DC’s Convergence (2015)

DC-ConvergenceAnother comic book event that happened in 2015 was DC Comics’ Convergence.

Convergence spins out of the final issues of the weekly series, Earth 2: World’s End and The New 52: Futures End. The story involves Brainiac collecting cities and inhabitants from various timelines that have ended, trapping them in domes on a planet outside of time and space and opening them up to see what happens.

The comics ran for 8 weeks and we got them all. We had to create a good reading order so that we can follow the story along beyond the main event. Some websites provide reading order, with lot of details about plotlines, ratings and how well does it fit in the timeline. I just want a list.

So I decided to create one myself. I spent many hours making this list, and decided this may be useful for others who are in the same boat as us.

I addition to the reading order, I also wanted to know,
– Main Event.
– On going comic book series along with the number (for example, Green Arrow # 002).

Click here to get a printable check list and reading order.

Marvel’s Secret Wars (2015)

MarvelSecretWars[1]Earlier this year, I got to relive my childhood through my daughter. She got interested in comics.

In 2015, Marvel decided to end their comic book world through Secret Wars. Just like past Secret Wars, the 2015 Marvel’s Secret Wars is also a huge event. During this event, many series will be brought to the end and the genesis of new Marvel Comic Book Universe will take place as a result of that.

We have been getting comics on a weekly basis, but we found that it is a bit difficult to follow without a good reading order. There are websites that do provide reading order, with lot of details about plotlines, ratings and how well does it fit in the timeline. Sometimes … you just want a list. So I decided to make one for ourselves. I spent many hours making this list, and decided this may be useful for others who are in the same boat as us.

I addition to the reading order, I also wanted to know,
– Event within the Secret Wars (for example Main, Last Days, Battle World or Warzones).
– On going comic book series along with the number (for example, The Punisher # 019).

So I created a way to organize name of each entry in the list.Naming

Then I created color coding, so that it is easy for me to quickly pick up the event; this will be particularly useful if I wish to read only the Main Event, or say only the Battleworld.

Click here to get a printable check list and reading order.
This list includes releases up to September 19, 2015. Come back for updated list every week.

“It’s fictional. You’re real”

Redshirts by John Scalzi is one of those stories which are difficult to review, without spoiling, but I’m going to try.

The story takes place in post-television 25th century future on an elite DubU ship – Intrepid. It is under the command of captain Abernathy, whose crew include science officer Q’eeng, first office Keerensky, medical office Hartnell and chief engineer West among others. Intrepid is on a peaceful mission to boldly go where no man has gone before. Sounds familiar? Well it should. During its explorations the crew encounters some hostile situations on different worlds, and quiet often there are away teams formed to deal with them.

The novel opens with some new crew members assigned to intrepid. They develop a sort of friendship while waiting for the shuttle in the bay that would take them to the ship. On reaching ship, they are take on their assigned tasks in different departments. They continue to meet when they are off duty, and found out that Intrepid has highest casualties for new crew members among any Dub U’s ships during these away missions, statistically. As they dig more and more, they find that there is some sort of space time continuum mix up where realities from different times seem to have intertwined.

I should stop now, because I think I have already said too much.

John has great ability to define his characters well and then develop them throughout his stories. This novel is no different. The new crew members Dahl (who is the protagonist), Duvall, Hester, Henson have characters that one easily understand when they interact while waiting in the shuttle bay. They do not always agree with each other. They also form a part of some of the away missions, and suffer losses. They start to observe a pattern, which the officers of the ship seem to be oblivious to. Over the course of events, their friendship, beliefs and trust for each other is tested. You start to identify with the characters, and can’t help but want them to control their own fate instead of letting the mixed up timelines decide what happens.

Redshirts does not disappoint at any place. It is a must read if you grew up with TV shows like the original Star Trek, or Dr. Who. The book is a nod to these and other cheesy space adventures of yesteryears. There are dozens of moments and in-jokes built around the worlds that are familiar and hilarious. It is darkly funny at times; even when things go wrong, John puts a smile on your face with interactions of his characters. The story moves at a fast pace, and is extremely well edited. There is nothing that does not add to the story or character development and you are drawn in. If you want to read a fun science fiction story during summer try this one.

If you like listening to books, get the audiobook. It is read by Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher from Star Trek – The Next Generation). Wil is very impressive voice actor, and he brings this book alive with his narration. He has collaborated with the author before in Fuzzy Nation and few others.

Both the book and the audiobook are highly recommended. I give this book 5 stars; hey, anything that can keep me up all night deserves 5 stars.

Jatinder PS Nagi
July 4, 2012

Happiness Quotient

We have all met folks that are just amazingly happy, and others that are downright unhappy regarding who and where they are. Almost 7 months back, I was talking to a person, and he was ecstatic with where he was in his life. The positive vibes that danced in his eyes were infectious. Something clicked in my mind, and I started to take note of people I meet and myself to how happy they are. I decided to find that “Happiness Quotient” for (most of) us.

I have many ideas that are directly borrowed from my life – both personal and professional. Now that I feel is a very one sided story (mine), so I am reaching out to all of you.

I have put together a set of questions for you that will take 5-10 minutes of your time.  I will not ask you name, gender, your address, or even your email. What I do ask is if you are happy or unhappy. What makes you happy or unhappy. I have some optional introspective questions to see how well you know yourself – share why does a thing or a person makes you feel – do you flutter your eyes or do those red horns come out.

At the end of the survey, there is an option to provide me your email. If you do not provide your email, your response may be used anonymously. (Yes, I will make no attempts to find out who you are). If you want your responses to be used with your first name in the final article, then you can provide your email. I may have to contact you to get more details, and I will confirm that you are allowing us to use your name if we find your answers are fit.

So click away people.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BYGHQ37

PS. A lot of folks have mentioned that the questions are very vague. I have made them vague.
You can answer quickly or you can think a bit more.

Every Light Cast a Shadow…

A good vs. evil story with an elaborate magic system, set on the background of intriguing political & religious landscape with enough twists and turns to keep you occupied. What else could a fantasy fan want?

Brent Weeks brings the first book of his Lightbringer trilogy “into the light” – The Black PrismHe brought it a while back, I just read it.

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor at Chromeria, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals. It’s been 16 years since the Prism Wars and Gavin Guile who single handedly turned the tide of the war has kept peace with his diplomacy and wits over the seven satrapies.

Things change when the Tyrean head, Garadul, decide to break free from Chromeria, and declare himself the king. In order to make an example and show his power, he burns down the whole city of Rekton within Tyrea (his own kingdom). A 15 year old kid, Kip, is the sole witness to burning of Rekton, who loses all his friends and his mother (who was the only family he knew). Circumstances bring Gavin to Rekton and he meets Kip, whom he saves from Garadul. He also uncovers Garadul’s plot to become the king. And things start rolling from there.

The story works at more ways than one. First there is the elaborate magic system. Personally it took me a while to get the feel for it, but once you understand the magic, it is easy. The magic system is based on the light. Light as energy has seven colors. Each color has a characteristic and particular behavior, and of course light of that color is needed in order to use it. The magicians, called drafters, are known as red, green, blue drafter based on what color they can use in drafting. In the nutshell, it is materializing the light (energy) into physical objects (matter). The Prism (of course) can draft all seven colors (and few others beyond the visible spectrum). If you are intrigued, Check out Brent Weeks site (link below) for candle example he gives.

Another level this story works is the political and religious landscape. Before the Prism Wars, there were many gods (called pagan gods in the book), and the war changed everything. Now there is only one – Orholam. The White and the Prism are the religious heads of the land. Further, they, along with representatives from seven satrapies form the political setup of the land. The great city of Chromeria, is where this seat of power resides. Gavin Guile is considered as the best Prism Chromeria. Garadul on the other hand wants to get out of what he feels as the Chromerian-oppression.

This story has lot of twists and turns and not just here and there. The book reads very smooth considering the complexity of the plot. It flows so well that the reader does not realize how complex the story has gotten. My stomach was twisting as Weeks kept throwing luxen after luxen right till the very end. Last hundred pages had me biting my nails and I was shouting “Come on, don’t throw that in there now, the book is ending”.

The book ends satisfactorily and also keeps few (may be many) threads untied; but satisfactory ending all the same. It is a trilogy (as we know now), so many of the threads had to be left untied.

Now, on Brent’s writing. It has matured from the Night Angel trilogy. His style has improved vastly (for my taste) and is very engaging. He uses simpler language, unlike many high fantasy stories will use (there are pros and cons for both); but it works in this novel.

If you are planning to buy the book, then I would recommend the paperback, as it has couple of introductory chapters from the next book in the series The Blinding Knife. I have both hardcover and paperback versions.
It is also the right time to read this, as you may not have to wait too long for the sequel (it is scheduled for later this year).

For audiobook fans, the book has two options – single narrator version read by Cristofer Jean and audio drama from Graphic Audio. I have Cristofer Jean’s version which is well read from Audible.com. The Graphic Audio version is now available as a complete set (I want to get that box set). Both are great depending upon your taste.

In conclusion, this quick page turner is a must read. As always beg, borrow, or buy this book.

Click Here to visit Brent Weeks website.
Do not forget to sign up on the forums, you can interact with the author there.

Click Here to visit Graphic Audio site for The Black Prism.

Click Here to visit Audible.com page for The Black Prism.

Jatinder PS Nagi
January 6, 2012

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson…

This review is rather late, but the vast reading list I had during later half of 2011 and the release of Battlefield 3 game caused this delay. I was able to finish The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson during my vacations.

Absolutely amazing.

The Alloy of Law takes place 3 centuries after The Well of Ascension in the Mistborn universe. World has changed and Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history or religion. Mistborns (Allomancers who can burn all metals) are now found in legends and stories. Mostly, the world now has Mistings (Allomancers who can burn only one metal) or Feruchemists (who can use the metal to safe keep few traits); and few rare individuals who are both (Twinborns). The line of the allomancy is getting thin in bloodlines.

The cities are on the verge of modernization, railways are coming, horse carts will soon be things of the past. There are beaurocratic governments and few nobles have bigger hand in the government. Things have started to slip; nobel houses are competitive (similar to Lord Ruler’s times, as in Mistborn) and corruption has been creeping in.

The lands beyond the cities are called Roughs. The Roughs is where crime and criminals escape the law (and the cities). Few nobles give up the competitive life of the city, and become lawmen of the Roughs to bring these criminals to justice to create a better safer world.

One such is Lord Waxilliam Ladrian (or Wax), a twinborn of reputed nobel house. The predictability of the Roughs makes him feel safe there. His righteousness and honesty has brought many criminals to justice and that makes him a legend in the cities. An unexpected accidental death of his whole family forces him to retire as a lawman, and return to the city to take the reins of his house, which is undergoing financial troubles. In order to get his house of financial trouble, he starts to consider a mutually beneficial matrimonial alliance with another house.

But the past somehow catches up to him. The curtain is lifted from some criminal activities that are dramatically mysterious and circumstances brings him closer to one of the crimes. The lawman inside him prevails, and in order to solve the mystery of these crimes, he takes alliance with an old ally from the Roughs, Wayne, an allomancer, and a new one, Lady Marasi, a cousin of Wax’s to be betrothed. As they investigate the crime, Wax comes face to face with another lawmen from the Rough, Miles, whom he has worked in the past and who has gone rogue. Needless to say, the soup gets thicker.

Couple of familiar characters from the Mistborn universe makes their tiny appearances towards the end. I won’t tell you who they are, but keep a look out for them. It is almost nostalgic (I felt like going back to Mistborn series one more time).

Once again Sanderson weaves a story which is worth reading. In the traditional Sanderson-esque style, the details are aplenty and as the story progresses, readers get pulled in. The story reads like a fantasy and mystery set in steampunk era. There is allomancy and then there are guns, cranes, steam engines.

The Alloy of Law stands among my top 5 books of 2011, and from the author who is among my all time top 5 writers. The book does fall short – in words. The length of the book is not typical of Sanderson’ books; in fact it is almost a third of his standard books. This was something he wrote to get his mind “cleared” before going back to The Wheel of Time.

The story provides a satisfactory ending, a story set in post-The Well of Ascension, and a great introduction to the upcoming steampunk trilogy set in Mistborn universe. It does leave few strands untied.

If you are a fan of audiobooks, the book is read by Michael Kramer, who has read previous Mistborn series and the Wheel of time series. Michael does a great job and it feels natural continuation from original series. Personally, I like to listen to the book at 1.5 to 2 times the speed, because I find them a bit slower (Apple devices allow you to do that).

If you have not read Sanderson before, and are scared to pick one of his thick books, this is a great book to explore this author (be sure to read the appendix in the back to understand how the magic works in this universe).

In conclusion, I would say this is a great story, and a great book that now finds it sitting next to the other Sanderson books on my bookshelf. A must read, listen, or both for fans of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Steampunk, and Mystery genres.

Click here to visit Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law portal.

Click here to visit Brandon Sanderson’s site.

Please comment, share, and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.

Jatinder PS Nagi
December 26, 2011.

The Other Tolkien…

We all know the JRR Tolkien as an author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Many, including me, never knew that Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien, JRR’s younger brother, as an author. At least, he was when he was young.

In 2008, a small 88 page book was released titled Black and White Ogre country: Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien. This book is edited by Angela Gardner and Illustrated by Jef Murray. Hilary’s grandchild discovered an old tattered notebook with some stories and it was quickly determined that it is a good idea to get them published.

The tales are flights of fancy put together by the Hilary, inspired by adventures brothers had as young boys. There are stories about black ogres, white ogres, black witches, white witches and many other curious folks, likely based on many of the people the brothers encountered. It is also an introductory journey into the minds of the young boys, one of whom was going to develop a world that we now know as Middle Earth.

Like Ronald, Hilary shows in interest in the all things natural. With time, the stories depict the changes in the countryside around them. There are reminiscences of something that may have influenced the tales of Middle Earth many years later. This is a small book that includes introduction to the notebook, the stories (edited and illustrated), and a brief biography of Hilary Tolkien.

This book also had a mention in Humphrey Carpenter’s Biography on JRR Tolkien.

After their mother died, John (10) and Hilary (8) were under the legal guardianship of the church priest who arranged for their Aunt to take the kids in. The arrangement fell out, and as the time passed, kids grew up moving from home to home. Hilary joined his uncle’s business and later British Army during World War I. After the war, Hilary got a home in Blackminster, near Evesham, maintained a Plum Orchard, married and had family. His house also became one of the venues for family get reunions. He kept in touch with his relatives, as well as his brother during their lifetime.

Hilary kept his creativity alive, with paintings and drawings. Some of them he used on the cards he used to send his relatives. He died in 1976.

I recently acquired a copy of this not so easily available book. The copy I got is the first edition and is signed by the editor – Angela Gardner and the illustrator – Jef Murray. Jef  has also made a small windmill doodle as a part of his signature.

Here are few more photos of the book.


Signature on the inside cover


Jef Murray’s Windmill Doodle in Pencil


Notebook of Hilary Tolkien


Returning Home by Jef Murray on the back cover of the book.

JPS Nagi
July 2011

Enjoy Fuzziness …

Audible Frontiers did a shared universe stories called METAtropolis with John as one of the authors and the editor of the anthology. That was my first encounter with John’s writing and I enjoyed it. So when Powells Books announced John’s visit to their bookstore, I was there.

He was amazing, as I have already mentioned in this piece here.

John was on the tour of promoting his new book Fuzzy Nation, which is rebooting of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I finally got to the book last night (I have a long reading list).

The story is retelling of the 1962 tale, so overall the story has classic Sci-Fi written all over it. Jack Holloway, a debarred lawyer, is a loner. He works as a contractor for an “evil” mining corporation that generally mine on planets across the galaxy, till the planet has nothing to offer. The mining company, by law, can only mine on the planets which do not have sentient life forms. Jack is on the verge of becoming very rich since he helped discover the largest mine of the rare gemstones on any planet. He has also discovered a new sort of “animals” on the planet (which Jack names Fuzzy). This poses a threat to the company who will not be allowed to mine, if proven that these beings are “people” (natives). Jack undergoes an ethical crisis.

The story take a legal turn and the battle between three parties – Jack who wants to get rich, the Biologist community who are excited about this new discovery (who are employed by the company) and want to study these new species, and the future CEO of the company, who wants to stall the legal battle and get the minerals out before anyone can sneeze & to prove to everyone that he is ready to take over the company.

And in this tussle, is suspended the fate of the Fuzzies, that no one has yet decided if they are “animals” or “people”.

A gripping story of legal drama, action, emotions, in an all updated Sci-Fi classic.
Fuzzy Nation is one of those books which I finished in a single sitting in a long time. I generally take my time, and finish the book in couple of days.
Fuzzy Nation was something that gripped me right from chapter 1 and 3.5 hours later, I was done. I could not put it down. The flow of the story maintains the pace, and subtle twists and turns keep the reader guessing.

Audible.com released the audio for the book read by Wil Wheaton, who does an amazing job. After finishing the book, I realized, there is no one else who could have read it better.
Audible book also includes the original H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy.

I never read H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. And after reading Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi, which is a sort of rebooting the series, I think I should have (maybe I will listen to it on the audiobook).

A great book, I highly recommend this to anyone – Sci-Fi lover or not.

Check out John Scalzi’s Blog – Whatever.

JPS Nagi
July 2011

We’re more than animals …

Remember those classic Sci-Fi stories you used to read as a kid where robots are alive and they have turned evil.
Robopocalypse brought those memories back for me!

Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse is man-versus-machine tale – the story of how the robots turn against the humans. The author weaves a modern and plausible tale, which can happen in next 20-30 years, considering how many smart machines we have in our lives.

The robotic apocalypse is orchestrated by a single central super computer, Archos, who takes humanity by surprise all around the world. Archos takes control over the entire ensemble of machines in the world – smart phones, smart cars, bi-peds, domestic robots, telephones, satellites, machines – anything that has a computer or controller in it. And they start to work against human civilization and start evolving (the learning bots).

The entire novel is in flashback and told from points of views of several survivors from across the world. These survivors start to work on their own in Tokyo, Afghanistan, London, New York, and Oklahoma. As the story progresses, homo sapiens find ways to collaborate against the single enemy that they have created.

The story works at many different levels. Part 1 is grim as humans start to suffer, but engaging. As the story progresses, the action starts to come in. Then the survival instincts kick in, and finally collaboration. But more importantly, it is a tale of humanity and how pressure brings the best (mostly) and worst in people.

I enjoyed the book, because it brings back memories of the Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, the stories I grew up with and stories that fired my imagination as a kid.

This is also the first book I have read that is written in this style – each chapter is written in first person perspective of different characters. You can open any chapter in part 1 or part 2 of the book and read it. It is later, that all these threads start to come together. Many reviewers mention that this style has been used in few other books, but this was my first book in this style, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Daniel H. Wilson is a Robotics Engineer, a television host and a PhD. So many of the robots used in Robopocalypse are based on (or variant of) real world robots that exist today.

The audiobook is read by Mike Chamberlain who takes the book to whole another level. He changes accents based on the character being a Texan oil driller, a British telephone hacker, or a Native American from Okhlahoma among the few. A very well done audiobook. Available from Audible.com.

I enjoyed this book a lot, a fun to read, and to listen. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of science fiction or to anyone who enjoys reading.
It is available from all major resellers as a book or an eBook.

Lastly, you may want to read this book before Steven Spielberg’s movie based on Robopocalypse comes out in 2013.

Check out Daniel H. Wilson’s blog.

Here is Daniel H. Wilson’s interview on YouTube.

Copyright JPS Nagi
July1, 2011.

Magic is magic … Bramble is bramble …

In Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Alchemyst and Tobias Buckell’s The Executioness we meet characters from the world where bramble has taken over fertile farm lands and use of magic is punishable by death. Once a glorious and prosperous world, where magic was practiced freely; now has bramble everywhere. Bramble has strange affinity to magic; it roots itself where it senses magic has happened.
People are now poor and they live under fear of bramble whose needles are fatal to humans. The governance of the land executes anyone caught doing magic to make an example of.

Paolo Bacigalupi introduces us to Jeoz, in the book The Alchemyst. Jeoz has seen better days with magic, but now uses a small un-noticeable magic to cure his daughter’s cough in a hope that no one finds out. He is a scientist and finds a solution to solve the problem of bramble. It tells a story of ethics of science, a story of a father whose daughter is chronically ill, and an evil “creature”. Jonathan Davis voices the varied cast created by Bacigalupi.

Tobias Buckell opens up a story of Tana in The Executioness, set in the same world. It is a story of a mother, a daughter, and a wife, who stands up when her world is turned upside down. She stands up for survival and to bring her family back together. On the way, she meets raiders, traders in caravans, and a ruler who is a religious zealot preaching that salvation from a bramble infested world is possible only by following path he preaches. The woman and her axe becomes “The Executioness”. Katherine Kellgren brings an exotic acceted performance in this fantasy world.

To say the books are amazing, could be an understatement.
Audible Frontiers once again brings exclusive audio release of these two stories under the shared world experiment (similar to the METAtropolis series, where Tobias contributed too).
The world is dark and grim. Hope and life are fading fast. And bramble is taking over.

The real books are very difficult to come by. The audiobook is available as a set from Audible.com.
A good read, rather a good listen, for the lovers of sci-fi and fantasy genre.

Here are the covers for the two books:

Check out Paolo Bacigalupi’s site here.


Check out Tobias S. Buckell’s site
here.

Check details of the set at Audible.com.

JPS Nagi
June 27, 2011