Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review: Sidney's Comet

Brian Herbert's book Sidney's Comet is a very odd little story, a cotton candy apocalypse done up as dystopian fantasy.

(flips through a few more pages of her thesaurus and curls up on it, tucking her tail underneath her and primly folding her paws)

No, seriously. I really don't know what to make of this one. I mostly enjoyed it, but hated, hated, hated the setting. A cardboard cutout of a friendly evil empire, really. A parody of North American consumer culture that doesn't quite ring true... Despite being set hundreds of years in the future, it's a future that's oddly dry and stale.

Like that catfood on the plate downstairs. *ahem* I said, like that catfood...

(RJ's People exits stage right to remedy situation)

Where was I? Oh, yes. This book has it all: A nobody who wants to be a Somebody (Sidney Malloy, the eponymouse of the title). A Threat to All Life As We Know It, namely the comet co-star. Love. Bureaucracy. Aliens. Plots and counter-plots. Jargon. Acronyms. Dogs and cats, living toget... Oops, wrong story.

When the book observes the characters directly, the result is generally funny and mostly succeeds. When it falls back on slogans and other futurebabble, it just plain gets in the way of the storytelling.

The framework is clunky, too... Telling the story as history? Too distracting. Getting rid of the "Sayerhood" mystics altogether, or integrating them into the main time line, would have produced a much tighter story. As it was, I kept imagining the cast of Asimov's Foundation Trilogy as school patrol kids on a field trip to the roller rink.

And that can't be good.

(watches in horror as Astreja K. dashes back into the room and scribbles down 'Foundation Trilogy, roller rink, NaNoWriMo')

Um... If you'll excuse me... (jumps off thesaurus and runs for dear life)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Review: The Cartoon Guide to Physics

Being a feline bibliophile in a house full of books is rather edifying. Especially when my People buys books with lots and lots of pictures.

The Cartoon Guide to Physics, by Larry Gonick and Art Huffman, is a really good read for cats like me who don't know the first thing about science.

The helpful cartoons, in a "George Herriman meets Patrick McDonnell" style, helped me calculate the acceleration on that mouse-on-a-string toy that's hanging from the bathroom door. (At least until Greyscale sat on it.) Explained those bright shiny things called 'photons' that happen when a People throws a light switch. Oh, and quantum physics. Gotta have quantum physics.

(pushes scientific calculator off desk) Gravity is a lot of fun, too.