I picked this up at a used bookstore on Bainbridge Island while on vacation for two reasons -- I really like Sir Terry Pratchett, and this particularI picked this up at a used bookstore on Bainbridge Island while on vacation for two reasons -- I really like Sir Terry Pratchett, and this particular novel shares my name. So it seemed like fate I should pick it up. It was so short that I read it mostly in one sitting while still on vacation.
Being the ninth Discworld book, this may sound odd, but you can still tell this is early Pratchett, when he was still feeling out the world and the characters. It's still good, solid work, and it has some great comedic moments, but it's not as refined and sharp as his later work.
That said, if you are looking for a parody of the Trojan Horse myth, the tale of creation, or a "be careful what you wish for" genie story, all with hapless wizard Rincewind stuck in the middle and looking only to flee, look no further....more
Added to my to-read shelf after seeing this review:
A fun romp through (and at times subverting) tropes; recommended for those who enjoyed Ready Playe
Added to my to-read shelf after seeing this review:
A fun romp through (and at times subverting) tropes; recommended for those who enjoyed Ready Player One and thought, "What this book needs is more time in ZORK." Here’s book one: "It’s a simple story. Boy finds proof that reality is a computer program. Boy uses program to manipulate time and space. Boy gets in trouble. Boy flees back in time to Medieval England to live as a wizard while he tries to think of a way to fix things. Boy gets in more trouble. Oh, and boy meets girl at some point. Off to Be the Wizard is a light, comedic novel about computers, time travel, and human stupidity, written by Scott Meyer, the creator of the internationally known comic strip Basic Instructions. Magic will be made! Legends will be created! Stew will be eaten!"
Well that review clearly didn't correspond to how I felt about this book, which I couldn't even finish. The review's comparison to Ready Player One was unfair to that novel, which was fun and engaging and nerdy in all the right ways. Where RPO was a modern, socially acceptable and fun nerd, this book was a stereotypical 1980s basement-dwelling neckbeard troll nerd, as unlikable as they are socially inept -- just like protagonist Martin Banks. And it is hard enough with an unlikable main character, but add in a flimsy, ridiculous set-up and a blunted writing style that did not explain the character's motivations or actions and you've totally lost me.
Note, my one star review is not a reflection in any way of narrator Luke Daniels, who does a kick-ass job on Kevin Hearne's Hounded urban fantasy series....more
I ordered this and had been meaning to read it to my kids at bedtime, but hadn't found the time. When Terry Pratchett passed away, I promised myself II ordered this and had been meaning to read it to my kids at bedtime, but hadn't found the time. When Terry Pratchett passed away, I promised myself I would do it that night as a little tribute to him, and I went home and did. Unfortunately, life is not a fairy tale, and my kids were not interested at all, and so I finished reading the title story to myself while my kids jumped frantically around me. It was still a strangely cathartic experience. In another year or two I'll give this book another shot with my daughter, the older of my two kids, and see if it catches her interest at that point....more
If you know Jim Gaffigan's comedy, you know food made him famous -- especially the Hot Pocket. So it's no surprise that he wrote an ode to food. And iIf you know Jim Gaffigan's comedy, you know food made him famous -- especially the Hot Pocket. So it's no surprise that he wrote an ode to food. And it is funny, even hysterical in parts, but as with every book I've read from a comedian, there is just something lost in translation to the printed page. So read this, enjoy it, but don't expect it to be as good as Gaffigan's best stand-up bits....more
Reading this book was a struggle. It is definitive proof that humor is subjective. After seeing so many reviews comparing this favorably to ChristopheReading this book was a struggle. It is definitive proof that humor is subjective. After seeing so many reviews comparing this favorably to Christopher Moore, I figured I'd love it, but man was I wrong.
The endless insect asides, complete with Latin names and detailed descriptions, distracted from what should have been a fast paced, light read. The writing was subpar in an amateurish way. Neither the tone, nor the humor worked for me, although the story did pick up toward the end as the assassins converged on New York City, so maybe it deserves 2.5 stars -- but not enough to round up to 3 stars.
Also, I cannot wrap my mind around a critical question with Bob's plan to start an all-natural pest control business. He plans to use assassin bugs to kill the roaches and other insects infesting restaurants and businesses, but then how are the assassin bugs killed? It is mentioned that they need to breed in order to work, so they aren't sterile. It just makes no sense, the business would just then have an infestation of infinitely more terrifying hybrid assassin bugs....more
I was always a Garfield kid growing up. The first things I actually remember reading as a child were Garfield books that you could get through the SchI was always a Garfield kid growing up. The first things I actually remember reading as a child were Garfield books that you could get through the Scholastic newsletter -- named with obesity puns like Garfield Goes to Waist. I skipped right ahead to Zits as a teenager, and Dilbert as an adult office drone (as well as XKCD, Questionable Content, The Oatmeal, The Order of the Stick, and a number of other great web comics).
How exactly I missed Calvin and Hobbes I'm honestly not sure, but after seeing the excellent comics documentary Stripped, I remedied that more or less immediately.
And having done so, I understand all the praise for this comic. It isn't just about Watterson's beautiful and inimitable style of artwork, or the quality of the jokes -- not that either of those hurt the comic strip -- it is because Watterson understands the human condition, and was able to translate that into a few successive square boxes featuring drawings of a little boy and his stuffed tiger.
Unlike Dennis the Menace, a comic strip which bears a superficial likeness in that both boys are unapologetic troublemakers, this comic shows how imaginative and inquisitive the otherwise unruly boy can be, while simultaneously showing how trying being a parent can be, without villainizing or marginalizing any characters. A great example of this is Calvin's babysitter. While she is a villain to Calvin, she garners audience sympathy when she laments what she has to put up with to help pay for college.
The singular brilliance of Calvin and Hobbes is it's earnest and honest portrayal of family life, followed closely by the awesome animations of Calvin's wild imagination, featuring Spaceman Spiff, among others. Also, the comic strips themes are timeless -- you would have no idea it was published 25 years ago.
For evidence of Watterson's genius, just see the nine strips that make up The Racoon Story (scroll to the bottom of that page), which are not funny at all, but simply poignant....more
I read this after seeing this article about books to read before they are made into movies in 2014 -- and that this one will star Jason Bateman as proI read this after seeing this article about books to read before they are made into movies in 2014 -- and that this one will star Jason Bateman as protagonist Judd Foxman.
Probably because of the Jason Bateman adaptation, as well as the dysfunctional family theme, I'm seeing this compared to Arrested Development a good deal, but this reminded me more of the Hank Azaria comedy Eulogy and the British comedy Death at a Funeral, although darker than both. I mean, the beginning of this book was real darkest timeline kind of stuff, the grimdark of black comedies.
The novel really balances the depressing state of Judd's life -- not only contending with the death of his father, but the loss of his wife, home, and job after discovering his shock jock radio host boss in bed with his wife -- with the humor of tangled grown-up family dynamics. And while his outlook improves as he sorts through events, feelings, and old friends, family and acquaintances, it offers no easy, pat solutions about the difficult decisions he faces, and does not tie a bow at the end of the novel wrapping it up.
As for realism in the novel, which could be at odds considering its comedic elements, let me give a long-winded parallel. I waited tables to put myself through grad school around the time the movie Waiting came out. People would ask me if the movie, which depicted a day in the life of slackers Justin Long and Ryan Reynolds working in a chain restaurant, was anything like actually working in a chain restaurant. My answer was that no, no one day was like that, but if you distilled the entire three years I spent in the chain restaurant industry (at three locations for two different chains), then yes, it really captured the spirit. This novel did the same thing. While no one week in even the craziest of families could be this filled with drama and ridiculousness, it seems more like it shortened the time span for the sake of storytelling rather than being so absurd that it would have to be fictional. Author Jonathan Tropper does a really nice job of making a good size cast of three-dimensional characters that are easily differentiated, and have their own motives without villainizing any one character.
All in all, an excellent novel about love, life, family, exactly what it means to be an adult, and all while constantly making me smirk, nod my head, and even occasionally laugh out loud. I am looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation and will try to update this review with my opinion of that after I see it....more
I added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this blog post. After reading it, I fully endorse it as worthy of adding to your to-read shelf asI added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this blog post. After reading it, I fully endorse it as worthy of adding to your to-read shelf as well.
The premise is straightforward. Binder -- who is, to give a modern equivalent, very similar to Michael Scott from The Office -- is leading an expedition to ascend to the top of the Rum Doodle mountain peak. His companions include a translator that appears to not know the native language, a doctor who remains sick with various maladies, a navigator who gets thoroughly lost at every turn, a strongman who is weakened by "altitude sickness," a scientist who is convinced they are 153 feet above sea level while out at sea, and a group of hundreds of native porters, including Pong, a cook that makes inedible every food item he touches. Bedlam, naturally, ensues.
This book holds up very well for a book that's almost 60 years old, as, at its core, it is a comedy about human nature, which hasn't evolved nearly as much as we'd like to believe, despite all our technological advances....more
What a difference 39 books makes. I had previously read The Color of Magic, the first Discworld book, and came away mildly amused but generally unimprWhat a difference 39 books makes. I had previously read The Color of Magic, the first Discworld book, and came away mildly amused but generally unimpressed, and so did not read further in the series. Then, more than a year later, I saw this book for sale on Amazon.com for $1.99, and not even realizing it was a Discworld book, picked it up. After reading it, his progression as an author is night and day.
Pratchett now has full mastery over every nuance of the English language. His descriptions are sharp, his dialogue crisp, his observations witty, his asides sidesplitting. Not only does this book work as a humorous fantasy, it has graduated to a poignant social satire -- tackling racism, classism, self worth, smuggling, the difference between law and justice, and probably some other things I wasn't sharp enough myself to catch -- all while maintaining the humor level and keeping tongue firmly in cheek.
The specifics involve a copper, Sam Vimes, who has married into the aristocracy taking a holiday with his wife, young son, and "gentleman's gentleman" Willikins to her family estate in the country, a strange new world for a policeman from the city of Ankh-Morpork. In a lot of ways, the set-up reminded me of the movie Hot Fuzz.
On a more somber note, it is a truly strange and terrible world we live in where a mind as sharp and imaginative as Pratchett's can be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, but it gives me hope knowing that he published this and many other works after his diagnosis six or so years ago, and that he seems to be handling it better than doctors, and even he, expected....more
A quick read full of tons of "new rules" from Bill Maher, most very brief, some longer -- which are monologues taken from his show (which I don't watcA quick read full of tons of "new rules" from Bill Maher, most very brief, some longer -- which are monologues taken from his show (which I don't watch, so were new to me). Here are a few funny ones to give you an idea of his humor, and to illustrate how pop culture reliant they are, and hence how fast they will age:
New Rule: If your news organization’s website has more than three pictures of Eliot Spitzer’s hooker on it, you’re a porn site. The only difference: On a porn site, “Spitzer” is a verb.
New Rule: Someone has to explain to me the difference between eating the new McDonald’s Big Mac Snack Wrap— which is basically a handful of burger chunks, lettuce, cheese, and sauce all glopped together on a tortilla— and eating out of the garbage.
New Rule: No more studies warning us about how college students are binge drinking. What other kind of drinking do you think twenty-year-olds are doing, wine tasting? Of course they’re binge drinking. Hell, with this job market waiting for them, just be happy they’re not breaking into your house and stealing your prescription drugs.
New Rule: No black athletes in the Winter Olympics. There’s a reason we schedule these things in the cold and snow— so the tropical people won’t show up and kick our ass. Look, you’ve got football, basketball, the presidency. Is it too much to leave us the ice dancing?...more
I bought this book because a) the Tumblr of the same name often makes me laugh and reminisce about when I was in my twenties, and b) I like to supportI bought this book because a) the Tumblr of the same name often makes me laugh and reminisce about when I was in my twenties, and b) I like to support artists that put their product on the internet for free -- like this, The Oatmeal, Order of the Stick, etc.
While I wasn't blown away by the dead-tree version of Miss Koenig's quick humorous sketches, I wasn't disappointed either. I see this being a great gift for college age kids -- in fact, I think I'll pass my copy along to my younger cousin, who is currently a sophomore....more
I'm glad I read this after reading John Scalzi's Redshirts. Had I read The Android's Dream first, I would have been slightly disappointed in RedshirtsI'm glad I read this after reading John Scalzi's Redshirts. Had I read The Android's Dream first, I would have been slightly disappointed in Redshirts, as it wasn't as funny as The Android's Dream. And it wasn't just funny, either. It had memorable characters, great action sequences, and a plot filled with twists, turns and intergalactic political intrigue.
And to think I almost stopped reading this book in the first chapter when a character kills an alien dignitary with an anal device programmed to send farts with insulting scent messages, thinking it was too sophomoric for my tastes. I'm glad I didn't, as it gets exponentially better -- wittier and less low brow -- after that initial tonal display of this book....more
This web-comic is the perfect blend of D&D nerd humor and serial storytelling. After a few panels, you don't even realize the characters are littlThis web-comic is the perfect blend of D&D nerd humor and serial storytelling. After a few panels, you don't even realize the characters are little more than stick figures.
Smith discusses a wide variety of topics in this book -- what inspired him to make Clerks, the Weinstein's, making Cop Out with Bruce Willis, Wayne GrSmith discusses a wide variety of topics in this book -- what inspired him to make Clerks, the Weinstein's, making Cop Out with Bruce Willis, Wayne Gretsky, Red State, the Southwest incident, George Carlin, podcasts, Quentin Tarrantino, and meeting his wife. But if you are looking for any sort of motivation or advice in any of them, you can safely skip this book. If you are looking for occasionally funny, always interesting look at Hollywood from a fringe insider, this is a decent book to read. With that being said, if you have seen his spoken word performances -- An Evening with Kevin Smith, An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder, Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith, Kevin Smith: Too Fat For 40 -- or heard his podcasts, this book will not break much new ground for you, although Smith is a good enough storyteller to have his rehashed stories remain interesting....more
I was really enjoying this novel. It was told from the point-of-view of an interesting lead character, had a dark sense of humor, and some really coolI was really enjoying this novel. It was told from the point-of-view of an interesting lead character, had a dark sense of humor, and some really cool moments -- of violence, of contemplative and humorous narration, and of fish-out-of-water interactions with the local Icelanders -- but all that was washed away by one of the worst endings to any novel I have read in recent memory. First, (view spoiler)[a second love interest is introduced on the second to last page of the book, who -- surprise -- is also carrying Tomas's child (hide spoiler)], and then (view spoiler)[the book ends with an ambiguity as to whether or not Tomas even lives (hide spoiler)]. What an unbelievably awful way to end what would have been an interesting novel otherwise....more
This book is a funny look at love through a scientist's hypothesis/experimentation model of dating. It's not at all my typical kind of book, but thatThis book is a funny look at love through a scientist's hypothesis/experimentation model of dating. It's not at all my typical kind of book, but that made it more of a breath of fresh air.
There were, however, two aspects I didn't like.
1) The beginning of the first chapter flashed forward four months with unnecessary and heavy-handed foreshadowing.
2) The book's description, which implied the main character -- Gunnar Gunderson -- would have three days to find his soul mate. This set up an expectation that the book would take place over three days, where it actually took place (as the flash-forward makes clearer) over many months. But this was likely the editor or publisher's doing, and not the author's, as the author does not often write their book's jacket description....more
There are some interesting ideas about where we are going as a society and what technological advances we will see in the next two decades, but they aThere are some interesting ideas about where we are going as a society and what technological advances we will see in the next two decades, but they are lost amid uninspired prose and shallow character development, along with some of the least plausible scientific/economic/political ideas I have ever encountered.
To be specific (some vague spoilers below):
- By following so many characters with opposing goals -- many of them unnecessarily -- it was hard to become invested in, or root for any of them, especially considering how unlikable, one-dimensional, and shallow they all were.
- Brooks' pseudo-explanation of how the cure for cancer worked (amino acids!) made my eyes roll. He wouldn't have lost anything by glossing over the cure without any explanation at all.
- It wasn't made clear enough how the "olds" were draining society to such a degree. Who was subsidizing them to live so lavishly? It seems like their only burden to the government was health care and social security, not programs to make or keep them rich at the expense of the younger generations. And if they were rich, their spending would have been good for the younger generation -- who would have been the recipient of their disposable incomes -- and they would have drained themselves, so I just don't understand this key argument of the book.
- The idea that the U.S. would welcome China as a partner on American soil with open arms and no resistance was even harder to swallow than the generational tension, regardless of the magnitude of disaster. Even if L.A. was clamoring for China's assistance after the earthquake, there is no way the Bible Belt or the AARP would have went along with it. It would have been believable for it to happen, but not without any objections at all.
- I was really looking forward to the civil war that seemed to be building throughout the book between the olds and the younger generation, which I falsely assumed would be the climax of the book. It never happened. Instead, we get the anti-climactic cruise ship scene. The resentment issue never really gets addressed again, as everyone is too busy being enamored with the Chinese -- whose healthcare and logistical solutions would not do anything to solve the generational divide, and hence, shouldn't have tempered the younger generations' rage.
- This was supposed to be a comedy, and I didn't find the book to be funny at all, and the resolution for almost every single character was beyond tragic. Specifically, (view spoiler)[Brad is murdered after losing his home and saddling his son with his retirement debt; Kathy is accused of being a terrorist and unfairly saddled with over $1M in debt fighting the claims; and Matthew Bernstein is divorced by his wife, abandoned by his chief of staff, and is ousted from office by a foreigner (hide spoiler)]....more
It's funny because it's true -- anyone that has kids will appreciate this subverted picture-book. I'll probably get this for any of my buddies who getIt's funny because it's true -- anyone that has kids will appreciate this subverted picture-book. I'll probably get this for any of my buddies who get their wives pregnant going forward.
Oh, and I added a star because it was narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, because he adds awesome to anything he touches....more
For a book I didn't love, yet didn't hate, I have a lot to say about it. Here are my thoughts in no particular order.
* I hate prologues, so having a sFor a book I didn't love, yet didn't hate, I have a lot to say about it. Here are my thoughts in no particular order.
* I hate prologues, so having a second prologue dropped on me a third of the way through the book was almost enough to make me toss my Kindle across the room. However, it did make it apparent that instead of a novel, this is really a collection of four short stories featuring the same two main characters. This was both good and bad -- good in that it skipped potentially uninteresting parts of their travels, but bad in that I never felt I got to know the characters better in between these fantastic episodes.
* My favorite of the chapters was the second chapter -- The Sending of Eight -- because of the meta aspect of having the gods play a dice-based board game involving the fates of the book's main characters.
* This book is considered fantasy humor. While Pratchett is clever, witty, and incredibly imaginative, he is not particularly funny, to my subjective tastes. I think part of this has to do with how the book was set up. In the first chapter, a wizard and a stranger retell their tale of woe to two brigands around a campfire -- setting up what I thought was going to be a more standard epic fantasy tale. In contrast, the opening chapter of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has the two main characters find out an intergalactic construction squad is demolishing earth to make room for a new highway -- and then the planet is literally blown up. It just set my expectations a bit differently, if you see what I mean.
* In a world where absolutely anything -- and I mean ANYTHING -- can happen, it's hard to be invested in what is going on. The rules of the world are fluid and poorly defined at best, so there are no consequences to any actions, let alone real suspense or danger, as nothing can apparently kill this incompetent wizard and his hapless tourist companion.
* The principle of Chekov's Gun is that if you put a rifle on the wall in the first act of a play, it absolutely must go off by the third act, otherwise it should be removed. To me, the one great spell that Rincewind can cast was that gun, and it irked me to no end that despite all the extraordinary circumstances he found himself in, that he did not cast it.
* This is the first time I have ever had an inanimate object as my favorite character -- but both the Luggage and the sword Kring were personified very well, and I only wish there were more of them both in the book.
* I loved how fully developed the concept of the world on the disc was -- with the characters all referring and thinking of everything in terms of moving hubward, rimward, turnwise and widdershins....more
I love The Oatmeal internet comic. That is why I bought the book -- I wanted to support whoever is behind these hysterical comics. However, in all honI love The Oatmeal internet comic. That is why I bought the book -- I wanted to support whoever is behind these hysterical comics. However, in all honesty, I cannot recommend this book to anyone, except maybe the most hardcore fan of The Oatmeal. Maybe.
The material just doesn't translate well to the printed page. Part of it is that it is printed smaller and laid out across multiple pages instead of on a single, larger web page. Part of it is the inability to share it by forwarding it or posting it to Facebook. And part of it is that it is not organized in any cohesive way -- a lot of Oatmeal comics deal with grammar and language, and a lot of others deal with technology, but they aren't grouped together -- with no table of contents to make finding a favorite comic possible.
I really like Lewis Black. A lot. However, this book was a failed attempt to blend his humor with a look at various religions. The humor was lacking,I really like Lewis Black. A lot. However, this book was a failed attempt to blend his humor with a look at various religions. The humor was lacking, save a few laugh out loud moments, and the religious insight was shallow and incomplete. The tone never felt right. And on top of that all, the play at the end was dreadful. A much better, successful attempt at this topic (albeit in another medium) is Bill Maher's Religulous....more
This book spans over sixty years of George Carlin's life, telling a great deal about the man behind the performer. It was engaging, entertaining, andThis book spans over sixty years of George Carlin's life, telling a great deal about the man behind the performer. It was engaging, entertaining, and written in his genuine, impossible-to-duplicate voice.
I expected this to be lighter and funnier and much less serious, like a Scottish version of Denis Leary's Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying FaI expected this to be lighter and funnier and much less serious, like a Scottish version of Denis Leary's Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't. I knew nothing of Ferguson's personal life before reading, but now I have even more respect for him. The book -- more memoir than comedic rant -- was serious, sincere and just felt real. It was also still quite funny, considering it delved deeply into alcoholism, drug addiction and multiple failed relationships and marriages. ...more
Amusing, but only took a few minutes to flip through the whole thing. There's really not much to it, but I guess it would be a good coffee table bookAmusing, but only took a few minutes to flip through the whole thing. There's really not much to it, but I guess it would be a good coffee table book for fans of Superbad, or a good bathroom book for a frat house. ...more