Looks like xkcd, one my favourite online comics, is entering into the world of print media. This is the article linked off of his website and I really like the tone and style of it; I think it fits well with the loose humour of the comic. My personal favourite quote:

“We never made any projection — 10,000 seems like a good run,” Mr. Ohanian said, adding that this lack of research “is laughable from the perspective of anyone who knows the book industry. It’s what makes sense.”

I also really like their direct-marketing method, relying on what has worked in the past and avoiding the more “traditional” route of going with a big publisher. Again, it’s all very in-keeping with the style and feel of the comic.

Crossing the Blue

Crossing the Blue

By Holly Jean Buck



Crossing the Blue is a darkly prophetic story about a post-petroleum America and the perils, and hope, that exist in our potential future. It follows Blake, a naive Floridian boy from a rotting sunken “luxury” development who chances to meet Juliet a suave and mysterious traveler who is willing to take the chances that Blake isn’t. They travel by boat, car, and bicycle across a changed land encountering people of all stripes from friendly farmers to pirates and thieves and everything in between. Through it all Holly Jean shows a future-that-could-be intricately woven with bits of the past and points to warning signs that must not be missed.

From the opening page the theme of this book is crystal clear, climate change is an imminent and real threat and something must be done. At times though the rhetoric can become overwhelming and some of the secondary characters are little more than mouthpieces for certain viewpoints. In contrast to this, the two main characters are both irrepressibly likable with a depth that comes from Holly Jean’s unique insight and sense of humour.

On a personal note, it is interesting to me to see many of the places that Blake and Juliet visit as they work their way across America. I know many of them from my own travels and it is fantastic to see them through Holly Jean’s point of view in this vastly different world. Last spring I was sitting outside a small cafe in Malaga with Holly and another co-worker, it was tucked down a small side street out of the way of the tourists and we were discussing various economic and environmental issues. Today, what I recall most vividly isn’t the sweet clove-smelling chai or the noise from the Japanese restaurant across the street but rather Holly’s passion and sincere belief that real change is needed now to prevent an environmental disaster. From my vantage point across the table her intensity and passion shone through clearly and this passion is expertly transmitted to the pages of Crossing the Blue.

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone and it will definitely appeal to anyone with an interest in climate change or the massive role that petroleum plays in our modern society.

Here are a couple of links you might like

Holly Jean’s site with more information on the story

‘Shades of Green’ Articles by Holly Jean at The Walrus Magazine

Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble where you can go to get your own copy


The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things

By: Arundhati Roy

I wrote the other day that I had not read anything lately that was worth posting a review about… turns out I was wrong!

The God of Small Things is above all things well written. It tells a simple story of a family in India and events that transpire to shatter their lives. The main characters are a pair of two-egg twins, one boy child and one girl child and through their eyes we see the world that Roy describes. The best part about this book in my opinion was not the semi-autobiographical story, it is a basic story of love, betrayal, and poverty, but rather the way in which the story is told. Roy leans heavily on foreshadowing while hiding enough to maintain the mystery; she lets slip the major events and then backslides to fill them in with the minor events where the meaning can be fully realized. Roy has a way of making the words dance for her, some of the phrases do jigs and quick steps and dance off in ways you wouldn’t expect but they are ultimately delighting in their pure uniqueness and this is what brings the story to life.

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner

By: Khaled Hosseini


The Kite Runner is a powerful novel of friendship, loyalty, betrayal and redemption set against 30 years of turmoil in Afghanistan. The story opens with Amir, the narrator, as a young privileged boy growing up in Kabul, we see him going to school in the summer, fighting kites in winter and always yearning for his father’s love and respect. As the Russians roll into Kabul events unfold that shatter Amir’s idyllic life and lead him into exile. Throughout the remainder of the story we follow him as he grows and attempts to come to terms with his current life, the life he has lost, and struggling to become the person he wants to be.

There is a simple and elegant reason that this an International Best Seller, it is because this is an amazing book. The firs person perspective, vivid details of everyday life, and raw emotion draw the reader easily and effortlessly into Amir’s life and even in his darkest moments one feels his pain and aches and suffers along with him. The plot is straightforward without being too obvious and the few twists are well conceived, adding to the story rather than being there for their own sake.

My only misgiving about the book was the drawn out ending. Hosseini could have gone for the easy Hollywood ending, which would have been fairly natural and which I honestly expected with nearly 50 pages left in the book. Instead he opted for a more realistic and awkward ending that didn’t leave me with a huge “all is right in the world” Hollywood-high but rather the sense that life does not wrap up perfectly, it just carries on in the best possible way it can. In the end, this fits the book much better and I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

By: Jon Krakauer


I got “Into the Wild” for Christmas and read it almost right away. On the surface it should have everything I’d be interested in, adventure, the outdoors, environmentalism and a little but of mystery; but I finished the book feeling unsatisfied.

Into the Wild is the story of Christopher McCandless aka Alex Supertramp who is a free spirit at heart. He chafes under the light hand of his parents and disdains his upper-middle class upbringing yearning instead for the freedom of the road and the life of a vagabond. Unlike most people with similar yearnings he actually took off and lived the life he was dreaming of, burning his car, burning his money and hitching rides wherever the mood took him. He would work odd jobs and sleep under overpasses or camp out and for the most part fell out of mainstream society. In the end his journey took him to Alaska on a quest to survive in the bush on nothing but his wits and some very meager supplies.

Sounds great right? Well, a lot of things irked me about this book. First off Krakauer has a lot of filler material to get this book thick enough to be considered novel-length. He goes off on tangents about other people who “walked into the wild” and he also recounts one of his own ill conceived adventures in the Alaskan mountains. These side trips, which are great for adding inches, detract from the main story by watering down the adventure and the quest. It is clearly filler, and filler annoys me!

I think everyone knows how the story ends, if you’ve read the book or seen the movie or even seen the trailer you know so I’m hopefully not spoiling this for anyone. He dies in Alaska, starves to death through a really odd series of events; although I do love the irony that he gave almost $24,000 to OXFAM, a charity that works with world hungry. We start the book knowing about his ultimate end, and I think this reasonable since it provides a frame of reference for the story and allows the mystery to unfold. From a purely literary standpoint it wouldn’t be as good a story if he didn’t die!

The problem with him being dead though is that really makes me angry! I am excited that he lived life the way he did, that he took the chances he did and chased after the things he wanted, even if he was a little maniacal about it. I am angry that he lost touch with all of the important people in his life and I’m angry that he was so focused on the “free spirit” experience that his lack of preparation killed him! If he had the sense to take a map along he would be alive today… of course, taking the map along would defeat the purpose in his mind.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone, although the subject matter is excellent and obviously thoroughly researched it falls flat in the telling and leaves me angry at both Krakauer and McCandless.


Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls

Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls

by Jane Lindskold

I finished another good book the other day, its not very long but it is very unique and very well written. Dragons puts the reader inside the head of Sarah, the main character, who is self-admittedly insane. Whether or not she actually is doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that she can talk to objects that are seemingly inanimate, her favourite being a plastic dragon with two heads named Betwixt and Between.

At the beginning of the book she is set loose from the asylum she was raised and forced to live on the streets, but it isn’t long before she is adopted by a strange and welcoming form of street family where she quickly finds friends and people to look after her. This freedom and safety doesn’t last long however and the main conflict is quickly revealed.

Through twists and turns this not-too-distant-future world is revealed to us as well as the mystifying back story and origin of Sarah’s odd talents. Dragons is an engaging tale with an excellent narrative voice and characters you definitely want to believe in. If you’re looking for a unique and entertaining story that isn’t too message-filled I’d definitely recommend this one.

The Lizard Cage

With Burma in the news so much lately it probably isn’t coincidence that I picked up a book about Burmese oppression the other day. The book is “The Lizard Cage” by Karen Connelly and it is an astounding read.

Focused on an imprisoned political activist the story is slowly told as The Singer recounts the past seven years spent in solitary confinement and the 13 that still remain on his sentence. Showing both the minutia of his life in solitary and the vastness of what The Singer is capable of different characters become pulled into his sphere of influence and each responds differently. Through these characters we are exposed to the depths of human depravity and the heights of human compassion and strength. The beauty of it is in the complexity, in the discovery of who is good and who is evil, and the lines aren’t as clear-cut as they might seem.

Linking these characters together is a masterful telling of the story. There are plot elements alluded to but never developed that the reader nevertheless pieces together, for me this makes it far more powerful. At the beginning of the story is a part of the end and with this forefront in the reader’s mind it provides a context for the events to play out.

Methodically researched and at times painfully real, simultaneously soul-crushing and uplifting I have no doubt that Connelly has captured the essence of life in Burma.