After America

After America

A wave that wipes out most of the US, Pirates have taken over New York. Those two lines is all it took for me to grab this book. There is no clear introduction to the world of this novel but over its first few chapters as you are introduced to its characters to get a brief indication of what has taken place, which i shall now condense into an easily disseminated version. The story takes place 3 years after an unknown even in the North Atlantic/possibly Arctic Ocean causes a massive wave to wash over almost all of the US leaving only the area around Seattle, and all of Alaska untouched. it also wipes out a fair chunk of Canada and Mexico. The exact method of this eradication isn’t elaborated it is just referred to as a “wave” and the people who are killed are merely referenced to as the “disappeared”.

As one would imagine much like the GFC of a few years ago what ever happens in the US has a domino effect on the world. The story does not explicitly explain the events that occurred after the wave but throughout the story it just throws out random bits of information and references them as if the reader already knows what happened. The world is thrown into chaos, there is a civil war in china, a second holocaust of some kind in Africa, Israel launches a war against someone. The middle east is nuked back to the stone age. A mass exodus of people of the Muslim faith into European countries. Needless to say it is a world far removed from ours. However governments still exist and people do work and pay taxes etc. I’m not sure why the author likes to make throw away comments about world events, without a further explanation of them i don’t feel it adds to the story and is more of a distraction. and to be honest i have seen many authors do this and i really don’t like it . I crave information, you cant tell me a little snippet of something and refuse to further explain it. Its like when you were a kid and a friend says i’ve got a secret but i cant tell you. well why the heck mention you have a secret in the first place? unless just to annoy me

Most interestingly is since New York’s population is wiped out, pirates and marauders have moved in. a bit more time (in the book) is used to explain this but basically, after the wave Somali pirates started raiding New York, Then Russian mafia and other European peoples start raiding New York for goods and then pretty much soon all kinds of US goods and clothing are flooding the European markets

The story is broken up into essentially 4 points of view.There is the story of the US president as he tries to retake New York from the pirates. There is a story of a US spy who is based in the UK as she tracks down a target that made an attempt to kill her family and there is a story following 2 smugglers as they try to enter New York to track down a specific item for their client. These 3 stories are quite interwoven and related. oddly enough there is one last story of a immigrant in Texas. In the US bid to resettle its vacant land it offers up land for settlers to work on and raise cattle and other stock. to pay back the government for bringing them to the US. Either way the story of this rancher feels like an after thought and irrelevant to the story as a whole because at least the other  3 stories meet up and are involved in the same situations but this rancher is just out on his own, to be honest it becomes quite boring reading of him and i just want to return to the story of the other 3.

Having been to New York, and using the descriptions and detailed narrative of the battles in New York, i really could imagine the scope of their ordeal and thoroughly enjoyed that story line. The presidents story was really quite powerful seeing such a powerful man simply as a human and dealing with the emotions based on his decisions was quite enjoying to read

As the narrative picked up in speed, i simply couldn’t put the book down. i had to see it through to its conclusion and watch as the president finally came to terms with the decisions he has to make and then watch it play out. such a great read even with the silly throw away story of the rancher in there. From killing pirates to wiping out terrorists this book has it all. i would highly recommend it to anyone and i will definitely keep my eye out for more books from this author for sure!

 

Antimatter

Antimatter

I’m not sure about other people but occasionally when i discuss books with some people they mention they are reading several. For a long time this confused me, as i had tried it a couple of times and for the most part i always confused characters and plot lines especially if it is a thriller/crime novel trying to recall events from the appropriate book just became to much of an effort. So i never really tried to repeat this task. but i know people who read up to 3 books at a time. I enjoy picking up a book and just fully immersing myself in it until it is over.Sometimes when i’m  reading a non-fiction book ill come across a fact or event and want to know more than the book explains so ill jump on Google. This became rather difficult to do as most of my reading is done on the train to and from work each day. i really hate utilizing my phone to search online for information, aside from the obvious issue that it drains my battery too quickly, the screen is too small its not good for viewing graphs or pictures. So needless to say the amount of non-fiction books in my to read pile started growing. Simple solution read them at home, yes that might sound an easy solution but i dont really have much time at home as progress at home is slower as i have much more distractions in my house and don’t really get bored. but low and behold it works since the genre are so far removed there is no confusion when reading a non-fiction book about science and reading a fictional story

This book Antimatter by Frank close, i picked up at the super secret Booktopia $1 booksale. I read the blurb and took it straight away. This book deals with the entire history of antimatter, from the very origins of a theory of its existence, to its discover right up to now with us making it in particle accelerators. Surprisingly it was quite an interesting read, i thought i knew quite a bit about antimatter but turns out there was a whole world of stuff i didn’t know. 

The author does a great job of dispelling rumors We have all heard them (and thanks to Dan brown’s Angles and Demons – seen or read about them) there is a whole chapter dedicated to explain why an antimatter bomb just wouldn’t work and cant be made. Turns out at our current rate of production of antimatter particles for us to make enough to weigh a gram would take centuries let alone the fact that we cant keep the particles trapped for that long with out them coming into contact with something and annihilating.

This book was a great informative read, and fortunately was written in a way that doesn’t make it come across as a text book. if you are curious about antimatter and not sure where fact or fiction is definitely grab this book. I’m glad i did.

Space Chronicles – Facing the Ultimate Frontier

Space Chronicles – Facing the Ultimate Frontier

I have always had an interest in Astronomy and for awhile there pursued the idea of career in that field. However i choose to go down another path and have moved Astronomy into the hobby area for now. As such any time i come across a book to do with Astronomy or Astrophysics, i’ll buy it. Even though in most cases these books just rehash the same material but just cover it in different ways. This book in that regard is no different. There is no new information discussed, in fact the book itself is just an anthology of all Neil deGrasse Tyson’s previous interviews. I picked this gem up at the super secret Booktopia $1 booksale. as i was moving down the isles i saw his (the authors) name on the spine and that alone was enough for me to buy it

The book starts with the history of Astronomy and more importantly human perception of astronomy, going from the days of craziness where  religion decreed we were the center of the universe – to the modern times with a better perception of our place in the cosmos. There is quite alot of focus on the US economy as it plays a heavy role in deciding how much money NASA gets and this in turns impacts what programs are successful or not. Surprisingly there were some interesting insights into this process. 

While Neil has an impressive knowledge of astronomy, history and pop culture, he does like to use the same anecdotes and since this book is merely an anthology of previous interviews it becomes apparent as there repetition is seen more easily in this book

Perhaps the most disappointing thing with this book, is you get the feeling it is aimed at the american audience. What i mean by this is there is quite alot of discussion of NASAs budget and comparing it to other US expenditures and government activities . While of course since the US is pretty much the biggest avenue of space exploration,  i naturally keep a close eye on what its doing even though i have no interest in the politics behind it since i can have no say in that matter.

The book really hits home when even the author states that sometimes when he is at work trying to understand the intricacies of the universe he can forget ” that uncounted people walk this Earth without food or shelter, and that children are disproportionately represented among them ” quite a powerful message to end a book with. Especially after reading the sections about the US budget seeing that they spend more than 8 times the amount of money on the military than they do on education and double the amount they spend on welfare.

But when all is said and done being an anthology of previous interviews etc, doesn’t diminish this book at all. it is still a great read by a great author and leave you walking away with much food for thought

 

 

 

 

Surviving Antarctica

Surviving Antarctica

I know the age old adage of Don’t judge a book by its cover, so when i first saw this book and on its cover under the title it said, Reality TV 2083, I Initially wanted to throw the book away. Reality TV has to be the dullest most uneducated rubbish that graces our TV sets. So naturally my thoughts went down the line of, Reality TV is rubbish so a book about reality TV must be rubbish too. In hindsight boy was i right! but some better part of me said no don’t judge it, see whats its like so i bought it. Such a mistake i made, i should of judged it and then quickly discarded it! or better yet i should of stuck with my system of deciding what book to buy and not strayed in the first place.

Normally when choosing a book of an author i have not read before, If its from an actual physical book store(not many of them left), its normally the title or cover that gets my attention, I then go and read the blurb on the back.Good blurb, i buy it. Bad blurb or No blurb, then i put the book straight back down its game over for that book.. I really dislike books which just have one sentence comments from authors or magazines on the back. If you can’t write me a blurb about your story then in my view, it must be a really bad story and i wont get tricked into buying a book with no blurb based on its cover. Have you noticed many books with no blurb on the back describing the plot also have really catchy covers to grab your attention?. 

Thus shows the advantage of buying online – there is always a description of what it is about, so there is no misconception. So my trouble began when i was invited to a super secret Booktopia.com.au sale. They were moving warehouses and so sent out emails inviting people to attend a special $1 book sale so they could clear out excess or damaged stock. Anyway i was keen to see what bargains i could buy. I was quite surprised when i got there at how big the place was. There was row after row of book. They were broken up into genres of course but there was no organization or order in each genre, just books on a shelf randomly. 

There was quite a large number of people here, so there was a lot of squeezing past each other or reaching over someone to grab a book. So i simply picked a genre and started moving my way through it, following my method of reviewing the cover then blurb. I picked up pretty much each book and reviewed it. After 15 minutes i realized this just wouldn’t work. there were just far too many books and far too many people there. If memory serves me there were about 20 rows, each about 10 meters long with 3 shelves and some books on the ground in boxes. In most cases there was only one copy of a book, so i realized if i didn’t move fast i could miss out on some good bargains. On the top of the shelves were boxes so i grabbed one and started moving down the isles. On my first lap of all the isles which took over an hour, i just solely looked for authors i knew, checked if i already had the book or not and put it in my box. Along the way if i saw a book that had a catchy title or cover i just threw it in the box as well. Once this first lap was done i did another slower lap to  review the books i passed over before. The amount of books available had decreased by about half by this time. After an hour and half had passed i had finished. I had a box full of books and arms straining from carrying the box all that time. All in all i picked up 35 books for $62 so i was quite pleased and i did end up getting some real gems in there. 

On my first run when looking for specific authors, if i saw a catchy title or cover i took it. So when i saw Surviving Antarctica written on the spine of a book i got a little bit curious. I had just returned a few weeks prior to this sale from a trip to Antarctica. so i was still on a bit of a buzz in regards to anything Antarctica related. So even after seeing the subscript of Reality TV 2083 written under the title i still took the book. What a mistake. if only i had turned it over and read the blurb! 

Five teens are contestants on a reality show to re-create the doomed 1912 attempt to reach the pole. What  load of hogwash. That blurb alone should of scared me away but i did not read it. When i got home and started unpacking my box of reading goodness, imagine the sour taste in my mouth when i read that blurb. That book went straight to the bottom of the reading pile.So finally after ignoring the book for sometime, I finally decided to read it, no point in owning a book if you don’t read it, perhaps it got better. Boy was i wrong. The contestants are 14 years old, and alone with no adults in Antarctica. If that wasn’t hard enough to swallow the premise is that the US economy has collapsed, schools were closed and kids are now educated by watching TV. Laws were passed enforcing how many hours they need to watch per week and College admission or university as we call it here. is done by chance. At the end of school kids are called out by name, a number is randomly chosen and the kid must roll 2 dice, if they match the number they get in. i almost laughed at how bad it all sounds. The premise was so bad and so unbelievable i just couldn’t really get into the book. At times i just found my eyes just glossing over the pages and then realized i hadn’t read the last few and have to flick back a few pages and start again.

Finally somehow i got through this book and if my fellow train passengers that day saw a man crying with a book in his hands, its because he just realized the hours of his life he just lost reading this rubbish. The inside back page says this was her first book, i pray that she does not write anymore

On reflection, some learning’s came out of this. which can be used as a warning to others

Always review what you are buying

Always read the blurb

Always trust your instincts

and Always judge a book by its cover!

 

Matt

 

 

Dinotopia

Dinotopia

I remember many years ago when i was first given a copy of the original Dinotopia. I was perhaps 10 or 11 and as many kids are at that age crazy about dinosaurs. I can still remember that the hardcover book came with a bookmark which had the Dinotopian alphabet on it. Which i used to decifer the many messages and signs through the book in the amazing illustrations  I’m sure my parents had seen my love of dinosaurs and probably just threw anything dinosaur related at me.  I remember them also giving me at least 2 dinotopia short novels as well, although i’m not sure what became of them. I never knew there were more books in that series. So a few months ago when looking online for a present for my nephew i stumbled upon a  Dinotopia book  “journey to Chandra” much like the one i already had it was a large hardcover book. a quick search on Google told me it was in fact the 4th book in series.

The little kid in me was excited so i jumped onto Bookdepository.com and searched for it/ ( pretty much where i buy all my books from these days – i love free shipping) Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and i didn’t just buy them then and there i just added them to my wishlist. One of the features i love about that site (granted it isn’t a new feature many sites have it) is the wishlist function. Anytime i see or hear of a book i might like, boom i add it to my wishlist. and pretty much every week i buy one book from my wishlist. My wishlist normally has reached as high as around 80 or so books. but thanks to a healthy tax refund it has dropped down to around 50. Part of the 20 or so books i ordered with my tax money was the 3 dinotopia books

Now ill admit yes these are for kids essentially, as you can pretty much read it in about 30 mins but i think the appeal to me aside from the fact that i still am fascinated about dinosaurs is the story still resonates with the little boy in me.

The first book Dinotopia: A land apart from time. Deals with Arthur Denison and his son Will being shipwrecked on a strange island in the 1860’s, which they shortly discover is inhabited by dinosaurs and humans! The story flows from here as the Denison’s are introduced and integrated into Dinotopian society, and is pretty much an amazing journey of discovery. The story then ends with Arthur’s emergence from his brief visit to the world beneath

Book 2 Dinotopia: The World beneath is about a planned returned expedition to the world beneath. Originally a mythical place where the dinosaurs lived out the extinction level event of 65 million years ago, which Arthur briefly visited in the first book proving its not a myth after all. The book pretty much tries to explain how the dinosaurs come to be living in the modern (relatively) world

Book 3 Dinotopia: First Flight this in my opinion is the weakest and i’ll go as far as to say the Worst book of the series. I cant help but think of this as Police academy 7, a poor attempt at milking a franchise for some more money. Personally my issue with this book wasn’t so much as it was a flashback but more the introduction of a sort of steam punk technology. I just felt this wasn’t what the story of Dinotopia was about, it was suppose to be about people in harmony with nature.

Thankfully Book 4 Dinotopia: Journey to Chandra returned the series to what made it great a big sense of adventure. The story returns to Arthur Denison who receives and invite to come visit the far off and secretive city of Chandra. The story retains that sense of wonder from the first book as he makes his way across the island of Dinotopia  to Chandra

Reading these books has taken me back to the days as a boy when i first read the Dinotopia. The illustrations which the author James gurney does himself are just fantastic and the accuracy of the dinosaur species is to be commended. While for the purposes of this Odyssey i will class these all as just one book. I highly recommend these books not just to anyone who has children but to adults wanting a chance to relive a little bit of their youth. 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

For as long as i can remember I’ve heard and wondered about the “42” reference. As in the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. My Father was the first to let me know at a young age that it comes from the novel The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but he declined to elaborate further. I decided against reading the book because back then i was quite limited in what i would read. For sci-fi, if it wasn’t to do with Star Wars, Star Trek i wouldn’t touch it. And i never read comedies. Fortunately a few years ago i started to broaden my horizons in this genre. First it started with letting in some Arthur C Clark,  then in came Carl Sagan with Contact and pretty soon i was willing to touch anything Sci-Fi. So needless to say a few months ago when i was invited to a special $1 book sale, many of the books i picked up were in fact Sci-Fi

That’s where i saw Hitchhikers for just $1, so i grabbed it. Would i of grabbed it if it wasn’t $1 who knows? it was a pretty slim book, and im not a big fan of small stories so it settled pretty low down in my to read pile until last week. Because the book i was reading on the train was almost finished and i knew i would finish it halfway through my journey to work,  so i figured i needed to take another book with me and i didn’t want to start something too big, so i picked up hitchhikers. Halfway through my train ride, i finished my previous book and started on this one. i was so engrossed in it that i missed my station and had to get another train back to it.

From the start the book is filled with humor and quirky nuances which i later found out is Douglas’s writing style. Arthur Dent encapsulates the quirky slightly odd Englishman stereotype. His journey is  a remarkable fish out of water story as he clearly has no idea what is going on around him. but you can relate to him in the feeling that you aren’t in control of events happening around you sometimes,

After getting off the train all i could think about all day was, what happens next, where will this crazy spaceship take them.  Finally it was home time, so i raced off to the station boarded the train and settled into my seat. but sadly before long the story was over and this here is my biggest issue with small books. The story really just starts getting going then bang its over the book is finished and life must return to normal. Why cant we have books that are bigger. I’m a huge fan of a song of ice and fire by George R R Martin and numerous Tom Clancy books these are huge stories that go on for ever. Once i got home i did some googling and found out there are a few more stories in this series. Why couldn’t the author combine these and make one or 2 big books why does he have to break it up into 6 small books. With so many books in the series if i decide to get them all i then have to deal with the fact that i might get some from different publishing runs, which would then lead to different style covers and spins, which i really dislike as it messes with the ordering on my book shelves.

Did i enjoy the story, yes very much so. but did it bother me the book was so short, yes even more so. The real question here is does the fact that i really enjoyed the story overcome my distaste of short books and will i look to buy the sequels. probably not, not unless i can get them at a very cheap price. I am of the opinion that short novels are simple for younger readers who have shorter attention spans. I don’t want 6 books of 200-300 pages i want 1 or 2 of like 600 pages. So sadly here as mentioned above unless i can find the books at an equally cheap price such as what i bought this one for i probably wont be enjoying the rest of this series

so seriously, come on authors keep those creative caps on for just a little bit longer and write bigger stories and don’t be money hungry and split the story over several small books make it a big one

 

Matt