Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: Geek Mafia

Filed under: Life Goals,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Last week, I read Geek Mafia by Rick Dakan.

Though this book wasn’t terrible, I can’t really recommend it to anyone. Look, I applaud anyone who can write a whole book and get it published. Just writing a novel-length work is quite an accomplishment, but that doesn’t make it necessarily good. That’s kind of how I feel about Geek Mafia.
The implication of the title is that the book will somehow link “geeks” with some sort of organized crime, which, to me, usually means La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia. But, the author never really quite manages to accomplish this. The book starts with a comic book artist that’s been working for a game company who’s about to be fired dodging work at the bar of a Mexican restaurant. There he meets an attractive free-lancer of some kind who immediately starts to flirt with him. Now, in the real world, this should have set off bells and whistles in this guy’s head, but it doesn’t. Apparently, we’re supposed to believe that a pudgy, almost middle-aged guy completely buys that a pretty girl more than ten years his junior, who he’s just met, is interested in him and doesn’t have any ulterior motive. I know what I think when that’s what seems to be happening to me. Yeah, right, I don’t believe it could be happening to me, but we should believe that this guy totally buys it. What’s more, we should buy it when it turns out to be true.

Well, this girl volunteers to help him get one over on his company and bluff them into giving him a bunch of money instead of the two months severance they want to give him.  Again, if this were me, I’d be super, super suspicious, but this joker just completely buys it and goes along, until it’s almost too late.  Then, and only then, he gets worried that maybe, just maybe, this girl is too good to be true.
But, all that aside, the writing is just, well, mediocre at best.  The author not only uses all the geek and mystery/heist cliches but he over uses them.  I mean, this guy really piles them on.  In a way, he takes using trite situations and predictable scenarios to an art form.  It’s almost like he was trying to make use of every single scene he was given from a writing class or something.  It was amazingly formulaic, from the various scams to the main character trying to join the criminal crew, right down to one of the criminal crew betraying him and his new lover.

The whole thing works, on one level, but it’s certainly not “Best Seller” material.  It was disappointing in several ways beyond the lackluster writing.  For instance, it never really lived up to either promise in the title.  There was no mafia in the book and, in fact, barely any organized crime to speak of at all.  Nor did it live up to the geek portion, really, either.  Any technology or “geekiness” was merely a plot device seen at a distance, at best, and was really not required to move the story forward at all.  It could have all pretty much been done some other way without any significant impact.  Or, the technology was used at about the same level that pretty much any traveling salesman might use.  Laptops and e-mail and all the normal trappings of modern life, not really geeky at all.
And the characters did all sorts of fairly incongruous things, too.  They were quite inconsistent, even considering their obviously “hidden” agendas.  They were, at times, wholly unbelievable, acting in ways that I cannot imagine any normal, reasonable person acting.  Not even perfectly reasonable criminals.
This whole book read like someone attempting NaNoWriMo for the first time and not doing any editing work to the manuscript afterward!

Frankly, I had a lot of hope for this book.  The title alone led me to expect an entirely different book.  One which I had truly looked forward to reading.  Sadly, what was behind that title was not the book I’d hoped to read.  So, as appealing as the description of this book may seem, I just cannot recommend it to anyone.


Review: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:13 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Hellboy 2: The Golden Army on Saturday.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in this movie. I’d been anticipating it since it was announced and really looking forward to seeing more of the Hellboy franchise, but this turned out to be just another bland sequel.
I felt like the special effects were the entire point of the film. Well, that and all the merchandising opportunities. The director, Guillermo del Toro, who also directed the first Hellboy movie, was one of the writers on this script, and I think his influence shows. Sadly, that’s not a compliment. Del Toro is also well known for directing the brilliant Pan’s Labyrinth which featured bizarre and fanciful creatures as much as the story or cinematography. There are large sequences in Hellboy 2 that feel like they were included in the movie strictly to show off some strange creature or character that would make a good model or action figure to sell a fanboy. In fact, the entire plot device of a “goblin market” under the Brooklyn Bridge seems created for this purpose of having creatures resembling leftovers from Pan’s Labyrinth.

But, I’m getting just a little ahead of myself. The basic plot of this sad offering is that an ancient race of fairies who has been at war with humans make an unstoppable, mechanical army constructed of gold and magic. After a brutal war that shocked even the fey king, the crown that controlled the Golden Army was broken into three pieces, one of which was given to humans as part of a kind of non-aggression pact. Fast forward a few centuries and mankind has forgotten about this war and the Golden Army, but the prince of the fairies, Prince Nuada, played by Luke Goss, has not. What’s more, he wants to waken the Golden Army and break the peace with mankind, conquering them and returning his people to dominance over the Earth. So, yeah, end of the world, blah, blah, blah. Naturally, his sister, Princess Nuala, played by Anna Walton, stands in his way and runs into the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense in the form of Abe Sapien, played by Doug Jones, Hellboy, played by Ron Perlman, and Liz Sherman, played by Selma Blair. They protect her and hide her from her brother just long enough for her and Abe to fall in love. And, I mean just long enough. As soon as there’s just barely enough dialog to establish that Abe has fallen for Nuala, her brother arrives to try and get her piece of the crown and kidnap her. Talk about a worn out plot. Yawn. Then, of course, Hellboy is injured in such a way to force the team to go on a quest and well, save the world from the Prince and the Golden Army.

Nothing at all spectacular here, but in case you plan on going to a matinee, which is all this movie is worth, I’ll keep from revealing any other plot points, such as they are.
Really, considering that the first movie was so good and established these characters so well and clearly, I’d hoped for more from this film. I’m not sorry I saw it, but it’s not something I’d be all that interested in seeing again. Maybe there’s a director’s cut that has all the good parts in it or something, but, well… Well, it’s not a fantastic movie, but not the worst movie I’ve ever seen either. If you don’t think you have time to see this movie at a matinee, I can’t blame you and it might be worth seeing on video, but don’t bother to pay full price.

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