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Month: February 2013

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

I bought this book from Audible and listened to it with the Audible app on my iPhone.

This book is made up of two stories, one of them is the original Little Fuzzy short story by H. Beam Piper and the other is John Sclazi’s re-imagining.

I really like both of them for different reasons. The new version fits into what I think of as modern sci-fi and the original is good solid old-school science fiction. This is the only "re-imagining" that I can think of that I would recommend.

From the publisher:

In John Scalzi’s re-imagining of H. Beam Piper’s 1962 sci-fi classic Little Fuzzy, written with the full cooperation of the Piper Estate, Jack Holloway works alone for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. On the distant planet Zarathustra, Jack is content as an independent contractor for ZaraCorp, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species. Then a small furry biped – trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute – shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the fuzzys before their existence becomes more widely known.

BONUS CONTENT: Includes the unabridged audiobook of H. Beam Piper’s original Little Fuzzy, the novel that inspired Fuzzy Nation. In your Library, Part 1 will be the complete audio of Fuzzy Nation and Part 2 will be the complete Little Fuzzy.

©2011 John Scalzi (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone.


The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

This is book 2 of the Old Man’s War series and I bought it from Audible and listened to it on my iPhone using the Audible app.

This book takes a deeper dive into what it would be like to be cloned special forces marine who has the body and knowledge of an adult while having the emotional growth of a child.

I liked this story more than Old Man’s War, but rate them the same as they really do go together even though they do not contain many of the same characters. It is also narrated by William Dufris who continues to turn-in fantastic performances.

From the publisher:

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

For the universe is a dangerous place for humanity – and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF most find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers – a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, whose brain is uniquely able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given over to the Ghost Brigades.

Jared begins as one of these perfect soldiers, but as memories begin to surface, he begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal.

As Jared desperately hunts for his “father”, he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: the alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat.

©2006 John Scalzi; (P)2008 Macmillan Audio

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to John Sclazi and military science fiction fans. I recommend you read book 1, Old Man’s War, before reading this one.


A New Camera

I have finally upgraded to a new camera body. I have been shooting with a Canon EOS 7D for a long time now, well… a long time for me. I only hold onto a camera body until the new version of it comes out, then I sell the old one and buy the new one.

I started with inexpensive point-and-shoots, I never owned a film based SLR, and worked my way very slowly up to where I am today. I had the Canon 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, and 7D. Out of those only the 20D and 40D were really great cameras for me, those two cameras did everything I wanted at the time and produced images that made me very happy. The other cameras were lacking in some significant way, that is not to say they were bad or that I did not create some great pictures with them, but they did not make me want to get out there and take pictures every day that I owned them.

I have been stuck with the 7D for a long time now waiting for Canon to come out with a new camera in the “less than $2,000” range. After going to the “Image” conference recently, I don’t think they will be coming out with a replacement for the 7D for some time. Maybe not this year. That makes me very sad. For me, the 7D kind of sucks.

Intellectually I know the 7D is a great camera. It has a ton of awesome features that make it the perfect camera for a lot of photographers. But I don’t like the quality of the images that come out of it, they feel extra “grainy” and “gritty” to me. Its not really noise, I am not sure what it is. But I prefer images to have a “smooth” and “creamy” feel to them while being tack sharp. When I take a picture using the Canon 70-200 2.8 L IS lens at f2.8 and ISO 200, the out of focus background should have a creamy smooth bokeh, and I do not feel like the 7D gives me that type of result.

I am lucky enough to have married someone who not only appreciates me, but also appreciates the photographs I take and enjoys taking photographs herself. For Valentine’s day this year she helped me work out a way to finally upgrade from the 7D to the 5D Mk III.

Financially moving from the 7D to the 5D Mk III is a big step, for us it was not an easy one. I actually thought of selling my motorcycle, which my wife and I both really enjoy, just to get out from under the 7D. But this year we have been really blessed and the upgrade was possible without having to sell anything. I am very grateful for my wife’s understanding and feel more blessed than I can express.

I am really looking forward to using the 5D Mk III this year.

Soon-ish I will have another post about the features that I think make the 5D Mk III a great camera followed later by a post about how it has performed for me.


Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

I bought this book from Audible and listened to it on my iPhone using the Audible app.

John Scalzi loves to dig into the idea of a person being able to change bodies like they change underwear. In this book changing bodies is not quite that easy, but it is a prominent element of this story. It just so happens that I really like the philosophical ideas that it brings up, it is very post human and appeals to me.

Narrated by William Dufris Old Man’s War presents some very cool ideas. Taking old people from Earth and moving their minds into young genetically enhanced space marines and then dealing with all of the repercussions of doing that. Good stuff.

Mr. Dufris delivers a great performance and gives all of the characters individual voices and emotions.

From the publisher:

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First, he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce – and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So, we fight, to defend Earth and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea of what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine. And what he will become is far stranger.

©2007 John Scalzi; (P)2007 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who likes John Scalzi and/or military science fiction.


Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

I bought this book on Audible and listened to it using the Audible app on my iPhone.

John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton do it again. Redshirts is good fun in a goofy sci-fi story that I am surprised has not been made into a TV mini-series. Maybe someone will make a web series out of it one day.

From the publisher:

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the facts that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces; (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations; and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

"2012 John Scalzi (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

I rate this book a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking for a funny sci-fi romp.