Tag Archives: S Books

Dude Review: The Lost Hero

by Richard

The ancient gods of Western civilization have withdrawn from the world following the epic events detailed in the Camp Half-Blood books, starring Percy Jackson (son of Poseidon), by author Rick Riordan.

Of course, just because the gods say they’ve withdrawn from their interactions with mortals, well, that doesn’t make it true. Knowing those gods as we do, through myth, legend and a great series of books, we can be pretty sure there’s still some godly meddling going on.

And there is.

In The Lost Hero, the first book of a new series called The Heroes of Olympus, we’re introduced to a whole bunch of new main characters, most notably Jason, a half-blood demi-god with little to no memory of his past, a strange tattoo on his arm, and a metaphorical target plastered on his back.

For now, let’s all get down on our knees and thank those self-same gods that Rick Riordan is back with another book set in the same universe as the magnificently wonderful Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. This truly is a cause for celebration. To me, the Percy Jackson books are what Harry Potter would have liked to have been if he had any ambition at all. They’re full of fantastically complex characters, fast plotting, tight action scenes and genuine emotional heft. These are books that all young dudes would love to read or have read to them.

Both my oldest (Sarcasmo) and youngest (Hyper Lad) young dudes loved these books. Zippy the Monkey Boy, who’s of the opinion that a book without pictures is a waste of paper, preferred to read the graphic novel version and leave it at that. His loss.

Anyway. Back to the book.

Riordan takes a bit of a chance with this book, consigning as he does, Percy Jackson to, if not limbo, then at least the literary equivalent thereof. That is, Percy Jackson does NOT star in these books. He’s talked about and missed, but he’s not actually on stage. The main player here is Jason, who’s memory begins on the back of a school bus on his way to a class trip with two people who may or may not be his girlfriend and best friend.

The action here is fast and furious, starting early and pausing only to let the reader catch his breath before barreling headlong into another adventure.

Jason, you see, isn’t like the other children of the gods who inhabit Camp Half Blood. In fact, his appearance at the summer camp for the children of the gods causes quite a bit of consternation among the staff there, and not a little bit of fear. But what is it about Jason’s very existence and attendance at the camp that’s causing this level of panic?

That, dudes, is the question. And it’s got a great answer. (Of course I had it figured out, but, then again, this is written with the younger dudes in mind. The fact that I and most other older dudes can enjoy it is just a happy bit of synchronicity.)

The Lost Hero is a fantastic read. If you’ve got a young dude or dudette who is even the tiniest bit interested in Greek and Roman mythology, likes fantastic adventure and well-developed characters, then you must get this book. Without question, this rates five (5) dudes out of five.

Buy it. Read it. Enjoy it. Then suffer along with me until the next book in the series comes out.

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Cheating: A Rant

by Richard

Remember way back when Dennis Miller used to be funny? Yeah, I know. Hard to reach back that far. Still, he was at his funniest when he was at his angriest, when he was on a rant.

I’m not that funny, but I’m about to go on a rant. And I do mean to go off on it.

Back on Valentine’s Day, we got a comment entered in an post that was so old we had to blow the spiderwebs off it so we could actually read what we wrote. Which means, usually, we got spammed by some kind of robot. And not the fun kind. This robot-installed spam was hawking academic papers that you could buy.

Yeah, that’s right. The place, which I will not dignify with a link, is a cheating factory.

There’s an argument that buying papers off the internet isn’t cheating. That those papers only serve as a guideline to the — ha! — students who buy them. A way for them to help focus their thoughts.

Yeah, right. And I’m the Queen of Iceland. Admittedly, I do look good in a nice mauve prom dress and a tiara, but Iceland doesn’t actually have a queen. I think you get my point.

The purpose of an essay is not to punish the students. Well, most of the time. Seriously, it’s so that the professor can make sure the students have actually grasped the point of a section of knowledge and are able to synthesize ideas, resolve contradictions and form coherent opinions about that knowledge. These are all important skills. And buying papers off the internet doesn’t help achieve that goal.

I know I’m speaking as a very old person here. There’s no student who likes writing an essay. I know I didn’t when I was that age. But, now that I’m old, I can appreciate what it’s trying to accomplish. It’s a worthwhile goal. That and it’s fun to watch little dudes suffer like that.

I still remember the two all-nighters in a row I pulled in trying to write a coherent paper about Kurt Vonnegut’s Jailbird. That thing, like most of Vonnegut’s books, is a mass of twisting narrative that can confound the most agile mind. Of which mine was not. Still, I managed to get the paper done on time and turn it in. I got a “B” and counted myself lucky. I later found out I got that high a grade because the professor felt sorry for me when he saw how I looked when I turned it in. I know, how could he tell the difference? Har, har.

Still, even though it’s hard, people need to learn how to write coherent bits of narrative. You will be judged on how well you write. No one’s going to demand that anyone write as well as Christopher Moore or anything, but you have to be able to get your ideas across in print, or pixel as the case may be.

I just do not like these kinds of services. I think they cheat the professor and the student. And that’s not good.

Okay. I’m done. End of rant. Go about your business.

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Dude Review of Heck: Where The Bad Kids Go

Just in time to be late for Halloween when everybody is sick of scary costumes and candy and all things demonic or witchy, my youngest little dude and I finished reading a book about a brother and sister who die and end up in Heck. Yes, you read that right. It’s like hell, but for kids, so it’s not as bad. Yeah, you read that right, too.

Heck: Where The Bad Kids Go, is written by Dale Basye and was published by Random House Children’s Books a couple of months ago. The plot follows Milton and Marlo Fauster (Get it? Fauster? Faust? Deals with the devil? It’s the first of many puns.) as they die in a horrible marshmallow incident and end up in the timeless Heck, where they are to stay until they are eighteen or until the end of eternity, whichever comes first. Difficult, especially since no time passes in the Limbo-ish Heck. The bad kids are in a school, the principal for which is Bea “Elsa” Bubb, a nasty demoness. The demons in Heck run around with pitchsporks and it’s basically horribly twisted version of every bad school you’ve ever attended.

The only problem for the Fausters (other than being dead, of course), is that while Marlo was a bad kid, Milton was a sweet, angelic little dude who never did anything wrong. Except in the last instant of his life, when he unknowingly helped Marlo steal something. The big question is, of course, will the Fausters escape? Is it possible? Will Principal Bea “Elsa” Bubb get her comeuppance?

My youngest little dude did enjoy the book, although I did have to explain a lot of the jokes. (Richard Nixon teaching a class on ethics, Blackbeard the pirate teaching P.E. and so on) I didn’t really enjoy the book as much as did the little dude, but, then again, he loves potty humor and, brother, there was a lot of that.

The problem I had with the book was that, although the scenes themselves were funny, the book was really depressing if you stopped to think about it. I mean, these are kids who have died and are going to be spending eternity in what can only be termed the worst school in existence. Maybe it just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Because my youngest little dude liked it and I got a couple of chuckles from the book, I’ll give it three Dude!s.

— Richard

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