January readings

I always do better at the beginning of the year than later on, so I’m not going to crow too much about being on track for reading 50 this year, particularly since two are graphic novels that took less than 20 minutes to read. Nevertheless, here’s the round-up:

The first and last books I read this month are The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony by John Scalzi. Continuing on in the Old Man’s War universe, the first is from the perspective (mostly) of Jane Sagan, although not in the first person like OMW. The second is once again from first person perspective of John Perry. While TLC explains more of the politics of the OMW universe, I found TGB to be more interesting reading due to the issues of sentience and self-hood that Scalzi explores in the story. The fourth book, Zoe’s Tale, is on my reading list for this month.

Star Trek: Art of the Film is one that I read and reviewed for Blogcritics. It’s “is part coffee table book and part behind-the-scenes glimpse at the creation of the film.” Most of what I have to say about it, I said in the review, so check that out if you’re interested.

I started reading the new Wonder Woman comic series last year, and I found that I’m missing the context of an incredible amount of backstory, so I picked up copies of the first two trade paperbacks, Who Is Wonder Woman? and Love and Murder. It’s still a bit confusing, since even though they are the start of a new series, there is still an underlying assumption that the reader is familiar with the history of Wonder Woman. Me, I just vaguely remember the TV show. Anyway, I think I’ll continue getting the trade paperbacks instead of the single issues. It’s more cost-effective, and I need the longer story arcs to keep track of what’s happening.

#1-6

I read a book a bout karaoke and then a series on the Vulcan/Romulan/Reman history through the present.

Kicking off 2009 with a bunch of books read. I’m sure this spurt will be the only one of the year, but at least it’s a good place to start.

1. Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life by Brian Raftery

I reviewed this one for Blogcritics, so I’ll write more about it later in the January roundup. I will say now that it is an engaging read and inspired me to be a bit more regular in my karaoke outings.

2. Vulcan’s Forge by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

This is a Star Trek book, as one might surmise from the title, and it’s the first of five connected books by these two authors, spread out over a number of years. The events take place in the present day, which is set shortly after Kirk was taken by the Nexus as seen in Star Trek: Generations, as well as in the past, which is set around the time when Spock officially enters adulthood. As one might expect, the events are connected, both by the individuals involved and the similarities of the locations.

Spock is a favorite character of many fans, and I am not an exception. Sherman and Shwartz clearly spent a great deal of time getting inside his head, and the readers benefit from this. Throughout the book, we see his inner struggle between his Vulcan and Human heritages. It’s one of the things I like most about him – that struggle between multiple identities and ways of life, which are all valid and true to himself.

The story itself, though, was only passable, and the best thing I can say for it is that it set up the events told in the next book.

3. Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

This book, in contrast to the first one, stays almost entirely in the present, which is set around the time of Picard’s captaincy of the Stargazer. The story begins, however, a few years earlier with the betrothal between Spock, who is now an Ambassador for the United Federation of Planets and no longer a Starfleet officer, and Commander Saavik, who is well on her way to becoming a Captain.

These two end up separately traveling under cover to the Romulan homeworld to help dissidents (and the Federation) stop the corrupt government’s plans to start an interstellar war. Unfortunately for both, they don’t realize until it’s too late that they have begun to enter pon farr, which adds an unexpected layer of difficulty and danger to their respective missions.

Sherman and Shwartz deftly weave in events familiar to those of us who have already seen their aftermath, such as the fate of the Enterprise C and her crew, and draw connections between events and people that are pleasantly unexpected. I was so wrapped up in this book that even though it was very late and I was very tired, I couldn’t fall asleep until I finished it.

4. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book One: Exodus by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

This was the book that inspired me to read the others first. When I bought it and read it a few years ago, I didn’t realize that it was the start of a trilogy and the middle part of an over-arching story line, so I struggled to fill in the gaps of information referenced by the authors. It was not a pleasant experience, but it inspired me to collect all of the related books and read them, as I have done now.

This book tells a version of the events of the Vulcan philosopher Surak’s life that led to the embrace of logic over emotionalism and the eventual end of the devastating wars on Vulcan. However, rather than the usual history that those who left Vulcan at that time to become Romulans were those who rejected Surak’s logic, this story tells of scientists and others who embraced logic and decided to take their knowledge out of the war machine equation in order to preserve the Vulcan race, as it seemed that the eventual destruction of the planet was inevitable.

The Vulcan/Romulan history is only part of the story, though. The book alternates between the history (“memory”) and the present, which is set shortly after the end of the Dominion War. An unknown and powerful species calling themselves the Watraii have destroyed a Romulan colony and have declared that they want nothing less than the total destruction of the Romulans, who they claimed stole their homeworld. Admiral Spock and Captain Saavik, along with Admiral Chekov and the Romulan exile Ruanek, are sent on a clandestine mission to somehow stop the Watraii and attempt a peaceful negotiation with them, if possible.

Now that I have read the two books that introduced some of the characters involved, such as Ruanek, and the events referenced, this book makes a little more sense than it did the first time I read it. However, the jumping around of times and places makes it very difficult to follow what happened when, even thought the authors have helpfully noted the years when appropriate.

5. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book Two: Exiles by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

Unfortunately, not everyone who left with the ships were followers of Surak, and not everyone who left made it to what became Romulus and Remus. This book tells the story of their 100+ year journey across uncharted space, and their search for a livable planet that did not already have sentient life on it.

It seems that the politics and fighting that drove them into space have followed them there. Ultimately, this leads to death and betrayal, and we learn more about the history of the Remans — the Vulcans who made Remus, Romulus’ non-rotating twin planet, relatively habitable — and the reason for their second-class status in Romulan society.

Meanwhile, in the present, tensions between the Watraii and the Romulans remain high, as well as those between the Romulans and the Federation. The Romulans believe that the Federation’s unwillingness to side with them against the Watraii is a betrayal, particularly since the Romulans had fought along with the Federation against the Dominion. However, the Federation is unwilling to trust their long-time enemy and sometime ally, particularly since it is not unreasonable to believe that the Romulans would have taken a planet that was not theirs, as the Watraii claim.

Once again, Captain Saavik and Ambassador Spock lead a clandestine mission to retrieve a valuable historical object that the Watraii stole from the Romulans, as well as to rescue Chekov who had been captured by the Watraii and who the had believed to be dead. This time, they are joined by Captain Scott and Commander Data, as well as Ruanek, of course.

By the end of this book, it is fairly clear where the story is going, and I had a pretty good idea of who the Watraii are and the source of their beef against the Romulans, but Sherman and Shwartz had a few more surprises left for the next book.

6. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book Three: Epiphany by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

While it is true that the Romulans are essentially the same race as the Vulcans, with a few adaptations that came from the radiation exposure in their long voyage and the biology of the planet they found, it is not true that the Remans are the same. We learn why in this book, and it is not at all what I expected. We also, finally, learn the origins of the people calling themselves the Watraii.

Things are not going very well in the present, either, and once again the usual cast of characters are called in to rescue a captive and stop a war, with a little help from Captain Picard’s Enterprise. As you might expect, they succeed.

The book ends on an odd note. You might recall the female Romulan Commander from the original series episode “The Enterprise Incident.” She wasn’t given a name in the episode, as far as I can tell, but Sherman and Shwartz have dubbed her Charvanek. She has played an important role in the events of the previous four books, and surprisingly, the authors chose to make her reflection upon the events between the cessation of hostilities with the Watraii, through Shinzon’s praetorship, and finally to whatever may come after the events depicted in Star Trek Nemesis. It’s an interesting element of character development, but it also leans a bit too far towards being an info dump.

books read: 2008

No surprise that I did not meet the 50 book challenge again this year, and considering how few books I read in the latter half of the year, I’m not surprised to discover that I read fewer than I did in 2007. Oh, well! I’ve come to accept that the goal will likely not be met, and is simply the carrot I dangle in front of my bookshelf face.

This year featured much more non-fiction than what is reflected in my TBR collection, since I ended up mostly reading books I was reviewing for publications, or in a few cases, books that I was discussing with others at work. I’ve been keeping track of my reading on GoodReads, and you can follow it in real time if you are so inclined.

  1. Open Your Heart With Geocaching by Jeannette Cézanne (non-fiction)
  2. Lipstick & Dipstick’s Essential Guide to Lesbian Relationships by Gina Daggett and Kathy Belge (non-fiction)
  3. Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Space Between (fiction)
  4. The Purrfect Murder by Rita Mae Brown (fiction)
  5. Eccentric Cubicle by Kaden Harris (non-fiction)
  6. Stewards of the Flame by Sylvia Engdahl (fiction)
  7. Wikipedia: the Missing Manual by John Broughton (non-fiction)
  8. Star Ka’at by Andre Norton and Dorothy Madlee (fiction)
  9. How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation by Marc Bousquet (non-fiction)
  10. Scion’s Blood by Pat Nelson Childs (fiction)
  11. Dragon Harper by Anne & Todd McCaffrey (fiction)
  12. Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas (non-fiction)
  13. Everyday Cat Excuses: Why I Can’t Do What You Want by Molly Brandenburg (non-fiction)
  14. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (fiction) (re-read)
  15. Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov (fiction)
  16. Out Front With Stephen Abram: A Guide for Information Leaders by Judith A. Siess and Jonathan Lorig (non-fiction)
  17. The Starship Trap by Mel Gilden (fiction)
  18. The World Is Your Litter Box: A How-to Manual for Cats by Quasi, with Minor Help from Steve Fisher (non-fiction)
  19. A Year of Festivals by Lonely Planet Publications (non-fiction)
  20. Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty (fiction)
  21. Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown (fiction)
  22. slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte (non-fiction)
  23. Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller (non-fiction)

reviews on blogcritics: november

So, I didn’t end up catching up as much as I thought I would. Hopefully, I can do that in the next few weeks.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Live in Japan

This live album includes many of the band’s popular tunes, and serves as a “best of” recording much better than any compilation of their past studio work could attempt to do, mainly because as precise and flawless as the studio recordings can be, they do not convey the energy contained in a live performance, which is a significant part of their appeal. [more]

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte

…Duarte outlines the elements that make up an effective presentation design, and provides many real-world examples of these elements in action. She does not give too many details on specific tools and functions within particular slide presentation programs; instead, she provides the reader with the design theory needed to create an effective presentation. [more]

P!nk – Funhouse

Beginning with the post-relationship celebrity breakdown of “So What,” P!nk tells stories of substance abuse, co-dependency, and emotional/physical abuse. Alternatively cursing her lover and also pleading with them to not leave, she explores the complexity that led to the broken ending that began the album. [more]

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 3 Remastered

The visual enhancements, for the most part, are not noticeable unless one is obsessively familiar with every detail of the original format, and in most cases, they stand out only against scenes that did not clean up quite as well.

LITA 2008: Hi-Fi-Sci-Fi-Library: Technology, Convergence, Content, Community, Ubiquity and Library Futures

Presenter: Michael Porter, WebJunction

Hi-fi is usually associated with audio equipment, but fidelity is very much related to our work: interoperability, compatibility, quality of the document, etc.

When you distill what libraries are and what they do, it comes down to content and community, and this is what libraries will still be in the future. Star Trek’s LCARS stands for Library Computer Access and Retrieval System — even those folks thought that the “library” would be that integrated into everything in the future.

The line between hardware and software is blurring now, particularly with software that can emulate hardware. Costs for technology are decreasing, computing power is increasing, and battery life is getting longer. There are newer and better methods of creating content, and competition for content provision is getting fierce. And, you can find community all over the Internet.

The Google Android phone is actually just software that is open source and can be used by any wireless phone manufacturer, and can be hacked by any coders who want to enhance the functionality. The Bug is hardware that comes in components that can be hooked together to created whatever you need, like a digital camera or portable computer.

Audio test for the video section – Rickroll!

The Time Machine: Computer interface in the library is represented as a human hologram. Also, the reference interview was… a bit rude. Books were represented as being behind preserved glass, and the students carried hand-held pads to download content.

Star Trek IV: Human-computer interaction in the Star Trek future uses voice recognition, but in 1985, that wasn’t possible.

Star Trek IV: Spock is working with three monitors, each presenting different problems. He uses a mixture of voice and tactile inputs to respond.

Futurama: 1000 years in the future, we will still have books and the Dewey Decimal System.

I, Robot: “ban the Internet to keep the libraries open”

Futurama: Will be able to get physical things from the Internet. We already have printers that can print in 3-D!

How William Shatner Changed the World: TNG wanted us to get the notion that we should not be afraid of technology.

Minority Report: Manipulates computer visuals using hi-tech gloves.

How William Shatner Changed the World: Modern-day physicist uses his knowledge to examine the realistic possibilities of Star Trek.

Zardoz: Ring that projects data.

Futurama: Librarians hold the keys to power, but it doesn’t always appear that way.