Ron dreams of books and things ...
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One Spring day my wife and I walked across much of the Yosemite valley in the rain.
Last year my fluffy orange cat Jasper headed my thread. This year the topper will be Albert. In late 2016 Albert arrived in our front yard knocking on heaven's door. One of his rear legs was lame - he walked on three legs ad pretty much drug a rear leg behind him - it was a partially healed bad break and he was so skinny it hurt to look at him. He was a tom who had clearly had a hard life and many scars, but he was also a gentle soul who needed help. My daughter and I nursed him back to health (she's a Vet tech) and now he's the happiest boy you can imagine. He walks a little funny but he acts like a kitten oftimes even though he is probably about 6 years old. He is so happy to have a home and he and Jasper are close buddies.
I will soon start my 10th year on LT and I have enjoyed the adventure. This will be my 6th year in the 75 books group - before that I hung out with the 50 book crowd.
This will be a year of no challenges. Or perhaps I should say no commitments. Challenges can be great fun and I have found some great authors with the challenges, so I may drop in now and then, but I want to read some of these books that live here in my house that are feeling quite ignored. So that's what will be.
I'll be reading history and mystery, classics and newer things, a few favorites from childhood, and a few authors who will be new to me. Here are some of the authors that I am quite likely to read this year ... Kent Haruf, Martin Walker, Kazuo Ishiguro, Max Hastings, Jules Verne, Donna Leon, Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingway, James Rollins, Candice Millard, Hampton Sides, Robin Hobb, Iain Banks, Winston Graham, Robert Silverberg, Sebastian Faulks, Stephen King, William Trevor, Alan Furst, David Downing, Geraldine Brooks, Haurki Murakami, Graham Swift, Bernard Cornwell, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jack McDevitt, Nevil Shute, Edgar Rice Burroughs, one or two Star Trek novels for fun and many more. Besides Thomas Hardy I would like to read or re-read a few other classics this year.
Some of my planned reads are chunksters (500+ pgs) and a few are extra chunky so I do hope I make it to 75!
My 2017 thread can be found here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/245078
I'll keep a list of my books read here. All books will be off my shelf unless noted as (L) for library book or (N) a new arrival in 2018.
1. Eventide by Kent Haruf 3 1/2 stars
2. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick 3 1/2 stars (re-read)
3. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm 3 1/2 stars
4. Silesian Station by David Downing, 4 stars (L)
5. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons 4 stars
6. Brimstone by Robert B. Parker 3 1/2 stars
7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway 4 1/2 stars
8. Modern Classics of Fantasy edited by Gardner Dozois 3 1/2 stars
9. Love and Summer by William Trevor 4 stars
10. Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf, 3 1/2-4 stars (N)
11. The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker, 3 stars (L)
12. The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor, 3 stars (L)
13. Out of the Deeps by John Wyndham, 3 stars
14. The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham, 3 stars
15. Ishmael by Barbara Hambly, 4+ stars
16. Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon, 3 stars
17. The Terror by Dan Simmons, 4 stars
18. The best of young american novelists edited by by Ian Jack, 3 1/2 stars
19. Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January 2002 (Volume CXXII, No. 1) edited by by Stanley Schmidt, 2/1/2-3 stars (N)
20. In Pharaoh's army : memories of the lost war by Tobias Wolff, 3 1/2 stars
21. China Dolls by Lisa See, 2 stars
22. Forbidden City U.S.A. : Chinese American nightclubs, 1936-1970 by Arthur Dong, 3 1/2 - 4 stars (L)
23. Stettin Station by David Downing, 3 1/2 - 4 stars (L)
24. Santa Cruz Noir by various authors, 3+ stars (N early reviewers)
25. Potsdam Station by David Downing (L)
26. The Demon Crown by James Rollins (L) 2 1/2- 3 stars
27. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 4 stars
28. The Entropy Effect by Vonda McIntyre (about 4 stars relative to the genre)
29. The Celestial Omnibus by E. M. Forster, about 3 1/2 stars
30. BIOS by Robert Charles Wilson, 3 1/2+ stars
31. Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis, about 2 - 2 1/2 stars
32. The Horn of Time by Poul Anderson, about 2 - 2 1/2 stars
33. Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone by James Brady, 2 1/2 stars
34. The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 3 - 3 1/2 stars
35. Consider Her Ways by John Wyndham, 2 1/2 - 3 stars
36. The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes, 3 stars
37. Hit and Run by Lawrence Block, 4 stars
38. The Year's Best Science Fiction: Nineteenth Annual Collection (Year's Best Science Fiction) various authors, edited by Gardner Dozois, 3 1/2 stars
39. Pastoral by Nevil Shute, 3+ stars
40. Asimov's Science Fiction August 2003 edited by by Gardner Dozois, about 3 1/2 stars
41. Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, 4 1/2 stars
42. Death and Judgement by Donna Leon, 2 stars
43. Doc by Mary Doria Russell, 3 1/2 stars
44. Asimov's Science Fiction January 2009 edited by by Sheila Williams, about 1 1/2 stars
45. The Last Town on Earth: A Novel by Thomas Mullen, 3 stars
46. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
47. Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick, 3 stars
48. The Saturday Evening Post Reader of Fantasy & Science Fiction by various authors, 4 stars
49. Utah Blaine by Louis L'Amour, 3 1/2 stars
50. Black Diamond (Bruno, Chief of Police) by Martin Walker, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
51. Ghosts of Bungo Suido by P. T. Deutermann, 2 - 2 1/2 stars
52. The Fifth Head of Cerberus : three novellas by Gene Wolfe, 3+ stars
53. The Daybreakers by Louis L'Amour, 3 stars (L)
54. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, unrated but around 3 - 3 1/2 stars
55. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard, about 3 1/2 stars
56. A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt, 3 stars
57. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
58. Asimov's Science Fiction: Vol. 36, No. 3 (March 2012) stories by various authors, edited by Sheila Williams
59. Long Ride Home: Stories by Louis L'Amour, 2 1/2 - 3 stars (N)
60. Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, 3 1/2+ stars (L)
61. 1922 a novella from Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King, 3 stars
62. A Medicine for Melancholy by Ray Bradbury, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
63 Killing Commendatore: A novel by Haruki Murakami, 3 stars (L)
64. Train Dreams: A Novella by Denis Johnson, 3 1/2 - 4 stars (L)
65. The Science Fiction Century, Volume One edited by Davis G Hartwell, 3 - 3 1/2 stars
66. TransAtlantic: A Novel by Colum McCann, 4 1/2 stars (L)
67. Benediction by Kent Haruf, 3 1/2 stars (N)
68. All Systems Red by Martha Wells, 3 1/2 - 4 stars (closer to 4 and relative to the genre) (N)
69. Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, 3 1/2+ stars (N)
70. Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, 3+ stars (N)
71. House of the sleeping beauties and other stories by Yasunari Kawabata, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
I'll keep the list of favorite books from each year of my life here. These aren't necessarily my favorite books per se, but at least one favorite published in each year I have lived
1953 Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore
Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
1954 The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese publication)
1955 The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Darfsteller (novella) by Wlater M Miller Jr
1956 The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
1957 Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
1958 The Time Traders by Andre Norton
1959 Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
1960 Trustee From the Toolroom by Nevil Shute
1961 Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
1962 King Rat by James Clavell
R is for Rocket by Ray Bradbury
1963 Way Station by Clifford Simak
Judgment on Janus by Andre Norton
1964 A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
1965 Dune by Frank Herbert
All Flesh is Grass by Clifford Simak
1966 Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
1967 Dumarest series (Winds of Gath is the first) by E C Tubb
1968 A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Demon Breed by James H Schmitz
Once an Eagle by Anton Meyer
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Hawksbill Station by Robert Silverberg
1969 Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock
A Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
1970 Time and Again by Jack Finney
Ringworld by Larry Niven
1971 Summer of '42 by Herman Raucher
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
Rich Man, Poor Man by Irwin Shaw
Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey
1972 Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
1973 Protector by Larry Niven
1974 The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
The Inverted World by Christopher Priest
1975 Shogun by James Clavell
Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
Black Sunday by Thomas Harris
Doris Day: Her Own Story by Doris Day and A. E. Hotchner
1976 Roots by Alex Haley
Trinity by Leon Uris
The Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov
Houston, Houston Do You Read? by James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon)
Dragonsong/Dragonsinger/Dragondrums trilogy by Anne McCaffrey
1977 The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
The Gameplayers of Zan by M A Foster
1978 The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
1979 The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
Blind Voices by Tom Reamy
Sandkings by George R.R. Martin
1980 The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward
1981 Cujo by Stephen King
1982 The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
1983 The Burning Mountain: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan by Alfred Coppel
Yesterday's Son by A C Crispin
1984 Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard
West of Eden by Harry Harrison
1985 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Ishmael by Barbara Hambly
1986 Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
1987 Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
1988 The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper
1989 The Girl at the Lion d'Or by Sebastian Faulks
1990 The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry
Tower of Babylon by Ted Chiang
1991 Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon
Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
1992 Brave Companions: Portraits In History by David McCullough
Fatherland by Robert Harris
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1993 The Giver by Lois Lowry
Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry
The Hedge, the Ribbon by Carol Orlock
1994 Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1996 Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
California Fault by Thurston Clarke
1997 Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
1998 Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang
Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam
1999 Plainsong by Kent Haruf
2000 The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
2001 On Mexican Time by Tony Cohan
Jackdaws by Ken Follett
Tales from Earthsea Ursula K LeGuin
Wish You Well by David Baldacci
Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst
New Light on the Drake Equation - novella by Ian R. MacLeod
2002 Train Dreams: A Novella by Denis Johnson
2003 Pompeii by Robert Harris
2004 March by Geraldine Brooks
2005 Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ordinary Heroes by Scott Thurow
2006 The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1) by Naomi Novik
2007 The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
The Terror by Dan Simmons
Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead
Zoo Station by David Downing (US publication)
2008 Dreamers of the Day: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking bk. 1) by Patrick Ness
2009 Homer and Langley by E L Doctorow
The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking bk 2) by Patrick Ness
2010 Potsdam Station by David Downing
Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking bk 3) by Patrick Ness
2011 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Martian by Andy Weir
2012 Sutton by J.R. Moehringer
Son by Lois Lowry
Coming of Age on Barsoom by Catherynne M. Valente
The Death Song of Dwar Guntha by Jonathan Maberry
2014 All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr
Sentinels of Fire by P. T. Deutermann
2015 Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
2016 A Hero of France by Alan Furst
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson
2017 Men Without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami
>4 drneutron: >5 thornton37814: >6 Berly: >7 mstrust: >8 ronincats: Thank you Jim, Lori, Kim, Jennifer and Roni for dropping by and the good wishes.
>9 laytonwoman3rd: I'm looking forward to doing this year a little different Linda. I've been letting my non-fiction reading fall behind badly even though I have a bunch I want to get to. I've enjoyed my WWII fiction/non-fiction reads of the last few years and I have more that I want to get to - but 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War and I have several books that have just been waiting for me to read and I really must get to a couple of them. Beyond that I want to work on a few of the mystery series that have tickled me the last few years. I've pulled out a few books I enjoyed when I was young or enjoyed reading with my children when they were young as well as a couple I never read but always wanted to. They have been waiting and there's no time like now. Some of the authors in the challenges are really appealing and I'd love to have a full go at the Irish challenge ferinstance but I'll just keep an eye on them and join in when something sounds right at the time.
I do hope I read 75 this year. I think I'll be off to a slow start but I'd love to finally have a 100 year like you - never done that as far as I know.
"I'll just keep an eye on them and join in when something sounds right at the time." That's how I'm going to treat the challenges in 2018 too, Ron. I don't want to ignore them, because I've met some very interesting authors through the various challenges. But I don't want to feel a "duty" to read certain things at certain times either.
Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.
The first book for 2018
1. Eventide by Kent Haruf, finished January 2, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
I have wanted to read this novel since I discovered it was a followup to Haruf's Plainsong, a novel I really liked and read late in 2016. This however struck me as a weaker version of Plainsong. I was very happy to return to Holt Colorado and the McPheron brothers and the writing remains excellent but the story seems to have slipped a bit in the telling and I wasn't so caught up in the stories. The book has a number of similarities to Plainsong but for me it threw off a very different vibe. There is some real nastiness in here. Minor characters in here were not all that interesting and I actually found myself mixing the sub-stories up a bit in the early part of the novel. About a quarter way into the book I was about ready to get teary-eyed. This story left me sad because there is so much sadness in it. So much sadness it was hard to keep reading in places.
Hello Ron. Happy New Year! I'm hoping for a more productive year in reading. I wish you the best, too.
>18 RBeffa: I agree Eventide is a lesser effort, Ron. I was very happy to return to Holt Colorado and the McPheron brothers and the writing remains excellent but the story seems to have slipped a bit in the telling and I wasn't so caught up in the stories. Well said.
I hope it doesn't put you off reading Benediction. Personally, I liked Benediction very close to as much as the amazing Plainsong.
>19 brodiew2: Hi Brodie! Thanks for dropping by. I've been missing your enthusiastic reviews.
>20 jnwelch: Joe, I'll admit that it dampened my enthusiasm to read Benediction so I won't dive right into it - but I do plan to read it before too long - I've seen too much praise for it to ignore it. I still need to read Our Souls At Night as well which has gotten a lot of love and there is a Netflix film of it I want to see ... but after I read the book.
>18 RBeffa: I haven't read that one, but I do want to read some more of Haruf's works.
>23 thornton37814: Well, I've read three of Haruf's works so far and Eventide isn't a bad novel by any means - it mostly wasn't what I was expecting after Plainsong. He didn't write very many novels and I intend to read them all.
I was wondering what to read next and thinking about one of my new 'Holiday' arrivals but still haven't decided. I'm looking forward to each of these new ones though. My sister in law especially thought I would like the Louise Erdrich one she gave me. I realize I haven't even entered all these in LT yet, so I'll get to that shortly. Here are the new ones:
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Epitaph A Novel of the OK Corral by Mary Doria Russell
Rules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Admirals by Walter Borneman
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
I'll probably read some (or all!) of these soon.
A blast from the past - this is a re-read for me. I'm hoping to do several re-reads this year.
2. The Man In The High Castle by Philip K Dick, finished January 5, 2018, 3 1/2+ stars
I first read this in the early 80's I think and at the time I thought it pretty good - among my favorite novels of that time. I have no idea why I have not re-read it before now and I have been meaning to for several years. I suppose I feared it would not hold up. This was originally published in 1962 (and that is also about the time in the novel) and it imagines a world where the Allies did not win World War II. The United States has been broken into pieces. Much of this story is set in San Francisco, a city I spent a lot of time in and around. I suppose that was part of the charm for me.
There's a book within a book here and this alternate reality feels terribly true to itself. There is a lot of philosophizng in here that could put some readers off I think. Some of it I found interesting, and some of it is pretty strange. There are some other bothersome things as well. The novel is driven by the use of the I Ching. The author was apparently a great believer in advice from the Oracle and the book reflects that. This will not be a book like all the others if you read it. It is a look at other ways of thinking and acting in life. The book has a rather slow pace to it, especially towards the beginning.
Overall I am glad to have read this again.
NN for now The best of young American novelists edited by Ian Jack
I'm going to keep track here of my reading in this collection from the Summer of 1996. This is an edition of the British literary magazine Granta, #54, in which a group of authors ("Judges") selected 20 American Authors to include with the only rule being that the author was a US citizen under forty who had published one novel or short story collection by May 31, 1995. The editor describes some of the process and laments a number of authors who were not included but probably should have been but this was a group effort. Included here are 20 stories, some of which are short stories and some of which are excerpts from novels and works in progress. I'm looking forward to reading this in between and as a break while I read other things. The stories are presented alphabetically by author, and the authors are: Sherman Alexie, Madison Smartt Bell, Ethan Canin, Edwidge Danticat, Tom Drury, Tony Early, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, David Guterson, David Hayes, Allen Kurzweil, Elizabeth McCracken, Lorrie Moore, Fae Myenne Ng, Robert O' Connor, Chris Offutt, Stewart O'Nan, Mona Simpson, Melanie Rae Thon, and Kate Wheeler.
An interesting portrait gallery of all 20 authors appears in the middle of the book. Each story is prefaced with a brief profile of the author.
My plan is to leave a comment here about some (most?) of the stories as I read through.
So far the Sherman Alexie excerpt put me off - did not care for the style at all although I like what he was writing. The Madison Smartt Bell excerpt really caught my attention and took me to the time of Toussaint Louverture. I really liked the story by Ethan Canin - at the time in 1996 it was described as an excerpt from an upcoming novel, his second. My library does not have it but I will keep my eyes open for his books going forward - I want to give him another try.
Just a reminder to check in to the God Stalk group read thread if you are still interested, Ron.
>29 ronincats: Hi Roni. I got my hands on God Stalk and read the first chapter last night. I think I had mentioned that I read it when it was newish back in the late 80's and didn't remember a thing about it. Well, I read the first chapter and recognized it very quickly - the setting anyway... but I'll confess it isn't rocking my world. A whole lot of stuff gets thrown at the reader and I guess after The Man in the High Castle I didn't want to think too hard. I was underwhelmed and overwhelmed simultaneously. I may get back to it later. I know everyone is going rah-rah on the group thread. In this case I might welcome the spoiler comments before I try again.
Mostly I think I'm not in the mood for it.
And that is fine. Just didn't want you to inadvertently get busy and forget about it.
>32 Berly: The Admirals fits in nicely with my recent (couple years) interest in the Pacific War with Japan.
I don't know if I would recommend The Man in the High Castle to anyone because it is very different from most books. In the book the Japanese won the Pacific war and the entire west coast is a puppet state. There is a lot of philosophy in it. There is a lot going on under the surface that a careful reader might awaken to as they go through it. Or not - Sometimes just a single word would make me go Aha. The racism and fascism in here might send some people over the edge, but it got me repeatedly examining and questioning what the author was doing. Oddly the man in the high castle is like an add-on at the very end - important and yet not important to the story. I know Amazon has created a series from it and I can see this one being done and hope it is done well - there are all sorts of pieces of the story unresolved that could be expanded on. At the end we don't know what is going to happen to the main characters or the world for instance.
There is a lot of food for thought in the book and I couldn't decide whether it was a 3 star or a 5 star (with faults) novel. Some people will hate it and some admire it.
I started reading a classic dystopian novel last night and I could hardly put it down. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm was published in 1976 and won several awards. I had read part of this novel a long time ago in an anthology so the start of the book was familiar. So far excellent reading - I hope it keeps up.
3. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm, finished January 8, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
This was an interesting post-apocalyptic novel that won several awards after it's 1976 publication. The story is told in three parts. I liked the first part the best where the world is hit with an environmental catastrophe that renders humans and animals increasingly sterile and crops collapse as a consequence of pollution. That is not the focus of the story however. The story focuses on several characters who are part of a family that sees this coming before most and prepares to survive by developing clones in a semi-rural area near the Shendendoah Valley in Virginia. In the middle part of the book a journey is taken that reaches the ruins of Washington DC long after the extinction event. The science of all of this is rather dicey although the plagues that devastate populations are quite possible. The clones are not like the humans they came from and that drives the story.
I was slow to warm to the middle part of the story when enough time has passed that all the original humans from the initial story have passed on and the focus is on the succeeding generations of clones. It was a little hard to sort out the characters but as the story continued things made more sense. However I think the author dropped the ball on a few things within the story which prevents me from really liking this. Not a perfect book but I definitely enjoyed reading this.
Now here is something for me to look forward to!
>37 Berly: Well, it isn't a 5 star book but parts of it are. And I think the intriguing part of the book outweighs the weaker parts. This book kind of gets inside you and you don't forget it. I would really like to see the Amazon series now. A smart writer could take this story a lot of places if they do it well. I will say that given the known atrocities of Japanese soldiers in WWII, the author plays a little too nice with the Japanese and their honor system. The semi-distant Nazis are played up as the great evil of the world vs the Japanese.
If it intrigues you Kim read it sooner.
Good morning, Ron!
>3 RBeffa: I was not interested then I then I wasn't. :-P I have enjoyed post apocalyptic stories where future generations mine out present or encounter elements of it. I think I'll pass on this one.
Life has gotten unexpectedly busy these recent days so my reading and attention here has suffered.
4. Silesian Station by David Downing, finished January 17, 2018, 4 stars
Was it Oliver Hardy who used to say "I'm as pleased as Punch?" Well, I'm as pleased as Punch that Silesian Station did not disappoint as a follow-up to Zoo Station. This is the second book in a six book series set in Berlin just as World War II is about to begin. I'll continue with the series this year, maybe even finish it, but I need a break from Nazi evil at the moment. I don't think I'll say much about the book - there are plenty of good summaries and reviews available. What I like about this is that our main protagonist John Russell is a basic good guy and not a snark or terribly damaged person that tend to appear in books of this sort - he's had some problems in his past just as about any person would in his situation but it doesn't shape his character in unpleasant ways.
I pretty much finished this book a couple days ago but didn't get back to it until this morning to wrap it up, and I found myself pretty satisfied with how the various threads of the story were wrapped up by the end.
5. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, finished January 20, 2018, 4 stars
Suppose the literary spirits of Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor needed a place to stay and they settled down in author Kaye Gibbons, mixed things up a little and out came "Ellen Foster". This is a remarkable first novel that will tug at your heart, make you sad and make you chuckle and admire the spunk of a young girl who got a very bad hand dealt to her.
I'd recommend this to anyone who likes southern literature and maybe everyone else too. I'm dropping this onto my favorite books by year list for 1987. I have another book by Kaye Gibbons which I am looking forward to.
DNF God Stalk by P. C. Hodgell
This was a group read for January which I could never get enthusiastic about. I think it is mostly that I didn't care for the style of storytelling, and also that this style of fantasy is rarely to my taste. The first longish chapter just threw way too much at me the reader and the bit after that wasn't much better. Frankly if it weren't for all the positive comments in the group read I would have left this by the end of the second chapter.
I set this aside a couple times wondering if I should continue and that may have been part of my disconnect, but the story just never got hooks into me. Most stories that failed to engage me like this one did I would have abandoned quickly. I reread several parts (the story practically demands it to put the pieces together) but later found myself speeding through sections with the goal of getting it over. When I got to that point I decided "enough" and bailed.
>42 RBeffa: Sorry it didn't work for you, Ron, but thanks for giving it a good try!
6. Brimstone by Robert B. Parker, finished January 23, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
This third book in Parker's western series disappointed me a little in regards to the plot. It just suffers some in comparison to Appaloosa and is similar in that regard to the second book, Resolution. I think, however, if I was reading this as a standalone for the first introduction to the series you can ignore that comment. It didn't bother me that Cole was searching for and found his lost love Allie French - who should have been left to her fate as far as I was concerned - what bothered me was his re-entanglement and this (of course!) leads to a retread of the Resolution plot with a different cast of characters. I would have been much happier with a rescue and resettlement so to speak, and then move on to something new. Still, I certainly enjoy my time spent with Cole and Hitch. And, to be fair, this is not entirely a retread - religion is brought into this novel. Things get a little gritty in this one.
Narrated once more from Everett Hitch's point of view, the spare dialogue still manages to sparkle here and there and bring a smile to your face. And, on the plus side, these are quick and easy reads, which sometimes is exactly what one wants. I'll confess to liking the very end of this story a whole lot. I suppose I will be reading the next book in this series before too long.
As a bit of a nod to author Ursula Le Guin who died yesterday I selected an anthology to read next. I want to work on a few chunksters, and at about 660+ pgs Modern Classics of Fantasy qualifies. There are over 30 stories in it by a wide variety of authors including several old favorites of mine. This has the advantage that although I have read several of the stories before I haven't read any of them in a very long time and I don't think I have read the novelette by Ursula Le Guin. So this will keep me busy for a while.
In progress Modern Classics of Fantasy edited by Gardner Dozois, running about 3 - 3 1/2 stars
see >51 for my comments
Sorry God Stalk didn't float your boat. Hoping the anthology gets better as it goes along. Tell me how the LeGuin novella rates!
>48 Berly: Yes Kim - I was disappointed with God Stalk - unlike most of the readers I just could not find much to like about it and I could never sympathize with Jame either. I may give it another try later and pick up where I left off, but I think that would only be the "completist" in my bones making me do it.
I've been busy with other things and my reading has slowed down to a crawl and the Le Guin comes late in the collection. But I will get there.
I needed a break from fantasy and turned to another sort - a novella that has been sitting next to my reading chair since the Hemingway month last year. I suppose I'm a sentimental sort at times - The Old Man and the Sea was probably the first Hemingway I read as a teenager and once or twice later, although I imagine one or two of Hemingway's short stories may have slipped into my high school english classes.
7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, finished February 1, 2018, 4 1/2 stars
I loved the book and the film with Spencer Tracy when I was a youngster - I'm sure I saw the film first. The story made me so sad when I was young and it still manages to do so now. I've read it several times and I'm sure I will again. A sentimental favorite gets an extra half star from me when it doesn't fail on a re-read. This story grabbed me once again from the start. Hemingway's narrative was among his best and this is a great novella. It was very unique among the books I read long ago and it still is. The character of the boy who learned to fish from the old man is my favorite - he is so devoted and loves and cares for the old man deeply.
I tackled this big chunkster with the excuse that it had a story by Ursula Le Guin in it. I cleared out many of Le Guin's novels from my shelves and boxes in recent years thinking I would never read them again (I kept the Earthsea books however). I wasn't picking on Le Guin - lotsa stuff moved out to make room for the new. I'm going to go digging though some boxes for strays, or maybe grab one from the next Friends of the Library sale (one this week and one next week - hurrah!). I'd like to re-read one of her earlier science fiction novels
8. Modern Classics of Fantasy edited by Gardner Dozois, finished February 7, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
A big anthology, 32 stories and a long preface that takes about 660 pages total. The stories date from 1939 to 1996 and according to the editor they were all favorites of his. The majority of the stories were first published in a variety of magazines. Frankly I'm a little disappointed with this - there are too many weak stories. This does manage to present a wide variety of material to show the breadth of writing that can be considered fantasy. For me this meant that some of the types just failed to entertain me, especially the ones that tried to be humorous fantasy. The appearance of several strong stories and a few exceptional ones let me give this an overall OK to good rating. The editor writes a nice introduction to each and often gives a long recitation of titles by the author that was probably more useful in pre-internet times than now.
I'm not going to give a blow by blow of each story - that would be a task!. Among the stories that entertained and amused me was "Space-time for Springers" by Fritz Leiber, a story inside the head of a precocious kitten.
Many years ago, when I was in college in fact, I read Jack Vance's "The Dying Earth" and was quite taken with it as I recall. In this collection is the novelette "The Overlord" which is supposed to be a story (one of many) that follows the original collection. It didn't trigger any recollection at all, although it is clearly written and enjoyable in the stylish fantasy prose that marks Vance's stories. I was glad to have read this but don't know how it connects to the original work.
Roni asked recently if I liked Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories and I couldn't recall, although I thought I had read a bit of them in my teens or early 20's. Surprisingly (or not) there was one in this collection - a novella "Scylla's Daughter." Unfortunately this story did not catch my fancy at all and I started to skim it and then gave it up. I did later go back and read the latter part of the story I had skimmed. It confirmed that this is just not my sort of story, even with cats. Not a bad story, just not my preference.
Keith Roberts' "The Signaller" was a wonderful heartwarming and ultimately heartbreaking story set in an imagined alternate history England which reminded me that I must read Roberts' classic novel "Pavane" much sooner rather than later. The intro to this story tells me that this became part of the novel. Great imagination and storytelling with this one.
'The Manor of Roses' was an awesome piece of historical fiction/fantasy, a novella by Thomas Burnett Swann that the editor, in 1997, proclaimed one of the finest pieces of fantasy of the preceding 30 years. I'll make that 50 years. The writing is lovely without falling over the edge into purple schlock. It is a bit of a horror story as well as a fantasy and I was thoroughly entranced. Without giving things away the horror aspect here is primarily caused by mandrakes. Day of the Triffids type mandrakes! As an adult this is fairly mild but if I had read this as a child I may have missed much of the beauty and skill of the writing but would probably have had a nightmare or two and would never ever have ventured into an English garden or forest. I'll seek out other works by Swann in the future (he died in 1976). I believe I have one of his novels buried away somewhere.
I liked Poul Anderson's Nordic historical fiction / supernatural fantasy 'The Tale of Hauk.' This is told like we are reading an old Viking Saga and gives us a taste of what might happen if you die the wrong way. I've enjoyed this type of fantasy from Anderson before. He slips little details in with what might look like a throwaway sentence, but I appreciate it when a skillful author can do that.
I do really like it when an author can give me a story in about 10 pages that fully transports my mind to another place or gives me a look at something unexpected with enough detail. Anderson's 'The Tale of Hauk' took 17 pages to do that, but T.H. White and Jane Yolen manage to do that very nicely in about 10 pages each. White takes us on a visit to Lapland where we encounter 'The Troll', and Yolen puts us inside the mind of a tree spirit with 'The Sleep of Trees.' I read quite a few short stories and poems by Yolen within the pages of science fiction and fantasy magazines in the mid 80's and onward. They generally always satisfied. 'The Sleep of Trees' dates to a 1980 magazine publication and was new to me.
One of the grandest stories in here, and the story that is the source of the painting that graces the cover of this collection, is Lucius Shepard's 'The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule.' I had just started (in 1984) a one year sub to the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (a Christmas gift from my spouse to be) and this story showed up in the last issue of the year (December 1984). I was devouring every one of the stories in the mags but this one knocked it out of the park. Re-reading it I can once again experience the discovery of the imagination that created this story. A little dark, and the sequel if I recall gets even darker (note to self - re-read the followup novella 'The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter'). I won't spoil the story but it is certainly among the best pieces of fantasy I read in the 80's. The story here is only 24 pages but I had it in my memory as much longer. I think I had added in one or two
of the followup novellas. Shepard wrote some amazing stuff in the fantasy and science fiction genre in the 80's and into the 90's but his focus shifted more to horror in later years which I did not enjoy nearly as much as his earlier work. I need to read and re-read more of his works.
Slightly awesome to my warped mind is that the story that follows Griaule is 'A Cabin on the Coast' by Gene Wolfe, which appeared in the first copy (February 1984) of The magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction I recieved in the mail those many years ago. This is a subtly spooky story about a ghost ship on the California coast that ventures into horror territory and even gave me a nightmare!
Ursula K Le Guin's 'Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight' is good but left me with mixed feelings. The story is a long short story that maybe needed to be the length of a true novella. It plays with the coyote-trickster character of Native American mythology who rescues a small girl who fell from the sky - the girl remembers being in a small plane. The coyote seems to be a shapeshifter. In fact just about everyone who shows up seems likely to be a shapeshifter. I won't try to analyze this story - I'm sure there is intended to be layers of meaning. There's some strange creepiness in here. Le Guin's writing style bugs me sometimes - she tries to be clever, and sometimes she is and sometimes she isn't.
'Bears Discover Fire' by Terry Bisson is one of my very favorite fantasy short stories of all time. I first read it when it was published in Asimov''s magazine in 1990 and I've read it several times since. It won a slew of awards. It is a story that is what the title says - and it is also something more. Highly recommended.
What to read next???? I'd actually like to read a bit more fantasy, especially some Lucius Shepard, but I really filled up on it with the anthology just finished. I have several series books sitting here waiting for a start and I have a Robert Heinlein juvenile to get through - I started working my way through those several years ago but missed reading one last year. But first I'm starting on an Irish author, William Trevor, and his Love and Summer. I read the first chapter last night just before bed. It looks good and has an engaging start. Trevor can write well.
9. Love and summer by William Trevor, finished February 10, 2018, 4 stars
My wish would be to say that this was just a lovely book and character study by Irish author William Trevor. But lovely isn't quite the right word - there's bits of darkness and sadness in here of the story of a number of people whose lives interlace. The detailed descriptions of things in here ARE lovely, and some readers might find themselves bored with it if they were looking for an action novel. I was rather enchanted with all the descriptive detail and really drawn into the story of these people's lives. There were a couple of times I had a bit of difficulty with following the dialogue and not knowing who was speaking or what exactly they were saying. A small part of this I am sure is the "Irish" manner of speaking that the author employs, where I would think a word or two was missing from the sentence and wondering if it was a typo error that slipped through. But some of it is just that a conversation wasn't written clearly enough for me. Something I rarely encounter. Despite a few stumbles here and there I loved this book. This was published in 2009 and seems to be set around 1960 or so in a small town in Ireland. In the author's words the story begins "On a June evening some years after the middle of the last century ..." This is a very slow paced story with a lot of detail. What is it about? Among other things it is about first love experienced by an already married young woman.
>54 thornton37814: Hi Lori
As far as I know this is the first Trevor novel I have read but I have two other books of his on hand that I am going to get to this year (I hope). I've seen the film 'Felicia's journey' many years ago based on one of his novels, which I have. Hope your reading experience is a good one as well.
>56 thornton37814: I'm looking forward to see what you think of it. I hope folks post on the Irish author thread - I am definitely going to be reading more books by Trevor.
Meanwhile wondering what to read next I decided on Kent Haruf's "Our Souls at Night". I picked this up just a couple weeks ago - it is a short book - novella sized. I suspect I could read it in a couple hours which would suit me fine.
10. Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf, finished February 12, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
Well, this was a strange experience. Kent Haruf's final novel/novella was a fairly quick read. What I did then was watch the Netflix film of it immediately afterwords. The film makes some changes - not huge changes, but they are very noticeable coming right after a fresh read. There were a few things in the book that I wasn't happy with and the film sometimes is a little worse, sometimes a little better and sometimes just different. I liked the book better than the film. But now honestly the two are so wedded in my brain I can't parse out the strengths and weaknesses properly. Suffice to say I wasn't overly happy with how either the book or the film ended. The film has a few real continuity glitches in it if one has read the book, I'll say that. Or maybe even if one hasn't. Anyway, going to bed last night after the book and film, I was pretty melancholy. For fans of Haruf, this is worth the read.
ETA: I reread the last third or so of the book last night and it strengthened my feeling that I did not care for some of the changes to the story in the film - it also reminded me that until about the last 15 pages of the book the best parts of the book were there. I suppose that sudden reversal that ends the book is made all the more poignant because of that. Well I don't like the ending of either the film or the book - but the book is definitively better as a whole.
Almost halfway through Martin Walker's The Dark Vineyard and finding this second in the series book lacks the charm of the first one. I was missing the romantic element and that is seeming to be finally showing up a bit. But it is more than that - but I also remember in the first book liking it better as it went along so I'm hoping that this picks up better. The characters in this one just don't seem to sparkle for me however.
An acquaintance at our friends of the library is a big fan of martin Walker however so even if this isn't up to snuff I'll read more in the series this year.
11. The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker, finished February 19, 2018, 3 stars
This is the second book in a continuing series set in and around a small village in France. I was slow to warm to this entry in the series - the crime and mystery here weren't really of interest. What I like about this and the prior novel in the series are all the elements of French life in a small village - the charm and romance. By the finish I was mostly satisfied even if I didn't quite believe all the intrigue wrapped up at the end. In truth I found part of it almost too preposterous and unbelievable if not impossible. (The impossibility concerns the nature of a death and subsequent planted evidence). I was happy also to see that Bruno's cooking skills and romantic interests did get some play here.
I did get a chuckle midway when "UCD" shows up on a sweatshirt and we learn the character spent 4 years at the University of California at Davis with their famous wine program. In the summer of '74 while I was an undergrad at UCD I spent a couple weeks hauling around containers, weighing, measuring various grapes for a viticulture department study of some sort. Eating some of the grapes afterwards was a little reward too. It was an almost forgotten memory until the mention here rekindled it.
I do sort of like that our main character Bruno is truly a good guy and despite some misgivings here I will happily read on in the series.
>63 brodiew2: Hey there Brodie. I'm doing pretty good. I'm hopelessly behind on most threads this year. I always look forward to your book reviews.
>62 RBeffa: No. 2 in the Bruno series struck me much the same way, Ron. I read it back in 2016, and haven't gone back to the series yet, although I do mean to. Food and wine as elements of the story call to me.
>65 laytonwoman3rd: It has been too easy for me to let series I enjoy slip away. Once in a while I make a real effort like the Dr. Siri series but there is such a wealth of books to enjoy and LT constantly entices me with new ones (I'm personally boycotting the term book bullets). The Bruno series is unique enough that I want to continue (as Dr Siri was too) - when I read the first book I was initially overwhelmed with all the frenchness but by the time I finished it I had embraced that french charm.
It will be a little while before I do the next Bruno book. but one every couple months will make me happy. There is a bunch of books piled on my reading table at the moment that I need to work on and I am midway through a second William Trevor novel for the IAC that I want to finish up tonight and tomorrow morning.
R--I had this very long list of all the series I am currently following and it started to feel like a chore. Now I have only two series listed and one planned group read which should conclude this year, so I am not "tracking" it. I am sure I will add to the list over time, but I feel much better, lighter.
>66 RBeffa: Ditto to all that. Including the Trevor, although I'm just working through a volume of his short fiction. That always takes me a while, because I think they suffer from being read in a bunch. I try to read one every other day or so.
>67 Berly: Do you know about fictfact.com, Kim? It helps you keep track of your series fiction.
>67 Berly: Kim, if I sat down and made a list of all the series I want to work on or start I'd probably get depressed! It would definitely feel like a chore and more! I want to dip back in to Donna Leon later this year altho I don't plan to follow the group read - but it could be handy to get my interest up a bit. I've been wanting to have a go at the Poldark series someday, and on and on. What I want to do is get back into series I've already sampled and enjoyed before diving into more series. Hard to restrain myself.
>68 laytonwoman3rd: From what I've gathered in various places, Linda, Trevor is considered at his best in his short fiction. Our library has at least two collections of his short fiction but the IAC group seems to be focusing on the novels. I'll be looking for your comments. I'm finding him rather meticulous at descriptions so I really get a sense of place. The one I'm working on turned rather quickly into a debbie downer sort that is an increasingly uncomfortable read, even as I realize how well it is written.
12. The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor, finished February 21, 2018, 3 stars
The story is set in the late 1960's or early 1970's in a small English town on the Dorset coast. Dynmouth we are told has a population of 4,139 and half were children. There is a rather large cast of characters. The main character is a misfit teenager, Timothy, who initially comes across as a rather addled boy trying too hard to be funny in an unfunny annoying manner. We soon see that he is something worse than that, a true creepy and malicious boy who thrives on telling lies, half-truths and exposing secrets of the townspeople and poking a stick into wounds. He will lie to stir things up and make stuff up just to be mean if he lacks some nasty business about someone. He is a mean one, prodding and poking where most people wouldn't.
There are other children in the story, as the title suggests, and I liked some of the parts of the story where Timothy was not involved. Timothy however manages to get himself involved with all the parts ...
I am unsure if I would recommend this as it creeped me out.
>71 thornton37814: Lori, I don't regret reading 'The Children of Dynmouth' but I wish I had chosen another. I'll read more of Trevor in the future because I think he is a good writer.
Time to dip into some classic British science fiction
13. Out of the Deeps 14. The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham, finished February 25, 2018, 3 stars
In 1953 John Wyndham's tale of alien invasion, following in the footsteps of H.G. Wells, was published in England as "The Kraken Wakes". That same year an American version was published in America as a Ballantine paperback original (35c on the cover) and that was what was in my hand as I read, "Out of the Deeps". There are no Krakens as we might think of them in either book. According to wikipedia I was warned there are differences between the two books. This was Wyndham's second novel, following upon the breakout "Day of the Triffids."
After finishing the American paperback I then listened to an audiobook of the British version, The Kraken Wakes. I never think it entirely fair to review an audiobook vs a print book since so much can depend on the delivery of a narrator, plus or minus. So I tried to focus on the story itself to decide overall strengths and weaknesses of the different versions of the story. As it happens I like both versions of the story, and I thought the narrator very good, and I think I'd give a slight nod to the British version as the better of the two. The main story is told in 3 parts, named Phase One, Phase Two and Phase Three. The British version begins quite differently - there is an extended preface that the American novel lacks, and I liked it. It also describes the choice of the title, coming from a poem by Tennyson.
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
I think the British preface is a very nice introduction to what we read. It lets us know right off that the narrator is looking back on the past and how the world has changed and how he and his wife, the two of them an integral part of the story, lived through it.
The British novel is a much longer and elaborate story. I noted in a great number of places that descriptive bits and extended conversations had been cut out for the American version, as well as changes to phrasing here and there. As I listened I noted some of the added detail in the British version was quite good and probably should or could have been left in, and in other places sections were chopped out or completely rewritten, sometimes for the better in the American version as the dialogue gets excessively wordy at times. There is overall quite a lot of material in the British edition that does not appear in the American. The American version of the story comes across as a much tighter story and supplies an ending with added material which was a plus. In sum, the American version was quite satisfactory and then listening to the British version I was able to pick up extra details and backstory.
So what is the story about - it is about an alien invasion that was not recognized for a number of years. When the monsters do show up things get a little wild and entertaining. We never actually see the invaders as far as I could tell. By the end much of humanity is gone and the world has been vastly changed by rising sea levels. The invading enemy has suffered as well but would seem to be victorious. Who were they and where did they come from and why? These questions were asked early on. We never find out. The story leaves us with a sense that humanity might eventually survive due to an invention by the Japanese that seems to destroy the aliens. But who knows - the world as it once was is gone. I liked the American ending of the novel much better.
The story suffers from weaving the Russians and the Cold War into things far too much, even for a story published in 1953. I was also bothered by an excess of denial (especially in the original Brit version but both versions suffer from it) of what was going on - this was after all prime-time in the UFO sighting years. Once or twice, fine, but on and on year after year, I just didn't buy it. Still, this was fairly good reading of an oldie and I'll give it a 3 star OK.
Lest we forget, today is the 3rd anniversary of the death of Leonard Nimoy. I decided to honor that memory by reading a Star Trek novel in which Spock is at the center - because even though Nimoy famously declared "I am not Spock", he was. Nimoy created the character and inhabited it and left us with something special. So the book I started reading is called Ishmael and I have to tell you, I am thinking I am going to love it. I've read a handful of ST novels over the years and the really good ones are rare.
Even though I've never been a big Star Trek fan, or SF in general, I love Spock. It's very illogical.
>74 RBeffa: Interesting...I did not know Hambly wrote Star Trek novels (well, one anyway). I read the first 3 of her Benjamin January series set in mid-19th Century New Orleans, and featuring a free man of color in Creole society. I had to give them up, because I didn't like her style, which I found repetitious and a bit pedantic. But the setting and the main character were a treat. I hope this one continues to please you.
>76 laytonwoman3rd: You got me wondering Linda. Looking over LT it looks like Hambly wrote at least two other Star Trek books. According to memory alpha these are them:
Star Trek novels
TOS #23: Ishmael
TOS #53: Ghost-Walker
TOS #71: Crossroad
Time for something fun
15. Ishmael by Barbara Hambly, finished March 2, 2018, 4+ stars
This was the 23rd novel in the original Pocket Books paperback series of Star Trek novels. By reputation it is considered one of the very best of the early novels and I have looked forward to reading it one day. That day has come. So where do I start? How about with Bobby Sherman ...
The bluest skies you've ever seen in Seattle
And the hills the greenest green in Seattle
Like a beautiful child growing up free and wild
Full of hopes and full of fears
Full of laughter full of tears
Full of dreams to last the years in Seattle
And you can have a look at this very short youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRNpa_vTjRM
Back in the late 60's for two seasons you could watch "Here Comes the Brides" with Bobby Sherman and David Soul and Bridget Hanley and even Mark Lenard, better known to trekkies as Sarek, father of Spock. Then in the mid 80's came this paperback, an improbable mashup of Star Trek and Here Comes the Brides that works way better than I could possibly have imagined. I stretch the description just a bit - this IS a Star Trek novel and a Star Trek story that finds itself improbably back in time in 1867 Seattle (and San Francisco) with characters you might just recognize. And there is even more, with Spock playing chess with Paladin, and cameos of characters you might recognize from TV westerns. They are just a little bonus fluff added in to a good story. My only regret is that I didn't read this 30 years ago.
4 solid stars (and maybe more) for a great Trek novel
In Venice, here is where the story begins at the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni.
photo from wikipedia, By Didier Descouens - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64674384
16. Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon, finished March 9, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
This is the second novel in the Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series. I read the first one two years ago and liked it enough to want to continue - I did not expect to take so long to get to the next book. Like the first novel this one is a very immersive experience into place but not as much with what I was hoping for with this one. To be fair I really like the things we are given particularly with Brunetti's family life. By the end I found myself a little frustrated, mostly for Commissario Brunetti trying to do right and not succeeding. There's some social commentary written within this. I really liked the setting, but was disappointed that the incompetent boss of Brunetti is played up even more here and it makes me think the author is letting us know that this is the way it is in Venice and Italy, that the government is frustratingly incompetent and corrupt. The ending I found frustrating especially since I have quickly become very attached to Brunetti. He's like many of us in life, trying to do good and the right thing and pushing against the crap of reality. The author seems to enjoy taking jabs at everyone.
I started this as an older audiobook on tape and went along for more than an hour on it but found the spin the narrator was putting on voices quite distracting. I then found my paperback copy and started over from the beginning and found the reading experience much better. I did want to hear the proper pronunciation of the places and things and the audio had that going for it but I wasn't enjoying the story. Overall I don't think I enjoyed this as much as the first novel but I will certainly continue with this unique series.
I have not been buying very many books at library sales the last couple months -in fact I've gone to a few where I didn't even buy one. Last night I went to a Friends of the Library sale and found a little jackpot for me. I'm a fan of Nevil Shute's work and tracking down copies of his work locally finds me getting lucky sometimes and then going long times without luck. Last night I got lucky - someone had donated a cache of first editions and early editions both American and English - many of them had fully intact dustjackets protected by mylar. I restrained myself and only bought 6 of them but I might go back for one or two more. Several of these I had never seen before and I was especially delighted with a first edition of 'On the Beach'. Still, every one I chose made me happy.
As a bonus I bought a DVD set of the complete six seasons of the Sopranos and a few other treats.
>82 mstrust: I am sure they were meant for me Jennifer! I went back today and bought the one other Nevil Shute book that I should have taken the first time, plus a couple other books.
All together I spent about $25 for books, DVD's and records, as well as 3 jigsaw puzzles that should keep my wife and I busy for a while.
Here's a pic minus one mystery that my wife has already started on:
My next book will be a nod to this month's British Author Challenge. In the early 80's one of my favorite movies was 'Eye of the Needle', a really well done thriller that I saw at the cinema and then re-watched a couple times when it came out on cable. I picked up the paperback by Ken Follett and liked the book just as much - one of those times where I thought each complemented the other. I pulled the paperback out a year ago with an intent to read it again but never seemed to get to it. Seeing it as one of the choices for the March BAC gave me the push I needed.
ETA: Before I even started Eye of the Needle I have jumped ship to the decks of The Terror frozen in ice in the Arctic. On mstrust's thread my attention was caught by the mention there was an AMC channel miniseries coming at the end of the month, 'The Terror' starring Ciarán Hinds among others. I have had this huge chunkster of a book sitting on the shelf too long. I dove in before bedtime, something I do not recommend to others who might want or need a good night's sleep. This book is likely to scare the *&@#$% out of you. I must say that the dedication of the book is a most excellent touch. I would however add three names to that list of honor, John W Campbell, John Carpenter, and Kurt Russell.
Awww, sorry I was the indirect cause of a difficult night! But, good to know it's that scary.
>83 RBeffa: Please tell me "that honey horn sound" of Al Hirt is the most fabulous thing ever.
>85 mstrust: Al Hirt's honey horn is pretty fabulous - but the album is a bit of an oddball and hard to describe. It was made in Nashville in 1965 with Chet Atkins producing. The overall feeling by me is that the music is a little too "lounge" with all the percy faith / ray conniff singers or whatever styled vocals laid in everywhere and at least one or two attempts to be very Herb Alpert. I think of Dixieland jazz in my memory of Al Hirt but this isn't that. There are certainly some fun songs on it.
So, the album isn't fabulous but for 25 cents it was worth a listen. I was disappointed and will likely donate it back after a couple listens. The guy taking the money at the checkout was pretty excited seeing it go out the door so it might hit the mark with others. It is in excellent condition - no scratches/skips at all - just some surface noise that lets you know it was played a lot. 53 years old, that's pretty good.
'The Terror' is looking like it will be an excellent book but I'm only 60 or so pages in out of nearly 800. It really starts off with the spooky but goes back and forth in time. When a book makes the hairs on my arm stand on end and gives you the creepy crawlies I know it is scary. I am reeeaally looking forward to the series now.
eta: Nice obit and discussion of his music here in the guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/news/1999/may/06/guardianobituaries.johnfordham
Nice book haul and thanks for the "scare the *&@#$% out of you" warning on The Terror. LOL
>81 RBeffa: Nice catch of all those Nevil Shute vintage editions. I hit a similar jackpot a few years back with Rumer Godden. There's really something about books published in that era that makes me want to own them, whether I think I want to read them or not.
My husband read The Terror a few years ago. He thought it was excellent, but he didn't convince me to give it a try.
I have been altogether too busy to read much of anything and The Terror starts on TV Monday night. I'll give it a go even tho I have not read much of the book. The book is really good however. I picked up a new biography of Joni Mitchell at the library today as well. I was dropping off some donations for the friends and had to look at the new release shelf - I couldn't resist. On top of the busyness my laptop has gone completely fritz the last two days so i am checking in with an old reliable desktop that doesn't get much use. I truly hope I can rescue the laptop. I spent much of today failing at getting the laptop to properly boot all the way up.
>87 Berly: Give it a try Kim!
>88 laytonwoman3rd: I got all excited when I found the cache of Shute novels Linda. Someone clearly loved them and I look forward to reading them. I'm working on my wife to read "The Terror" - I think she will go for it since she loved "The Thing" film years ago. I don't think that is where this book is going but there are similarities and when the author tips his hand with his dedication to the creators of the 50's film you know something really scary is out there on the ice. This is a rather unique blending of true history and wild historical fiction. If you do a little googling you will find that things have been found a couple years ago that were not found when Simmons published this novel in 2007. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/franklin-expedition-ship-watson-ice-ghosts/
>86 RBeffa: Thanks for the review. I think I'll see what Youtube has on offer for Hirt, as I like old lounge music very much. Some of it from that period is called "exotica" and is very cool.
>89 RBeffa: I have yet to read any of The Terror,and I'm looking forward to your review when you finish. I'm looking forward to the show a lot too. It looks so scary!
I'll drop in for a moment to comment on The Terror. The story in the book is told in a very non-linear fashion, at least the portion I have read so far. I watched less than an hour of the A&E production last night. There are parts that are straight out of the book - word for word - but the stuff that puts your hairs on end at the beginning of the novel (which occurs much later in the linear story) is not there. I'm sure it will show up. I just can't tolerate commercial television anymore (and have not for a number of years) so I found myself unable to watch the Terror on TV. I'll watch it someday on DVD or streaming on netflix.
In the odd concidence dept., I was moving some old music today and looked at the tracks on a 1987 Nightnoise album - one of the tracks is called "The Erebus and the Terror" ...
Huh, I remember that track - or at least the name. It's not on Spotify, not much of their stuff is. Time to see if I can hunt it down!
>92 drneutron: I never listen to 'New Age' stuff anymore. Well almost never. I did listen to some of the Nightnoise album yesterday. But back in the 80's we had a great FM station that turned me on to all sorts of instrumental music I doubt I would have ever heard. Much of mine is on lps - it was at the turning point of lps to CDs. I had (and still have) lots of Windham Hill stuff. It was probably the only time in my life that I bought music based on what label it was on because I could trust it to be good. I thinned out a lot of the weaker material years ago from what I kept but I still have a little Nightnoise. I also converted some of that music to mp3s in my more ambitious days.
The track is on youtube! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWOVd205Hgc
>91 RBeffa: I've watched just the first hour of "The Terror" so far, as my husband wants to watch the second hour too. The first hour very much set the isolated, freezing tone, and just a moment of something unexplained. I DVR everything, so zip past the commercials without a problem. But Netflix will likely have this season in a year or two.
>94 mstrust: Yes I hope it is. There was an element of the story that I noticed changed from the book - when the young sailor with tuberculosis is dying they threw in some vision stuff of a strange eskimo thing. When the boy dies in the book (in fact I think there are 3 consumptive sailors who die straight off who were sent to sea "for their health") the stuff about don't cut me up is in the book but no vision stuff that I recall. I may go back into the book and try and find that scene. There also seems to be a very important character absent from the show but obviously could show up later. Otherwise the story was pretty true to the scenes in the book with only a change in emphasis on certain things.
Oh it is time for the first quarter wrap up. An excellent reading year so far, probably one of the best I can remember. My reading has derailed in March and I'm not really on track to hit 75 or more this year. Roughly in order, these are my favorite books of the year so far:
1. Ishmael by Barbara Hambly (I can't stop smiling with a tear in the corner of my eye every time I think of this book)
2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. (pretty much a tie with #1 - each great in completely different ways)
3. Love and Summer by William Trevor (this one is lingering in my memory)
4. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
5. Silesian Station by David Downing
6. Modern Classics of Fantasy - an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois
I'm shaking my head a little that a Star trek novel tops my favorite books of the year so far. Although I have a ways to go with "The Terror" I'm reasonably sure it would be on the list at #4 or maybe 3 if I had finished. When I get back to reading I have a pile of what looks like excellent books to read so until then ...
Spring has really sprung here - the garden is alive with flowers, the fruit trees blossoming and birds and bees doing what they do. I took a photo of my wife Melanie and our big hunky cat Jasper and our Lady Banks rose which puts on a spectacular show each year.
Oh, wow, those roses definitely put my little rosebush to shame! What a gorgeous shot--I love the way you've framed Melanie and Jasper, and those are good captures of them as well.
>97 RBeffa: Beautiful, all parts. Although Jasper looks like he's had about enough ...
>98 ronincats: >99 laytonwoman3rd: >100 mstrust: >101 thornton37814: Thank you all for the compliments. The roses really put on a show in the Spring. I took the photo in the nick of time as the big rain came in last night and today. I am very glad to have the extra water!
>99 laytonwoman3rd: You are right Linda. Jasper, aka "The Foo" was ready to get going.
>98 ronincats: Your garden and flowers are lovely Roni. This bush is a showoff for a couple weeks - plus I photographed it in the late afternoon light that was coming and going to give everything that extra golden glow. I cannot believe the rain we are getting today.
>97 RBeffa: Beautiful photo, Ron. We prefer snow this time of year, but I can see why you like the color.
>104 jnwelch: Thanks Joe. Those flowers bloom like clockwork every year - they are pretty much one-time bloomers each Spring though they spread themselves out a bit over a couple weeks. I caught that photo in the nick of time at about day three of the big bloom as we had several days of very hard pounding rain afterwards that brutalized them (and everything). Some new ones are opening but that wall of solid color is gone.
As far as Dan Simmon's "The Terror" goes, I've made progress but real life continues to conspire against my reading life. I'm a bit less enthusiastic about the novel than I was at the beginning. I'm not sure where Simmons is going with this now - The Terror is seeming more and more like a completely supernatural construct. The Terror of the title seems to be three things now - the name of one of the ships, the name of the beast, and the life of the poor sailors stranded in the arctic. I'll say this, although I have not read anything on the arctic /antarctic explorations recently, that Simmons really makes real what those polar explorers went through. I'll have to read a true non-fiction chronicle of the Franklin expedition at some point. I'll confess to ignorance about polar bears - I was unaware what manhunters they really are.
It has been a long time since it took me 6+ weeks to read one book. At nearly 800 pgs, that would explain part of it, but only part.
17. The Terror by Dan Simmons, finished April 18, 2018, 4 stars
I've made some comments on this as I read it. It is an unusual book - very immersive and very easy to read in small bites with chapters that rotate through characters and bounce back and forth in time, especially at the beginning. Did I like the book? Yes, but ... I would have liked it more at half the length I would say. Would I recommend this? No, not really. Only for those who read a synopsis and think a couple years in the ice is a good way to spend your summer vacation. And then you die. Or you die much quicker from the Terror. For the right person this is a great book. I'm dissatisfied with some aspects of the book but admire how ambitious this was and the detailed depictions of the quest for the Northwest passage. I want to read more about the expedition to get a better sense of what few facts Simmons worked with. I kind of rushed through the latter part of the book and think I should go back and look at some of it more closely.
-------------------- Here's my final review after thinking about this for a while
This is a good immersive read, but the length of it requires some determination to get through. There are multiple 'Terrors' in this book beyond the name of the ship seeking the Northwest Passage. The book haunts me - it infiltrated my dreams for many nights while I read it. There is a huge beast in the arctic, which one might think is the biggest Terror, but I'm not sure. I think the ice itself is Terror enough, and man too. I've watched bits of the TV series and it seems to capture the darkness and horror of the book. 170 years now after the true events of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror I feel a great deal of sadness for those poor sailors. The ending of this was rather unexpected, in a good way.
>107 mstrust: The book is a monster (pun intended) but very readable - it just takes a long time for someone like me. I've been watching a few bits of the TV series, which captures elements of the book very well. And I'll slightly revise my opinion that I would not really recommend the book. I know what bothers me about the book that keeps me from highly praising this, but the book is quite an amazing speculation of what happened to he crews of those ships. It is also a reminder of the class structure of Britain and the mindset of a people across classes.
So, I would not discourage readers.
Today's thought for May Day. Written by John Stewart over 20 years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MNSpNCpM54
I remember America
I remember it well
When you could walk downtown in the middle of the night
Without the smell of fear on your shoulder
As you jump at every sound
And you never look in the eye of any stranger
Who could easily gun you down
I remember America
I remember every town
When crack was the sound that caps would make
In the only guns that kids would have around
I remember America
I remember my friends
I remember America
And I want to be safe again
I remember America
I remember the time
When rock n' roll was cool and fun and we'd read between the lines
I remember America
Like you remember the dead
When freedom of speech wasn't every four-letter word a sailor never said
I remember America
And I remember my school
Now it's graft and gangs and guards and guns and needles in the pool
But I remember America
When kids could walk alone
Go to the corner for a root beer float and safely make it home
I remember America
I remember my friends
I remember America
And I want to be safe again
I remember America
And I remember my home
That any working man would proudly say it was something that he owned
I remember America
And I remember the day
November twenty-second, nineteen sixty-three,
When they blew the dreams away
I remember America
I remember my friends
I remember America
And I want to be safe again
And, with the current President again blocking access to the Kennedy Assassination papers until AFTER the next election,
we may never learn who the "they blew the dreams away" actually was...or is...
Few stories like "The Terror" have haunted me the way it has. I'll likely never forget it and it will make my best reads of 2018 list.
18. The best of young american novelists edited by by Ian Jack, finished May 8, 2018, about 3 1/2 stars
This "book" is a literary magazine of 320 pages which presented, in 1996, 20 selected novelists many of which are very well known names now, with excerpts from works in progress most of which read like short stories, as well as a couple short stories if I remember right. I first discussed this up at >28 RBeffa:, so look there for added info. I've nibbled on this throughout the year so far and failed to "take notes" on most of them. I can't say I was disappointed other than a few stories, notably the opener by Sherman Alexie, but the collection did tweak my interest in many of these authors, and also gave me a sample of ones that I will probably pass. Several of the authors I was already familiar with but most were brand new to me. Ones I plan to read more of include Tom Drury and Ethan Canin.
This is one of several dozen science fiction magazines and books that were recently passed on to me. Some I have read before and have no plans to reread but others I plan to work my way through over time. This is the first of this batch, chosen more or less at random.
19. Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January 2002 (Volume CXXII, No. 1) edited by by Stanley Schmidt, finished May 12, 2018, about 2 1/2 - 3 stars
This digest has several stories of varying length, several articles, book reviews and an editorial and the first of a four part serialization of the novel "Hominids" by Robert Sawyer. Since I had read the full novel and it's sequels in 2013 I saw no need to re-read it here. I gave the novel 3 stars. I was slighly underwhelmed with this as a whole, but none of the fiction was bad.
The fiction authors are Robert Sawyer, Larry Niven, Brenda Cooper, James Van Pelt, Melissa Lee Shaw, and Rosemary Claire Smith.
This evening I picked up a book I had intended to read for the American Author challenge in March - Tobias Wolff's In Pharaoh's Army. After reading a short bit I wondered when he had written it and flipped through the first few pages to find it was published in 1994. I also discovered that the author had signed my copy in May 2005.
>116 RBeffa: Now if that were me, I'd soon discover that I had already read the book, and forgotten all about it!
>117 laytonwoman3rd: Sometimes I feel like an idjit Linda. I DO think I have read this book before, at least in part, and completely forgot about it, because I remember the whole beginning stuff in the first chapter or two and when I flipped to the end I remembered the end. But details of this for the most were completely forgotten - so I think I read the beginning and then set is aside. I'm almost done and it was like a fresh read for the most part. What I remember more than anything is that I didn't like the guy in the story (mostly). I does serve as a way for me to start to come to grips with the Vietnam war and the effects on my generation. This book gets a lot of praise.
20. In Pharaoh's army : memories of the lost war by Tobias Wolff, finished May 16, 2018, about 3 1/2 stars
I chose this book for the March American Author challenge and I am late getting to it. I discovered I had read at least a part of it a long time ago and then moved on. This time around I read it all and the book probably deserves more than the 3+ stars I gave it but I just do not like the narrator some of the time. I think we get a good feel for what the war was like for some soldiers. He also spends a lot of time on his own relationships with family and friends. This is, after all, a memoir. I'm glad I read it.
I think the most chilling chapter in the book is about 10 pages long, titled "The Lesson." It is about the Tet offensive. What happened ...
Author Lisa See is coming to speak at our library next month, sponsored by our Friends of the Library. I'm looking forward to it. I think my next book will be one of hers even though I had already picked out another.
You can brag about your meeting and post pics at this new LT group:
Have a good time!
>121 mstrust: I'm not much of an author groupie. I was a bit of one many years ago, but even then not so much. I do like to hear an author talk about what has inspired them about a particular book or books.
I dove right in to China Dolls a book I picked up a couple years ago when it was newish. I had every expectation of loving this for a variety of personal reasons but it is really disappointing me. I should be able to finish it by tonight or tomorrow morning. I've only got a few more than a hundred pages to go. The story is set in San Francisco, a city I am very familiar with. My parents and grandparents both visited the Forbidden City night club a number of time (I've got pictures!) and the place was rather legendary among old timers. I was always wandering around Chinatown in the 60's as my dad's office was right on the edge of it. The Forbidden City was just outside of Chinatown, perhaps a block from my Dad's office - but I was too young to ever check it out - it closed when I was a teen. One of the main characters yearns to be a dancer at the World's Fair on Treasure Island, and my mother was one for several shows. So I was all set to love this book but it isn't happening.
And of course the movie Flower Drum Song, one of my all time favorites, was set there in Chinatown and the night clubs.
21. China Dolls by Lisa See, finished May 20, 2018, 2 stars and I'm tempted to give it less
Quite a disappointing novel. Unlikeable and very uneven characters who go through so many personality changes and hide all these secrets they were often indistinguishable to me. I completely lost interest in the story as it wound down. I didn't even bother to read the short epilogue. Really a fail here. Also, I rarely got a sense of place which I think is pretty important for a historical novel. I expected to really like this one a lot.
Most of the supporting characters in the book were real life people. At least one of the main characters seemed to be a variation of a famous one. I have some knowledge and interest in the people and stories of this time. There was a documentary as well some years ago. I picked up a recent book from the library that I have wanted to read on this subject and have already started.
>124 ronincats: Yes, Roni. Should have been a better book. but this one made up for it in some ways ...
22. Forbidden City U.S.A. : Chinese American nightclubs, 1936-1970 by Arthur Dong, finished May 22, 2018, about 3 1/2- 4 stars
This is somewhat of a jumbo-sized coffee table book, but so enjoyable to read through and look at all the memorabilia. The author and his wife Lorraine, with an intro by Lisa See, provides an overview of the Chinese night club scene with a primary focus on "The Forbidden City" in San Francisco. There is an extensive interview with Charlie Low, the owner and MC of the club for about 24 Years and then excerpts from about 15 interviews with dancers and singers and the prime choreographer for The Forbidden City. The interviews were all conducted in the mid to late 1980's as part of a documentary film the author made. I think most of these interesting people have now passed on. After all the interviews, there is a discussion of a number of other Chinese Night Clubs and then many more pages of photographs of all sorts of memorabilia such as matchbook covers, menus, napkins and photo folders.
The various interviews allow the reader to see a variety of personal histories and stories (and a few very over-sized personalities!) and also form their own picture of the overall scene and get a much better picture of some of the main characters such as Charlie Low and featured performers. My one minor complaint is that there is some duplication among the various interview excerpts. Very enjoyable as well as an excellent companion to Lisa See's novel "China Dolls."
I've started on the 3rd book in the John Russell series, Stettin Station by David Downing. I read the first book, Zoo Station, last year and the 2nd one, Silesian Station in January. I really like Downing's writing and characters. A lot of attention to small details of life in and around Berlin which would bother some readers but not me. This one opens in November 1941.
There are 6 books in the series - I hope to read on into the 4th one soon after I finish the current book.
23. Stettin Station by David Downing, finished May 26, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
This is the third novel of a six book series that I have really been enjoying. Stettin Station begins about 2 years after the prior novel in the series, a jump in time that unbalanced me a little. This story covers a short period of time in Berlin, from November 17, 1941 until the end of the year. Roughly six weeks. The reasons I like this series are here, the detailed look at life in Berlin under the Nazi regime, visits to nearby areas I am unfamiliar with (it helps to be s slight geography geek) and the cast of characters. Perhaps a few too many to keep track of I decided as I read. The plot here is rather minimal compared to the earlier books and since we know what is going to happen 3 weeks after the story opens our main worry is what is going to happen to the people we care about when Japan attacks America and Germany soon thereafter declares war against America. When one sees how bad things are for the average German in November 1941 it is hard to imagine how Hitler and associates thought a bigger war would be better. (Hitler had apparently been advised to not go to war with America but decided almost on a whim a few days after Pearl Harbor to declare war on the US. One of the biggest mistakes he ever made.)
I think this novel is a little weaker than the earlier entries but it does have moments of excitement, especially when the story kicks into a higher gear midway through, and I am very eager to continue the series and read the next book, Potsdam Station. I would recommend that anyone interested in these books start with the first novel, Zoo Station, and read them in order. Downing does a good job of refreshing the reader's memory of people and events from prior books, and this could certainly be read as a standalone, but the reader would then miss out on a lot of the backstory that informs this novel.
24. Santa Cruz Noir by various authors, finished May 27, 2018, 3 stars
I received an advance reading copy of this anthology of 20 short stories through the library thing early reviewers program.
I started this book by choosing a story at random near the middle called Treasure Island. I liked it. Quite a bit. It was twisty and tricky and clever. So I started at the beginning. Well before I finished the collection I knew that some of this was not my cuppa. The majority of the stories I liked, like my first sample, and I thought were quite good. I won't name names good or bad here because I know each of these stories represents someone's hard work to craft a tale. My problems with this mostly arose from subject matter. Some of the stories I'd classify as horror rather than noir, even though I know there is a sub-genre of horror noir and many other variations of noir. Supernatural too. That wasn't really the problem though.
I think the book suceeded in capturing some of the atmosphere of Santa Cruz and surrounding areas, a place I once knew pretty well and visited reasonably often, and my hometown gets a couple of mentions and it felt authentic. The little towns and highways and backroads, most of which I had at least a passing familiarity with seemed spot on. I have not visited the area for quite a while but I still use my cloth "Bookshop Santa Cruz" bag when I go book shopping.
Overall the good stories outweighed the ones I didn't like, but there were too many stories I disliked to give this better than 3 stars overall.
A true legend in science fiction, editor and writer Gardner Dozois passed away yesterday. He had more influence on me as a reader of science fiction than anyone else I can imagine. I've been nibbling away at one of his Year's Best collections - it often takes me months to get through them they are so massive.
I'm sorry to see you go, Gardner.
25. Potsdam Station by David Downing, finished May 31, 2018, 4 stars
This is the fourth novel of a six book series. It leaps 3 years and 3 months forward from the last book, to April 1945. Initially it was a little disconcerting but then I realized that Downing has already shown us what he wanted to show us, and although there is likely a story that lies untold he wanted us to now see the fall of Berlin. Focus here is at times different, but also somewhat familiar - Downing again take us through the streets and train stations with a technique that may be tiresome to some readers but one that I generally find immersive. As before, there is quite a bit of story building before things take off at an exciting pace. Our primary character John Russell, British-American journalist, was escaping from the German Reich at the end of the last novel 'Stettin Station', and now is determined to get back in before the complete collapse and imminent Russian invasion of Berlin to make contact with his son Paul and his girlfriend Effie. Effie is more than a girlfriend really. His plan is to follow the Red Army as a journalist. Hmmm not so easy. The Soviets are as bad as the Nazis.
Unlike prior stories large parts of this happen away from John Russell and the story quick cuts between Russell, Effi and Paul throwing the reader a little off balance as the Soviet army attacks and the German army retreats. Very well done.
Not being much of an anthology fan, I haven't read a lot of Dozois' collections, but his reputation at what he did was simply stellar!
>131 ronincats: There are an awful lot of anthologies by Dozois, most of which I've never even taken a glance at. He got his hooks into me sometime in the mid-late 80's with his editorship at Asimov's science fiction. I read issue after issue cover to cover and he exposed me to so many excellent authors. I didn't start paying attention to his years best collections until he had been doing them for a while and when I started catching up on those in later years I realized what a huge value they were in documenting science fiction - not only for the stories he included but for his extensive summaries of each year, documenting trends, new authors, those who had passed on - the rise of the internet and so on.
My wife has been enjoying James Rollins' books for years - she has read most of what he has written and we have quite a few of the older ones here in the house. I, however, have yet to read one although I have been seriously tempted at times. His last novel (I think) was The Demon Crown and it looked interesting so I brought it home from the library yesterday. My wife enjoyed it and thought I would also and altho it is the 13th in a series she said I didn't need to read anything before to enjoy this. I read the first several chapters before bed last night - about 50 pages, and I'm looking forward to getting back to it. It feels a lot like a Steve Berry book, but better, so for some fun/scary entertainment this may fit the bill.
26. The Demon Crown by James Rollins, finished June 7, 2018, about 2 1/2 - 3 stars
I found this entertaining in a very light way and also rather creepy at times as a group of people work to fight the rebirth of an ancient wasp. The author has many fans and many books. This didn't turn me into an instant fan but I'll certainly read something else in the future by him as many of his books sound very interesting. My problem with this one was that I was never invested in the characters, and I don't think that was because this is the 13th book in a series), but on the plus side I liked learning about the history of amber in the Baltic states and Poland.
As I wind my way through the 7th decade of my life (I'll be 65 in two months) I chastise myself over the large number of American authors I have ignored. I find myself noting that the last time I may have read one author or another was probably in a high school english class. Many authors I should have read have been neglected. So I tackle Edith Wharton. I did read one a few years ago. Now I read one more and found myself sucked into this sad story of forbidden fruit ... maybe visiting classics is not such a great idea ...
27. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, finished June 10, 2018, 4 stars
I found this to be a rather depressing short novel. It is loaded with much symbolism, and yet the story is built well enough to keep one's interest. A dark tale of an unhappy marriage in New England a hundred and some years ago. Clearly Ethan Frome should not have married the woman that he did.
I don't regret reading this.
So many serious books lately. I think I need to find a couple lighter ones.
I agree, Ethan Frome is depressing, but so well written that I loved it. And the movie.
I sometimes feel like I need to catch up on the classics, and I'm usually glad when I read one. I really liked A Tale of Two Cities, and Tom Sawyer not long ago. The book I've been procrastinating over for years is Moby Dick.
>136 mstrust: I know, so well written. I did really like it. Now I want to see the movie. I've been wanting to re-read Tom Sawyer. Moby Dick I did read a long long time ago. I picked up a copy of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South a few days ago. My daughter and I really enjoyed the BBC series a few years ago and I told myself I should read the book.
I read Moby Dick in fourth grade (Don't look at me like that! Mrs. Hobbs had it sitting on the classroom shelves and I'd read every other book in the school.). It's possible I may have missed out on a few of the author's subtleties, of course.
>138 ronincats: Ha! Hard to top Moby Dick in the 4th grade. Funny how some books will stick to an exact moment in one's history. I have quite a few like that. I can for example remember the exact month I first read Dune - July 1974 - because I was a TA for a Biology class at UCD that summer and that book blew me away. On the other hand I couldn't even guess when I read War and Peace altho at the time I thought it an amazing accomplishment. Might have been 8th or 9th grade, but I couldn't even guess. Flowers for Algernon? Freshman English class - 9th grade.
>135 RBeffa: >136 mstrust:
Ethan Frome is sadly depressing, yes, but it can stay with you because of the crafted writing.
MOBY-DICK is way wilder, yet, even for a vegetarian (on 2nd, 3rd, & 4th readings, I just skipped the slaughtering),
it remains a standout!
Great fun to follow this reading with Sam Ita's Pop-up MOBY (a true 4th grader read)
and Nathaniel Philbrick's Why read Moby-Dick.
>140 m.belljackson: I should probably read Philbrick's book. Whenever it was that I read Moby - I'm thinking now it must have been mid to late high school - I didn't like it. I've never thought of a re-read. Maybe Philbrick would change my mind.
I wanted something lighter and maybe a little fun so I went with a Star Trek novel
28. The Entropy Effect by Vonda McIntyre, finished June 12, 2018, 4 stars
This was the second novel in the Timescape/Pocket Book series of original Star Trek that continued for a long time. This one is from 1981 and I believe is the first Trek novel published after the novelization of the Star Trek the Motion Picture film which despite its problems gave a brand new and continuing life to the franchise. Vonda McIntyre was a good choice - a well regarded author with several award winning stories. I have not read a lot of Trek novels although I have picked up about 3 dozen of them in recent years (most still unread) and generally enjoy them but have also run across a couple stinkers, especially in some of the badly written early ones prior to this. This one strikes me as one of the better ones. The focus characters here are Sulu, Spock, Kirk and to a slightly lesser extent McCoy. We learn for the first time what Sulu's first name is and get inside of his head and emotions - his part of the story is done well. Kirk as a character sometimes seemed a little "off" to me and Spock and McCoy seemed to be handled fairly well.
Two new strong female characters play large parts in the story and I thought were presented extremely well. The story goes along at a rather leisurely pace for quite a while, setting things up that we wouldn't expect, digging into characters, and then it runs, and it runs hard. I'm not rating this against great novels and literature - rating it for what it is - some well written entertainment that I think any Star Trek fan would enjoy.
About halfway through, maybe sooner, I was getting this deja vu like feeling that this was familiar. I may have read this in the early 80's when it was a newish novel.
29. The Celestial Omnibus by E. M. Forster, finished June 13, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
This small collection of stories is described by the author in his introduction as fantasies written before the first world war. They date to 1904-1911. Forster became famous for his later novels such as Howard's End and A Passage to India. These stories are something quite different. The first tale, "The Story of a panic," is more than a little odd and I wondered what I had gotten into. I will say that I liked these stories and fables but I did not love them as many people seem to do. There is some cuteness and cleverness in here. They rather seduce the reader in a variety of ways. One or maybe two rely a bit too heavily on a knowledge of classical mythology that I do not possess.
30. BIOS by Robert Charles Wilson, finished June 15, 2018, 3 1/2+ stars
I picked this book up quite a few years ago when I discovered that I liked Robert Charles Wilson's novels. It took me 9 or 10 years to read it and after seeing some of the very mixed reviews here on LT and mostly elsewhere I almost did not. But I gave it a try and I am glad I did. This is a fast paced story that covers a lot of issues/themes and although, perhaps, at the heart of it is a coming of age story, there is a lot more to think about.
This is the 10th book by the author I have read.
About 3 years ago at one of those fill your bag with books on the last day library sales I put two copies of Guadalcanal Diary in my bag. One was a nice paperback edition from the early 60's and the other was a first printing 1943 edition complete with dustcover, a little battered dustcover, but one nonetheless. It is also inscribed with the name of the original owner and dated February 1943. They were sitting on the bottom of a box of history books. This old hardback is in really fine condition with lovely maps on the inside covers not found in the paperback edition (although there is a map in the paperback) as well as about 25 photographs that are also missing from the paperback edition. The paperback edition is the one I started to read - it promised almost all of the text of the original and right off the bat the first two chapters were newly written. Material was censored from the first edition because it was written while the battle was still raging and published in February 1943. But I decided that the first edition was the one I needed to read, so I switched to that one. I thought I would want the original but as I read and compared I saw all the little bits that had been exised and what happened was I went back and forth many times to refer to the later edition to see if something was changed or added.
31. Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis, finished June 17, 2018, about 2 - 2 1/2 stars
What surprised me about this book was how I was disappointed. I didn't take to some of the author's writing style, and there were good chunks of this that made me feel like I was reading a propaganda piece. Propaganda? I suppose it was. I very quickly felt that if I read one more time the word "lads" in reference to the soldiers heading straight towards death I might have thrown up. In my mouth. This is told in a diary day by day format but that wasn't really a problem although it was a little awkward. As was the excessive name checking. The name checking I recall as the way Ernie Pyle wrote in his newspaper articles some of which were collected in one of his books I read years ago. Every person who is mentioned you get his rank, name, and town he was from. I guess this was a correspondent's way of putting everyone's name in the papers, but after a very short period of time it gets very tedious. It doesn't tell you anything about the person, and I hoped here to get some personal details. You do get them in miniature bits that frequently have little meaning. I don't imagine it is common to have first hand accounts from World War II published while the battle is raging. In any event I think Pyle probably did this sort of thing better.
The telling here improved quite a bit in the latter part of the book when the fighting got very serious and pretty bad. I recognize the value of this book but I think one needs to read wider to get the full picture of Guadalcanal. I don't want to trash it - it has value, I just wanted it better. The depiction of each stage of the events, the men (including the journalist), under fire from the enemy, we need records of war like this. Still, when you read this I couldn't help but feel it was scrubbed. Once in a while a serious loss is mentioned but most often we are told that 800 Japanese were killed in a battle and only 34 Americans died. There are snipers everywhere but they almost always seem to miss. But I am so tired of the brainwashing of young men to be soldiers, to give up the precious value of this thing called life. The Pacific war - did it need to be fought? of course it did and I silently praise every man and woman who fought and helped in the pacific, especially those who never returned. Those struck down on land, those forever sleeping at the bottom of Ironbottom sound.
This isn't a long book, but even still I lightly skimmed a few places.
I distinctly recall there being a copy of that paperback in our house when I was a kid...not on the bookshelves, but in a cupboard upstairs with a lot of old National Geographics and some other paperbacks of similar vintage. I wonder if anyone in my family actually read it. It seems unlikely.
My dad was on Guadalcanal, seriously injured but recovered before he joined Merrill's Marauders in Burma. But this book doesn't sound like the way to learn more about it.
>146 laytonwoman3rd: I think my dad may even have had the book Linda, long ago.
>147 ronincats: Roni, a movie was made from this book, also in 1943. I saw a part of it on one of the classic movie channels a few years ago. The beginning of the film is exactly as it is in the book. I've read elsewhere about Guadalcanal and the book only covers the first part of it and is very close focused. You can get a very good sense of what it was like from that miniseries "The Pacific" that was broadcast about 6 or 7 years ago. The very first episode dives right into it. Other books also cover the naval part of the operation. There are elements in the book that match up well (there is in fact a very early battle where the Americans just kill hundreds of Japanese in a battle with relatively minor losses), but big pieces are missing. People didn't find out how bad the Pacific War was until the soldiers came back home. And many of them wouldn't talk about it. There is a lot of stuff missing from Guadalcanal Diary. And you don't get much more than minor hints of what the soldiers are really going through and feeling.
I plan to read another book or two about it, hopefully before too long. I have them on hand.
When I was younger I enjoyed Poul Anderson's stories quite a bit. I have read few in later years, but my library here shows this is the 5th in 9 years so I haven't completely ignored him. I have also collected several of his early anthologies and they are waiting to be read. This one is 50 years old, published in 1968.
32. The Horn of Time by Poul Anderson, finished June 18, 2018, about 2 - 2 1/2 stars
This is a small collection of 6 stories that originally appeared in a variety of magazines in the 50's and 60's and were revised by the author before being collected here. There is not a general theme or relationship between the stories despite what the cover blurbs might suggest. The Salvador Dali-ish cover caught my eye. The stories were a mixed bag and I've read better by Anderson. A little heavy handed with the anti-soviet stuff. "The Man Who Came Early" was one of the better ones and I know I have read it before but I couldn't figure out when or where. It has been rather heavily anthologized over the 60 years since it was first published.
I'll try another collection soon.
One of my favorite things in school, starting about 5th grade, were the Scholastic book clubs. The two names I remember were Tab and Arrow. From about 5th grade until maybe sophomore year in high school we would get these flyers filled with books you could order for about .25 - .40 or so. The classroom earned credits by the orders so the teacher would get books as a reward. Sometimes the students also - they might have a "buy 3 books get one free" sort of deal. I have a box buried in a closet in which I saved many of my favorites from those days - this was 50-55 years ago mind you. Big Red, Outlaw Red, Pippi Longstocking, White Ruff, Survivor, Yellow Eyes, Incredible Journey, Follow My Leader. I'm noticing that many of these were animal stories. I loved these books. I have not read the vast majority of these since I was a youngster but I am going to dig into that closet soon and revisit a few. I have some other favorites on hand already like these such as the Marguerite Henry books from when my own kids were little. I re-read Wind in the Willows last year and adored it.
We had something similar, except they brought the books for sale into the school and had them lined up on tables. They must have been selling them very cheap to be selling them to the school kids. But I grew up in the "teenage girl with a problem" era.
>151 mstrust: That is how it was when my kids were in grade school - they had a bunch of tables with Scholastic books and volunteers staffed the tables. I think that is how we got the first Harry Potter book. They did have one of the old sort of book clubs for a couple years early on - it was called Troll but then it went to the Book Fairs
I decided that before I go on to other things I should read more about Guadalcanal. James Brady wrote a book just before he died, and in the introduction to the book the daughters say he died the day after he finished it. I picked this book up about a year ago but it was published in 2010 - the book is Hero of the Pacific. John Basilone was one of the 3 marines that played prominent parts in the HBO series "The Pacific". Basilone won the medal of honor for his actions in the early days at Guadalcanal.
I didn't read very far last night but I'm a little worried now that this book isn't going to be as good as I hoped. Brady died more than a year before the HBO series premiered so I don't think his writing would have been directly influenced by the show but I suspect he was aware it was coming. In any event, about a quarter to a third of the book looks to be about Guadalcanal so I will see how it goes.
I have other books about Guadalcanal also that I plan to read this year.
Brady wrote a number of books about the marines but I mostly remember him as a weekly celebrity columnist in the Parade magazine we get in our Sunday newspapers.
>154 jnwelch: I "unburied" the two other Edith Wharton books that I have (unread). I'm hoping that gets me to read them sooner rather than later!
>153 RBeffa: Life has been busy so reading has temporarily slowed, but I am liking Brady's Basilone book better than I thought I might. This is not the book I expected, which was a straightforward biography. What this is is something that should be titled "Searching for Basilone" because in his attempts to find out who Basilone was and what he did in Guadalcanal and elsewhere he found stuff that I don't think he expected. But which unfortunately doesn't surprise me.
33. Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone by James Brady, finished June 23, 2018, 2 1/2 stars
This is an odd book. I read this biography of Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone in order to gain more insight into the Guadalcanal battle in the Pacific. I did gain some insight. What Brady discovered in researching this book is that the story of John Basilone has a great many discrepancies. Seems like some other readers of the book got annoyed with the author for pointing out time and again all the things that aren't right (as well as what seems OK). The middle part of the book was pretty much a bore for me, redeemed by the short but informative section of Iwo Jima. After finishing this we get an idea of who John Basilone was but not really a good picture, and I don't think some of the "truth" will be known. I'm not trying to be mysterious with that statement. Overall the book could have been written a little better.
34. The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs, finished June 24, 2018, 3 - 3 1/2 stars
It must have been pretty exciting to be a kid with 15c 100 years ago looking forward to the August 1918 Bluebook Magazine and the appearance of a new complete story by Edgar Rice Burroughs. and that is how "The Land That Time Forgot" arrived.
I read most of Burroughs novels in the late 60's and into the 70's and probably a few in the early 80's. I am fairly certain that I read this book in my teens, and I certainly saw the crazy Doug McClure movie. The book was better. This is told in an old fashioned Burroughs style, a little reminiscent of a Jules Verne novel. A manuscript is found on the shore in Greenland inside of a thermos bottle and thus begins this tale of a Lost World, neanderthals, wild creatures, dinosaurs and love. Oh, this is WWI - we mustn't forget the awful Germans and their submarines. The submarine is how we get to the land that time forgot. This was fun and a well written romantic fantasy adventure of the old days. Burroughs packs a lot of adventure into this short novel.
and there are sequels ...
I love that magazine cover. And the authors' names! Wonder how many of those were pseudonyms.
ETA: Well, I had to know, so I googled every one of them, and they were all born with those names. So much for my instincts, I guess. Some very interesting people there, though. And Edison Marshall's middle name was Tesla!
>158 laytonwoman3rd: I love that you did that Linda. I looked up a couple. I was a little surprised that I didn't recognize a single author's name other than Burroughs, but when I checked on 2 of them they seemed to have been rather prolific and/or successful authors of their time. The names are indeed intriguing. I looked up Crittenden Marriott and it is like going down the rabbit hole and one thing leads to looking up another. With him I found it interesting that at least two early films had been made of his stories and "The Isle of Lost Ships" sounds intriguing but may very well be one of those lost films of the era.
I did not (yet) look up Edison "Tesla" Marshall. His parents clearly wanted him to have an electric name! I know from family history research that people loved (and probably still love) to name their children after famous people and Presidents.
>159 RBeffa: and now I'm looking at Edison and seeing all the old films made from his stories! What a kick.
35. Consider Her Ways by John Wyndham, finished June 26, 2018, 2 1/2 - 3 stars
I've read a number of Wyndham's novels and looked forward to trying his short stories. This collection was reissued in 2014 by Penguin and the stories date to the late 50's. A novella (the title story) and 5 other shorter stories of varying length. Some science fiction, some not, some more like fantasy. The first stories revolve around time travel via a transference of consciousness. For example, the second story "Odd" has a man in 1906 hit by a tram while crossing the street and his consciousness is temporarily sent forward in time to his older self in 1958 with interesting results. The opening novella has an excellent reputation but I thought it was overdone and would have been better at a shorter length, and it too used a similar time travel idea with a woman's consciousness being thrown more than a hundred years into a dystopian future after taking an experimental drug. It is something of a subtle horror story and a little heavy on the social satire within it.
Having the first two stories play off of a similar device (time travel of the mind) was a little disappointing, but where the collection failed me was the third story, purely a satire about a would be movie starlet. After starting with a bit of promise I kept expecting the story to go somewhere and it took too much time and wandering to get to the punchline and was not at all worth the trip. A middle story, "A Stitch in Time" was I think the story I liked best here. It ponders other dimensions and time, and an experiment that occurs as an old woman reflects on her life and how decisions and events affect where your life may go.
Overall I would say I was a little disappointed with the collection. I'll give it an OK rating. I bought another Penguin edition of stories at the same time as this and I look forward to reading it and another Wyndham I have handy.
I've also been itching to read another of Donna Leon's mysteries.
36. The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes, finished June 28, 2018, 3 stars
Seems like I've had this book forever, and I tried to read it at least once before. I figured I'd give it one more try and so I persevered.
The book is difficult to follow in a few places. It could be a poor translation, but that seems unlikely. Bits of it felt very poetic. Bits of it are pretty strange. An old man goes to Mexico to die in the revolution. He would be happy for Pancho Villa to kill him. I got caught up in this odd story and enjoyed it.
In the book, is the old man Ambrose Bierce? They made a movie of it, and it postulated that this is what happened to Bierce after he disappeared in Mexico in 1913.
>164 laytonwoman3rd: Yes it is Ambrose Bierce. I don't recall that it ever flat out says it but as we read through the clues are increasingly clear and their is no doubt at all. Bierce, the old Gringo, is only one part of the story - two other major characters are involved as well as a couple of minor folks who support throughout the story. I have no idea if there is any true basis on which this story lies. It is a strange story and when I think about it there is a 4th major character - Mexico. There are bucketfuls of philosophical musings and meanderings and more than once I thought the story had gone completely off the rails (and there are indeed rails in the book) but suddenly the author would swing the sidetrack around and tie into our story and I'd go "Ahh!", "Oh!" or "huh?". Mostly Ahh.
I know I saw the movie ages ago and scarcely remember it. I looked and saw it was from 1989. Even then Jane Fonda would have been too old to play Harriet Winslow, one of the three main characters, and aged 31. I assume that is who she played - Fonda would have been over 50 at the time. But I really can not remember the film other than I know I watched it on cable after it came out. I did learn stuff about Bierce who I probably didn't know a thing about other than the old Owl Creek Incident story and twilight zone episode.
eta: There is a chunk of stuff in here about Bierce and work he did for Wm Randolph Hearst that he seemingly became ashamed of. True or not I don't know but it talks about Bierce as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle in regards to Hearst, and the Chronicle was not a Hearst paper - the San Francisco Examiner was. Every SF native like myself knew that. I don't know if that was an intentional misdirection by the author, or translator error, or just an author error.
Time for the first half of the year wrap up. 36 books. I may finish one more book tonight or tomorrow. My reading really slowed down in March and well into the 2nd quarter - too much going on in real life. Then I seriously tore my hamstring in May so my time sitting still (or supposed to be) was suddenly available so I have been reading up a storm the last couple weeks. Leg is mending but I forget that it takes much longer to heal these kinds of injuries now that I am older, and also a lot easier to get them. I kept re-injuring it before it was healed. Still, this is an excellent reading year so far in terms of quality and enjoyment. I'm barely on track to get 75 books this year, and that is OK. I'd like to. There are a lot of books and authors that I want to get to.
Roughly in order, these are my favorite books of the year so far:
1. The Terror by Dan Simmons
2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
3. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
4. Love and Summer by William Trevor
5. Ishmael by Barbara Hambly (A very fun and excellent Star Trek novel)
6. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
7. Silesian Station by David Downing
8. Potsdam Station by David Downing
9. Stettin Station by David Downing
10. Modern Classics of Fantasy - an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois
11. Death In A Strange Country by Donna Leon
12. Hit and Run by Lawrence Block
1. Forbidden City U.S.A. : Chinese American nightclubs, 1936-1970 by Arthur Dong
>165 RBeffa: I remember thinking the movie was very poorly cast, but that's about all I remember about it.
37. Hit and Run by Lawrence Block, finished June 30, 2018, 4 stars
This is the 4th book in the author's Keller series. Keller is a hit man for hire, but very different than what you might normally run across. The first three books were short stories loosely put together as novels and as a result there was a lot of repetition and things didn't always flow so well. Nevertheless I liked the preceding books. This book is the first that feels written as a novel. We get to dive deeper into character without it being repeated which is really nice. I thought we were going to have the first "great" Keller novel but one thing in the story pretty much killed that thought. Keller's partner 'Dot' does something really disturbing and disgusting. I won't say more except that the event almost spoiled the book for me. Still I liked it more than not and think this was the best Keller book yet. I was also pretty happy with how it ended. The series could have, maybe should have ended here with this 2008 book but one more came out, "Hit Me" in 2013 which I think I will read soon. Then I think we'll be done.
38. The Year's Best Science Fiction: Nineteenth Annual Collection (Year's Best Science Fiction) various authors, edited by Gardner Dozois, finished July 2, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
2001 - Quite a number for a film and were we having a space oddysey in the real 2001? No we weren't. This collection highlights what Dozois thinks were the best shorter length science fiction stories of 2001. Dozois was embracing the future and his selections drew 5 of the 26 from stories that were published on the internet, as well as stories from what was then more traditional sources ... a few anthology selections and the more prominent magazines, especially 'Asimov's Science Fiction' and 'The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction'. Gardner also does his usual lengthy summation (maybe a tad too lengthy) of various trends and events in the year. This turned out to be a good collection with only a few stories that put me off. There were a few too many stories that didn't thrill me that prevents me from calling this a great collection.
I've been sampling stories from this collection this year and last, and the very recent death of Gardner Dozois prompted me to speed up my reading. I won't go over all the stories - I'll comment on some of those that I particularily enjoyed or disliked. I was surprised at how many of these I had read before, perhaps as much as a third of them, but back then I was reading a lot of short fiction in the science fiction magazines and some have appeared elsewhere since 2001. The included material was:
•xi • Summation: 2001 • essay by Gardner Dozois
•1 • New Light on the Drake Equation • novella by Ian R. MacLeod
•44 • More Adventures on Other Planets • novelette by Michael Cassutt
•59 • On K2 with Kanakaredes • novelette by Dan Simmons
•91 • When This World Is All on Fire • novelette by William Sanders
•131 • Computer Virus • novelette by Nancy Kress
•141 • Have Not Have • novelette by Geoff Ryman
•157 • Lobsters • novelette by Charles Stross
•178 • The Dog Said Bow-Wow • shortstory by Michael Swanwick
•192 • The Chief Designer • novella by Andy Duncan
•229 • Neutrino Drag • novelette by Paul Di Filippo
•247 • Glacial • Revelation Space • novelette by Alastair Reynolds
•281 • The Days Between • novelette by Allen Steele
•303 • One-Horse Town • novelette by Howard Waldrop and Leigh Kennedy
•330 • Moby Quilt • novella by Eleanor Arnason
•365 • Raven Dream • novelette by Robert Reed
•385 • Undone • novelette by James Patrick Kelly
•408 • The Real Thing • novelette by Carolyn Ives Gilman
•438 • Interview: On Any Given Day • shortstory by Maureen F. McHugh
•452 • Isabel of the Fall • novelette by Ian R. MacLeod
•470 • Into Greenwood • novelette by Jim Grimsley
•497 • Know How, Can Do • novelette by Michael Blumlein
•514 • Russian Vine • shortstory by Simon Ings
•528 • The Two Dicks • novelette by Paul J. McAuley
•542 • May Be Some Time • novelette by Brenda W. Clough
•577 • Marcher • shortstory by Chris Beckett
•591 • The Human Front • novella by Ken MacLeod
•631 • Honorable Mentions: 2001 • essay by Gardner Dozois
The opening novella, "New Light on the Drake Equation" by Ian R. MacLeod was quite good, a story about one elderly man in France who has dedicated his life to SETI - the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. A very personal story, very different from what I think of as a typical science fiction story. This was much more about the human side of life's journey with attention paid to little details, the personal cost of his obsession, a love lost story with a touch of eroticism. A great start to the collection and a reminder of how much I enjoyed reading MacLeod's short fiction in the 90's in Asimov's science fiction magazine. I loved this story.
"More Adventures on Other Planets" by Michael Cassutt was also enjoyable. Calling it a love story between two rovers, Earl and Rebecca, on a Jovian moon would do it a disservice.
There is one story in here that I thought was complete dreck - "Lobsters" by Charles Stross. It had even been nominated for a Hugo in the novelette category, placing 4th in the votes. So some people found it much better than I did. The story that followed, "The Dog Said Bow-Wow" by Michael Swanwick won the Hugo for best short story. It was a farce that would never have won my vote! The story that follows these two, 'The Chief Designer' a novella by Andy Duncan was better - it won the Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the Hugo in the Best Novella category. It placed 4th in the votes coming behind Brenda Clough's remarkable "May Be Some Time" which appears later in this collection. I was about a third of the way through these when I finished Andy Duncan's remarkable story which is built around the soviet side of the space race when I thought - "This is a remarkably mellow batch of stories." These are a thinking person's stories rather than any sort of action adventure or wild fables. Still, Duncan's story about the soviets shows the competitve drive that once existed in the space race that allowed amazing things to happen in a relatively short period of time, and the costs associated with that.
Alastair Reynold's "Glacial" I had read just a few years ago (2015) in his Galactic North collection. Reynold's stuff is almost always great and this story is no exception. Allan Steele's "The Days Between" is another excellent story. I believe it was incorporated into his novel "Coyote".
I have a little higher standard for something that is a year's best compilation - I like to think that EVERY story in it should be really good for the average reader. That wasn't the case here, but the majority of the stories were pretty good and so I'll rate it at 3 1/2 stars.
I was absolutely thrilled in March >81 RBeffa: when I came across 7 first edition Nevil Shute novels in excellent condition. I thought I should read one. I have not read Pastoral before although I had picked up a lovely British paperback edition of it a couple years ago. Not the fault of the book (written during WWII and published in 1944) but I had some difficulty with the language - the British terms and ways of speech of the time, in conversation and description that I was unfamiliar with.
39. Pastoral by Nevil Shute, finished July 6, 2018, 3 stars
I liked it, although I was a bit disappointed.
Nevil Shute's stories aren't like everybody else's stories. He spends a lot of time setting the story and characters up with a lot of detail that modern readers might find tedious and a little boring. If there is one thing he does not do it is to jump right into the action. He lets you really get to know the people in his books. Pastoral is very much this way, with this story about a British Wellington Bomber pilot and his everyday pastoral life around the air base, eventually finding himself falling much too quickly in love with a WAAF and how that plays out. He has discovered a love of fishing so you get a LOT of that, but also the interactions and relationships with his own air crew and others. A lot of day by day this is how life goes stuff and then there are the dramatic moments (2 big ones). Love in the time of war. A bittersweet romance pretty much drives the story. I think a book like this would appeal to someone who has enjoyed "Foyle's War" on television.
The disappointment for me here was how the pilot more or less shoved a relationship onto the WAAF signals officer. He was obsessed and guilt tripped the woman into restarting a relationship that she had tried to cool off. Not quite a "marry me or else" but pretty close. My sympathies here clearly lay with the woman and my feelings about the pilot did almost a complete reversal into the dislike category.
Oh, there's a nice sweet touch at the very last couple of paragraphs of the book that made me smile. I suppose this is a little spoilery, but someone, who we can surmise is the author, steps into the story for the last scene.
On my very short list for a re-read this year is Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls. The dedication to it says: "This book is for Martha Gellhorn".
Dropping off a box of donations for the friends at the library yesterday I was pleased to find a new release on the new books shelf Love and Ruin by Paula McLain. I've wanted to read it since I first heard about it, having truly enjoyed her "The Paris Wife" last year. This is a book about Martha Gellhorn and her relationship with Ernest Hemingway. I read a bit towards the end which really caught my interest, but when I started reading from the beginning I found I didn't care for the style nor the character. This certainly didn't grab me like "The Paris Wife" did. So, without getting too far I stopped. I may try it again someday.
Up until about 2000 I read just about every issue of Asimov's magaine that arrived in my mailbox within a week of receipt. However the demands of a new job and growing kids as well as other interests slowly put an end to that so some issues by 2003 were just set aside and never read. This was one of them.
40. Asimov's Science Fiction August 2003 edited by by Gardner Dozois, finished July 9, 2018 about 3 1/2 stars
This digest has a novella, three novelettes, two short stories, two poems an essay by Robert Silverberg of "Theme-parking the Past" and quite a few brief book reviews. This was a very good issue which in my experience was pretty much the standard under Gardner Dozois's reign as editor of the magazine.
The fiction content of this issue is:
Touching Centauri • novelette by Stephen Baxter
Advice to Alien Life Forms • poem by W. Gregory Stewart
Sheltering • short story by Tom Purdom
The Mouth of Hell • novelette by Tim Sullivan
Alternate History • poem by Maureen F. McHugh (placed #1 in the Asimov's Reader's poll for Best Poem for the year 2003)
From the Corner of My Eye • novelette by Alexander Glass
Exile • short story by Steven Utley
Benjamin the Unbeliever • novella by Allen Steele
Of note to me:
The long novelette by Stephen Baxter, "Touching Centauri" was a good opening piece of fiction which looks at the near future and the way the world ends, quite unexpectedly.
Tom Purdom's short "Sheltering" is set inside a bomb shelter in the future as a new kind of war rages across the country. The story is really about other things though, family dynamics esp between father and son and an old man who is the focal point of the story playing strategy war games from WWII on a handheld device while a real but different kind of war is going on.
"The Mouth of Hell" was a rather detailed historical fiction set in ancient Rome at the time of the rise of Constantinople and Christians. Two people explore a sulfurous fissure below the Circus Maximus. The story was interesting to read, and it is certainly a science fiction, but it seemed lacking a punch by the end.
I was a little slow to warm to Alexander Glass's "From The Corner of My Eye" which is set in the not so distant future where virtual reality is part of reality and ghosts, virtual people, are afoot. AI's are up to something. Pretty soon I was intrigued and wanted to know just what was going on and why.
Allen Steele's novella "Benjamin the Unbeliever" is the heart of the issue. I realized upon reading that it was familiar - it had been reworked and incorporated into Steele's novel "Coyote Rising" which I had read in 2012. I liked this story, but didn't think it the best part of the novel as a whole.
This book is included in my "favorite books by year" list near the top of this thread. I thought it deserved a re-read. I was going to read it in March for the British Author challenge but sidetracked myself.
41. Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, finished July 11, 2018, 4 1/2 stars
The novel was published in 1978 and way back in 1981 this book was turned into a movie with Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan. Although I have not seen the film in quite a long time I thought it excellent when I first saw it and re-watched it on cable more than once. After first seeing the film I picked up the novel and liked it every bit as much as the film and probably more. Film and novel are both excellent. The story is told about about several characters with three focal points so to speak, but the story is about a German agent embedded in England who has been told to discover if there is a false show being put on by the allies to confuse Germany about where the D-Day invasion will be. It was an elaborate scheme of deception. Equally important is a young (and tragic) married couple living on an island in the North Sea. British MI hunts down the needle before he can discover and relay the truth. The story is tightly woven and the novel is truly a suspense filled thriller with several heart racing scenes. Each character is well written and I was very glad to read it again. A real page turner at times after a very good buildup.
Terrific book. Highly recommended. This certainly holds up 40 years after first publication.
42. Death and Judgement by Donna Leon, read most but DNF July 14, 2018, 2 stars
This is the 4th Donna Leon novel I have read and the formula is beginning to feel a little old already. It is the subject matter, however, that really bothered me. I had to stop reading at one point, quite a ways through it. I really like Commissario Brunetti and his family a lot so it is with some disappointment and regret that I don't think I will read any more of these. Much much too dark for my taste. nuff said.
This morning I started reading "Doc" by Mary Doria Russell, a book I have intended to read for a couple years. It is delightful right from the start. Even before the start. as the epigraph says:
This book is fiction, but there is always a chance that such a work of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.
—E. HEMINGWAY, A MOVEABLE FEAST
43. Doc by Mary Doria Russell, finished July 17, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
A good, interesting story about who the real Doc Holliday probably was. There is also a great deal about the people his life intersected with. Doc is not always the focus character. At the end, and even before I found myself wondering if anyone at all in the book had anything other than a rotten life, a rotten deal of the cards. This is an historical fiction but so much of it feels like history, real history and the portraits of people are not exactly flattering. This also feels stretched out a little bit - although it is usually interesting, it meanders and is not what I would call a page turner. One way of putting it is that my enthusiasm for the story kept getting sidetracked or interrupted by diversions.
Characters in this story come across as a lot different than the various portrayals on television and in films.
44. Asimov's Science Fiction January 2009 edited by by Sheila Williams, finished July 19, 2018, about 1 1/2 stars
This this has two novelettes and five short stories. The fiction content includes:
• On Zurlygg Street • poem by Bruce McAllister
• Lion Walk • novelette by Mary Rosenblum
• Passing Perry Crater Base, Time Uncertain • shortstory by Larry Niven
• Bridesicle • shortstory by Will McIntosh
• Five Thousand Light Years from Birdland • shortstory by Robert R. Chase
• Messiah Excelsa • shortstory by E. Salih
• Unintended Behavior • shortstory by Nancy Kress
• Uncle Bones • novelette by Damien Broderick
This was on the low end of things. I'd like to say there was ONE good story in here but for my tastes there wasn't. There were a couple that were OK but still unsatisfying.
This book is set exactly 100 years ago in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic. I bought this when it was new a bit more than 10 years ago - at the time I was reading and struggling with John Barry's "The Great Influenza", a book I read most of but was ultimately somewhat dissatisfied with. This sounded like another, different way to approach it. I found the cover of the book hauntingly beautiful and the summary of the story really caught me. But there it has sat on my bookshelf, year after year unread. Until now.
45. The Last Town on Earth: A Novel by Thomas Mullen, finished July 22, 2018, 3 stars
The story is set in the Pacific Northwest where a milltown has decided to quarantine itself in hopes of keeping the flu epidemic that is devastating many places including the closest town 15 miles away, from killing this community, 'Commonwealth'. Commonwealth is something of an alternative community - a bit socialist/altruistic set up by people dissatisfied with the status quo of the lumberjack/millworker/mill owner situation in Washington state after the 1916 strike in Everett, Washington known as the "Everett Massacre". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_massacre .
Much of this book is about people doing the best they could with hopes and fears. Social issues of the times are front and center, as well as politics and patriotism - false, forced or perhaps true. WWI has been taking the youth of the world and then comes the Spanish flu which will take many many more.
Ultimately I was disappointed, because there are some good issues raised in here and I certainly got a history lesson but the characters in here and some of the dialogue and musings just didn't seem right. A few too many people to keep track of as well. The book surprised me with some unexpected twists. Books like this are valuable to shine a light on things in American history that most people would have little or no knowledge of.
This story had a familiar feel to it. I know I had read at least one of McKinley's works many years ago, "The Hero and the Crown" which I don't really recall other than thinking it pretty good, but this story is apparently set in the same world, so I suspect that might be part of what gave me a slight familiarity.
46. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, finished July 26, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
This novel certainly has a strong and loyal fan base. To me it seemed pretty typical and generic of a type that there were a great number of fantasies pouring out onto the shelves in the 1980's. It is however a pretty good story and probably a step above the normal. I think the audience for this is teenage girls and young women, a demographic I clearly am not. That didn't keep me from liking this quite a bit.
>177 RBeffa: The Last Town on Earth sounds like an interesting concept. Saw your comments and rating, but it's intriguing enough to go on my list. Thanks!
>179 drneutron: 3 stars is not a bad rating from me Jim. I really debated the star rating with myself. If the idea of the book interests you I would certainly go for it. It is not a book I will soon forget and it has been haunting my thoughts.
>178 RBeffa: Even though I was in my 30s when this was published, I guess I still mentally was in that demographic. I love Harry with a passion that I suspect a male would not have. I'm glad you liked it anyway, as it is a favorite comfort read of mine.
>181 ronincats: Roni, I really liked it. I know my comments don't sound like it. It had all the familiar elements of a fantasy almost like a checklist, but it was put together exceptionally well. I wasn't sure how to describe the story without being spoilery. One thing I really liked is that even though we have a very happy ending, the story was not driven by an overt romance throughout. Harry and Corlath did not reveal their feelings until the very end. The book has a great supporting cast of characters. I should probably bump my rating up to 4 stars. I note also that 1982 is missing a favorite book on my list at >3 RBeffa: and I will be adding "The Blue Sword" in there. All the girl/horse love in here skewed this a bit for me (which is part of why I think of it being aimed at teen girls), but I didn't mind all the cat love and she clearly captured cat behavior!
>183 brodiew2: Welcome back Brodie. I've missed you and your reading adventures.
Thanks, Ron. My adventure is finally picking up steam and in a very interesting direction. I've recently read two YA novels dealing the issues of police shootings of young black men. My previous experience with nonfiction was not hitting the right emotional note that fiction can sometimes access. Though the stories are not real, the characters and emotions and themes conveyed in the stories has had more success in opening my eyes and, perhaps, making the nonficiton more accessible in the future. Does that make sense?
>185 brodiew2: It makes a lot of sense. I have found that true for a variety of subjects, just as in the book I finished "The Last Town on Earth" where you get a personal look in a fiction account of what labor troubles and the spanish flu pandemic were like in Washington State 100 years ago.
47. Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick, finished July 31, 2018, 3 stars
I thought this was a disappointing collection. There are ten stories to this book, each one published indepedently between 1988-1996. I had read several of the independent tales back then and thought them reasonably good - and good enough for me to want to read the full collection of them now. These are primarily parables of the Kikiyu tribe, recast in a future setting on an artificial planetoid. The idea was to create a Kikiyu utopia completely following the old ways of the tribe, pre-european and completely rejecting modern Kenya. We rather quickly can see that Kiriniyaga is no utopia. Further, the falseness of the "Utopia" is pretty evident from the start and failure seemed the only option.
There are some good parts in here. But the story fails, as does the society eventually, because of the inflexible (and frequently nasty) main character Koriba who has his own inflexible ideas about everything and refuses to accept change or any sort of compromise. Since each chapter is a standalone piece there is some repetition between them. I took half a star off because of the author's afterword.
Science fiction and Fantasy (and a touch of the supernatural) from the pages of the Saturday Evening Post.
48. The Saturday Evening Post Reader of Fantasy & Science Fiction by various authors, finished August 3, 2018, 4 stars
There are several famous authors in this collection first published in 1963/4. There are also many I am not at all familiar with. One of the famous ones is Conrad Richter whose opening story 'Doctor Hanray's Second Chance' is very good. It is about an atomic scientist who developed an atomic bomb and visits where he grew up. For a short period he steps back into time and as the story develops he tries to talk his own young self out of pursuing physics instead of medicine. This one was published in the Saturday Evening Post, June 10, 1950.
The stories cover a period of 25 years, from 1937 to 1962. The stories are very well written and some reflect the times they were written in and some seem timeless. I really enjoyed this collection, reading the stories a few at a time. This is simply a great batch of old fashioned stories and only a couple were not as good as most.
Included is what was apparently a rather famous and celebrated anti-war novella of the 1950's, 'The Answer" by Philip Wylie.
7 • Doctor Hanray's Second Chance • (1950) • shortstory by Conrad Richter
19 • Fallout Island • (1962) • shortstory by Robert Murphy
29 • The Green Hills of Earth • (1947) • shortstory by Robert A. Heinlein
39 • Doomsday Deferred • (1949) • shortstory by Murray Leinster (as by Will F. Jenkins)
49 • Test-Tube Terror • (1958) • shortstory by Robert Standish
61 • Island of Fear • (1958) • shortstory by William Sambrot
70 • Sinister Journey • (1953) • shortstory by Conrad Richter
84 • The Place of the Gods • (1937) • shortstory by Stephen Vincent Benét
96 • The Phantom Setter • (1961) • shortstory by Robert Murphy
110 • The Big Wheel • (1961) • shortstory by Fred McMorrow
117 • The Death Dust • (1959) • shortstory by Frank Harvey
128 • The Lost Continent • (1960) • shortstory by Geoffrey Household
139 • The Trap • (1956) • shortstory by Kem Bennett
150 • Space Secret • (1959) • shortstory by William Sambrot
155 • The Unsafe Deposit Box • (1962) • shortstory by Gerald Kersh
165 • The Second Trip to Mars • (1954) • shortstory by Ward Moore (variant of Dominions Beyond)
177 • The Voice in the Earphones • (1947) • shortstory by Wilbur Schramm
186 • Moon Crazy • (1949) • shortstory by William Roy Shelton
199 • The Little Terror • (1953) • shortstory by Murray Leinster (as by Will F. Jenkins)
213 • The Answer • (1955) • novella by Philip Wylie
Read this one for the American Author challenge. I will probably read another L'Amour before the month is done.
49. Utah Blaine by Louis L'Amour, finished August 5, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
I was pleasantly surprised by this story by L'Amour first published in 1954 under a pseudonym he used for many of his early works - Jim Mayo. I read a rather in depth introduction to the author in another book I have after I finished this. L'Amour didn't exactly have an easy time of it with his early writing. His huge success came later in life. About the time of this novel John Wayne optioned one of his short stories and exapanded it into the film Hondo which helped L'Amour but even still didn't turn him into an "overnight success." This guy worked hard at his writing.
The story 'Utah Blaine' has one of L'Amour's recurring themes - range war - but the characters in here are pretty well done and even when not fleshed out they are defined well enough that keeping track of people was not a problem. If I was an editor I would have a few suggestions to make this better but the basic story here is handled well. Our 'hero' Utah Blaine may be a bit too superhuman, but he isn't superman. He's a good guy who knows the difference between right and wrong and takes on an underdog role to help a rancher being lynched by a rather large number of vigilante neighbors who are jealous of his land.
The west is clearly still wild here. L'Amour is very good at descriptive writing of the landscape. You can picture in your mind's eye the places he describes. There's a touch of romance in the story and more than a few deaths by the end, but I think the end can be described as a happy ending.
eta: I see that this book was turned into a Rory Calhoun western in 1957.
"Our 'hero' ... may be a bit too superhuman, but he isn't superman. He's a good guy who knows the difference between right and wrong " The same can be said of Tye Sackett in the L'Amour I'm reading---The Daybreakers. I suspect most of his novels have a character like that.
>191 laytonwoman3rd: I think so too Linda. In this one Utah is just "too" indestructible for my taste. But that's how it is. I actually liked the character a whole lot. He's honorable and never plays dirty and if the girls fall almost instantly in love, well, that's OK.
I read a couple of Sacketts or L'Amours anyway long ago when the various movies came out and I honestly could not tell you which ones they were! However, a few years ago I decided I'd read the Sacketts after I picked up a double handful at a library sale. I liked the first one a lot which isn't a western in the slightest but the second one put me off with a preachiness to it and it was a DNF and also I never got to the later stuff which is probably his better work. I've enjoyed his short stories quite a bit.
Less than 6 months ago I read the 2nd entry in the Bruno Chief of Police series and here I am on the 3rd. I think I'm going to label this series comfort food.
50. Black Diamond (Bruno, Chief of Police) by Martin Walker, finished August 8, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
For me this third entry in the Bruno series was probably the best yet and a step up from the second book. It is not required but reading the prior books lets you know about most of the people who appear here and altho the author drops enough into this to support the character (as well as refresh the memory for continuing readers) I certainly enjoy this more knowing what has come before. The french history in here, the good and mostly bad of things are woven into the story and I very much appreciate it. The author is quite good at this and we learn about food and wine and truffles, especially truffles, in rural France and culture clashes, wars, spies, the greens, and more. There are now 11 novels and a couple novellas in this series and I am happy to have more to look forward to. Oh, this is indeed a crime and murder mystery story and series, but all the cultural trappings make this much much more.
The big topic of this particular story is truffles (the best are black diamonds), but the story gets very twisty by the end.
I'm glad to know you found No. 3 better than the second Bruno outing. I was a bit less impressed with No. 2 than with the first one, and haven't gone back to the series since reading that one almost 2 years ago.
>194 laytonwoman3rd: I know someone who just loves this series and he has encouraged me to continue - I'm glad I did. I suspect these stories will share strengths and weaknesses. This one seemed better plotted. The romance element may be ever present (which is fine by me) but was dialed down a notch.
>174 RBeffa: I just finished Death and Judgement. I also felt it was quite dark. I think I am up for one more, but I hope it is a little lighter and I want some justice in the end! I felt deflated by the end of this one. : (
>190 RBeffa: I love L'Amour and haven't read anything by him in ages. And this is the second time I have come across his name recently. Might be time to find one of his!
>193 RBeffa: I really need to give Bruno a try. Gad to hear you liked the third one!
>195 RBeffa: I don't mind the romance; and of course, I love the dog.
>196 Berly: I like learning about Venice and the areas around it but the author is a real Debbie Downer with just about everything mired in corruption. The topics she chooses do not make it better and Guido despite his best efforts can't seem to make a difference. I may try one of the much later books one day but I feel I have given Leon a fair chance and she's just not my style.
L'Amour seems to work best as an occasional read. I have a couple unread on hand and I picked up a nice collection of his short stories which I can nibble on.
None of us needs another series to work on and i had my doubts at first about the Bruno books being "too french" but it seems to have hooked me now.
>197 laytonwoman3rd: Gigi has become a truffle hunter. Bruno now has three love interests in various states of on/off/maybe. I've just grown fond of the whole village and area setting and it helps immensely that Bruno is a really good guy. I'm ready to dive into the next book but I also want to space them out just a little.
I've read three previous books by this author, all WWII naval fiction and been very satisfied. Not this one.
51. Ghosts of Bungo Suido by P. T. Deutermann, finished August 13, 2018, 2 - 2 1/2 stars
I don't know if a submariner can "jump the shark" but this very improbable story came close to it. This could have been another one of Deutermann's excellent historical fictions, but for me it was not. Other readers liked this much more than me so ymmv.
Hi Brodie. The Commodore has some weak bits but it is a very good story and has a lot of detailed info about the naval battles at Guadalcanal. It is a pretty exciting read. Deutermann's best for me was Sentinels of Fire. There is a new book coming out that I am hoping to get from the library.
Cool. Perhaps, I'll look into that one. Didn't he start with police stories?
>202 brodiew2: I'm not sure what his earlier stories are about. The first one of his I read was Pacific Glory and I can't recall why it got on my radar but I do remember seeing it at the library several years ago and picking it up because of a prior mention. I liked it well enough to read more. Deutermann gets a little acronym and slang heavy at times and the romantic interests in each of his books seem to be weak points as well. On the plus side you learn a lot of history.
>206 drneutron: There is a shark but the Commodore doesn't jump it. He's half dead on a floating pallet and the monster shark opens it's mouth to gulp it all down. So he whacks it on the nose and it goes away. and eats another guy in the water if I remember right.
Have you read the Murderbot stories, Ron? They're an awful lot of fun, and they're shorties, too.
>208 jnwelch: Have not tried them Joe. Our library copy is checked out and they do have the 2nd one on order. Short is good Joe! I don't know if you ever tried a book called the Automatic Detective but that was a rather entertaining robot story from a few years ago. In that one Max is a killer robot who suddenly turns over a new leaf when he gets self-determination.
Three linked novellas, the first of which won all sorts of awards and has appeared in many anthologies and collections. I've read the main story before. However, I never quite understood it and I had not read the three linked stories before.
52. The Fifth Head of Cerberus : three novellas by Gene Wolfe, finished August 17, 2018, 3 stars, kind of a minimum rating
These three stories are not an easy read. They are the strangest stories. You never quite know what is going on. There are a number of reviews here on LT and elsewhere who give in depth interpretations and reactions to this book, and do it far better than I could attempt. The title tale reminds me a little of an intricate story by Franz Kafka more than any other comparison I might give. Each story here is very different and you don't breeze through this as a quick read. A sort of a horror story in a puzzle book. This is very twisty and dark. I thought the first part the best.
53. The Daybreakers by Louis L'Amour, finished August 19, 2018, 3 stars
This is the first "Sackett" novel I have read in a long time and it turned out to be a re-read, and a quick one at that. But that is OK. The story is a good one, a story of two brothers who go west from the Tennessee hills to make something of themselves and find a home for "ma". By the end they are somewhere around Santa Fe. Really though it is the story of one Sackett, Tyrel, who tells us this story, which starts about 1867, as that year appears near the beginning. L'Amour lays things on a little too thick for me at times. And Tyrel seems to talk different than anyone else, with sight and mayhap being peculiar recurring affectations. "Two hundred dollars was a sight of money, those days, cash money being a shy thing." "Mayhap that was the moment when I changed from a boy into a man."
Tyrel is more honest than Abe Lincoln and he may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he seems to be able to avoid getting killed where most men would not. I like the overall story a lot, although the end is a little sad. I doubt westerns will ever be my 'go to' genre for entertainment, but they are fine for a read now and then.
ETA: Some readers think that "show don't tell" is very important to a good story. I sit on the fence on that issue - sometimes telling is fine and serves a purpose. This novel however, for me mind you, is an example of excess telling. Normally it doesn't bother me but here it did. For example, we are told told told things about Tye's brother Orrin and we see scant few examples of what we are told. Orrin many times comes across as something of a big galoof making poor choices and not someone predestined to become the governor of New Mexico or whatever. Although this is Tye's story and his telling, this big buildup and supposed predestination of Orrin results in some sad consequences.
>210 RBeffa: I loved that book--was wowed by it-- when I read it. Unfortunately, that was some 40 years ago (my copy is the 1976 paperback, bought new) and I don't remember anything else about it.
>213 ronincats: It is a wow book Roni - a real puzzle box of a story. I didn't know whether I should rate if 3, 4 or even 5 stars. I held it very high in my memory. I had only read the original novella before - not three stories and they very much build and explain parts of the puzzle. There is some real horror stuff buried in this though and it really creeped me out!
I can sure be late to a party. Twenty years ago my wife bought Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass to encourage our son's reading. He read it. My daughter read it. My wife read it. Did I read it? Of course not. I suspect I was put off a bit by her descriptions of it being sad but I never intended to ignore the book like I have. So even though this is considered a children's fantasy, I am reading it and finding it very good. I won't kick myself too hard.
54. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, finished August 24, 2018, unrated but around 3 - 3 1/2 stars
Hmmm. I think I'm too far removed from children's fantasy or young adult stuff to fairly evaluate this. On the other hand I have read enough young adult material this past decade, such as the Chaos Walking trilogy or The Giver quartet to know when something does or doesn't hit the mark with me. My daughter says she read this in 6th grade and it was too sad. My wife told me it was too sad. I remind myself that Grimm's fairy tales and many other things are dark and pretty creepy. This seems a bit too dark for what I would have wanted to read when I was 10-13. Plus I think a lot of the allegory in here would be lost on young people, although maybe I don't give pre-teens enough credit.
The story caught my interest at the start but I found the world here (an alternate earth) too odd for me to appreciate as an adult. The young heroine of the story never captured my interest. What did hold my interest, however, from the first moments we meet him in the middle part of the book, is the armored bear.
Overall I thought this an OK story.
I liked this book quite a bit but I do have some minor criticism that I probably won't be able to explain clearly. Watching the first season of "The Crown" nearly two years ago tickled an interest in learning more about Winston Churchill and this book got a lot of buzz on LT last year.
55. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard, finished August 30, 2018, about 3 - 3 1/2 stars
Millard starts the book off with a prologue, a teaser, about Churchill's escape from a POW camp. She leaves the reader wanting very much to find out what happens. But like a TV news story we don't get to that scene until 2/3 of the book is through.
Millard has written an easy to read history that satisfied two things for me - I've wanted to know more about the Boer's and the Boer War for some time, and I've wanted to learn more about Winston Churchill without plowing through William Manchester's massive biographies. I do have Manchester's first book on Churchill, The Last Lion, which I have browsed in the past and it includes this period of Churchill's life that Millard has gone over.
Much of the time I was reading this I had a finger held in the back of the book where extensive footnotes of the author's citations showed me the source of the narrative. This does mke the reading slower going then it otherwise might have been, but quicker I suppose when I wasn't too concerned about where the narrative was coming from. What became apparent to me rather quickly within the first 25-30 pages of Millard's book is that she seems to have completely bought into Churchill's stated beliefs that he was destined for greatness and through either an incredible amount of luck or some bizarre form of divine guidance he lived through events that many people did not and would not. He repeatedly and purposely put himself in mortal danger just to impress others so he would win fame and use that as a quick step into a political career. I kept wondering, since Churchill was clearly one with a massive ego, if he hadn't puffed things up a bit in his memoirs and letters to people. Perhaps other information does not exist to turn a critical eye on the words Churchil has left us in letters and memoirs, but I couldn't shake the feeling that some of this was an embellishment. One day if I get through Manchester's 1000 page first volume I may know better. Maybe not.
The book was structured to go along with Churchill's intense feelings of "destiny" and desire to become the hero of the empire. When the Boer War actually began Churchill did not go as a soldier as he had left the military. He went as a journalist as he had apparently already distinguished himself as a writer with talent. I found myself much more interested in the various characters of this story than I expected I would be. Millard clearly can tell a good tale weaving together much source material. The middle part during the imprisonment felt a little sluggish however.
So was I too convinced that Churchill was a hero of the empire like the hero hungry English peoples apparently were after? No, I rather quickly came to the conclusion reading Millard's narrative that Churchill was a warmonger hungry for glory via the death of others and the sort of aristocratic Imperialist that the world would have been better off without. His speechifying to incite the Boer war, even though the feelings may have been shared by others, was the sort of stuff that set into motion the series of modern wars that he would live through. I'm kind of glad that he lived until 1965 to see the decline and fall of his British empire. And I remember his death in my lifetime. I even bought the 5 cent stamp at the post office.
I was reminded of Rudyard Kipling's naive "patriotic" warmongering for the first World War in which he sent his young son off to glory and he was promptly killed barely six weeks after his 18th birthday. Not everyone is lucky.
I found this story very interesting and very much worth reading and I do not like young Churchill. After I was essentially finished reading I discovered a book had already been written on the subject by one of Churchill's descendants, a granddaughter, nearly 20 years ago and it sounds good: Churchill: Wanted Dead or Alive by Celia Sandys. The book is listed in Millard's Bibliography and cited in footnotes and gets a mention in her afterword as well.
Wrapped this up this morning.
56. A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt, finished September 9, 2018, 3 stars
This is a science fiction novel set more than 9,000 years in the future, but it is a mystery story at it's heart. It is an odd feeling reading this. It was published in 1989 and if you throw away the many bits of the near or far future like great AI's and immersive holograms and humans populating the galaxy, and much more, the society trappings and story feels more like the 1960's to the 90's. Seriously. This is like retro-future. Oddly, this isn't a bad thing. This future feels like one I could step into. But it is strange.
So Alex Benedict inherits a mystery when his uncle Gabe appears to have been lost when aboard an interstellar transport that has gone missing. I would have enjoyed this more if the plot had been a little less complicated. There were too many people and too many places to mentally keep track of who what when where and why. The big reveal was surprising. McDevitt really lets his imagination play with some of the worlds and museums visited and the interactive programs. Individual pieces of this I liked a lot. There was too much here that was a drag - a lot of future history that was meaningless. To top it off I can't think of a character in here that I cared all that much about except one of the historic figures in the story.
I've enjoyed other books by McDevitt more than this one so I will continue to read him. He's rather unique.
Change of pace novel for me that I think might go on my favorite reads of the year list
57. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond, finished September 12, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
This is a mystery story, but almost nothing like a typical whodunit, one in which a woman solves the mystery of her older sister's death nearly 20 years before. The older sister was a budding math genius attending Stanford. Both sister's lives became defined by the event and especially by a teacher of the younger sister who took advantage of her friendship to write a true crime story that named a fellow grad student as guilty of the murder - the book became a sensation and launched the author's career, as well as seeming to destroy the life of the grad student her sister had been working with. The author of the crime story is something of a sleazeball, not entirely evident at first. This is well told and I don't want to spoil anything by further descriptions but those who want to know more can read other reader's reviews.
I was initially drawn to this because it is set in San Francisco and around the greater Bay area. I really enjoyed this book, but I think the math geekiness was a bit overdone, as well as a few other expositions and too much time spent with the creepy ex-teacher. The author plays fair with the reader and there is a satisfying conclusion to this.
NN. Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold, did not finish September 13, 2018
After several chapters I put the book down. I wasn't enjoying this. First time that happened from a very reliable author.
58. Asimov's Science Fiction: Vol. 36, No. 3 (March 2012) stories by various authors, edited by Sheila Williams, finished Sept 17, 2018
I really liked the first story "The Way of the Needle" - it really caught me up. The story also won for best novelette in the annual Asimov's Readers awards. Also, Robert Silverberg's essay on the Canary Islands and the lost race that were the natives and much more was really top notch.
In addition to a number of book reviews, poems and various columns and essays there are 6 fiction stories: three novelettes, and 3 short stories. They are:
"The Way of the Needle" by Derek Künsken
"The Pass" by Benjamin Crowell
"Golva's Ascent" by Tom Purdom
"Nanny's Day" by Leah Cypess
"Mrs. Hatcher's Evaluation" by James Van Pelt
"Patagonia" by Joel Richards
59. Long Ride Home: Stories by Louis L'Amour, finished September 19, 2018, 2 1/2 - 3 stars
Eight shorter length stories, all entertaining. These kind of remind me of the type of stories that were staples of TV westerns. This is not high-brow literary stuff. It is entertainment. L'Amour, as I have noted before, seems to always have the good guy survive a gunfight that stretches belief and he also loves giving a blow by blow step by step accounting of a fistfight. I'm sure this appealed to his core readership many decades ago but are the least interesting parts of the story to me. I find these short stories more entertaining than the novels.
I thought I'd have a go at a Star Trek novel since they can be fun ... but they can also be awful. Tried two of them and deleted from my library and sent them straight to the giveaway box. Dreadnought by Diane Carey was just awful.
Awww, too bad they were so bad. Have a good weekend and good luck with the next choice.
>225 mstrust: Thanks for the note Jen. I hate when I start a book that looks promising but suddenly it is apparent that it isn't. I asked for it in a way. I have a small box of about 2 dozen Star Trek novels that I mostly picked up at a library sale a few years ago. I've found some good ones in it as well as a couple mediocre ones. I was bound to have a loser or two. I've started to plug away at a rather large sci fi anthology of nearly 30 stories. I'll have to choose a novel to read to break it up.
Time for the 3rd quarter wrap-up. I'm working on a very large anthology at the moment that is going to keep me busy for a while longer. I may switch to a novel to break it up. Been busy with end of summer/Fall chores and stuff and my reading time has been suffering. I hate these shorter days. Need to head off to the Saturday Farmer's market in a short bit as well.
So, 23 books read this quarter which brings my total to 59. The new books read really aren't going to change my favorite books of the year list much, but here is the revised list roughly in order.
1. The Terror by Dan Simmons
2. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
3. Love and Summer by William Trevor
4. Ishmael by Barbara Hambly (A very fun and excellent Star Trek novel)
5. Silesian Station by David Downing
6. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
7. Potsdam Station by David Downing
8. Stettin Station by David Downing
9. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
10. Black Diamond by Martin Walker
1. Modern Classics of Fantasy - various authors, edited by Gardner Dozois
2. The Saturday Evening Post Reader of Fantasy & Science Fiction by various authors
3. The Year's Best Science Fiction: Nineteenth Annual Collection (Year's Best for 2001) various authors, edited by Gardner Dozois
1. Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
1. Forbidden City U.S.A. : Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1970 by Arthur Dong
2. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard
My favorite reads/re-reads of the quarter were No One You Know by Michelle Richmond (my wife is reading this now and finding it a little too creepy. I know I know but keep reading I say. Also, Black Diamond by Martin Walker and I hope to read the next book in that series very soon. Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett was a most excellent re-read. Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard makes it onto my non-fiction list. Plus some good anthologies I read.
Finally started a novel that kept my interest. Guess I was in a fussy mood. Picked it up Saturday at the library and started reading it yesterday evening. This isn't for everyday reading but for people who like some science in their science fiction. It does have a bit of a young adult feel but also what seems to be a very original idea regarding space travel. I hope it doesn't fail me! Roughly 50 pages in last night. It is Lockstep by Karl Schroeder. Have not read one of his novels before but have read a short story or two by him.
>229 brodiew2: Dreadnaught just did not work for me Brodie. At first I was rather intrigued - "This is the Kabayashi Maru" I thought, and I was surprisingly right - but then the lead character whose name I have already forgotten starts fussing with her hair and regretting that she hadn't gotten a haircut before going off on the mission and I'm thinking what the hay is this ... anyway I rather quickly and seriously lost interest in it - the writing and characterization seemed very weak. Thirty years ago when it came out I might not have thought that but that was how it hit me now.
And I have now realized it is October. Which means Ray Bradbury - so I have to pull out a book or two of Bradbury to read this month. That should be fun.
>230 RBeffa: I was either a teen or an early 20-something when I read it so, the hair flips probably didn't other me at the time. no worries! on with the show.
You are on track to hit the 75 book mark without much difficulty, Ron!
A Talent for War was my first McDevitt and is my favorite--everything else has seemed basically a rehash of that plot. But I've only tried 3 others. Sorry you didn't get into Ethan of Athos--there are some great moments later in the story, but it is a diversion from the main sequence.
>232 ronincats: I think Time Travellers Never Die is my favorite by Jack McDevitt as well as his short stories. I think McDevitt uses the same retro future approach from Talent in his other books - -I took a look at a later book in the Talent for War series and it didn't look like anything "new." I still have Ethan in the omnibus if I want to try him again later.
>229 brodiew2: I'm enjoying Lockstep tho have not made a lot of progress - maybe a third or a bit more done. This is def a young adult book - not that that is a bad thing - and to a certain extent it reminds me a lot of Heinlein's "juveniles" that I enjoyed, but with the science and tech amped up a bit. The writing and storytelling however hits me as a little uneven. I mention it because I notice it. Still, I'm pretty intrigued with the whole concept in the book even if it is rather outlandish - I'm not going to be spoilery. This should come out as a pretty decent work - I don't sense any massive fail on the horizon!
This one was both a young adult feeling novel as well as something approaching a "hard" science fictional novel. It reminded me of the stories from Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein's early years - adventure stories that I enjoyed so much when I was younger.
I finished up the last 25 or so pages this morning. I was worried that there were too many loose threads without resolve but the author did a good job with the endgame.
60. Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, finished October 6, 2018, 3 1/2+ stars
This proved to be a satisfying read. It seems to have all the elements of a young adult adventure story with just enough extra to make it a satisfying read for me as an adult and "I want to know what happens next" sort of story. There are some politics going on, mostly hidden but driving things, but a lot of imaginative tech stuff as well as critters that are like a cross between a cat and a river otter with something extra (of course!). The story takes a while to get going .. I was a tad frustrated with what felt like an artificial withholding of info from the young protagonist Toby as well as the reader, and pretty slow going for most of the first third of the novel, but there was a lot of background to get laid down before the story could really take off. I can't say I exactly understood everything but I got a better feel for things as the story played out and more was revealed and I think I can recommend this story for those who want some adventure science fiction.
There are really some interesting science fictional ideas in here. You have probably noticed I really haven't said anything regarding what the story is actually about. Truthfully I'd have a hard time accurately describing it but you can get general ideas from other reviews on the site.
I'll keep my eye out for more from Karl Schroeder.
I guess I can't read and enjoy Stephen King much anymore. Too dark and nasty for me. I was very surprised to discover when I had finished it that it had been made into a full length Netflix movie last year. I don't know that I'd watch it.
61. 1922 a novella from Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King, finished October 7, 2018, 3 stars
Wilf and his wife disagree on what to do with the land she has inherited. Wilf wants them to farm it with the land they already own. Arlette wants to sell everything and move to Omaha. 14 year old son Henry is becoming sweet on farm girl Shannon down the road. Wilf gives us a confession of how he recruited his son to help murder Arlette. Nothing good can come of this of course. The story is told very well, but it is very dark at the start and along the way. This is too dark for me to enjoy.
>236 ronincats: I friend passed on to me a rather well-worn copy of Schroeder's Sun of Suns which seems to be the first part of a series. I'll find out then if he is someone I need to pay more attention to. Meanwhile, ...
In October I try to read or re-read Ray Bradbury. I have probably read this before, long ago. I've certainly read some of the stories elsewhere.
62. A Medicine for Melancholy by Ray Bradbury, finished October 11, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
This collection, first published in 1959 collects stories published in a variety of publications between 1948 and 1959 as well as many stories original to this collection, such as the title story. It is one of many collections of Bradbury's short fiction. Quite a few, probably most of these stories, are simply stories - neither science fiction not fantasy.
There are several true gems by Bradbury in here, such as"The Smile" and "Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed" which a friend of mine summaries as "The colonizers colonized. The quiet, patient persistence of indigenous culture. The power of place.". This same friend tells me she read this in 8th grade and was immediately under the spell of it. I remember my daughter's middle school English text had a selection of Bradbury stories in it which quite pleased me. Me being me I of course had already introduced her to Bradbury's stories via audiotapes from our library that were read by Bradbury, including at least one that appears in this collection.
With 22 stories there is pretty much something for everyone, even though a few are lesser creations among the great ones. The opening story about a man and Picasso on a beach captured me immediately.
•1 • In a Season of Calm Weather • (1957)
•7 • The Dragon • (1955)
•11 • A Medicine for Melancholy • (1959)
•21 • The End of the Beginning • (1956) (orig title: Next Stop: The Stars)
•27 • The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit • (1958) (Orig title: The Magic White Suit in the Saturday Evening Post)
•51 • Fever Dream • (1948) • (aka Night Lights)
•59 • The Marriage Mender • (1954)
•64 • The Town Where No One Got Off • (1958)
•73 • A Scent of Sarsaparilla • (1953)
•80 • Icarus Montgolfier Wright • (1956)
•85 • The Headpiece • (1958) •
•95 • Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed • (1949) (orig title: The Naming of Names)
•110 • The Smile • The Time Vault • (1952)
•116 • The First Night of Lent • (1956)
•124 • The Time of Going Away • (1956)
•131 • All Summer in a Day • (1954)
•138 • The Gift • (1952) •
•141 • The Great Collision of Monday Last • (1958) (orig title: Collision of Monday)
•148 • The Little Mice • (1955)
•154 • The Sunset Harp • (1959)
•164 • The Strawberry Window • (1955)
•173 • The Day It Rained Forever • (1957)
>236 ronincats: AND shortly after writing that, what do I see at Tor.com?
>238 ronincats: Well thank you Roni. I learned a bit more about the guy. He certainly has an imagination for the future.
I've been slowly reading through two very large books and my attention span must be weak lately as I then began a third on the early history of Ireland (a two parter that spans about 1700 pages - yikes). So what arrives, Haruki Murakami's latest Killing Commendatore. I take a look and just reading the first few pages it is sooo Murakami I can't help myself, I have to read it now and set aside the three doorstoppers I should be reading in favor of this new monster sized book (681 pages)! And I have to read this slowly to absorb it and figure out what I'm getting in to.
So let me say for now, I hated the title before I ever saw the book. It happens to be the title of a painting in the book, but the title itself makes me want to barf. I can only think of the Bill O'Reilly scumbug and his series of coauthored make me lotsa more money books ... Killing Reagan, Killing Jesus, Killing Patton, Killing Kennedy, Why Don't I kill myself, killing everybody books. I so wish this book had a different title. But that's me.
>240 RBeffa: I'm with you on the O'Reilly books. In fact, I picked something up in the bookstore the other day that looked very interesting (don't remember now what it was), but there was a blurb by O'Reilly praising it, so I just put it back on the shelf. It might be just great, but now it's tainted.
>242 m.belljackson: You're welcome!
>25 RBeffa: At the start of the year I re-read 'The Man In The High Castle'. About a week ago I started watching the Amazon series adaptation. I've just begun episode 8 and I am finding the show to be surprisingly good. The story has been greatly expanded but I still see poignant moments from the book appearing on the screen. There is a tremendous amount of new stuff as well. The book managed to capture what an Axis occupation of America might be like and the series is doing an excellent (and chilling) job of also capturing that spookiness.
>240 RBeffa: I'm not whole hog on O'Reilly's books, but I have enjoyed a couple of them on audio. I look forward to his new one, Killing the SS. I know they are part of the trend of popular histories, but I've it hasn't truck me as revisionist or anything like that.
>243 RBeffa: I am glad to hear this, Ron. I've struggled reading the book, but I'll be looking for this on dvd soon.
>244 brodiew2: I finished Season 1 late last night. I'm pretty impressed and will start on season 2 soon I am sure. I don't know if Amazon releases their series on DVD. I think the film enhances the book even though it has differences
We went on a trip, so I had to leave off on reading Killing Commendatore halfway through - it was too big to travel with. I'm glad to be getting back to it. I love his deadpan handling of exceptionally weird developments.
>246 jnwelch: Joe, I think you picked just the right word, "deadpan". When I try to explain Murakami's style to someone I usually say something like "an odd matter of fact style". But deadpan hits me as more precise. This matter of fact deadpan style that Murakami uses is i think a big part of the draw for me. I'm enjoying the book but I still have a very long way to go. having the book here feels like a big present to me.
Ron--I think I might enjoy The Man In The High Castle better on TV--glad you are enjoying it so much. Thanks for the hint. : )
>248 Berly: Hi Kim. I've watched the first two episodes of season 2 of man In the High Castle. Developing new things. I don't think there is anything left from the book to include and the divergence by the end of season one was pretty strong. It is looking to me like we have parallel worlds bumping against each other. If it helps, the I Ching stuff which was quite heavy in the book is downplayed in the TV series but is still an element of a primary Japanese character - the Trade Minister - who is one of the good guys among many not good guys. I'd certainly give the show a try.
ETA: Season 2 is now looking like a letdown from season one.
I think anyone reading Haruki Murakami needs to play BINGO. https://static01.nyt.com/images/2012/06/03/books/review/Snider-sub/Snider-sub-custom1.jpg Murakami's latest, Killing Commendatore seems full of familiar things rearranged in a slightly new way. I'm nearing the halfway point. I'm withholding judgement to the end but this seems to be really stretched out.
>250 RBeffa: You're not alone in having that reaction, Ron, from what I've seen. I didn't have it; I enjoyed the trip. I gave it a short review over on my thread. I don't think there are any spoilers in it.
>251 jnwelch: I see that you really liked it Joe. It is not connecting with me. It really feels drawn out and meandering and perhaps worst of all repetitive. The recycling of prior elements doesn't bother me - it is oddly entertaining - but the repetition within the story itself and to me poor storytelling is not making me love this. Feels like intense navel gazing and for me, pretty weak Murakami. There's also the weird sex bits. I've got maybe 30 pages to go on book one and I hope to get to it tonight. I am probably going to stop there. I have another week left on the library and I won't be able to renew this so I'll just see about powering through the second part or not.
Jeesh, too bad, Ron. It's like you've been reading a different book than I did. I didn't get a feeling of repetition at all, except for the breast fixation.
>253 jnwelch: We have certainly had different reactions to this Joe.
Have not been doing much book reading this month. But I sat down this morning with coffee, and restarted on pg 291, chapter 27, "Even Though You Remember Exactly What It Looked Like".
63. Killing Commendatore: A novel by Haruki Murakami, "finished" October 31, 2018, 2 - 2 1/2 stars
This novel was originally published in 2 books in Japan and consolidated in one book for the United States release this month. I had been looking forward to this. Reactions to the book have been mixed but generally pretty positive. My reaction was not pretty positive.
I tend to read Murakami's stories rather slowly and critically. I expect a lot from him. I enjoy his frequent references to music and on occasion seek out a particular piece mentioned. Our nameless protagonist here did not engage me and the bland prose was rather bothersome also. The story kept feeling like it had lost focus and felt extremely drawn out, taking three pages to go somewhere that three sentences would have accomplished nicely (and better). Supernatural elements are not unknown in Murakami's works but here they literally jump out of a painting and our nameless narrator just goes with the flow.
I've decided to stop at the end of book one after reading just a few pages into part two. Maybe, just maybe I'll read on, or continue it another time. I've commented above with some of my frustration but there are other elements that I don't feel like elaborating. To be fair, I thought the story was improving a bit by the end of the first book (although the creepy sex commentary was on a sudden uptick), but the author's meandering drawn out storytelling here still left me little faith.
I've looked around at some of the major news sites with reviews of the book and I think the one most in sync with my feelings is from the New York Times, which ends with this: “Killing Commendatore” is a baggy monster, a disappointment from a writer who has made much better work. As the narrator says, awkwardly, about one of his minor supernatural experiences: “That might have just been a piece of a fragmentary dream.”
The full review can be found at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/books/review/haruki-murakami-killing-commendatore.html
Oh, maybe I'm just being too picky ...
ETA: I have decided to push on to book two. I must say that the author's propensity to evaluate every female in virtually any scene they appear in by their breast size (even if they are 12 years old) is more than creepy and really detracts from my enjoyment of the book.
63 a.Killing Commendatore: A novel by Haruki Murakami, finished November 2, 2018, 3 stars
I hate not finishing a book I have spent a lot of time on, so I doubled down and spent a lot of time the last two days and this morning to read part two of Murakami's new novel. I'm raising my rating to an average 3 stars, although I still think this is weak for Murakami. This book began with an intriguing prologue and it took 560something pages to get to a scene connected to that prologue. By the time we get to the last page Murakami has managed to fit some of the many pieces of this puzzle together, and I actually found the end satisfying. Still, all my "complaints" above still feel valid to me and I think the sloppy storyteling here is on the weak side.
>255 RBeffa: With a tip of my hat to page 610 of Killing Commendatore I pulled out an old album and put it on the turntable. It's Independence Day.
from pgs 609-610 of "Killing Commendatore" by Haruki Murakami: I put Bruce Springsteen's The River on the turntable. Then I lay on the sofa, closed my eyes and listened. When the A side of the first LP had finished, I turned it over and listened to the B side. Albums like The River have to be heard in this fashion. After "Independence Day" wraps up the A side, you take the record in both hands, turn it over, and carefully lower the stylus. "Hungry Heart" fills the room. What was the point of listening to The River any other way? In my personal opinion, when CDs strung together the sides of records like The River, they spoiled the experience. The same was true of Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds. Great music should be presented in its proper form. And listened in a proper manner.
I think this one may sneak onto my best reads of the year list
64. Train Dreams: A Novella by Denis Johnson, finished November 4, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
A very good to excellent short novel / novella about the life of a man on the Idaho and Washington side of the B.C. / Idaho border and the life he led doing what was needed to get by and what he lost in the process. A real immersive experience reading this, told to us in snapshot scenes. A very powerful story.
>63 brodiew2: Well, I love Murakami, so I think I am just going to have to read this one and judge for myself! LOL You get points for finishing what you started. ; )
>258 Berly: Kim, I think every Murakami fan should read it. I found it to be very sloppy Murakami, but Joe just loves it. I began it with great enthusiasm. I think the middle to the end of the book is the better part, but Murakami also ups his creepy comments about breasts and nipples (and other parts) which does get annoying in this book. Which is fine if you want to read about the most amazing vagina the world has ever known. Many of the conversations in the book are amateurish and I know Murakami can do a much better job with a book.
The first two Murakami books I read (in 2010) were Norwegian Wood and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (although I think I may have not actually finished WindUp due to life craziness unrelated to the book). Anyway, I pretty much know how good the author can be and I subconsciously hold other books of his to that standard. I've really enjoyed his short stories. Kafka I had trouble with because of some of the subject matter you may recall, but I still admired the book a lot and it has stayed strong in my memory since the group read.
The published reviews on this are pretty mixed.
I read this one spread out over a couple of months
65. The Science Fiction Century, Volume One edited by Davis G Hartwell, finished November 6, 2018, 3 - 3 1/2 stars
This is a very big science fiction anthology, the first of two parts. There are 27 stories in Volume One. The editor writes a somewhat meandering introduction and doesn't fully explain the motives behind this collection. One might think it is meant to document the history or progress of science fiction writing through the 20th century, but that is not the stated intent. The intent seems to supplement a number of other anthologies the editor had compiled in the 1980s-1990s. He had highlighted all the famous authors in the other collections and here he wanted to include many of the lesser famous but still, to his mind, noteworthy authors.
I had read perhaps 6 or 7 of these stories before, some fairly recently such as the Jack London and Mildred Clingerman and in particular James Blish's excellent "A Work of Art" and I didn't mind revisiting them. The editor provides a very good introduction to each author and story and I always appreciate that. There is no claim that these are the best stories of the century or anything similar. There are a couple of relatively famous stories in here but I doubt that more than a few could make any science fiction list of 100 best science fiction stories of the 20th century. There are also a number of obscure stories here. So this collection comes across as somewhat odd. A mixture of some very good stories with a few that make you wonder just why they were included and a few I could call just plain weak. Some of this is pretty mediocre. For example, there is a novella from H.G. Wells, "A Story of the Days to Come". The editor states he is the Shakespeare of science fiction. This story however, even though written during his prime period of classic works, is a pretty bland story - it has some interesting things in it but piddles off to an unsatisfactory end. As the title states, it is a story of days to come, two centuries in the future London. I had never heard of it before and I suspect most people would not have. Which is probably why the editor included it. On the other hand, I compared this to E. M. Forster's remarkable story from 1909 "The Machine Stops" which appears a few stories later in the collection. This tale of a dystopian future is quite remarkable and I was quite caught up in it and the sad fate of mankind with a life almost completely controlled by a machine. I knew I had read this long ago but could not remember it so I appreciated having it here to experience it anew.
There's a Pulitzer Prize winning author in here, Michael Shaara famous for his Gettysburg novel "The Killer Angels, here with "2066: Election Day" from 1956. Also, having Hal Clement with "Hot Planet" a science heavy story of the exploration of Mercury is pretty good! Overall I did appreciate this collection as I read stories I was very unlikely to encounter elsewhere and really appreciated several of the stories in here. The weak material only lets me give no better than an average grade for an anthology. There is a second volume which I will get to one day ...
11 • Introduction (1997) • essay by David G. Hartwell
15 • Beam Us Home (1969) • short story by James Tiptree, Jr.
25 • Ministering Angels (1955) • short story by C. S. Lewis
33 • The Music Master of Babylon (1954) • novelette by Edgar Pangborn
51 • A Story of the Days to Come (1899) • novella by H. G. Wells
106 • Hot Planet (1963) • short story by Hal Clement
121 • A Work of Art (1956) • novelette by James Blish
133 • The Machine Stops (1909) • novelette by E. M. Forster
155 • Brightness Falls from the Air (1951) • short story by Margaret St. Clair
160 • 2066: Election Day • (1956) short story by Michael Shaara
171 • The Rose (1953) • novella by Charles L. Harness
226 • The Hounds of Tindalos (1929) • short story by Frank Belknap Long
236 • The Angel of Violence • shortstory by Adam Wisniewski-Snerg (trans. of Aniol przemocy 1978)
245 • Nobody Bothers Gus • (1955) • short story by Algis Budrys
255 • The Time Machine • (1997) • short story by Dino Buzzati (trans. of La macchina che fermera il tempo 1952)
259 • Mother • (1953) • novelette by Philip José Farmer
279 • As Easy as A.B.C. • (1912) • novelette by Rudyard Kipling
298 • Ginungagap • (1980) • novelette by Michael Swanwick
321 • Minister Without Portfolio • (1952) • short story by Mildred Clingerman
327 • Time in Advance (1956) • novelette by William Tenn
346 • Good Night, Sophie (1973) • novelette by Lino Aldani (trans. of Buonanotte Sofia 1963)
363 • Veritas • (1987) novelette by James Morrow
376 • Enchanted Village (1950) • short story by A. E. van Vogt
387 • The King and the Dollmaker • (1970) • novella by Wolfgang Jeschke (trans. of Der König und der Puppenmacher 1961)
429 • Fire Watch • (1982) • novelette by Connie Willis
456 • Goat Song • (1972) novelette by Poul Anderson
480 • The Scarlet Plague (1912) • novella by Jack London
Today was $5 for a bag of books at the Friends of the Library sale. I think I skipped the last one as I have been trying very hard not to buy too many books this year and work off of what I have. There are a couple of authors that I was looking for however and I was happy to find them. Went with my wife and sister in law. My wife and I did one bag between us. She got about half a dozen paperbacks and a big ravensburger puzzle. I got:
Shannon : a novel by Frank Delaney
The winter king : a novel of Arthur by Bernard Cornwell
Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! by Kenzaburo Oe
Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe
America America : a novel by Ethan Canin
Inversions by Iain Banks
Carry me across the water : a novel by Ethan Canin
Summer of '42 by Herman Raucher
Zoli: A Novel by Colum McCann
The Last Storyteller: A Novel of Ireland by Frank Delaney
Last Bus to Wisdom: A Novel (Two Medicine Country) by Ivan Doig
Ark Storm by Linda Davies
Also for my daughter, several dvd's and
The Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon
Colum McCann is one of next month's Irish challenge authors. I'm reading my first novel by him at the moment and liking it enough to get another.
By chance I saw this one at the library and noting it was an author for the Irish challenge this year, went for it. It turned out to be one of my favorite reads of this year. It also turned out to be a wonderful companion (in an odd way) to a book I am slowly reading on the early history of Dublin and Ireland.
66. TransAtlantic: A Novel by Colum McCann, finished November 12, 2018, 4 1/2 stars
I will readily confess that the choppy writing style put me off when I began the book. I briefly entertained thoughts of just putting it aside and moving on, but the bit of story intrigued me. I'm glad I continued. The story is a bunch of little pieces, some of which interested me more than others, but which overall are very well done and greatly captured my interest. Initially I was caught up in the first story of the first tranatlantic crossing by air in 1919 of Alcock and Brown from Newfoundland to Ireland. And then the story jumps back in time quite a few years. It goes back, to Frederick Douglass and an extended trip to Ireland in 1845-46. This "middle section" of the first part of the book is extraordinary and we witness his growth and transformation as well as his arrival at the time of the beginning of the great famine of Ireland in 1845.
Then begins the third part of the book dealing with US Senator George Mitchell and it filled me in on a man and the peace accords in our times (20 years past now), but just a little. And, for whatever reason, just not as inspiring. It did seem a bit overlong and drawn out compared to the rest of the book, but that part of the story which would seem to have a lot to work with just didn't impress. Once the Mitchell part began we could see the start of the thread that would bind this together. The book continues from the three initial pieces and delivered a well done story although some parts were more than a little painful to read. Overall I really liked this.
This isn't a conventional novel. Recommended.
I hate to say Brodie that it is not good in California right now. Worst wildfires in CA history and I fear that a dear friend's house in Paradise is lost. The air across the state is barely breathable at times. One of our dear pets has just been diagnosed with cancer and is having surgery this afternoon. So not so great but life goes on. Here's the view from my back fence last night:
I was recreating Action Comics #300
>264 RBeffa: Wow, Ron. I'm so sorry to hear that your friend's home was lost. I work in the timeshare business in escalated issues and we have resorts throughout CA and every years this happens. Stay safe, my friend.
>264 RBeffa: That situation is very frightening...already tragic, and no end in sight. I second Brodie's wish that you and yours (including your furry darlin's) stay safe.
>265 brodiew2: >266 laytonwoman3rd: We are far from the fires so we are safe that way, but the air patterns apparently funnel the smoke to us and make the air very unhealthy to breathe. Thank you for the good thoughts. California needs them. Our kitty made it through the surgery fine and now it will be recovery time.
Great to hear Good News about your cat!
California is getting hit hard recently in too many ways.
We have Family in both Berkeley and Oakland - one couple has already decided to return to Wisconsin in May.
Hope the air clears very soon.
Taking a page out of Jeff's book, and visiting some of the busiest threads to say:
The first and nearly final cut has been made for the 2019 American Authors Challenge, so if you're interested, pop over to the discussion thread and help choose the last couple names for next year.
>268 m.belljackson: The unhealthy air is forecast through Friday so far. It was clearer today but it still smells bad and you don't want to be out in it. The problem imo in California is that too many people have come to California and people thus live where they shouldn't, and the huge demand on the land for the population for more food and more living space hugely impacts the ecological balance. Add in climate change with years of droughts and some years of floods (some of which is historically normal in any case) and we are just going to continue to have problems. The population of California has tripled since I was born, and yet earlier this year the San Fran Chronicle reported that the California birthrate which has been steadily falling (as has the national) hit a 100 year low. My generation the last I read had a 1.9 child per couple replacement rate. That should have kept us at zero population growth and maybe just maybe we could have avoided the population bomb. But there are too many people being born everywhere, and people live a little longer. I don't see the problems here getting better since one is branded for suggesting limits on immigration. The idea of no growth just doesn't seem to be the mantra of business anywhere. My 3rd great-grandfather came to California in the 1840's so my roots run deep, but who knows I could pick up and move a little north. It seems there are troubles of one sort or another just about everywhere.
Our girl kitty had a cancerous growth beside her knee and the vet determined that the safest thing to do for her was to remove her entire left rear leg rather than just a part which is what I thought was going to happen. It is pretty sad, but as I said she went through the surgery fine. She will have a recovery period of a month or so. Then life as a tripod.
>269 laytonwoman3rd: I left a note on the thread Linda as I'm sure you will have seen. I've been light on the author challenges this year as I continue to focus on books on my shelf, so I will dip in to the AAC next year but not go full blast (only tried that one year!). And that made me think of how I have done so far this year. looking at my tally at >2 RBeffa:, of the 66 books read this year, 11 were library books, 4 were newly acquired, and that means the rest, 51 of them were off the shelf. If only I can read a few more off the shelf. I found my copy of Haruf's Benediction that I picked up early this year (hadn't even added it in to the catalog, which happens sometimes). I've wanted to read this since finishing Eventide as my first read in January and that will finish up the Plainsong trilogy. I'll start reading it any day here. I have a library book here which may go back unread, but otherwise I hope to focus purely on books off the shelf for the rest of the year and hopefully get to my 75.
I set myself a goal of reading 50 books off my shelf this year. I figured that would be about half of my total books read in 2018. I think if I'm to make it, I must read nothing but my own stuff for the rest of the year, and it will be a near thing at that. I hope you'll drop in on the AAC from time to time, even if you're not reading along.
>271 laytonwoman3rd: I'm looking forward to following along.
Just finished the third novel in the Plainsong series although this is really apart from the first two. Set in the same fictional town of Holt, CO.
67. Benediction by Kent Haruf, finished November 15, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
Ostensibly this is a story about Dad Lewis, a 77 year old man who still works and runs his Hardware store. He has just been given a terminal cancer diagnosis with a short time to live. This is actually a lot of little stories which are pretty much about sadness, sadness, more sadness, loneliness, unfulfilled dreams, disappointment and growing old. There are a very few brighter spots in the story, but they are brief moments. Unlike his other novels I didn't take a particular interest in the characters or their lives with the exception of Reverend Lyle, who was a fish out of water in rural Colorado.
Like his other books, Haruf ignores conventional punctuation for dialogue which for the most part is not a problem once you get used to it. However, there are a few times where it is difficult to discern who is speaking or if the sentence is dialogue, a thought or a statement. Even upon repeated re-reading. Only a minor annoyance but one I thought I would mention. A larger bother for me was how the novel ends. It is unfinished and many things are left unresolved. The drama at the end was a diversion from what the author should have worked on. Dad Lewis's life was finished but I was left wondering what the point of this all was. Of the five Haruf novels I have read this seems the weakest.
68. All Systems Red by Martha Wells, finished November 18, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
Martha Wells has taken one of the oldest and most used themes in science fiction, the "exploration team", and given it a new life for younger readers (and older ones too). Exploration team stories have been some of my favorites across the years and this one did not disappoint. A mystery and a shy murderbot with a heart. This is the first of four stories and I am certainly going to read on. "Love this" is probably not true, so how about really really liked.
69. Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, finished November 19, 2018, 3 1/2+ stars
The story of the Murderbot from "All Systems Red" continues in this 2nd of four novellas. The story picks up at a point just shortly after the first book ended. Murderbot has gone rogue (moreso than before) and is in search of the truth about an event from his past. This story didn't catch my interest quite like the first in the series, but the story is still good enough and I came to really like the odd friendship that develops between Murderbot and the sentient AI (ART) who pilots a huge transport/research vessel. Mysteries still abound. So does the offbeat humor. I can't wait to read the next novella.
funny how the brain works, as I'm trying to read other things (by authors I really really like) and all I can do is think about Murderbot. I think any minute I must stop and read the next book in Martha Wells series. I have all 4 on the nook so nothing is stopping me from #3 ...
I see rain is finally in the forecast and I hope it puts the fires out and the air clears and you can breathe again. I am sorry that your friend lost his home, as I know so many others did, too. I hope the surgery does its trick for your kitty. Hang in there, Ron. Hugs.
>276 Berly: Rain finally here this morning - actual big drops of steady rain. So needed. It is really clearing the air which remained crap for 14 straight days. So happy for it.
Kitty is doing better than I expected. She got the knack of walking on 3 legs in just a couple days. Some days like today the pain for her is worse. Most days it is manageable, but she is healing very well. She'll have to go back on a fentanyl patch I think. Fingers crossed that his all works out.
Thanks for the good wishes Kim.
70. Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, finished November 22, 2018, 3+ stars
The story of the Murderbot from "All Systems Red" continues in this 3rd of four novellas. I like the main character a lot, but the schtick is getting a little worn and murderbot is getting a little marysueish with his abilities to hack into anything and control every system across the star systems and cultures. Didn't think this was as good as the earlier entries but I am definitely looking forward to the next book.
I have the first waiting at the library for pickup. I’m looking forward to it!
I had started this before I took the side trip with the Murderbot stories. I had neglected to put a hold on the newest 4th Murderbot book and so I'll have to wait a short bit for the paper or ebook.
71. House of the sleeping beauties and other stories by Yasunari Kawabata, finished November 24, 2018, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
This book contains the title novella and two shorter stories. This is the fifth book I have read by Kawabata and it is also the first one I was rather disturbed by. The central idea of the main story is pretty creepy and weird. Each of the three stories is odd frankly, but they are very well written as have the prior books I have read by the author. I like them because they give me an insight into a different way of seeing and living in the world. There are intricate details and descriptions that create vivid pictures in the reader's mind. But the obsession and creepiness of characters and behavior in this resulted in my lack of full appreciation. Many readers rate this higher than I do.
The man in Sleeping Beauties, Eguchi, thinking himself very old at 67, reflects back on events in his life, good and bad, but he dwells on a young love lost, and has nightmares that blur reality. A friend knowing how lonely Eguchi is suggests he try this secret house that is like a brothel but not where one can sleep with young virgins (and they stay that way - no hanky panky at all is allowed). The man is rather bothered when he does go and visit the house and would probably never have returned. However the "Madam" gives Eguchi a call a couple weeks later and asks him if he would like to come again. Against his better judgement he acquiesces to her insistent invitation. He then becomes rather obsessed with the place. And so the story proceeds.
It is a coincidence that I read this at the same time as Kent Haruf's Benediction. Both books deal with the sadness of old age and grasping at the remnants of life after loss. The book was made into a film a decade ago but I never saw it. I'm tempted to watch it now and see how true to the story it is. Somehow I doubt it.
The two additional short stories (22 pgs each) included are "One Arm" and "Of Birds and Beasts." "One Arm" dates to 1964 and is surreal in a manner that has become very familiar to readers of Haruki Murakami. If someone had told me this was written by Murakami I would believe it. It even has that slight bit of breast obsession with lines like this: 'Her breasts would not be large. Shy, only large enough to cup in the hands, they would have a clinging softness and strength.' Still, this is clearly Kawabata but with an edge like the other stories in this book, and possibly even more surreal than Murakami. The story is truly bizarre, but then, there was a fair amount of that in '60's Japanese Literature. "Of Birds and Beasts" is a disturbing tale of a 40 y.o. man who dislikes people, esp other men, and instead surrounds himself with birds and dogs and sometimes fish. Some of these animals do not have a pleasant fate.
I'd recommend this to those who enjoy Japanese literature and perhaps Murakami fans in particular.
>282 Berly: I wouldn't recommend Sleeping Beauties as your first Kawabata, Kim. Not at all. He's written some lovely books. Sleeping Beauties is positively creepy. The 'One Arm' short story just felt like it could be a strange episode in a Murakami novel that drifted a bit too far into magical realism. These Japanese guys seem to really have a breast fixation, not that there's anything wrong with that ...
Go Murderbot! I was just like you, Ron. Irresistible, they are. Can't wait for a new one to come out.
>284 jnwelch: I am looking forward to the next one Joe! Meanwhile ...
72. Penric's Demon: Penric & Desdemona Book 1 by Lois McMaster Bujold, finished December 3, 2018, 3 1/2 stars
A pleasurable first entry in a fantasy series where we more or less meet Penric and the demon who unexpectedly jumps into his body. Penric names her Desdemona. I'll be reading future entries in the series sooner rather than later. An assortment of characters add color to this.
Murderbot and Penric! Not too many similarities there except that both are novella series and both are a lot of fun!
>286 ronincats: pretty darn different. Penric has been on my radar for a while but I was spurred by several of the novellas showing up on the new books shelf at the library. I could only ignore them so long. Honestly I have gotten tired of medieval-like settings for so much fantasy, but like The Thief of Eddis series the good ones can still entertain.
73. Analog Science Fiction and Fact; Vol. CXXXIV, No. 5 (May 2014) edited by Trevor Quachri, finished December 8, 2018, 2 1/2 - 3 stars
I have not read many recent issues of Analog Magazine and this is perhaps only the 2nd or 3rd one I have read by newish editor Trevor Quachri who has helmed the magazine for about 5 1/2 years now. I picked this one out of a friend's collection because it had a science fact article on a recent novel I read, Lockstep, by Karl Schroeder. I'm afraid I was a little disappointed by it since the author does a good explanation within the novel (although very slowly revealed) and there wasn't much added here to explain it - more really of why he had the idea in the first place.
In addition to a variety of editorials and columns there were 7 fiction stories included. They were varied and each of these stories was at least "OK". A few of the stories were a little weak in the telling. There were some interesting discussions on a variety of topics in the letters column as well as other pieces. Overall I'll give this an OK to good rating.
Not much of a review here - more a memory.
74. Kappa by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, finished December 12, 2018, 3+ stars
Wanting to read more Japanese literature I selected this book from my unread shelf. I've had this for an extraordinary long time - got it as an import at Stacey's books in San Francisco one December. That bookstore was one of the great ones and like so many great ones it got washed away by the changes in the world and has been gone now for almost ten years. It was one of several books stores in San Francisco that I just loved to browse through earlier in life. There were a couple other locations around the Bay Area and I probably visited them more often. Just sad that this independent is gone.
I remember reading the long (40 pagish) introduction to this book which is quite impressive in giving us a short biography of the author (and his interactions with contemporaries) and how that life was reflected in the book. What I don't remember is reading the actual story. The author was clearly descending into drug abuse and madness from the information in the introduction and the book was written not long before his suicide at 35. The intro really improves ones' appreciation of the story which otherwise might come across as a Japanese fairytale but instead can be seen as that and something more. It is a satire on society. However, this would not be a fairytale for children. It is surreal in bizarre and sometimes graphic ways. I wonder how much the author's use of opium influenced this.
I can't rave about this story but I am very glad I read (or re-read) this.
75. Exit Strategy : The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, finished December 13, 2018, 4 stars
The story of the Murderbot from "All Systems Red" continues in this 4th of four novellas. I've been wanting (and expecting) the story to get to this place ( reconnect with the original team) since the first book, but this installment of the story felt very repetitive of things from the earlier stories - superhacking abilities, robot angst, snarky humor, and the need to recap in various ways prior events in the story to refresh a reader's memory, but also to allow someone to read this novella as a standalone. The recap stuff is done reasonably well, but still, it is duplicative of things we already know from the earlier books. To be fair, this happens in many series books.
Aside from that. the action in this book is written well, very exciting and I enjoyed how it played out.
It seems funny to me to get emotionally tied to a cyborg-like robot, but you do in these books. This short series has been a fun offbeat trip, I'll give it that.
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