Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: A Maze of Death

A Maze of DeathA Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read Valis and getting totally lost in that story, I was going to write A Maze of Death off as being another PKD tale that I just didn't get. And through a large way through, that assumption was coming true. This was a far cry from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which I felt was a straight-forward narrative that I could actually enjoy. But the more I heard about PKD, the more I heard about how obfuscating and infuriating his work could be. A Maze of Death could have been that. But then, it wasn't, and it's all because of how the book ended.

I hear that a lot of his work has a similar theme and direction, but I wouldn't know because this is only the third book that I've ever read by him. That could detract from the ending, which I thought was a original and (way) ahead of its time. But when I finished the book, and it all made sense. A whole new meaning came to me about both the title and the plot. It makes all the difference in the world.

Now, I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone. There are some very hard sci-fi moments in here that aren't really for the casual reader like say, a Bradbury or an Asimov story would be. Some elements of it left me confused and gave me a muddled picture in my head. But if you like winding stories with mysteries at every turn, then this is a grand, albeit, short tale, and you'll probably love it.

The Unteleported Man is next for me. I bought a whole bunch of PKD books at a sci-fi convention, a after A Maze of Death, I won't be so wary of reading it. This book was great.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Review: Deliverance [The Novel]

DeliveranceDeliverance by James Dickey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since I don't remember much of the movie besides some guy getting porked in the rear, I was surprised at just how rich the novel is, which makes sense, since it was written by a poet. The prose is powerful, rather than purplely, and the descriptions of everything from a bow and arrow to the rapids are enthralling. It's a really well-written book. That said, some of the descriptions can be a bit much and they sometimes get in the way of the actual narrative. Also, I don't empathize with the protagonist as much as I feel I should, since he seems to be too calm in situations that I feel would warrant a lot more fear.

Other than that, though, this is a brilliant, beautiful, and visceral novel that really strikes the imagination right in the solar plexus. I highly recommend it.

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The Ten Best Things At Disney World

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"Things" might not be the best word to use to attract people to this article when they search for activities at Disney World on Google, but really, it's hard to sum up my recent trip to "the happiest place on Earth" with just specifics like rides or attractions. Because it's not just the rides or attractions at Disney World that make it so  great, but rather, the experience as a whole. It really is a sum of its parts. So, without anymore yammering, here are the ten "things" that I appreciated most at Disney World. Oh, and this is my first time really going, since the last time I was at Disney World, I was 2 and I don't remember a damn thing. So, note to parents, don't take your children when they're too young to appreciate it. They won't get anything out of it. Okay, now on with the show.

10. Space Mountain (The Magic Kingdom)

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For many people, Space Mountain is THE ride to go on at Disney World and I understand why. The ride takes place in the dark, it has many twist and turns, and the vibe is decidedly futuristic, and yet, a little dated at the same time. What's not to love? But, that said, as fun and wild as it is, I also think it's a little overrated. Sure, I love the sound of screams as we rollick back and forth in the dark, but I wish it really surprised me and went upside down or did corkscrews. That would have really thrown me for a loop (No pun intended). But it didn't do that, and it all felt a little predictable, really. That said, it's still a pretty solid coaster and one I highly recommend. It's a must ride.

9. The Fireworks Displays (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios)

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I actually didn't get to see Fantasmic! because of the rain, which sucks because I hear it's the best one. Even so, the fireworks at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom totally blew me away, especially at the latter mentioned park and for one main reason-Tinkerbell. I won't spoil what I mean by that for those who haven't seen this amazing display of lights and sounds, but for those who have seen it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's probably one of the most magical things I've ever seen and apropos for the kingdom in which it happens at. Both my wife and I were shocked and were left wondering, "How did they do that?" It's astounding.

8. The various shows (All four parks)

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Disney World probably has the best shows I've ever seen before, and mostly because of the surprise elements and wonder. Through super realistic robotics, lights, and 3D (And sometimes "4D") tricks, most of the shows at Disney leave something for the imagination to dream about long after you've left one of the many attractions. My favorites are Mickey's PhilharMagic at the Magic Kingdom, Enchanted Tales With Belle in the new, Beauty and the Beast attraction in Fantasy Land, and Captain EO at Epcot (Because, c'mon, MJ). After leaving each of these, I had a giddy feeling in my heart and memories to last a lifetime (Yes, I know, that sounds corny, but it's true. They really are that spectacular). If you come to Disney, make it a point to see these three.

7. Peter Pan's Flight (Magic Kingdom)

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Honestly, if you like high-octane roller coasters, then Disney is not the place for you. In their place are what I like to call "pod rides". In these "rides", you basically sit in a pod of some sort and are slowly taken through a story. So yeah, it's an experience more than an actual ride. Lot's of the most famous attractions at Disney are "pod rides", like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion, which were both made into movies. Hell, "It's a Small World" can also be categorized as such, and that's probably the most famous Disney ride of them all. Well, out of all these "pod rides", I have to say that Peter Pan's Flight is the best of the bunch, and mostly because of the story involved. On this voyage, you sit in a flying pirate ship and view various events from the classic movie. My favorite part is at the end where you actually see Peter Pan piloting a ship. It's spectacular the way they reveal him. This "ride" is a gem.

6. The Costumed Characters (All parks)

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If not for my wife wanting to get pictures with many of the Disney characters, I would have missed how much fun it was to actually  meet them. It's crazy how in character these people stay, especially in that ridiculous Florida heat. Talk about dedication. The characters really make an effort to make you feel welcome and believe that they really are Baloo or Mickey Mouse, even though the mere thought is ridiculous. My favorite moment was actually when a character broke their roles because they liked my Street Fighter 2 t-shirt. On the shirt, it featured Ryu and Ken. The person in a Tigger costume called me over to take a picture with him/her (I have no idea the gender of the person inside the costume). At first, I didn't know what they were doing when they kept tapping my shirt, but then, Tigger broke out and did a "Hadouken" and I realized that they were fans of Street Fighter. It was awesome. I actually have a pic of me doing a "Hadouken" with Tigger, and I'll post it when I can. My wife still has the camera.

5. Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)

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Like I mentioned earlier, Disney World doesn't have many "ride" rides that don't concern pods, but Expedition Everest is one of the few that actually IS a "ride" ride and it's a phenomenal one, and for one key surprise. I won't say what it is, but if you're curious, you can watch a YouTube clip of the ride to see it. But I recommend you don't and go on this ride knowing nothing other than the fact that it's awesome. The surprise really sells it. Oh, that and the Yeti, which comes out and actually scares the hell out of you. This is the first ride I went on at Disney World (So yes, I did the Animal Kingdom first-like a weirdo), and it left a major impression on me. Unfortunately, not all of the rides at Disney were as great as this wonder.

4. Disney Employees (All parks)

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Honestly, if you've never been to Disney World before, then you have no idea, but their employees are the nicest people on the planet. Hell, even the custodians are nice, bantering with you and telling you anything you need to know about the park. For example, I asked the custodian in "Tomorrow Land" about when this roving garbage can called "Push" was supposed to come out, and he kindly told me when and where it was scheduled to arrive, all with a smile. This is a guy who probably had to clean up some kid's puke after Astro Orbiter, and he was still as jovial as could be. It's as if somebody slips these people happy medicine in their coffee every morning. There's nothing else like it. You won't feel the same again once you leave the park and enter the normal world where people are cursing you out and being total dicks to you. It's a real downer. :(

3. Mission: SPACE (Epcot)

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As somebody who's always wanted to go into outer space, this ride was perfect for me. You go through the steps of lift-off, and it's even interactive, with each person having to cooperate to make the ride work. It's a blast! There are two modes you can do, which are either the wussy one, or the "intense" one. I chose the intense one, of course, because I'm a man and I like to do manly things. That said, my wife rode it with me and she said it wasn't all that, so maybe it's not as "manly" as I thought, but it's still fun. The best part is when you actually have to use the joysticks and steer the ship to a safe landing. It kind of felt like the game Star Fox 64 to me, which is one of my favorite games of all time. So if you only have time for one ride at Epcot, and it's between this one and Soarin', I suggest that you choose this one. Because Soarin' is kinda borin'.

2. Star Tours-The Adventure Continues (Hollywood Studios)

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Like Mission: SPACE, though I didn't mention it before, Star Tours is a motion simulator, so you don't actually go anywhere. You sit in a chair and the images take you away. That said, Star Tours is the best "ride" at Disney World. And this is from a moderate Star Wars fan. If you're a hardcore SW fan, you'll go nuts for this ride. It's incredible. You sit behind C-3PO as he pilots a ship through the Wookie's home planet, Kashyyyk (Does it make me a big enough SW nerd to know the name of Chewie's homeland?) and many other SW locales. The only major problem I have with this ride is that they found a way to shoehorn in Jar Jar Binks, which nearly ruined the entire experience for me. Other than that mishap though, it's an exciting ride and the one I most recommend you try. The force is strong with this one. (Yes, I know that was an obvious joke. So sue me)

1. The Different Parks Themselves

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And the very best thing about Disney World is the variety of parks themselves. The Magic Kingdom is nothing like Epcot, which is nothing like Hollywood Studios, which is nothing like The Animal Kingdom. If you go to Disney World, and I really suggest you do, then you WILL come out with one of the parks being your absolute favorite, and with many reasons for why you chose that spot. To me, Hollywood Studios was my favorite park, and it's because I love movies, because the park is a nice size, and because the rides are the most varied. That said, my wife's favorite park was The Magic Kingdom, and she loved it because of the parades, the variety of characters roaming about, and its cuteness. So we have totally different opinions, but one common love for Disney World as a whole. But we also agree that Epcot is the weakest of the parks. Besides the variety of foods and its fireworks presentation, it's pretty dull, even with all its funky, 80s colors. But hey, I know plenty of people who say Epcot is their favorite, so you never know. Anything is possible at Disney. You have to go if you've never done so before. It really is a magical place. You'll love it!

(You just won't love the prices. $2.50 for water? That's crazy!)

Overall, you must go to Disney World. I may be costly, but for the most part, it's worth the price of admission. Book today! You're gonna love it.