Nov 17, 2011

Kindle Fire Impressions : Day One

Unboxed my Kindle Fire yesterday and spent the afternoon playing around with my new toy. Here's some early impressions.

  1. Between an Amazon Prime subscription (which I already have) for Video and Books and Pandora for music, I could go probably go months without paying for any actual content. Throw in a Netflix or Hulu+ account and a few cheap eBook deals and I certainly could keep myself entertained for less than $200 bucks a year. I'm one of the million or so that dropped at least part of their Netflix account in the last few months and with the Kindle Fire as a content portal, I might go back.

  2. I don't like the way the Fire organizes user-uploaded videos. Currently, it puts them in the photo gallery . If you're trying to watch a TV season in order, it's tricky to tell which episode is which. Unlike iTunes, there doesn't seem to be anyway to supply this metadata yourself. I also haven't found a way to increase the size of the thumbnails or display the file names or some other method to clean things up.

  3. Speaking of user supplied content, the file system / mini-USB connection leaves a lot to be desired. We've got three computers in the YetiHousehold (2 Win / 1 Mac) and the connection only worked the first time on the Mac. The other two computers couldn't seem to connect with any regularity. The mini USB pin also seems to be slightly defective as it would sometime lose the connection with nothing more than a small movement of the wire.

  4. The built-in store interface is clean but browsing is difficult. One thing that bugs me is the separation of SF and F books. That's like moving Bert and Ernie into a duplex. There might be better ways to sort and browse but if they aren't obvious to the user, that's a failure on the interface design team. 

  5. The app store is very sparse right now. I'm going to assume that will fill up with time but right now, there isn't a whole lot to get excited about. Would love to see some old RPG ports from PS1 or SNES but I don't know if that's realistic. I can only launch so many ornithic missles at porcine targets before I need something new.

  6. Browsing the web on this is fine. I wouldn't do a lot of typing but for basic browsing it works fairly well. I haven't really noticed if and when the Silk functionality come into play, but everything has loaded just fine. Not sure if it takes a little while to get to know my habits or not.

  7. Touch screen responsiveness is the closest I've seen to the iPad / iPod Touch. No complaints on that front, which is one of the places where competing devices fall short most often.

  8. I haven't read anything for any extended period of time but I do like the ability to have a back lit, low brightness screen. Good for reading in bed without disturbing the YetiWife, although I always end up falling asleep while reading before she does.

  9. There is an odd sense of disappointment that comes along with the purchase of any technology centered around content consumption. While you have new ways to interact with your content, at the end of the day, you've got the same content you had before. It's like buying a really nice filing cabinet.

  10. Bottom line: The Amazon Kindle is a near perfect device for content consumption (music, books, video, web browsing). It's lacking as a productivity device but it's not really being sold as such, especially not for $200.

More later, but aside from the USB connectivity I like everything I've seen so far.

Nov 13, 2011

YetiStomper Picks for October

So I'm going to run through my October picks a little quicker than usual. And a little later than usual. Not just because I'm somewhat time deficient at the moment. More so that there are TWENTY ONE books to discuss.

For an industry that's dying, that's a pretty steady heartbeat.

Swell - Corwin Ericson

Stand Alone Novel - Swell is a curious little book that straddles the fine line between literature and genre, depicting an absurd adventure that never takes itself too seriously. Ericson's prose might be a little overwrought at times but he hits far more often than he misses, resulting in a impressive debut that never fails to entertain. (October 25 from Dark Coast Press)

The Children of the Sky - Vernor Vinge

Zones of Thought, Book 2 -  It's been 18 years since Vinge's modern SF classic of galactic proportions took the SF world by storm. The universe established in A Fire Upon The Deep begged for a sequel and we've finally got it. The early buzz is that The Children of the Sky doesn't quite live up to the standard set by it's progenitor but if it's even half as good, it will still be one of the best SF books of the year. (October 11 from Tor)

Osama: A Novel - Lavie Tidhar

Stand Alone Novella - The early contender for timely release of the year before Steve Jobs's autobiography became the book of 2011, Osama is a title everyone should recognize. But the character which Tidhar depicts is not the Bin Laden we all know and despise. Has Tidhar constructed a modern version of Philip K. Dick's seminal The Man in the High Castle? I suspect I'm not the only one who thinks so. (September 21 from PS Publishing)

The Cold Commands - Richard Morgan

A Land Fit For Heroes, Book 2 - Noted SF author Morgan's first foray into fantasy was met with mixed feelings. Now he's back for another go at hard edged fantasy in the vein of Martin and Abercrombie with The Cold Commands. (October 11 from Del Rey)

The Third Section - Jasper Kent

The Danilov Quintet, Book 3 - Kent's vampire saga reaches the halfway point as Dmitry Alekseevich Danilov picks up the fight his father started over 40 years ago. Part sprawling historical epic, part dark fantasy, The Danilov Quintet is one of Pyr's best offerings. (October 25 from Pyr)

Infidel - Kameron Hurley

God's War Trilogy, Book 2 - Only a few months ago, Kameron Hurley was turning heads with a debut novel that blended religion, race, and gender in a far future world unlike anything else in the industry today. Now she returns to that world with Infidel, as ex-assassin Nyx is forced to kill once more to protect a fragile peace. (October 18 from Night Shade Books)

Kingdom of Gods - N. K. Jemisin

Inheritance Trilogy, Book 3 -  A pure storyteller in the same vein as Gaiman and Le Guin, Jemisin has ability to tell a story that transcends the simple words on the page. At first glance, her world of gods and mortals, life and death, freedom and slavery, love and hate might appear overly dichotomous but be assured that in the end, nothing is quite so simple. Whatever "it" is, Nora K. Jemisin has it is droves. (October 27 from Orbit)

The End Specialist - Drew Magary

Stand Alone Novel - No one wants to get old. What if you didn't have to? Awesome, right? Keep in mind that that bus will still kill you, no questions asked. Drew Magary explores the implications of living in a world in which natural death has been removed from the rulebook through the blog of "end specialist" John Farrell. Magary himself is a blogger, and his experience lends itself well to the dark, satirical perspective of the book. (UK: September 29 from Harper Voyager / US: Aug 30 from Penguin)

Snuff - Terry Pratchett

Discworld Novels, Book 39 - It's Pratchett. It's Discworld. I think this is a City Watch novel but that doesn't really matter, does it? (October 11 from Harper)

Riptide - Paul S. Kemp

Star Wars, Jaden Korr, Book 2 - Paul Kemp's Crosscurrent (review) was the best Star Wars book of 2010. Normally, that's not saying much but Kemp brings it - regardless of whether "it" is Star Wars, Forgotten Realms, or his work of his own creation. It's been a long wait to find our what happened to the escaped band of insane cloned Jedi (I know, right?) but I'm excited to watch (mostly) sane Jedi Knight Jaden Korr track them down. (October 25 from Lucasbooks)

The Night Eternal - Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain Trilogy, Book 3 - Twilight this is not. Del Toro and Hogan understand that vampires aren't sparkly cuddle puppies. They are bloodthirsty monsters who want to eat you or breed you like cattle for their eventual consumption. As such, if you encounter a vampire, please exterminate it with extreme prejudice. Still don't understand? This hybrid horror/thriller will demonstrate until even the zombies get it. (October 25 from William Morrow)

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami

Stand Alone Novel - Hmmm.... I don't even how to begin describe this 944 page monstrosity in a couple of sentences. It may or may not be 1984. There may or may not be two moons. A math teacher and a novelist are rewriting a story. Probably. I'm reasonable sure it's not a Tolkien knock-off, if that helps... I've not yet read 1Q84 but the word on the street is that Murakami is one of the best novelists writing in any language today. And everyone seems to agree that IQ84 is (another) masterpiece. (October 25 from Knopf)

King's War - Maurice Broaddus

The Knights of Breton Court Trilogy, Book 3 - Whoever said you shouldn't bring a knife to a gunfight obviously wasn't referring to Excalibur. Broaddus wraps up his inspired retelling of the Arthurian Saga set in modern day Indianapolis amidst the gang plagued Breton Court projects. If West Side Story is Romeo & Juliet + racial tensions in 1950s New York set to music, The Knights of Breton Court is Arthurian Legend + gang violence told as Urban Fantasy. But when your version of Camelot is the projects, what is your Avalon?  (October 25 from Angry Robot)

The Sacred Band - David Anthony Durham

Acacia Trilogy, Book 3 - In a genre where everyone can start a fantasy series but no one can finish one, David Anthony Durham stands out for his ability to not only close out a trilogy but to do so with a level of quality on par with, if not exceeding, that of the introductory volume. Simultaneously fantastic and realistic, the world Acacia is one of the genre's best kept secrets. (October 4 from Doubleday)

Aloha from Hell - Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim, Book 3 - Unapologetic urban fantasy at its best, Aloha from Hell wraps up the first
Sandman Slim trilogy as James Stark returns to Hell to save the girl, stop a killer, and maintain the balance of good and evil. These books would be so wrong, if they just weren't so much fun. (October 18 from Harper Voyager)

Master of the House of Darts - Aliette de Bodard

Obsidian and Blood Trilogy, Book 3 - If you haven't guessed by now, October is "Finish Your Trilogy Month." De Bodard wraps up her South American infused series with the Master of the House of Darts. If Game of Thrones and its ripoffs have got you tired of Medieval European fantasy analogues give de Bodard's Mesoamerican saga a try. Or don't. It's not like she demonstrates a disturbingly complete understanding of human sacrifice or anything. (October 25 from Angry Robot)

Zone One - Colson Whitehead

Stand Alone Novel - Insert "BRAAIINNZZZZ..." joke here. Zone One is the intellectual's zombie novel, focusing more on the emotional stress of hunting down zombie remnants in a devastated Manhattan reclaimed from the zombie hordes rather than the emotional stress of hunting down zombie remnants in a devastated Manhattan reclaimed from the zombie hordes. But Whitehead's got it all wrong. I've played Left4Dead. Zombie hunting is like getting warm blankets straight out of the dryer. (October 18 from Doubleday)

Iron Jackal - Chris Wooding

Tales of the Ketty Jay, Book 3 - The rapscallious crew of the Ketty Jay returns for a third adventure across the skies of Vardia. Wooding's mashup of steampunk and Firefly probably won't win the Booker Prize but I wouldn't put it past Captain Frey and company to just steal it from whoever does. Train heists, airship races, master thievery; what's not to like? (October 20 from Gollancz)

Context - Cory Doctorow

Essay Collection - As good as his speculation is, there's something to be said for the quality of Doctorow's pontifications. Post-scarcity economics, the efficacy of digital rights management, and 21st century copyright concerns are only a few of the bleeding edge topics touched upon by Doctorow in the follow-up to last year's Content. Thought-provoking, well-written, and alarming, Doctorow's work is a must read for anyone concerned about the well being of digital artists.  (October 1 from Tachyon Publications)

Fox & Phoenix - Beth Bernobich

Long City, Book 1 - A young adult fantasy novel set in the same Chinese influenced fantasy world as Bernobich's novelette "Pig, Crane, Fox", Fox & Phoenix is a quirky blend of humor, character, and adventure. You can download "Pig, Crane, Fox" for free here. Why not give it a try? (October 13 from Viking Children's)

The White People and Other Weird Stories - Arthur Machen

Short Story Collection - What's Halloween without a good scary story? This month Penguin Classics publishes collections of not one but two masters of horror in Arthur Machen and H.P. Lovecraft. I chose to focus on Machen over Lovecraft due to my unfamiliarity with Machen's work but make no mistake, the genre wouldn't be what it is today without these two terrors. (September 27 from Penguin Classics)

YetiStomper Pick Of The Month: So many options. Too many options. I give up. I'll just flip a coin. At least, when I find a twenty-one sided one. Do they even make dice that multifaceted?

Back on track. It's tempting to go with something of the horror variety, being October and all, but seeing as I'm actually posting this in November, I'm going to go in a different direction. Damn, no turkey themed books either.

So this isn't helping. What happened to the months with two books? I miss those. Let's start by identifying a short(er) list.

  • 1Q84
  • The Master of the House of Darts
  • The Sacred Band
  • Kingdom of Gods
  • The Children of the Sky
Ugh, and that's ignoring Kameron Hurley and Richard Kadrey. AND Terry Pratchett. Are you still reading this? I wouldn't be.

So now I need to choose between a master of the modern novel (1Q84), an alternate history work that rejects the framework of 99% of modern fantasy (The Master of the House of Darts), the conclusion to one of the most complete fantasy trilogies in ages (The Sacred Band), the closing volume of a series that launched a new voice with the potential to enter the ranks of master storytellers (Kingdom of Gods), and the sequel to one of the best SF novels of the past 20 years (The Children of the Sky).

It's a five way tie!

Let's go to the YetiRulebook: "In the case of a tie, the YetiPick goes to the author who would benefit most from selling an additional 2 books."

Well I don't think I'm going to help Murakami be more of a bestseller, so 1Q84 is out. Likewise for N.K. Jemisin, who is surprising no one after the surfeit of  critical acclaim The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms garnered last year. Let's also cut The Children of the Sky on the grounds it's been anticipated for 16 more years than this blog has been around.

So that takes it down to The Sacred Band and The Master of the House of Darts. Now I can flip a coin.

I don't believe it. It landed on its side.

The Master of the House of Darts and The Sacred Band are both my October YetiPicks of the Month.

Don't look at me like that, what did you think was going to happen when I posted two covers up there?

YetiStomper Debut Of The Month: Fortunately, while everyone else was playing "Shut Up and Finish Your Trilogy," only Drew Magary and Corwin Ericson were in catch-up mode, trying to claim a readership of their own. That means there are only two debuts to choose between, a much more manageable number.

While neither is perfect, in both books the positives outweigh the negatives by a wide margin. I'd feel comfortable recommending either to any of you freaks whose to-read lists haven't yet hit triple digits. Both books contain a certain level of satirical absurdity, although more so in Swell. For the most part, The End Specialist tries to draw logical conclusions from illogical premises; Swell feels no such obligation.

In the end, I'm giving the nod to Swell, mostly for its playful prose and unique brand of absurdity. While The End Specialist does offer a fresh perspective on the "end-of-death" scenario, the concept of "post-mortality" itself is one I've seen before through a number of different lenses. These days I find myself more and more drawn away from traditional genre topics and toward the unpredictable and entertaining. Swell, my YetiStomper Debut of the Month, is exactly that.

YetiStomper Cover Of The Month: Maybe I should just stop pretending I'll post these. It's not like I'm already a month behind in my YetiPicks...

As always, if you are interested in more detail regarding any of the above books, just click on through the Amazon links. And don't worry, thanks to new state legislation, I don't get a single penny, nickel, or dime from it. It's been hard restructuring my budget without that extra $10 a year but I think I'll survive. Be sure to let me know if there is anything I may have missed in the comments.

You can view previous installments of YetiStomper Picks here.

Nov 8, 2011

Rape or Be Raped? House-slaves?

Those are some pretty loaded groups of words. So loaded in fact, that one might assume any logical individual would be aware that by using them to describe something as unremarkable as different methods of publishing, they were going to cause a stir.

And who wants a stir?

Surely not a self published author who is responsible for marketing his or her own work without the help of a large publicity department. Why would they use inflammatory language if they knew it would lead to a bunch of people talking about them and posting links back to their website? The same website that they use to sell books. I just don't get it.

And futhermore, in the off chance that a self published author wanted people to find their way back to his or her blog, it would require that author, someone whose entire means of living is dependent on his or her ability to string words together in a manner that evokes something in the person who reads them, to be capable of picking words to generate a specific reaction. Impossible, right?

I really hope you see where I'm going with this by now.

Much like the Westboro Baptist Church, the best way to stop these people from saying "irrational" things is to stop paying attention to them when they do.

And if you're having trouble doing just that, may I suggest Unpossible by Daryl Gregory or The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin as a better use of your time.

How do I know they're worth reading? They came from REAL publishers.

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