Yes, it has all the stuff you hear about: how people use stats to subtly (and not-so-subtly) misdirect the reader/listener, how to systematically reco...moreYes, it has all the stuff you hear about: how people use stats to subtly (and not-so-subtly) misdirect the reader/listener, how to systematically recognize (or create) misinterpretations, and a strong implicit call to action for clearer information in public discourse.
But in the billion years since this classic came of age, we've all learned that other ways, some of them better presented. When it was written, many people believed the information they received in the papers, in magazines, and on the news. Now, news shows spend their time trying to discredit bloggers who point out their biases. Our cynicism has evolved to the point where How to Lie With Statistics teaches valuable technique, but loses much of its insight-producing novelty.
You should still read it, though, for two reasons:
- It's a classic. It's a great, simple read and you want to be able to say, "As it says in so classic and simple a book as How to Lie With Statistics--which, Professor, you have obviously studied--you are clearly hiding the truth!"
- No other book presents such a concise set of instructions for noticing when you have misled someone inadvertently. I frequently notice some document I'm preparing using a technique--quite often one built-in to popular business communication tools--that misleads people as to the real meaning of the data.
Because I've read this, I can catch myself and make sure I present my case clearly, but unimpeachably. If I mislead my audience, they'll catch me; They'll catch me and tear me apart, even if I were right.
So check out this classic, overlook its implicit innocence, learn some dirty tricks you may have forgotten or not caught, and pay attention to how you've been trained to use them just like we all have.
Bonus bit: my favorite bad statistics technique: Bar graphs with images for bars. As they grow taller, they grow wider, making a number twice as big appear four times as large. (less)
I had high hopes that this would be a three-star book; sadly, it isn't. And it isn't the unsupportable world (she's writing her way out of that, slowl...moreI had high hopes that this would be a three-star book; sadly, it isn't. And it isn't the unsupportable world (she's writing her way out of that, slowly), the doormat of a protag (that's getting better over time), or the whoppers that torment the language like a Dominican Inquisitor (she's really improving there, which is good but also kind of sad).
This time, the problem is the the deep-seated assumption on the superiority of the "hero" characters and the protagonist's need to acquiesce to their blatant disregard for who gets hurt.
The plot is reasonable: Archer (our protag rape-survivor-turned-superhero-who-has-taken-over-the-life-of-her-millionaire-heiress-playboy-playmate-sister, because we don't want too much wish fulfillment here--see my reviews of Scent of Shadows and Taste of Night) has a doppleganger out to get her (and she doesn't know what a doppleganger is, oddly), has younger members of her super-Troop out to get her, screwed up (maybe) and broke the accepted order of the Light/Shadow world (causing the Light to lose access to the archive of what's happening and probably killing the changeling dedicated to protecting the Light heroes in neutral space), and the whole city is about to be destroyed (or thrown into another dimension), which has even her being-of-pure-evil-thoughts-father trying to work with her.
Not great, but reasonable. The storyline whereby the changeling is damaged has real potential. Sadly, it gets almost no attention other than comic relief.
The writing keeps getting better. Pettersson can write action pretty well. Whether it's a 15-person combat in a canyon, a knock-down-drag-out fight in a bathroom, or a sneaking around the mansion of a crazy, evil, and paranoid man, it works: the tension is right and it never falls into the common "too much happening, can't follow it in my head" pit.
Unfortunately, the problems from the first book, where Archer was knocked unconscious, drugged, physically altered to look, smell, and sound like her dead sister, and forced into a charade spying on the step-father she hates--and we are supposed to think it was appropriate--are back in force.
This time, Archer's only character development is learning to do the same thing to the man she loves. While sleeping with the man who's telling her to do it.
A recurring line in the book is about how Archer has to accept that her access to both Shadow and Light powers makes her "biologically different" and how she has to stop trying to act like a "normal" Light hero; she is encouraged to accept that she may know how to do something they don't understand and that she should do it anyway. The subtext, though, is that she is "biologically different" from the normal people around her and that she knows better than they do, not only how to protect the city from the Shadow Troop, but whom they should sleep with, where they should live(1), and even whether they should be allowed to be who they are.
The Light agents are horrified at the thought that Archer may have accidentally killed someone, but they are equally horrified that she won't capture someone, erase their memories, and give them a new personality just because they think he may be tempted by the Shadows.
In Pettersson's world, having power makes you morally superior and redemption is something you have handed to you by someone with more power (another theme in the book, but that would take serious spoilers).
Of course, I don't know that disagreeing with its randroid worldview is enough to knock a star off the review, so let's say I did it for the hamfisted handling of the "romance" storyline and the painful three-page sex scene that went on about how she was just using him to get off so she didn't have to think about her troubles.
I don't know if I'll give book 4 a read or not.
----- 1) She sends her friends out of town for the duration of the book, which takes unnecessary page time except to built the expectation that She Knows Best.(less)
If you're not in on the joke, you'll find And Your Point Is? a bit of a strange read.
It's a collection of 15 essays critiquing the work of science fi...moreIf you're not in on the joke, you'll find And Your Point Is? a bit of a strange read.
It's a collection of 15 essays critiquing the work of science fiction author Jeff Lint. His stories confounded conventional plot structure and his heroes confounded logic, reason, and etiquette. Several essays compare and contrast him to Kafka, two discuss how his plays and musicals really get the audience involved (one requires setting the theater on fire, another releases live scorpions into the seats, etc.), and many try to explain and dissect his characters' ability--or even compulsion--to commit social non sequitors when confronted with adversity.
Lint was a direct successor to Voltaire, Kafka, Sheckley, Lem, and Juster, propelled from their platform so far into the stratosphere most readers could not see where he was, much less where he was going.
Lint was also completely fictional. He first appeared a couple of years ago in Lint, Aylett's biography of the character. Lint let Aylett's present his "new fabulist" writing philosophy, connect (and appropriate) a wide history of science fiction's more colorful characters (Dick, Ellison, Campbell...) and legends, and entertain us as only Aylett can. Aylett's characters are Lint's characters writ small; putting the most irascible one in the real world gave him all sorts of ways to play.
So this collection of 15 essays with 11 names attached are all by Aylett and they review and analyze fictional stories written in a fictional context by a fictional author. They even cross-reference one another and draw differing conclusions. (Very Stanislau Lem-like)
So... now that I'm in on the joke, is the book fun?
As if you have to ask. Aylett takes literary criticism and makes it laugh-out-loud, stop to write down a quote, SMS-a-line-to-your-friend funny. And you come to know the characters and stories, since even when the characters have different names and appear in different books they are similar enough to see how the "author" works and thinks. Lint isn't the real protagonist of the story behind these essays, Lint's writing is. The abstract story of the world-view expressed by a fictional author--and how it changes over time--might as well appear with essays as its supporting case. They do what secondary characters do in a more traditional story: they give the protagonist a chance to speak, they ask the hard questions, and they wonder at the protagonists' brilliance.
If you like Aylett's more outré books (such as the Accomplice novels), you'll appreciate how And Your Point Is? gives Aylett a chance to dissect his protagonists (say, Barney Juno); if you're a fan of his more accessible work (such as Fain the Sorcerer), you'll see what is just beyond; if you haven't ever read Aylett, you'll get a chance to experience his words, his sentences, and his writing (all three separate entities, trust me) for the first time.
I've always been a fan of the "fictional nonfiction," when well done. Aylett handles it beautifully.
About 1/4 into Small Favor I found myself wondering if Harry Dresden was about to magically jump a shark. By the end, I had decided it might be the be...moreAbout 1/4 into Small Favor I found myself wondering if Harry Dresden was about to magically jump a shark. By the end, I had decided it might be the best book in the series.
Well, he actually does kind of jump a shark, but he was in an aquarium at the time.
Favor put us firmly back in Dresden's home territory. Someone has kidnapped his least-favorite sometimes-ally "Gentleman" Marcone and he's being coerced into saving him by an old enemy. His allies in faerie-land are trying to kill him. His friend Michael is seriously doubting whether Harry is trustworthy. And he winds up stuck in the convergence of conflicts between the Seelie and Unseelie courts and between the Knights of the Cross and the Denarian demons. And just for fun, with Kincaid and Sergeant Murphy along for the ride, still bristling from their breakup.
Thematically, this book is about divided loyalties, trust, and--most centrally--what it means to be good instead of evil. The central morals of Harry, Sergeant Murphy, Michael, Sanyo (another Knight of the Cross), and even the mercenaries Kincaid and Gard are roughly similar, but each draws different lines around what is required and what is allowed to be good.
Marcone and The Archive (a super-efficent magical database of all written knowledge ever, but housed in a little girl) serve as the background to the moral debate: Marcone's morality is strongly personal, running his criminal empire and ruining whatever lives it costs while still going out of his way to save and help individuals he sees in distress. The Archive is impersonal, fighting to keep emotional attachments from driving her insane while she hold humanity's heritage against any disaster. They are each afraid to join human society fully, worried that they won't be able to reconcile their job with their humanity.
The book is back in classic Dresden form in other ways, too. Harry doesn't rely on odd moments of insight that come like deus ex machina in some of the other books. He doesn't build plans that last longer than a day. And he doesn't ever rely on his intelligence over his wit, his wits, and his ability to break things very, very well. He's good at mouthing off, pushing people into making mistakes, and doing not-subtle magic with collateral damage. And he has charisma and leadership only Murphy can match. In Small Favor he leaves the other stuff to the pros. Just like the good old days.
In a lot of ways, this is what Storm Front would have been if Butcher had been a better writer at the time. It has more complex character interactions than the first book in a series can sustain and it assumes some (but not too much) knowledge of the backstory, but it hits the themes of the series without sacrificing the action and faith in himself that make Harry who he is. .(less)
Burning Bridges, the book before Free Fall pushed the Retrievers story off a cliff: "Wren" Valere and her partner/boyfriend Sergei split up, each thin...moreBurning Bridges, the book before Free Fall pushed the Retrievers story off a cliff: "Wren" Valere and her partner/boyfriend Sergei split up, each thinking they were pushing the other away to protect them, her demon friend P.B. revealed that he is her familiar, whether she wants it or not, P.B. and Sergei were colluding instead of bickering, The Silence was the enemy instead of the client, and Valere was a leader instead of staying in the background and keeping her head down. While it was a fun book, it looked like the end of everything that made the series good.
Fortunately, this book sets out to undo most of the previous. In the several months since Bridges, Wren has taken small jobs on her own and tried to distance herself from the debacle at the Brooklyn Bridge. She's avoided Sergei completely and had P.B. move in so she can keep an eye on him. She is once again the lonejack Wren everyone expects: no one can get her involved in anything except her own life.
Early in the book, someone--presumably The Silence--sets her up and she winds up captured by three Nulls (non-magic-using humans) who are geared up to be protected from her magic. As they hold her down and discuss whether raping her is acceptable (if she's human, it is, they decide, but since she's a magic user....) she tries to find a way to escape and has to make a choice: is she willing to kill to protect herself? Either answer would be traumatic and her friends' response to either would not help.
This sets the theme of the book. Wren is haunted by her decision to kill the attackers, she is afraid of the deep, old power she called on to do so, and her friends don't understand why it bothers her at all. She is going slowly insane, closer to "wizzing" every day, and her friends can't do anything but watch. P.B. even encourages it to some extent. And having crossed the line to intentionally killing people, even in self-defense, she decides to let Thou Shalt Not Kill go the same way Thou Shalt Not Steal has and take the battle to The Silence. Since she's a thief, she decides to play to her strengths this time (unlike in Bridges) and do what she does best: she plans to "steal" back the young magic users The Silence has kidnapped and brainwashed to fight them.
It's an audacious plot and a strong character story as she wrestles with the morality and consequences of what she's doing. There is a short foreward by the author about why the series is on the Luna line, which publishes romantic fantasy, when there is little traditional romance in it. She points out that the series focuses on the personal relationships Valere forms and that love, not just lust, infatuation, or need, is an acceptable subject for romance.
If you liked the books before Bridges, you'll like this one quite a bit. If you liked Bridges, this is a nice continuation. Valere still takes some leadership moments, mostly when she's closest to wizzing, but she's closer to character (and more comfortable with what she's doing). P.B. reveals more about what demons are. Sergei proves his loyalties and we learn whether his faith in Andre is well-founded.
There are a few problems with the book, mostly around the ending (where the timing gets confused) and around how Wren's descent into madness is shown. Gilman relies a lot on the "she knew something was wrong but didn't know what' device, which fails when it's overused and when the reader doesn't know precisely which wrong thing it means. The addiction storyline with Sergei needs more time than it's getting to make sense, but hopefully that is the next book.
All in all, one of the better books in the series. If you like the genre and the characters, worth a read.(less)
The Tiffany Aching books (so far, 3 of the 4 YA Discworld novels) are by far the best of Discworld. Funny, smart, and taking the reader on a life-less...moreThe Tiffany Aching books (so far, 3 of the 4 YA Discworld novels) are by far the best of Discworld. Funny, smart, and taking the reader on a life-lesson journey of the sort that should be required CEUs for keeping your Adult License.
This one returns to the themes of Hogfather and the recurring Pratchett theme of Life as a Story. Tiffany accidentally injects herself into the annual myth-story of the seasons, this time around equinox celebrations (samhain and beltane), whereas Hogfather was around the mythology of midwinter. The equinoxes are less violent a change than the solstice, but any Pratchett reader knows to expect that the more subtle the change, the greater the danger, both to the world and to the protagonist.
As with all the Tiffany Aching stories, even of all the witch stories, the plot centers around Tiffany learning what the problem is and eventually finding the way that sort of problem is designed to be solved. The model is that a problem always defines its solution. Tiffany steps into the biannual dance between Summer and Winter, interfering with the process and causing Winter to become obsessed with her.
Because she jumped in and danced at the samhain festival, Winter spends his six months pursuing her and becoming sentient; in essence, converting from a force of nature (an elemental) to a god. Tiffany doesn't know what to do about it, and Granny Weatherwax won't tell her.
Everything with witches is a test, and with Granny Weatherwax around it's a test with high stakes. She has clearly marked Tiffany as a special witch (her probably successor as the unstated first among equals with the witches) and she takes the opportunity to test Tiffany against the Wintersmith--a formidable entity in his own right, even disregarding the anger his Summertime counterpart has at Tiffany taking over her role--but also to use Tiffany as a pawn in a bit of political one-upsmanship against the rising witch star Miss Earwig.
Of course, as with all of Granny's machinations, if it works it will leave everyone better off, with only the witches knowing she scored a point and even her detractors admitting she improved life for them, and as always Tiffany breaks the unwritten rule and openly discusses the politics. And, of course, there is a different set of life lessons for Tiffany (and her friends, and Miss Earwig) tied up in the plan.
Unlike some of the other books, Wintersmith doesn't have a lot of plot-oriented action. Tiffany faces the Wintersmith in various guises as he woos her, but much of Tiffany's time is taken up with distractions: the death of her current mentor, Granny's politics, Nanny Ogg's own special brand of instruction (*ahem*), growing adolescent confusion around her friendship with "her young man"), struggles dealing with the "modern" witchcraft of the snobby Ammagramma (Earwig's student), and homesickness for the sheep-farming plains. Fortunately, her way of handling these do not coalesce into one set of skills needed for the major plot at hand; Pratchett is too good of a writer to fall into that lazy trap.
So this is another good Tiffany Aching book. Suitable for the YA crowd (actually quite tame for them) but not in any way condescending for adults, funny (but not as funny-for-funny's-sake as some of the main-line Discworld books), excellent story, and very strong character development.
Absolutely worth a read. If you aren't a Discworld fan yet, try start with the Aching books (Wee Free Men is the first, the Hat Full of Stars), then jump to Witches Abroad and read them from there. (Skip the earlier ones unless you're a completist).(less)
Despite the title, most of this book is about the author's relationship with her father and doesn't even occur in the mansion. But Playground: A Child...moreDespite the title, most of this book is about the author's relationship with her father and doesn't even occur in the mansion. But Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside My Father's Malibu Home wouldn't sell as many books.
The author's father was Hugh Hefner's personal physician and best friend for decades. When her parents divorced she began spending time at the Playboy Mansion to see her father and eventually moved to her father's house, going to the mansion after school. Playground attempts to analyze the damage her father's attitude towards parenting--and her parents' way of using her as a weapon against one another--has done in her life.
The promised titillation is there: pre-teen drugs, wild parties, celebrities in compromising or embarrassing positions, teenage love affair with Hefner's girlfriend, mob hit-men, South American drug runners, and a parade of fashion and music that covers twenty-plus years of L.A. excess. But the book isn't as lurid as the cover copy suggests. Saginor uses the outrageous episodes to plot how she changed from angry at one parent to angry at another, from excited to scared, and from enthused to numb.
The story goes from tabloid to insight when Jennifer begins to drift off the trajectory her father is following. She implies that her father was getting more extreme (and in one part--while using injected drugs--he almost certainly was), but this coincides with Jennifer's late teens and we can also see her own maturation in the way she recognizes how out-of-touch her father is with the notion of consequences.
We've seen this sort of book before, of course, whether in celebrity tell-alls or Brett Easton Ellis-alike fiction. Saginor's version is interesting for the contrasts she provides. We see her life in the contexts of upper-class families, high school, her serious-minded and loving grandfather, her father's wild friends and their manipulative and dangerous world, and at the mansion, where fun is free-flowing and consequences are handled by each person individually as best they can.
The mansion serves as a neutral ground for putting her life with her family into relief. She has friends there (some celebrities, playmates, and staff); she can retreat there to reflect; and no one (at least, no one mentioned in the book) pressures or threatens her there. Towards the end, she comments that Hugh Hefner is the one person who allowed her to be a child. Using the mansion this way is effective, especially as her father's household gets more out of touch with reality and the mansion seems like a safe refuge for normalcy.
The writing is passable, although there are a number of sudden jumps in tone or place that made me re-read sections to follow them. I'm not fond of the present tense artifice, but it isn't too bad here. What Saginor does very, very well, though, is to ground the story in a sense of time. People wear clothes that evoke a particular moment in the 80's, they listen to music in one chapter that will be gone in the next, and the fashion designers and labels, as well as the movie or star who popularized a particular look, will revivify the moment for anyone who was alive and in America at the time.
This is a really quick read and it's worth it if you're interested in the genre.(less)
As with all the Smart Pop series, the word "unauthorized" is displayed twice prominently on the front cover and again on the spine, but make no mistak...moreAs with all the Smart Pop series, the word "unauthorized" is displayed twice prominently on the front cover and again on the spine, but make no mistake: show creator (and frequent episode writer) Rob Thomas edited this collection of essays, penned the opening piece, and provided a half- to one-page response to each chapter. The CW owns the show, but Thomas was its heart and soul, so this is as authorized as most fans care about.
If you haven't seen the show, a few of these essays will seem pointless, but even then most of them will read as well as any media analysis out there. Authors vary from media studies professors to critics, writers, fans, and psychologists.
As expected, the essays are uneven but none fall to embarrassing levels and a few stand out as excellent. Thomas' responses are highlights of the book. He provides the expected anecdotes and "aw shuck"-ing but he adds context that helps interpret the essays.
The book is handicapped by having been published between seasons two and three. Since the show ended after season three, waiting a year would have provided a complete view of the run. As it is, many of the essays are left pondering if or how future seasons will challenge their thesis.
Over those first two seasons, the same episodes and the same lines from the theme appear repeatedly in the essays. This is good: it gives multiple views of the most-effective episodes and draws the (carefully chosen) theme song into most of the character elements in the series. But because of this, these episodes are discussed in detail and the finales of both seasons one and two are the most popular. If you haven't seen these, be aware that you'll know (almost) everything about them by the time you've finished the book.
Whether you like the show, are interested in its popularity, or are interested in media studies and screenwriting, Neptune Noir is a worthwhile read.
Specific comments on a few of the essays:
"Introduction: Digressions on How Veronica Mars Saved My Career and, Less Importantly, My Soul" by Rob Thomas is the obligatory "How I created the show" reminiscence. It's a fine read, but doesn't add anything to the show itself; it's really about Thomas. It has the expected amount of self-congratulatory tone (how he fell from grace into the writing schlock, how VM was his last, best hope to write something he cared about, yadda yadda yadda) but isn't overly sanctimonious. I was pleasantly surprised.
"Welcome to Camp Noir" by Lani Diane Rich finally provides a term to describe the show. I'd argue that "arch" is more appropriate than "camp," but it's a good term that most people who haven't seen the show can "get." Thomas' reaction (about how much he hates camp) is interesting. The essay does a good job identifying which characters bring the camp/arch elements and which supply the noir (and how the major characters balance or meld the two). A high point of the book.
"Story Structure and Veronica Mars" by Geoff Klock. I was very excited about this one, but it turns out to be a first-year walkthrough of one episode of VM. Not bad, but not what the title promised.
"Veronica Mars: Girl. Detective." by Evelyn Vaughn suggests that VM herself is allowed--in TV culture--to get away with her behavior because of her "girly" elements. Not quite a feminist analysis, this is worth a think.
"Daddy’s Girl" by Joyce Millman is the obligatory Freudian analysis of the show as Electra complex. Had to be here and Millman does a credible job with it.
"Daddy Dualities" by Amy Berner is a better analysis of the Kieth/Veronica dynamic. Berner contrasts all of the recurring fathers on the show (including Duncan).
"On the Down-Low" by Lynne Edwards is very short, but provides the most interesting view in the book. Edwards discusses the use of race in the show, from the lynching symbolism in the pilot to the appropriation signifying from American black culture.
"The Duck and the Detective" by Chris McCubbin addresses the question of why VM has so many avowedly conservative fans. I noticed a conservative bent while watching the show (in the traditional, Goldwater Conservative, sense) and McCubbin tries to identify elements of the show that appeal to that demographic--as well as to explain why these don't turn off more liberal viewers.
"I’m in Love with My Car" by Lawrence Watt-Evans discusses the use of cars and motorcycles in the show. VM shows people in cars more than almost any other show on the air and Watt-Evans describes their use of vehicles more as costuming than props, with the model, age, and look of each car chosen to match the character and scene. Certainly Logan's bright yellow SUV/Jeepy thing is a significant part of his character, but the other observations Watt-Evans makes would never have occurred to me.
"Boom Goes the Dynamite" by Misty Hook is the obligatory Veronica/Logal "shipper" essay. Enough said.
"Innocence Lost" by Samantha Bornemann hypothesizes that "teen girl drama" began in 1994 with the much-lamented) Claire Danes vehicle My So-Called Life and contrasts VM with that and Buffy (of course). It's a shallow comparison and a shallow premise (readers older than 25, or who have seen television from before 1990, will certainly challenge the claim that MSCL was completely unprecedented), but Buffy is the elephant in the room of any 20-oriented drama circa 2000, so someone had to do it.
Overall, a good read that helps enjoy the show. It also makes a more informed viewer for other shows in or near the genre.
Just be sure you've seen all of season 2 first.(less)
Third book in the entertaining Felix Gomez vampire detective series. The second book set a high bar with strong character and character development as...moreThird book in the entertaining Felix Gomez vampire detective series. The second book set a high bar with strong character and character development as well as pushing the world with hints about vampire history and how certain vampire powers work. It also did away with the silly and poorly described alien plotline in the first book.
This volume picks up the alien story and redeems it, but it's a straight procedural/action story; don't expect the same pontification or subtlety as X-Rated Bloodsuckers.
Felix is called to the death bed of his replaced-by-an-alien friend from the first book. The alien has been shot with some sort of extraterrestrial blaster and he's too far gone to say much. He gives Felix a name, the blaster, a roll of money, some map coordinates, and a request: "Save the Earth women."
Now who could pass up a hook like that?
Soon, Felix is off the the Florida keys investigating the murder. He stays at an island resort for vampires and their humans and gets a command to follow the same investigation from the secret vampire masters.
The sex plot (this series always has one) splits into two threads. The undead kama sutra of the title is a possibly-mythical document explaining how vampires can use sex magic to accomplish many things, including healing themselves from serious injury. Felix' friend at the resort is researching it and Felix is interested in her discoveries. The other thread is a new collection of drugs for sale proven to increase bust size, erection strength, hair growth, etc., and all with side effects including increased libido. Of course we'll start to see connections between the alien killing, the drugs, a not-mysterious plane crash the Arcanum sends him to investigate, and the corridors of power ruling the whole G5.
As a straight conspiracy/action/mystery, this works fine. There are some goofy bits (a sudden friendship with a bum, a spider whose bite allows vampires to endure sunlight, and the heights of politics that haven't shown up before in the series), but these are not unpleasant and may lead to something in later books.
In fact, this is the first of the books that feels like part of a series. It brings back plot elements we thought were dropped, it introduces characters and McGuffins we should expect to see again, it advances Felix' relationship with the Arcanum in interesting ways, and it clearly ends with the next book in mind.
One thing to be aware of: ending with the next book in mind means lots of loose ends and lots of things in unpleasant states. The ending is even kind of a downer. Nonetheless, it's a fun book with many funny moments, entertaining action, and a good conspiracy-laden mystery promising powerful and interesting recurring opponents.