The Encounter Log

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Exile's Song by Marion Zimmer Bradley: One thing I've admired about the Darkover books all along is that Bradley's characters act like intelligent, three-dimensional people who have priorities other than advancing the plot in the easy way. It seems that just once, she wanted to write an idiot plot. And no mere outbreak of idiocy among a few main characters, but a whole plague of it, bestriding the galaxy and spanning the centuries. At the last minute, the denoument returns to form.

Harvest of Stars by Poul Anderson: A story of a charismatic leader whose followers, living outside the rule of any law but his organization, will fight for him, die for him, and eventually smuggle him out to rule Earth's only space colony for centuries, so desperate are they to avoid forming opinions or political theories of their own. Uh, did I mention these are the good guys?

Tomorrowland: A DVD set with the main events being three episodes from the Disneyland TV series: "Man in Space", "Man and the Moon", and "Mars and Beyond". Each starts with an animated review of the subject throughout history, then switches to Wernher von Braun (with Willy Ley in the first one) detailing his plans for how to get there. The animated segments get absolutely hilarious in the second and third episodes; the live-action parts are informative, but deeply depressing when you realize that the Space Shuttle program was essentially designed FIFTY YEARS AGO.

The Dark Design and The Magic Labyrinth by Philip Jose Farmer: In which the author makes good on his promise to answer the main question of who, what, and why, but leaves a bunch of smaller ones dangling. But wait, there's another volume...

At Winter's End by Robert Silverberg: Imagine if Helliconia Winter had been written by someone more optimistic. Liked it; plan to read the sequel.

Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg: I enjoyed the story, but Majipoor does not live up to its billing. It just doesn't feel as populated, or as complex, or as grand as a world that size should be.

The Silence of the Langford by David Langford: Well, it's Langford. That's all you need to know. You can go get your copy now.

Doctor Who: Earthshock DVD: I know I already mentioned this, but I hadn't heard the commentary track yet. New rule for me: no listening to commentaries that include Janet Fielding, who spends her airtime complaining about the casting, the lighting, her hair, her nail polish, the Indo-Freudian symbology of the setting, her hair again, her lipstick, the whole tone of the story, her hair AGAIN, and some other stuff I've forgotten... all during the first episode. I see they've brought her back for the next release on my have-to-have-the-day-it-comes-out list, the Keeper of Traken/Logopolis/Castrovalva box set. Argh.

Doctor Who: The Two Doctors DVD: I am a sucker for the reunion shows, and yet I felt faintly embarrassed about wanting to see this again. Actually, having seen it again, there are quite a few good bits once you get past the first episode. Plus I'd forgotten just how weird it gets toward the end. Oh yes, and the commentary is terrific-- if ever there's a British equivalent to MST3K, Colin Baker needs to be part of it.

The End by Lemony Snicket: A fitting end to the series. Not quite the one you hoped for, but a fitting one.

The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket: Clears up one major mystery, but raises more questions in the process.

Where the Ni-Lach by Marcia J. Bennett: In which the last survivor of a beautiful, fair-skinned, magical race exterminated by jealous humans battles his swarthy, unenlightened enemies with the aid of his mentor, his pal the lovable indigene buffoon, and... what, you've heard this one before?

Blue Gender season 1: If you've been dying to see an anime series that's just like the middle book of a trilogy, this is the one for you. Still, it picks up toward the end and gives you some stuff to figure out, so I may as well stick with it for season 2...

Cartomancy by Michael A. Stackpole: Speaking of middle books of trilogies, this one is not bad. It continues to not be medieval Europe (but unfortunately, everyone is white), the trudging across endless wastes is kept to an absolute minimum, and things are kept hopping in all plotlines. Ominous notes, though: the shock revelation kept for the end of the book has become painfully obvious by then, and someone appears to be running around with a time machine to smooth out the awkward bits of the plot. I think this is the first fantasy novel ever to talk about someone wanting to "liaise with" someone.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond: An excellent sourcebook on how civilizations get started (despite the title, it's more about farming and herding), and what the various early civilizations around the world had available to work with.

The End of Harry Potter? by David Langford: Langford in educational mode, reviewing the available evidence and venturing opinions on what to expect in the last book. I recommend it to my fellow hardcore Potter fans in this way: where the book agrees with you, it provides clear and comprehensive explanations which you can hand to your friends who disagree with you to explain your position, and if they still don't agree after reading the book, it has been thoughtfully published in hardcover so that you can smack them with it.

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