Back to the Vortex Book Review

by J Shaun Lyon

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big Dr Who fan. Of all the TV I’ve watched over my lifetime, I daresay Doctor Who is probably my favorite show of all time. Without boring you with the entire history here, the TV show went off the air in 1989 (after running for 26 years). There was an attempt to revive it in 1996, but it didn’t get off the ground past a pilot movie. It finally returned to the TV in the spring of 2005. I was cautious, as I didn’t know how the show would play out now, 16 years after it ceased being on the air. But I shouldn’t have been worried, it was a tremendous success – was renewed for two more years after the one in 2005. The show was fabulous, and not just because there was new stuff. My wife, who abhors the show watched a few, and genuinely liked them.

The new series is where this book comes in. “Back to the Vortex” was written by an old friend of mine Jim Lyon (who now goes by the name Shaun Lyon). It’s a superbly detailed behind the scenes story of the making of the new series from how it came about to the press on it’s return, to the actual physical shooting, plus a lot more. It’s got a level of detail that might overwhelm some readers. One part that almost bored me was the bits about shooting. As I don’t live in Cardiff Wales, the acutal locations mean little to me. Several sections of the production areas of the book were “OK, filiming was done here, and they shot until the darnkess..” After several such lines like that, they all seemed to blur together. it’s my only fault with the book.

After the book gets to the point of the show being on the air, it switches to programme guide mode, where each episode is broken down into several parts, it’s an extremely detailed guide, offering both a factual, and opinionated look at the story in question. There’s also an appendix discussing ratings, and other information.

If you like Doctor Who, and have been lucky enough to see the series (as of Dec 2005, it has yet to air anywhere in the US, nor are there any current plans to do so (on TV anyway, it comes out on DVD in Feb 06)), then you should check the book. Some of it reads like a reference guide, but I guess that’s what the book is.
Also make sure and visit Lyon’s Outpost Gallifrey website, it’s by far the best Doctor Who site on the net.

Ender’s Game

by Orson Scott Card

Am I the only person who has never read this book? I had a few people at work chastise me for not having read it, one of them went to his office and brought me a copy. Now I need to find the time to read it. :)

Books

Heart of TARDIS (Doctor Who Series)


Tonight I was looking through my nightstand in my bedroom for something, and realized what a horrifically large number of books I have on the “to read” pile. It’s taken up the entire lower drawer of my nightstand, so many that nothing else can fit in there.

I also haven’t read much in the last several months. The last book I read was a Doctor Who Book called Heart of Tardis, which I thought was really bad. I read it mostly on a flight home from visiting family this past July. However, I got about 35 pages left in it, and I realized I still had no idea what was really going on. It was very confusing, and quite frankly, I felt that 200 or so pages into it you should have an idea what was going on. I didn’t, and decided on Jan 2nd, 2005 to finally abandon a book I was not having any fun reading 6 months ago.

However, my point was not really to write about the Doctor Who book, but the state of my to read list. I noticed that quite a few books were not in my online version of the to be read list. So I brought it all up to speed. Check out my books page, where you can read reviews of various books I’ve read, things I’m currently reading, and the all too large list of books I still need to read (which totals TWENTY NINE).

Getting in the Game Book Review

by Josh Lewin

Getting in the Game
Josh Lewin is the regular play-by-play broadcaster for the Texas Rangers. This past fall, he put out a book called “Getting in the Game: Inside Baseball’s Winter Meetings”. This is the story of both the outside and inside of some folks trying to break into baseball to follow a dream. It deals with how some kids (and not kids) try to get broadcasting, mascot jobs, or just about anything with a minor league team.
That sound boring? It’s not. The book has a nice sense of humour about it, and there’s some wonderfully funny stories about what goes on at these things (I loved the potato story a lot, as well as numerous others). Josh Lewin has a very entertaining way of broadcasting baseball games, and he seems to have tied up several stories regarding how to break in, how those who hire do the hiring, and the tribulations of some job seekers rushing all over themselves to get low paying or even no paying jobs, just to say they have a job in baseball.
If there’s one criticism of the book, it’s that I found it hard to follow sometimes where things were going. This isn’t a fiction, so things aren’t going to always be neatly in a row – but I got confused sometimes as to who was who in terms of the job seekers. But that’s a minor quibble, it might just be me not paying attention well enough.
A nice bonus to me was some talk with Dave Raymond, the man who originated the Philly Phanatic character. As I’m from Philadelphia, and grew up with the Phanatic, it was nice to hear some stuff from Mr. Raymond. It’s not like he’s the main crux of the book (far from it), but it was nice to see him pop up here.
If you like to follow the inner workings of baseball, you’re sure to love this book. If you’re the kind of casual baseball fan who has trouble watching the game on TV, or when they’re at the park gets more worked up going for beer and hot dogs, this might not be for you, then.

Masters of Doom Book Review

by David Kushner

This book tells the story of John Romero & John Carmack of id Software. It talks about the creation of id Software, through Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, and later Doom, Quake, and the breakup of the two Johns. I work in this industry, and as such, most of what was said in this book I knew already. There was little I wasn’t aware of, and to me, I’m reading this book going “Yeah – so?” As such, I don’t feel qualified to write a proper book review of this book. I read it solely to see if it was accurate, and from what I can tell, it’s mostly accurate. There’s some errors, and some of that might be due to “point of view”, but I don’t really have much to say about the book. I suppose if I didn’t work in the industry and know the guys already, I might be more into it.

Philadelphia: Then & Now Book Review

by Kenneth Finkel, Susan Oyama


This book isn’t big (128 pages), and it isn’t that wordy (about 80% of the pages are taken up with pictures). But it is fascinating if you like Philadelphia, and you like history.
This book takes 60 locations and has pictures of them. The first part is an “early” picture anywhere from 1859-1952. Then there’s a picture on the next page which is more modern (1986-1988). There’s also a paragraph or so with each picture describing the area as it was in the old days, and now (the book was published in 1988). If you know the areas well, it’s a wonderful jog down memory lane for one’s own memory.
It’s a very fast read – I got through the entire thing cover to cover in well under an hour. I also wished the pictures (the modern ones anyway, the old time ones can’t be helped) were in color, but other than that, it was rather enjoyable. If you’re a fan of Philadelphia, and history, I recommend it.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game Book Review

by Michael Lewis

Moneyball
I finished this book in December of 2003. I’ve had it on my pile of books to read since the start of the 2003 season. I take too long to read books – probably because my pile to read is massive! :) Anyway…
This book was billed as some major expose on the inner workings and mind of Billy Beane – General Manager of the Oakland A’s, and how he continues to make things work with no money against teams (mostly the Yankees) with significantly larger budgets. And for the most part, that’s what it did.
Did I enjoy this? Absolutely yes – I totally enjoyed parts of it (the draft day stuff, Beane’s behaviour in the park). But other parts bored me. For some reason we got an entire chapter on how A’s pitcher Chad Bradford grew up as a kid. That’s fine and all, but I don’t see how that was germaine to the book. I also was a bit bored about Beane’s time in the minors and what his life was like as a player. Yeah, I understand it’s background to why he does what he does now, but quite frankly, it bored me.
But once the book got out of that, it was wonderful! Lots of insight into how a major league general manager’s mind works – or at least Beane’s. I agree there’s something to sabremetrics (sp?) and it certainly seems to work for him. What I took away from this is that he seemed a bit naieve to think his way is the only way to do things, though. Running has it’s uses. I get the impression that if he could, Beane would have every run scored on a bases loaded walk. :)
However, that’s a lot of nitpicking on my part – the book is an enjoyable read. Provided you enjoy the “business” of baseball. If you don’t enjoy the biz side of the sport, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this book.

Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Lineups Review


My wife got me this book for my birthday, and it seemed like a book right up my alley. I love baseball, and I love keeping track of players from the past, and where they travel during their careers. This book does a wonderful job of bringing together lists of players for all the current (and some historical) teams. Rob Neyer picks the best players on a team, a “B” team of greatest players, then other categories like “Best Single Season”, “Gold Glove”, “Iron Glove”, “Past their prime”, “Traded Away”, and others. I, of course immediately looked at the two teams I’m most familiar with, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Texas Rangers. I read those, and it was a like “COOL!”; I loved seeing all these player names. I was excited about reading this book, so I started in from the front of the book.
And that’s where the problems started. For awhile, it was cool reading all the lineups and players. But after awhile, the amount of players I’d never heard of really sucked the enjoyment and rush I got when first picking up the book out of me. I had to force myself to finish it, and while I can put the book in the “I enjoyed it” group, it’s not by much. I’m 38 as I write this in October 2003, and a lot of the players are people I’d never heard of, and as the pages wore on, it just became a big mishmash of players that I dint’ care to be reading.
I did enjoy the sections on players who joined the team past their prime (like Pete Rose in Montreal, Richie Ashburn for the NY Mets, things like that). But overall, as one other review I read about this book said, “…my eyes started to gloss over”.
If you’re a stat hound, you’ll probably dig this book. I don’t want to sound like I’m totally dumping on it, it was enjoyable, but wasn’t something I could read quickly, nor something that I can say I’d want to read again, although I will keep it around as a “reference” book of sorts. Kudos to Rob Neyer for the extreme research I’m sure in putting all this together.

Star Trek: The Last Roundup Book Review

by Christie Golden


I was home visiting family recently, and when I left, I borrowed this book from my brother for the flight home. It’s 280 or so pages, and I read the entire thing waiting for my plane in the terminal, and for about the first 45 minutes of the flight. I flew through it pretty good, and I don’t know if that’s because the book is good, or I was bored.
The book was pretty decent – I generally tend to get suckered in by books that proport to tell a story of a single event in an already existing universe that we don’t get to see on screen. In this case, it’s the “final adventure of the original crew”. Which is an odd phrase for the book, because the bulk of the story has Kirk, Chekov, & Scotty in it. The remainder of the original crew is barely there, and only superficially involved with the main plot of the story. We do get Kirk’s two nephews from his rarely mentioned brother. This story takes place right before the events of movie #7, “Star Trek Generations“. There’s a lot of characters in it that play a MAJOR part in the story, but are new characters. This almost reads like a fan story – “Hey, let’s put me in the story at the expense of some other character(s)”. It’s not quite like that, but I’ve read enough of those kinds of stories in the past, that this somewhat feels that way. I suppose it’s just a gripe at seeing McCoy, Uhura, Spock, and Sulu relegated to backgrond status when this was billed as an original crew adventure.
That said, the book was enjoyable, if a bit predictable. Definitely a bunch of “I’m old – I’m useless” stuff from Kirk, which seemed to be a theme of the latter original crew adventures. Still, it was a good read – I can’t say it’s my most recommended book, but I did enjoy it. I also felt that the main villian of the story “gave up” a bit too quickly, and the reason he was coerced into giving up was well.. never explained, so it felt really rushed and cheap to me.
I’m glad I borrowed the book from my brother instead of buying it – you might want to see if your library has a copy of it to borrow it from them. If you’re a Star Trek fan, it’s probably worth a read, but I would have felt ripped off if I actually paid full price for the book.