Travels while Travelling

If you’ve ever hung out with me much and heard my talk about Michael Crichton you’ve probably already heard my story related to my first reading of this book when I was around 12 years old. I had started reading Crichton in 4th grade and was just devouring book after book of his. I had never much been into autobiographies, and I still am not, but this is one of my favorite Crichton books, fiction or non-fiction. Even though this didn’t seem like any of his other science fictiony/technological horror books I was more interested to learn about the author himself. As you can guess from the title this book involves what Crichton’s experiences were up and traveling across the planet trying to learn more about himself and humanity as a whole.

The story I alluded to earlier happened when Crichton was in Africa. I was on a road trip with my family somewhere in the Pacific Northwest and as often was the case, and still is, I came across a word that I was not entirely familiar with. The word was Clitoris. There was some African children that were walking down the road in white dresses headed towards a ceremony where they would have their genitalia mutilated. Crichton described the strangeness of the scene and since this was before the time of smartphones or even Personal Computers really, I had to ask my parents what the hell Clitoris meant. My mother immediately snatched the book away from me aghast at what exactly it was that I was reading. I was naturally very upset and didn’t understand what I had done wrong. It also didn’t help that they never told me what exactly the word meant. Eventually after reading parts of the book herself my mother gave it back to me and let me finish the book. But it’s a funny anecdote that I’m sure I will tell for the rest of my life. So when I picked up this book for a re-read on my current travels to Hawaii, I was pretty damn excited to see what it was like reading this book 20+ years later. I was surprised at how much I actually remembered and how specific my memories of reading them when I was 12 were. As soon as I started reading chapters everything that was going to happen would rush back into my mind. It didn’t hamper my enthusiasm for the re-read at all though. I stayed up about 2 hours later than I wanted to last night finishing the book and it was so so good. It was remarkable the amount of things Crichton talks about in Travels that actually relate to my current life. He talks a lot about consciousness and figuring out who he was as a person. He even devotes a lot of the book to his exploration of meditation, auras, physic phenomenon, and so on. I, along with my wife, have been interested in this same sort of exploration over the past few years. It was really kind of crazy how much it paralleled to certain things happening in my own life. A lot of the things he does and Travels he takes were happening to him at around the same age I am now.

I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed re-reading this book. I have been doing a re-read of all of his works over the last few years and this book has really amped up my excitement to continue that re-read and get into more of his books I enjoyed so much as a grade school and middle school kid. Here’s a pick of me chillazin’ in Hawaii.

Joe Hawaii Yoda.jpg

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The End of All Things (Old Man’s War Book 6)

I’ll get it figured out eventually how to post my reviews from goodreads to my blog but here it is copied and pasted over.

This was a really fun adventure back into the Old Man’s War universe. The first book will always be the best in the series for me, but hey ya never know there are more coming out one could impress the hell out of me still. This book follows a lot of the same threads and story lines that were in The Human Division and we get to hang out a bunch with Harry Wilson again, which is always good times. I was also very happy to see a lot of diplomatic haggling going on in this book, Intergalactic politics dealing with hundreds of other alien species is really quite interesting. Or maybe I’m just a Poli Sci nerd. Anyway this is probably my 3rd favorite Old Man’s War book. You keep on writing them Scalzi and I will keep on devouring them and giving you my monies.

Book Reviews Switching to Goodreads

So I’ve used this blog a lot for book reviews, but now I’m going to switch all of my reviews of what I read to Goodreads. It’s a nifty little site, please feel free to follow me on their as well. Look up Joseph Cook to find me. I’m going focus my blog more on Harbingers and my book series and try to post my fiction writing, or occassional rant, on my blog, and leave the book reviews to Goodreads!

Blog! What Blog? Harbingers first draft finished.

Well it has been a little while since I’ve posted, a little over three months, and I haven’t forgotten about blogging, I’m just lazy. I have been keeping busy writing though. I finished the first draft of Harbingers of Magic a few months ago and while this is a huge milestone for me personally, the work is only beginning.

I have never written anything nearly this long before (or taken this long to write something, it took almost four years), the first draft came in at almost 84k words, 48 chapters, and 245 pages. Writing a novel is an intimidating prospect even for seasoned authors. Seeing as I had never even thought about writing a book, or making a career out of it, until my late 20’s, I’m so excited that I was able to follow through and complete the first draft.

It was a short lived victory though, I took about a week off from writing and have been hitting revision hard ever since. I’m 1/3 of the way through the first revision and have added a couple thousand words overall (while removing many more thousands). Probably more important is that I have started correspondence with my Alpha readers. I have been talking with co-workers and friends about the book and helping me as an Alpha reader for quite a while so it was really exciting to email them and lay out a timeline for when I would have a draft ready for them to read.

I was at first going to revise the whole book and send it to them but I’m at a point in revision where I’m adding in a big new section of at least 10k words and I’m happy with how the first third of the book reads so I’m looking to send that to my Alpha readers this weekend. So far I have only had a couple people read my work (my wife and BFF), so the prospect of now 9 new people all of the sudden reading and critiquing me is intimidating, but I know in the long run it will greatly help my book be the best it can possibly be. My goal is to have the entire first revision to my Alpha readers by the end of 2015. If you are interested in becoming an Alpha or Beta reader please email me at Harbingersofmagic@gmail.com

I have also been working with my friend Jessica Campbell, who is an absolutely amazing artist, on some maps for Aeden. I’m so excited to work with her, if you want to take a look at her artwork it can be found here, http://www.jessi-campbell.com/. She just moved to Portland and I hope I can hang out with her and her husband Doug more now that they are a little closer to the Tri-Cities.

To go along with writing I have also been trying to keep up on my reading, but my pace has slowed down some from the beginning of the year. I’m about seven books behind on blog posts so I will try to get those up soon, but I think I can reach my goal of reading 40 books this year no problem. That’s all I have for now, the weather is changing to be cooler and the days are getting shorter, which means the hoodies are starting to come out (one of my favorite parts about cooler weather). Keep reading, keep writing, and keep warm!

Three Fer Thursday, errr I mean Friday!

I was planning on posting this yesterday, but I got drunk instead, so it’s Three Fer Friday!

So I’ve been slacking on my blogging lately, but not on my reading! Work has been ridiculously busy and I’m super lazy when I get home, I haven’t been writing on Harbingers lately but I have aspirations to finish it soon, I only have a few scenes left. I just finished up book number 20 of 2015, so far, but I’m five books behind on my blog so today I will be discussing; The Long Walk by Stephen King, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. Fair warning there will potentially be spoilers for the three aforementioned books below.

I have been wanting to read The Wind Through the Keyhole, which is the latest novel in the Dark Tower Series, since I finished the series. I absolutely devoured it a few weeks ago and it was probably my 2nd or 3rd favorite Dark Tower novel, I’ll get to it in a blog soon, but to warm myself up I read SK’s The Long Walk. This novella was originally released under SK’s pseudonym Richard Bachman and unlike most SK novels I have read it started fast and didn’t let up for the entire book. This story is pretty much The Hunger Games before Katniss ever decided to pick up a bow and volunteer as tribute. In the near future the US is in a militaristic dystopian society where every year 100 young men volunteer to walk, starting somewhere in Maine, and not stop. If they do stop, be it from a cramp, heat, cold, or whatever they get three warnings and then they get their ticket. And by ticket I mean a bullet to the head. There is only one winner and they get pretty much whatever they want for the rest of their lives.

The most interesting aspect of The Long Walk was the relationships the boys form with each other, knowing that only one of them is going to survive and the rest of them are going to be dead sooner than later. I really enjoyed this book and even though the end seemed to come a little quickly for my liking, I highly recommend it.

Next up is American Gods, the first ever Neil Gaiman book I have read. This book started quickly and really grabbed my attention. I got super bored with it halfway through and found the ending to be very predictable but overall I enjoyed it and will definitely read more Gaiman. The plot of American Gods is kind of hard to describe, it involves a lot of mythology and all the characters are gods who have once been worshipped on Earth. There is also a gay sex scene with an Ifrit, so if you’re into that this book is definitely for you. Honestly my favorite part of the book was the very last chapter because the main character ends up in Reykjavik Iceland, and I was just there with my wife in March and it seemed like I had been to the place Gaiman describes, probably not but I still like to think so. I will probably check out Stardust by Gaiman soon because I really love the movie.

Finally the third book on my Three fer Thursday is Foundation and Empire by Asimov. I really can’t describe how much I love the Foundation Trilogy so far. Several chapters in this book are by far the best Science Fiction prose I have ever read. So much pop culture and just society in general has been influenced and shaped by these books. I must admit that I totally predicted the ending of the 2nd book but it’s probably because it’s been copied and repeated so many times trying to emulate Asimov that I’ve seen it a lot before. I constantly see Asimov on the lists of books you must read in your lifetime and I’m glad that I finally decided to pick them up myself.  I really look forward to reading the third book and additional Foundation novels that Asimov published, but as with most things in life I really enjoy, I’m trying to savor them as much as possible.

I still need to get posts up on The Wind Through The Keyhole and The Novice, I hope to blog more soon now that work will be slowing down a bit after my big drill yesterday which went off really well, and mayhap even a new job will be offered to me here soon after I interviewed for a position at the nearby nuclear power plant a few months ago.

Scratch One

I enjoyed the 2nd John Lange, aka Michael Crichton, novel significantly more than the first one I read. Scratch One started off extremely fast, in typical Crichton fashion over a few day period, with a cascade of people being murdered. This novel really reminded me of a James Bond/spy movie. There is a serious case of mistaken identity as the main character, an American Lawyer, gets taken for an international assassin that is trying to stop an arms deal from going down in the French Riviera while he is trying to buy a mansion for his Senator Uncle. I guess things haven’t changed much in European and Middle Eastern politics and drama in the last 50 years because things seemed almost as crazy and dangerous then as they are now. The overall plot was a little muddled, but there was a shadowy criminal organization led by some demented doctor who liked to torture people, aka the big bad, and a slew of henchman led by a big brute, after our poor hero Roger Carr.

Roger is seriously an idiot though, crazy close shaves keep happening to him over and over and he just keeps chalking it up to chance. One of the more interesting things I noticed when reading this was that after the initial murder spree over a period of a few days Crichton went to a typical chapter system and didn’t mention what day it was or the time, which is typical for him in most all of his other works. There wasn’t a big emphasis on technology in this book either, which was also slightly askew from his normal writing, it was straight spy thriller. There wasn’t gratuitous sex and drug use in this book, like in the previous Hard Case Crime Odds On, but there was definitely a very damsel in distress and women are only here to look gorgeous and be pined after sexist tone to the Scratch One. So far both of the Hard Case Crime novels written under his pseudonym that I have read he has not written women very well. I don’t recall him being so one dimensional when writing women in his other works but it is definitely an aspect of his writing I will be looking out for moving forward.

I just finished my 14th book of 2015 this weekend, The Magicians, and I didn’t particularly care for it. I hated the main character and then my favorite character was sort of killed off at the end. I cheated and looked up if she would be back in a later book, since the series is a trilogy, and she will. So I might at some point read the other two but I wasn’t that impressed with The Magicians and I won’t be doing a blog post on it. All of the reviews kept saying it was an adult version of Harry Potter and it was nothing even close to Potter in my opinion, if anything it was more like The Chronicles of Narnia than anything. I’m currently devouring American Gods, my first ever Neil Gaiman novel that I have read and it is really good so far. I will probably pick up another Crichton Hard Case Crime novel soon but we shall see, until then if you are looking for a Bondesque spy thriller I highly recommend, Scratch One.

Odds On

Originally written under the pseudonym John Lange way back in 1966, this is Crichton’s first ever published novel. When I first started the Michael Crichton Experience and found out that he had written a bunch of mystery novels under this name I thought I was never going to get my hands on most of them. They were going for several hundred dollars on Abebooks and Amazon at that point and I wasn’t willing to part with that kind of cash. But thanks to a re-release of all of them, by Hard Case Crime in the last few years, I was able to snag them up for a couple of bucks, adding Odds On and several others to the MCE.

This novel is all about a heist. It sort of reminded me of the recent Star Wars: Scoundrels that I read but instead of being set in space with Han, Chewbacca, and Lando. Odds On is set along the coast of Spain at the fancy Hotel Reina. Three dastardly handsome thieving men are planning to rob the place blind, and they have a secret trick up their sleeve. The leader of their operation, Jencks, is using computer models to determine the course of action that has the highest probability for success. Using their fancy new-fangled computer the would be thieves are able to plan for every contingency they can possible think of. Well almost every contingency.

I love that even in his first novel ever published Crichton is able to utilize technology as a crucial part of the plot. Computers were not something that were very ordinary back when this book was set and I try to imagine what it would have been like reading this when it had been originally published, but it is so hard to do with computers inhabiting every part of our modern day life. I carry a computer around that can access the vast stores of human knowledge, known as the magical internets, in my damn pocket now. So it’s hard to fathom just how ahead of his time Crichton was with this line of thinking. He knew that computers were going to be a huge part of our life even in his first ever published novel.

This book just screams typical Crichton writing. It is set over a several day period, as he is apt to do with his novels, and his writing style and characters are very reminiscent of his later works. There were several fairly graphic sex scenes though, which I don’t recall ever reading in a Crichton book before, at least not in this much detail and some casual drug use. Overall once I got into the book it was hard to put down and it had a fairly decent twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting. It made me excited to read more Lange novels that I didn’t even know existed a few years ago. I’m about to finish my 9th book of 2015 tonight and I’m considering picking up another Lange crime novel to read next but I haven’t quite decided. We shall see, until then if you like Crichton are up for a fun mystery/heist read I definitely recommend Odds On.