The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard ★★☆☆☆ DNF@55%

completestoriesofjgballard (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard
Series: ———-
Author: Jerry Ballard
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 1199/DNF@55%
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A massive collection of short stories by the author Jerry Ballard. Mainly from the 60’s and 70’s, Ballard’s stories one and all revolved around broken characters; broken mentally, broken physically, broken emotionally, broken psychologically, broken in any way you can imagine. The world is dystopian, hope has been removed and the inexorable pessimistic fate for humanity cannot be thwarted.

 

My Thoughts:

Ballard was a qualified writer, ie, he knew his craft and did it well. However, his style and subject matter destroyed any positives for me in that aspect. In the over 600 pages I read I would have expected SOME variety in the stories but nope, uniform brokenness was what Ballard thought and what he wrote. By the time I’d decided to DNF this, I wasn’t even depressed, I was simply bored. I imagine I felt like what an art connoisseur would have felt like if Edvard Munch had only painted Scream style paintings.

At the 25% mark I was raging inside. The brokenness of the characters really had gotten to me and I was sick that Ballard could write such people over and over and over. Every man was a coward in one way or another, every woman a harpy or drone. Then like I said earlier, I just got bored. You can only read the same type of character and story so many times before it stops having an impact.

Originally, this book was published in 2 separate volumes and honestly, I think that was the correct choice. This 1 volume was just too big. Maybe if you wanted to slowly read a story here and there every day or week and you could set this down whenever you wanted, you’d not get bored. I still would have gotten bored though and there was no way I was going to spend a prolonged time period with this author’s outlook. One week of reading it every day, approximately 100 pages a day (anywhere from 4-10 stories), was enough.

Ballard also hasn’t aged well. The wonders of psychology would solve all the problems, but of course with Ballard that was misused so it would create all the problems. In one story psychologists had been outlawed by a right-wing world order and the main character had gone to jail for trying to help someone in an underground psychology session. I don’t see Ballard becoming an enduring author. To the dustbins of history with him I say!

Finally, I couldn’t help but compare this massive collection to the volumes of short stories by Asimov that I read back in ’16. That was also a 2 volume collection, Volume One and Volume Two and together they about equaled the same number of pages as this. Their tone however, was much more positive and upbeat, which allowed the more negative stories in that collection to be more of a savory contrast, like sweet and sour chicken. Ballard was just sour chicken. That is only yummy if you’re a sick, sick individual.

★★☆☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Bookstooge & Star Wars: A Tragedy of Shakespearian Proportion

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Last month (or so) Ola and Pio from Re-Enchantment of the World, did a Nostalgia post on Star Wars.  If you haven’t read it and have any love of Star Wars, I highly recommend their post, it was fantastic! It also reminded me that I had been a big fan of Star Wars for a very long time.

I know that now whenever Star Wars is now mentioned I’m pretty negative about it. I don’t keep that a secret, whether it is about the books or new movies. But it wasn’t always that way.

I was born in the late 70’s and by the time Return of the Jedi had come out I was aware enough of Star Wars to know how awesome it was. Of course, that was mainly because a neighbor boy had almost all the toys.  But I became very well versed in the Star Wars lore based on those toys.  As time passed I watched the movies from the library, on vhs.  You might say I was as much a naive farm boy was Luke ever was.

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When the Special Edition vhs editions came out in ’97, I bought them and me and my siblings and some friends had a Star Wars party. I don’t remember what everyone dressed up as, but it was cool. We were pretty cool in fact and we loved Star Wars. Even now, when I don’t have a vhs player or anyway to watch these, I’m not giving them away. They have Memory Value to me, big time.

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After that, I began to devour the Star Wars Extended Universe books. The Thrawn Trilogy was my gateway, like for so many other people and it just went on from there. The EU was really expanding and a new Star Wars book would come out every couple of months it seemed like. Even with the bad ones I felt like I was swimming in gravy. When you’re 19, a year is a long time and anything from a niche cult classic was good.

I bought, played and beat the Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight video game on both Light and Dark paths.

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I bought the boxset of the audio tracks for the original trilogy too.

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Then the prequels came out. I can remember how EXCITED I was for Episode One.  I remember hearing someone say they didn’t think it was that great and I distinctly know the word “blasphemy” sped across my mind. I was convinced it was going to be so great.  On one of our field trips I saw the book in a bookshop and spent some of my very precious cash on it. I sat in the van the rest of the afternoon reading it instead of going on tours and seeing the Washington Monument and other such useless things. Star Wars was more important. Then I watched it with a group of guys at Bibleschool.  I enjoyed it immensely but deep down inside I realized exactly what that person who spoke blasphemy meant. It was not “Great” with a capital “G”.

But it didn’t matter because more and more books were coming out. Prequel books, Clone War era books, then the massive 21 books series collectively known as the New Jedi Order.  More and more and more books. The rest of the prequel movies came out as well and that was when everyone realized Lucas wasn’t the genius behind the original trilogy. We got lucky he didn’t direct them. But I still loved Star Wars.

Star Wars had moved from the Niche Cult Classic into the Main Stream and I was a fan. I watched Star Wars, I read Star Wars, I played Star Wars, I listened to Star Wars.

**STRONG AND PROFANE LANGUAGE. I APOLOGIZE AHEAD OF TIME**

Sadly, the prequels were the first small step onto my journey towards becoming a Non-Fan. When Lucas released the original trilogy on dvd for the first time, he fucked every fan in the ass with no lube, laughed at us and told us to shut the fuck up and ask for more. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please feel free to ask in the comments.

***END STRONG AND PROFANE LANGUAGE***

But the books kept on rolling out. The EU was growing. New characters were trying to emerge. Then the next big hit came. In 2014 the EU was declared Non-Canon. It was unceremoniously chucked out the window to make room for Disney, which Lucas had sold Star Wars to. Star Wars was now a common franchise whore. No longer a precious jewel to be cherished by her fans but a wildly successful money maker. George Lucas knew no shame and Disney never had any.

My hope, while just an ember, was still producing heat. The Force Awakens would surely redeem all these business decisions, right? Then I watched the movie and my final flame of hope flickered out.  Star Wars was now nothing but grey ash that greedy bullies had pissed all over.  A literal lifetime of fandom was dead. The only lesson I learned was to never become too invested in something you don’t control, because some jerk will eventually destroy it. Thus my Journey from Farmboy Jones to Darth Bookstooge was completed. (Man, I’m depressing myself here. Sorry about that.)

There is no happy ending for me here. The best I can do is to try to not rain on other peoples’ blogs when they go on about new Star Wars books and even then I know I’m not successful. See, I told you this was a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

ps,

My apologies for dragging Ola and Pio’s wonderfully upbeat post into such a sad one.

Pawn (Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War #1) ★★★☆☆

pawn (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Pawn
Series: Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War #1
Author: Timothy Zahn
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 350
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

19 year old alcoholic Nicole is on her own, living on the streets, moving from one gang to another to survive. Her latest leader, Bungie shows up one morning shot and he forces Nicole to take him to the nearest VA hospital where he kidnaps a doctor in the parking lot. Suddenly, all 3 are approached by tall silvery beings and fall into unconsciousness.

Nicole wakes up and finds out they have been kidnapped by aliens. They all have jobs at keeping the ship repaired but not all is as it seems. Bungie wants off the ship and runs away. Nicole finds an Arena where other species are fighting each other for food while the humans have more than enough. The beings instigating the fighting are the apparent rulers of the ship, but as more is revealed, Nicole realizes that absolutely nothing is what it appears to be.

The ship is a sentient being and something caused it to split into multiple personalities long ago. The humans repair is aimed at restoring unity while the “ship masters” are controlled by another segment of the ship.

Nicole is a Sibyl, one that can talk with the ship through the use of drugs. The drugs have the side affect of reducing her life span to about a year though. Nicole defies the ship masters and brings what peace she can between the species in the Arena. This gets her an audience with the ship itself and the book ends with Nicole planning out how she can restore the ship to its full mind.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a decent read but no more. Nicole had been so beaten down by life and by her extremely bad choices that she just wants to put her head down and survive. This was a coming of responsibility story instead of a story about an already responsible person. I always have a hard time with those kind of stories.

The next book in this series comes out in 2019 and I highly doubt I’ll read it. Nothing about this book gave me that zing, that pizazz that I had with Zahn’s books back in the day. I think that it is more about me changing than Zahn as an author. I am done with Star Wars so his SW books don’t tempt me and his last couple of non-SW books have been ok but nothing special. This leads me to conclude that I am pretty much done with Zahn and that just saddens me.

From the age of 16-21 I almost literally ate his books. They were the guiding lights by which I judged all others. He was the gold standard. And now? My tastes have changed; gold isn’t so attractive, I want juicy fruit and seared steaks. Now I’m sad 😦

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Devil in Miss Urd (Oh My Goddess! #11) ★★☆☆☆ (Manga Monday)

devilinmissurd (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Devil in Miss Urd
Series: Oh My Goddess! #11
Author: Kosuke Fujishima
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Kei, Bell and the gang all “win” a trip to a hotsprings. There, they run across Mara and they all decide to call a truce while on vacation. Of course, it is all a ruse by Mara to gain a strand of Urd’s hair, which she uses to make a clone of Urd. The clone is empty and needs a soul.

Mara kidnapps Urd and using junkstore equipment, separates her goddess half from her demon half. The demon half Mara sends into the clone and lets it loose. Belldandy realizes what is going on and knows that if one half of Urd’s soul perishes, the other will as well. So they can’t destroy Demon Urd, just try to subdue her. Goddess Urd gets free and with the help of Belldandy and Skuld, Urd is put back together again. Of course, there is an empty “Urd skin” lying around.

The book ends with a one shot story of Banpei the robot putting on the Urd skin and going around helping people.

 

My Thoughts:

This was amusing. Convoluted, silly and not well thought out, but amusing nonetheless.

I think my biggest problem with this series is that I constantly see the manga-ka undercutting himself in the longterm to get what he wants in the short term. Take Urd. She’s supposedly half-goddess and half-demon. Gods and Demons are supposedly the antithesis of each other, so how did she come about? And then it is revealed that even the Almighty couldn’t separate Urd’s two natures but we’re supposed to believe that imbecilic Mara can do it? It is just too evident that Fujishima is making things up as he goes and the inconsistancies are glaring.

Going to be talking to myself for a minute, so bear with it. This series is making me not want to read manga at all. I dread having to read this because it is so blah and this re-read has destroyed all my good memories of what I read before. The romance and humor that appealed to me when I was 24 has not matured along with me. I’ve outgrown this and cannot overlook the faults. And yet I paid for the whole 48 volumes. I feel like I’ve got a ball and chain wrapped around my neck and I’ve been tossed off the dock.

And when I put it as bluntly as that, I realize something. I don’t like this manga anymore and while I spent some good money on it, spending TIME on it will not justify the money. I need to cut my losses and just let it go. I am done with this series. Hopefully I can at least sell it on Craigslist and not lose all my money.

I think this final picture is appropriate. Goodbye Oh My Goddess! Only the anime ova shall live on in my memory. This manga has punished me enough.

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Sweet Belldandy. It wasn’t only Kei who was in love with you back then

★★☆☆☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Ghosts of Tomorrow ★★★☆½

ghostsoftomorrow (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Ghosts of Tomorrow
Series: ———-
Author: Michael Fletcher
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 396
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Mark Lokner has scanned himself and gone online while the world thinks he is dead. Just to be safe, Lokner1.0 has copied the scan and put Lokner2.0 into a secure digital space.

88, the scan of a young girl, gains her freedom and begins manipulating the real world so she will never be in danger again. This brings her into direct confict with Lokner1.0 AND Lokner2.0.

Agent Griffin Dickinson, with the military scan of Abdul Giordano, a 17 year old marine who died, is on the track of a group who illegally scan children. Scanning is a one way ticket and the head and brain are pureed after the fact. When 2 operations in a row go disastrously wrong for Dickinson, he’s about to quit. Then he gets a tip from 88 that sets him on the trail of the Lokners as the source behind all the illegal scans and children farms.

With the help of Abdul and an assassin scan loyal to 88, Dickinson must confront Lokner while the world around him is falling apart. It doesn’t help that 88 has her own plans for humanity and 88 has no mercy.

The book ends 1000 years in the future with scans as the de facto life form.

 

My Thoughts:

From a purely entertainment factor, this book was pure awesomesauce. Child assassins in suped up killer robot bodies, digital minds going insane, epic battles where scans take over electronics, massive and humongous acts of devastation, this had it all in spades.

Fletcher doesn’t shy away from brutality. Whether in thought or action, I as the reader was not spared. From the horror of how children are kept as livestock to be harvested for their brains and sold into slavery to the idea of corporations “selling” the idea of scans as a way to cheat death, for a mere 20year term of servitude, with all the attending small print we as citizens of the 21st century know to fear.

There was no hope. Griffin, the human who wants to be a hero and save the world, ends up being broken and then the woman he loved, who is now a scan, plots to have him killed so he can be scan’ed and join her. How soul destroying is that? Then the end where 88 turns all Skynet was so telegraphed that it didn’t really come as a surprise.

I thought Fletcher did an excellent job of portraying just how something like “scans” would work out in our world. How it might be used, abused, misused, etc. It was very eye opening. However, it was all predicated on the fact that a human brain could be digitized. If you think something like that could actually happen, then this was a very scary dystopean prophecy. If you don’t, then it’s just another prediction about a future by someone who has lost hope themselves.

While I enjoyed my time spent on this, I have to admit, I didn’t have any desire to seek out other books by this guy. I don’t enjoy wallowing in hopelessness and despair. It also didn’t help that I’m convinced that to you have to have a mind, body and will to be alive and to be human. Remove one and the other two are just ingredients, not something viably alive.

I did have one confusing issue. Most of this takes place in 2046 but right near the end things jump to 3052 but it feels like it should be 2152. It didn’t come across as a jump of 1000 years but just a generation. I might have mis-read though, as I don’t pay attention to dates real well in books.

If I see another Fletcher book really praised AND it has super cool over like this one, then I might seek it out. But if not, I’m good with having read just this one. Fletcher’s worldview is just too depressing for me.

★★★☆½

bookstooge

 

 

Curse of the Wendigo (The Monstrumologist #2) ☆☆☆☆½ DNF’d@64%

curseofthewendigo (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Curse of the Wendigo
Series: The Monstrumologist #2
Author: Rick Yancey
Rating: 0.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Horror
Pages: 464/DNF’d at 64%
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Will Henry and his master rescue a friend of the Monstrumologist’s at the man’s wife’s behest. Upon their return, they attend the annual Monstrumologist meeting in New York. The man is not better and the wife is an ex-fiance of the Monstrumologist.

I abandoned this at the 64% mark.

 

My Thoughts:

Warthrop the monstrumologist had a fiance who then married his best friend. The woman reveals that she is still in love with Warthrop and they commit adultery while the best friend lays dying in a hospital. Ouch, right?

Then there is this wonderful piece of narration about it from Will Henry:

‘Some would judge them. I do not.

If it was a sin, it was sanctified-

the trespass consecrated by the act itself.

He met himself in the purity of her eyes

and obtained absolution upon her altar.’

~Page 215

 

All I could think of was the verse from Isaiah:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20

What kind of messed up thinking is Yancey putting into his book? I want NO part of something so abhorrent. I DNF’d this book and I’m abandoning the series and I’m now going to avoid Yancey.

☆☆☆☆½

bookstooge