Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: "Survivor in Death" by J. D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts)

First and foremost in this review, I want to get across the fact that Robb/Roberts has gotten me addicted to the " Death" books. It was while reading this book that I realized fully why I got addicted; characters.

All the books in the " Death" series revolve around Lt. Eve Dallas and her team on the NYPSD, around the year 2050. This puts them in the near enough future to not lose the Nora Roberts audience and just enough to have some cool futuristic gadgets and lure in some sci-fi fans.

The characters are so well written and captivating I felt myself wanting to high five them all as they got closer to catching the murderers.

This book starts out with the systematic and precise murder of a very normal family as they slept. The family is the perfect family and peaceful, why would anyone want them dead. However the murderers missed one small detail, a survivor. She snuck down in the middle of the night to get a soda and that's when the killers struck. She witnesses the killers slashing the necks of the family's housekeeper and her parents. While this is happening she has enough wits about her to call the police.

Lt. Eve Dallas and her team are called on scene and the work begins. The investigation leads to military trained assassins that are seeking revenge. The assassins also have ties to a recently dispersed terrorist cell.

The thrill of the chase is one that keeps going and anxious through the book until the bad guys are finally caught. Sorry I let you know the bad guys get caught, but really its not the catch, it's the thrill of the chase, and J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts knows how to make a stay-up-all-night-reading-while-sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Book Review: "Holiday in Death" by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)

Since it is the holiday season, I thought one of the books I read and review should be a nice book about the holidays. Okay, it does take place during the holidays, but it's not so nice.

J.D. Robb's Future crime fighting New York police detective, Lt. Eve Dallas doesn't celebrate the holidays. This is all because of her lack of family life growing up, but her new husband/multi-millionaire Roarke is out to make sure she gets a little holiday cheer. The problem is a serial killer uses the holidays to do his best work, and that means no time off for Dallas.

A series of murders in which the victims are raped and murdered turns Lt. Dallas' holiday plans to work and no pleasure. The victims are all decorated like Christmas trees and tattooed with "True Love" somewhere on their body. And to throw some extra punch into his crime the killer adorns each victim depicting a line from the song "The 12 Days of Christmas." The first victim has a pin with a partridge in a pear tree and so on from there.

Dallas and her team soon discover that all the victims are linked by a dating service. This dating service is run by twins Piper and Rudy whose relationship goes farther than brother and sister should. Soon they are the key suspects.
The action never stops in this super creative futuristic crime thriller novel by J. D. Robb. The characters are multidimensional and very captivating. Robb has got a great recipe when it comes to these " Death" novels. This book is number 8 of 28 in the collection. The books are written so that you don't have to read the novels in order to enjoy them.

J.D. Robb is the pseudonym of Nora Roberts. She uses this pseudonym to write these sci-fi crime novels instead of her normal fare of romance novels.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Book Review: "Starship Titanic" by Douglas Adams and Terry Jones

As I was reading this book I was constantly saddened by the fact that we will never get to read any further stories of Dirk Gently, Zaphod Beeblebrox,Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent et. al. That's because Douglas Adams passed away back in 2001. He did leave us a legacy of a trilogy of 5 books in the Hitchhiker's Guide books, (Yes I know a trilogy is 3 but try and explain that to a dead man.) 2 Dirk Gently books (and a bonus book of leftover stuff that was never finished in the Dirk Gently Realm titled "The Salmon of Doubt"), "The Meaning of Liff," "The Deeper Meaning of Liff," "Last Chance to See" (a great non-fiction book in which Mr. Adams goes around the world to view and write about endangered species). These are the only books I read more than once. Usually I read a book and I'm done with it, but with Douglas Adams they are written with so much depth and humor that something new is discovered in each reading.

If you are not familiar with Douglas Adams, first of all...don't wait...rush out now and grab a copy of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and get hooked, otherwise I'll try to explain. Douglas Adams has a great comedic voice in all his books, most of the time pushing to the level of absurdity. For example, the most famous aspect of the Hitchhiker's books is this, 42. Let me explain, A great computer named "Deep Thought" was built to determine the answer to life, the universe and everything. This computer thought for millions of years and finally came to the answer. That answer is 42. Well the problem is that no one knows what the question is. To determine that another computer had to be built, it's an organic computer called Earth. (yes OUR Earth) But Earth was destroyed before it could come up with the question, in order to build a hyperspace bypass. So that is a very miniscule, minute look at the humor of the man that also wrote for, "Monty Python's Flying Circus," "Doctor Who," and numerous BBC Radio programmes. (I had to use the British spelling in his honor (-: )

Another thing he did was to write a couple of computer games. The first was based on the Hitchhiker's trilogy. The second was a game called "Starship Titanic." It takes place on a starship of the same name which has undergone "Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure" and crash landed on Earth on its maiden voyage (in an allusion to the 1912 disaster involving the real-world RMS Titanic). The player acts the part of a human (whose house the starship crashed into) who goes aboard to help fix the ship, and must solve puzzles to collect the parts of the sabotaged onboard computer, Titania. Once all the parts have been collected and inserted in the correct places, Titania comes alive and talks.

So that brings us to this book. Basically Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) has written this book and tried to copy Douglas Adams' style while adapting what was written into the game. While at times this does seem like another Douglas Adams book, there are times that it seems like a computer game and the main characters have to complete tasks before they can move up to the next level. An example of this would be when the Earthlings are "abducted" they are given commercial class status, in order to reach the captain of the ship (which we later learn there is none), they have to get upgraded to first class by finding vouchers and and then earning miles. This "puzzle-piece-plot-device" is actually very typical of many of Adam's writings and helps move many of his plots, but usually they aren't as blatent as they are when Terry Jones adapts them.

The story goes that the Blerontinians have bult the ultimate starship using the plans of one of the greatest minds in the Universe, Leovinicus. But the to build the ship corners had to be cut and the ship is only partially finished when it experiences a SMEF (Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure) and crash lands on earth. When the abducted Earthlings learn where they are they must get back to Earth, but they soon discover there is a bomb on board (this is to destroy the ship so the Blerontinians can collect the insurance money and make up for the building loss) and the romp through a universe only Douglas Adams could create begins.

This book is absurdly funny, sometimes bizarre, and a must read for any Douglas Adams fan. If you've never read anything by Douglas Adams, I recommend reading his other books first then come to this one because it's not PURE DOUGLAS ADAMS, it is pretty darn close, though

Monday, December 10, 2007

Movie Review: "The Mist"

If you are a Stephen King fan, you have probably been waiting a long time for his short story “The Mist,” which first appeared in the collection of short stories “Dark Forces,” first published in 1980.  I know when I read the story I was enthralled by the unnamable creatures in the mist.  Well now, you can see these creatures on the big screen.  I will warn you; this movie is not going to win a “feel-good” movie of the year award.  In fact, I will warn you and possibly spoil it for you by saying that, this movie has a very depressing end.

That being said, the movie does an excellent job of portraying the imagination and creepiness Stephen King created in the story.  The special effects are unique in that creatures had to be created that reflected various forms of life from insects, flying reptiles and extremely huge scorpions.  In addition, some creatures go beyond description.  It has been about 27 years since I read the story but I remember in the story that some of the creatures were left up to the imagination, and thankfully, the special effects on this do leave some to the imagination by hinting at a form in the mist.

The story goes that an artist, his wife and 8-year-old son go to the basement of their home when a severe electrical storm hits their area.  The next morning they wake up to damage from fallen trees and no electricity or phones.

As do most the locals, the artist and his son head to a supermarket to stock up on food and supplies to fix damages.  When they arrive at the store, the store has no electricity but generators are keeping the refrigerators cooling. 

The mist comes rolling into town and a local man comes screaming into the store saying something is in the mist.  He has a bloody nose and claims something knocked him down and took his friend.  The air raid sirens in the town go off and soon the mist envelopes the town and nothing can be seen through the windows.

The patrons then close all the doors and set to wait out the mist.  A generator’s exhaust becomes backed up and a kid volunteers to clear it.  Something with spiked tentacles grabs him and takes him from the hands of the artist.  The others who witness this say they must tell the others.  They decide to do so must have a respected person to side with them.  An attorney, who has a history with the artist, and not a good history, thinks they are joking with him and proceeds to ridicule them.
He then decides to take a few folks with him and walk out in the mist to find help.

This is where the action begins; a rope is tied to one man so he can find his way back.  The rope becomes taught and then takes off, as if attached to a kite, into the air.  Then goes slack and when pulled back has only half of the man that left.

Soon they begin blocking all windows and doors.  At this time, a local religious fanatic, Mrs. Carmody, begins street preaching, and the subject matter is that the mist is all a result of end of days, and God bringing down his wrath.

The movie then becomes creepy in how humanity begins to grasp at the unknown when faced with the unknown.  The religious fanatic begins talking of sacrifices to god to overcome the evil in the mist. 

Many creepy creatures and creepy looks at human behavior in this film, and once again an ending that is not, by any means, uplifting or hopeful.  However, a great Stephen King story turned to film is what you will get.  I was upset that Stephen King did not make his obligatory cameo as he has done with most of his films in the past. 

 Cast (in credits order)

  •     Thomas Jane    ...     David Drayton

  •     Marcia Gay Harden    ...     Mrs. Carmody

  •     Laurie Holden    ...     Amanda Dunfrey

  •     Andre Braugher    ...     Brent Norton

  •     Toby Jones    ...     Ollie Weeks

  •     William Sadler    ...     Jim Grondin

  •     Jeffrey DeMunn    ...     Dan Miller

  •     Frances Sternhagen    ...     Irene

  •     Alexa Davalos    ...     Sally

  •     Nathan Gamble    ...     Billy Drayton

  •     Chris Owen    ...     Norm

  •     Sam Witwer    ...     Wayne Jessup

  •     Robert C. Treveiler    ...     Bud Brown

  •     David Jensen    ...     Myron

  •     Jack Hurst    ...     Joe Eagleton (as Jackson Hurst)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Movie Review: "The Golden Compass"

I'm going to start this review out by asking, "What the heck is the big deal about this movie? and Why are churches so upset?"

The movie is based on the first book in a series by Phillip Pullman and this movie actually only covers part of the first book in a 3 book series. I have not yet read the books (notice i said YET), but understand there are some anti-religion statements, but they mainly deal with the power of organized religions in the political fields, not by saying religion is bad.

I guess when you start to warn people that when an organized religion becomes so powerful that it begins to invade every aspect of your personal life and you no longer have freewill or choice, then the said religions would say, "Oops they found out that we want total control." So at this point they organized religion would say, "Ve must put a stop to this movie."

But hey, I digress.

As a movie "The Golden Compass" is a very nice movie for the family.

Basically the story is about an alternate reality on an alternate Earth. The premise is that there are many universes and many Earths. One such parallel Earth a person's soul is not within the body but instead they soul lives in the form of an animal called a daemon, (for you religious zealots this is not demon, many people equate the word ``daemon'' with the word ``demon,'' implying some kind of Satanic connection. This is an egregious misunderstanding. ``Daemon'' is actually a much older form of ``demon''; daemons have no particular bias towards good or evil, but rather serve to help define a person's character or personality. The ancient Greeks' concept of a ``personal daemon'' was similar to the modern concept of a ``guardian angel'' --- ``eudaemonia'' is the state of being helped or protected by a kindly spirit.)

A child's daemon has the power to shapeshift until the child becomes of age the the daemon takes on a permanent shape. The daemon is linked to the person via "Dust." In my opinion and from others I have spoken with this "Dust" can be "Original Sin." But to draw the full conclusion on this I will be reading the book later on and checking out this theory.

Lord Asriel has brought back a photograph of a person and their daemon channeling dust from an alternate Earth, Lord Asriel wants to investigate this phenomenon further and gets funding from the university to seek out and explore the alternate Earths. A Young girl, Lyra, who we later learn is the daughter of Lord Asrial and Marisa Coulter, becomes the recipient of the golden compass to take to Asrial. The golden compass is a truthteller but only a select few can read the compass, Lyra is one of those few.

Marisa Coulter, working for the Magisterium, arranges for the kidnapping of orphan children in a government/religious experiment to seperate the children from their daemon/soul thus keeping them safe from dust. This is killing the children. Lyra's friend is kidnapped and she sets out to rescue him.

Alon the way she recruits the Gyptians (similar to Gypsies), A western type gunslinger, Lee Scoresby and an armored Polar bear, Iorek Blyrnison. They must find the children and rescue them.

As a side here, Sam Elliott plays Lee Scoresby and, in my opinion, is the most intriguing and fun character in the film. But I should warn you I'm a huge Sam Elliott fan.

The movie is full of action and adventure with beautiful cinematography as well as great special effects. Take the kids out to a great movie.

Nicole Kidman ... Marisa Coulter
Daniel Craig ... Lord Asriel
Dakota Blue Richards ... Lyra Belacqua
Ben Walker ... Roger
Freddie Highmore ... Pantalaimon (voice)
Ian McKellen ... Iorek Byrnison (voice)
Eva Green ... Serafina Pekkala
Jim Carter ... John Faa
Tom Courtenay ... Farder Coram
Ian McShane ... Ragnar Sturlusson (voice)
Sam Elliott ... Lee Scoresby
Christopher Lee ... First High Councilor
Kristin Scott Thomas ... Stelmaria (voice)
Edward de Souza ... Second High Councilor
Kathy Bates ... Hester (voice)
Simon McBurney ... Fra Pavel

Book Review: "The Man In The High Castle” by Philip K. Dick

It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some 20 years earlier the United States lost a war--and is now occupied jointly by Nazi Germany and Japan.

In this psychological and societal study, PKD helped to define the alternative history fiction type of story as a serious literary genre. It won the prestigious Hugo Award and helped make Dick well-known in science fiction circles.

The Man in the High Castle's point of divergence from our own world occurred when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933. Unable to recover from economic hardship of the ‘30s the U.S. lost World War II. The Eastern Seaboard was placed under German control while California and other western states ceded to Japanese rule. The Southern United States was revived as a quasi-independent state (as a Nazi puppet state like Vichy France). The Rocky Mountain States and much of the Midwest remained autonomous with Nevada becoming the US capital, being considered unimportant by either of the victors, as well as a useful buffer. At the end of the war, the Allied leaders and generals were tried for war crimes (e.g. the carpet bombing of German cities) in a parallel of the Nuremberg Trials.

After Adolf Hitler was incapacitated by syphilis, the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, Martin Bormann, assumed the leadership of Germany. The Nazis created a colonial empire and continued their mass murder of races they considered inferior, murdering Jews in the puppet United States and other areas they controlled and mounting massive genocide in Africa. However, unlike the Nazis, the Japanese had no policy of cleansing the occupied areas of "unwanted" races. Various factions of the Nazi party are described as either seeking war with Japan or being more interested in colonizing the solar system.

So there lies the basic of what the book consists of, story wise. But deep underneath there is a story of hope. The title of the book comes from a reference to an author in the book, Hawthorne Abendsen who has written a book called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.” In this book within a book, Abendsen writes a novel based on the premise that the U.S. won the war and the world is a free place. The Book is banned by the Nazi party and tolerated by the Japanese. In fact many of the Japanese characters in this book have read or have in their possession the book.

The author, Abendsen, lives in a High Castle to prevent attack from the Germans. The book has provided hope for the Americans and Jews to possibly overrun the Nazi rule.

At the same time a couple of machinists working in a factory branch out and start creating jewelry. This causes them to start their own business but when the jewelry some Asian buyers find that the jewelry represents the deep feeling of WU, the Taoist state of emptiness, the creator of the universe.

Therefore one of the many sub-ideas of this is that America is defined by its art and literature and cannot be defeated, as long as there is hope, art and literature.

Once again a classic PKD novel.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Book Review: "Ice Bound" by Dean Koontz

This book is a thrill a second. I think Dean Koontz may have written the perfect thriller here with "Ice Bound." First you have scientists adrift on an iceberg during a harsh storm with no rescue. Next he throws in that at midnight the iceberg will blow up due to explosives planted deep within the ice. And then as if that weren't enough there is someone among the scientific team that is out to kill another member, and no one knows who. To paraphrase Chandler from TV's "Friends," "Could you put any more suspense in this story?"

Scientists have figured a possible way to bring water to parts of the world that are prone to droughts, Bring them an Ice Berg. Sure, when it melts there's some pure water, but how do you get the berg to the people? A team of scientists are trying to develop that answer by tracking an ice berg's natural path and how much work the berg will do on it's own. The problem is you need an ice berg.

A team of scientists decide to plant a radio tracking device on the ice shelf and then explode a chunk of the shelf making their own iceberg. The problems start when earthquakes in the area create a tsunami and cause a chunk of the ice shelf to break off, while the scientists are putting on the finishing touches of the explosives. Yes, it is the same chunk the scientists have set camp on and this chunk includes their explosives. So now they have to get off the berg before midnight. But wait, there's a huge storm that prevents any form of rescue from arriving for about 3 days. Also this is a temporary camp so they were not prepared to spend more than a day on the ice in sub-zero temperatures.

So the alternative is to try to get rid of the bombs...they are buried under 60 feet of ice and the equipment breaks after the 3rd (of 10) bomb. While this creates a "safer" zone, the iceberg will still blow and could topple so no safe zone really exists. At this time one of the members of the team is attacked and left to freeze to death, thus it is discovered that a murderer is now amongst them. But only 3 team members know about the attempt and all others are under suspicion.

Dean Koontz actually wrote this book back in 1976 under his then pseudonym of David Axton and it was originally titled "Prison of Ice." In 1995, he massively rewrote and revised this book to create this masterpiece thriller, "Ice Bound."

Book Review: “Creation In Death” by Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb

This is the first Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb book I have ever read, and let me tell you, it’s a really good read. I never would have read a Nora Roberts book (probably still won’t) because I’m not fond of the romance genre, but with her pseudonym of J.D. Robb, I think I can read these futuristic-detective books. As J.D. Robb, Nora writes the “In Death” books. They are all sci-fi based detective stories featuring Lt. Eve Dallas; at least in this one she is, she may have just started out as a detective in the series, I’ll have to read some of the earlier works to find out. The first book in the series was titled “Naked in Death” and this book is her most recent (number 26), published in November 2007. According to her website she’s not done either.

Now keep in mind that Nora Roberts is the actual writer, so yes there is a bit of romance mixed in, but it’s a good break from the thrill a second story that is this book, “Creation in Death.” It gives the reader the chance to take a breath and maybe brew up that much needed java to keep going. Trust me; you won’t want to put this book down.

When thinking of Sci-fi detective novels I often think of Isaac Asimov’s robot detective R. Daneel Olivaw. And while Asimov may have set the foundation for sci-fi detective stories, J.D. Robb (okay we all know it’s Nora Roberts, but these are so different from her other works I will refer to Robb as the author) writes a detective series set a couple of decades into the future that is easily compared to those Asimov detective stories. This is just far enough to create some cool gadgetry but it is also recent enough to still be limited. And the crime and finding a killer process in this book is done the old fashioned way, hittin’ the streets. So in reality this is a great detective story that just lingers enough into the sci-fi realm to keep it fun.

A body is found carefully covered and carefully laid out. The body is a young brunette woman with obvious wounds from various forms of torture. On her body is carved the time it took for her to die. The worst part is that for Lt. Eve Dallas, this is not a new scene. 9 years earlier, still young in the detective field Dallas and her then partner worked the same killer. They didn’t catch him then but he has resurfaced now, and Dallas vows, this time he will be caught.

From page one the reader is sucked into the story and never released. As a reader I was constantly helping to find clues and root for the good guys to hurry. This book provided some good adrenaline rushes and never stopped. While I won’t give away too much, I will say I really appreciated the story because it was not one of those tricky whodunits in which the culprit was someone within the inner circle of the story. It was actually a person that was not related to the main characters in any way. You know what I mean, one of those that the guy standing next to the lead detective is the killer all along. This one seemed like a real police force hunting down a real killer. Even the end of the case they have to go back to work the next day. Knowing the case is “solved” does not giveaway anything to keep this book from being exciting.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Review: "The Transmigration of Timothy Archer" by Philip K. Dick

"Transmigration" is the final book published by PKD. He passed on in March of 1982 after a series of strokes. The book was published the year before and while not originally to be included in the "Valis" trilogy, its subject matter of religion/philosophy and belief fits very nicely with the trilogy. The third book titled "The Owl and Daylight" was never finished.

In this book PKD seems to address the public speculation of his not being able to create a woman character that is more than 2 dimensions. I read one critic's review in which was asked, "Can't [PKD] have a woman character without talking about her breasts?" So I'm guessing that since this book was written from the point of view of Angel Archer (female) that he can create a multi-dimensional female character. In this spiritual journey Angel Archer (I like the play with words there Archangel) must decide what is real what to believe and how it all works in with life. And no her breasts are not mentioned once.

Angel is heading to a spiritual retreat the day John Lennon was shot and this starts her soul searching through the loved ones she lost and why they died many years before. Her Husband, Jeff Archer commits suicide after a trip to find the true Jesus as told in some lost scrolls found near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Jeff was on this trip with his father, Episcopalian Bishop Timothy Archer, and the bishop's mistress, Kirsten Lundborg. Kirsten was introduced to the bishop by Angel. Soon after Jeff's suicide Kirsten and the bishop are being haunted by Jeff's spirit. It is foretold that Kirsten will die soon and the bishop soon after. Kirsten's death is inevitable but the bishop's death can be prevented.

As the story goes the bishop does die when he returns to Israel but soon possesses Kirsten's schizophrenic son Bill. Angel has to decide whether all that happened is truth or all just ways to cope with death.

Once again this book is filled with the humor that seems only done by PKD. Many group conversations in which the topic becomes humorous. Like the scene in which Bishop Archer is trying to explain to Bill about faith. Bill suffers not only from Schizophrenia but also from Asperger syndrome, characterized by difficulties in social interaction and by restricted and stereotyped interests and activities, Bill's interests being cars. When the bishop explains that water under the car could be a problem but you don't know what you have to take it in faith that there is a problem until you can discover the truth. At this point Bill goes on explaining that there could be many problems and that it may be oil and not water and that it depends on what kind of car. This goes to the point of absurdity and you just can't help but laugh out loud.

While there is no mention of the VALIS in this book the spiritual journey fits with the VALIS theme. Another aspect is that this is one of those borderline science-fiction books that if written by anyone other than PKD might have been packaged as spiritual fiction (if there is such a category...I guess it would fit in with "The Celestine Prophecy")

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book Review & Free Book "Haunted Independence" by Paranormal Researcher Margie Kay

It's time now to sit back with a cup of warm milk and tell some ghost stories. Normally I would pair a book up with some coffee or something but I think warm milk or if you need a comfort drink make it hot chocolate with marshmallows, because I think the high caffeine may make you a little more jittery than what you need reading this book.

Margie Kay is a psychic, paranormal researcher, radio talk show host and chimney sweep. With all that wrapped into one she's got some interesting stories to tell. In this book she tells some haunting tales from her hometown of Independence, Missouri.

She has put together some stories of such hauntings as the famous 1859 Jail in Independence (now a tourist site, but once held notorious outlaw, Frank James), Mound Grove Cemetery, Old Independence Library Building (where you may see the "lady in red") and more. One thing I will warn you be prepared for a few chills up your spine. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, Margie Kay tells the facts of what her research has put together about a city just within theKansas City Metro that has lots of documented sightings.

The neat thing about this book is that it is very personal and are experiences she has witnessed herself. Some of these stories sent some chills up my spine. Also I found that reading them alone at night in a radio station that has been in the same building for 50 years I got creeped out by some of the stories. So you may want to leave some lights on and try not to be alone.

Her book also provides some helpful hints, just in case you want to see your own ghosts. Such as how to be in the right frame of mind and some tools of the trade.

You can purchase this book from her website:

Or you can enter your comment here for the drawing for this book. I'm passing on my copy to a lucky winner/commenter. Let me get the legal part out of the way: This is my doing only and has nothing to do with Margie Kay or her publisher, I just felt that I would pass it along to someone who wanted it.

If you want the book just let me know in the comment you leave. Then after about 2 weeks (since it's holiday time and everyone is running around I'll give it some extra time) I'll contact the winner from a random drawing of names.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Book Review: "The Divine Invasion" by Philip K. Dick

Okay this book is one of the final 3 books of Philip K. Dick's career, in fact the third was in a lot of turmoil because it wasn't quite finished before he died...but I'll talk about that one on my next Dick book review. This one however asked a simple question: "What if God--or a being called Yah--were alive and in exile on a distant planet?" Which leads to: "How could a second coming succeed against the high technology and finely tuned rationalized evil of the modern police state?" These questions were all part of a way for PKD to that came out of a mystical event that happened in his life in 1974.

Yah (God) is a being in exile on a planet in the CY30-CY30B star system and decides it's time to come back to Earth for the promised second coming. He impregnates Rybys Rommey, who happens to be terminally ill with multiple sclerosis and has Herb Asher bring her back to Earth so God can be reborn unto the world. Accompanied by Elias Tate, who is in reality the Prophet Elijah, the three are discovered by Earth's religious leader the Christian Islamic Church and "Big Noodle" the computer system governing the planet. The 3 are intercepted but Elias gets away. In the meantime Yah goes into the minds of those seeking to detain Herb and Rybys and plans their escape. However they are involved in a crash and Rybys dies but the baby (the unborn Yah) is placed into a synth-womb. Herb meanwhile is placed into cryogenic storage waiting for a spleen transplant because of the accident.

Elias steals the baby and raises him in a special school where due to brain damage from the accident he may or may not remember that he is God.

Herb awakes from cryogenic storage 10 years later as the child, Emmanual (Yah) is rediscovering who he is and ready to battle Belial (Satan). Herb becomes part of the catalyst that enables the battle to be fought...or is this all a dream in Herb's cryogenic sleep? You decide.

So at this point you may want an espresso and discuss more about the possibilties of God into the wee hours of the night.

A side note here while the characters in the book are very deeply ingrained in religion and philosophy as are all of PKD's characters. However this one really points out a deep flaw in his character's...and that's women. I've noticed in all the PKD stories and novels I've read all his women characters are 2 dimensional and stereotypical. All the men have depth but not the women...I wonder why that is....maybe something we could discuss here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Book Review: "Looking Glass" by James R. Strickland

Okay hackerz, crackerz and phreaks It's time to get away from the keyboard and grab yourself a Mountain Dew and use that buzz to stay up reading a great cyber-punk sci-fi mystery thriller.

James R. Strickland has written a great book that is in the not so distant future and gives us a bit of a warning about where technology could take us. In this dystopian view of the future of cyberspace, Strickland has given us not only a great mystery thriller but has created the ultimate anti-heroine. Many action novels have heroes that remind us of Bruce, Arnold or even Keanu, but in this book the heroine is a wheelchair bound, bi-sexual, Shakespeare quoting, computer geek whose online name is "Shroud."

Not only the great character but the world has seen a major political change in which North America has been through a civil war and exists as several different smaller countries. The great part of this novel is that none of it is beyond belief. Strickland, being a former IT professional, writes with such fervor and talent that as a reader you get so lost in the story of the world he created that there is no time to question nor any reason to question the reality of the story.

"Shroud" works as a Network Security Engineer for Omni-Mart, a huge commercial conglomerate. Her and her team monitor the company's network by "jacking in" to the system. This is done by plugging the network directly into the brains of the engineers. Thus creating a super high-speed access to the real-time network and any hackers trying to break in. On a routine day the entire day crew is killed by a mysterious hacker that is able to hack in to the "unhackable" jacks of the security team, including "Shroud." "Shroud" is the only survivor and seeks revenge on the hacker, but Omni-Mart says they are going to outsource the investigation, telling "Shroud" to take a vacation.

"Shroud" begins her own investigation and finds the "hacker." As with any good mystery, the path to discovery leads to many great characters becoming involved. This investigation also leads to a very dark region of corporate America (or what's left of America).

The action begins from page one and never lets up. So be prepared to stay up all night with this one. A good energy drink or the favorite of all computer geeks, Mountain Dew, will do the trick.

I think my favorite aspect of the book is the multifaceted character of "Shroud." While she may be cold as ice for the work environment, she's quick to quote Shakespeare or Frank Herbert (okay one quote from Herbert, but I love Frank Herbert so it stuck with me. When she meets the "hacker" the surprise not only is in the discovery of who it is...but the actions taken to fight the final battle. Great writing gets you lost in this cyber-world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Holy Cow, this has got to be the ultimate for any Sci-Fi or just plain X-files Fan. All nine seasons are now being released in this 61 dvd collection. Plus this set has some really killer bonuses, I'll talk about those later.

I was a fan of the X-Files way back when we never knew whether Mulder & Scully would hook up as a couple or not. I kinda lost track after that guy from Terminator 2 took over but this gave me the chance to catch what I missed. And well it was still good, I don't know why I stopped watching it, I think it was something about the time slot.

Beginning as a cult hit in 1993, “The X-Files” quickly become a worldwide phenomenon, garnering 16 Emmys® and five Golden Globes® Awards including “Best Dramatic TV Series” during in its nine-season run. Created by executive producer Chris Carter (“Millennium,” “Harsh Realm”), the series gripped the imaginations of fans around the globe and launched the careers of David Duchovny (The TV Set, Trust the Man) and Gillian Anderson (The Last King of Scotland, Playing by Heart), both honored with “Outstanding Performance” Golden Globes® for their roles. Known for its unique blend of science-fiction/fantasy, dry wit and intelligence, the series centers on FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigating the existence of alien races, uncovering government conspiracies, and other paranormal and unexplained phenomenas. Through its nine year run, the series featured a host of guest stars including Tony Shalhoub, Jesse Ventura, Alex Trebek, Lili Taylor, Michael McKean, Ed Asner, Lily Tomlin, Kathy Griffin, and Richard Belzer, to name a few.

I think though, my favorite characters were the Lone Gunman, the 3 conspiracy theorists that put a little comedic relief in the sometimes deep subject matter. They always reminded me of court jesters but at the same time they would provide a little Deus ex Machina for solving some of the show's mysteries.

This show brought us some great characters and created some great plots. The series even spawned a theatrical release that left more questions unanswered. The movie is on disc 60.

Relive FBI Agent Fox Mulder’s (Duchovny) desperate search for the truth after witnessing the alien abduction of his sister when he was a young boy. Follow Agent Dana Scully (Anderson) as she and Mulder encounter growing proof of the existence of extraterrestrials and an undeniable government conspiracy to cover up that truth. Then join Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) as they too become believers while delving deeper into the unsolved FBI cases that are known as “The X-Files.”

Here's a classic video of the cigarette smoking man.

This video shows why this show worked so well with a great scene with Scully & Mulder

The extras on the DVD seem like a treasure trove of stuff fanboys' (and fangirls) dreams are made of. Each DVD has a DVD rom game and lots of video behind the scenes and deleted scenes.

From the Fox Press release:

Definitive Collection Leaves Nothing To Be Skeptical About
With All Nine Seasons, Theatrical Film And Over Nine Hours Of Bonus Materials Packaged Together For The First Time In One Ultimate Fan DVD Collection CENTURY CITY, Calif. – The time has come for all truths to be known and fans to believe once again as Fox Home Entertainment exposes the complete world of “The X-Files” with the remarkable 61-disc DVD collection “THE X-FILES”–THE COMPLETE COLLECTOR’S EDITION, landing November 6th as one of this year’s must-have ultimate giftset collections. Packaged in an exclusive limited edition mega-boxset featuring several collector items including Season One comic book, classic art cards, theatrical poster and more, “THE X-FILES”–THE COMPLETE COLLECTOR’S EDITION is highlighted by all 201 episodes from the long-running series with hours of bonus features along with the 1998 feature film The X-Files: Fight The Future, plus an all-new bonus disc comprised of insider extras and featurettes that examined the complex web of alien and government conspiracies within the story arc from all four volumes of the popular The X-Files Mythology DVD collections. “THE X-FILES”–THE COMPLETE COLLECTOR’S EDITION will be available for the suggested retail price of $329.98 U.S. / $419.98 Canada.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"VALIS" By Philip K. Dick

This is the first of PKD's three final novels (the others are "Divine Invasion" and "The Transmigration of Timothy Archer," and yes now you know the next three PKD books I'll be reading). I think these fall not only into the science fiction category, but could also fall easily into the Philosphy realm. "Valis" takes place in our world and may even be semi-autobiographical. There are many sections In which PKD refers to other books he's read. The book is written in both first and third person. In first person the narrator refers to himself as Philip the sci-fi writer and refers back to some of his books. When the narrator shifts to third person he refers to the character Horselover Fat. It is revealed that Horselover Fat is actually part of PKD's schizophrenic split personality and all his friends treat them as 2 different people and hope for him to be cured eventually. Another semi-autobiographical aspect is in the name Horselover Fat. "Horselover" is English for the Greek word philippos (Φίλιππος), meaning "lover of horses" (from philo "brotherly or comradely love" and hippos "horse"); "Fat" is English for the German word "dick".

This book is a group of friends' search for God, who turns out to be a virus, a joke, and a mental hologram transmitted from an orbiting satellite. The friends are very rememinscent of the friends in the book "A Scanner Darkly," especially in their very humourous dialogues about God. The proponent of the novel, Horselover Fat, is thrust into a theological quest when he receives communion in a burst of pink laser light. From the cancer ward of a bay area hospital to the ranch of a fraudulent charismatic religious figure who turns out to have a direct com link with God, Dick leads us down the twisted paths of Gnostic belief, mixed with his own bizarre and compelling philosophy. Truly an eye opening look at the nature of consciousness and divinity.

The group of friends explore the revelatory visions of one Horselover Fat; a semi-autobiographical dialogue of PKD. The groups research leads to a rock musician's estate where they confront the Messiah: a two-year old named Sophia. She confirms their suspicions that an ancient, mechanical intelligence orbiting the earth has been guiding their discoveries.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


If you click around on my player above, you'll find their song Sni Bong...give it a listen as you read this.

Dengue Fever is in the vanguard of an emerging global pop sensibility, making music that’s both familiar, yet eerily unique. Fronted by Cambodian pop star Ch’hom Nimol, who sings in Khmer, the Los Angeles sextet blends the rhythms of ‘60s Cambodian pop - heavily influenced by American surf, rock and early psychedelic garage bands - with their own eclectic mix of American and international styles.

Unlike the world music bands of the late 80s, Dengue Fever is more concerned with a universal groove and breaking down musical barriers than with notions of authenticity. There are echoes of Bollywood soundtracks, Ethiopian soul, American R&B, Cambodian folk, Spaghetti Western weirdness and girl group angst in the mix, but the resulting concoction is all their own.

Dengue Fever is lead by Cambodian songstress Ch’hom Nimol, Zac Holtzman (guitar/vocals), Ethan Holtzman (Farfisa), Senon Williams (bass), Paul Smith (drums) and David Ralicke (sax). The band’s music has been featured in a number of film and television shows including CITY OF GHOSTS, MUST LOVE DOGS, BROKEN FLOWERS and twice on the hit Showtime’s hit series, WEEDS. They are based in Los Angeles, California.


"Drawn To Life" for Nintendo DS video game review

Have you ever been playing a video game and thought, "I could create a better hero than that."? Or have you ever just been playing around with your computer's paint program and thought, "Wow, this drawing thing is fun."? Well now Nintendo has made things easy for you to create your own character. Not only that but you can draw vehicles, tools and weapons to go with your character.

"Drawn to Life" is the new game built for the dual screen Nintendo DS that allows you to draw on one screen the character needed to fight the battles int he other screen. Now with my artistic abilities I started out just battling stick figures. (Which is actually pretty darn amusing.) But I found out it was pretty easy to get more detail into character and actually create some fun stuff.

If you are looking for a fun gift for your child (or the child at heart), this one has got to be it. If they don't have a Nintendo DS, get one and make sure you get this game.

It is loads of fun and really is only limited by your imagination. Great for the kid who likes to draw, but still simple enough to use if they don't. Could be a nice skill building tool.

Here's a video that demonstrates some of the finer points:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Princess Bride DVD Review

I remember "The Princess Bride" way back when it was in the theaters. At the time I wanted to see the film only because Billy Crystal was in it. Yeah, that was 1987 and Billy Crystal was big, and I was a fan. But after watching that movie I forgot he was in it and just enjoyed one of the funniest family films ever made.

They simply don't make movies like this anymore. This movie was great for the whole family, in fact it was great for a young bachelor that was serving in the U.S. Navy.

My favorite part of the whole film was the character Inigo Montoya played by Mandy Patinkin. One of the many subplots in this film is his seeking the 6 fingered man that killed his father. "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." He would say this just before fighting someone he thought was the killer. The best part is when he actually found the man responsible. Here is a youtube video of Inigo's moments. Warning if for some reason you haven't seen the film, this video contains a spoiler.

Okay the movie is told by a grandfather (Peter Falk [Columbo])to his grandson (Fred Savage[The Wonder Years]). The grandson is home ill, and the grandfather has come to read him a story. The plot of the movie is the enactment of the story as it is being read, which is sometimes interrupted by comments by the grandson and grandfather. This resembles the original book, wherein the author presents a fictionalization of his own darkly comic or lightly tragic relationships with the book, his father, and his wife. So as you see it is a story within a story.

The fairy tale being told is that of a beautiful woman called Buttercup (Robin Wright) lives on a farm in the fictional country of Florin. She delights in verbally abusing the farm hand boy Westley (Cary Elwes) by demanding that he perform chores for her. Westley's only answer is "As you wish," which represents his great affection for her. After Buttercup realizes the true meaning of the words, as well as the fact that she returns his love, Westley leaves to seek his fortune so they can marry. He promises to return, but Buttercup later receives word that his ship was attacked at sea by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who is notorious for taking no prisoners. Five years later, believing Westley to be dead, Buttercup becomes reluctantly engaged to Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), heir to the throne of Florin.

Westly then goes on an adventure to rescue Buttercup from the Prince. During this mission/adventure he runs into many characters that help or hinder or even at times both. Billy Crystal and Carol Kane play a magical married couple (old wizard and wife). The scenes with them are laugh out loud hilarious. Other stars in the movie are the wrestler Andre the Giant, Christopher Guest and many more great actors/characters.

With advertising taglines like
  • Scaling the Cliffs of Insanity, Battling Rodents of Unusual Size, Facing torture in the Pit of Despair. - True love has never been a snap.

  • It's as real as the feelings you feel.

  • Heroes. Giants. Villains. Wizards. True Love. - Not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum fairy tale.

  • Heroes, giants, villains, wizards, true love.

  • She gets kidnapped. He gets killed. But it all ends up okay.
You know it's gotta be good, right?

So sit down with the family and enjoy a laugh for all.

The movie is to be released in a special 20th anniversary edition. (Has it really been that long?!?). The DVD features such bonuses as

  • NEW True Love and High Adventure: The Official Princess Bride DVD Video Game

  • NEW Princess Bride: The Untold Tales Featurette

  • NEW The Art of Fencing Featurette

  • NEW Fairytales and Folklore Featurette

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Book Review: "Ubik" by Philip K. Dick

"Ubik" was originally published in 1969 and is filled with all sorts of psychedelic feelings and storytelling as was prevalent with that time. This story has some time travel, regression, de-evolution and twists and turns in the plot that what you may think the story's outcome will be may not even happen, or is it that it already happened?

The novel takes place in the North American Confederation in an alternate version of 1992, technology has advanced to the extent of permitting civilians to reach the Moon and psi phenomena are widely accepted as real. The protagonist is Joe Chip, a debt-ridden technician for Glen Runciter's "prudence organization," which employs people with the ability to block certain psychic powers (as in the case of an anti-telepath, who can prevent a telepath from reading a client's mind) to enforce privacy by request. Runciter runs the company with the assistance of his deceased wife Ella, who is kept in a state of "half-life," a form of cryonic suspension that gives the deceased person limited consciousness and communication ability.

The company’s main adversary is Ray Hollis, who leads an organization of psychics. When business magnate Stanton Mick hires Runciter’s company to secure his Lunar facilities from telepaths, Runciter assembles a dozen agents for this task. The group includes Pat Conley, a mysterious young woman who has an unprecedented parapsychological ability to undo events by changing the past.

Then the time hopping begins. Stanton Mick is a ruse to lure Runciter and his company to the moon for assassination. A humanoid robot explodes amidst the anti-telepaths and Runciter apparently killing Runciter. Joe Chip immediately takes action to get Runciter's body to Zurich so he can be put in half-life so he can still run the company, at least mentally. But as they return to Earth the team notices things are de-evolving. Money is changing to either be out of date or some have a futuristic feel to them with Runciter's profile on the money. Cigarettes are stale and Milk is going sour around the team.

It turns out that Runciter is too far gone to put into half-life and dies. The team heads back to New York to put the business back together and to figure out what happened. Joe Chip stays behind in a hotel room provided by the half-life company and during the night one of the team members dies. When found the next morning it appears as if she's been dead for hundreds of years, mummified. Joe goes to New York and starts his own devolving, elevators turn to the old fashioned elevators with iron cages and operators. Cars regress back to Model Ts and the newspapers show that he has gone back to 1939.

But who is responsible? Better yet, is this really happening? At some points it seems as if the team died and only Runciter survived. But this story is filled with so many twists that the ending will shock you.

Look at it this way, mix a little "Matrix," "Bladerunner," "Alice through the looking glass" and some "Twilight Zone" and you may have a hint as to what's in store for your reading experience in this book. One of the fun aspects of this book is that at the beginning of each chapter is an ad for a different product all with the name "UBIK." As it turns in the story Ubik is what keeps reality from straying away, but the ads make it out to be everything from toothpaste to appliances.

So keep lots of herbal tea handy and enjoy this romp through time, space and mind.

Smackdown vs. RAW video game

Friday, November 02, 2007

Book Review: "The Father of Hollywood: The True Story" by Gaelyn Whitley Keith

Pretty much today when we think of Hollywood we think of scandal, egos, and wealth. How did it get that way? Was it always that way? Where did it come from? While this book doesn't answer these questions it does give you an insight as to where Hollywood came from, and in an indirect way may provide some hints for the other questions.

Gaelyn Whitley Keith, the great-granddaughter of H.J. Whitley (the Father of Hollywood) has put together a book chronicling the discovery, development and creation of Hollywood through the life of Her great-grandfather as told by his wife (her great-grandmother) "Gigi". The stories are gathered through Gigi's many writings.

H.J.'s story is an extremely interesting one in that he was not only in the right place at the right time but he had the intelligence, foresightedness, and human understanding to create from few hills in Southern California into what has become the movie star capitol of the world, Hollywood. In this book the reader is transported through U.S. post-civil war rebuilding, in which Whitley makes his name, through the land rush of Oklahoma and on into creating a beautiful California countryside into the movie capitol of the world.. He develops many cities towns in his lifetime (over 140) but none as grand or troublesome as Hollywood.

This book also offers some great trivia type moments that are fun, such as, where the name Hollywood comes from. The origin of the name is quite humorous, but I'll let you find that, I wouldn't want to ruin the moment.

The evolution of Hollywood and H. J. Whitley is told through his wife Gigi. Gigi, a self admitted spoiled rich brat, falls in love with H.J. and tells his story, their story together and the story of Hollywood. There are many times that I found it hard to understand why they did things as they did but realized it was in the family upbringing and experiences of their different lives mixing together. H.J. in today's terms would be a workaholic, taking no time out for family and realizing what he missed only after it's too late. Gigi being young when she married could not be close to her children and as a result they developed problems of their own. But the family did seem in a dysfunctional way seem to hold on to one another when times called for it.

This book was a roller coaster of emotions and events, and when told through Gigi provides that turn of the century upper class woman's view of how the U.S. was developed.

For more information you can check out the website at

The final season of Veronica Mars on DVD, or is it???

Whether or not you watched Veronica Mars while it was on television, you should know that this was one series that was full of surprises and mystery.

One of the many surprises lies in the fact that this was actually a very smart and engaging series.

Veronica Mars is set in the wealthy seaside community of Neptune , CA , where the rich and powerful make the rules. Unfortunately for them, there's Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), a smart, fearless young apprentice private investigator dedicated to solving the town's toughest mysteries.

The series all started with a premise not unlike a Nancy Drew mystery. Except this series is of course modern, sometimes dark, and sprinkled with the wit and sarcasm of today. Veronica's dad is a county sheriff and her best friend, Lilly is murdered. Her dad accuses Lilly's billionaire father of the murder and loses his job as sheriff. He then opens a detective agency, "Mars Investigations," where Veronica works part time and learns some sleuthing skills. And that's just to get the first season started.

Throughout the first season she is trying to uncover Lilly's murderer and solving small cases along the way. She does this with the help of some high school nerds and a biker gang.

Season two brings in more mysteries to solve including a murder and a bus crash mystery.

But in season three, Veronica goes to college. In season three, hoping to leave the ghosts of Neptune High behind her, Veronica is now a freshman at Hearst College , along with her boyfriend, Logan Echolls, and best friends, Wallace Fennel and Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie. But despite the students' efforts to soak up the college experience in their own way, it quickly becomes obvious that some ghosts are here to stay. This is the season which really ripened for me. There are 3 main mysteries; Veronica attempts to identify the Hearst College rapist, a murder, and well..I'll leave the best one for you.

Add the increasingly dangerous private investigator business ran by Veronica's father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), to her spreading reputation around campus as a girl who can fix the unfixable and it becomes clear that Hearst College has never encountered a student like Veronica Mars before. Building on its trademark twists and turns but featuring a new campus, new faces and new surprises, Veronica Mars promises to keep old and new fans alike guessing in its third season.

Here's a youtube video promoting season 3, I think this clip really shows some of the wit in the series:

It seems just when a series gets really good and rolling, the networks cancel. But we have the DVD's. Season 3 has just been released on DVD and you can check it out here. Veronica Mars on DVD

One thing to check out if you get a chance to watch the season 3 dvd is there's an bonus feature of n in-depth interview w/ Creator Rob Thomas discussing a new direction for the series presented to network executives that picks up years later, with Veronica as a rookie FBI agent.

So Veronica could be back.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Take on Peyton Manning

Last year's Superbowl was perfectly awesome for us living in the midwest, Especially for us living in Central Illinois. Really, being a resident of Illinois, you pretty much have to root for da Bears, and then in my hometown, which is only a 2 hour drive from Indianapolis, you've got your Colts fans.
Keep in mind, I'm not really a sports fan, but I can have fun.

During the Superbowl party I attended I was pretending to be a Bears fan just to annoy the Colts fans in attendance, when in actuality, I just thought it was cool to have 2 Midwest teams playing.

Okay what does this have to do with now? Well I found this website, that is a must visit for all sports fans (regardless of your team affiliation). It's mannings mind. com This site is perfect for sitting at work with idle time, or anytime you feel like showing off your smarts, and you want to challenge Peyton Manning. It gives fans the chance to match wits with one of the fastest brains in football via an online quiz game. The site lets fans test their NFL knowledge and the speed of that knowledge against Peyton Manning. Mano a mano. Armchair quarterback vs. champion quarterback. Every second counts as you try to answer each question correctly and march your team downfield, complete with hologram players running across an illuminated game table. Manning is “alive” across the illuminated game table, jeering and interacting with opponents who dare to take him on.

You answer trivia questions such as: “Jason Elam's 63-yarder tied who's career record? Tom Dempsey, Mark Moseley, Wade Tollison” If you don't answer in time you'll get responses back such as: “You're going to have to be faster than that,” followed with a written message saying: “Take on the fastest brain in football.” Other responses include for correct answers, “Not bad for a rookie, I'll be waiting for you,” or for a wrong response, “That would be right if it wasn't so wrong.” Other messaging included in textual form include, “As soon as he thinks it, you see it.”

Forget about fantasy football, this site includes a standings page, rules page and players can send challenges to their friends.

Here's a youtube video for the tv spot:

Check it out:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Book Review: “The Broken Bubble” by Philip K. Dick

While this may be yet another Philip K. Dick Novel, it is just a plain novel. Can you believe that? I was taken aback at first, I mean c’mon, this is the guy that brought us “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “A Scanner Darkly” and more. I was not aware of PKD writing anything non-science-fiction, but “The Broken Bubble” is not sci-fi. I will admit once I found that out I was almost ready to stop reading. I’m glad I didn’t. It turned out to be a very nice read.

“The Broken Bubble,” published in 1988, is the only “mainstream” novel of his to have been published. It was published posthumously, so maybe there will be more of these treasures discovered and released.

This novel is about 1950s San Francisco, and weaves in many characters showing how our lives are affected not only by those around us, but by even those we don’t know.

The part that kept me reading was the lead character, Jim Briskin. Jim is a DJ for radio station KOIF in San Francisco. Being an on-air personality at a radio station, myself, I really felt “in-tune” with the goings on in the character of Jim Briskin. However Jim has many life changing events that take place in the story that keep the reader rooting for this “everyman.”
It starts out with a sales manager selling an ad for one of those “crazy” used car dealers, “Loony Luke.” Luke wants to run his commercials every hour even during the classical music portion of the station’s programming. Looking at that almighty dollar the sales manager sees the sale and jumps on it. The next day when the commercials are set to air the fun begins.

Jim Briskin is the afternoon and evening DJ for KOIF. During the afternoons he runs a show called “Club 17” which plays the pop music for teens (realize this is 1956 and that this music is “rock-n-roll” what will lead to a cultural rebellion in teenagers), during the evenings it’s classical music for “the old ladies.” After running the “Looney Luke” commercial several times already (the commercial is one of those typical used car dealer yelling commercials, but this is the time in radio when most commercials are read live so Jim has to act like he’s enthused) it’s time to run the spot in the classical music program. At this point Jim says (live and on the air) “I can’t do this, I’m tired of this commercial.’ This act of defiance gets him suspended for 30 days and the adventures begin.

In this novel we are introduced to many characters that all become intertwined in a very touch human story. It’s funny but the main theme from this book is discovering true love and deciding when it is true.
Jim and his ex-wife Pat meet with a teenage married couple (fans of Jims show) Art and Rachel. Art leaves Rachel to have a whirlwind affair with Pat, and Jim Feels obligated to take care of Rachel (who is pregnant with Art’s child).

Many other characters become intertwined demonstrating the idea of how our lives are touched by more than is realized. The teenagers on the point of launching a rebellion, all gather around a central figure that seems to be a socialist and has a radio controlled car called “The Horch” which is used to create destruction.

The book gets its name from a side character Thisbe Holt. Thisbe is a stripper that entertains by becoming totally nude and crawling inside a huge bubble, like an adult version of a hamster ball. She then is rolled around among the men in an orgy of spectacle. The encounter which creates the broken bubble is one in which she is performing for a convention of optometrists and they get a bit rowdy. This scene is funny yet disturbing in many ways.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

DVD Movie Review: "The Hoax"

I've got a question for all you writer's out there. How far would you go to make that big book deal? Would you lie, cheat and steal?

Well as told in "The Hoax," Clifford Irving did just that in order to sell a book. He had just been turned down by McGraw-Hill and was on his last leg, they even repossessed his couch. So during a weekend vacation which was originally scheduled to celebrate the book deal that didn't happen, Clifford and his friend, Dick Suskind get booted out of their hotel along with hundreds of other residents, just so Howard Hughes can stay in his hotel. This gives Clifford the idea to write Hughes' autobiography, the problem is that Howard Hughes doesn't know this is going to happen.

This is the story behind the story. The movie "The Hoax" follows the life of Clifford Irving from the moment he decides to write that fictional autobiography to getting caught and going to prison. I'm sorry to ruin the ending for you, but i think, like most historical movies, the ending is known. Just like in the movie Titanic, we all knew the boat would sink, it was the getting there that took us away from our real lives for awhile.

The movie creates the feel of the times with some great scenes with Richard Gere (Irving) and Alfred Molina (Suskind). Molina portrays Suskind as an unwilling participant, his nervousness makes for some very humorous scenes. But at the same time the tension of almost getting caught pulling the wool over the eyes of the publisher and Life Magazine feel very real to the viewer. Even though you know they got caught in real life, you're still on the edge of your seat actually hoping they don't.

One of the aspects throughout the movie are the loss of grasp of reality that Clifford Irving seems to have. Througout the movie we are seeing through his eyes. At times there are some mysterious communications that seem to happen betwee Howard Hughes (or his people) and Clifford Irving. But you never really know if they are real or not. This makes for the real fun in this movie. Not knowing at times if it really happened or not, and that is what makes this a must see movie. Oh that, and a little history lesson on Richard Nixon/ Watergate and Howard Hughes. This conspiracy aspect makes the movie something that you will talk long after the dvd is over.

The movie stars:

  • Richard Gere - Clifford Irving

  • Alfred Molina - Dick Suskind

  • Hope Davis - Andrea Tate

  • Marcia Gay Harden - Edith Irving

  • Stanley Tucci - Shelton Fisher

  • Julie Delpy - Nina Van Pallandt (Richard Gere appeared with the real Nina Van Pallandt in the movie American Gigolo (1980).

  • Eli Wallach - Noah Dietrich

  • John Carter - Harold McGraw

  • Christopher Evan Welch - Albert Vanderkamp

  • Zeljko Ivanek - Ralph Graves

Another aspect of this movie was the makeup used to make Richard Gere look like Clifford Irving the make up effects are subtle yet effective.

Okay with most dvds there are Easter Eggs, hidden little links that show some extra scene or whatever. This dvd is no different. If you go to the Bonus Features menu and highlight the top item in that menu, push your left arrow on your dvd remote. You will then see a Republican Elephant icon. If you then click on that you will get a picture of a tape recorder when you push play you can hear the opening titles theme song.

Also a little side, since you really can't get the book that Clifford Irving wrote and was almost published, you can download some excerpts of it from Clifford Irvings website.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Books and Beverages Book Review: "Sphere of Influence" by Kyle Mills

Get your Tassimo brewer ready and brew yourself up a nice Gevalia Cappuchino, because this book is going to keep you up all night, so might as well brew up the extra caffeine so your body can keep up.

After interviewing Kyle Mills I got a bit of an insight as to what makes FBI Agent, Mark Beamon tick. This book proves my thoughts. Mark Beamon is an unconventional FBI agent, putting the truth ahead of political expediency have resulted in a dead-end job in the Phoenix office. At least that's where we start out in this book which happens to be book four in Kyle Mills' "Beamonverse."

A new terrorist threat brings Beamon back from the desk job. A videotape proves that Al Qaeda is in the United States and has access to modern missile technology. The FBI suspects there is a connection between the Mob and the fanatics, and sends Beamon undercover with a fellow agent. When the other agent is brutally murdered, Beamon's attempts to trace the man who fingered them lead him into an international criminal conspiracy that may have roots in the CIA. As events plunge him into a river of deceit, he is forced to address the most important question of his life. What makes a crime a crime?

Beamon joins forces with with a master world criminal with unlimited power, Christian Volkov, and seems like a rogue/renegade FBI agent. After all, the mysterious force behind the Al Qaeda has made sure that Beamon is wanted in the US for the murder of Afghanis that were smuggling drugs to sell to the Mob. At times it seems as though Beamon himself doesn't know whose side he's on. But don't get discouraged, the hero is still a hero and Beamon comes out alright.

I think one of the fascinating things about this book was that it was originally completed 5 days before 9/11 and Kyle's editor sent the book back because by the time he had got to the manuscript 9/11 had happened. So Kyle had to go and do some rewrites and cut out some sections which closely resembled the attacks. In his "Beamonverse," Osama Bin Laden has been killed, but his second in command has taken over.

This book carries with it some great suspense, action, intrigue, espionage, basically everything you could want in a thriller. On his website, Kyle Mills says this may be his best book. Now, so far, I've only read this one and "Darkness Falls," and I'll have to agree that it could be either one of the books I've read. While "Darkness Falls" had you thinking this could happen, this book provides that and the fun of some global hopping and undercover crime fighting. I would love to see this book made into a movie and have Jeremy Irons as Christian Volkov and maybe Bruce Willis as Mark Beamon. I think that would be perfect.

Take another sip of that creamy cappuchino and enjoy this non-stop action thriller.

"300" the movie DVD Review

300 was was based on a five-issue comic book limited series by Frank Miller and Dark Horse Comics, the first issue published in May 1998. The issues were titled Honor, Duty, Glory, Combat and Victory. The series won three Eisner Awards in 1999: "Best Limited Series", "Best Writer/Artist" for Frank Miller and "Best Colorist" for Lynn Varley. The work was collected as a hardcover volume in 1999.

The comic was a very graphic depiction of the Greek/Persian Battle of Thermopylae in 480 b.c. This battle consisted of an alliance of Greek city-states who fought the invading Persian Empire at the pass of Thermopylae (Hot Gates) in central Greece. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the Persians for three days in one of history's most famous last stands. A small force led by King Leonidas of Sparta blocked the only road through which the massive army of Xerxes I of Persia (Xerxes the Great) could pass. After three days of battle, a local resident named Ephialtes is believed to have betrayed the Greeks by revealing a goat path that led behind the Greek lines.

The Greeks were represented by 300 hundred Spartan armed men who had had sons so their bloodline could be carried on. The Greek army also consisted of one thousand from Tegea and Mantinea, half from each place; one hundred and twenty from Orchomenus in Arcadia and one thousand from the rest of Arcadia; that many Arcadians, four hundred from Corinth, two hundred from Phlius, and eighty Mycenaeans. These were the Peloponnesians present; from Boeotia there were seven hundred Thespians and four hundred Thebans. In the final battle, when it became clear that the Persians were going to win, most of the Greek allies retreated but Leonidas and 300 Spartan soldiers stayed to fight. Though they "knew that they must die at the hands of , they displayed the greatest strength they had.

The comic was criticized by some as having some historical errors, but I'd chalk that up to a little poetic license. After all it was a comic book and not a history book.
Also the comic and the movie focused on the 300 Spartans (thus the title) and the rest of the battle was pushed aside a little.

The movie stars:
* Gerard Butler as King Leonidas: King of Sparta
* Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo: Leonidas' wife
* David Wenham as Dilios: Narrator and Spartan soldier
* Dominic West as Theron: A corrupt Spartan politician
* Michael Fassbender as Stelios: Young and spirited Spartan soldier
* Vincent Regan as Captain Artemis: Leonidas' loyal captain and friend
* Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes: King of Persia
* Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes: Deformed Spartan outcast
* Andrew Pleavin as Daxos: Arcadian soldier
* Tom Wisdom as Astinos: Captain Artemis' eldest son
* Giovani Cimmino as Pleistarchos: Leonidas' son
* Stephen McHattie as The Loyalist: A loyal Spartan politician
* Peter Mensah as Persian messenger
* Kelly Craig as Oracle girl
* Tyler Neitzel as Young Leonidas
* Robert Maillet as Über Immortal (Giant)
(source IMDB)

One of the aspects of the movie I loved is that the cinematography kept to the comic book look. For those of you that read the books to Frank Miller's "Sin City" and saw the film you know that the surreal quality of the scenes was striking about that film. "300" is no exception, In fact many of the scenes were exact replicas of frames from the comic books. The filmed to be very yellow, everything was colored with a yellow hue. It really made the eye focus on several scenes, especially when in contrast to the red capes of the spartans.

I'm not sure what it is but when doing a Frank Miller book to movie staying with the look created by the comic book makes the film work. The process for this movie to keep that look to stay in the film meant that there was a lot of blue screen type filming done and lots of digitized effects. Knowing this somehow makes it so that I appreciate the acting just that much more.

The acting of course was superb, lots of fighting and action, but at the same time some world history involved. Many world history classes discuss the Battle of Thermopylae but seeing it in action really made the learning a little fun. Oops, I said learning. This is just supposed to be a movie. Well it can be that also.

So to sum up this film is a fun, dramatic, action, historical, artistic romp. A word of warning though, this is not for the kiddies. There are some nude scenes, and some gory battle scenes. At least the movie strayed some from the comic here, in that in the comic the Spartans were nude except for their helmets, shields, capes and swords, but for the movie they wore tunics.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Book Review: Audio book "Minority Report and other Stories" by Philip K. Dick

In my search for more and more books by PKD, I ran across this audio book and had to give it a listen. During the reading/listening of this book I've come to discover how much I love audio books. I'll explain that in a minute, but first let me talk to you about the beauty of audio books and today's mp3 / iPod players. When I first saw this in the library it was all on CD. I didn't really want to have to lug around a CD player, after all I have an mp3 player and an iPod shuffle. So I first converted the book to mp3 format then imported to iTunes and converted to iPod's audio book format. I could have just imported it into iTunes but was at first going to play on my regular mp3 player, that is until I discovered a secret to iPods. That secret is that when you stop the audio book and then go to listen again iPod will start where you left off as if inserting a bookmark. On my mp3 player it would have taken me searching through the tracks to find where I left off. So then I converted to audio book (aac) format and I was off.

I really have found out how much I love audio books because of their versatility. I listened to this book while driving to and from work, during my mile (sometimes 2 miles) walk in the park, while showering, while doing laundry (yes I'm a 21st century man and share the housework, although it's never enough for my wife to appreciate. How did "housewives" do it all these years?) and I listened while mowing the lawn. So I was never without a book.

Okay now let's talk about this book. This is an audio book format only book; however you can get the stories in other collections, only this one has these stories together. I think it was released just after the movie "The Minority Report" because it has that movies star, Tom Cruise on the cover and that is one of the stories in the book. The book consists of 5 stories, 4 of which have been made into movies. I'll review the stories separately, so here goes.

In "The Minority Report," a special unit that employs those with the power of precognition to prevent crimes proves itself less than reliable. This story was the basis of the feature film Minority Report which starred Tom Cruise. This story covers the aspect that future crimes are prevented by a system of 3 precogs. They each file a “report” as to what will happen if 2 agree that is a “Majority Report” and the police are dispatched and arrest the would be criminal. However sometimes a “Minority Report” is filed and this is usually overlooked. Each precog has their view of an alternate future. This story brings up the concept of if we know the future can we change it. Some great twists & turns here. This story can also be found in the book (actual hardcopy book) “Minority Report” which consists of 9 short stories by PKD.

In, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," an everyman’s yearning for more exciting "memories" places him in a danger he never could have imagined. This story was the basis of the feature film Total Recall which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, I didn't see the movie because I never liked his films, I'm going to have to rent it and watch it now. Basically Douglas Quail wants to go to Mars because he has a boring life as a clerk. So he goes to Rekal, a company that can implant memories so you think you actually did something, such as take a trip to Mars as a secret agent. When the company is implanting the memory they find out that Quail actually did go to Mars as a secret agent. Interplan, the agency that sent Quail, does not want this secret to be known, and the fun begins. This story is also available in the book “The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol 2: We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.”

In "Paycheck," a mechanic who has no memory of the previous two years of his life finds that a bag of seemingly worthless and unrelated objects can actually unlock the secret of his recent past, and insure that he has a future. This story was the basis of the feature film Paycheck, which starred Ben Affleck. The story involves an engineer, who, after working two years on a secret project, had those two years erased from his memory. He wakes up to find he traded away his paycheck for an envelope full of seemingly unrelated personal items. Each item serves a particular purpose or gets him through a situation that he saw in advance. The items are: A length of fine wire, A bus token , A ticket , A green strip of cloth, A code key , Half a broken poker chip and A parcel receipt. The fun is trying to figure how he will use each items to get back into the company he worked for and how he got the items in the first place. A little hint: Time Travel.

In "Second Variety," the UN's technological advances to win a global war veer out of control, threatening to destroy all of humankind. This story was the basis of the feature film Screamers which starred Peter Weller (Buckaroo Bonsai). This one gets really creepy. Basically the Russians have invaded; the UN has escaped to the moon leaving only armed forces and some factories on Earth. The factories create automated robots to destroy the Russians. Now the factory has created new varieties of killing machines and all humans are at risk. This story can also be found in “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3, The Father-Thing”

And "The Eyes Have It" is a whimsical, laugh-out-loud play on the words of the title. No movie was made of this story, and I really don't see how it could. I laughed so much listening to this one. This story is about a man who thinks aliens are invading because of something he's reading. It's never clear what he's reading but I think it's just a book. In this book simple descriptions like “All eyes were on her as she entered the room.” Create a thought in the reader’s head that aliens with removable eyes have invaded. And the plays on words get even funnier. This story can also be found in “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3, The Father-Thing”

One final note about all these stories, I think if they were to be submitted to publishers today, most would turn them down. They all feature a sneaky little twist at the end of the story, which made the TV series “The Twilight Zone” so popular.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book Review: "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" By Philip K. Dick

Yes I'm still on my PKD will be my Kyle Mills trend, but anyway, I'm continually amazed at the writings of PKD. (Yes, I've also learned to use his initials to make things easy.) His books have been used as the basis of many movies I'm now wishing that someone would make more from his other stories, including this book.

Before we get into the review first get that Tassimo beverage maker ready to roll, today we're going to brew up some herbal teas. At this point I'm having a difficulty in deciding which tea to go along with the book so I'll give you some choices and you decide which you need at which point. Now keep it herbal, because this book is dealing with some psychedelic material. You could start with Twinings® Green Tea and cleanse the body, but then you may need that extra boost to keep your body up with your not wanting to put the book down, so try Twinings® Chai Tea Latte or once again a soothing Twinings® Camomile Herbal Tea to relax when reality finally settles in.

Wow, where to start. First of all this book is yet again set in the future where Earth has problems and Mars has been colonized. But unlike other PKD stories, there's a twist. No one really wants to go to Mars, yet Earth's surface temperature has risen to where no one goes out during the day unless well insulated and Antarctica is a choice vacation spot. To get more colonists to Mars the UN has instituted a draft. When your number comes up you must emigrate.

Now in order to be able to tolerate the horrible, boring life on Mars the colonists have taken to a recreational drug called Can-D. This is known as a translation drug in which the user can translate themselves from their monotonous, labor intensive lives to a perfect world. The fun part of this is that they are translated into what are called layouts. The layouts are pretty much dolls in which the fantasy takes place. The dolls are Perky Pat and Walt. In a not-unlike Barbie world, the colonists escape to a beach house and live out the lives of the dolls.

While the drug is illegal, on Mars it seems to be overlooked to keep the colonists happy. Major business on Earth is conducted through a company called P.P. Layouts, whose sole function is to create accessories for the Perky Pat doll. The future of the company is decided through Pre-cogs (people who have pre-cognitive ability to predict what fashions will work for Perky Pat.) P.P. Layouts is run by Leo Bulero. His hired pre-cogs are Barney Mayerson and Roni Fugate.

In a humorous aside that is a good representation of some of PKD's humor, is that Barney and Roni have looked into the future and saw that they will be a couple so they just go to bed together and skip all formalities.

Now enter Palmer Eldritch. Palmer has returned from the Prox system and has returned with an alternative to Can-D. A substance he calls Chew-Z. Chew-Z gets approved by the UN and threatens to destroy Leo Bulero's business. So Leo goes to stop Palmer Eldritch. Leo is intercepted and is given Chew-Z intraveneously and this is where the psychedelia begins.

It seems Palmer Eldritch rules all hallucinations created by Chew-Z, and Chew-Z may enable the user to travel time. At this point the story twists and turns and really becomes one of the most magical drug induced hallucinations I've read since William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch." (this was written before "Naked Lunch.")

Throughout the rest of the book the fine line between hallucination and reality become so intertwined that I'm not even sure if PKD could tell you which was which. However I will say that Bulero attempts to kill Eldritch and then tries to stop him through the courts, but we never really know who wins.

Sip the tea, relax and enjoy, this book is full of some great twists and turns.

Interview with Kyle Mills author of "Darkness Falls"

Kyle mills published his first book in 1995, "Rising Phoenix" and has gone on to write about one book per year since. His latest book "Darkness Falls" features the character Mark Beamon who has been 3 other books ("Storming Heaven," "Sphere of Influence," and "Free Fall")besides his first book "Rising Phoenix."

I had a chance to talk with Kyle about the book "Darkness Falls" and we talked about the book, the environment and a little Rock Climbing.

You can read my review of "Darkness Falls" at:

Gil T. Wilson: First of all "Darkness Falls" is an awesome book.

Kyle Mills: Well, thanks alot, glad you enjoyed it.

GW: You had me checking the gas prices everyday.

KM: Still not $20[per gallon]?

GW: This book tackles the problem the world's diminishing oil supply...except you give it a little boost by injecting an oil eating bacteria. How did you come across that idea?

KM: well primarily i wanted to explore the world's reliance on oil, there's alot of information out there about peak oil, which is these people that largely think that the reduction in oil supply is going to be a huge disaster for the world. I don't really agree with but if you did it FAST, then it would be a major disaster. So I wanted to destroy the world's oil supply in a short period of time. And then I had to figure out how to do it. It was a pretty hard task, you're talking about 4,000 producing wells across the world and you couldn't just go sabotage them. I came up with this idea because I had read somewhere about oil eating bacteria that they used to clean up oil spills. And I wondered, well, could you modify a bacteria to live in a well and destroy a well. I found out those bacteria you don't have to do anything with and they actually do destroy wells. There's really a real-world counterpart to this it's called Geobacillus thermodenirificans, and it was found in a Chinese oil well. The Chinese had actually sequenced it's DNA to clean up spills. It's a tough little bug, that lives entirely on oil and can survive in temperatures up to 160 degrees. It can now be modified to do whatever suits the person doing the modifying.

GW: So which came first your idea of this or did you do the research and discover this was the way to destroy the oil?

KM: First I came up with the idea that a bacteria would work really well, and deals with all my problems, being so many wells and everything. But the question was is that possible or feasible, and then that's when the research came into it and I discovered it wasn't only feasible but was that it was happening. I mentioned in the book problems in the Hawtaw Trend in Saudi Arabia with bacterial contamination damaging their machinery, that actually happened, I didn't make that up.

GW: The book brings back the character of Mark Beamon an FBI agent, who appeared first in "Rising Phoenix" and then in "Heaven", "Sphere of Influence", and "Free Fall". In this book he is now working for Homeland Security, not to give too much away, but after the world has changed in your book, we've lost almost all the oil, are you going to be bringing him back again? His world has changed.

KW: Tom Clancy has a word for it the "Ryanverse," he has this whole alternate reality where Baltimore's been blown up. I don't know, I could, certainly, I honestly don't think that given a lengthy time to adapt, that our lifestyles would change all that much, air travel would be problematic. Cars, well I drive a Prius, even with that technology, which is not particularly advanced, gas prices are irrelevant, it gets 50 miles to the gallon, if it went up to $20 / gallon then it would be bad but wouldn't kill me.
And with electric cars.
I hadn't really considered that when I did the book and wasn't sure how it was going to end. It's hard to imagine never writing another book with him, he's been with me for so long. It'll be complicated.

GW: If you ever did bring him back you would be bordering on the science-fiction genre, this book 10 years ago could have been viewed as science fiction. Have you ever thought of writing science-fiction.

KM: Yeah, well I always feel like that thriller writers write really near time science-fiction. Because 2 years into the future is this is what's going to happen. That's kind of what I'm shooting for. Of course, I could always write a book with him that is really pulled in, like him investigating a murder in a small town, where the rest of the world wouldn't be part of the setting.

GW: Mark Beamon is the central character in this book, more focus seems to be on the scientist Erin Neal and the destruction of oil, yet Mark is the one that fixes everything and whose character you care most about. Was Erin Neal the intended focus.

KM: That was intended. Honestly, when I started this book Erin was intended to be the lead character, and Mark would be a strong secondary character. In the end it sort of balances out and it probably depends on how much you like each character and which one is the lead character. But, the idea was that Mark would be secondary.

GW: If a movie is ever made featuring one the Mark Beamon books, who do you see playing Mark Beamon?

KM: That's such a hard question. You know I always that that at this time, I wouldn't mind Bruce Willis, if he didn't mind putting on 40 or 50 pounds. He's funny and sarcastic and I think you need that to bring that to Mark or else he can come off being really dark.

GW: This book seems to have a bit of an environmental message to it. How much of that was intended and how much just developed out of writing the story?

KM: Yes because it has become a big issue. A Bizarre issue, in that it has become sort of religious. You've got the believers and the non-believers. I feel it should be a scientific debate. It should be dispassionate, you do this and it benefits you and you don't it could harm. It has become such a polarizing issue, Al Gore is such a polarizing figure, not necessarily his fault but he is. There is a lot of of misinformation out there. I'm always interested in that. I wrote a book about the Tobacco Industry ["Smoke Screen"]almost for the same reason, that it gave me the opportunity to wade through all this interesting subject where there's a lot of misinformation and to try to kind of weed out the truth. That is pretty much what I wanted to do here because it's such an interesting subject. Again pretty much everything I said was true. That's what I like are thrillers where it is true and you just do aslight twist on it. There are a lot of thriller writers that write much more fanciful stuff, you know stuff where the guy keeps shooting and never run out of bullets. People love it and people write them really well. It's not really my style. I've always loved those books where like you said "make you check the gas prices," where you think, "yeah this could really happen tomorrow."

GW: You said you drive a Prius, how far off the grid do you live?

KM: Not far off, my other car is a '52 Chevy pickup and gets about 4 miles to the gallon and belches smoke everywhere.

GW: Do you think you could ever get off the grid? Because that is a "worst case scenario" in the book, that those that could get off the grid easily would survive.

KM: I read a book on building "Off Grid Houses" because obviously this guy [Erin Neal] lived in one. Honestly I was fascinated, I seemed it could be fun.

GW: You live in Wyoming, I imagine winters would be really hard to live "off grid"

KM: I know people that do it. You'd have a pretty small house with a pretty big wood stove. It's amazing when you really start thinking about what you need. There's a theory, which I think is true, that says the more energy you have the more energy you need. If you have a ton of electricity you invent stuff like iPods. And I'm guilty of this, I could live without my iPod, I have 2 of them. But if electricity was expensive or wasn't available you simply wouldn't have items like that. But it sort of continues to grow. Which is a problem for the environmental movement, as it's structured now. You have people like Al Gore who seem to be preaching austerity, though unfortunately he's preaching from a 10,000 square foot house and a private jet. And that is never going to work.

GW: You in fact touch on that in this book in that the character Erin Neal wrote a book about how the environmental movement will never work unless it becomes profitable.

KM: And strangely, I just discovered that THAT book was written by somebody, and I'm in the process of reading it. The environmental movement did not start because the environment was being damaged. During the industrial revolution, we damaged environment like crazy. What caused it was affluence. People suddenly said, "It's irritating that the river keeps catching on fire. Why don't we clean it up? We have the money, the time and we're not starving to death. Let's Do it." If you take away the affluence, well, a hungry person doesn't care what they throw in a river. So It's really creating industries, I think is what's going to solve it. People can make money and also benefit the environment. Telling people they have to ride their bike to work, I don't think too many people are going to want to do that.

GW: How and when did you decide to become a writer?

KM: I kind of came into it in a weird way. I worked for a bank, and didn't feel I did anything creative. I was into athletics, so I was physical and worked with numbers just not creative. So I decided I was going to build furniture. My wife realized that that was going to take up the whole garage. It gets really cold here in the winter and she was thinking about having to shovel her car out every day, so she said "Couldn't you just buy a computer and write a novel?" and I said "Yeah, that would be kind of fun." So I bought all these books about how to write a novel and read them all and bought a computer and hammered out "Rising Phoenix." With no real expectation that it would ever be published. Everyone tells you it's impossible to get published, and it is really hard. So I thought if I went into it thinking I was going to be a rich and famous author, it wouldn't be too much fun. But to do it as an intellectual exercise and exercise in creativity was really fun. I've never had as much fun writing a book as writing that one. Because there's no pressure, no deadline and nobody has to really like it. I finished it and let some people read it that I thought wouldn't be critical of me. In fact I told a couple that a friend of mine wrote it, so they could be critical of it. Everyone seemed to like it. I'd ask them, "Does this seem like a real book to you?" So I started trying to get it published and it took forever and it eventually became really successful, so I went on to sign a 2 book deal and many many since then. Actually 9 books, "Darkness Falls" was titled "Book 9" for a long time.

GW: Your other books are "Second Horseman"(FBI), "Fade"(Homeland Security), "Burn Factor" (FBI), and "Smoke Screen" (Tobacco Industry), why is it that government agencies (especially the fbi) are the subject matter of your writing?

KM: Well lazines probably. My father was and FBI agent for 25 years and went on to be director of Interpol in the US. I grew up in an FBI family and I have known alot of FBI agents and it's a world that I'm really familiar with and I don't have to work hard to be authentic in.

GW: What do you do when you are not writing?

KM: Mostly Rock climbing, I've been obsessed with it forever. I always thought I'd outgrow it, someday I think I will. I go on a few climbing trips every year still and probably climb 2 or 3 times a week.

GW: What are you working on now?

KM: I'm working on a book about Africa. I spent a lot of time in Africa, I lived there a lot in winters, because it's so cold here [Wyoming]. I've always wanted to write a book about Africa, It's such a fascinating place. I've never really quite figured out the right story. It's gotta be a thriller, but I like to also deal issues in my books. I finally thought up a story that I thought would work, be exciting and interesting and hopefully informative so I'm working on that now.