Posted in Blog Posts, Read Me

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton: a Novel Review

Synopsis:

There have been a series of mysterious animal attacks in Costa Rica.  No one can figure out just what is causing them.  Including the attack that left a worker on a nearby construction project dying and another that left a young girl at the edge of death from a severe allergic reaction. 

Meanwhile, paleontologist Alan Grant and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler are contacted by another scientist about the attacks.  They hope the pair may be able to confirm or deny that one of the attacks was made by a Procompsognathus, a long extinct chicken like dinosaur that walked and attacked on two hind legs often in large packs.  Before they are able to work on the identification, they are whisked off by billionaire John Hammond to visit his latest project- a unique biologic nature preserve that will be full of animals that no one has ever seen before.

Located on an island…off the coast of Costa Rica.

When the pair, Hammond, his company lawyer, and a chaos theorist Ian Malcom, arrive at the preserve and are joined by Hammond’s grandchildren, they are presented with what is actually going on at Isla Nublar.  The Park is extremely unique.  So unique in fact the animals have been extinct for millions of years.  The name of this zoo, preserve, biological project and theme park?

Jurassic Park.

Featuring a variety of sweet as well as highly dangerous genetically recreated dinosaurs, the concept seems incredible and awe inspiring….that is until a storm blows in and the entire island is thrown into the dark.  What happens to the island when all the electricity is out?  What will the dinosaurs do?  And will they all make it out alive?

General Information:

-Genre: Science-Fiction

-Author: Michael Crichton

-Number of Pages: 448

-Main Characters: Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, John Hammond, Ian Malcolm, Donald Gennaro, Tim and Alexis ‘Lex’ Murphy, John Arnold, Henry Wu, Robert Muldoon, Ed Regis, Gerry Harding, Dennis Nedry, Lewis Dodgson

-Where to Read: support local booksellers (many can order items that may not be in stock) or look for it at your local library! If you love audiobooks, you can find it on Audible (with subscription) or on library apps like Libby (to borrow it from your library).

-Page of Reference in RP1: 62

Review (contains spoilers):

I am so glad I finally read this book!  I was so scared of reading it.  I have had a lot of issues in the past with both adult literature and straight science-fiction stories but this one was absolutely stunning.

Michael Crichton is able to explain complex science concepts without being condescending while simultaneously mixing it with character and world development.  The result is a complex and witty narrative that is nonetheless accessible to most readers.

I fell in love with this book.  It is multi-layered and diverse with relationships that have more depth and compassion than what we got to see in the film adaptation.  The characters are funny, witty, snappy, sarcastic, narcissistic, and often full of themselves, sometimes with good reason.

And the world.

The step-by-step walk through of how the park was built, how the dinosaurs were created, their genetic defects and a variety of other details would have been clunky and difficult to read in another author’s hands but Crichton handles all of it with a grace that gives even the most under educated reader the chance to not only understand but to also enjoy.  I am not into biology but have a decent head for chemistry but the ideas behind genetic manipulation are far beyond me.  Crichton made it not only accessible but also make sense without the reader feeling inadequate or stupid.

The habitats, the animals, the rides…the theme park…they are all described with an incredible awe as if you were actually there not reading about an imaginary land that doesn’t exist.

Its just a beautifully written novel and one that I can highly recommend.  I literally picked the second novel right up after finishing the first and was honestly disappointed that there wasn’t a third novel in the series.

I’m even thinking of reading more of Crichton’s works like Congo.  This one was just that good.

Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Posted in Blog Posts, Read Me

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams: a Novel Review

Synopsis:

Arthur Dent is having a very bad day.  His home in West Country, England is set to be bulldozed to make way for a bypass…which will run right through his home. As he lays in front of the bulldozer his friend, Ford Prefect, shows up and drags him away to the pub.

He explains that Arthur’s house being torn down is the least of his worries as the entire Earth will be destroyed in about 12 minutes.  When a group of aliens show up in Earth’s atmosphere they announce that Earth is to be destroyed to make way for an intergalactic hyperspace expressway…or…a bypass.

As the Earth is destroyed Ford hitches a ride on one of the ships bringing Arthur along for the ride giving him a copy of The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy to help him handle the strange new world he has been thrown into.

Afterall, it has great advice written right on the cover in big friendly letters: Don’t Panic.

General Information:

-Genre: Science-Fiction, Comedy

-Author: Douglas Adams

-Number of Pages:

-Main Characters: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphd Beeblebrox, Patricia “Trillian” McMillian, Marvin

-Where to Read: support local booksellers (many can order items that may not be in stock) or look for it at your local library! If you love audiobooks, you can find it on Audible (with subscription) or on library apps like Libby (to borrow it from your library).

-Page of Reference in RP1: 49

Review (contains spoilers):

So maybe I just need comedy with my science-fiction…because this book is so much fun and so easy to get through.  Douglas Adams doesn’t even try to explain the science behind anything. Not really.  Its just assumed that it exists.

Because in a world where a book with the words “Don’t Panic” on it in big friendly letters outselling every other book in the UNIVERSE….honestly, anything is possible.

The world is wonderfully diverse and detailed without anything actually being described in excessive detail.  Adams has a way of getting the picture of things across in the action and how the characters see the world.  We don’t get long winded descriptions of how the world or ships they are on look unless it has some sort of humorous reasoning.  What we do get are conversations that brand new whales have before they hit the ground and are no more.  Or what the dolphins did before they left earth.

Or the fact that the Earth was created as a computer program to find the question to the answer of the life, the universe, and everything…which is 42.

The characters are snarky and egotistical, irritating and absolutely human.  Guide is one of those books where even if you don’t love a character (like Zaphod and his idiotic ego) you still WANT to know what is going to happen to them.  That is really hard to do for an author.  Its hard to write characters that are neither villain nor hero yet still are interesting and full of depth and that the reader wants to keep hearing about.

Adams achieves this in every single page.

I’m so glad I revisited this story when I was older (more around the age of Arthur and Trillian).  I don’t think I found the books as enlightening and hilarious as I do now when I was a teenager.  There is just a level of life experience that you need to have to really appreciate these books.

I’m so excited to read the rest of the series again!

Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Posted in Blog Posts, Read Me

Heavy Metal Magazine

Heavy Metal Issue 1 cover

Heavy Metal magazine is mentioned pretty early on in Ready Player One (page 82) and I knew I would be hard pressed to get a hold of any issues let alone all of them to read through so here is a little overview of what this magazine was all about.

Started in 1977, Heavy Metal is a science-fiction and fantasy based collection of comics and stories that was released monthly. Unlike the comic books of the time that were regulated by the Comics Code Authority, Heavy Metal allowed for adult and explicit content within its pages.

The magazine was originally an official licensed American version of the Parisian magazine Metal Hurlant which featured the same things that Heavy Metal continues to publish to this day. American audiences weren’t used to the more European pieces of art and the underground comix (small satirical and self published comics common in Europe). This became a way to introduce America to a variety of different media that they would t otherwise see on the news stands.

But it was definitely meant for adults. Often featuring explicit imagery and cartoons, Heavy Metal became known for its bright full-color and glossy pages filled with photography, comics and short stories which spawned two feature films one that followed various storylines from several issues connected by one theme and a second that was its own story.

There are also several video games based on the magazine and they now own their own podcast network! Every other week you can find the latest episode of Heavy Metal Magazine: The Podcast and well as the full production podcast WonderWerk wherever you listen to podcasts. Both feature stories from Heavy Metal magazines along with lots of fan based hilarity and passion.

There are a lot of other podcasts as well that the network hosts including Pumpkin Spice Podcast (a comedy horror podcast), Putting the Science in Science Fiction (explore the line where science and science-fiction collide with hosts Heavy Metal CEO Matthew Medney, aerospace engineer John Connelly, and Benjamin Dickow of Columbia Space Center talk to experts on the subject), and even The TV Show Show (all about pop culture and tv!).

I think it is amazing that Heavy Metal is still around today. It really bridges the gap of what is considered comic, art, or explicit content. The meshing of a lot of those things is what makes a lot of people really think. Plus a good science-fiction based comic is always good in my book.

Featuring different artists, styles, stories and media there is most likely something for everyone in the pages… but makes sure you are 18+ before venturing into the pages of this awesome and slightly trippy magazine or anything that is based on its content.

We here at Gunters, Games, and Gold are not responsible for anyone consuming content they are not ready for.

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If you want to purchase Heavy Metal Magazine you can at: Heavy Metal Magazine

If you want to listen to Heavy Metal: the Podcast or WonderWerk or any of the other podcasts on the Heavy Metal Podcast Network we recommend listening on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts!

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Sources for our information above:

Heavy Metal Article on Wikipedia (yes we do look at Wikipedia and it’s linked sources!)

Posted in Blog Posts, Read Me

2010: Odyssey Two, created by Arthur C. Clarke: a Novel Review

Synopsis:

The Discovery One’s mission to Jupiter ended in failure.  None of the crew was recovered and the ship was left to float in space for nine years.

Now a joint Soviet-American crew including Heywood Floyd are on the Alexei Lenov are on a mission to investigate what happened on that earlier mission…and what exactly the odd black monolith that was in orbit around the planet had (if anything) to do with the failed mission.

While the American ship, the Discovery Two, is sent to investigate it is the Soviet ship that is quicker due to a new engine drive that will allow for higher speeds.  So Floyd is sent along with the Soviet crew to revisit the issues on his last mission.

However, when a Chinese space station rockets out of the orbit of Earth on a trajectory to Jupiter too the mission is thrown into disarray.

What were the Chinese thinking with the speed they were going?  Is it going to be a one way trip, or will they be able to refuel with the water on Europa?  And how do the black monoliths figure into everything that seems to be going on with these space excursions?  Are they friend, or foe?

General Information:

-Genre: Science-Fiction

-Author: Arthur C. Clarke

-Number of Pages: 290

-Main Characters: Dr. Heywood Floyd, Dr. Walter Curnow, Dr. Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai (Dr. Chandra), Captain Tatiana “Tanya” Orlova, Dr. Vasili Orlov, Dr. Maxim Brailovsky, Surgeon Commander Katerina Rudenko, Dr. Alexander “Sasha” Kovalev, Dr. Nikolai Ternovsky, Zenia Marchenko, HAL 9000

-Where to Read: support local booksellers (many can order items that may not be in stock) or look for it at your local library! Also available on Audible if you enjoy audiobooks!

-Page of Reference in RP1: 107

Review (contains spoilers):

Ok…so this one just seemed weird.

There is a lot of underlying tension in it between America, the Soviet Union and China…which ill chalk up to the fact that it was written just as the Cold War was coming to one of its peaks…

There is some very odd stuff with the monoliths eating Jupiter…not really sure what that was all about…and honestly I’ve never been great with the allusions in science-fiction.  I struggle to see what the bigger idea is. To me its really just what is on the page.

A new star is created, the Discovery One is destroyed…HAL is given a second life for all of its help.  And there is new life on Europa. We do get to see how they are beginning to advance.  It felt like a decent parallel to how we saw 2001 start with prehistoric humankind.

Overall, it’s a decently good science-fiction story.  For me it really just was hard to get through, but I do chalk that up to the fact that I struggle with pure-science fiction novels (where as I love science-fantasy novels and almost every piece of science-fiction film I’ve ever gotten my hands on…no idea why the books are a struggle).

I can say I enjoyed 2001 quite a bit more.  And this one more than the other two books in the “trilogy”…but more on that in a bit.

Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Posted in Blog Posts, Read Me

2001: a Space Odyssey, created by Arthur C. Clarke at the request of Stanley Kubrick: a Novel Review

Synopsis:

In the prehistoric African plains, a strange alien monolith appears amongst the early humanoids. As it reaches out to study the primitive lifeforms they learn more and more, progressing to the point of using very primitive tools.  When the monolith has learned what it sets out to, it disappears, along with many others, leaving in its wake a more advanced civilization-one on its path to intelligence and survival.

In 1999, Dr. Heywood Floyd is needed on Clavius Base to review an electromagnetic disturbance.  When they investigate a large black monolith is found, its appearance and creation hinting intelligent origins.

The Discovery One is sent to Saturn with most of the crew put into stasis.  The ship is run by two humans: Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole.  They are assisted by HAL 9000- an artificial intelligence that is extremely human in attitude and manner.

As the ship continues on its journey into the vastness of space HAL begins to report malfunctions to various parts of the ship…many of which are not occurring.  The problem is HAL refuses to admit that his diagnosis was wrong.  While trying to fix the issues Bowman and Poole discover that more might be going on that they realize.  What happens when your supercomputer might be trying to kill you?  And what are these odd monolithic structures doing popping up all over the globe?

General Information:

-Genre: Science-Fiction

-Author: created by Arthur C. Clarke at the request of Stanley Kubrick

-Number of Pages: 221/224

-Main Characters: Moon-Watcher, Dr. Heywood Floyd, David Bowman/Star Child, Frank Poole, HAL-9000

-Where to Read: support local booksellers (many can order items that may not be in stock) or look for it at your local library! Also available on Audible if you enjoy audiobooks!

-Page of Reference in RP1: 107

Review (contains spoilers):

Honestly not my favorite book, but I was fascinated with the story that was told at the beginning of the copy of the book I read.  It was a foreward with Arthur C. Clarke himself where he discussed how the story came together in the first place.

Usually when I am reviewing movies that are based off of a book it is a struggle to review whichever one I am less familiar with.  In this case I had seen the film of 2001: A Space Odyssey several times before.  It is classic science-fiction and is often recommended as one of the top 100 sci-fi films that you should watch in your lifetime.

As I read through the book (well, honestly, listened to the audiobook because multi-tasking for the win!), I was fascinated by how closely the book followed the film.  Like eerily close.  This is super common in a lot of older films that I’ve experienced based off of a written material verses but this particular novel/film pairing was basically the same save the book goes to Jupiter and the movie goes to Saturn…other than that they are identical.

So I went back and read the forward.  I’m terrible and usually skip it because it often doesn’t add much to the enjoyment of the book for me.  If I’m interested in what the author or the publisher or whoever put together the publication thought was important enough to add in something of the sort then I’ll go back.

I’m glad I did.  It changed a lot of my perspective on this book.

Apparently, the film and the book were basically written together.  In fact the novel is basically just the screenplay…but since Stanley Kubrick knew that Arthur C. Clarke would  be bored writing a screenplay he asked Clarke to write a book instead when Kubrick approached him asking if they could collaborate on a science-fiction story.

While that doesn’t change how I feel about the writing (pretty much the same I feel about most adult and/or straight science-fiction novels-what can I say they aren’t my cup of tea), or the plot (quite long and drawn out…and it was really hard to see the connection and why it started in the prehistoric era…), or even the ending (why is Star Child even a thing???)… it did give me some insight into why the two things were so insanely similar.

My opinion on the book:  if you are a hard-core science-fiction lover, read it, you’ll probably love it or at least enjoy seeing where a lot of modern sci-fi stories, ideas and storytelling come from.  If you aren’t a hard core sci-fi novel lover….just watch the movie…its literally the same thing.

Oh, and I did enjoy the audiobook if that is your jam. The narrator had a pleasant voice to listen to.

Review:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Posted in Blog Posts, Read Me, Week of Love

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman: a Novel review

Synopsis:

From the back cover:

“As Florin and Gilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini- the criminal philosopher who’ll so anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik- the gentle giant; Inigo- the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen-the evil mastermind behind it all.  Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.”

General Information:

-Genre: Romantic Fantasy Action

-Author: William Goldman

-Number of Pages:

-Main Characters: Westley, Buttercup, Humperdinck, The Six-Fingered Man, Vicinni, Fessik, Iniego Montoya

-Where to Read: support local booksellers (many can order items that may not be in stock) or look for it at your local library!

-Page of Reference in RP1: 38

Review (contains spoilers):

I read this book long after I had first seen the movie.  In fact I didn’t realize it was a book until many, many years after my introduction to the film.

I enjoyed the book overall, though I do enjoy the film more.  It seems to do better in a format with visuals more than in novel form.  But that isn’t to say that the book isn’t down right hilarious and I do appreciate the addition of the short story Buttercup’s Baby that is at the end of the novel.

The characters are about the same as they are in the movie, fleshed out and realistic.  Yet there is a beautiful film of fantasy woven throughout the whole thing.  The descriptions of the world are comprehensive yet not overly dry or longwinded as they are in some other fantasy novels (I’m looking at you Outlander).  The action is vibrant and the story is relatable…even though we don’t live in a medival time period with a stunning farm boy fighting his way across the high seas to rescue us.

A wonderful read that I highly recommend particularly to people who enjoy stories of action, intrique, wit and true love.

Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Posted in Blog Posts, LOTR, Read Me

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, by JRR Tolkien: a Book Review

Synopsis:

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.”

-lifted from the back cover synopsis

General Information:

-Genre: Epic Fantasy

-Author: JRR Tolkien

-Number of Pages: 423

-Main Characters: Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Merry , Pippin Took, Gandalf the Wizard, Strider, Gimli, Legolas, Boromir

-Where to Read: support local booksellers (many can order items that may not be in stock) or look for it at your local library!

-Page of Reference in RP1/RP2: 62/

Review (contains spoilers):

I have a love-hate relationship with this book. Honestly I have a love-hate relationship with a lot of adult epic fantasy books…and classics…and this is both.  Maybe I have too much baggage associated with it to truly enjoy the story anymore, even the older I get.

But that aside this is a solid story.  Essential Tolkien.  Long winded, overly detailed and with quite a bit of superfluous and frankly unnecessary details (why do you need a whole chapter of “begots”…do we really need to know who your great-to-the-millionth grandfather was… I mean unless you’re Aragorn it doesn’t really matter…does it?).

Other than that the character and world building is what so many authors aspire to today.  It has truly transcended the ages. So many new authors I do love were heavily influenced by these books… yet this is one of the few times that I really do think the visuals in the films captured the true essence of the story in a much better way than the actual books did…shoot me if you want.

Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Posted in Blog Posts, LOTR, Read Me

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien: a Book Review

Synopsis:

Bilbo Baggins, of the Bag’s End Bagginses, is minding his own business when Gandalf the Grey comes to visit.  As a flustered Bilbo invites Gandalf to tea the plotting wizard marks his door with a symbol: “Burglar wants a good job, plenty of excitement and reasonable reward”.

Soon 13 dwarfs arrive at the house talking of their treasure hunting endeavor and crashing on Bilbo’s obligatory hospitality.  As the night wears on Gandalf pulls out a map and arranges the job on Bilbo’s (fairly) stunned behalf to help break the bad luck of the number 13. 

The goal: find the secret passage to the Lonely Mountian, send their thief in to assess and steal what he can, then go and kill Smaug the Dragon to steal the rest of the riches that he hoards in his lair.

After nearly missing the start of the journey Bilbo is off with the dwarfs on an epic adventure of danger, intrigue, treasure and, most of all, more excitement than any Hobbit could imagine in even their wildest dreams.

General Information:

-Genre: Epic Fantasy

-Author: JRR Tolkien

-Number of Pages: 310

-Main Characters: Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield, Gloin, Oin, Ori, Nori, Dori, Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Smaug

-Where to Read: support local booksellers (many can order items that may not be in stock) or look for it at your local library!

-Page of Reference in RP1/RP2: 62/

Review (contains spoilers):

I have such very fond memories of this book, unlike the other books in the Lord of the Rings.  My dad used to read this, chapter by chapter, to my brother and I as a bedtime story.  Re-reading this book was just a delight.

This story was full of action and adventure…not nearly as much description of the world as his other books.  Tolkien was absolutely on his game with this one. 

I think this is a great book to share with your kids.  It has some violence and some slightly scary parts with attacks by orcs and of course the dragon. But overall, it’s a wonderful way to introduce your children into the fantasy genre.  Even though I didn’t go on to enjoy other epic adult fantasy…or the rest of the Lord of the Rings books… it did solidify my love of fantasy as a genre.

Review:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.