenge both the logical mind and imagination. I felt that, in comparison to her previous book (Green Monkey Dreams), Metro Winds was a bit more light and fairytail-esque. Although it was a great read and will have a place of honor on my shelf, it goes without saying that many of these stories were made to appeal to young adults and did not contain many of the darker themes that can be read into the stories of Green Monkey Dreams. It is a little bit strange that something so uplifting could be written by the same person who wrote short stories about the contagion of depression or finding out that the one person looking out for you is a prostitute. Yet, at the same time it makes sense. The main thing I admire about her stories isn't how dark or otherwise they are anyway, it is about how they tell a story, giving as little detail as possible and leave you to figure out what really happened. In this way every time you end a short story you find out a little bit about yourself. Perhaps I am just rambling now so will try to explain in a different way: I think the lemmings died while running off a cliff but I also think they found what they wanted and I believe The Girl That Could See the Wind lived happily ever after until her policeman died and then returned to the park be with her sister.

Strange Brew
This one I might have spoken about before, I actually bought it and read it a while ago but under the  circumstance I thought it deserved a second look. This is a book full of Urban-fantasy stories written by different authors, many of whom I recognised. I have had many happy hours with books by Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher in the past so It was definitely worth the look. It was also a good way to scope out the work of other authors whom I had not yet looked into. Sadly this also is the cause of me getting hooked on Charlaine Harris's, Sookie Stackhouse series. For those of you who haven't read them, Sookie Stackhouse books work under three themes: paranormal, mystery and p0rn. Sookie Stackouse is to good books what crack cocaine is to hot chocolate. Within a week I had read the first eight books and by the end of the next week I was only just starting the overcome my cravings for more. There is also a certain type of shame that comes with enjoying that type of book and that is something which I don't think I will ever overcome.

Strange Brew also contains another writer which I had previously never heard of. Karen Chance. Her story was neither fantastic nor bad but it was a good concept and I enjoyed reading it. So, months later when I was browsing a local second hand book store and saw her name as the author of Claimed by Shadow I decided that $6 wasn't too bad a price to pay to give her a chance. After I finished reading it that six dollars metaphorically went down the toilet..... like certain torn up pages of that book. I would like to say that I have learnt my lesson on buying books from little known authors on the off-chance that they're any good, but I know that would be a lie. But I would just like to make one statement  relative to this book; I do not believe that anyone in a million years could be as useless a hero/heroine as the main protagonist is this book and I do not believe that someone who has remained a virgin for 20+ years just gives it up to a boy that she likes as a friend and struts off happily afterwards.

Naked City
Naked City is like Strange Brew in that it has different authors writing short stories. In fact Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher also wrote stories for this one as well. The difference in this book all stories follow a trend, that is; there must be a strong connection to a particular place/time/environment. This is interpreted in so many different ways through-out the book and each way is just as brilliant as the last. This book is definitely a favourite of mine. It also features stories by Holly Black, Ellen Kushner and Peter S. Beagle. I believe I've talked enough about my love for Ellen Kushner before to leave her alone for now. Holly Black's claim to my heart is her dark urban fantasy books for young adults. In particular Tithe and Valiant. Peter S. Beagle is the author of The Last Unicorn and The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche. Suffice to say that when I came across his story I couldn't believe my eyes. I had always been predisposed to think that if he was still alive he would be sitting back enjoying his retirement by now, but not only is he still alive but he is still writing! The story itself seemed to be written in such a modern urban-fantasy style that it didn't help me to believe it was him any more either. However, unlike most modern writers it had a subtlety to it that most books lack. Unlike Sarah Douglass, who likes to have children clawing their way out of their screaming mothers stomach in the first chapter, the horror that Peter S. Beagle writes tends to sneak up on the reader bit by bit, until it totally consumes them.

Well, I have tried not to give you a complete essay on what I have been reading this time and I hopefully have still given you some  idea as to what everything is. Other than that I have read the first two books of Robin Hobbs, Rain Wild Chronicles, they are addictive and the third book is already out but only in a larger size to the first two and I am a little obsessive on having all my books looking nice when on the shelf. I also read a new book by Brandon Sanderson called Warbreaker. If you recognise the authors name it is because he also wrote Mistborn, which I love with a passion, The Well of Ascension, ...it was okay I guess and Elantris. If I could find every copy of Elantris and burn it to cinders I would and I to not take book destroying lightly. Elantris was a book about a young man and woman with brains the size of peanuts and egos the size of Mars and what happens when they decide that they can rule a country and beat the peace and love into everyone in it. It goes from being a country run by merchants into a country run by people who have no idea about how to maintain an economy.

For the first half of the book I was reading Warbreaker with growing dread, already hearing the obnoxious philosophy of Elantris under a different façade. But, It is only after halfway through the book that everything gets turned on its head. It is one of the few times where I have managed to misjudge a book so completely and if you are a Brandon Sanderson fan it is worth a read. The one thing that really had my back up most of all was a particular character who had reminded of a documentary I once watched about Charles Manson and how to brainwash people with low self esteem.

Anyway, my time is up now and my laptop has almost run out of power, so until next time.

Stay awesome

Hi all
As you have no doubt guessed, I've been a busy little Fish. It mostly has to do with work and uni, organising eResearch showcases at the Australian Synchrotron and trying to hold everything together for the final semester of the final year of my degree. Nonetheless, I have also gotten myself into trouble with the amount of reading I habitually undertake and apparently the fact that I'm drowning in work doesn't change that. Mostly the stuff I've been reading doesn't bear mentioning: series that I've already mentioned before or young adult books like those by Rick Riordan that I just read for fun but not obsession. However, there are two things that I would like to bring up.

1. What is Wookie,
Yes, this is one of those childrens' books where the words are in large print and still manage to take up less space on the page than the pictures. I am not now, nor have I ever been a Star Wars fan. When I was in high school they tried to make me watch one of the movies in class and I got bored ten minutes into it and faked sick. I have never watched any Star Wars movie completely. I like Star Trek (TOS and TNG but DS9 is also acceptable). My Not-Fiance, however, is an avid fan whose heart squeals at the mere mention of it and can probably recite the names of his favourite 20 droids without taking a breath in between. There is also a deal between us that was made long, long ago that means that one day I will probably be forced (by my honour) to watch the movies with him. But until then there is no way known. Which leads to my Not-Fiance giving me this book and anouncing that there would be a test at the end of it. So, deciding to one-up him and memorise every damn thing in the book(!) there is one thing that I've realised; remembering Star Wars crap is hard :( Just so you know, I did perservere though, and now know the names of 6 droid thingies (the R2D2 type ones), 5 protocol droids and half a dozen or more planets. After showing off my knew knowledge, Not-Fiance's response was to gleefully tell me about all the OTHER stuff he was going to teach me (yes folks, there is more). And upon my outrage reminded me that what I had in fact struggled to read was only a kids book. Yes folks, if I every meet George Lucas I am prepared and ready to blame him for all the evil in the world.

2. The Phoenix Gaurds, 500 Years After and The Paths of the Dead
Before I get started on this let me explain that all three of these books plus The Lord of Castle Black and Sethra Lavode make up a collection called The Khaavren Romances. It is a strange name because all of them are written under the premise of a history book and what little romance there is, is completely destroyed (in a good way) by the style of the books. The Paths of the dead, The Lord of Castle Black and Sethra Lavode are also parts of the The Viscount of Adrilankha trilogy and although I have read The Lord of Castle Black before, I have never until now read any of the other parts of the trilogy. On top of all of that The Khaavren romances also take place in the same world as the Vlad Taltos books and a number of main characters from there appear in them. However, this all happens several hundred years before Vlad is born.

Reading these is quite an event and if you don't get into the spirit of things you will never finish the first two. This is because the dialogue for the 'history' is written to - as the historian explains - mimic the type of speech used in an old but popular play. In essence this means that conversations go in circles for a long time before getting anywhere because if Person A wants to ask a question he must anounce his intention first, to which Person B must acknowledge the anounced intention. If Person A then asks the question the polite response is for Person B to then clarify (again) that Person A wants to know something and what that something might be. But if you are still wanting to read them then that is good because once you get past all the tension and shouting at the characters to 'Just bloody well get on with it', it is funny and it gives you some insight into what life is like for your average non-minority Dragaeran and now that I have read them I am rereading the Vlad Taltos books and I feel like it has given me some insight. For example in Teckla when Khaavren shows and Vlad approaches him and states that is was just an Easterner (read: human) conflict and that there is no longer any need for the Phoenix Guard. Vlad points out that Khaavren seems to be looking down at him with an attitude of disgust. For those who are not familiar with the books it is completely natural for a Dragaean to want to kill an Easterner just for being there and this remark does not appear to be at all strange. However, in The Phoenix Guard a major turning point is when Khaavren makes a deal with the leader of a band of Easterners to prevent a war. This doesn't mean that he doesn't look down on Easterners but it would be extremely difficult to have considered what was best for both of them and set terms with the Easterners in the way that he did if he saw them only as cokroaches to be squashed. Which is why I believe that his disgusted reaction wasn't so much as to Vlad being an Easterner as to him wearing the colours of the House of Jhereg.

One thing that really bothers me about the Vlad Taltos books is his wife Cawti's insistence on joining an activist group. This doesn't irritate me as much as it should because it is really well written in terms of explaining this from both perspective even while only ever showing things through Vlad's eyes. But it just seems so common to have a female character who suddenly decide to start protesting for 'the greater good' to the detriment of everyone who cares about her. In 1986 Forest Gump did it, In 1987 The Vlad Taltos books did it, in 2007 Across the Universe did it and in 2012 I got really tired of hearing about it. I don't like hippie types, I don't like activists or activist causes and when people act bitchy to each other for activist reasons it pisses me off. I think the reason it is always female characters doing it is because the authors (always men) don't want to be associated with such stupid opinions. I don't blame the, I would do the same if I were writing a book in which a character started acting so annoyingly, but that doesn't mean I enjoy it either.

Which Star Trek Character am I

Your results:
You are James T. Kirk (Captain)

James T. Kirk (Captain)
Jean-Luc Picard
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Geordi LaForge
Will Riker
Beverly Crusher
Mr. Sulu
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Mr. Scott
You are often exaggerated and over-the-top
in your speech and expressions.
You are a romantic at heart and a natural leader.

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character am I?" quiz...

July 2012 Update

Hey all, long time no see. I have recently been distracted by many things, work, last year of uni and applying for a job that pays less but is more closely related to what I have been studying (yes, it is as frustrating as it sounds). I have finished up my current placement in a hospital neuro ward and I'm sorry to say that unless I want to get into some serious trouble for breaking hospital privacy policy I can't say much more than that and that it was all very exciting. I also went to this years free Healthcare expo in the exhibition centre opposite the Melbourne museum. I came away with about 15 free pens all from different stalls and so much new information that my mind feels ready to burst every time I try to remember it all. Suffice to say that it was well worth the trip even if I was disappointed to find out that I could not apply to do my grad year in the Australian defence force.

As for books I am currently reading there are a few. Lynn Flewelling's most recent book in the Night Runner series arrived on my doorstep unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago as I had completely forgotten that I'd pre-ordered it from the BookDepository. And although I haven't yet I intend to widen my collection of Rob Thurman books very soon. Mostly I have been sticking to more of the classical books recently. The Canterbury tales was a short book but good for a laugh and The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo is my current obsession.

The Man Who Laughs is an old book that was turned into a black and white film in 1928. It is interesting to note as the main character in the film version is what the Batman character the Joker was originally based on (at least when it comes to appearance). If you are planning on reading this the best advice I can give you is that the first chapter is the hardest part, after the author stops showing off at how smart and heartless Ursus is things start getting more exciting. I will not pretend to be very mature and to be honest I think that is part of the reason why I found this book so enjoyable, though I am sure the author did not mean it to be. I still giggled ever time Ursus referred to his pet wolf, Homo. And towards the start of the book when the mystery men have a conversation in the boat (ie: "what do you call him" "the madman" "what do you say you call him" "the sage") and the madman asks to be called the Doctor, I was grinning from ear to ear and tempted to voice the obvious question of: Doctor Who?

Anyway, I will leave you be for now with a final piece of advise. The key secret to making friends is cupcakes and White choc chip macadamia biscuits. Anyone who tells you any less has obviously never baked any for a large group of co-workers.

Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?

I just finished reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I had thought about it a while ago but Sam demanded that I watch the movie Blade Runner with him first just in case reading the book made me think the movie wasn't as good. I'm glad I did now because the movie is very different from the book and in some ways I actually prefer it. Don't get me wrong: Philip K. Dick could make a good story and did so on many occasions but in essence I think he was always a short story writer. By making a novella he was in essence beating the reader's faces in with a brick and then trying to define a brick as if you hadn't just seen it coming for your face a few dozen times. Yes, 'androids cannot feel empathy' and 'we are different' I knew that from the very first chapter when empathy first became the all time raining champion of my internal Word-a-Day calendar.

And then the book touches on other subjects but nowhere near as much as empathy and nowhere near enough that you can fully comprehend just what the hell is going on. It is a bit embarrassing really. The book is obviously made for school kids. It even has a glossary at the back just in case you didn't know what a 'brain' was or what 'fake' meant. So rereading a page and trying to work out why all the characters are suddenly going mental and thinking that they are merging with some god-type being and if it is all just a bunch of extremely unnecessary symbolism thrown at you by good ol' Phil to remind you of how deep he is seems just a tad degrading.

All in all the book does raise some good topics though even if they are stretched out to unnecessary proportions. The one thing that I couldn't get out of my head was the similarity between Mercer's past and Isidore's. Now, if you are thick headed you will tell me that it is impossible because Mercer is a fake and I will start to wonder if you actually read the book. This is because it was mentioned that the person who 'proved' Mercer's fraudulence was said by one of the androids to be a android in disguise himself. It is also said that the android's thought that humans used Mercer to prove that they were better than androids and therefore this 'evidence' could be though of as a strategic political attack. The other evidence is Isidore's strong mental attachment to Mercer, like he is a lifeline connecting him, possibly, to his past. His past seems to be something he cannot remember very well since people infused his brain with radiation and he became a chicken-head and it is revealed that no one really remembers how Mercerim was started either. However, in a moment of clarity Isidore does reveal that when he was younger he had the ability to bring dead animal's back to life, we later learn that this was also one of Mercer's well-known abilities.

Even if I am wrong and Philip Dick wrote the story so that Mercer is Mercer and Isidore is just Isidore I would probably prefer not to know. In my mind things make a lot more sense when viewed from the perspective that Isidore is not just an ignorant goat, chewing up whatever religious fanaticisms are thrown at him, but is still (to some degree) wise and discerning on a subconscious level and is just trying his best in a world that mutilated and forgot him.

Reading List April2012

So, I haven't posted in a while and I guess that is bad but on the plus side I have resisted from moaning about my life and posting shitty poem after shitty poem for a few months now. Hopefully my inner emo will stay beaten down for years to come. Those of you who have been watching my facebook may know a little of what has been going on but for the rest of you here is a brief synopsis:got a high paying job by accident, have had to stop working at the bookshop, it's my last year of university (eek!), come home from work late to find the corpse of a close family member, not-boyfriend has now been boyfriend for 6 months (not including the over-a-year-long courtship), I think I am becoming a little paranoid, I think I would not be becoming as paranoid if strangers would stop offering me candy and trying to talk me into their cars.

As for books.. well, it has been so long that I have once again forgotten everything that I have read since I last posted here... sorry :(. Okie dokie, foregoing the Terry Pratchett and Patricia Briggs books - which everyone can just assume I was completely giddy over and would be 100% biased if ever asked to review them - I have been reading some Robin Hobb. This is a rarity for me because I usually have a low tolerance for books that are written in that nature-loving hippy way. I have a garden of my own, I plant things, and enjoy trees but when I want to read I expect to be made to feel happy, sad, confused or thoughtful, not to be hit in the face with a huge clod of eco-guilt and propaganda. Still, I do think that Robin Hobb is a very adept writer her books made a nice change from the usual.

Magic's Pawn by Mercede's Lackey. It is the first in a series, I managed to finish this one but I don't think I will even attempt to battle my way through the rest. The main protagonist of Magic's Pawn is a misunderstood young man named Vanyel. He has been mistreated and has in defiance become whiny, flamboyant, self-centered and irritating. The good news is that the author has done this on purpose and has managed to make her point very well understood. The bad news is that she has done it a little too well, to the point where part way through the book you may find yourself almost screaming "just let him die already" into the pages as the 'hero' once again remains on the verge of death through emotional trauma. I'm not playing this up either, it happens so many times that it is just ridiculous.

The Bifrost Gaurdians (volume 1) by Mickey Zucker Reichert. This trilogy contains two stories that are not connected except for taking place in the same universe and one story containing characters from both of the first two stories. It all takes place in a land of dragons, swordmasters and magic wielders where the norse gods are real and require mortal 'heros' to help fight their battles. The interesting thing about this book is their choice of heros. The first is a man dragged from his on death in our world during the Vietnam war and given the body of an elf. The problem: fighting in the war has taken him to the brink of insanity and has left him powerless against flashbacks of death and destruction that may cause him to unwittingly harm his only allies. The hero in the second story is a thief who has also left behind a traumatic past but unlike the first hero his past drives him to levels of extreme pacifism that may end up causing the deaths of the people he cares most about. The overall theme of this book is about finding the balance between good and evil and whether violence can ever be used for good. It is delivered in a refreshingly creative way in a fantasy world that has been brought to life in amazing detail. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Amelia Peabody Mysteries (the first 8 books) by Elizabeth Peters. Please don't misunderstand, I have only read the first eight so far but by no means do I intend to stop there. A very brief description of the books: 1881, egyptology, archaeology, murder mystery, female detective, steamy romance (within the bounds of marriage). The characters are perfect. It is almost shocking to realize how life-like they become. Elizabeth Peters has written this series as if each book were a journal entry (or series of entries) written by Amelia Peabody herself. Through this style of writing the reader gets a unique insight into the thoughts, ambitions and often the self delusions of the main character. To not be carried away by one of these books would be far beyond my own humble powers of self control.

Brokedown Palace by Steven Brust. It is a strange story about a family that don't get along. The only thing is that the family happens to consist of the four sons of the king of which at least one or two could be on the verge of insanity. It is a strange book to see reflections of your own life in since I have never had a sibling attempt to kill me just for offhandedly saying that the house needs repairing. But nonetheless it holds a strange sort of truth to it to the point that we should always try to listen with an open heart and even the strangest of reactions may have some logic to them. And the other being to be careful what you hold close to your heart because it will change the way you see/hear things and not always for the better. There isn't much else I can tell you about this book. To be perfectly honest I was so caught up in the mysteriousness of everything that I rushed through reading it just to find out the ending and even after reading the entire book I am still slightly confused by it all.

Book Buying Online

Okay, this is something I have only just gotten back into the spirit of because of two things. The first is that I wanted to see if I could resist buying books at all for a set period of time (approx. 2 months) and instead rely on borrowing from libraries and occupying my time with my studies instead. Predictably, this attempt failed horribly and in part due to reason no. 2: the destruction of Borders and Angus & Robinson Bookstores and subsequent closing down sales. In my excitement I ended up getting heaps of books with authors such as Brandon Sanderson, H.P Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman and Tony Hillerman and of course my collectors edition pulp fiction collection. The latter being available for as little as $3, the only downside being that the books gotten were far from being in consecutive order.

So now I have finally made it through all the books I had squirreled away over the winter and began looking for a few books missing from my collections. In particular I had been inspired by my Father (no, not the alien, the human father) to fill in the gaps for his, frequently-stolen-by-me, collection of Brother Cadfael and Amelia Peabody books. For those who aren't familiar with these they are both mystery series. The Brother Cadfael books are set in England during the war of King Stephen v. Empress Maude, Brother Cadfael is a monk and ex soldier during the crusades. It is, of course, his hobby to secretly (for if they knew, his abby would certainly disapprove) snoop around for clues in solving murders. These books have a little bit of everything in them, a mystery, romance, and frequent mentions of historical influence.
On the other hand the Amelia Peabody books are set in egypt with a female protagonist. Amelia is a wealthy married to an egyptologist during the late 1800's and early 1900's and I'm afraid I can't say more than that as, unlike with the Cadfael books, I have only read very little of the series.

The problem with finishing these series' is that I have never met anyone else (apart from family) who have also read them and it has always been rather difficult to find them in normal bookstores. I have often had to search three or four second hand book shops before I can come upon any at all and now with both Borders and Angus & Robinson shut down, Dymocks having become a rarity and Collins Booksellers having faded into the mists of time long ago. The idea of buying books at all from a physical store is becoming a fantasy. And although ears ago I would have been horrified by the thought of needing to make any purchases from the internet it has now become a necessary tool as far as buying new novels is concerned. 
So who are our challengers for the cheaparse title this week? In the red corner weighing in at 0 pounds we have The Book Depository, and in the blue corner at a whopping 0 pounds is our challenger Amazon
I chose these two because all in all I think they are the cheapest. However, I must also admit that I haven't had much experience with buying books from ebay and if anyone has and thinks that it is better then: good for you, keep up the good work. Actually I used to use Amazon a while ago and stopped because I kept finding that the costs of books + shipping that I had personally added up when filling my imaginary internet basket did not add up to what I was charged in the end. Also, Amazon being an American based organization, I had difficulty with figuring out when they were referring to American dollars as opposed to Australian dollars and the conversion rate was such that the American dollar was a fair bit more expensive back then. However, with the American dollar down so far that it is almost laughable and after getting the opinion from some friends that they are a trusty and reliable source for eBooks, I was curious enough to give them a second chance to win back my heart.
The Book Depository is a UK based organisation that I found out about through a few Lynn Flewelling fans one day when browsing the internet. I personally have no idea how it earns money as it always seems to sell fisrst had books at what appears to be the wholesale price and requires NO shipping charges on books going to Australian addresses. The only issue I have with this website is there customer service: i.e don't expect any. What I mean by that can be explained in one simple anecdote: A few years ago I had been having trouble with my internet being unstable. Thinking that if I restarted it and worked quickly I might be able to get in one purchase before the connection started to weaken I went onto the book depository and purchased a book. I was just on the final checkout page when the connection broke off and I had to refresh the page. Going to my email account afterward I found that I had one email from the Book Depository confirming that one book had been purchased and TWO emails from paypal stating that money had been withdrawn by the Book Depository at the price of the book. I immediately sent an email to paypal explaining what had happened and that the double charging was a mistake and they replied back to say that they could do nothing and it was up to me to contact the organization who had charged me in order to rectify the mistake. So I gathered all the information including purchase the order number, date and approximate time that the order was made and I emailed it to The Book Depository, once again explaining my situation. They did not reply. According to their website they will reply to any customer service inquiries in a timely manner. However, after that event I sent them three emails and it has now been well over a year and I have still not recieved any reply for them. In due time I did receive the one book that I had ordered to find that the corner of the cover page was dog-eared, which caused some loud swearing and a declaration that I would never buy from them again (fat chance of that ever happening). But I never recieved so much as an apology for that one time.
The challenge took place when I was required to make a purchase of eight books new by seven different authors and several different publishing companies. Both sources had an available supply of all eight books. At first amazon seemed to have the cheapest prices, some of the books claiming to be as cheap as $4.50 compared to the book depository which had an average price of about $11 per book. Depending on the seller some amazon books claimed a +$4 shipping on Amazon and being as versed as I am with the ways of ebay I took that at face value to mean that shipping would cost a total of $4. The price in the shopping cart appeared as fifty-something dollars at Amazon compared the Book Depository's eighty something dollar grand total. And for a moment I believed that I had found the winner. But, after entering in credit cared details and following prompts I made it to the final page before my purchase would be irreversible. It was on this page and only here that Amazon added up my total purchases with the shipping charges included. To my surprise the fifty-something dollar bargain had turned into almost one hundred and twenty dollars. At this point there is no button on the page to cancel your order, and one must use the address bar in order to get back to the main site without confirming the purchase order. It was only when going through all the books one by one that I found there was only one among them that was cheaper to get from Amazon than it was from the Book Depository (for anyone who is curious that book was House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski). A week and a half later my purchases from the Book Depository started arriving and I decided to check my email account. The first email that drew my attention was one from Amazon that apologised that there would be a delay and my book had only just been put in the mail.

So, what have we learned from this exercise? Well, the Book Depository is cheaper than Amazon for one. However, if there is a chance there could be a problem with your order then it might be best to think about sticking with Amazon because they aren't horrible annoying bastards. 

Random Musings

 I've started to notice a pattern. Every time I log in here to post something it is always after I have just locked myself away with a stack of books and realized something during my time of seclusion that has made me all mopey and antisocial. This time I am well equipped with two moderately reasonable excuses though. The first is that I am currently forced to study mental health for uni, that in itself is depressing enough. I do not do well when it comes to learning psychological things and in part I do not want to do well because then I would be forced to analyse myself and be found wanting (by their criteria, not necessarily by my own). After I am done studying I am going to be forced to work  for a month in a psych centre, six hours travel from where I currently live. Which means being totally lost and stressed out with no friends or family around to comfort me for a fairly long period of time.

The other reason that I am feeling down is because it has only just suddenly hit me that it has been over a year since I last spoke to Badger. It was her decision to break off the friendship completely and that of itself isn't so hard to overcome (we had a great run while it lasted) except that it  has recently occurred to me that some of our friends are still the same. The problem, you see, with Fishes and Badgers and male friends is that Fishes and Badgers are too similar. If a guy liked a Badger but realised that Badger wasn't buying it he would go after Fish to increase his chances. Likewise, a guy who initially liked Fish would go after Badger as well when he realised that the outcome of his endevours did not look favourable. This didn't normally turn into a problem because Badger and I would talk about it and sometimes laugh when a guy used to same cheesy lines on both of us without understanding that we would talk about it and find out. Now that we aren't talking though there is no way of knowing what someone who knows us both is doing behind my back and it scares me. I already know I fret too much when it comes to that one person in particular. Hell, when my friendship with Badger broke through I even spent a while suspicious about the hand he had in what happened. Maybe I should try and contact Badger, maybe I should isolate myself from guys who knew both of us or maybe I should just keep pretending that these thoughts don't occur to me. I don't know, I think my musings have well and truly dug me into a hole this time and it may be a while before I get out again.