Four Letter Nerd

Category - Books

10 Masterful Quotes from the King of Horror Stephen King

Stephen King is one of those authors I keep coming back to.  After reading The Stand and ‘Salem’s Lot the summer after graduating high school, I was hooked.  I went through a majority of his backlog from Carrie through the Dark Tower series on to his more recent Bill Hodges trilogy.  His work, while often dark, explores the depth of human experience and gives some great insight into life, friendship, courage, and love.  Below you will find some of my favorite quotes by Stephen King.  With a backlog as deep as King’s, there are a multitude of quotes to choose from, but these all resonated with me as I reread them.

The Stand

 

11/22/63

The Dark Tower

Wolves of the Calla

It

Carrie

‘Salem’s Lot

Joyland

The Dark Tower

Different Seasons: Rita Haysworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Bookshop Tour – Nashville

Used bookshops are some of my favorite places to be.  There is just something revitalizing about browsing the bookshelves, searching for the next book to add to your stack of unread-but-maybe-soon-to-be-read books.  In fact, I have to travel to Baltimore for work in a few weeks, and the first thing I did was look up used bookstores in the area.  This got me thinking about the bookstores that I often frequent in and around my own stomping grounds of Nashville, TN.  There are a handful of fantastic shops around town that I think all Nashvillian bibliophiles and out-of-towners alike should visit when they can.

Without further adieu, here, in no particular order, is a brief look at my favorite bookstores around Nashville:

Books at Cummins Station

Books at Cummins Station might just be the prototypical form when it comes to used bookstores as seen in the mind’s eye.  It’s eclectic style, collection, and decor make it a fun place just to browse around.  One of the best things about the store is the sheer enormity of the stacks.  The ceilings are very high, and there are bookcases stacked on bookcases with more books on top.  It’s actually a little overwhelming until you get used to it.  And the walkways are so narrow that it’s hard to get a picture that does it justice.

Ms. B’s Used Books & CD’s

Technically Ms. B’s Used Books and CD’s is in the suburbs of Nashville, not Nashville proper, but it has been my home shop for almost 15 years.  It’s not as big as the others on this list, but the owner is a great human being, and if you want a book that’s not on the shelves, she will order it for you at a discount.  In fact, I recently stopped ordering new books online and just have Ms. B order them for me.  If you are ever around Hendersonville, you should definitely drop by.  One thing I really like is how much my four year old loves going to the shop.  If I ever take him to a bookstore that’s not this one, he gets frustrated and metaphorically twists my arm until I stop in here too.  Oh, and she also buys and sells records, so vinyl-heads have something to browse as well.

Rhino Booksellers Charlotte

I’ve only been in this shop once or twice, but I will definitely be coming back.  Like Books at Cummins Station, Rhino Booksellers has a great vintage atmosphere that makes you take your time and enjoy it.  This shop has a great selection of nice editions.  I’ve found some really nice Tolkien and C.S. Lewis titles here including a really nice edition of Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas.  Come for the atmosphere, stay to get the shop cat to like you.

McKay Used Books

Credit: mckaybooks.com

If you can’t tell from the photo above, McKay’s is definitely the largest store on the list.  It is basically a warehouse of used books, movies, videogames, and music.  It can be difficult to find some specific titles here because of the vast quantity and the high volume of customers, but I always enjoy making the drive out to Bellevue to slowly wander the fiction section for an hour or two.  If you can’t find something to read  here you aren’t trying hard enough.

Parnassus Books

Credit: parnassusbooks.net

Unlike the previous entries, Parnassus Books is an independent bookstore instead of a used bookstore.  The shop is beautiful, there is a good selection of literary fiction, a really neat section of local selections, and it sponsors some fantastic events.  Earlier this year, I attended an event where John Scalzi spoke for a while, then held a meet and greet where I had my copies of The Collapsing Empire and the hilarious Redshirts signed.  Another fun fact is that it is co-owned by author Ann Patchett.

Atomic Nashville

Atomic Books is a small independent bookstore in east Nashville.  While it may be small in stature, it’s big in heart and uniqueness.  I found they had a lot of titles I’ve been wanting to read, or that have been recommended to me over the last few months, and their sci-fi selection is hella strong.  They also sell art, music, and local selections.  Oh, and they have a surprisingly stout selection of Little Golden Books.

Like I said earlier, used bookstores might be one of my favorite places on Earth.  If you find yourself in the Nashville area and are of the book persuasion, you should definitely block out some time to visit and explore some of Nashville’s best literature peddlers.  And if you happen to visit Ms. B’s tell them I sent you… none of the other shops will know who the hell I am.

4LN Interview with Fred Van Lente, author of Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery

Fred Van Lente is one of those writers that has me hooked.  Up till now, Mr. Van Lente has been churning out top-notch comics with Marvel, Valiant, Dark Horse, and IDW.  You might remember that we interviewed him awhile back about his work with Valiant. Now Mr. Van Lente is switching gears with his upcoming debut novel Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery. After reading a review copy, I reached out to Fred (editor: did you ask if you could call him Fred?) to see if he’d be willing to spend some of his increasingly rare spare time chatting with us about his new book.  Spoiler: he agreed.

4LN: Some of our readers may remember that we had a chance to speak with you in February 2015, what have you been up to between now and then?

FVL: Well, quite a lot. Many, many comics, like Deadpool vs the Punisher, Weird Detective and Comic Book History of Comics, and a few other projects, but I have to admit what I’ve been most excited about is my first novel coming out, Ten Dead Comedians, which I stated around November 2015, not so long after we last spoke, and is at long last coming out July 11th!

Digging into your new book, what is it about And Then There Were None that drew you in? Is there something special about that particular story, or the golden era of mystery for you?

Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is a classic of the genre — it’s not just one of the bestselling mysteries, it’s one of the bestselling books, period, of all times. There’s something so elemental about the concept — a bunch of people trapped in a place, being knocked off one by one, with one of the potential victims themselves the likely killer. I had read that Christie thought of the idea years before she wrote the book because she couldn’t believe she was the first person to try it. She was, and justly reaped the rewards of her originality.

What made you decide to tell a classic mystery story using Comedians of all makes and models? (Genre mashup)

I’ve made genre mashup something of a specialty in my career, from Cowboys & Aliens (Western/sci-fi) to Incredible Hercules (Greek mythology/superhero) and more recently in books like Weird Detective, which combines the Cthulhu Mythos with a police procedural. So even though this is in the prose format it something that comes very naturally to me.
But you know combining comedy and mystery seems so simple, because so much of the language of comedy is about violence — you “die” on stage or you “slaughter” audience, if you did great you “killed,” if you do badly you “bombed.” So the idea of combining Last Comic Standing with basic set-up of And Then There Were None almost seems like a no-brainer.

Comedy obviously plays a big part of the novel, as you even go so far as to include a comedy routine for every comedian, each with their own style. What kind of work goes into ten unique routines, each in a different voice?

It was not easy, to be honest with you. When I first started writing the book I resisted doing the monologues because I knew doing ten of them in such distinctive voices would be a bitch. But then I a) realized how I could slip clues to the mystery into each and every one and b) uh, I would probably not hit my contractually-mandated word count if I didn’t add them, so, my choice was clear! It was very hard, although I am such a huge comedy nerd I had voices for all of them in my head kind of to begin with, but it was hugely satisfying and it’s one of the things folks say they like the most about the book, so clearly it was the right decision.

When I first started reading Ten Dead Comedians, I thought I could pick out specific real life comedians that inspired your characters, but as the story developed I realized that none of them quite fit. How did you go about developing your ten comedians that might or might not be dead soon?

I mean, there are certainly various archetypes the comics represent — Las Vegas lounge comic, late-night host, “blue collar” comic and so on — but, you know, I am killing (most of? All? Read and find out) these characters in spectacularly gory ways, and I’m not a monster. I don’t want any real people dead. Also, it’s not very interesting to me as a writer to just try and copy somebody else’s schtick completely. So everyone is a gumbo, a mixture of various actual comics. So the insult comic is really a blend of Joan Rivers and Don Rickles. There’s bits and pieces of Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman and various other “observational” comics in Zoe Schwartz. My wife nearly worked for Blue Man Group at one point so our “Orange Baby Man” is sort of a combo of their philosophy with a prop comic like Gallagher or Carrottop, and so on.

Is it difficult to make the jump from comics to novels? Are there any big differences between the two writing styles.

Sure. I mean, in comics scripting you’re creating a blueprint for another person to follow. But in prose you’re the whole show. There’s no other collaborators to lean on. I’ve been writing prose on and off since I was a high schooler, though, so it’s not like I was a complete neophyte. I’m one of those cliche writers who has a bunch of novels collecting dust in drawer. So to have the first one be published is indescribably exciting.

Was there anything from the comic world that possibly helped you with the writing process?

The comics world is a monthly grind, which translates to a daily, weekly grind on the creative team. The constant deadlines really builds discipline, which is helpful when you’re writing a 70- or 80,000 word novel spread out over many months. It lets you pace yourself properly.

Whenever you’re in a writing slump, do you have a method you use to motivate yourself to get back at it?

Yes: Write. It is the only method. Allow yourself to be in a slump and write shittily. You can always redraft it later. But the only way to get past writer’s block is to write around it.

Lastly, do you have any other big plans on the horizon that we should be on the lookout for?

I am excited to beginning my second novel, The Con Artist, a mystery novel set during the San Diego Comic Con, out next year. And I’m also co-writing a thing with my old pal Greg Pak, can’t wait to see that announced. For the summer I’m doing a lot of promotions for Ten Dead so maybe I’ll take a break afterwards? Ah, who am I kidding, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself…

Summary from Quirk Books:

Fred Van Lente’s brilliant debut is both an homage to the Golden Age of Mystery and a thoroughly contemporary show-business satire. As the story opens, nine comedians of various acclaim are summoned to the island retreat of legendary Hollywood funnyman Dustin Walker. The group includes a former late-night TV host, a washed-up improv instructor, a ridiculously wealthy “blue collar” comic, and a past-her-prime Vegas icon. All nine arrive via boat to find that every building on the island is completely deserted. Marooned without cell phone service or wifi signals, they soon find themselves being murdered one by one. But who is doing the killing, and why?

A darkly clever take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and other classics of the genre, Ten Dead Comedians is a marvel of literary ventriloquism, with hilarious comic monologues in the voice of every suspect. It’s also an ingeniously plotted puzzler with a twist you’ll never see coming!

4LN Book Review: Dragon Teeth, by Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton is a colossus in the entertainment industry.  He is the creative mind behind Jurassic Park, ER, Andromeda Strain, Congo, and Westworld.  During his life, Crichton dominated the box office, the literary world, and television.  Dragon Teeth is the latest in a series of posthumous novels discovered by his family to hit the shelves.

Summary from HarperCollins:

About the Book

Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novela thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate Americas western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition. But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions. With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and Williams newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the Wests most notorious characters.

A page-turner that draws on both meticulously researched history and an exuberant imagination, Dragon Teeth is based on the rivalry between real-life paleontologists Cope and Marsh; in William Johnson readers will find an inspiring hero only Michael Crichton could have imagined. Perfectly paced and brilliantly plotted, this enormously winning adventure is destined to become another Crichton classic.

There is a particular formula a majority of Michael Crichton’s most popular books follow.  Take a team of scientists from diverse fields of study, insert a preternatural problem that serves as an antagonist – such as an alien spacecraft (Sphere), super-virus (Andromeda Strain), or genetically reconstructed dinosaurs (Jurassic Park) – and have the team of scientists work together to solve said problem.  Dragon Teeth smashes that mold.

While most of Crichton’s literary work would fall under the action/adventure genre, Dragon Teeth falls more in the realm of western/historical fiction.  The story takes place during the Bone Wars, which found two leading paleontologists – Cope and Marsh – in a bitter race to discover dinosaur bones.  Cope and Marsh, as well as Cope’s compatriot Charles Stern, all play significant roles in the story and actually existed (they have their own Wikipedia pages and everything). The Earp brothers also make their presence known in and around the town of Deadwood (bonus points if you read their parts with Kurt Russell and Bill Paxton’s voices).

While the historical characters are exciting, the true protagonist of Dragon Teeth is William Johnson; a fictional character that serves as a foil for the reader to learn more about the historical events unfolding. Born into affluence, Johnson has led a life of ease and excess. It’s not until he makes a spur of the moment bet and joins a paleontology exhibition headed west that he faces any real adversity, and boy does he face it. During the Wild West adventure, Johnson finds himself in the middle of both the Bone Wars and the Sioux Wars. Add to that the general cast of ruffians typical of western lore, and you got yourself a story more reminiscent of Louis L’Amour than Andromeda Strain.

It is important to note that this book isn’t technically a finished product. It was found in manuscript form, and a note from his wife indicates that he started planning it as far back from 1974. Some of the dialogue is stiff and the pacing is a bit jumpy, but I think this is a book fans of both Crichton and westerns will enjoy as long as they don’t expect something akin to his blockbuster titles.

For more like this, check out our Top Four Michael Crichton Novels

4LN Book Review: J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Beren and Lúthien”

Beren and Lúthien has been on a 100-year journey from conception to publication.  Like previous posthumous works of Tolkien, such as Children of Hurin, and The Silmarillion, Beren and Lúthien is edited by J. R. R. Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien from old notes and manuscripts that belonged to his father.  This book has been on my radar for a long, long time, and I am happy that it is now available.

Summary from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

‘The tale of Beren and Lúthien was, or became, an essential element in the evolution of The Silmarillion, the myths and legends of the First Age of the World conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien. Returning from France and the battle of the Somme at the end of 1916, he wrote the tale in the following year.

‘Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal Elf. Her father, a great Elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril.

In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father’s own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.

Published on the tenth anniversary of the last Middle-earth book, the New York Times bestseller The Children of Húrin, this new volume will similarly include drawings and color plates by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win Academy Awards for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Like Túrin Turambar – the tragic hero of The Children of Húrin – before them, a version of Beren and Lúthien’s story appears in the first section of The Silmarillion.  What sets this book apart from other posthumous works edited by Christopher Tolkien, is that this book contains multiple tellings of the same story that offers a rare look inside the evolution of one of Tolkien’s first stories in his legendarium.  As noted in the summary above, Beren and Lúthien was conceived in 1917 shortly after Tolkien returned from WWI, and the central love story was so important to him that he had Lúthien inscribed on his beloved wife’s tombstone, and Beren inscribed on his own.

Beren and Lúthien opens with a truly fascinating preface from Christopher Tolkien in which he goes in-depth into the origins of the story, the evolution of the story, and why, at the ripe age of 93, he chose this to be his final work.  From here, Christopher provides some notes on the Elder Days, which is useful as a refresher for readers of The Silmarillion, and new readers alike.  I found these introductory pages captivating.  It’s not often you get such a comprehensive look into the mind of an author from someone who knew them as well as their own son.

The first chapter tells the first narrative version of the story which is called “The Tale of Tinúviel.”  In this early version Beren – who would eventually be re-imagined as human – is a Gnome, but not in the sense that gnomes are thought of now.  Tolkien’s use of the term “gnome” actually stems from the Greek and means “thought intelligence,” and is a race of Elves in this story.  In later versions he abandons this word as it was too misleading.

Next, each version of the story is given alongside an essay from Christopher Tolkien documenting the changes from one to the next.  The reader is also treated to the multitude of writing styles of J. R. R. Tolkien.  While the first version is told more-or-less as a narrative tale, later versions are in a complex poem-like prose that uses purposefully arcane language.

Ultimately, Beren and Lúthien is perfect for fans of J. R. R. Tolkien.  The book provides an interesting look into one of his most beloved creations, and the backstory provided by Christopher Tolkien is truly captivating. Fair warning, if you are a casual fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s, or have mainly stayed within the bounds of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this book might be a bit on the dense side. Conversely, for those of us who’ve dug deep in the Tolkien mythos it’s a much easier read than The Silmarillion.  All-in-all, I found Beren and Lúthien to be the perfect farewell tome by Christopher Tolkien, who has provided Tolkien fans with myriads of unfinished stories about Middle-earth.

More Like This:

Wisdom from Tolkien’s Middle-earth

A Brief History of the First Age of Middle-Earth as Found in the Silmarillion and Other Writings

The Hobbit Life: How The Lord of the Rings Helped Me Become a Better Person

An Introduction to Comic Book Binding

It’s been a long while since we’ve provided you, our fellow nerds, with a primer.  The purpose of this series is to take an in-depth look at specific sub-genres of nerd culture, and today’s article does not stray from that premise.  Without further adieu, let’s take a look at art of comic book binding.

History

I’m going to ask you to bear with me over this next paragraph, because we are going to have a tiny history lesson.  Unlike some of our previous primers, bookbinding goes back a long way.  Remember hearing about Johann Gutenberg in history class?  Well, he is responsible for creating the movable type printing press, which allowed for faster printing.  Faster printing meant more books, and more books meant more focus on the art of bookbinding, which really took off in the late 15th century.  Also happening in the 15th century: the Aztec and Inca empires were at the height of their power. Fun fact: initially, books were shelved with the spines facing inwards, and the title inked onto the edge of the pages.  It wasn’t until Jean Grolier commissioned beautiful bindings with with lettering on the spine that they began to shelve them spines out, as is the custom now (stay tuned for my next primer on watching paint dry!).

Look, I know this might be boring for some of you, and possibly jarring since you are here to figure out if you want to get your DOOP collection professionally bound, but we really take book-bindings as they are now for granted. You’re right, though… it’s time to move onto the next portion of this primer.

Choosing a Bindery

Deciding whether to get your comic books professionally bound is a big decision.  I imagine a good sized portion of the comic community cringes at the thought of someone cutting the spine off a book and stitching it to a bunch of its comic book brethren.  Having said that, comic book binding is great for collectors like me that don’t intend to sell their books, want to keep them easily accessible, and don’t consider short boxes home decor.

I decided to give binding a shot because I have four short boxes filled with modern era Valiant Comics sitting in the back of my closet next to an expired fire extinguisher, assorted batteries, and our winter coats. A one-of-a-kind hardback book (that I helped design, no less) filled with some of my favorite comics was just too good to pass up.  After doing some research on the Google, I decided to go with Herring and Robinson Book Binders. Herring and Robinson is a family owned library bindery that began business in 1920. Before I decided to pull the trigger, I gave them a call to learn about the binding process.  They graciously answered all my questions during my initial phone call, and stayed in touch via email throughout.  Ultimately, it was their customer service that won me over.

Prepping Your Books for Binding

First and foremost, it’s important to decide which series or event you are binding.  For my first foray into binding, I chose my X-O Manowar collection, which included issues #1-50, two #0 issues, and two annuals.  Once you choose your books, it’s time to get them into the order you want.  While each volume could be up to 2 1/2″ thick, I decided to break my collection into two volumes so the gutter loss would not be as bad.  The first volume would include issues #1-25, and the second volume would include #26-50, with the #0’s and annuals put in according to when they were released.

Now comes the hard part… if you want to take away some of the thickness, or you find it more aesthetically pleasing, you can remove the ads throughout the comic as long as it doesn’t include any of the actual panels. While yes, you are technically cutting into a comic book which could be considered blasphemous, it’s for the greater good.  I decided to remove the last few pages of each book, because these usually contained previews for upcoming Valiant titles, which I didn’t need.  To do this, I simply grabbed my trusty Wrath of the Eternal Warrior box-cutter, and cut just to the right of the center line to avoid the staples.  Some binderies also prefer the buyer to remove the staples prior to sending, but Herring and Robinson don’t require this.  Once the pages are removed put the issues back in the correct order, place some comic boards on the top and bottom to protect the pages, and wrap them with a few rubber-bands.

I have included some photos of how I prepped my books below.  They are not for the faint of heart…

The Eternal Warrior always wins

 

Placing Your Order

Herring and Robinson provides a myriad of options for customizing your book.  You can have double lines, single lines, die-stamps, lettering, and choose the placement of everything. Then you have to choose the type and color of the binding, and the color of the lines and lettering, add a ribbon or headband, it’s… let’s just say you have a lot to think about .  I spent a lot of time figuring out exactly how I wanted the spine to look.  I eventually settled on double lines at the top and bottom, sans-serif lettering, the buckram material in royal blue with silver lettering.  Herring and Robinson provides the following order form, that has a diagram of the spine and front cover, so you can show them exactly how you want it to look by sketching it out.

New_Order_Slip

Now, pack the order form in with your books, make sure it’s well protected, and ship it off to Herring and Robinson.  The wait begins.

The Final Product

Their website says it will take 6-8 weeks for the order to be completed, but after only 4 weeks I received my invoice and tracking number.  I’m not going to lie, when I saw that my package was out for delivery and my mailman was running later than usual I stared out my window like Michael Scott stares at Toby.  The wait paid off when I pulled these beautiful books out of their package:

For a price tag of around $30 a book, I ended up with two beautiful, one-of-a-kind books that will look great on my nerd shelf.  The quality of these books is mind-boggling.  They are solidly constructed, and feel great to the touch.  But, is comic book binding for everyone? Probably not.  There are those that cringe at the thought of ravaging their comics with a razor blade.  Those of you, like me, who don’t plan on selling your collection, want to be able to display them proudly, and can make it through the prep, comic book binding is definitely worth it.  I am beyond happy with how my first foray into bound comics turned out, and I will definitely be sending more over the next few months.

Jules Verne: 19th Century Nostradamus

Even if you have never read anything by Jules Verne, you have almost certainly heard of his literary contributions.  Mr. Verne is the author behind such classics as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in Eighty Days. There have been multiple adaptations of his works across a multitude of mediums over the last century and a half. There is, however, one book you probably haven’t heard of because his publisher thought it too absurd to publish in the 1860’s, so it wasn’t published until 1994. The book is called Paris in the Twentieth Century, and it’s special because it predicted the future.

Vxxx_PV_cover

Jules Verne is a prolific 19th-century French writer with more than 60 novels to his name, and is widely considered the “Father of Science-Fiction.” His most famous work is his Voyages Extroaordinaires, which collects 54 of his novels including the big three listed above. His works are also a huge influence on the world of Steampunk, as his novels are filled with fantastical elements grounded in Victorian era science.

Paris in the Twentieth Century was one of his earliest works, which he turned into his publisher in 1863 after his  successful first novel Five Weeks in a Balloon.  The publisher refused to publish the book because believed it to be too pessimistic, and too unbelievable.  It wasn’t until 1989 that the manuscript was discovered by Verne’s great-grandson, and then it was another 5 years until it was published.  What’s ironic about the publisher turning Paris in the Twentieth Century down for it being unbelievable is that it accurately predicted several facets of the modern world 100 years after it was written.

So, what did Mr. Verne predict?  First of all, in his version of the 1960’s, the cities would be illuminated by electric lights, which is fitting since Paris is called the City of Lights.  He predicted skyscrapers, the expansion of the suburbs, subways, high-speed railway systems, telegraphs that would transmit pictures i.e. fax machines (which are already horribly outdated), electric machines that are a part of an extensive network and communicate with each other (the internet).  Additionally, Verne spoke about the rise of electronic music (Skrillex), synthesizers (the 80’s), and a recorded music industry. He also predicted that cars, which he referred to as gas-cabs, would be a primary means of transportation, and even predicted the infrastructure required to sustain automobile’s, like gas stations and paved asphalt roads.  In this novel, the weapons of war have become so powerful that most countries won’t even fight anymore lest everybody gets destroyed, which sounds an awful lot like the Cold War and the arms race between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Oh, and he sort of predicted porn? In his book, he predicted that the entertainment industry would be dominated by stage plays featuring nudity and sexual acts, so there’s that.

That is a staggering amount of accuracy for a book written a decade before Dr. Arliss Loveless attacked President Grant with his giant mechanical spider.  While it is true that Verne didn’t see himself as a scientific prophet – or even a science-fiction author for that matter – it is fascinating how many of his visions for a dystopian, 1960’s Paris actually became a reality.

arliss

Perhaps the most depressing part Verne’s future is that society has become obsessed with technology and business to the point where things like art, literature or human creativity, in general, are thrown by the wayside.  While our society is indeed engrossed with technology (see: pphubbing), human creativity still has its place, and with the advent of the internet, immediately available for consumption.

Ultimately, Verne’s version of the future is a bit bleaker than reality, but many of his predictions hit the metaphorical nail on the head.  Cars were hitting their stride in the 1960’s, and let’s be honest, if you combine the emergence of interconnected machines and lewd stage-plays, you have 85% percent of the world’s internet content.  What this all amounts to is that Jules Verne not only kick-started the science-fiction genre, he is also a a master of speculative fiction.

If you are interested in checking out Paris in the Twentieth Century for yourself, head on over to Amazon, or better yet, ask your local bookstore to order you a copy.  Fair warning – the story isn’t exactly uplifting.

For more information about Steampunk, check out our Primer!

 

The Top 5ish Quotes from “The Martian” by Andy Weir

Full disclosure, there are more than five quotes. You see, as I was working on this post I had a really hard time deciding which quotes to use, because The Martian is so good. So, instead of agonizing over which quotes to cut, I just included all of them. You’re welcome.

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If you haven’t read The Martian yet, you are missing out.  Do you have a favorite quote?

For more on The Martian check out our book and movie review!

The Martian book review

The Martian movie review

4LN Book Review – The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2) by Brittany Cavallaro

Recently I was trying to keep both of my children in sight while I perused the best place in the history of ever—Target—when my eyes landed on A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes novel #1). It had a cover that drew me in (I judge books by their cover), and it was an obvious play on the classic Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet . . . how was I supposed to pass it by?

Short answer: I didn’t.

I quickly grabbed the book (signed by the author!) and set out after my kids, who were trying to put every LEGO Batman set in existence into our cart. Less than a week after I picked up A Study in Charlotte, I had read and purchased the second book in the series, The Last of August.

Quick note: since this is a sequel to a book we haven’t reviewed, I will do my best to not spoil the first book while talking about the second.

Summary from HarperCollins:

In the second brilliant, action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families.

Jamie and Charlotte are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved Uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.

So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

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The Charlotte Holmes series follows the great-great-grandchildren of the fabled Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. In this world, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was merely their publicist. While the Watson family lived relatively normal lives, the Holmes clan continued the legacy of Sherlock by training their children in the arts of deduction, baritsu, and a myriad of other Holmesian pursuits. The first book begins with the latest Watson (James) being sent to a boarding school in the United States, where he meets Charlotte Holmes. The tumultuous relationship gets tumultuous-ier (I know this is a made up word, but I am using it anyway) when the pair are framed for the murder of a fellow student. The Last of August begins shortly after the events of A Study in Charlotte and finds the pair in a European adventure that involves missing persons, art forgeries, and hipsters.

If you have been a patron of 4LN for a long, long time, you might know that I am a bit of an amateur “Sherlockian.” I’ve read a majority of the original stories, love both Elementary and Sherlock, and I’m currently working my way through the original short stories that I haven’t read using Audible (my wife is still mad I used this month’s credit).

What I am trying to say is this: I like Holmes/Watson stories regardless of the medium. I might be a little biased, but I really enjoyed the first two books in the Charlotte Holmes Novels series, and I am looking forward to the next book.

Brittany Cavallaro, the author of the series, manages to pay respect to Doyle’s work, while presenting a fresh take of the mythos. Instead of taking the original characters and placing them in present day (i.e. Sherlock and Elementary), Cavallaro presents two new characters that manage to be more than just stand-ins for the original characters. The stories are fast-paced, with just enough of the Holmesian “magic trick” revealed to the reader to string you along.

That being said, my favorite aspect of the series: the friendship between Charlotte and James. It’s endearing, if not a complete train wreck (it’s not their fault . . . they’re 16, somewhat famous, and she’s a genius with poor social skills and a vice or two). They genuinely care for each other, but there is a lot of stuff they have to work through in both books. The introduction of Holmes’ family (and the Moriarty’s) makes the second book even more of an emotional minefield for the the two to traverse.

Ultimately, the Charlotte Holmes series might not appeal to every Sherlock fan. It’s a young adult series with teenage protagonists and a smidge of sexual tension, which means it’s a bit different than the Holmes and Watson characters in other versions of the Sherlock stories. However, I think the younger half of Sherlockians will find it an entertaining read that pays homage to the source material. I give it 4 out of 5 “Three Pipe Problems.”

Wisdom from Tolkien’s Middle-earth

There are only a few books that I’ve read that I read more than once, but Tolkien is an author who’s work I cannot help but return to.  There is a lot of wisdom packed into those pages that consistently brings me back, and continues to shape my worldview.  Below I’ve collected several of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. 

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“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.”  – The Silmarillion

“But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.”  – The Lord of the Rings

Frodo: “… I wish none of this had happened.                                                       Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” – The Lord of the Rings

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“Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.” – The Lord of the Rings

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”  – The Lord of the Rings

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” – The Hobbit

“Where there’s life there’s hope.” – The Hobbit

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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – The Hobbit

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” – The Hobbit

“To him that is pitiless the deeds of pity are ever strange and beyond comprehension.” – The Silmarillion

“Who knows? Have patience. Go where you must go, and hope!” – The Lord of the Rings

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“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”  – The Lord of the Rings

“Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you.” – The Lord of the Rings

Frodo: “He deserves death.”
Gandalf: “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – The Lord of the Rings

Do you have a favorite Tolkien quote? Let us know in the comments below.