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Reviews Written by
M. D. Smith "Scientist and Bibliophile Extraordinaire" (Provo, UT United States)
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Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1: The Assassin's Road
Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1: The Assassin's Road
by Kazuo Koike
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Lone Wolf and Cub--Absolutely Divine, March 22 2004
Who would think that a little browsing at the local bookstore could turn up such a gem? With deft skill, Koike and Kojima bring to life the travels of the Lone Wolf, Itto Ogami, and his Cub, Daigoro, seeking the next destination where money and blood flow freely. The stories are short, but well-paced, full of action and intrigue, with everything from the machinations of feuding clans to exquisite duels between sword masters. Kojima's art is fluid and expressive, if not breathtaking and cinematic, reminding one of a Kurosawa samurai film. Lone Wolf and Cub is a must-get manga for anyone who likes Japanese culture and history.

Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace
Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace
by Joseph M. Williams
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from CDN$ 16.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on writing I have in my entire collection, Aug. 21 2003
This book fundamentally challenged and changed my view of writing. In simple and clear prose, Williams showed me how to write, true to the adage "Show don't tell." He gives examples of both good and bad writing and works through them, clearly showing what distinguishes good and bad writing, and how to avoid the latter. The book is so well written, that many years ago when I purchased the 5th edition, I was able to read and understand it thoroughly as a freshman in college, without needing an instructor or upperdivision English class to explain the principles of the book (which he sums up succinctly at the end of each lesson). Through his writing, Williams illustrated the principles of good writing far better than any of my English professors later did. If you wish to write well, let this book be the first and foremost step to your goal.

The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece
The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece
by Michael Curtis Ford
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 2.82

4.0 out of 5 stars Ten Thousand Strong--Worth Your Money, March 23 2003
Why do the Greeks enthrall and mesmerize us? People who considered everyone outside their borders barbarians, no better than slaves. Was it their achievements in literature, art, poetry, politics, philosophy, and war that draws us to them? Or are we surprised at our similarities and our inheritance?
Overall, an enjoyable title, acceptably written, sufficiently fast and engaging. The story is epic, and carries Ford's writing by its sheer power. As much as I enjoyed the novel, I felt there were three problems that kept it from being truly great, such as Robert Graves' _I, Claudius_: first, as a previous reviewer noted, Ford doesn't get to the essence of being Greek; second, Ford's writing style is uneven, sometimes excellent and sometimes slow or anachronistic; and third, Xenophon's character, for the book's first half, is underdeveloped. Ford's definition of "Greekness" sounds like a scholar's approach to it, listing cultural features, famous references, and ideologies--but that is not enough. A Greek is thoroughly Greek, more than the sum of these features. An author writing about the historical Greeks needs to think and write like a Greek; he must have a Greek heart. While he brings up Greek xenophobia, it is not only that, but it was tied to their polis, the city-state, their way of life. Life without the polis was not life at all--it was the way of the confused, the criminal, the wayward, and societyless. Totally foreign to Greek thinking. And Ford's writing interjects common things we say today, like "I'll be ... as hell if he does" or puts in our swear words. These feel out of place in a cast of Greek and Persian characters. They're not descended from German or English stock. If one is truly inquisitive, Greek literature has no shortage of Greek curses. Sometimes I could hear the American slang coming through his writing. Occasionally, he would get bogged down in metaphysical ramblings, though interesting, did not have sufficient power to justify slowing of the narrative. Xenophon, with his importance in the latter half of the book, must show he carries the qualities needed for the trials ahead. Instead, we get to see brief events, though significant, that seem to have a superficial effect on Xenophon. His relationship with his father is underdeveloped. It is apparent, from Ford's account, this is something that affects him all throughout his life and later, his command. It required more.
Nevertheless, when compared to most books to come out recently, this one stands tall and proud, and is an excellent first book. The best one I have read in a long time. It is obvious Ford has more talent than most popular authors on the market. But, of course, do not forget Pressfield's excellent books. I can only say I look forward to Ford's upcoming books. For the thoughtful reader, this book is simply a must buy.

Cry the Beloved Country.
Cry the Beloved Country.
by Alan. Paton
Edition: Paperback
62 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars It impressed me years ago, yet again when I re-read it, Oct. 15 2002
I first read the book when I was in high school for our novel section of AP English. As a writer now, it is strangely thrilling to see how Paton's ideas and poetry influenced my own prose. "The Grapes of Wrath" by Steinbeck was good, but I felt that it lacked the words of the heart that Paton writes with. Never have I read a more simple and profound book, so lovingly crafted, so authentic and natural, that some fifty years later after Paton wrote the novel, it still has not been superceded. Kumalo's plight is everyman's plight; his burden our burden; his son our son. Dear students, don't read this book because your teacher tells you to, you will learn nothing that way. Read it, because you earnestly desire it, because it is well worth it.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Special Edition)
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Yoshikazu Fujiki
Offered by torontomediadvd_com
Price: CDN$ 199.88
3 used & new from CDN$ 113.46

5.0 out of 5 stars A mature anime in the dark style of Ghost in the Shell, Aug. 30 2002
Fast, thoughtful, and sad at times, Jin-Roh is another classic, possibly better than Ghost in the Shell and second to Lain or Akira, because it concentrates on an unpredictable, twisting, thrilling original story. When the story begins, a post-war Japan tears itself apart: government factions, terrorists, and common people fighting for control, where the watch phrases are trust no one and nothing is as it seems. With subtle hints, you begin to wonder who is the real hunter? Is it the girl? Is it Fuse? Or is it the government? The terrorist "Sect"? They all are in their own ways. Yet the story is so deep that it invites you to make your own judgments. But it is the wolf who writes the ending to the human tale. See for yourself who is the wolf that haunts dreams.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season
DVD ~ Sarah Michelle Gellar
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 95.50
18 used & new from CDN$ 12.73

1.0 out of 5 stars A classic..., March 2 2002
... When I purchased this DVD collection at Media Play, I was expecting something along the lines of X-files, with well-written, memorable, and chilling episodes, the kind that leave your eyes crinkled as you remember each moment in the darkness of your bed. Sarah Michelle Gellar and her cast are undoubtedly talented actors, but the emphasis on teenage problems and attractions (numerous Buffy cleavage shots) make this series teen-only. I know that the movie reviewer in USA Today has lauded this show in many of his articles. I must disagree with him on this. After watching several episodes, I find little beyond Ms. Gellar's looks (and she is very beautiful) to recommend this series, except to those who like their TV shows excessively stereotypical (geeks, dweebs, California babes) and like cheesy, but poignantly bad writing and plots. Turn off your brain or keep your eyes glued to the most important part of the show (Ms. Gellar's bust, because that is all they focus on), and you will find this show exceptional. Otherwise, get the X-files or Twin Peaks and the real deal.

Winter's Heart: Book Nine of 'The Wheel of Time'
Winter's Heart: Book Nine of 'The Wheel of Time'
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.74
108 used & new from CDN$ 0.39

1.0 out of 5 stars Oh Lord, make it stop, make it stop..., May 23 2001
It's taken Robert Jordan only 7500+ pages to convey what some of us realized long ago: this is epic crap. There are so many references to hairbraid tugging, sulking, and pouting that RJ should concern himself solely with those. The great philosophy behind the books is inaction resembles action. The female characters (Nynaeve, Elayne, Egwene) exist to pout and look pretty; the male characters (Rand and Co.) complain about the women and are made into their gibbering slaves. I can feel I'm going to be accused of extreme simplification here, but what can one expect with paper-thin characters? Evil characters refuse to stay dead, and even though Rand has slaughtered one every other book, the list seems to grow and grow. This is the true Neverending Story. Many people ascribe to Jordan "clear, vivid, detailed" writing, but does it really need to take 700-1000 pages per book to tell so much detail? I think the sign of a good writer is the economy with which he writes. Forgive me. Thinking about this degenerate slush is depressing....

Stone of Tears: A Sword of Truth Novel
Stone of Tears: A Sword of Truth Novel
by Terry Goodkind
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.92
155 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Goodkind manages to shoot himself in the foot again..., April 25 2001
Good writing consists of just a few basic things: interesting dialogue, concise sentences/paragraphs, and focused ideas/plot/characters. Sadly, none of Goodkind's works contain these three simple writing rules.
Interesting dialogue: "You are a *special* person, Richard." "You're my friend... That's what friends are for..." This is really annoying when it comes up nearly every other page. Goodkind simplifies his dialogue to the point where an attentive reader will feel insulted. Come on, chum, we're not that retarded (unless you've been buying the whole damn series).
Concise sentences/paragraphs: Why in the hell is this book 1000 pages long? Even "War and Peace" isn't this long, and it's got enough epic plot to fill a hundred Goodkind novels. This boy needs an editor to distill this crap down. Longer does not equal better. (Read the Earthsea novels.)
Focused ideas/plot/characters: It's like wandering in Wonderland, but lacking Alice's cat. There are a quite a few focused ideas here: sexual perversion, gratuitous violence, defecation (read the part about the palace), cardboard relationships, cliches, etc. Unfocused include: truth, magic, characters, and plot. The magic system is unwieldy, insipid, and simplistic (additive and negative magics?!). Goodkind mentioned something about "righteous anger" in the first novel; good to see that "righteous anger" actually means "righteous slaughter/murder." He should've told us earlier. Richard and Kahlan are like love-sick teenagers, and the combined IQ of these two is lower than my caesar salad. Actually, one should ask: What plot? If there is a meaningful plot here, I'll be amazed.
One could write an English doctoral thesis on Goodkind's usage, but his list of follies also includes all the "borrowed" ideas from Robert Jordan (who suffers many of the same problems) and Terry Brooks (ditto). We're going to keep on receiving crap in fantasy and science fiction until we demand better authors. At this point, it doesn't seem likely though...

I, Claudius
I, Claudius
by Robert Graves
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
75 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars What they really should've taught in history 101..., April 4 2001
This review is from: I, Claudius (Paperback)
I was introduced to Robert Graves through the work of Gene Wolfe, whom I noticed was a fan of I, Claudius. So I gathered my wits and a mug of coffee, and proceeded to read the book. Frankly, most of the events of Claudius' life are astonishing, from a scheming Livia to a decadent Caligula, depicted almost surrealistically. Yet Roman history attests for all that happened and more. The writing is vivid and insightful, neither too urbane nor witty for its own sake. Exellent prose, and an exellent story which could only be played out by real human actors and their machinations.

On Blue's Waters: Volume One of 'The Book of the Short Sun'
On Blue's Waters: Volume One of 'The Book of the Short Sun'
by Gene Wolfe
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 2.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe devours the reader, Jan. 30 2001
I have never gone through 15 works by one author and still longed for so much more. The whole New Sun, Long Sun, and Short Sun series I've finished now, and the Fifth Head of Cerberus was tantalizing mind-game. Once you experience Wolfe, you will never read anything as coherent, labyrinthine, and elegant as his books. While the popular fantasy and SF authors continue to mulct money from the masses, Wolfe continues to earn a meager living, when he deserves much more. Wolfe is not for the mere SF reader: he is for the SF thinker.

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