23 March 2005

Recent Distractions (Reading and Playing)

I think I'm becoming a non-fiction junkie. There are so many interesting things to learn about (my goal since childhood has been to learn everything--unattainable, perhaps, but I'll always have something to strive for).

  1. Alpha and Omega: The Search for the Beginning and End of the Universe by Charles Seife. So continues my quest to better understand the universe I live in. I've read about many of the topics covered in this book before, but reading about them again made them clearer--helped, no doubt, by Seife's clear prose and ability to explain complicated stuff like quantum mechanics. I'm not sure I quite believe that scientists know exactly how the universe will end, but this book did go a long way towards convincing me that they've got a pretty good idea (or maybe, some pretty good ideas).
  2. Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. Yup, a book about fish. But, like the best "creative non-fiction" (in quotes because it's one of those things that have to be defined more by what they are not than by what they are--for my attempt, go here). Erm, where was I? Like the best creative non-fiction, this book uses its topic as a centrepoint, a focus, around which to look at other things. Kurlansky covers a lot of history--both European and North American--the politics of environmentalism, biology, and assorted other things, all as they relate to the lowly cod (mmm . . . tasty fried fish). The result is a very readable, interesting book, and it made me . . . there should be a word that means "homesick" but for someplace that isn't technically "home." It made me want to go back to Newfoundland. or the east coast, at least.
  3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I reviewed this one for work. It's very good. I was expecting something rather wishy-washy and nice, I suppose (I might have had even lower expectations if I'd noticed the publisher before I read it--not that they publish bad books, but they do publish New Age). Anyway, it was beautifully written and actually quite helpful.

Now it's on to a huge book on codes, another marionette book (oops, nope, turns out someone else wants it, so I have to take it back to the library today), something on Celtic Archaeology . . .


And now for some more YA fiction, because grown-up books are making me tired.

  1. The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman. This books is sooo good. I first saw it at Chapters (aka The Evil Empire) weeks and weeks ago, along with two others in the same series. I finally picked it up at a small discount at my niece's school's book fair. It's one of the few really well-done YA mysteries I've encountered. Usually mystery novels aimed at teens are either too obvious or too simplistic (or, sometimes both). Or too improbable. This one is sophisticated enough that most adults would enjoy it, but not too intricate for younger readers. And it has lots of adventure. Pullman's having fun with the Victorian mystery genre. I will absolutley be getting the rest of this series.
  2. Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix. Nix is always a good bet. I don't like this series quite as much as the Sabriel books, but they're still good. There's a seriously whimsical, slightly twisted imagination at work in these books, which is just exactly what I needed when I sat down to read.

Now I have to get back to that Hindenberg novel. It's quite good, but requires more concentration than I've had lately.

Sequential Art:

As usual, I've read more comics than anything else. No French books this time, though. (I did get another Schuiten/Peeters Cities of the Fantastic volume off eBay, but it's part 2, so I have to get part 1 before I read it.)

  1. Girl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City (volume 2) by Phil and Kaja Foglio. This time, Girl Genius is in full colour, which looks nice, but means the book cost something like twice as much as book one. Not that I'm really complaining. This is a fun story (with airships!) done in a cartoony, high-energy art style that I find really appealing. The main character is volatile, but likeable, and won't let anyone push her around. If you have any interest in steampunk, you really oughtta read this book.
  2. Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow volume 2 (aka Cardcaptor Sakura volume 8) by CLAMP.
  3. xxxHolic volume 4 by CLAMP.
  4. Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle volume 4 by CLAMP.

All CLAMP, all the time! OK, not really, but I do seem to read an awful lot of their work. Also, read, but not actually a "book": Swamp Thing #2. This time around, they're trying to bring Swampy back to his horror orgins. It's pretty good so far (but keep in mind I have an awful lot of campy old Swamp Thing comics, and I love them all). Plus, it's got John Constantine in (which reminds me, I need to read more Hellblazer).


I'm still trying to play through all my pc games before I make The Switch. I've got a disconcertingly large stack to get through still, but I'm making a good effort.

  1. The Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness (pc). The graphics are pretty dated, but the game came out in 2001, so you can't really hold that against it. I really had a good time playing this. Even the timed sequences (bane of true adventure gamers) were all right, once I realized there were going to be some. I rarely felt at a loss about what I was supposed to be doing, and the puzzles were logical (illogical puzzles are my personal bane). If anything, the puzzles were maybe too easy, and the end was rather anticlimactic. Still, a good game, and well worth the money (especially considering I got both Cameron Files games in one box for $12.99--or maybe it was $19.99).
  2. The Cameron Files: Pharaoh's Curse (aka The Cameron Files 2) (pc). The graphics were better than the first game, though still not fabulous. There was more humour and slightly harder puzzles. Otherwise, the second Cameron Files was much like the first: a solid game, though not the best game ever. I liked wandering around an empty museum taking stuff and picking locks and looking for clues (it's one of the reasons Shivers appealed to me, too). And a certain Dr. Jones was staying in your (or rather, your character, Alan P.Cameron's) hotel just before you got there, and he seems to have left his hat and whip behind in the museum storeroom.
  3. Dark Fall: The Journal (pc). Where whole development companies can fail miserably to produce a decent adventure game, one inspired person can create something pretty amazing. The graphics were a bit uneven--on the simplistic side in places, intricate in others--but always gorgeous, and once I got into this game, I hardly noticed the uneveness. You get to explore an abandoned train station and hotel, trying to figure out what happened to the people who disappeared there. There might be something evil lurking nearby, and you're the only one who can stop it. While there's not any danger of you actually dying (except maybe at the end), this is one truly spooky, creepy, eerie game. I loved it. Too bad the sequel isn't likely to be available for Macintosh. I'd pay full price right now.

I'm now trying to get Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill working properly. It used to work brilliantly, before I got a new video card and mouse. Now the audio skips and the mouse control is annoyingly jumpy. Argh! Updating DirectX and video drivers didn't help (also didn't help me get Broken Sword: Sleeping Dragon working, which is the game I most want to play next, and I don't know if it's affected the tendency of Jekyll and Hyde to freeze up as soon as the intro sequence is over--we'll see). If I can't get them to work, it'll be back to the pile for something else (LotR, perhaps).

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