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Friday, December 15, 2017

The Circle - Dave Eggers

When Annie first offers Mae a job at the technology giant, The Circle, Mae turns it down at first. But after she grows tired of her dead end job and horrible boss, she decides to take the offer.

"Customer Experience" is easy for Mae, but when she finds being social both on campus and online somewhat challenging at first. Her loyalty to the company is questioned when she disappears for a weekend to care for her family, but when it's revealed the company can get her parents on much needed medical coverage, Mae quickly changes her attitude. Wooed by campus culture and tantalized by a mysterious lover who comes and goes unbidden, Mae sinks deeper into isolation from the real world.

As Mae's status grows in the company and she rises in popularity on social media, she abandons her old life and her humanity.

While I enjoyed the story and seeing how far the CEOs of The Circle were willing to go to complete their vision, I found Mae to be an extremely bland character. With the novel being written in third person limited there should have been more internal conflict and personal revelation in the narrative.

The Circle illustrates how some people may be easily led, while others will resist until the end. Worth reading for political and social commentary, but not for character development.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tuning the Symphony - William C Tracy

Rilan Ayama has been training to become full Majus for years, practicing her talents in changing the Grand Symphony. Although she will be facing the tests alone against the instructors, she will be graded against her rival Vethis and only one of them can become Majus. The other will have to wait months before they can even attempt to move out of apprenticeship again.

Rilan is confident in her abilities, but when she receives a cryptic message from her closest friend Origon, she's thrown off her game. When it's all over, she's finally able to meet with Origon, who reveals he needs to travel off-world to find his brother. Instead of going straight to her duties, Rilan agrees to travel with Origon to lend her emotional support and symphonic abilities.

The mystery of his brother leads them to risk their own lives in search of answers.

During the first portion of the book the reader is treated to amazing synaesthetic prose, where Rilan changes the colors of the symphony to suit her needs. It reminded me of my own experiences with music->color synaesthesia. The story moves quickly on to Rilan and Origon's relationship and then on to traumatic experiences as they search to discover what happened to Origon's brother. This short but intense piece was a delight to read and even contains illustrations of the various species for the reader to better visualize the interaction between species. I look forward to reading more offerings from this author, especially if they are set in the same universe.

Books in the Series:
Merchants and Maji: Two Tales of the Dissolutionverse

Recommended Reads:
Singers of Nevya - Louise Marley
Singer From the Sea - Sherri S. Tepper
Singer of All Songs - Kate Constable

Friday, December 1, 2017

Power Rangers - Alexander Irvine

Jason was a star football player on the varsity team until he got caught pulling a prank on school grounds. Kimberly, a classic queen bee, is in trouble for punching somebody in the face. Thrill-seeking Zack bumps into Trini, a trouble maker herself, on one of his adventures. Then there's sweet and awkward Billy. Nobody's really sure how he got in detention.

Fate brings these five teens together and they suddenly find themselves at the center of a battle with an ancient evil who has just awakened. With the help of Alpha Five and Zordon, the teens must come together as a team to save earth. If they each can't awaken the power within them to awaken the ancient power of the Zords deep beneath the earth, their planet may be doomed.

The hit 90s TV series by the same name was campy and filled with the typical moral lessons expected of the time. This movie novelization is a far-cry from the original. Where in the original the teens were good role models for the target audience of kids, this new version shows troubled kids who must each overcome their own issues: performance pressure, peer pressure, belonging, carelessness, and familial obligation. Although much grittier in nature, the book still has moments of corny humor hearkening back to its predecessor.

I found myself rolling my eyes at many moments, but also smiling in fond memory. This novelization is nothing special, but it is fun to read.

Movie:
Saban's Power Rangers 2017

Original Series:
Might Morphin' Power Rangers - The Complete Series

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thundercats: The Return - Ford Gilmore

Lion-O leaves his comrades to rebuild Thundera while he enters the Book of Omens to pursue further training, hoping to protect his home planet from any future invasions. Unfortunately his worst fear takes place during his absence. For five years the Thunderians have lived under the cruel rule of Mumm-Ra with the mutants happy to do his bidding to exact revenge upon the cats.

When Lion-O returns he is devastated when he learns the fate of his fellow Thunderians and especially his comrades, the Thundercats.
Lion-O must journey across the entire planet to free his comrades from their slavery and also regain their trust after his betrayal in leaving them undefended against Mumm-Ra.

Mumm-Ra's power has grown exponentially. Despite their misgivings, the Thundercats are determined to defeat him once again and bring peace to their land.

This addition to the Thundercats franchise is much darker than the original children's television series. Torture, slavery, and rape all make an appearance as the reader learns the fate of each Thundercat. As a long-time fan I struggled as I read how deeply these experiences had effected each of the characters. The illustrations are full of expression during emotional scenes and the action is visualized beautifully.

For those who would rather leave Thundera as a happy memory this is better left alone, but for those who want to read a dark what-if this is a fantastic read.

Books in the Series:
Return to Thundera
Dogs of War
Hammerhand's Revenge

Friday, November 17, 2017

Chariots of the Gods - Erich von Daniken

Back in the 70s, von Daniken released a book that would change the world and open people up to new possibilities in history. It became an immediate best seller and was translated into several languages. Who built the pyramids? Who made fascinatingly accurate maps of the world? And also, how were they able to do it?

According to von Daniken it may have been alien visitors. That's right! He claims that within archaeology are hidden proofs if we are willing to open our minds and look beyond what we've been taught.

Chariots of the Gods spawned a new genre of speculation and imagination. History Channel's popular Ancient Aliens television series is based on his works and contains many interview pieces with the author.

With the advances in technology and a better understanding of archaeology, many of von Daniken's theories have been disproven. Many more will certainly fall out of favor as we learn more. Even so, it's fun to read the theories of such a creative mind.

More by the Author:
Return to the Stars
Gold of the Gods
In Search of Ancient Gods

Similar Books:
Forbidden Archaeology - Michael Cremo
Technology of the Gods - David Hatcher Childress
Fingerprints of the Gods - Graham Hancock

Related Television Series:
Ancient Aliens - Season 1
Ancient Aliens - Season 2
Ancient Aliens - Season 3

Friday, November 10, 2017

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

Long ago Midgard, earth, was populated by fantastic peoples and creatures. Gods, giants, elves, and humans all lived together in this realm. Thor's hot temper is exemplified in the retellings of Loki taking Sif's hair and his massive appetite during the feast at his unexpected wedding. Loki's mischief shines as he lies, cheats, and steals through the stories. Tyr's bravery and sacrifice in the capture of Fenrir shines. And at the end, the tale of Baldr's death and Ragnorak's final coming is just as terrifying in this version as it is in the original work.

Gaiman's dry wit adds a perfect amount of humor to these stories and his nonchalant storytelling voice in the audiobook version has fantastic flow. Those already familiar with these stories will be satisfied with his accuracy in adapting these stories while adding his own voice. Those who may be new to Norse mythos may find certain parts uncomfortable, particularly some of the stories involving Loki.

Source Material:
Poetic/Elder Edda
Prose Edda
Prose Edda (modern translation) - Jesse Byock

Friday, November 3, 2017

The 48 Laws of Power - Robert Greene

After learning to use the forty-eight laws of power, Greene suggests a person will lead a successful life. These laws apply in a variety of situations including business deal, social interactions, and personal relations.

Each Law titled and numbered. It's followed by a Judgment, a brief explanation of what the Law means. The section titled Transgression of the Law gives a historical account or mythological occurrence of violating the law and is followed by an Interpretation to further explain how or why the violation caused bad results. Observance of the Law gives a positive use of the law in the same format and is also followed by an Interpretation to further the reader's understanding. Keys to Power is written in the second person, telling the reader directly how to use the law and what to be wary of. Reversal presents situations in which the reader may want to use the opposite side of the law.

Concealing Your Intention, Makeing Other People Come To You, and Never Appearing Too Perfect are certainly not new ideas. Many of these Laws are found in other texts, such as the Art of War or The Prince, but the concrete examples and explanations of those situations makes the material much easier to grasp and understand.

Like many books of this manner, it is best taken in sections to absorb the lessons and feel confident in applying them to situations. Anybody who wants to learn self-mastery, how to relate to the world, and how to turn the world around them to their favor will benefit from reading this work.

More by the Author:
Mastery
The 33 Strategies of War
The Art of Seduction

Recommended Reads:
The Art of War - Sun Tzu
The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
The Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Musashi