#REVIEW: Ada Twist, Scientist

61pu8UIQ+kL._SX406_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSomething a little different tonight, if you don’t mind (and it’s my blog, so I’m doing it anyway whether you mind or not): I need to make sure you’re aware of a certain children’s book I just read to my son.  I was considering making this part of my Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews series, but decided not to.

So here’s the deal: if you have kids under, say, 12 or so, or if you teach science to any kids of any age, or really if you teach at all, you need to acquire a copy of Ada Twist, Scientist and make reading it out loud to said children a part of your mission in life for the near future.  Educators will already be aware of this: it’s occasionally a great idea to read out loud to kids, regardless of their age, and it’s also occasionally a good idea to read what are ostensibly children’s books to kids who are on paper too old to be reading those books.  You should all find your kids and then find this book (in that order, preferably) and then read it to them.

Here’s why: Ada Twist, Scientist does a great idea of breaking down how science works and how the scientific process works and how scientists think in 32 pages of simple, rhyming prose.  The fact that the titular scientist is a young black woman is just icing on the cake.  Representation is important, and young women of any race need to see themselves as scientists.  So do black children of either gender.  And my white male son needs to see scientists who don’t look like him.  Plus, again: it taught my five-year-old the word hypothesis.  Which he’ll be using in sentences by the end of the week.

Go check it out.

On holding back

wicther_3_oh_my_glob.jpgIf you’ve been paying attention to my posts lately, or to my Twitter feed, you can probably guess why I didn’t post yesterday, and I suspect you’d be right.  I’ve been trying to write about it and I’m not quite there yet, for a variety of reasons.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please forgive the vaguebooking; all will be made clear soon enough.

Instead, let’s talk about something how I’m either too old, too liberal, or both to play video games any more. Despite shit-talking it when it came outThe Witcher 3 went on a steep-ass discount a few weeks ago– I got the game and both expansion packs for $20, if I remember right– and I was in a period of mourning the lack of video games in my life at the time and so I went ahead and picked it up.  I mean, fuck it, right?  This thing got Game of the Year awards from basically everybody, and I’ve been wrong before, right?

Nah.

The Witcher 3 is exactly the game I thought it was before picking it up; it is not only bad in all the ways I thought it would be bad, it manages to be worse than I thought it was going to be in several critical areas.  I have been gaming for a very long time, so it is likely that I have played a more misogynistic game than this one at some point or another, but I can’t recall what that game might have been.  This is a game that very, very badly wants to be taken seriously, but the overgrown adolescents who coded it think that “serious” means that you get called a cunt everywhere you go, and mistake adult content— there are lots of tits, oh so many tits, and oh so many whores, and so many of the swear words– for adult complexity.

I would probably have really loved this when I was sixteen.  That’s who it’s aimed at, and regardless of the actual chronological ages of the designers, it’s who it was made by.  There are bits of the gameplay I do enjoy, but I commented to my wife this morning that the game’s greatest feat is managing to remain perfectly balanced on the razor’s edge where I’m enjoying it just enough that I’m still playing, but it’s not actually good enough to make me forget the parts that make me want to quit– so I’m still playing, but I hate the game for maybe half the time I’m playing it.

I don’t mind the stabbing.  I don’t even mind the crafting and alchemy, which is normally a part I do my best to ignore in most games.  It’s whenever I’m not in control of the character– ie, cutscenes– that I want to throw my PS4 out the window and cultivate a new hobby.

Blech.

Spoiler #REVIEW: Rogue One

Okay.  You may remember my review of The Force Awakens, which basically went through the entire movie point-by-point and dissected the entire thing.  I liked TFA, but it hasn’t held up for me as well as I wanted it to.  In fact, as you can tell from the review, it started falling apart almost as soon as I got home.

My short, spoiler-free review of Rogue One is that it is a much better movie than The Force Awakens was, but– alarmingly– the places where it is bad, it is bad in exactly the same way as TFA.  Which is not a good sign for future films.

I am going to spoil the shit out of this movie.  I’m giving you a picture and then an actual jump screen so that you don’t get caught up accidentally.  But you will Know All the Things when you’re done.  Okay?  No whining.  SPOILERS!

rogueone_logo-0-0 Continue reading “Spoiler #REVIEW: Rogue One”

#REVIEW: INK AND BONE, by Rachel Caine

Y61tZg+d8VbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgou may find it surprising– I certainly did, when I counted– to learn that I have seventeen books by Rachel Caine, which probably puts her under Stephen King and not a whole damn lot of other people in terms of the sheer number of her works that I own.  I don’t talk about Caine’s work much around here because her previous work have slotted in my brain precisely where Star Wars and Conan books go: they’re the literary equivalent of candy, consumed quickly, enjoyed, but not really lingered on that much afterwards.  I don’t think I’ve reread anything she’s written, for example.  That’s not a criticism of her or her work, mind you; I like for my own books to have a bit of the “candy” feel to them, so it’s certainly not a bad thing.

Then I read Ink and Bone.  This is a new series– the second is book is out in hardback, but I don’t have it just yet– and it’s wildly different from everything else she’s ever written, or at least everything she’s written that I’ve read, as I’ve not touched her Morganville Vampires series.

Because vampires.

At any rate: her previous three series that I’ve read have all been urban fantasy, for lack of a better phrase, mostly written in first person.  The Great Library series is alternate history, sort of, except it starts way back with the Library of Alexandria not being burned down two thousand years ago, and from there we end up in a now (or near future, maybe?) where the Library runs the world and there are no  original books left.  Instead, you can access any work ever written through a device called a Codex, which I thought was a little cooler until I realized it was basically just a Kindle.  Throw in some shadowy government conspiracy stuff, a bit of advanced tech in the form of teleportation, creepy forbidden magic, a brutal war between England and Wales, and a bit of Harry Potter-esque librarian school stuff and you have a hell of a story.

Check it out, guys.

#Review: Ken Liu’s THE WALL OF STORMS

fjuhobw1qz0krg4vuqv2.jpgWhen I read the first book of Ken Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty last year, I had nothing but praise for it.  The setting, a (very) loose retelling of the Han dynasty with giant whales, magical books, airships, battle kites, and two-pupilled warlords, was like nothing I’d read before, and the entire thing was fantastically inventive and entertaining as hell.

I read the book in April, and between April and writing my Best Reads of the Year list at the end of the year I read several fairly cogent critiques of the book that led to it not holding up as well as I’d expected.  Chief among the complaints was the rather minimal role that women played in the text.  There were more, but that was the biggest one.

Well, Liu either took that to heart, or had already planned for women to take a much larger role in the sequel, The Wall of Storms.  One way or another, this book is stuffed with fascinating women characters.  Hell, if anything, the men get shortsighted, as one of the main male characters from the previous book is dead (although his influence is felt throughout) and the other is not as foregrounded in this as he was previously.  The book also shows why the series is called the Dandelion Dynasty, as Kuni Garu’s children move to the fore, and there are plenty of hints that the next book (I have no idea how many are planned for the series) will be moving down another generation again.

As a result, and because it doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting of creating the setting that Grace of Kings did, this book has a lot more room to breathe and stretch.  It’s longer than the first, which wasn’t a short book, and while this one clocks in at around 850 pages it’s somehow a fast read at that length.  And it introduces an entirely different culture, the Lyucu, who have antlered, fire-breathing dragons.

Garinafins are very cool, guys.

There’s also a great emphasis on scholarship and scientific advancement, particularly one great leap forward (pardon the pun) late in the book that allows the good guys a chance at victory in the book’s culminating conflict.  Many of the main characters are scholars, and when the book occasionally allows itself to delve into, say, garinafin biology, it’s done for a reason and isn’t as much of a wanky infodump as you might expect.  It’s true to the characters.

I loved this book, guys, and I loved it as much as I loved the first book.  This book doesn’t have the first book’s flaws, either.  I’m not sure yet whether it’s going to end up edging out The Girl with All the Gifts as the year’s best book, but I’ve got a month to let it marinate before I write that post.  Either way, you should be reading it, even if you were scared off a bit by the first book.