Book Review – The Reality Dysfunction Part 1: Emergence

realitydysfunction1The Reality Dysfunction Part 1: Emergence is the first part of the first book in the Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton.  Both parts are available as one book, though Warner Books published each of the books in 2 parts.  This is the review for the first part of The Reality Dysfunction.

This book opens the expansive trilogy with a bang.  It has not only impressed me, it has shown exactly how world building should be done.  This is probably the best example of world building I’ve read.  In science fiction and fantasy, the author has a world to create.  Hamilton not only created vibrant and wonderfully portrayed planets, but he has created an entire confederation of planets that spans a few hundred light years.  I have a feeling that I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with this book.  There are hundreds of colonies to explore, though there are only 3 books in the series.  Much of the book takes place on the planet Lalonde, which is a newer colony, and shows how much of an undertaking it is to establish a colony world. It’s also a pretty unique world.  Norfolk is another intriguing world with its old English charm.  Tranquility is a vast, hollow living world created through genetic engineering.  Faster than light travel is commonplace, allowing starships to traverse the Confederation in weeks.

The cast of characters is huge.  There are a lot of names to learn, and it can be difficult to keep many of them straight.  However, the important players aren’t hard to forget.  It seems that many of the major characters, Joshua Calvert, Ione Saldana, Quinn Dexter, and Syrinx are all bound to have a common destiny.  Their stories are all told separately at first, but of course, they all come together in some way or another.  As the story isn’t finished, there’s still a lot to see.  The characters are very well developed.  There are no completely good or bad characters.  You may think so in some cases, but I’ve noticed there are instances of grey areas for each of them.  Joshua is a bit of a jerk at times, but I can’t help but like him.  Ione is a very interesting character who has a lot of responsibility, but is so young.  Quinn is the major antagonist, though it’ll be interesting to see how his story turns out.  Syrinx is an Edenist, a person who has embraced affinity, the ability to telepathically communicate with others of their society, as well as their genetically engineered starships, the Voidhawks.

As I mentioned before, this is part 1 of a book, so I have yet to see the end.  As of this moment, I’m only halfway through the story.  However, the amazing complexity of the story has shown me many surprises.  It is quite unpredictable.  I have no idea where it’s going, and I had no idea what the major complication was going to be, which came as a complete surprise.  There are many stories in one here, but they’re all important parts of the whole.  This I have yet to see, though.  There are some aspects that have been shown early on, but I have no idea what they have to do with the plot.  That will likely become apparent in part 2.

With its incredible complexity, extremely well-developed characters, and amazing universe, The Reality Dysfunction has impressed me very much, so far.  Hamilton may be one of the best science fiction authors.

I must give this 5 stars out of 5.  It is that good! Recommended for space opera fans and those who love world building.  You won’t regret it.


Yakinikuya Sakai – Japanese barbecue

Yakiniku literally means “grilled meat.”  That’s exactly what a yakiniku restaurant offers.  While it was influenced by Korean bulgogi, or Korean barbecue, yakiniku is a made in Japan version, so I’m referring to this as Japanese food.  This restaurant, Yakinikuya Sakai, is a chain, and this particular one was in the Ishikawa area of Fujisawa.

Not an impressive exterior, it was actually pretty nice and spacious inside.

At the table, there is a small grill in the middle with a touch panel menu on one end.  You have a choice of sauces, some garlic, and a spicy chili pepper sauce.  The grill is gas, unlike some other yakiniku restaurants I’ve been to, which use charcoal.

Our table with the grill and menu at the end.

We ordered some beef and pork, as well as harami (the tender meat from around the diaphragm). For vegetables, we had salad, leeks, and shiitake mushrooms.  They also gave us lettuce leaves to wrap around meat, as well as a seaweed based soup, and a bowl of rice.

Pork and beef are on the big plate, while harami is on the small plate on the right.
A closeup of the grill with pork and beef cooking.

So, how was it?  I love yakiniku, and this was pretty good.  At a yakiniku restaurant, the customer is the cook, so you can only blame yourself if it’s burnt.  The meat seemed to be good quality.  I’m not a big fan of seaweed, unless it’s dried flakes of nori, so I only had the soup part of the soup.  I didn’t eat any seaweed.  But it was light and tasted good.

There’s a drink bar as well for 290 yen, so you can drink as much as you want.  Although we went for lunch, the lunch menu was unavailable due to it being a holiday.  What would have cost us around 1000 yen was now over 3000 yen.  Yakiniku can get pricey if you don’t watch what you’re doing.

Good food.  I enjoyed it.

Book Review – Excelsior

excelsiorExcelsior, by George H. Sirois, is about a young man who writes a web comic that ends up being more true than he had ever imagined.  A young adult science fiction book, it’s very much your typical hero saves the day type of story.  There are many things to like about this book, but it’s not for everyone.

I should mention that this was an eBook that was published independently (paperback is also available), so I didn’t have high expectations for the editing.  In my past experiences with indie books, editing seemed to be poorly done.  However, I’m happy to say that this book is edited well, though there are a few minor mistakes with missing letters or punctuation.  But it was easy to read, the scenes were well-defined, and it was very easy to follow.

The story is a simple one.  A high school student named Matthew Peters writes a web comic called Excelsior that becomes quite popular.  However, it seems that his stories are more true than he expected.  His life is turned upside down.  What I found with this story is that it is a very straightforward hero story. No surprises, although creative, the plot isn’t unique.  However, after reading the afterword of the book, I see why it was this way.  I thought the story was very predictable.  Not that it’s always a bad thing.  Sometimes predictable stories give us a feeling of comfort and familiarity.  I did enjoy reading the story, though.  The action was described well, so I could imagine what was happening easily.

The characters are mostly your stereotypical characters in this kind of story.  Awkward teenager becomes the hero, supported by your usual cast of role models that guide and sidekicks that entertain.  I found that there was very little background information for the Denarian’s homeworld.  Where did the Krunation come from?  That’s something I’d like to know.  The dialogue was filled with cliche, something you’d read in a superhero comic.  And you know, that’s how I felt about most of the characters in this book.  The good were good and pure, the evil were completely evil.  There seemed to be no grey, it was all black and white.  It was all very campy, but gave me a bit of nostalgia.

Toward the end of the book, I noticed it could have a sequel.  If there is one in the works, I would read it.  It wasn’t a bad book at all.  It was entertaining, in a superhero comic kind of way.

Out of 5, I’ll give it a 3.  It’s a good read.  Don’t go into it thinking you’re going to read an amazing original story, though.  The feeling is familiar and comforting, but not very deep.

Goals for 2013

I refuse to make resolutions.  Instead, I’m setting some realistic goals for myself.  Although I guess those are resolutions.  I’m just not calling them that.

I’ll keep this list nice and simple.

Write everyday

Even if it’s only 15 minutes, I’d like to work on my book everyday.  I want to make good progress on it.  Hopefully, I can even publish it this year.

Blog frequently

My goal is at least 5 times a week on this blog.  On my Japan blog, I’ll be posting at least once a week, probably 2 or 3 times a week.  On my baby blog, I post whenever there’s something to post.

Read a lot

On Goodreads, I set my goal to 25 books this year.  I read 14 last year.  We’ll see how I do.

Visit a new place every month

For my Japan blog, I used to explore a new neighbourhood a couple times a month (although I don’t have the blog posts done), but since having a baby, it’s been impossible to do that.  However, we like to walk, so I hope we can visit someplace new every month.  I already did yesterday.  January is done.

A new weekly series for my Japan blog

I successfully finished a year of weekly photos for the second time, but I’d like to change it up with something new and informative.  I’ll be making a weekly post about a different prefecture in Japan with basic information, some photos (public domain photos, not mine), and places I’d like to see and food I’d like to try.

Study Japanese

I think I say this every year.  However, I think I may actually work on getting real Japanese lessons.  My goal is to speak business level (probably won’t happen this year!).

I hope I can achieve all of these goals this year.

2012 Year in Books

As 2012 closes out, so does the first year of this blog.  I started the year out with a pregnant wife about to give birth, and what do I do?  I start yet another blog dedicated to reading and writing while we have a baby to take care of.  I must have been crazy.  Well, I’m loving doing this blog.

So what happened in 2012?  I finished reading 14 books, most of them in the second half of the year.  I set a target of 12 books and I exceeded it.  I’ll go for 25 next year.

2012 was also the year that I finally became serious about writing books.  I’ve developed so many ideas, though I’m going to concentrate on only 2 of them for now.  I decided to try out self-publishing through Amazon’s Kindle and Smashwords.  I’ve been working on using social media to get myself known.  I still have a lot of work to do on that.

best book of the year

This is a pretty easy topic.  There’s one book I was completely enthralled by, and that would have to be A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.   I found it refreshing to read, although it took me a long time.  I started reading 3 big epic fantasy series this year, and A Song of Fire and Ice seems to be leading the pack (the others are Wheel of Time and Malazan Book of the Fallen).

worst book of the year

This is a really difficult choice to make.  I didn’t read any bad books.  I enjoyed every book I read.  However, I would have to choose Gunship by John Davis. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s a simple, action oriented book with little depth.  I don’t intend to stop anyone from reading it, I think it was a good, light read.  I do recommend reading it, by all means.  But the main thing that didn’t impress me was the lack of editing.

top 13 most popular posts

Why top 13? Numbers 9 to 13 all have the same number of views. The most popular posts on this blog are the following:

  1. Which Shakespearean play should I read? – This was a poll I ran to choose a Shakespearean play to read.  Macbeth won.
  2. What’s the greatest epic fantasy series? – A question for my readers.  Of course, go there and leave a comment!
  3. What is an advanced society? – Are we advanced? See what I say.
  4. What should I read next? – Another poll to ask what I should read.
  5. Book Review – 2001: A Space Odyssey – My most popular review.
  6. Wow! Moment: Killer whales – An incredible event in my life.
  7. My dream writing studio – This is mine, what’s yours?
  8. Why are people afraid of gay marriage? – No reason to be afraid.
  9. A bright comet for 2013 – I’m really looking forward to this!
  10. Another poll. What should I read? – Yup, a poll.
  11. Book Review – A Game of Thrones – My second most popular review.
  12. Random things you may not know about me – Go ahead, find out a bit about me.
  13. Poll: the Sequel – Another poll!

Other noteworthy posts

These are some other posts I think you really should read!

My SF world teaser – I’m writing a science fiction novel.  Here’s a bit about my world.

I am a Geek – Yes, I am.  And I’m proud of it!

What does an earthquake feel like? – I’ve been through many earthquakes in Japan.  This is what it feels like to be in one.

Who are you? – I actually just posted this today.  I still think you should read it and post your comment.

The evolution of alien species – What do you do when you create an alien world?

Goodreads and giving reviews – I suggest to anyone who likes books to join Goodreads!

World creation, development, and planning – This is a big topic, and I think well worth the read.

Well, that’s about it for 2012.  I’m looking forward to 2013, and hopefully a published book!  Thanks for reading, everyone!

Who are you?

I often wonder who my readers are.  I wonder what you’re like.  I wonder where you’re from, what you do, what you enjoy reading.  Why did you come here?

I can answer only one of those questions using WordPress’s country stats, which they started using this year.  In the past 7 days, my readers are mostly from Japan and the USA with some from Canada and Australia.  And then there are the countries with very few visitors, such as Brazil, Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, UK, and Norway.  But that’s only a week.  Here are my top 10 countries since February:

  1. United States
  2. Japan
  3. Canada
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Australia
  6. Germany
  7. India
  8. Norway
  9. Ireland
  10. Poland

And then I look way down at the bottom.  These are the countries with only 1 single visitor: Colombia, Croatia, Finland, Nigeria, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Belarus, Jordan, Argentina, Belgium, Kenya, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Venezuela, and Barbados.

It’s all very interesting to see where I’m popular in.  Of course, my target audience is the English speaking world, so it’s no surprise that USA is number 1. I’m from Canada, so a lot of my Canadian readers would be friends and family.  UK and Australia are also a big target.  But number 2 is Japan.  I live in Japan, and I know that many other expats living in Japan read this blog, as well as my Japan blog.

But who are you?  I want to get to know my readers.  Let’s talk.  I’m very curious about everyone.

So, here is my challenge to you.  It’s very simple.  Leave a comment on this post with the following information:

  1. Which country are you from?
  2. Are you male or female?
  3. What’s your favourite book genre?
  4. Where are you reading this blog from? Home? Library? On your smartphone in the bus? Where?
  5. What brought you to this blog?
  6. And finally, do you have a blog or website?

Of course, you can add anything else you like.  I look forward to reading your comments!

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.