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  • Wed, 19:37: "The Founding Fathers would be so proud of the tone of the [Repub] debate by now." Heh. #maddow #UniteBlue
  • Wed, 19:44: I really wish they'd dial it back. They're not doing their candidate any favors. https://t.co/Au2c8Cie3Q
  • Wed, 19:45: RT @JoshDorner: Bernie's too cute by half style of attacking Hillary and then pretending someone else started it is wearing a little thin. …
  • Wed, 19:47: RT @Allen_Clifton: Look, I like Sanders but "revolution" is not an answer as to how you're going to navigate Congress to get things passed.…
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red headed femme

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Anagrams, Fibonacci Sequences and Grrrl Power (Lumberjanes Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson)

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson

This is cute, and I didn't think I would enjoy it nearly as much as I did. It's ostensibly written for young girls, but I knew something else was going on from the second page, when one of the characters exclaimed: "What in the Joan Jett are you doing?"

From there, we were off on a rip-roaring tale of female friendship, agency, adventure, and overall awesomeness.

Our five titular Lumberjanes are attending a summer camp called the "Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types," with a theme of "Friendship to the Max!" (This volume is the collection of the first four comics, and is laid out like a "Lumberjanes Field Manual," including the different badges--especially the hilarious "Pungeon Master Badge"--and pages describing the Lumberjanes' purpose, programs, and objectives. It's an effective method of helping the reader suspend disbelief and immerse themselves in the Lumberjanes' world.) Our characters are Mal, Molly, April, Ripley, and Jo, with the standouts, to me, being the latter two: Ripley is a fearless, impetuous little imp, and Jo is the science nerd (and I would say, the oldest of the five--there aren't any ages given, but it seems to me they'd be in the twelve-fourteen range, as befits their audience) who solves Fibonacci sequences.

Their adventures include fighting off three-eyed foxes, winding their way through an underground maze filled with talking statues and anagrams, battling yetis and river monsters, and falling in with a group of "scouting lads" who turn into frothing zombies at night. (Said scouting lads also includes a panel which convinced me that this comic isn't written entirely for young girls--the scoutmaster is a macho blowhard who spouts stuff like "Cookies are for the weak. Real men should be splitting wood and smoking pipes!" and "I am going to catch a fish by wrestling it away from a bear!" Only an adult could appreciate this over-the-top sendup of toxic masculinity.)

All in all, this little book is a delight. There are several sly pop-culture references, including a shout-out to "Holy Mae Jemison!" and an anagram of The X-Files' "the truth is out there." I'll certainly be on the lookout for Volume 2.
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Ideas in Search of a Character, Part II (or, "The Dark Forest," by Liu Cixin)

The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin

This is the sequel to last year's Hugo Award-winning novel, The Three-Body Problem. I read that book and didn't care for it much; the author pretty much sacrificed his characters to his ideas, to put it mildly. However, it was voted Best Novel, so when this one came out, I decided to give it a try.

This is a (marginally) better book than Three Body, but I wouldn't really call it good. I wonder if that has something to do with the translation. The translator for this book is Joel Martinsen, and the prose seems to flow far more smoothly. Unfortunately, that doesn't cure the author's propensity for great whacking chunks of technobabble throughout the book, to the point where I felt stuck inside a bad Star Trek episode. (I could have spent my entire life without knowing how to, in every excruciating detail, construct bullets from an iron meteorite that will penetrate a space suit, kill the person inside, and disintegrate on contact, for example.) This reaches its zenith in a frenetic action piece which I suppose the author thought would look good on a movie screen; it's where an advance probe sent out by the invading Trisolarans, called a "droplet" and constructed out of a material "a hundred times [stronger] than the sturdiest material in the Solar System", that has a surface like "a smooth mirror" (repeated ad nauseum), busts loose and destroys the entire human space fleet, a thousand warships, in twenty minutes. (Yeah, I know that sounds totally implausible. You'll just have to read the book to see if it passes muster. That is, if you can stand plowing through this five-hundred-page monster.)

The characterization in this book is not any better than the first, and in many ways is worse, particularly in regards to the female characters; to put it bluntly, the book is a near-total sausage-fest. I guess this wouldn't be so much of a problem if you could tell the male characters apart, but with the possible exception of the nominal protagonist, Luo Ji, they're as interchangeable and bland as upside-down puzzle pieces. (After a while, I started skipping over the names entirely, as these people had no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever.) I suppose these cardboard characters are a minimal improvement over the tissue-thin characters of the first book, and in any case it's the hard science fiction ideas that propel this book and the series as a whole. However, I am not a physics student, and I do not need to know exactly how a thousand warships were destroyed, spread out over fifteen excruciating pages. If there are no people aboard any of those ships I have come to know and care about, the author is just spinning his wheels, and all those deaths mean nothing to me as a reader.

(This entire sequence pretty much meant nothing anyway, because the aforementioned Luo Ji singlehandedly stops the Trisolaran invasion, basically by running a giant bluff. The aliens are not poker players, that's for sure. Again, you'll have to read the book to find out. But I felt more than a bit cheated, because the climax meant this entire doorstop could have been reduced to novella length at the most, and I wouldn't have had to waste all those days on it.)

I'm sure some people will love this book, as it's the kind of old-fashioned idea-rich narrative that isn't published as much as it used to be. Unfortunately, it leaves me cold.
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Two Short Reviews

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

I tried twice to read this, and each time I bounced off. Nimona was a mildly interesting character, but that wasn't enough to overcome the general silliness of the world and story, and the simplistic and unengaging artwork. Definitely not for me. (1 of 5 stars)

Undertow by Michael Buckley

I almost didn't finish this book, and now that I have, I rather wish I hadn't wasted my time with it. It is totally formulaic and forgettable. It strikes me as a young-adult cross between Swamp Thing and The Creature From the Black Lagoon, with a bit of forbidden Romeo and Juliet love thrown in for good measure. This is not a good thing, mind you. It also doesn't help that the main character becomes completely unrealistic at the end, Saving the Day over thousands of trained warriors because she is a Special Snowflake (or "Wild Thing," as she puts it). I'm not going to describe the plot because bah. I will avoid the sequel like the plague, and so should you. (1 of 5 stars)