Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Omnitopia Dawn, by Diane Duane

I really must stop reading the first books of series when the second books aren't out yet! But this one's safe: no cliffhanger ending.

Omnitopia Dawn is the first book in a series of unspecified length about the creator of a massively multiplayer online game and his fight to save his creation from evil hackers and underhanded corporate competition. Have I lost you yet? It's an adult book, and I was worried when a lot of scenes were set in boardrooms and offices and characters were Chief Financial Officers and suchlike. But not to fear: the true setting is Omnitopia itself, every gamer's perfect fantasy, every fantasy-reader's dream made real. Dev Logan's genius is that he's created a game platform that can be anything, any world you can imagine populated with any characters you can think up. And with his new RealFeel game controller, you can enter the world and feel as though you are there, complete with smelly griffin poop to step in.

It's not an original idea--how can it be, when it's what every video game aspires to--but Duane makes it convincing and oh-so-appealing. So when we find out about the former-friend-turned-corporate-rival who has hired some criminal hackers to bring down Logan's system right when he's rolling out a new expansion, we're invested, we care, we start cheering for the CFO and the programmers and various other employees who rally to face down the threat. And the battle is conducted within Omnitopia, so Dev gets to wield a convincing Sword of Truth, and shutting down attackers' IPOs is rendered as bashing them with clubs etc. (There is definitely some hero/king imagery going on that translates back into the real world in interesting ways. Dev Logan is perhaps a bit too Good to be entirely convincing, but in the end you swallow it because you really want to.)

I'm no computer geek, but Diane Duane seems to know what she's talking about when it comes to the science behind Omnitopia (apparently she once developed a game for Electronic Arts, so she does know whereof she speaks). At any rate, all the programming-speak was realistic enough to fool me. I suspect that if you really enjoy stories about corporate espionage and financial finagling then you'll find this one a little thin, because Omnitopia is all about the magic. Thank goodness!

The story ends satisfactorily (no cliffhangers=much happiness!), but there are intriguing sequel possibilities. In the meantime, if someone would actually develop something like Omnitopia, I would definitely want to play! Guess I'll just have to keep reading fantasy.

Omnitopia Dawn is like chocolate ice cream: fun and satisfying and sweet and you'll definitely want more.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I wasn't kidding about the wall sconces

So what do you think about this one (by Oggetti Luce), in the same room as that Flor carpet I showed you a few posts ago. Too much with the blue and green squares, or a perfect match?

Then there's this for a reading lamp (by George Kovacs):

Pretty sleek, huh?

I tell you, there are quadrillions of lights out there, and so many of them are phenomenally ugly. But there are enough really cool ones that it's very hard to decide. I am totally thrilled with my dining room fixture, though:

They're handmade right here in Vancouver by Bocci. I'm going to have 3 blue ones and 2 clear ones randomly arranged in an oval. Yes, they're expensive, but that's okay, we won't be buying furniture for a while! (When you all come over we can sit on the floor under the wonderful light fixture. :))

I seem to be going with a blue and green theme . . . hope my modernist architects (my sister and brother-in-law)(S2 Studio, if you're looking for an architect) don't mind!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Life Interferes With Blog. But I read Pegasus! And Blackout and All Clear

One really must be disciplined with this blogging thing. I have problems with discipline. My title makes it sound like I've been doing interesting things that haven't allowed me time to write blog entries, but I don't imagine anyone will find choosing kitchen sinks and wall sconces and shopping for bras with my daughter very interesting. (The bras were for me, as part of my daughter's on-going attempts to make me fashionable: apparently fashion these days requires Extreme Push-up and Beyond Cleavage bras.)(Is this too much info for a blog?) I've also been planning our Christmas trip to New York: the internet is wonderful for trip planning, but you have to wonder when it takes longer to plan the trip than the trip itself will last!

The upshot of all this non-interesting stuff is that I haven't read nearly so much lately. But there are still a few things I can talk about:

Pegasus, by Robin McKinley. I've been looking forward to this one for a while, and I celebrated its release with a Pegasus Release Celebration, and finally I got around to reading it. And it was as lovely as promised: princess and pegasi; what more do you need to know? But I find I can't say very much about it, because the story's not done. This is Volume 1 of a promised two volumes, and it ends right when things start getting interesting. What we get in Pegasus is a lot of world-building. It's a beautiful world (just look at the cover of the book), and I was happy to spend time in it. But nothing bad actually happens until the very last scene, so I feel as though I've read a very long prologue, and the book ends after chapter one. There are a lot of interesting ideas and relationships developed, and I can't wait to see what McKinley does with them. I'm just going to have to be patient, since Pegasus II isn't due until 2012. Stay tuned! (I'm going to call Pegasus creme brulee--sweet and simple with the complex underlayers of vanilla bean; and I'm anticipating that Vol 2 will be somewhat more chocolatey.)

Blackout and All Clear, by Connie Willis. Willis does the same thing McKinley does with this latest duo--cutting the story in half and publishing it as two books, but I was more patient and didn't read Blackout when it came out last year. Thank goodness. I don't think I would have bothered re-reading it this year in order to get up to speed before the sequel, and I would have missed out. Much like Willis' earlier novel Passage, Blackout spends most of its time following characters back and forth in futile quests to do apparently irrelevant things. It's deliberately confusing about who, where, and when, and reading it on my iPod meant it was harder to flip back and forth trying to figure out what I should have remembered from previous chapters. It's a time travel novel, set in the same world as Doomesday Book, Fire Watch, and To Say Nothing of the Dog, so Mr. Dunworthy is back, and so's Colin, (and so is St. Paul's cathedral) and we get three new characters going back to different points in WWII. Because I had read these other books, and Passage, I decided to stick with the confusion and frustration and keep reading, because when Willis finally gets to her pay-off it's usually worth it (and all the confusion and frustration are actually necessary in order to appreciate the pay-off). I have to say that All Clear's payoff wasn't as heart-stoppingly wonderful as Passage, but I still liked it. And I have a whole new appreciation for what England went through during WWII. That's really what this duo is: a paeon of praise to British courage and resiliance, and it's worth reading just for that. I wish we had seen more of Colin than we do--in fact, I wish Blackout had been shorter and All Clear longer--but I would still classify this as a must-read for Willis fans. (If you haven't read Connie Willis yet, don't start with these. Try Doomesday Book if you want something serious, and To Say Nothing of the Dog if you want really funny.) I can't make a food analogy for Blackout and All Clear, because they were set during rationing, so I'd have to use something nasty with cabbage! Rather, I'll compare it to those really good war movies that make you cheer for ordinary people doing heroic things. And now I want to go watch the movie Enigma.

I picked up the new Diane Duane book last week, and I just discovered Kirkus's Best Books for Teens 2010, so there's a lot of reading I want to do, but I'm working on an editing project and I'm trying to be good and do my own writing, so I may not have another review for a while. Maybe I'll do a post about wall sconces!

(I'm not so good with the putting photos in the blog; sorry for the weird formatting.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Internet + Books = Community

or: The Pegasus Release Celebration was a rousing success!

People worry about the potential of the internet to isolate and socially stunt us, but here's proof that it also brings us together and creates friendships.

I posted my PRC announcement on Robin McKinley's blog and also invited people I know in Vancouver who like YA fantasy, and we ended up with seven people crowded around a table at Aphrodite's Pie Company. (Three had never read McKinley, so I count them as new converts!) We had writers, editors, a musician, a web designer, a doll maker, and someone who makes kids book apps for iPhones. Half the table got into a rousing conversation about favourite tenors, we all recommended books to each other, and we had a great discussion about the creative process and how it differs from music to writing. Oh, and we ate pie!

Then someone mentioned a place called Cocoa Nymph that was just a few blocks away, and everyone felt we needed to make a pilgrimage.

You can see why.

It's even a real piano!
Here we got to know each other a little better and discovered some interesting synergies. Some of us may end up working with each other on different collaborative projects. You never know what might happen when you show up for something like this!

The end of the afternoon was entirely predictable, since White Dwarf Books (all sci fi/fantasy) was a few doors down from Cocoa Nymph. We all felt good about supporting local independent bookstores, chocolate shops and pie places, and we parted with a firm commitment to meet again soon!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This is why I haven't read anything today

And what is it, you might ask? It's a carpet. It's the new carpet for our media room. I just designed it on the Interface FLOR website.

Or it might be our new carpet. There are an infinite number of other possible combinations. The night is young! (Okay, it's 1am. I will go to bed, I promise.)

Tomorrow I have to buy youngest son a Scout uniform, because he's now 11, so he doesn't want to wear his Cub uniform to the Remembrance Day parade. And I have to buy shoes for daughter who is going to Semi-Formal tomorrow night (we never had "Semi-Formal" when I was in high school--I think it's a conspiracy of dress and shoe stores), and now needs flats because her boyfriend is shorter than her.

None of these things are remotely connected, but it's 1am and everything feels imbued with extra significance. I think what it means is that my kids still need me but they won't for much longer. (Not sure how the carpet fits into that, but it can be symbolic. Of something. Infinite possibilities, maybe. And how I can try to design my children's possibilities for them, but they'll take the carpet tiles I give them and turn them into something I never would have imagined.)

(Don't you love how your mind can always find connections between things, no matter how random. It's what our brains were designed to do.)

Okay. I really will go to bed now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pegasus celebration update

Time has now been changed to 3pm, still on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Location is now confirmed: Aphrodite's Pie Company, Vancouver, 4th and Dunbar.

Date and time are Sat, Nov 13, 1:00pm. I'll let you know when we decide on a coffee shop. (I was going to try for a bookstore to host, but Kidsbooks is too busy in November (have you seen their lineup of visiting authors? Wow.), and I wasn't ambitious enough to go downtown to Chapters.) I suppose I could go to the Park Royal Chapters, but that would be less central. Besides, there's something cosier about a coffee shop.

The more the merrier, though, so even if you're not a Robin McKinley fan, come anyway! (It's okay, we'll try to convert you.)