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swynn's thread for 2018: Lap 2

This is a continuation of the topic swynn's thread for 2018: Lap 1.

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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Edited: Apr 9, 2018, 2:52pm Top


Last week on Wednesday I returned from lunch to find a couple of art students installing a giant inflatable squirrel near the library. It was a windy day, not environmentally ideal for inflatable plastic rodents, so they were looking for some shelter from the wind in the library's "pit."

But you're not here for balloon squirrels (or if you are, then the rest of this thread will probably bore you), so here's what you can expect at my thread, in order of decreasing density:

Science fiction and fantasy
Crime & mystery novels
Popular history (American, mostly)
Popular science
Library science/history of the book

I'll also talk from time to time about running, although a number of life issues have made me cut back on mileage and races. I am building mileage again slowly, and have registered for a race to keep myself motivated, more on that below.

Edited: Apr 9, 2018, 2:46pm Top

I tend to read impulsively so there will also be not necessarily categorizable things that happen capture my attention. Absent other impulses, priority usually goes to things that must be returned to the library. This is a stack generated more by whim & hope than by plan, which I call "The Tower of Due." Here's what it looks like now:

Edited: Jan 6, 1:04am Top

The DAWs

For several years now, I've been reading through the catalog of DAW, DAW is the first American imprint exclusively devoted to science fiction & fantasy publishing. It launched in 1972 under the editorship of Donald A. Wollheim (hence the name), and continues today, publishing new books at a rate faster than I'm catching up. Last year I read 29 of them, and hope to read at least 30 this year.

DAWs so far: 27
Next up: The Jaws That Bite, the Claws that Catch / Michael G. Coney

Perry Rhodan

Perry Rhodan is a weekly science fiction serial that has been published continuously since 1961. I read issues #1-34 last year, and hope to read at least 75 this year. For this project I've set up another thread, where I talk a *lot* more about this series: https://www.librarything.com/topic/279193

Perry Rhodans so far: 73
Next Up: Die Wüste des Todes (= The Desert of Death) by Kurt Mahr


For the last few years, Liz (lyzard) and I have been reading through American bestsellers at a rate of one per month. For the last couple months of 2017 I've been running behind, but hope to catch up because the first two titles for 2018 are allotted two months each (because each was the bestselling novel in the U.S. for two years in a row). I'm going to aim for 12 bestsellers despite the gaps, and fill in as necessary with downlist titles.

Bestsellers so far: 8
Next Up: The Keys to the Kingdom (1941) by Richard Llewellyn

More Not Straight Not White Not Dudes

My list from last year is pretty full of white guys. Part of this is because of the DAW and Perry Rhodan projects; if you drop those then I have a little better gender ratio, but even then my reading list skews white and male. I want to change that because it's a rich world out there and a broad perspective is good for me. It's also a hostile world out there, increasingly hostile over the last year or so, and I want to think that throwing an author a few dimes and talking about his/her/their work is the very least I can do toward building the world I want to live in. So: more women, more authors of color, more LGBTQ authors. Recommendations welcome.

Not Straight: 8/122 (6%)
Not White: 10/122 (8%)
Not Dudes: 40/122 (33%)

Other Good Intentions

Read more off my shelves.
So far: 6

Read more stuff recommended by friends and relatives
So far: 6

Continue more series than I start. And finish one every now and then, sheesh.

  • Series started: 35

  • Kincaid & James series by Deborah Crombie
    Jackson Greene series by Varian Johnson
    Kencyrath by P.C. Hodgell
    Good Earth trilogy by Pearl S. Buck
    Jeremy Logan series by Lincoln Child
    Henry Rios series by Michael Nava
    Fractured Europe series by Dave Hutchinson
    Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
    Dark Space series by Lisa Henry
    Aaron Falk series by Jane Harper
    She series by H. Rider Haggard
    Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
    The Baskerville Affair by Emma Jane Holloway
    The World's Scariest Places by Jeremy Bates
    Philo Vance series by S.S. Van Dine
    River of Teeth series by Sarah Gailey
    Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
    Demon Curse series by Alex Fox
    Gondwane series by Lin Carter
    Noon universe series by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
    Croyd series by Ian Wallace
    Barnum System series by Ron Goulart
    Carol Ashton series by Claire McNab
    Dragonsbane series by Madison Keller
    Crescent City series by Bryan Camp
    Hunger Games trilogy by Susan Collins
    Machine Dynasy series by Madeline Ashby
    Ler series by M.A. Foster
    Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer
    Benjamin Walker series by Christopher Golden
    The Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
    Rim Worlds/John Grimes series by A. Bertram Chandler
    The Adventurers' Guild series by Zack Loran Clark & Nick Eliopulos
    Legacy of Orisha series by Tomi Adeyemi
    Monella series by Frank Aubrey

  • Series continued: 22

  • Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley
    Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab
    Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden
    Kincaid & James series by Deborah Crombie
    Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis
    Jackson Greene series by Varian Johnson
    All Quiet on the Western Front/The Road back by Erich Maria Remarque
    Eyes trilogy by Stuart Gordon
    Kencyrath by P.C. Hodgell
    Throne of Glass series by Sara J. Maas
    Croyd series by Ian Wallace
    Dray Prescot series by Kenneth Bulmer
    Hooded Swan series by Brian Stableford
    Noon Universe series by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
    Henry Rios series by Michael Nava
    The Green Star series by Lin Carter
    Rim Worlds/John Grimes series by A. Bertram Chandler
    Aaron Falk series by Jane Harper
    Gor series by John Norman
    Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
    Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin
    Dumarest of Terra series by E.C. Tubb

  • Series finished (or up-to-date): 7

  • Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab
    Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden
    Jackson Greene series by Varian Johnson
    All Quiet on the Western Front/The Road back by Erich Maria Remarque
    Crescent City series by Bryan Camp
    Benjamin Walker series by Christopher Golden
    Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
    Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

Edited: Jan 6, 12:40am Top

1) A Share in Death / Deborah Crombie
2) The Winds of Darkover / Marion Zimmer Bradley
3) To Die in Italbar / Roger Zelazny
4) God is For Real / Todd Burpo
5) Cimarron / Edna Ferber
6) Defying the Nazis / Artemis Joukowsky
7) The Great Greene Heist / Varian Johnson
8) The World Wreckers / Marion Zimmer Bradley
9) God Stalk / P.C. Hodgell
10) The Good Earth / Pearl S. Buck
11) A Conjuring of Light / V.E. Schwab
12) Triple Detente / Piers Anthony
13) The Girl in the Tower / Katherine Arden
14) Deep Storm / Lincoln Child
15) Darkover Landfall / Marion Zimmer Bradley
16) Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!! / Paul Scheerbart
17) The Old English Baron / Clara Reeve
18) Mon / Natsume Soseki
19) The Spell Sword / Marion Zimmer Bradley
20) The End of the World Running Club / Adrian J. Walker
21) HEX / Thomas Olde Heuvelt
22) Monitor Found in Orbit / Michael G. Coney
23) The Little Death / Michael Nava
24) Edison's Conquest of Mars / Garrett P. Serviss
25) All Shall Be Well / Deborah Crombie
26) Europe in Autumn / Dave Hutchinson
27) Dark Laughter / Sherwood Anderson
28) Book Scavenger / Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
29) Dark Space / Lisa Henry
30) The Dry / Jane Harper
31) Here Abide Monsters / Andre Norton
32) Dear Martin / Nic Stone
33) Adam and Eve and Pinch Me / A.E. Coppard
34) Shadows in Bronze / Lindsey Davis
35) She / H. Rider Haggard
36) To Catch a Cheat / Varian Johnson
37) The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu / Joshua Hammer
38) Der Weg zurück / Erich Maria Remarque
39) Libriomancer / Jim C. Hines
40) A Study in Silks / Emma Jane Holloway
41) Suicide Forest / Jeremy Bates
42) The Massacre of Mankind / Stephen Baxter
43) The Benson Murder Case / S. S. Van Dine
44) River of Teeth / Sarah Gailey
45) Schadenfreude : a Love Story / Rebecca Schuman
46) Anthony Adverse / Hervey Allen
47) Happiness Like Water / Chelo Okparanta
48) The Invisible Library / Genevieve Cogman
49) Harmful and Undesirable / Guenter Lewy
50) Two-Eyes / Stuart Gordon
51) Dark of the Moon / P.C. Hodgell
52) Black Magic / Alex Fox
53) The Mind Net / Herbert W. Franke
54) Crown of Midnight / Sara J. Maas
55) High Winds / Arthur Chesney Train
56) A Touch of Infinity / Howard Fast
57) Neverwhere / Neil Gaiman
58) The Warrior of World's End / Lin Carter
59) Hard to Be a God / Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
60) Croyd / Ian Wallace
61) Dr. Orpheus / Ian Wallace
62) Pan Sagittarius / Ian Wallace
63) A Voyage to Dari / Ian Wallace
64) Stress Pattern / Neal Barrett, Jr.
65) Gone With the Wind / Margaret Mitchell
66) Arena of Antares / Kenneth Bulmer
67) Blue Voyage / Conrad Aiken
68) The Fenris Device / Brian Stableford
69) Conscience Interplanetary / Joseph Green
70) Spacehawk, Inc. / Ron Goulart
71) The Stone that Never Came Down / John Brunner
72) The Yearling / Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
73) Noon : 22d Century / Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
74) Lessons in Murder / Claire McNab
75) The Graveyard Apartment / Mariko Koike
76) The Mote in Time's Eye / Gerard Klein
77) The Dragon Tax / Madison Keller
78) Goldenboy / Michael Nava
79) Head Full of Ghosts / Paul Tremblay
80) City of Lost Fortunes / Bryan Camp
81) The Hunger Games / Susan Collins
82) vN / Madeline Ashby
83) The Feather Thief / Kirk Wallace Johnson
84) Voyage of the Dogs / Greg van Eekhout
85) Against the Fall of Night / Arthur C. Clarke
86) Elysium / Jennifer Marie Brissett
87) The Warriors of Dawn / M.A. Foster
88) The Gemini Effect / Chuck Grossart
89) The Watchmaker's Daughter / C.J. Archer
90) The Rim of Space / A. Bertram Chandler
91) The Book of Saberhagen / Fred Saberhagen
92) Ararat / Christopher Golden
93) The R-Master / Gordon R. Dickson
94) The Iron Trial / Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
95) As the Green Star Rises / Lin Carter
96) When the Dream Dies / A. Bertram Chandler
97) Heart-Shaped Box / Joe Hill
98) The Big Black Mark / A. Bertram Chandler
99) The Dark Frontier / Eric Ambler
100) The Not-World / Thomas Burnett Swann
101) The Adventurers' Guild / Zack Loran Clark & Nick Eliopulos
102) Force of Nature / Jane Harper
103) My American Revolution / Robert Sullivan
104) A River in Darkness / Masaji Ishikawa
105) The Grapes of Wrath / John Steinbeck
106) Marauders of Gor / John Norman
107) City of Miracles / Robert Jackson Bennett
108) The Stone Sky / N.K. Jemisin
109) How Green Was My Valley / Richard Llewellyn
110) After Punk
111) 2018 A.D., or, The King Kong Blues / Sam J. Lundwall
112) Eloise / E.C. Tubb
113) Children of Blood and Bone / Tomi Adeyemi
114) Montana 1948 / Larry Wells
115) The Cross Cutting Trilogy / Wendy Hammer
116) The Jaws that Bite, the Claws that Catch / Michael G. Coney
117) A Queen of Atlantis / Francis Atkins
118) Kill Creek / Scott Thomas
119) Insel der Zombie-Dinos / Dawn A. Eliot
120) Fliers of Antares / Alan Burt Akers
121) The Keys of the Kingdom / A.J. Cronin
122) Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said / Philip K. Dick

Edited: Apr 9, 2018, 4:03pm Top

42) The Massacre of Mankind / Stephen Baxter
Date: 2017

Here's an authorized sequel to H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds. There's quite a lot to admire here, and I think Baxter does a bang-on job of a story consistent with Wells's style and themes. Especially interesting is his world-building: how would the early twentieth century have been different if Wells's Martian invasion were history rather than fiction? International conflicts would not just have gone away, nor would military build-ups and habits of saber-rattling. But an England devastated by alien attacks would have given the first world war a very different character, likely with different alliances and outcomes. Baxter imagines it as a more regional conflict with Germany triumphant over France, and a U.S. still largely isolationist and with a weak military force. Then the Martians return, this time in even more earnest, and to a world still thinking largely in terms of regional alliances and not ready for a global threat.

Baxter's planning is admirable as is his attention to detail. The book's major flaw may also be by design since it is one that Wells's book shares: his characters have marginal agency and spend most of their time describing the movements and actions of impersonal forces. This tends to be distancing, and I found that I couldn't engage with the book as well as I would have liked. YMMV of course, so I'll recommend it for its successes, especially if you happen to be a fan of the original.

I'm not sure one is planned, but the book leaves plenty of room for a(nother) sequel.

The art-deco-pocalypse cover is by Justin Erickson, who is welcome to decorate my books any time he likes.

Apr 9, 2018, 9:46pm Top

Happy new thread, Stephen.

Apr 10, 2018, 4:25am Top

>5 swynn: A very new thread and I've already taken a book bullet - The Massacre of Mankind sounds interesting.

Apr 10, 2018, 7:44am Top

Happy new thread, Stephen!

Apr 10, 2018, 10:56am Top

>5 swynn: That is a great cover, Steve.

Apr 10, 2018, 1:16pm Top

Happy new thread!

Apr 10, 2018, 2:05pm Top

>6 PaulCranswick:
>7 souloftherose:
>8 scaifea:
>9 rosalita:
>10 drneutron:

Thanks for all the new-thread wishes! Heather, if you get around to the Baxter book I hope you like it at least as well as I did!

Edited: Apr 10, 2018, 5:19pm Top

43) The Benson Murder Case / S.S. Van Dine
Date: 1926

Okay, now I can appreciate the comments Liz & others make about Philo Vance. Between Vance's insufferable preening and playing coy, the police detectives who snatch at any explanation that promises arrest, and a victim who had it coming, I found myself rooting for the killer. (Spoiler: alas, the culprit did not escape.)

Apr 10, 2018, 6:00pm Top

Happy New Thread, Steve! I love the way you've spelled out your sub-sections in >3 swynn:

>12 swynn:

He SO needs a kick in the pance... :D

Apr 13, 2018, 10:40am Top

Here's an interesting story about how Britain's withdrawal from the EU could affect the book market:


Short version: the EU gave Britain an exclusive advantage in marketing English-language books in EU books. This has been especially important for British publishers because their domestic market is tiny compared to the U.S. But Brexit will remove that advantage, essentially opening the huge European market to U.S. publishers -- against whom British publishers will find it challenging to compete. Authors -- surprise! -- will mostly lose, with only the most successful authors benefiting from the more competitive market.

Apr 13, 2018, 10:41am Top

>13 lyzard: Thanks Liz! And yes he does.

Apr 13, 2018, 4:31pm Top

>14 swynn: Egads. I'm struggling to think of one example of something that will be improved by the whole Brexit mess. Poor authors — and poor readers, too, who could lose the chance to read some great work.

Edited: Nov 10, 2018, 5:31pm Top

44) River of Teeth / Sarah Gailey
Date: 2017

From the Hugo ballot: this novella is a Magnificent-Seven-style buddy-western set in a history that almost really happened, about hippo-wrangling on the lower Mississippi. A group of sexually diverse social misfits bands together to drive feral hippos from Mississippi marshlands. Incidentally, the leader wants to get revenge against the dastard who burned his hippo ranch years ago. The biggest appeal here is the very idea -- about which: hippo-wrangling hell yeah -- but details about the alternative history are iffy. Still: fun.

The atmospheric cover is by Richard Anderson.

Apr 15, 2018, 7:39pm Top

>17 swynn:

I read that at first as "a magnificent buddy western", which I gather is not the case. :D

Just wanted to let you know I have tracked down and ordered a reasonably (or more reasonably) priced copy of High Winds, and I expect to read it next month. Since your copy is a library order, if it arrives prior to that don't wait for me; I'll catch you up.

Edited: Apr 16, 2018, 10:30am Top

>18 lyzard: Hmm, should have spelled out seven maybe because, yeah, that's not the idea. Good news about High Winds I do have my library copy, and will probably start as soon as I finish Anthony @#$&ing Adverse. Or maybe sooner if one more dog is beaten to death. I'm over the slave trafficking part, at least. I hope.

Apr 16, 2018, 8:28am Top

Oh, but don't you feel sorry for the poor slave-trafficker?? It's so hard on him after all...

Edited: Apr 16, 2018, 5:49pm Top

>20 lyzard: I expect it's true: selling human beings must be a dispiriting way to get filthy rich. Not to mention the humidity ...


Apr 16, 2018, 2:30pm Top

Well, I was here a few days ago but I see that I didn't wish you a Happy New Thread--I was probably on my tablet at the time. Interesting reading so far. I have to get busy on the Hugo nominees myself.

Apr 16, 2018, 5:47pm Top

>22 ronincats: Thanks, Roni-- I'll be watching your thread for your thoughts.

Apr 18, 2018, 5:55pm Top

Hey everyone -- for World Book Day, Amazon is offering several ebooks by international authors for free. And it's not the usual stuff you find for free at Amazon. A couple of these are in the Someday Swamp:


Apr 23, 2018, 9:16am Top

I am happy to report that Anthony Adverse is dead. Details later.

Apr 23, 2018, 4:49pm Top

...slow, painful details...

Edited: Apr 25, 2018, 1:59pm Top

Way behind on comments. I did manage to finish a couple of books while slogging through Tony Troublesome. Here's one:

45) Schadenfreude : a love story / Rebecca Schuman

In high school, Rebecca Schuman fell in love with a broody Adonis who had a Kafka fixation, and she read Kafka -- whose Metamorphosis had previously left her unimpressed -- to demonstrate her devotion. The boyfriend didn't last but Kafka did: it started with a wish to read Kafka in the original language, then developed into an interest in all things German, and eventually into a PhD in German which qualifies you to (1) compete for a tiny number of German professorships, or (2) write stories about acquiring you German PhD. These personal essays cover her experiences with Germany and Germans (who incidentally don't consider Kafka one of their own) with snarky and self-deprecating stories about cultural misunderstandings. The last essay also offers insight into the downside of pursuing an advanced degree.

I loved the German stuff, and even had moments of recognition over similar misunderstandings from my year as an exchange student. I have less personal experience with the troubles in the academic job market, though I work with academics and can say that the struggles are real. Schuman's difficulties are not uncommon, and should be considered by graduate students who aren't sure about their commitment.

For those who may not know: "Schadenfreude" ("SHA-den-froy-deh" for those who have only seen it in print) is a German word for pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune. It covers everything from slapstick comedy to sadism and is terrifically useful. According to the OED it's been a loanword in English for about 150 years, but I've had the experience of using it in conversation only to be met with a blank stare and the question, "Is that like Fahrvergnügen?"

It is not.

Apr 25, 2018, 3:53pm Top

I feel like I became most familiar with Schadenfreude due to the song from Avenue Q.

Apr 25, 2018, 4:00pm Top

>27 swynn: Interesting! I can only imagine the struggle to find an academic job in German. The UI eliminated their graduate-level German program during the Great Budget Panic of 2008. I'm sure we're not the only ones who have done something similar, unfortunately.

Apr 25, 2018, 5:00pm Top

>28 MickyFine: I had not heard that song, which nails it.

>29 rosalita: I'm a little surprised to hear that UI doesn't have a graduate-level German program. From what Schuman says about the job market it does make sense that programs would be limited; but from what she says about grad students it seems that economic considerations aren't typically a priority. From the UI website, I see they still have a doctoral program in French -- I don't see why market forces would be so different for those programs, but they must be.

We don't have any graduate programs in non-English languages, and I don't think we ever have; but recent budget cuts have caused us to cut back on undergraduate language programs, where the main factor is just the ability to attract students.

Apr 26, 2018, 10:24am Top

Schadenfreude sounds great - onto the list it goes! I took two years of German in college, though I'd have trouble recalling much. 😀 I wonder if it's less that students are taking languages and more that students are taking different languages. In our area, Chinese, Korean, and Arabic programs seem to be doing well. Spanish is very big in high school, though I don't know how that translates to college. Other European languages, not so much.

Apr 26, 2018, 6:20pm Top

>31 drneutron: Hope you like it Jim! Your recollections of college German, no matter how spotty, should be plenty to enjoy Schuman's book.

We added Arabic to our course offerings a few years ago, but it hasn't taken off the way we thought it might and we haven't established an undergraduate program for it.

Edited: Apr 28, 2018, 10:14pm Top

Let's get this elephant out of the room:

46) Anthony Adverse / Hervey Allen

Anthoy Adverse's parents are star-crossed lovers: his mother the new young wife of an aging, unappealing marquis; his father a dashing young opposite-of-her-husband. When Marquis Don Luis discovers his wife's pregnany he kills the lover and carries the wife to an Alpine cabin. After she gives birth, Don Luis leaves her to die then drops the infant boy anonymously off at a convent.

Thus the prologue and so we are ready for Anthony's story to begin, only about a hundred pages in. Get used to the pace because it never picks up. It's not that nothing ever happens: our hero will be adopted by a rich merchant (his maternal grandfather shh don't tell the hero), he will grow into the business, will become a slave trader on the African ooast, will meander through Europe, hobnob with Napoleon (and sleep with his mistress), run a plantation in Louisiana, lose everything and find salvation ... it just *feels* like nothing ever happens because it's buried in 1,224 pages of leisurely mediocre prose featuring excruciating details of landscape and architecture and rambling philosophy. Somehow in the 1930's this was riveting entertainment: with few exceptions, contemporary reviews are enthusiastic about the story's global scope and exciting action.

It has not aged well, especially the slave-trading bit. Allen doesn't *defend* slavery, exactly, but he seems to think that it was harder on the traders and masters than it was on the human beings traded and owned. He actually has one character explaining that slaves were better off in Cuba than in Africa, and the whole business wouldn't be a thing if it weren't for the African demand for Western goods. It's a villain who says it, but none of the good-guys bother to contradict it. Perhaps because the protagonist is too busy making the evils of slavery all about himself.

Not recommended, obviously, but there is one advantage to having read it: somewhere in the middle of the next Gor novel I can tell myself, "I finished Anthony Adverse, and this is nowhere near as long."

Apr 28, 2018, 8:00pm Top

I never wanted to shoot an elephant so bad in all my life...

Edited: Apr 30, 2018, 5:49pm Top

A couple more things about Tony Troubles:

I'm a little puzzled that it doesn't show up in the Banned in Boston challenge (unless I've missed something). It seems to fit the criteria for a Boston ban: there are religious irreverence, masturbation, prostitutes, a brothel, extramarital sex, interracial relationships, same-sex relationships ... Did the censors just fall asleep before they got to the offensive bits? Or during? Or was it all so dull they figured reading the book would have a deterrent effect? Or what?

I mentioned that contemporary reviews of Anthony Adverse were generally favorable. That was not universally true, and I'm especially fond of Granville Hicks's curmudgeonly comments in English Journal (v.23:no.8, Oct. 1934). Hicks mentions that AA is the first book since beginning of the depression to reach sales of 500,000 copies, then:

Though I read two or three hundred novels in the course of a year, including a goodly proportion of unpublished and unpublishable manuscripts, I have rarely been so overwhelmingly bored as I was by Mr. Allen's 1,224 pages. It is a bad book, of course, pretentious, implausible, incompetently written. There is not a three-dimensional character in it, and, with the possible exception of the African episode, not a scene that convincingly evokes the past. But it is not the badness of the book that makes its sales surprising, for superficial and implausible books have often been popular; it is its sheer stodgy dulness -- the heavy-handed documentation and the puerile philosophizing -- that makes the half-million figure so astounding.

So how does AA become a bestseller? Hicks considers AA's company on the bestseller lists, and concludes that the necessary elements of a bestseller are (1) a lively, romantic story and (2) "some pretension to a thesis or message, apparently profound but actually commonplace." He concedes that AA fits the first requirement occasionally: "these stories are lively enough when Mr. Allen stops philosophizing." As for the second criterion, not only does but AA satisfy it in spades but its publication was accompanied by a massive ad campaign assuring readers that it did so -- and also it is very large, as reliable a measure as any that a work is Serious.

Apr 30, 2018, 4:51pm Top

I agree! - and would add my usual reductive response, to the question of the book's sales: "S-E-X."

Possibly the Boston censors guessed wrong and thought the length would put people off OR it put them off.

Or - and we've seen this before - sex in an historical setting is okay, but contemporary sex is anathema.

Otherwise, the question of how this became such a massive best-seller is indeed mystifying. We've had some doozies on our list, of course, but this one is more puzzling than most. I'm guessing a LOT of people got a big heavy book for Christmas that year...

...or perhaps this is what people did for entertainment at night, if they couldn't afford to go to the cinema any more? Maybe it's the first Depression-era best-seller?

Apr 30, 2018, 6:20pm Top

47) Happiness, Like Water / Chinelo Okparanta

Here's a book that you might think of as AA's polar opposite: a collection of terse, carefully crafted stories, mostly about Nigerian women, mostly failing to find happiness. Whether because of neglectful or abusive husbands or lovers or families, or because of a culture's indifference to the pain of women never mind Black women, or because economic circumstances force ugly choices -- the women in these stories find happiness elusive. Take "Grace," the story of two women who fall in love but cannot stay together because Grace's family pressures her into an arranged marriage:

'Happiness is like water,' [Grace] says. 'We're always trying to grab onto it, but it's always slipping between our fingers.' She looks down at her hands. 'And my fingers are thin,' she says. 'With lots of gaps in between.'

Hervey Allen would have taken twenty pages to say that, had the thought even occurred to him. Okparanta does it just like that, and it breaks your heart. May she write many more.

May 1, 2018, 5:08pm Top

48) The Invisible Library / Genevieve Cogman

The bandwagon is right: this story about dimension-hopping librarians is fun. I have the second loaded on my phone so I will continue soonish.

May 1, 2018, 9:27pm Top

I'm about 4 chapters into the second. So far it's just as fun as the first!

May 2, 2018, 11:55am Top

>38 swynn: Ooh, glad to hear a librarian say that. :)

Edited: May 2, 2018, 5:17pm Top

>39 drneutron: Good news!

>40 MickyFine: As far as librarianship goes it's about as library-y as the Noah Wylie Librarian movies (and the series too I assume, though I've not seen it). There's about as much library science in the book as there are cyborg alligators in my library. But it makes up for that deficiency with cyborg alligators.

May 2, 2018, 5:40pm Top

Mmmm, cyborg alligators.

May 2, 2018, 9:38pm Top

>42 rosalita: My thoughts exactly.

May 2, 2018, 11:11pm Top

49) Harmful and Undesirable / Guenter Lewy

In 1933, shortly after Hitler became Chancellor, the Nazis began a campaign to suppress "harmful and undesirable" literature (for the German nerds: "schädlich und unerwünscht"). They began by burning leftist and Jewish literature at book burnings around the country, using volumes that had been raided from the libraries of trade unions, communist and socialist political parties, public libraries and elsewhere.

(BTW, there's currently a meme going around that the Nazis were actually leftists. I probably don't need to mention it to this crowd but just in case: they weren't, their modern imitators aren't, and read a real damn book please.)

From book burnings the Nazis moved on to purge libraries and then to regulate the publishing industry. No books were to be published unless the authors were members of the National Academy of German Authors (Reichsverband deutscher Schriftsteller) and membership was typically declined for applicants who were politically or racially suspect. Publishers' plans were subject to review before and after publication, and it happened more than once that a work approved for publication was banned after it had been printed at considerable expense. Banning could occur for various reasons, and reasons could change overnight: prior to the Hitler-Stalin pact for instance, Russian literature was banned. After the pact, anti-Soviet propaganda was banned (though communist literature was still forbidden).

Oversight was diverse: Goebbels took a leading hand at the Ministry of Propaganda, but other office had overlapping charges and communication between offices was not strong. For publishers, booksellers, and libraries, the state's expectations were chaotic and confusing. Different departments had different lists of verboten books and it occasionally happened that a book approved by one department was banned by another. And prior to 1939, the lists were typically not available to the industry: they were state secrets in order to prevent negative foreign press. The overlapping responsibilities may seem disordered and un-Germanly but actually was by design, since the agencies would compete to demonstrate their devotion to the party, and the confusion encouraged authors, publishers, and booksellers to self-censor.

The most interesting chapter here is the final one (save the Conclusion) which describes the "Inner Emigration." Authors who would not, or could not, leave the country like the Mann brothers, Bertolt Brecht, and Lion Feuchtwanger, had to find a way to live in the new environment. These strategies came under sharp scrutiny in the post-war period: some claimed to have resisted in their own way, or inserted coded protests into their works. Lewy gives brief biographies of half a dozen authors who compromised, or didn't. It's difficult to feel bad for writers with fascist sympathies like Ernst Jünger or Gottfried Benn who cooperated or even collaborated with the Nazis until some epiphany provoked regrets. But it's just as difficult to dismiss redemptive gestures like J¨nger's work with the French underground to help Jews escape Vichy France. Is it enough? And enough for what, exactly?

Lewy's book is not a popular work, so don't expect a riveting read. The detail is thick and the footnotes are frequent, and one occasionally wishes for a more attentive editor. I was also sometimes frustrated with Lewy's oblique references, e.g.:

A novel dealing with the end of life on earth was banned because after the big catastrophe only a handful of Catholic believers were said to be left alive. This "enhancement of Catholicism was undesirable in Germany, a country with a long-standing confessional split."

You know I want to read this, or at least sample it, but Lewy doesn't mention the title or the author, and his footnote points to a document in the Federal Archives in Berlin. (Look familiar to anybody?) Of course, it's very possible that the author, title, and the entire work are lost -- in context of everything else lost in the war it's a tiny, tiny thing -- but is that the case for every book he mentions without identifying references? I don't know.

Despite all this, I did find Lewy's work fascinating and enlightening, and added lots of stuff to the Someday Swamp. So watch this space for stuff Nazis hate ...

Edited: May 3, 2018, 12:19am Top

I'm pretty sure the Nazis hated cyborg alligators.

You would hope that the saving of human lives would outweigh an artistic compromise, but it is curious how the psyche revolts at the latter.

ETA: Sort of apropos, this might be of interest. Can't swear any of them have a Catholic ending, though.

May 3, 2018, 12:26pm Top

>41 swynn: Oooh, excellent. I do enjoy The Librarian films and series. I look forward to the cyborg alligators. :)

Edited: May 3, 2018, 1:23pm Top

>45 lyzard: I agree that saving lives indeed outweighs artistic compromise. I have rather more difficulty deciding how to feel about those who actively supported the Nazis' attacks on democracy or assisted with purges of libraries and professional associations, only to find a conscience when they found themselves under the same scrutiny they leveled at others -- or in Jünger's case only when he discovered the Nazis were actually serious about their plans for Jews. I have to credit Jünger's redemptive actions, but can't get around the fact that he was also part of the problem.

May 3, 2018, 1:23pm Top

>46 MickyFine: Hope you like it Micky!

Edited: May 4, 2018, 1:38pm Top

50) DAW #122: Two-Eyes / Stuart Gordon
Date: 1974

Second in Stuart Gordon's "Eyes" trilogy. The series is set in a world where societies have recovered from some unidentified apocalypse, but have generally formed rigid social structures, some at least in part to maintain pure bloodlines against corruption by mutants (which suggests a nuclear holocaust, but it's never explicitly stated). One-Eye told about the rise of the "Divine Mutant," a one-eyed psychic child who escaped eugenic selection and resurrected an army of warriors to spread chaos through the world.

In this second book, the chaos is spreading -- the rigid societies are crumbling, but they are being replaced with mass psychosis and violence. The bard Liam finds that he can use his music to increase the chaos or to fight it. If he chooses the latter he can guide his audience toward more cooperative and constructive thoughts. He teams up with Tschea, a woman who has just escaped a life of arranged marriages (well, "marriage" is a bit misleading: let's call them "breeding contracts"). Liam and Tschea race across country to find a place where they can make a stand against the Divine Mutant's chaos.

The prose is a bit turgid, and the story suffers from a lot of aimless running around, presumably to set up the final book in the series. Also, it follows quickly on the heels of volume 1, details of which I've forgotten. Still, it's an interesting world and I'm looking forward to the conclusion. I'll probably reread books 1 & 2 when book 3 comes up in the DAW project.

May 6, 2018, 9:04am Top

Have a great Sunday, Stephen.

May 8, 2018, 2:16pm Top

Hey Swynn! Long time. I hope all is well with you.

>2 swynn: The cover on the Graveyard Apartment is striking. definitely drew me in. What the word the book?

>12 swynn: >17 swynn: I enjoyed these reviews. It is nice to reengage your pointed, but fun style.

>44 swynn: I doubt I'll be picking this one up, but a similar dose of Nazi 'harmful and undesirable' in the Bonhoeffer bio I listened to earlier this year. :-)

May 8, 2018, 6:05pm Top

>50 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul! It *was* great.

>51 brodiew2: Hey, Brodie! It's always good to see you.

I'm not sure what you're asking about Graveyard Apartment -- some autocomplete algorithm may be pranking you.

BTW, Bonhoeffer gets a brief mention in Harmful and Undesirable, in a longer discussion of the relationship between the state and religious authors.

FWIW, I have long been under the impression that the Nazis were pretty cozy with the Protestant Church, pretty hostile to the Catholic Church, and that the "Confessing Church" was a more complicated case. Lewy implies that the Nazis regarded any sort of organized religion with hostility, or at least did so from the standpoint of censorship. He doesn't go into great depths because the relationship between the state & religion isn't really his point -- but it's piqued my interest and I'll probably look into it at some point.

May 8, 2018, 6:39pm Top

I left off the apostrophe s on my question: 'what's the word on the book?' meaning how did you like it? Is it worth looking at?

Ironically the comprehensive bio on Bonhoeffer left the Catholics out of it altogether. The 'confessing church' was born out of the Evangelical Church of Germany, if I recall correctly. The ECG was specifically co-opted by the Nazis. But I see that what you are saying about the book not being about church and state.

May 8, 2018, 9:07pm Top

>53 brodiew2: Ah. I haven't gotten to The Graveyard Apartment, so am not sure. I'll report when I do.

According to Lewy, the censors suppressed any work that suggested one's ultimate allegiance should be to anything other than National Socialism. Consequently, even many Christian writers sympathetic to the Nazis were suppressed because they wrote that their allegiance to God was at least as strong as their allegiance to Hitler. The Nazis tolerated no equals, even divine.

Edited: May 9, 2018, 11:26am Top

51) Dark of the Moon / P.C. Hodgell

Second in Hodgell's "Kencyrath" series. Roni led a group read of Book 1, God Stalk, earlier this year. I liked God Stalk for its terrific setting Tai-Tastigon, a weird gods-haunted city built I think by M.C. Escher and H.P. Lovecraft. Roni warned us that the series did not revisit Tai-Tastigon until the most recent (still forthcoming?) installment. I liked it enough to read the second (obviously), but was a little worried how I'd feel about the series outside of Tai-Tastigon.

Reader, I liked it even better. Our heroine leaves Tai-Tastigon to cross dangerous wilderness in search for her brother. Her brother, meanwhile, is trying to organize a defense against a cannibal horde while trying to handle very dicey clan politics. And much as I loved Tai-Tastigon, the broader setting here works equally well, as does the weird population of bandits, beasts, flying shape-changers, and did I mention cannibal horde? Also, the first book's juddery pacing is smoothed out here for a solid continuous narrative.

No more hesitation, I'll continue the series.

May 9, 2018, 1:52pm Top

Woo hoo! And please post this in the follow up thread. Lucy, Susan and Nina are all continuing as well.


May 10, 2018, 5:03pm Top

Edited: May 10, 2018, 5:23pm Top

52) Black Magic / Alex Fox

This is an independently-published ebook which I picked up on the strength of its cover. It's an urban fantasy about a sorcerer with a wasting disease and his drug-dealer vampire roommate. The only thing keeping the sorcerer alive is the vampire's product. It has the usual editing issues you find in independently-published books and the world's politics seem made up as you go, but I did find the leads interesting, codependent relationship and all. Fair warning: the book ends in an ambiguous place, so if you decide to stick with it you'll probably also want to read the sequel (which also has an excellent cover, if one were to judge by that sort of thing).

Edited: May 12, 2018, 12:51pm Top

53) DAW #123: The Mind Net / Herbert W. Franke
Date: 1974
Tagline: Woe to all who defy the network

Spoilers probably follow.

I expect that Herbert Franke is an unfamiliar name for most of my visitors here, but in the German-language market he's a big deal. He won the inaugural "Deutscher Science-Fiction Preis" for best novel in 1985 and again in 1991, and received a lifetime "Grand Master" award from the European Science Fiction Society in 2016. Only a handful of his works have been translated to English, including two by DAW: Der Orchideenkäfig (The Orchid Cage, DAW #59, my comments here) and this one, Das Gedankennetz.

This one starts out as a series of unrelated short stories -- or perhaps set pieces, since they all lack resolution:

In the first story a group of astronauts explore an uninhabited planet and discover a building containing what seem to be preserved brains in jars. They take one back to their ship where they try to hook it up to the ship's communications system. They succeed a little too well.

In the second, a pair of astronauts are on the ocean of another uninhabited planet, where they investigate a curious coral growth. One of the astronauts leaves his boat to enter the coral, where he sees something that cannot possibly be there: a young human boy.

In the third, a security agent to an unscrupulous politician helps his boss escape a political insurrection. Trouble is, the agent has planned the escape for two, but the politician insists on bringing his mistress.

The rest of the book ties these stories together with threads featuring dystopia and virtual reality, along with thoughts on psychology and the ambiguity of reality. Like The Orchid Cage it's unusual and a little trippy. The characters aren't particularly deep but they're also not the point: it's a book about ideas, and considerations like plausibility and character development are secondary. And though it's a book of ideas there is also plenty of action: it reminds me of A.E. Van Vogt's aesthetics, and should probably appeal to his fans. Personally I have mixed feelings about Van Vogt, and have mixed feelings about this as well. But I'd certainly read more. And since this is the last of DAW's translations of Franke, it may be time to seek out some of his work in German.

The space-coral cover is by Kelly Freas.

Edited: May 14, 2018, 9:19am Top

Question for visitors:

I'm reading this book in which the author has a favorite expression for a sequence of things:

"... each thing more X than the next."

For example:
"His voice was building into a frenzy, each word harsher than the next."

Now, "building into a frenzy" suggests a sequence of *increasingly* harsh words. But to me the phrase "each word harsher than the next" describes a sequence of *decreasingly* harsh words.

What say you? If you came across the phrase "each word harsher than the next," what interpretation would you find most natural? Increasingly harsh? Or decreasingly harsh?

May 14, 2018, 2:09pm Top

I've always taken that phrase to mean increasing but now that you've brought it up that doesn't really make sense, does it? Which sent me off on a Google snipe hunt, which returned this:

more ... than the next is a common idiom. the next may mean the previous in these turns of phrase when an ordered line is involved.

Alternately, and I favor this interpretation, the next (one) actually means the one beside. If each one is more X than the one beside X, then all of them are more X than any other one. This is a deliberate logical contradiction to say that all are so X that it is impossible to decide which is most X. The intention is to create in the reader, by proposing a contradiction, the same sense of overwhelming confusion and indecision that exists in the mind of the person trying to make the judgment of which is most X.

I'm not sure that helps me resolve the logical fallacy but my brain doesn't really work that way.

May 14, 2018, 3:28pm Top

>61 rosalita: Interesting. I haven't noticed this particular idiom before -- the one I'm familiar with is "each more ... than the last". Here "last" means "previous" (as in "last night's supper"); though there's potential for misunderstanding because "last" can also mean "final" (as in "The Last Supper").

My first thought on seeing "more ... than the next" was that the author was trying to correct a misunderstood reading of "more ... than the last", when she should have done so with something like "more ... than the one before." But you say you've heard the phrase, and the Google snipe says so too, so apparently I've just not been paying attention.

The alternative explanation strikes me as not intuitive.

Edited: May 14, 2018, 11:04pm Top

54) Crown of Midnight / Sarah J. Maas
Date: 2013

This is the follow-up to Throne of Glass, which I have on good authority is the BEST BOOK EVER!! -- which is somehow not contradicted by the fact that this second book is EVEN BETTER!! As I mentioned in my comments to the first book, I cannot share this enthusiasm. For me the series does not work in any way, from the nonsensical plot to the shallow and impulsive characters, to the annoying prose built from equal parts cliche and hyperbole.

Now I've got *that* out of my system, I quickly add that the series seems to give much joy to many readers, including one who is dear to me, so I wish it much success. (And without a really good reason to continue I plan to leave it right here.) I'll also add that, whatever the merits of the content, the cover rocks out loud. It's by Alessandro Taini.

May 14, 2018, 11:36pm Top

>62 swynn:

It's similar to how "not very much" is less than "not much", when logically it should mean the reverse.

May 15, 2018, 3:08pm Top

>60 swynn: Oh wow, I've heard that phrase before (and probably used it too) and I had never noticed that before. You're right though - and now I am sure I'm going to notice this phrase much more often!

Edited: May 16, 2018, 9:39am Top

>64 lyzard: There's one I hadn't thought of -- although I think I've used "not very much" and "not much" equivalently -- but you're right of course.

>65 souloftherose: Another vote for "not just this author." Interesting.

And because I just can't let this go: it's occurred to me that something like the interpretation Julia offers in (61) could be plausible. It occurs to me that sometimes "next" is used in the sense of "an arbitrary one", as in "I can take a joke as well as the next guy ..." (usually followed by some clause indicating the speaker's inability to take a joke.) Here the meaning is not " ... as well as the person following me," but " .... as well as anybody else." If "next" means "arbitrary" in "each word harsher than the next" then we get something like "each word as harsh as you please": which I still think is not a natural reading, but has some grammatical precedent.

This meaning of "next", by the way, is documented in the Oxford English Dictionary, sense 2(c):
"orig. U.S. the next man: the average man; a typical person; anybody else. Frequently in the formula as -- as the next man (also person, etc.) according to context."

Edited: May 16, 2018, 12:14pm Top

May 16, 2018, 11:44am Top

Oh dear Lord, that's awful. 😜

May 16, 2018, 12:14pm Top

>67 swynn: Although to be fair, some of H.G. Wells's acquaintances may have considered him a sinister fish-monster with a throaty voice of peculiar repulsiveness ... I don't know.

Edited: May 17, 2018, 9:48am Top

55) High Winds / Arthur Chesney Train
Date: 1927

Ursula Kent is an aging spinster of (gasp) thirty-six, in love for the first time in her life and with a man (gasp gasp) seven years her junior. Ursula's older sister Enid on the other hand is tiring of her has-been polo player husband and wants to trade him in for a more profitable model; and her niece Gay is a teenager sorting out what love is all about.

This tame little soap opera was banned by Boston's Watch and Ward society. Perhaps the injunction was for Ursula's choice to live with her boyfriend without benefit of clergy; or perhaps for Ursula's pursuit of a consequence-free divorce; but almost certainly not for 17-year-old Gay's relationship with a man of 29, which is frankly the relationship I find creepiest. Funny how things change.

The best bits follow Enid's efforts to score a quick, discreet divorce in Paris. Presumably based on actual laws and customs she finds a community of Americans in Paris doing the same thing, living at the Ritz while pretending to live in a lawyer's brother's wife's mother's apartment for a convenient legal fiction. This section I found especially interesting and entertaining, but as whole the novel is a mess: its contrived plot about lovers getting in their own way should be the premise for a comedy except that it's played so straight.

Add to that dated ideas about race and labor: our romantic hero introduces himself by commenting that he has spent years with nobody to talk to but Blacks and Asians (and he doesn't say "Blacks and Asians"), and we learn that established his career by strikebreaking, in particular by being willing to shoot strikers. Quite a catch ain't he? Ideas about sex roles aren't much better, and we are presented lectures on The Differences Between Women and Men, which, well. To be fair, Train has reformist aims: I think he's arguing against the social condemnation of relationships where the woman is a few years older. And he's ambivalent about the absolute goodness of marriage. It may be unfair to call him too much a man of his times-- but he is for me too much a man of his times.

And I can't help mentioning the denouement because for me it's a mess. (Spoilers!) Enid is left stranded and facing financial ruin, having divorced from her first husband and having been jilted by her intended second. I think we're supposed to feel this her just comeuppance for placing her own ambition over that of her family. And let's agree that she is unsympathetic, shallow and vain. But really, what was she supposed to do? Here in the 21st century I can't help noting that Enid's world allowed her no avenue for her ambition other than a strategic marriage -- it has no business demonizing her for trying to find a better one.

I'm not satisfied with the ending for our romantic leads either. Besides the fact that the ending feels abrupt and overtidy, it's hard to feel that their problems are really resolved. Has Ursula really reconciled her misgivings about the relationship? Is her boyfriend really committed to her? I'm not convinced.

Or maybe I'm reading a romance novel wrong. Anyway it's not recommended by me.

Edited: May 17, 2018, 6:36am Top

>70 swynn:

Averting my eyes: my copy still hasn't arrived. Although being unable to avert my eyes from your last sentence, I will say that the 20s and 30s saw a lot of what I classify as 'anti-romances' (most by female authors, though). Hopefully at some point I'll be able to find out if this is another. :)

ETA: Speak of the devil: it arrived today! :D

May 17, 2018, 9:21am Top

>71 lyzard: I'm pretty sure it's not anti-romance, but we'll sort it out later.

Re: ETA: (And good news! We *can* sort it out later!)

Edited: May 31, 2018, 9:19am Top

56) DAW #124: A Touch of Infinity / Howard Fast
Date: 1974 (original hardcover edition 1973)

Thirteen science fiction and fantasy short stories by an author better known for his historical fiction. The stories are mostly Twilight-Zone material with simple setups, twist endings, and a humanist sensibility. The writing is solid and the results mostly work, though a few stories trot out some tired premises or gimmicks.

Cover is by Charles Gross. I like it.

The Hoop. Dr. Hepplemeyer invents a hoop, through which objects pass and go ... somewhere else, nobody knows where, least of all Dr. Hepplemeyer. The Mayor of New York City sees the hoop as an opportunity to solve a garbage crisis. Hepplemeyer recommends caution, but ... garbage crisis.

The Price. Frank Blunt is used to buying the things he wants, so when the cancer gives him a few months to live he decides to track down God and buy an extension.

A Matter of Size. Herbert Cooke comes home to find his wife distraught because the fly she swatted isn't a fly at all, but a fly-sized human being. And it turns out the tiny dead man isn't alone ...

The Hole in the Floor. A couple of cops respond to a report of an accident on the fourth floor of a tenement. When they investigate they find a hole in the apartment's floor: a hole that does not open onto the third floor ...

General Hardy's Profession. General Hardy visits a psychiatrist with concerns about some episodes where he seems to be somebody he does not recognize: somebody who does not have a general's proper respect and fear of massively destructive weapons, but instead finds them kind of funny.

Show Cause. Behold, a pronouncement comes on every radio and television station in every nation around the Earth once a day claiming to be from God and demanding: "You must show cause why the people of Earth should not be destroyed."

Not With a Bang. The world ends, not with a bang, but with a giant hand reaching up from behind the horizon to snuff out the sun.

The Talent of Harvey. Harvey's talent is plucking out of thin air whatever object he happens to be thinking about. Mostly that's baked goods. And really, Harvey would prefer to keep it that way.

The Mind of God. A group of Holocaust survivors find a way to send one of their number back in time with the intent to kill Hitler.

UFO. An older married couple disagrees on what the wife should be doing with her life. And about flying saucers. The wife is both doing more with her life, and more knowledgeable about UFOs, than the husband assumes.

Cephes 5. A young space fleet officer learns about the mysterious planet Cephes 5, whose inhabitants believe themselves the only intelligent life in the universe, and who have nearly conquered space travel but who still kill each other. Quarantine is indicated.

The Pragmatic Seed. A physics professor and a priest argue about faith and pragmatism while time passes. And passes.

The Egg. Far in the future after the fall of civilization, an archaeological expedition returns to earth and discovers a cryogenically preserved egg -- perhaps even containing a viable example of the lost creatures known as "bird."

May 31, 2018, 9:30am Top

>73 swynn: Hi, Steve! Some of those synopses sound really intriguing. I'll have to see if the library might have a copy of that one.

May 31, 2018, 6:28pm Top

Hi, Steve! Checking in to see what your plans are for Gone With The Wind? I have read it before, though I'm failing in my attempt to convince my brain that it was sufficiently recent for me to skip it. So I probably will tackle it, though (having peeked to confirm my suspicion it was #1 in 1937 as well), I may yet succumb to the temptation of procrastination.

May 31, 2018, 6:38pm Top

>75 lyzard: I haven't started thinking much about GWTW since I've only just cracked Green Light (and am not feeling optimistic).

To the extent that I have thought about it, I'm looking forward to it: I've read it once, something more than twenty years ago, with mixed but mostly positive feelings. I am curious to see how my impressions will change.

But it'll be mid-June at the earliest before I start.

May 31, 2018, 6:41pm Top

>74 rosalita: Hey Julia! I hope you like it if you happen to find it!

May 31, 2018, 6:50pm Top

>76 swynn:

I've just started Brideshead Revisited, so next month is more likely for me, too. :)

Green Light is one of those books where I actually like the film a lot better (you probably would, too!). It's another on the 'mystifying best-seller' list, I'm afraid.

Edited: Jun 4, 2018, 7:25am Top

57) Neverwhere / Neil Gaiman

Given my reading preferences you'd think I'd have read more Neil Gaiman than I have. Before Neverwhere it was only American Gods, which I read a few years ago and found okay, but not up to the hype. Since then I've intended to try something else but wasn't in a hurry.

I think maybe I get it now. I liked this story much more, about a regular guy who helps a girl on the run from deliciously bad badguys, and finds himself involved in the politics of an underground shadow-version of London. I won't let it go so long til my next Gaiman.

Jun 3, 2018, 10:21pm Top

>5 swynn: I thought Baxter did a good job with his sequel to Wells Time Machine - it is called The Time Ships but I was hesitant to try this sequel to the War of the Worlds. I may get this new one from the library one day.

Jun 4, 2018, 1:45am Top

>79 swynn: It's funny Stephen, but I picked that one up yesterday and certainly intend it to be my next foray in Gaiman. Like you I wasn't wholly blown away by American Gods but I did really like his The Ocean at the End of the Lane when I read it last year.

Jun 4, 2018, 7:44am Top

>80 RBeffa: Hi Ron! I wasn't aware of The Time Ships but I've added it now to the Someday Swamp. I hope you like The Massacre of Mankind if you get to it.

Jun 4, 2018, 7:49am Top

>81 PaulCranswick: Hope you like it Paul! Coincidentally, I have The Ocean At the End of the Lane on my phone, and it will probably be my next Gaiman.

Jun 4, 2018, 1:33pm Top

>79 swynn: Gaiman is hit and miss for me. Some I really love (like Neverwhere) and some I'm more ambivalent about (like American Gods). The Ocean at the End of the Lane is great and if you're willing to give his children's fiction a try, I quite like The Graveyard Book. His short story collection Trigger Warning also has some great stories in it.

Jun 6, 2018, 10:15am Top

>84 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky-- I'll keep those in mind too.

Edited: Aug 29, 2018, 11:02pm Top

58) DAW #125: The Warrior of World's End / Lin Carter
Date: 1974

You probably can't see it on the image above, but the cover of this thing says -- in caps -- "THE FIRST BOOK OF THE GONDWANE EPIC." So of course it's not: it turns out that Carter wrote the first book of this series, The Giant of World's End, five years earlier for Belmont. Or maybe only sort of first, since this story takes place before the one in Giant. It's not clear to me whether Giant was received so well that Carter decided to write a prequel series, or whether writing the last book first was the plan all along. (I can hear Liz scoffing: "You think *that* screws up a series? Amateur.") Anyway ....

So this is a Dying Earth pastiche, set in a far distant future when the laws of physics have changed in arbitrary ways to make possible things like magic, monsters, and whatever goofy ideas the author can't justify any other way. Example: the last bit involves intrigue over oxygen mines, where the stuff is dug up like coal. Because physics has changed. One assumes the miners are also breathing oxygen (the oxygen ore is valuable as a defense against vacuum attacks) so why the atmospheric oxygen isn't also solid is a question not to be asked. And why bother? The answer would probably be, "Well, because physics is different."

Into this world comes our hero the giant Ganelon Silvermane, a genetically engineered being designed to save the world. After his instantiation Silvermane was placed in suspended animation until such time as he would be needed. But unforeseen events wake him before his time, so now he roams the earth making friends and doing things, mostly fighting but also -- it's true, I can't get over this -- mining oxygen.

The worldbuilding is chaotic and the prose is awfully stilted, but the story isn't bad. Or at least not bad by the standards of pulpy adventure fiction: stuff keeps happening and what happens is engaging enough that I am not dreading the next, which I assume is number twothree.

Jun 6, 2018, 7:54pm Top

Sucks to have a brain that works like that, don't it?? :)

Jun 7, 2018, 1:39pm Top

>87 lyzard: Indeed. So now I'm pondering whether I have to acquire a copy of Giant of World's End even though I already know the answer ...

Edited: Jun 11, 2018, 10:43am Top

Perks of being a librarian, number I-don't-know-I've-lost-count.

Last week our Special Collections Librarian got a call from the son of an emeritus faculty member, who is helping his father prepare his home for sale. There are a large number of books in the house, in a variety of subjects but including a large science fiction collection because the father's late wife was an English professor with an interest in sf. Would we like to look at the collection? We give the standard answer, which is: we'd be happy to look, with the understanding that most volumes probably won't be added to the collection but will go to our annual booksale instead. He's okay with that. The S.C. Librarian calls me and asks if I'd consider looking at a collection of science fiction.

Like you'd have to ask me twice.

The library is large as reported and fun as anything, with several important critical works which we probably *will* add to the collection; long runs of several literary journals; boxes full of Locus Magazine; and shelf after shelf of science fiction paperbacks, mostly from the eighties forward. I thought I'd found a gem when I noticed a pristine copy of Harlan Ellison's The Juvies in its 1961 Ace edition. But shortly after I'd found that, one of the other library staff handed me what looked like a manuscript bound in a report cover, and said "Hey Steve this looks like a novel." So I open the cover and see the title: The Sharing Knife. I page through and see scattered marginal notes.

I confess I squeed a bit.

We ask the son if it's what I think it is. He responds that it wouldn't surprise him a bit, but all he can confirm is that his father's wife knew Bujold, and that reviewing manuscripts was a thing she did. So yeah, probably a draft of a Lois McMaster Bujold novel.

No moral there, just a plug for librarianship. You never know what your day's going to be.

Jun 11, 2018, 11:19am Top

That is so cool!

Jun 11, 2018, 12:24pm Top

>89 swynn: Lucky you!

Jun 11, 2018, 3:57pm Top

>89 swynn:

And it's fracking awesome some days. Sounds like a fabulous day for you, Steve.

Jun 14, 2018, 10:20pm Top

Edited: Jun 14, 2018, 10:44pm Top

58) Green Light / Lloyd C. Douglas

This was the bestselling novel in the United States in

Newell Paige is a young hotshot surgeon assisting his mentor in a straightforward operation when the elder doctor, stressed by losses on the stock market, makes a grave error. The patient dies. Newell Paige takes the blame. He leaves the profession and wanders the country under a new identity.

Phyllis Dexter is child of privelege living abroad when she is called home with the shocking news that her mother died during a routine operation and shortly afterward her father killed himself. Suddenly responsible for her own maintenance, Phyllis finds work and seeks spiritual help from minister Dean Harcourt, who eventually brings Phyllis and Newell together.

It's okay though a little contrived and a lot moralizing, like a medical romance conceived by Harold Bell Wright. Or rather a less curmudgeonly Harold Bell Wright more optimistic about modernity.

I'd cut it some more slack but the dog dies. Because of course it does.

Jun 14, 2018, 10:57pm Top

>89 swynn:

That's amazing!

>94 swynn:

I'm nearly due to review that myself so I'll hold comments until I do. But yes. Of course. :(

Jun 22, 2018, 8:38pm Top

>89 swynn: I'd be more excited with a mystery or genealogy collection, but yes, we get lots. We received a history collection from a retired professor not long ago. It was so marked up that most of it was unusable.

Edited: Aug 29, 2018, 11:02pm Top

59) DAW #126: Hard to Be a God / Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
Date: English translation originally published 1973; Russian original 1964

Anton is a "Historian" from a future earth where problems of war and scarcity have been solved. His role is visit other worlds in order to document events and to guide societies toward more humane conditions through judiciously shared technology. Anton's assignment is a world whose indigenous technology roughly corresponds to medieval Europe. He is concerned that the local Lord is persecuting the educated classes and plotting to implement a police state -- perplexing, because according to historical theory the police state should not develop in this milieu. Anton is looks for a missing scientist, argues with his colleagues about the appropriate level of intervention, accidentally falls in love with a local girl, and finds himself nose-deep in a palace coup.

I've been aware of the Strugatsky Brothers and am embarrassed to admit that this is the first of their books I've read. Goodness me, the time wasted, because this is terrific. It's engrossing and thoughtful, and though I wouldn't call it "thrilling" it's certainly well-paced.

Disappointments are twofold: first, it turns out that I've screwed up a series. I had no idea that this was a part of one, but I'm delighted to learn there's more and so I've requested volume 1 through interlibrary loan. So: more "Noon Universe" soon! Second, that creepy sexed-up cover which seems to have been designed for some other book I don't want to read. Some Gor knockoff probably. It's by Kelly Freas.

There is a film adaptation, produced 2013 in glorious black & white, which I was happy to find in my library's collection.

Jun 27, 2018, 3:45pm Top

>95 lyzard: I've been absent a bit, but am caught up on your thread now. I always appreciate your insights into the bestsellers, Liz.

>96 thornton37814: We get so much offered, and so many donated collections are ... well, precious treasure only to the donor who has spent a career curating them. And then, sometimes, a gem.

Edited: Aug 29, 2018, 11:02pm Top

60) Croyd / Ian Wallace
Date: 1967

First in Wallace's series about time-jumping body-swapping interstellar super-spy Croyd. This one begins with Croyd in a bar, intending to meet with the President of the Galaxy about some student protesters who plan to crash an asteroid into the seat of government near Neptune. (Small stakes, right? Just you wait.) Instead of making his planned rendezvous, Croyd rescues a woman from a stalkery boyfriend, only to find himself seduced and his mind forcibly transferred into the woman's body. Croyd now shares a brain and body with the woman Greta. Both Croyd and Greta are victims of the body-swapping super-spy and alien "gnurl," Lurla. Lurla has sidelined Croyd as part of a gnurlish plot to implode the galaxy, which Croyd would surely squash were he active. Fortunately for Earth, Croyd isn't eliminated so easily.

Books in this series are long on random plot developments and half-baked philosophical speculation, but short on character and internal consistency. This opener makes more sense than average for the series, but even that is "barely any." Still, it's charming in the manic sort of way that A.E. Van Vogt used to do. The silliness would be more appealing without some of the guy-lit attitudes, but I found it entertaining nevertheless.

The cover is by Paul Lehr.

Edited: Aug 29, 2018, 11:03pm Top

61) Dr. Orpheus / Ian Wallace
Date: 1968

Croyd's next mission is to find the source of a new recreational drug and decide how addictive and dangerous it is. As for addictive: very. As for dangerous: well, that depends on how you feel about megalomaniac crackpots taking over the universe by means of a zombifying drug, imposing Pythagorean metaphysics by decree, and selling us out to intelligent arthropods who want to use us for incubators. Fortunately, Croyd has those handy time-traveling and body-swapping powers to fight the menace, though in this case he'll have to invent some new physics to squeak out a win.

This one continues the themes of the first and cranks up the bonkers. If you don't mind the fact that it's not making much sense it's a terrific ride.

Cover is by Paul Lehr.

Jul 10, 2018, 3:18pm Top

>100 swynn: Pythagorean metaphysics

Say what? I mean my knowledge of Pythagoras is limited to his triangle formula so all I can figure is triangles mixed with one of the most painful courses I took in university (philosophy and I were not great friends), which seems super bananas even for bananas SF.

Edited: Jul 10, 2018, 5:06pm Top

>101 MickyFine:: Yeah, it's far out. My knowledge of Pythagoras is pretty much limited to his famous theorem, so what I'm about to say is probably horsecrap. In my defense, I'm not sure Ian Wallace knows much more. In both of our defenses, it's my impression that even the experts guess.

As I understand it, Pythagoras was not only a mathematician but also a mystic who led a 6th-century BCE religious cult. Part of the religious doctine was a cosmology which held that there exists a "counter-Earth", comparable to Earth in many ways but on the opposite side of the sun. All of this is mixed up with moral ideas, such as that the sun is a "central fire" which is a source of life and virtue.

Anyway, in Dr. Orpheus (SPOILER!) the villain is a failed classicist who is offered a chance to rule the universe by means of a highly addictive drug that makes anyone under its influence obedient to him. Nobody in a Wallace novel chooses the small potatoes, so our villain makes his academic obsessions a reality -- he convinces all of his followers that they are in fact living on counter-Earth and are under attack by a hostile force from the other side of the central fire. As a personification of the poet Orpheus, who descended into the underworld and returned, he alone is the savior who can protect his followers from this threat.

Jul 11, 2018, 11:52am Top

>102 swynn: It's an interesting choice of crazy classical theories. :)

Edited: Aug 29, 2018, 11:03pm Top

62) Pan Sagittarius / Ian Wallace
Date: 1973

The third book in Wallace's Croyd series is not obviously a Croyd book at all, and some lists (FictFact's, for instance) don't even include it. It is, however, set in the same universe as the Croyd books; the titular hero shows up in the *next* Croyd book; and it's hinted several times that Pan Sagittarius is somehow related to Croyd, probably a brother. As with everything else in the Croyd series, it's weirder than that but we don't learn how weird until the next book.

We open with Pan Sagittarius committing suicide by diving his spacecraft into a sun. At the last moment he is teleported to the planet Hell and introduced to an agency whose goal is to improve conditions in the universe by making small changes to historical events. If he accepts, Pan will visit crucial moments in history, jump into a convenient body, and try to push events toward more humane outcomes. It's Quantum Leap, but fifteen years early and with a universal scope.

You've gathered that I'm fond of this series' inventive irrationalism, and this has more of the same. Unfortunately, this volume has less action and more rumination than the first two, and that's not a good thing. Foregrounded are some of the series' less pleasant habits like benevolent racism and sexism, sometimes to an acutely uncomfortable degree. One episode for instance has Pan Sagittarius coming to the rescue of an unhappy prostitute by showing her how a *real* man makes love. Other episodes don't achieve that much ick, but the ratio of genial over-the-top narrative to regrettable seventies cluelessness is disappointingly low.

The cover is by Vincent DiFate.

Jul 11, 2018, 3:55pm Top

>103 MickyFine: Sure, but why go for the obvious obscurities? :)

Jul 12, 2018, 9:30am Top

Steve, you are my go-to for learning about oddball science fiction. This series sounds appealingly weird, although I might enjoy reading what you think about them more than actually reading the books themselves. :-)

Jul 12, 2018, 1:04pm Top

I'm always happy to share the wacky ones, Julia!

Edited: Aug 29, 2018, 11:03pm Top

63) DAW #127: A Voyage to Dari / Ian Wallace
Date: 1974
Tagline: A cosmic extravaganza

The fourth book in Wallace's "Croyd" series is the first published by DAW (earlier volumes were published by Berkley). Fortunately it returns to the fast-paced pants-seat plotting that made the first two books so enjoyable.

Croyd is en route to a cushy administration job on the planet Dari, when he is kidnapped and his powers are neutralized. Croyd is made the prisoner of Duke Dzendzel, a megalomaniac whose wants to turn the galaxy into a feudal state with himself as liege lord. For this he needs to understand Croyd's powers, and if necessary will kill Croyd via destructive brain-scan to get this information. Of course, everything is even weirder than I can describe. In this case there is extended speculation about the "metagalaxy" resembling a brain, and its hierarchical organization resembling a feudal state. So Dzendzel's plot to create a galactic feudal state is actually a power-grab at reality itself.

Wanna bet Dzendzel underestimates Croyd? Of course he does, but he also overplays his hand by contacting Pan Sagittarius, who isn't exactly Croyd's friend but is nobody's serf. I promised that Pan Sagittarius's relationship to Croyd was not straightforward, and I'll hide the story behind spoiler tags: it turns out that Pan is not Croyd's brother but an alternate-timeline version of Croyd himself, whom Croyd brought to our timeline in order to defeat Dr. Orpheus and never bothered to return.

The unremarkable cover is by Peter Manesis, who has only two credits in the Internet Science Fiction Database: this mess, and Two-Eyes, which is pretty cool.

Jul 12, 2018, 3:44pm Top

>108 swynn: That spoiler is a delightful twist. I think I get far more joy out of reading your synopses of these books than I'd get by actually reading them.

Edited: Aug 27, 2018, 7:40am Top

>109 MickyFine: More coming, Micky! I'll read 'em so you don't have to.

Apologies for the long absence from my thread. We've had a couple minor family crises this summer, which have given us some houseguests and distractions from reading/LTing. Couple that with my usual summer reading slump, and I haven't read as much as I'd have liked. (Re: family crises: I can't share much, but everyone is physically healthy and in control of their own choices. That doesn't necessarily make things easy, but it makes a start.) It's just the four of us again, and we seem to be settling back into routine.

I did finish Gone With the Wind, though I have very mixed feelings about it, and it will probably still be a few days before I get around to expressing them.

The one project I *have* made good progress on is Perry Rhodan, which is something I read while walking Buddy in the evening. It's undemanding and fun, hence indispensable comfort-reading the last couple of months. Over on the other thread I've fallen about fifteen episodes behind on reporting about them over on the other thread, so catching up will take some time.

Aug 27, 2018, 12:05am Top

I *need* to get around to expressing them, as my copy is due back! (But yeah, not easy, is it??)

Have also been in a slump for personal reasons, so I certainly sympathise.

Aug 27, 2018, 5:29am Top

I've good to see you back, Steve! I'm sorry you've had some family struggles this summer, but I'm glad things are getting back to normal for you and yours.

Aug 27, 2018, 3:25pm Top

Hi swynn!

>108 swynn: were Dzendzel and Ak-Croyd ever in a film together? Great review. This is GOR-ific type of review I expect from you.

Aug 27, 2018, 5:47pm Top

It's great to have you back, although I'm sorry the real-life drama was keeping you away instead of having fabulous adventures. I am very interested in your GWTW review (and Liz's), just because it's been so long since I read it and I'm curious to see how it holds up in 2018.

Aug 28, 2018, 3:23pm Top

>110 swynn: GwtW is one of those novels that I re-read every few years but there's no denying there's some severely problematic elements to that one.

Aug 28, 2018, 8:17pm Top

>111 lyzard: I see you have your comments up, Liz, but have averted my eyes.

>112 scaifea: Thanks, Amber!

>113 brodiew2: Glad you enjoyed it, Brodie! I got a kick out of the book, and am looking forward to the next in the series, but also get that it's not for everybody. I'm pretty sure Hollywood stardom is a goal too common for the likes of Dzendzel -- but he would have been great as the villain for Coneheads 2.

>114 rosalita: Thanks, Julia! I last read it about 25 years ago, and the difference was interesting.

>115 MickyFine: Yeah, it's quite a mix.

Edited: Aug 29, 2018, 11:03pm Top

64) DAW #128: Stress Pattern / Neal Barrett, Jr.
Date: 1974
Tagline: Stranger in the strangest land

So yeah, that's the cover and if you're wondering how you'll ever un-see it then I advise you not to venture inside. It's surreal, occasionally perverse, and unforgettable.

It concerns Andrew Gavin, an academic economist on vacation, whose space capsule crashes on what first appears to be a desert planet. The planet turns out to be home for a thriving culture of uncommunicative, incurious beings who shun any displays of reason or creativity. Andrew figures out how to survive by imitating their behavior, but everything about their world leaves him more and more perplexed. It's easy enough to learn that food and water exist in bulbs that can be found by digging, but he prefers walking to their method of mass transportation: they crawl inside giant worms to be regurgitated upon arrival. He resists a female's sexual advances, but finds himself anyway in possession of her egg, and a reluctant parent to the hatchling, who turns out to be a dead ringer for an undergraduate he'd been lusting after. At every step he begs the natives for explanations, which they are unwilling or maybe unable to provide.

It's not great. The protagonist is supposed to be an economist but you wouldn't suspect it if he didn't tell you. The narrative doesn't make much sense and in spots is decidedly uncomfortable. Some explanation comes at the end, but it's a bit of a let-down compared to the oddness leading up to it. But still, on balance I liked it. It's unlike anything else I've read recently, and I don't anticipate reading anything similar again soon. Of course the last DAW was a Croyd story, which was another sort of odd, so more oddity may abound. I don't exactly recommend it, but I won't forget it soon, and if you're looking for some groovy seventies science fiction you could do worse.

The cover artist, as if you wanted to know, is Josh Kirby, whose credits include the covers for twenty-six Discworld novels. So he gets better.

Aug 29, 2018, 1:53pm Top

I was scrolling through your thread and noticed you have two books #57 at >79 swynn: and >86 swynn:. So I think you are at book 64 now.

Aug 29, 2018, 5:28pm Top

>117 swynn:

So what was it with giant worms in the SF of this era??

Aug 29, 2018, 11:05pm Top

>118 FAMeulstee: Thanks! I've renumbered the titles. I should do some more bookkeeping with respect to lists and challenges, but that will wait for the weekend.

>119 lyzard: Well, I think I know what Freud would say, and I'm not going to say he's wrong ...

Edited: Aug 30, 2018, 9:37am Top

65) Gone With the Wind / Margaret Mitchell
Date: 1936

I'm pretty sure this doesn't need a plot summary. If you've only seen the movie then you've got the idea, just add explicit and approving references to the KKK. My feelings as I've said are very mixed.

Mitchell's prose can be terrific. She knows how to select details and craft careful, even delicious, sentences, especially in the early chapters. Her craftsmanship falls off in the chapters about reconstruction, when her urge to justify the Southern perspective trumps her artistic sense. Especially fun is her ironic tone, which drips deservedly from nearly every sentence about Scarlett O'Hara. Scarlett O'Hara is herself a perplexing mix. I admire her independence and determination of course, and regret her vanity and greed, also of course. She's supposed to be complex and she is, but the thing I find unforgiveable in her is the same thing I find finally unforgiveable in Mitchell: a stubborn blindness respecting race.

Rhett of course is a piece of work himself. I get his charm -- I'm still chuckling about the "Caveat Emptorium" -- and he seems much more clear-eyed about his own qualities. But when he shoots a Black man for maligning the dignity of a Southern lady he seems to forget that by that measure he should have been shot several times over his own self. But I do enjoy Rhett's Petruchio to Scarlett's untameable Kate. They are indeed made for each other, and despite my romance-aversion I enjoyed their patter.

But I mentioned Mitchell's stubborn blindness respecting race. I don't just mean her romanticizing the Klan, though that's bad enough. I'm not even talking about her copious use of racist epithets which polite people no longer even speak to condemn their use. Mitchell's defenders argue that her liberal use of "the N-word" is historically accurate. That is probably true. Its truth doesn't make the reading more comfortable, but it's fair to say that comfort isn't necessarily her goal. Anyway, it's not the problem I had this time around. The problem is that Mitchell is unable to see Black people as human beings. For her and for Scarlett they are animals -- as cattle mosly, as beloved pets at best. Yes, Mammy and Peter are dear to Scarlett but to her they are literally service animals and Mitchell seems to approve. I say Mitchell seems to approve because she drops her ironic tone when she talks about Scarlett's patronizing feelings about her slaves, and she spends some sermons explaining how much better Black Southerners fared under slavery and how unfit they were for freedom. Mitchell clearly resents Reconstruction for many reasons, but not least because it put people of the wrong color in power over people of the right one. Her feelings about class are also troublesome but also more complex. A person born a "Cracker" or "white trash" can aspire to behave like gentlefolk, even if they're unlikely to achieve it. But the very best a person of color can hope for is to be some rich person's faithful companion. When it comes to racism, Mitchell isn't a chronicler she's a true believer, and this makes the later chapters very difficult going in spots. That's the worst of it and for me it overbalanced the book's virtues this time around.

I understand Alexandra Ripley has written an authorized sequel about Rhett and Scarlett's further adventures. I find it very plausible that Rhett would find it impossible to stay away from Scarlett, and that Scarlett would find it impossible to refrain from torturing him. But I think I'll leave that one alone. I am however interested in The Wind Done Gone, which seems more likely to fill Mitchell's blind spot.

Edited: Aug 30, 2018, 8:46pm Top

Here's a fun way to make yourself feel obsolete, the annual "Mindset" list which tells you the context in which the latest crop of college freshmen have lived their entire lives.

From this list: Students arriving on college campuses have rarely visited a bank, won't get references to "You've got mail" or Enron, and same-sex couples have always been able to legally marry *somewhere*

They've never known a world without a Toyota Prius. Or Wikipedia. And mass market books have always been available exclusively as Ebooks.

Check out the whole list. And your retirement plans:


Aug 30, 2018, 8:08pm Top

Wow, I’m getting old... 😀

Aug 30, 2018, 9:01pm Top

Me too. It's almost as if I were older every year.

Edited: Sep 4, 2018, 1:33pm Top

66) DAW #129: Arena of Antares / Alan Burt Akers
Date: 1974

Seventh in Kenneth Bulmer's swords-and-planets series featuring Dray Prescot, an 18th-century adventurer transported to the planet Kregen in the Antares star system.

In the last adventure Manhounds of Antares, Prescot rescued an old woman Mog the Migla from the slave-pens of Faol. Picking up where "Manhounds" left off, "Arena" has Prescot organizing the Miglas for a revolt against the Canops who oppress them. Just as this project seems accomplished the Star Lords transport him to Hyrclana for his next mission. In Hyrclana he finds himself assisting a group of revolutionaries against the evil queen Fahia. It doesn't take long for him to be captured by the queen's forces and made to fight in the arena, where he climbs in the hierarchy until he can make another bid for freedom.

As a follow-up to "Manhounds" this is a sprawling disappointment. But then, "Manhounds" is one of my favorites in the series and this is really just a return to the mean. It's fun for what it is.

The cover is a good one though, by the excellent-as-usual Jack Gaughan.

Sep 4, 2018, 5:58pm Top

>122 swynn: Well that was a fun read.

Sep 5, 2018, 1:11pm Top

>126 MickyFine: Glad you liked it, Micky!

Edited: Sep 5, 2018, 6:20pm Top

67) Blue Voyage / Conrad Aiken
Date: 1927

This was last month's (or maybe July's?) read for the "Banned in Boston" project, and another book that provokes mixed feelings.

Calling it a "story" is a stretch, but let's. It's the story of middling writer William Demarest, author of a couple of unproduced plays and a handful of unfinished novels. Demarest is on his way to England, where he intends to propose to a girl he'd met the previous summer. One evening Demarest and a friend sneak onto the first-class deck where they encounter the very girl Demarest intends to meet. Unaware of his intentions and in the spirit of "So this is what I've been up to," the girl tells him that she is engaged to be married. To someone else. The next morning -- and it's not clear to me whether this is an actual event or one conjured by Demarest's imagination -- the girl's mother meets Demarest and tells him to stay away from her daughter.

That's the plot, spoilers and all. The book really isn't about the story, it's about Demarest's response to being rejected. There's a stream-of-consciousness paragraph thirty pages long detailing his thoughts as he processes his disappointment internally. There are distracting philosophical conversations with friends. There's a fugue-like interlude on the deck as he has a conversation with corposants (look it up!) personifying the girl and some shipboard acquaintances. There are long letters unsent. It adds up to a good hundred pages of injured masculine self-talk: self-recriminations, self-exonerations, enumerations of personal strengths and weaknesses, imaginary conversations, spontaneous sophistries, rhymes, even recitals of integer sequences to interrupt a train of thought. Well, that's why I recite integer sequences anyway. I mean, is it too much information to confess that I recognize this language? I'm both embarrassed to see it spoken in public and jealous that Aiken speaks it so well.

I'm not embarrassed to say that I loved Aiken's writing: the wordplay, the puns, the many allusions (literary, classical, Biblical, pop-cultural), the vocabulary (I can't remember the last English-language book to make me consult a dictionary more than once), and the rhythms. I wish my own self-talk were so eloquent. But man ... as much as I admire the craft and even identify with the product ... it's a whole lot of self-absorption exposed in patience-straining quantity.

If "excessive self-absorption" isn't a turn-off then I'll warn about the usual racist epithets of the era. They're there and the otherwise strong writing doesn't justify them or save them from having aged terribly. If you're nevertheless curious then you're probably in the target audience and I'll recommend it. Dude can write.

As for why it was banned, I'm guessing a chapter peppered with racy, racist, and homophobic jokes.

Edited: Sep 5, 2018, 6:20pm Top

My guess would be the casual sex. Or rather, the casual assumption that there is such a thing as casual sex. :)

You can certainly tell he was a poet first, though I have to say I found the language a bit disrupting at times. This is a book that really needs a sustained train of thought!

Well done! I'm still miles off getting that one reviewed, although I am going to have a hard push at some catching up shortly...

Sep 5, 2018, 6:23pm Top

>128 swynn: If it's about sex it must be the latter because nobody seems to be getting any, for all their talk. Looking forward to your thoughts about it!

Sep 5, 2018, 7:43pm Top

Hi swynn!

Random question of the day: Have you read or considered reading E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen Series? To say I enjoyed it might be going too far, but it fun, in some ways, seeing how J. Michael Straczynski extrapolated some of the elements into Babylon 5.

Not to mention the joy of a swynnish review series that hopefully would not fully deconstruct the live of joy I 'did' get out of it. :-)

Edited: Sep 5, 2018, 8:55pm Top

>131 brodiew2: Coincidentally I was talking to a friend about that series just last week. I told him I wasn't a fan; he insisted I really didn't give it a chance. He may be correct: I have read exactly one, Triplanetary I think, back when Roni was organizing a group read. I was disappointed after hearing so much praise for it over the years, and didn't continue. With adjusted expectations I should probably give it a second chance ... will as soon as I finish ... oh man there are a lot of books.

Edited: Sep 5, 2018, 9:14pm Top

>128 swynn: A THIRTY-PAGE paragraph?!? If that's not what got it banned it should be. Much more offensive than a little nooky.

Sep 5, 2018, 9:26pm Top

Triplanetary is a pastiche, originally 4 short stories and not a good indicator. I think even Doc Smith enthusiasts would rate it the weakest book. To get a sense of whether you would really like the series or not, First Lensman is the only book not originally published in parts, but even those that were published that way (after Triplanetary) were intended to be a single book. If you can't enjoy First Lensman for what it is, you probably should give up the series, although I think Gray Lensman is the strongest book.

Btw, you may want to check out Jo Walton's newest book, a collection of her blogs on the Hugo nominations from 1953 to 2000 compared to what was published that year overall and how well they represented the state of science fiction for their year. I just finished it and it's fascinating.

Edited: Sep 7, 2018, 3:13pm Top

>133 rosalita: Yeah, I remember thumbing through it before reading, and thinking, Jeez, Conrad, paragraphs are your friends. It did work for me when I got to it. But still...yeah.

>134 ronincats: Hi Roni! Wow, there seems to be a cosmic convergence of voices telling me it's time to give Doc Smith another try. Soonish, I promise. And the Jo Walton sounds interesting too. It's past time for me to give her a first try.

Sep 6, 2018, 5:47pm Top

>134 ronincats:, >135 swynn:

Stream of consciousness was definitely A THING in 1927. :D

Edited: Sep 7, 2018, 4:57pm Top

>136 lyzard: About a year ago an undergraduate was telling me about a book that was "stream of consciousness" when really it was just first-person narration. I'm okay with that. I admire Ulysses and liked Blue Voyage but all things considered I'm glad stream-of-consciousness has run its course.

Sep 7, 2018, 5:07pm Top

On top of Dark Laughter I found Blue Voyage a bit much; but certainly Aiken used stream of consciousness for a serious artistic reason, whereas with Sherwood Anderson it just felt like copy-catting. Or disguising a thin plot.

Edited: Nov 4, 2018, 2:01am Top

68) DAW #130: The Fenris Device / Brian Stableford

Fifth in Stableford's "Hooded Swan" series, featuring Star Pilot Grainger who through misadventure finds himself in the driver's seat of a cutting-edge starship (the Hooded Swan). Grainger is also host to a mental symbiote he calls "the wind."

In this one Grainger's assignment is to fetch an old starship from the surface of the gas giant plant Mormyr. Even in the Hooded Swan the mission is suicidally Not Easy. Grainger makes one near-fatal attempt to reach the surface, and refuses to try a second time. Shortly afterward the Hooded Swan answers a distress call, only to be hijacked by a maybe-telepathic, maybe-delusional, certainly-paranoid nutjob obsessed with reaching an old alien ship down on the surface of Mormyr ...

I liked the first two in this series, bounced off the third, and liked the fourth a lot. This one ranks with the fourth. It gives Grainger an interesting puzzle to solve, and a setup with plenty of opportunities to showcase his pacifism and misanthropy. There's only one more in the series, and I'm looking forward to it.

Edited: Nov 4, 2018, 2:01am Top

69) DAW #131: Conscience Interplanetary / Joseph Green

As humanity expands to the stars questions about ethics arise: is it ethical for humans to displace intelligent nonhuman life on planets suitable for human colonization or development? The Practical Philosopher's Corps is established to evaluate the intelligence of nonhuman cultures. A positive report from the PPC can put an end to plans for development, so there are also powerful forces opposed to the PPC's work, forces that prize profit above ethics, forces that could easily come into power with the next change in political winds. Timely, huh?

This is a fix-up of stories featuring Conscience Odegaard, PPC agent. Odegaard has to determine whether a given species is intelligent, and handle the political consequences of having a conscience. The stories are interesting as exercises in imagining intelligence and the forms it might take. As stories they're less interesting, with dull characters and cookie-cutter motivations. They're fun for what they are.

Cover is by Kelly Freas.

Edited: Nov 4, 2018, 2:02am Top

70) DAW #132: Spacehawk, Inc. / Ron Goulart
Tagline: Welcome to Malagra, the pesthole of the universe-- your task, fix it!
Date: 1975

Kip Bundy's family business is robots, and he has a certain talent for fixing them. So when a series of failures plague a line of robot butlers on the planet Malagra, the business sends Kip to fix them. Of course it wouldn't do to admit to the problem, so Kip goes undercover as an agent of his uncle's private detective service, Starawk, inc. It's not long before Kip is wrapped up in a genuine mystery, involving a pretty Malagran's missing brother. Mayhem ensues, plus lots of hilarity for the Beavis & Butthead crowd.

I'm not a big fan of Goulart's brand of broad humor, and there are way too many boob jokes in this one, but it's short and moves fast.

The cover art is by Hans Arnold. I wish I knew what book Arnold had in mind when he drew it because *that* book looks pretty cool.

Edited: Nov 4, 2018, 2:08am Top

71) DAW #133: The Stone That Never Came Down / John Brunner

In a near-future Britain, society is collapsing: poverty and violent crime are increasing, international relations are breaking down, and the world may be sliding into another world war. A right-wing populist religious movement is gaining power, sending squads of clean-cut young converts around the city to collect alms and beat up Jews and homosexuals.

And one lab may actually have a solution: "VC", a biological agent that expands a user's awareness, eliminating fear and prejudice. Originally packaged as a black-market drug, the agent finds its way into a hospital's blood supply when a user donates. As VC spreads so also do unexpected incidents of peace and altruism -- much to the consternation of state and church, and very contrary to their plans.

There are bits of this that are sooo seventies -- hip Black slang, drugs as a solution -- but a lot of it resonates today, especially the threat of right-wing populist religion and the sense that even if solutions existed they would be politically suspect. I enjoyed it, though the resolution seemed naively optimistic. Alas.

Cover is by Kelly Freas. I have no idea what that woman is doing.

Sep 26, 2018, 2:16am Top

>59 swynn: If I happen to find that cover in the wild, I'll put it up to Good Show Sir. Funny, even in the small image I thought it looked like Kelly Freas.

Sep 26, 2018, 2:20am Top

>62 swynn: This one has already made it to Good Show Sir: http://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/?p=8023 .

Sep 26, 2018, 7:28am Top

>141 swynn: The cover art is by Hans Arnold. I wish I knew what book Arnold had in mind when he drew it because *that* book looks pretty cool.

Ha! That made me snort.

>142 swynn: She looks deeply unhappy, but I don't know how anyone could be distressed with glorious hair like that. She looks like a Breck Girl on steroids.

Sep 28, 2018, 9:44am Top

>143 haydninvienna: Welcome to the thread, Richard!
>144 haydninvienna: Thanks for the link to Good Show Sir! I especially like the comment from "Bibliomancer":

Forget Kirkus; I prefer this online review:

“Our hero Pan attempts suicide by flying his ship into the sun but is diverted six hundred years into the past by one of the three prelates of Hell in order to have sex with her and thereby become an agent of the infernal powers and invade the if-nodes of Antan, which can be found amidst the meta-galaxies, and live the lifetimes of others and either take upon himself the wrongs they have committed or create an alternate strand that will enable s/he to achieve purgatory and restore their chances for… something. And it gets complicated after that.”

That matches my recollection of the plot exactly.

Sep 28, 2018, 10:44am Top

>145 rosalita: I mean, the Arnold cover isn't even in the same *genre*. The book is a goofy space opera romp; the cover features an ogre tromping ... well, what is it? Some sort of mountainous terrain with elephants. And rhinos? Cool.

All that hair, yes. And yes, unhappy about something -- jeez, that look on her face. Will that stone really *never* come down?

Sep 28, 2018, 12:19pm Top

Thanks swynn. Incidentally, something odd has happened with the cross references--the first cover I meant was that of Hard to Be a God, and the second was that of Pan Sagittarius. In each case I just clicked Reply.

Yes, "Bibliomancer" is one of the wittier GSS commenters. I'm not him/her, BTW.

Edited: Nov 4, 2018, 2:10am Top

72) The Yearling / Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

This is the bestselling book in the U.S. of 1938. I know it's still a favorite for a lot of readers, but this is my first time through. It's pretty much what I expected: a lot of nature writing featuring rural Florida, cradling sentimental stories about a boy and his family and the wild fawn he brings into his home. I'm pretty sure it's no spoiler to say it ends tragically. I found it okay, though I'd have preferred more incident and a lot less dialect. I know that many who love this book first encountered it in childhood, so maybe my window of optimal appreciation is already closed.

Oct 4, 2018, 10:13am Top

>149 swynn: Hi, Steve! I somehow missed The Yearling when I was younger, and I probably won't remedy that any time soon. In particular your mention of the use of dialect makes me flinch a bit, as I find reading in dialect more of a chore than a joy. Plus, you know, the sad ending.

Oct 11, 2018, 9:14pm Top

>151 swynn: I'm no fan of dialect either, though reading all these early-20th century novels has built up my resistance to it some. So glad that fad's mostly over, it's worse than stream-of-consciousness ...

Oct 11, 2018, 9:22pm Top

>149 swynn: Hello swynn!

I never read it as a child either, but for some reason I have associated it with The Champ, which was a seminal film of my childhood. I'm not sure why they are connected for me. Perhaps, it has something to do with the tragic end. Or something even more superfluous. :-P

Oct 11, 2018, 10:25pm Top

Hi Brodie! I'm not familiar with The Champ, but I see my library has two versions, so I can catch up. Is the movie you remember the one with Wallace Beery or the one with Jon Voigt? (Actually, I'll probably end up watching them both ... )

Oct 11, 2018, 10:48pm Top

John Voight and little Ricky Schroeder. :-)

Edited: Oct 16, 2018, 1:43pm Top

Just popping by and waving, Steve. :)

Edited: Oct 24, 2018, 3:08pm Top

So this actually happened. I don't imagine it's news to very many stopping by.

I try to avoid making Hitler comparisons because it's almost always unfair and based more in emotion than analysis. This administration has made it hard to avoid connecting the dots, but I swear I've tried.

But this.

Holy fuck.

"Nationalism" is literally the source of the term "Nazi." It's literally the first (and dominating) half of the party's proper name: Nationalsozialisten. I don't have to connect the dots -- the little wannabe Führer is doing it for me.

Oct 24, 2018, 3:09pm Top

Well, I should have acknowledged visitors before rage-typing.

>154 brodiew2: Brodie, I'll catch the Voight/Schroeder version this weekend.

>155 MickyFine: Hi Micky!

Oct 26, 2018, 10:29am Top

Rage-typing is completely understandable in this day and age, Steve! He is utterly horrifying, but what's even more horrifying to me is the way every Republican bar a very few are just swallowing their tongues and condoning his behavior and views. I keep seeing people say "History will not judge them kindly" but I am no longer sure there will be a history left by the time they are through.

On happier news, I mailed my absentee ballot yesterday. One vote at a time ....

Oct 29, 2018, 9:47pm Top

>158 rosalita: Thanks, Julia! And of course things have even gotten much worse since then .... I really don't want to know where this bottoms out.

Me, I'm going to wait until Election Day but you can bet I'll be there bright and early and with my rage on.

Oct 29, 2018, 10:31pm Top

>159 swynn: That's the spirit! As one of my favorite new(ish) songs by Jason Isbell says, "There can't be more of them than us, there can't be more."

Hope the High Road: https://youtu.be/ci-6Au1Gnrs

Edited: Nov 10, 2018, 4:48pm Top

73) Noon : 22nd Century / Boris & Arkady Strugatsky
Date: English translation 1978 (original Russian contents 1959-1962)

This is the first book in the Strugatskys' "Noon Universe" series, of which a later volume is Hard to be a God, about which I gushed up in post 97. It doesn't feel much like a series-launcher. It's a collection of short stories and vignettes taking place in a shared future, with overlapping characters and themes. Two of the recurring characters are members of the crew on an experimental spaceship that returns a year later to a new Earth -- well, a year later for the crew but a century later for an Earth now filled with technological marvels. The dumbfounded cosmonauts discover moving roads, amazing household appliances, and a society where everyone can in fact become what they want to be ... and when they tire of that, something else.

It's a Utopia yes, but not a Pollyannish one: monsters lurk in out-of-the-way places, as do un-monstrous surprises. No matter how many problems are solved there are more to be met; and no matter how much we explore there remains much more to see. In the final story, a crew of cosmonauts stranded hopelessly in space is visited by a stranger who turns out to be one of their distant descendants hopping back in time for a visit. "So you people are omnipotent now?" asks a cosmonaut. The time-traveling stranger denies it: "We can do a few things, but there's still enough work left for hundreds of millions of years."

My favorite is one of the last, "The Meeting," in which a hunter of exotic alien species visits a museum where many of his trophies have been stuffed and put on display. He wanders through the museum greeting each of his former prey as old friends ... until he comes reluctantly to the last one, about whom he knows the least and has horrifying suspicions. Besides showcasing the Strugatskys' alien-building imagination, the story has a nice little buildup of dread, a neat way of making its point without a blatant reveal, and a poignant close. It's a perfect story and would make any volume that included it worth your while. That it comes with so many other interesting pieces is a treat.

Looking forward to more in this series.

Cover is by Richard Powers. I like it.

Nov 5, 2018, 5:20pm Top

74) Lessons in Murder / Claire McNab
Date: 1988

An industrial arts teacher is found dead in his classroom, artfully arranged with the murder weapon: a power drill which had been used to perforate the back of his skull. Detective Carol Ashton investigates and falls in love with the prime suspect, another teacher whose marriage, per rumor, had been broken up by the deceased.

I finished this one in early summer, and remember almost nothing about it now. I do remember thinking it was okay but nothing that put me in a hurry to read the next. Let this be a lesson to me about posting more promptly. Yeah, that'll work.

I also know that it was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, so I assume other readers found it more memorable than I did.

Nov 5, 2018, 7:40pm Top

75) The Graveyard Apartment / Mariko Koike
Date: 2016 (Japanese original 1988)

A young family moves into a new apartment building. Good news is, the lease is a bargain due to the building's location next to a graveyard. Bad news is, its location next to a graveyard. You know how this goes: they can't move because the move overextended them financially. And they can't stay because weird events turn creepy and then dangerous. It's familiar but effectively done. Least appealing is the prose, which is full of cliches and random idioms, some of them quite dated ("rubberneckers"? "What's the scoop"?) I expect the awkward language is due to the translation, but still.

Nov 5, 2018, 8:06pm Top

>162 swynn:

Yeah, that'll work.

Every bit as well as it does for me, I'm sure! :)

Nov 6, 2018, 3:30pm Top

Congratulations on reaching 75, Stephen!

Nov 6, 2018, 8:13pm Top

Oooh, I missed that! Yes, congrats!

Nov 6, 2018, 8:18pm Top

Congrats on hitting the 75 book mark, Steve!

Nov 6, 2018, 9:02pm Top

Happy 75, Steve!

Nov 6, 2018, 10:24pm Top

>164 lyzard: Yeah, that's my prediction too.
>165 FAMeulstee:
>166 lyzard:
>167 ronincats:
>168 rosalita:

Thanks Anita, Liz, Roni, and Julia!

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 10:47pm Top

76) DAW #134: The Mote in Time's Eye / Gerard Klein
Date: 1975 (English translation; French original 1965)

A spaceship returning home from a long expedition falls into a trap that sends it millions of years into the past. The idiosyncratic Captain Sangrin is certain he can get everyone back home, maybe with help from a secret stowaway: a crablike alien scientist whom Sangrin snuck on board for a chess partner.

Sangrin starts small, figuring that whoever set the trap must be paying attention to its victims. So he lands on a nearby planet and inserts himself in the world's conflicts, thereby hoping to catch the trapsetter's attention. But when he finds out the trapsetters are agents of vast powers engaged in a conflict of galactic scale he has to adjust his ambitions: instead of conquering the planet he may just have to conquer the universe.

I have mixed feelings about this one. It's a tonally inconsistent mix of fantasy and space opera, with uneven pacing and a quirky sense of how stories work. Pieces are appealing: in particular the chess-playing elien is an intriguing character, and Sangrin is a charming antihero. But the whole thing seems to be more interested in breathtaking gee-whiz than in making sense. Then again, I'm a fan of breathtaking gee-whiz, so I'll call it cautiously recommended.

Edited: Nov 7, 2018, 6:41pm Top

Hello swynn! Congrats on 75!

Did you ever get a chance to watch The Champ?

Nov 7, 2018, 6:28pm Top

Congrats on hitting the goal!

Nov 8, 2018, 7:39am Top

>171 brodiew2: Thanks Brodie! And, sort of: the DVD froze in the scene where Billy fights Whitey over the horse. So I'll have to find another way to finish it.

>172 drneutron: Thanks Jim!

Nov 8, 2018, 2:23pm Top

Felicitations on surpassing the magic number!

Nov 10, 2018, 1:33pm Top

Thanks Micky!

Nov 10, 2018, 3:25pm Top

Hi Steve, glad to see that you're still warbling about books that no library in either county I live in/next to has!

Nov 10, 2018, 4:53pm Top

>176 richardderus: Good to see you Richard! Sorry for the inaccessible warble-targets. If the Strugatskys are among them I'm afraid there are more on the way.

Nov 10, 2018, 5:04pm Top


Nov 11, 2018, 12:01pm Top

>149 swynn: I used to think that I read the Yearling as a youngster but am now thinking that it was just that I saw the movie as a child and it left a strong impression on me. We have a nice copy of the book and I was just looking at it very recently and paging through a bit it hit me that I had not actually read it. I was then thinking about it for this coming year. Maybe I will but your comments give me pause - I'm not big on dialects in print.

I continue to admire your DAW quest. When I was at our library sale yesterday I noticed some DAWs as I usually do, including one you read last year "Prince of Scorpio" #97. I read a fair number of DAWs years ago but there were a zillion I never touched. I used to always see them in the book racks in the 70's and 80's looked for the ones I wanted like Moorcock and the Dumarest series. Never touched an Akers. Thanks to your reading I do get inspired to tackle a few of the DAWs out there. Maybe soon.

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 10:45pm Top

>179 RBeffa:

Hi Ron! Gosh, I've been terrible at checking in.

The dialect in The Yearling was an annoyance to me. Liz (lyzard) read it at about the same time, and was put off by the frequent violence against animals, so fair warning about that too. I know lots of readers love it though so YMMV.

The Akers books are among my favorites in the DAW project, largely because I discovered the series in college when they served as low-stress reading after exams or between semesters. So they're comfort reading for me, and I don't necessarily expect many others to share my affection for them. That said, if you like swords & planets stories of the John Carter variety I think they're worth a try.

Nov 25, 2018, 11:13pm Top

77) The Dragon Tax / Madison Keller

When dragonslayer Sybil Dragonsbane receives a royal summons, she assumes the King needs a dragon slayed. But no: it turns out that the local dragon attracts adventurers and concomitant revenue which is great for the local economy. The only problem is that the dragon isn't paying taxes on its hoard and plunder. The King wants Sybil for a tax collector. Sybil is initially skeptical but a job is a job. Negotiations with the dragon go about as well as you'd expect, but when the King double-crosses her, Sybil and the dragon find some common ground.

It's a cute setup and not bad for a Kindle freebie. It's a little romancey for me, though, and I don't think I'll continue.

Edited: Nov 26, 2018, 5:25pm Top

78) Goldenboy / Michael Nava
Date: 1988

Second in Nava's series featuring San Francisco attorney Henry Rios.

Jim Pears says he's no murderer, but the evidence against him is damning: he was found with a bloody knife in his hand, the victim dead on the floor, and honestly Jim doesn't even remember exactly what happened. Motive is easy too, since the victim had threatened to out Pears as gay. A sympathetic lawyer calls Henry Rios because Rios himself is gay and therefore understands what it's like to find it easier to kill than just to be who you are. Except that Rios doesn't feel that way and what's more thinks maybe the kid is innocent.

It starts as a straightforward mystery -- of course the kid is innocent, of course Rios will find the real murderer -- but turns into something different, and darker, when Pears barely survives a suicide attempt and in such a condition that the state drops the case against him. But by then Rios is already into secrets and a C-list Hollywood scandal related to the case, and personally involved with a young man who had been the prosecution's key witness. More than a mystery, it becomes a study of being gay in eighties L.A. The mystery is just okay, but the characters and the noirish second act are terrific.

Nov 26, 2018, 1:57pm Top

>180 swynn: Steve, I do enjoy a good planetary romance/adventure story like John Carter so I may give it a try. I do see the Akers now and then. I still have unread DAWs boxed away that I should get to as well. LT says I have 93 DAWs and eyeballing the list, maybe ten I have not read. I could do with a few - they are indeed comfort reading. Sounds like a 2019 project for me.

Nov 26, 2018, 5:20pm Top

>183 RBeffa: I look forward to your comments!

Edited: Nov 26, 2018, 5:46pm Top

79) A Head Full of Ghosts / Paul Tremblay

A family under financial pressure, with a troubled girl who may be schizophrenic or may be possessed or may just be a master manipulator, sign on to a reality show documenting the girl's exorcism. It's partly told through reminescences of the troubled girl's sister, and partly through posts from a horror-themed blog that discussing the show from a media-criticism point of view. There's a lot to like here: an unreliable narrators, an ambiguous narrative, and a generous dose of self-referential media criticism. It's a clever -- maybe sometimes too clever -- and consistently interesting thriller.

Nov 26, 2018, 5:42pm Top

>181 swynn: Oh, it's hopeless, I will DIE with thousands of unread books because some evil soul told me about the FREE ones. *pointed stare*

>182 swynn: Immune from that one, read it 25+ years ago, the Rios series is an all-time favorite of mine. The issue is, as you point out in this review, that the mysteries aren't all that...but most all Nava's books are engrossing, atmospheric reads.

>185 swynn: Tremblay is a really nice, friendly sort on social media, his creepy books aside.

Nov 26, 2018, 5:53pm Top

>185 swynn: Who, me? At least this one's short ....

I have two down in the Rios series and will continue. Engrossing and atmospheric nails it.

Dec 1, 2018, 2:33pm Top

80) The City of Lost Fortunes / Bryan Camp
Date: 2018

This is an urban fantasy set in New Orleans, featuring Jude Dubuisson, a dude with a few magic spells and a talent for finding lost things. Post-Katrina, everyone has lost everything so Jude had been lying low. But New Orleans's god of fortune called in a favor, which is how Jude found himself sitting at a table full of gods playing poker with a Tarot deck. Not sure of the rules and unable to leave the table, Jude was soon all in with everything he had, tangible and intangible, and looking at a hand of blank cards.

After that Jude's memory's fuzzy. Which is unfortunate, because he wakes up to the news that the god of fortune has been murdered, and he's a suspect. In fact, someone at the poker table is definitely the murderer -- and if Jude doesn't want it pinned on him he'll have to figure out who really did it. Which will take a little magic, a little trip through the underworld, and a whole lot of nerve.

The story is fun. The writing was a little overdone in spots and I may just be getting tired of urban fantasy, but I'd be on board for a sequel.

Dec 1, 2018, 2:40pm Top

>188 swynn: That sounds like a hoot! I like deity-centered crimes. *potters off to library*

Dec 1, 2018, 4:55pm Top

Hope you like it, Richard!

Dec 2, 2018, 8:52pm Top

81) The Hunger Games / Susan Collins

Read at my nephew's insistence. (Literally: "You haven't read the Hunger Games? What is wrong with you? You have GOT to read the Hunger Games!") And you know what? It's not bad. I'll read the next.

Dec 2, 2018, 11:00pm Top

82) vN / Madeline Ashby

Robot girl eats her killer robot grandma, then goes on the run with a new robot friend and his robot newborn.

I'd heard middling reviews about this one. Maybe the lowered expectations helped because I found it a hoot. I have the next one on my phone so I'll get to it, you know, soon. Ish.

Dec 3, 2018, 6:47am Top

Yay for Hunger Games! I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed those. Pure entertainment.

Dec 3, 2018, 9:24am Top

>191 swynn: My problem with The Hunger Games is that I want to enact it on the Red States instanter. This makes me feel like a terrible human being.

But I still wanna.

Edited: Dec 3, 2018, 11:52am Top

>193 scaifea: Hi Amber! I was also surprised at how well it worked for me.

>194 richardderus: I think my problem -- and the reason I put it off so long -- is a general discomfort with the impression that it's read as a "wouldn't it be cool if ... " scenario. Which wouldn't bother me if it were adults involved, but kids ... I don't know, I'm probably turning into an old softie. I was happy to find that "yay bloodsport" tone absent from the text.

Another thing that has been a bit of a turn-off is the way I've heard the series recommended among acqauintances who are ... hm .... let's say more politically conservative than average even for a Red State. That may be where I get the impression of enthusiasm for underage gladiatorial combat. It's also where I've heard the reading that it's all about righteous people being persecuted by the Liberal Elite. Which, from the standpoint of their narrative (that the rich urban leisure class is suppressing pious hard-working rural folks) makes sense, and I do see how they find that in the text.

Dec 3, 2018, 10:39am Top

>195 swynn: Yep. That's how they see themselves and, as a newly radicalized right-wing-hater instead of liberal-outreach advocate, I'm willing to make it so.

Dec 3, 2018, 2:54pm Top

Hi swynn!

>191 swynn: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games. Though not an entirely original concept, the author's ability to write good action and still make me care what happens to the characters, won me over. I felt the story ended perfectly well and I was not compelled to read further. I've seen the second and third films and if the book led in that direction for the main character, I would have been disappointed.

Edited: Dec 3, 2018, 3:29pm Top

>196 richardderus: I'm not to the right-wing-hater position (not yet ...), but I'm completely baffled by the underdog narrative, which seems to me not only transparently false, but to the extent that it's true, largely a product of their own policies.

For example, an old college acquaintance on Facebook was recently angry about a loved one who was facing bankruptcy because of unexpected medical expenses. With which I'm very sympathetic ... but rather less sympathetic to the same person's frequent angry posts about the threat of socialized medicine. Somehow, her loved one was about to lose his home, not because of an unfair and unsustainable model of public medicine, but because homeless people and immigrants take all our taxes thanks to the Liberal Elite. I just don't know where to start with that.

'Course even if I did, I'm 90% sure Facebook isn't the place to start with it.

Dec 3, 2018, 3:21pm Top

Hi Brodie!

I do feel that there's more story here. For me it's temporarily satisfying that Katniss was able to save herself and embarrass the powers-that-be. But the games continue, and there's certainly a story to be told in fighting back. It's not obvious to me that there is a realistic way to do it, but the rest of the series has enough fans that I'm curious to see where Collins takes it.

I haven't seen the movies yet, (and yes I got an even more shocked, "You've never seen the movies!?!") so I can't comment on that.

Dec 3, 2018, 3:32pm Top

>199 swynn: I cans see that. I started reading the second one and found that it did not hold my attention the way the first one did. I would like to discuss the direction of the Katniss character in the films and the related concepts in that kind of characterization, but it can wait. If either of us care to discuss when you finish the series.

Edited: Dec 4, 2018, 4:19pm Top

My brand-new favorite book title:

Andrea die Lüsterne und die lustigen Tentakel des Todes

That is: "Lustful Andrea and the Comic Tentacle of Death."

The summary:

Damn! Andrea was just looking forward to a hot night with the guy from the Supermarket and then instead found an alien in the cellar. This octopus-armed thing is actually spying on Earth to prepare for an interstellar invasion! Is it out of its mind? Of course Andrea won't stand for that. Fortunately the tentacle-being considers itself a gifted comic and dreams of a television career. For that he'd even give up his plan to colonize the Earthlings. Andrea has no other choice: she must give a big launch to the Comic Tentacle of Death and so save the world.

I swear I am not making this up.

Dec 4, 2018, 4:18pm Top

>201 swynn: Wacky, for sure. Brings to mind The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore.

Dec 6, 2018, 9:18am Top

>202 brodiew2: That's a pretty awesome title too. Yet another series to add to the swamp!

Dec 6, 2018, 9:19am Top

For language nerds:

The New York Times has an interesting story on borrowed obscenities. And Angela Merkel:


Dec 6, 2018, 4:13pm Top

>201 swynn: ...

Dec 6, 2018, 10:35pm Top

>204 swynn: Well, scheisskopf!

Edited: Dec 9, 2018, 2:07am Top

>205 richardderus: The reviews are middling, so I probably won't read it. But still.

>206 ronincats: It's just like Fahrvergnügen. Except in every way.

Dec 9, 2018, 8:42am Top

Still indeed! Yowza.

Dec 9, 2018, 3:36pm Top

83) The Feather Thief / Kirk Wallace Johnson
Date: 2018

Edwin Rist, a precocious young flute student and spoiled brat, breaks into the Natural History Museum at Tring, Herfordshire, to steal nearly three hundred irreplaceable specimens of exotic birds. Rist's plan is to cut them up for use in fishing lures.


Edwin's passion for the hobby of fly-tying leads him to obsess over finding authentic materials for creating traditional flies. Problem is, the traditional materials are exotic, crazy expensive, and in some cases illegal to collect. Which makes stealing some from a museum seem like a natural step -- after all, nobody is actually *using* all those stuffed birds so why shouldn't he have them?

Johnson does a nice job filling in historical background, the insular world of traditional fly-tying, and details of the case. Eventually he becomes part of the story as he tries to track down birds that are still missing, a last act that is even more depressing as it becomes clear that Rist did not act alone and that some persons in the community continue to profit with impunity from Rist's crime. Bastards.

It's bizarre and heartbreaking. And recommended.

Edited: Dec 10, 2018, 11:24am Top

84) Voyage of the Dogs / Greg Van Eekhout
Date: 2018

A mission to colonize a distant planet includes among its crew four dogs. The dogs are specially trained (probably enhanced, though I don't think it's explicity stated) to assist the mission. After the ship gets underway, the dogs are put in stasis to be awakened just before arrival at the target planet. But the dogs emerge from stasis to find the ship damaged and the human crew gone. If the dogs want to complete their mission -- and they're *good dogs* so obviously they do -- then they'll have to do it alone.

I've much enjoyed Van Eekhout's adult fiction, but haven't warmed to his middle-grades work. But this one pushes every sentimental button I have and renders me unable to criticize. I love its old-school juvenile can-do hard-science-fiction sensibility and of course I love the dogs and -- are you listening, Greg? -- am totally on board for a sequel.

Edited: Dec 10, 2018, 11:24am Top

85) Against the Fall of Night / Arthur C. Clarke
Date: 1953

On a far future Earth, humanity has divided into two tribes: the city of Diaspar, whose residents are immortal but impotent; and those who live outside Diaspar, vital but mortal. Our protagonist Alvin is the first child to be born into Diaspar in seven thousand years, and has a boy's curiosity to learn what lies outside the city. But paths to the outside are blocked physically, technologically, and socially. So of course he has to try ...

The setting is more interesting than the characters but fortunately the setting is very interesting. And I'm a fan of Clarke's spare, direct prose.

Edited: Dec 9, 2018, 8:11pm Top

86) Elysium / Jennifer Marie Brissett
Date: 2014

Not sure how to describe this, and you're going to be lost through most of it, at least the first time through. It's a dystopian novel clearly, some kind of post-apocalyptic scenario though the type of apocalypse seems to change from one chapter to the next -- as do the names, gender, sexual orientation, and relationships of the major characters. Given the project of shifting the story's assumptions with every chapter, it's actually surprising that it's doesn't seem unreadably disjointed and opaque. Fortunately, Brissett provides enough continuity and recurring themes and symbols that it feels more like a puzzle than a mess. YMMV of course and there are plenty of reviews that call it mess, but I found it rewarding for the challenge.

Dec 9, 2018, 5:36pm Top

>210 swynn: I’m a sucker for a good dogs story as long as it doesn’t all end in tears. I might look for this one. Thanks, Steve.

Dec 9, 2018, 6:59pm Top

>213 rosalita: It does not all end in tears.

Dec 9, 2018, 7:18pm Top

>214 swynn: Thanks!

Edited: Dec 9, 2018, 8:11pm Top

87) DAW #135: The Warriors of Dawn / M.A. Foster
Date: 1975

In the far future humans share space with the "Ler", descendants of genetically-modified humans. They live in peace but distrust, due to the humans' history of treating Ler as commodities rather than coequal beings. Their communities develop separately, only communicating when necessary. Like now: forces of atavistic Ler -- old strains barely recognizable to the modern Ler -- have arrived from parts unknown, attacking humans and Ler alike. A young human merchant teams up with a Ler warrior to investigate.

It's slanted toward anthropological SF, which I love, and I loved the very careful world-building. Unfortunately, the long middle is infodumpy, slow, and preoccupied with a romance I just wasn't feeling. But then as we know I'm romance-averse so YMMV. Apparently this is the first in a series, and I'm looking forward to the next.

The gorgeous cover is by Kelly Freas.

Dec 9, 2018, 8:43pm Top

I loved Foster's books in the late 70s and have reread them several times--but probably not in the last 20 years. I've held on to them, though! Let me know when you read another. This was earliest written of the threesome, in 1975. The Gameplayers of Zan is a prequel, about the origins of the ler, and then The Day of the Klesh in 1979, and is loosely connected in that it deals with human-ler interactions. Have you read any of her Morphodite trilogy? They were written in the 80s.

Edited: Dec 9, 2018, 9:46pm Top

>217 ronincats: The Warriors of Dawn is my first Foster. The Gameplayers of Zan is next up in the project, but it's #236 so I won't get to it soon without reading ahead. But this is one of the few DAWs that tempt me to do so. (Plus, I understand that "The Gameplayers of Zan" has something to do with cellular automata, which intrigue me. Also, someone on another site recommended Foster's collection Owl Time, which is DAW #612, so reading ahead is probably the only way I'll get to it ...

Maybe next year.

Dec 9, 2018, 9:56pm Top

>216 swynn: I read this series back in the 70's as well. I still own all three and I vaguely recall Gameplayers as my favorite. That I held onto these says something.

Dec 9, 2018, 11:03pm Top

>219 RBeffa: Definitely have to give Foster the read-ahead. Now just to figure out when ...

Edited: Dec 10, 2018, 11:23am Top

88) The Gemini Effect / Chuck Grossart
Date: 2015

It's an apocalyptic thriller in which a Cold-War-era bioweapon gets loose in the Midwest. It mutates rats and birds and eventually humans into killing machines. It's all fun and mayhem until it turns into a political thriller in the last third, involving the U.S. President, an affair with an ex-Soviet spy, and treason. I'd say there's not a plausible page in the book, except that, you know, somehow the plausibility of a President committing treason at the behest of ex-Soviet spies seems to have recently skyrocketed ...

Anyway, the politics cuts the mayhem, and in the end I found it just okay. I think I picked this up as a Kindle First some time ago, so probably about what I should have expected.

Dec 10, 2018, 11:22am Top

89) The Watchmaker's Daughter / C.J. Archer
Date: 2016

Steampunk paranormal romance, very light on romance (which you can tell by how I finished it), set in London and featuring a talented young watchmaker fallen on hard times. India Steele's father has died; her former fiance broke off their engagement after inheriting her father's business; and despite her reputation no other watchmaker in London will hire her for reasons unknown. So things look pretty grim until a dark and dashing American stranger with a magical watch appears and hires Steele to help him find the craftsman who made his watch.

The pace is sometimes too leisurely and too many plot points are left unexplained -- all the more reason to buy the next, I suppose -- but for a Kindle freebie it's pretty good.

Edited: Dec 11, 2018, 8:14am Top

90) The Rim of Space / A. Bertram Chandler
Date: 1961

First-ish in Chandler's "Rim Worlds" series, depending on how you count. The order of this series is a bit of a mess, for reasons I expect Liz would call "the usual": differences between internal chronology and publishing order, subseries, republication with title changes, republication in omnibuses, collections, fix-ups, etc.

Anyway, this one features Derek Calver, once an officer in the Federation space navy, is looking for a new start so he heads for the Rim. The Rim is a sort of wild West at the galaxy's edge, lacking in social graces and fine cuisine but where somebody looking to bury his life can bootstrap a new one. Calver signs on with a merchant crew operating in a rustbucket of a ship, quite a change from the shipshape and rigid formality he was used to in the Federation. But for that he has quite a few experiences he would never get from the Navy: he rescues a fellow crew member on a planet with medieval technology; he sees ghosts near the intergalactic void; he tangles with Federation spies; and he deals with a planetside tropical storm. It's very episodic, and manages to be both heavy on incident and light on plot. Ideas about gender relations are of their time: I've read worse (yes, there's a Gor novel coming up) but occasionally winced anyway. It's okay, but didn't gee-whiz me.

Dec 11, 2018, 8:32am Top

>217 ronincats:, >218 swynn: I remember being really seriously annoyed that The Gameplayers of Zan was a prequel...in fact I hazily recall that's why I learned the word...and angrily stomped away from the reads. I wonder if I'd still enjoy them if I read them in logical, not publication, order. Might be findin' out here pretty quick. Thanks, Steve and Roni!

Dec 16, 2018, 1:16am Top

>224 richardderus: You're welcome, Richard!I look forward to you thoughts, if you get to it.

Edited: Dec 16, 2018, 2:58am Top

91) DAW #136: The Book of Saberhagen / Fred Saberhagen
Date: 1975 (contents originally published 1961-1974)

Collection of early stories by Fred Saberhagen. Most are short on plot and character, instead presenting an intriguing idea or puzzle. Which makes summarizing difficult because for many of the stories "what it's about" is also a spoiler. It's a satisfying collection, with a couple of memorable pieces.

The Long Way Home. An asteroid miner prospecting out beyond the orbit of Pluto discovers an odd spaceship heading slowly sunward. He enters the ship to investigate, and finds a generation ship organized on a mind-boggling principle.

Planeteer. A first-contact crew land on the planet Aqua and find themselves in the middle of a tribal war. The rules of engagement prevent the planeteers from intervening directly ... but maybe they could enlist the local sea god to push things along...

Volume PAA-PYX. Ahlgren is an interrogator charged with suppressing an underground revolutionary movement. He's used to sending prisoners to Conditioning for reeducation. But what sort of Conditioning might be appropriate for those addicted to power?

Seven Doors to Education. A man is snatched from his routine life and forced to face a series of tests whose purpose is unclear but where failure means death.

Deep Space. An astronaut is working outside his ship when it takes off and leaves him behind. While he waits for rescue, his mind plays tricks with perspective.

Pressure. Gilberto Klee was just a farmer on the planet Bella Coola when the colony was raided by Berserkers. The Berserkers take Gil prisoner, and order him to develop crops that will meet the nutritional needs of other human prisoners. Gil agrees -- not that he has any choice -- but plans to leverage his assignment to work against his captors.

Starsong. Retelling of the Orpheus story in the context of the Berserker Universe.

Calendars. In a future where the problem of immortality has been solved, Matthew Pandareus has become tired of living and decides to die. Now if he can only fit it into his schedule ...

Young Girl at an Open Half-Door. A security technician investigates anomalies in a museum's electronic security. He meets an odd woman who claims to be stealing works of art and replacing them with exact duplicates, in order to save them from some unspecified disaster.

WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO TO PROVE IM HUMAN STOP. Two ships are rapidly approaching Meitner's planet. One of them carries essential supplies for planetary defenses. The other is a Berserker ship carrying a planet-destroying bomb. Both ships claim to be the former; how do you decide which one to shoot down?

Edited: Dec 17, 2018, 10:32am Top

92) Ararat / Christopher Golden
Date: 2017

Noah's Ark is discovered on Mt. Ararat.

Adam Holzer and Maryam Karga are authors and archaeologists who have made a career of turning their researches into documentary films. They get a tip on Noah's Ark, some inside assistance getting fast-tracked for approvals and access to the site, and win the race to the dig. But Noah's Ark turns out to hold a coffin-shaped object covered with mysterious symbols. And you know they have to open it ...

It's okay. There's plenty of action, but I'd have preferred more development of the premise, and there were several story threads that just go nowhere when the the mayhem begins. Still, there's all the mayhem you could ask for.

Dec 16, 2018, 10:35pm Top

93) DAW #137: The R-Master / Gordon R. Dickson
Date: 1973

In a post-scarcity future, all citizens are provided for, and only the especially ambitious exert themselves to rise above the mean. Et Ho has no such ambition but his brother does, and pursuing an advantage Et's brother takes an intelligence-enhancing drug and experiences a rare side effect that leaves him a vegetable. Despite their very different philosophies Et was fond of his brother and wants to do what he can to rescue his brother ... even if that means discovering a cure for his condition ... for which Et would have to take the intelligence-enhancing drug himself. So Et takes the drug, and experiences a rare side effect that leaves him a supergenius. Now instead of curing his brother Et wants to cure the world. It's okay, but randomly plotted and prone to libertarian polemic.

Dec 16, 2018, 10:48pm Top

94) The Iron Trial / Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Date: 2014

Years ago, Callum Hunt was the sole survivor of an attack by an evil magician. He lost his mother in the attack, but before she died she left a message to "Kill the boy." Callum's father was elsewhere at the time of the attack. He cannot follow his wife's instructions, but thinks that maybe if he raises Callum without magic everything will be okay. Despite his father's best intentions, and despite trying to fail the entrance exams, Callum is accepted into the Magisterium, a magical school where he meets friends and has adventures.

It's okay. The debt to Harry Potter is, mm, heavy.

Dec 17, 2018, 9:23am Top

>227 swynn: Looks like your opinion of Ararat was about like mine. Christopher Golden is usually better than that one, but it was decent enough brain candy.

Dec 17, 2018, 5:04pm Top

>230 drneutron: Hi Jim! That was my first Christopher Golden, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but yeah: fun, but nothing that will make me a loyal fan. Do you have a favorite Golden novel?

Edited: Dec 17, 2018, 5:38pm Top

95) DAW #138: As the Green Star Rises / Lin Carter
Date: 1975

Oh, ugh. It's not Gor, but it's not good. This is the fourth in Carter's "Green Star" series, a swords-and-planets epic set on a forest-covered world populated by giant insects. The series is not a great example of the genre, but thus far at least it's been good fun burdened with stiff and stilted prose. This one, though, is too busy and contrived, but those are the tolerable faults. Less tolerable are the black villain driven mad by lust for white women, and a creepy relationship between the hero and an adolescent girl. Nope, ick nope, and a "recommend not" from me.

Dec 17, 2018, 5:39pm Top

>232 swynn: That particular book turned me off of Lin Carter for life. I so wanted Burroughs type of adventures and he utterly failed at it.

Edited: Dec 17, 2018, 8:29pm Top

Actually, Carter's 1969 book on The Lord of the Rings made me swear off of him for life. It was one of the first books of commentary on LOTR here in the US (the Ballantyne paperback edition of LOTR making it accessible to poor high school and college students like me at the time became available in 1966) and had some egregious errors in it which obviously I was unable to forgive. It helped that he was bad at writing fiction as well.

>229 swynn: I did go ahead and read the second book of the series (from the library) but it was even more meh than the first so I've not continued.

Dec 18, 2018, 9:27am Top

>231 swynn: Mind the Gap is the one I've enjoyed the most so far - and you've reminded me I need to finish the series. His work on the Hellboy graphic novels is also pretty good.

Edited: Dec 18, 2018, 9:40am Top

>233 RBeffa: I understand the reaction. The DAW project will have me reading more Lin Carter for awhile, but I'll certainly approach them with different expectations now.

>234 ronincats: I think you've mentioned your dislike for Carter before and I've defended him. I'm done with that now. He sure can be a jackass.

And thanks for the forecast on book 2 of the Magisterium series. I'd considered picking it up since the first read pretty quickly and I wondered whether the series would wean itself from Harry Potter as it progressed. I probably just won't bother.

>235 drneutron: Thanks for the rec, Jim!

Dec 18, 2018, 5:04pm Top

96) When the Dream Dies / A. Bertram Chandler
Date: 1961

Second(ish) in Chandler's "Rim Worlds" series, originally published as "Rendezvous on a Lost Planet"

This one has a completely different set of characters, this time a crew led by Captain Alan Kemp. Kemp had been an officer in the Federated Navy but left a well-compensated career to follow a woman out to the Rim. Since moving to the Rim he's been piloting other people's ships and spending far too little time at home. On a rare visit to a casino he hits a jackpot, and spends his winnings on buying and refurbishing an obsolete ship, situating himself to become an independent trader, with more income and more time at home with the woman he loves. On its very first voyage, though, the ship hits a magnetic storm and gets lost among planets that don't appear on official star charts. Adventures follow.

It starts out as earnest hard-SF with technical details about star drives and how they function. It then veers into a sort of boys-club fantasy when they reach a pleasure planet ruled by a robot brain built to serve man (gendered sense intended, apparently), who supplies them with pleasure-bots. The final act turns pensive as the crew find themselves emotionally involved with the robots, to the extent that they begin asking whether the synthetic humans are in fact humans; and readers recognize that Kemp would be happier with the synthetic woman than the real one he's left at home. And yes, creeped out by that realization.

So I'm of two minds about it. Chandler's writing is quite good, and the hard-SF appeals to me strongly. But Chandler doesn't write women well: he doesn't *imagine* women very well, and his male characters don't either.

Edited: Dec 19, 2018, 1:09am Top

97) Heart-Shaped Box / Joe Hill
Date: 2007

Aging rock star Judas Coyne buys a haunted suit from on an online auction because he likes freaky occult stuff and he can afford it. But this suit comes with a real ghost, and the ghost wants Judas dead.

I know I'm late to this party. My sense is that this has been in the swamp for a couple of years, but I look at the publication and dang, it's been out for eleven. I have read NOS4A2, so I know he gets even better, but I still have a lot to catch up on ...

Edited: Dec 19, 2018, 9:51am Top

98) DAW #139: The Big Black Mark / A. Bertram Chandler
Date: 1975

This is A. Bertram Chandler's first book for DAW; it's a book in his "John Grimes" series, which is set in the same universe as his "Rim Worlds" series (see The Rim of Space and When the Dream Dies above). I know I really ought to read the other Rim Worlds & John Grimes books before cracking this one, but if I did then I wouldn't make my DAW goal for this year. So out of order, here we go ....

The John Grimes saga is a series of adventures set along the career of John Grimes, who works his way up in the Federation Navy, from new recruit to Captain, then leaves the Center and his commission for the Rim Worlds, where he has further adventures. The Grimes adventures were written out of order. At this point apparently Chandler had already written some stories about Grimes's Navy career, and other stories about his career on the Rim. This novel tells how he went from one to the other, and it's a familiar story.

A space-opera retelling of the Mutiny on the Bounty, with John Grimes in the role of Captain Bligh. Chandler sees Bligh/Grimes as the hero of the story, a man beset first by an undisciplined crew and later by an idiotic and inhumane bureaucracy. The result is an officer who has acted correctly at every step, and who nvertheless acquires a "big black mark" on his record that will unjustly limit his career. Rather than accept this indignity, Grimes heads at the end for the Rim.

There's so much to like here, but I have the same mixed feelings I had for the Rim Worlds books. I admire the prose, I like the idea and much of its execution. I even acknowledge that Chandler has included a couple of strong, competent female characters (who are sexually available, probably not incidentally). But it's difficult to stomach a hero who says things like, "It's just that I don't like insolent sluts who can't even make a decent sandwich." Yes he really says this. Page 19. It's his response to another character's suggestion that he might be homosexual. Again, this is the hero. Could be worse, I guess: he could be president. Oh, wait.

There are several more Grimes stories in the DAW project, and I'll work on filling in the early books in the series before I reach the next. But I'm looking forward to them all with a mix of curiosity and dread.

Dec 19, 2018, 3:28am Top

I have to admit to mixed feelings about Chandler. I was in Vancouver at a conference a few years ago and to my surprise found a collection of the Grimes stories in Indigo. Had to buy it—fellow Australian and all! But I ended up so disgusted with it that I left it in the hotel room with a note on it saying, “If you want this, it’s yours.”. He writes swift, efficient prose. But the women, gods help me.

Dec 19, 2018, 9:24am Top

>238 swynn: I liked that one, Steve. I still have his Horns waiting on my Kobo. Hopefully I'll get to it next year.

Edited: Dec 19, 2018, 9:59am Top

>240 haydninvienna: Hi Richard! Not just me then. And less hope that it gets better. Rats.

>241 rosalita: I have a hard copy of Horns somewhere that I picked up for almost nothing at a library booksale. Yes, next year! Definitely. Well, maybe.

BTW, I just finished Montana 1948 which I'm pretty sure I someday-swamped from one of your threads. Man, that packs a punch.

Dec 19, 2018, 10:12am Top

>242 swynn: Ooh, glad I could steer you to Montana 1948. It's such an amazing story. I need to read more from Larry Watson.

Dec 19, 2018, 11:02am Top

Y'all're singin' my song. Montana 1948 is a damned near perfect book. I adore it, and Larry Watson. As a next-Larry, I strongly recommend his White Crosses.

Dec 20, 2018, 12:26am Top

>243 rosalita: Me too on more from Larry Watson.
>244 richardderus: White Crosses noted. Thanks!

Edited: Dec 20, 2018, 1:28pm Top

99) Dark Frontier / Eric Ambler
Date: 1936

This was Eric Ambler's first novel, and a bit different from what I was expecting. It's a comedy, actually, a parody of the type of espionage adventures that were popular when Ambler began his career. Henry Barstow is an atomic scientist, perhaps a bit bored by his academic career but certainly not looking for adventure, when he is approached by a man who claims he has reason to believe that an obscure Eastern European country has developed an atomic bomb. The man's employers would like to hire Barstow as a consultant to investigate these suspicions.

Barstow turns down the offer -- that's not the sort of thing he *does* -- but later that evening he reads an espionage adventure novel, then has a car accident which leaves him with a minor head injury and the delusion he is Conway Carruthers, international man of mystery and agent for world order. From sheer boldness and ignorance of his lack of skills, Barstow/Carruthers travels to the bomb-making country on his own initiative and saves the day.

It's an odd thing, not funny enough for parody (though there are funny bits) and not earnest enough for straightforward thriller. Fair point: it may have been funnier if I were more familiar with the literature it lampoons, but from my perspective it felt like Ambler meant to write a comedy, but got caught up in the thriller despite himself.

Edited: Dec 20, 2018, 6:14pm Top

A. Bertram Chandler may be one of the DAW project's disappointments but the project has its pleasures too, and Thomas Burnett Swann is one of its gems. I don't think I'd even heard of Swann before #27, The Green Phoenix, which imagines encounter between Aeneas's crew and a band of Dryads on the shores of Italia. I admired its language and its playful way with mythology, but even that did not prepare me for #94, How Are The Mighty Fallen, a homoerotic retelling of the David/Jonathan legend in a context of battling mythologies. HATMF must have gotten even better with recollection, because revisiting my notes I see that I called it "not perfect", and my complaints really don't resonate with my memory of the book. Strange, I'll have to reread it sometime.

Anyway -- yay! -- another Thomas Burnett Swann:

100) DAW #140: The Not-World / Thomas Burnett Swann
Date: 1975

This one is a historical romance fantasy or some permutation thereof (historical fantasy romance?) set in an alternative Georgian England. A spinster novelist and her coachman get lost overnight in the forest outside London. They find an abandoned chapel to spend the night, where they meet Thomas Chatterton and survive an attack by owl-spirits. They escape briefly to civilization where they all go their separate ways. But when the coachman and novelist hear rumors of Chatterton's suicide they feel compelled to return to the forest chapel to find him. The story is odd from beginning to end, bouncing from lyrical to sentimental to comic to hypnagogic, all wrapped in a surreal atmosphere and gorgeous prose. It's not as good as How Are The Mighty Fallen, which is more ambitious and more successful, but it's still a fascinating little novel with its own charm and you're not going to find many other stories quite like it.

Dec 20, 2018, 1:35pm Top

101) The Adventurers' Guild / Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopolus

Here's another of my nephew's recommendations. It's a Dungeons-and-Dragons-y romp with magic and monsters and kid heroes who know more than and are special-er than all the grown-ups. Light but fun, and fast. I'll read the next -- in fact I have the sequel in the Tower of Due.

Dec 20, 2018, 4:08pm Top

>247 swynn: Also yay: 100 BOOKS!!!

And Steven Saylor liked my review of How Are the Mighty Fallen.

Dec 20, 2018, 4:44pm Top

>247 swynn: Yet another to look forward to. I had not read Swann in probably decades, but earlier this year happened upon "In The Manor of Roses" of which Gardnen Dozois said in 1997 "proclaimed one of the finest pieces of fantasy of the preceding 30 years". I would agree. I have at least one or two books by Swann buried away and he's on my list to read next year. I need to remind myself to look for used copies of his books when I am out and about.

>237 swynn: I have this one (under the other title) in an Ace double so I know I read it years ago but don't recall it. I've enjoyed Chandler in the past when I was a lot less critical of a reader.

Dec 21, 2018, 12:31am Top

>249 richardderus: Steven Saylor has excellent taste. HATMF is an excellent book, and your reading of it.

>250 RBeffa: I'm delighted that there is more Swann love among the 75ers! I've picked up a couple of his earlier, pre-DAW works, and should get to them sometime. As for Chandler, well ... there really is a lot to appreciate; it's just that his feelings about half the human race are a barrier to enjoyment.

Dec 21, 2018, 9:41am Top

Find the Light—Reflect the Light—Be the Light

Happy Yule 2018!

Dec 24, 2018, 1:53am Top

>252 richardderus: Happy Yule to you too, Richard!

Dec 24, 2018, 2:13am Top

102) Force of Nature / Jane Harper

Second in Harper's series featuring Australian federal agent Aaron Falk. In this one Falk is investigating the finances of a corrupt corporation when his key informant goes missing on a team-building retreat. The story alternates between the investigation and flashbacks to the retreat as it goes wrong. The story isn't as personal as the first so the stakes feel lower, but it's still quite good and I'll read the next.

Dec 24, 2018, 2:25am Top

103) My American Revolution / Robert Sullivan

Sullivan observes that many key events in the American Revolution occurred on a landscape visible from the top of the Empire State Building. He seeks out historical sites and historical reenactments within this landscape, and writes about them. It's occasionally informative and frequently entertaining but also disorganized sometimes overpersonal and rambly, with long footnotes that free-associate far from the thought marked by the asterisk.

Dec 24, 2018, 9:59am Top

>254 swynn: It would have been hard for Harper to top The Dry, which I thought was a fantastic series debut, but like you I liked the second well enough to want to continue the series.

Dec 24, 2018, 3:46pm Top

Best wishes for the season, Steve! Thanks for joining in on the challenge reading, and making it all the more fun and interesting. :)

Dec 25, 2018, 4:53am Top

Happy holidays, Steve.

Dec 26, 2018, 1:13am Top

>256 rosalita: Agreed: The Dry was a hard act to follow. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

>257 lyzard:
>258 PaulCranswick:
Thanks for the holiday wishes! Hope your holidays have been/will be a joy!

Dec 26, 2018, 1:24am Top

104) A River in Darkness / Masaji Ishikawa

The author migrated from Japan to North Korea with his family as a boy. Thirty-six years later he escaped. This is his memoir of living through poverty and starvation in a land that was promised to be "Paradise on Earth." The prose is simple and the story horrifying.

Dec 26, 2018, 9:10am Top

>260 swynn: A truly unnerving tale.

Dec 26, 2018, 5:39pm Top

>261 richardderus: It certainly is, and equally unnerving to know that North Koreans have little hope of seeing conditions improve for the forseeable future.

Edited: Dec 26, 2018, 6:39pm Top

105) The Grapes of Wrath / John Steinbeck

Bestselling novel in the U.S. for 1939, and the bookbuying public made an excellent choice. It's the story of the Joads, a family of sharecroppers who lose their land to a double blow of Dust Bowl and advancing agricultural technology. They follow promises of agricultural work to California, where they find too many workers chasing too few jobs for starvation wages.

I first read it about 30 years ago during a Steinbeck kick. I lived in Oklahoma at the time, where the book had a mixed reputation: both as documenting a hard time in a state used to hard times, and also as being deeply insulting to Oklahomans who are portrayed as ignorant and uncultured "Okies." The latter reading was and is puzzling to me, since Steinbeck's respect for his characters seemed obvious and his contempt directed exclusively at the people profiting off of their misfortune. Still, the book's reputation as an anti-Sooner insult persists.

Anyway, 30 years ago found it powerful: in its indictment of political and business interests that profit from misery, and in its call to cooperative action against those antihuman interests. I was pleased to find that 30 years later it is still very powerful. The indictment of political and corporate profiteers still resonates at least as strongly as the first time through. As for the call to cooperation, I both sympathize with the sentiment and am skeptical of it.

It's not that I disagree with Steinbeck. Collective action and unionization really are the only tools the Joads have against the landowners. But in our current historical moment I see working-class hostility against unions, and widespread mistrust of the very labor movements that addressed the abuses Steinbeck describes. The political and corporate interests who compete against unions have done an incredible job convincing working-class people that they would themselves be profiteering landowners if only the unions and the goddamn liberals would get off their backs. Which means that too many of us believe profiting from human misery isn't bad in itself, it's only a question of who profits. So I read The Grapes of Wrath with a lot less hope than I did in my twenties. Surprise.

Other things that stood out to me this time are the frequent Biblical references and the many animals who meet sudden deaths in road accidents. I mean, I get it's a metaphor but crank it down a couple notches, John. Also the final scene, in which Rose of Sharon feeds a starving worker from her body, feels a lot creepier than it did thirty years ago.

Dec 27, 2018, 3:55am Top

>263 swynn:

Nice work! As an outsider my reading experience was very different from yours, of course, but we seem to be more or less in the same place. I can't say I saw any insult, intended or unconscious (this from someone if anything oversensitive to prejudices and condescension).

And yeah, metaphorical; but after The Yearling, I needed that like a hole in the head. :)

Dec 27, 2018, 9:56am Top

>263 swynn: Rose of Sharon's act of generosity was one of the stand-out moments for me when I read the book in 1975. I was, and am, utterly repulsed by it, and oddly moved at the same time.

Dec 27, 2018, 8:20pm Top

>264 lyzard: Yeah, the Okie-insult thing is puzzling. I've wondered whether that was part of the campaign organized against the book by Steinbeck's actual targets.

Dec 27, 2018, 8:23pm Top

>265 richardderus: It really is a provocative image. On the moved-repulsed spectrum, I was more moved thirty years ago. This time I leaned equally heavily to repulsed.

Edited: Dec 27, 2018, 9:35pm Top

106) DAW #141: Marauders of Gor / John Norman
Date: 1975

Eighth in John Norman's Gor series (for recent visitors: it's sort of like John Carter with an antifeminist bondage kink). This one begins with Tarl Cabot moping around Port Kar-- the last adventure left him paralyzed on one side, meaning that he can't kill things and beat slaves the way a Gorean man is supposed to do.

Then he receives word that Talena, one of his former slave/lovers, has been kidnapped and taken to Torvaldsland, a far northern country populated by Gorean Vikings. This kidnapping is such an affront to Cabot that he overcomes his paralysis through the power of sheer outraged manhood. (I know this sounds like sneering simplification. I swear it is actually what happens.)

To reach Torvaldsland Cabot hooks up with the northern Captain Ivan Forkbeard. Cabot and Forkbeard trade stories about the proper training of slaves and have lots of fun branding and beating their captives. This goes on long enough to give Norman's target audience what they keep coming back for. When they tire of this there's finally a bit of an adventure fighting the Kirii, monstrous bearlike creatures whose ultimate goal is to overthrow the Priest-Kings. The relief is short-lived though because the Kirii are weirdly obsessed with eating slaves.

Here's an odd tangent: up in post 249 Richard mentioned that Steven Saylor liked his review of How Are the Mighty Fallen. I didn't recognize Saylor's name so I checked his bibliography, which is full of historical novels but also an introduction to Outlaw of Gor. Fortunately, the introduction is available online, and it is a master class in writing an appreciation of works one does not necessarily appreciate:


Dec 27, 2018, 9:44pm Top

Loved it, Steve. (The introduction--I've never read the books.)

Dec 27, 2018, 10:42pm Top

>269 ronincats: Isn't it perfect? I ought to read some Steven Saylor ....

Edited: Dec 27, 2018, 10:45pm Top

107) City of Miracles / Robert Jackson Bennett
Date: 2017

Third and final book in Bennett's “Divine Cities” series. I loved the first two, and this one gives the series a rousing and satisfying close. I should have read this when it was new almost two years ago now, but I have this irrational habit of buying books that I *must* read, only to leave them on the shelf unread because now that I own them I can read them at any time, while I have a stack of library books already overdue.

Anyway, this one features Sigrud and gives him the adventure he's deserved since Book 1. And if you're thinking, “Who is Sigrud?” then go read Book 1, City of Stairs.

Dec 27, 2018, 11:05pm Top

108) The Stone Sky / N.K. Jemisin
Date: 2017

And speaking of sticking the landing on the third book in a terrific trilogy: Jemisin does it too. Her "Broken Earth" trilogy is good in so many ways, but I especially admire the chances she takes with viewpoint and narrative structure, which pay off in ways these kinds of experiments rarely do.

Dec 27, 2018, 11:12pm Top

>268 swynn: I recommend his stand-alone Austin novel to test the waters: A Twist at the End. If you like his tone in that book, you'll like his way with words in general. The Roma Sub Rosa series is very good indeed.

Dec 29, 2018, 12:05am Top

>273 richardderus: I've ordered A Twist at the End through my library consortium. I'll probably get to it early next year. Thanks Richard!

Edited: Dec 29, 2018, 10:00pm Top

109) How Green Was My Valley / Richard Llewellyn
Date: 1939

This was the bestselling book in the U.S. in 1940. It's a fictional memoir about an early-20th-century boyhood in a Welsh mining community. The narrator fondly remember his home, family, and friends, but also hardships like labor strikes, starvation, bigotry, and depredations of the coal industry. The prose is nice, and the characters well-drawn; dialect is indicated through irregular grammar instead of phonetic spellings and apostrophes, which makes it easier to read than much dialect.

For an outsider, the stories feel authentic, so I was surprised when Liz pointed out that Llewellyn himself was an outsider. Although he was of Welsh descent he had barely even visited Wales and built the stories based on second-hand information.

The thing that bothers me most about the book is an exaggerated effort to be even-handed. There are clear cases of injustice and abuse of power: by the mining company toward labor, by community leaders toward transgressors, by bigoted teachers against Welsh students. In such disputes Llewellyn often tries to strike a disinterested pose, sympathizing with both management and labor, say, or with both the church fathers who exile a girl pregnant out of wedlock and the girl herself left with few resources. (After all, if the fathers were more lenient then sin would be rampant and they'd need English police.) The attempt to project both humanitarian and conservative sympathies fails, making it difficult to feel the wistful nostalgia that Llewellyn seems to be reaching for. Of course, the fact that Llewellyn *was* an outsider makes his disinterest more understandable.

Still, the stories are engaging in general, and the willingness to address ugly events lifts the book above the average in the fake-nostalgia genre. On balance I liked it, only with some reservations.

Edited: Jan 1, 9:38pm Top

110) After Punk
Date: 2018

This is a collection of steampunk stories featuring ghosts or the afterlife. These are mostly pretty good, though some feel like excepts from longer stories. Standouts for me were “The Sun Worshipper” for its clever ending, “Reinventing the Wheel” for its kitchen-sink sense of fun, and “The Light of One Candle” for everything.

A Feast for Dead Horses by James Chambers. An inventor, a witch, and a sorceror are chased by voodoo horses through an alternate New Orleans.

Beyond the Familiar by Jeff Young. A medium-in-training is tested by spirits.

Glass Shades by David Sherman. A Pinkerton agent and a professional gambler chase an outlaw gang who are already dead.

Spirits Calling by Jody Lynn Nye. The recently-deceased wife of an inventor finds Heaven increasingly complicated when her widowed husband invents a machine to communicate with her.

Hildy and the Steampowered Hounds of Hela by L. Jagi Lamplighter. The Valkyrie Brunhilda is about to collect a soul for Valhalla when a mechanical hound of Hell snatches it away first. Brunhilda investigates and finds herself in a contest between herself and the shades of departed heroes for the destiny of their souls.

Windows to the Soul by Danielle Ackley-McPhail. The daughter of a late inventor completes his design of a device to see into the spirit world.

The Sun Worshipper by David Lee Summers. A medium is invited to a mummy-unwrapping party which turns out to be a bold experiment: the mummy's innards have been replaced with clockwork machinery, and the medium’s role is to invite the mummy's spirit back into its body.

Rock of Ages by Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin. Agents of the Department of Supernatural Investigation accompany an archaeologist in a search for plates that may have been left behind by an “airship from beyond” -- and which have been reported to be haunted.

The Light of One Candle by Michelle Sonnier's. A Japanese girl whose mother is about to die, gives her mother one last gift by crossing into the spirit world and engineering a way to postpone death long enough for a family farewell.

The Camera by Jeffrey Lyman. A photographer is assigned to document conditions on a dirigible that had gotten lost over a sort of no-man’s land called ”Harrow Field” … and then returned with all passengers dead.

Reinventing the Wheel by Bernie Mojzes. A sort of karmic Western about a natural philosopher who finds a way to visit Shamshara, the realm of the Hindu wheel of suffering, and decides to destroy it.

Edited: Jan 1, 9:38pm Top

111) DAW #142: 2018 A.D. or the King Kong Blues / Samuel J. Lundwall
Date: 1975 (original Swedish 1974)

Satire set 44 years in the future, featuring an ad executive looking for a spokeswoman for armpit cream. His boss has ordered him to find Anniki Norijn, the first woman born in the 21st century; but Anniki does not wish to be found. The story alternates perspective among the ad executive, Anniki, and an oil-rich sheik who turns out to be the most powerful man in the world. From the perspective of 2018, much of the setting feels uncomfortably prescient: ubiquitous advertising, disappearance of privacy, "reality" entertainment. What's missing is any real engagement with the characters -- exposition is prioritized over drama, to the extent that a generous bibliography is included to justify the world-building. Still, it's light enough and short that it doesn't overstay its welcome.

Edited: Jan 1, 9:38pm Top

112) DAW #143: Eloise / E.C. Tubb
Date: 1975

Twelfth in Tubb's space opera series featuring Earl Dumarest. Dumarest was born on Earth but left as a child, and has since traveled among the stars to a region so distant that "Earth" is considered a myth when it's considered at all. The series follows Dumarest's efforts to return home. Complicating his project are the Cyclan, a sort of hybrid human/computational hive-mind who want to capture Dumarest to extract from his brain a secret that was planted there early in the series.

In this one, Dumarest narrowly escapes a Cyclan trap and crash-lands in the arctic region of planet Camollard. There he finds a city run by a computer, whose inhabitants are relatively happy but entirely at the mercy of the computer's sometimes-deadly decisions. Among the inhabitants is Eloise, a dancer from a more temperate region of the planet who will do anything-- anything -- to get back to civilization.

This is weak entry in a favorite series. Eloise is too shallow a character to generate much interest beyond a vague annoyance, and Dumarest himself is unusually abrasive. Very little happens to advance the larger plot, except that Dumarest briefly believes that the city may be a forerunner of the Cyclan. It isn't. Still, a solid series isn't undone by one dud entry so I'm still looking forward to the next.

Dec 30, 2018, 6:14pm Top

>277 swynn: *gobsmacked*

Had I known that book existed in 1975, I'd've been all over it like a cheap suit. The things that whizz past us in this life...I swanee you'd think 1975 was 1775 for all the good modernity did me then.

Dec 30, 2018, 6:14pm Top

>278 swynn: I can't remember what were the strong and weak Dumarest books, but I was rarely disappointed with them. I've read the first 19 and several later ones, and one of the first DAWs I plan to read next year is #20 Web of Sand. I have the entire series. For pulp fiction following a formula of sorts these were very well done. My plan is to read/re-read the series from #20 onwards.

Dec 30, 2018, 10:07pm Top

>279 richardderus: It had been off my radar too: I hadn't heard of it before acquiring it for the DAW project. Apparently it just never took off here, though it was a bestseller in Sweden and a multimedia event: Lundwall released an album of blues songs to accompany the text. Fortunately, some of that is on YouTube. I have no idea what the singer is saying, but Swedish blues sounds delightful:


Dec 30, 2018, 10:08pm Top

>280 RBeffa: Excellent! I'm looking forward to your comments on the Dumarest books.

Edited: Jan 1, 9:39pm Top

113) Children of Blood and Bone / Tomi Adeyemi
Date: 2018

This is a pretty straightforward teenagers-save-the-world fantasy adventure, drawing on African rather than European history and myth. It works terrifically well, thanks to Adeyemi's clear and rapid prose and her appealing and sometimes complicated characters, and her themes of power and its suppression, which resonate with me especially in the wake of completing the "Broken Earth" trilogy. I gobbled this goodness up and am looking forward to the sequel.

Edited: Jan 1, 9:39pm Top

114) Montana 1948 / Larry Watson
Date: 1993

David, the son of a Montana sheriff, watches as his uncle, a war hero and respected doctor and favorite son is accused of shocking crimes. David's Father is responsible for seeing that justice is carried out ... but is also responsible for protecting the family name and protecting the community's order-preserving system of privileges. This is the kind of fictional memoir that resonates with me more than the wistful sentimentality of How Green Was My Valley. Topped off with gut-punching prose, it's the best thing I've read this year. As mentioned above, I think it was Julia who recommended this to me, but it bears repeating: thanks!

Edited: Jan 1, 9:39pm Top

115) The Cross-Cutting Trilogy / Wendy Hammer
Date: 2017 (contents 2015-2017)

This collects three urban fantasy novellas and two short stories set in the Indianapolis area featuring Trinidad O'Laughlin, an Irish-Caribbean "Walker." It's not entirely clear to me what a Walker is and does, but it seems to be a sort of city guardian who, by becoming familiar with a city, can call upon the city's magical powers. Trinidad and her friends face other-dimensional monsters who prey on the residents of Indianapolis and Lafayette. There's a diverse ensemble cast, which is nice, and some creepy bits, but it never became anything really special for me. I'd read some more Trinidad O'Laughlin stories but probably won't seek out more.

Dec 31, 2018, 7:29am Top

>284 swynn: Ah! I thought you'd love that one, Steve. So glad it hit the spot for you as it did for me.

Dec 31, 2018, 11:54am Top

Dec 31, 2018, 12:17pm Top

>281 swynn: Swedish blues! And I thought Norwegian zydeco was the strangest thing I'd ever heard.

>284 swynn: A life-changing book for me. The source of my lasting admiration and appreciation of Larry Watson, whose White Crosses is a great next read in his ouevre.

Dec 31, 2018, 3:04pm Top

Dec 31, 2018, 10:48pm Top

>286 rosalita: Hi Julia! I think I need to follow more of your recommendations!

>287 thornton37814: Happy New Year to you too, Lori!

>288 richardderus: White Crosses should already be on its way to me and I should get to it in early 2019. Looking forward to it!

>289 brodiew2: Happy New Year, Brodie!

Dec 31, 2018, 11:13pm Top

And a happy new year to all visitors! I still have several books to report on for 2018 (also nine Perry Rhodan adventures), and those will trickle in early in the new year. When I have them all loved, I'll figure out statistics.

Dec 31, 2018, 11:33pm Top

See you on the other side!

Jan 1, 9:27pm Top

>292 ronincats: Soon, Roni!

Jan 1, 9:40pm Top

Wishing you and yours a happy and joyous 2019, filled with peace, love, and great books.

Edited: Jan 1, 10:34pm Top

116) DAW #144: The Jaws That Bite, the Claws That Catch / Michael G. Coney
Date: 1975

Joe Sagar is a successful breeder of slithes: extraterrestrial beasts whose shed skin can be used to make fashion accessories or garments which change color in response to heat, sweat, adrenaline, who knows what: mood-clothing for the filthy rich. Joe's exclusive neighborhood also includes a dealer in pets engineered from marine predators; and Carioca Jones, a 3-V star in decline. Jones, trying to maintain what celebrity she has left, requisitions a slithe-skin dress from Sagar and strongly hints she's open to a personal relationship as well. Joe isn't interested in Carioca Jones, though, he's interested in her bonded servant, Joanne.

In Coney's future Earth, convicted prisoners who volunteer are available (at a price) for bonded servitude. In exchange bonded servants receive reduced sentences. An employer receives the servant's labor and also a sort of health insurance policy: if the employer loses a limb or an internal organ, then the bonded servant will supply it. This bonded servitude is the basis for most of the book's speculation: is such a status ethical, provided it is voluntary? Would employers tend to take more risks, knowing that spare parts are available in case of failure? What happens when demand exceeds supply? And how would unethical actors exploit the relationship? Take Carioca Jones, who is not about to be overlooked for some bonded servant. She sees that Sagar admires Joanne's musical skill, and it isn't long before Jones badly mauls her hands in an accident with her pet land-shark. She gets Joanne's hands as replacements. The ploy sort of works: Sagar is repulsed by Jones's opportunism, but his feelings for Joanne turn from lust to pity, removing her as a distraction while he and Jones grow closer.

There are several terrific ideas here, but also an awful lot going on and it doesn't always feel well orchestrated. The plot eventually settles into some shady goings-on at the local prison, but the forces opposed to the corruption are played for laughs. Added to that, Coney's characters are with few exceptions reprehensible. The result is a story with very appealing elements that just doesn't work -- like Kelly Freas's cover, a hot mess.

Jan 1, 10:36pm Top

>294 Dejah_Thoris: Same to you, Dejah!

Edited: Jan 2, 11:03pm Top

117) A Queen of Atlantis / Francis Atkins
Date: 1898

When Owen Wydale rescues a young boy from the bullying of a ship's ruffian crew, he thinks he's just doing a good deed. But the boy turns out to be the runaway George Danville, one of the heirs to the Dareville trading fortune. When he returns the boy he meets George's older brother Sydney, with whom he strikes up an instant friendship, and George's beautiful sister Vanina. Sydney is about to launch a new trading venture, and invites Owen to come along. They all set sail -- on the very ship and with the same crew from which Owen had rescued George.

Adventure ensues. The crew abandons the ship in the Sargasso Sea, leaving Owen, Sydney, Vanina, and George locked in their cabin alone and unarmed on the ship. The four break out of the cabin and maneuver the boat into a current that takes them to the lost island of Atlantis. There, Vanina is recognized as the long-prophesied Queen of Atlantis. They get involved in a civil war, local intrigue, fight vampires, battle a giant land-squid (per the cover's promise), and more.

It's quite fun. It turns out to be in a series, and I'll have to seek out the others.

Jan 2, 5:32am Top

>297 swynn:

I think you forgot the 's' in your http://...


Jan 2, 11:04pm Top

Edited: Jan 2, 11:12pm Top

118) Kill Creek / Scott Thomas
Date: 2017

Four very different sorts of horror authors at turning points in their careers receive an invitation to be interviewed by the author of a popular horror fan blog. Only after they accept the invitation do they learn that the blogger intends to interview them together, and in the context of an overnight stay at a famously haunted house. Bad stuff happens and (warning) the ending is quite gruesome. It's obviously a little bit "House on Haunted Hill" but it's also a love letter to the entire genre and I enjoyed it, splattery end and all.

Edited: Jan 2, 11:20pm Top

119) Insel der Zombie-Dinos (=Island of the Zombie-Dinos) / Dawn A. Eliott
Date: 2017

Zombie dinosaurs, yay! Except these dinosaurs aren't zombies so I'm a little disappointed. They're dinosaurs caught in a time-loop as an accidental side-effect of World War II-era research. The dinosaurs don't return from the dead, they just return when their time-loop resets. Which actually makes them harder to kill than zombies, but still. Also: no T-Rex. But there *is* dinosaur mayhem, and a nonsensical plot worthy of one of those crappy-CGI Syfy movies. And really, that was what I was expecting, so: mostly satisfied.

Jan 3, 12:28pm Top

>301 swynn: Those poor not zombie dinos. Stuck in a ST:TNG plot.

Jan 3, 4:50pm Top

>299 swynn:

Ah, that's better! :D

Jan 3, 11:45pm Top

>302 MickyFine: Or in one of the better Bill Murray movies ...

>303 lyzard: You're welcome!

Edited: Jan 6, 12:39am Top

120) DAW #145: Fliers of Antares / Alan Burt Akers
Date: 1975

Eighth in Kenneth Bulmer's swords-and-planets series featuring Dray Prescot, an eighteenth-century adventurer transported to the Scorpio system, where he fights evil on the planet Kregen. At the end of the last episode, Dray and his wife Delia were rescued by friends from the arena of Havilcar, and taken homeward on the friends' voller, a sort of flying boat.

But Dray doesn't get far: when they fly through a storm he is knocked out of the voller, and eventually falls into the hands of slavers. The slavers sell him to work in the "Heavenly Mines" of Hamal, where an ore is extracted for use in manufacturing vollers. Dray endures the mines for awhile, but barely begins contemplating escape when the Star Lords snatch him away and drop him far away and ten years in the past in the Kingdom of Djanduin. He knows the Star Lords won't let him return to Delia until the ten years have passed, so he spends the time becoming King of Djanduin. It's not like he has anything better to do.

When Dray's ten years are up, though, the Star Lords demand one more task of him. They send him to a remote part of Hamal where his task seems to be saving a village from lava flow. This he does, but gets on the bad side of a local chieftain so he runs away to Sumbakir, where he briefly finds employment in a voller factory. He hopes to take advantage of the position and learn as much as he can about vollers -- the vollers sold outside of Hamal are notriously defective, and nobody outside Hamal knows how to fix them. But he captures the unwanted attention of the factory owner's wife. Not only are the woman's attentions unwanted but he finds the way she treats her slaves repulsive. He frees the slaves, one of whom kills the woman during the uprising. Dray narrowly escapes the Sumbakirans' revenge, and finally meets up with Delia and friends, whom he tells that he has unfinished business in Hamal.

The business with the slave uprising in Sumbakir appears to be a direct dig at another planetary-romance series:

But all these things meant little beside the debased appearance of the three slave girls. I had heard of this manner of collaring and chaining slaves, girl slaves, the manner known as nohnam. They wore scanty silk garments, pale green, peach, lake-blue. Around their necks, their wrists, their ankles, were fastened bands of silver --the collars were high, causing the girls to lift their heads when they wished to let their chins sink in misery. I doubted if the metal was really silver. From the collar ran chains to the wrists and to the ankles, and from ankles to wrists ran more chains, caught up beneath the girls' bodies.

This is pretty much John Norman's thing, and it's hard to imagine that Bulmer didn't have Gor in mind.

This isn't one of my favorites: there's too many things going on in too many directions. It's not obvious that Bulmer knows where he's going with all this, but the bits about the Heavenly Mines and the voller factory will pay off in the next volume or two. Of course, some other bits are just filler.

Edited: Jan 6, 12:39am Top

121) The Keys of the Kingdom / A.J. Cronin
Date: 1941

The top bestseller in the U.S. in 1941 follows the career of an unconventional priest, Francis Chisholm.

From his childhood he seems an odd prospect for priesthood: though his his best friend is an atheist; and he admires his grandfather, an evangelist who preaches something a lot like universalism. When he enters seminary, Chilsholm's questions and preference for humaneness over dogma repeatedly cause problems. His first assignments as priest go no more smoothly: in his first he builds a youth center against the wishes of the senior priest; in his second he debunks a miracle to the embarassment of the local church hierarchy. With few other ideas for solving a problem like Francis, the Church sends him to run a mission in China. Chisholm finds the mission in disarray: its buildings in ruins, its members fled except for a couple who demand a salary, and little expectation of more financial support from the Church. Chisholm digs in, builds a reputation for honesty and good will. He builds a free clinic with assistance from his old atheist friend. Eventually the mission finds a new location, and assistance from a handful of nuns who join the mission to help with the clinic. Despite his work he continues to clash with church hierarchy, who disapprove of his friendship with a Methodist missionary and expect him to inflate the number of converts. Despite his difficulties with the bureaucracy, his honesty and humility wins respect and friends at every step.

It feels romanticized: Father Chisholm feels a bit to good to be true, and despite hardships everything works out in the end. Even his difficulties with the Church are temporary obstacles which grace eventually overcomes. Like everyone else in the book I like Chisholm. I sympathize with his humanitarian philosophy -- who wouldn't? -- I'd prefer him to pursue his doubts a little further but I get that many don't. His loyalty to a Church which is more antagonistic than supportive is a bit baffling, and I wonder whether the point is that the Church's faults are redeemed through the lives of saints like Chisholm. If that's the point I have to disagree with it, but Cronin has composed an entertaining case.

Edited: Jan 6, 12:39am Top

122) DAW #146: Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said / Philip K. Dick
Date: 1974

Television celebrity Jason Taverner wakes up in a cheap and dingy hotel room, to a world in which he doesn't exist. Nobody has ever heard of him, and even his closest friends don't recognize him. This is a big deal, because the Second Civil War (fought between students and police) has made the United States into a surveillance state where it is impossible to go anywhere without either proper documentation or celebrity, both of which Taverner's nonexistence has rendered useless. He does, however, have a large wad of cash, with which he commissions forged documents from an artist who turns out to be a police informant. Thus he comes to the notice of Police General Felix Buckman, who sympathizes with Taverners nonpersonhood but has his own set of issues, including an addict sister with whom he has a secret son, which could jeapordize his career if they became widely known. It's an unsettling piece of dystopian science fiction with one inventive world-building detail after another, wrapped up in provocative speculation about the relationship between perception and reality. This is the stuff, man.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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