23 July 2013

Which sci-fi book you would give to a first-time SF reader?

It only takes one great science fiction or fantasy book to get someone hooked. If it's the right book, that is. When you're faced with someone who likes to read but hasn't delved much into science fiction or fantasy, what the "gateway drug" book you offer him or her? What's the best book for a newbie SF reader?

The book that turned me on to science fiction (other than a few issues of Analog magazine when I was younger) was Dune by Frank Herbert, and another book that I've successfully suggested to first time SF readers is John Scalzi's more recent and excellent Old Man's War. This is a fantastic book for new and seasoned SF readers alike and one that I will no doubt recommend again. It's got likeable characters, action, space travel, aliens and even a good dose of humor. Great stuff.

But I guess there is an endless list of great books that could fit the bill. Click HERE to follow the discussion over at io9.com.

13 July 2013

When reading is 100% digital...

Ebooks...they're here for good.

The following is a good comment from the Cheapass Fiction blog about the move to digital books these days which I have to say I mostly agree with...

"I look forward to the day when reading is 100% digital.

Yeah, I said it. I like e-books. A lot. I’m a bad person. A bad writer. A bad reader. And I do realize that there is a contradiction in this confession – a confession I’m writing while sitting on a train using a very shaky pen and paper.

It’s not that I don’t like pressed tree gunk glued together and splashed with ink. I do. There’s something calming about moving a pen over paper or holding the physical result of communication in your hands. And books are beautiful. They are decorative, evocative. An old dusty tome feels different from a shiny new bestseller with a crackly binding and a gluey smell. A marked up textbook with wrong answers scribbled out in the margins gives a very different experience from a mint-condition, dust-jacketed Harry Potter hardback from a midnight release party.

But there’s an emotional component to my yearning for digital, too.

I love books.

But I also love stories.

In my pocket I have a palm-sized box of metal and plastic thinner than most picture books. In this box, my entire library lives. My favorite classics, practical manual-style non-fiction, embarrassing trashy romances… it’s all there.

Books – the physical things – are beautiful and evocative, but they cannot always be there. But fell the physical barriers and then stories can be everywhere. At the bus stop. In a crowd. At a boring dinner party. In bed. On the toilet. Everywhere. A little box filled with 1s and 0s lets stories invade meatspace – ever present, easily read and remembered and shared stories. Stories that fit in a pocket. An entire library of stories.

And when I say 100% digital… I don’t mean that I want to throw away all the beautiful and evocative dead-tree-and-ink books. I just want to be able to (and perhaps more importantly be allowed to) read anything and everything in a form that fits in the 1s and 0s in my pocket. As much as I love books, my true love is the stories on their pages, and the pages are just a tool. Beautiful, evocative ones, but tools nonetheless."

11 July 2013

MUSIC: Dream Theater’s new self-titled album - out Sept. 24th!

UPDATE: You can pre-order the album HERE.

Dream Theater’s self-titled album – the band’s 12th studio release overall, and fourth with Roadrunner Records – will be released September 24, and now you can check out the cover art and see the track listing below.

Says guitarist John Petrucci about Dream Theater, “I see every new album as an opportunity to start over. To either build or improve upon a direction that has been evolving over time or to completely break new ground. This is the first self-titled album of our career and there is nothing I can think of that makes a statement of musical and creative identity stronger than that. We’ve fully explored all of the elements that make us unique, from the epic and intense to the atmospheric and cinematic. We’re incredibly excited about Dream Theater and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.” 

The nine-track disc was recorded at Cove City Studio in Glen Cove, Long Island, with guitarist Petrucci producing and Richard Chycki engineering and mixing. It’s the band’s second album with drummer Mike Mangini, and the first one on which he was a part of the writing process from Day One. 

In January, Petrucci said of Mangini’s work, “When people hear the drumming on this album, they’re gonna be pretty freaked out. On the last album, he did a great job, but he wasn’t there for the writing process and he was interpreting drum parts that I had programmed. Even though he used his creativity, of course, to change them up and do his thing, I feel like now he’s just Mike Mangini unleashed. It’s all him. It’s all his creativity, all his decisions and ideas and man, the guy’s an animal.”

L to R: Mike Mangini, John Petrucci, James LaBrie, Jordan Rudess, John Myung

The track listing for Dream Theater is as follows: 


 i. Sleep Paralysis
 ii. Night Terrors
 iii. Lucid Dream








 i. Paradoxe de la Lumière Noire
 ii. Live, Die, Kill
 iii. The Embracing Circle
 iv. The Pursuit of Truth
 v. Surrender, Trust & Passion

Dream Theater will be available in a wide range of distinctive versions, including standard and special edition CDs, 180 gram double LP, and a limited edition boxed set. Pre-orders are scheduled to launch in July at the Roadrunner Records Webstore.

Dream Theater will be on tour in Europe in January and February 2014, and in North America in March 2014.

06 July 2013

BOOK: Stuka Pilot by Hans-Ulrich Rudel

Hans Ulrich Rudel was a Stuka dive-bomber pilot during World War 2. The most highly decorated Gverman serviceman of the war, Rudel was one of only 27 military men to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.

Rudel flew 2,530 combat missions claiming a total of 2,000 targets destroyed, including 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, a destroyer, two cruisers, one battleship, 70 landing craft, 4 armored trains, several bridges and nine aircraft which he shot down.

Relentlessly driven to the of point obsession, Rudel's combat record is a testimony to the determination of Germany's elite aviators. Fearless, courageous Rudel accomplishes what seems to be beyond what is humanly possible. He is, without question, one of the greatest aviators of the Second World War.
"What a rip snorter of a read. This book is pure action and puts you right in the cockpit with the author, kicking the rudder bar, watching the tanks burn and dodging the flak. This memoir reads like the author is sitting in a pub telling his story while sharing a drink with you."

Click HERE to check it out at Amazon, or HERE and HERE to see the book in more detail in The Hidden Library.

05 July 2013

175 SF/F/H Kindle eBook Deals US$3.99 or Less

HERE is this month’s roundup of some inexpensive science fiction, fantasy and horror Kindle eBooks for you to check out on your favorite reading device. All of these titles are priced under $4 at the time of writing this post — but prices are subject to change, so check the price before clicking “buy”. If Amazon is not your eBook ecosystem, please do look up the titles wherever you buy your eBooks; discounts are often applied at other outlets.

02 July 2013

FREE BOOK: Rogue Queen by L. Sprague de Camp

This month's free ebook from the excellent people at Phoenix Pick can be downloaded HERE using the coupon code 9991539. Looks interesting.
Rogue Queen
Rogue Queen is a ground-breaking novel by L. Sprague de Camp that was one of the first science fiction books to deal with sexual themes, paving the way for more daring works by future authors.

Part of the Viagens Interplanetarias series, the story takes place on a planet circling the star Lalande 21185, also known as Ormazd. When humans arrive on the planet they find a hive-like society with a hyper-fertile queen being serviced by male drones.

All the other females of the species are infertile, or so it is believed. However, when one of the worker females rebels she discovers that the workers' infertility is largely a result of the diet they follow.

BOOK REVIEW: Here There Are Tigers: The Secret Air War in Laos, 1968-69 by Reginald Hathorn

Here There Are Tigers: The Secret Air War in Laos, 1968-69Here There Are Tigers: The Secret Air War in Laos, 1968-69 by Reginald Hathorn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book surprised me with the large amount of combat action and descriptive passages that really made me feel as though I was actually there in the aircraft with the author. Essentially a first hand account of a Forward Air Controller pilot's experiences running strikes over Laos and the Ho Chi Minh trail. This all occurs over the backdrop of the US officially not being onvolved on the insurgency conflicts in Laos. A quite matter of fact story with not a lot of padding to the yarn, just the action as it happened. It's a pretty raw story and the players do seem a tad on the trigger happy side, but no excuses are made and we actually do begin to get a fairly good insight as to why the blokes in these positions are the way they are. It was a tough time for all concerned and this book portrays the horror of it all really vividly. A good read.

View all my reviews

01 July 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Hitler's Eagles: The Luftwaffe 1933-45 by Chris McNab

Hitler's Eagles: The Luftwaffe 1933-45Hitler's Eagles: The Luftwaffe 1933-45 by Chris McNab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A nicely compiled and presented essay about the Nazi/WW2 era Luftwaffe with very good details about the men and machines that made up this fighting force. Excellent photos and illustrations make for an informative and interesting read. There's a good amount of data about the various aircraft types without being a technical discourse, for which there are plenty of other books out there. A recommended book for anyone with and interest in military history and/or aircraft in general.

View all my reviews