Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

“Damn, Now I Need A New, Unblowupable Mind…”

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Short, thought-provoking and intelligent. No, I’m not describing an Oompa-Loompa, but Scott Adam’s book, God’s Debris. Those of you who are aware of the humorous comic strip Dilbert may not know that a few years back, the creator went in a wildly different direction with two thought experiments wrapped in books. This is the first. I shall discuss the second at the end of the blog.

The central premise of this book is that the protagonist meets an old man who knows everything about Life, The Universe, And Everything. The charm of the book is that you come away (if it worked – the writer wrote hypnosis into the book) marvelling at the sense it makes and how it all fits together. I first read it as an eBook when Adams offered it free online, and I was absolutely blown away. Naturally, I went on to order it from my local bookstore.

I should explain, I read this book twice. The first time, I misinterpreted the message of the book slightly and thought that it was sending out a straight-up atheist message that there was no God. As a result it depressed me in a big way. Then, when I came back to it, I saw it in a whole new light and I felt enlightened all over again. I took some tips from the book and it really helped me as a person and in dealing with people. In fact, I’d say it probably kick-started my whole happiness phase. Take the fact that I can’t really remember much of anything before that as you will.

There is so much going for this book: it’s smart, it has a really nice cover (a nebula background over space, with the names discreetly printed over it) and it is short, meaning that you can just dip in and out and probably have enough time to absorb one whole chapter. At 128 pages, it is pretty damn short, but you come away feeling like you got value for money (especially if you get the free eBook from the link at the bottom of this blog).

This was followed by a sequel a few years later, The Religion War. This one can’t be downloaded as a free eBook, unfortunately, so you can’t try it out before you read. The thought experiment is now wrapped up in a more coherent plot, with the protagonist getting more of a developed role in this book. I enjoyed this book too, but not as much as God’s Debris, as that numbers among one of my top ten favourites. Scott Adams clearly hadn’t heard of the concept of subtlety when he wrote this book. God’s Debris vaguely hid the ideas that it contains, whereas The Religion War asks you the religious questions point blank at the end of the book. So it is still good, but not as good as the first one. Which is the case with most sequels, really.

If you like having your mind blown, then I highly recommend you take the hour or two out of your day and give this cracking book a read.

Free eBook: http://www.andrewsmcmeel.com/godsdebris/

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Colfer’s Hitchhikers Makeover Turns Out To Be Mostly Harmless…

Monday, November 30th, 2009

When I first heard that Eoin Colfer, an author whose work I started following when I was a pre-teen, was commissioned to carry on the work of the late, great, Douglas Adams, I was intrigued to see what the finished result would be like. Then I forgot about it until a few days before release. My dad picked it up from the library, so I decided to give it a go in the name of research. I haven’t read the new James Bond book Devil May Care, but the idea behind its publication is very similar. This was written in the style of Douglas Adams, just as Devil May Care was written in the style of Ian Fleming. It captures a lot of Adams’ witty, random style, while making good use of new elements and ideas.

One thing I don’t like is Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged’s elevation from random joke to main character. He went from a funny, little-seen immortal character that goes around insulting people to your average immortal with a death wish. He’s been Flinted, a phrase which here means that he got a bit too much like the immortal Flint from Star Trek for my liking. This was pretty much inevitable with any character development that could’ve been done with his character, and it is pretty fun when you learn that his immortality pretty much has no limits. But that’s the thing; he didn’t really need any character development. Immortals in fiction (because there aren’t any known ones in real life) have gained a reputation for being whiny bitches for some reason. I know I’d be grateful for it if I had that power.

The Vogons make another appearance here as the bureaucratic villains of the series, although the bureaucratic side is played down in favour of the ‘absolute bastard’ side. I mean yes, they’re only doing a job, but they could do it in a nicer way. In an attempt to make a sympathetic character out of a Vogon, the reader follows one who is leaning towards a human way of thinking. This provides the way of saving the Earthling colony.

The writer handles his pre-existing characters well, developing a romance between Trillian and Wowbagger. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn, with the level of obvious love for the original books, that Hitchhikers influenced him in his youth. The new ideas that he brings to the books are using Cthulhu and making reference to the Lovecraft mythos, as well as giving Thor a personality as a Rock God. He also has an intentionally stereotypical (as in, the character is trying to be stereotypical) Irish character. Whether this is because Colfer is from Ireland himself (it serves as the setting for his Artemis Fowl books) remains to be seen.

This book works as a successor to Adams’ legacy and in its own right. I found it to be involving, humorous (the cheese and God jokes were pretty funny) and it provides a suitable ending for the series if they decide to end it there. It is a damn good read while it lasts and I think that anyone who likes Adams’ original trilogy of five books should get this.