Friday, December 31, 2010


What would happen if Jane Eyre were to fall in love with a rock star? Such is the premise of April Lindner's Jane, a retelling of Jane Eyre. The central character, Jane Moore, is mostly alone in the world. Having lost her parents to a car accident, her only family members are her two siblings, and they're not at all close. Miss Moore doesn't have any friends either, and she's a rather shy, reserved person. One day, she decides to become a nanny.
Little does she know, however, that she'd become nanny to Madeline Rathburn, daughter of the one and only Nico Rathburn, an internationally famous rock star.
Miss Moore researches Mr. Rathburn online, and is greeted by stories of wild parties, substance abuse, and the general madness that typically seems to follow rock stars around. Apprehensively, she takes the job.
As she gets to know Maddy, she becomes acquainted with the staff of Thornfield Park- and it seems something is not quite right. Eventually, she gets to know Mr. Rathburn and develops an appreciation for his music, along with Mr. Rathburn himself.
She eventually falls in love with him, as one might expect, though somewhere along the lines, things go awry.
 I must say that I really enjoyed this book. I received an ARC courtesy of my library, though it took me an eternity to read through, it was a thoroughly good retelling of Jane Eyre.  I must now confess a grievous sin through my blog, that being that I've never read the original book by Charlotte Brontë. I have, however, seen a brilliant film adaptation. Lindner has created multidimensional characters, set them to an immersive experience, and impressively rekindled the burning fire of a classic. I especially enjoyed this book, and if you're looking for a nice spin on a classic, I recommend it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On something great I stand

At this moment in this time, on something great I stand,
upon the precipice, the very edge, on the verge of a great thing grand.
Incoming is fresh opportunity,
new chances and potential;
I'm sitting on its ledge.
The untouched land,
awaiting harvest,
of glittering beaches and verdant forest.
Entering my view,
it soon will be here,
prodding away- the gloom to clear,
This will be a brand new year.

It sings the song of high potential,
a melody luxoriously long;
quite sentimental.
Ideas like waves wash in,
lapping the shore ever so gentle,
as one year reaches its fin,
it becomes time to set right the wrong.
Thus arrive tendrils of spring in grend beams of light,
imagination can take hold;
creativity set to flight.
Coming forth so bold,
a promise is made,
many words are exchanged,
massive happenings unfold.
Plans have been laid,
the future lies in range.

I hope you enjoy this poem, I got the idea for it late one night (as usual) and as soon as I finished I felt the urge to rock out to Dark Chest of Wonders, by Nightwish. Enjoy!
Once again, I'd really like to thank everybody who reads my blog, it means a lot to know that I have an audience. What's in store for next year? I'm glad I asked, you can expect a greater variety of books, more content, such as book trailers to accompany reviews, my take on video games (I'm still working on that set of articles on their history, the industry, etc.), and, here's where things get interesting; I'm upping my goal from last year of 12 posts a year all the way to 18 posts a year! I'm pretty sure I can do it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

This year has been excellent.

To my dearest readers,

This year has been one of the best for me as a blogger, and in regular life as well. I'd like to thank you for your feedback on my works and reviews, it means a world to me!
I'm preparing a disc. A very special disc. It's a dual layer DVD, which will pretty much hold twice as much as a regular DVD. It's not exactly Blu-Ray massive, but it'll certainly get the job done!
What, you ask, could I possibly stuff on there? Well, I could put this entire blog on there. And I will. In fact, I can do that thousands of times over. But that would be unnecessarily redundant. Instead, I've decided to create a time capsule of sorts (cue Inception music!) featuring just about anything I can get get my hands on. Thus, interesting videos from Youtube, the original Phantom of the Opera from the 1920's, various public domain books, pages from Wikipedia, Xbox 360 demos, and naturally this and other blogs are all going in. In addition, I'm adding music, photographs, and short notes from friends of mine about themselves and things they enjoy now, what their year was like, etc.
This blog post will be on the disc.
Any comments will be their as well.
The disk will pretty much be a sample of 2010!
If you have a blog that you'd like to be preserved on the disc, please be sure to post it in a comment below, prior to the deadline of January 1, 2011 (1/1/11).

So here are some awesome things that happened this year I thought I'd take note of:

I saw the original Tron.
I finished the Hunger Games trilogy on Mockingjay.
I finished the 10th grade.
I got a Dreamcast.
I visited the Nintendo Store in NYC.
I watched E3 conferences over the internet.
I watched them present Project Natal.
I watched that become Kinect.
I bought one.
I got a free Hunger Games poster from Hot Topic.
I discovered which is an amazing website for free stuff.
I had the most fun I've had in over a decade at a dance party with some friends.
I also managed to translate both "avant-garde" teenager and "brand new to ballroom" into "I think I've created a victim" that same night.
I'm learning to dance.
I'm taking it seriously.
Already I'm having loads of fun with the paso doble.
I got my first ARC.
Thanks to a couple friends, I watched A Walk to Remember. That's now among my favorite movies, right up there with Away From Her.
I purchased a copy of Fallen and Tragic Kingdom.
I made new friends.
I got closer to old ones.
We're happy.

Lastly, I had at least one post per month on my blog! It's a monumental record for me.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


Before I get into my review of Archvillain, I'd like to thank Mr. Barry Lyga for providing me a free copy of his book. It means a lot to me! I'd also like to apologize for taking so long to write my review, it seems life managed to sneak up on me yet again.
Archvillain is the story of a boy, specifically young Kyle Camden. Kyle isn't particularly well understood by adults- or local law enforcement for that matter. What he has going for him? His mind, his wondrous mind. He's quite intelligent and has a taste for pranks- not dumb, pull my finger type pranks, but more complex, Rube Goldberg-esque practical jokes, usually with the goal of making people realize just how they make fools of themselves.
One night, Kyle is granted superpowers that seem to enhance everything- especially his mind.
He soon discovers, however, that he's not the only one with power. Another boy known simply as "Mighty Mike" rolls into town, and he seems to have a bad case of amnesia, since he remembers nothing of his past life. He seems to have good intentions, that's for sure, but he doesn't really know just the havoc he can unwittingly wreak! Regardless, the people took to loving Mike, and poor Kyle, who was once in the spotlight, is now pushed aside.
Kyle decides he'd rather not be probed and keeps his abilities secret. His feelings eventually get the better of him; he has to show up Mike for who he is! And so, Kyle becomes his nemesis.

This was a rather fun read, and while the target audience seems to be readers from 7-12, it was rather enjoyable for myself (an older reader), helped along by an interesting protagonist, unique plot, various nerdy references that touch a special area in my heart.
In all, if you are, or if you know a kid around age 7-12 who enjoys a fun story, interesting, progressive characters, and some sweet comic book style action, I can definitely recommend it. Lyga has done an excellent job on this book, his first for such a young audience.


Official Site:

Interview with the author:

Jonathan Liu on Archvillain:

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Your pulse is racing; you're pretty sure the person behind you can hear it. You forgot the impact those four words can have on you as you fumble with your pencil between your sweaty fingers and involuntarily draw a large dark slash across the paper. Panicking, you flip around the pencil and begin rubbing as furiously as possible with the eraser.
"Time's up." So ring out those words and as your paper is swiftly whisked off your desk you begin to despair; you realize that you've erased the whole thing.
The words "pop quiz" and "one minute" are possibly the most frightening four words you've ever heard.
Enter the world of Truancy, by Isamu Fukui.
In Truancy, there exists a dystopia controlled by a manipulative (not to mention dangerous) educational system and a cruel, shadowy dictator known simply as 'The Mayor'. The Mayor is ruthless in his atttempts to control the populace, this he does through the media, the authorities, and most importantly the schools. This mayor follows the old slave owners mantra: keep the body strong and the mind weak. This mayor seems to be one of several men who've been assigned to retain control over their own large groups of people, though Fukui doesn't give us particularly much information as to the world around this single city.
Outside the city lies an abandoned urban wasteland; within lies great mystery to just about everybody within the city. This is because this area has been condemned, and ordinary citizens are forbidden entrance.
Within the city, there's little to look forward to. School is just plain unfair, the rules are extremely loose (and by loose I mean poorly defined), and it seems that school authorities are trained in the art of cruelty. It seems they have one simple job: keep the students as occupied as possible, make sure they keep their heads down, and don't allow any to think for themselves! The point of this, it seems, is to ensure a future full of blindly obedient adults raised on the system, so used to it, and these adults who've given up the fight are all The Mayor needs to retain control of his little city.
Of course, where there's a hideously corrupt system, there's somebody to oppose it. This is where the Truancy comes in.

The Truancy is composed of students who've escaped the system by expulsion. Unfortunately for the students, expulsion would typically spell "doomed", as an expelled student is usually shunned by his or her family, and will become a wandering vagrant, likely to die of starvation or something similarly heinous. Of course The Mayor, losing power over these people, has decided to deem them nightmarishly dangerous, and citizens are not allowed contact with vagrants.
The Truancy has decided on just how unfair that is. Seeing through the system, they've decided to band together to take action. Led by the radical Zyid, they launch assaults directly onto the system itself, attacking key figures and authorities.
Finally, everything trickles down unto our humble protagonist, Tack. Tack lives a relatively ordinary life, stressed by school but seeing no other options, just like all the other kids. One day, though, his entire world is flipped, and he slowly uncovers the truth about what lies behind the scenes.
I'm afraid I must stop myself here for the sake of not giving away too much about the book.
What I can tell you is that Mr. Fukui has written a brilliant dystopia that's meant as a hyperbole of the current educational system, primarily highlighting some of its failings. While the book felt rather preachy early on, Fukui manages to drive the points home with class later in the book. It was a very fast paced novel, the setting seemed to be the relatively near future (perhaps sometime in the mid 2020's, at least through the eyes of people living in the late 2000's) though Fukui never really provides us much information as to just when everything is happening.
In all, this is a prime example of a dystopia, an impressive novel, and all the more amazing is the fact that the author was in high school at the time of writing it! It's a very stirring read, and if you enjoy mysterious action-packed dystopias in relatively futuristic urban settings, discussion of educational systems, and books by young authors, you'll likely enjoy this book. If I had to describe it in a pinch, it's like Animal Farm meets the action of The Hunger Games meets the educational system of Hard Times.

Official Website

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sighing Myself to Sleep

Sighing Myself to Sleep
by Jourdan E. Cameron

Nightly as I lay down to rest,
I sigh aloud in my bed,
cutting inside my head,
left half dead.
Somewhere knowing rest will come,
truly wish it never leaves,
to lay forever numb,
to leave this world and its griefs.
There alone and lying cold,
I try recall something of value,
something a friend once told,
I ask myself what it was that she told you,
just as I feel the chill envelop me,
sleep itself begins to conquer,
and I recall.
Commanded to fail to release,
retain my grip,
holding on up until dawn,
through the dark cold night clinging fast,
the harsh times will soon have passed.
The sun is completely forgotten before its rise,
before dawn comes darkest night.
Dawn may be far from what I surmise,
and it is likely a while before the earth is bathed in glorious light.
Until the day grows bright, retain your fight,
fight for light,
do not take to flight,
you shan't lose might.
Soon will end this night.
Salvation is not yet in sight,
it is in your fight.
Thus is her advice, and this is what I shall do.
I inhale once more and find myself given to abderianism;
my sudden laughter bouncing sharp across the walls of my cell,
my lonely place, my solitary hell,
I'll break free.
I'll escape.
With one mad tale to tell.
Laughter returns to sighs,
mirth to tears,
hope to fears.
And I throw it all away as I await my release day.
Calling back up the words of a friend,
"We all go through things like that".
Suddenly the world is new.
Against the laws of logic I bang on my walls,
and clearly enough returns a bang clear as dew.
I strike an epiphany;
I'm yet another lonesome consciousness,
full of eosophilia,
waiting for the dawn to come,
knowing it to mean one less:
one less pain and one less sorrow,
one less burden and one less weight,
understanding the consequences to be great,
realizing what rides the back of tomorrow.
I will be here for it.

I'd like to thank a certain E.B.W. for making this poem possible, as well as the makers of the following videos for keeping it from dying as a concept:

Eosophilia means love of the dawn, and abderianism relates to insane laughter.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Incarceron is a prison. It's purpose: a perfect world created to ensure the safety of its inmates. Incarceron is inescapable. Incarceron, in fact, is alive.
Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher, is a brilliant piece of dystopian science fantasy about the prison of the same name. The book centers on a small group of people entrapped within, primarily Finn, who was born of Incarceron but believes he is from the now fabled outside. Because there is no way out of Incarceron, the prison wastes nothing- that includes people. Finn, though, believes that if he was born outside- and this of course means there must be a way out if he got in.
Inside Incarceron isn't the paradise its makers believed it would be. The prison has, at best, subdued those within, retaining some control. At worst, it's completely useless. There are faction feuding between one another. Fighting is constant, shallow rivalries run deep, and the prison laughs at it all.
Meanwhile in what could be another world, one frozen in time (seemingly the 18th century) complex battles of a political nature rage on, between those seeking to halt progress and those willing to allow it burst forth into the light once more, to bring transparency and truth, all through the shade of coups, plots, and secret societies.
Caught somewhere between all this is Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, who is betrothed to a haughty, irritating (yet politically important) prince, the son of a queen who is about as evil, shadowy and conniving as he is annoying, who discovers that marrying this fool in order to take part in a scheme grander than she could ever conceive was the reason for her being in this world.
This brings us to her father, the Warden of Incarceron himself. The Warden is a very powerful man, confident, and borders at times on arrogant. He also happens to know that Incarceron is not at all the perfect world it was meant to be- a failing that would cost him dearly should its troubles become known.
Claudia isn't entirely alone, as she has Jared, her Sapienti tutor, mentor, and essentially everything her father is not towards her (the Sapienti are a council of scholars responsible for Incarceron's existence). Other than him, however, are a few servants who generally don't become particularly involved in her life.
Meanwhile within the depths of Incarceron, battles rage between factions, and caught somewhere between them is poor Finn. Having been taken up by one of the factions, he has been assigned an oath brother (essentially another member he is to remain loyal to for the rest of eternity), and he's considered special, a "starseer" because from time to time he'll have visions that, while crippling, are glances of a world beyond Incarceron. In addition to his oath brother is a Sapienti, who is greatly interested in his visions and serves as a guide, much like Jared.
Finn manages to discover an incredible item- the Key to Incarceron! Now, it's up to him to figure out just what to do with it.

I must say that I absolutely loved Incarceron; it kept me riveted from start to finish. From the moment I opened the book I was unceremoniously dumped into the twisted, frightening world that is Incarceron, and at times I felt as if I had to fight for my life from behind the pages. I can definitely recommend Incarceron to those who enjoy fantasy dystopias, action adventure, and political drama.
I did feel, though, that the book needed a little more follow through in some areas, especially towards the end, and I would have definitely appreciated more background information (though I did particularly enjoy Fisher's method of introducing information through dialog).

Book Trailer:

Video Review:

Sunday, September 05, 2010


I start this review very personally: have you ever read a book (or series of books) and after shutting it, you felt like you just closed off a chapter of your life? Like a part of your life that hasn't so much ended as has been completed? Mockingjay, the final book of The Hunger Games trilogy (by Suzanne Collins) is most certainly one of those books. The book picks up shortly after the events of Catching Fire (NOTICE: If you have not read Catching Fire, I strongly advise that you do prior to reading this review- you have been warned!). Katniss is trying to put together the shattered, burned, lacerated and otherwise damaged pieces of her life back in order as she tries to make sense of what happened to her home (District 12) and everything else.
Mockingjay is a book that will reach through its pages, grab you by the throat and slap you for good measure. Of course, I mean this in the best possible way, but also as a warning to anybody who wants to read this book: it is extremely powerful. I must apologize now, because I'm afraid that I simply do not know what to say about this book. I'm totally speechless. It was... It was a masterfully composed novel, with powerfully conveyed messages against violence, a strong (but obviously not superhuman) protagonist who feels extremely real, and a cast of interesting and multifaceted characters.
On account of my being so shocked (positively!) by the book, I'm suffering extreme difficulty writing this review.
I'll begin with what I know:
The book takes place in the first person. It's speaker is the primary protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. She was a participant in the 74th and 75th Hunger Games. In the last game, she unwittingly destroyed the arena, and was rescued. She is now hospitalized in District 13, where her mother and sister now reside.
I am now going to make a few rows of the word *SPOILER* in red. This is where spoilers may be found. If you don't mind them, go right ahead and read them. Otherwise, please skip to the section where *SPOILER* is seen again.

I continue with what I know: Katniss is reunited, not only with family members, but old friends as well. Gale is alive, and led survivors from the bombing of District 12 to the woods, and from there they journeyed to 13. Now Katniss has to juggle adjusting to life in District 13 with an new role: shooting propaganda films to display across the districts, in hopes that they can rally more support and stop the Capitol once and for all.
Her dear friend Peeta wasn't initially rescued by the rebels of District 13, however. He was being tortured and manipulated by the Capitol to shoot their own propoganda. This places additional weight upon Katniss, who already has her own trouble to deal with, now must endure having the knowledge that her ally in the arena has been reformed through torture, and he may never be the same. In addition to this, everybody around her now thinks of Peeta as a traitor to the cause.
Katniss is now living as the Mockingjay, a living, breathing symbol of hope spitting right in the face of evil, the personificatation of all that is good, etc. That's why Plutarch Heavensbee is using her for the "propos" (propoganda spots), along with a few other surviving tributes.

If there's one thing I really enjoy about the way Collins wrote Mockinjay (and the entire Hunger Games series for that matter), it's in the way that she reveals things. She unveils important details in dialog, which I really, really love about her books, since it keeps conversations between characters lively and makes the book even more engaging than it already is.
I'm afraid I'm going to have to make a return to this book- it was simply so excellent that I'm having trouble writing an informative review. If you like dystopian sci-fi that deals with the implications of certain techologies and actually makes its readers think about what certain things could mean, this is most certainly a book you will enjoy. If you like action pack heart pounding "I'm reading so fast I have to go back just to find out what's going on" type novels, you'll defintely enjoy this book. And if you like good books with strong characters who have deep serious discussions over weighty issues who don't lecture you but rather encourage you to consider the implications of their actions, I recommend you read this book as soon as possible without causing harm to others.

Collins official website:

Collins reading an excerpt from the first chapter of Mockingjay:

Another review of Mockingjay:

Common Sense Media review of Mockingjay:

On another unrelated note, the series that I promised you on video games is still being worked on. Please be patient!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

For The Win

If you have been reading this blog for some time now, or you've gone back to read my earlier posts (for which you ought be saluted), there's a good chance you found my review of Little Brother.
For those of you who haven't, here's what I thought in a nutshell: the book presented powerful, important messages, but they felt pushed, and suffocating beneath layers of syrupy junk. It was as if somebody opened a jar of (rancid!) honey and found diced boiled egg whites. Sure, they're full of protein, but... They're not so appetizing anymore. That's one book I honestly did not like. According to its licensing, though (which is one thing I appreciated) I am grateful that I have the right to edit and redistribute the book as I see fit (and I probably will sometime in the future- must stop procrastinating...).
Cover of FTW
Doctorow has definitely improved in his more recent book, For the Win (or FTW). FTW is about gold farmers*, fair labor, and economics (something I didn't expect to see combined!). In FTW, the farmers come primarily from squalid conditions, employed to scour a thousand virtual worlds in order to find virtual gold. These laborers are the youth of third world countries, and they're getting the short end of stick. Wearing themselves thin (or perhaps I should say thinner) they recieve a little money and much derision from corrupt bosses, adults who threaten the youth into shutting up and making gold. This, however, reaches a tipping point when the oppressed begin to unite, and together they form the IWWWW (International Workers of the World Wide Web), and call themselves the Webblies.
Doctorow himself! The above photograph of Doctorow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license, and is from

I really appreciated this book for several reasons. Foremost is because despite the fact much of it happens in virtual worlds, the situations, protagonists, and story feel real, as if they could erupt in a few short years. Doctorow also managed to give his characters astounding depth, which only contributed to how real the book felt. He depicted with great accuracy conflicts that the characters feel, moral dilemmas they face, and painted a vivid picture of lives. Not only do you see what the characters are seeing, not only do you feel for them, you soon become them. I found myself pulling my head from the book more than once simply to check if I was still in my bedroom.
In addition to the astounding depth Doctorow imbued his characters, he managed to bring to light in a near Dickensian fashion the plights of the opressed, ranging from factory workers in China to impovershed Indian slum dwellers.
In all, this book was a triumph. I'm marking it as a huge success.
Something important Doctorow also covered (in simple terms, I might add) is a good lesson in finance, which I really appreciated. He explained through good illustrations how certain investments operate, and demonstrates quite plainly economic principles I initially didn't entirely grasp until this book.
My only complaint is profanity. While it wasn't nearly as awful as the language of Little Brother, it still felt overused and as a result, lost impact when used (not that it was necessary in the first place).
To sum things up, I really enjoyed this book, and I appreciate it for realism and educational value.
On another note, I received my copy for free thanks to which is an excellent website I intend to review in the future.
Doctorow's official website
Mr. Doctorow did something else impressive: he published the book under a Creative Commons license, and it's free to download at the link above.

*Gold farmer: A person who plays an online game to resell in game currency and items for profit outside of the game; one who engages in gold farming. (via Wiktionary)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Free Audiobook copy of The Hunger Games!

From here:

This free audio copy of The Hunger Games is good until August 4th, so grab it while you can!
Spread the word!

Game Review: Dames Are Trouble

Hello there. Your name is Jim Novek, private investigator. You're a pretty upright fellow, but you've got your a little vice: you keep falling for them dames. And it's gotten you into trouble. This time you went head over heels for Vivienne; initially, everything was peaches and cream. That is, until the the dough ran out, at which point, so did she.
Dames Are Trouble is an interactive fiction game released in 2006 for Palm devices running OS 3.0 and up; it's reminiscent of older text-based adventures, and based in what seems to be a 1940's city (maybe Chicago). The entire game area is played in a single city block, and you about exploring, seeking information about the whereabouts of Vivienne, the titular dame, who, of course, has proved to be trouble, stealing your money, your car, and stuff that you generally value.
You've managed to find her apartment (the game starts there) but you can't enter until you know which apartment she's taken to living in. You thus decide to start doing what you do best: investigating.
I, the reviewer, do not want to give away too much information on the game (or how you solve it) but I must say it takes some patience, particularly if you're unfamiliar with interactive fiction titles. Unlike most IF (interactive fiction) titles, instead of a parser that you can type commands into, all possible actions (i.e. go west, climb fence) are right out there, simplifying things, although if you're used to IF like Zork, where everything is typed, it may seem a little dumbed down. On the other hand, it's a lot easier if you have a Palm like mine, a Tungsten T|5, which lacks a physical keyboard (though, if you can find an external secondhand in the year I write this review, 2010, congratulations).

I won the game in about 25 minutes. Graphically, it was pretty impressive considering it was intended for Palm OS 3 (and I'm currently running OS 5). The story, while not anything to dial home over, was still quite amusing, and a nice little reminder that this genre can go much, much further.

Download Dames are Trouble Here:

 and in case the first link is broken, here:

Dear readers, I understand that I have promised you a full on special on video games. I trust that you'll be pleased to know that said special is still underway, delayed on account of life, but by no means canceled.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jourdan Cameron on Video Games, 2010

To celebrate the Video Games Live special on PBS, I intend to write a series of articles on, as you might have guessed, video games, in particular about their origins, impact, current status, and future (from my viewpoint).

Official Website of VGL:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Special Announcement

I have the feeling this isn't quite what you were expecting, but on July 31, 2010 is a very, very, special program on PBS. Video Games Live. If you enjoy gaming, symphony orchestras, rock concerts or PBS (or even happen to enjoy all four as I do), then you'll want to tune in to your local PBS station to watch Video Games Live. Featuring music from Final Fantasy, Halo, The Legend of Zelda and many other games, it will most certainly change your appreciation of classical music, video games, and quite possibly both, forever.
I intend to tune in.


Friday, July 16, 2010

2010: Odyssey Two

"Hello there, reader. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and read this blog over-" - Hal 9000 (not an actual quote of his, but sounds like one if you imitate that hauntingly soothing voice)

Cover of 2010: Odyssey Two
2010: Odyssey Two is the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke. Having read it, I must say that I really enjoyed it! That said, this sequel is not for everybody; I know a great many people who would be bored to tears at the mere idea of a sequel to 2001. However, if you enjoyed the original, or if you enjoy 'hard' science fiction (although this book struck me as a mix between hard sci-fi and fantasy) I can definitely recommend it.
In this book, a mission to return to Discovery and figure out what went wrong with HAL (along with gaining more information on the monolith) has been launched, and the Alexei Leonov soars through space, to seek and discover.
Something odd, however, has occured, and in the interest in not giving away too much about the book, I refuse to write in my review just what that it. However, I will inform you (the reader) of this much: Bowman is back.
The crew of the Leonov observe another mission: that of the ill-fated Tsien, which landed upon Europa (a moon of Juptiter).
In all, this book was an extremely satisfying read, likely to keep one company on a trip across the skies at it soars the imagination.
Now I shall move on to 2061: Odyssey Three. I intend to review it as soon as I've read it.

NOTE: I apologize for any unnecessary poetical manner; I intend to release whatever poetry lies within me very, very soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kamehameha the Great

Kamehameha the Great
by Jourdan Cameron
Kamehameha the Great the first king of Hawaii, born during what is generally believed to be 1758. Although his exact birth date is unknown, 1758 is usually accepted as the year of his birth, because it was foretold that there would be a great king who would unite the islands of Hawaii, and the sign that he was born would be a comet. During 1758, Halley’s Comet could be seen over Hawaii, and this led to the assumption that he was born shortly after it was sighted.
In ancient Hawaii, although there was a twelve month lunar calendar, the years were not recorded. Thus, we can only speculate as to the exact age of Kamehameha. His name means “the one set apart”, and indeed, he was one set apart in accomplishments.
He was very well known for instituting mamalahoe, or the “Law of the Splintered Paddle”, which protected the lives of civilians worldwide during wars, and for the unification of Hawaii.

Early Life

He was born on the Big Island of Hawaii as Paiae, meaning “Hard-Shelled Crab” His parents were Keoua and Keku`iapoiwa. His father, Keoua, was a high priest, and his mother, Keku`iapoiwa, was the daughter of King Alapai. The kahunas, or priests, witnessed a comet, and foretold it to be the sign of a coming slayer of chiefs. As a result, Alapai ordered the slaughter of all male infants. Little Paiae was carried away to the mountains, to be raised by a couple without children. Paiae sorely missed his family, and it is because of this he changed his name to Kamehameha, or, “The Lonely One”.
Later in his life, he was placed under the guidance of his uncle Kalaniopu'u, who was Chief of the Big Island. Because of Kamehamehas fighting skills, he was named keeper of the war god when his uncle died in 1782, thus placing him second in command to Kalaniopu'u's son, Kiwaloha. As a youth, Kamehameha was extraordinarily strong.

“Kamehameha knew that this could be a day of death, or great fame. If he failed in what he proposed to do, then the kahuna of the Hilo king might drown him, strangle him, or beat him to death this very afternoon for violation of a mortal kapu.
The test in the minds of both Kamehameha and his tutor was whether this sturdy, brown-skinned youth with the solemn face and the dignified bearing of the Alii was going to be able to move the giant black lava boulder called the Naha Stone…That giant boulder of pitted puka-puka or “hole-hole” cooled lava flow was as heavy as the King’s giant, forty-man dugout canoe… This, the Naha Stone, was as mammoth an object as any one man might conceivably dream of moving by himself.”(Tregaskis 2)
A massive test lay before Kamehameha, moving a massive boulder. Yet, he set about to do it. He cried “Hail to Lono”, shortly before this gargantuan task, and did this because the priests of Lono were considered the incarnates of the god during the Maka-hiki, making a nearby kahuna feel venerated. With this, he set about to moving this titanic rock.
He started. With massive effort, he felt success! The stone moved, and he was now a hero! Until he took a closer look. The stone moved but a few inches. A kahuna began approaching him, carrying an image of the god Ku-kaili-moku on a pole, mother-of-pearl eyes reflecting the sun. Kamehameha knew that this could the end of him. Thus, he renewed his grasp on the Naha Stone, and with much effort, got the boulder to leave the ground, and he moved it about five feet. He stopped to catch his breath. Naeole, his tutor, was smiling proudly. But this victory wasn’t enough for young Kamehameha.
“This time, he would not only life the end, but bring the whole end of the rock straight up, and heave it onto the other side. This time he lifted his end of the rock higher, with the leverage of his own weight, and with all the adroitness of a surfer scrambling into the curl of a big booming wave, he began to force his way up the slope of the rock until it stood almost upended…. He summoned the extra muscular effort from the depths of exhaustion and fatigue, and pushed the boulder over the top of the arc so that it fell with a crunching thud, and a splashing of ground-water on the far side.”
Young Kamehameha, not content with simply rolling the stone over, went a few extra miles and pushed it all the way over a cliff!
Shortly after, there was a feud most unfortunate, and Kiwaloha, the firstborn of the (deceased) Alapai (Kiwaloha was supposed to take the throne) was killed. Kamehameha was now King of the Big Island. Because of his ancestry, Kamehameha originally had the right to the throne, however, due to Alapai, he couldn’t claim his throne at the risk of death.

European Contact

After some years, ‘white men’ showed up to their island. The year was 1779, and the captain of the ships, or “floating heiaus” was none other than Captain Cook, the famed explorer. He quickly engaged in trade with the people, trading things like yams and puaa (pigs) for iron scraps, which the ‘Indians’ as Cook called them, valued. He took note of the helmets certain individuals wore, which were extremely similar to those the Spanish conquistadors wore (in fact, eons ago, the Spanish had visited Hawaii, and when they mapped it, gave the correct latitude, but erroneous longitude) but the Hawaiians wore helmets with long feather plumes and instead of being made of iron, they were composed of woven plant materials.
Unfortunately for Cook, the Hawaiians valued the iron much more than he had bargained for, and began to swim under his ship and remove nails! To counter this, he had guards posted with birdshot, so as not to kill anybody, but to serve as a warning. Despite it, various thefts occurred, and not too long after Cook left the island, he ran into quite a storm, and his ship was in need of repair. When he returned to the island, and went for repairs, he received more than he bargained for. One of the boats attached to his ship, his ‘cutter’ as it was called, was taken (and later burned for iron) in a daring exploit, and this being the last straw for him, he went ashore, peaceably, but heavily armed. In a massive flurry of activity, he and his marines were attacked by a mob, being beaten, stoned, and stomped to a violent, brutal death. Cook’s men had abandoned his body on the beach. The king, when he learned what happened, was furious. Not only was he disgusted over the theft, but at what happened to Cook, and ordered that his body be returned to his men for a proper burial. However, his remains were scattered, what was left of him was horribly dismembered, each part scattered throughout the island. His men searched, but mostly in vain, having found a single piece of hip. More violence followed.
“Captain Clerke and the captain came through with a quick decision: He ordered the ship’s guns to give the natives a good dose of what-for. He also told the crew something they had been dying to hear. Clerke was planning to send a party ashore to replenish the water casks as if nothing untoward were happening… In a short time the big guns were loaded, but the hustle and bustle of the preparations to fire, the scurrying around, the trundling of the bags of gunpowder and the cannonballs and the commands were sufficient to alert the villagers near the coast. They accordingly took shelter behind walls and rock features. But even so, the gunners did well enough with their targets of opportunity- which were any large groups of people. The guns thundered. The gunners saw the cannonballs smashing into the soft houses and sending them down in showers of thatch and splintered bamboo.”(125,126 Tregaskis)
This attack killed several Alii and severely injured Kamehameha. Yet, Kamehameha survived, and after a couple other minor skirmishes, he managed to once again be at peace with the English, and bid them farewell.

Law of the Splintered Paddle

The Law of the Splintered Paddle (or chewed-up paddle), or Mamalahoe, was created by Kamehameha after his foot was about to attack some fisherman for their large catch, but got his foot caught in a rock, and he was struck in the head with a paddle by fishermen fearing for their lives, and the life of a child. They struck him so hard that the paddle broke. He was saved by some of his men in a canoe, but Kamehameha remembered the lesson he learned that fateful day. Thus, Kamehameha thus instituted mamalahoe, or the “Law of the Splintered Paddle. It states: "Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety".
Thus, he protected those not involved in combat. A version of Mamalahoe was added to the state constitution of Hawaii in  HYPERLINK "" 1978.
Mamalahoe has also served as a model for the protection of noncombatants the world over, likely saving countless innocent lives.

Later Life
For Kamehameha, this was only the beginning of a long, long road. He did much fighting, and he took advantage of European firearms, using guns, and canons. He blazed a trail through the various islands of Hawaii, earning the title “The Warrior King”, and remained faithful to Mamalahoe.
“Now that the flame of war was finished with its scorching path in Maui, Hawaii, Oahu, Lanai and Molokai, he encouraged the farmers toward record crops. One great assist he game was to proclaim the Law of the Splintered Paddle as an inviolable statute. This provided that no soldier or group of soldiers could appropriate anything from any farmer or other civilian without proper governmental authority.”(275 Tregaskis)
After accomplishing much conquest, he used Lahaina, in Honolulu as a trade center with the British, receiving the usual firearms, and in 1802, he received a powerful new ally.
The British gave him “long-eared and oversized dogs”, or horses, and in 1803, prepared to invade Kauai. Unfortunately, his men were hit with a terrible, fatal plague. Mai okuu, meaning it comes with squatting, was referring to the diarrhea that it begins with, and it probably came in from traders. With the exception of William Pitt, it killed all his primary counselors, and half of Oahu was wiped out.
In 1804 the plague loosened its grip on the kingdom, and life could resume as normal. The sandalwood trade began thriving and in 1816, the trade was about $400,000 annually.
A year prior, however, Somebody attempted to take away that all away. Anton Schäffer arrived November of 1815, and claimed to be a representative of the Russian government, a doctor, and naturalist. He was there to recover a ship that was lost on a reef, off the coast of Kauai. Upon reaching Kauai, he came across Kaumu-alii, who was still intent upon usurping Kamehameha! Schäffer, unfortunately, was an “opportunistic feeder”, and he made a pact with Kaumu-alii- one to overthrow Kamehameha with the aid of the Russian government, giving Kaumu-alii the throne, and Russia half of Oahu and the entire sandalwood market.
The English likely realized his ploy, and disgusted, spurred the people to destroy any structures he built, yet Schäffer didn’t leave. He attempted to get the backing of the Russian government, and he even built fortifications. But assistance never came, and in 1816, Otto von Kotzubue arrived at Kailua, and informed Kamehameha (already well aware of this grandiose, ambitious plan) that the Russian government was opposed to Schäffer’s idea, and Kamehameha banished both conspirators, Schäffer and Kaumu-alii.
On May 7th, 1819, Kamehameha fell ill, and at midnight, he was carried to the eating house, where his breathing worsened, and they rushed him back to his sleeping house, where he slipped out of consciousness, and May 8th, 1918, his breathing stopped forever. The Warrior King of Hawaii, Kamehameha I, had passed away.
But this was by no means the end of a united Hawaii, as Kamehameha wasn’t the only one helping bring about change. One of his wives, Kaahumanu, had begun to fight against the kapus, or rules that were put in place, because some of them were ridiculous, and could put somebody in an early grave, sacrificed for mere accidents. She worked to eliminate one in particular: the kapu stating that women must not eat with men, a kapu that one of her various “husbands” was killed over. She received support from Kamehamehas primary wife, Keopulani, along with much support from the Haoles, those from Europe coming to Hawaii.
In November 1819, Kamehameha II, persuaded by the two queens, publicly violated the eating kapu, shocking his guests, and likely scared them senseless when he declared all kapus null and void. The old kapu system was abolished, which would have likely made Kamehameha I very proud! Thus, Kamehameha I lived on through the actions of his son.

Personal Reflection
From my standpoint, Kamehameha was a great ruler. He protected the lives of the innocent, unified a group of islands into what is now known as Hawaii, and was a great ruler. He truly cared for the well being of his people, and saw to it that not only they were treated properly, but that they treated others properly as well. Thus, he not only enforced laws to letter, but to spirit, or the very principle of a law, which can be a much more powerful force. By creating a way of thinking, you create a way of living. Kamehameha did just that. I am quite sorry for him in that his childhood didn’t quite work out as he had planned, yet, despite the difficulties, he grew into a wise, benevolent king. I think that if more leaders followed the example set by Kamehameha, the world would be a better place.
I think that his passions truly drove him forward, and unfortunately, led him sometimes in the wrong direction. He likely understood the problems created by the system of the kapus, having suffered firsthand because of them. But, he had to uphold them, because he was blinded into thinking it would help Hawaii.
But his passions, though sometimes misguided, helped him still. Had not been impatient with those fisherman, he would have never conceptualized Mamalahoe, which could have cost many innocent lives simply brushed aside as casualties of war. Through combat, he conquered and unified the islands of Hawaii, which might have been impossible if he wasn’t so passionate. While the war cost quite a few people their lives, it likely protected thousands more from oppression at the hands of the Europeans and Americans, and made for much simpler diplomacy, creating a strong, independent, and much more respectable nation.

Tregaskis, Richard. The Warrior King Hawaii’s Kamehameha the Great. New York, N.Y., Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1973.

Kamakau, Samuel Manaiakalani. Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii. Honolulu H.I., Kamehameha Schools Press, 1962 Kamehameha I – Hawaii History – Monarchs
King Kamehameha – America’s Library Kamehameha I of Hawaii – Biography Base
The Mediadrome – History – King Kamehameha
The Northern Kohala Coast – Tied to the Past

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Leviathan, by Scott Westerfield
For quite a long time, I've loved steampunk. The artistry, the aura, everything about a past that might have (though likely ought not!) have been as a concept I much enjoy. I find it simply satisfying, fascinating, intriguing... My love for steampunk goes far back.
Not too long ago I came across the novel Leviathan, by Westerfield. It's what I would consider a (as you likely guessed) top-notch steampunk novel, and though it was written for a youn ger spectrum of readers/steampunk fanatics, itis nonetheless quite engaging despite (or, possibly on account of) its simplicity.
Set in an alternate WWI, it follows Deryn Sharp of Englad, a girl who couldn't be held to earth (in more ways than one) and Alek Ferdinand, son the famous Archduke, who finds himself to be an invaluable pawn in a complex, hazard ridden game of political chess. As one might guess, the two eventually meet (but in the interests of not spoiling the story I shall not explain exactly how), though initially, their relationship can't exactly be describebd as healthy.
In the world once seen by Westerfield, WWI has a much scarier spin; Charles Darwin of many years prior was not only an explorer, but a genetic egineer, the first person to study and modify DNA.
Years later the British are using his techniques to not only modify the traits of organisms, but also to customize them to their whims (slaughter!) and even create ecosystems, though I'd hate to give awway too much about theme. They refer to their beasts as "Fabs" short for fabricated.
They are know as the Darwinists, and their beasts strike fear into the hearts of their new enemies, the Clankers.
The Clankers are Germany, Austria-Hungary, etc., and are named on account of their gigantic machines. Bypassing treads (how boring and historically accurate!), the war machines of the Clankers are gigant things known as "Walkers" (although I think of them as 'mechs' instead) and as their name would imply, these are legged machines, that plod hill and dale belching banks of thick, black smoke. Outfitted for war with guns and cannons, they would truly be a terrifying sight to behold!
In all, Westerfield brilliantly wrote this book. Though I do believe it needed to be somewhat less predictable (and I'll be brutally honest- while Deryn didn't seem at all a terrible character- I rather liked her- she seemed a little cliched, the 'tough girl being a guy' stereotype), I enjoy how he keeps the book third person while sort of swapping viewpoints and personality. In the book are several excellent illustrations by Keith Thompson, who astoundingly illustrated a world crafted by Westerfield, truly bringing it to life in the most magnificent fashion possible.
In all, it's a rather good read that I can recommend, particularly if you enjoy steampunk, alternate histories, sci-fi, or adventure novels.
I rather enjoy all four.

Well, I've been tagged by a certain Zella, and now, I must tell six insane truths and a crazy lie, or or six extreme lies a single, mind-blowing truth.
I'll have them soon!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Sammich Machine

My local library held a mystery contest. Below is my entry. Enjoy!

Sammich Machine
by Jourdan Cameron

It was a strange morning, to say the least. I remember getting out of bed with the knowledge that something odd was bound to happen. I suppose that's normal for me, taking into consideration who I'd be meeting later on.
My name is Jack Charlotte; my best friend is Marcella Cervant. We were drawn to each other by our mutual interest in aviation, but don't let that fool you. We are radically different people. I wouldn't know how to begin a comparison. Starting at the level of fruit, perhaps, to consider ourselves as, I suppose I'd choose the pear while Marcela takes the 4-door sedan. I suppose that there really isn't anyone similar to Marcella at all. She's one of the few crazy, yet sane, tame, reserved, bold, daring people you may ever have the pleasure to meet, and seems to have this strange fondness for information; any and every topic you can think about she's likely read a book on. From atomic weapons to neuroplasticity to Zoroastrianism, she likely has some interesting, fascinating tidbit. That morning, she showed up to my door about as unusually as she usually does. "Greetings" she said. What she was wearing, that morning was, well... Not worth the effort to explain, really.
"Morning, Mar" I replied groggily. I was still a little out of it. We were sitting in the dining room.
"Hey, good morning Mar!" My dad came in, with about the usual level of enthusiasm. Was I the only non-morning person?
"Hello Mr. Charlotte" Mar replied.
"Care for some fried eggs?" he asked.
"Thank you, but I'm afraid I'll have to decline. I voraciously consumed three blanched." My dad looked a little puzzled.
"She had three boiled eggs, Dad." "Oh, right, of course. Well it's great to see you." "Likewise."
There's also the matter of her unusual dialect, but I'm not going there.
"Bye, Dad" I said. "We're heading for the library." "Alright, see you later."
If there was one thing I absolutely loved about my home, it was being walking distance from just about everything. Library, general store (I can't believe my town still has one, either) florist, all no more than ten minutes away.
"So" Mar started "Can you wait to  meet him?" She asked beaming.
"I sure can't, Mar." I replied. She was very enthusiastic this morning. One of her favorite authors (whose name evades me) was at the library to talk about his latest book on gladiatorial combat.
"So what do you think he'll start on?" she thought aloud as we approached the library.
"He'll probably start with..." The words in my mouth dissolved  as the library came into focus.
"Mar, I-" She'd already run into the middle of things.
The building wasn't quite as we had left it a week before. No, there were definite changes to the exterior, namely the headless flowers, shattered windows, and most noticeable, a brand new coat of green paint applied to the front of the building.
Written in blocky, drooling black letters was "Sammich Machine".
She was conversing with a police officer about what might have happened.
"Way I see it" said the officer "was some kid, looking for trouble. If I find 'im, I'll make sure he has it! Now you kids keep your eyes open!" I assured him we'd inform him of anything suspicious. "Remember, see something-"
"-Say something!" Mar finished.
After the commotion had cleared, we came inside the library. Ms. Stoate, one of the librarians, was chatting with a reporter from The Prism, our local newspaper.
"Looks like some gladiators already came through here" I said to Ms. Stoate.
A bearded man with black hair walks into the library. A woman follows closely behind. Both are wearing sharp formal clothes. Ms. Stoat walked up to them.
"Mr. and Mrs. Knoll, how lovely to meet you!" "The pleasure is all mine" said the bearded man. Marcella introduced herself to the couple, and I followed suit.
The woman stretched. "I was in such a rush this morning, and now look what happened! Maybe it's a sign." The man giggled a little. "Yeah, but we had no hot water this morning! Now that was a kicker!" the man laughed. I was glad to see somebody was still able. "Such a pity about what happened to the library" said the woman.
"Do you mean to cancel?" Marcella asked. Her voice faltered a bit.
"Goodness, no!" Mr. Knoll belted. "Although" started his wife "maybe rescheduling is in order?"
Mr. Knoll laughed a little. "Let's not something stupid as little graffiti get us down!"
"Whooaah, Dad!" A teenager appeared, almost out of nowhere behind Mr. Knoll.
"Everybody, I'd like you to meet my son" said Mrs. Knoll. "Dorian".
Dorian was about fourteen, with straight black hair that covered both eyes. He was wearing beaten looking faded jeans, a grey hoodie, and white sneakers splattered with black.
"Honey" said Mr. Knoll "Could you fetch the sword from the car? Thanks." Mrs. Knoll dashed off for the weapon. "Well I suppose we should get started." said Mrs. Stoate. "I'll move some of the things from the foyer, and Mar? Could you take care of..." My mind drifted away, outside the library. Why did somebody, why would somebody give this poor building such a beating? Perhaps there was some meaning to the graffiti. Sammich Machine. What's a Sammich Machine? I walked outside for some air (even though it was already streaming in through shattered windows) and found Mrs. Knoll struggling with a long box. I dashed over and asked if she'd like some help, which she promptly accepted. The thing was immensely heavy, and I really do wonder how she managed it into the car in the first place. We put it down to take a breather right outside the library door.
"You know" she started, gasping "I'm not sure why he wants this one." "Isn't this what the gladiators used?" I asked. "No. This is a Scottish broadsword." "Well that is pretty odd!" We leaned on the wall a couple minutes more. "So you met my son, Dorian?" "Oh yes, he seems like a very nice boy." "Thanks" she sighed. "I just wish..." her voice faded off. She was just gazing into the distance. "Wish what?" I asked, bringing her back. "Wished that Dorian had more time with his father" she choked out. "They're barely ever together, and I'm worried about him. I don't want him going down... The wrong path." "I understand" I replied. Lately I've seen lots of kids raising themselves. The results are seldom pretty.
"Well" she said "I suppose we should get this thing in" she yawned.
Upon re-entering the library, something felt different. The atmosphere was thick with tension. Mr. Knoll was being introduced by Dorian to a teen about three years his senior. Mr. Knoll's "Pleasure to meet you" felt strained and irate.
This teen was taller than Dorian by about a head, and had dark brown hair covering one of his eyes. "Nice to meet you too" he said. His voice was low, almost gravelly. He dressed similarly to Dorian. On his sneakers were the same black marks.
"Dorian" he said "I'm checking out a copy of Gladiator." Behind his hair, Dorian's eyes flicked to life. "I'm coming with you!" The teen smiled a smug smile and the two headed towards the DVD section of the library. The threads of tension strangulating conversation slowly vanished as the two left the room, though now Mr. Knoll seemed somewhat scared. He sat down and put his forehead in his hand. That seemed to communicate everything he was thinking. Mar went over to comfort him. "Mr. Knoll-" she began when he said, with a sniffle "Don't, please. Thank you but I know just where he's going. He'll find his path, at least... I hope." Mr. Knoll let out a big sigh and continued. "But" he said firmly "I mustn't interfere." The man was now looking off into the distance (as far as he could, anyhow) as if he were being photographed for some sort of film poster. He erred, however, in that by failing to keep his eyes on a steadily reddening Marcella. I hate seeing her so furious, but it's really a sight to behold. "Knoll" she growled. I decided to head over to the DVD section, seeing as things were about to get ugly. On my way out of the back room I saw Mrs. Knoll asleep on a chair. I had the feeling she was in for a particularly rude awakening.
"So will you do it?" was the first thing I overheard. I behind the shelves standing opposite Dorian and his friend. "I'm not sure" Dorian replied. "I have some doubts and... Fears." "C'mon." the older kid came back with. "What's the worst scenario, honestly? You pull it off, and poof" he signed. "You're free." 'When you put it that way, than I suppose there's really a point." He grabbed the other kids hand. and hugged hum. "Thanks, man." "Good choice, dude" he said in his gravelly voice. The front door opened and in came the same police officer from earlier.
"Hello again, sir" I said. "Hey there" he replied. "So have there been any big discoveries in the case?" "Not at all, young man, nothing at all." He sighed. "I just wish I could get this over with. Would you happen to have any sort of information?" I thought for a second, and looked down at my shoes, as I usually would. "Sir?" I said. "Please follow me, quietly." I led him to the shelves near the DVDs. "Look" I half whispered "At their shoes." He dashed around the corner to face them. "Hey, you two!" he barked. "Have you seen the outside of the library? Do you think vandalism is funny? Do you?" The two boys wore odd looks, unsure of if they ought laugh or appear frightened. "Well I don't!" The officer was extending some of his words for emphasis that only made him seem all the more comical, but somehow frightening nonetheless. "You're coming with me!" he said, and with one swift move he had turned around and handcuffed the older boy. Dorian appeared shocked. "What did we do?" he asked. The officer snorted. "Look at your shoes" he said pompously. "You think we vandalized the library?" the older boy asked. "What's going on here?!" came a stern voice from behind. Mr. Knoll was behind the officer. "These punks tried to destroy our library!" "Hey!" Mr. Knoll snapped "That's my son you're talking about! He'd never do anything like that!" "Well explain his shoes." "He's, em..." Mr. Knoll began fumbling over words. "He's very artistic!" "Of course! It all makes total sense!' the officer replied sardonically. "Well now he can express himself and clean up the mess, thank you for your input sir!" The police officer was really starting to get on Mr. Knoll's nerves. "Well" said the officer in a less mocking tone "Perhaps we don't have to take this so far, hmm? Courts are so tough on kids." He almost sounded sympathetic. "Perhaps simple repayment for the damages is in order." Mr. Knoll seemed to relax. "Perhaps you're right, officer. But-" Mr. Knoll came back around, realizing what the officer was trying. He clenched his teeth as a vein in his head became so visible, one could see it twitching. My son" he roared "is innocent, unless you can prove him otherwise!" "Well he's under arrest" came back the officer "until you have better alibis."
Knoll's yelling evidently reached the ends of the library, as now all eyes were on that small group. I looked up at the faces staring. I looked back down as I saw which one was approaching.
"What's going on?" Marcella asked. "These punks" said the officer "vandalized our library. And this fellow" said the officer, pointing towards a panting Mr. Knoll "disagrees."
"We're innocent!" the older boy burst out. I looked up at Marcella. I could tell what she was thinking. I was about to pull her aside to say 'Marcella, don't get involved, you know what happens when', but, as fate would have it, my nerves failed to respond in time.
"He's telling the truth" she said. "What? replied the officer. "How could you possibly tell?" She looked up at the handcuffed boys (the officer didn't waste his time just talking, evidently, and made sure Dorian was bound as well) and back to the officer. "They didn't do it." The officer harrumphed. "Than who would?" "Somebody else, but not them." The officer was about to drag the two off when it seemed that some Marcella told him just clicked. "You know what? I'll give them a chance to a fair trial." he said. "But they have half an hour to prove themselves innocent. If they fail to do that, they're coming with me. Downtown". he removed the handcuffs and said he couldn't wait to 'see them later'. Dorian shuddered a little at that. "Where's my wife?" asked Knoll after the officer left. "I think she's asleep in the-" "Still sleeping? Ugh, why isn't she doing something?" He muttered off to the back room to himself.
Marcella asked how the officer came to arresting the two of them. I explained the whole thing with the sneakers. She sighed, as if tired of my antics. When would I learn? "Mar" I took her aside "We have a problem. How will we prove those two innocent? I even" I paused "think they did it" I said in whisper. Marcella inhaled to sigh, then simply told me to follow her. We wound up going back to the back room of the library where Mr. Knoll was. Mrs. Knoll was still asleep in the chair. "There's your perp" said Mar quietly. "That's insane!" I whispered harshly. How could it be Mrs. Knoll?
"Well" said Mar "wouldn't that sabotage the presentation?" Mar could tell by my reaction that I wasn't getting anything out of this. "Look" she said "When I talked to her husband, he totally came down. Like an elephant standing on a house of cards. He explained that his wife kept nagging him about his kid, as if she didn't want to deal with him." I still couldn't see where she was taking this. "She said she was in a rush this morning. Perhaps it's because she went to bed late- very late, maybe?" "Mar, this is lunacy!" She gave me a look and I shut up. Regular logic was not at work here. "It's also obvious" she said "that she's sick of him, or at least his behaviour. He's made her a lackey, can't you see? Grab this, get me that, she hates it! That's all she is to him!" I realized that there was a good- insane, but good- chance that she was right. "Alright" I said. "Where do we take this?" Mar smiled. "We take it home."
We approached Dorian and asked him if he could take us to his house. He gladly co-operated and began taking us out of the library when we were interrupted. "Where do you punks think you're headed?" The officer from earlier was leaning against the library wall. "To get our evidence!" snapped Mar.
"Well" replied the officer in mock shock "just excuse me! Enjoy your twenty minutes." Dorian led us to his house. It was five minutes away from my own. "Hang on" he said, shoving a hand into his pocket. "I don't have my key!" "Well this is potentially troublesome." "Wait" he said with a flick of hope as we got nearer the door "there's a spare under the rug!" Without thinking I dashed to the welcome mat and felt the key. As I pulled it out, I also felt something crawling on my hand. It was a large, irritated centipede. As I recoiled in terror, the key flew from my hand into an unfortunately neglected, overgrown lawn. and I fell over backwards onto a potted plant. "Well this is just brilliant!" yelled Dorian, stomping. He was really quite infuriated now, and ran up to his house, and kicked the door frame so hard the shutters shuddered. I looked at Mar as if to say 'I told you so', but she was looking at something else, transfixed on some item that lay beside me in the grass. "Jack" she said, as if I'd uncovered a lost empire. "Jack, you did it!" Before I could ask what i did, Mar had grabbed the item and was dashing for the library. I pursued her with Dorian following close behind. I caught up to her at the intersection. She always seemed to halt whenever she came to them. 'what" I asked, gasping "have I done?" "You've solved the case, Jack!" "I did? Care to show me how?" "Alright" she said, before dashing off again. I had to chase her, again, all the way back to the library. Dorian was on the verge of collapse. We found the officer where we left him.
"Right on time" he said. "Care to explain how this kid's innocent, or should I pull my handcuffs out?" "Pull them out" said Mar. "I know the real perp, and it's not this kid, or the other." Mar had the officer follow her into the library, and told him to wait, listening, at the back room.
"Mrs. Knoll!" She awoke the woman and explained the situation. The old situation. "So my son vandalized the library? Ohh..." She put her hand to her forehead in the most melodramatic way possible, and exclaimed loudly "If only he had more attention!" "Well ma'am, if only" said Mar coldly. "But he's going to have fix this. And you're going to have to pay hefty fines on his behalf." Mar seemed like an authority in this area. She also seemed quite statuesque and imposing, despite Mrs. Knoll having a good head and a half on her. "He may even spend some time in a detention center." The woman shifted uncomfortably, and bit her lip. Mar stood up and headed for the door.
"Wait" said the woman. Mar smiled slyly for a fraction of a second and whirled to face Mrs. Knoll.
"Yes?" "I have a confession to make. My son isn't responsible for the vandalism. It was-" "I'm aware of who it was, Mrs. Knoll." "You know I did it?" "Yes. Now would you care to inform the police?" With that, the officer stepped into the room.
"Thank you, young lady" he said "But there's a problem. How do we know she isn't covering up for her son?" At that, I stepped into the room with the bag Marcella had me hold earlier. It was a transparent plastic bag, and inside were clearly sweat-clothes. Stained with black. "I think this is evidence enough."
"Circumstantial, young lady," said the officer. "Anybody can put black paint on sweat-clothes. Where did you get those?" "Directly outside the door of the accused, sir." "In that case, I think we have... A case!" The officer laughed to himself. "Just one question for you, Mrs. Knoll." She looked up at him. "Why did I write 'Sammich Machine, right?" He nodded. "It's because that's how I feel, and I-" "You wanted to express yourself" the officer mocked. "Well you have. Now you'll be cleaning machine. Please come with me, to my care. You're coming-" "Down-Town, I know." the woman mocked back, rolling her eyes.
Mr. Knoll decided to reschedule the event that day. On my way out, I saw him holding Dorian's shoulder. I couldn't help smiling. Maybe they'd be brought closer together thanks to this trial. Whatever the case, though, something inside me suddenly churned. As I came out, mulling the possibility of mistrial, I heard a gravelly "Hey you". I turned and saw the older kid. He walked up to me and shook my hand, thanking me for the help. He turned and then spoke to Dorian. "So are you ready?" he asked. I suddenly remembered why I was suspicious in the first place. My nerves reacted too slowly, however, as Mr. Knoll was the first to ask 'for what?'. "For Linux" said the older kid. "Is that some sort of drug?" asked Mr. Knoll, aghast. The older kid looked into his eyes very, very intently, and severely, before he burst out laughing.
"No, sir.It's an operating system." "A what?" "Dad!" piped Dorian "For our computer! This is an upgrade, Dad." "Oh" replied Mr. Knoll. "Carry on, then."
I found Mar at my home. She left the library roughly two minutes before I did, yet how she managed to be settled on my couch explaining just what occurred that day to my parents is far beyond my understanding. She had me sit down and left me to fill in a couple blanks she had missed out on.
In all, I'm grateful she dragged me into this. That night, as I went to bed, I tried thinking of what Mar had in store for me tomorrow. I found myself too exhausted, however, to attempt.

 Here are the winners of that contest:

A big congratulations to all who won!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Tetris Friends

Tetris goes back a long time!
For a long time, I've been a fan of Tetris; it's one of my favorite games of all time. It's beautiful, for starters, even on the Game Boy version that had no colors, it's exciting and relaxing at the same time (don't ask how- you need to play it to understand this) has excellent replay value, and is extremely easy to pick up.
So try and imagine the gameplay of regular Tetris, stacking falling blocks so that a row eliminates itself. Now try and imagine that mechanic in a sort of race, with several people clearing as many rows as fast as possible. Throw in the fact that as one player eliminates lines, they become the burden of another player, with loads of power ups that add to the mayhem, and you've got yourself Tetris Friends.
I've found this one very enjoyable, for in addition to the brilliant multiplayer, there are quite a few other versions of Tetris, both single and multiplayer that are well made.
One thing I enjoyed was the in-game currency, coins earned by playing (and more important- winning)
games that can be used to buy in-game items, such as different designs for your falling blocks (tetrominoes) and other things.
I also like their matchmaking system, because while you start at the bottom, after your first game (depending on how well you played!) you'll either game experience points in the form of stars, or, if you did very well, be promoted much higher to a level that meets your skills. You're also given the option of whether or not to be promoted, thus, if you still want to practice on overwhelmed on higher levels or simply want practice on the lower, you can have it.
In all, I simply love Tetris Friends. They've taken Tetris very, very far, but it doesn't at all feel "stretched", as if the developers were trying too hard to make something new.
Controls are also superb, the graphics are excellent as far as Flash games go, and it's all presented quite well.
My single gripe is that, at the time of my writing this review, you have to pick an avatar from a group of pre-made avatars, as opposed to uploading your own. This, I suppose, though, might be for safety reasons, since they'd likely have difficulty tracking down those uploading offensive material.
That aside, everything else on Tetris Friends is absolutely perfect. A big shout-out to all the developers, beta testers, and Alexey Pajitnov behind it.

Official Website
An interesting first person variant of Tetris
Information about Tetris in general, including history, origins, etc.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Daughter of the Flames

Daughter of the Flames, by Zoe Marriott, is a fantasy novel about a girl with a shattered path, lying before her a path of splintered, broken glass.
The book opens on a shrill note of alarm; instantly Marriott transports you into another world that might've existed a very long time ago, not too far away.
Our protagonist faces Hamlet sized conflict with regard to her identity; is she Zira or Zahira? Rua or Sedorne (the two nationalities in the book) and can she pick a side without being a traitor?

I have to be honest, the first eleven chapters didn't hold much for me, they felt sort of like an over-lengthy prologue/intro and kind of cliched. But, after that, the book really takes off! The author took advantage of my favorite element (that being surprise) and not only manages to construct a brilliant fictional universe, but actually makes you look up from the book every so often because you begin to wonder if you really are somehow there.
In all, I enjoyed this, it makes for pretty good reading during a long flight/drive/journey across forbidden land. 3.5/5 stars.

Further Reading:
The authors official website.
Another review of this book.