Saturday, May 30, 2009

In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Languageby Arika Okrent
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Just about everyone has heard of Esperanto, which was nothing less than one man’s attempt to bring about world peace by means of linguistic solidarity. And every Star Trek fan knows about Klingon, which was nothing more than a television show’s attempt to create a tough-sounding language befitting a warrior race with ridged foreheads. But few people have heard of Babm, Blissymbolics, and the nearly nine hundred other invented languages that represent the hard work, high hopes, and full-blown delusions of so many misguided souls over the centuries. 

This book is dangerous!  I wasn't even done and I was wandering across Esperanto websites and looking for library books on Esperanto.  Okrent does a wonderful job of leading the reader through the perplexing world of language-dreamers (visionaries AND cranks) who have, through the centuries, invented all manner of fascinating languages.She does a wonderful job of teaching about linguistic theory, the mechanics of real AND imaginary languages and plenty of detail (but never too much detail).   With grace and a good dash of humor (as a Klingonist I had my long suffering family laughing when I read some of her depictions of the Klingon crowd) she covers it all.

Excellent!  Highly recommended!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn

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Jordan McKell has a problem with authority. Unfortunately for him, the iron-fisted authority of the powerful Patthaaunutth controls virtually every aspect of galactic shipping. In order to survive, Jordan ekes out a living dabbling in interstellar smuggling for outlaw concerns that represent the last vestiges of free trade in the galaxy. So when Jordan and his partner, Ixil—an alien with two ferret-like "outhunters" linked to his neural system—are hired by a mysterious gentleman to fly a ship and its special cargo to Earth, they jump at the job. ...
A nice bit of Space Opera from Zahn, whose work includes award-winning original work AND block buster Star Wars fiction. Lots of interesting world-building here with multiple alien races and cultures. Some complain it's Han Solo and Chewie "by another name," and I can see a bit of that, since Jordan McKell certainly exudes that Solo-vibe. But the story stands on its own as a nice "caper story" in a far flung future.

The Thieves of Heaven by Richard Doetsch

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From the Publisher

The most closely Guarded treasure on Earth.

An explosive ancient secret.

A breakneck journey into the heart of the Vatican.

In a small, heavily fortified room just north of the Sistine Chapel, a master thief is about to strike. All he needs is an instant–to steal the most important treasure in the Vatican museum: two antique keys–one gold, one silver–that protect the secret of salvation….

But a surprise awaits Michael St. Pierre deep inside the Vatican, an ancient secret so explosive, it sends him running for his life—from the streets of Rome to a small stone church in Israel—with two stolen keys and a terrible realization: the consequences of his desperate, brazen act are far greater than he could ever have imagined.

For the treasure he has uncovered—the gleaming prize buried within the most clandestine structure on earth—is about to bring him face-to-face with an enemy more shocking, frightening, and insidious than anyone can guess....

Okay.... I picked this up on a whim from the library and I enjoyed it although... it was one of the goofiest stories I've read. It has the bizarre premise that, when Jesus told Peter "And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 16:19) he actually handed over a pair of real KEYS, (wait, it gets better) and the Devil really wants those keys - but can't touch them. SO... he hires a master thief to do it.

I can't imagine hearing a synopsis like that and expecting the story to be anything worth looking at... but surprisingly Doetsch makes it work (well, once you get past Jesus-the-locksmith) with good pacing and interesting characters.

So, bottom line, fun story - but don't expect to learn anything real about Christianity and its teachings regarding heaven, hell or the devil.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Valley of Fear
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Last time I listened to this - well logged here - was in 2004 when my MuVo was my mp3 player. And I still have one (two, actually). (But this time I listened with my iPod Nano). Good story. Something refreshing about hanging out with Holmes, and these audio versions are really well read.