Reviews by Ken

Tokyo Zero

by Marc Horne

"Tokyo Zero"
Reads like an English teacher in Japan's diary plus unoriginal plot to gas the Tokyo subway. Relatively little happens in this long-winded story burdened with philosophical & cultural ramblings. Poor writing abounds; I had to constantly re-read sections to figure out what was going on.

The text is rife with phrases like, "elicited a smile of impressedness" and discourse such as, "we (man on Earth) communicated like we did sex. In the dark/spasmodically/ somewhat selfishly/ full of inherited symbols/only one on one at root/ amounting to nothing in the best case/in the worst case we were not joined but instead divided... something new came in the world but was too much like us to be relevant."

If uninspired by the first few chapters, just stop reading! It does not get better.

Reviewed on 2010.03.31

Little Brother

by Cory Doctorow

There are many issues entwined here, both in the novel and in how to review it. What does the average teenager know about technology? That varies widely. One average they may be more computer literate than older generations, but that's the average. There are plenty of game playing, ring tone downloading, text message addicted teens and young adult who are at the same time largely ignorant of how most technology works. Even consumer level customization can elude them if there's no easily available YouTube how-to video.
The knowledge of history and social issues is also uneven.
One thing is different, if you have spare time and get interested in some topic you can pursue it easily on the internet. We are no longer limited by having to find the "right" library (or even get access to it if you aren't affiliated with a University or live in a community that can afford to keep "old" books on the shelves of the public libraries).
Then there's another issue, characters. These kids are interesting but like many real live kids these days they could be "fleshed out" a bit more. And someday I'll stumble across a nerdy girl character who's front and center but at least Cory's are players.
Technology can be both fascinating and boring at the same time. All-nighter team programming is the perfect example--except for "break time" and the occasional comment the activity would never make it into a movie.
Our television dominated culture does have attention deficit which is why some many movies have car chases and things blowing up and why readership continues to drop.
As for touching the issues, this treatment helps make clear some of the issues that should be part of this election cycle--the difficulty of providing meaningful security, the risk of false positives, the misery to the public of getting it wrong. I think Cory had done a good job and making it a Creative Commons venture may help get some folks back in the readership game.

Reviewed on 2008.08.12

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine

by John Fox Jr

Beautifully written. Fox's ability to paint a picture is a pleasure to read. He doesn't stop with one picture; it's
more akin to a movie. I particularly enjoy the use of verbiage long forgotten.

Reviewed on 2008.03.18

Red Rooney

by Robert Michael Ballantyne

This is a humorous account of a man who gets shipwrecked near the Eskimos, and how he experiences their customs, and amazes them, as well as foiling a false Eskimo witch-docter. Not to missed for learning about the Eskimos, and laughing at the Red Rooney\'s adventures!

Reviewed on 2007.10.24

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