Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I've Been to New York...?

Firstly, my mom likes to hoard my mail. I don't know why she can't just give it to me, but it somehow ends up in her room and I don't see it for years.

Case in point, I didn't receive my acceptance letter to Eastern Washington University until just before I left for Linfield College.

Well, last week, she found another piece of mail for me. Check out this postmark date:

 Yeah, that's right, April 06, 2009. Nice job, Mom. Course, that means I was still at college, so I don't know why it was coming to my house...but still.

The fun doesn't end there. I'm not quire sure why, but apparently I was sent a card from:
I'm not even sure I received any information from them when I was applying to colleges.

But now it gets really weird...
Dear Victoria,
I'm so happy you decided to join us last weekend for scholar's weekend. I hope you had a good time. It was a pleasure meeting you during our walking tour of the lower East Side. I'm sure you are receiving many offers, but I hope you decide to join us this fall and be an MLK Scholar.
Hope to see you again,
On the left side of the card was this picture:

As you can probably see, I am not in this picture (though, you can click to see it larger). I was at school all through March and April of last year. In fact, I have never been to New York State, let alone New York City.

Wait a that me?

No, no I don't think so. The hair might be similar, but I'm still pretty sure I wouldn't go to NYC for an MLK Scholar's weekend. Yet, they sent me a card (with my name and address).

Now, this leaves me one of three options...

  1. I have an evil twin.
  2. Someone I know decided to go on this trip and give them my information instead of their own.
  3. Another 'Victoria S.' attended this MLK Scholarship weekend, and didn't give any of her own information. So, when trying to contact her, the school Googled her, or Facebooked her or whatever, found me, and inserted my address.
I think I can rule out #1 if only because our house isn't big enough for me not to notice another me running around.

#2 could be plausible...except that I can't recognize anyone in the photo. So, either it is that girl above trying to play a prank on me, or she had to take a potty break and wasn't in the picture, or was the one TAKING the picture!

...Or it could just be #3. Which I find pretty funny anyway.

 So, now I'm thinking about contacting the admissions office and having some fun... So, if you were in my situation, what would you do?

Or, if you're the one who posed as me...let me know and I will be happy to sue you for identity theft.

That is all. ^_^

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

For Every Step Forward, Remember To Backup (at least) Twice

Okay, that title probably doesn't make much sense...unless you have a slightly geeky mind. That's right, once again I come to you with computer advice. And, of course, the best entertainment advice comes at the expense of others...mainly myself.

The Setup
  • a laptop with Windows XP -- 5 years old
  • 35 GB hard drive -- 4 years old
  • a USB splitter (2 ports become 5) -- 5 years old
  • a SimpleTech 160GB external hard drive -- 4 years old
    • which holds:
    • the majority of my Word Documents (including 116pg Senior Thesis)
    • all my Excel, Powerpoint, and Adobe Documents
    • all my Pictures
    • all my Music
    The Problem

    Now, flash back to last Wednesday, the 19th.

    There I was, listening to my music, surfing the net, goofing off, when I decide it's time to update my profile picture. I take the pic then unplug my printer to hook up my phone. I get the pic off alright, then start cropping it and resizing it. Once I finally get it how I want, I go to save...and I get an error message.

    E:/ is not accessible.
    The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.

    E:/ is my external hard drive, where I keep all my larger files--pictures included.

    Now, as I have music playing, I'm thinking there must be a mistake. Maybe one of the USB ports has finally broken down. I close iTunes, unplug my hard drive from the splitter, as well as my phone cord, and try switching ports.
    I think I should also take this time to interject that you should always select the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon in the bottom bar when disconnecting important hardware. I usually ignore it in regards to my printer, but it's always a good idea to use the tools available to you.
    Once plugged in, the computer acknowledges that something is there, but when I go to access the drive, I once again get that pesky message:

    E:/ is not accessible.
    The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.

    Now I'm getting worried.

    I rush back to my browser and start Googling my error message. I get some advice about reestablishing drivers, checking for driver updates, etc. I try it out...

    E:/ is not accessible.
    The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.

    Okay... Let's try "free file recovery"? I get a lot of links. Phew.

    I download one and, lo and behold, it can read my E:/ drive! I tell it to start recovering my files...and it starts copying them onto my C:/ drive. Well...that's all well and good, I suppose, except for a couple things...
    1. I have right around 100GB of files on E:/ and only 11GB open on C:/...
    2. The free/demo version only copies files under 64KB in size... which doesn't include my aforementioned 116 page Senior Thesis
    The full version costs $40. Well, that was a bust. To the recycle bin with you.

    I think I downloaded 10 other programs that day:
    • 4 were "Recover DELETED Files" only (mine aren't deleted, just inaccessible)
    • 3 were "Demo" versions which let you see the files you wanted to save, but required you to purchase the product in order to save/copy them
    • 2 were "Free Download" then "Purchase the Product Code" before you even got to use the product (usually around $40 or $50)
    • 1 actually did what I wanted AND was free.
    Luckily, that's all it takes! Well, for me, at least.

    The Solution

    TestDisk, Data Recovery is an Opensource software - which means that it gets all its coding from volunteer programmers, and all the coding is viewable. If you're a DIY-tech person, always look for Opensource programs.

    Anyway, I'm not a tech-person, I just play one on TV my blog. If you're really interested in the specifics of the program, click that link up there and it'll take you through all the partition tables and Master Boot Records and that gobbledegook. If you're wanting my (possibly incorrect) spin on things, read on!

    What TestDisk allowed me to do was go in through DOS mode and access the E:/ drive. There I was able to try repairing the Master File Table...but I don't think it worked. See, how I understand things is...

    The hard drive works sorta like a tree.* There's a single point of origin, and then all the folders and files and such flow out from there. When the computer tries to access a specific file, it has to first check with the point of origin, in order to figure out what is there and how to get to it. Like a city map, or a library filing system.

    Now, this One Point is known as the Master File Table. If something goes wrong with this MFT, if it somehow gets corrupted or deleted...well, then the computer can't access that drive anymore. All the information is still there, all the files and folders, the tree just isn't there to tell you where the roots are. Or the map got ink spilled all over it. Or the library system is down for extended maintenance.

    *This may or may not only apply to NTFS file system. That's what I have, and that's what I know.

    Now, if we're done with all these analogies, I'll get back to what I was able to do.

    Though the 'repairing' of the MFT hasn't seemed to work, I was able to recover all my Adobe, Excel, Powerpoint, and Word Documents (including my Senior Thesis!!!) and save them on my C:/ drive. I also managed to fit all My Pictures in there (though, I really should start deleting some that are no longer relevant).

    The Plan

    Now, as for my 99GB of music sitting on there... There's nothing I can do at the moment. I don't have enough space to transfer everything onto my C:/ drive (I only have 10 GB still open). Even my sister's desktop only has 65GB open (Yeah...I definitely need to delete some of my music).

    So, next step is to purchase another hard drive.

    Okay, I know what you're thinking - WHAT? Pay out $65+ for ANOTHER hard drive that'll fail on you too?!

    I'll answer that in the next section. In the meantime, can I please continue with my plan?

    Next I'll purchase another hard drive, giving me the 35GB in my laptop, the 160GB that is having some issues, and a new one (probably 500GB, though I could go for 1000GB (1TB) for $10 more...but really, that's getting a bit ridiculous--I mean, why would I ever need that much space?! My video card isn't good enough for video games. Maybe some movies...nah.).

    I'll use TestDisk to copy everything (music and all) to the new hard drive. Then, sure that everything is safe in two places, I'll reformat my current one, then copy everything back over to it, giving me 3 copies of all my important documents and 2 copies of my less important ones...

    The Moral


    Yes, the title finally makes sense! For every great document you create, be sure to make at least one, possibly two (or three or four) backups!

    Whether this means having 2 or 3 hard drives handy, saving your documents in e-mail attachments, or paying for an online backup service, don't take technology for granted. I've been told multiple times that it's a miracle my computer is still running. Okay, not a miracle, per say, but it's certainly impressive. That my external hard drive ran into some problems is not a surprise. When you're dealing with tiny computer chips and information that relies on 011010101 being in the right place...well, a lot can go wrong.

    I thought my little portable guy was my backup, but really I just used him as my main pack mule. And when that pack mule decided to get lost (lose his map), I thought I was bum outta luck. Thankfully, my problem isn't as serious. The mule got a sprained ankle, but after I unload him and give him some time to reboot (reformat), he'll be up and going again.

    But, backing out of the metaphors again, what if I had dropped it down the toilet? Or dropped a bowling ball on it? Or had it stolen out of my bag at the airport? Those documents would be lost forever.

    With two hard drives (well, 3 really), I'm reducing the chances of things being lost forever. I mean, unless you're dealing with Apollo 13, having a quadruple failure is less likely than, say, having a single failure (on that note, maybe it's best to stick with 12 instead of 13 backups? Or chip in that extra effort and go to 14).

    So, again, if you have important documents, pictures, music, anything that is irreplaceable, send it to yourself in an e-mail. Save it to a few dozen zip drives. Copy it to a CD or two. Look in to getting a couple external hard drives. Cause you just don't know what could happen.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    A Change Of Location

    I don't think this will have any adverse effects for those of you who are subscribed to me, but I did want to point out that I've changed my blog's address to:

    Now, I did this for a couple reasons.

    Firstly, as much as I want to share my stuff and put myself out there, 
    there are some places I don't think I need to be plastering my full name.

    Secondly, I think having the address match the blog's title adds a little authenticity to it. 
    A little professionalism, perhaps?

    And lastly, I was bored, and this seemed like a good idea.

    Please adjust any links you may have, accordingly.

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Vampires vs Werewolves vs...Little Women?

    Yes, the age-old battle of the monster titans has found common ground once more. You thought Twilight was a big deal? Try an all-or-nothing brawl as they both sink their equally destructive teeth into the same American Classic!

    Now, unless you've been hiding under a rock, or haven't been to a bookstore in the last, oh, 6 months, you should have noticed the surge of, what I call, Monster Adaptations. What happens in most cases is, rather than paraphrasing the story, the co-writing author takes the original text, cuts out pieces and adds in that extra flair of...well, monsters. What started out as a novelty idea in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has resulted in a prequel and even more adaptations, such as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and even Jane Slayer!

    What some see as a degradation of classic literature, others see as a new way to get kids interested in literature. Remember how it used to be adapting classic works into comic books? But, be you for or against it this trend is picking up speed.
    Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the come more literary monster mashups! You can drive a stake into its heart, shoot it full of silver bullets and bury it under six feet of dirt, but this publishing trend Just. Won’t. Die. Now it’s Little Women, Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale, that’s getting monsterized. And not just once, but twice. Available now, Little Women and Werewolves by Porter Grand and Little Vampire Women by Lynn Messina take the well-known tale of Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy and add in a healthy serving of the unknown. Last week, Grand and Messina held a discussion with Alcott scholar and Pulitzer Prize-winner John Matteson about the book, the supernatural and mash-ups in general.

    Both authors said they were impressed with how much the original text stood up to their fiddling. “When writing it, the biggest thing was realizing how strong the book was on its own,” said Messina. “I thought that adding vampires to it was going to change everything, but I was amazed at how little it actually changed.”

    Grand spoke at length about Alcott’s own supernatural and blood-and-guts proclivities. Writing under the nom de plume A.M. Barnard, the otherwise demure author published a number of adventurous and murder-filled novels and stories, although these weren’t discovered until years after her death. “My goal when I was writing Little Women and Werewolves was to stay true to Alcott,” Grand said. “I really wanted to write it the way I think she would have written it if she had decided to insert werewolves into it.” While she admits that some rabid fans may take umbrage at their work (Matteson recounted a story of his own in which a certain Little Crazywoman sent him an 11-page letter calling him a heretic and threatening to burn him at the stake), Grand thinks Alcott herself would be “flattered, amused and delighted” at these tweakings of her most famous tome.

    Messina admitted that she knows the mash-up craze won’t last forever, but she’s happy to get while the getting’s good. “It’s going to run its course,” she said. “I thought it was going to eventually tap out with Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, but I Googled it and it was already a movie!”
    ~ Keith Staskiewicz of EW

    Adaptations? Mash-ups? Degradations? What do you think? Below are the summaries of this latest target and its two adaptations. Read through and give your opinion.

    Little Women
    Louisa May Alcott
      ~ Powell's
    Alcott's original work explores the overcoming of character flaws. Many of the chapter titles in this first part are allusions to the allegorical concepts and places in Pilgrim's Progress. When young, the girls played Pilgrim's Progress by taking an imaginary journey through their home. As young women, they agree to continue the figurative journey, using the "guidebooks" — copies of the New Testament, described as "that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived"; they receive on Christmas morning. Each of the March girls must struggle to overcome a character flaw: Meg, vanity; Jo, a hot temper; Beth, shyness; and Amy, selfishness.

    In the course of the novel, the girls become friends with their next-door neighbor, the teenage boy Laurie. The book depicts the light hearted, often humorous activities of the sisters and their friend, such as creating a newspaper and picnicking, and the various "scrapes" that Jo and Laurie get into. Jo consistently struggles with the boundaries 19th century society placed on females, including not being able to fight in a war, not being able to attend college, and being pressured by her Aunt March to find a suitable husband to take care of her.

    Little Vampire Women
    Louisa May Alcott and Lynn Messina
      ~ Powell's
    "Christmas wont be Christmas without any corpses."

    The dear, sweet March sisters are back, and Marmee has told them to be good little women. Good little vampire women, that is. That's right: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy have grown up since you last read their tale, and now they have (much) longer lives and (much) more ravenous appetites.

    Marmee has taught them well, and so they live by an unprecedented moral code of abstinence . . . from human blood. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy must learn to get along with one another, help make society a better place, and avoid the vampire hunters who pose a constant threat to their existence. Plus, Laurie is dying to become a part of the March family, at any cost. Some things never change.

    This horrifying—and hilarious—retelling of a timeless American classic will leave readers craving the bloodthirsty drama on each and every page.

    Little Women and Werewolves
    Louisa May Alcott and Porter Grand
    Amazon ~ Powell's

    A literary landmark—the original, suppressed draft of the classic novel!

    Little Women is a timeless classic. But Louisa May Alcott’s first draft—before her editor sunk his teeth into it—was even better. Now the original text has at last been exhumed. In this uncensored version, the March girls learn some biting lessons, transforming from wild girls into little women—just as their friends and neighbors transform into vicious, bloodthirsty werewolves!

    Here are tomboy Jo, quiet Beth, ladylike Amy, and good-hearted Meg, plus lovable neighbor Laurie Laurence, now doomed to prowl the night on all fours, maiming and devouring the locals. As the Civil War rages, the girls learn the value of being kind, the merits of patience and grace, and the benefits of knowing a werewolf who can disembowel your teacher.

    By turns heartwarming and blood-curdling, this rejuvenated classic will be cherished and treasured by those who love a lesson in virtue almost as much as they enjoy a good old-fashioned dismemberment.

    Includes the original letter from Alcott’s editor, telling her not to even think about it!

    So? Gonna bite? Which would you rather read? Vampires? Werewolves? Or are you more of a traditionalist?

    And what about the trend in general? Are you ready to see it stop? Or are you ready for more?

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Continue Not To Panic!

    Phew, there's one more series down the hatch. Took me a little longer than I had originally expected, but here it is.

    ~And Another Thing...~
    Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
    Part Six of Three
    By Eoin Colfer
    Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

    As you may remember in my review of the whole series written by Douglas Adams, don't ask me to explain how there are now six parts in a trilogy. Inquiries on that matter should be addressed to Adams himself, though you shouldn't expect a reply any time soon. Baring, of course, the approaching Zombie Apocalypse (Do YOU have your Zombie Plan?).

    But back to business.

    A New Book By A New Author

    Before I really dig in to the nitty-gritty, I want to take a moment or two to remind/inform people exactly why Eoin Colfer wrote this book.

    At the end of Mostly Harmless, you have what is undeniably the worst ending that could ever happen. You've spent time with these characters, laughed with them, cried with them, invested a good portion of your day/week with them, and what do you get?

    The Earth blows up and kills them all. Well, not them all, cause you don't have any idea what's been happening with Zaphod and the Heart of Gold over the last couple books.

    Readers were devastated. But, really, what could you do? Force Adams to write again? Yeah, we saw how that turned out. Add in Adams' sudden death in 2001, and it was highly improbable that fans could ever reach real closure.

    Cue Eoin Colfer.

    Colfer is probably best known for his Artemis Fowl series, as well as his other jaunts into Young Adult fiction. He was just as surprised as everyone when Adams' widow asked him to write a 6th book.

    That's right. Put down your pitchforks and torches. Colfer was REQUESTED to write this book. In honor of the 30th Anniversary of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's original printing.

    Needless to say, he was honored, and went at the project with his best.

    ~Information gathered partly from attending one of Colfer's speeches and partly from internet sources.

    The Troubles Of SciFi...And The Virtues of Audiobooks

    Firstly, I think I should come out and say that I am not a Science Fiction reader. I've read, I think, two adult Science Fiction series (and a few more YA SF series). One, I referenced in my last post, and the other I featured in my last post. So, while I have enjoyed my few jaunts into the realm of Science Fiction, I am by no means well versed in the subject matter.

    Secondly, I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my reading. I may be a tad slower than some people, but I absorb practically everything. Be it plot, jokes, names, or birthdays, I tend to remember things after I read them. This is one of the reasons that typos and grammatical errors sting me so hard - I literally spend a minute or two going over that sentence/word and working out how it should be, and then wondering why it isn't.

    Unfortunately, these two attributes of mine combined to make reading this book a nearly agonizing experience. Almost immediately you are thrown such names as "Brequindan", "Nephologia", "Damogranian", and "flaybooz". Okay, perhaps not the most difficult words to process, perhaps just a few seconds dedicated to each, but those few seconds spent on each word adds up to a lot of seconds in the long run.

    It took me over two hours just to make it to Chapter 4 (page 61). And, as I had pressing issues* to attend to after completing this book, I quickly downloaded the Audiobook from my library.

    The whole thing took me just over 6 hours (sped up to 1.7x normal)(normal was 10.3 hours)(starting back at the beginning [as was my choice])(yes, I like parentheses).

    As I may have mentioned before, not only does an Audiobook provide pronunciations for those phonetically impossible words, but it also helps the reader focus on the reading at hand. Sure, every once in a while my mind does wander off on a random thought, but I am still able to skim over the few seconds I missed and catch back up with the narrator, even at his sped up pace**.

    Now, with my "Wowbagger" and "Hlidskjalf" in order, I was able to properly enjoy this book.

    Audiobook VS Paperbook

    Anyone who has had experience with Audiobooks know that narrators sometimes take liberties with their narration. Sometimes one may choose to leave out a couple "He said" "She said" (this is especially true in Full-Cast Audios) during dialog and there are bound to be the occasional contraction or accidental omission when someone is reading aloud. Then, of course, you run into the UK version vs US version when talking about elevators/lifts or other such cultural preferences.

    But never have I ever found the blatant addition of material.

    Okay, in the last five Hitchhiker books, I did run across one or two instances of newer editions (than what I had in front of me) being used. In Life, the Universe and Everything, there was an entire beginning-chapter-blurb added in the Audiobook that was nowhere to be found in my copy.

    Here, though, I found not one or two instances of additions, but additions possibly numbering in the teens (no, I admit, I did not keep count). And it wasn't just a word here or there, either. No, there were sentences added to dialog, descriptions added, and, in at least two instances, entire conversations added. There was also the occasional switch of one word/name for another (first name for last or visa-versa).

    Normally, I might attribute these incidents to having an older edition of a book...but this book only came out last October! Which means...there IS no older edition!

    Of course, this can only mean that Mr. Colfer has already gone another round of editing. I don't know whether he personally made notes on Mr. Jones' copy of the script, or if he has simply prepared a 'better' copy for the paperback (for, I did agree that all the changes made sense, and did improve the work). I guess we'll have to wait for the paperback's release later this year.

    Finally, Down To Business

    But back to the matter at hand. And Another Thing... was a most welcome continuation of the series, and I believe, a well executed one.

    Okay, I've read a couple bad reviews (a la Amazon) and I'd like to take an opportunity to defend my above statement.

    1) I was looking forward to this book. I honestly believe that if you start a book with the idea 'I'm gonna hate this,' or 'This author is gonna botch everything up!' it's going to take an awful lot to change your mind. Go at something with an open or (dare I say it) enthusiastic opinion and you're far more likely to actually enjoy it.

    2) I'm a fan of Colfer. I've read his Artemis Fowl series, and one of his stand alone novels. Granted, I haven't read them in a while, but still I may be more accustomed than some to his writing style. You can't expect me to be entirely objective.

    3) I heard Colfer explain himself. His visit to Powell's last Fall for a book signing was not also a book reading. Instead of reading from his book (which I greatly appreciated, since I had not yet read the other books at that time!) he talked about his experiences with The Hitchhiker's Series. How he'd first discovered them. How he eagerly awaited the next book. How he never actually met Douglas Adams in person. And the whole tale was filled with jokes, likability, and his Irish accent (again, you can't expect me to be entirely objective).

    4) It's my opinion. Get over it. That's right. What I think is what I think. You might come to some entirely different conclusion, but allow me to enjoy my cake--book and eat it too.

    Now, as always, there were some things the book could have done better...
    • Formatting
    Around the 63rd page (in Chapter Four) we are introduced to where we are by way of LARGE LETTERS PRECEDING SECTIONS. Before this time, there are no location headers to be seen. Of course, on the one had, you don't want to tip your hand at the beginning of the book, as we are not exactly sure what the heck is going on and why we are finding our characters in such a situation. But, if you're going to continually introduce the location of each segment, you might as well start in Chapter 2, when all the explaining starts taking place.

    Overall, I didn't really see the LOCATION TAGS as necessary, since we've gotten along just fine without them up to this point (in the series). Ultimately, I think they hearkened back to YA lit, making sure not to lose the reader as we skip back and forth.
    • Guide Notes
    While these notes did often help lighten the tone of the situation, they were, at times, too numerous and at other times nowhere to be seen. They reminded me of the latest HGttG movie with their pop-up style, but on the whole, I didn't feel like they provided much depth or help to the storyline.

    In fact, at times they seemed as an excuse to throw in a random comparison and/or unpronounceable word. For example:
    [Random and Wowbagger having an arguement]
    "How dare you, don't you know who I am?"
    "A member of the Cult of Ridiculousness from the Stammering Mud Flats of Santraginus V?"
    "That's ridiculous."
    "Oh, my mistake. The Cult of Ridiculous from the Stammering Mud Flats of Stanraginus V."
    Guide Note: This conversation had similar elements to the exchange which precipitated the collapse of the actual Cult of Ridiculousness from Santraginus V.
    [insert a full page more information on this Cult]
    Random crossed her arms and shifted her weight as if leaning into a strong wind.
    Sure, we end up knowing all the history of this cult, but does that really aid our understanding of this fight?

    No subtlety whatsoever.

    HOWEVER, there were also a lot of things I thought he did rather well.
    • The Beginning
    In my opinion, this book couldn't have begun (began?) any other way. When left with such an ending as Mostly Harmless, you have to seriously consider what is acceptable (Heart of Gold, anyone? and what is not (Oh! It was all a dream). Not only that, but the beginning felt like a typical Hitchhiker's Beginning. You don't really know anything, and you're just along for the ride... Gee, sound familiar?
    • Characters
    I can't tell you how hard it is to try and take someone else's characters and write them as your own. And trust me, I've tried. I was worried about what the years, and change in management might have done to our favorite Hitchhikers, but luckily these characters seem just like they've always been.

    Well, actually, they seem to have had some improvements! I complained last time about Trillian's utter lack of personality (in books 1-4) and then random insert of irrelevant backstory in book 5. Here, she is struggling with some issues, and fully fleshed out. Even Random, who I feared most for, gains a solid personality (who better to write a teenager than someone who regularly writes teenagers?).

    I can only applaud Colfer as he manages to take a largely plot-driven series and pull it back to focus on these hilarious, strong, spunky characters. Heck, even the Vogons can hold their own storyline! (Too bad poor Marvin couldn't receive the same treatment.)
    • Plot
    Where Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long[...] and Mostly Harmless completely left the carefree Hitchhiking style behind, And Another Thing... picks it back up and runs with it to Asgard and back. There's still a lightness and frivolity about everything, even with impending doom reigning down around them. And what's more, it works!

    Never once am I questioning why we're here, what is going on, or who cares? Of course, I find this the ultimate difference in plots that are character driven and characters that are plot driven. We can understand characters a lot more than we can understand fate.

    And, last but not least...
    The End of one of the Middles

    Of course, we couldn't have a book without an ending. 

    Or can we? 

    No. We can't. 

    But we CAN have a Story without an ending! Colfer ends the book but doesn't end the story. Who knows, maybe he'll return to tackle another tale? Or, maybe he's leaving the story open to the infinite possibilities out there. Really, it's the ending we all wanted for Book 3...or 4...or 5. Cause, really, there is no end...until the End of the Universe... And we've already been there! 

    * Due to my library being more efficient than I had previously planned, I must again push back my reading of Diane Duane's Young Wizards Series (9 books) in favor of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson Series (5 books). The latest books in each series were on order from the library, and despite my initial calculations, I am getting Silver Borne before A Wizard of Mars. Best laid plans, and all that. Le sigh. I suppose I will simply have to endure Patricia Briggs' awesome series for a little while before wading my way through Diane Duane's awesome series. 

    ** The main reason I like to speed up Audiobooks is that, at their normal speed, I often skim ahead in the reading, find a word I can't pronounce (in my head), and so end up waiting for the Audiobook to get there anyway. Having the narration sped up simply reduces this process, and turns 10.3 hours into just over 6. Of course, I would only recommend speeding up an Audiobook if one also has the book in front of them. I doubt this technique would work as well, say, while driving.

    Approximate Reading Time: 6.5 hours

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Don't Panic!

    Well, I've gone and done it. I've finished all five books of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Yes, 5 books in a 3-part series. I didn't design it, I just read it.

    I'd been meaning to read this series for some time now. I inherited the first two books from my father (well, glommed onto them after discovering them in a box or something) and have had them sitting on my bookshelves for around 5 years.

    It wasn't until Eoin Colfer gave a speech at our local bookstore about the Hitchhiker books (leading into the fact that he'd just finished a 6th one, and oh, would you like your copy signed?) that I decided I had waited long enough. Surely, I had waited long enough to fully realize the significance of 42, and I shouldn't wait another minute!

    I ordered the remaining 3 paperbacks (since I am a paperback snob, I declined from purchasing Colfer's hardbound publication and am awaiting its proper format to be released) and got the audiobook for Hitchhiker from the library.

    The books all sat on my shelf for another few months.

    When Hitchhiker was nominated for our book club in...March, I decided the time had finally come. I dusted it off, pulled up the audiobook on my laptop, and started in...and got as far as the first 3 chapters.

    Some of you may remember my posting a couple weeks ago about trying to figure out which book(s) to read next. I posted a poll here, and to my Facebook friends, and also my DeviantArt buddies, all asking for advice. I even got a reply from Diane Duane, author of one of the choices I had to choose from. Though I decided against her advice (she sided with her own books, and was outvoted), I was still thrilled at the post.

    The Hitchhiker's series won the most votes, so I plugged in my headphones, cleared my nightly schedule, and was whisked across the galaxy.

    Oh, just so you know, there are probably spoilers below. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are spoilers below. If I find out that there aren't spoilers below, you won't see this message. Or I might just cross everything out.

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
    ~The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy~
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    Book 1
    By Douglas Adams
    Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

    This book is possibly the most random, hilarious, and delightful book I've ever read. If you're looking for something chronological, that follows a straight and completely unwavering line, you should drop this book immediately. If you completely dislike humor or wit of any kind, you should try Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. And, lastly, if you are a Vogon, I'd like to know why you seem to be showing any interest in what my opinion is.

    The story swerves this way and that like a (insert random parallel here), but always in the best taste, humor, and followed by a speedy return to those whom you might actually care about. There's little character development, but the characters and the plot are so quick that there's little time to really care.

    Arthur Dent, though arguably the protagonist of this tale, is sort of thrown here and there with little regard for his opinion. He questions things now and again, but with the entirety of the Galaxy suddenly thrust into his cognizance, there's little he can do but learn to just go with the flow - which happens to be quite fast.

    You might be a tad confused at times, but as the cover of the book says, Don't Panic! Things are usually explained fairly well, and those that aren't usually don't matter very much.

    The book ends. If you'd like, you can stop reading the series now. Granted, it's not over, like, 'and they all lived happily ever after', or anything like that. It's more of a...we have a sense of resolution, there aren't any huge cliffhangers or dangling plotlines to deal with, you can rest easy having finished this book...but if you'd like to find out more about these characters, we do have another book following this, if you're interested.

    On a side note, if you're having trouble getting into the book - I found the first chapter pretty dull, actually, subtle British humor and whatnot - I'd advise checking out the audiobook from the library, or finding a public-domain recording of it online somewhere. I found that the British accent (my version was actually done by Douglas Adams, himself!) conveyed the subtlety of the humor and helped get me into the mood of the work. It also helped get past names like 'Zaphod Beeblebrox'.

    Approximate Reading Time: 5 hours

    The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
    ~The Restaurant at the End of the Universe~
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    Book 2
    By Douglas Adams
    Amazon ~ Borders ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

    Picking up where the last one left off, we have our same characters, exactly where they were...two hours later.

    This book contains a very similar style and pacing to the last one. There are more excerpts of what might be written about certain things in The Guide. There are more zippings here and there around the Galaxy. There are more Vogons.

    And time. Yes, there's some time traveling, too. Those who vehemently dislike these types of complications might want to stop at number one. Those who only dislike them because they aren't handled well can rest easy and enjoy the ride.

    Also on the same lines as the last one, there's little more character developing done here. Zaphod has a good while off by himself. In fact, he finds his own little mission of sorts. So a little more is done with his character in particular, but the others remain, at the most, functional.

    This book's ending isn't nearly as concrete as the first's. Sure, it ends, but even if you had no idea there was another book written, there's a part of you that knows this can't be the end. Adams just couldn't leave them like this. Could he?

    Again, I read this with the help of an audiobook. This time, I sped up the audio to match my reading speed (approximately x1.7), so instead of going the allotted 5-or-so hours, it took less.

    Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours

    Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
    ~Life, the Universe and Everything~
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    Book 3
    By Douglas Adams
    Amazon ~ Borders ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

    A bit more time has passed now. Last time it was a mere 2 hours. This time...well, it's been 5 years.

    Some of you may be wondering if you read that right. To you, I say, yes. 5 years. Even with a quasi-cliffhanger, we join our characters 5 years after the end of the last book. Then again, this changes in the first couple chapters, as we again start time-traveling.

    If you really aren't a fan of time-travel, you should not read this book. At all. In fact, there's so much of it, that Adams even had to introduce a sort of Time Squad to keep the order of things. Not that they actually make things any easier. No, if anything they only increase the amount of time-traveling. And this time, it isn't as neat.

    Right off the bat, this book came off as less comical and more...serious. There, I said it. There seems to be an actual attempt at a straightforward plot...and villains...and a mystery woven in. And I'm not sure they all really work.

    The crew is given the task of saving Life, the Universe and Everything, and it ends up being a purpose that weighs heavily on the story. They still have their jokes, but with this over-arching purpose, this goal, the crew aren't nearly as carefree and frivolous as they once were. Granted, there are times when Ford Prefect pokes fun at this, saying, "But we don't care enough to save the universe!", yet the group tries anyway. Even the random, anecdotal ramblings play into the story at large (though how exactly, I won't say).

    This book has a conclusion. You could definitely say that the 3rd part of the trilogy ends things quite nicely, and stop right there. In fact, I might almost recommend it...

    Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours

    So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams
    ~So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish~
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    Book 4
    By Douglas Adams
    Amazon ~ Borders ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

    This book almost seems as a new beginning for the series. A new jumping-off point, sorta like Orson Scott Card's Ender's Series does.

    It is in a completely different style. There are no random links to what The Guide might say about something. In fact, The Guide doesn't play a large part in this book at all. Also, there is very very little space travel. Most of the book takes place on Earth (time-travel, perhaps? nope, I'm not telling), and focuses on Arthur Dent.

    Arthur gets a good bit of character development here. In fact, this entire book might be taken as a character study. As such, I almost wouldn't recommend reading it, except that it is written well, and it contains a well-rounded story, and there's really nothing wrong with it. It simply isn't like its predecessors.

    Approximate Reading Time: 3 hours

    Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
    ~Mostly Harmless~
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    Book 5
    By Douglas Adams
    Amazon ~ Borders ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

    You can definitely tell that Douglas Adams did not want to write this book. Well, if he did, he did not want to write it then. He, apparently, did not like deadlines and, I've heard, was fed up with having to write these books by now. You can tell from the first chapter.

    The book is, in short, only for Hitchhiker fans (or fanatics). Well, if you've made it this far, I would assume you would be.

    It does not stand on its own. It hardly stands as part of the series. If you found Life, the Universe and Everything unappealing, then you probably shouldn't try this one.

    Two words: Parallel Universes. Okay, that's not exactly what they call them in this book, but that's the easiest thing to understand. There's a lot of techno-babble in this book, and unlike in previous novels, Adams doesn't do a great job explaining them. We're often in the same boat as Dent, who feels he should understand something, is really trying to, but eventually has to leave it be and move forward.

    It has character development...which seems completely unnecessary in the long run. It has a number of plots...which try to get resolved. It has a complete absence of 3 (of my favorite) characters...then again, you're almost glad for that by the end.

    Oh, the end. I must say that the end is a let-down. There's a lot of tension by the end. There are a lot of people and plots converging at once, and it all seems rather rushed. You're thinking, 'what rabbit is Adams gonna pull out next?'... And then... Well... Nobody likes the ending.

    Adams had said he was considering writing another book, to better resolve some of these issues, but he died suddenly in 2001. And so, that was the end...

    Approximate Reading Time: 5 hours

    Overall Impressions

    If you couldn't tell above, liked the reading-style of the first two books the most. They were light, humorous, exciting, randomly "informative", and took you along for the ride. Any questions you had were answered, or you found yourself not really caring about the answer as a new twist popped up. This was the style I fell in love with.

    Starting with Life, the Universe and Everything, everything started to feel bogged down. We lost the light, whimsical feeling, and exchanged it for a (partially unwanted) purpose for our characters. Unlike the Star Wars Trilogy, in which the 2nd and 3rd movies acted as one continuous plot, we were handed this heavy plot out-of-the-blue in the 3rd act. The fourth book was completely random (even the cover of my copy - adorned with a seal - was random) and, in relativity to the series as a whole, completely unnecessary. And the fifth was so serious (and, in some respects, depressing) that you wonder why it wasn't just left off at 3.

    As far as characters go, I was very disappointed to find that Trillian's character was the least explored. Okay, she gets a good bit of effort devoted to her in Mostly Harmless, but that ends up being a Parallel Universe Trillian, and so it doesn't actually tell us much at all. It would have been great had she gotten some attention back in the third book, when she, out-of-the-blue, amazingly proves to be useful. Yet, on the back of the book, the only description she's given is "sexy space cadet Trillain". I don't know if he had something against the poor girl, or if maybe she was left on the cutting-room floor, all I know is she got a rather poor showing.

    I'm now about to continue on to Eoin Colfer's recently written sequel, And Another Thing... which was commissioned by Adams' widow for the 30-year anniversary. It supposedly gives things a little more closure, but I'll have to wait and see.

    In the meantime, have a pleasant existence.