Posts tagged books

The Big Huge Guy Adams Sherlockian Review and Interview

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All Things Guy Adams Sherlock Holmes, all the time
by Prof. Jenn

Well nearly all. Thanks to Titan Press for this opportunity to review Guy Adams’ Sherlockian goodness, and for the interview “in.” Also, this appeared first over at my blog.

First of all, can I just express my extreme nerdy jealousy that Mr. Guy Adams gets to write all these? I mean, how do you get that gig?
Well, I got a chance to ask the man himself. Before we get to that, though, take a gander at my reviews of his many Sherlockian books.

Sherlock Holmes: the Breath of God
What happens when Holmes is faced with the supernatural? Not the faux supernatural, like in The Hound of the Baskervilles, but the actually unexplainable?
Or is it?
The Breath of God is a novel that fits right in with the Doyle canon and the best of the non-Doyle canon (I’m thinking Nicholas Meyer in particular). What it does well is maintain that Watson-centered narrative which is so essential to a powerful Holmesian story, in my professional opinion. The thing is, Holmes is such an extraordinary creature, that to be inside his head diminishes the astonishingness of him. Having the story told from outside him gives us the opportunity to marvel at his prowess and be mystified by his flaws. Knowing his flaws personally would be too wearing for a story, though it could make for a fascinating character sketch. But I digress…
The great thing about the plot of Breath of God is that you really don’t know what to think of the magical things that go on, just like Watson. Even up till the end there are certain threads that don’t end up tied up neatly. That’s not to say Holmes doesn’t figure it all out in the end, but… Man, I’m about to spoil things. Okay, I’ll stop. I’ll just say this: it’s mysterious, exciting, slightly meta (love the moment when Holmes says he needs to pull a Hound of Baskerville move), and the end is quite dramatic. Plus there’s philosophical dilemmas and some mashups of historical and fictional characters from that time period, which you all know I love when done well.
Bottom line: Sherlock Holmes: the Breath of God is a rollicking good time, and a book I’m happy to shelve next to the canon.

Sherlock Holmes: the Army of Dr. Moreau
I actually reviewed this one in depth before, it’s what made me want to do a big ol’ review on all of them once I realized Adams wrote the Sherlock Case Book too. Here it is on my site, and on Nerds in Babeland.
As you can see, I kinda liked The Breath of God better.

Sherlock: the Case Book
As a giant fan of the BBC series Sherlock, I had to add this companion book into my collection. It covers anything and everything about the first two seasons of Sherlock. It includes story synopses from the point of view of John Watson’s scrapbook, complete with his notes, photos and police reports, even phone call logs. But the highlight of the synopses is the post-it note conversation between Sherlock and John, plastered all over the scrapbook pages. Oh, and Mycroft makes a brief post-it note appearance as well. At its best, the conversation is charmingly contentious, as one would imagine it would be between those two. It does, though, get a bit old. Sherlock may be impatient with an intellect lesser than his (as anyone’s is), but he isn’t incessantly whiny and bitchy. The bitchiness factor tends to take away from his massive intellect as a character, and is just wearing after a while.
The documentary type bits are great (although I did find a couple inaccuracies), like a nicely done DVD extra. And of course one of my favorite parts is the By the Book sections. I’m wondering why there isn’t a By the Book section for each episode, but I guess I’ll just let my More You Holmes blog posts supplement them. (Wow, did I just shamelessly plug myself? :sigh: Sorry Mr. Adams, I couldn’t resist. And thank you for the compliment and bookmark. Squee!)
Bottom line: if you’re Sher-locked, you absolutely need this book.

And now… (drum roll…) here it is: the MinInterview with Guy Adams himself.
5 questions: Guy Adams
interviewed by: Prof. Jenn
1) What choices do you make in your novels re: references/adherence to Doyle and your own original departures, and why? Have you created a backstory for Holmes that helps you in writing him through novel length stories?
A lot of it is instinctive to be honest. Everyone views stories and characters differently as they can’t help but bring their subjective viewpoint into things. I have therefore written what I think is a completely accurate version of Holmes and Watson. Other people will disagree as MY Holmes and Watson won’t be the same as THEIR Holmes and Watson.

I suppose I bring a little more humour into their relationship but that seems natural to me between two men who have been so close for that long. They’re a marriage.

I’ve also chosen to let Watson grieve over a dead wife. Doyle was — rightly — too busy building stories to dwell on  the emotions of his characters but I wanted Watson to have that. We’ve all loved and the idea of losing someone precious would cling to you, it plays a fair part in the action of The Breath of God.

The backstory is all Doyle though, I’ve read the stories many times over the years and that’s always the history I bring with me.

I have included favourite characters from other Holmes stories, such as Mycroft, Shinwell Johnson and Langdale Pike. Purely because those characters seemed helpful to the stories I wanted to tell.

As both novels blend Holmes with other fictional characters there is a natural inclination to bring the flavour of those works in too.

2) We share an acting background, so I have to ask–how does your acting training inform your writing, and vice versa?
It informs me hugely when it comes to character and dialogue. I played Holmes a couple of times too so that has hung over the whole process as I already feel close to the character.

Hopefully, having been an actor I can feel my way through stories. I can think in terms of the characters, bring them to life a little more.

3) What’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes story? What’s your favorite media adaptation? 
I’m terrible at picking favourites because mood always gets in the way. Probably The Adventure of the Red-Headed League.

Media adaptation is even more difficult somehow because there’s such a wide variation, all of which bring something interesting.

I adore Jeremy Brett in the role (especially with Edward Harwicke, a gentle, wise Watson).

The relationship between Downey Jr. and Jude Law is lovely too though, whatever you may think of the action movie bells and whistles the two of them spark beautifully off one another.

But how can we ignore SHERLOCK? We simply can’t… it’s glorious and a flawless version of Holmes and Watson.

Sigh… who knows which of them I like the most?

I’m not a great fan of Rathbone. No… let me be clearer, I love the films but he and Bruce are not MY Holmes and Watson, they are some other pair entirely who I enjoy spending time with but don’t recognise as the same people.

4) Tell us the story of how you got the Sherlock Casebook gig. How closely did you consult with Moffat and Gatiss, or did they set you free? Did you interview the actors, creators, etc. yourself for those non-fic bits?
I’ve worked with BBC Books on a number of projects and, knowing that I was a fan of Holmes, I think I was just the safe choice for them. It wasn’t something I had to pitch or fight for. They just dropped me a line explaining that they’d got the rights and would I like to do the book.

Hartswood were heavily involved. Steven, Mark and Sue Vertue all chipped in on the material as I was writing it, correcting things and ensuring I didn’t contradict anything they might want to do in the future.

I attended the commentary recordings for the DVD and Blu-ray and did some interviews then. That was excruciating actually as my dictaphone packed up. Benedict was loveliness itself, working his way through a cup of soup while I got more and more stressed trying to get the thing to record. “We really are going to have to get on,” he said softly as I began to consider just crawling under one of the microphone stands and dying of embarrassment.

I had an absolutely wonderful chat with Andrew Scott on the phone. We gassed on for over an hour with me deciding I’d like to be his best friend. No doubt he has already been in touch with his lawyers to discuss restraining orders. A lovely, clever, brilliant actor.

Everyone was a joy, it was great fun to do.

5) Any more Holmesian projects on the horizon?
I hope to write more Holmes novels but that’s up in the air at the moment depending on Titan’s future plans. I have a lot of other novels I’m working on at the moment but I’d always go back, I could happily write Holmes stories forever!

5a) How do you get to write using these already-created characters? Is there some kind of copyright process you have to go through? (I’m asking for a friend…:) )
This is a tricky one!  Strictly speaking, Holmes is out of copyright so you can do what you like with him (as is the case with all the other characters I used). That hasn’t stopped a few attempts on the part of the Doyle Estate to insist otherwise.

Copyright law is different all over the world so your friend would have to check the specific terms for where they wish to publish. It all comes down to either how long ago the original author died or how long since first publication of the original work.

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Thanks again for your time and input, Mr. Adams!   ~Prof. Jenn

Pic other pic

Guy Adams’ website

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Review Chicks Dig Time Lords

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Cover photo

Chicks Dig Time Lords, A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea, is a collection of essays and interviews that does exactly what it says on the tin. It also does quite a bit more, providing insight into fandom and what makes it tick, from a female perspective.

In the 21st century, anyone with a computer and an internet connection has an idea that fandom exists. Films have been made about the Star Trek and Star Wars fandoms. While everyone is familiar with the concept of the “Fanboy” it’s “Fangirls” who often get short shrift. The assumption being that women are only in it for the eye candy, and can’t possibly be into genre content the way men are. That there is no evidence for that assumption, hasn’t stopped it from being trotted out everywhere from Comics-oriented forums to the New York Times.

Chicks Dig Time Lords blows that assumption out of the water. In Time is Relative, Carole Barrowman shares a surreal journey that takes her from tormenting her baby brother with imaginary Autons in front of a Glasgow department store to being charged by a Dalek as payback, on the set of Torchwood. Novelist Elizabeth Bear takes on the concept of fandom tarnishing with time, in We’ll Make Great Pets and in Two Steps Forward, One Step Back, by Shoshana Magnet and Robert Smith? (yes, the punctuation is part of the name,) tackle the issues of sex and sexuality

There are practical anecdotes about cons and costuming, making fanzines and what it was really like trying to get one’s hands on Doctor Who back in the days before the internet. Yet it is the focus on critical analysis that drew me into the book. Chicks Dig Time Lords does some of the heavy lifting of deconstructing fandom, female fandom specifically, and reading the show from a feminist perspective. It’s easy to forget that Leela was a warrior, Nyssa was a scientific genius, Ace was incredibly good at blowing things up and even in the modern era of who, there are numerous ways that women are presented, nearly all of them controversial to some part of the fanbase. The book doesn’t cheat on presenting a homogenous point of view about whether or not Doctor Who is reflecting the concept of women as equals and directly takes on the questions of sexism and racism in both the writer’s room and fandom.

As an exploration of the Whoniverse, Chicks Dig Time Lords offers plenty of food for thought, while maintaining a fairly breezy tone that makes it a quick and easy read. As an exploration of female fandom, it is fascinating to see behind the mask of what’s expected of fangirls, even from each other. Be it ‘ship wars or the controversy over injecting smut into a universe that many fans see as being above all that, female fandom has begun flexing muscles we didn’t know we had.

That we’re demanding a seat at the table of fandom and conventions, that we’re synthesizing our concerns over presentation of women and LGBTQ characters in ways that might make creators uncomfortable at times, is becoming more and more evident. As an artifact of female, feminist, and completely unpredictable fandom, Chicks Dig Time Lords succeeds beyond expectation. Where it falls a little bit flat is in the included interviews. It diffuses the focus of the book in favor of very standard questions that don’t expand on what Sophie Aldred, India Fisher, or Laura Doddington’s experiences as women of the Doctor Who universe meant to them as women. The break in tone brings the momentum of the book to a screeching halt. Additionally, since the book only covers the Classic through Tenth Doctor eras, the reader who is looking for discussion of the Moffat era is going to be sorely disappointed.

It’s not a definitive analysis of Doctor Who, even from a female point of view, and it falters in presenting clearly defined sections between general fandom experience, puff-piece interviews and the more critical essays, but Chicks Dig Time Lords does offer an important window into how women view fandom and the object of that fandom. It is, in fact: bigger on the inside.

Author’s note: The reviewer is firmly New Who, considers Eleven to be her definitive Doctor and if given a choice, would go to the future so she could see how the human race turns out.

Soulless

Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

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Soulless by Gail Carriger

Review by: Megara Noelle

Looking for more Steampunk in your fantasy Sci-Fi books? Tired of the same old settings of modern times or the future? Well, I have a book that can give you that change. I present to you a book with Werewolves, Vampires, and Victorian scandal. In Gail Carriger’s first book of the Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless, we follow Alexia Tarabotti as she fearlessly makes her way through the world of the supernatural. Of course it helps that she has no soul, one of the rare ‘Preternatural’, something that she inherited from dead Italian father, quite scandalous. We find out right away that her preternatural abilities help her face down the supernatural, they can turn Vampires and Werewolves human for as long as they touch her.

Following Alexia through this supernatural murder mystery we watch as she interacts with some of the most powerful and well known Hive and Pack members of society. And she does all of this in secret as she keeps her own status a secret from her family. Alexia Tarabotti is one of the most unique characters that I have encountered, and I taught myself to read when I was four and haven’t stopped, so I’ve read through my fair share of books. She has elements of almost every female main character. She can kick-ass when in a tough situation, but will still ask for help and use her womanly wiles, and still manages to have some time to focus on what she thought was a non-existent love life. My favorite character has to be Lord Akeldama though, a very eccentric vampire who loves color, art, and many other exciting and loud things, and people. Although, I won’t lie and say that I wouldn’t love to meet the loud, brash and very handsome werewolf Alpha, Lord Maccon.

Alexia Tarabotti is headstrong, and stubborn, (much like my family) and despite almost everyone she knows telling her not too, she investigates the appearances of vampires and disappearances of werewolves on her own. It gets her into trouble more often than not, but where’s the fun in life without a little excitement? Am I right? Being labeled a spinster helps her not draw attention though, as it is quite scandalous for a woman in the late 1800’s to be talking to scientists, and reading more than her fair share of books. Sounds like my kind of girl. All she really wanted was some treacle tart.

Overall, I was very happy at the end of the book. It can be read as a standalone, the story wrapping up without having to impatiently wait for the next in the series. But, you’ll want to continue reading the series because Miss Tarabotti is the kind of character that you want to know what happens to her, what kind of trouble that she causes, and if she’ll get out of it. I’ve added Gail Carriger to the list of authors I regularly look for when I visit a book store thanks to this book. If you want a little bit of steampunk and science in your Victorian novel, I highly recommend Soulless and the two following books in the Parasol Protectorate series, Changeless and Blameless.

The Affinity Bridge

Book Review: The Affinity Bridge

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The Affinity Bridge by George Mann

Review by: Megara Noelle

I find most of my books, which turn out to be my favorites, by the book cover. This particular book I found mere weeks away from the World Steam Expo. I say this because on the cover of The Affinity Bridge is a large dirigible. Take my money, please. “A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation” the cover reads, “Steampunk is making a comeback, and with this novel Mann is leading the charge….” The Guardian dropped in, and some of the best reviews I’ve seen on the back. “An enormous pile of awesome.” Author Chris Roberson boasts, while the SF Signal says “Captures the Sherlock Holmes feel. Never a boring Passage. A Hugely entertaining book.” Steampunk and Sherlock Holmes in writing? Okay, now I’m just throwing my money at the cashier.

I wasn’t disappointed. It’s the early 1900’s, 1901 to be exact, and shipments and people coming back form India seem to have brought back a plague of some kind. Fog covers the streets, thickest in the morning and at night, and there’s a general warning out that no one is to travel the streets after sunset for fear of the plague ridden. One bite or scratch from these people will pass the plague, and those infected have merely three days before all hope is lost. Of course, those of us in the 21st century have a name for this, zombies. That’s right, I said zombies. Let’s tally this up so far. Sherlock Holmes, Steampunk, and now Zombies.

The enigmatic Sir Maurice Newbury is assigned a new assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, by the Queen herself. As soon as Miss Hobbes arrives they are thrown right into a new case, an airship crash where the automaton pilot has gone missing. They have to find the pilot, and find out why it malfunctioned when its creator claims that it can’t possibly malfunction, and investigate a string of murders committed by a glowing constable. The two cases can’t possibly be connected, so what to do what to do. The Queen is very interested in the airship crash and they’re starting to feel the pressure.

George Mann has created a world where things happen with plausible explanations, not where we’re asked to believe everything just on faith. It’s a blend of History Fiction and Sci-Fi/Fantasy that pulls you in. I usually only read Fantasy and High Fantasy novels, but with this book I find myself looking for Mann in the fiction section online and in real life for any new books. The way that Newbury and Hobbes work together gives a Holmes and Watson feel, but they have their own personalities and quirks. Headstrong Hobbes gives no real fuss when it comes to investigating or chasing down suspects, but enjoys a formal gala event and picking out the colors that she’ll wear. Newbury gives a feeling of cool calm and collected while craving and absorbing knowledge quicker than a sponge in the ocean. George Mann has a style of writing that I can only strive for as a budding author, and I personally can’t wait for the next Newbury and Hobbes installment, and if you want a mix of Steampunk, mystery, a touch of supernatural, and zombies, I think I found a book that you should give a chance.

Babe Nerd Editor

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Here is an excerpt of an interview I had with local literary editor Alison Dickson. Find the rest at bonzuko.com. ~Prof. Jenn

5 Questions: Allison M. Dickson          Interviewer: Jenn Zuko Boughn

1)    How did you get into the editing gig? Do you like it? How does it compare to being a writer?

It really started in college, when I was always the go-to girl in peer editing groups in various writing classes. The act of editing has always come very naturally to me. Having an “ear” for another person’s voice is part of it, but I truly enjoy seeking out errors and looking for compelling ways to express something more visually. After college, I started doing beta reading for some writer friends and one of them was so impressed and suggested that I should consider looking for ways to get paid to do it. That stuck with me. Since I was a stay-at-home mom in need of additional income, and I loved doing it, I figured why not give it a go? I started researching the freelance editing market, getting a feel for the services other companies offered, as well as thinking of ways I could set myself apart from the pack. Eventually, Allison Edits was born. The little company has undergone some adjustments since its inception, and there have been some moments when I’ve asked myself what the heck I’ve gotten myself into, but overall, I have found it to be rewarding. Overall, I bill myself as a “boutique” service. I don’t have a staff or a fancy uploader on my site. Instead, what you get is me devoting as much time and effort as possible into delivering the best edit for your work and making you feel more confident as you wade through the process of getting published. It’s a jungle out there.

Unfortunately, editing takes time away from my writing. I find that when I’m in the course of a hard edit, I’m devoting most of my creative energies to the client. And that’s fine. But I’ve never been able to edit and write in tandem. However, I have found that editing someone else’s work has often given me the inspiration or energy to tackle my own projects again after I’ve finished. And when I do, I find that I write better. I recommend all writers network with other folks in the craft so that they have the opportunity to beta read and edit other writing, even free of charge. It’s easier to see shortcomings in other people’s work than it is your own, and so it’s a priceless educational experience in what not to do.

m4s0n501

Reality is Broken: How Games Can Shape The Future

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How many hours a week do you spend playing games?  Any games. From simple little time-wasters on your mobile phone, to completely engrossing RPGs involving putting together missions and raids with fellow gamers.  What if those hours you spend building and changing virtual worlds could actually be applied to the problems in our every day life? This is the basis for Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken.

As a long-time game developer, McGonigal has had the chance to examine, first hand, how gaming can become a very huge part of a person’s every day life. In Reality is Broken, we explore how this is not only a growing trend, but how it can be a very positive one.  While non-gamers have always been critical of gaming, there are very clear perks to the lessons gaming teaches us.  A particularly interesting fact McGonigal expresses through her research is what she calls ‘the four super powers’ that a person develops through gaming regularly.  These include: urgent optimism, social fabric, blissful productivity, and epic meaning. This pretty much means that by being a regular gamer, a person can be their own highly-motivational pep rally, make connections, build trust, and learn team-building skills by working with other gamers, be legitimately happy about putting forth all of this effort, and feel like they’re making a difference. All of these skills are things you just don’t get in the real world very often these days.  You don’t get to level up by taking the trash out or recycling.  There are no one-up mushrooms for helping old ladies cross the street.  Beating your head on a brick definitely does not produce a ride-able miniature dinosaur.  …..okay, so maybe nothing can be done about that last one.

The issue here is that by keeping all of these great developments restricted to virtual worlds, we’re taking all of this potential out of the real world, and keeping it smothered in lands of orcs and fairies. Meanwhile, we have issues that need to be addressed in reality.  McGonigal’s suggestion to counter this is to create games that address real-world problems and offer legitimate solutions. Through this, we can not only train future generations to look at real solutions critically and creatively, but actually generate those answers quicker and more efficiently.  A few games like this already exist.  Consider Chore Wars, which is apparently a game similar to World of Warcraft, but played in real life, using daily, household chores as missions and achievements.  Additionally, McGonigal, herself, has created three – yes, three! – games in which you address large, real-world problems in a fun, gaming setting.  Games like World Without Oil, Superstruct, and Evoke are highly creative ways to brainstorm realistic solutions. Sort of makes you wonder if Left for Dead was actually a way to generate workable zombie plans, huh? To make this idea work, games would need to evolve in the right direction, and we’d all have to step it up on the amount of hours played.

Reality is Broken presents these views in a very thorough and thought-provoking manner. McGonigal offers well-researched scientific fact to back up all of the ideas expressed, and lays out a goal for the future that comes across as realistic and reachable.  While the beginning of Reality is Broken is a little long-winded going over qualifications for making these statements, this does establish a trust between the author and reader. McGonigal offers a radical idea backed up by well-documented facts, and a realistic path to get there.

I would highly recommend taking a look at Jane McGonigal’s bio and qualifications, her speech on this topic presented through TED Talks, and, of course, the actual book, Reality is Broken, now available on Amazon.

What do you guys think? Can games change the world?

NerdgirlReading

Being A Thrifty (Book) Nerd

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The holidays have passed us by and now our thoughts turn to “whoa, that’s a lot of bills I have to pay!” Being a nerd doesn’t make it any easier because we constantly have more and more things that we don’t just want, but need. Top among that list is books and our push to read often sends our costs up. However, there are many free avenues that we can explore to get our reading fix!

Library: This should be at the top of everyone’s list, but many times it is not. I’ve heard from many fellow nerds who rush out to buy the latest book just to read it once and then cast it aside. Instead, head out to your local library where you can read both the latest best-sellers and long-forgotten classics for free. It’s the power of your library card. And with the integration of most library systems today, anything that your local library does not have can be ordered from surrounding libraries, so you’ll never miss out.

E-Books: If you simply do a search for “free e-books” on the web you’ll turn up many sites that provide books for free, from classics to modern fiction. Project Gutenberg was the first to embark on the free e-book trend and many have followed, including Google, Amazon, and Many Books. Whether you have an e-reader or not, there are free e-books out there waiting for you.

Book Swaps: This is the avenue I tend to turn to most often because of my success rate in acquiring books. If you are one of those individuals who has a pile of books taking up space, book swaps are a great way to not only get rid of them, but turn them into new reads. The two I frequent the most are BookMooch and PaperbackSwap. From these two sites I’ve managed to get the latest books, as well as many books from my wishlist that have been out of print for a while. We can all benefit from the exchange of literature. [Additionally, the PaperbackSwap site is partnered with SwapaCD and SwapaDVD, so you can apply the same principle to CDs and DVDs.]

There are definitely more areas to explore for free books and I encourage you to seek them out. Some publishers send out review copies in exchange for a review written on their site or your blog. Other avenues include free audiobooks so that you can listen on the go. And the list goes on. So, the next time you’re wondering if you have to sacrifice your reading habit for the holiday bills, remember that being a thrifty book nerd is never a bad thing.

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