31 December 2012

Is The Pirate Bay so bad?

Here is an article from a popular news site that I found very interesting and thought-provoking. With all of the profit-driven media bullshit flowing around about the 'evil' file sharing sites and the millions that they are allegedly costing the entertainment industry, this piece sheds a new light on the issue.


Why this Silence About The Pirate Bay as a Distributor of Culture?


As many readers of TorrentFreak already know, I have received hundreds and hundreds of e-mails from people all around the world who wanted to send their greetings to my son Gottfrid, one of the founders of The Pirate Bay. The support and encouragement they express is overwhelming.

Many of these e-mails provide a different picture than the common one of what The Pirate Bay’s operations can mean. They come from all kinds of people. Here is one example, a quote from a mail sent by a man in Canada:
“I’m a musician. I work hard to create my music and while I´m certainly not wealthy or famous, it´s made me very happy to have my music shared with other people. Stories, songs, books, and films are meant to be shared.”

There are many people, especially older women, who have explained how The Pirate Bay has helped them out of their solitude by offering them entertainment that they could not otherwise afford. Others tell of how The Pirate Bay helps them to discover new artists that they would otherwise not have known of, like the American who adds:
“… I seek their licensed material and purchase it as often as I can.”

Many e-mails focus on access to culture in a broader sense. Young people in Saudi Arabia, for example, write that cinemas, concerts or theaters are not available to them in their own country, but that they have now received access thanks to The Pirate Bay.

From other countries, people write about how they can take part in things they would never be able to afford because of their restricted living conditions. Someone wrote that The Pirate Bay has blurred the line between the rich and the poor as to the opportunities to cultural participation.

Another example is an e-mail from Romania in which a person expresses his gratitude for the future that The Pirate Bay has opened for the younger generation in his country. It is now possible for everyone to take part of Western culture and knowledge, which the country was excluded from for such a long time:
“….If you hadn’t existed we would have been 20 years back in time from where we are now, because we would never have had the money to buy all that culture. Now, thanks to you we have great musicians, great architects, advertising companies winning prizes all over the world, great engineers working all over the world, film makers and most important, normal young people with a greater view over history and the world, thus enabling them to have a better and dignified life.”

Students in poor countries like Ghana and Colombia write about how they have gained access to educational materials, which they would never have had otherwise.

A student in Argentina tells about how she could continue her studies thanks to The Pirate Bay. A mother in the United States says that she was able to arrange home schooling for her children.

A teacher in Georgia tells about how he was able to produce English teaching materials for his students, which would otherwise have been impossible.

A father in an African country expresses gratefulness for the opportunities that The Pirate Bay has opened for his son to further studies. And so on.

This list of e-mails of this kind could be made much, much longer.

Last but not least I would like to mention e-mails that come from countries like Egypt, Iran and Iraq. Many people, young and old, are thankful for the fight for a free Internet, the struggle that is so closely associated with The Pirate Bay and what it represents.

I think it is about time that this perspective on The Pirate Bay gets highlighted. One must keep in mind that there is much to obtain from the site also for those who do not want to violate any copyright rules. If creators and other people representing cultural institutions want to suppress access to culture and knowledge and to free speech without considering this perspective, I think all of us are in trouble.


This text is a revised version of a text published in Swedish on Christian Engström’s blog. Christian is a Member of the European Parliament for Piratpartiet, the Swedish Pirate Party. I wish to thank him for giving me the opportunity to make the text public – just as I wish to thank TorrentFreak.

22 December 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Area 51:Nightstalkers - Bob Mayer

Nightstalkers (Area 51, #10)Nightstalkers by Bob Mayer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It appears that the whole Area 51 series has been re-released and with this book the author has decided to take the story in a completely new direction. As an introduction to what could effectively be a new series it's pretty good. However, I hope that we do link up again with the familiar ancient aliens from the previous books.

The Nightstalkers are an efficient albeit eccentric (slightly bonkers) group of soldiers and technicians who have been brought together to tackle various unexplained phenomena that have been occurring around the globe.

The action is typically good for this author being very descriptive with lots of hardware and explosions and all that good stuff. I felt that there were a few scenes missing that I would have quite liked to read - like getting a 'posessed' horseshoe off a horse without hurting it. That would've been interesting. This happened a couple of times but didn't really detract from the book as a whole.

The main characters are really good. They are the usual deep and mysterious covert types but they display enough humanity to make them likeable. There is a bit of time spent on building the main cast so I assume that we'll be seeing them in action again.

If I didn't know it was continuing into other books in the series then it would've seemed a little 'aimless', but it looks like the series is going to pick up right where it left off (if in a slightly tangential way).

A good book.

View all my reviews

16 December 2012

Sleepy time for our Tommy

Didn't quite stay awake for the trip home from Koro & Kui's place.
A bloke needs a little nap every now and then.

13 December 2012

Star Wars Wookieepedia


Are you a Star Wars fan? Well, if you are, then you probably already know about Wookieepedia

"Wookieepedia is a Star Wars encyclopedia written collaboratively by its readers, who are known as Wookieepedians. The site is a Wiki, meaning that anyone can edit almost any article right now by clicking on the Edit link that appears at the top of the page. Much of Wookieepedia follows a similar setup to its parent wiki, Wikipedia."

04 December 2012

Book Review: Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Ender's Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

This novel has won a couple of heavy-weight awards, and over the years friends of mine who also enjoy sci-fi could not believe that I hadn't read this classic book which is, by all accounts, a real doozy.

Well, I finally picked it up and have been cruising through it for that last week or so. I say cruising because that's all the pace I've been able to muster with it - up until around the three quarter mark. That's when the book suddenly grabbed me and the last 25% was easy.

The first 75% deals with Andrew "Ender" Wiggin and his selection and early training as a potential military commander with the space forces defending Earth and our solar system. There have been two previous invasion attempts by the "Buggers" and a third is coming. The powers-that-be have spent years finding and grooming future commanders from an early age and have identified Ender as the best hope yet.

After he is graduated from up to Command School things really pick up. This is when we finally get to learn a bit of the historical stuff around the story, like who the Buggers are and what humanity has been doing to combat them. This is the kind of story that I had been waiting for!

The final 25% is fantastic and ultimately defines who Ender really is - and his destiny. I found that I had really connected with Ender throughout the story and I guess that this is why the book has been so successful; great characterization.

I really liked it overall but was frustrated with my lack of interest at the start. The conclusion makes up for all of that, however.

If you liked Ender's Game then you're in luck! There are more books that follow in the "Enderverse" series, a parallel series, a prequel series that has only just been begun, and even a movie has been announced. Whew, success indeed!

A deservedly popular book. I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

View all my reviews

03 December 2012

Are extraterrestrial UFOs real?


This is a question that has long fascinated me and I enjoy some part-time research of the subject.

This is an article about someone who claims that it's all true - that aliens from other worlds have been visiting us and that we've been playing around with their technology.

http://www.ufo-blogger.com/2010/08/ufo-are-real-ben-rich-lockheed-skunk.html

It makes interesting reading.

Do you believe? Look into the issue. There's lots of info out there.

http://www.ufo-blogger.com/
http://ufo.whipnet.org/

19 November 2012

Never a more true word spoken


Pure wisdom - right there!

10/10

More TUeBL


I've posted about this excellent website before but am compelled to do so again...

TUeBL - The Ultimate eBook Library.

These people do good work - making books available in .epub format to whoever has the need or desire.

To quote the website administrator on their Facebook page:

I operate TUEBL because it provides a service that I am morally compelled to offer. Think of it as a blend of tithing and missionary. I enable people to share culture and knowledge around the world, and for others to be able to receive that knowledge and culture.
We get users who email us from Kenya, South Africa, Columbia, and other places that don't have affordable access to books and praise us for what we do for them. You can look through the posts on our walls and see all the students and mothers and avid readers who are able to read more books because of TUEBL.
Users of TUEBL are not the ones killing the publishing industry. I know that most of you spend more money on books than most other people. Sure some of you don't, but the number of you who don't buy books anymore and also can afford to buy more books are in the minority.

Sharing books lets us share culture, and that allows us to make to world a richer place. A better place.

The world has too much hate already. Share the love of books and help TUeBL to go some way to achieving this noble goal.

17 November 2012

Book Review: The Citadel - Robert Doherty

What: The Citadel
Who: Robert Doherty (pseudonym for Bob Mayer)
When: Published March 27th 2007


The Citadel 

At the start of the Cold War, the greatest threat to America wasn't the Russians and the looming Communist threat. Rather, it was an elite organization bent on world domination, a group so powerful only nuclear weapons could safeguard against them. The CIA knew what these men were capable of, and in a last ditch attempt to protect America against them, they built two high-security arsenals deep within the earth--one declassified in the Nevada desert, and one heavily under wraps in Antarctica. For over 50 years, no one spoke of The Citadel, the fortress deep under the ice in Antarctica that held the most powerful weapon known to man--until the Organization returned, hellbent on destruction.
Captain Jim Vaughn is a government agent known for performing missions no one else wants. So when an old colleague approaches him with an assignment, he can't refuse--even if the mission has been set in motion by a dead man's letter, found in Antarctica and dated 1949. The Citadel has been cracked, and the only man who can safeguard it is Vaughn. Nothing short of the fate of mankind rests on his shoulders.

This book follows on immediately after Section 8 which I reviewed here. It's pretty much a continuation of the story begun in Section 8, and the action begins right away.

Jim Vaughn and Layla Tai, the only surviving members of their Section 8 team from the previous mission, are recovering after their ordeal - an ordeal that has left them both officially declared dead. They are approached by their former boss who wants Vaughn and Tai to come and work for him to find out exactly who the shadowy Organization are who pull the strings of groups like Section 8 and others. He figures that they might be rather useful assets given the fact that they are 'dead'. And he issues them their first task...

Information about a secret base in Antarctica has come to light and the possibility of there being various nuclear weapons stored there. It seems that this base was built by a rogue element within the Organization but without their knowledge. This information gets into the hands of a number of others and the race is on to recover the weapons. What ensues is a race to find the Citadel and secure the weapons lest they fall into the wrong hands.

There's the usual Robert Doherty conspriacy twists in there as well with Majestic 12 coming into the plot too.

A good follow-up to Section 8. More good adventure and battles with lots of military hardware which is great. About the only complaint is how some things go just too right in some scenes, like how everything in the Citadel worked perfectly after being abandoned for 50 years...too easy.

Never mind, because this doesn't detract from an otherwise very good, and real page-turning book.

Once again it looks as if Mr. Doherty has left the path open for sequels - which is just as well because there must be so much more to this story. I really look forward to more from Jim Vaughn and finding out the real truth behind 'The Organization'. To quote the main character at the end of the book: 
"I think we've started some cracks in the ice that protects the Organization." 
Nice one. Can't wait for more.

8/10

Check it out at Goodreads.

11 November 2012

Book Review: Section 8 - Robert Doherty

What: Section 8
Who: Robert Doherty (pseudonym for Bob Mayer)
When: Published October 1st 2005

They were the men called upon to do the impossible. A top-secret unit who were tasked with what others would call suicide missions. They were the men who had nothing to lose. Captain Jim Vaughn is a soldier in disgrace. Commanding a special forces mission to capture terrorists in the Philippines, Vaughn's team is destroyed, and when the smoke clears, he is the one made the scapegoat. Forced into the shadows by the scandal, Vaughn is offered a chance to redeem himself when he is approached by an enigmatic government agent looking for a few desperate men.

Vaughn is recruited into a new team, but is shocked to meet his new teammates, a group of men outside of the regular chain of command. These were men who had used up all their second chances. These are men who have crossed the line one too many times. Drug users. Felons. The insane. The terminally ill. These are now the men that Vaughn must trust with his life.

T
his group of outcasts and misfits has been assembled for two reasons--they are skilled, and they are expendable. These are the kinds of men who are needed to attempt missions the government can't acknowledge, the country can't condone, and the team cannot fail. But the deeper Vaughn gets into the unique group, the more he realizes that the organization may be concealing more than the rap sheets of its most unusual operators. A team of such unique properties is the perfect tool to use againt America's enemies...and possibly America itself.

Another novel from Bob Mayer writing under the pseudonym Robert Doherty. I'd previously read his Area 51 series and enjoyed that immensely, especially his writing style and superb action scenes. Therefore I found that picking this up was a no-brainer.

Here we have a tale of a group of military misfits and screw-ups that are thrown together by a shady organization for covert operations outside the bounds of official knowledge - a group that calls itself Section 8.

The main character is a man by the name of Jim Vaughn who earned his place on the team by being the leader of a botched hostage rescue. After proving his worth as a black ops soldier to the Section 8 people, Vaughn meets the rest of the team who are an equally motley collection with their own personal stories of failure and/or corruption.

They are tasked with the task of dealing with a shady group that has connections to a dark Japanese World War Two secret and a secretive organization that nobody seems to know anything about.

Another cracking yarn that didn't disappoint. Quite a page-turner with nonstop action and just enough depth to the main characters to keep it interesting. The combat scenes are kept brief but are still vivid, the plot is complex enough without being too much and the ending is left open. All in all a good read.

This story is closely followed by The Citadel - which I'm reading now. 

10/10

Check it out at Goodreads

05 November 2012

Pirates - Qty. 2

What: Two pirates
Who: Long Tom Silver & Captain Max
When: November 4th 2012

Book Review: The Harbinger - Jonathan Cahn

What: The Harbinger
Who: Jonathan Cahn
When: Published January 2012

 

Is it possible that there exists an ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future? That this mystery lies behind everything from 9/11 to the collapse of the global economy? That ancient harbingers of judgment are now manifesting in America? That God is sending America a prophetic message of what is yet to come?
Before its destruction as a nation, ancient Israel received nine harbingers, prophetic omens of warning. The same nine harbingers are now manifesting in America with immediate ramifications for end-time prophecy. Hidden in an ancient biblical prophecy from Isaiah, the mysteries revealed in The Harbinger are so precise that they foretold recent American events down to the exact days. The revelations are so specific that even the most hardened skeptics will find it hard to dismiss or put down. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller with one exception IT'S REAL.
The prophetic mysteries are revealed through an intriguing and engaging narrative the reader will find hard to put down. The Harbinger opens with the appearance of a man burdened with a message he has received from a mysterious figure called The Prophet. The Prophet has given him nine seals, each containing a message about America's future. As he tells of his encounters with The Prophet, from a skyscraper in New York City, to a rural mountaintop, to Capitol Hill, to Ground Zero, the mystery behind each seal is revealed. As the story unfolds, each revelation becomes a piece in a greater puzzle & the ramifications of which will even alter the course of world history.

Right here we have one of those books that comes along once in a while that is quite different from most other things we read. This book is not so much a novel, but a lesson in Biblical prophecy. The lesson is centered mainly around Isaiah 9:10  and how this relates to America's past and future.

The story is basically the storyteller recounting various conversations and lessons had with a man he refers to "The Prophet". It is during these encounters that he learns how the events surrounding the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 and the years following parallel events which happened to Israel in ancient times. The main crux is that when a nation is originally created with God's blessing and inspiration it prospers - but when it turns away from Him and all that He has given them they will be warned or chastised. If these warnings (or harbingers) are not heeded and they don't turn back to Him, then judgement will surely come.

The similarities between the two nations (ancient Israel and present-day USA) is actually quite startling. Especially the symbolic elements such as the type and location of trees and buildings, etc. is very thought-provoking.

This book was not at all what I expected. That's okay because I ended up really enjoying the story and the lesson underneath it. It is quite well written considering it's so heavy on dialogue.

Very well worth reading if you have any interest in Biblical themes or prophecy. Like The Da Vinci Code but with a deeper purpose. Not bad at all.

7/10 

Check it out at Goodreads

30 October 2012

Torrents anyone..?

Kickass Torrents - Currently the best torrent site on the web. Demonoid was the best, but that's no more. Try this instead. Lots of nicely indexed categories.


22 October 2012

Book Review: Whip - Martin Caidin

What: Whip
Who: Martin Caidin
When: Published March 15, 1976

Air Force Captain Whip Russel leads his B-25 bomber group, in the summer of 1942, on a special mission that changes the direction and decisions of war in the Pacific.
WHIP breathes will all the action and pace and accuracy that made THE LAST DOGFIGHT such a tremendous success. He tells this tale of the men and machines that made war in the air with undiminished vividness, but with a new sense of the tremendous personal price these modern gladiators - even the victors - had to pay.
MARTIN CAIDIN is the versatile and prolific author of MAROONED and CYBORG (THE SIX-MILLION DOLLAR MAN).

This one is a story about a US Air Force B-25 bomber pilot who leads a squadron in Northern Australia and New Guinea during World War Two. They embark on special missions against the Japanese with their modified aircraft and, as you guessed it, achieve spectacular results.

It's a good read. I first read Whip over 20 years ago after picking it up cheap at a second hand book store. I've reread it a few more times and thoroughly enjoyed each time. If you like a good action-packed war story where the good guys win then you'll love this.

Fiction like this is a bit predictable in many ways, but it's designed to be entertaining and that's where it succeeds very well. It'd make a great movie!

8/10

16 October 2012

Book Review: PERRY RODAN #1 (English) - Enterprise Stardust

What: PERRY RODAN #1 - Enterprise Stardust
Who: K H Scheer & Walter Erstling
When: Published 1961 (German) & 1969 (English) 

Perry Rhodan is the name of a science fiction series published since 1961 in Germany, as well as the name of the main character. It is a space opera, dealing with several themes of science fiction. Having sold over one billion copies (in pulp booklet format) worldwide, it is the most successful science fiction book series ever written. To date there are over 2600 instalments – and it’s still being added to. On September 30th 2011 a new series named Perry Rhodan Neo began publication gaining to attract new readers with a reboot of the story starting in the year 2036.

Enterprise Stardust was first published in English in 1969 and tells the story of the United States Space Force's first manned mission to the moon and what is discovered there.

Major Perry Rhodan and his three companion astronauts launch into space aboard the revolutionary spacecraft Stardust and make a rough landing on the moon after some unexplained technical difficulties during the descent. They land in one piece (but off-course) and proceed to take stock of their situation. Communications with Earth have been lost due to their location on the surface of the moon, so they venture out in a rover to find a spot suitable for radio communication back to base - only to have their equipment blow up while attempting to transmit. It appears that someone is interfering with their systems from afar…

Further exploration yields the discovery of a huge spherical spaceship of alien origin. Its occupants, the Arkonides, originate from the planet Arkon some 3,700 light-years from Earth. The Arkonide civilization is millions of years old but in decline. Their technology is far, far more advanced than humanity's but they appear to be very sick and lethargic. Arkonides have been observing Earth for thousands of years and have classed humans as a lower-grade primitive life-form under classification rules set down by 'the great Imperium'. This means that they cannot have direct contact with humans due to Imperium law. It seems that humanity has existed alongside a huge galactic society of diverse species and been wholly ignorant of the fact.


Rhodan eventually discovers that the Arkonides are suffering from serious illness and were on their way to seek treatment from another alien race when their ship malfunctioned and they crash-landed on the moon. Rhodan eventually persuades the Arkonides that humans are also an intelligent species and this causes the Arkonides to raise their classification level which allows them to accept his offer of assistance. In turn, the Arkonides also convince Rhodan of Earth's terrible slide towards World War Three and global nuclear holocaust that must be prevented. Rhodan can see the need for peace and unity on Earth, and believes that with the Arkonides’ help and technology he can help to bring about the necessary changes to achieve this.

Rhodan and his companions repair their ship with the Arkonides' help and travel back to Earth with one of the Arkonides (who appears to be a person of quite high standing in Arkonide society) as a representative. They land in the middle of the vast Gobi desert which is deep in the territory of the Asiatic Federation - an enemy of the United States and NATO. They prepare for the arrival of armed forces...



*****************
This is a fast and fun read written in a 'pulp fiction' magazine style, which is how these stories were originally released. The style fits this type of hero story well. It's the first glimpse into this phenomenally popular series and sets the scene for the myriad paths that this story is destined to take.

I found the plot quite predictable (as I expected), but that’s by no means a complaint. Likewise the characters are a tad shallow, but I suspect that these might be expanded considerably over the following stories. Perry Rhodan is a true hero - much like a sci-fi Biggles if you can imagine such a person.

I liked the short and concise explanations of a scientific and technical nature. Whether or not the explanations are entirely accurate I cannot comment. But they are sufficient for this space opera which is concerned more with what is happening rather than trivial details and minutiae. You are also reminded that it was written in the 1960’s due to references to things such as ‘recording on magnetic tape’. I’m interested to find out what the newer stories in this series are like with more current scientific ideas and theories, etc.

A lot of reviewers seem to have criticized Perry Rhodan books for the very reasons so many love them. To my mind they are intended as relaxing and fun reading with enjoyable storylines. I like this concept. I read plenty of other more ‘serious’ fiction as well, but there’ll always be a place for this kind of story for me.

Only a small number of the thousands of instalments were translated to English and published in novel form. I have the first 120 volumes as ebooks and a box of twenty or so random paperbacks. I look forward to seeing how Perry Rhodan, with his friends (and enemies), handle this new-found knowledge. What is there to learn about the other intelligent beings out there and the universe around us…with all of their technology and abilities? The possibilities are limitless. Great stuff.

A vast galactic society of thousands of worlds and sentient species with their stories and sagas - awesome! Just my sort of thing.

My rating: 8/10

*****************

For more info:


14 October 2012

TUEBL - Excellent free ebook site

Just a quick note to let you know about an excellent ebook site that I found recently - The Ulitmate E-Book Library (TUEBL).


TUEBL is a website run purely to give access to free ebooks for those that can't (or won't) pay. Nice! Just like your local library - nobody is 'paying' to read the books from there are they?

Anyhow, I take my hat off to the people that run this site. Top work. You can even 'like' them on Facebook to keep updated and there's a monthly email newsletter as well.

There are always new books being added in epub format but you can use a converter like Calibre to convert them to another format if required.

10/10

08 October 2012

Book Review: The Secret Hunters by Ranulph Fiennes

What: The Secret Hunters
Who: Sir Ranulph Fiennes
When: Published 2001

Is it fact or is it fiction? A very good question.

 

This book leaves you wondering if it really is a true story. Basically it's a story based on a journal found in an abandoned Antarctic hut.

It is the journal of a 55-year-old Jewish Canadian of German descent named Derek Jacobs who had been stranded at the hut in the early 1990s. The journal proved to be Jacobs' account of his life, from the death march of wartime Germany to the advance of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1974 to the Arctic, where Jacobs had come as a member of the Secret Hunters, an organization devoted to seeking out Nazi war criminals.

The story is fantastic and I found that I liked to assume that it was true. It's been called fiction by the author due to "several uncheckable facts that forced the decision to label the book as fiction rather than non-fiction".

Nonetheless, a very interesting story about a man who gets put through the meat grinder a number of times.

I'd love to meet Derek Jacobs...if he really exists at all.

Check it out at Goodreads

8/10 

07 October 2012

Free Kindle ebooks

Have you got a Kindle?

If you have you might be interested in One Hundred Free Books. Find free books for the Amazon Kindle.

Free Fiction, Non-Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Thrillers, Young Adult, Cooking Books, & More.

But be quick, the books often aren't free for long.

29 September 2012

Book Review: Great North Road - Peter F. Hamilton

What: Great North Road
Who: Peter F Hamilton
When: Published 17 Sep 2012




St Libra is paradise for Earth's mega-rich. Until the killing begins.
In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, AD 2142, Detective Sidney Hurst attends a brutal murder scene. The victim is one of the wealthy North family clones – but none have been reported missing. And the crime’s most disturbing aspect is how the victim was killed. Twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire and his household were horrifically murdered in exactly the same manner, on the tropical planet of St Libra. But if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? Tough and confident, she never waivered under interrogation – claiming she alone survived an alien attack. But there is no animal life on St Libra.
Investigating this alien threat becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. The bio-fuel flowing from St Libra is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. So a vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and teams of engineers, support personnel and xenobiologists are dispatched to the planet. Along with their technical advisor, grudgingly released from prison, Angela Tramelo. But the expedition is cut off, deep within St Libra’s rainforests. Then the murders begin. Someone or something is picking off the team one by one. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t so sure. Maybe she did see an alien, or maybe she has other reasons for being on St Libra...
In this stunning, standalone adventure, Peter F. Hamilton blends fast-paced narrative with vividly imagined future-worlds.

An excellent standalone novel. As good, if not better than Fallen Dragon. The two main plot lines came together wonderfully and the characters were very good - all typically Peter F Hamilton.
I really grew to like the character Angela - what a life she had! The twists and turns of the plot had me wondering right until the end.
I was eager to read this book when it was first released and I wasn't disappointed. Top stuff.

10/10 

New comet to see in 2013

A new comet will fly by in 2013! And it could be brighter than the Full Moon.


Russian astronomers using the International Scientific Optical Network's (ISON) telescope have discovered a comet that's scheduled to make its closest appearance to Earth in December of 2013. Called C/2012 S1, it's expected to be the brighest visitor to our solar system in the past century — a comet that'll be considerably brighter than Hale-Bopp (1997) and Halley's Comet (1986). The disintevaporating hunk of ice and rock could be visible for up to three months.

C/2012 S1 will not be the only comet to pay us a visit next year. Comet Pan-STARRS is expected to swing by in March 2013, though it's not expected to be as bright as the newly discovered object.

The comet was discovered on September 21 by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. The object will hit its perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) on November 28, 2013 at a distance of 0.012 AU, or 1,800,000 miles. On October 1, 2013, the comet will swing by Mars, and then the Earth on December 26, 2013.

Experts predict it could become a rather spectacular sight in the night sky — but that's assuming it doesn't disintegrate before then. As witnessed by Elenin last year, a comet can break-up at any given time, particularly as it gets closer to the Sun.

Writing in Red Orbit, Lawrence Le Blond notes that C/2012 S1 is currently hanging out just beyond the orbit of Jupiter. "The comet is currently very faint, but as it approaches the Sun, it will steadily brighten," he writes, "It will be easily picked up by experienced amateur astronomers with CCD equipment in the coming months, and will be within binocular view by late summer 2013, and eventually by the naked eye in early November. Depending on brightness, the comet should remain visible to the naked eye from early November 2013 to mid-January 2014."

Nice one. Can't wait.

Book Review: Biggles In Africa by Capt. W.E. Johns

What: Biggles In Africa (Biggles No.11)
Who: Captain W.E. Johns
When: Published August 1936

This book is good clean fun!


This is the first Biggles book that I've ever read. I remember them in the library when I was a kid but they never really caught my attention. So it's quite unusual that I decided to have a go at one as an adult. This was first published in the 60's I believe. I would have LOVED this as a young reader.

I threw this book onto my phone and read it in between my regular reading during downtime at work over about 3 months. It was a very easy book to come back to after being away from it for days or even weeks. The plot is pretty straightforward and the characters easy to grasp and this makes for a nice story, albeit a little 'juvenile'. I gather that this is the target audience, however.

I found the story really fun. Three jovial friends heading off to Africa to rescue the lost son of a wealthy gentleman. There are aeroplane rides, fierce savages, rampaging rhinos, snarling lions and a host of other neat predicaments the chaps find themselves in, all the while keeping the true British 'stiff upper lip'.


I also found the 'non-political-correctness' quite refreshing as I often think we live in a crazy world in this regard. There is no disrespect intended as this is how things were back in the days when this story is set. Check this out:

Biggles’ eyes glinted and his lips came together in a tight line. "You insolent rascal; you talk to me like that and I’ll thrash the skin off your back. Be off, and sharp’s the word!" 

And:

"WHAT happened to those niggers at the finish?’" asked Biggles as the machine ran to a standstill on aerodrome. 

Absolute gold. It's phrasing like this that make it such innocent fun and a real giggle in places.

A great story (if predictable) and fun characters. I've given it a rating based on what the story is and who it's written for.

I'm glad I read it and I'll be sure to read some more Biggles in between the more serious reading.

8/10 

21 September 2012

British Lion - listen online!


For those like me who are waiting for Steve Harris's new album British Lion, click HERE to take a little sneak preview and listen to the songs online.

18 September 2012

Messiah - EVEN MORE great space opera

What: Messiah - Apotheoisis Book 3
Who: S. Andrew Swann
When: Published Feb 2011

The third book in the Apotheoisis Trilogy following Heretics.




The last stand against the self-proclaimed God, Adam, has retreated to the anarchic planet Bakunin-a world besieged by civil war. Humanity's last hope lies with Nickolai Rajasthan, a Moreau who believes that the human race that created his kind is already damned beyond redemption.

This final installment was a very fine finish to an equally fine space opera trilogy. Messiah had a lot more combat action than the previous two books. But what great action!


Again I'm reminded of Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy...a final apocalyptic and epic battle with one of the main characters finding a "way through" to score the ultimate victory. That's more than okay because the climax just seemed to fit so well with the story that had led up to it.

I liked how the author weaved the question of God and faith into the story. Quite well done and those who think about such things will enjoy this aspect. I certainly did.

I particularly enjoyed learning who the Dolbrians were/are. Very satisfying and leaving a few unanswered questions there too. I regret that I haven't read any of the preceding books (Moreau/Hostile Takeover) because I felt that I'd missed some prior background to the story, but this is only a minor frustration. In saying that, I enjoyed this series immensely. I want the story to continue so I can see where the characters go next! It'd be nice to think that there could be future stories in the pipeline...(please).

My hat is off to Mr Swiniarski, what a great job. Not too heavy and not too light - just right! If you like good sci-fi then read this series. Right now I'm on the lookout for the Hostile Takeover books...

Click on the cover image above to read more at Goodreads

29 August 2012

Heretics - MORE great space opera

What: Heretics - Apotheoisis Book 2
Who: S. Andrew Swann
When: Published Feb 2010

The second book in the Apotheoisis Trilogy following Prophets.

 
Adam, an AI creation of an alien race, prepares to launch a conquest that has been centuries in the making, and if he succeeds he will rule over all humankind-over all sentient life-forms-as a God.

Excellent follow-up to Prophets. By the end of this book I feel like I know the characters now and can see a hint of where the story is going. The action is really hotting up too which is good. I'm now straight into Messiah to see how this great series concludes.

Click on the book cover to find out more at Goodreads.

10/10 

08 August 2012

A Broken Friendship

What: Fokker F27-100 Friendship ZK-BXH
Where: Air New Zealand #4 Hangar, Christchurch, NZ
When: August 2012 

The fine fellows at Air New Zealand Engineering Services have donated their old Fokker F27 training airframe to the Transport Museum in Wanaka and have set about dismantling the aircraft for the trip south from Christchurch by road.


This aircraft has a proud history with Air New Zealand and ended its service to the company as a technical training airframe for their School of Engineering.


Click HERE to see the history of this aircraft and pictures of it in its former life as a workhorse of the air.


An elite team of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers was recruited from the Air New Zealand Technical Operations heavy maintenance team to run the dismantling operation with assistance from a great team of willing and skilled volunteers.


First, the empennage (vertical and horizontal stabilizers) was removed. Secondly, the propellers were removed from the Rolls Royce Dart engines and then the wings. These items were stacked on a low-loader trailer as shown in the pictures below.




Empennage, propellers and wing removal 


Right wing removal


Removed assemblies loaded onto the truck

The remaining aircraft was then jacked and the landing gear retracted and securely locked inside the landing gear bays in the the nacelles. This required the use of compressed air as the F27 uses pneumatics for everything with there being no hydraulics on the aircraft.

Retracting the landing gear


Remaining fuselage assembly after jacking and landing gear retraction

The second load consisted of the entire fuselage, centre wing, nacelles and engines as a single assembly. This load required a special road transport permit due to its oversize nature.


Loading onto the trailer

The journey from Christchurch to Wanaka was undertaken during the night hours and took around 14 hours. 

23 July 2012

Prophets - great space opera

What: Prophets - Apotheoisis Book 1
Who: S. Andrew Swann
When: Published March 3rd 2009 

It's been nearly 200 years since the collapse of the Confederacy, the last government to claim humanity's colonies. So when signals come in revealing lost human colonies that could shift the power balance, the race is on between the Caliphate ships and a small team of scientists and mercenaries. But what awaits them all is a threat far beyond the scope of any human government.

This is an excellent book. This is the first book by this author for me. I picked it up because of how highly recommended he is. I can see why after reading this!
Plenty of action, good characters and a good plot with some great twists and turns. There's humans, aliens, advanced AI things and all of the good stuff. It's got all of the elements that I like in a good space opera. Like some other reviewers have said, it felt similar reading to Peter F. Hamilton's Nights Dawn trilogy - only shorter. Which, I will add, is not a bad thing. The right length to fit it all in without being too long (my only real complaint with some of PFH's novels).
Anyway, I've launched straight into the second book of the trilogy (Heretics) because I couldn't wait and am looking forward to continuing with this great story.
Well worth the time reading. There was nothing that I didn't like. Highly recommended.

 Click on the book cover to find out more at Goodreads

10/10 

20 July 2012

New Steve Harris album!

What: Music
Who: Steve Harris
When: September 2012

Legendary bassist and Iron Maiden mastermind Steve Harris will soon release his debut solo album, ‘British Lion.’ In between Iron Maiden releases and tours, Harris has been spending his time writing the upcoming disc, which promises to bring a multi-dimensionally heavy experience to listeners.
Harris recorded ‘British Lion’ with longtime Iron Maiden producer Kevin Shirley at the helm. Shirley has teamed up with Maiden in the studio for every album since the 1999 return of vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith, including the ‘Rock in Rio,’ ‘Death on the Road,’ ‘Flight 666′ and ‘En Vivo!’ live recordings. Shirley has also worked with rock legends such as Led Zeppelin, Rush and Slayer.
The bassist explains the title of his solo ‘British Lion’ album on Iron Maiden’s Facebook page. “I’ve always been proud to be British,” explains Steve, “I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be. It’s a massive part of being me. It’s not like I’m flag-waving or trying to preach, this is not a political statement at all. It’s like supporting your football team, where you come from. I just think it lends itself to some really strong imagery too, and to me it fits in with the sound.”
A release date for ‘British Lion’ has not yet been revealed, but the 10-song album is set to melt your face soon. Stay tuned for more news on ‘British Lion.’
Track Listing:
1. This Is My God
2. Lost Worlds
3. Karma Killer
4. Us Against The World
5. The Chosen Ones
6. A World Without Heaven
7. Judas
8. Eyes Of The Young
9. These Are The Hands
 
10. The Lesson 
Can't wait! 

12 July 2012

Managing your Ebooks

What: Ebook management software
Who: Kovid Goyal
When: Right now!


I'm into ebooks, read them on a Kindle and use Calibre to manage them all.


This software does everything. It converts between ebook formats, read ebooks, edit the meta data and change cover images. You can even configure Calibre to email books to your device. This feature is particularly useful with the Amazon Kindle.



There is really nothing that this program cannot do. Head on over the the Calibre website and check out the features.

My rating
10/10 

03 July 2012

Extraterrestrial Life on the moons of Mars?


The moons of Mars may be the first place we find extraterrestrial life.

Read on...

Book Preview: Great North Road

What: Great North Road
Who: Peter F Hamilton
When: Published September 2012




 New York Times bestselling author Peter F. Hamilton’s riveting new thriller combines the nail-biting suspense of a serial-killer investigation with clear-eyed scientific and social extrapolation to create a future that seems not merely plausible but inevitable.
 A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family—composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone “brothers” have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies.
Or maybe not so friendly. At least that’s what the murder of a North clone in the English city of Newcastle suggests to Detective Sidney Hurst. Sid is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand off this hot potato of a case. The way he figures it, whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career.

Yet Sid’s case is about to take an unexpected turn: because the circumstances of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to a killing that took place years ago on the planet St. Libra, where a North clone and his entire household were slaughtered in cold blood. The convicted slayer, Angela Tramelo, has always claimed her innocence. And now it seems she may have been right. Because only the St. Libra killer could have committed the Newcastle crime.
 
Problem is, Angela also claims that the murderer was an alien monster.
Now Sid must navigate through a Byzantine minefield of competing interests within the police department and the world’s political and economic elite . . . all the while hunting down a brutal killer poised to strike again. And on St. Libra, Angela, newly released from prison, joins a mission to hunt down the elusive alien, only to learn that the line between hunter and hunted is a thin one.

Can't wait for this one! Hopefully a bit more worth waiting for than Redshirts...