Videogaming: Quantum Break

Xbox Game Pass has been a really cool service that I have been taking advantage of lately. It is sort of like a Netflix type service for Xbox, where a library of games is available for you to play for $10 a month. One of my most recent plays was Quantum Break. This game really surprised me. At the time of its release it caught a lot of flak and didn't seem to get very good reviews. 

Microsoft tried to do something interesting with the game, mixing live action "TV Episodes" that aired on a weekly basis to build upon the story. The idea is that decisions in the game would influence the live episode the next week. I'm well past that point, but the overall execution worked out pretty well in my opinion. 

What really blew me away though in Quantum Break was how well they told a time travel story. The logic and science behind their methods to tell the story made complete sense and didn't cause any sort of paradox problems within the story. In fact, if you think about how they executed the ending, the whole foreshadowing throughout the entire game continues to be consistent, even if you did "defeat the bad guy". It has to be one of the better sci-fi uses of time travel that I have ever seen. 

Book Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow!!!! How do I describe this book? This was simply fantastic and ranks up there with one of the best books I have ever read.

The world building here is superbly done, bringing in just enough that is familiar to us, while also being strange and fantastic at the same time. Jemisin brings a lot to this book to discuss race, racism, social caste systems and more. It is all done in such a way that makes you repulsed by it, but at the same time understanding of it, at least in the context of this world. It is complex and multifaceted. Her writing style is extremely eloquent as well. While my previous read (Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman) talked about how he is the quintessential "storyteller" by the way he writes and talks. Jemisin immediately comes across in an almost scholarly fashion in her style.

The topics of love, acceptance and family are also explored in a deep and unconventional way here. Watching our main character, Essun, rise and fall in her emotional relationships was exhilarating and devastating at the same time. The moments near the last third of the book with Innon, and her family are something that was truly touching, even if they don't fall into what our traditional social context of a family may be.

The characters are also truly engaging. Alabaster, Hoa, Innon, Tonkee. All were deep and diverse in their own respective ways. They were dimensional, having motivations that were both internal and external to their character arcs. They were interesting, each with their own goals in life.

My only really gripe about the whole book, and the only reason it doesn't get a full five stars from me, is one of Essun's character traits. Throughout the book she is persistently negative about every situation presented to her. I understand that of her character profile, but her negatively is so aggressive and outwardly projected that I lost that "suspension of disbelief" with her character at times. Even when circumstances in her life changed, even for the good, she is shown as chronically negative about every situation and environment around her. At times it is used as a motivating factor for her character. Her, "It's not right", stance makes sense, but other times she seemed to resist and challenge the other characters in a scene for no apparent gain, only to give in for what was obviously the only course of action.

Despite all of that though, this book was riveting from beginning to end and I immediately want to read the sequel.

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Book Review -The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I just could not finish this book. The two main characters were so dumb and so frustrating that I could not continue on.

Michael Scott did a wonderful job crafting the world here. The Elder race were wonderfully crafted to link back to "real world" myths and legends and Scott pulled that all together really well. The supporting characters we met throughout this story were all fun and interesting to read about too.

Our two main characters Josh and Sophia just tore this book down though. I understand that this is supposed to be a YA novel, but their attitudes and demeanor played to the "lowest common denominator". I couldn't stand that time and time again, when the two were presented with something in the magic world, they would react with disbelief. At some point they just need to accept it and come along for the ride.

The point that ultimately broke the book for me came in the middle of the book. They were staying in a shadow realm and were instructed not to leave because it was dangerous and that Dr Dee's minions could find them in hours. After all of the danger and amazing things they saw that day, they chose to leave the protection of the tree they were in and take off into the night to then try and make their way from California to Utah to find their parents. Seriously? There is zero believability in that.

This book had the world and potential to be right up there with the Harry Potter series. It was just lost on two terrible main characters.

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Ridelog - August 6th, 2016: Wisconsin and Cave of the Mounds


I had an amazing ride this past Saturday with a group of friends. Celebrating one of the member's birthday we did a ride starting from Park Ridge going up into Wisconsin and seeing the Cave of the Mounds. It was a great route through Wisconsin country roads and the weather could not have been better in the low 80's. 

We took most of our morning ride up through Wisconsin and arrived at the Cave of the Mounds to check it out. It is a small cave located just west of Mt. Horeb. After getting there and seeing the price and how crowded the cave was we opted not to go in the cave itself. We enjoyed the grounds for about an hour before hopping back on the bikes for another ride before doing lunch at the Grumpy Troll.

The Grumpy Troll is pretty much as staple for lunch stops up in this area. It is a small brew pub that has all of your standard bar fare, including Wisconsin cheese. We left the area around 3:30 and made our way back home. 

I didn't get back in until close to 7:00. It was a long day. Close to 400 miles for me since I had to ride up from Bolingbrook.