Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review: Jack West Jr series by Matthew Reilly



Matthew Reilly is an Australian author, and he has written several novels which became international best sellers. One of his most well known creations, is captain Jack West Jr. Many people became fans to the Indiana Jones styled, treasure hunting adventures in these books. Currently, there are 3 books in this series; Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones, and The Five Greatest Warriors.

Until last week, I have never read Reilly's books. The reason I picked up these series is because I heard, these books are comparable to James Rollins' Sigma Force series, and I love Sigma Force series. I devoured all 3 books in 6 days, and now I am going to share my review on these books.

Synopsis:

The great pyramid of Giza, stands as one of the most wondrous constructions in the human history. But not everyone knows, that 4500 years ago, a marvellous golden cap stone once sat at the peak of this megalithic structure. Legend says the golden cap stone possesses great power, and can bestow onto its owner absolute power to rule over nations. The golden cap stone has since disappeared, rumours has it, that the cap stone was divided into 7 parts by Alexander the Great, and each part was hidden away at the seven wonders of the ancient world.

In 2006, the cap stone's hidden power is once again required, to counter the disastrous effects of an upcoming solar event. However, a powerful artifact of this calibre is guaranteed to attract big nations to fighter for the ownership of the cap stone, everyone wants it for its power.

It is time for captain Jack West Jr, a former top ranking solider in the Australian army, to lead a team of specialists representing a coalition of smaller nations, to rebuild the stone and save the world from the pending disaster. Along the way, Jack West and his team will encounter power hungry foes, while their quest will take them to search for the seven wonders of the ancient world, from the great pyramid to the fabled hanging garden of Babylon, Jack and his team will risk their lives to save the world, in a series of breath taking adventures that will determine the future of mankind..

What I think about these books:

These books are good, they can be categorised as “treasure hunt, action thriller” novels, akin to Indiana Jones movies. These stories have heroes racing around the globe, fighting villains, braving against dangers to search for legendary artifacts and uncovering long lost historical sites.

The pace of storytelling is very fast, at neck breaking pace. When I was reading them, it felt as if I was buckled up for a thrilling roller coaster ride. This is the strength of these books, Matthew Reilly successfully created the feeling of ever present danger, a story that will truly give you a thrill.

I truly had fun reading these books, and I like them. However, I do see some minor problems with these books. First of all, the action sequences are at times, unbelievable, they require you to suspend too much disbelief. Secondly, I felt the story progressed in ways that was kind of like a video game, a compilation of action driven missions, unfolding one after another. Frankly, there were moments in these books when I felt exhausted from reading the non-stop actions. I wish there were less actions but more character development.

Having said this, Jack West Jr. series is still a fun read, blending fast storytelling, explosive actions, exotic locations, and interesting history. So if you like Indiana Jones or James Rollins' Sigma Force books, you will probably like this one too.







Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug





The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opened in Australia on the boxing day. This is part 2 of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of the novel, The Hobbit. Personally, I love the book, I prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings, so I have high expectation for Peter Jackson's film adaptations.

I liked the first movie, The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey". I didn't see it in the cinema, I saw it at home when it was released on home video. And I have been looking forward to see part 2, since the trailer first appeared on youtube.

Peter Jackson's film adaptations, is set to be a trilogy. Each movie runs approximately 3 hours. Some may ask, how can a 300 page book be adapted into a 9 hours long trilogy? The answer is, The film version of The Hobbit, is a "re-interpretation" of Tolkien's novel. This means Peter Jackson had to add extra contents into the movie which weren't in the book. But the question remains, will this ruin the movie? Let's find out.



Synopsis:

Following the events in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Thorin, and the 13 dwarves continued their journey to the Lonely Mountain, to reclaim the lost dwarven kingdom. However, before they can reach their destination, the fellowship has to pass the perilous Mirkwood, which is infested by horrors newly awakened by the dark power that originated from the ruins of Dol Guldur, where rumors says it is occupied by a mysterious necromancer.

The fellowship parted with Gandalf, who undertook a quest to investigate the source of this dark power residing at Dol Guldur. While Bilbo, Thorin, and his band of dwarves attempted to cross Mirkwood and continue on to Lonely Mountain. It is a most perilous journey, where they will encounter both friends and foes. In the meantime, Smaug awaits beneath the Lonely Mountain, ready lay ruins on those who dares to trespass into his realm...

What I think about this film:

For several reasons, I like the second movie more than the first movie.

In The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson added an extra character into  the story. Her name is Tauriel, a beautiful eleven warrior with deadly martial skills. She is the captain of guards for the Mirkwood elves, and she is also Legolas' love interest. Later on, she was involved in a love triangle with Legolas and the young dwarf Kili.

Tauriel is not in the original book. When I first heard of Peter Jackson's decision to add a character into the story, I was skeptical about it. However, now that I have seen the film, I am glad they added Tauriel into the story. Why? Because now the story feels more.. balanced. Let me explain, because unlike Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings, in the original story of The Hobbit, there were no female characters that did anything significant in the story, this makes a very male dominated story.

While some might say the addition of Tauriel is a ploy to attract female audiences, but I think the addition of Tauriel not only made the story more gender balanced, but it also added a touching sub-plot of a love triangle, providing great characterisations for Tauriel, Legolas, and Kili.

The Desolation of Smaug also improved from its predecessor in terms of characterisation. Gone are the 13 interchangeable dwarves that you don't care about in the first movie. In the sequel, audiences are finally given the opportunities to get to know these dwarves, where some of Thorin's band of dwarves are finally have their moments to shine.

I saw this movie in 3D, the special effects are breath-taking, the action scenes are very intense and exciting. Unlike the first movie, where the adventure only started after 43 minutes into the film, in the sequel, the adventure starts from the beginning and continues right to the end, finishing with a cliff hanger ending.

My only complain about The Desolation of Smaug, is I don't like how this film looks. Let me explain, Peter Jackson decided to shoot The Hobbit trilogy at a very high frame rate at 48p, instead of the traditional frame rate at 24p. This means, while the pictures do look crystal clear, but personally, I feel like I was watching a real life sports event on HD TV rather than watching a movie. At 48p frame rate, the details appear overly realistic that the pictures feels unrealistic, not to mention it creates a lot of strains on the eyes and can cause headaches. I think I will watch it again when it comes out on home video.

Overall, The Desolation of Smaug is great entertainment, it has magic, a spell casting wizard, a courageous hobbit,  mystical elves, battle hardened dwarves, perilous adventures, and a colossal fire breathing dragon, flying and torching its way through the magical silver screen this holiday season.

P.S. The Desolation of Smug contains heavy violence, certain scenes could frighten younger audiences.

 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: The Adversary by Erin M. Evans

The Adversary, is the third book in The Sundering series, which takes place in the D&D world of Forgotten Realms. Six stand alone novels are planned for this series, each book will follow different iconic characters in this franchise, to describe the events taking place in the time of sundering. 

I have read the first 2 books in this series, The Companion by R.A Salvatore, and The Godborn by Paul Kemp. I like both books, I especially like The Godborn, and I decided to read the third book. 

Synopsis:

Farideh, a tiefling, made a pact with a devil in exchange for her sister's safety. Little did she know, that this pact will entangle her into a series of magical intrigues and devilish policies. After making the pact, she was captured by Netherese agents and held at a prison camp. While being imprisoned, she discovered her fellow prisoners are not just enemies to their captors, but people with special, hidden powers known as the "chosen". Their captors wanted to exploit this power, and destroy those who oppose them. As Frideh's sister and friends plan to rescue her, Frideh gets drawn further into the mystery and conflicts of the gods, as events gradually unfold.

What I think about this book:

I really wanted to like this book, but for some reason, I just couldn't get into the story. Perhaps it is because I have never read Evans Brimstone Angels series, and therefore found it difficult to delve into the story. But also because I found it difficult to adjust to Evans' style of storytelling. There seems to be a lot of romance and relationships between characters, and personally, I found there are too much of these in this book that at times, it distracts the flow of the story. As a result, while I was reading this book, there are many places where I just skimmed through the pages, and sometimes I was bored. Overall, I did not enjoy The Adversary as much as The Godborn, but since I am already 3 books into this series, I look forward to reading the next installment in The Sundering series. 
 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Book review: Harry Potter book 1-7 - Scholastic 15th anniversary box set

"Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open"

   - J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 

  Almost everyone has heard of the name "Harry Potter". Indeed, Harry Potter had taken the world by storm. It was adapted into movies by Hollywood, every Harry Potter movie was a commercial success. Children love Harry Potter, adults also enjoy them. Harry Potter got people reading, which is a truly marvellous feat in today's world, where people are more interested in staring at electronic displays as opposed to having an open book in hands.

Just exactly what is behind the Harry Potter phenomenon? Is it the style of writing? The story? The imaginative world? The characterisation? The success of Harry Potter is not only phenomenal, but it also made the author, J. K. Rowling, a billionaire. Admittedly, I have never read a single Harry Potter book until 3 week ago. I have seen all movies and thought they were average, but with people ravings about how the books are better than movies, I thought I should find out what the fuzz is all about and read them.

This year, Scholastic re-published all Harry Potter books with new cover arts in a box set. As a new comer to this series, I decided to purchase this box set for its reasonable price. The binding of all 7 books are in paperback format, the bindings are robust, with exquisite cover arts, encased in a beautifully illustrated box. Each chapter has illustrations from the original Harry Potter books. When all 7 books are in the box, the spines line up to form a picture of Hogwart. The overall appearance and quality of this box set is superb, it will stand out on your bookshelf. So this Christmas, if you are looking for a Christmas present, this box set will likely delight anyone who is a book lover or a fan of children's literature.

Now onto the story. Now that I have read all 7 books, I can see why this series appealed to so many people. I enjoyed the books more than movies, mostly because the books has more characterisation, and where some sub-plots were missing in the movies, the books explained them properly. The strength of the Harry Potter story is the characterisation, and its underlying message of love, hope and perseverance. These are the universal themes that we can all appreciate and relate to. For the children, Harry Potter books provide a world full of wonder and impossible adventures, teaching them the value of friendship and love. For the adults, this magical, imaginative story reminds us of the values of love, friendship, and perseverance that we sometimes forget as we wrestle with the worries in our daily lives.

I also discovered the major theme of acceptance and inclucivism in Harry Potter books. The people in Harry Potter are divided into magic users, and non-magic users who are called “muggles”. In the books, the bad guys look down at muggles, and treat them as inferiors. While Professor Dumbledore, Harry Potter and his gang oppose the idea of exclusivism. Now, I do call myself a Christian, and as I was reading these books, I couldn't help but reflect at how the Christian community I know, also has the tendency to divide the world into Christians and “non-Christians”. Now to be fair, Christians don't discriminate against non-Christians (I hope not), but I do find that Christians tend to draw a certain line between them and “non-Christian”. Sadly, I even know of a church that taught Christians should put their Christian brothers and sisters in front of their non-Christian family and friends. But you know, what? When Jesus said, “love your neighbours as you would love yourself”, somehow I don't think he was instructing us to love “only your Christian” brothers and sisters”, but everyone you encounter in your live, including the so called “non-Christians”.

Perhaps I am reading and thinking too much into Harry Potter books, but nevertheless, no matter what your background or religious belief is, our world can always be a better place with less exclusivism, while we treat each other with more inclusivism like Albus Dumbledore.

Personally, I really enjoyed all Harry Potter books, and I am glad that I read them. In the meantime, if you have only seen the movies but have not read the books, I would highly recommend you read them, you will not be disappointed.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review: The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence



"Every man has his thorns, not of him, but in him, deep as bones"
                                  - Mark Lawrence, Emperor of Thorns

  These days, heroes in stories are becoming very dark. I wonder why?

Remember heroes you used to read about in stories from your younger years? For example, heroes from The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, had very black and white moral outlooks. They (Heroes) are good, villains are bad, each have their roles to play in the story, they fight each other, good versus evil. The good triumphs in the end, and everyone lives happily ever after.

We see this less and less in modern day stories.

These days, heroes are no longer the perfect embodiment of good. In modern day stories, a hero's action is often driven by mixed intentions, sometimes selfish, sometimes selfless. Along a hero's journey, the hero has weaknesses and makes mistakes, baring his/her flaws in front of the readers' eyes. Sometimes the hero can be redeemed by the goodness that lies within, the readers will hope for this, especially when the story gets very dark.

 In other words, heroes in modern day stories are becoming more and more like us. If we write fictions to explore our human nature and condition, then in an age dominated by the desire for realism, it makes sense for heroes and their journeys to be dark, because their stories can resonate with our own struggles, as we try to make sense of this strange world we live in. Since the dawn of time, the complexity of the human nature, is often expressed through story exposition.

The Broken Empire trilogy is an epic fantasy story with a dark hero, written by the author Mark Lawrence. The trilogy consists of 3 books: Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns. The story arc follows the protagonist, Jorg of Ancarth, and his ascension to become the emperor of the broken empire. Firstly, a word of warning, these books are not for the lighthearted. You will not find a typical heroic fantasy story here. In fact, I am not even sure if the protagonist can be called a "hero". But if you can stomach a very dark story, a hero that's more like a sociopath, and some violence, then you will love this truly marvelous tale.

Synopsis:

  When he was nine years old, prince Jorg witnessed the murder of his mother and brother in a political assassination, which was arranged by his uncle. During the murder, Jorg was trapped in a bush of poisonous thorns, concealing him from the assassins. He was the sole survivor of the assassination. The brutal event left a traumatic impact on the young Jorg, filled him with much guilt that developed into hatred, eventually drove him to flee from his father's castle, and joined a group of bandits on the road.

At 14, Jorg could swing a sword as well as any man. He also became the leader of a bandit group, they called themselves The Brothers. Jorg led The Brothers in many successful raids, earning himself a fierce reputation by leaving behind a trail of blood and rapine. But Jorg is not content with just being the leader of The Brother. Jorg's ambition is much higher than that. Firstly, he wanted revenge for the murder of his mother and brother. In this act of revenge, Jorg planned to take out his uncle. Yet, this is only the first step to Jorg's plan, on the journey of his ascension. This is a journey to claim the throne of the emperor to reunite the broken empire. Jorg will not stop, he is willing to sacrifice anything, including his followers, friends, relatives... after all, they say a king climbs the road to power, by stepping on the bones of his followers. It's like a chess game where Jorg can play very well, and he doesn't always play fair...

What I think about this trilogy:

 I really like this trilogy. It combines elements from some of my favorite authors: It has Court intrigues like in George R.R Martin's A song of Ice and Fire series, the grittiness of Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy,  and actions like in Glen Cook's Black Company series,

The trilogy is set in a very interesting, post-apocalyptic world. Where humanity had once again, reached the level of civilization that resembles the medieval world. However, it is also a world flowing with "magic and sorcery", which the author explained as a result of advanced progress in science from the previous civilization, which blurred the difference between the reality and the will.  

The pace of the storytelling in this trilogy is good. I don't recall boring moments while reading these books. This trilogy is mostly narrated in first person perspective, enabling readers to resonate with Jorg's story. Readers travel inside Jorg's head through his journey, gaining insight to Jorg's thoughts and mind in every moments of the story. Jorg's innermost character is laid bare in front of the readers' eyes, and Jorg's thoughts aren't always pretty.

I also want to give credit to the author, for ending this series on the high note instead of dragging the story and turn it into a cash cow.

Some fantasy series start off strong, but gradually slip down hills because authors don't want to kill their cash cows and refuse to end the series on the high note. I am glad to report, the Broken Empire trilogy, does not suffer from the cash cow syndrome.

While I was reading these books, I was fascinated and chilled by my own reaction to the story. Despite Jorg being (probably) the most ruthless, twisted, and self centred protagonist ever penned in the history of fantasy, I still cheered for him whenever he succeeded, and I still hoped that somehow he could show some redemptive qualities as the story developed. But I was also wondering, can someone like Jorg ever be redeemed?

As I read Jorg's story, I began to sympathize with Jorg, because haunted memories from his past made him who he was. I won't spoil the story here, but the story of Jorg asked me, if I was put in his place, under the same circumstance, would I have acted differently?

As I close the last page of this trilogy, both satisfied and surprised by the ending, my thoughts wandered off to explore a question the author seemed to be asking:

"As we are all bound by our human conditions, can we really judge a person as being beyond redemption?"

 The Broken Empire Trilogy, is a marvellous fantasy series. It has court intrigues that will rival George R.R Martin at his best, and it has grittiness that will make Joe Abercrombie proud.

Happy reading!




Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book Review: The Godborn by Paul Kemp

I don't play Dungeon and Dragons games. In fact, I've never played D&D RPG. But I really enjoy reading novels based on D&D universe, because it has a fantastic, imaginative world packed with epic stories about heroes and villains with intriguing characters. And this is why today, I am going to write a review for this book (another thing I love about this series is these books have very beautiful cover arts).

The Godborn, is the second book in "The Sundering" series. The Sundering, is an event that took place in the D&D world, where past heroes and villains walked the world again. There are 6 planned books in The Sundering Series. Each of these books is a stand alone novel, featuring stories of individual heroes in different parts of the world. The first book, was R.A Salvatore's book, The Campanions, featuring the beloved Drow ranger Drizzt Do'Urden and his friends, the book was mostly very light hearted and very warming at certain places.

However, this second book, The Godborn, is not the same as the first book. It is much darker and more complex, and I love it!

Synopsis:

Erevis Cale's son, Vasen Cale grows up in an abbey, and became the servant to the Lord of Light who raised him. Shielded by the dead god Mask, Vasen Cale was protected from the evil schemes of his father's enemies. However, Vasen is constantly haunted by dreams about his father. Deep down inside, Vasen knows his peaceful life at the abbey will eventually come to pass, and he will one day assume the role he has to play in the drama of the sundering, which was taking place across the world, lest the world as he knew will cease to exist. For Vasen, he knows failure is not an option...

What I think about this book:

As I have said already, I love this book. Mostly because all characters in this book are intriguing. They are not cardboard characters to fill the gaps in the story, no, all characters in this book are 3 dimensional characters, with lots of development through personal struggles. While the story is quite dark, but it is also accompanied with interesting perspectives embedded with much welcomed complexities.

But I do have to say, although I really like the story and characters in this book, but I did find the story started a bit slow. In fact, I only found the story becoming interesting after the first 100 pages (and this is a 300 page book), this means the first 100 page of this book was quite slow. Thankfully, the story unfolds with thunder and lightning in the last two thirds of the book, and it is a very, very good story.

 

Book Review: The Wise Man's fear by Patrick Rothfuss


"“It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he'll look for his own answers.”
                                                                - Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man's Fear, is the sequel to Patrick Rothfuss' Award-Winning novel, The Name of the Wind. This book is almost twice as long as the first one, it is a 1000 page tome. But is longer = better? Let's find out.

Synopsis:

The story in this book picks up where the first book ended. Kvothe continues to tell the chronicler his story on the second day. In this part of the story, Kvothe described how he was forced to leave the University to after his feud with a fellow student. After leaving the University, Kvothe traveled to the city of Severen and enlisted under the mayor's service. From here, Kvothe took his first step into becoming a legend, by leading a group of mercenaries to hunt down bandits, and acquired martial skill training from the city of Ademre... things are finally looking up for Kvothe, but how long before his story becomes dark again?

What I think about the book:

Like The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man's Fear is very well written. The author really has a way with words and writes beautifully. The story and the character developments in this book is gripping like the previous book. However, truth be told, I prefer The Name of the Wind. The reason is, the pace of the story in The Wise Man's Fear is too slow, and at times I just can't be bothered to read all the details but simply browsing and paging the book forward; and this book is too long. I wonder, if the book is cut down to 300 page from its whopping 1000 pages, it would have read better.

Having said this, I still enjoyed The Wise Man's Fear, it is still a good book. Well written, good story, and interesting characters, and I look forward to reading the last book in this trilogy, which is to be released in 2014.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween special: The essence of fear - Supernatural Horror VS Naturalistic horror



"We made up horrors to help us cope with the real ones"
                                                   - Stephen King

Human beings have the tendency to tell horror stories, every culture has it. We are a people fascinated by horror stories, our books and movies are full of them. What attracts us to horror? Is it because through horror stories, we get to take the backseat, and experience our deepest fears as an audience?

If so, what then, is the essence of fear which motivates the telling of these horror stories?

I have some interests in the genre of horror, and it is difficult to find a kindred spirit with similar interest in the Christian community. The truth is, you will probably see a few raised eyebrows and suspicious looks from people in the Christian community, if you openly admit you like horror and research this genre... they will probably tell you to read Chronicles of Narnia or the Bible instead of reading horror stories written by secular authors.

I have a different opinion about horror stories compared to the general church culture. In my opinion, horror stories express mankind's deepest longings, hopes and fears. This means we should not develop prejudice against them.

 Let me explain:

In my experience with the horror genre, I've noticed 2 major types of horror; the supernatural horror, and the naturalistic horror.

Supernatural horror stories, often contain elements such as ghosts, demons, evil spirits, or some sort of mystical creatures not from the natural world. The plots of these supernatural horror stories, often revovles around the supernatural entity wanting revenge against the living. The concept of "vengeful spirits" is historically common in all cultures. Even today, horror stories of this nature appears frequently in horror movies, comic books, and novels. For example, movies such as "The Crow", "Mama", The Grudge". or the comic book "Spawn" all revolve around the concept of vengeful spirits. I wonder, if people tell horror stories about vengeful spirits because it is an extension of mankind's thirst for justice and righteousness?



On the other hand, supernatural horror stories about ghosts and demons often take us into a world not our own, with ideas about after life, good and evil, and a sense of divine order. Perhaps this means people tell ghost stories to help them deal with the fear of one's mortality? Perhaps telling ghost stories, is an exhilirating way to assure us "this is not it", there is more than just this life, and there are meanings to everything.

I call the second type of horror, naturalistic horror. This is a fascinating genre invented by author H.P. Lovecraft. Before Lovecraft came along, supernatural horror stories dominated the genre, and they often tell stories about ghosts and demons. Such as the book "Ghost stories of antiquity" published in 1904. However, when H.P. Lovecaft entered the stage, he turned the genre upside down.

H.P. Lovecraft is most famous for his horror stories about forgotten, otherworldly elderitch horror and cosmic entities, lying dormant in ancient, cyclopean megalithic structures while gazing upon the mankind with indifference. In other words, the real horror of Lovecraft's stories is when he asks us to consider the possibility, that life on earth has no meaning, no purpose, while this ancient universe gazes upon us with indifference... because the universe does not care. It is the fear of the unknown, that should we ultimately discover the utter meaninglessness of life, we should either go mad, or flee back into the blessings of ignorance (see the opening lines of "The call of Cthulhu")



By now, you can probably see very clearly, that supernatural horror is more akin to theistic view of life, while naturalistic horror is resembles atheist view of life.

So you might ask, which version is more reasonable?

Personally, I think both views can be intellectually reasonable, depending on your personal convictions.

However, if we tell horror stories to help us understand our deepest fears, then perhaps we can explore this question from a different angle, by asking a different question: why do we have fears?

Happy Halloween.





Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” 

                             - Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

When you name a person, or a thing, have you ever pondered at the significance of it? Not only does a name serve the purpose of identification, but it also speaks for the character of a person, or indicating a position in an establish order. Furthermore, this means the name we give to someone can either build and encourage, or destroy and hurt; names have great powers. So what does it mean, to search for the name of the wind?

Then Name of the Wind, is a fantasy novel. It is written by Patrick Rothfuss, who spend 7 years writing this novel during his pursuit in the degree of BA in English. This is a very well written novel, and have won numerous awards after the book was published in 2007. It is also the first book in a trilogy.

Synopsis:

The story follows a mysterious individual called Kvothe, and is told in 2 interwoven parts. The first part is told in the present, describing scenes of Kvothe sitting in an inn telling a chronicler the story about himself, Kvothe revealed his entire story will take 3 days to tell, and The Name of the Wind is day one of his story. The second part of the story is Kvothe's narrative of his story.

Kote is the Innkeeper of Waystone Inn. Together with his assistant, Bast, the duo manage the sparsely used inn. One night, Kote saved a chronicler from an attack from magical creatures known as "fae".Afterward, Kote brought the chronicler to his inn. Subsequently, the chronicler identified Kote's hidden identity is actually Kvothe. A famed magician, musician, and an unparalleled swordsman with a legendary past.

Kvothe agreed to tell the chronicler the true story about himself. Insisting the telling will take 3 days. The story told in day one constituted this book. 

In his narrative, Kvothe revealed in his childhood, he grew up in a troupe and showed considerable talents at learning things quickly. His parents were travelling performers. One day, a mysterious band appeared and murdered the entire troupe, including Kvothe's parents. Left alone in the world, Kvothe told the story of how he survived on the streets of a big city as an urchin, and his eventual acceptance into the University at very young age, to study and became an arcanist (or wizard). But Kvothe's study at the University is just the beginning, a stepping stone that will one day make him one of the most famous legends in the world..


What I think about this book:

The Name of the Wind is very well written. Most of the book is about Kvothe's time spent at the University as a student learning magic. In some ways, The Name of the Wind feels a little bit like Harry Potter, both have scenes of the protagonist studying magic at a school. However, Kvothe is a character with a much stronger personality than Harry Potter.

The pace of the story can become a bit slow at certain places, but I was never bored while reading this book. Most importantly, Kvothe is a fascinating character, full of mysteries. While reading this book, I always wanted to find out find out more about Kvothe and his past. Overall, The Name of the Wind is a great read. If you like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, then you will definitely like this book.



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book Review: The Last Oracle by James Rollins

 Humanity has always been fascinated with the ability to foretell the future. History tells us in the past, prophets and oracles were among the most revered and important people in ancient societies. Even today, prophecies remain as the cornerstones of many religious faith, and their trace can be found in ancient manuscripts and religions' holy texts.

Author James Rollins, weaved a fantastic story, mixing elements of history, science and science fictions, he crafted a highly memorable tale in the 5th book to Sigma Force series, titled "The Last Oracle".

Synopsis:

Outside of Sigma Force's central command centre at Washington D.C. A man was shot by an assassin and dies in the arms of commander Gray Pierce. The murdered man clutched a bloodied, ancient coin in his hand. As Gray Pierece discovered later, this ancient relic can be traced back to the Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece. This coin, will also lead Sigma Force to discover a conspiracy, leading back to the Cold War, and can shake the foundation of our understanding of humanity. Imagine, if technology can be used to bioengineer the next great prophet; Buddha, Muhammad, or perhaps Jesus? Will such an action elevate mankind? Or will it be the cause of our extinction, if it falls into the wrong hand?

Gray and his team race around the globe, searching for clues to prevent a terrorist group from unleashing the power of the Last Oracle upon mankind...

What I think about this book:

The Last Oracle is great, it has a really interesting story, mixed with both facts and fictions from history and science. Furthermore, The Last Oracle has the esoteric vibe that I liked so much from Map of Bones; combined with nail biting suspense, explosive actions, and a very moving ending, The Last Oracle is one of the best Sigma Force novels in the series. If you are a fan of treasure hunts, and conspiracy thrillers, then this is definitely the book for you.

Book Review: The Judas Strain by James Rollins

  The Judas Strain, is James Rollin's 4th Sigma Force novel. This story reads like a Hollywood blockbuster thriller. This is a story featuring: treasure hunts, car chase, actions, ancient mystery, conspiracy, and a deadly virus threatening to wipe out mankind from the face of the earth.

Synopsis:

A lethal plague arise from the depth of the Indian Ocean, upon the tide of the incoming plague rides the harbinger of death for mankind. Operatives of Sigma Force, Dr. Lisa Cummings and Monk, boarded a cruise in hope of investigating the origins of this horrible plague. Unfortunately, a terrorist group hijacked the cruise ship, revealing their intention to manipulate the virus for their own purposes..

In the meantime, across the world in the United States, Commander Gray Pierce discovered the first clue to the cure of this deadly plague. He joined force with his former nemesis, a deadly assassin who works for a terrorist group known as the "guild". Together, Gray and his team embarked on a most fantastical quest to discover an ancient secret hidden for centuries, by following the trailer of the legendary explorer Marco Polo.

Can Sigma Force thwart the ambitions of terrorist groups and discover the cure to the virus in time? Or will the history of humanity be forever changed?

What I think about this book:

Since the day I opened the first page of Sand Storm, the first Sigma Force novel, I was intrigued by Rollins' ability to spin a heart pumping, page turning book. As I read more and more Sigma Force novels, I became a fan to this series. I loved Map of Bones, and I loved Black Order. I am also happy to report, I also loved The Judas Strain.

This is a good book, it has all elements required for a great action thriller story, blended with historical mysteries and interesting science (and science fiction). The pace of the story is very fast, just like the previous Sigma Force novels. There are also some minor twists and unexpected moments in the story to keep the reader at the edge of their seats. However, I do have to say, I like Map of Bones and Black Order a bit more than The Judas Strain. This is because it seems to me the storytelling was smoother in those 2 novels than The Judas Strain. Nonetheless, The Judas Strain is an excellent thriller, and I look forward to reading the next Sigma Force novel.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book Revew: Black Order by James Rollins

  Secret experiments from Nazi Germany, the theory of evolution, and genetically enhanced super humans. These are the premises for James Rollin's action thriller novel, Black Order, the third book in Sigma Force series.

Synopsis:

In Copenhagen, Denmark, a raging fire destroyed a bookstore. Revealing a sinister plot from a terrorist group, to steal a Bible belonged to Charles Darwin. Commander Gray Pierce undertook the investigation, his discoveries will take him to abandoned laboratories once belonged to the Nazis, where horrible experiments were conducted.

In Nepal, the director of Sigma Force, Painter Crowe awakes to find himself stranded in a monastery. He encountered Dr. Lisa Cummings, a doctor investigating the mysterious death at the monastery. The pair was hunted by a powerful assassin, promising a hidden conspiracy beneath.

Gray Pierce and the Sigma Force team, are on an adventure and discovery of not only just a conspiracy that existed in the past, as well as the future, when they will encounter the Black Order.

What I think about the book:

Black Order is an outrageously entertaining book, and a worthy successor to the Sigma Force series. By pulling from historical and scientific facts, James Rollins masterfully weaved conspiracy and thrills into the story. This book is fast, action packed, filled with iconic moments and hear pumping sequences. Rollins managed to create enough suspense to encourage the readers to keep on reading, while orchestrating nerve breaking action sequences that will keep readers at the edge of their seats. If you like thrillers, treasure hunts, and spy novels, the make sure to check out Black Order.




Saturday, September 7, 2013

Book Review: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Blood Song, is author Anthony Ryan's debut novel. In this epic fantasy story, readers are invited on a journey with Vaelin Al Sorna, the protagonist of the book, on a grand story about war, tragedy, and faith.

Synopsis:

Vaelin Al Sorna, is a brother of the Sixth Order. He was raised and trained by the order since childhood, with deadly martial skills, to fight and serve the Faith. Vaelin's story became a testimony of conflict, friendship and religious faith, told wonderfully and masterfully by the new fantasy novelist Anthony Ryan.

What I think about this book:

As a debut novel, Blood Song is a very well written book. The pace of the story is good and there are almost no boring moments. The story starts a bit slow at the beginning, but it is still interesting because early chapters of the book sets up the premise of this tale, serving as introductions to characters in this book as well as world building.

Characters in this book are interesting, and the protagonist is likeable. Vaelin's story is quite tragic, yet tinged with seeds of hope, unraveled through a marvelous tale, epic both in its scale and storytelling. The only minor problem of this book is, the names of characters in this book are overly foreign and not gripping. It took me a while to familarize with the names of major characters.

Otherwise, Blood Song is a great addition to the world of fantasy fictions. This is a book that readers of this genre would not want to miss.



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: Map of Bones by James Rollins

Map of Bones, is the second book to the Sigma Force series. I think the best description of this book is: Raiders of the Lost Ark + Da Vinci Code + Mission Impossible.

Author James Rollins, wrote Map of Bones as the second installment to his Sigma Force series. Sigma Force, is a fictional US government organisation, under DARAP. This organisation recruits operatives who are scientists with military training, to combat terrorists organisations who attempt to use technology to threat world peace.

If you like history, science, tomb raiding, action thriller, and conspiracy theories, then read on, because you will definitely enjoy this book. Let's take a closer look:




Synopsis:

In Germany, a service in a cathedral is interrupted by armed intruders wearing monk's outfits. These intruders unleashed a mysterious, nightmarish destruction that killed almost all people in the cathedral. Only a few survived. Adding to the web of mystery is the unknown motive of these intruders, because they did not want the treasures in the cathedral. Instead, they came to steal the bones of magi, the same magi who, according to the Bible once paid homage to baby Jesus on the night he was born. It seems these intruders believe this relic holds a power that could reshape the world.

Meanwhile, in the Vatican city, the Catholic church asked for aid from Sigma Force to resolve this mystery. Commander Pierce Grayson, and his two companions Monk and Kathy, traveled to the Vatican, and teaming up with Lieutenant Rachel Verona and her uncle Vigor. Together, these five heroes embarked on a dangerous mission, a heart racing journey to thwart a horrific plan of an ancient order. Their journey will take them across the world, to revisit and discover the sites of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Where science and religion, will combine to unleash the blackest horror...

My thoughts on this book:

Map of Bones is a great book. It is truly awesome! I finished it in 2 days. This is a high octane, adrenaline driven adventure story. The pace of the story was fast as lightning and heart pounding. I couldn't put it down after I started reading it!

Being the 2nd book in the Sigma Force series, Map of Bones improved over its predecessor in story telling, characterization, and pace. Three new major characters are introduced in this book; Pierce Grayson, Monk, and Kathy. All three characters are Sigma Force operatives, where the protagonist from the previous book, Painter Crowe became the minor character in this book. While I really like Painter Crowe, but I also like the new characters. For example, Monk is my favorite Sigma Force operative. The characterization of the villain and supporting characters are equally as impressive. The storytelling is gripping, there are plenty of twists and turns in the story that will definitely surprise you. The action scenes are well written. The author used history, science, and supernatural elements, to orchestrate a plot full of mysterious and estoric elements that will definitely win nods of approval from fans of Indiana Jones movies or Dan Brown's books.

Although the book incorporated heavy use of religion at the core of its story, but the author treats religion with great respect. In this aspect, I speculate Christians may find this book more enjoyable than Dan Brown's books.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and after reading 2 books from this series, I will say I am now a fan of James Rollin's Sigma Force series. If you are a fan of this genre, or if you have read Sandstorm but haven't read this book yet, then make sure you don't miss out Map of Bones.

Happy reading!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Movie Review: Elysium

Why, do you think people watch science fiction movies and read science fiction books, even when we know it's not real? There might be many answers to this question. Perhaps, it is because the worlds we create in science fiction, represent our dreams, fears, and our deepest longings, made possible by mankind's creative imagination. Furthermore, I believe good science fiction explores the hard questions about our existence in this world, and reflecting the lessons we learn from our human conditions, allowing us a glimpse into the future.

Directed by Neil Blomkamp (director of District 9), and starring Matt Damon. Elysium is an ambitious science fiction movie attempting to be a social commentary, by combining with dazzling special effects and heart pumping actions. Sounds like a promising film, but is Elysium a good movie? Or is it an over hyped disappointment? Let's find out



Synopsis:

In 2154, the earth is badly polluted and over populated. The disparity between the rich and the poor is great. The wealthy people left earth, and live on a giant space station called Elysium. Together with advanced technology, people living on Elysium experience no sickness, no war, breath clean air, and eat good food. Life is great on Elysium, but only accessible to the wealthy. The poor people remain on earth and are denied access and benefits on Elysium, such as medical treatments, while the governing body on Elysium employed strict rules against illegal immigrants from the earth.

Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-convict living in the ruined city of Los Angeles. He works for a factory which is owned by the corporattion that build Elysium, Armadyne Corporation. One day, Max had an accident at work, where he was exposed to lethal levels of radiation. After the accident, Max was told he will die from radiation poisoning in 5 days. Max's only hope of cure, is the medical equipment on Elysium. In order to go to Elysium, Max agreed to help a smuggler to infiltrate Elysium. However, a twist of fate will turn Max's mission into a series of events which will forever alter the course of human history..

What I think about this movie:

First of all, Elysium is a technical success. The dazzling special effects and breath stopping action sequences present this movie as a visual marvel on the silver screen. The visual style bears resemblance to District 9. My only minor dislike about the visuals, is the occasional shaky camera scenes. While some might appreciate this style of camera filming, but I found at times, the shaky camera sequences made my eyes uncomfortable.

Alongside the brilliant visuals, is a thought provoking story. Elysium, like District 9, can both be regarded as social commentaries set in the realm of science fiction. In Elysium, the story explores several growing problems in our world such as; asylum seekers, the increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, and the problem pollution and over population.



I found the story of Elysium to be thought provoking, this story implores the audience to think about real problems in the world. For example, the gap between the wealthy continues to increase year after year. Driven further by phenomenons such as rising house prices, high unemployment rate, globalization and the off-shoring of jobs to countries with cheap labor, the rising income gap, and a gradually slowing global economy. This movie also raises questions about issues such as asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, in Australia it is the issue with boat people, in the US is the illegal immigration from Mexico. Across the world, people from poor countries have been exploited as cheap labors by large, international corporations. These are real problems, and they are growing right now, impacting you and I as we speak.

I wonder if Elysium, is an attempt to extrapolate the current trend, and projecting into the future to build the worst case scenario, enacted in a science fiction movie? If so, then Hollywood's vision of our future looks pretty dim and depressing. I guess the question is, what can we do about these problems facing our world today?

If you don't mind a bit of spoiler, at the end of Elysium, the protagonist sacrificed himself to bring freedom and equality to both the rich and the poor, making everyone citizens of Elysium. The ending of this story reminds me of another man from 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus, whose self sacrifice ensured all of his followers will all be citizens in the kingdom of heaven, regardless of differences such as economic and social status, race, cultural background, and gender. Perhaps it is no mere coincidence that a popular sci-fi movie upholds values similar to the ones in Christianity. If science fiction is an imaginative expression of our dreams, human conditions, fears and deepest longings, then does this mean somehow, deep down inside, we all sensed that we are better off following Jesus and his teachings about life?

My personal reflection:

In today's church culture, where churches have developed unhealthy obsessions with homosexuality, sex and gender roles, I wonder if Christians have overlooked issues relating to social justice, freedom, human trafficking, growing gap between the rich and the poor, asylum seekers, unemployment and pollution?

I wonder, if people are less likely to find Jesus from Christian sermons on what you believe about homosexuality and gender roles. Instead, perhaps people are more likely find Jesus from witnessing the contributions to the society you made, the people whose life you touched, and the help you gave to the people who are in need?





Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: The Companions by R.A. Salvatore

“What good is your gold if your friends will not lift you when you have fallen?

How long lived our memory of you when you are gone?

Because in the end, that is the only measure. In the end, when life’s last flickers fade, all that remains is memory. Richness, in the final measure, is not weighed in gold coins, but in the number of people you have touched, the tears of those who mourn your passing, and the fond remembrances of those who continue
 to celebrate your life.” 

 - R.A. Salvatore, The Companions

How far will you go to help a friend in need? This is the premise in R.A. Salvatore's new book, The Companions. This book is both a reboot and a continuation, for the story of Salvatore's beloved fictional character, the Drow ranger Drizzt Do'Urden.

I am a fan of Drizzt, the first 6 Drizzt books are among my favorite fantasy novels. The story of Drizzt and his friends have a very special place in my heart. I love these stories because they remind me of the kind of things I used to believe, but gradually disbelieve, because of my ever growing attitude of cynicism towards life and people as time goes by. 

Although I am a fan of these Drizzt books, but I was not particularly impressed with some of the later books in this series. In fact, out of 21 Drizzt books, I stopped reading them at book 14. Because somehow, these Drizzt books lost their original meanings as Salvatore wrote more and more. 

Yet, when I heard, that Salvatore was going to write a new Drizzt book to reboot the Drizzt stories, I thought I would give it a try. So I purchased this book, The Companions. 


I read this book in 2 days. Is this a good book? Is this my new favorite Drizzt book? Let's find out

Synopsis:

Drizzt Do'Urden, is a renegade Drow ranger who refused to live the evil ways of his people. After escaping from his ancestoral homeland in the underground, he was shunned and rejected by most people in the surface world. Eventually, he found true love, acceptance and friendship from four people: The dwarf Bruenor Battlehammer, Brueno's adopted human daughter Cattie Brie, his adopted son Wulgar, and a halfing called Regis. The 5 friends underwent many perlious adeventures, and won great reputations for themselves, they became widely known as "Companions of the Hall". However, as years pass by and after many adventures (from previous Drizzt books), most members of the companions have passed away, leaving Drizzt alone in the world. 

Goddess Melikki, reward Drizzt by taking his friends into a temporal realm. There, the goddess gave Drizzt's friends a choice, to be reborn into the world, so on the fateful day when Drizzt will suffer the greatest peril in his life, they can stand by his side once again to help him.

It is a hard choice, because Drizzt's friends realized, to be reborn into the world means to forsake whatever reward await them in the after live. Is the bond of love and friendship strong enough to make these friends abandon the gift of afterlife, to be reborn into the world to help Drizzt? The bond of the companions is about to be put to the test...

What I think about this book:

The Companions manages to capture the feel of old Drizzt novels. It seems Salvatore is once more, placing a lot of emphasis on character development, and this is a good thing. However, the ending of this book is somewhat anti climatic and feels rushed. Nonetheless, while this book is not the best Drizzt novel, but it is far better than most Drizzt novels in recent years. As a reader, I am reminded of the reason I became a fan of Drizzt all those years ago. The pace of the story is good, there were barely any moment in the book when I was bored. 

The book is divided into 4 parts. Yet, the most interesting aspect, is Drizzt's memoirs at the beginning of each part. Drizzt's memoirs is something that appears in every Drizzt novel. I remember Salvatore once said during an interview, these memoirs are meant to be Drizzt's reflections on events in the story, showing readers that Drizzt is trying to figure out and learn about life through his experiences. I deeply enjoy reading these memoirs, not only because they add depth to Drizzt's character  but they also bring out the theme of each book. In this book, the main theme is love and friendship.

I often ponder, if the reason why Drizzt story is warmly received by the general public, is because at the core, these books tell great stories about love, fidelity and friendship,  and this is something everyone longed for regardless of gender, ethnicity or age. The friendship between Drizzt and his companions is not a task based friendship often exist in our cultural norm where everything is institutionalized.  Neither is their friendship some mutual beneficiary relationship, built to satisfy some personal need. 

No, it seems to me, in these great stories, the friendship existing between Drizzt and his friends, is something very real, raw and honest. It is not born out of some sense of duty, nor some misplaced sense of self righteousness, but their friendship is based on love. In these great stories, time and again, Drizzt and his friends are put under tough trials, but they never give up on each other, because they love each other as they love their own (something Jesus taught 2000 years ago). 

I speculate, this is why stories of Drizzt and his friends are so beloved by readers, that Salvatore wrote 21 books (and almost all of them are New York Times bestsellers). I guess at this point, we can say, true love never goes out of fashion, because love endures everything. Just as love endures, so will stories about true love stand against the test of time.

The Companions is a good reboot to the story of Drizzt and the companions of the Hall. While the ending feels rushed, but it is still worthwhile reading, even if you are a new comer to Drizzt books.




Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: The Dark Tower Book 3: The Wastelands by Stephen King


Don't ask me silly questions

I won't play silly games

I'm just a simple choo choo train
And I'll always be the same.

I only want to race along
Beneath the bright blue sky
And be a happy choo choo train
Until the day I die. 

                                       - Stephen King, The Wastelands

The Wastelands, is the 3rd book to Stephen King's fantasy epic, The Dark Tower series. After finishing the first 2 books in the series, I was eager to find out the fate of Roland and his companions, so I ran straight into this book, and here is my review:




Synopsis:

The Wastelands, continues the story of Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, and his companions' quest to reach the dark tower. Following the events from "The Drawing of the Three", Roland assembled his small group, resuming his quest to find the Dark Tower.

Being pursued by The Ageless Stranger on their journey, Roland and his allies had to traverse a dangerous road to the ruined city of Lud, to find transports that will take them across the nightmarish, haunted wastelands. On this perilous journey, Roland began to understand the reason why he is being driven towards the Dark Tower..


What I think about the book:


In this book, the secret of the Dark Tower is finally being slowly revealed to readers. But most importantly, this is the best book in the series yet, very imaginative. I mean, where else can you find a story having: a post-apocalyptic world set in a parallel universe, elements from spaghetti western, flavors from Arthurian legend, and inspirations from The Lord of the Rings? 

Stephen King is very well known for his works on horror fictions. In this book, King has introduced elements from horror fictions, creating some memorable, heart pumping sequences.

The story arc developed as the heroes journeyed into a creepy, decaying city full of mutants, only to board a self-aware, criminally insane high-speed train. What a crazy tale! But do not be mistaken! This book is terrific! With the way things are looking, I eagerly looking forward to reading the next book. 

In the meantime, The Dark Tower is getting closer!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: Sand Storm by James Rollins

 Imagine stories blending elements from Indiana Jones, National Treasure and Mission Impossible; combined with history, science and exhilirating actions, you get James Rollins' Sigma Force series.

I am a new comer to the Sigma Force series, created by author James Rollins. Each book in this series is a stand alone novel, telling stories about the adventures of a group called "Sigma Force".

Sigma Force, is a fictional, US counter-terrorism group, set up as a division of DARPA to protect and prevent advance technologies from falling into the wrong hands. This group is made up of talented individuals who have both brain and brawn, not only are these group members brilliant scientists, they also possess deadly combat skills. Sigma Force is usually assigned with missions involving the struggles against terrorist organisations, who seek to use powerful, ancient artifacts from archaeological findings to threaten the world peace.

I thought the premises are very interesting, so I got myself a copy of Sandstorm, the first book of Sigma Force. According to the author, Sandstorm is the prequel to Sigma Force series. Here is my review for this book.

Synopsis:

On a stormy night, an explosion rocked a private section at the British museum, destroyed a collection of valuable artifacts. The cause could not be explained. Sigma Force was called to investigate the cause of the incident, because DARPA believes whatever caused the explosion, could be weaponized and become a global threat, should it fall into the hand of the terrorists.

Commander Painter Crowe, was given the instruction to lead a small squad of Sigma Force for this assignment. Their mission, is to find out what caused the explosion. By teaming up with archaeologist Safia Almazz, multi-billionaire Kara Kensington, tomb raider Omaha Dunn, and other allies, their quest will take Crowe's team to venture into the heart of the Arabian peninsula, to search for the fabled city of Ubar, lost and hidden in the desert waste. But Crowe's team is not alone, Cassandra Sanchez, a former Sigma Force op, works for a terrorist organisation called The Guild. Cassandra and the Guild are determined to steal the secret of Ubar, and use it to terrorize the world. It's a race against time, lost treasures will be found, ancient mysteries will be solved, can Crowe's team succeed?

What I think about the book:

Sandstorm is a good read. I like the story, because it is a good combination of a treasure hunt story and an action thriller. This book is quite easy to read, the pace of the story is very fast. It has some memorable moments, likable characters, and lots of thrills.

Some people compared Sigma Force series to Dan Brown's novels. I can understand why this comparison is made. But at the same time, I think Sigma Force novels are very different to Dan Brown's novels. For starters, Sigma Force novels are more akin to stories of Indiana Jones, packed with actions and adventures in the wastelands. And stories in Sigma Force novels often revolves around the discovery of some ancient, powerful artifacts. Unlike Dan Brown's Robert Langdon stories, which often revolved around conspiracies of ancient organisations. Overall, I find James Rollins' Sigma Force books slightly more enjoyable than Dan Brown's novels. But this is just my personal preference toward the genre.

The story in this book is also centred around science and history, lots of it. Most of historical facts and science in this book are real, but sometimes it crosses over into the realm of science-fiction. I actually like the elements of science fiction, because it lifts the story to a higher notch on the scale of imagination and sense of wonder.

The only area that needs improvement, is character development. This book has almost no character development. But since this is only the first book in the series, hopefully this is an area that has already been improved in the next book.

I finished this book in 2 days, it is a fun, exciting read, and I had a good time with it. I am grateful to have discovered this series, and I look forward to reading the next Sigma Force novel, titled "The Map of Bones". And my conclusion is, if you like Indiana Jones, then definitely try this book. If you like it, there are 7 more Sigma Force novels available, and you are likely to have lots of fun reading them.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Book Review: The Dark Tower book 2: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

"What we like to think of ourselves and what we really are rarely have much in common..."
                         - Stephen King, The Drawing of the Three

So, I finished The Gunslinger (book 1 to The Dark Tower series). I liked the first book, and I decided to read the second book. I want to know the next chapter of the story, I want to know the next stop for the gunslinger. I, was hooked to this fictional world bizzaro penned by Stephen King.

The journey continues, and the Dark Tower is getting closer, but is the second book any good? Is the story becoming more interesting? Or is the series on the path of downward spiral? Let's find out.

Synopsis:

Following the end of the first book (The Gunslinger), the protagonist, Roland Deschain continues with his quest for the Dark Tower. In the previous book, The Man in Black showed Roland 3 cards that are connected to Roland's quest for the Dark Tower: a prisoner, the lady in shadow, and death.

After his encounter with The Man in Black, Roland continues with his journey. Ill fortune brings Roland to be attacked by monsters on the beach, and he sustained heavy injuries. As Roland struggles to survive, a mysterious door appeared on the beach. For Roland, the only hope of survival and finding the Dark Tower, all depend on the secrets behind this door. New allies, friends, and the future destiny for Roland's quest will all be revealed in The Drawing of the Three...


What I think about this book:

In my opinion, I think The Drawing of the Three is a bit better than The Gunslinger. The reason is, this book introduced some very interesting, and complex characters into the story. There are a lot of
character developments in the story, and sometimes their stories spammed into our world. Also, Stephen King's use of words, and his style of writing seem to have changed a little bit (for the better). Descriptions of images are lively and vivid, but Stephen King also took his readers inside the heads of his characters. As a result, the personalities of these characters are flashed out quite well. Overall, this book is an exciting ride powered by impressionable story telling.

Themes such as drug addictions (or addictions in general), racism, justice, and dealing with past hurts dominate this book. All characters in this book are flawed, and they are in constant struggles with something from their pasts. These character portraits painted them in realistic lights.

I like The Drawing of the Three, and I am liking this series more and more. This is why, I definitely want to read the next installment, and find out what's in store for Roland and his friends on their journey to the Dark Tower.