Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Rus Wooton – The Walking Dead – All Out War: Part One

wpid-RobertKirkmanTheWalkingDead20-2014-07-20-10-59.png
18th – 20th July 2014

The Walkind Dead series keeps haunting me. I still think it should be brought to an end (I keep writing that every time) to avoid that it loses its greatness. On the other hand, I am stunned each time a new issue comes out and I blow through in a few days.

Robert Kirkman never stops to amaze me in his ruthlessness of character treatment. It gives me the creeps. You somehow suspect this or that might happen, but if it happens, it is in a way that still gets you. If it doesn’t you are left with the feeling it might still happen anytime soon.

In this issue, Rick’s group sets out to attack Negan to bring some sort of peace to the community. I have to confess, I seldom felt such hatred for a character than for Negan. Get that guy out of the way.

At first things seem to go quiet ok, but the Walking Dead would not be the Walking Dead if things don’t turn south. [insert creepy feeling] Wow!

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Dustin Nquyen – American Vampire – Vol. 5

wpid-ScottSnyderAmericanVampire5-2014-07-20-10-57.png
10th – 18th July 2014

I took a short break from reading American Vampire, but now I am back. Shame on me, but it’s hard to keep track of so many good series these days.

Volume 5 is a two parter. First, there is a mini-story (I believe three issues) around the VMS, the secret service unit trying to stop vampires. The story plays in 1954. They learn that Dracula is trying to sail over to the United States and try to stop him. The story is very much centered around agent Book and her son, as well as on agent Hobbs (whom we met before). I really like the personality play between the two agents and the mother-child relationship. Everything Book does is to keep her son save in the harsh cold vampire world. Touching!

Then the story shifts back to the USA and Pearl Jones. She still can’t just live her life with her husband, but continuously needs to fight off Vampire attacks. Make no mistake, Pearl is ruthless. She hunts her hunters down. But it gets to her.

Until one day, she meets Skinner again. It turns out, he is now working for the VMS and tasked to kill off the vampire strain hunting her. So she has to team up with her worst enemy to protect her family. But Skinner has not changed. He is still a psycho killer. The VMS has a leash on him, and that is the only reason he is working for them. It turns out you can’t keep Skinner restraint.

Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jock – Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52)

wpid-ScottSnyderBatmanDeathofthefamily-2014-07-11-22-34.png

4th – 10th July 2014

“Death of the family” is the sequel to “A city of owls”, written by Scott Snyder and published as part of the New DC 52s. A city of owl’s arc ended with that volume, and this is now a new one. In this arc, Snyder goes back to Joker in the Dark Knight style. Joker is a very crazy and mean person. He seemed to have disappeared for a year, but then it turns out he was running Arkham asylum. Now he is back to the scene and very ready to fight. And he turned completely mad.

This story contains all of Batman’s family (Robin, Red Robin, Catwoman…) – hence the title. Joker decides to kill them all and cause the “death of the family”. The comic is hard, almost brutal and not easy to read (because Joker is just so mean). Still, the story is very suspenseful, with very interesting twists. There is also a lot of hidden horror, where Joker just hints at something, but you don’t know if he would ever do it. Scott leaves it open. I found Harley Quinn in this regard most impressive. Let’s see if Scott comes back to her in later issues.

David M. Ewalt – Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It

wpid-DavidEwaltOfDiceandMen-2014-07-11-22-32.png

2nd – 9th July 2014

I don’t recall how I came across this book. I think it somehow magically appeared on my recommended reading list, or someone mentioned it on twitter. Earlier this year I read “Drachenväter”, which covers to some extend also the history of TSR, Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and Dungeons and Dragons.

This is now a book which is exclusively about D&D. Hence I was keen to learn more, especially since Drachenväter had been quiet critical. However, it turns out this is more a book about playing D&D and the author’s personal experience with it, than a book about the history. Actually, I prefer that. I was in no mood to read a lengthy historic account. David starts out by describing a session of his own role playing group. The narrative is interspersed with a segments from the roleplaying characters point-of-view.

Throughout the book, David describes how he personally came to playing D&D and what fascinates him so much of the game. It is kind of interesting; we are of the same generation who started roleplaying in the early 90s. But he carried it forward to today, with all the alternatives of TV or computer gaming. For him, it is the interplay of his group and that their games are very strong in storytelling.
There is one chapter where he attends a game of pure dungeon crawling and is very disappointed. Good, believable storytelling is the real fascination.

In other chapters , David talks about Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and TSR’s history, rise and demise. David focuses more on Gary, whom as you can read between the lines he admires. He’s just a true fan, the book is not meant to be objective.

In summary this book is more about the people who play D&D (and especially David), than about those who created it. But that is perfectly fine, it is a good and quick read and I found it interesting to follow.

Steven Levy – The Perfect Thing

wpid-StevenLevyThePerfectThing-2014-07-6-10-59.png

25th June – 2nd July 2014

I guess, I am going to read every book Steven Levy ever writes about Apple. “The Perfect Thing” is about the iPod, from its creation to being basically the only surviving mp3 Audioplayer in the market.

The book starts out with stories how great the iPod is, who is using it and why. That was too trivial for me. It’s ok that the pope has one… but do I really need to know? Does it make the device better?

Then the book discusses the creation of the device. That was a bit short in my opinion. But I guess Steven just did not get more information, given Apple’s usual secrecy.

The chapter about building the iTunes store and licensing music was really interesting. I had heard the overall story before, but Steven tells it in great detail with some interesting side notes.

There is a long chapter about shuffle. I never used the feature, so it was interesting to read, but it is still not for me. He spend too much time talking about if the shuffle feature is really random or not.

Finally there is a chapter about Podcasts. In 2006 and 2007, when the book was written, Podcasts were still in their inception. I am still surprised how big Podcasts got, especially given that this was probably a feature added on a whim to iTunes. I guess, no one expected that. Would be interesting to know, who within Apple came up with the idea.

The book concludes with the mentioning of the iPhone. Steven is speculating if it might succeed. That of course, left me off with a smile.

Horst Hoffmann – William Voltz Gedächtnisband

wpid-HorstHoffmannWilliamVoltzGedaechtnisband-2014-07-6-10-59.jpg

2. Juli 2014

Den William Voltz Gedächtnisband hatte ich schon mal besessen. Aber ich muß ihn bei irgendeinem meiner Umzüge verloren haben; leider. Daher kauft ich ihn neulich noch mal. Es ist schon etwas schade, man findet ihn hin und wieder in Wühltischen. Das stört irgendwie die Erinnerung. Es wäre schöner, das Buch wäre teuer und schwer zu bekommen. Und nicht für 2,99 DM.

Ich konnte mich dann doch nicht dazu durchringen, es nochmal zu lesen. William Voltz hatte ich nie erlebt, das war vor meiner aktiven Perry Rhodan Zeit. Auch stachen seine Romane für mich nicht besonders heraus. Nicht schlimm, so ist es einfach. Ich glaube, es liegt daran, daß die Romane der 70er und 80er einfach von heute aus wie aus einer anderen Zeit wirken.

Nein, ich konnte es nicht nochmal lesen, weil der Schmerz über den Verlust in jeder Zeile steckt. Das Buch beginnt mit den Autoren, die sich an Willi erinnern. Eine ganze Reihe von ihnen lebt mittlerweile auch nicht mehr. Und das war mir zu melancholisch, es tat zu weh, mich an eine Zeit zu erinnern, die ich nie erlebt habe, und in der noch alles in Ordnung war.

Andy Weir – The Martian

wpid-AndyWeirTheMartian-2014-06-29-10-54.png

15th – 23rd June 2014

This book became very famous through my internet bubble. Everyone was talking about it, and how good it was, even people who do not normally speak about books. So… follow the bubble!

The story plays in the not too far future. NASA is sending several human expeditions to Mars. The main character, Mark Watney has just been six Marsian days on the planet, when a storm hits. The crew has to emergency evacuate. Mark is hit by a broken antenna and the crew presumes him dead. He is lost in the storm and there are no vital signs from his space suite anymore. So they leave without him and start the flight back to earth.

However, Mark finds himself injured, but alive. Through sheer luck he survived. He only has two problems: Continue to survive until he can be rescued, and find a way to tell earth that he is still alive. The antenna of course contained the radio.

The book is written as a diary of Mark recording his days on Mars. In between in switches back to NASA on earth. Mark is a funny and witty guy and incredible resourceful. His writing is very blunt.

The beauty of the book is that Mark manages to survive, but that everything he does is explained scientifically. It is at least plausible. Andy Weir researched very, very well. Of course, he set some pre-conditions by deciding which kind of material, technology or resources NASA brought to Mars. For example, there were several missions beforehand just dropping supplies. Still, what Mark creates from the few basics he has is just incredible. That is the fun of the book. Mark is continuously in situations without a way out and then just comes up with the idea to go on.

It’s a very well written story and a fast read, but at the same time incredible accurate. Just fun. Now I understand why it became so famous in the little internet world.

Rick Sternbach, Michael Okuda – Technical Manual (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

wpid-RickSternbachStarTrekTechnicalManual-2014-06-22-10-03.png

8th – 19th June 2014

I just had to have this. I am such a Nerd for fictional sourcebooks.

The book was published back in 1991, while the series was still running. The writing must have been around season 4 (with season 5 – the best of all yet to come, but that is a different story).

The book is written as a real technical manual for star fleet personal, with detailed descriptions of every ship design decision, features, components, supplements, systems, the whole nine yards. Awesome.

Of course, not everything works out logically. The authors have added footnotes with explanations, back stories and trivia. Also, they finally talk about the pranks they pulled (“We added the initials of the designers to the control board. But never mind, you can’t see it on TV.”)

The design is perfectly Star Trek, surprisingly it does not look dated at all.

A must have!

Anke Fesel, Chris Keller – Berlin Wonderland – Wild Years Revisited, 1990–1996

wpid-AnkeFesselBerlinWonderland-2014-06-8-10-39.png

1. – 7. Juni 2014

Tanith hatte auf seiner Webseite auf dieses Buch hingewiesen. Er hat ja oft sehr gute Tips für Berlin (und Techno) Dokus.

Dieses Buch zeigt Photographien der frühen 90er Jahre in Berlin. Kurz nach dem Mauerfall, als alles noch im Aufbau begriffen war. Man ging einfach hin und machte, die Behörden kamen damals gar nicht mit und wurden oft vor vollendete Tatsachen gestellt. Vor allem das Tacheles, ein von Künstlern gestaltetes besetztes Haus. Es gibt hierzu ein sehr gutes Küchenradio.

Ich war damals zu jung und das alles verstehen zu können, aber heute im Rückblick ziehe ich meinen Hut. Was damals geschaffen wurde, ist schon sehr beeindruckend. Die Lebensweise hat so etwas aufbrechendes, positives. Kurz vor dem Jahrtausendwechsel der Blick nach vorn. Ich wäre gerne dabei gewesen.