Tim Powers has mastered mingling our present with elements of the fantastic, creating stories so immersive and believable I'm always disappointed when they end. Down and Out in Purgatory is a new, incredible example.
Shasta DiMaio fell for the wrong guy, and it killed her. Her rejected lover Tom Holbrook still carries a torch, however. If Tom can't have Shasta he'll kill the man who took her heart, and her life, even if he's already dead.
Powers has focused on ghosts, and had them as major characters in other works, but this novella gives us a glimpse into their world! His purgatory is a spinning, wild place where we learn a bit more about what death really means. While the characters are fun, the real joy of this was the mechanics, and lore Powers shares about the afterlife. If you loved his Fault Lines trilogy, you won't be disappointed.
Down and Out In Purgatory by Tim Powers
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Timothy Ellis' galaxy spanning space opera continues in Hero at the Gates
! We're 9 damn books in and the central plot is finally about to get past its prelude!
I've really enjoyed this massive story. 9 novels ago Jon Hunter was a wet behind the ears kid on board his uncle's space trader. Now he's the Admiral of his own massive space flotilla, and ruler of several sections of space. The massive reveal about what the hell is going on, and what part Team Slinky Red Jumpsuits is going to play in it is near unavoidable, when our heroes set off in the exact opposite direction in this sometimes 2D universe.
The prize is tempting, but Jon can not miss the short window of time he's allowed to land on his home planet and consult the spiritual guys there who know all. How will it all work out? Gee... I'll have to start book 10.
Hero at the Gates (The Hunter Legacy Book 9) via Amazon Read the rest
Sennheiser's HD650 headphones are legendary. It should be no surprise Headfonia has offered a new review of the old classics.
I finally held them in my hand. I shook with anticipation. As I set up my system, I did notice that the build quality, although certainly a step up from the HD202, wasn’t quite at the level of the K550. It felt slightly more flimsy. As a paranoid measure, I gave the HD650 its own bed of feathers on which it still spends its nights.
As always with Sennheiser, the first time I put these headphones on, the death grip was in full effect, but after a few hours, the clamping force lightened up, and I found them to be very comfortable. My set-up here consisted of a HP laptop running jRiver media Center, a Dacport LX (which I had gotten as a Christmas gift) and a JDSlabs cMoy. I immediately recognized an upgraded HD202 sound signature. The sound has the same dark tonality, but with much more detail (I’ll take it), a more three dimensional sound (I love it), and a much stronger bass impact (YES!!!).
I bought a pair of HD650s worried my HD580s (a similarly revered, earlier version) might some day wear out. I still listen with both, regularly. I've had the HD580s since the 1990s, and have replaced the cable once, and the headband padding, once. The HD650s have never needed a thing. I pair them with a Schiit Lyr/BiFrost set, or a Peachtree Audio Nova. Read the rest
Modern civilization has all but disappeared. It falls to a fearless, dedicated and slap-stick bunch known as Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors to help humanity recover. With help like this, you might be better off on your own!
Benjamin Wallace's first installment in the Duck and Cover series is a quick and witty read. We find America highly mutated and extremely dangerous. Small enclaves of folks are trying to rebuild society, and boy do they need help! Enter the post-apocalyptic nomadic warriors: experts in a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of nothing. Two such warriors arrive at the town of New Hope, each offering to lend his aid. New Hope sends one away and accepts the aid of the other. Did they choose wisely? Did they even need to choose? How did humanity survive at all?
This read was a good time! The characters are a lot of fun, and standout for this style of novel. The contrasting styles of the two titular characters, and the passing of focus back and forth, really makes this tale roll along. The story is predictable, but Wallace's wildly mutated landscape, and slowly emerging backstory, made it hard to put this book down.
Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors: A Duck & Cover Adventure Read the rest
I've wanted a set of bluetooth headphones for a while. The cord free-ish operation, and no need to actually be tethered to my phone seemed too good to be true. This $25 pair does it all.
The earliest generations of bluetooth headphones seemed that this technology would never take to quality listening. It may still not be for the audiophile, but for active folks, who enough spending time moving around a bit more, these AYL QY8 Bluetooth headphones do the trick.
The earbuds fit easily into your ear, come complete with several varied size tips for a more custom fit, and have a simple pressure latch that holds them in your ear. Controls, from activation, to volume adjustment, are made via button press on the right side earbud. Pairing was easy, and charging was quick.
It is very nice having no extra cord dangling from my head, into my jacket or back pocket, when I'm walking the dogs. I'm frequently working two leashes, and I hate it when the phone gets tangled in the mess. The other place I'd hope to use them is on the motorcycle, but inside a helmet, with no ability to control the unit, its kinda limited to just playing music. Also, when I did manage to get the button jammed up against the foam, it just held it in and powered the unit off.
The sound quality on these phones is certainly good enough for an afternoon out walking the dogs. fishing, or paddling. When compared to other $19-50 bluetooth headsets, as well as my in-helmet Sena bluetooth communications system, sound better. Read the rest
In Jack Hunt's 'The Renegades,'
a small team of High School students survive the zombie apocalypse. At no point, however, will you be crying out "Wolverines!"
Castle Rock, Nevada has nothing going for it but an annual halloween-time zombie run. Naturally, several of the local High School's less-fitting-in sort have named themselves, titularly, "The Renegades" and are quite good at making it past all the fake zombies. The world has changed, and finally these bozos have a useful skill. Rapid fire teenage jokes and abuses result.
Hunt's story is someplace between Red Dawn and the Bad News Bears, except it needs Buttermaker. The Renegades filled a void I didn't know I was missing, sort of 'what would a John Hughes zombie story be?" Probably, something like this but with less poop jokes.
This is immature, but fun zombie comedy.
NOTE: The author of this post has only seen the 1984 Patrick Swayze 'Red Dawn' and not the 2012 re-make.
The Renegades (A Post Apocalyptic Zombie Novel) via Amazon Read the rest
I really like Finger Ease guitar string lubricant. While I doubt the spray does a thing for the sound of my strings, I find it allows me to play for quite a bit longer.
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Teen hacker Gibson Vaughn
embarrasses a US Senator, and is made an example of. Now, ten years later, the same folks who turned him into a pariah need his help solving one of the greatest abduction stories in US history. Part political thriller, part who done it, The Short Drop
is a fantastic read.
This novel has it all. A teen hacker unfairly made an example of by the government and struggling to make his way, the establishment's front-running presidential candidate being overtaken by an upstart US Senator, and a 10 year old missing persons case to tie them together. This is one heck of a fun novel to read this primary season!
While some of the plot twists and turns may be a little more obvious to the reader than the characters in the novel, the pacing and story line are a lot of fun. I really enjoy the small details FitzSimmons colors his story with, and his representation of the Internet as a personality. I think he gets is right.
The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons via Amazon Read the rest
I wanted a Space Opera, and found Nathan Lowell's series Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper. I've spent 2 weeks reading through the series, and am worried about what I'll do when I reach the end!
Lowell's space trading epic follows the career of Ishmael Horatio Wang, cast adrift by the untimely death of his Mother and meal-ticket, in the apparently trade focused Confederation. Wang finds a berth on a solar clipper, and joins the spacer culture. As he rises through the ranks we meet a cast of colorful characters, and watch as Ish, and his various crews, solve the problems one may encounter in the Deep Dark.
I'm nearly done with the final book in the series. I've found each book to be a perfect distraction for the things that have plagued my last few weeks, and I have hardly wanted to put my Kindle down. Highly reminiscent of a less bawdy/abuse focused Bio of a Space Tyrant, by Piers Anthony, Lowell's first book Quarter Share rapidly sets up a world that is easy to understand and fun to predict where things are going next.
Lowell's novels follow our hero Wang through each pay-grade in the life of a crewman, officer, and finally owner. I'll be looking for other stories by this author. The entire series was free, with my Kindle Unlimited subscription.
Quarter Share (Trader's Tales From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper) (Volume 1) via Amazon Read the rest
Matt Ruff is a spectacular and versatile science fiction writer who is perhaps most commonly considered an absurdist, thanks to his outstanding 1988 debut Fool on the Hill, but whose more recent works have highlighted his ability to walk the fine line between funny-ha-ha and funny-holy-shit. The Mirage was one such novel, but as brilliant as it was (and it was), it was only a warm-up for this book, Lovecraft Country, a book that takes a run at the most problematic writer in today's pop culture canon and blasts right through him.
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The first novel in Jake Bible's series Z Burbia hooked me. What appeared to be a jokey take on zombie fiction quickly develops some great characters and story.
Jason "Long Pork" Stanford and his family live in a small community outside Asheville, NC. They've used the local geography and their HOA to secure the housing complex and have spent several years keeping things together. Their insular policies and strict adherence to the CC&Rs of Whispering Pines, their home, have kept them alive in the face of bandits, cannibals and of course hordes of zombies. Sadly, things are about to fall apart.
I've enjoyed the characters, Bible has an ability to write little about folks, while not having them be cartoons. The plot, once you get past the condo association stuff, is rather standard Zombie fare, but I'm very much looking forward to the rest of his series. I got the first and second books via Kindle Unlimited.
Z-Burbia by Jake Bible via Amazon Read the rest
Boing Boing is proud to welcome Robert Jackson Bennett's The City of Blades as a sponsor!
In a world where politics have run amuck and consumers must choose from over 300 varieties of toothpaste, one seemingly simple question rises to the fore: what is my next great read? Luckily for you, ladies and gentlemen, we have the answer to that question – a book that will satisfy your cravings, turn that frown upside down, reduce wrinkles in women and stimulate hair growth in men. In short, my friends, it is a miracle book indeed.
And you don’t have to take my word for it; the bookish masses all agree that Robert Jackson Bennett’s books are a wonder. Author Jim C. Hines (Libriomancer) said: “Every once in a while I read a book that's so well done, I find myself wanting to punch the author in the face out of pure envy. Congratulations Bennett, you just made the face-punching list!" Blogger G. Brown of Nerds of a Feather, writes “Dazzling, sophisticated and thoroughly modern... Imagine China Mieville and George R. R. Martin stuck in an elevator, with only a laptop to keep them company, and you’re almost there. Robert Jackson Bennett is a name to remember and a talent to behold.” – G. BROWN, NERDS OF A FEATHER
Lean in closer, my friends, and I will whisper to you the names of these great books: Mr. Shivers, The Company Man, The Troupe, American Elsewhere, City of Stairs and the brand-new, much-anticipated, and thoroughly-magnificent (imagine a drum roll here, please) City... Read the rest
In Hell's Super, Steve is hell's superintendent. Working with his assistant, the damned Orson Welles, there is an unending list of problems to be solved, but nothing can ever be fixed! It is Hell, after all!
Existence is pretty humdrum until Flo comes to the underworld. Flo is a force of good, who comes to hell to help ease the suffering. Something is certainly kindling between them, can there be love in Hell?
Can Steve use duct tape to hold everything together, including his love life?
Hell's Super (Circles In Hell Book 1) by Mark Cain via Amazon (free via Kindle Unlimited) Read the rest
My dog is a 10-year-old whose history includes time in animal shelters, and in various homes. He has arthritis, a progressive condition that will cause him more pain as he grows older. Direct heat through my electric blanket or heating pad is clearly very comforting for him--if there's a heated throw of some kind around, he'll find it and snuggle up. But the best solution I've found for both of us is this gently heated dog bed, which warms up to your dog's body temperature when they sit down on it.
You don't have to worry about it heating up too hot, or about remembering to switch it on or off. When your pup needs it, they get warmth. When they step away, the device shifts to "off." I bought mine a few months ago, and it is the center of his world. The color is attractive, and works with the neutral tones in my modest, minimalist living space. Strongly recommended if you have a smaller, older dog, or a cat who likes extra body warmth.
From the manufacturer's specs:
• Heater uses only 6 watts and is MET Listed
• Removable cushion and removable heater make washing a breeze
• Thermostatically controlled to warm to your pet's normal body temperature when in use
• 5-inch thick bedding keeps pet comfortable
• Removable, machine washable cover for easy maintenance
• Safe plush heated pillow insert for winter warmth
• Available in 2 sizes and 2 colors; 1-year warranty
amazon: K&H Manufacturing Thermo-Snuggly Sleeper
[Editor's note: There are two sizes: a medium and a large. Read the rest
Originally written as a web serial, this novel about a gamer transported into the world of MMORPGs is hilarious! I read The Bathroom Knight as a novel, and so I can only review it as such. I think it'd have been even more fun as a serial, a format I greatly enjoy.
Charles Dean rapidly sets up a fantastic fantasy world! Darwin, our extremely unique protagonist, really loves to play MMORPGs. So much so, he even plans to spend Christmas immersed! After beating up a burglar who interrupts his holiday fun, Darwin is magically transported into a game, and must quest to save the realm and figure himself out.
I liked Dean's take on gaming. He both shows the fun and camaraderie of gamers, and the terrible aspects of a "trapped-in-a-game, must level-up" mentality. Character development is pretty good for a freshman novel, and while the use of RPG vernacular occasionally baffled me, mostly it was easy to understand. I think Dean has done a fantastic job having fun with a genre, and not taking it seriously, at all.
This is a fun read. I bought it for my Kindle as Dean has apparently spent time, energy and money working with editors. In web serial format the novel is available here free.
The Bathrobe Knight: Volume 1 Read the rest
Someone just pointed me to this hentai/manga porn for sale on Amazon, entitled Boing Boing.
Boing Boing is a great name for a creative project!
Boing Boing by Yamatogawa via Amazon.
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There's always some kind of mess in my car. Spilled coffee, greasy hands, fogged-up or bird-pooped-on windows. I usually fumble around for whatever paper napkins I might have stashed away, but then I saw Quickie microfiber towel 24-packs on Amazon for $10. They turned out to be a way better solution.
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