28 June 2012

Great prog

Having been a fan of good progressive rock & metal for many years I've heard a few good bands. The amount of great new music in this genre never ceases to impress me. I've been listening to bands like Rush, Dream Theater, Symphony X & Ayreon for ages. If you like this sort of music then you'll totally love Haken.

Haken is a London-based Progressive rock/Progressive metal band formed in 2007. At the moment they have two released albums; Aquarius released in 2010 and Visions, released 2011.

There's some media that you can check out on their official website.

Great musicianship, vocals and songwriting set these guys aside for me. I was quite blown away when I first heard them.

There's really nothing not to like.

My rating 10/10 

23 June 2012

Book Review: Redshirts

What: Redshirts
Who: John Scalzi
When: Released June 2012
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory. 
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed. 
Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expendedon avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives. 

As I mentioned in my "anticipatory" preview, I had been waiting for the release of this book for some time. I was so enthusiastic about it that I even bought the first edition hardcover assuming that I'd reread it many times as I have done with most of Scalzi's other books.

After having read it I do not think I'll be reading it for a second time. Sorry Mr. Scalzi, I feel a bit mean even saying that but I'll try to explain why.

I ripped into the book with gusto and immediately enjoyed more typical Scalzi characters and dialogue. After a couple of chapters I got the sense that all was not well and things seemed to be a little "ridiculous" in places, kind of weird. Well things on the Intrepid aren't normal, and that's the whole point of the story.

What transpired was a well written story that was a real surprise for sure. Full credit to John Scalzi for his writing skills. Excellent. However, I found the whole thing a little bit (okay, a whole lot) like an academic exercise in story telling, like Scalzi was merely flexing his writing muscles while chuckling over some sci-fi community inside joke.

The story is clearly a piss-take of a sci-fi TV show or shows - I get that bit, but I can't really say much that won't spoil the story for anyone who hasn't read it yet, but suffice to say that there's a sort-of Truman Show "big brother" vibe going on that I found to be a real yawn. Well done I must concede, but boring.

The best piece of the whole book was the last two of the three codas at the end of the book where we can at least get in alongside a character for an emotional ride so to speak. That part was interesting at least. 

Like I said the quality of the writing is excellent, but the story? Hated it. Sorry but I really was disappointed with this one. Lots will love it I'm sure. I'm not an expert (other than about what I like) and I think this book might actually do well. But it's not a good science-fiction book for people like me. I prefer a good gritty story more like the Old Man's War series. Scalzi is a far, far better writer than this.

With all that said, it wasn't a hard book to read and I was able to finish it.

Give it a go and see what you think. Hopefully you'll disagree with me. My NZ$40 would've been better spent elsewhere this time I reckon.

Seems that Mark at Walker Of Worlds agrees. 

Writing quality 9/10
Storyline 1/10
Overall 4/10 

11 June 2012

Book Review: Calculating God

What: Calculating God
Who: Robert J. Sawyer
When: Published 2000

When I asked a work colleague (who has similar reading interests) what he was reading, he told me about this one. On first description I was only semi-interested, but after he told me more about it I decided that I would read it myself. I'm glad I did. I actually quite enjoyed it.

If you're a person who likes their sci-fi stories to have a footing in real science then you'll probably like it. If, like me, you enjoy toying with some of the "bigger" questions like "Is God real?", "How did we get here?" and the Creation/evolution debate then you'll probably like it. If you like good characters who you can empathise with then you'll probably like it. You probably won't like it if you prefer full-on action and battles and stuff 'cos there isn't any. It's not devoid of action, but it's more low-key. Just right for this story.

Anyway you can read the Amazon review below for more.


Amazon.com Review:

Creationists rarely find sympathy in the ranks of science fiction authors--or fans, for that matter. And while Robert J. Sawyer doesn't exactly make peace with evangelicals on the issue, Calculating God has to be one of the more thoughtful and sympathetic SF portrayals you'll find of religion and intelligent design. But that should come as no surprise from this crafty Canadian: in the Nebula Award-winning Terminal Experiment, Sawyer speculated on what would happen if hard evidence were ever found for the human soul; in Calculating God, he turns science on its head again when earth is invaded by theists from outer space.
The book starts out like the setup for some punny science fiction joke: An alien walks into a museum and asks if he can see a paleontologist. But the arachnid ET hasn't come aboard a rowboat with the Pope and Stephen Hawking (although His Holiness does request an audience later). Landing at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the spacefarer (named Hollus) asks to compare notes on mass extinctions with resident dino-scientist Thomas Jericho. A shocked Jericho finds that not only does life exist on other planets, but that every civilization in the galaxy has experienced extinction events at precisely the same time. Armed with that disconcerting information (and a little help from a grand unifying theory), the alien informs Jericho, almost dismissively, that "the primary goal of modern science is to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods."
Inventive, fast-paced, and alternately funny and touching, Calculating God sneaks in a well-researched survey of evolution science, exobiology, and philosophy amidst the banter between Hollus and Jericho. But the book also proves to be very moving and character-driven SF, as Jericho--in the face of Hollus's convincing arguments--grapples with his own bitter reasons for not believing in God.

10 June 2012

Book Preview: Redshirts

What: Redshirts
Who: John Scalzi
When: Published June 2012

Update#1: 14Jun2012 - Still waiting patiently for the book to arrive and resisting the temptation to start the ebook...

Update#2: 20Jun2012 - The book still hasn't turned up. Been two weeks now. Might have to follow it up. Getting impatient.

Update#3: 22Jun2012 - It arrived by courier this morning. Into it.

Update#4: 24Jun2012 - Read it. Flat out. No mucking around. Mmm. Read the review above for more...

I've ordered this book via a local online retailer and hope to have it in my hot little hands sometime later this week. Can't wait. I love Scalzi's work. Check out the Amazon page for more details.

What has amused me about this one is that it's not supposed to be available as an ebook until November 15. That said, however, I've found both the epub and mobi versions being p2p shared via Demonoid (and doubtless other torrent sharing sites as well).

And YES I have obtained these files for my ebook library. I figured that I have actually paid for it, ie. relax, I'm not stealing anything (today...)

Once I've read it I'll post a review here, and maybe on Goodreads as well. Stay tuned.

BTW I'll probably read the 'old skool' paper version to be nostaligic.

09 June 2012

Fixin' a plane...

What: Boeing 737-800 window frame & crown skin repair
Where: Confidential/Trade Secret
When: Sometime during June 2012

External view of the nose/flight deck area of the aircraft.
Internal view looking forward into the flight deck.

07 June 2012

Early snow in Christchurch

Where: Christchurch, NZ
When: June 7, 2012
What: Snow

Looking south towards the Port Hills

Yes the snow has come early this year. There was a couple of good falls last winter but they were during late winter, which is quite normal. Snow this early is unusual.

My boys playing in the snow. Cold.