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Response to Book Reviews Aug. 8th, 2012 @ 05:05 AM Reply

Title : Grave Peril
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Publication Date : 2001
ISBN : 0-451-45844-3

You never realise that Butcher has given you the bigger clues, until it's too late, much like Harry Dresden. Spinning another web of intrigue is Jim Butcher, this time with a theme revolving around ghosts, vampires, nightmares, seers, a knight of the cross named Michael Carpenter and of course, Harry's Faerie Godmother, Leanansidhe. Not everyone has it in for him (Michael just doesn't agree with Dresden's methods, that's all), but as usual, Dresden is on the messy end of things, with people keeping secrets from America's only listed Wizard for Hire.

The pace of the novel is still quite fast, with combat sequences thrown in there, that can cause confusion (the true spirit of combat) and change your perception of the sub-plot within a sentence. The devil is in the detail and missing one can throw you off, until you stop and think about it. I caught myself revisiting parts of the novel, to check what had been written, before chastising myself for not noticing in the past, though there were also parts where I stopped reading and declared "this is going to happen", "this has happened", or "Oh no. That was why that happened..."

I love the new character of Michael (for some reason, I have an idea of him being played by Patrick Warburton. Perhaps just for that voice, or his imposing, yet calm presence) and the way that he seems to work with Harry despite all of the personality clashes - Michael doesn't even like Harry cursing with phrases like "Hell's Bells" and a quick prayer at one stage even has him apologising for what Harry has done.

The novel is more geared up toward fear and horror this time and I was quite shocked at the way that the words tapped into my own fear, as I read. Despite the unease from what was happening, I could not tear myself away and found myself suffering similar effects to Harry's drowsiness, brought on by the narcotic effect of vampire spittle. That's all you'll get from me, go and read the book to find out what I mean by that one!

Of course, a balance of power exists between the Humans, blissfully unaware as they are, the White Council (Wizards), Vampire Courts and creatures such as Leanansidhe, who doesn't fall into any of the above. Harry feeds information to Special Investigations, on their payroll as a consultant, but his unwillingness or inability to tell the whole truth to Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, the boss of SI, could cost him dearly, as more humans go off in pursuit of what they believe is justice, though the vampires might just call "brunch".

We've reached the part of the series where we have become attached enough to one of the main characters, that to see something happen to them is truly heart-wrenching. Despite the fact that you see it coming, the pain of these events is very real, but a different sort of emotion to the fear felt for the majority of the novel.

As I've said before, Harry is hardly Hercule Poirot, but to be brutally fair to Agatha Christie, Poirot never had to deal with Sorcerers, Werewolves, Vampires, malicious spirits and the denizens of the Faery world within the Nevernever chasing after him, while he was trying to solve a murder.

Harry could certainly cause a big scene in the parlour, as he unveils the perpetrator, in front of the cast.

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Response to Book Reviews Aug. 9th, 2012 @ 01:12 AM Reply

Title: The Dreams in the Witch House
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Publication date: July 1933
ISBN:978-1-4351-2296-3 (This is the ISBN of the collection in which I read this story)

Walter Gilman is a young man studying physics at Miskatonic University. He believes that he has found a way to travel between any point in the universe using a hybrid of mathematics and witchcraft. He moves into the old room of a witch who disappeared over two hundred years earlier. When old superstitions and tales begin to intrude on his dreams, he soon finds himself a puppet in an inter-dimensional ritual.

This is one of Lovecraft's more conventional pieces. Only brief parts contain his trademark level of insanity inducing cosmic terror are present. While the amalgamation of math and magic is interesting, the villains often feel a bit trite. Having read almost all of Lovecraft's other works, this piece follows his favored formula of discovery, horror, and mystery to the T. Don't get me wrong, it's a good formula, just one that he reuses in just about everything he has written.

He connects the story to the larger Cthulhu mythos. (I am suitably impressed that spell check does not mark "Cthulhu" as a misspelled word) One problem I have with the whole Cthulhu story and all the side shows like Nyarlathotep and Azathoth is that they don't ever go anywhere. This may be because Lovecraft died before he could develop the story more, but in any case there is really very little information given about this pantheon of other worldly horrors. Because of this, much of the stories, this one included begin to feel like name dropping, as if just mentioning the monsters and gods from previous books lends a sense of gravitas and depth to the universe he has created.

In short, this story is an example of Lovecraft not trying very hard. As such, while there are no real flaws in the story, it doesn't stand out compared to some of his other work.


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Response to Book Reviews Aug. 17th, 2012 @ 01:15 PM Reply

Title: Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941-1945
Author: Evan Thomas
Genre: History
Publication Date: 2006
ISBN: 978-0-7432-5222-5

Although the subtitle of this book leads the reader to believe that this is a history of the entire Pacific theater during World War Two, it is actually a study of the personalities and leadership of four naval commanders, two Americans and two Japanese, centered around the often overlooked battle of Leyte Gulf. Thomas charts the careers, motivations, and strategies of the various officers leading up to the battle, as well as providing a brief overview of the wider war for context.

While Thomas's analysis of the four commanders around which he bases his narrative and hypothesis is interesting, his grasp of the wider war and its origins is flawed. Thomas ignores the political climate of the late imperial period and skirts the issue of European and American colonialism within East Asia. Thomas also neglects to mention the complicated political maneuvering which brought about the militaristic Japan of the first half of the twentieth century and instead proposes a cultural explanation for Japan's aggressive behavior, as if to say it was a natural phenomenon and not influenced by international events. Thomas seems to have wholly accepted the version of events propagated by the "Why We Fight" film series, citing Shinto as a state run religion, samurai traditions, and the uniformity of the Japanese population as reasons for their entrance into the war. Even more suspect are his claims that American imperialist ambitions were "benign and less exploitative".

Thomas frequently assigns cultural factors to reasons for Japanese defeat and American victory. Instead of pointing out the relatively small size of Japanese industry, Thomas asserts that Japan had too few planes because they "had decided to" as if it was a conscious decision, on the eve of war, to only have a certain number of planes, and not a result of the limit placed on Japanese factories due to shortages of raw materials and lack of facilities. The argument for cultural factors influencing the outcome of waris a weak one, as well as one which encourages nationalism and racial hierarchies.

Thomas rushes through the first years of the war, touching briefly on important battles such as Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, and Midway. He traces the accomplishments and failures of his chosen naval commanders, comparing and contrasting their various responsibilities and characteristics. His main focus is Admiral Bill Halsey and his command of the third fleet at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Halsey's decisions were very controversial, and Thomas does a good job accounting for the various factors which lead to them, while not absolving him of guilt. It is here that Thomas's analysis of battle is the most balanced, but again he seems to remark often on the inferiority of Japanese seamanship and planning as the result of culture.

His description of the battle is exciting, and maintains a view of the wider picture throughout. He rushes through the end of the war, and ends his narrative with a retrospective look at the lives of his chosen four officers after the war (those who survived). To the end he maintains his theory that the war was both caused by and won by culture, an argument which he failed to convince me of. If nothing else, this book provides a detailed look at a battle that is too often overshadowed in history.

Now on to the Newgrounds Writing Anthology!!

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Response to Book Reviews Aug. 22nd, 2012 @ 10:51 AM Reply

Title : Summer Knight
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Publication Date : 2002
ISBN : 0-451-45892-3

If you've read any of the previous instalments of the Dresden Files, you'll by now be familiar with Harry Dresden, America's only Wizard For Hire, spends most of his high-profile cases (the ones that you read about in the Arcane, at least) getting on the wrong side of some organisation of another, in this world, the next or both and somehow manages to live through it. Living looks less and less likely each time he tries something, to be honest.

Dresden is... requisitioned by Mab, Queen of the Winter court of the Sidhe (faeries), to investigate a killing. Mortal police have not got involved as it looks purely accidental, an old artist, by the name of Ronald Reuel, taking a tumble down some stairs. Mab knows that he was the Summer Knight. That's where Dresden starts to dig. Trouble is, this hole goes down a long way.

More new characters thrown into the fray, some returning protagonists and the not-so-gentle persuasion to get Harry out of his recent funk, due to events at the end of Grave Peril, some nine months past. Oh and as if that weren't enough, he has to have a trial with the White Council for what happened then.

I'm loving this series and really enjoy the fact that Jim Butcher is a skilled wordsmith, along with being a very tricky fellow to figure out. Yes, he does leave little clues, but that's not quite enough to figure out what is going on, until Dresden is ready to reveal to us all. To quote Terry Pratchett, "He's got to figure out not only whodunnit, but howdunnit too. He's not entirely sure of what they've dun."

Laced with over the top descriptions on how to entice faeries to help eat a pizza, bind some sort of on-the-fly magical charm around the chief of Chicago PD's Special Investigations and the worst trip to Home Depot that you'll ever encounter, there is a wonderful pace here, that drags the reader through, giving rise to another tale that you just can't put down, in spite of it being 3 in the morning and needing to be up for work in about 4 hours.

This book has everything, from murder, mystery, intrigue, to romantic interludes, trolls, ghouls, war on a supernatural scale and even a Shakesperian quote. I'm impressed that he managed to wait until the very last line to utter it as well - you can't resist these things in a book called "Summer Knight", can you?

Lord, what fools these mortals be.

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Response to Book Reviews Aug. 22nd, 2012 @ 05:44 PM Reply

Title: Newgrounds Writing Anthology
Editor: Ekublai
Genre: Everything by Everyone
Publication Date: Aug 2012
ISBN: 5-800085-413840

Once again I am faced with the challenge of writing a review of a book that is not one story, but many, and this time there are a lot of them. Therefore I will try and say a little bit about each one!

(I would like to apologize in advance to the poetry authors. I know next to nothing about poetry and how to create it. I therefore am completely incapable of providing an adequate review. I would like to say that I enjoyed them however!)

The first story, Nocturne , by WritersBlock, dives into the a sea of questions, where the line between the reader and characters begins to blur. I'm sorry, it's really hard to talk about this story without giving anything away. The ending is great though!

Story number two, Gunmetal Glint, by KrisSalus, is probably my favorite one in the book. Admittedly I am a sucker for good military science-fiction, especially when its about fighter pilots. All in all, this story features an excellently built and appropriately bleak vision of the future. Four pilots from a floating city seek to escape never ending war and reach land. The attention given to the mechanics of aerial combat is great and the characters really draw the reader in. I was really nervous as the story came to a close.

Next is Westerns, Dismemberments, and Celebration Boxes by eoincamoore. While this story is a bit dreary, I found that the protagonist to be the easiest to empathize with. Recovering in a hospital after suffering a grievous wound to his hand with a comatose man as a roommate, this story is full of amusing commentary on friends and our connections to them. I love the discussion of Westerns, violent video games, and facebook etiquette.

how great thou art by AndyOpus is easily the funniest story in the book. A man applies for a spot to heaven but is rejected as there are no vacancies, so he turns to other other sources for acceptance. This story has a very unique structure, and although it is quite short, is immensely enjoyable.

23 Times, by RIGg0rMORtis, is another very short story, but is not lighthearted at all. A man struggles to retain consciousness as he is beaten. It's all over so quick that there is very little time to make sense of the characters or the reasons why the man is being beaten. The perspective is interesting however, and the description of the victim's thought processes intriguing.

Crabcruncher81 is up next with Mumbled Prayers is probably the creepiest story in the anthology. A man admits a strange insurance salesmen into his home against his better judgement, and it soon becomes clear that this man is peddling much more then insurance. The tension builds very nicely in this story and the dialogue between the salesmen and the protagonist keeps the reader guessing.

Next, TheThing brings us Island in the Sky, a story of a woman on a quest to fulfill her late husband's last request. This story was probably the most melancholy of the bunch. Every triumph is matched with an accompanying sadness.

Without a doubt the strangest and hardest to follow tale, The Gliese Club by AdamCook, recounts the story of three friends and their brush with a group of religious fanatics. I liked the reckless nature of the main characters and the breathless pace the story takes. It is a very irreverent twist on the science fiction genre.

In addition to editing the Anthology as a whole, Ekublai wrote the short story Pearly Whites. Virginia Stone takes a temporary job as an assistant for a rather eccentric dentist, Dr. Cherri. When a child with perfect teeth becomes their newest patient, Virginia begins to notice a series of disconcerting events and suspects that Dr. Cherri might be hiding something. I had to read this story twice, as the second time through events which seemed to have little significance take on new meaning. I also really enjoyed the characters of Monday Constance and Dr. Cherri. As the story winds towards its conclusion, everything becomes clear and the final reveal is great.

Sentio's Kevin Fried Fish is a story that I enjoyed much more then I thought I would have if you had told me what it was about beforehand. Because of that, I won't tell you anything about the plot, but I will tell you that the writing style here is very entertaining and often very darkly funny.

In Below the Wicker Basket, by godhammer, we see three dysfunctional people go about their lives in a very dysfunctional way. I found this story to be a little hard to follow at times especially since it is at times intentionally vague. You don't know whats going to happen next and the story defies expectations. The dialogue is witty and the characters are delightfully daft.

My favorite character in Coats and Shoes, by Enamour, is without a doubt the jackal with all his teeth. My favorite line is "It's not THAT type of coat club. This story is quite funny at times, and I enjoy the interaction between characters. There is a strong moral message, which the author conveys throughout the story. It's a very enjoyable piece.

Imagery plays a very strong role in Falling, by Ice-Crane, a short piece about sinking in the ocean. While there isn't a plot to this story per se, the descriptions convey enough emotion to more then make up for it. This story will make you feel very powerless.

Lastly we have Tampered Chromatics by Letovox. This story is about a young man named Reese who decides to take a job as a housekeeper for an elderly inventor. While there he discovers that the doctor has created two incredibly life like androids, a secret which Reese promises to keep. However, when a photograph of one of the androids appears in the paper, what will happen to the doctor's invention? This story features very well written characters and an intriguing plot. I was confused at what time period this story was supposed to take place. At first I was sure it was set in the 19th century, but now I'm not so sure. In any case, it is a rather sad story, but still a very interesting one.

I was very impressed to read all these great stories from Newground's members and hope that this book shows the world what Newgrounders are capable of!


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Response to Book Reviews Aug. 24th, 2012 @ 01:37 PM Reply

At 8/22/12 05:44 PM, starwarsjunkie wrote: Title: Newgrounds Writing Anthology
Editor: Ekublai
Genre: Everything by Everyone
Publication Date: Aug 2012
ISBN: 5-800085-413840

I was very impressed to read all these great stories from Newground's members and hope that this book shows the world what Newgrounders are capable of!

And we'll continue to push it, too!
Thanks for the review. I'll link the authors to it.


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Response to Book Reviews Aug. 31st, 2012 @ 12:47 AM Reply

Title: Pawns of Chaos
Author: Brian Craig
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: April 2001
ISBN: 0743411641

Ahhhh.... back into the sweet world of Warhammer 40k. Wait a minute. Who got their fantasy all mixed up in my dark brooding military science fiction?

*cough*

This book departs from the usual Warhammer 40,000 range of stories and is very welcome for the variety it provides. The setting is the planet Sigmatus, located near the Eye of Terror (A really bad place to be, for the uninitiated). Over 200 years ago an Imperial expeditionary force landed on this planet and discovered that it was populated by humans living in feudal conditions, who unwittingly worshiped Chaos. The Imperials became trapped on Sigmatus when a warp storm engulfed the planet, making any communication with the rest of the Imperium impossible. And so, the stranded Imperials began to conquer the planet with their vastly superior weaponry. However, after two hundred years, most of the original guns and vehicles are gone and this small fragment of the Imperium is forced to make do with poor copies of the originals. Despite this, their invasion has been successful, and only one heretical nation remains to be crushed. However, this nation is lead by the greatest sorcerer on the planet, who plans to call a demon from the warp in order to crush the Imperials, as only magic is capable of besting their guns!

I enjoyed this book very much because it is so radically different from the majority of WH40K novels. Not only in the setting, but in the portrayal of the two opposing sides. The chaos worshiping peasants and serfs are almost cast as the good guys in this one, as they flee from their villages and try to defend their homes against Imperial invasion with only swords and arrows. They are very different from the usual blood thirsty Chaos fanatics.

The Imperials are very different too. These are men who are seven generations removed from the original soldiers who landed on the planet. Only a single aircraft capable of flight remains in their entire army. The idea of a galaxy spanning empire is almost as alien to them as it is to their foes (who presumably colonized the planet thousands of years earlier in the first wave of human exploration). It is very interesting to see them speculate on the state of the galaxy at large and the validity of old legends which tell of the Space Marines and the Emperor.

The author spends a lot of time telling us exactly what the characters are thinking, what they're pondering, and other mental quandaries they may be having. While at times this can be very interesting, and leads to several astonishing revelations about the nature of Chaos and the Emperor, it is very easy to become bogged down in this. Especially when its boring things such as a 15 year old boy wondering about becoming a man in order to defend his village. It's too cliche at points. The author seems to think that every thoughts his characters have is profound, and therefore must be shared.

The action scenes are rather rushed. The climactic battle between the sorcerer's army and the Imperial invasion force is over fart too quickly, given that the entire book is building up to it. The whole ending seems too fast and is a bit of a disappointment after the incredibly unique setting and premise. In short, this book is more interesting for the questions it raises and the scenarios it allows the reader to imagine, then for its actual writing and story.

You have been warned.

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Response to Book Reviews Sep. 5th, 2012 @ 07:01 AM Reply

Title : Death Masks
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Publication Date : 2003
ISBN : 0-451-45940-7

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only Wizard for hire has been asked to find a lost item... an artifact.

"What do you need from me, Mr. Dresden?"

"A retainer," I said. "A thousand will do. And I need a description of this artifact, the more detailed, the better."

Father Vincent gave me a matter-of-fact nod, and drew a plain steel money clip from his pocket. He counted off ten portraits of Ben Franklin and passed them to me. "The artifact is an oblong length of linen cloth, fourteen feet, three inches long, by three feet seven inches wide, made of a handwoven three-to-one herringbone twill. There are a number of patches and stains on the cloth and-"

I held up my hand, frowning. "Wait a minute. Where di you say this thing was stolen from?"

"The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist," Father Vincent said.

"In northern Italy," I said

He nodded.

"In Turin, to be exact," I said

He nodded again, his expression reserved.

"Someone stole the freaking Shroud of Turin?" I demanded.

"Yes."

It appears that from the developments of the previous four titles, Dresden is making a name for himself... one that means he must watch his back more than usual. The thing is, being Dresden, he also has to remember to watch his front, otherwise something might hit him there.

Various characters return to the fray alongside (and in some cases against) Harry Dresden. The local mob boss, "Gentleman" Jonny Marcone is after him with hired goons and plenty of money, Susan Rodriguez, Harry's ex-girlfriend, that he still carries a torch for is back in town, tidying up the remnants of her Chicago life, before relocating to South America with... work. Lieutenant Karin Murphy of Chigaco PD's Special Investigations is having trouble with one of her team, a young detective, by the name of Rudolph, who is going places like a rat up a drain pipe. Michael Carpenter has some powerful friends in town, telling Dresden in no uncertain terms to leave this case alone, or else he will be killed.

And someone has paid thirty pieces of silver to deliver on Harry Dresden to a mysterious character. I won't tell you about them, that's too juicy to spoil in a review like this.

One thing is for certain, Harry is going to die, or all of Chicago is going to die instead. Probably Harry as well. The Red Court of Vampires has demanded satisfaction and has deployed one of their specialist cold blooded killers to take him out Pablo Ortega, a South American with more than a few years of experience has presented the offer.

How on earth can Dresden get out of this in time for the next novel to still include him alive, well and ready to investigate... at least at the start?

I thoroughly enjoyed this read. The emotions I felt were my own and the subjects that are covered can make someone quite angry, but also a little upset... possibly even horny, but that's because there is some tasteful sex in there. I appreciate it, when written well. This piece isn't smut, but it's not really something that you'd want to discuss with a priest, either. That's possibly down to the fact that it's got to do with wizards, demons, vampires, death and things that either aren't real, or are so close to the truth, that they would rather you didn't find out about ;)

Seriously, get yourself a copy, read it and you'll understand why I'm having to take a break from the series now, just to recharge my batteries, before embarking upon book 6 of 14.

Next up: Nostradamus Ate My Hamster, by Robert Rankin

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Response to Book Reviews Sep. 18th, 2012 @ 02:58 PM Reply

Title: Nostradamus Ate My Hamster
Author: Robert Rankin
Genre: Modern Fantasy, Surrealism, Mystery, Mind Fuck
Publication Date: 1996
ISBN: 978-0-552-14355-4

Be confused. Be very confused

Russell works for Fudgepacker's Emporium in Brentford. They supply props and other nick-nacks to the movie industry. It just so happens that they are about to make one in Brentford, but this one is about a plot to do with Nazis, time travel, crossing, double crossing and something to do with the ark of the covenant being dug up on someone's allotment.

The title is about as confusing as the psychedelic cover art, the sculpture hand crafted by the genius (insane?) mind of Robert Rankin. I declared that I needed a break from The Dresden Files and chose this particular work to "flush my mind out". In hindsight, that may have been a mistake, but I'll carry on.

Yes, the mystery is sure to get you thinking and you can certainly try and put two and two together, but mystery is not Rankin's speciality. he focuses on making your head ache from the sheer exuberance of his descriptions, the overuse of metaphors and even the Nazi rhyming slang, when Hitler refers to someone on occasion as a Russain Front.

Rankin brings back his regular characters, John Omally and Jim Pooley, almost as narrators for this, though they excel in the bit part, giving rise to another set of characters, that instills a new level of intrigue. The kind of intrigue that makes you ask "when will this madness end?!"

All in all, I think that I will be taking the very sound advice at the start of the book, as I close this and move on to my next piece to review:

"A word to the wise: This book contains certain passages that some readers may find deeply disturbing. Due to the questionable sanity of the author and the convoluted nature of the plot, it is advised that it be read at a single sitting, then hidden away on a high shelf."

It took me a little longer to read, but if you've got the time to read a book in a few hours, go for it, I say!

Next up: Blood Rites, by Jim Butcher.

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Response to Book Reviews Sep. 27th, 2012 @ 05:15 AM Reply

Title : Blood Rites
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Publication Date : 2004
ISBN : 0-451-45987-3

Being given an investigation assignment on the set of a skin-flick may not sound like a bad case to most men. But to Harry Dresden, it's murder. Prolific Pornography Propagator, Arturo Genaro has a problem. Some of his girls wind up dead, in the most bizarre of circumstances. Through a friend, Thomas Raith (White Court Vampire, Incubus and down right suave charmer - bastard), Harry ends up meeting up and beginning to investigate these goings on, trying as best he can to protect Genaro's investment and get the movie made, before the money runs out.

As usual, this is just the tip of the iceberg and all matters get into chaos, when even more of Thomas' family show up, putting a few sticks in the spokes along the way. It's not just that family that is causing problems, as Harry calls in backup for this particular job (and a similar matter, involving a "scourge" of Black Court vampires). Lieutenant Karrin Murphy has a family get together planned for Saturday, which leads to a few sparks (they always do), after the family takes up roughly an acre in a Chicago park.

Oh and he's got a new friend. Mister the 30lb tom cat doesn't seem too happy to meet the new addition, but by the end, the new member of the entourage, Mouse, is a very worthy addition, having managed to save Harry's life once already. I won't spoil it by telling you how, or what Mouse is ;)

Compared to how things have played out in previous books, this shows a more human side to Dresden and all of the goings on, despite the porn, there are deeper human interests in there and the plot is really well constructed. I wonder what sort of research Butcher did for this piece? Yes, there is hard hitting and fast combat on more than a few occasions, but the focus remains on the deeper side of things. I like watching how this pans out, despite the fact that it raises certain questions, I refrain from clicking the Wiki links, to spoil the plot later on.

As this plays out, we get deeper into another sub-plot that was alluded to at the conclusion of Death Masks - the Denarian, which Dresden saved young Harry Carpenter from has left a mark on him - its sigil, in the palm of his left hand. They're probably unrelated occurrences, but Harry's magic seems stronger now, as if power is being drawn from some alternative source... I say probably...

Do not start reading the files with any book other than Storm Front - you need to read them from the get-go, otherwise you will miss details. Yes, Butcher writes to refresh the memory, or even to appeal to the novice, but it really does pay to be able to think like Harry - all of the information that you see in the printed words is what Harry sees or concludes. Sometimes he adds a little suspense, but you'll get the idea a few pages down the line.

Next Up - Assassin's Creed : The Secret Crusade

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Response to Book Reviews Oct. 2nd, 2012 @ 11:12 AM Reply

Title: Path of the Outcast
Author: Gav Thorpe
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Publication Date: Aug 2012
ISBN: 9781849701976

This is the conclusion of the "Path of the Eldar" trilogy, so sorry for once again providing a review of the tail end of a series. :P

Feeling constrained by the strict rules of "the Path" (the Eldar's way of life, which allows them to to explore possible lives and choices without over indulging in any of them. Before they had the Path they gave birth to a god of Chaos with their uninhibited desires and excesses) and dreading spending eternity as a spirit trapped in a waystone (When an Eldar dies, if their spirit isn't captured by a waystone it is devoured by the Chaos god they accidentally created), Aradryan decides to leave the craftworld of his birth and see the galaxy, trying to find some purpose in his life. He joins the ranks of the Outcasts, Eldar who have thrown away the Path and live freely, moving from place to place as nomads.

Aradryan gets more then he bargains for when the particular band he has joined decides to travel into the Eye of Terror, the home of the Chaos gods, to steal precious waystones. The excitement and danger of the raid into the Eye becomes addicting to Aradryan, who leaves his Outcast comrades for a life with Comorrogahan pirates. But will his new lust for battle have disastrous consequences for his forgotten home?

the Path of the Eldar series interested me because it delved into the previously unknown mythology and daily life of the Eldar, Warhammer 40K's equivalent of Elves (IN SPACE!). In most 40K lore, the Eldar are uniformly aloof and stereotypicaly mystical. It is therefore very refreshing to read these novels in which the Eldar are much more personable, with hopes, dreams, and uncertainties of their own. Thorpe does an excellent job of making the Eldar into legitimate characters and not just plot devices.

For a warhammer book, Path of the Outcast is rather sparse on action. However, that only makes the action scenes in the book more exciting. I particularly like the chase through the Eye of Terror. The climactic battle is ended all too quickly in my opinion, although accounts of that action were provided in the first two books (Each book basicallyfollows the same story, but from the perspective of a different character), so all Thrope had to do here was wrap it up. Which he did a good job of, it all just seemed a bit anti-climactic after the cliff hanger endings of the first two novels.

I would recommend this book to anyone who's a fan of the the 40K mythos but is tired of near invincible Space Marines and Guardsmen who beat nearly impossible odds... again... and again... and again. The Path of the Eldar is definitely something new, and for that I am happy.

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Response to Book Reviews Oct. 7th, 2012 @ 11:33 AM Reply

Title : Assassin's Creed : The Secret Crusade
Author : Oliver Bowden
Genre : Fantasy / Historical
Publication Date : 2011
ISBN : 978-0-241-95172-9

Marco Polo's not-quite-so-famous father, Niccolo reveals a secret tale, told to him by the legendary assassin, Altair Ibn-La'Ahad. A tale of secrets, pacts, treasure, betrayal and of a remarkable man.

Yes, the setting is very real - the backdrop of the crusades and the battles between King Richard, Coeur de Lion and Salah Aldin, the leader of the Muslim contingent in the Holy Land. As Altair works toward his master's goal of eliminating pieces on both sides of the war, we delve deeper into the story, played out in Assassin's Creed, the award winning and critically acclaimed computer game, that was the tip of what has become quite an iceberg, for Ubisoft.

Of course, Altair's story does not end with the first game. We have to wait a few games further, to revisit what happened to Altair in his later life. Most of these are covered in Assassin's Creed Revelations, the fourth game in the series, but there is nothing like a good book to give the level of detail that you find within these tales, not even within the cinematics of the games.

This book focuses on Altair's tale, sharing only a passing reference to Ezio Auditore, the protagonist of the first two books of the series and the second and third games. Does it matter reading this book out of sequence? Perhaps. I would certainly suggest that if someone were to read the series and start here, that they should miss out the prologue and epilogue, since that removes all reference to Ezio at all, then allowing them to read Renaissance and Brotherhood, before moving on to Revelations, after this piece. The key for me here is that there is nothing in the book at all that alludes to the existence of Desmond Miles, nor the Abstergo corporation, looking over his shoulder at the movements of his ancestors. Perhaps they will have this book come at the end, to tell his story in full. Then again, that's a very different subject matter - one that will not necessarily sell well to the casual historical reader. My dad indicated that he was interested in this, perhaps letting him read it and see what he thinks will benefit my research.

In the earlier books, I did comment that I felt Bowden was to a degree "freewheeling" with the plot, seing that he was regurgitating large swathes of the plot and indeed the dialogue from the game. However, in this piece, he has been given a test of his mettle as a writer, with only sketchy details about what happened to Altair in the aftermath of the first game and the story going of his early years as well was well constructed and delivered. This helps us to understand the reasons for Altair's actions and the way that he was as an Assassin, as well as a human being.

Don't get me wrong, this will not win any awards, but it will certainly get me investing a few more coins in the coffers of Ubisoft, as I purchase the next game and book(s) in the series, to see what happens next. I'm still not over-sold on the writing power of Oliver Bowden, but I am still willing to read his work, knowing that it was a larger work, conceived by a whole team of writers and he was just the one who put it on paper.

Next up: Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher.

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Response to Book Reviews Oct. 18th, 2012 @ 10:55 AM Reply

Title : Dead Beat
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Publication Date : 2005
ISBN : 0-451-46027-8

"Here Lies Harry Dresden. He died doing the right thing." These words adorn the tombstone of Harry Dresden, a gift (along with a plot in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery) to him from Bianca, a Red Court Vampire some years ago. Here, we meet the Black Court Vampire, Mavra (you didn't really think that she was killed that easily in the last book, did you?) and she has an interesting proposal for Harry Dresden. It involves Blackmail and numerous things that might end Harry's life.

So, what of the plot can I give away to you? Basically, if you've not read books 1-6, start with them. Some of the things I discuss here will relate to these, so it's best you take Harry's word for it, over mine. Harry has been tasked to find a book, titled "The Word of Kemmler", a tome capable of bestowing untold power upon someone performing certain rites within it. The problem is that certain of Kemmler's disciples are also searching for the book, so that they may become godly.

So that's where things get more complicated. Kemmler was a Necromancer, back in the days before Justin DuMorne rose to prominence and tried to kill Harry Dresden. Each of his disciples had had years to hone their craft and prepare for this day. Suddenly, their search has become fruitful and, coincidentally, it's heading for Chicago.

Just when Harry needs backup, Special Investigations are taken out of the picture, because Murphy is taking a vacation to Hawaii... with Kincaid, the part-demon mercenary and Harry feels really abd about that, because he loves her, though he won't admit it. Mostly because if he did, Murphy would kill him with extreme prejudice.

Fortunately, Murphy introduced Harry to one Waldo Butters, a mortician who is a little too honest for his own good. His evaluation of the corpses from when Harry torched Bianca's place drew the conclusions that "They could not possibly have been human", which landed him in psych evaluation for a number of weeks. He helps Harry with a few issues that have bben occuring, one of which lands him in another conversation (see also, trouble) with "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone, the mob boss of Chicago.

Of course, the most dangerous task that Harry has ever been assigned does not come without the offer of help from somewhere. A number of poisoned chalices are offered to him - Queen Mab wants him as her Winter Knight; the fallen angel, Lasciel wants to be freed from her prison beneath the Research Lab floor in Harry's digs, plus the Wardens of the White Council have an offer for him...

Dresden has to piece everything together and win the day, avoid the blackmail and avoid the grasp of the reaper for at least another six novels after this, if it's not too much trouble. Oh and he'd like to get laid as well, if it's not too much trouble.

Jim Butcher crafts a masterful story, gripping enough to drag the reader in with the usual line of "Just one more chapter", followed by the more fateful line of "Oh shit, it's half 6 in the morning and I've got to be up in an hour..." Carefully researched and meticulously detailled, this is a wonderful tale set in the recent past, as we don't know exact dates or how old Dresden is, but we do get the gaps alluded to, so we can work out that Dresden is taking time to heal and age, albeit slower than mere mortals.

So many questions, so much temptation to give in and read the Wiki articles on each character. Fuck it, I'll just read the next book!

Up Next: Proven Guilty (Book 8 of 15... so far)

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Response to Book Reviews Oct. 22nd, 2012 @ 01:40 PM Reply

Title: Xenocide
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publication Date: Aug, 1991
Genre: Science Fiction
ISBN: 0-312-85056-5

Book 3 of the Ender Quadrilogy. If you haven't read Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, you really should. They'll make this review make more sense and they're both really good!

With the colony of Lusitania in open revolt, Congress sends a fleet to destroy the planet to prevent the possible spread of the Descolada virus, an organism which could destroy all life in the universe if it gets offworld, but is necessary for all life on the planet Lusitania, including the sentient Pequininos. Ender and his adopted community race to solve the problem of ensuring that the virus does not wipe out humanity while also stopping Congress from destroying the Pequininos. When the fleet mysteriously disappears, Congress sets its best minds to find out what happened, starting an investigation which could uncover all of Ender's secrets.

Card's main strength is writing ethical dilemmas which have no easy solution and posing them to incredibly well written characters. Xenocide asks how far it is okay to go in order to ensure the survival of your own species and what price is paid in doing so. The relations between the three (some could argue four) sentient species on Lusitania provides an interesting problem for would-be peacekeeper Ender. Card does a magnificent job creating aliens who are not just two dimensional archetypes, but have real depth and substance. As the stakes are raised and new information surfaces, the moral positions are often reversed and up til the end of the novel Card hides what the best possible answer is.

My one criticism of the novel is that many of the characters' skills and placement feel a bit to convenient. Ender's adopted family just happens to include a brilliant biologist, virologist, and a physicist. The one point where my sense of disbelief came right to the fore front was when they decided to try and figure out how to travel faster then light by thinking about the problem really hard, having no access to any equipment or computers, just pencil and paper. It's times like these that it feels like Card's characters had to be given these extraordinary skills in order to catch up to his ambitious plot.

And ambitious it is. There are at least 4 separate crises all of which have huge impacts on the story and the universe as a whole. If the first two novels were grounded in a sense of reality, Xenocide comes dangerously close to being unbelievable. There are several concepts proposed towards the end which, while interesting, are a bit of a stretch.

I am very excited to read the fourth and final novel, as Xenocide ends with somewhat of a cliff hanger, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

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Response to Book Reviews Oct. 31st, 2012 @ 07:57 AM Reply

Title : Proven Guilty
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Horror
Publication Date : 2006
ISBN : 0-451-46085-5

Whom do you trust? No one... well, not exactly. Who can you trust? You're on your own in working that one out, partly because of spoilers and partly because I've not got much of a clue. I'm not giving away what I think so far, because it might ruin the plot or it might cause people to double over with laughter, becasue I was so wrong.

Thrown in at the deep end, as usual, Regional Commander of the Wardens of the White Council Harry Dresden is given a cryptic message by Rashid, the Gatekeeper. Black magic is afoot within the city of Chicago. As a Warden, it's Harry's job to get to the bottom of this, while staying alive and preventing all hell from breaking loose in the middle of the city.

This does lead to some unlikely friends showing their face, along with the usual figures of Karrin Murphy, Lieutenant of Chicago PD's Special Investigations; Thomas Raith, vampire of the White Court, who is technically at war with Harry and the rest of the White Council, but then, blood is thicker than water. Harry's dog, Mouse proves his worth in more than mere gold, but has to get substituted out, leaving Charity Carpenter the fourth member of the wierdest supernatural crime fighting quartet since Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddmore strapped on Proton Packs and decided to clear the ghosts out of NYC.

Oh, did I forget to mention that this piece includes politics, as well? The two sides of the coin in the Nevernever (Summer and Winter) are standing off against one another and as a result, the Wizards are on the back foot, not having had an assist from supernatural juggernauts, which could declare "Oi, gerrof my land!" and pump them full of supernatural lead. You guessed it, this one falls to Dresden to sort out as well.

I mentioned Charity Carpenter earlier - how did she get involved, you ask? Well, Michael, the holy knight and Charity's husband has been called away on "business". Dresden's investigations have led him to Molly, their tearaway eldest daughter and when it involves her kids, Charity fights as fiercely as Michael.

I think I've managed to get a vague plot synopsis in, without going into too much detail there. The plot thickens, Harry dig a deeper hole under himself and despite all of this, no-one seems willing to pick up the shovel and start filling it in over him, just yet...

Jim Butcher constructs a fantastic world, within Chicago, advancing time suitably between episodes, that Dresden has now been with us for a decade. He doesn't seem to age, yet the people around him slowly start to and that becomes very apparent with Molly, who has grown up a lot since we first met her. Now she's got a lot to learn, hopefully by the start of the next book, as that could hamper Harry's otherwise sterling progress...

The detailed world that has been presented, along with a seemingly complete (though more always appear) cast of protagonists, antagonists and neutragonists (the neutral characters, until they reveal which side they are truly on, if they ever do.) The magic really does come from how these characters interact with one another, taking care to understand tht while one person likes another, not all of their friends will feel the same way. This is explained quite well, when Charity sees Molly step out of Harry's hotel bathroom in naught but a couple of towels. It is entirely understandable that she would connect a right hook with Dresden's nose and also that Father Forthill would stand by and do nothing. What can you do against such a reaction?

***SPOILER TIME, I NEED TO GET THIS OFF MY CHEST!***

I have no idea how this is going to play out, nor how events within this piece are going to affect later pieces. I have a few questions as to why Harry is still alive and which item of scary power that he will pick up first:

Amoracchius (Love) - Michael feels that he is not long to be the custodian of said blade
Fidelacchius (Faith) - Sister sword to Ammoracchius, currently in Dresden's umbrella stand. Perhaps Murphy will get it, since she's a martial arist and it's a katana.
The Sword of Winter - Queen Mab has offered this to Dresden on numerous occasions and Dresden saw the suffering of Lloyd Slate, the current Winter Knight in Arctis Tor. Pity might cause him to end Slate's suffereing, as might his own need.
Lasciel's Blackened Denarius - Currently buried under the floor of his lab, Dresden recovered the coin to protect Harry Carpenter, Michael and Charity's youngest son, as he was reaching for it. Nicodemus woudl love to have Dresden under his control.

I can't think of any more off the top of my head.

Why not call the evil conspiring Wizards the Black Council? You have three courts of Vampires - Black, White and Red. That was not the first time that they were referred to as such... Who would the senior traitor be? I feel that I'm supposed not to trust the Merlin, but if I did not trust any of them, I'd say that Rashid, the Gatekeeper knows far too much...

I'm going to leave it there, before my brain melts...

Up Next: White Knight, by Jim Butcher

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Response to Book Reviews Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 09:09 AM Reply

Title : White Night
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Horror
Publication Date : 2007
ISBN : 978-1-84149-687-0

When Harry Dresden gets a call from Sergeant Karrin Murphy of Chicago PD's Special Investigations about a suicide, you know that it's no ordinary crime, that has been committed. When his search turns up a magical paper-trail, that only he could see, it becomes apparent that someone is gunning for Harry, as well as the poor unfotunate girls that have "committed suicide"

This piece leads us into the trifecta of vampire families that make up the White Court - The Raith family, as we were already aware are the Lust monsters - Succubus and Incubus alike, that feed on the life force of pleasure and lust from a human. Also is the family Malrova (fear) and Skavis (despair). They appear to be locked in a power struggle with Lord Raith, the white king, though their kind tend to use "cats paws" to get other people to do their dirty work for them.

Harry is now in a race against time to save the members of the Ordo Lebes (Order of the bubbling cauldron) from their impending doom. When one corpse turns up that appears to have been killed in the throes of sexual ecstasy, Harry cannot help but suspect his brother Thomas of being involved in their deaths.

Factor in that Harry is fighting against a man (or woman) on the inside of the White Council, his options are limited. Carlos Ramirez, the regional commander of the Western USA is one of the few wizards that he can vouch for, having fought side by side with him in between Proven Guilty and White Night, but that still leaves the good guys low on support, even with Murphy on side.

Bob, the posessed skull that Harry keeps in his basement continues to letch over anything that Harry allows and he continues to badger Harry to let him meet his young apprentice. Harry refuses so far, much to Bob's consternation, as things will "soon go south".

A relationship unlike any other develops between Harry and "Lash", the shadow of a spirit inhabiting a tarnished silver coin, buried behind wards in the floor of Harry's basement. That said, he makes great arguments to her and for the most part, he resists temptation. One will have to wait and see as to how that pans out.

Little Chicago, Harry's pewter model of the city, helps him with his investigations and Harry continues to grow in power. How much further can his power grow, before it corrupts? Only time will tell... We've been with Harry Dresden for the thick end of a decade now and he has really developed before our eyes. I can't pry myself away from this series and I'll be gutted, when I finally get to the end of it, as I want to learn more about these powerful nemesies and how they are linked (if they all are) through the Black Council, as they have been dubbed. As Ramirez says "yours is better."

Exodus 22:18 - "Suffer not a witch to live"

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Response to Book Reviews Nov. 27th, 2012 @ 05:05 AM Reply

Title : Small Favour
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Crime / Fantasy / Horror
Publication Date : 2008
ISBN : 0-451-46189-4

Winter. A time for fun and frolics in the snow with your family. A shame really, that Harry Dresden never really knew much of family. Fortunately, the Carpenter family have a little extra available and since he is training their eldest child, Molly to be a wizard, he uses them to help her manifest magical shielding, by getting them all to throw snowballs at her.

Which is great - a picturesque image, straight out of a Christmas Greeting card, complete with a load of snow being dumped down the back of Harry's unsuspecting neck.

Great, I say, until the Three Billy Goats Gruff show up. Fairy tales have some measure of truth, when blended with magical tales such as this and these champions of summer (the ones who kill trolls, you know) show up to do the same to Harry. Scrambling the plentiful Carpenter children and their mother, Charity to safety, Dresden gets the feeling that this is going to be no ordinary day or two.

The tense standoff between the courts of the Summer and Winter queens of Faerie has dragged Harry in a few times. Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, offers Harry the chance to take the place of murdering sociopath, Lloyd Slate as the Winter Knight. Once again, Dresden refuses. As a result, he is given the title of emissary, with a responsibility to bring to book those who have broken one of the rules of the Unseelie Accords, by kidnapping one of the lords of the agreements - "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone, the crime lord of Chicago (alleged). She wants him to do this to repay one of the favours that he owes her - there's not a damned thing that he can do to get out of it, either.

Harry now faces a race against time to fend off agents of Summer, who are trying to kill him due to his involvement with Winter, agents of the Black Court of wizards, who always show up at the most inconvenient time and members of the order of the Blackened Denarius - thirty former men or women, who took up a tarnished silver coin, possessed by a fallen angel. These are the legendary thirty pieces of silver, paid unto Judas Iscariot, to betray Jesus Christ.

Fortunately for Harry, help is at hand. He has the two remaining Knights of the Cross - Michael Carpenter and his Russian associate, Sanya. His companion, Sergeant Karrin Murphy sticks with him, as does half-brother and vampire of the White Court, Thomas Raith. They recruit some of Marcone's people - Hendricks, his chief "no-neck" bodyguard and Ms. Gard, a strange woman, with magical capabilities, the boss of Monoc Securities. Throw in a little Warden support, from Captain Anastasia Luccio and they have a team that could be called capable. But Harry still has some detective work to do here.

The key to this story, aside from the usual detective novel stuff of piecing together clues as you work your way through the case, is that Butcher borrows from many sources for the supernatural stuff here - fairy tales, the Bible, mythologies, not necessarily limited to Norse and Greek and then he puts his own spin on things, adding in the wizardry. The joins are seamless and for my mind seem more believable than any one of them taken on their own face value.

The backdrop of Chicago is exquisitely detailed and even creating an uncharted island in the middle of Lake Michigan seems possible in a world which is very similar to our own. Added on to the crossing, double crossing and introduction of skills that I never though possible, plus gags like a Huey playing Ride of the Valkyries as it rides into battle, I felt totally at home reading this piece. I'd also like to say that I've never been to the USA, let alone Chicago.

That might have to change, soon, though.

Next up: Turn Coat, by Jim Butcher (11 of 14)

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Response to Book Reviews Nov. 28th, 2012 @ 08:37 PM Reply

Title: The Paul street boys
Author: Ferenc Molnar
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Publication date: 1906
ISBN: 9631338010

The Paul Street Boys is a wonderful tale of bravery, heroism, patriotism, honour, truth, love, war and passion. It contains all these in the microcosm of two groups of teenage boys living in Budapest who are about to fight for a small open space amidst the busy streets of the big city where they can play ball. But that's just the basic plot. The characters, Boka, Feri Acz and Nemeczek especially, are incredible children. They, when I read the book as a child, were a symbol to me of what boys were supposed to be like. Not because they fought. Not because they had fun on their playground. Not because they had secret societies. Because they knew the important things in life: love, honour, home.
The story is funny and sad, light and tragic all in one, and more importantly, it teaches a lesson without beating you over the head with it. I learned the lesson when I first read it when I was just a boy, but when I read it now that I am all grown up, it still makes me weep. Why? Because it is about growing up and learning to live and learning that life is about winning and losing and sometimes both at the same time. And at the end of the novel in our souls, just like in Boka's, "for the first time there begins to dawn an understanding of the great mystery of life in which sorrow is so strangely intertwined with joy."

I read it in the portuguese translation, so I really don't know how is the english version. It's pretty amazing see how the world was a hudread years ago. It's a little dense, but it's a really good novel. Recommended to everyone.

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Response to Book Reviews Dec. 1st, 2012 @ 10:35 PM Reply

Title: Gunheads
Author: Steve Parker
Publication Date: Feb, 2009
Genre: Military Science Fiction
ISBN: 1844166988

Now that Nanowrimo's done, I can get back to reading as well as writing!

This is a pretty basic 40K storyline. The long lost tank of famed Comissar Yarrick, the Fortress of Arrogance has been located on the Ork infested planet of Gogoltha. With the Ork's poised to launch another assault on Yarrick's forces on Armageddon, an expedition is mounted to retrieve the vehicle in the hopes that it will bolster the morale of the troops in the battle to come. The man in charge of the expedition, General deViers, hopes that this victory will assure him a place in the history books and is willing to spend the lives of all of his men to get it. But the do the Mechanicus agents who alerted the Imperial Guard to the tank's location have an ulterior motive for sending them there?

This is a 40K novel that hits all the right notes. The grandiose scale of the battles, the theme of the cheapness of human life, and sinister forces moving in the shadows. Parker manages to bring the saga of the armored company "the Gunheads" to a satisfying conclusion. While some of his earlier novels were rather shaky in their structure, he seems to have a firm grasp of the plot in this one and knows exactly where he wants to go.

That being said, there a few dangling storylines which are rushed together at the end in a seemingly all too convenient manner. Some of the details relating to Sgt. Wulfe, who could be called something of a protagonist, although this book follows many characters, and some of his more "supernatural" abilities is never satisfactorily explained and we are left to assume that there is no special reason behind them. That is a little disappointing as the previous books had built it up somewhat.

Other then this, the characters are extremely well written. The interaction between the increasingly desperate and vile General deViers, whose true disregard for the lives of his men becomes apparent as the expedition becomes more hopeless, and his leading generals is very interesting to see. The ganger Lenck, who provides the foil to the upright Sgt. Wulfe is also a fun character to have around. The rest of Wulfe's crew are the same as previous books, and add a touch of grim humor to what would otherwise be an overly morose book.

While it saddens me that there are no more Gunhead novels, I am glad that they had such an entertaining send off.

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Response to Book Reviews Dec. 5th, 2012 @ 11:21 AM Reply

Title : Turn Coat
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Crime / Fantasy / Horror
Publication Date : 2009
ISBN : 0-451-46256-4

Lying barely conscious on his sofa in Chicago's summer heat, Harry Dresden has a headache. He thinks it's the worst thing that can happen to him. Turns out that he hasn't read his own notes.

A pounding on the door of his apartment turns out to be Donald Morgan, chief-executioner for the Wardens of the White Council of Wizards. He is covered in blood and a few seconds away from collapsing. Tick. Tock.

Aleron LaFortier, a Wizard of the seven-strong senior council has been found dead, apparently murdered by Morgan. Morgan was arrested and has since skipped wizard jail, running to Chicago's only wizard for hire - the only Warden that gives a damn enough to shield Morgan from his fate of death.

The big question surrounding this whole case is "Why?" Morgan is a stalwart, a bastion of the White Council, so why would he kill a member of the senior council? Harry immediately suspects that something is afoot, so he moves to investigate.

The so called "Black Council", that Harry has discovered appears to have upped the ante and Dresden must move quickly or innocent people will die, him among them.

With a full supporting cast of Faeries, Vampires, Wizards, a former cop, turned PI, a Foo Dog, called Mouse and a 30 lb house cat, Harry is up to his eyeballs, keeping them from killing one another long enough to get a straight answer.

Of course, there is now a vacancy at the top for a wizard that is going places. You know where this will lead, don't you? No, Dresden is not going to find himself sitting on the council, by the end of this book. But then again, he's not even forty yet.

Whom do you trust? Whom do you point the finger at in the cast and say "J'accuse!" If you're like me, you won't trust anyone and you will point at the wrong person to start with. Still, I'll be damned if making a mistake ever stopped me from trying to get to the bottom of things.

Understandably, I think you'll agree that I can't talk about the plot all that much, else I might give the game away. Still, Butcher has written a massively impressive tale, that keeps the reader guessing and doesn't give the game away too readily - qualities of a master crime writer, which are even more impressive, considering tht crime is not his favoured genre. This is very much akin to Terry Pratchett, which might be why I like his work so much.

Next Up: Changes, by Jim Butcher. I know, I really must read something else, but I'm close to the current end of the series!

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Response to Book Reviews Dec. 23rd, 2012 @ 10:25 AM Reply

Alright, I give up! I seriously cannot hope to write about this novel without giving away some smidgeon of the plot, normally speaking, but because of the earth-shattering nature of the plot devices within the approximately 500 pages of the below novel, I must implore you to read the novel, before reading my reivew of it. Basically, because if you don't and come to read the Dresden Files at a later date, you could become jaded with me for a lack of warning.

Put simply, you have been warned!

Title : Changes
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Crime / Fantasy / Horror
Publication Date : 2010
ISBN : 0-451-46317-X

Well, you all knew it was going to happen at some stage, didn't you? Harry has been offered temptation by several gods, immortals, crime lords and the like, to give him great power and throw in his lot with them. In Changes, he finally has the need to do so.

Her name is Margaret Angelica and she is Harry's daughter. Remember her? No, of course you don't you find out about her on page 1. The first sentence of the book. You were there at her conception, though, or at least Harry's description of it in Death Masks. Yeah, it floored me too. She has been kidnapped by the Red Court of Vampires, Susan Rodriguez' (Harry's ex and Maggie's mother) worst nightmare, Harry now has a race against time, before they use her in some diabolical ritual, to kill not only the girl, but all of her blood relations. There may not be a lot of them, but that would still be like wiping the Queen, a few pawns and perhaps a Bishop and even a Knight from their opponent's chessboard.

A lot of the plot here revolves around Harry's freinds and associates sniping at one another for one reason and another. It is revealed that Molly Carpenter, Harry's apprentice has fallen in love with him, which could make things awkward in the long run, but having a close bond is not necessarily such a bad thing, especially if it means that they will cover your back.

The big question is "whom can you trust" in this piece. With the sheer number of angles that people can spring from in this, you wonder why Harry makes the decisions that he does and on one occasion, saying that the decision he made was because the bargain was with the least evil antagonist available left me somewhat dumbfounded.

In the end, when everything seems to settle down a little into a newer routine, you feel uplifted briefly, then (at least in my case) calmly put the book aside and yell "BASTARD!" at the top of your lungs, before continuing. A most frustrating end to the piece, though I did find myself drawn towards "Aftermath", the final short story in Side Jobs, the anthology of Dresden short stories and tales, which recounts events immediately after Changes has concluded. I'e not got that far yet, but when I do, I'm sure to be impressed.

What can I say about the novel that doesn't give too much away? It was upsetting, in more than a few ways, as things happened and you know it's breaking Harry's heart to do them, though at the same time, they are ensuring that his will continue to beat a while longer. It was sad to see the end of the leather duster, his old faithful companion, the remains of which now lie at the bottom of Lake Michigan. It was sad to see the end of another staff and the Blue Beetle, crushed beyond recognition and salvage, but that is the nature of the word "Changes". I was still saddened to see that he no longer has an office, nor an appartment, as the ante got upped, so that now he must look elsewhere.

And Karrin Murphy didn't turn him down, for a change! More on that later...

One thing is for certain, things will never be the same again.

Next Up: Side Jobs, by Jim Butcher. I've nearly read the entire catalogue of Dresden Files in 6 months...

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Response to Book Reviews Dec. 25th, 2012 @ 04:21 AM Reply

hmm...good idea

i'm just a blogger (no intention to be a staffed writer) but i'll post my reviews here just fun & feedback

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Response to Book Reviews Dec. 26th, 2012 @ 10:02 AM Reply

At 8/8/12 05:05 AM, Coop wrote: Dresden Files

Good to see another fellow Dresden Files fan. In my younger, more pretentious days I viewed them as the dearth of fine literature, but then I realised the uniqueness and creativity that Jim Butcher's mind possesses. There is nothing out there quite like the Dresden Files, no similar reading experience you can have with any other book. It's like a hollywood movie in print form!

Are you going to review Cold Days? It came out last month.


When I got outside, the purple fog was spreading. I covered my nose and mouth, and ran home.

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Response to Book Reviews Dec. 26th, 2012 @ 12:18 PM Reply

Title: The Emperor's Finest
Author: Sandy Mitchell
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Publication date: Dec, 2010
ISBN: 978-1849701273

The final line of this book reads: "On which note of uncharacteristic piety, this portion of the Cain Archive finally meanders to an end." Unfortunately, I agreed wholeheartedly with that sentiment. The entire second half of the book seems to wander slowly towards a close with no real sense of purpose. The final climax is drawn out far beyond its means and is actually a bit boring. A side plot involving the daughter of a planetary governor is wrapped up almost as an after thought, which is a pity, because this side plot was the most entertaining thing about the book.

As always, Mitchell reuses phrases and lines from his other novels (and occasionally from earlier in the same book) so much that I'm surprised his editor doesn't make him change it up now and again. Overall, not the best of the Cain series. I feel like Mitchell is running out of material for this character, and its starting to show. The same jokes are used ad nauseum, and the one place where some character development could have taken place was ripped out in the last five pages of the book.

Hopefully the next one is better.


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Response to Book Reviews Dec. 26th, 2012 @ 01:51 PM Reply

At 12/26/12 10:02 AM, tinytim12 wrote:
At 8/8/12 05:05 AM, Coop wrote: Dresden Files
Good to see another fellow Dresden Files fan. In my younger, more pretentious days I viewed them as the dearth of fine literature, but then I realised the uniqueness and creativity that Jim Butcher's mind possesses.

I think that the way he works his magic, there is little to limit the man's (or the series') potential.

There is nothing out there quite like the Dresden Files, no similar reading experience you can have with any other book. It's like a hollywood movie in print form!

That would certainly explain why the TV series bombed.

Are you going to review Cold Days? It came out last month.

Eventually, but expect that at some time around October 2014. I've got a friend who will obtain a copy for her collection, which is in paperback. Perhaps at some stage, when I am rich and have a large enough space to store them all, I will invest in a whole set, to garnish my Library. At the moment, it's a case of keeping the number of books down, so that I can move out efficiently. Once I've moved, I can get more books and grow the collection.

As of now, the 2013 reading list stands as follows:

Jim Butcher
Side Jobs (in progress)
Ghost Story
Cold Days (When available to me)

Conn Iggulden
Emperor - The Gates of Rome
Emperor - The Death of Kings
Conqueror

David Gemmell
Waylander
Waylander II

Robert Ludlum
The Bourne Supremacy

A Day Dark as Night
Relic of the Dawn

That's 11 titles to go with, but I wouldn't mind diversifying to something like crime. Perhaps I'll get into John Grisham, who knows?


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Response to Book Reviews Dec. 31st, 2012 @ 09:56 AM Reply

My 20th book of 2012. I felt that I had not read many here, but clearly I have worked to surpass most recent years worth of reading. I wonder how many I can manage for 2013...

Title : Side Jobs - Tales from the Dresden Files
Author : Jim Butcher
Genre : Crime / Fantasy / Horror
Publication Date : 2010
ISBN : 0-451-46365-X

With the events that took place at the end of Changes, we knew that things were never going to be the same again in the world of Harry Dresden, or as Wiki puts it, the "Dresdenverse". This book is a collection of short stories, allowing us to better emapthise with Jim Butcher, as his talent has grown. Comparing the first short tale, "A Restoration of Faith", to "Aftermath", which was written over 10 years later, you can see that he has developed his talents massively over that time.

Through these snapshots of the characters, you develop a more keen sense of what has happened to them, learning a few more key plot points along the way, particularly of people like Miss Gard, the six-foot blonde woman, who works as a supernatural security consultant for the biggest crime lord in Chicago.

Reading two of the tales through the eyes of two characters closest to Dresden - Thomas Raith, vampire of the White Court and Karrin Murphy, Chicago PD's finest - you can get a better feel for them, particularly how they see things, when Dresden performs his magic.

Sure, I'd like to see the tale of how Michael Carpenter rescued Charity from the dragon, or something to do with Molly and her increasing infatuation with our dashing hero (If I'm like him, I'd better start acting it, right?), but clearly Butcher felt that these were stories for another time, or never considered writing them in the first place.

If I had one regret about this, I would have preferred to read them in order with the novels, what with how some of these file notes would have helped me with puzzling out what fit where and whom was capable of what. In Gard's case, I had mostly worked it out, by the time that she uses these talents in Small Favour, but a little heads up would have been nice.

That said, Aftermath, the final tale, which takes place an hour or two after the events of Changes answered none of the questions that I had acquired. For the duration of Side Jobs, I did find myself thinking "just x more stories to go, then I can find out how it all works out well!" It's at this point that I considered the title of the next novel - Ghost Story and a lot of my own stupidity washed away with that. Patience, I will get the answers soon enough.

Still, these are fast-paced mini tales of the Dresden Files, which fit together in a nice book that adds a little closure here and there, tying off some loose ends and explaining other plot points, as and when required. Butcher is one of the most gifted storytellers that I have ever come across and to turn Chicago into his own playground is immensely intriguing, what with everything that he has managed to fit in there.

I will get around to reading Ghost Story and Cold Days soon, perhaps when I do, there will be a decent stockpile of Dresden to read and keep me chugging away through the nights, as I enjoy a good chapter before bed.

Next Up: Emperor - The Gates of Rome, by Conn Iggulden

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Response to Book Reviews Jan. 19th, 2013 @ 10:03 AM Reply

Title : Emperor : The Gates of Rome
Author : Conn Iggulden
Genre : Historical
Publication Date : 2003
ISBN : 0-00-713689-7

Gaius and Marcus are two young boys, growing up on a smallholding on the outskirts of Rome. Gaius' father Julius is a Senator of Rome, while Marcus is an orphan, effectively adopted by the household. Their early years are full of mischief and scrapes, brought on by being boisterous with one another and the neighbours' sons, particularly one boy known as Suetonius.

Both children develop differences in their personality and this is exacerbated, as Julius hires a retired gladiator, Renius, to train them in the art of soldiery. Both are destined for careers in the military of Rome, but riots within the city shatter all of the remains of their childhood, as slaves break free and a group of them attack the homestead estate. Losing many of their loved ones, Gaius takes over the running of the estate, as the new master - his father died during the fighting.

The two young men, their teacher Renius, the estate manager, Tubruk and a slave girl, Alexandria, whom both boys bear torches for come to the home of Gaius' uncle, Marius. As a consul of Rome, Marius is one of the most powerful men within the walls. From here, the politics deepens, with the balance of power always a delicate one. I won't go into details, but when war does come for Rome, a new man will stand there to defend Rome - Gaius Julius Ceasar.

Sent away, to train with another legion, Marcus Brutus was accompanied by Renius, to quell the Greek rebellion. Two names, which should stir the emotion within anyone who has a passing interest in the history of the Roman Empire.

Iggulden does make certain key historical differences between the truth and his own tale, but this is easily dismissed as poetic licence - Ceasar had two younger sisters, but in the book he was an only child, for example. That and Brutus being some 15 years younger than Ceasar, would stick in some purist's minds, but I can tolerate these, especially considering that this was his début offering.

Conn Iggulden is one of the authors that have made me sit up and pay attention to the events, as he wrote them, plus make me itch to learn more about the subject matter. While I have not become as enamoured with his tale of Rome, as I was about his Mongol series, it is early days. Clearly a very capable writer, he is in the process of finishing book 5 of this series. I wonder how much longer this one can go and if he will start another project soon. History has a wonderfully wide range of subject matter and considering the two great people whom he based these quintilogies around, he seems destined to continue onto another time, with different protagonists.

Between Iggulden and the late David Gemmell, I have been supplied with a very detailed story from some of the most enthralling parts of the history of the world. I have certainly found a place in the historical genre and am being fed by the events that took place, as these authors have chosen to articulate them.

Next up: Emperor - The Death of Kings, by Conn Iggulden

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Response to Book Reviews Feb. 3rd, 2013 @ 07:41 AM Reply

Title : Emperor : Death Of Kings
Author : Conn Iggulden
Genre : Historical
Publication Date : 2004
ISBN : 0-00-713619-9

Julius Caesar has been banished from Rome, by the Dictator, Cornelius Sulla. Serving aboard a Naval Legion, under the comand of a man called Gaditicus, they sail the Mediterannean, in search of pirates and keeping the coasts safe. Outclasssed tactically, their ship, Accipiter (The Hawk) is sunk and Caesar is captured, along with Gaditicus and his childhood rival, Suetonius.

Forming a close bond with the men he is kept prisoner with, Caesar recovers from a grievous head wound sustained during the defence of Accipiter and eventually the surviving men are dumped on the coast of North Africa, their ransoms paid. Julius makes a promise to the captain, that he will track them down and crucify every last one of them, something which galls his opponent and only the completion of this task will sway Caesar from the course.

Raising his men around him, from the sons of retired soldiers, Caesar forms a unit that he unofficially calls "The Wolves of Rome". Even his former commander, Gaditicus serves under him, as they begin their quest to return to Rome, with the gold used to buy their freedom liberated from the pirates.

Marcus Brutus has been busy as well - completing his time with the legion in the east, leaving before the third uprising of the Greek King, Mithridates. He returns to Rome, to find that Caesar is still away and that the borders of the estate have been moved, to pay for his safe return from the pirates. Brutus chooses to spend his time awaiting his sworn brother's return, by tracking down his mother, Servilla. Using her influence, she resurrects the name of the Primigenia (First Born) legion and command is issued to Brutus.

Caesar meanwhile tracks down his captors and blanches at meting out the punishment that he decreed. However, he carries it out, with those crucified having their throats slit after a few minutes, to end their suffering. The towns in Greece that he lands at are destroyed, by the revolting Greeks and the veterans return to his banner, when he calls, not waiting for the town's council to command them to. With his numbers bolstered to perhaps one thousand men, Caesar goes after Mithridates' army of ten thousand freed men.

Superior tactics cost Mithridates dearly and as the Romans make their way through the Greek army in a guerilla war, the morale is sapped. Mithridates is killed and Caesar brings the body of the defeated king to the legion of Lepidus, who was given command by the senate, with the orders to dispatch the revolt.

Returning to Rome, Caesar is reunited with his family - his daughter Julia he had not even known about on his years away - and Brutus, who now has a skeleton of Primigenia to back him up. Julius is given the rank of Tribune and is entitled to raise an army, although he is wary of the politics of Rome.

Then comes the news of slave revolts in the North of Italy, led by a man, whose name has been immortalised in tale and on screen - Spartacus. Dispatched out with seven other legions, Primigenia are presented with a chance to have both Caesar and Brutus fight alongside for the first time in this series.

While I have missed a lot of the smaller parts of the plot here, this is what you can pick up for the most part by reading a history book, so I don't view it as a spoiler, per se. Conn Iggulden writes a fantastic tale, though for the fact that I read his later works (The Conqueror series) first, you can see how his style has improved from here to now. Perhaps some of it is to do with the fact that I am not as infatuated with the series as I was with the Mongols, but I cannot say. I am still going through the books at a good pace and finding them entertaining, so it cannot be that bad.

Roman politics is as intriguing as modern day exchanges across the Despatch Box, although there is less of an indication as to who will side with whom, as no party politics had come in to muddy the waters and the senators were free to choose whichever way they saw fit (or whichever way had been bought from them, should I say?) The style of debate is almost poetic and while I would like to believe that the Romans made politics look as simple as the Greeks did philosophy, I simply cannot believe it, so I have to read between the lines. Knowing what will happen, with Caesar in the debating chambers, seeing his ally Pompey sign him off to Spain for a time proves that the man is afraid of the charismatic young leader of men and I feel that this simple act is the single most amazing nod toward one of the most driven men that Italy has ever produced.

I cannot wait to get started on the next one.

Up Next: Emperor : The Field of Swords, by Conn Iggulden

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Response to Book Reviews Feb. 28th, 2013 @ 04:00 PM Reply

Title: Fear to Tread
Author: James Swallow
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Publication Date: Aug 28, 2012
ISBN: 9781849701969

I'm really behind on my book reviews, so lets see how far back I can remember the plots of books I read a few months ago!

This is the 18th book in the Horus Heresy series and focuses on the Blood Angels Legion and their Primarch Sanguinus. The story revolves around the hidden flaw in the Blood Angels Gene Seed which causes them to occasionally turn into blood thirsty berserkers. Set just before Horus launches his traitorous attack at Isstvan, Sanguinus is lured by Horus to the Sigma system with a promise that it holds the key to freeing his sons from their genetic defect. However Horus is actually planning to lay a trap which will forever turn the Blood Angels into worshipers of the Blood God Khorne and sway them to Horus' side in the coming civil war.

This book suffers from what I like to call Stoic-Marine-initus. All of the characters barring one or two, are Space Marines or Primarchs. And they aren't terribly well written Space Marines. There's too much of the cliched dialogue and faux medieval writing style for my tastes. Swallow manages to make the Blood Angels less interesting then the Ultramarines, and that's saying something.

The action is rather standard as well. Its solid writing but there were no scenes which stood in my mind as especially great. There is a plethora of flashbacks, rehashing ideas the story has already gone over several times. While this isn't new to the Horus Heresy books, it usually is at least a retelling of an event from a wildly different perspective. In this novel however, viewing the council of Nikea from the Blood Angels point of view is pretty much the same as it was in Thousand Sons and the Emperor leaving the crusade is the same as it was in Horus Rising. There just isn't enough new material being presented to justify chapter-long flashbacks.

Overall its a relatively well written, rather unexceptional, entry into the series. It doesn't tell you anything you didn't already know and I believe this is just a place holder as the series gears up for the third "season" where more interesting developments will take place.

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Response to Book Reviews Mar. 3rd, 2013 @ 09:54 AM Reply

Title : Emperor : The Field of Swords
Author : Conn Iggulden
Genre : Historical
Publication Date : 2005
ISBN : 978-0-00-743714-6

The slave rebellion of Spartacus lies crushed and sent to Spain in the position of Governor for five years, Julius Caesar is allowed to brood over the death of his first wife and that hsi dreams have been dashed. The return of his mistress, Servillia gives him renewed drive and he dedicates himself to the new course, expanding his holdings in Spain and garnering riches with which to make a stand politically in the city of his birth.

The politics of Rome have always been partisan and the early return of the Governor of Spain causes consternation among the senate. Gambles are made and money is spent freely, with Caesar eventually emerging as a consul of Rome, taking over from the two incumbents, as rewarded by the Spartacus Rebellion - Generals Crassus and Pompey.

Garnering more favour with the populous, Caesar holds a sword tourney, eventually won by Brutus, though the strain on their relationship is beginning to show through. We all know how the story ends, but it is still fascinating to watch the drama unfold, piece by piece.

Having sated the Roman population's desire for order, bureaucracy and blood sports, Caesar enters into the first Triumvirate, granting Pompey Caesar's political "power of attorney" and Crassus a chance to make even more money, as a monopolising merchant prince, commanding a massive fleet, to strangle the market. Meanwhile Caesar assembles the Tenth legion - his own personal men - and marches them north from Rome.

Setting his sights on lands that are but myth to his people, he dreams of becoming a match for the legend of Alexander of Macedonia. They cross into Gaul and do battle with various tribes from there, subduing as they move, with as many as a million Gauls are sold into slavery, as well as another million killed. Not stopping at Gaul, Caesar commences his trips to Britain, taking the fight to the blue skinned warrior celts who live on an island north of Gaul.

The cold winters and a rebellion from the Gaulish king, Vercingetorix call Caesar back to mainland Europe, where he crushes the resistance under iron-shod sandals once more. In the wake of the capture of Vercingetorix, Caesar crosses the Alps with four legions. As he is still in mourning for the death of his healer / soothsayer, Cabera and his mentor, Renius, the news of the death of the Merchant Prince, Crassus hits him hard. With that, comes a letter from Pompey, ordering his return to Rome, alone and unarmed.

A few weeks later, on the banks of the Rubicon river, four legions stand with their generals, at a crossroads - do they march on Rome and become traitors, or do they allow their leader to walk off alone, to certain death at the hands of Gnaeous Pompeius Magnus?

Will he beware the Ides of March? Will Brutus be his undoing? Will Pompey put up a resistance in Rome?

It remains to be seen, though we can all see it coming.

I love this series. Yes, it has inspired me to play as the Romans in Civilisation V, but it's more than that. I feel inspired to read more into the history of Caesar and Rome, particularly with how the Republic seems to have survived on luck, more than any other reason, through its storied history. With men of ambition like Julius Caesar and those such as Crassus and Pompey pulling at her strings, a few false moves could have a very different version of events taking us forward.

Next up: Emperor : The Gods Of War, by Conn Iggulden

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