The Institute by Stephen King (Spookathon) ★★★★☆

Introduction – 10/13/19

I really hope this is good. I just got off my Kingathon. I hope I am not Kinged-out. At the same time, I think I am primed to judge this story objectively and not through the rose colored glasses of a King fan. Worst case scenario, this is an easy and mildly entertaining book because King is so easy to enjoy.

Update – 10/18/19

It’s nearly midnight, and I’ve made it through 3/4ths of the book. It’s really good. The story starts off much like many of King’s recent crime novel as we follow the happenings of an ex-cop. We spend a good chunk of the start following him before we abruptly pivot. I’d say the transition into the main plot is probably the worst part of the book. It comes out of no where, and it really doesn’t flow very well. That said, we don’t have much time to focus on that because we move quickly into the life of a young boy named Luke. He is exceptionally intelligent, and his life is forever changed one day when he wakes up to find himself in a place called the Institute.

I’ll admit, I was a little worried with how the story started because, as much as I enjoy the Bill Hodges series, I really don’t care much for a detective story. I also want something different. Thankfully, this is different. This isn’t exactly a detective story. It is much more about a young boy and certain struggle he and others like him have to overcome.

We seem to be covering a lot of ground in this book. King often does that where his stories can be broken into sections. What I like about this book is that it can do that and still feel refined. I’m not usually one to complain about his length. In fact, this story is still over 500 pages (see Trick or Treat-athon), but I’m still impressed by how fast pace and compelling the story is. It should come to no surprise that I like King’s writing style. Nevertheless, it’s nice to love the story too. I’ll be surprised if this ends with less than 4 stars. There is only one thing I feel the story is lacking, but I’ll save that discussion for the end where I can give a minor spoiler warning.

Finished 10/19/19

It was a great book. It isn’t King’s best, but I stand by it being better than his most recent crime novels (including the Outsider). I thought the ending was satisfying. I was ready to come in her and dock King for an easy ending if that was what happened; it didn’t. There are larger consequences to the actions of the book and our main character. King address issues in politic and society making a point to provide commentary on the President himself. This isn’t new. I am happy with this read. It seems like a good novel that is pretty consistent throughout.

There are similarities to the Shop in Firestarter. It involves the abduction of children with special gifts. The institution is secret, etc.. The story itself is different; the Big Bad, is not so different. The question then becomes if it hurts the story. The next paragraph will have very mild spoilers as it relates to the Shop. Skip it if you don’t want to hear it.

In The Outsider, I criticized it for its similarity to IT, so I want to be fair and do the same here. These are only spoilers for what is not in the book. I was a little annoyed that we never got even a mention of the Shop, from Fire Starter. King is all about inter-connectivity and even when things don’t connect, he isn’t afraid to reference his own work (the Shining in The Outsider). Still, we never get a mention of the Shop. It could easily have been included if only in passing. Our character might think of how it compares to the Institute, or an Institute employee could mention it in passing. The lack of that connection makes me think he doesn’t want that connection to be there. The fact is, it’s there. Your ideas are meshing. If they’re worthy of being an independent work then why steer clear of acknowledging the elephant in the room? Why not make it an updated version of it (I’m pretty sure its not).

In the end, I still enjoyed this novel. I liked it more than Firestarter even. This story felt darker and the ending less convenient. 4.25/5 stars.

7 Days of King (#kingathon 2019)

  1. Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King ★★★★(3.75/5)
  2. Finders Keepers, by Stephen King ★★★★(4/5)
  3. End of Watch, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆ (3.25/5)
  4. Dolores Claiborne, by Stephen King ★★★★★ (5/5)
  5. The Outsider, by Stephen King ★★★★(4/5)
  6. Gerald’s Game, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆ (3.5/5)
  7. Insomnia, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (4.5/5)
Introduction (9/23/19)

With Spookathon fast approaching, I am inspired to do a quick test run. I have yet to read Stephen King’s Bill Hodges mystery series and was thinking, why don’t I do a readathon for his birthday? When is that, oh the 21st, I really should have known that. That means this week I’m going to read the entire trilogy (Mr. MercedesFinders KeepersEnd of Watch). That wasn’t my intent when I had this idea, but hey, what the hell? I have had a pretty good turn around rate with recent books, so I figure I wouldn’t be losing too much reading time if I get it out in a weeks time. I also kinda want to give horror a break for hot minute before the spookathon.

I am giving myself until the end of Monday next week to finish, just in time for horror (and maybe the Outsider, the horror mystery follow up to this series). With ~14hr books, my average speed will take about 30hrs. That should be enough if I listen every morning and evening, still leaving time to read a bit of Gather Together in My Name.

Concluding thoughts (9/30/19)

This started as 3 book readathon over the course of one week. My goal: (belatedly) celebrate King’s birthday by giving his crime novels a shot and see if I can read 3 books in one week. It quickly became not 3 books but 5 then 7. I realized I could do a book a day, on average. That was all together exciting and exhausting. I love the idea that I could get through more books in one week than I did the first 6 months of the year.

This readathon is yet another good thing to come of this book blogging I’ve been doing. I enjoy thinking about what I read, and I always want to read more. If I can read 7 in a 7 days, then there is no reason not to read 5 a month. That would make 60 in a year. I never dreamed I might be able to do that. Hopefully, this sticks. Grad school is a fickle thing, and it my fade into the back. I hope not. I have been watching less TV, playing next to no video games, and these audiobooks force me to find something productive to do (biking, cleaning, etc.).

That is why I hope to make this a monthly thing. At least 1 readathon a month will ensure I more than meet my initial quota, and it will make up for possible dips in my free time. One week out of the month isn’t that much to give up. October will be #spookathon 2019. Then I will go from there. I absolutely love #kingathon. It is the perfect excuse and way to dig through that massive King list of books without only ever reading him (something I have been guilty of).

In the end, I am glad I did this, and I am glad I chose the books I did (for the most part). Most of the books were enjoyable, and the biggest disappoint (Gerald’s Game) was okay. Although, for that one mediocre read I found one of my yearly favorites with Dolores Claiborne. Of all these, the last one, Insomnia, was the only one I found myself reading for the sake of it, even if I realized I needed a break. That undoubtedly took away from that experience, but that was the risk I took with such a long book. This is a learning process, and I can work on my approach.

On that note, it is far easier to do these when listening to 1.8x speed. I thought 1.3 was the best I could do, but I was shocked at how quickly I acclimated to faster speeds. It as good as cuts the time in half. Insomnia, I bumped up to 2.0x for a lot of the story for the sake of time, but I think I am going to stick with 1.8 for most of my future reads. I bet if I had listened more quickly to To Say Nothing of the Dog, I may have retained more interest.

All in all, this was a success. I got to read Stephen King. That included a few books I probably wouldn’t have read but am glad I did. It brought me to Dolores Claiborne and Insomnia. Insomnia was the one odd ball here; I read it because I owned it on hardback. The biggest problem, I think, was it kept me so busy I never read any of Gather Together in My Name, which I was reading a bit everyday. Time to return there now! In any case, I loved this readathon, and I look forward to doing #kingathon 2020 next year September 19th to to the 25th.

Insomnia, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#kingathon)

Introduction 9/29/19

The final novel I am reading in my #Kingathon is Insomnia. This book is both larger and more of a fantasy than a mystery/suspense/thriller, but I am running thin on those type of books by King (in particular those on my TBR bookshelf, i.e. already owned). It was either Insomnia or a collection, but I know I will want to stop for every story to write a blurb which is surprisingly time consuming. The time now is after 8PM Sunday. This 24hr book, 13.5 at 1.8x speed, is seriously pushing my abilities, as I want this done by 12AM tomorrow night. However, a good deal of reading tonight (I need to prep some food anyway) coupled with a couple hours before school, I am confident I can get this done before tomorrow night is out. Thus making this #kingathon a successful 7 books in 7 days.

I don’t know a lot about insomnia, but I know it ties into Kings greater universe. That is what has peaked my interest. I really look forward to this one, and I hope I end this on a high note!

Finished 9/30/19

This was a great story. When I think about the problems with King’s more recent series, I can’t help but compare them to the classics like IT or the Stand. This is on par with those. Don’t get me wrong, it never create reaches the same intensity; I didn’t feel for this story as strongly as I have for others. However, it is a solid story masterfully woven into the larger universe.

King explores what it is like to age. He probably has a better grasp on that now (being 30 years older), but I think one of the best parts of the book is the emotion of growing old, from the love shared with a partner, to loss, to adjusting to living in your later years. Couple that with the multiverse of the Dark Tower and this becomes even better.

My biggest regret with this read is my wanting to finish it in time to meet my 7 day challenge. I can read faster than I realized, but I was pushing it with this one. I probably missed a bit of stuff. I may give this another read one day. I’ve read IT and the Stand multiple times (well, more often IT), and I think this might be worthy of that too.

There was also the atrocious production of the audiobook that constantly ruined the story. Music has been in each of these books since Dolores Claiborne (save the Outsider), but each book has been tolerable until now. It is as if they either don’t trust their narrator or they don’t trust the reader to feel the emotion in the story. It isn’t just that it is there, it’s how loud it is every time.

In the end, I still really enjoyed the book even if it wasn’t my favorite of the set. It still sits up there as one of the best I read this week. 4.5/5 stars rounding down.

Gerald’s Game, by Stephen King (#kingathon) ★★★☆☆

Image result for geralds game cover
Introduction 9/28/19

I’m 17% through, and there isn’t much to say. It seems interesting, and I’ve noticed some differences from the movie. One thing is Jessie comes across as less stable in the books. The film felt like a projection of her thoughts, but here, we see clearly she thinks shes talking to multiple voices that have existed even before whats going on. If its preexisting, then is this exactly normal internal dialogue (as I thought in the movie?

The recent film was amazing, but Gerald’s Game isn’t my top choice. However, it seems to fit best into the general theme of more suspense/thriller novels I’ve been reading. I also am pushing for 7 king novels in 7 days, and this one isn’t long. Plus, Dolores Claiborne wasn’t a priority and that was amazing. In any case, the Outsider marks 20 books this year, a first ever for me.

Finished 9/29/19

I am the kind of person who enjoys rereading or rewatching something that I love. Gerald’s Game, the film I have seen several times. I think it does a fantastic job telling this story in a gripping way while still digging into Jessie’s inner dialogue. I wish I the same could be said for the book. It starts so strong, and I am fascinated even as I’ve seen this play out on screen; the film is a pretty faithful adaption. Unfortunately, I quickly lose interest. Is it because I knew what was going to happen (doesn’t stop me from loving the movie) or am I getting burnt out from 6 books in 6 days? Its tough to say. In the end, though, I just lost interest in what is otherwise a solid story. Toward the end, we begin to learn a few extra details that peaked my interest, so maybe it is just my knowing. In either case it just wasn’t all that interesting of a read.

Maybe the problem here is the length. Normally, I love King’s exposition, but had this been a novella it would have been more effective. The idea is interesting, and the themes it allows King to explore is interesting. We dig into a marriage, and see what it looks like behind closed doors. Then there is the dynamic of a family that severely messed up in more than one way. The biggest of course is Jessie’s father, which is the center of this novel in a lot of ways. What I like about this is that he represents how villains can be deceptive. They can appear pure and well meaning. That is to say, they are not just a demonic clown that lives in the sewer or an abusive father who beats his wife and murders his children. For once, King gives a different kind of monster. I think that part of the story was pretty effective. Which really leaves the problems being with the slow drawl of her trying to escape.

The film felt like a logical progression of events. Here felt like the plot going from one to another. There are an abundance of ways I could have improved my chances of enjoying this from reading it at a slower pace or not during a readathon, but all the things I do for this novel I do for the others. I am not going to apologize for not loving this one as much as I had hoped. 3.5/5 Stars rounding down (which really isn’t that bad of a score, because it isn’t that bad of a book).

If you are considering giving this a shot, hopefully you haven’t seen the movie yet. Although, if you have no interest in reading the book, I strongly urge you to check out Gerald’s Game on Netflix because Mike Flanagan (the director) does an amazing job, and he is arguably one the best horror film makers these days (see the Haunting of Hill House).

The Outsider, by Stephen King (#kingathon) ★★★★☆ 

Introduction 9/27/19

This will complete my time in the Hodges Universe for the time being. I am looking forward to this novel, but less than when I started. I heard great things about this one, but if it isn’t a drastic change to the first three, I probably won’t love it because detective novels aren’t my cup of tea in general. I am unlikely to finish this 5th book tonight because it is nearly 11 hrs, even at faster speeds. Still, I want time to read Gerald’s Game and at least one more (I’m thinking Insomnia for reasons). 7 Novels is the new goal for #kingathon 2019, where 3 or 4 was the original. No matter what, its a blast to do.

Finished 9/28/19

I have a lot I would like to say about this book, which, was a mixed bag with an overall positive experience. Again, we find ourselves in crime novel, this time it isn’t about the chase. Instead, we learn about the crime as the police begin to act. The problem is the evidence doesn’t add up despite the seemingly incontrovertible evidence. Without giving anything away, this novel is very effective in the first half (maybe more) where we are forced with this atrocity slowly learning about the facts. We are left to wonder what is going on. Why does the evidence conflict? I think the premise of this novel is known well enough for the reader to infer what is likely happening, and I want to talk about it because it is a big part of this book. However, if you don’t want any spoilers, stop now.

Imagine a book where a demonic shape-shifting monster feeds on the flesh and emotions of children. You might think I am talking about Stephen King’s IT, but in fact I am talking about The Outsider. King clearly fights hard to distinguish this monster from Pennywise, providing far more exposition to explain in detail what kind of monster this is.

In the end, I think he does a pretty effective job at differentiating the two, but there is still a clear similarity between the two. That’s amusing too because Stephen King films (e.g. the Shining, Stand by Me) are referenced showing Kings works exist in this universe. That is problematic as no one references Pennywise, but a big part of the book is about tying this monster to ancient Mexican monster. It is an essential part of the plot, but this monster is so much like Pennywise. It just doesn’t feel natural. That is the problem, as with End of Watch, with this novel. The ending part felt forced.

The problem for me, lies in the character Holly. She isn’t the main character, but she plays a significant enough a roll to suggest she will have her own series tying to her. I have to admit, I have been disappointed with Holly. I really hoped she would be unique because all the characters glorify her. They call her a spectacular detective skills (she doesn’t work for the police), yet her biggest wins did not tie to her skills but her credulity. Lets break this down. First off, King decides he needs to tell us she is good. He can’t just show it because it isn’t natural, so he is left to force characters to outright say or think to themselves how great she is. Again, if that is true, show us. I am sure some people will say he does. The truth is, he doesn’t. He shows her being credulous and getting lucky in the process. Admittedly, incredulity may be deadly in the King Universe, In the end, she is just a plot device–a convenient device to get his characters to see or believe something for the sake of the plot. It just doesn’t work. It ruined what could have been a great book and made it good. but if we are going down that line, why should we believe in this one monster and ignore all the others (i.e. Pennywise). In the end, Holly is just a way for King to be lazy. I want my characters to work for what they learn, and sometimes that means thinking of more clever ways to get what you want done.

4/5 Stars. which speaks to how strong the novel starts.

Dolores Claiborne, by Stephen King ★★★★★ (#kingathon 2019)

Introduction (9/26/19) #kingathon continues

With the Bill Hodges Trilogy completed, I am moving on to Dolores Claiborne. I haven’t read the Outsider yet, but I wanted to change it up before I read it. Dolores Claiborne which I remember was one of those literary books I remembering hearing about in high school. I think that comes from the unique structure which is an extended dialogue from Claiborne herself after being interrogated for killing a women. Some of the reviews seemed to complain this structure is slow, but so far I am enjoying it (7%). Granted, I’ve got 5 or so hours to go, but the narrator is engaging and believable. Furthermore, there’s nothing more compelling than well developed characters, and this is very much a story about characters. I am looking forward to this!

Update: Finished (9/26/19)

The time is 12:00AM on 9/27/19. I just finished Dolores Claiborne, and while it may be 12AM as I write this, I am counting this as a read-in-one-day. This 9hr novel barely breaks 300 pages. It was a quick and immersive tale. Furthermore, the audiobook, even at at 1.7x speed, was amazing. The narrator gets the accents on point. I absolutely loved it. This is by far my favorite Stephen King novel of the year, and I would put it up there among the best Stephen King books. I am astonished at the complaints to this book. Sure, there are no chapters or breaks, but this interview is still styled in the form of a novel. We have a clear beginning middle and end. Every bit of it was an absolute delight. This is King at his best. The characters are real; the one exception may be Dolores’ husband who has no redeeming qualities (save a smooth forehead?).

The book is mostly supernatural free. Instead, King explores human nature in human life. We see a town that judges through the blind eyes of an outsider incapable of seeing everything, and we are forced to question what is right and wrong. What’s more, the people we see that seem so hateful, why are they that way? What we see may not what really lies beneath the surface, and even if it does, whose to say their actions aren’t justified considering what they’ve endured in life.

There are similarities as well as direct connections to Gerald’s Game that I can understand from Mike Flanagan’s Netflix film adapting the book. Still, it makes me more inclined to read it if this is the type of story we are getting. I imagine it is, except the stress may be a bit more extreme. It also makes me want to rewatch the movie. I have no memory of it. I am not even sure I followed it when I first watched it. I know I don’t remember it being an interview per-say, but it may be in the form of flashbacks. Either way, you can’t really present the story in the same format as King did. On that note, I had no qualms with it. It was easy to read, and the story interesting enough to keep me engaged. You may not read the book, but at least check out the movie which is likely to retain the basic themes. Just watching the trailer gives me chills, which is weird since I have seen it before. Everything makes more sense now.

This is a solid 5/5 stars. Likely in my top books of the year. I love horror and the supernatural, and I usually focus on King’s novels that fit that niche. The fact that this worked so well for me shows why I need to branch out.

The Bill Hodges Trilogy, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#Kingathon 2019)

Introduction (9/23/19)

With Spookathon fast approaching, I am inspired to do a quick test run. I have yet to read Stephen King’s Bill Hodges mystery series and was thinking, why don’t I do a readathon for his birthday? When is that, oh the 21st, I really should have known that. That means this week I’m going to read the entire trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch). That wasn’t my intent when I had this idea, but hey, what the hell? I have had a pretty good turn around rate with recent books, so I figure I wouldn’t be losing too much reading time if I get it out in a weeks time. I also kinda want to give horror a break for hot minute before the spookathon.

I am giving myself until the end of Monday next week to finish, just in time for horror (and maybe the Outsider, the horror mystery follow up to this series). With ~14hr books, my average speed will take about 30hrs. That should be enough if I listen every morning and evening, still leaving time to read a bit of Gather Together in My Name.

Update (9/26/19)

The Trilogy is done in record time (yay!), and I am turning this into a full on readathon and try to read as much Stephen King as possible! (See update at the end)

Update: Finish Mr. Mercedes (Book 1) (9/24/19) ★★★★☆

This personal readathon is coming along great! A day in I am done with book one and nearly half way through book 2 (Finders Keepers). Mr. Mercedes was a perfectly fine book that gives exactly what you would expect. A mystery thriller written in the writing style of Stephen King. King, for me at least, is naturally entertaining. This book isn’t exceptional, but it was a solid build up and progression. I’d give it 3.75/5 stars.

The story was compelling and effective at what it wanted to do but nothing exceptional. One problem with King’s works is most of his villains are caricatures without any depth. They are monsters through and through. I can tell King tried to give Mr. Mercedes, a mass murder and psycho, some backstory, but it wasn’t very redeeming. He was messed up from the get go making his life the way it was. There was a romance included, and that felt rushed or unearned. It was necessary to give the story emotional weight. A great example of what a romance can do is seen in 11/22/63, but this is not even close to that work.

If I hadn’t committed to this #kingathon, I probably wouldn’t be continuing the series. However, I am enjoying book 2. It is as enjoyable as the last and probably more. The structure is different. I’m halfway in and Hodges has barely even appeared. Instead, we get to see the history of crime told along side a present day story that quickly shows itself to be tied to the crime of the past. 25% of the book is spent walking us through the crime, a killing of an author by a disgruntled fan. This is an interesting exploration of the author-fan relationship, but again, this feels like a rehash of a better previous work (e.g. Misery). The more I read King, the more I should notice overarching themes. Although, they shouldn’t feel like cardboard cut outs of previous plot lines. To be clear, this isn’t a terrible book. I am glad I am reading it. I like the structure of this book more than the last, and I am primed to rate it 4 stars instead of 3.5. Of course, this is subject to change.

Lastly, I want to touch on how fast I am getting through these books. I am more comfortable with King, so I have experimented with faster speeds. I can tolerate 1.7 speed even as I grade (tedious grading that requires minimal thought). I think this really bodes well for my spookathon coming up in a couple weeks. I may even go so far as to read the spin of book, The Outsider, before the week is out.

Update: Finish Finders Keepers (Book 2) (8/25/19) ★★★★☆

Yet again, I am glad I chose to do this challenge. I have a better appreciation for how much I can handle and how fast I can listen to audiobooks and still enjoy them. It is hard to justify listening too fast. I listen to podcasts at accelerated speeds, but some of these are news that I want to here but it is more out of obligation than pure enjoyment. Listening fast forward can be a great way to save time, but when I’m re-listening to things like Harry Potter or 11/22/63, its because I want to savor every last detail of the text and the narration. I know I can’t be getting as much listening faster. At the same time, it is nice being able to enjoy these books and have time for another! 7 days was the plan. Instead, I’m 70% through book three, and I’ll probably end in less than 3 days. What’s more, this challenge and decision to speed read led me to reading books I never had any real interest in. There are so many great books I need to read and a lot of older books by King as well. I figured this would be a good chance to try it out. I am glad I did.

Finders Keepers was a solid novel. Despite its similarities to King’s other works, I enjoyed it more than the first novel. One key difference is the focal point isn’t Hodges. Hodges just isn’t that interesting in my opinion. I have no interest in an ex cop story line. The premise alone is what turned me off to this series, but let it be known, this series is much more than that. It spans the first novel and continues as a side plot throughout the series. Still, King knows how to be mostly original. He takes his ideas and reforms it. I found myself with characters I liked more and stakes that felt more emotionally significant . A tragic killing in the first book shocks us, but I felt little because the pain was mostly focused on Hodges point of view. That is no longer the case. This is a Mystery but not like the first. This is a story of a crime and an innocent boy caught in the middle with Hodges tacked on to make it fit into the trilogy. 4/4 Stars, maybe 4.25.

This story is also the one that sees Holly Gibney, a major character of The Outsider (I believe), a main character in the Hodges gang. I am intrigued because, like i said, I am not a fan of Hodges himself. I am especially intrigued because with the third installment, End of Watch (of which I am nearly finished), we finally enter the world of the science fiction/supernatural of Stephen King. I love this stuff. As a story, it is a continuation of book one and less of a stand alone like book two. It reminds me of our one dimensional villain. Even so, King makes it work, and we find our-self in a truly impossible situation. A situation I think would be next to impossible to solve or fix. Unfortunately, I think they will. I feel this series suffers from a bit of predictability. King shocked me once, twice, three times. Each time, I was surprised to learn these were all fake outs. Moments framed to be more severe then they were. It makes for a great excitement, but these can only work for so long before you become predictable. I mean, I finally care about your characters and what happens to them. Why not do something seriously lasting? (Possible spoiler: With the title of this novel, End of Watch, and a new series featuring Holly, I sort of expect Hodges to die in this one)

Update: Finish End of Watch (Book 3) (9/26/19) ★★★☆☆

I hate to say it, but my opinion went down with the ending. It wasn’t that it was particularly bad. I just kind of stopped caring. Shocks and sad moments were present, but the fact that I thought the ending was pretty much what I expect made it sort of anticlimactic. Long story short, what happens when a villain gets supernatural powers. You can blame it on my speed reading if you like, but it all felt rushed. The super powered villain felt like a plot device to achieve a certain “crime” that may be thematically appropriate but not necessarily a natural progression of where this concept will take you. Like Captain Marvel in the Avengers, you can’t let this character break the story line you want, so you have to shape the narrative to make it work even if it isn’t completely natural. I really thought this would be a solid 4, but it is more like a 3.25/5 stars.

Total Score for the Trilogy is 3.67/5. It is far from my favorite, but it is a fun and engaging read with a few great moments.

#kingathon 2019 Update

I’ve completed three books completed in less than three days. This #Kingathon is going better than I expected. I am going to keep reading through next Monday for a full 7 day stretch. I’ll read Outsider, but I am sure I have more than enough time. I am going to take a break from the Hodges “Universe” and switch over to another mystery by King, Dolores Claiborne. Then Outsiders, and if I am lucky another book or two before Monday night. I am officially calling King’s birthday week the week of the #Kingathon (Stephen King Readathon). Granted, I am off by a week, but I got the idea late. I am also just one person, so who cares! #Kingathon 2019 will hopefully become a yearly thing. It will give me an excuse and chance to dig through King’s backlog (I have so many on my shelf I haven’t read, and more still to buy) without taking up too much of my normal reading time that I could spend on new authors throughout the year.

TEPS 2019 Summer Internship

Summer loving, had me a blast

Picture it, Atlanta 2019. Here I am, working with my old research group at Georgia Tech in the Planetary Habitability and Technology Lab. It is quite the change from London, Ontario. The temperature alone is roughly 10 degrees hotter on average (5 in C). Returning to Western campus will be far more comfortable, but that will soon turn uncomfortably cold. Then there’s the city. Everywhere you look theirs something to do. Great food is in abundance (hence the ~5 pounds I’ve gained while I’m here), and there is infrastructure for biking.

Even with the unbearable heat, I take my bike to the old town beltline-trail, and I ride till I can’t no more. I got my water in the bag, bike bags are attached. stickers on my Black helmet with black tennis shoes to match. Can’t nobody tell me nothin’.

There’s also the distance. Its been great seeing friends and family. I went to some fresh water springs last weekend with my sister, father and a couple step siblings. I also spent my sisters 30th birthday with her and her friends at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I spent 4th of July with my dad at his house in South GA near Jacksonville. I visited a few friends and my mom a couple times over the summer too; they’re just an hour north east of Atlanta. I also got to see my grand mother and grand father in Macon!

My sister and I swimming at a fresh water spring in north Florida. You are looking at us above a deep whole, maybe a couple meters below the surface and itself another couple meters deep.

Then there’s Werewolf ATL. It was great seeing all my werewolf friends in Atlanta. I was able to join in on their monthly WW meet ups and a couple birthday parties too! That has all be a blast, but the best is yet to come. Dragon Con is upon’s us. It is the superbowl for WW (in my opinion). We will be doing pregaming the Saturday and Wednesday leading up to it. (This all may have passed by the time I publish this post). This year I am volunteering and will enjoy moderating games for part of my time. This year, I have a strict schedule for myself to ensure I get a few hours of sleep (most of the nights), but I also want to make sure I diversify my time at DragonCon. There is so much more to DC than WW.

My first year at DC was dedicated entirely to Space, Science, and Skepticism tracks with a special focus on Space Track. This is where I first saw Dr. Trina Ray talk about the wonderful Cassini mission and how it had been officially extended. It was here that I chose to change focus and give space science a shot. Sure, I had years of love for space and science that had been culminating up to this point, but the space track is what did it, introducing me to people who work in the field. What’s more, it showed me just how much planetary science was left to be done. I must stop or this will become a love fest for space and science and so on.

Image result for cassini
An artistic representation of Cassini as it plunged itself into the atmosphere of Saturn.

My point is there are other things that are worthy of my attention. There are also other geek tracks that focus on science fiction and fantasy in tv, film, and literature. I have so much passion for the things I consume, and I have no doubt I would love these panels if I just made a point to attend.

That will conclude my trip as I return right after it ends on Tuesday, the 3rd of September. Then it’s back to reality.

Modeling Update

New readers may want to check out my previous discussions on what I have been working on. I don’t have the pretty pictures I would like just yet. I have been modeling Titan impact craters with a mix of HCN and water for a range of concentrations to hundreds of meters in depth. The goal has been to find the concentration of HCN in the ice after it freezes assuming an initial concentration. We find this at a range of thermal gradients (depths), and this is all we need to do a 2D model for a melt lens of a given shape and size. Then, we can track the thermal gradient at each point in the pond and get a clear picture of the distribution of concentrations within the ice.

I have the concentrations. I need to fit it to a series of functions to plug into Chase’s model. We have discussed what I need to do to adjust it for Titan. I have not had a chance to do that yet. Once it is set up, we can run it. This is work I am trying to get started on. With the end of my trip and my impending manuscript deadline (I haven’t mentioned that have I?) I haven’t had a chance to dig into that yet. This is work I intend to get into this as soon as I get back. However, the actual results are still several weeks away because I identified a problem with my data. I have enough data to work with the model and get it set up (the hardest part), but the data I have is bad.

I made a mistake in the eutectic curve I used in the model that determines the HCN concentrations. This curve essentially says, if the concentration of HCN is X, the melting temperature is Y. The problem was that I mistakenly type 7307 when I meant to put 73.7. How I missed this is beyond me, but suffice it to say, it probably skewed parts of the data. That means I need to rerun my results. This isn’t all bad. I have a better idea how to expedite this process and can adjust a few of my input parameters. It will still take a few weeks to get the data I need because modeling centimeters in a profile of 100s of meters is tedious work.

The eutectic curve used for HCN (Coates and Hartshorne, 1931).

But fear not! There is a clear path forward, and I still see myself on track to finish this this fall. That paves the way for the daunting task of where to go from there! I’m not scared. Why would I be afraid of reaching a point with no clear path forward (*sarcasm*).

Manuscript Update

I have finished making the updates for my manuscript. I haven’t done a lot of blogging about my work because when I wasn’t blogging, I was editing the manuscript. Forgive me if I was not too keen to carry over my thoughts to here (although you can enjoy my recent writings on books I’ve been reading). I sent my edits to my coauthors. I hope there aren’t too many complaints; the deadline is right at the start of September. The comments weren’t too extreme, but they did prove time intensive. There were changes I might could have justified not doing which would have saved me time, but it was hard to ignore it if I knew it could be done slightly better. Some of the more tedious tasks (table and figure updates) even gave me a chance to enjoy some audiobooks while I worked.

IT: Chapter 2

Finally, in what is undoubtedly the most important event of our lifetime, IT: Chapter 2 is set to release on September 6th. As sad I am to leave Atlanta, I am so excite to finally see IT: Chapter 2. It was such a blessing when the first was released a couple years ago, and I am so happy to see such a major motion picture production for one of my favorite books of all time.

I may update this with some post Dragon Con pictures and comments, but for now, I am going to sign off until I’m back beyond the wall.

Image result for game of thrones the wall
The actual wall separating Canada and the US, as documented by one explorer.

Firestarter by Stephen King – ★★★☆☆


Start late 2018

I begin the year reading Firestarter in December 2018. I read a lot of Stephen King, including most of his major hits. I decided to try Firestarter on a whim. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through. Its enjoyable but nothing exceptional. At first it had me excited, so much so that I decided to watch the film staring Drew Barrymore. The film follows the book pretty closesly. It was an old film, but fun. My problem moving forward is I don’t think the book adds anything special. Some books are great, even greater than the film or greater in a different way, but I don’t think this is one of those books. It really speaks to the mediocrity of the book. I want to finish it because 2/3rds is pretty far not to finish, but its more a job now than something I really enjoy.

Finished 1/29/19

I’ve finished the book. I enjoyed it. It did have more than the movie. I think it had more room to tell what was essentially the same ending in a more logical manner. That said, this was not exceptional. Stephen King has so many great book; if I was going to be suggesting one, it wouldn’t be this one. 3.25/5 stars