Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton:
This was a completed manuscript discovered after Michael Crichton's death, and it's passably good -- enough to keep you reading, but not worth a reread. One of Crichton's strongest facets is the way he mixes interesting research into his fiction (although some books like State of Fear teeter over the edge of research into preaching), but this book doesn't have as much of that. It's essentially a road trip movie script with pirates in it, but there's nothing wrong with pirates, and it'll get you through your next airplane ride.

Final Grade: C+

Java Puzzlers by Joshua Bloch:
This is a geek book filled with very brief (5 - 10 line) Java programs that don't do what you would expect them to do. Each puzzler is followed by a solution on the next page which outlines the language trickery or logical edge cases that results in the hard-to-find bug, as well as a bolded rule of thumb to follow to avoid the case. It will not be as useful day-to-day as Effective Java (by the same author), but it's interesting. For Java nerds only.

Final Grade: B

The Hangover:
Here's a rarity -- a movie that I actually felt could have gone on just a little bit longer. This movie is a comedy that manages to be funny without relying solely on gross-out gags and illogical setups. I would say that this and I Love You, Man are the only two comedies I've watched in the past year that I would actually watch a second time.

Final Grade: A

Dragon Age: Origins:
This is the latest Bioware role-playing game, and while I don't normally enjoy this style of RPG, playing Torchlight whetted my RPG appetite so I thought I'd give it a try. And actually, I haven't played it or felt the urge to play it since the day before Christmas. There's nothing wrong with it at all: the game looks great, has a reasonably interesting story, and I want to like it, but I don't. Maybe it's the enormous amount of spoken dialogue I have to wade through, or the combat system that feels like it borrowed the worst from World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy, or just the fact that I play for an hour or two at a time and don't feel like I've made much progress -- I don't know for sure. Ultimately, I just know that when I have free time, I would rather do something else, which is never a good sign for a game. I believe that the Zero Punctuation review it spawned is actually the best part.

Final Grade: C-

US Military weapons etched with Bible cheat codes
Nuclear weapons plant shut down by duck hunters
Guantanamo guard reunited with ex-inmates

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