30 August 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Contact Episode One by Albert Sartison

The Contact Episode OneThe Contact Episode One by Albert Sartison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ascendancy of mankind is being decided on Jupiter...

In the 22nd century, mankind assimilated the Solar System within the orbits of the inner planets, and was gradually moving further out, beyond the asteroid belt, onward towards the outer planets. 

The recently discovered technology of remote manipulation gave people the capability of altering the orbit of celestial bodies of planetary size, which laid the foundation of a new era for the human race: the terraforming age. The colonization of space beyond the limits of the Solar System became only a matter of time. 

Soon after the first successful test, changing the orbit of Mercury, a strange object moving from the depths of space towards the centre of the Solar System entered the field of vision of a telescope at an observatory in Chile…

--::{{Available FREE from Amazon HERE or from Smashwords HERE (as of 30 Aug 2014)}}::--

This first episode to a larger first contact story is actually quite good. It's got a definite hard sci-fi flavor and is well written in the sense that the grammar is good and it flows well and therefore easy to read. It's set a few hundred years in the future which is cool and the characters are real and believable and there's reasonable development of the main character Steve. I found that I liked the author's writing style and this actually enhanced the reading experience for me a lot. The plot follows Steve as he observes by telescope an object rapidly enter our solar system and go into orbit around Jupiter after demonstrating some peculiar and unlikely manoeuvres. It also begins to exhibit signs that it's probably not an inert piece of space material but quite possibly under some form of control. Eventually a group is assembled to oversee further investigation and and contact attempts with the mystery object. Steve is very much part of this group and so is the military (the "Space Force") so I'm guessing that things might get a lot more interesting. There is even a suggestion of a romantic interest for Steve too, but don't let that put you off (lol) and overall I would consider this to be a fine introduction to what sounds like a fascinating story. I see that the complete story of four episodes is available as a single volume but I've elected to continue the story in it's single episode format which I quite enjoy.

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26 August 2014

Nasty ebook DRM

Do you, like me, simply HATE the fact that some ebook publishers and sellers like to lock you down with DRM (Digital Rights Management) software on their ebook files? DRM is used by publishers to restrict what you can do with your ebooks. DRM controls which devices you can use to read your ebook, and stops you converting your ebooks from one format to another. Rude.

I firmly believe that once you've purchased said ebook, then it should be yours to do with however you wish within the bounds of the law, of course. But that is another rather open-ended argument...

I buy ebooks from a few different sources, and if they come encumbered with DRM I use a plugin with Calibre that easily strips that rubbish away. I am then able to convert, copy and share the ebook file as I wish. The way it should be.

If this is something that you wish to look into, I can wholly recommend Apprentice Alf’s blog which is "intended to help anyone looking for free and simple software for removing DRM from their Kindle ebooks, stripping DRM from their Adobe Digital Editions ebooks, getting rid of DRM from their Barnes and Noble ebooks, freeing their Kobo ebooks of DRM, deleting the DRM from their Sony eBooks, or decrypting their Fictionwise eReader ebooks."

A simple truth

I just had to post this. Now I know that it isn't a new saying, but I feel that it's one of the more profound strings of words that I've heard in a while.

22 August 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Lost Gold: The 100-year search for the gold reef of Northwest Nelson by Paul Bensemann

Lost Gold: The 100-year search for the gold reef of Northwest NelsonLost Gold: The 100-year search for the gold reef of Northwest Nelson by Paul Bensemann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a young man in the mid-1970s, Paul Bensemann was told an archetypal ‘lost gold’ story by his neighbour, a tobacco farmer in the Motueka Valley on the edge of what is now Kahurangi National Park. The story concerned an old prospector who had found a huge exposed gold reef, shining in the sun, deep in the mountain wilderness of Northwest Nelson. Just before he died, the prospector drew a map, and to Paul’s amazement his neighbour then produced an old, tatty, hand-drawn map, which had been handed down to him from his father.

Since that meeting Paul has spent over 30 years trying to unravel this untold story, linking many different characters and their often obsessive and always secretive efforts to find this very New Zealand treasure. The search was originally triggered by Government geologists who found a huge quartz reef in 1908. It has since been pursued by many different prospectors, from bushmen on the West Coast to F.G. Gibbs, a prominent early Nelson identity.

Lost Gold follows the many twists and turns of this 105-year-old story, and tries to explain why the reef has never been rediscovered. But in the end, whether or not the reef exists is only part of the story, and perhaps the bigger treasure here is the real tale of men in pursuit of their own El Dorado.

Every so often a book drops into your lap that captures your attention immediately and holds it right through. This is one such book. It was given to me as a gift by my mother due to our family having a connection to the story. The tale of an alleged lost gold reef in the mountainous country up behind my hometown of Karamea, New Zealand has often been told to local people with an interest in the back country. I have very vague memories of my grandfather Stan Simkin, one of the gold hunters in the book, telling me short yarns about tramping around the mountains in all sorts of adverse weather but at the time I was a young lad and had no idea what he'd actually been doing up there. Also, I am familiar with the photo that ended up on the cover of this book because it belonged to my father Lewis and he'd also told me about the gold search. So, I wast most eager to learn more of this interesting local story/myth and what I eventually found out was so much more. The author's research is excellent and he's woven much local history and anecdotal information into the yarn. With this I discovered things about my hometown and even my family that I hadn't previously known. I'm familiar with many of the characters in the book, many now dead but many also still alive and kicking. It's a fascinating story and quite captivating, and fans those rumour flames in my mind. I do reckon that there's large quantities of gold and other valuable minerals in those mountains and also all over New Zealand, but I'm not quite sure I would like to see it extracted. But, back to the book in question; this is a very well written and well researched book about a fascinating topic. Anyone with an interest in New Zealand mining history and the outdoors will love this. I sure did, which came as a very pleasant surprise.

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A gold-bearing quartz reef

07 August 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3) by James S.A. Corey

Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3) by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The explosive third novel in James S.A. Corey's New York Times bestselling Expanse series.

For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

Number three in this wonderful Expanse series doesn't disappoint, just like the preceding two books. The same central characters remain, being the crew of the ship Rocinante and key members of the Outer Planets Alliance, and their journey to the outer reaches of our solar system to investigate the mysterious alien protomolecule construct is fraught with adventure. Typically good writing from the authors keeps things moving along fantastically and the action is as you would expect. It's very good. A small gripe is that I felt final battle for control of the Behemoth went on a bit too long and was kind of anticlimactic. The overall Expanse story is getting really interesting and it looks like we're finally going to go interstellar which is why I'm very keen to get into the next book.

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