Deep Space 9: my reflections

ds9station

Let me open up with a clear statement of my position as a Star Trek fan, i’ve been on team-Next Gen for most of my life. Rewatching all the series pushed the original series WAAAAAY up in the running for me, with it coming in just a hair’s breadth under TNG. DS9 has always been the series that i liked the least out of all of them.

That’s where i’ve lived most of my life… but now… well, i think i’m team-DS9. The first two seasons were shaky but then you hit season 3. From season 3 onward the show just gets deeper and richer and better. The characters  run such an interesting spectrum and are so well developed. i rolled into DS9 with a mild fondness for Miles O’Brien but by the time i had wrapped up all 7 seasons of DS9 i was practically a fan-boy. i’m going on record as saying: any episode that centers around the Chief is a winner! His relationship with Keiko is so real and believable they could use clips of the O’Brien’s in marriage counseling.

Also of MASSIVE import was Captain Sisko’s relationship with his son Jake. One of the reasons that Star Trek holds such a special place in my heart is that the writers have always used Roddenberry’s brain-child as a platform to make commentary on relevant social issues. (that’s an entire post worth of material there, separate from this one though) When DS9 was airing there was some stigma (in politics and the press) about the absence of the African-American father. DS9 put a man of color in charge AND made him one of the most loving and devoted fathers that’s been portrayed in media. Even as Jake grew into a man and chose a different direction for his own life than his very successful father had Benjamin Sisko remained a loving and supportive father to his son. As a father Sisko is a role-model of fatherhood to me!

quark

Let’s take a minute to visit someone who may be my all-time favorite Star Trek Character… Quark! In TNG the Ferengi were a reoccurring nuisance and little more. In DS9 with Quark running his establishment that was such a central part to life on the station they got a lot more development. i’ve been an avid table top gamer since i was in upper elementary school and the Ferengi are the best example of a Lawful-Evil alignment in action. Quark lives and breathes the Rules of Acquisition, but has enough character development over the course of the show that it’s great to see him struggle when he wants to do good for his friends even though there’s no profit in doing so.

DS9 is a great show, character development across the board is amazing, story builds on story throughout the series. DS9 also has an amazing series closer. It has heart-warming moments, as well as more than a few tear-jerking moments. If you want to chat about Star Trek you’ll find me on the stool beside Morn in Quark’s, i’ll be the one wearing the “Team-DS9” T-shirt!

quarks mug
Mug i bought to commemorate wrapping up DS9

 

#66- Magician: Raymond E Feist

Magician: Raymond E Feist
Magician: Raymond E Feist

This series is much-loved by many, making several “top” lists. Maybe it just didn’t click with me…

The opener to Feist’s Riftwar series was a bit of a chore for me to power through. There were some moments, especially early on in the book, that gave me hope that things were going to gel between myself and the book… but it never came to fruition.

i felt like most of the characters were flat, filling archetype roles and not much else for me. The pacing seemed to drag on. It was a book filled with so many of the standard fantasy tropes that i just never really could engage with the story-line. \

The Tsurani were interesting, i wouldn’t mind to learn more about their culture and their war-like motivations, i’m just not sure i’m willing to read through two more books to get that information.

Magician isn’t a bad book at all (i know i’ve painted that picture of it). It’s just not as good as some of the other reads from NPR’s top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels of all time. It’s also not the worst i’ve read from the list so far (looking at you Sunshine!). All-in-all the best descriptor i have for it is “Meh”. i can see where someone could really fall in love with this world and the story, that someone just isn’t me.

Book Club of One grade: C-. If you really love the standard fantasy tropes grab a copy of this book. If you’re looking for something more in your fantasy reads, maybe look elsewhere. (The Way of Kings would be my most recent read i’d suggest.)

71: The Way of Kings -Brandon Sanderson

The Way Of Kings
The Way of Kings -Brandon Sanderson

If you needed to fortify your gates against an incoming horde and all you had were copies of this book… you’d be just fine! The Way of Kings is a CHUNK! Nearly as thick as it is wide. It’s like cracking open a great tome.

Often i find very lengthy books to be burdensome. (yet i’ll gladly gobble up a trilogy) They’re most often packed with fluff and flowery meaningless descriptors that pump that page count up. The Way of Kings is a hefty read, but it suffers from none of these issues.

What makes Sanderson’s novel different from so many other long fantasy novels? It’s long for a good reason: The pool that Sanderson has created for our imaginations to swim in is deep… i mean deeeeeep deeeeeeep. If it was a pool it’s not an olympic diving pool it’s more like the Deep Joy Y-40 (google it, totally worth the shallow dive into Wikipedia). He uses this depth to weave a dense story for us.

Also, unlike other long novels, the pacing manages to stay brisk. Rarely if ever feeling like it lags. He jumps between a few stories both of wich subtly build upon one another, not so much in interaction but in the knowledge of the world we the reader are gaining.

The world is rich and alien while still being understandable. Massive storms sweep across the land sporadically and all life on the world has adapted to survive them (that’s why vegetation withdraws into the earth, or protective shells, or lays down flat, etc etc etc). There are “magic”* swords, “magic”* armor, a sort of instantaneous transubstantiative alchemy, giant beasts, intriguing huminoid races….. Other than that i don’t think i’ll give any spoilers here.

Book Club of One grade: A+. It’s long, it’s dense, Characters fit into archetypes but in ways that feel refreshing. If you’re on the hunt for a big ol’ fantasy book, give this one a go.

 

*”Magic” in this book doesn’t feel like magic… it’s mysterious and handled more like a lost science. This is the first in the series so i’m excited to one day further my journey into this world and see how that unfolds.

70: The Time Travelers Wife -Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler’s Wife -Audrey Niffenegger

i have a weakness for a good chick-flick. Its a fact that few of even my close friends know about me. To me people who say they hate The Notebook are either lying or sociopathic! i’m also (as this Book Club of One project would indicate) pretty dang nerdy! So Time Traveler’s Wife manages to scratch two itches reeeeaaal good!

Niffenegger does a good job of putting a new spin on time travel. In TTW (long title, abreviation established… let’s just accept it for this post) time travel is sporadic, uncontrolable, mysterious. There’s not quantum particals, no Time And Relative Dimension In Space vehicle, no 1.21 Gigawatts or 88 MPH… there’s just Richard DeTamble bouncing around occasionally in the time continuum. Uncontrollable, sporadic, sometimes amusing, sometimes touching, often dangerous; he arrives T-800 style butt-naked.

Niffenegger paints some very interesting pictures with her novel. What happens if love between two people occurs out side of a predictible linear time-line? If good people appear random times and places without so much as their skivies how do they learn to cope with that?

Characters feel rich and developed, the story of Richard and Claire’s love together is equally rich. Most of the supporting cast also feel well rounded, complex, and interesting. The origins of the time travel problem are interesting. Some scenes are steamy enough to fog up a mirror but never feel distasteful. (side note: as a male i’m often very interested in how female authors write about sex and sexuality. Niffenegger did a good job depicting sexuality from both sides of the gender coin, both from Claire’s viewpoint and from Richard’s. Kudos)

Book Club of One grade: A+ i recomend this one with zero reservations. This is a book i’d throw into the ring of a non-nerd book club too, you know one with more than one person in it haha. Paced well, great characters, thought provoking, i’ll likely re-read this one agin in a few years.

79: Something Wicked This Way Comes -Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Something Wicked This Way Comes -Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes feels like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman sat down and wrote a project together… which since the book was published in 1962 i guess a better way to phrase that would be that Something Wicked feels like it should be a notable influence on the work of King and Gaiman.

We follow two boys in a small town in America in an age that has since moved on. An age when traveling circuses and carnivals moved around and set up temporary shop outside of towns for a week or so. An age when young boys left the house in the morning and played unsupervised until dinner time. The book proves to be both a glimpse into a world that no longer exists and a deep stare into the fears that plauge us.

Something Wicked is delightlfully surreal. The carnival rolls into town but arrives with odd and ominous portents of it’s true dark nature. A magic carosel features prominently in the story, a ride on this carosel is able to effect the age of the rider as they revolve around on it’s carved horses, either moving you forward or reversing the aging process. This proves to be a source of temptation for several charaters in the novel, including one of the main ones! As i continue to age, and especially now that a new tiny-human is a part of my life, aging is very much in the forefront of my mind many days. A recent trip with my own aging father highlighted the gravity of the passage of time on the human body even more. So i’ve read this book at a time in my life when this magical carosel is of extreme interest to me!

 

In short this roving band of supernatural and evil carneys come to town looking for the “food” they need… the essence and life-force of life itself. Our two main protagonists are both tempted and terrorized by the creepy carnival hands and their leader.

In the end one of the boys own aging fathers (he’s not old, just older than the father of a boy that age should be- yet another thing i can relate intimatly to right now) cracks the mystery of defeating the evil carneys and winds up in the end saving the day and the town (although the town is mostly unaware of the danger they were really in).

 

Book Club of One Score: Solid B: Bradbury does a great job painting this dark tale on the stark contrast of such a wholesome backdrop. Its a pretty easy read overall and dips into heavy enough subject matter that while not taking long to read it still sticks in my brain and gives me pause. It has a slight YA feel overall, which i like in a book from time to time (even as a grown man). Pick it up and give this one a go!

The Orville

The Orville
The Orville

i just wrapped up season 1 of The Orville. i’m not a huge fan of McFarlane’s other work, particularly Family Guy. i appreciate some of the humor and i’m convinced that McFarlane is this generation’s Mel Brooks. He’s able to make jokes few others would get by with. There is just a sort of self-congradulatory feel to much of Family Guy that leaves me feeling like i’ve just had dinner with one of my ruder, more arrogant aquaintences.

So i rolled into The Orville with low expectations.

Maybe it was my lowered expectations, or the strong cast, or the money they clearly sank into the special effects… or a combination of all of those factors. i wrapped up season 1 pretty satisfied overall!

The Orville starts off as a parody of the much loved (by me and many, many others) Star Trek universe. Just a few episodes in it seems to switch gears from parody to tribute. The Orville uses it’s platform to address current social issues that our world is dealing with today, and it often does so with a great blend of tact, humor, and irreverance. It’s got a softer edge than some of McFarlane’s other work but it drives points home possibly even harder than they do.

i started watching The Orville because i’m a Trek fan, i wanted to see how bad a Family Guy version of Trek would be… and now:

i’m just waiting around for season two to drop!

 

83: Consider Phlebas -Ian M Banks

Large ring structures that spin in space.
Consider Phlebas: Orbital

Consider Phlebas is the opening novel in the Culture Series, written by Banks.  The series is most often branded as a Space-Opera and i think that fits it just fine. It’s fast moving, full of big spectacular sci-fi tech that would make for great visuals on a movie screen, and the characters are often fast-talkers who are entertaining to the reader.

The opener focuses on a “changer” named Horza. From a fading race of humanoids who are basically sci-fi doppelgangers (with a few extra bells and whistles, poison bells and whistles).  He’s the fastest talker of them all in the book and throughout his dialogue was probably my favorite thing in the book.

A little like Perdido Street Station the book reads like watching someone’s table-top RPG campaign, one with lots of charisma based checks in it. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail.

Book Club of One Score: B-; if you want a hefty book that’s still a fast-paced read and want your imagination to soar at the visuals then consider Consider Phlebas (see what i did there?).

#63: The Road-Cormac McCarthy

The Road
The Road -Cormac McCarthy

The Road is New-Moon midnight stroll dark… It’s dark roast coffee with no cream dark…. It’s vanta-black dark!

That’s just a friendly PSA for those of you who don’t like dark things. This book though… So good!

Set in an indeterminite dystopian future where the world lays in ash and waste with no foreseeable source of even food production in sight. The story follows the journey of a father and son as they head towards the coast and whatever hope that may offer.

The trials they encounter and navigate along the way are gut-wrenching. They both feel like real people who react to things and each other in realistic fashion. The dynamic between the two feels so real with the father often speaking harshly to the boy when he doesn’t react quickly enough in dangerous situations and then comforting him lovingly afterwards.

i really can’t put into words how much i like The Road. It’s hard to read, i had read it a few years back and re-read it for Book Club of One. Even on a re-read it was still as jarring as it was the first time through.

Book Club of One score: A+. Well written, solid characters with complex interactions. Dark and bitter. If you have a hankering for a story WITHOUT a happy ending, you certainly can’t go wrong with this masterpiece.

#84: The Crystal Cave -Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave
The Crystal Cave -Mary Stewart

 

The Crystal Cave follows the development of Merlin from the Arthurian mythos before he was THE MERLIN we all have ingrained into our imaginations. It follows his growth from a child into a young man.

The story has some twists and turns along the way, with Merlin fleeing multiple times for his life, establishing himself a few times by the cleverness of his mind and wraps up with him manipulating Uthur into treachery that will ultimately lead to the birth of Arthur, an event that Merlin has foreseen.

The book was well written and the characters compelling. It’s interesting how Stewart weaves fantasy with history in this book.

Book Club of One score: B-. It’s a solid book, actually one of my most enjoyable “Arthur books” (The Once and Future King being my all-time favorite of the genre). i found out that it’s part of a series, a series that i could one day see myself returning to. i think overall i enjoyed Stewart’s writing more than the content of the book. Her writing has a nice tempo and is nuanced and interesting to me. If you love Arthurian stuff and want some “prequel” action this could be your best bet!

#74: Old Man’s War -John Scalazi

Old Man's War
Old Man’s War -John Scalzi

Old Man’s War is a seriously fun ride from start to finish.

It’s got some graphic violence, some thoughtful dialogue, heartfelt moments, irreverent moments, cool sci-fi tech, and low-fi likable characters.

The book follow the adventures of John Perry a 75 year old starting his career in the Colonial Defense Force as an infantryman. While set in the future humans haven’t achieved any extended longevity, so a 75 year old military recruit has the potential for some real entertainment value. What has the potential for even MORE entertainment value? A whole army of 75 year old military recruits! Ships and ships full of them!

Spoiler: they all get new, heavily modified and augmented, bodies. Scalazi does an interesting job digging into the what-ifs of 75 year old minds in super-human 20-something year old bodies. Perry’s brief moment with his old body (while in his new body) had me a lil’ misty!

While keeping a brisk pace that makes this book what i consider an “easy-read” Scalazi touches on themes like: Consciousness and identity, and the morality of war… you know the light fluffy stuff.

 

Book Club of One grade: A. Fun & Fast but with some meat on the bones here and there. Old Man’s War would make a great read to pack for a trip! If you want a the literary equivalent to a sci-fi Die Hard pick this book up! i liked Old Man’s War so much that when i found out it was a series i got genuinely excited! i fully plan to dip back into this world!