Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time

If you’d ever wondered what the universe was made of and how it came to be, and don’t mind your technical science, then this book is going to be just the ticket. Hawking gives us a very in depth and inquisitive look at the origins of our understanding of the universe, and makes it both readable and fascinating to readers of any age or education level.

As most of you probably know, I write sci-fi when I’m not running about battling pirates or making sure my dragons don’t argue over whether or not the prophecies are working right.  I’m also a closet astronomer and I love dabbling in astrophysics sometimes. I picked up A Brief History on the recommendation of another friend when I was discussing the genesis of black holes and the potential for wormholes to form in our galaxy, and I was not disappointed in what I found. Sure, it took me a few months to read in between working way too much and the loss of my bedside lamp, but I got there and boy was it a good ride. It expanded on a few things I already vaguely knew about (stuff like string theory, quantum entanglement, and the grand unified theory), but also educated me on the intricacies of said theories and added colour to what was once a textbook interpretation. Hawking is a capable and expansive writer, if not entirely personable (his style is heavily influenced by academic style but no less enjoyable), and I’d certainly read more of his work in the future. I’ve got the follow-up book, A Briefer History of Time, sitting in wait on my bedside table, but for now I think I’ll go explore some other things.

Of late I’ve been going on a bit of a reading binge to help combat some of my seemingly ever-present stress, and my horrible writer’s block. So far it seems to have helped, but sadly my bookcase is a bit too full and some of my books will have to go.

Anyway that’s it from me for now. Stay tuned for next time!

-P

Glenn Cooper’s Library Of The Dead, and an update

Hello everyone and welcome back to uh, that thing I do where I blog about books!

I know, I know. It’s been ages. I’ve been dealing with a lot of… stuff, lately. Personal, most of it good but some things have required me to adjust and its taken up a lot of my time. Along with that I’ve been madly collecting books (help, I might get swallowed by them) and working furiously on my novel, Pirates of Time, which I’m planning to publish this year if the proverbial fates allow. Work has been swallowing up a lot of time too so that’s been fun (regular travel to the other side of town, aka, where did five hours of my life just go).

Onwards with the review! I’ve been reading Library of the Dead for quite some time now. Largely, this has been because of a very slow start to the book itself. I was convinced I wouldn’t keep it and just send it off to another good home, buuuut the end has me clinging onto it like a favourite sweater. The writing style is clipped and to the point, which is something I’ve always liked in an adventure novel. It’s got a little mystery thrown in, along with some perhaps predictable but still fun romance, and it kept me hooked until the end. It reminded me very much of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, specifically in its structure and pace. It certainly fits in with the adventure theme that the late 2000’s produced, and has the same style of witty banter and relateable characters.

The main character, Will, is a perpetually drunken FBI agent tasked with unravelling the Doomsday Case, a string of what is assumed to be murders with no obvious culprit. His search leads him down many twisting paths, but the last thing he expected was to uncover a centuries old mystery that itself has no logical explanation. His investigation is often stymied by false leads and an uncooperative government, and ends with a twist that leaves him both jobless and shocked, but a better man. There’s a lead to a sequel as well, The Book of Souls, which Will again features in. The first chapter and the prologue were included at the end of my copy, and it looks to be a book I’d happily read though it seems to be based on a similar premise to its predecessor.

Critiques and other comments… the only thing that really bothered me was the slow start to the novel. In saying that, the slow approach did help to make the climaxes that much more exciting. The novel’s characters did play to some stereotypes, but in the end it worked in favour of the piece by adding extra colour and intrigue to the plot. Will was an unpredictable narrator: you never quite knew what he’d do next, and his believability was only enhanced.

All in all, I’ve decided to hold onto Library of the Dead, and I look forward to reading its sequel. It’s a slamming adventure novel and one I’d definitely recommend to anyone who is a die hard fan of the genre.

Happy reading, folks, and stay tuned for more updates and reviews!

-P

The Curse of Writer’s Block

Hello everyone and welcome to a much delayed post! I do apologise for my absence. I’ve been dealing with some personal issues and I hope they’re all resolved. AT ANY RATE, said issues have been giving me a horrible case of writer’s block and it is with this post that I tell you what I did to fix it! Also share some fun things.

ORDER THE FIRST: http://tabletopaudio.com/

So. Reasons why this is great. One, it’s designed for D&D games. Two, it also works for PoT, which is what I’ve been trying to get my head around with the writer’s block.

ORDER THE SECOND: https://mynoise.net/

This site has been my go-to for quite some time now. It’s particularly good for doing scenes situated in craggy mountain passes, or like… monasteries and things.

ORDER THE THIRD: Self Care.

I had a friend point out to me how important it is to keep yourself in good check, even when you think you might be okay. I’ve been working a heck of a lot lately and my boss was most wonderful and thought I could do with five days off. I’ve been spending the time gaming and not doing very much, but I’d also forgotten that sometimes you just have to go outside for some fresh air, eat healthy, go do something wholesome. AND DRINK YOUR WATER. Tea is good and all but you can’t survive on it. Stress relief is also very important, particularly if your ordinary home environment isn’t as supportive as it could be. I like to try and meditate or go visit different parts of the city sometimes for this, and it really does help.

ORDER THE FOURTH: Expand Your Horizons!

So here you are, a writer, sitting with your laptop or your Alphasmart or your notepad, and you think to yourself that your writing might be getting a bit stale. ADVENTURE, MY FRIENDS! Go out, explore the world. It’s there for you to enjoy, so go do it. Lean something new. Pick up a book, visit a museum or go see a play. Sometimes your work can seem stale because you’ve been staring at it for too long, or because your surroundings are also stale and a bit crabby because when was the last time you vacuumed? Made that bed? Sorted that kitchen cupboard that’s been bugging you for weeks? Do the thing. Make the progress. Clear the cobwebs. WRITE.

So yeah. That’s my little spiel for the time being. I’ve also been tearing my way through a few books, which I might review as time goes on.

Do stay tuned, and good luck with your projects both great and small! Or like, anything in between. Do your thing.

-P

Speedreading

Hello everyone and welcome to November, 2016! Or as I like to call it, complete chaos.

I know the title’s a bit cryptic, but after having to speedread my way through a 329 page autobiography (it took me 2 hours) I wondered for a moment about the distinction between speedreading and, well, taking one’s time. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of taking my time with a book. Sitting down with a cup of good tea or coffee and immersing myself in the words. As a writer, I’ve always intended for my own books to be taken slowly, but looking at examples like The Silmarillion or other particularly long books makes me wonder if a shorter novel is the way to go. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, or the proverbial finished product. Guess we’ll see how it pans out.

How do you all like your books? Short and sweet, or long and languorous?

Now back to knocking over today’s word count.

AdmiralCarter

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play by Jack Thorne, John Tiffany, and J.K. Rowling

Hello readers!

First of all I know this is SUPER late considering when this book came out in July of this year.

Second of all, wow.

As someone who grew up reading and cherishing the Harry Potter series, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The Cursed Child. As it turns out, the play is short, snappy, and uses wit like a fine garnish on your favourite dinner. The characters are more or less as I remembered them, so it was almost like visiting old friends who’d grown up rather a lot.

As far as the plot goes, it’s easy to follow and keeps your interest. I managed to get through it all in the equivalent of a day, which is record breaking in terms of speed for me. It explored a lot of facets that the original series didn’t quite get the chance to cover – most notably an alternate world where Voldemort’s forces prevailed during The Battle of Hogwarts – , and it was definitely refreshing to get the take of other writers. The Cursed Child wasn’t written purely by Rowling, although she did have major say in how the play was not only performed but constructed. Tiffany and Thorne are both prolific playwrights and directors, and their experience really shows in the way that the characters are delivered to the stage. The humour is emphasised, expressiveness is key, and their skills combined with Rowling’s familiarity with the world and her characters makes for a spectacular combination to bring everything to life. I found myself laughing at the wit of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, following the two unlikely friends through their world almost like I had their parents, who had grown into fine adults. It’s that sense of magical charm and wonder which has been so carefully preserved that makes The Cursed Child so enjoyable, and the same reason I’d gladly read it again for many years to come.

All of that said, though, a few things still niggle at me when I think back on it. First of all, Ron. Something seemed a little off about him and I wasn’t quite sure what it was. He always seemed too eager to be funny, trying too hard to fit into a world where he already belonged. That had never quite been the case with his younger version, even after the events of The Half Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows. Harry seemed perhaps a little too neurotic, too. Of course it’s to be expected after what happened during the series, but there’s only so much creative liberty you can take with a set of characters which are so well established in the minds of their fan base and readers all across the world. Finally, the method of scene presentation – the constant jumping between time periods, the lack of a linear flow, and multiple use of flashbacks – was a little jarring for the purposes of the play, and perhaps could have been handled with more fluidity.

The Cursed Child is definitely getting a permanent home on my bookshelf next to its brethren. It’s a solid read with a fast pace, a gripping plot, and – I won’t lie – just a hint of nostalgia which is more than welcome in these post-Potter years. If you’d been dubious about reading it because of stage reviews, throw caution to the wind. It’s worth the time.

That’s it from me for now, until next time!

AdmiralCarter

Review: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (SPOILERS)

Hello readers!

So I very recently finished reading through my copy of Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and let me tell you this is one heck of a book.

oryx_and_crake

I bought the book going purely off of Atwood’s name, having read The Handmaid’s Tale and adoring it. Oryx and Crake certainly lives up to Atwood’s reputation as a stellar writer, and the longer I read the book the more I was drawn into her world.

It’s set in present-day Earth, perhaps a few years from now. Human society has been separated into the haves and the have-nots, and is starting to crumble despite our best attempts at rescuing it with technology and medicines, and more exciting and different ways to pass the time. Companies have begun to try and find new ways of existing, as resources run out and diseases become widespread.

The story itself focuses on a young boy named Jimmy, and tells the story of the decline of human civilisation through his eyes as he grows up. He’s an old man when the story begins, living in a desolate world with nothing and no-one to keep him company but other strange humanoid people. People he calls Crakers. We slowly find out the story of how these people came to be, and how one of Jimmy’s childhood friends – Crake  – was involved in their creation, and in the subsequent destruction of civilisation as we know it.

Crake himself was a boy genius, who became Jimmy’s closest friend through circumstance. Over time the two grew close, and -though it escaped Jimmy’s notice – Crake came up with his grand plan to help ‘fix’ humanity. He became a genetic scientist of sorts and created the Crakers, genetically modifying them for efficiency and to avoid wars, diseases, and hatred. He befriended a woman Jimmy had fallen for whilst still young, and she became close with both men. It wasn’t until Crake came up with a pill which was advertised to ‘increase sexual activity and repress the need for maladaptive expressions of energy’ that things started to go horribly wrong.

I won’t say any more on the plot, it’s much more intricate than what I’ve described here and well worth the read.

Atwood’s writing clearly shows her mastery of storytelling, especially in the way she describes her characters as if they’re real. As if you could look up and find that person standing in front of you. Jimmy is a figment when the book begins, but slowly he becomes real. Crake and Oryx, too, become real, and you see them as Jimmy does. They reveal themselves slowly and with import, as they are remembered, and you remember them, too, after the book is said and done.

The grasp on setting here follows the ‘less is more’ rule with strict adherence. A genetically modified pig on a rampage here, a destroyed building there, an apocalyptic vision against a majestic sunrise in the distance. You don’t need much to show what a disaster looks like, or to give it the gravity and feeling it deserves.

Anyway go read it! It’s a very poignant tale about what could be a possibility in the near future, and for me it was a solid reminder to always keep your perspective straight.

That’s all from me for now, until next time!

-AdmiralCarter