Tuesday, November 30, 2010


My textures class has really trucked along. I am quite pleased with some of the progress I have made in the course.

The first item that we really focused on in the still life was the pitcher. I tried to give it a somewhat Egyptian look and yet at the same time give it a Zierath link. I took an old picture from one of my Castle Zierath adventures (done for my Twin Cities gaming group more than a decade ago. Wow. that long) of Imrhys lords and ladies Zierath, the Karland, Dykstra, Bresky, Sherismith, and Dougiano sealing the corrupt Imrhys Warez into a tomb and put that on the pitcher. I also added my Zierath symbol, the Imrhys symbol, and a Dathrhys symbol to the pot. It's turned out fairly well.

I wasn't completely happy with it, so I started to embellish a little bit with some stripes. I'm hoping to continue embellishing as I have time.

Stay tuned for more!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book List

This was sent to me by another Avid Reader. I thought I'd share my answers. I'd love to see where the other Avid Readers fall on this list.

I may make my own list of books I think everyone should read...but that would be for another day.

Have you read more than six of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only six of the 100 books listed here.

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but did not finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

  1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  6. The Bible
  7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (read all the plays, but couldn't get through the Sonnets)
  15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
  18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
  34. Emma -Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
  37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
  41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
  45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
  47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  52. Dune - Frank Herbert
  53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
  66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
  72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses - James Joyce
  76. The Inferno - Dante
  77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal - Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession - AS Byatt
  81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
  82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
  87. Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
  91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
  98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
  100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Monday, November 22, 2010

First Assignments of a Textures Class

Hm. It is amazing how you can turn around twice and suddenly you're two weeks past where you wanted to post. Life sure gets like that. So much for a post a day, eh? Like that was realistic.

I have, obviously, started a new class. This one is called 'Advanced 3-D Textures.' This is a very important one that I definitely need work on, too. Heck, I need to work on all of these projects, but it's going to be nice to focus in on this project.

Of course, when you are doing textures or 'skins,' you need to put it on something. For this one, I am to create a still life. We have a model to work from. This painting by Willem Kalf. He was born in 1619 into a fairly well-off merchant family in Rotterdam. Kalf eventually moved to Paris to begin his artistic career. Most of his early paintings explored the themes of simple kitchens and interiors. My instructor narrowed our image to these five items: A pitcher, a wine glass, a silver mug, a silver plate, and a cloth napkin or towel.

So, I made these items. Or tried to. I just needed to start by getting the shapes down. So here they are.

I did discover that I had a number of the surface polygons flipped the wrong direction. You'll notice that the pitcher, the cup, and the wine glass look a little odd. I have now learned how to fix that.

The most noticeable blunder is the cloth. You'll notice it does not drape at all on the sphere I provided. I have no idea why it hasn't. It's quite frustrating, but I take some satisfaction that none of my classmates were able to do it either. Kind of petty, I know, but at least it shows that there was a major gap in the tutorials.

I'll be posting more items in the next couple of days tied to this project, and a few others.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Visiting Friends

This has been a month of visiting old friends that I hadn't seen for a long time.

While I was in Indianapolis, I visited a high school classmate and her family. I lucked out; the hotel was only about 15 minutes from their house. Linda D and her family were a lot of fun to be with. I got there, and her two older boys immediately grabbed me and we started to play Monopoly. Not just any Monopoly, but Spongebob Squarepants Monopoly. I got to be Squidworth. I also got to help keep the youngest from walking across the gameboard. All three boys were delightful. It was a fun night of memories. Linda made the same style of pizza that her parents had made for us whenever we came and hung out at her house.

I was lucky to catch her last week. This week she's in China, so the timing was good.

This past weekend, Kath, Moira, and I went to visit our friends Aerock, Laura, and Owen. We used to go up and see them once a month when they lived three hours away in Minneapolis. Now, they live only an hour away and its been almost a year since we've seen them.

Actually, what got us really together was that Laura's brother Nick - my high school buddy. He actually had a week off of his city bus driving gig, and came down to visit and suggested that we come over. Owen, who is seven, was amazingly patient with our three year old Moira, and they had a blast playing with each other. I got to catch up with Aerock and Nick; we got to have 'Guy Talk,' which ranged in topics as far apart as Star Wars and comic books to Favre on the Vikings. I don't get to do that often enough. I used to get a lot of that during the summer, but I'm now so much older than most of my staff, and I am a 'boss,' so I don't get that time nearly as much.

I did get to see Aerock play some of his MMORPG - a fantasy game. I wish I could remember which one it is. It's not Guild Wars and not World of Warcraft. He was having fun with it, taking on Giant Monsters and doing events.

I found out that Nick is now playing City of Heroes, which is the superhero MMORPG I play. Hopefully, he'll start hooking up with Smehren and Raven with me on Monday nights. Another 'brother' for our 'Brother Nights.' What fun!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The end of a class

Well, I finished the class. It was among the most time intensive and most frustrating classes I've taken, but I did also get an email from my professor that confirmed that creating a head and face that could be animated believably is perhaps the difficult thing one can do in 3D animation. It is.

I half jokingly said in my review of myself that I could be the poster child on how NOT to do things.

The next class - which started yesterday - will be helping me immensely with the coloring. It's a class on 'texturing' or putting on the skin of a person or item.

I do have three videos to share from this class. I was so excited to do the videos, but then my poor laptop could not handle rendering the hair, even after I lowered the number of hairs so my head hear looked more like my thinning hair - you know - working its way to bald. Unfortunately, after several hours, the videos would not post. I am going to be re-opening my youtube account so eventually people will be able to see those, too, but right now, I'm off to get started on the next class. And watch the Vikings and Bears play.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A work in progress

I'm coming up on the end of my course. The head I've been working on for the last 5 weeks is coming along. I'm learning a lot, but I just don't have the time to get it all right.

She's much paler than I was hoping, and her hair is much blonder than it's supposed to be. I tried for red. I'm still learning.

My next head will be much better. I've made lots of mistakes, but I now know how to fix them. I'll post a couple videos in the next couple of days as well. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Traveling can be a lot of fun.

Phyllis and I traveling together is always kind of amusing.

Things always work out for us. We have rough ideas of where we're going, even in cities we don't know well, and we always get there.

Yesterday, we traveled about 7.5 hours to get to Indianapolis. We got into town and ran into road construction. Badly marked road construction, actually. We missed a turn, kept looking for additional detour signs, and ended up down by the Speedway.

That in itself is fun. I can now say I've seen the Speedway. Of course, it was really dark, and we could hardly see it, but I have now been there. oooooooo.

We then found our way back up to the northern part of Indy, where our hotel is, and then got off the freeway a couple exits to early. We followed the instructions, and then threw them out because they weren't helping us. We then started driving. And we drove. Then Phyllis decided to ask for directions. So we turned around, found a gas station, and asked. We found out that if we had just continued on 86th St another mile, we would have been at our hotel. We laughed about it.

We also laughed because we know our former co-workers would all have been driven absolutely insane by the 'oh-i-think-it's-thataway' attitude that we have about traveling.

All in all, it was a good day of traveling.

Unfortunately, Phyllis got really sick last night and spent almost all day sleeping in between bouts of illness. I hope she's feeling better tomorrow when our conference really begins.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Castle Zierath: the real world beginnings

Over the last two decades, I have been creating a world. It is a world of magic and mystery; of heroes and monsters; of idealized societies and the nasty falls from grace.

The first time I used the phrase 'Castle Zierath' was in connection to a tutoring group I had in 1992. I was looking for a theme for my group to create cohesion. It was my 3rd summer of working at the Upward Bound program, and while my groups the first two years were okay, they didn't have the closeness that I saw in some of the other groups.

I was in a new location for me that year. It was a corner in the library with lots of tables and study carols. Never being one to leave furniture where the powers-that-be put it, I shifted things around and created two walls out of the study carols. We started creating titles for ourselves - Lord Zierath, Countess Kuker, the Earl of Carlin, and the Duchess of Minger. We started having a lot of fun with the whole thing. I drew a little 'drawbridge control' on a 3x5 card with large red dots, and the words 'Up,' 'down,' 'locked,' and 'inside out' on it. The only time we hit the 'inside-out' button was when we tore apart our little Castle at the end of the summer. I have Paul Carlin and Angel (Kuker) Dietz to thank (or blame) for getting me started on Castle Zierath.

The idea of Castle Zierath bloomed, and I used it for many years. Usually, it helped with the cohesion of the group - although I did have a year where nothing I did built cohesion. The students were just way to different.

The ideas kept flowing. We created the ideal 'us' in the world, and made ourselves essentially immortal. We wrote down our adventures, and we added maps and more to the world. We even created a card game for Castle Z. We just kept having it grow.

Nick O'Hollearn was the one who asked me why I didn't start writing a book, and with his and Melanie Hoffner's urging, I did. For more information on that, you can take a look at my earlier blog commentary on my struggles with that.

The world has grown in complexity and history. The timeline is thousands of years old, and I have a writer's guidelines partially done. I'm also trying to get a Castle Zierath wikipage going; I have the site -i just need someone with wiki expertise to help me get going on that. I have incorporated many of the old games I played in high school and college into the world as well, adding more to that history.

I hope to continue working on the world, and really hope to introduce to more people who will love it and want to bring some of their own ideas to it, just as many of my students, friends, and family have. As I look back at my relationship with Kath, my wife, one of the things that really cemented our feelings for each other is when she and I co-created the history of the elves - or the Rhys - in the world, which led me then to the 'immortal humans' or Imrhys. Kath came up with the names of these characters.

Sometime this month, I'll also talk about the Zierath Alliance Creative Consortium - another dream that I have, but I have babbled on enough for this day. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Disappointed in Iowa

Overall, I like to think of myself as a moderate. It's probably not accurate. I am probably a dyed blue liberal. Heck, on some subjects I would probably find myself a leftist radical. Gay marriage is one of those subjects.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled at Iowa. We were moving forward in civil liberties. We were getting government out of the most personal part of our lives - marriage. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the gay marriage was constitutional. We were on our way.


Yesterday, three Iowa Supreme Court Justices were removed from Court because of their standing that not allowing gays to marry 'was unconstitutional because it unfairly disadvantaged one group of individuals.'

Here we are, complaining loudly that government is sticking its nose in where it has no business going, and at the most personal part of lives, the same group that is complaining about government in our business is saying that the government needs to step in and define what is a happy couple.

There are people out there who say gay marriage is a mockery of the institution of marriage. I sighed deeply. Mockery of marriage. Let's talk about infidelity. That is a true mockery of marriage. Perhaps the divorce rate. That seems more like mockery than a couple in love wanting to be able to legally make decisions together.

Iowa had been on the cutting edge of Civil Liberties. Now, I am embarrassed for my state again. We were just beginning to shake off the narrow-minded stereotype of rural yokels from the center of the country; we've moved backwards, Iowans.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Khristina Riles

This is a hard post for me. This is a former student of mine.

Khristina M. Riles, 19, of Colwell, died Wednesday, October 27, 2010, at her home in Charles City.

Khristina Marie Riles was born May 29, 1991, in Fort Dodge, the daughter of Jeffrey Riles and Susan Martin. Khrissy

Khrissy joined Upward Bound in 2005. She found an acceptance and friends at Upward Bound she had not found at school. She made quick bonds with fellow students with their common interests in Japanese animation (anime and manga) and Harry Potter. She was also an avid reader of fan fiction and enjoyed writing fan fiction. She came to as many UB events as she possibly could.

Throughout high school, she played violin, worked hard on her artwork and music, and graduated in 2009. She worked for Hy Vee in Charles City for three years.

Living family members include her mother, Susan (Mike) Hyland of Colwell; father, Jeff Riles of Burt; sister, Stephanie Riles of Colwell (UB class of ‘11); maternal grandparents, Clayton and Doris Martin of Charles City; paternal grandmother, Lois Riles of Dakota City; grandmother, Vera Hyland of Johnston; God parents, Linn Martin of Charles City and Connie Riles of Dakota City; and many aunts; uncles; and cousins.

She was preceded in death by her great grandmother, Velma Colwell; paternal grandfather, Robert Riles; and grandfather, William Hyland.

I attended Khrissy's funeral today. Khrissy is the 5th former student whose funeral I have gone to. One student from Remsen, four from UB. I have two other related funerals I was unable to go to - another UB student and one former staff person.

Going to these funerals does not get any easier. Nor, as one of Khrissy's classmates told me today, should it.

In addition to losing a former student, Khrissy is the first of my 'Castle Zierath' group to pass on. As part of my honoring her, I will be adding her character's death to the timeline of the world and will have a story outline to go with it. If any of Khrissy's 'Castle Zierath' friends would like to be involved in this endeavor, please let me know.

It doesn't get easier.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Avid Reader: October 2010

The books I read in October 2010.

I started the month with a Star Wars book. ‘X-wing: Wedge’s Gamble’ is the second in the X-Wing series by Michael Stackpole. It continues to follow Wedge Antilles, Corran Horn, and the rest of Rogue Squadron through the next several months. The focus of the novel is actually a major happening in the Star Wars Universe, which is the Rebel Alliance taking over the central planet Corsucant. Against that backdrop, we follow the interpersonal relationships, the political maneuvering, and, of course, the various battles. Overall, I liked the book, but there were several times I had a few moments of, ‘oh, come on.’ Corsucant is a single city on a planet, and having a chase just ‘happen’ to crash into a building where other characters just happen to be stretches even the belief in the force. I did enjoy the book, and give ‘Wedge’s Gamble’ a B.

The third in the series of Percy Jackson and the Olympians is ‘The Titan’s Curse.’ As with the other two, I enjoyed the novel. The characters continue to grow and develop, and we meet more important characters, including Thalia and Nico. The mythology is once again correct, and it is very nice to see the gods and titans really start to go at it, even with the demigods helping on both sides. The romantic story also continues to develop, which doesn’t do that much for me except remind me painfully of early unrequited crushes I had while in high school. *shudder*. This third book continues bringing the epic forward and adding more complications to the dire prophesies the Oracle has given our heroes. I give ‘The Titan’s Curse’ an A-.

I decided that as long as I was giving reviews of books, I would include graphic novels, as, in my eyes, they are an a legitimate artform, just like fictional books, plays, movies, or any other story telling art form. So, that being said, my first graphic novel review is of Thor: Secret Invasion.

Thor: Secret Invasion is one of the tie-ins for the over-arching mini-series Secret Invasion. I had read Secret Invasion, and Thor, as one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe, was instrumental in rallying the heroes of Earth to fight off the invading aliens the Skrulls. I was looking forward to having Thor’s story of how he got to the fight. Instead, what I got was a story of what was happening in Asgard. Don’t get me wrong; I love the tales of Asgard and Thor’s supporting cast. This was a story about Thor’s alien ally, Beta Ray Bill. Beta Ray Bill is one of the few beings in the galaxy who can wield Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and he was given a hammer Stormbreaker which is the equal of Mjolnir. This makes Bill one of the mightiest beings in the Marvel universe. According to the story, Bill was captured, which I can accept, and then his powers genetically duplicated, which follows the rest of the Secret Invasion story, so I can accept. One of the things I can’t accept is that the Skrulls had the know-how to cut Stormbreaker in two, have it continue to work, and then give the hammer with its worthiness enchantment to a Skrull warrior now as the Godkiller, who is able to lift it. The Godkiller has Bill’s genetic signature, but certainly not the worthiness to lift the hammer. All in all, I found Thor: Secret Invasion disappointing and rushed. It did have some wonderful character moments, in particular for Thor’s alter-ego Don Blake, but it did not make up for my disappointment. I give Thor: Secret Invasion a C-.

The second graphic novel I read was ‘Annihilation: Conquest: Volume 1.’ This is another over-arcing mini-series. It deals with the ‘cosmic’ superheroes and the alien races of the Marvel universe. It is actually the second major saga of the cosmic heroes line, the first being ‘Annihilation. In Annihilation, two of the three major alien races are almost destroyed. The Skrull Empire was decimated and the Kree Empire was barely holding on. Conquest tells what happens next. This collection starts with a re-imagining of one of the major alien races – the Phalanx. In the first section, the ‘Star-Lord’ mini-series introduces what will become the supergroup Guardians of the Galaxy. Part 2 continues with the heroines Quasar and Moondragon. ‘Annihilation: Conquest: Volume 1’ is a mixed bag. I really enjoyed the humor in the Guardian’s part. One trend that Marvel has is that they will kill a character just for shock value. This time they choose Deathcry, a member of the Avengers from the late ‘90s (and mentee of Hercules). They have her act out of character, in my opinion, attacks a teammate for saving her life, and then he destroys her. I am always disappointed when they take a character with a rich history and un-fulfilled mysteries and kill them. The second half of volume follows the new Quasar and Moondragon. I’m not thrilled with the treatment of these two characters. Quasar is a replacement for what I consider the ‘real Quasar’ who was killed in Annihilation (still a source of irritation for me) and she does not have the makings of a Quasar, who protect life. Moondragon, always an irritating character because she thinks she’s better than everyone else, starts out okay, but then she goes through an ridiculous transformation that left me in disbelief. I am hoping that the rest of the series makes a better showing than this first part. Volume one of ‘Annhilation: Conquest gets C.

The fourth installment of Percy Jackson and the Olympians is ‘The Battle of the Magic Labyrinth.’ This one brings in the most famous maze in the history: the Labyrinth. Just as in all the other books, the Labyrinth came over to America when America became the center of western civilization. It is another fast paced adventure taking place over about a week. Percy Jackson is frequently compared to Harry Potter, and it is a fair comparison. Both are part of a hidden world hiding just below the surface of the mundane world. Both are stories of young boys who do not fit into the outside world. They have good friends who help them out, and the enemy that they face is much more powerful than they are. The difference is that this is most certainly an American story. It is fast paced and action oriented. The first person narration is also a major difference; I found Percy’s observations very amusing. The Magic Labyrinth is a worthy continuation of the story, with good mythology, good storytelling, and a nice build up to the final chapter. ‘The Battle of the Magic Labyrinth’ gets an A-.

The Dragon’s Island by Jack Williamson is an old school science fiction book. I found it truly amusing when on the back of the book it talks about how normally science fiction books are set in the far future, instead of just a couple years from now in the 1970s. This book was written in 1951, but it still deals with morality issues that are still raised today. It focuses in on Genetic Engineering and creating a race that is ‘better’ than ‘normal’ humans - faster, smarter, stronger. Are they out to destroy normal humans or are they going to be the saviors of the world. You have the humans who are sure the ‘mutants’ are going to annihilate the human race, and will do anything to kill the mutants, and you have mutants who seem to have shady dealings and consider humans less than they are. Dragon’s Island keeps you guessing as to what side the protagonist should be on. The ‘science’ of the science fiction is…well…shaky at best about how they do the genetic manipulation, but overall it is a pretty good read. I give Dragon’s Island a B.

I have to admit, I have always been a fan of Bangsian Fantasy. Bangsian Fantasy is where an author will take historical people and write about them in a situation after their death –whether it is in the afterlife (Heaven/Hell) or a rebirth. One of the finest examples of Bangsian Fantasy is Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series. I finished book 3 – The Dark Design- of this series. The previous two books were very entertaining. The first book –‘To Your Scattered Bodies Go’- is written from the point of view of Sir Richard Burton – a British explorer, adventurer, and author. The second book – ‘The Fabulous Riverboat’- is told from the point of view of Samuel Clemens, AKA Mark Twain. The idea is that everyone who ever lived on earth is brought back to life on the banks of a river, without any knowledge of how they got there. They introduce many characters from history – Alice Hargrave (Alice from Alice in Wonderland), King John of England (Prince John of the Robin Hood legend), Eric Bloodaxe (Viking chieftain), Hermann Goering (of the Third Reich), and swordsman Cyrano de Berjerac, as well as a single alien and a couple caveman-types. This third book – ‘The Dark Design’ has multiple points of view rather than the single of the first two. For the most part, the book flows along very well, although it jumps from person. Along with Burton and Clemens, we see from the point of view of a 20th Century liberated woman who is a blimp captain and Peter Jarius Frigate, a 20th Century author (who closely resembles the author Farmer). As I said, the book flows very quickly until we are introduced to Frigate. We then take time out of the book to let the author expound on his view of the life, the afterlife, philosophy, and long examples from his life. It is about four or five chapters in the book that really drag it down. I strongly recommend the first two books of the Riverworld series – giving ‘To Your Scattered Bodies Go’ a B+ and ‘The Fabulous Riverboat’ an A. The third book is the weakest of the series so far with its sometimes confusing transitions and the long section of Frigate’s. This third book is really a transitional book between the first two and then the fourth book where many of the questions are answered. I give the ‘The Dark Design’ a B-.

As a birthday present, my buddy Paulie gave me the graphic novel ‘Siege.’ I have been looking forward to this particular graphic novel. I knew that it was going to feature my favorite Marvel superheroes – Thor and Captain America- as well as the return of the main central Avengers – the two plus Iron Man. For the past several years, the heroes of the Marvel universe have gone through some severe difficulties, including a Civil War where the heroes were fighting other heroes because of a constitutional amendment and the aforementioned Secret Invasion, followed by something called the Dark Reign where former Spider-man villain Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) becomes the new leader of the spy agency ‘HAMMER.’ Osborn sees Asgard – which is now on earth floating above Oklahoma – as a national security threat and sets up one of the Asgardians to cause an incident that would allow him to attack and take over the home of the gods. The attack is staged and, despite the President’s order for Osborn to stand down, Osborn attacks using a group of villains masquerading as the Avengers. The graphic novel is fast paced with some fine moments for Thor, Captain America, Iron-Man, and the Greek war god Ares. It also has a show down between two of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe: Thor and the Sentinel. The battle and deaths of major characters are graphic and powerful. The difficulty with most of the mini-series now is that we are not getting the full story. I know that I will be getting ‘Seige: Thor’ which fills in some blanks in the story, and there are at least 11 other collections that tie into the Seige storyline, which is a bit much. Overall, this is one of the better mini-series, but I also know that I am a bit biased towards Thor and Asgard. I give Seige a B+.

The grand finale of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians takes place in the fifth book. It is a natural build from the previous four books, and continues using the mythology to tell a fast-paced, exciting story. It is a story that truly shows that not any one person can do it all on his/her own, and sometime the ‘hero’ is not necessarily the one you expected it to be. There were enough twists in this story to make it fun; I have to admit, I had the big twist figured out fairly early, but there were a number of smaller twists that I didn’t see coming. It was a good read, and well worth the time I put into it. I give the ‘The Last Olympian’ an A-.


I started the month with a Star Wars novel, and now I’m bookending the month with next installment of the X-Wing saga. ‘The Krytos Trap’ features Rogue Squadron leader Wedge Antilles and the others trying to deal with the death of Corran Horn and the trial of their XO Tycho Celchu, who is accused of Horn’s murder. We also see Horn trying to escape from his imprisonment. The backdrop is Corsucant, now under the control of the Rebels, and the politicians trying to set up a government. The mystery of the traitor in their midst is interesting to try to follow, and characters continue to develop and stretch. It also ties in to some of the established minor characters from the movies, which is always fun. I actually liked this one better than I liked the second novel. I give ‘The Krytos Trap’ an A-.