April 01, 2009

Miscellany - Watchmen, Ebooks, Current Reading

by Alan Beatts

This month I've a collection of miscellany for you all. Sort of a sound-bite article, with bits about eBooks, The Watchmen (both movie and comic), and some teasers about stuff I've read that you won't be able to buy for _months_.

The Watchmen --
I made time (with some difficulty) to go check out the movie about two weeks ago and I've got to say, I was almost completely happy with it. There might have been one or two little things I would have changed but they were so minor that they're not really worth mentioning.

The thing that really stood out for me in the film was the sheer (and very deeply _not_ Hollywood and _not_ safe) faithfulness to the original material. I really didn't expect it, despite hearing all about how respectful the production was meant to be (really, I thought that was a case of "the lady doth protest too much"). Granted there were a few changes but I thought that they were mostly wise choices that reflected the differences between film and graphic novels.
I've got two pieces of advice for you all - 1) Go see it in the theater (and better yet, go see it in an IMAX theater). The film will lose a lot on DVD in your living room. 2) If you haven't read the graphic novel (or if you haven't read it in years), see the movie _first_ and then read the comic. It'll be better that way (and I'm not going to explain why 'cause that would include spoilers).

eBook News --
Yup, got more of my doom and gloom eBook news here (for new readers of this column, this topic has been a hobby-horse of mine for a _long_ time).

Apple's Forthcoming Non-eBook -- Suppliers of components for Apple have leaked these two snippets of information. First, Apple is buying large numbers of 10" multi-touch displays. These are just like the ones used in the iPhone and iPod Touch but bigger (i.e. nine times the surface area). Second, Apple is also buying digital camera sensors in two resolutions - a 3.2 megapixel sensor, which is almost certainly destined for the next generation iPhone _and_ a 5 megapixel sensor. There doesn't seem to be any product in Apple's current line-up that would use such a sensor and so this leads to speculation that it's for something new. Combine these two bits of info with other rumors and it's looking like Apple is going to release a sub-notebook computer (or "net-book") sometime this year. With a high-quality 10" touch screen similar to the iPhone, such a device would be a very nice eBook reader in addition to all the other possible uses (i.e. mobile internet, music and video playback, plus use as a light-weight substitute for one's main computer). Also, unlike the current crop of purpose-built eBook readers, it would be capable of excellent reproduction of color illustrations and photos which opens it up as a platform for magazines and comic books. Finally, such a device would overcome one of the great limitations of eBook readers -- people are hesitant to invest hundreds of dollars for a single purpose device and are also unwilling to lug yet another electronic gadget around.

Kindle Comes to iPhone -- In much the same vein, Amazon has produced an application for the iPhone that allows it to work as a reader for Kindle format books and also allows (albeit via an awkward work-around) users to purchase titles from Amazon from their phones. The application is free and, once the new iPhone operating system is released this summer, the process of purchasing books directly from an iPhone will be greatly simplified.

eComics -- Several major New York publishers are testing the market for comic books formatted for the iPhone. Though there are difficulties in maintaining the quality of the content while fitting it to the iPhone's 3.5" screen, publishers are choosing titles that, due to their style of art and/or layout, will work on the small screen.

Sorry, You Can't Buy It, Yet --
One cool thing about being in this biz is that I sometimes get to read stuff long before in comes out in print. Just recently I read a couple of novels that way and I loved both of them so I thought I'd give you all a heads-up.

MAKERS by Cory Doctorow -- When Cory was in town last week he gave me a copy of his self-produced advance reading copy of MAKERS. I read it pretty much straight through and thought it was great. Though I believe that he wrote much of it before the economy went to crap, it's very much on target relative to our current situation. It's been a conceit of SF writers that they can (to some degree) predict the future as well as shaping it ever since the golden age of SF but most writers' accuracy has been remarkably poor. Cory, on the other hand, seems to be very good at it. MAKERS posits an economic future where large companies are impractical and charts a movement to hire small groups of inventive, creative people to work in small groups and invent "cool stuff," the marketing of which is handled by experts provided by the parent companies. It's full of Cory's trademark clever ideas and technophillic images but also has a cast of characters who are more mature and evolve more during the course of the novel than has been typical of his other books. As it stands, the book should be out in October of this year.

THE LEGIONS OF FIRE by David Drake -- As some of you may know, Dave and I are good friends and he usually sends me copies of his novels when he submits them to his publisher. LEGIONS is his next fantasy novel from Tor Books and is a bit of a departure for him. The setting is the capital city of an empire that is very similar to Rome around 30 AD. Very, very similar. In fact, about the only thing that's different in the setting is that the city is called Carce rather than Rome. Since Dave's degree is in Classical Studies and he translates Latin poetry into English for fun (did I mention that Dave is a bit of an odd duck? -- ask me sometime how he collects Mistletoe around the holidays,) he brings a degree of accuracy and depth to the setting and characters that I don't think I've ever seen equaled in our field. But LEGIONS isn't a historical novel. There are plenty of wizards, spirits, ghosts, and angry gods to keep anyone happy along with Dave's usual dry-as-the-desert sense of humor and believable (if not always "nice") characters, including two female characters who are both engaging and completely atypical for a fantasy novel. It's good stuff but it won't be out 'til probably next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment