A slightly unfair early review of my new Chromebook

Chromebook-15_gallery_03Eh.  It’s fine.

Okay, I can probably come up with more to say than that– since I was specifically asked in comments yesterday to provide my thoughts on the new toy, and since hell if I know what else I might blog about tonight otherwise.  I’m going to be spending a lot of time this year messing around with, learning, and teaching Google tools (along with a lot of other stuff) and it didn’t take a whole lot of effort to talk myself into buying a Chromebook so that I can see what Google’s tools look like on hardware Google crafted especially for them.  Plus I got paid $200 for the training I was at over the last couple of days, so I figure that paid for the computer.  Yes: I bought a laptop that cost $200.  The point of Chromebooks is that they’re supposed to be cheap, and while my easily-available options ranged up to $750 and I actually looked pretty hard at one in the $450 range, I did actually end up buying the second-least-expensive one I could.  It’s an Acer Chromebook 15, and not the one that’s a two-in-one and can be folded into a tablet and that comes with a nicer screen.  The tablet mode is utterly useless to me and I don’t need a high-def screen for something that will be used purely to handle non-computing-intensive, non-video-related tasks.  The one I bought supposedly has a touchscreen; I have not touched it and it’s entirely possible that I never will.  I don’t know why a laptop would have a touchscreen and I don’t want one.

However: in general, I’m pretty pleased with it despite the lack of enthusiasm in the first paragraph.  The monitor is huge, the laptop is reasonably light, and most importantly after eight hours of basically constant use today the battery was still at 70%, which impressed me, particularly since working on documents that other people are editing at the same time has been murdering the battery on my Macbook Pro.  The keyboard isn’t all that much different in responsiveness and feel than my Macbook (which surprised me; I’m picky about keyboards) and in general the build quality feels pretty nice for something I only dropped $200 for.  I would expect it to be built from cardboard at that price.  I have some concerns about the power supply– the plug that actually goes into the laptop feels kinda dodgy– but I noticed no other obvious issues in a day of pounding on the thing.  It could definitely be a bit faster, but again: $200.  If you’re deeply or exclusively tied into the Google ecosystem, you could do worse than this little machine to navigate through your day.

If I hate it in a week, I’ll make sure to let y’all know.

#REVIEW: THE OUTSIDER, by Stephen King

9781501180989_p0_v4_s550x406I didn’t want to buy or read this book at first.  That’s not my normal approach with Stephen King; the man has written approximately 5000 books, but I have damn near all of them.  I can only bring two of his books to mind that I know exist and have not read yet: his novel about the Kennedy assassination, which rubbed me wrong from the beginning and which I never started, and the third of his three Finders Keepers books, which I cannot explain why I have not read yet.  I’m gonna get to it eventually!  I promise!

So, yeah: I’m a fan.  I have been a fan since I was, I dunno, however old I was when Misery came out and I found my grandmother’s copy when staying the night at her house and managed to read most of it before she realized what I was doing.  Honestly I don’t remember if anyone tried to stop me or not, but it wouldn’t have done any good if they had; nobody was ever any good at keeping books away from me.

But I didn’t want to read this book.  The main reason?  The premise, as explained by most of the pre-release stuff, is white dude is accused of heinous sexual assault, turns out to be innocent.  And if I’m being honest, white dude turns out to not be a sexual abuser after all! is not really something I’m super interested in reading about too much right now.  There are entirely too many white men getting away with sexual assault and rape right now– some of them being elected fucking president, no less– just put me off the book for several weeks.  My wife read it in the meantime, and told me to go ahead and read it anyway, and I did.

Which was the right call, because once I started The Outsider I had the damn thing finished in two days– a hundred pages the first night, another hundred the second, and then I picked it up when I got home from work yesterday and didn’t put it down until I was done with it.  And it’s a big damn book.  Stephen King, after all.  The reason I wrote such a short post last night?  I got caught up in reading and didn’t want to put the book down to write a post.

So, a couple of things: this is King’s darkest work in years, if not in his career, to the point where I’m not even sure right now what I’d suggest its closest competition is.  The book begins with a man being arrested for an absolutely heinous act of rape, sexual torture, and murder, and despite his innocence being such a plot point that I can’t even honestly call it a spoiler to mention it, the book keeps you wondering what the fuck is going on anyway, and then at about the 200-page mark it throws a massive curveball at you and runs off to be an entirely different book than the police procedural you thought you started with.  And even before that curveball, King does an outstanding job of whipsawing you back and forth between this man is absolutely guilty and this man cannot possibly be guilty, sometimes in the same chapter, and the cops don’t always make great decisions on how to prosecute the case and when the book finally does tie everything together and explain what’s going on I feel like it earned its ending in a way a lot of books– including a handful of other King books– really don’t.

This is also his scariest book in a long, long time.  I will admit that being the father of a young son didn’t exactly help me with that, and if you aren’t a parent your mileage may vary a bit.

One gripe, though: I have always thought that one of Stephen King’s greatest gifts as an author was his ear for voice and for dialogue, which makes it weird that this book has such really weak dialogue throughout.  There are so, so many sentences in this book that no human being has ever uttered before and never will.  He does this thing at the end where he sort of thanks the people of Oklahoma and says that if he got anything wrong, he’s sorry?  And I feel like maybe he’s doing this weird thing where he’s trying to capture something he thinks is Oklahoma Folksy and instead he’s landing on Abraham Simpson:

This is especially bad in the earliest parts of the book, where a fair part of the text is interview transcripts, meaning that they’re nothing but dialogue and people telling stories.  The various cops in the book generally aren’t prone to rambling, but any time someone else is talking– again, especially in that early part?  God.

But yeah.  If you can push past that one rather notable weakness, this is excellent King and a great recovery from Sleeping Beauties, which I didn’t really like much at first and has not climbed in my estimation since then.

This Book is Good and This Book is Also Bad: a #review of Autumn Christian’s CROOKED GOD MACHINE

41rQ16mZceLA quick programming note: my wife is in Boston all week for a work thing; I drove her to the train station at midnight last night, so while I am technically on vacation for a week  once my shift ends at 6 tonight, I’m also on solo daddy duty all next week and I have a couple of full-day training things for my new job, plus at least one other life-related excursion for each day next week.  So I’m gonna be kind of busy!  I’ll be using my spare time to work on Book Stuff but it’s gonna be an interesting week and there may not be a ton of time for bloggery.

Which means a 2000-word post every day, obviously.

Anyway.  I’m on Warren Ellis’ newsletter, and he pointed out this little indie-published (!!!) novel called Crooked God Machine, and I’m tempted to just quote his entire brief review because he’s Warren Ellis and he’s better at this than me but instead I’ll just link to it.  At any rate, the review doesn’t need to be complicated: in some ways this book is one of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever read in a deliciously good way; it’s about a world that is ending but is not in any hurry to do so, and what growing up in a world like that is like, and God yelling from you inside of a television, and people deliberately turning themselves into brain-spider zombies so that they don’t have to deal with their own existence any longer– the sales pitch for the brain-spiders is literally you don’t have to experience the next ten years.  The writing is uniformly gorgeous throughout– Autumn Christian wrote this between the ages of 19 and 21, which is unbelievable– this is A Confederacy of Dunces-level Evil Young Genius writing going on here.  If you are a fan of dark and really creepy horror I recommend it unreservedly.  If you aren’t, be aware that the subject matter is deeply fucked up throughout– a dead infant gets fed to a monster in a swamp at one point, and the monster torments the main character for the rest of the book, and that’s just that one thing, so maybe assume a trigger warning?  Ellis calls it “young, raw work” in his review and he’s absolutely right– there is a certain immaturity here, and it’s very clearly the product of a preternaturally talented young person who is very, very angry with the world she has been handed, and that’s something you probably need to be aware of about it, but it’s definitely worth reading and is gonna stick with me for a while.

That said.  I bought this book in print because I try to buy everything in print, and also honestly the cover is compelling as hell and I wanted it on my shelf.  Notice how the title on the cover omits the definite article?  The name of the book is The Crooked God Machine, according to everything on Amazon and everything inside the book.  It is perhaps a sign of how carefully the print manuscript is edited that the book gets the title wrong on the cover.  You will look at this and know immediately that it is an indy title, unfortunately– everything from the print size to the font choices to little things like chapters starting on the left-hand page once in a while screams that this was put together by someone who 1) had no experience in book design and 2) did not take the time to carefully look through the books in their possession and pay careful attention.  It is also, unfortunately, riddled with the types of errors you get when you are depending on spellcheck as your primary source of editing– in other words, there are next to no misspelled words, but there are lots of errors– nearly every chapter– of omitted words, autocorrecty sorts of errors where the word used is a real word so spellcheck won’t catch it but it is nonetheless completely the wrong word, and sentences where some editing took place but the editing itself introduced a second error that didn’t get caught.

I have seen from reviews that the ebook is not prone to this, but the print version will drive you crazy if you are the type to notice this.  It’s still absolutely worth reading but it cost the book a star in my Goodreads review because indie authors have to be better than this.  Then again, Warren fucking Ellis reviewed her book positively so maybe what the hell do I know.  Warren Ellis sure as hell isn’t reading The Benevolence Archives, right?

Sigh.

 

In which I am tired and also wrong

20980680So as it turns out, it appears that I got Raised Right in at least one respect: I have a pretty fuckin’ healthy work ethic, and despite being down to five shifts left at my job I think it’s fair to say that I worked my ass off for at least the last couple of days, and Monday was an exhausting mess for a number of reasons as well.  And I strongly suspect I will continue deliberately outhustling everyone around me just out of pure spite until I actually leave the job for good on August 8th.  I’m back for Saturday and Sunday and then taking my last week of vacation, which I hope to spend working hard on a book, but we all know how good I am with follow-through on those sorts of plans.  I did finish a short story this week, though!  One I plan to submit to a market, and once I get rejected, put on Patreon!  So that’s exciting.

(You should be one of my Patrons.  One, because the next one is number ten, and that seems like a big deal, and two, because I post stories and stuff over there and there will be a Special Project over there soon too that I’m planning on working on this weekend.)

Anyway, point is, I’m not lazing about just because I’m quitting, and I’m tired because this week has been especially busy.

On to being wrong: I read the first little chunk of Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves in … 2016, maybe?  And I hated it, cutting out early and one-starring it on Goodreads.  For no clear reason I got a wild hair up my ass about it a couple of weeks ago and decided to reread it, and while it took a while, the book being damn near eight hundred pages long, I finished it last night.

And, uh, loved it, and put it on my best of 2018 shortlist, and found out that the sequel isn’t coming out until December of 2020, and oh God that’s too long, and while I don’t have the energy for a full review right now?  I don’t know what the hell I was thinking the first time I read the book and you should consider checking it out.

Yeah.  Got that one wrong.