Category: Books

Game of Thrones Fans: What to do AFTER the Finale

I know, I know.
There are only 3 episodes left. What will you DO after the finale?
Fear not. I’ve got your back.

I hear a lot about the “originality” of the HBO production of Game of Thrones. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like the show. I loved the books, even though George R.R. Martin dramatically slowed down writing them, allowing the series to slide past the books in terms of telling the story. When told of his readers’ dissatisfaction, this was his reaction:

Some of this was…kinda complimentary, considering Martin isn’t a spring chicken any longer. He’s not that old, but still. Some readers are definitely concerned he’ll die before finishing the book series, and that would be…well, terrible.

But seriously, books aside, what are you going to do when GoT ends? I’ve got a series of books for you to read that honestly, is partially responsible for Game of Thrones.

In January of 1990, Robert Jordan published the book he had started writing in 1984, The Eye of the World. The series that sprang from that book became The Wheel of Time, consisting of 14 books (plus a much shorter novella). The finale, A Memory of Light, was published in 2013, almost 6 years after Jordan died. Fortunately, Jordan had prepared extensive notes prior to his death, and the excellent novelist Brandon Samuelson was engaged to finish the last book and a half. He did a fantastic job, completing the complex narrative in a most satisfying way.

So, the idea of a popular novelist dying before finishing his series isn’t unheard of.

I’m not sure about the relationship between George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan, and don’t even know if they knew each other. But, let me warn you: If you begin reading Jordan’s work and find yourself thinking hey, this guy’s ripping off Game of Thrones!.

No, he didn’t. Not saying the opposite is true, just saying WoT was first published in 1990. The first book in the GoT series, A Song of Ice and Fire popped off the presses in 1996. The stories are very different, but both relate to a coming darkness, and the need for many warring nations to come together to defeat the encroaching evil. There’s no real “game of thrones,” but there is much discussion and narrative regarding a “game of houses,” where different families play politics that can get pretty involved.

If you give WoT a try, please resist blaming Jordan for copying Game of Thrones because he’s not. Not saying Martin copied the Wheel of Time series, just that there will things that remind you of GoT.

Review: Red Shirts by John Scalzi

At first, I liked Red Shirts, by John Scalzi (Old Man’s War,The Collapsing Empire and the second book ofThe Interdependency series, The Consuming Fire). I love Scalzi’s writing. His space-action is absolutely riveting, the plots have just the right amount of complexity and twists, and he’s funny as hell.

So, I liked Red Shirts, until about a third of the way in, when things change quite a bit, and not everything (and everyone) are exactly what they seem to be. I lost interest.

Then, needing something handy to read, I see it still in my library, and I dipped back into it, and freaking loved it. It was a very strange experience. I liked the book until I didn’t, but then returned to it and as I finished it, realized that I had just finished reading one of my top 10 favorite sci-fi books ever.

Yes, EVER. And I read a lot.

Red Shirts hits on so many cylinders, I feel like I bought a 4-banger Toyota Somethingorother, and driving it off the lot, discovered it’s a 12 cylinder Mercedes AMG luxury machine.

Unfortunately, discussing everything that makes the book so great would require me to spoil it a bit, so I won’t. Probably just as well, since I’d start running at the mouth and not stop until I’d rolled past 40K words, and that would just be sad. I’m a writer too, behind on a couple projects, and generating that many words for a blog that makes me no money at all, would be…unfortunate.

Suffice it to say that if you are a sci-fi fan, you will love Red Shirts in at least two different ways. Yes, early on, Trek fans will think, either hey, you’ve ripped off Roddenberry, or will be suspicious about it. That’s good. Go with that.

Audible listeners will perhaps, be a little misguided by Wil Wheaton’s narration. His performance, as in The Interdependency Series books, is perfect, but the “red shirt” thing, being read by Wesley, may spin you a bit.

Again, go with it.

I liked Red Shirts until I didn’t, but then loved it tremendously. This is a must-read, and to really enjoy it, a must-listen.

17 stars out of 5!

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Gray Eagles and Dead Trees

I’ve always loved to read. At times, my dedication to consuming the printed word rivaled my son’s devotion to Minecraft, as hard as it is to believe. A couple weeks after Amazon introduced the first Kindle, I bought one, and over the next couple years, transitioned to first mostly, then completely, ebooks. I don’t buy bound (dead tree) books anymore, but it’s not out of a sense of ecological responsibility, just the desire for simplicity. I love having virtually my entire library on a small device that’s with me all the time, whether it’s a Kindle, a tablet, or my phone.

Reading recreationally is no longer a thing that requires preparation (did I remember to bring the books I’m reading? All of them? Jeesh, this bag is heavy).

One of my favorite novels of all time, is by Duane Unkefer, titled “Gray Eagles.” It’s the story of a group of former World War Two Luftwaffe pilots who are invited to a flying vacation complete with fully restored Messerschmidt 109s, not only painted up like the planes they all flew three decades before (the story is set in Phoenix in the 1970s) but armed to the teeth. Naturally, they proceed to use the terrible warplanes as they were intended, striking one more blow for the Luftwaffe.

The action in “Gray Eagles” is good, the flying sequences accurate and believable, the characters well-drawn and likeable. It’s a really good novel. I first bought and read “Gray Eagles” right after the paperback came out, in 1986, and loved it. A few years ago, I went on Amazon, looking for a hard cover edition so I could make it a permanent part of my collection. Despite the book being out of print now, I found a hardback and bought it. I came across that book a few days ago, and decided to read “Gray Eagles” again, and it’s just as delightful, thrilling and suspenseful.

It’s also a pain in the ass.

I’ve become so accustomed to the convenience of reading on a Kindle, iPad or Nexus 7 tablet, that flipping pages and trying to keep the book propped open so I could read without my hands having to be constantly engaged proved to be a challenge. Sad to say, it’s really annoying. In many circumstances, I like old-school tools, pens, notebooks, and my beloved Blackwing pencils, but reading the printed page, ink on paper, machine bound, is simply…A pain in the ass.

I love “Gray Eagles,” but as soon as I’m done with it, I’m back to my Kindle. I’m a little bummed about this, and not completely comfortable abandoning the tactile joy of a well bound book, but the benefits definitely outweigh the loss.

Review: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10

One word: Amazing.

Two words: Heart breaking.

Three words: Well, you get the idea.

Marcus Luttrell survived one of the most difficult ordeals imaginable, when he and his fellow SEALs were discovered on a mountainside, conducting surveillance on an Afghan village, looking for an enemy commander who had just recently masterminded a bombing that killed several U.S. Marines. When faced with the decision to kill three civilian prisoners, including one young boy, or suffer the consequences of letting them go, they did the latter, only to have the Afghan civilians run straight to the guerillas for whom capturing and beheading American soldiers (or civilians, for that matter) makes for a great day.

When the ordeal was over, three American SEALs were dead, and Marcus Luttrell was severely wounded and emotionally whole, but scarred for life. Probably over 100 Afghan fighters were dead.

Lone Survivor is a story of American fighting men beating frightening odds, and has been made into a major motion picture, starring Mark Wahlberg, out in December. I’ll condense the review to this:

Read the book and then go see the movie. You will be glad you did. God bless the United States Navy SEALs.

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