Kevin Guilfoile – A drive into the gap

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11th – 12th October 2014

I spotted this book on the Field Notes Homepage and just bought it with my last color edition order. It’s a story about Baseball. Although the sport says very little to me, I always had this strange interest in it. And being a Field Notes book, I was convinced of the quality upfront.

The story is about the author’s father, who worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates and later president of the Baseball union. In his role he encountered many famous players. One – Roberto Clemente– gave him the bat with which he scored his 3.000 hit. The bat is placed in the Baseball union’s Hall of Fame.

However, years later two people tell a similar story and claim to have been given the bat. The author’s father has dementia and does not remember. People from back then who could have known have died, so he can’t really figure out what happened.

The story is not really about discovering the true nature of the bat, but about the love for the game. It reminded me of summer evenings, where fathers introduce their sons (and hopefully daughters, too) to the game and tradition. It is a feeling of longing. And of loss – when these times are gone.

It’s a bittersweet book, a quick read and very enjoyable. Field Notes quality.

Maike Hallmann – Shadowrun. Pesadillas

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      1. Oktober 2014

Ich habe schon sehr lange Zeit keinen Shadowrun Roman mehr gelesen. In den 90ern las ich fast alle der damals bei Heyne verlegten Reihe (mein Lieblingsroman ist immer noch 2XS), allerdings nicht im Original. Es gab damals mit der Deutschland in den Schatten Trilogie von Joachim Alpers schon deutsche Romane. Shadowrun Romane wurden ab 1997 von Fantasy Productions veröffentlicht, dann gingen die Rechte an Pegasus Spiele. Im Laufe der Zeit verlor ich den Anschluß.

Im letzten Schriftsonar Podcast stellte FC Stoffel „Pesadillas“ von Maike Hallmann vor, Band 58(!) der Shadowrun Reihe, erschienen 2003. Ich fand das spontan interessant und kaufte das Buch einfach.

Es ist ein gut geschriebener Thriller mit überraschenden Wendungen, ein klassischer „Pageturner“. Es geht um einen kleinen Jungen der von einem Runnerteam mehr zufällig gerettet wird. Der Junge hat merkwürdige magische Fähigkeiten und ein Konzerntrupp ist ihm auf der Spur. Die Runner versuchen den Jungen zu schützen und herauszufinden, was es mit seinen Fähigkeiten auf sich hat. Die Autorin zeichnet sehr schön die Charaktere und ihre Motivationen. Die Geschichte nimmt einen mit und macht einfach Spaß. Vor allem die unerwarteten Wendungen sind toll.

Leider konnte ich nur sehr wenig über Maike Hallmann online finden. Ich denke, ich werde auch ihre anderen Shadowrun Bücher lesen. Weiterhin hat FC Stoffel „Die Feen“ von ihr empfohlen.

Schön, mal wieder eine neue Autorin zu entdecken und in eine alte Serie wieder einzutauchen.

David Candless – Knowledge is beautiful

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1st – 5th October 2014

This is David McCandeless’ second book on information graphics and data design. The underlying idea is to display complex data in a simple graphical way which explains datasets and the relationship of data elements. Hence the title, that knowledge can be shown in a beautiful way and made interesting for the reader by using graphics instead of large tables with figures.

The second book is a mix of continuing the first one with what I would call more straight forward data projections. For example, showing the timeline of the universe over several pages with all the events from the big-bang to humanity rising up. There is solid data to back this up and a timeline is a meaningful way to display it. Or the very famously recently published “How many gigatons of CO2”. These are classics.

On the other hand, David introduces a new quality of graphics which have a more political touch. For example, he shows several so-called “superpower run-downs” in which he assesses the US, China, India and the EU on selected indicators, such as GDP growth, armed forces, or unemployment rates and then ranks them. Depending on which indicators you combine, one superpower fares better than the other. I found the ranking a bit problematic. Is having armed forces good or bad? Your own political view influences on how you think about these graphics. Their purpose is more to provoke thinking and debate than to explain.

I found this book a bit more challenging to read than the first one, but I guess this is expected. Infographics have been around for quite some time and it is only natural that they should evolve towards the more complex side.

David provides most of the datasets online for common use, which I really appreciate. As usual the best pages of the book are at the very end where he lists the fonts used and has a very nice infographic on all the people who helped with the book.

Mike Carey and Peter Gross – The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship that sank twice

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26th – 28th September 2014

This book is the prequel to the “Unwritten” comic series. It is a full volume length 160 pages issue, published after volume 9.

It contains the story of Tommy’s real life father Winston and how he came to write the Tommy Taylor series books. While he was already a successful author before, the series was fully orchestrated to bring him to world fame. That included divorcing his wife and having a mysterious model pose as his real wife and marketing his young child as a wizard. For example, baby Tommy was even wearing glasses already.

Interspersed in this story is the fictional Tommy story of how he lost his magician parents and came to work at the Tulkinghorn magic academy as a kitchen boy, under supervision of professor Tulkinghorn. He soon fiends two very close friends, Susan and Peter, who are pupils at the school. Together they study magic. Although Tommy is not a magician yet he learns all the material and gains a deep understanding. But he is forbidden from attending lessons and he does not have the magical spark in him.

One day, the evil vampire Count Ambrosio is awoken from his grave and soon brings the entire town under control. Only Tommy and his two friends escape and finally fight him off.

The story reminded me a lot of Harry Potter, not sure if that is intentional, since it was written after JK Rowling’s books. It is also pretty much foreseeable. But since it is the prequel to the series it was clear how the story would run and end. Still, it is well told and a nice read.

I think you can read it first and then start with the series, but I would recommend not doing that. If you don’t know the series, the story seems too mundane and you might not continue afterwards and miss all the fun.

Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios – Pretty Deadly: The Shrike (vol. 1)

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23rd – 26th September 2014

I read the first issue of Pretty Deadly digitally somewhen last year. It fascinated me, but for some reason I did not follow the story. Now the first volume has been published, and of course I picked it up.

Pretty deadly is a strange tale where I am not yet sure where it will go. It is set in a weird western world that reminded me somewhat of the Dark Tower.

The main characters are Ginny, who is Death’s rebelling daughter, a mean gunfighter, not dead, but also not living (“You are not dead. You are something else”). Then there is Sissy, a girl who wears a vulture cloak and has a blue and a brown eye. She travels with Fox, an older man, who has been blinded by Death.

They are being hunted down by Alice, another gunfighter created by Death. Like Ginny, she is a mean fighter. She tries to get hold of Sissy. Fox and Sissy are first fleeing from Alice, but then Ginny comes in to help.

The whole story is framed by Bunny, a dead skeleton rabbit telling it to Butterfly, well, a butterfly.

Very strange and weird, but also very great. I really like it very much. At present, the story is up to issue #5 (2nd April) and I surely will follow along.

Oh, and the title of course. Anything that has a Shrike in it I must read!

Daniel Way, Alejandro Aragon, Tomm Coker and Federico Dalloccchio

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21st-22nd September 2014

I bought this book on a whim. I have heard a lot about Eve Online, but never played it. While it fascinated me, I was drawn away by the time commitment.

This book was a recommendation in the last issue of c’t magazine. They clearly said that you can only really enjoy it if you know the game and follow the major factions. The story is based on real events within the game. That means the basis for the story are two factions, two groups of players fighting one another. It also means, only those few players really experienced the story themselves. The vast majority maybe heard of it or read it on some message board.

I always had a weak spot for such things. This whole idea fascinates me. So I bought it anyways. And I did not really understand the story. But that does not matter. The feeling of greatness does.

Dan Simmons – The Abominable

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31st August – 20th September 2014

Dan Simmons talked about this book when he was on as interview guest in Geeks Guide to Galaxy. It is the story of an 1925 Everest summit attempt.

I had read “On K2 with Kanakaredes” from Dan’s anthology “Worlds Enough & Time”, which is on the outside about climbing K2 with an alien, but really just about mountaineering. Dan is marvelous to write about climbing and mountaineering. I had liked that story very much, so the book was a natural next step.

The story is a mix between fact and fiction, sometimes too much of the later, but still a very compelling thriller, and in wide stretches true to climbing.

In June 1924, George Mallory and Andy Irvine vanished while trying to summit Mt Everest (which is true). But there were also two other climbers, Percy Bromley and Kurt Meyer (which is fiction).

The main characters, Richard Deacon (a British war veteran), Jean-Claude (JC, a French mountain-guide from Chamonix), and Jake (an American climber and the narrator of the story) were friends since the end of the first World War and climbing together in the Alps. The Deacon, as everyone calls him, comes up with the plan to persuade Lady Bromley to find the remains of her son Percy, as a way to finance the summit of Everest. She is very emotional and agrees to the mission under the condition that Reggie Bromley, responsible for their tee plantation in Darjeeling accompanies them.

The three get prepared, really prepared. The technology of that time did not really allow to climb Everest. You need the right equipment to protect yourself against the cold and loss of air pressure, and to be able to climb in these heights. The Deacon provides goose feather filled jackets and a new light-weight air apparatus. JC developed with his father 12-spike crampons – the front spikes for vertical ascent were a novelty back then.

Then they travel to India. In these days, the only route to Everest was from Tibet. Nepal, which is the easier route was closed. Today, it is the other way around and Everest is usually climbed from Nepal.

Reggie Bromley they soon find out is in fact Lady Bromley. Grudgingly they have to accept that she comes with them. In those times, women climbers were unheard of. However, she provides for the logistics such as food and the Sherpa porters, so they can’t continue without her. She lived all her life in the region, speaks the local languages and is a master of organisation. It soon turns out that this is not her first Everest tour, and that she has already climbed well above 8.000 meters.

From then on the story is very much about the slow ascent, from establishing the base-camp and the six high-camps. It is here where Dan Simmons excels in his story telling mastership. He perfectly transports the climbing process to the reader. If you have ever climbed yourself, you enjoy it all the more.

After two-thirds of the book they are close to make a summit attempt. But that have to forge it because of a sudden Yeti attack (yes, that’s right). From then on the book is more fiction than factual, more thriller and suspense novel. I was initially turned off by the Yeti thing, but that is soon clarified (of course, there are no Yetis). The story keeps being great, but our heroes do the impossible at the mountain and we drift over to fictional spheres. That is good from a story-telling and suspense point-of-view, but you have the thought in your had that they do the seemingly impossible.

But all is clarified in the end, and I felt the book had a satisfactory conclusion.

Eilon Paz – THE DUST & GROOVES – ADVENTURES IN RECORD COLLECTING

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21st August – 7th September 2014

I heard late about this book and missed-out on the kickstarter. I am sure I would have funded it, but then of course I support the artist and bought the book.

Dust & Grooves is the bible for all crazy record collectors. Eilon Paz, a photographer travelled around the world and made wonderful photos of people with their record collections, and he conducted interviews with them.

This is huge and heavy 400 page book, very nicely designed. It is just so beautiful to look at.

The book starts out with a short introduction and background to its history and coming to life. This is followed by more than 250 pages with the photographs of people showing off their collection or favorite records. Most of them with a short explanation. There are even some fold-outs! Eilon has a keen eye for unusual perspectives, and he assembles several of the photos as collages. An interesting touch.

The third part of the book contains 130 pages of interviews with collectors. The selection is very varied with very different people from all backgrounds and collection intentions. I very much enjoyed reading them. The only trouble now is that I have to go off and buy more records.

There was some delay with my shipment, and I was in contact with Eilon directly. He is such a nice and humble person, who did everything to get the book in my hands.

I fondly think back of the time I spend with this book. The experience makes me happy. I hope there will be more in the future.