C. G. McGinn


Ramblings about Books and Writing

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

I’ve read a lot of great books lately and have done little to tell you about them. I’m going to start with the last book I finished and work my way backwards. By the time I get to Neil Gaiman’s, The Graveyard Book, I’ll probably sum it up with one line, two words: It’s good.

Empire of Silence might as well take place in the Warhammer 40K universe, if 40K had a sex drive, and passion beyond the whole ‘grim darkness of war’ bullshit.


Empire of Silence has a libido. It’s grown a pair, yet remains grim and dark and veering on the brink of war. There’s depth to the characters, a heretic-seeking clergy, noble houses of every shape and color, palace intrigue, gladiatorial events, xenocide.

It’s science fiction that often feels like high fantasy.

Marlowe is an arrogant sheltered protagonist that ultimately finds humility from his experiences outside of palace life. Don’t get me wrong, he still maintains his prickish mannerisms, but he’s seen some shit—he becomes: dynamic.

It’s the first book in the series. The next book, according to the all-knowing Amazon isn’t due out until July, so you have some time. It’s a long read, but Samuel Roukin’s performance in the audio version is amazing, bitter, and yet—soothing, like a dry bottle of wine, or a kick in the teeth.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip...the Repraise

Back by popular demand, the recipe that started it all. Here is my spinach and artichoke dip recipe from my first post ever. Enjoy! 

Spinach and Artichoke Dip:

  1. 1/2 Cup of Mayo
  2. 1/2 Cup Sour Cream (The good kind, not that fat-free shit)
  3. 1 Clove Garlic (Mince that up)
  4. 1/2 Cup Parm (Shredded) 
  5. 1/2 Cup Mozzarella  (Shredded. Add a little extra. I do).
  6. 1 Can Quarted Artichokes (Drained and chopped to bits). 
  7. 1 Pack of Spinach (Thawed, drained). 

Mix it up in a bowl, put in a casserole dish, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Served best with Scoops

Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier

There are far too many, gee-wiz, oh wow, the Internet of Things fanatics writing about tech. Everything Silicon Valley comes up with isn’t great, but those who report on it would have you believe otherwise.

Adam Curry calls these folks, Tech-Horny’s.

I like nay-sayers in the tech industry—those who question the status quo. People like John C Dvorak, who was a columnist for PCMag for three decades, who ‘made the mistake’ of writing a column disparaging the 5G broadcast spectrum, and was unceremoniously fired. Read all about it here. And here is the damning article taken down from PCMag: WaybackMachine

This brings to mind a rather grim quote by the late Michael Crichton—spoken through the voice of the late Ian Malcolm:

Scientists are actually preoccupied with accomplishment. So they are focused on whether they can do something. They never stop to ask if they should do something.
— Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

Are there dinosaurs, in this dinosaur park?

Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

5G might not be as bad as an island full of dinosaurs, but the scary reality is: we don’t know that for certain. We don’t know what the invisible waves of cellular signals are doing to our bodies, just as we don’t know what social media is doing to our minds. Its all just cool and awesome and shiny and new, and we think…great!

Jaron Lanier has been working in the Valley since the early 80’s. He currently works for Microsoft. He’s one of the smartest tech guys I have had the pleasure of reading and in his own, optimistic way, he too is a nay-sayer.

In Who Owns the Future he says, ‘nay’ to our current social media setup—where the few (Facebook, Google, Twitter) make money off of the many (us). He proposes a new system in which the many can make money by charging for the data they create.

In our present, data is free but we are subjected to advertisements and any information the big companies of Silicon Valley can glean from us is bought and sold, often without our full understanding or consent.

In Lanier’s idealistic future, we are in control of what we share, and we get paid for doing so. I’m paraphrasing. Lanier uses a lot of lofty language to get his point across and I will probably have to read this book two or three more times to truly capture the elusive spirit of it.

Where Dvorak is a cynic, Lanier is optimistic. However what they both have in common is that they actually question the status quo in the tech industry—a very rich conglomerate of corporations that can literally get someone fired for not being lockstep with the current narrative.

Sounds like the plot of a grim near-future novel, only all to real.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins

Confessions of an Economic Hitman is part of the Question Everything theme in my current Non-Fiction reading. This, along with The Day After Roswell shows that we are nothing when we live in a stagnant world where the Media (local and cable news, reality tv, social networks) spoon feeds us information. Question everything, especially what we perceive to be the truth.

It makes life spicy and sexy.

This was a book recommended to me by the No Agenda Show--an insightful podcast where they deconstruct the media.

If everything in Confessions is true, then we live in a cynical world where governments—specifically the US Government—can essentially buy power and influence across the globe and into the known universe. I’m not saying I buy every anecdote and account in this book, but the methods described for gaining influence and eventually blackmailing, are probably used today by companies like Halliburton and Bechtel. It’s entirely plausible.

I’m also very cynical.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book. I didn’t hate it. It’s written like a confession—the author was in the game, had a change of heart, then got out and wrote about it. But despite all the horrible, life ruining stuff Perkins claimed to be responsible for, I never got the sense that he was ever on board with it. You have to be a true believer to ruin a country like Panama. I felt as if he were detached from the events, as if he were a spectator and not a participant. Moreover, there was never really a “Come to Jesus” moment which would prompt this so-called true believer to have a change of heart. The confession fell flat because he never seemed committed to the cause.

I don’t doubt that this sort of thing happens. I just don’t think it happened to Perkins.

Of course, all I have to go on it what is written in the book and what my gut tells me. The cynic say it happens everyday. But the book didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.

The Day After Roswell by William J Birnes and Philip Corso

I'm the one in the family that scoffs at the idea of UFOs and life on other planets beyond this one. I know, right? The sci-fi writer who doesn't think aliens are a thing.

It's not that I don't think they're a thing. It's just that I'm not sold on the ideas presented to me about them thus far.

No, I don't think that aliens are really angels in disguise.

No, I don't think they're a higher evolved version of us.

Any of that New Age crap, is just that: New Age Crap.

It's a nice idea to turn something like aliens into the 'feel-good' trending self-help nonsense of the moment.

Otherwise I have no strong opinions on the matter.

The Day After Roswell brought me the closest to believing--in a Fox Mulder sort of way, in the existence of alien life.

This wasn't a death-bed confession, but shortly after its publishing, Retired Col. Corso did die of a heart attack. He was 83 at the time but the timing is something one might want to consider. Were he a younger man, it would be suggested he steer clear of hot tubs, small aircraft, and CIA looking thugs wielding a garrote.

Speaking of the CIA...

Even if all the stuff about aliens is bullshit, Corso paints a very interesting picture of the politics between the Military and the Intelligence Community. In summary, the CIA are pretty much the worst, and have been trying to skull-fuck the American people since the start of the Cold War--if not the beginning of time. Those aren't Col. Corso words. Those are mine, but I'm sure the spirit of my words would be echoed by the late Colonel.

Aliens aside, what I found the most intriguing was the detail that went into the technology discovered at the alleged crash site and what was done with it. Col. Corso was essentially in charge of going through the original Roswell reports on the tech--his, 'nut' file--and figuring out ways of getting the tech into the hands of tech companies, so that they might reverse engineer it. Fiber optics, lasers, the stealth bomber--all alien tech.

On a personal note, I've always been convinced that laser printers are not of this world. Google--or better yet, Bing! how a laser printer works. What goes on in that box is nothing short of black magic...or alien technology.

I'm not saying I believe in aliens. I'm not sure about Roswell either. But Corso, an 80+ year old man had nothing to gain writing a book of fiction. He didn't have enough years left to enjoy the money and died shortly after the book came out--either by natural causes or the CIA.

...Probably the CIA.


Back on Twitter....sorta

Let me start out by saying that Twitter, FaceBag, all of these SociNets are festering pits of hate, anger and douche baggery of the highest order. Anyone who posts regularly on their sucks in my most humble opinion.

I of course, mean that in the nicest way possible.

As a platform to advertise this blog, it's the only game in town, so I will use it so long as it's viable.

I had a 'personal' Twitter account that I seldom used. I got rid of it. I now have a public facing account associated with this website. I will not tweet about the President, or about the last President, or about whatever people are virtue signaling about this week.

This will always be  a site about writing and what I'm reading.

Here's what I'm currently up to so I can justify using the appropriate hashtags in this post:

I'm finishing The Day After Rosewell. Full post coming soon.

Per everyone's request, I'm also reading book 1 of the Stormlight Archives (AKA: The Way of Kings). One day I may actually finish it. It's quite the epic read.

Ever expanding and editing my 2nd Novella. Soon it will be a novel...and then I'll be a real boy!

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders is the story of a Greek-Irish family. The only difference between my own family and the one in the story is that my family does no possess any sort of telekinetic or psychic powers.

...that I know of.

The eldest daughter knows if a person is lying or telling the truth.

The eldest son can move objects with him mind.

The baby of the family is the worlds greatest psychic.

The grandson can astral project.

And the grandfather is a master of cards, slight of hand, and all things Penn and Teller.

Those were probably spoilers. It probably doesn't matter though. Where the story goes from there is quite unique. This is one of those, it could happen in real life but there are sci-fi elements at play sort of stories. It's sorta what Stephen Kings does with horror, only the stakes are much lower.

It takes place in 1995.

It was a good book to get into after a break from reading, and The Library at Mount Char

I'm re-reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch for the book club I'm hosting. It's a long book but there's still time to read it and join in the discussion. This Thursday. At 7PM. Southborough Library.

Then I'll be starting The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. That should keep me busy for a while. 45 Hours and 32 Minutes in fact. 

News About Alerts from the Google

I set up a Google Alert for any hits on my name in the Google. I'm that much of a narcissist that I need to know when I show up in Google. Anyone can do this. It's easy. I remember it being easy, though I couldn't tell you how I did it.

I've received 3 alerts. The first 2 are not me, but they are horrible people who happen to share my name.

The first was a talented individual who was arrested for cooking meth...while driving.  

The second was some UK 'bloke' who abused dogs. Another winner.

But the third is all me, baby!

Just a wholesome writer hosting a book club. The first meeting happens this Thursday, the 28th at 7PM. Be there or don't. Either way I will be there talking about, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

I can promise you there will be no cooking meth while driving, or abusing animals because I'm too busy growing weed.

There will be a lot of good, passionate discussion of a book I greatly enjoyed reading the first time, and am loving during this second read-through. Read the book and come participate, or don't read the book and listen to me...and other people, talk.

Comic Book Theory: The "Cake and Eat it Too" Gambit - Part 1

This will be one of those posts that most of the non-comic book audience will probably stop reading after this very sentence. By the end of the paragraph, the rest of you will stop reading. We're not talking about Batman here, or Iron Man, or even Squirrel Girl. We're going to discuss a recent poll taken over on the FaceBag pertaining to the one comic I go all fan-boy over. I'm of course talking about, Ninja High School. Stick around and you may learn something.

 Ben Dunn

Ben Dunn

NHS had a good run for a book that caused many a comic book store owners to glaze over when I, in my youth, asked if their store carried it. It was an obscure title that one would randomly find on the comic shelf at Newbury Comics or Strawberries. Remember Strawberries? But typically one had to have a subscription set up with their local comic book store, and have the title special ordered. At least, this was the case in my area or the world, and I'd like to think that with the copy reserved for me, and the one ordered for the store, that I single-handed-ly made Ben Dunn a household name on the entire East Coast. I feel similarly about being the one who brought Nickelback to Maine during my college years. Take that, Maine!

 Look at this photograph!

Look at this photograph!

The series began back in 1986 and closed out in 2009 with issue 175. In that time, earlier parts of the series saw reprints and Full Color versions of issues, along with special issues like Year Books, and crossovers with other titles published by Antarctic Press. It had a good run. The core story revolved around Jeremy Feeple--a 16 year old high school student who is the object of attention by a ninja and an alien.

In 2014, Ben teamed up to Steve Ross, and issue #176 was released. I don't have the issue in front of me but the gist of it was essentially the last episode on the cusp of a reboot. I need to stress, I don't have #176 or the other comics in the initial series in front of me. They are in storage. Don't be this guy:

 Worst. Blog. Ever.

Worst. Blog. Ever.

But I did talk to Steve about it. #176 goes as follows: The universe in which the story takes place gets corrupted. Two characters are removed from Space/Time on a machine powered by steam. The mission: Shit's gots to get fixed, yo! The End

Issue #176 came and went. No #177.


 Thanks FaceBag Polls!

Thanks FaceBag Polls!

Should the series be rebooted?

A lot of folks weighed in and said they didn't want all the content since 1986 to be wiped out. This is a legitimate fear where the fictitious world one has been reading or watching is actually rendered meaningless, because the creator of said world decides to start fresh. Normally I wouldn't care about such things, but--Hello! FanBoy#1!

 I choose the former. Not the later.

I choose the former. Not the later.

Issue 176, the universe we've been reading about is literally corrupted. Had Ben ended with 175, there'd be no reason to worry, however 176 was a turning-point, a critical place in the story were its very existence lay precariously teetering on the edge of space and time. It was a line drawn in the sand. A piece of Ninja High Schooly history that can't be unmade.

It was also a damn good story and one that had to be told. I for one loved it and since we hadn't seen any Ninjas in High School since '09, it was great to get back in the saddle with Ninjas in High School. (I'm sure that sounded better in my head).

 Where it ended...or began, anew?

Where it ended...or began, anew?

This is what JJ Abrams did when he rebooted Star Trek. The first new Star Trek movie goes back in time and wipes out the history of everything that we all know, love, and hate about Star Trek. No Kirk, no Picard, no DS9, no 7-of-9, no Picard memes.

 "Shut up, Wesley!" -Picard

"Shut up, Wesley!" -Picard

We're left with a cast and crew of super models, and an optometrist's bill costing thousands in gold-pressed latinum due to all the damn lens flares. I hate the new Star Trek movies because of what they removed. I understand the importance of a long running series and would hate to see it go away.

However I also see the reason for a fresh new start. NHS began in the late 80s. The comic book industry is a very different place in 2018. Social Media and smart phones have left us with the attention spans of goldfish. And for Ninja High School to be successful, it needs to recapture its fan-base and attract a hip new audience. For this, I am proposing the patent-pending CGMcGinn Cake and Eat it Too gambit of comic book reboots.

But first, let's look at DC Comic's "New 52" for the extent of this paragraph. Specifically we'll be talking about Batgirl. Prior to New 52, Barbara Gordon was Oracle, a computer hacker extraordinaire, member of the Birds of Prey, who also helped Batman from time to time. Prior to that she was Batgirl, but thanks to Alan Moore and the Joker, she'd been rendered bound to a wheelchair and her Batgirl position was reassigned. New 52 happened and thanks to a vague surgical procedure, Barbara could walk again, was reinstated as Batgirl and went back to fighting crimes in cape and cowl.

This is an example of a soft reboot. Batgirl remembers her life prior to New 52 as Oracle, but for the extent of the  New 52 run, she is doing the whole Batgirl, walking-thing again. It's a Batgirl story, not an Oracle story. The origin story wasn't retold. It was a continuation of the character's arch, but at the same time a reinvention of the character.

This sort of reboot was possible because Batgirl is a superhero. She's timeless like the Simpsons. She can be college age forever. What defines her is her ability to kickass like Batman, but she comes at it from a very different perspective. She's a woman. Her motives are very different. Because of The Killing Joke--thanks a bunch Alan Moore, you too Joker--she's darker, but because of her ability to walk again that darkness gives way to rays of optimism.

Anyway, enough about Batgirl. Jeremy Feeple is not a superhero, nor is he secretly Batgirl (as far as I know). Part of the original run involves his awkward trek to adulthood. I think part of the appeal to a book like NHS was watching Jeremy stumble towards adulthood, finding and falling out of love, dealing with bullies, and getting into the occasional skirmishes with aliens, monsters, and ninjas.

The Cake and Eat it Too gambit

Issue #176 is the new Star Trek movies, only better. It's new Star Trek because the timeline is reset. It's better, because screwing with Time is not an exact science and events that we read about in the initial NHS run, happen differently.

Here are some bullet-points:

  • This would be a full reboot of the series
  • Jeremy Feeple is 16
  • Because time is wonky, the reboot starts in 2018 instead of 1986
  • In the initial series, Jeremy's mom took care of Jeremy and his younger brother, Ricky because their father got trapped in Dimension X when Jeremy was very young. Since mom was the one taken out of time to save the universe in #176, the reboot will have Jeremy and Ricky being raised by their father. Where is mom? Do the Feeple's know? It's a new wrinkle in the reboot.
  • More on mom: She is one of the few characters who knows about the 2 different timelines. This could come into play later in the series or not at all. But she could be a guiding force in Jeremy's success.
  • The war between Sulusian and Zardon has changed dramatically in some way. Perhaps Zardon is no longer the antagonists in the conflict. Perhaps the war has yet to begin. Perhaps the Sulusian royal family is not as well liked as they were in the initial series.
  • Asrial had always been handy, mechanical and less girly. This is more apparent because her royal family status no longer means as much. Perhaps the whole Princess in Exile angle is less imposed by her royal parents and more to do with conflicts at home.
  • Since Prof Steamhead was also removed from time in #176, someone else fills his place as a mentor to Jeremy. Their motives may not be noble, and could possibly be downright malevolent.
  • Rivalsan Lendo keeps having nightmares about Hell. This is in reference to the plotline in the initial series where Lendo indeed goes to Hell in order to rescue Jeremy's soul. This was a favorite plotline of mine. Lendo is also less of a dick to Jeremy, probably because of the dreams.
  • WW2 Ends differently. The Allies still win, but with greater losses. Steamhead isn't around. Hitler is taken alive. Ichi's grandfather is a different kind of Ninja Clan leader.
  • 9/11 happened. Quagmire was a target. Perhaps Tomorrowman failed to stop it in time. Perhaps Tomorrowman was never able to get over this and all those who were lost that day.
  • Something HUGE is happening in Hawaii. ;-p
  • There's no rats in Dimension X. None
  • Dogsupreme is no longer a slave to Zardon and is the Thanos of the known universe.

Well this was a very long post. Level 100 Fan-Boy in the house, yo!

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char falls into the Slipstream sub-genre of fiction with titles like, John Dies at the End by David Wong, and Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The titles by Wong and Vonnegut are hilariously funny in their approach to the bizarre world they create. Wong's stories are ultra violent but easy to read because of the comedy. Vonnegut is more cerebral, making the reader think.

The Mount Char is ultra violent, not funny, and really makes you think. It was an amazing book that makes one squirm at times.

I will not spoil this book. Like the Matrix, you must experience it for yourself. And no, it doesn't end up being a computer controlled virtual reality in order to keep turn human slaves into batteries.

But I will say: you won't see where it goes until you get there. It's really a well crafted story. It's very different and many of the main characters are both awful and beautiful at the same time. And like any good book in this genre, there are several WTF moments. Just roll with it. Trust me, there's a solid pay-off. At least I thought so, and why the hell are you even here if you didn't at least care a little about what I thought? Go waste your time on Reddit, or the YouTubes.

I'm currently on leave from my full-time job due to my second child entering the world on Tuesday. I'm realizing that I've reached a very specific stage in life. I'm no longer the single guy, or the married guy with no kids. It took my first kid to turn 2, and my second to almost get here before realizing I'd reached this milestone. I'm not happy, but I'm also not unhappy. Sobering, would be the word for it. All of this hit me today. I'm sure I'll eventually make peace with these feelings. For now I'll just wait and see.

Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan

Altered Carbon is the first book in a trilogy centered around, Takeshi Kovacs--all around heartless badass. Kovacs is a unique strain of humanity known as an Envoy. Being an Envoy basically means he can read a person very well, all the while knowing a billion-billion different ways of killing them amidst the backdrop of a 25th Century future.

In the 25th Century, the soul, the human consciousness, the thoughts and memories that make you, well you, are downloaded into a cortical stack, which lives in the base of your spine. This is what they look like outside of said spine:

 Altered Carbon, Netflix 2018

Altered Carbon, Netflix 2018

The stack can then be placed into a sleeve. A sleeve is a human body, grown or cloned. Some bodies are synthetic, others are flesh and blood. Envoy's are unique in that their conciseness can be transmitted through space from one planet to another, into a body built, primarily for starting or stopping wars. Again, Kovacs is something of a badass. 

This series takes place in a world similar to Blade Runner and Neuromancer in regard to high technology, colonization of various planets outside of Earth, and a galaxy-spanning gap between the have's and the have-not's. It's dark but littered with all sorts of shiny toys, drugs, and virtual experiences to try.

What makes this series different from the two titles mentioned above is the sex--for which there is lots of it. And it's very descriptive sex, which is cool, and something of a trend in these newer stories that fit into this sub-genre. Autonomous by Newitz had it's share of sex in it, and on the fantasy side of things, Game of Thrones is pretty much all sex and horrible horrible ways to dies, and sex. It seems the current formula for a grim and dark, story is to throw in heaping piles of intercourse. Again, not a criticism--simply an observation.

As a rule I try not to consecutively read an entire series. I like to break them up with different titles. The reason for this is getting burnt-out on one world, one author, one specific style. I broke my own damn rule this time around. I got burnt out. I probably have some biases when it came to book 2 and 3.

That being said...

Book 1: Altered Carbon is the strongest in the series. It's a detective story that breaks the detective story formula half-way through. It's the only book in the series that takes place on Earth, so there is familiar ground for the reader. I felt I best understood Kovacs's motives in this first book, and since the series is told from the 1st Person POV, I should have at least some idea of what the character is thinking. Books 2 and 3--not so much.

Todd McLaren read the audio book versions of Books 1 and 2, and William Dufris read Book 3. Both did a wonderful job, however Dufris's pronounciation of the "Kovacs's" name sent me right over the edge. Here is an excerpt from Page 10 of Altered Carbon:

 Altered Carbon, Morgan, p10

Altered Carbon, Morgan, p10

Book 3 takes place entirely on Harlan's World. And yet, the reader, who is speaking as Kovacs, mispronounces his own damn name, over and over again. And since everyone he comes into contact with is also a resident of Harlan's World, and would know the pronunciation of Kovacs the same way we might know how to pronounce "Smith" or "Jones", it was criminal in my opinion, for this mispronunciation. There should have been a note passed to some mucky-muck at whatever audio book company produced this. Learn your main character's name, damnit!

I'm going to go and watch the Netflix series based on the first book now. I might have more to say on this after I've watched the show. I didn't love the books. But it wasn't awful. The technology in play was solid--probably the most well thought out tech system I've run across in recent reads. I recommend reading the first book. From there, it's entirely up to you if you want to continue.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Autonomous is what will happen when Big Pharma is allowed to run amuck, becoming the most powerful corporate entity in the known universe... Oh, wait a minute...

As a social commentary, it's a satire of the argument between drug companies who rack up the prices of much needed medicine, those who need these drugs but cannot afford it, and the black market that fills the void. In a future where even atoms are able to be replicated on 3D printers, the quality of said drugs from the underground, mirror their brand name counterparts.

This is but one of many stories that I'm currently reading set in a very bleak future that rings with the echos of Blade Runner, Neuromancer, and, more recently, Altered Carbon. Set in a world where the technology is old enough to be taken for granted, where both human and robot kind coexist, co-habitate, co-mingle, etc, etc, etc...

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

A few weeks back, my editor posted a link to a blog looking for writers. It was a paying gig, which involved writing about reading. What discouraged me was that they specifically stated that they WERE NOT looking for book reviews. I guess that's what I do. I don't know. I think I give you enough to make a decision whether or not you should try out a book. I don't like getting in depth on the plot or development--sticking more to what struck me as unique. At first glance I guess this could be misinterpreted as a review.

Needless to say, I didn't apply for the job. Maybe I'm selling myself short. Who knows.

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is what happens when you give Alexandre Dumas tickets to a Steampunk convention, then lock him in a room and tell him he won't be let out until he writes a book about it. This is a steampunk, swashbuckling tale in the sky, with healthy doses of palace intrigue, magic, magical technology, and more twists in the plot than...something, something...M. Night Shyamalan.



Steampunk as a genre seems hard to get out into the mainstream. Masques and Mirrors certainly isn't pure steampunk, but there's enough of it in there to get one's cogs off...whatever that means. In fiction, I think it's best used when describing a certain aspect of the technology. When it's used too much--encompassing the plot, the dress of the characters, the way they talk, it breaks the story and turns into, well, a steampunk conversion. I guess the same could be said about any quirk of world-building, but right now, steampunk seems to be the lightning rod for such criticism. If there's a pun in there, it was only partially intended.

Blackwing: Raven's Mark by Ed McDonald

Blackwing is the first book in the Raven's Mark series by author, Ed McDonald. The book is artfully vulgar. What I mean by that is that McDonald's dialog is very good, and his characters--mostly mercenaries with a penchant for hard living and heavy drinking--speak as you'd expect them to. But there's an art form to their cursing. Watch a season of Deadwood and you'll know what I mean.

Part of what made Blackwing such an entertaining read was actor, Colin Mace, who lent his voice to the audio book. A grizzled 'merc' is one thing, but an English grizzled 'merc' is an angry, drunkard ride without breaks. It's like whenever Neil Gaiman reads something, if, in this case, Neil were on a three day bender and wielding a gnarled wooden cricket mallet.

The story itself is unique, different from other dark fantasy tales. Set in a post apocalyptic landscape brought on by a magical war, against an enemy of angry demi-gods, life is harsh, brutish and short for most.

The events in this first book are so earth shattering, that I wonder how the rest of the series will hold up over time. But for now, Blackwing is a very good debut in a series with a lot of promise.

Sea of Rust by Robert Cargill

The premise for Sea of Rust is the backstory/explanation that Morpheus gives Neo when he first asks about the Matrix. The long and short being: We went to war with AI of our own creation, they were faster, better, smarter than us, and royally kicks our sorry fleshy asses into near-extinction. Where Sea of Rust differs from The Matrix is that Sea of Rust goes all the way--the machines not only win the war, but they literally kill every single man, woman and child on the earth, leaving robot-kind in charge of the planet.

Let that sink in for a minute. Only we arrogant humans would assume that we'd be needed to power the machines--living a simulated life in a virtual world, hooked up as a giant battery. 

Sea of Rust is probably a great deal closer to a real life AI vs Humans scenario then anything currently out there in both books and movies.

And there are no punches being pulled here. There are moments in this book that were very hard to take. Movies will show scenes of able-bodied men being killed by antagonist or protagonist, and the audience will watch and accept this without disgust or resentment. We've grown so used to the James Bond henchman, that these faceless masses might as well be machines.

But have a robot kill a child, or a baby?

Sea of Rust pulls no punches.

In the midst of these rather squeamish scenes--necessary scenes in order to tell an effective story--I greatly enjoyed this book. The main character was truly a product created by man. Her calculating and cold outlook on life was the soul of a machine, and yet she experienced something of a moral conflict within herself as humans often do.

This is a story about AI where the robots do not feel boxy and soulless. This is AI with heart.



I Can't Make this Up by Kevin Hart

If there was ever a book best listened to, rather than read, it would be I Can't Make this Up: Life Lessons by comedian, Kevin Hart. Read by Kevin Hart, nay--performed by Kevin Hart.


Thirteen-plus hours of stand-up with an honesty that Hart is known for. Well worth the price of admission, which in my case was one Audible credit.

I read this book over the summer after suffering a streak of bad books that aren't even worth mentioning here. So it was great to read something both lite and funny, from a man with so much optimism in the midst of what would appear to be a very difficult upbringing. This book can't help but feel good by proxy.