Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ahh...Olomouc
I'm staying in Olomouc in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. It is a very laid back little city. The center is quite nice - imagine a smaller, more laid back Prague that hasn't had a face-lift for every building in the center and has a tiny fraction of the crowds. The wonderful Czech beer is still very cheep here - about 70 cents U.S.
I'm working very long hours, so no reading and no time for playing at tourist. Only time for a few beers and dinner before the only-too-short night's sleep. Oh well, it could be worse (easy to say since I'm in a hotel with high-speed internet access and air conditions - an unexpected luxury).
On Sunday it's off to the western side of the country and unknown hotel accomodations. I doubt I'll have it as good as here in Olomouc.
Anyway, I'm not much farther in my reading as before, so it'll be a couple weeks before the next review is up.
Ciao!

Friday, July 21, 2006

What Day Is It Again?

Still fighting a bit of the jet lag, but hopefully I’m getting past that. The real kicker in Frankfurt is the heat – air conditioning people! I live in Arizona, and it’s very hot there – this time of hear highs around 110 or more. But when it’s that hot, you just don’t go outside much, you stay in and enjoy the air conditioning.

In Frankfurt, highs are in the mid to upper 90s. Yes, cooler than Phoenix, but it’s more humid and air conditioning is sparse. Yep, my company’s office has no AC, my hotel room – no AC. It cools down nicely at night, but the sun doesn’t go down until almost 10pm – it makes it tough for someone going to bed early to fight jet-lag to actually sleep in a west-facing room with no AC and no fan. So, I’m a bit cranky due to the lack of AC. I look forward to heading to Czechia where it should be a bit cooler, though I imagine there won’t be AC there either.

Goal for the day: Don’t get on the wrong train when going back to the hotel!

I started The Name of the Rose on the plane. I’m enjoying so far, but it is not going to be a fast read. It’ll probably be a week or more before I get another review up. So, please don’t abandon me :) - keep coming back for the nice travel experiences of this typical spoiled American traveling and working in Europe. And by typical I’m referring to my wonderful language skills of English – no other languages for me (my mostly forgotten, broken Spanish doesn’t get me far in Germany).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Neth International

Well, a big opportunity has come at work and it looks like I’ll be traveling for a while. I’m flying to Frankfurt, Germany tomorrow and will head down to the Czech Republic for field portion of the project. What this means is that I will have sporadic access to the internet and be quite busy besides, so updates may not happen until I’m back, which will be sometime around August 12th.

I’m currently reading Sarum, which is a large hardback, but I don’t want to travel with such a beast of a book. I’ll bring several books and may even have time to write up a review as I finish, we’ll see – no promises. I plan to take His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and whatever else from The Stack that looks good.

I’ll be in rural Czech – I’ve been to Prague before and will probably avoid it since it’s so crowded this time of year. Any suggestions of places to visit in my spare time for either Czech or the Frankfurt area are appreciated.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Another Robert Jordan Update


RJ has posted to his blog another update in his fight with amyloidosis. The chemotherapy doesn’t seem to have worked, but at least things aren’t advancing at the moment. His entering into a test program, so there is still hope on the medical science front, but chances are fading as are probable life spans.

But, he still has a great attitude towards things, better than I would.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Hope No One I Actually Know is Reading
The whole blogging process is at once interesting, fun, liberating, uninhibiting, self conscious, embarrassing, a waste of precious time, a good distraction, informative, and loads of other descriptors that I could come up with. But what does all this say about what I really think of SF, or fear that others think?

As I gain more popularity and visibility, I’ve struggled with some internal thoughts – what happens if someone I actually know is reading (not of my ‘internet friends’ or frints as I think of them), or shudder-the-thought of my wife or other family member visiting. Is this another example of hiding the cover of the book I’m reading, or leaving the jacket behind? Am I that embarrassed that I’m a blogger, and not just a blogger, but a one who blogs about SF books?

What about you guys out there in the blogosphere? I doubt many of you who are ‘doing your job’ struggle much with this, but how about those like me who do this as more of a hobby? Do your friends and family know of your blogging. Are frints distinguished from real-life friends? Am I just dating myself as someone who missed the cyber-train by a few years?

I know that I crave the anonymity of it all – I don’t want real world people to know this side of my personality. So, I’ll keep going as I do, in the dark corners of home and office, anonymously blogging away about my precious genre books.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The tale of Arthur, Merlyn, Lancelot, Guenever, and the round table is immortal and The Once and Future King by T.H. White, first published in 1958, is arguably the most respected modern version of these events and a widely acknowledged classic of fantasy. White loosely bases his retelling of this famous legend from the text of Le Morte D'arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, dating to the 15th century. He tells the tale in four parts: The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind, with a fifth part published separately as The Book of Merlyn.

The Sword in the Stone covers the life of Arthur as a child, when Merlyn comes to him as his teacher and provides inspiration for the Disney movie of the same name. Arthur has no knowledge of his birthright and believes he is destined to be merely a page to his bully-ish foster brother Kay. The Wart, as Arthur is known, has many adventures, including conversations with beasts and outlaws, and an encounter with a sword stuck in a stone.

The Queen of Air and Darkness focuses on the childhood of the Orkney faction, the sons of King Lot and Queen Morgause. We see their troubled childhood and anticipate the trouble it will cause.

The Ill-Made Knight is the tale of the greatest knight in the world – Sir Lancelot Dulac. Lancelot is not the dreamy hero anticipated, but a troubled man of conflicted emotions and loyalty. We see the blossoming love with Guenever, the quest for the Holy Grail, and the trappings of Elaine.

The Candle in the Wind concludes The Once and Future King with the story of Arthur’s downfall, the love quadrangle of Arthur, Lancelot, Guenever, and God, and the tragedy of Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son of Queen Morgause.

The voice of The Once and Future King sets it apart from the usual re-telling of the myth of Arthur and his round table. White takes a conversational tone at times, jumping in and out of the time and point of view of his subject with commentary on Malory’s original telling. This tone is both a curse and blessing on the tale, sometimes annoying, sometimes amusing.

One suffering of White’s telling is the lack of that extra something that makes the reader truly care for the characters. This is a tragic tale, yet I never felt sorry for the characters, I never connected with them as I should have. Perhaps it’s due to the conversational voice I mention above, but whatever its origin, the story never overcomes this.

The Candle in the Wind sets itself apart from the rest of book as the best written installment. White finally manages to get me to care about the characters, and it ends well. The tone become much more serious and reflections of ‘modern’ times shine through as Europe repairs from WWII and the Cold War takes over.

The Once and Future King is a classic of fantasy (it says it right on the cover), one of the best known versions of the story of King Arthur, and therefore, a must read in the pantheon of Arthur, but not a book without flaws. On my 10-point rating scale, The Once and Future King rates a 6, not as high as anticipated, but still a decent read.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I Wish I Said That

Sometimes, you close a book with the distinct feeling that you'll only truly get it if you read it again, preferably right away. Of course you don't, since there are twenty other books waiting. So, you tell yourself, you'll save it for a time when you'll be able to truly appreciate it.

Some time later, you're about to write a review, and you still didn't get the time for a second reading. And you know that, while there are a thousand things you want to say about this book, you'll probably miss the most important one, since you don't know it yet.
-
Jakob Schmidt, a review at SF Site

I won’t pretend that I’m a particularly talented reviewer, so generally when someone says something better than I do (a rather common occurrence), I just move right on. But the above quote hit me – this is appropriate so often that I wish I’d said it first; it can be said of many of the best books that I’ve read.

The two books that I’ve read lately that jumped into my mind are
Kafka on the Shore and to a slightly lesser extent, City of Saints and Madmen. What comes to mind when you read it?

On a related note, this is yet another reason why I simply must read
Vellum soon.

Erikson and Esslemont Release Dates!
Good news about release dates from Transworld via Pat over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist.

At the moment we’re due to publish NIGHT OF KNIVES and RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD in May 2007 following the publication of Steven Erikson’s REAPER’S GALE (Malazan Book of the Fallen 7) in March.

I can hardly wait.

On my own reading progress - well it's been busy. I should finish up The Once and Future King later this week. I haven't decided what to read next, but it will probably be something set in the UK. In the fall I'm traveling to England/Scotland/Wales and in preparation of that trip, I'm reading a bunch of books set over there - mostly with a SF slant.

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