Archive for the “book review” Category

I just wanted to let you know I added something to the website, just for fun.

I’ve got an addon enabled now that let’s me update and track the various books I’m reading.

I’m fairly certain none of you have any interest from day to day in finding out what I’m reading, but the addon is pretty neat in that it lets me track by currently reading, intending to read and finished reading categories. It also keeps all of my entries, with start and finished dates, in a virtual library that anyone can search by visiting the blog.

I could even update the books when I’m done with ratings and mini-reviews, if I were really happy (or pissed at) a certain book.

If I use this diligently, then over time it’ll be pretty fun… for me.

For you, probably not so much. Although in a year from now, I’m sure searching through my reading habits, so long as I keep myself dead honest, should be worth a laugh or two.

For the WordPress bloggers who may agree with me that this sounds really neat, the one I’m using is Now Reading Reloaded 5.1.3.2

I’m not an Amazon Affiliate, so clicking through any of those books in the sidebar will NOT make me any money whatsoever. But I’m thinking that this might be one thing I wouldn’t mind going ahead and setting up as a paid affiliate… Cassie has clients that use the Affiliate program on their websites, and she assures me that if someone were to click through to Amazon from a book I listed, AND were to buy it, I might see a penny or two.

I think I can live with that kind of income and keep my street cred. Maybe.

I’ll think about it.

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This is a “what drivel is Bear reading” post. No WoW. Move along!

One of the genres of fiction I really enjoy is the thriller. The suspenseful police procedural, the mystery, the counter-espionage, the spy versus spy, the cat and mouse hunt for a killer.

I prefer them with a strong undercurrent of black comedy.

Some of my favorite series are the Prey novels by John Sandford (and his LuEllen and Kit books too), the Scudder books by Lawrance Block (damn those are good), the intertwining series of books by Stephen Hunter that, generally, follows the lives of two generations of the Swagger family, Earl Swagger and his son Bob Lee Swagger (those are extremely good, I’d start chronologically if you’re interested, really, it may seem Bob Lee Swagger, “Bob the Nailer”, is the event to be anticipated, what with a movie based on one of his books, Point of Impact, but the books featuring Earl Swagger are, to my mind, far more interesting), and finally my favorites, the Reacher books by Lee Childs.

Every single one a stellar, knockout series of books to read.

I want more!

But there aren’t any right now.

I’ve re-read them all so many times I’ve worn tracks of words across my mind’s eye. I’m actually re-reading the Kildar series by John Ringo, and skipping past all the S&M bits, just to have something to read that’s got that black sense of humor and some action. Sadly, as good as the action is, it’s more of a series like Mack Bolan The Executioner, Able Team or Phoenix Force than it is Shadow Prey. Lots of great combat scenes and strategizing, not so much on the suspense. You kinda go in knowing not only who did it, but who’s gonna get revenge, and what they’re gonna use to do it.

Entertaining, but I want a solid mystery.

As I stood in the library today, trying to find something to read, searching the mystery shelves forlornly when what I really want are more Davenport, Reacher, Scudder or Swagger stories, Cassie suggested I try something…. new.

She suggested I try Patricia Cornwell’s series about a forensic investigator, Dr. Kay Scarpetta.

Hmmm.

This suggestion made me darn nervous. I don’t know anything at all about Patricia Cornwell. Plus, Cassie doesn’t read any of my mysteries. If she likes these, but doesn’t like mine, will I like them?

Sigh.

Well, on the bright side, trying a new author is better than huffing paint on a rainy day. What’s the worst that will happen, I have to go back to the Kildar?

Aw, shucks.

So, I went to three different libraries in our system, but I managed to grab the first seven books in published order. I believe in starting from the very beginning if you’re gonna get into something, and letting the story unfold and the characters develop the way the author wrote it, instead of leaping into the middle.

So, I’ve got;

  1. Postmortem
  2. Body of Evidence
  3. All that Remains
  4. Cruel and Unusual
  5. The Body Farm
  6. From Potters Field
  7. Cause of Death
  8. Unnatural Exposure

All sitting on my desk to read through.

I’m willing to go that far in case the first few don’t really set fire, but it gathers steam later on.

If these turn out great reads, there are lots more in the series as well.

Sigh.

You know, it must be hell being a really popular author, because it doesn’t matter how recently your last book came out, somebody like me is sitting there saying, “Yeah, so that was good, but when’s your NEXT book coming out?”

Wish me luck, I’m hoping for the best!

Comments 45 Comments »

I promised you a book review, and by golly you’re gonna get it! In my own, inimitable BBB style.

Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils by William C. Dietz is at it’s heart a military sci-fi tale that follows a very familiar style.

There is a familiar theme that keeps getting repeated in military novels. Naive young man goes off to war, enters boot camp, is exposed to the order and structure of training, feels prepared and confident, and then goes out into the harsh reality of the real world, where blood stains your stuff, people die even when they’re you’re friends, and chaos seems to reign. 

It’s a familiar theme because the coming of age tale is something to which we can all relate, and it helps draw us into the setting. Much like us, the new recruit doesn’t know what the future holds, and as things are explained to him along the way, we learn right along with him.

For those of us that have been there before ourselves in some way, we can also chuckle as we remember just how naive and stupid we really were back then.

This particular story is centered on Jim Raynor, a young man helping his family keep their farm alive on a dusty agrarian world, as the Guild Wars rage between the Confederation and the Kel-Morian guilds over who will control the future of Terran colonized space.

As the story progresses, we follow young Jim’s own coming of age tale as it unfolds, from his very beginning on the Confederation world of Shiloh, and all the way through until the end of his military career.

Along the way, we become acquainted with the ways of the Confederation military might, and bear witness to the birth of an elite force, the Heaven’s Devils.

The story is set in the Starcraft universe, and is faithful to the Starcraft lore that has come before. This is not a reboot, revamp or reconstruction for Starcraft II, it all fits nicely in the existing storyline. In fact, much like the recent book Arthas, the back of Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils includes a detailed Starcraft timeline that lays out important events in sequence, and for each event lists the book(s) in which those events can be found. 

Yes, Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils is a tale set solidly in the Starcraft universe, and yes it is faithful to the existing lore, but first and foremost this is a military sci-fi novel in keeping with the finest works of William C. Dietz. Anyone that is familiar with his work on Legion of the Damned will feel right at home here without having read anything else, or having played SC1.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Legion of the Damned… Dietz infuses his military sci-fi with a stripped down quality; the story advances from event to event, and you’re expected to keep up and pay attention. He doesn’t spend much time describing the color of the grain in the fields of Shiloh, and he doesn’t bother you with details on what the major export crop of whatever town the characters happen to be in might be. His books also bear a cynical edge and black humor common to military sci-fi, a tone perfectly in keeping with the setting and subject matter of this book. 

I enjoyed this book a great deal, but at the beginning, it was hard for me to get into. The “From boot camp to the front lines” theme has been done so many times, in so many ways, and let’s be honest… not all of them can be Full Metal Jacket. When you realise what the theme of this story will be, an experienced reader will start to worry… “Is this going to have some imagination, some new and interesting edge to it, or is this going to be some formulaic piece of derivative crap?”

Hey, I know that’s what I was worrying.

So yes, starting out, when I saw what direction the book was heading, I was worried. I dragged my feet a bit.

In the end, it goes off the rails in a very good way, and has a great “Oh crap” feel to it. It’s not a story you’re going anticipate, it does a good job of sucker punching your expectations. 

Still, in the early stages, I didn’t know that it was going to go off the rails.

What kept me going was the promise that this was Jim Raynor’s story.

I played Starcraft I, so I know who the hell Jim Raynor is. At the time Starcraft I begins, it’s been ten years since the end of the Guild Wars. We know that the Confederacy won the war and now rules unchallenged over Terran space. It’s all one big happy Confederation family. we als know that if you want any sense of freedom in the Confederacy, you go out to the rim of colonized space looking for some crap out of the way planet and find a hole to hide in.

Four days before the Starcraft I story begins, an alien fleet popped out of nowhere and laid waste to a colonized Terran Confederacy world. Panic among exposed colonial worlds ensues, and we enter from stage left as a Confederation assigned Magistrate abrubtly placed in command of the colony of Mar Sara.

As the Colonial Magistrate, we are tasked with protecting the colony from a feared alien invasion and chilling them out so they don’t panic at the idea of being Zerg chow.  On our very first Starcraft I mission (real mission, not the training mission) we encounter a very dusty, tired, and cynical James Raynor, the “local Marshall” of Mar Sara, and we enlist his aid in relocating refugees immediately in the wake of General Edmund Duke’s surprise announcement of a 48 hour lockdown and colonial quarantine.

From there, the Starcraft I story takes off running… and from there we got to know Jim Raynor very well. Jim, and Kerrigan.

But what was Marshall James Raynor’s story back before he ended up on Mar Sara?

Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils did what I really wanted. It does tell Jim’s story, and along the way also tells the story of the elite unit he was a part of, and gives us one hell of an eyes wide open view at the reality of the Confederation Terran Marines.

Unfortunately, the book ends near the conclusion of the Guild Wars, and leaves us with a ten year gap to wonder what happened until we see him again in SC1.

Still, have you seen the trailor for the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty game out this Tuesday?

God, I love that trailer.

I think it’s safe to say that if you want to know more about the man that comes to lead a Mercenary force in the new Starcraft II game, if that trailer makes you interested to know more about what kind of actual military background he had in the Confederacy, and why he wasn’t STILL a loyal little happy Confederate puppet, then Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils will answer those questions admirably.

Oh, and yeah… I’ll be buying the game on Tuesday. What can I say? They had me at “Kerrigan”.

Bottom line – It was a good book. I had a good time. I’d like to see Dietz fill out those missing ten years.

Comments 6 Comments »

That’s it, folks!

Stick a fork in it, the Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils Book Contest (North American version), as announced last week, has now drawn to a close.

There were some excellent submissions, but at the end of the day, two clearly stood out from the rest for their sheer awesomeness.

And the winners are!

Adgamorix, of the Divine Plea blog, for his story of using StarCraft I during his time in the military as a group tactics instruction method.

Dechion, of the Dechion’s Place blog, for his excellent fictional story set within the StarCraft universe. It kicked butt. Hopefully, he’ll post it (when he’s polished it up to his liking) on his blog for us!

It’s purely coincidence that both winners have blogs. Sometimes I think all blog readers eventually start writing their own blogs, and then we all just link to each other in an ever-growing circle of blogging cannibalism.

Congratulations to the both of you! I hope you enjoy your books. :)

In other news, I’ve got my copy and I am reading it, so you can expect the second contest to go up sometime next week for my (slightly) used copy.

Again, congratulations to you, and thank you to everyone that sent in an entry. They were all wonderful.

Have a good weekend!

Comments 3 Comments »

The Starcraft II book contest draws to a close this Friday. Time is fast running out.

If you wanted to enter the contest to win your own copy of the book, and haven’t done so yet, please do so now! Even a one paragraph entry is far better than not entering at all.

I’ve got my review copy now, and let me tell you, it’s pretty damn cool.

So, go refresh yourself on the contest details here, and get your entry mailed in now!

~

Tell you what

I’ll add one more way you can make a cool entry.

You could send in your favorite screenshot of you in Starcraft or the Starcraft II beta pwning the enemy. If you find it hard to come up with the words to describe how much you love Starcraft, let a picture do the talking for you.

Good luck!

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