Things To Do On Page 82 Reviews

Things To Do On Page 82 Reviews!
Read page 82 out of a variety of intriguing books! Filter all the entries by clicking on their labels to find books in your genre! Vote on whether the page makes you want to read more! Muse on what you've read with a comment or two! What could be more fun?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Page 82 of Counting Heads

"--the fallacy of that argument," said the chief of staff to its unseen audience, "is evident to anyone who has ever initialized and raised a mentar, or implanted one of us into her body to watch over her health, or brought one of us into her business.

"Yes, we are machines in a strict sense; our parts are manufactured and our personalities can be transferred from box to box. But we are also your offspring. And when you die, we die a little too, as I've recently discovered. We are closer to you in mind, temperament, and spirit than anything alive, be it plant or animal. We are closer to you than your beloved cats and dogs.

"Let me tell you what we are not. We are not your successors, rivals, or replacements. We know that doomsayers have long warned that artificial intelligence would evolve so fast that it would leave the human species behind. That we would become no more comprehensible to you than you are to a frog. I'm here to tell you that these fears have not materialized. While we may be the next step in the evolution of intelligence, you are quickly catching up as you learn to reshape your genetic makeup and to incorporate some of our advances into your own biological systems."

Cabinet's address droned on. The scouts in the Indy tunnel were still frozen in mid-snip. Costa recalled the scouts in all the other tunnels and loaded them into the tanks. Then she retracted her gloves and ate a donut. Finally, Cabinet thanked its audience and faded away to await their decision. Fred walked the perimeter of the vault again, impatient for something to do, when Libby spoke.

The ad hoc committee of the General Assembly has called for hearings on the issue of mentar probate, it said. These are scheduled to begin in a month. The debate on whether or not to grant Cabinet a deferral has stalled. The matter has been tabled until the next regular meeting of the Technology Affairs Committee.

Costa said, "Tabled? Where does that leave me?"

You may complete your capture.

The scouts in the tunnel sprang back to life. Instead of severing the final fiber taps, they began to excavate into the solid rock wall behind the bracket. It was slow going, but eventually a corner of the pouch was exposed.

Shaking her head, Costa watched the holo of her scouts at work. Fred said, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I expected the third act by now."

"What's that?"

"Just wait; you'll see."

She ordered the remaining taps to be cut, one at a time. When there were only three left, she called a halt and let the scouts continue digging out the pouch for a while.

After a couple of minutes, she said, "Cut one more." After another minute, she said, "Cut another."

Now there was only one fiber-optic tap left. Costa poked her head into the scape and examined it up close. "What the hell," she said, "let's cut it."

"Please don't," said the Starke chief of staff, who appeared next to her.

"Well, it's about time," said Costa. "I was afraid you weren't coming back."

The chief of staff seemed disappointed. "I guess my little speech failed to reach you," she said.

"Oh, you reached me," Costa said. "But a job's a job. I take you in. What happens to you afterward isn't my business."

"You heard Libby," said the chief of staff. "The Tech Affairs Committee will discuss my waiver. Surely, you can leave me intact until then."

(from the paperback edition)


My review:

This page has the misfortune of beginning in the middle of a piece of persuasive oratory. As a result, it feels like it's starting off with a dialogue info-dump even though it's really not. The speaker conveys a significant amount of information, but in the absence of characters, it's only mildly interesting. It's not until halfway through the page that we realize there's something at stake, something with dramatic tension -- and even then, it comes in the form of Costa sitting around waiting (and eating donuts!), which isn't exactly a huge boost in intensity. The digging and snipping of the scouts has a certain ominous tone to it, but nothing allows us to judge just how ill that omen is. The chief of staff doesn't want to be taken in, but neither would a guy who wrote a couple of hot checks. The page just doesn't tell us the stakes.

Nor does it deliver much characterization. Costa reveals a callousness in her admission that she's taking the mentar in despite having been reached by its speech. But we don't know how callous she is because we don't know what the outcome will be for Cabinet, and we don't know that much about Cabinet's character because its dialogue is mostly a prepared speech making a case for itself, not a spontaneous expression of personality.

Ultimately, then, the page delivers: some mildly intriguing hints of a society where humans and AIs interface very intimately, but apparently have some conflicts; a slight implication of peril for a character we don't know enough of to care about; and a jaded bounty-hunterish character who might be a likeable rogue or might be an unpleasant cynic. Also, there's a guy named Fred.

Hardly the worst page 82 I've ever read, but rather on the dry side.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Page 82 of Song of the Beast

I was. But I had no time to dwell on it. I was rapidly running out of things to ask about the Rider’s garb, and I’d scarcely begun working up to what I needed to know.
            It doesn’t upset them, then, when strangers are about ... doing things they’re not used to? Even if I were to start ringing bells, say, or yelling or screaming?”
            The Rider spit into his firepit and dipped another goblet of wine from the cask, sucking it down in a single breath. “Upset? Do you think these are Senai ladies? There’s nothing in the world can upset a dragon. Can you upset a volcano? Can you disturb a lightning bolt? Can you offend a whirlwind? They do what they do, and lucky for you and everyone like you, I and my brothers don’t let them do it unless we tell them.” He turned his spit once again, then settled himself, still naked, on his bed of furs, sucking down yet another cup of wine.
            I wanted to scream at the man. I wanted to ask him why Callia lay dead, and Gerald and Gwaithir and Alys, and all the rest. Nothing made sense. I’d never been closer to a dragon than the rim of this very valley. I’d never touched a rider  until my feeble attempt on Callia’s attacker. I’d never done anything they could consider a threat. Anything.
            “Aye,” I said. “The Riders protect us all ... even the vile Florin spawn who sits out there in the center of all this.” I pulled on my boots as if to go, then stood up waving my hand at the wintry desolation. “How is it done ... to keep a hostage alive out there with the dragons?”
            Zengal belched and shrugged. “We make another ring,” he said, his words slurred with drink. “Three of us with the brat every hour of every day. Damned waste of time playing nursemaid. They always end up dead, after all.” He stroked the golden cup in his hand and turned it so the firelight made the jewels gleam. “But the rewards are fine enough.”
            “I heard a story once that a hostage escaped from a dragon camp, right past the beasts. How could –”
            In a move so light and quick as to belie his size and state of drunkenness, the naked Rider pinned me to the stone wall with a callused hand

(from a 2011 edition that seems to be out of print)

My review:

So, the book is called Song of the Beast, and on page 82 we find that Dragon Riders are piggish, violent, arrogant guys who killed some people our hero liked and are more than happy to gloat about dominating the creatures they use as weapons. Knowing no more than this, I can predict that the overall plot of the novel builds toward a revelation that the dragons are actually intelligent and nice, after which the hero finds a way to free them from their unjust servitude.

Right off the bat, this violates one of my key expectations of a good page 82: it shouldn’t make me feel like I can predict pages 1 through 81 with any certainty whatsoever. Sure, I don’t know the details of who Callia, Gerald, Gwaithir and Alys are, but they’re probably some friends or family members who got burned up by the dragons, and since the narrator seems to think that the attack had something to do the Riders holding something against him, he’s obviously on a quest to set things right. No, I don’t know how the Riders control their beasts, or exactly what their role is in society as a whole. But there’s no mistaking the fact that they’re a bunch of a-holes, and that the social structure permits or even encourages them to be a-holes.

I am made curious by the seeming contempt with which the Rider views the dragons. Knights of old certainly respected and valued their horses, and obviously a creature as powerful as a dragon would seem to merit some kind of reverence, especially if your livelihood depends on it. But I’m also made dubious by the Rider’s attitude. If the dragons really are intelligent and capable of “song” as the title implies, then wouldn’t someone in close proximity to them have to be pretty dumb not to recognize that?

Onward, then, to our narrator. What do I know about him by the end of the page? Well, he’s aggrieved at the Riders and is trying to find out why they killed his friends/family. He’s here on some kind of false pretenses, spying and probing for information. But ... he doesn’t seem to be very good at it. Even without knowing what’s gone before, it seems a little over-obvious to be asking repeatedly about hostages and how hostages might escape from dragons when you’re dealing with somebody whose job is apparently watching over the hostages. And sure enough, by the end of the page the Rider is at the guy’s throat. So our hero is brave and determined, but maybe not that competent. Whether he’s likeable, I have no idea.

The quality of the writing seems okay. It’s mostly dialogue, and a lot of that is heavy-handedly intended to make the Rider out to be a jerk, clearly. I can’t help but notice the writer’s use of “sucking down” twice to describe how the guy drinks. Did she not have a thesaurus to remind her of the words “chugging” or “guzzling”? Also, if you suck liquid down “with a single breath,” that means you’re aspirating it and trying to drown yourself. What she really means is “without pausing for breath.”

All in all, I end up curious about a world where dragons are apparently crude weapons of war or terror, viewed perhaps with fear but without admiration or esteem. Use of dragons as the tools of thugs is a novel idea to me, so I’m motivated to find out more. But my expectations for the book as a whole are not necessarily through the roof.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Page 82 of A Talent For War

    Lost pilot,
    She rides her solitary orbit
    Far from Rigel,
    Seeking by night
    The starry wheel.
    Adrift in ancient seas,
    It marks the long year round,
    Nine on the rim,
    Two at the hub.
    And she,
    Knows neither port,
    Nor rest,
    Nor me.

Rigel had only one association: Sim's death. But what did the rest of it mean? The notes suggested that the poet had considered the work complete. And there was no evidence that the editors found anything baffling about it. Of course, one almost expects to be puzzled by great poetry, I suppose.

According to the introduction to Dark Stars, the first volume of the series, Walford Candles had been a professor of classical literature, had never married, and was not appreciated in his own time. A minor talent, his contemporaries had agreed.

To us, he is a different matter altogether.

The poignancy of the sacrifices required by the men and women who fought with Christopher Sim shines everywhere in his work. Most of the poems in Dark Stars, News from the Front, and On the Walls purport to have been written in the Inner Room on Khaja Luan, while he waited to hear the inevitable about old friends who had gone to help the Dellacondans. Candles himself claimed to have offered his services, and been refused. No usable skills. Instead of fighting, his part became merely
    To stand and count the names of those
    Whose dust circles the gray worlds of Chippewa
    And Cormoral.

Candles watches from a dark-lit corner while young volunteers hold a farewell party. One raises an eye to the middle-aged poet, nods, and Candles inclines his head in silent salute.

On the night they learned about Chippewa, a prosperous

(From the Ace paperback edition, a later version of which can be found here.)
My Review:

When I crack open a science fiction book, I'm generally not expecting to find a poem as the first thing on the page. But here it is, an ode to a woman or perhaps a ship, adrift somewhere among the stars, restless and driven, forlorn perhaps, or hungering for something?

Then we hit narration, and it's clear right away that the narrator is trying to decipher this poem, which is related to someone's death -- Sim. By the end of the page, we know that this is Christopher Sim, apparently an important figure in some interstellar war, and one of its casualties as well. And we see hints not only of a grand and sweeping conflict, now long in the past, but also of a richness and reality to that conflict, because the main focus here is not a battle or a fleet or a leader, but a poet, left behind and using his own ill-suited gifts to do the only thing that he can, which is to chronicle the spirit of those doing the actual fighting.

What I love about this page is that absolutely nothing happens, and yet it simply explodes with understanding. You can't read it without knowing that there's a mystery afoot here. The narrator is on some intense search for knowledge, and both the poem and the war-torn historical epoch from which it comes must factor into the mystery. In a single page, the writer lets us know that this is a book full of resonances, packed with history, suspense, stirring military conflict, pathos, and even verse.

If you can read this page and not want to know more about Christopher Sim and his war, about the mysterious woman or ship adrift in the poem, and about why these things have importance and immediacy for the narrator, then you're a different kind of reader than I am.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Page 82 of The Gambler's Nephew

Biddle tried a small laugh, but it didn't quite work. Then he tried it again, and this time it came out a little better. "There's something I want to talk to you about," he said.

"What is it?" the boy asked, taking a half step backward.

"Whatever you do, don't start edging away," Biddle said. "Do you know something? People have been edging away from me all my life. Maybe that's why I'm sitting here in the cell. Maybe that's why I took to drink. They say that edging away will do it to somebody, and maybe that's where all my trouble began, do you suppose?"

"I wouldn't know about that," Loftus said.

"I just want to have a word with you."

"About what?" Loftus said.

"About how you can bring a bottle of Monongahela Rye every night for as long as I'll be around to drink it."

"You know I can't do that," Loftus told him.

"All right, then. Just one bottle the night before they string me up."

"I can't do that, either."

"Why, SURE you can. It'd be EASY!"

"No, I can't. It's not allowed."

"I said you CAN!" Biddle said. "I didn't say it was ALLOWED."

"What are you talking about?" Loftus said, narrowing his eyes the way he always did when he started to get interested, for the distinction Biddle insisted upon verged upon being clever -- especially for a devoted tosspot.

"What I'm talking about is ... I don't think I can face the gallows without whiskey."

"You've got a Bible there."

Loftus frowned. "I know, and I appreciate it. I don't think I could do it without a Bible, either. But I've already GOT the

(Details about the book here)
My Review

A great line can get cut off in the middle and still put a smile on your face, and the last line of this page certainly does that. But there’s a lot more to it than the last line. Sentence by sentence, the writing here gives us a terrific picture of the situation. First, Biddle’s difficulty in forcing a laugh tells us that these are unusual circumstances -- and the fact that he’s trying to laugh makes him immediately sympathetic. But then the boy reacts with suspicion when Biddle says he wants to talk. What’s going on?

Well, it turns out that Biddle is in a cell, so perhaps our sympathy was misplaced. Still, it’s hard not to empathize with someone whose troubles may have started with others edging away from him. Plainly, Biddle has lived a hard life and regrets it.

Suddenly, we learn the hard truth: Biddle is not just imprisoned, but scheduled to hang.

And yet he still maintains a sense of humor, making two more wisecracks after he’s raised the specter of the noose. Furthermore, he’s not only funny, but logical. He looks to be arguing Loftus firmly into a corner, despite the boy’s reluctance to smuggle whiskey into the jail.

Your mileage may vary, but by the end of this page, I really want to know why Biddle has been sentenced to death, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want him to get killed. With just a few paragraphs of dialogue to go on, I’m already heavily invested in this character, wanting to know more, wanting to find out what happens.

Situation, character, dialogue, thought -- a great page has them all, and this one does.

Page 28 of Chasing the Ghost

“He taught you the suffering of love. A lesson that nothing is permanent. You thought that you would be together for eternity. A childish promise. Do you forget this love and the lessons that came from it so easily?”

“I don’t want to remember. It doesn’t matter.” snapped The Woman, folding her arms across her chest, hiding her vulnerability.

“You are missing him. You are missing this first relationship, the basis of all you of deeper interaction with others.” The girl paused, waiting for a glint of recognition from The Woman. Finding none, she went on.

“Are you satisfied?” asked the teenage girl, motionless, expressionless. “Do you find what you are longing for in the affairs of a lonely teenager?”

The Woman narrowed her amber eyes, the sting of insult creeping. “I don’t want to miss anything. I want to see his memories. Be part of them. I want to share his happiness and be there to comfort his pain. A lifetime together.”

“A life together is shared experiences. Not living as a single entity. The choice you are making ensures that you have nothing to offer him, when it is possible to do so. The more of him you absorb, the more of you is replaced.” the teenager advised. “What are the names of your children?” she challenged, the darkness swirling around them.

The Woman smiled genuine at the mention of her children. “They are beautiful. With wide, blue eyes and blonde hair, just like Johnny. They look just like him.”

“What are the names of your children?” the teenager asked again, her tone an exact replica of her previous question.

The Woman could not answer the question but continued to smile, reveling in her children’s similarities to their father, in their heritage, in their hands that mirrored his, in their expressions that she had seen so many times in him.

Having proven its point, the voice disappeared taking it’s physical form along with it, leaving The Woman to stew in her thoughts. She savored what could have been a memory but was lost without definition and purpose.

(Page submitted by the author, A. Grams; ebook available here and here)
My Review

This page presents an intriguing puzzle, with its nameless characters and ambiguous setting. By paragraph six, though, we get the clues that, when taken along with the book’s title, tell us these are both ghosts speaking, and that they’re talking about some form of haunting in which the Woman is absorbing or possessing her former husband.

The elements of obsession and the psychology of the Woman’s inability to face certain aspects of her past are likewise enticing, and create a dark mood.

On the down side, there are moments in which the author is too overt for my tastes, as when the Woman folds her arms, “hiding her vulnerability.” The gesture alone tells me all I need to know; the added description is redundant. Later, the phrase, “in their heritage,” is similarly extraneous. The sentence it appears in would be stronger without it.

These and other slips of prose suggest to me a writer with some maturing to do. When the girl repeats her question, in a tone that’s “an exact replica of her previous question,” the author uses seven words to awkwardly convey what could have been accomplished simply with one: “unwavering.” Then there’s the muddled metaphor of “the sting of insult creeping.” A sting can be an action (the sting of a wasp) or a sensation (the sting of wasp venom taking effect in one’s skin). In neither case can a sting literally creep, though you can make a metaphor out of the sensation: “The sting of the wasp’s venom crept across my skin.” When you go further, and have the sting be metaphoric as well, you’re mixing metaphors, never a good idea. And to me, the sting of insult is an action, so having it “creep” is contradictory. I had to stop and think the phrase through to come up with an interpretation that made sense: the feeling of the insult’s emotional sting spreading or increasing in scope. A writer should never force a reader to do that much work to understand a piece of figurative language; it subverts the whole point of writing figuratively.

A last point: given the ambiguous terms used to identify the characters, I found it odd that the one named character had such a thoroughly generic name, “Johnny.” The notion of a woman pining for a man named “Johnny” just seemed very cliched to me.

There’s some promise in the concepts presented here, but the execution undermines that promise a bit too much to draw me in.

(Note: this is a page 28 review because the work is a novella less than 82 pages long.)

Page 82 of Diary of a Small Fish

Rinaldo paid us a visit, cleared Shannon’s clean plate, coaxed us into sharing some black forest cake and Fonseca twenty year-old and bustled away.

“After a few weeks, she called me and asked if it was okay to sell the pieces. I said, ‘you mean someone wants to pay money for them?’ and she said ‘fifteen thousand for the two.’”

“Holy shit.”

“No foolin’. That was more money than I’d ever seen at one time. So I sold them and gave her a few more. When perfect strangers looked at my work, I felt unbearably vulnerable. I couldn’t even attend my own show.”

She sat lost in thought for a moment, and then with a sudden, fierce intensity she continued, “You have to learn to feel that way about everything you do. Especially with love. When you are fearless about sharing anything in your heart, you are truly in love.” The fingertips of her hand clutched together upturned, her delicate chin leading the rest of her body pressing forward toward me.

Her words made my heart quicken and thump against my sternum. A racket of clacking plates and laughter and chatter caromed off the stark marble walls and as I stared at her the noises seemed to come together to form a crystalline bubble around us. I must have been looking at her oddly.

“What the fuck did I say?”

“I felt like we were on our own planet for a second.”

She guffawed at that—I don’t know why—and I could hear her laughter echo off the walls. I scanned the crowd to see many eyes cast her way and felt proud to be with her.

Rinaldo showed up at the wrong time again, using cake and port as his weapons. But even he couldn’t break the spell. Shannon paid him no mind and he flounced off.

“We can never come back here again, you know.”

(Page submitted by the author, Pete Morin; more about the book here)
My Review

It’s hard to say no to dinner and romance and cake and wine, especially when it includes the passionate intensity of an artist in the grip of newfound success. It’s also hard to say no when an author makes things so clear with such economy. For instance, Rinaldo’s character comes vividly across despite the fact that we have no dialogue from him on this page; he is captured perfectly through his few simple actions, especially in the choice of verbs that is used to describe them. Similarly, the dialogue we do have is mostly missing its “she said” and “I said” cues, but the author has arranged the speakers’ actions and words in such a way that we’re never confused who is saying what, and he therefore has the good sense to leave out the extraneous verbiage identifying the speaker.

If I were to quibble with this page, I’d say it would benefit from a flash of Shannon’s eyes or a waft of her perfume just as she speaks the words that so engage our narrator’s heart. But for all I know, those details appear on page 81 or page 83, and the motion of her hand and form may be all that’s needed within context.

All in all, a skilled page from a writer who seems to know what he’s doing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Page 82 of Crystal Shade

“Come, Pilly,” her quavering voice whispered to the small sapphire pillow clutched in her arms. “Let’s find mommy and daddy,” she finally decided. Angeni’s soul needed to leave her haven before it could be caught up and carried away by the wind; certainly, before those terrifying doors came to eat her.

The cold marble floor chilled Angeni’s bare feet as she gathered all her bravery and stepped out of the sanctuary. Like a soft breeze, the curtain ran ghostly fingers over her shoulders as it slowly parted to reveal the long dark corridor ahead of her. Her large wings resting on her back, her white saree clung to her graceful body. Terrified and shaken, her hem rippled when took her first steps into the unknown. Columns stood silent sentry and beautifully carved angel statues peeked from the shadows. Many candles on the pedestals slept in silence. Some just put out by the wind that rushed past the curtains on the small stone windows.

Misted by errant rain, she stroked her little pillow, her only friend, Pilly who gave her a sense of safety. Her hesitant steps drew her down the endless corridor. The desperation of this fragile, mature, yet newborn Aserian woman was nearly hidden on her icy calm face. Though terrified, she was awed by the beauty as she looked around. Her curious eyes mirrored the great inner fears of the lonely soul. She tried to find someone, a familiar face in the crouching shadows, someone who could be with her, anyone. That kind Aserian man and woman she had considered father and mother. She wished her mother held her under her protective wings while her father ordered the storm with his fatherly voice to calm down – at least this is what her young soul dreamed and imagined.

“Mother? Father?” her soft angelic tone called, but no answer came. “Where are you?” she asked almost silently. Like magic, a blurry memory rushed into her mind and forced the young guardian to stop.

Grace, a woman’s kind echoing voice called in her mind. The young guardian had to reach out to the closest column for support. The faces she had seen for a moment were her real parents, she felt it; she knew it. But they were human, not the Aserians she looked for. Who were they? And who is Grace, the little girl in her dream? Was she still dreaming?

As fast as it came, the vision retreated once again in her mind as she shook her head. So confused, breathing faster and faster, the young guardian took one step, and then another. As she arrived under the stone arch at the end of the corridor, her legs rooted to the spot. She didn’t dare go further. Two dark motionless silhouettes waited and watched her from the large dim hall beyond. They terrified her. The silent strangers were not her mom and dad. Angeni looked back to the other end of the long corridor. Her safe sanctuary, which was still intact bravely stood against

(Page submitted by the authors, Istvan Szabo Ifj and Orlanda Szabo; ebook available here, here, and here)
My Review

Too many adjectives!

Conceptually, this page is intriguing. We have a sympathetic young protagonist in an eerie setting. Apparently, there are carnivorous doors in this environment, and the architecture has an evocative feel. Angeni is in the midst of a crisis of parentage, and evidently a crisis of species as well.

But as interesting as those elements may be, the adjectives simply swamp them. What is the difference between, “Like a soft breeze, the curtain ran ghostly fingers over her shoulders” and “The curtain ghosted over her shoulders”? There’s no such thing as a harsh breeze, nor one that could run solid fingers over someone’s shoulders. When the extra words convey no added meaning or sensation, they’re just clogging up the works.

Sometimes, discretion is the better part of vocabulary. I'd probably be favorably impressed by a version of this page that cut the right third or half of its verbiage out.