Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Night Eternal: Strain Book 3

After reading the second Strain book, I was eagerly anticipating this one. However, I forced myself to read a few other books first. Alas, by the time I started reading, Night Eternal, I was disappointing. Troll Hunters essentially had the same story with a much lighter tone. This book is very dark. Many of the "good guys" die. People struggle against each other and themselves before finding a way to eliminate the vampires. In the end, the vampires are just nuked out of existence. You know it will happen, making some of the tension feel forced. There is a ton of mythological and religious background to explain things. However, most just serves to delay the outcome.

Black Prism

Black Prism is set in a fantasy world where colors are very important and have some special powers. We follow the goings of a fat boy who watches his village destroyed. We later learn that he is the illegitimate son of the "Prism", the sort of Emperor over the kings. However, we later learn that the Prism is actually the brother of the Prism in disguise. The society values people that can identify minute differentiation in color. It also has some practices that we would find abhorrent. The government servants participate in a "release" when they have reached the end of their service. They get to talk with the leader, and are then executed by him, "releasing" them from this life. Individual Kings have power to do whatever they so desire. However, the Prism also has some similar power, giving some means of balance. The book goes on for a while, and also follows the path of a girl from the same village who was the daughter of a disgraced general. Things seem to gradually come together at the end, though it takes a long time to get there.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Ten Lesson to Transform Your Marriage

Ten Lessons to Transfrom Your Marriage provides detailed analysis of conversations by couples in different situations. Each utterance by one of the partners is graded with a "plus" or "minus" with reasons why. On eof the kye points is to let each other express their feelings with empathy before jumping into problem solving. There is a tendency to behave in ways with somebody that you have spent time with in ways that you would not behave in polite conversation. One common problem is attacking the person rather than the problem or situation. Trying to focus on building each other up can be much more productive than trying to "win". It also pays to understand that there are some "unresolvable differences" Those do not need to be dealbreakers. We just need to understand that they exist and find ways that both sides can be happy.


Trollhunters is essentially a children's version of del Toro's Strain series. There are a bunch of supernatural beings that are much more powerful than humans. However, they have limitations to their power and can use human assistance to carry out some tasks. They have lived in relative peace with humans. However, one of them decides that is enough and is going to destroy humanity. Luckily there are others working with humans to prevent that from happening. The tone of the two works, however, is much different. Trollhunters is much more bright and fun. The protagonists are two geeky kids. They like to sneak through the San Bernadino historical society. They notice a new bridge being assembled. They later learn about trolls. The bridge can enable trolls to do even more badness. They meet a lost uncle who became a troll fighter after the last "milk carton kids" epidemic. They have an epic battle and team up with the good trolls to defeat the bad ones. And in the process discover that the class bully is a troll in disguise. And even better, they discover that his "crush" is actually a troll hunter also. They are all able to live happily ever after.

The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy

The Fall is the middle book in the Strain trilogy. New York is becoming invested with Vampires. We learn of the plan for world domination. A rich guy had been helping out with the plan with the hope of vampiric immortality. He uses his nuclear power plants to help prepare the world for vampires, but the vampires have no need for him. We do get clues as to ways the vampires can be stopped. However, this book is about the vampires wrecking mayhem. We see some key characters die, while others seem to be prolonged longer. Vampires don't really care for humans. The war is really a war of vmapires for domination, with humans as mere pawns. The vampires chose humans to befriend based on their needs, not on the desires of humans. The powers that be could have ended this pandemic early on. However, they were influenced by those that wanted destruction and did too little too late.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Lightspeed: Year One

The collection of audio short stories from the lightspeed anthology. The stories are hit or miss. Many of them are very dark. (In one, space traveler eats the entire crew of his ship, only to be eaten by natives once he arrives.) There were a few that stood out positively. In one, there was a secret message from aliens that technology will lead to the downfall of civilization. In another, elephants came in to a town. They eventually knocked over some bad architecture. But people felt a little bad that they lost control.
There seems to be some good stuff in this Lightspeed, but also a lot of not-so-great to wade through.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Strain

The Strain starts with an airplane that lands in New York City and then just stops. All power goes out and there is no sign from anybody. They call in many government agents, including the CDC. Everyone appears dead - ecept for 4 people. They are taken to the hospital, and seem to have a full recovery, even though there body is showing some weird vital signs. The government tries to bury the news by having it released just before a total eclipse over Manhattan. An old man who knows about the vampire tries to talk to the CDC man. We learn that this has been a vampire infestation and part of a battle among vampires where humans are mere pawns. The dead passengers wake up and attempt to go to their homes, vampirizing everybody, including the UPS guys. They have plenty of vampire battles. We also have the human interest side. The CDC guy is trying (unsuccessfully) to get custody of his boy. He misses an important court date to attend to the plane. Later he warns his ex to get out of town with his son. However, her boyfriend doesn't want to go and they say. Eventually both die, but the son remains. (How convenient!) Our "heroes" also come really close to getting killed by vampires. However, they manage to always escape just in time. (Wouldn't it be interesting if the main guy died in a book and then it had to switch over.)
I was drawn in by the airplane. This does seem somehat similar to del Toro's Mimic.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse)

Terminal Alliance would be a good source book for a cheesy B-movie that would by made fun of by MTK3000. An alien species came to earth. Humans were mostly destroyed. The alien species revives humans with some quirks in their interpretations. Humans adopt names of famous humans from history, though they may or may not match the gender or personality. The action starts when one ship looses all of its alien crew and most of the human crew goes feral. Some low ranking human janitors assume control and discover that a virus was the cause. They go on an adventure and discover they are pawns on a battle between alien species. They eventually win out with some janitorial tricks. It is written in a somewhat lighthearted fashion and just not very good.

The Paladin Prophecy: Book 1

Will West is raised as somewhat of a nomad. His parents move about every 18 months to some new location. His father is a nuerobiology researcher and always is switching to new projects. They instruct him to live under the radar. He loves to run, but has to control himself to not be the fastest. He also intentionally does less than his best academically. Then one day, he accidentally aces an intelligence evaluation test and has a boarding school seek him out and offer a big scholarship. At the same time a bunch of secretive agents also try to catch him. He manages to evade them with the help of a taxi driver who later assists hi remotely. He makes it out to the boarding school where he makes friends and gradually learns more. There are bits of supernatural in the process. He learns that previous inhabitants of earth had gained too much knowledge and power and were banished. However, they are using manipulatable humans to get back to earth. He is to help get them back. His mother has been controlled by some of these bad guys.
He discovers that he has power to read other people's thoughts and to push images to computers. He can also run and heal super fast. Some of the other kids at the boarding school also have great latent powers such as photographic memory.
He seems to be able to identify the good guys from the bad guys long before we know which ones are which.
There is finally a big fight at the end and the kids discover who they really are. It all fits squarely in the "kids at a boarding school that will save the world" genre.

Friday, August 16, 2019


Divergent is set in a dystopian futuristic Chicago. Everybody is divided into factions based on their personality traits. At 16, they are tested and can chose the faction they would like to join. Though if they don't make it in, they become "factionless" Beatrice Prior starts out in the selfless "Abnegation", but decides to join the brave "Dauntless". There she must pass through a series of sadistic initiation rites just to get in. They have to jump from trains, fight each other and participate in brutality.
The brutality reminds me of the Hunger Games. Why is it that female writers tend to create these brutal dystopian worlds?
In this story, we learn that some people are "divergent" and do not fit directly into any of the factions. These people are also more difficult to control. She soon learns that the factions have drifted from their idealistic beginnings and become much more self absorbed. On of the erudite leaders has developed a scheme to control the minds of the dauntless to destroy abnegation and control everybody. Luckily, she and her friend are divergent and can fight the control. They eventually find her mother (also divergent) and family, and work to turn off a zombie army of dauntless.
The book also has some romance, lots of violence, and just about every trope from the "world is about to end, but one person can save it" genre. The did manage to make three movies from the trilogy. Though they tried to split the last book into two, but had the movie bomb and just stopped. Oops! I could see why. This book is not porely written and works well when the genre is in vogue, but is nothing special in itself.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Plutarch's Lives Volume 1

Plutarch's Lives presents the biographies of Romans and Greeks. The translation is freshly well done. However, the audiobook narration is dry and of low quality. This work is really long - and is only volume one. He presents complete biographies of important Roman and Greek people. There would be bits of similarity and repetition. (There seemed to be a ancient desire to watch people get killed. Has our media violence now satiated that morbid desire?) He compares the different people with a good amount of opinion. (Somebody was described as a great leader, though he would have been greater if he were not a drunk.) This is not the best book to read through. However, it would serve as a good source for research on important figures of antiquity.

Friday, August 02, 2019

The Town Divided By Christmas

Two postdocs are sent to a small southern town to do a genetic study. The town seems to keep its population, with even those people that leave coming back. The budding scientists want to do a genetic study to determine if there is a gene that influences this "homing" behavior. They will need to take DNA and personal information from nearly all the residents. In the process, the scientists both become attached to the town, each finding a partner. The town itself has an odd division. There are two nearly identical Episcopal churches. They divided nearly a century before over a Christmas pageant. Each wanted a different baby to play the role of baby Jesus. The members of the two churches had intermarried before the split, but now do not associate with each other. In the end, the scientists push to have their study finding published, even though they don't fall in line with the goals the funders were looking for. They also marry their partners found in the city and uncover the "dark truth" about the split.


I remember watching a movie once where every every movie previewed was about the eminent end of the world. Only one ordinary random person could save us from utter destruction. Reading Armada, I could see it fit directly into that genre. It is a CGI-fest in the making, complete with a hard-hitting soundtrack, one-dimensional characters, and a bit of requisite sappy drama. It is also a nerd fest with references to numerous classic games and 80s music.
The story (if it even matters) is about an alien invasion of the earth. The government has known about the aliens, but has been covering it up. However, they have been using science fiction movies to acclimate people to the possibility of aliens, while using video games to help train them to fight them. Government scientists have been able to reverse engineer some of the alien technology to fight the aliens and want video game players to remotely control drones. Our "hero", Zach Lightman, is a teenager who has struggled with violence at school. His only outlet is a video game shop where he hangs out and works part time. His dad "died" when he was an infant. One day, he is finally let in on the secrets. The shop owner was actually a government agent to watch over and train him. His dad actually joined the secret Earth Defense Force and was is still alive. His last video game mission was a real attempt to blow away the aliens. The space probes had discovered a swastika on a moon on Jupiter and attempted to blow it up, triggering the alien invasion.
In the end, they fight the aliens. He meets his dad. Dad gets together briefly with Mom and produces another baby brother - only to have Dad die for real in the process of saving the world. Zach realizes that the aliens are behaving too much like a video game. They are only escalating the violence in response to earth's escalation. He leads the effort to prevent a mission from destroying the alien homeland. He then discovers, that it is only an AI sent to "test" the earth to determine if they can peacefully exist. The aliens then give the earth lifesaving technology, and all live happily ever after.
The story is hokey, but fast moving. My biggest complaint is on the language side. This is a PG-13 story needlessly filled with R-rated language.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

A boy in Harlem has his older brother murdered. He copes with it by building a giant lego city. He gradually befriends an autistic girl who also likes to build with legos. They have a contest to build a 10 foot tower. However, both of their towers fall. They end up building a big city together. Hers is a realistic model of New York buildings (including their projects). His is a fantasy world with heroes and monsters. He also makes a game with it to help people learn. In the end, they discover that the "wasted" legos that his mom's girlfriend is bringing are actually stolen. The criminal experience helps him to chose not to try to use a gun to attack thugs that have jumped him.
The story deals with coping with grief and difficulties. It also has an underlying theme of how difficult it is to take the projects out of people. They have a big fear of police and snitching and more willing to exact revenge via murder than to snitch on criminals. The projects may have a bunch of people that look "black". However, they are a mix of immigrants from other countries and multi-generational American residents. There are also the mix of various sexual orientations and desires. It may have been more interesting told from the perspective of the autistic girl, big Rose. Her mother committed suicide. She had been teased by others. However, she has a great memory, and can model the city from memory. Only in the end is she taken away for more treatment. (And the book seems to state that her time without treatment helped her.)