The Return of Captain Nemo

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Nemo Rising popped up at me on NetGalley, since I’ve seen various versions of Nemo and the Nautilus through the years, and I thought a new version of a sequel focused on the US would be interesting. This one turned out to be a double-dose of Verne, although I didn’t realize it when I was reading that it was a cross-over with another Verne anti-hero. When the villain revealed his real name, I had the feeling that I should know who he was, but it wasn’t until the author’s notes at the end that I figured out who he was. Mind you, he comes from some of Verne’s lesser known works. Seriously, everyone knows 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Those three in particular have been adapted for film and television many times over the years.

But Robur the Conqueror? That was one I’d never heard of.

Basic plot of the book is that strange sea creatures are attacking ships in the Atlantic, and the world is blaming the US, recently out of their civil war. President Ulysses S Grant finally decides to go with a dangerous plan to prove that his country is not behind the attacks: Nemo is in a US prison, and his aide’s daughter has been repairing the Nautilus. They release Nemo from prison, and with the daughter, Sarah, as part of the crew, they send Nemo to find out who is behind the attacks, and prove the US innocent.

While Nemo and a possibly not very loyal crew head out to fulfill their side of the bargain, with Sarah tasked with killing Nemo if he strays, Grant and Duncan (Sarah’s father) work the diplomatic side, despite sabotage and assassination attempts.

From the description, you might expect a book full of action and thrills, and I had high hopes, but unfortunately the end product didn’t entirely deliver. There was action, and there was thrills in places, but the events were so muddled that I had trouble figuring out the overall plot. The ideas were great, but the end result was a bit of a muddled mess.

I might recommend this to a Jules Verne enthusiast, but definitely not to the general reader with only a vague knowledge of the man’s writings.

On the other hand, I might take a look at Robur the Conqueror, if I can find a copy.

I love my ereaders

20180202_105652.jpgI’m going to throw something different out here: Instead of reviewing a book, I am going to review an ereader. Specifically, my brand new (since Christmas) Kobo Aura One.

I have a long history with ereaders, since I am an avid reader, and when travelling on vacation, the weight of the books I take with me is ridiculous. For example, when I graduated from University, my father and I went to Jamaica for a week. I took twelve books with me for the week (including one large hardcover), and I was reading the last book on the flight home. So, when the earliest ereaders came along, I was all for it.

My first ereader was the first dedicated ereader: the second generation Rocket eBook. I ordered it by mail from the US shortly before NuvoMedia (the parent company) was bought by Gemstart-TV. A couple of years later, it went out of production. I didn’t buy many books from them, but I did buy from Baen Books (their ebook sales from the beginning could be downloaded in all sorts of formats, which became helpful later). I also loaded lots of fanfiction onto it for reading. That device cost me about $500 dollars. It was a little bulky, due to the battery of the time, and the screen was a glowing green screen with black letters (check online and you’ll find lots of screenshots).

Then, about four years later, I bought a Sony eReader, after the arrival of eInk. I loved it. It was more like reading paper, and the battery lasted more than a week. Plus, I could load library ebooks onto it. And handy enough, I could go back and re-download all my Baen purchases in the new format. At first, Sony had their own format for files, but eventually they moved over to the more standard epub. I bought most of my book from Kobo, though, since the prices were in Canadian dollars, and I could download them and transfer them to my Sony. This device cost me $400, and I was more than happy to pay that.

And about four years after that, I decided to upgrade again. This time I went to the Kobo HD. It had a larger screen, higher resolution, and the battery would generally last about three weeks. And when I configured it, it promptly downloaded all the books I had previously bought. It was fantastic. Okay, I quickly ran out of space, but it also allowed for a memory card to expand the space. This was one of their higher-end ereaders, and cost $175. After that, I also bought a Kobo Mini for my niece (who wanted one, but rarely uses it)

But four years later (notice a trend here?), Kobo tempted me to upgrade again. Last year, they came out with the Kobo Aura One, which is their highest priced ereader ($250), but offered a feature I really appreciated it: a tie-in to the Overdrive account for your library. When you search the Kobo store on the device, you can also check to see if the book is available from your library, right from the results, and check it out or reserve it. And if you check the book out through the library’s web page, all you have to do is sync your Kobo, and it will download to the ereader. This feature is only available on this edition of the Kobo, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become standard. It’s the best new feature I could hope for.

It’s also a waterproof ereader (one review I read talked about submerging it in a bowl of water for an hour and a half, and their only problem is that the touch screen didn’t work under water), so I finally have an ereader that I am willing to read in the bathtub, since if I drop it, it’s not going to be destroyed. It still took a lot of convincing myself before I did that the first time.

And with the amount of reading I do, even with periodically connecting to WiFi to download material, one battery charge has lasted almost four weeks for me. Without turning on the WiFi, it would probably last me a full month, and I do a lot of reading. I’ve also reached the point in my life where my back can be a little twitchy, and where once upon a time I would have always had three books in my bag at any time, now I just have the ereader, which weighs less that most trade paperbacks, and it currently has 1459 books on it (yes, it does. Those daily deals are impossible to resist, and I keep telling myself I’ll read them all. Eventually).

I’ve seen lots of articles about how ebook sales are falling, and ereaders are boring. Everyone reads on their phones, they say. Well, I now buy more ebooks than paper (sorry, space and weight requires it). And as for reading on my phone, it makes my eyes ache, staring at a backlit screen for long periods of time. Honestly, if they told me that production of all eInk ereaders would be coming to an end, I would probably run out and spend a thousand dollars to buy a bunch of backups, and keep them in the back of my closet.

In short, I love eInk-based eReaders, and of the dedicated eReaders I have owned over the last decade and more, the Kobo Aura One is as close to perfect as I can imagine.

Until the next time they come up with an improvement I can’t do without.

Did you know Robert Langdon has a Mickey Mouse Watch?

32283133Dan Brown has been a contentious figure for years. His Robert Langdon series has been a best-seller, if not always well-reviewed. His first novel in the series, Angels & Demons, wasn’t a huge seller, but then came The Da Vinci Code, which was. I read the book shortly before the movie came out, and it was a fast, breezy read. It also felt very familiar when I read it, since I had read Holy Blood, Holy Grail year before it. I certainly wasn’t all that surprised when the authors of that book sued him for not bothering to even acknowledge that he was using their book as a basis (he claimed that he’d done the same sort of research as they did, and he did win the case).

Then came The Last Symbol, which I have to say was a turkey. Seriously, it was bad. Inferno was better, and surprised me by ending on a world-changing note that no one knows about. When I heard that a new book in the series was coming, I wondered if they would address the outcome, but wasn’t surprised that it was ignored. Probably it’s too soon for the results to have been noticed.

Dan Brown’s writing is very formulaic. He’s found a formula that works from him, and he doesn’t really deviate from them. Robert Langdon, accompanied by a younger female companion (at least the one in The Last Symbol was his age), is hunted from symbolic location to location. There’s always good guys who turn out to be bad guys, and bad guys who think he’s committed a crime who become allies. Other than Inferno, there is a fringe religious sect on the opposite side.

Oh yeah, and Langdon swims in a pool at some point, and there are references to his Mickey Mouse watch.

So, in Origin we have: a murdered scientist sends Langdon on the run with his companion, this time a museum curator who is engaged to the next king of Spain. They run from location to location, usually a building designed by Gaudi, while hunted by the assassin and the palace guard. The palace may be involved, and have announced that Langdon kidnapped the future consort. And this time, the religious sect is the Palmarian Church.

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook of this volume, but the ending left me cold. Basically, the whole book was for the purpose of delivering a lecture at the end. And the only reason that there is a mystery is because Kirsch, the dead man, never read Asimov. Seriously, the entire plot boils down to a very smart man doing something stupid. If he hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been a plot.

Still, I spent a lot of time with Google, looking up places, art, and news articles mentioned in the book. If nothing else, it gave me a lot of places that I’d like to visit if I ever get to Spain. After all, the best part of the series is the travelogues.