Saturday, June 29, 2013

Here in Chicago at ALA 2013

So here I am in The Windy City for my first American Library Association Annual Meeting.  Although I'm from Canada, our library schools still need to be accredited by the ALA if we want to find work throughout North America, so it's a pretty cool thing to come down here and check it all out.  This trip is also a part of my Spectrum Scholarship, which has made for a great year so far, and means I've been able to meet the other Spectrum scholars in person, a really great group of people.

The photo above is the view out my hotel room window, which is a pretty nice thing to wake up to - although I am missing the wife and kids a lot.

So far I've been here fore a day and a half and I'm pretty impressed with both the city and the event.  Today is my first day where I have a pretty open schedule, so I'm going to try and get around to seeing some sights as well as checking out the exhibitor's hall at the conference; both intimidate me a little, but as I'm here for a limited time I'm just going to try diving in and see what happens.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

R.I.P. Richard Matheson

For those of you who have reading my blog for a while now, you know that I've actually spent the last few years reading the works of Richard Matheson at the rate of one book a month since July of 2011 - I finished earlier this year and one of my favourite aspects of his work was just how varied it was - everything from Science Fiction to Westerns, Mysteries and Crime Fiction to Horror and his own views on the afterlife, Matheson's work always impressed me, from both the basic ways in which his stories worked, to the incredible ideas he came up with.

I couldn't possibly give a list of my favourite novels written by the author as they are so different from each other it's virtually impossible to compare and contrast them.

The stories are great - whether you like WWII stories, straight up Horror or romance, he has stuff that would appeal to you, (My BFF Mike will happily point out that he wrote the original series Star Trek episode The Enemy Within), and I've barely even mentioned his work in television.

In my adult life I've worked my way through the complete fiction of maybe a dozen authors; everyone from Robert B. Parker (Thrillers), to Pierre Berton (Canadian Non-Fiction and History), to Elmore Leonard (pretty much everything), but I can honestly say that Matheson is one of my favourites of the whole bunch - his work was massively influential (Stephen King is quoted as calling Matheson "...the author who influenced me most as a writer"), filled with interesting and intriguing ideas and great characters, and most importantly, a whole lot of great reads.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things I've Noticed: Bookmonkey Banner Post!

Since 2010 I've spent every October on this blog focusing on one horror related concept (Twilight, Saw, etc.) and my amazingly talented BFF Mike has kindly supplied me with great banner art to display each time.

Today I realized that those neat little pieces of art aren't easily available anywhere, so I'm putting them all up here:

October 2012 - Bookmonkey Saw

October 2010 - Twilight of Bookmonkey
Thanks Mr. Mike!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: The Fifth Head of Cerberus

Over the years I’ve read a few books by Gene Wolfe (notably his Book of the New Sun series and his Latro of the Mist series), and have found them all to be great reads.  Last week, while continuing through the list of Science Fiction: the 100 Best Books published in English from 1945 to 1985 I got to his 1972 short story collection, The Fifth Head of Cerberus.

First of all, this is more a novel with three connected parts than it is three separate short stories (although they would all do fine on their own), and in a lot of ways it made me think of Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, in that the structure is three stories, with the second one being from an entirely alien point of view and the first and last ones being told by two different humans.

The stories in The Fifth Head of Cerberus pulled me right in – they take place on twin planets that have been colonized by humans and although the stories are forty-years-old, I don’t really want to give away any more than that, because they’re pretty great.

I will say that rarely have I read science fiction that so clearly touched on themes of post-colonial theory before, and I was glad I had a little background on the concepts from my oldest daughter (who took a class on post colonialism in University last year) even if it was second hand, as I thought I got a little more out of the story because of it.

A really intriguing read.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

Last night my wife and I were lucky enough to attend an advanced screening of the upcoming zombie apocalypse film, World War Z.  Going into the movie I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, I was a little unsure of the visuals from the trailer showing high speed zombies creating makeshift towers of themselves to scale buildings, and I have to admit the idea of a film rated with a PG-13 (or 14A rating here in Canada) showing zombies had me a little nervous; after all, what is a zombie movie without the blood and gore?

As it turns out, the movie was pretty fun!  It had a lot of great scares, more than a few really intense sequences and it worked well as both a global overview and as a personal story involving one family.  I’m currently reading the original novel, so I’ll have to hold off on how the film compares to the original book, but I think it’s safe to say they are two different things – with the movie potentially being the first in a potential trilogy.

The viewing we saw was in 3D, and although it didn’t give me a headache like last year’s John Carter, I didn’t feel the 3D was in any way necessary.  What I did really enjoy however was the music, much of it performed by the band MUSE.

All in all, a lot of the frightening sequences in the film involved the collapse of modern society, rather than the monsters (which were quite frightening in their own right), which I think was a pretty smart move.  Although the book has no specific main character, I think the audience needed someone to follow as they move through this story, and honestly I really liked Brad Pitt’s portrayal of a man doing the best he can to save his family.

If the sequels get greenlit, I would definitely be interested in checking them out.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day to Me!!

So for Father's Day this year my daughters put together an adorable Bookmonkey Sculpture.

Really nothing more to say - but check it out!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Things I've Noticed: My June Movie Dilemma is Solved!

Technically speaking a Dilemma is a problem with two solutions, neither of which is practically acceptable, and my movie going problem this month was a Tri-lemma, which isn't a word, since I was attempting to decide which two of three possible movies I should see in theatres and would not be satisfied with any of the three options.
Then today I found out I had won a double-guest pass to an advanced screening of the movie World War Z on Monday, and my problem has solved itself - because now I can see all three movies while still only paying for two!
Now If only I could find a solution to my next dilemma...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Dirk Gently

Earlier this week I got a copy of the 2010 BBC series Dirk Gently from my library, which features a detective called Dirk Gently who bases his detection method on the "fundamental interconnectedness of all things" mostly meaning that his methods seem (to the outside observer) as insane, or like he isn't actually doing any work at all.

Interestingly, I read the original two Dirk Gently novels back in the sixth grade, when, after having finshed the author's more famous novels, I was exploring his other works, which lead me to crime and mystery novels which are one of my current favourite genres (especially mystery novels involving time travel - which are rarer than you think.) 

The television series, which starred Stephen Mangan (pictured left) as Dirk, only lasted for four episodes but really captured the bizarre and strange cases which appeared in the original novels, as well as Dirk's strangely mercenary view on changing his clients (and sometimes taking payment after they have died, from their wallets, before the police arrive).

Overall, a very fun show based on two great books and I wish it had lasted longer than four episodes.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Game Review: Journey

A few weeks ago I got my wife the game Journey for the PS3, it came with two other games, Flow and Flower.  After she worked her way through each of the games, I tried them out myself.

Of the three, my favourite is by far, Journey, in which you play this guy (girl?) who travels up a mountain to find a strange light.

That's actually it as far as story goes.  The graphics are amazing, the music is great and if you are connected to the PS network, you can play with other players.

You know what, the best thing to do would be to actually check out the trailer - which you can do here.

The game is a whole lot of fun, had a great feel throughout and I will be inflicting it on my children and friends soon.

Definitely worth playing.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Things I've noticed: It's cycling season!

Well folks, it's that time of year again - I get to dust off the old bike and get myself back out onto the road (well, onto the bike path anyway).

A few years ago I got into a pretty nasty cycling accident and broke one of the bones in my wrist, actually this was just before I started grad school and it was my right hand so I would have to classify it as a "not great" accident - as compared to a great accident where you fall into JELL-O or something.

I spent most of last year being pretty nervous on my bicycle, but just before autumn ended I managed to get comfortable again which is what brings us up to date.

The roads are nice, and I get ride again!

Wish me luck everyone!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Genre Character of the week: Greg Preston

As much as I love a good show about zombies (why won't October come sooner The Walking Dead?) I  am a fan of all sorts of post-apocayptic set ups, and today I'm thinking specifically of the pandemic scenario, wherein a fast moving disease drops the world's population by a huge amount.  In books like The Stand and Earth Abides, or television shows like Survivors.

Which brings me to this week's genre character, Greg Preston.

Before the influenza virus wipes out most of the world in the story, Greg was a systems analyst, not necessarily what you would expect when you think of post-apocalyptic survivor, but what sets Greg apart almost immediately is his initial quick thinking, leaving a city filled with the dead but making sure to stop at a Camping supply store first.

Played by Paterson Joseph Greg comes across as a man doing his best under extreme circumstances.  Initially he plans to go it on his own, but after meeting with a woman named Abby Grant, he joins a small band of survivors, trying to make their way in this strange new world.

If you haven't checked out the show yet (which itself is a reboot of a series of the same name from the 70s), it's well worth the watch, very intense, and leading to a lot of self examination, if almost everyone around you had died, what would you do?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Game Reivew: Flower

Two weeks ago I picked up a new PS3 game for my wife; actually a three-in-one game, being Flow, Flower, and Journey.  All three were originally released as games on The Playstation Network which means they were downloadable content (games purchased online rather than as hardcopy discs).

Playing the three games in order of release, my wife quickly worked her way through Flow and moved onto Flower, which after watching the gameplay for a couple of days may be one of my new favourite games - right up there with Ico (although not quite at the level of Shadow of the Colossus).

Using no dialogue, the game takes place in the dreams of flowers, specifically a group of flowers on a small shelf in an urban apartment.  In the dreams, you control flower petals which travel across a landscape waking up other flowers and slowly, but surely bringing the landscape to life.  Like Katamari Forever,  the levels each start out easily and get tricky very quickly - also like Katamari, the game is quite addictive.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Was that the sword of Conan?

I've been a fan of Conan the Barbarian since childhood - I loved the stories, the comics and the feature films with Arnold Schwarzenegger, pretty much everything.

So imagine how tickled pink I was last night when I sat down with family and friends to see the new Schwarzenegger film The Last Stand when the Barbarian's sword suddenly showed up.

The movie is a modern day action film wherein a sheriff named Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) must stop a terrifying criminal from escaping the US through his small Arizona town.

The film is a pretty fun action-fest, lots of over the wall explosions, gunfights, etc., but there comes a moment where the team is loading up with weapons to protect their town and one of the sheriff's deputies, Figgy (played by Luis Guzman) picks up a pretty familiar sword... (pictured right).

The original creator of Conan, Robert E. Howard wrote an essay during the 1930's called The Hyborian Age in which he places the world of Conan the Barbarian into our own history.

So I'm just saying - that could be a pretty old sword...

Conan sequel?