Friday, February 28, 2014

eBook Review: A Sailor of Austria

John BigginsA Sailor of Austria

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 1570 KB
    • Print Length: 378 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 159013107X
    • Publisher: McBooks Press (September 1, 2005)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B005E8AMQA
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled
    • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars (45 customer reviews)
    • Price: $8.59 

1. Short review:
For DRM:   (Amazon rating: 1 out of 5 stars -- I hate it.)
For content:   (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The history through fiction of the honorable service of men fighting for a collapsing empire. I enjoyed every minute reading this book.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Surprisingly, a roller coaster.
Good value for the money.

2.2. What I did not like: It's DRM'd. If a book is published with DRM, I give it one star. No exceptions. The content I review separately.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Everybody. Some will like it. Some won't. Biggins will find his audience. Maybe he has already.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. One chapter contains strong hints of sex, but there is nothing graphic.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes, but the DRM gives me pause.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     In the spring of 1915 a young Austro-Czech naval lieutenant Ottokar Prohaska, just returned from foreign parts, find himself posted to the miniscule Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Submarine Service in the Adriatic port of Pola. In some trepidation at first because he has no experience of submarines, his fears are soon set at rest when he discovers that nobody else has either, least of all his superiors. There follow three and a half years of desperate adventures fighting for the House of Habsburg aboard primitive vessels, contending not just with exploding lavatories and the transport of Libyan racing camels but with a crew drawn from a dozen different nationalities and a decaying imperial bureaucracy which often seems to be even more of an enemy than the British, the French, the Italians, and the sea itself. Prohaska rises to become the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s leading submarine commander and a holder of its highest military decoration, the Military Order of Maria Theresa, (Militär-Maria Theresien-Orden). The closing months of 1918 see him and his crew return home aboard a damaged boat from Palestine, only to find that the homeland they have fought for over the last four years is collapsing, and that they themselves are stateless persons: sailors without a navy returning to a country which no longer has a coastline.
 2.7. Other:
     I did not know this book was DRM'd until I began to write this review. I tweeted this book with five stars.
     I started to write the plot-in-a-nutshell, and opened Calibre to refer to the book 'cause I could not recall with certainty if Prohaska was a Fregattenleutnant or a Linienschiffsleutnant. Could not open the book because it is DRM'd. Connected my Kindle and tried to open my Kindle copy with Calibre. No joy.
     So instead of writing a proper plot summary I copied and edited the extended book blurb from John Biggins website.
     There are other ways to discourage piracy. DRM is a bloody frelling nuisance. I truly enjoyed this book. Now I'm angry. That's how I shall remember the book. I got angry over it.
     Anger is not the memory you want to leave with your customers.

     Those who read my reviews regularly will notice that I put in fewer links. That is intentional. In the future, for DRM'd books, I will not give any links.


2.8. Links: John Biggins at Amazon

2.9. Buy the book:  A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Movie Review: Gravity

Gravity Poster.jpg

1. Short review: -- Worth a rental, not more.

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Sandra Bullock. That's good, because SB and the SFX are the movie. The cinematography.

2.2. What I did not like: The physics. There are more inaccuracies than Wikipedia points out, but the glaring one is this:
“When Kowalski unclips his tether and floats away to his death to save Stone from being pulled away from the ISS, several observers . . . contend that all Stone had to do was to give the tether a gentle tug, and Kowalski would have been safely pulled toward her, since the movie shows the pair having stopped and there would thus be no centrifugal force to pull Kowalski away.”
     I understand literary license to change facts; that is, it ain't truth, it's fiction. I have used it myself. But there are limits and Gravity exceeds them.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: A lot of people but not everybody.

2.4. Are the movies appropriate for children to see? I suppose so. It has shots of dead people, but the kiddies are watching The Walking Dead, so what the hey?

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? No.

2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.6.1. How I rate movies:

-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more. <-- Gravity (for the cinematography)
-- Worth first-run theater price once.
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again. 

Running time: 91 minutes.

2.6.2. The plot.

2.7. Other:

     Gravity grossed north of $700 million in theaters. Rumors are that SB's payday was $70 million. I think she earned it.
     The cinematography was stunning. It tried not to call attention to itself, but it was so well crafted that at one point I said out loud, "God, that's beautiful." And the Oscar goes to Emmanuel Lubezki.
     Maybe it's just me and since the gate was $700 million that's likely, but I found the story boring. Gravity is Lost in Space with debris collisions substituted for the Robot flailing about as he cries, "Danger! Danger!" That and Gravity has better SFX.


2.8. Links:
IMDb review, Rotten Tomatoes review 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

eBook Review: Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes

George Mann (editor), Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes

Product Details

  • File Size: 1075 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (February 11, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EMX8T9A
  • Text-to-Speech: 
  • Lending: Not Enabled
1. Short review:  *L-) loser DRM'd. (Amazon rating: 1 out of 5 stars -- I hate it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The excepts at Amazon and SF Signal.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? I cannot say.

2.2. What I did not like: DRM. I manage my digital library with Calibre. DRM interferes with that. Calibre cannot do anything with a DRM'd book. For the DRM restriction, I give Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes one star. I returned the book, too. I wish Amazon included a tag for DRM in their product details, but until they do, I shall post a one-star review for each book I find DRM'd.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Sherlock Holmes fans? Can't say.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Can't say.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? No.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     There are many stories, so there are many plots.
     At Amazon, AcerAcer wrote a 5-star review that includes a precis for each story. 
 2.7. Other:
     I liked the excerpt of this book I read at SF Signal and the teaser I read at Amazon. After I bought it, I discovered it was DRM'd. I returned it. In the return procedure, Amazon asked why I returned the book. One of the choices they posted was 'Digital Rights Restrictions'.
     Had I known at the time of purchase that this book was DRM'd, I would not have bought it.
     I offer no opinion on the stories.

2.8. Links: DRM

2.9. Buy the book:  Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Movie Review: A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men
1. Short review: -- Worth first-run theater price once.

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Demi Moore for eye candy. Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Noah Wyle, and Cuba Gooding, Jr., for good performances. The rifle drill by the Texas Aggie Fish Drill Team at the beginning of the movie.

2.2. What I did not like: Aaron Sorkin's script. The story is good, but it is wrapped in dialogue that tries too hard to be cute.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”--Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft  
     What King means is that if you write a line you just love, delete it. In A Few Good Men, Sorkin ignored King's advice. He did not kill his darlings. No. He hugged them, kissed them, held them up to the light and made us look at them again.
     When LTJG Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and LCDR Galloway (Demi Moore) meet in her office, LT Weinberg (Kevin Pollack) tells her that Kaffee has successfully plea-bargained forty-four cases in nine months. Kaffee says, "One more and I get a set of steak knives." After Capt Ross shreds PFC Downey on the witness stand because Galloway did not adequately prep her client Downey, Kaffee explodes in drunken anger and calls Galloway 'Galacticly Stupid'. Galloway walks out immediately after Kaffee's tirade, but she stops in the doorway, turns, and says, "I'm sorry I lost you your set of steak knives."
     This is an example of King parading his darlings for our view. I can hear him tittering to himself, "Oh, what a clever boy I am!"
     Just tell the damned story.

     Demi Moore's performance. Kiefer Sutherland's performance. Both of them speak their lines well but they are overshadowed by Cruise, Nicholson, and Bacon. Even Wyle outshone them.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: First, Aaron Sorkin and his family. Second, the American public.

2.4. Are the movies appropriate for children to see? Yes for ages 17 and up. No for younger due to language and violence.

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? No.

2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.6.1. How I rate movies:

-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more.
-- Worth first-run theater price once. <-- A Few Good Men
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again. 

Running time: 138 minutes.

2.6.2. The plot.

2.7. Other:

     Why in the world am I reviewing a twenty-two year-old movie?
     I saw A Few Good Men in a theater when it was released in 1992. Liked it well enough. I have seen it on TV at least, oh, a dozen times since then. It does not wear well. Sorkin's darlings become an annoyance on the third or fourth viewing. By the twelfth viewing they are just bloody awful.
     So why did I watch this movie again and again?
     'Cause I changed.
     The first time I watched A Few Good Men I bought into Sorkin's line: Lieutenant j.g. Daniel Kaffee is the good guy; Colonel Nathan Jessup is the bad guy.
     Now I'm not so sure.
     In the climactic scene, Jessup is on the witness stand:

     Think about what Jessup said. "We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it?"
     This is no less true today than it was twenty-two years ago.
     There is an insidious notion in the world today that we can all get along. I can live as I like, the other guy can live as he likes, and we can be, if not friends, at least civil to each other.
     This is demonstrably false.
     There are those in the world whose view is that I must live according to their precepts. Or die. I must 'walk this way' and 'talk this way' or else. How do I resist that? Sit down with them over tea and biscuits and reason away their deeply held convictions? 
     At the lunch at the O Club at Gitmo, LCDR Galloway reminds Col Jessup that the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet sent out a memo "warning that the practice of enlisted men disciplining their own wasn't to be condoned by officers." Jessup replies that on the record he gave the memo its due attention; off the record such practices were an invaluable part of unit training.
      It does not matter if you dislike Jessup and his sentiments. It does not matter if I dislike Jessup and his sentiments. He is right. The military has long used peer pressure as a training tool. Enlisted men discipline their own all the time to get them to conform to unit standards.

     Remember the Tailhook scandal? A retired Marine gunnery sergeant said to me, "We train these men to kill and then we're shocked they don't act like choir boys when they're in Vegas?"

     Bismarck said, "Those who like law and sausages should not see either being made." The same is true for the training of soldiers. It ain't just. It ain't pretty. It's only necessary.

     Someone stands a post on that wall tonight. He ain't me, and he ain't you. We don't have to like him, but we should respect him.


2.8. Links:
IMDb review, Rotten Tomatoes review 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

eBook Review: Prince of Mercenaries

Jerry Pournelle, Prince of Mercenaries

Product Details from Baen's Books

Published 3/1/1989
SKU: 0671698117
Price: $5.00
1. Short review:  (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  I am a fan and a friend of Jerry Pournelle. He writes well. I enjoy his Falkenberg's Legion stories.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Roller coasters. There are three stories packed into this novel, woven together to make a coherent whole.
Good value for the money. 

2.2. What I did not like: Nothing. It's all good.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Science fiction fans. Military sf fans. JP fans.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. No worries.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     Falkenberg's Legion is bivouacked on Tanith, the second worst world in the CoDominium. Tanith is hot, covered by jungle, teeming with vicious indigenous fauna, and continually overcast. It is also the sole source of borloi, the drug that keeps the welfare citizens of Earth placid and pliable.
     A couple of interludes tell you how Lieutenant Mark Fuller and Captain Peter Owensford joined the Legion. These come from the novellas 'Silent Leges' (Fuller) and 'His Truth Goes Marching On' (Owensford). These stories also give you much of the background of the CoDominium.
     The constituted gov't of Tanith hired Falkenberg's Legion to 1) reduce a collective of contract fugitives and 2) ensure the delivery of borloi from opposition farmers. The Legion did the first. To do the second, the Legion has to 1) find the hidden borloi and 2) take it from Barton's Bulldogs, another mercenary force. They must do this without destroying the borloi. Without the borloi, neither party in the conflict will have the money to pay the mercenaries.
     With the help of Prince Lysander of Sparta, Falkenberg accomplishes his objectives.
 2.7. Other:
     I like military sf. Jerry's CoDominium world is one of my two favorites. The other is Hammer's Slammers.
     Jerry Pournelle writes well and that shows through in Prince of Mercenaries.
     I read this book in a couple of days on Calibre. I downloaded it to my Kindle, but I did not have a spot in my reading rotation for it. That is why I read it on Calibre. Originally, I planned to work it into my reading rotation, but it was such a rocking good read that I devoured it in a couple of sittings.
     Only recently did I discover that Baen's Books website offers books from other publishers, too. E-Reads offers the famed Dangerous Visions. You can also pick up Schlock Mercenary.
     Check out Tor Books offerings to see what a goat rope Tor has become.

2.8. Links: Jerry Pournelle 

2.9. Buy the book:  Prince of Mercenaries