Tag Archives: review

Book Review – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyIt took me a long time to get around to reading this.  It’s so famous, but I didn’t start reading it until recently.  This review is for book 1, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” although I am reading the 4 part Omnibus edition.  I will review each book separately.

This book is an adaptation of a radio show, both written by Douglas Adams.  It starts out on Earth, and as the title suggests, the main characters hitchhike in the galaxy.  The story starts out with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, both colourful characters, but when Zaphod Beeblebrox, the robot Marvin, and Trillian join, it gets even more colourful.  This wacky mix of characters cannot be taken seriously at all.  The radio show was a comedy, and so is this book.  I find Ford Prefect is probably my favourite character so far, very much in the style of much of British comedy.

The story itself moves at a fast pace, not giving you much time in one place.  A lot happens in a short time.  Even the chapters are short.  What I find difficult is that while the plot is interesting, I can’t completely get into it like I can with more serious novels.  I love Terry Pratchett’s works, but this book is even more absurd, and even though it is funny, I didn’t find it laugh out loud funny.  I’m not saying it isn’t enjoyable.  I enjoyed reading it, and I am interested in seeing where the story leads to next.

One thing I wish I could find is a pronunciation guide.  Some names and places are difficult to pronounce.  I guess part of the fun is trying to say them out loud.

This is a classic book, and a very short one.  I would recommend it to anyone with a good sense of humour and at least a passing interest in sci-fi.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Book Review – Japanese Made Funny

Japanese Made FunnyAs many of you may know, I live in Japan, and I’m often looking for books to help me study Japanese.  Studying Japanese is a tough thing, as the grammar and writing systems are completely different than English.  It’s quite easy to make mistakes.  I then came across “Japanese Made Funny: Gaijin Bloops in Nihongo” written by Tom Dillon.  I love humour, and though this would be a good book to pick up.

I read more than half of the book before I got home from the bookstore, it was that hard to put away.  It’s more than 200 pages long, but half of it is in English and half in Japanese.  It’s a bilingual book, and is therefore a bit short.  However, I spent my time riding the train trying to keep myself from laughing.  I didn’t need all the people staring at me, the strange laughing foreigner.  But I just couldn’t stop reading it.  It was hilarious.  I still read it again from time to time, and I’m always sharing some of the stories with friends and coworkers.

This book shares many short stories about people’s mistakes while learning Japanese.  It’s quite easy to mistake one word for another, but quite often, the wrong word results in some confusing, yet hilarious conversations.  There are a lot of stories with innocent mistakes that will make the average person laugh, but there are also some extremely embarrassing incidents involving words for bodily functions and body parts.  It’s not a book for young people, since there is a nude illustration, but it’s related to a story.

There’s no need for a plot or characters in this book, as it doesn’t share a single story, but many very brief anecdotes.  The author of this book appears to be bilingual, since it seems that he wrote the Japanese portion.  I’ve been told by a couple Japanese people that the Japanese language used in the book is a bit awkward and unnatural.  But for an English speaker, that doesn’t matter at all.

“Japanese Made Funny” is the perfect book for the Japanese language learner who needs something to lighten up their mood.  It’s also great for anyone who loves a good laugh.  What I also like about this book is that it has helped me remember some words.  I know I’ve made my own mistakes, but nothing as embarrassing as some of these stories.  Highly recommended.

I give this a full 5 out of 5.

Book Review – 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey2001: A Space Odyssey

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Series: Space Odyssey #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1968

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Goodreads Description

The year is 2001, and cosmonauts uncover a mysterious monolith that has been buried on the Moon for at least three million years. To their astonishment, the monolith releases an equally mysterious pulse—a kind of signal—in the direction of Saturn after it is unearthed. Whether alarm or communication, the human race must know what the signal is—and who it was intended for.

The Discovery and its crew, assisted by the highly advanced HAL 9000 computer system, sets out to investigate. But as the crew draws closer to their rendezvous with a mysterious and ancient alien civilization, they realize that the greatest dangers they face come from within the spacecraft itself. HAL proves a dangerous traveling companion, and the crew must outwit him to survive.

This novel version of the famous Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey was written by Clarke in conjunction with the movie’s production. It is meant to stand as a companion piece, and it offers a complementary narrative that’s loaded with compelling science fiction ideas.

Review

I’ve seen the movie, and now I’ve finally read the book.  It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie, but 2001: A Space Odyssey brought back a lot of memories.  2001 was published in 1968, but a lot of the science is spot on.  Of course, there were gaps of knowledge in 1968 about Jupiter and Saturn, but Arthur C. Clarke’s depiction of Europa and the rings of Saturn were surprisingly good.  Clarke understood the science of space and the difficulties involved with space travel, so this book was highly realistic.

The story is a classic.  It’s about man’s ultimate discovery and the journey to find out what life means.  This book was written in very short chapters, which made it very easy to read in short bursts.  While Clarke was very descriptive about scientific and technical terms, it didn’t make it more difficult to read.  In fact, he seemed to be able to describe these things in terms which the average person could understand.  I found this book delightfully easy to read.

The characters were very believable.  They were realistic people who behaved just like any real person would.  They were quite engaging, especially the non-human character, HAL 9000, which was Discovery’s computer.  Hal was the book’s antagonist, and is probably the most memorable computer in literature or film.

The quick pace and short length of this book left little room for slow periods.  It was constantly engaging, and I kept wanting to read.  I knew the movie was good, but I was very happy to discover how good the book is.  I highly recommend 2001: A Space Odyssey to anyone with any interest in space or science fiction.  Don’t let its age fool you.  The science is quite good for most of the movie.  One of the best books I’ve read in a while.

I rate it 5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Word and the Void – Running with the Demon

Word and the Void: Running with the DemonRunning with the Demon

Author: Terry Brooks
Series: The Word & the Void #1 (Shannara prequel series)
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Published 1997
Review Copy: Paperback bought new
Overall Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5
 

Goodreads Description

On the hottest Fourth of July weekend in decades, two men have come to Hopewell, Illinois, site of a lengthy, bitter steel strike. One is a demon, dark servant of the Void, who will use the anger and frustration of the community to attain a terrible secret goal. The other is John Ross, a Knight of the Word, a man who, while he sleeps, lives in the hell the world will become if he fails to change its course on waking. Ross has been given the ability to see the future. But does he have the power to change it? At stake is the soul of a fourteen-year-old girl mysteriously linked to both men. And the lives of the people of Hopewell. And the future of the country.

Review

I’ve read a lot of Terry Brooks books, and before this one, it was all Shannara.  This was my first experience reading a non-Shannara book of his.  Or is it non-Shannara?  Turns out it’s not, as the Genesis of Shannara trilogy links The Word and the Void to the Shannara world.

Running with the Demon shares a lot of similarities with Shannara, yet it is also different.  The character types are basically the same.  Terry Brooks tends to write books with the same basic character types, particularly the main protagonists.  On one hand, you have a young, inexperienced magic user from a family of magic users who is on a journey of self-discovery, and then there’s the dark, mysterious stranger who comes into town and has a lot of secrets.  Nest Freemark is similar to Shannara’s Ohmsfords, while John Ross is like the Druids of Shannara.  The parallels are very obvious.  I found this to be quite predictable, as Brooks rarely deviates from these kinds of characters.  It’s good if you like this kind of familiarity, but for those who have read a lot of his books and want something new, you aren’t going to get it from the characters or the story.

What’s new is the setting.  Instead of a fantasy setting, we have a modern day midwestern American town around Independence Day.  This gives a fresh setting, though there is no traveling and exploration from Brooks’ other books.
What I liked about this book is the new setting and a sense of familiarity with his writing.  Although he’s not the best at writing realistic characters, I did enjoy the story in general.  I felt myself seeing the town and the action in my mind fairly well.  I could get into it a bit, but I felt like I couldn’t get attached to the characters.  There was a lot of foreshadowing indicating what the story’s biggest mystery was, but I must admit that I wasn’t quite guessing correctly.  I wasn’t surprised when it was revealed, though.

Despite its drawbacks, I do want to see what happens in the next book, as well as see how it connects with the Shannara world.  It’s a decent book with a good recommendation from me.  I give it a score of 3.5 out of 5.