Sunday, August 5, 2018

Philip K. Dick's Electric DreamsPhilip K. Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you sat down to read this collection of ten stories, you could probably read it in a day. But you probably wouldn't want to do that. The point of short stories is to spread them out. So maybe it would take a week. It took me a long time to finish this book, but not because of the stories, because of the TV series. Each episode of Electric Dreams is based on one of these stories... and the stories are better.

Not that they are great. This is Philip K. Dick at his earliest, when he's still growing as a writer. But they're mostly fun; short stories he probably dashed off quickly to sell to the magazines. A few are quite dated (one story deals with a kid envious of the other families with a bomb shelter when he has none, and most of them have a male protagonist in a 50s America), but that's to be expected.

I would imagine that some of these stories might have been good TV adaptations for a half hour format (such as The Twilight Zone), but an hour is a long time and trying to adapt a short 10-20 page story into fifty minutes of television is rarely going to work well. Which is why the episodes borrow very lightly from the stories. For the most part, they're completely made up and yes, modernized. There were a few that I really enjoyed (I'm talking about the episodes here) such as Autofac and Human Is. But many were rather dull and boring. And then there's the adaptation of "Sales Pitch" which makes no sense to me. In the original story, Ed Morris complains about the increasing frequency of ads only to come home to find a robot in his living room who's trying to sell -- itself. And it won't leave until it's purchased. It's an incredibly imaginative and funny premise and it's completely ignored in the adaptation. It felt like a completely missed opportunity.

Each story has a brief introduction by the writer who adapted it, but they really add nothing other than some necessary padding to the book which would otherwise be even shorter than it already is.

Do I recommend the stories? Absolutely. Again, not P.K. Dick's best, but they're fun enough and some nice mostly light reading before bed. Would I recommend the series? Not so much. It was an absolute chore to get through and if there's a season two, I'll miss it. But I'll still read the stories they're based on.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Han Solo at Stars' End (Star Wars: The Han Solo Adventures, #1)Han Solo at Stars' End by Brian Daley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After having just read Splinter of the Mind's Eye, this was a breath of fresh air. Loads of fun, action packed and Han Solo even admits he's the kind of guy who likes to SHOOT FIRST and ask questions later. Unfortunately, it bogged down a bit at the end and the climax felt a little too ridiculous, but still fun and worthy of any fan's time for a quick adventure. I'm sure this will be better than the upcoming Solo movie.

2.5 stars

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Splinter of the Mind's Eye (Star Wars)Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Yes, it took me over two weeks to read a thin 199 page paperback, but this book was GREAT! Night after night it helped me fall asleep after reading just a few pages. One afternoon I thought about powering through a section, but then I thought why? Why would I want to rush through the book that's curing my insomnia? Here's an example of the writing (p. 135):

    Exhausted, he fell back onto his back and stared at the pincushion ceiling.
    "You did it, Luke. You beat it off."

Sadly, that's about as interesting as it ever gets since I at least chuckled. This was horribly tedious. The sexual tension between Luke and Leia now seems creepy. The droids may as well not even be present since they take no active role whatsoever editing them out wouldn't change a thing. For some reason Luke, who grew up on a desert planet, knows how to swim, but Leia doesn't??? Huh? New characters are introduced that are as bland as their names (Halla and Grammel). After traveling for something like two weeks through the swamp, Luke and Leia are trapped in a pit and he wonders why the others don't go back in town to get a rope. I don't know, maybe because it would take them a month to travel both ways and our heroes would have starved to death in that time? Oh, there's more, but why? Why go on? Let's be honest, you're only reading this if you're a hardcore Star Wars fan to begin with which means you probably fall into one of two categories: One, you love everything Star Wars no matter what in which case you'll find some reason to enjoy this book despite all of its faults; or two, you grew up with Star Wars, still love the first two movies (that's right, I said two) and along the way you've come to realize that everything that's followed falls somewhere between bland and boring to downright terrible.

But seriously, this book helped me fall asleep for two weeks. So there's that.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

"The Horrors of Hawaii" a short story about relationships and manipulations was published in Page & Spine and you can read it at the link below:

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again (The Dark Knight Saga, #2)Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, Dark Knight Returns was a groundbreaking work that changed the landscape of comics. This? Not so much.

It really is terrible. Surprisingly terrible. And it makes no sense. It feels like Miller just trying to make money and he rushed through this in as little time as possible.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars: Novelizations #5)The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So I owned this book back in my youth, but then, many years ago, I was moving and had to cull my collection and this book along with Han Solo's Revenge, Spinter in the Mind's Eye and many many others made their way to various used bookstores. Then, a few weeks ago, I was at the Glendale Vintage Paperback Book Show and saw a pristine copy of this book for only $3. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was numbered and signed by the author.

I decided to buy it for reasons of pure nostalgia and having bought it, I decided to read it. I thought the book had a few scenes of wampas running amok in the rebel base that weren't in the movie, but I was wrong. It's a fairly faithful adaptation of the movie except that some of the film's great lines of dialogue are absent (i.e. Leia: "I love you." Solo: "I know.") There's really not much reason to read it since it's far more fun to see the film, but I enjoyed it for what it was. Though most of the book is written competently, there are moments of horrendous writing scattered throughout.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

The New Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Agatha ChristieThe New Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie by Dick Riley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is an odd book. Let me begin by comparing it to another. Growing up, one of my favorite reference books was The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree. Once I discovered the Twilight Zone, I couldn't get enough and this book was a great guide in learning about the series, but also letting me know which season each episode aired. I loved the short descriptions which included Serling's opening and closing narration. It gave you everything you needed to know.

Now this book makes it a great point in saying that they won't give away any of the murderers. So you have hundreds of pages (the vast majority of the book is summary of the novels and stories) that ultimately lead nowhere. If the description is supposed to entice you into reading the novel, well, it gives nearly everything away. Everything but the murderer. As a reference book, I feel it therefore fails. (Granted, the reveal would probably be best if it were on a different page or revealed in a section in the back, but it could have been done.)

I've owned this book for many years and the reason I picked it up was after reading a Christie book a few months ago, it reignited my desire to refresh my memory on those books I read in my youth. Alas, these descriptions really didn't do it for me. Nevertheless, I did kind of enjoy going through the book. Hence, my two stars. However, it is for hardcore purists only as the other articles aren't really that interesting. Ultimately, in the age of Wikipedia, there's really no need for this book.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Siberia 56 (Siberia 56, #1-3)Siberia 56 by Christophe Bec

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was like reading the comic book version of a cheesy B movie. What makes B movies fun, however, is that even though they don't make sense, they have fun action and cheesy dialogue. On the printed page, none of that works. Like in B movies, characters do things that make no sense. For example, they've been at this station for SIX YEARS and one day a team of scientists decide to walk out into the arctic wasteland to explore an area just outside their base that they've never been to... in six years!? And why are they walking? They have ships, they even have drones, but no, a walk into the wild where, of course, they're attacked by an invisible monster. See, the stuff of good B movies, but what's fun on film falls flat on these pages.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Miles: The AutobiographyMiles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this book in 1993 (25 years ago!) when I borrowed it from my friend Dave. I remembered really enjoying it and from time to time would think about rereading it, but it wasn't until last month when I read the enthralling "Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece" by Ashley Kahn that I decided it was time to revisit it.

First, it is an amazing book, filled with all kinds of outrageous stories and anecdotes. And it's ridiculously funny, especially if you read it with Miles' raspy voice in your head. However, Miles was a very flawed man and he treated women horribly. He was misogynistic, abusive, and, as he would say, one bad motherfucker.

Despite all of this, the book is still incredibly fun to read and I would recommend it to any fan of his or jazz in general since he really takes you on a tour of jazz history.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis MasterpieceKind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece by Ashley Kahn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such a satisfying book. I took my time reading it as I would often need to stop and listen to a particular piece of music before continuing. Sometimes the music was a song that was a precursor to the recording such as "Peace Piece" by Bill Evans. Other times, I would have to stop and listen to the songs themselves and hear all the nuances the author points out that I may not have noticed before. At any rate, it's a book that can be read quickly, it's not too long, but really living with the music was such a satisfying and delightful experience.

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