swynn's thread for 2019
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I'm Steve, 50, a technical services librarian at a medium-sized public university in Missouri. This is my 10th year with the 75ers. Expect a mixture of the following, in decreasing density:
Science fiction and fantasy
Crime & mystery novels
Popular history (American, mostly)
Library science/history of the book
Also, 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:
I may also talk from time to time about running. I was an avid long-distance runner up to a couple of years ago, but since then my weekly volume has fallen off to about 10-15 miles. I want to build this back up and start racing again because I miss it a lot.
(A) 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 30 of them, and hope to read at least 31 this year.
DAWs so far: 9
Next up: Enchanted Planet by Pierre Barbet
Perry Rhodan is a weekly science fiction serial that has been published continuously since 1961. I read 75 of these last year, and set up a separate thread for it. I'm still enjoying them, but would like to slow the pace a little this year to give myself space to read some other German-language science fiction. So my plan is to keep posting on last year's PR thread, which is here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/279193
Perry Rhodans so far: 2
Next Up: Der Mann mit den zwei Gesichtern (= The man with two faces) by Clark Darlton
For the last few years, Liz (lyzard) and I have been reading through American bestsellers at a rate of one per month. I'm running behind. I'm working through Franz Werfel's The Song of Bernadette in the original German and it's going a bit slow. I hope to catch up on this soon, but ... you know.
Bestsellers so far: 2
Next Up: The Robe (1943) by Lloyd Douglas
More Not Straight Not White Not Dudes
My reading list skews white and male. Go figure. Last year I tracked proportion of LGBTQ, non-white, and female authors in an effort to be more conscious of this. Even so, my scores weren't great: 6% LGBTQ, 8% authors of color, and 33% women. I'd like to do better. I'm aiming for: 10% LGBTQ authors, 15% authors of color, 50% women. Recommendations welcome.
(C) Not Straight: 3/39 (8%)
(D) Not White: 4/39 (10%)
(E) Not Dudes: 21/39 (54%)
Other Good Intentions
(F) Read more off my shelves.
So far: 7
(G) Read more stuff recommended by friends and relatives.
So far: 4
Continue more series than I start. And finish one every now and then, sheesh.
Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen
Greenglass House series by Kate Milford
Danielle Cain series by Margaret Killjoy
Illuminae series by Annie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Girl from the Well series by Rin Chupeco
Stillhouse Lake series by Rachel Caine
Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein
Maggie O'Dell series by Alex Kava
Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
Murderbot series by Martha Wells
Birthgrave series by Tanith lee
Templar knights series by Joseph Nassise
Rim Worlds/John Grimes series by A. Bertram Chandler
St. Mary's series by Jodi Taylor
Hooded Swan series by Brian Stableford
World's End series by Lin Carter
Noon Universe series by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Titus Crow series by Brian Lumley
Stella Hardesty series by Sophie Littlefield
Seeker series by Arwen Elys Dayton
Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Machine Dynasty series by Madeline Ashby
Hooded Swan series by Brian Stableford
Seeker series by Arwen Elys Dayton
Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Machine Dynasty series by Madeline Ashby
For recordkeeping purposes, I'm noting the challenges filled by each read in parenthetical codes at the end. The letters correspond to the challenges in the post above.
1) Naked Statistics / Charles Wheelan
2) Bring Back Yesterday by A. Bertram Chandler (I)
3) Berserker's Planet by Fred Saberhagen (AFH)
4) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (DE)
5) A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor (EI)
6) Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu (D)
7) Gender and the Jubilee (E)
8) 1975 Annual World's Best SF (AF)
9) Catching Fire (EGI)
10) Banned in Boston by Neil Miller (C)
11) Swan Song by Brian Stableford (AFIJ)
12) What I Believe by Bertrand Russell
13) The Enchantress of World's End by Lin Carter (AFI)
14) Escape Attempt by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky (I)
15) Greenglass House by Kate Milford (EH)
16) Das Lied von Bernadette by Franz Werfel (B)
17) The Transition of Titus Crow by Brian Lumley (AFI)
18) A Bad Day for Mercy by Sophie Littlefield (EI)
19) Disruptor by Arwen Elys Dayton (EIJ)
20) Twilight of the Elves by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos (GIJ)
21) Damsel by Elana K. Arnold (E)
22) The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy (CEGH)
23) Illuminae by Annie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (EH)
24) The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (DEGH)
25) Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (EH)
26) The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein (EGH)
27) A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava (EGH)
28) Merlin's Mirror by Andre Norton (AEF)
29) Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race / Renni Edo-Lodge (DE)
30) The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (EH)
31) Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
32) All Systems Red by Martha Wells (EH)
33) Strange fruit by Lillian Smith (BCE)
34) The Book of Poul Anderson (AF)
35) iD by Madeline Ashby (EIJ)
36) The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee (AEFH)
37) The Heretic by Joseph Nassise (H)
38) Flight or Fright edited by Bev Vincent and Stephen King
39) Background to Danger by Eric Ambler
1) Naked Statistics / Charles Wheelan
This is a popular introduction to statistics, and contains high-level discussions of probabiliity, sampling, distributions, standard deviation and error, the Central Limit Theorem, linear regression. It avoids mathematical detail in preference for intuitive descriptions, though some of the math is included in chapter appendices. It's entertaining but a bit too jokesy and math-averse for me. Still, I may check out his "Naked" books on economics and money, where my knowledge of the basics is weaker.
The cover, BTW, is brilliant.
Happy New Year, Steve. You have many worthy goals for this year. Any planned trips to Rochester this year?
And Happy New Year to all visitors! I have all of you starred and am looking forward to watching what you read & how you like it. I'm hoping to keep up with everyone's threads a little better this year. (Just like I hoped last year and the year before, and ... yeah, I know.)
I've certainly enjoyed following your reads and you've inspired me to get off my butt and tackle some of my own DAW's, mostly the unread ones, but a few will be rereads. I'll be happy with one a month though!
Hi Ron and happy New year! I'll head over to your thread and star it to keep up with your DAWs and other reading!
Happy New Year and Thread, Steve!
I had a laugh up above: when I finished The Song Of Bernadette I was going to recommend the Ludwig Lewisohn translation to you..."Unless he's planning on reading it in German, of course," added Ms Smartarse to herself. :D
My academic library reopens this week, so I will be taking a run in to pick up a copy of The Robe (I'll be glad when the war ends and America can stop getting religious!). I'm not sure where you are with What I Believe? - though as you note, it's short enough not to be an issue. I'm also planning on placing an ILL for Jim Tully's Circus Parade, which is surprisingly available: there seems to have been a recent reissue, so it might actually have virtues beyond the (alleged) shock value.
Hi Liz! Actually, I'm using the Lewisohn translation. The vocabulary is rather different from Perry Rhodan (who'd've guessed?) And the prose is much denser than Remarque's. German being what it is, many of the words I don't recognize don't appear in dictionaries, so I'm leaning on Lewisohn to help me through the difficult bits. It's slow going through a story that is anything but fast-paced, but it's still a rewarding exercise.
I found the Lewisohn translation a surprisingly smooth read: it didn't feel translated, which I tend to take as a good sign; I'll be interested to hear what you make of it as a reference-work.
>5 BLBera: Ooops, I didn't answer the question about Rochester. No planned trips this year, Beth, I may be in the area a little more frequently because my father has had some health issues, and could certainly plan a trip around a meetup. But I won't make the marathon this year. :) More on that later.
>16 lyzard: So far so good. It's close enough that so far it's been pretty easy to identify which words and turns of phrase he's rendered in what way.
>17 swynn: Well, keep in touch. We can always meet for a coffee between appointments.
> Nice topper covers. I am not sure what to make of A Bad Day For Mercy. The conflicting imagery has me wanting to laugh and worry at the same time.
>20 brodiew2: Hi Brodie! A Bad Day For Mercy is a volume in Sophie Littlefield's "Stella Hardesty" series, a mystery series where the protagonist is a sort of enforcer. Stella's clients are women in domestic abuse situations; her assignments are her clients' abusive husbands/exes. The covers fit the theme well:
The series gets a bit romancey for me (just for dramatic tension, Stella's squeeze is the local sheriff), so I haven't been tearing through them but I like the premise so much I keep coming back.
Dropping off a star, Steve. Looks your reading year is already off to a good start.
>21 swynn: thanks for providing the cover series. Kudos to the designer. They are eye catching.
Hi Steve! I'm looking forward to seeing how you get on with those DAWs and everything else! I quite like the sound of that series - sounds slightly like the Janet Evanovitch series about the female bounty hunter (I'm sure it has an official title, but it eludes me). I liked those a lot until they just started getting a bit too repetitive.
>24 HanGerg: Happy New Year, Hannah! I like the Evanovich series too-- I think it's just "Stephanie Plum" -- but it's another that I take in small doses. I'll probably read another of them this year. Heading over to your thread to drop a star!
2) Bring Back Yesterday / A. Bertram Chandler
(The copy I read is the 1981 Schocken reprint, which was published as "Volume 3 in the Rim World series." Which you can tell by the way that nobody goes to the Rim Worlds.)
John Peterson is a Second Officer in the Trans-Galactic Clippers corporations, but loses his status when he misses his launch after a night of sex and drugs. This gets him not only fired from TGC but also blacklisted from every reputable spacegoing company in the universe. Since he has no skills other than flying spaceships, this limits his next career moves to: (1) going back to Earth on the dole, or (2) going to the Rim Worlds. He doesn't want to do either.
Stuck on planet Carinthia while he waits for a ship back to Earth, Peterson searches for any other gainful employment. With little time left he gets his opportunity: private detective Steve Vynalek, who is investigating a reclusive scientist on Carinthia's moon Wenceslas. Rumors are that the scientist has discovered the secrets of time travel, which would be very interesting to many parties if true. Vynalek has a plan for an undercover operation, but the operation can only be done properly by a trained spaceman. It's a match made in ... well, a night of debauchery, but it works out for everyone.
In an introduction to the Schocken edition, Chandler writes that Bring Back Yesterday was originally intended as a "private-eye novel set in space" but turned into a space opera. But its roots as private-eye pastiche are still there. Vynalek's methods are deliberately more Sam Spade than CSI:
"Now, as you have already observed, I own a fine collection of detective fiction, none of it modern, all of it from the vintage period. You'll find all the twentieth-century masters here. Conan Doyle, Chesterton, Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie ... "
"And the rest," said Liz. "I can see that your tastes haven't changed. I remember how excited you were when you were searching Beta Carinae for contraband and you found an ancient, tattered reprint of some old book by some old author called Spillane. But what you, a professional detective, can see in this rubbish ... "
"It's not rubbish," he said quietly. "It's good, sound stuff. And, as a matter ofact, it was these very books that encouraged me to resign from the force and to set up shop on my own account." He was warming to his theme. "The trouble with every modern police department is that it's too obsessed with gadgetry."
Peterson's private-eye training consists of reading these novels. After absorbing a few, Vynalek asks him what he's learned:
"The message seems to be that the machinery of organized crime prevention and detection is too cumbersome. The message seems to be that one resourceful man can achieve more than a big and well-equipped police force. And there's another angle. Very often this one, resourceful man -- or not so resourceful -- having blundered into the middle of some sort of mess acts as a catalyst so that the whole lot blows up, very often right in his face."
And that's the sort of adventure that plays out. With no idea what he's looking for, Peterson finds himself the target of multiple assassination attempts: the book's best bit comes when Peterson's ride to Wenceslas is sabotaged and he has to navigate the wreck to its destination. Once there, he unsubtly finds his way to the scientist, whose secret is appropriately revolutionary, and whose daughter is appropriately beautiful and available. The action is packed and the story as engaging as its source material.
3) DAW #147: Berserker's Planet / Fred Saberhagen
This is the first novel in Saberhagen's Berserker series, though two collections of shorter works had been published previoiusly, making this volume 3 in most series numerations. I read and enjoyed the first volume (Berserker) back in high school, but never got around to any others though I've read stories from the series in various anthologies. The idea is that sometime during our expansion into space, humans encounter "berserkers," intelligent war machines dedicated to destroying all life in the universe.
In this one, a party from Earth visits Hunter's Planet for a hunting vacation. Their visit coincides with a planet-wide gladiatorial tournament and the Earthers drop in to spectate. But the contest turns out to be a front for a Berserker plot. It suffers from the same sort of boys'-club aesthetic as Chandler but several nice things are happening here, including a not-very-subtle critique of blood sports in comparison the berserkers' simple, pragmatic pursuit of death:
Never had the berserker asked for offerings of pain or terror. Killing, simple killing without end and as long as life existed, was all it wanted. It was not enthusiastic about inflicting pain, which was after all a manifestation of life, after all, an evil. It allowed the torture to go on only because the infliction of pain was so satisfying to the humans who were its servitors.
With the lure of blood sport, the berserker's minions can trap all the Earthers but one, the party's weak-stomached pacifist whom nobody can remember why he was invited. Upon whom everyone's fate then relies ...
The cover is by Jack Gaughan.
4) The Last Black Unicorn / Tiffany Haddish
Every year when I look over the Goodreads award nominees I see the candidates for humor and think, "I like to laugh. I should try one of these." I usually fail to finish, and worry that my sense of humor is broken.
This year Tiffany Haddish's The Last Black Unicorn won the Humor award. It's a collection of autobiographical bits, focusing on her challenging childhood and her early days breaking in to comedy. Props to Haddish for overcoming all the crap that life threw at her, and for sharing it. It's clear she's a remarkable woman. But I still worried that my sense of humor is broken. For me, the story isn't funny and the jokes fall flat. There's an especially uncomfortable bit with a physically and mentally disabled boyfriend-- the story feels mean-spirited, and the intended takeaway is unclear to me.
5) A Second Chance / Jodi Taylor
Good news! My sense of humor is working fine.
There's a sign on my office wall, which reads-- In the event of emergency, bang head here. Long ago, Peterson had pointed out that it was much too high up on the wall for my head to reach and I had replied that it wasn't my bloody head that would be banged against the wall. I would give anything to have that sign now. It would be something to aim at.
Thanks, Jodi Taylor! Why haven't I already devoured every one of these?
Caught up on reviews!
Well, not counting Perry Rhodan ... back to work, Steve.
So, something I've been toying with is the idea of posting progress as I get back into distance running. Those who have been hanging around my threads for a few years remember when I posted about races frequently. That's fallen off, as my mileage has also plummeted. I'd like to rebuild my training to where I can at least do a couple of half-marathons a year. So I have this idea that others might be interested, and that accountability might help, so I'll post weekly updates, at least until I don't anymore. If you're not interested, then skip it -- that "RUNNING POST" header is a warning.
Anyway, here's where I am today:
Mileage last week: 15 miles.
Mileage this year: 13 miles (Monday Dec. 31st doesn't count.)
Longest run: 3 miles
Target mileage this week: 17 miles
Monday weigh-in: 255 lbs.
Also, I usually listen to music when running -- except when running roads, obviously, I'm not one of *those* nuts -- so I'll add a "Soundtrack" link to something I enjoy running to. My tastes are eclectic: heavy on rock, blues, and industrial metal, but also pop, bluegrass, Texas country and shiny things. Suggestions for workout tunes are welcome! Let's start with the obvious (Yes, it's on my running playlist. Duh.):
Soundtrack: Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)
>29 swynn: I need to get back to that series; I read the first one and loved it, of course.
>34 scaifea: I think I forgot to mention that this one has a long episode set at Troy. And it's only volume 3, so not that far to go ... You know you want to ...
>36 BLBera: Isn't she though? I especially appreciated her in contrast to another humorous book I just wasn't feeling. And, thanks!
>37 richardderus: Well, I won't be caught up by then, but I'm not letting it go so long til the next one either. I have A Trail Through Time on my phone, and think I'll get to in a monthish.
6) Ball Lightning / Cixin Liu
When he is 14, Chen sees his mother and father reduced to ash by ball lightning. He dedicates his life to investigating this phenomenon, which leads him into military R&D, where he meets a fascinating woman obsessed with developing cutting-edge weapons. The book's chief preoccupation is Chen's research, a series of increasingly wild speculations and tests, each of which comes with increasingly inventive weapons. Chen barely has a personality outside of his obsession with ball lightning, and the world outside of Chen's orbit is only vaguely sketched. Towards the end for example, China declares war (or has war declared upon it?) by some state which the text only identifies as "the enemy." I suppose the point is that the enemy's identity doesn't matter, only the opportunity to use the new weapons, but the glibness feels like missed opportunity. Despite the flat characters and sketchy world-building, I loved the hard sf, the far-out ideas, and the musing about the relationship between research and military applications.
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you, Steve, this year.
Hi Paul! I've dropped a star over on your thread so I can keep up with your reads also. Wishing you a good one!
>46 swynn: That's not part of the Three-Body Problem set, is it? I read the first of those and found the premise fascinating, even as it confirmed for me that I don't do very well with "hard" sci-fi. I'm glad I read it, though.
>50 swynn: It's not part of the Three-Body Problem trilogy ... except sort of: towards the end a character from TBP appears, so you could think of it as a prequel. But the connection is slight, and it stands on its own. Its strengths and weaknesses are very much like those of TBP, which should hint whether it might be your cup of tea.
Wondering how much snow you got as part of this system? I saw photos from St. Louis area on Facebook earlier. Wow!
>51 thornton37814: Hi Lori! We're north of the worst, though we've gotten enough to be a nuisance, and it's still coming down. The Weather Channel says we've got 2.7 inches so far. I'd have guessed something between 3 and 4, and I usually underestimate, but I don't know when TWC last checked.
>52 swynn: It may be heavier in your neighborhood. Sometimes those official counts are somewhere that is a bit warmer like an airport.
7) Gender and the Jubilee / Sharon Romeo
Missouri was a slave state that did not secede from the Union. Calling it a "loyal" state is technically correct, but a stretch in any meaningful sense. Confederate sympathies were rampant, even among state and local officials. Federal troops were stationed in the state in order to suppress rebellion. The troops were in Missouri solely related to the war effort, but their presence meant that an alternative was available to the state's legal authorities. Romeo uses court and Army records to detail how enslaved people, particularly women, appealed to federal military authorities to assert rights that state laws denied them. By doing so, they undermined the institution of slavery in ways that federal forces did not intend and in fact were supposed to avoid. The petitioners' claims also show how the enslaved population of Missouri imagined themselves as citizens and took steps to make it so. The presentation is academic but the content is fascinating.
>54 swynn: A frothy, light-as-air read for your wintertime escapism fix, eh Steve?
>54 swynn: Sounds fascinating. Of course, as a Kansan (and we all know who was responsible for "Bloody Kansas"*), the slavery sympathies and activism of the Missouri populace of the time is well known.
*For those who don't know, roving bands of marauders from Missouri who came across the border and raided and torched towns in the Territory (and later Free State) of Kansas. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleeding_Kansas
>55 richardderus: Well, not much. An explanation may be in order.
For a while I've had a sort of vague notion that I ought to read some history about this state I'm residing in -- prompted, I confess, by finding myself in conversations about state history and having to say, "I had no idea." So I've made a little list of interesting books mentioned recently in the "Missouri Historical Review," the publication of the State Historical Society. This one had a couple of things to recommend it: it sounded interesting and it's short.
It probably wasn't the best place to start: as an academic work, Romeo is writing for historians so she assumes an understanding of things I don't understand: key events in a timeline of Civil War Missouri, more background about St. Louis than I possess, that kind of thing. But it's short, and the stories she digs out of the legal archives are frequently compelling.
>56 ronincats: "Bleeding Kansas" doesn't get mentioned in this text, but yes *that's* a story no Missourian should be proud of. Predictably, some are.
Romeo does mention Kansas as a place that enslaved people would escape to, either to join the Union Army (who had promised freedom to any black enlistee), or just to get the hell out of Missouri.
Did you know Kansas was one of the first places in the country where African-Americans could own property? Also the first all-black township of Nicodemus.
Here's something a little closer to the usual for this thread:
8) DAW #148: The 1975 Annual World's Best SF / ed. by Donald A. Wollheim
I liked most of Wollheim's picks for "world's best" but also had complaints about the ones I liked best, making it hard to pick favorites. Martin's story is quite good though it's a bit obvious and long. Van Scyoc's is also very good, though I think I missed a point because the background seems to have a few holes. Pohl's/Kornbluth's has a fun premise and execution, but also feels forgettable. I very much like Bishop's story, but am puzzled by choices he made in the way of telling it. Only Asimov's was a dud for me.
Several were nominated for genre awards. Three of them -- Martin's, Bester's, and Bishop's -- were nominated for Hugos, and Martin's won "Best Novella." Strete's story was nominated for a Nebula but did not win.
Statistically: the "world's best sf" for 1975 was written by 11 authors, of which 9 are American (plus 1 British, 1 Irish); 10 are White, 1 Native American (Craig Strete); 10 are male, 1 female (Sydney Van Scyoc).
Cover is by Jack Gaughan.
Song for Lya by George R.R. Martin
Natives of the planet Shkeen all follow the same religion which involves, sometime during adulthood, hosting a parasite (“Joining”); then sometime later allowing the parasite to consume you entirely (“Final Joining”). The religion is of cultural interest, but the puzzling thing is that it has started to attract human converts. A telepath and telempath arrive from Earth to investigate.
Deathsong by Sydney J. Van Scyoc
A scientific survey crew investigate a planet with two interesting features: a tiny population of nontechnological humanoid Aborigines, and an advanced temple complex. The temples seem designed to share the story of the race that built it, recalling lives of the ancestors through the playing of ingeniously engineered flutes. But what happened to the temple builders? And what was their relationship to the planet's living natives?
A Full Member of the Club by Bob Shaw
A businessman is devastated when his girlfriend dumps him after receiving a large inheritance. Even worse, she takes up a standard of living that seems lavish even by the standard of her inheritance. He becomes convinced that she’s in on a racket-- and he wants in too.
The Sun's Tears by Brian Stableford
A spaceman notices the girl of his dreams and approaches her father, who tells him that he can have her for one of the sun's tears.
The Gift of Garigolli by Fred Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
A man deep in debt desperately looks for a way to avoid losing his home. Meanwhile, a microscopic interstellar traveler tries to help him.
The Four-Hour Fugue by Alfred Bester
Master perfumist Blaise Skiaki is late delivering his latest project, so his employers hire investigators to find out why. It turns out that a couple of nights a week Skiaki goes for a walk at midnight, ditches his tail, and doesn't return until four in the morning. Worse: he may be murdering people on these nightly excursions.
Twig by Gordon R. Dickson
On a colony world, a young feral girl raised by an intelligent plant teams up with an old drunk to oppose destructive farming practices.
Cathadonian Odyssey by Michael Bishop
When human explorers discovered the planet Cathadonia the first thing they did was wipe out the population of tripod natives, so they could claim the uninhabited planet was available for colonization. Shortly afterward, the first scientific team visits Cathadonian and crashes on landing. The sole survivor makes a trek across the planet in hope of rescue … and gains a fellow-traveler in a tripod native.
The Bleeding Man by Craig Strete
A physician and an agent of the state decide what to do with a patient who bleeds copiously and continuously, and without any apparent ill effects.
Stranger in Paradise by Isaac Asimov
Two brothers, one an autism researcher and the other a telemetrist, work together to build a robot for exploring Mercury.
>59 ronincats: Well, here I go again: I had no idea. There must be a book on Nicodemus ...
Yes, and I'd forgotten that one of the episodes of The West on PBS dealt with this!
>60 swynn: Much more like the Steve I know! *whew* A few more of those brain-busters and I'd've had to invest in an anti-intellectual-gravity generator.
>66 richardderus: Hm. If it came across as stuffy and obscure that's a failure of communication on my part.
The thing that appealed to me were the stories Romeo pulled from the archives; I probably should have described some of those instead of just trying to paraphrase her argument (which, yeah, can sometimes get stuffy and obscure). I'll keep that in mind for future comments, but here's an example of a compelling story from the book.
The book opens with the story of a 12-year old girl who was kidnapped by a respectable St. Louis couple. The girl and her mother had been living near a Union encampment, where her mother was employed as a laundress. The St. Louis couple offered the girl employment as a housekeeper in their home. It's tempting to wonder what made the mother agree to the offer, but you stop and think that a military encampment could not possibly have been safe for a 12-year-old girl of any race, except maybe safer than whatever place they had escaped. In any case, the mother agreed only on the condition that her daughter would be allowed to return to her when asked. Later, the mother asked and the couple refused.
Under Missouri state law, the mother had no legal recourse to compel her daughter's "employers" to honor their agreement. Blacks were not allowed to testify against whites, and as a freed person (well, maybe: "freed" was a fragile status) the mother had no "master" or other white male authority to take up her case. But St. Louis at the time was under martial law, federal military police were available, and the mother appealed to them. The curious thing from a historian's standpoint is that this was a civil matter and not really a concern for the military police, whose responsibility was suppressing rebellion. Civilian authorities should have handled it -- except of course that they wouldn't have done because no laws had been broken. Romeo's point is that the mother appealed to the military authorities anyway. And a case was opened.
Unfortunately, the book isn't clear on whether the girl and her mother were reunited. That may be because Romeo didn't know -- stories in primary sources are sometimes fragmentary -- or maybe because that wasn't Romeo's point, which is that the mother appealed at all to federal authorities, which means she imagined herself deserving certain protections as a citizen of the nation. Romeo draws many stories from the archives to support the argument that more and more enslaved people imagined themselves having a status that the state explicitly denied them, and that they acted on these ideas to make them real. Unfortunately and outrageously, the claimants did not always receive the protections they deserved.
But sometimes they did. And where one person succeeded, others noticed and did likewise.
There's also a frustratingly brief fragment toward the end in a chapter on marriage describing a wedding between two women, one of them dressed as a man. The ceremony was held in a Baptist church. And the congregation seemed to regard the union as odd but valid, and sufficiently worthy of note that it complicated a widow's pension case.
Stories like these are what kept me reading.
>67 swynn: Historiography is frustrating precisely for that reason, Steve, the fragmentary nature of the *surviving* source materials is legendary among archive-divers. Read this Wikipedia article on John/Eleanor Rykener some time! Talk about literary blue...ones!
Romeo's work is historiography, so liable to incite the same feelings as the Wikipedia article. It's inevitable!
>68 richardderus: Agreed: the John/Eleanor Rykener story is very tantalizing.
>59 ronincats: I was born and raised in Kansas (Kansas City metro) and only recently learned about Junius Groves - a wealthy, black, land owner and farmer, respected businessman, and influential in building up Edwardsville, KS - just west of Kansas City.
I'm curious now to drive through Edwardsville and see if anything he named is still standing. I would expect there to be a statue or a plaque or something for someone as influential as he was in that town.
Incidentally, I heard about him because I saw this children's picture book, No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas and Googled his name. (additional info; photo)
Hello swynn. I hope your day is going well. I think I found the 'classic' DAW book that I will read in your honor-as a result of your 2018 DAW-nting review of mostly sub par titles.
The Pritcher Mass by Gordon R. Dickson. I was at Half Price Books today and discovered the title after passing on a Jack Vance and a Andre Norton. Let's see what happens. If nothing else, I stepped out of my comfort zone for a bit.
It has been many years since I lived in Louisiana. In fact I lived in Lakes Charles for the majority of my formative years. On the bits of history that remains with me today was the assassination of Huey Long. I remember visiting the state capital where bullet holes remain in the marble column where he was shot. At the time I would never have considered reading Huey Long by T. Harry Williams. To my amazement, it a Pulitizer Prize and National Book Award winner. My interest is already up on this one.
One of the earliest 'random' novels I reviewed at my blog was The Rebel's Daughter by J. G. Woerner, which is a Civil War novel set in Missouri. Overarchingly it's the same old boring Northern man / Southern woman metaphor-romance, but in its particulars it deals with the division of the state. Briefly, a young man of no particular status is semi-adopted of the local 'aristocratic' families (displaced Virginians, from memory) and taught the 'gentleman's code' of honour and loyalty, etc. Except when the split comes, they (for financial and political reasons) violate all their supposed principles and go with the secessionists, while he - acting up to the principles he was taught - sticks with the state and joins the militia.
I didn't know much about any of this and found it very interesting, particularly the sections dealing with the German immigrants who became the backbone of the local forces allied with the North. There's also a lot about the political manoeuvring and the actually legality of the push to the Civil War which, nerd as I am, I also found really interesting.
>70 richardderus: Looking forward to your thoughts on that one, Richard!
>71 originalslicey: Well, rats. I've barely started in on Missouri history and now there are all these interesting *Kansas* stories. Thanks for the link to the article about Junius Groves, originalslicey!
>72 brodiew2: I hope you like that one better than I did, Brodie. In any case I'm looking forward to your response to it.
>73 lyzard: It was certainly an interesting time (in the sense of the curse). The Germans' part in it is the subject of a couple other books on my Someday list ...
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Freezer 5K (Amana, IA, Jan. 26)
Mileage last week: 17
Mileage this year: 30
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 19
Monday weigh-in: 253 lbs.
Soundtrack: Kick Around (Samantha Fish)
The recording on my playlist is the one from Fish's 2013 release Black Wind Howlin' But I do not get tired of watching her in the linked video, jamming with Mike Zito and Tommy Castro.
9) Catching Fire / Suzanne Collins
I knew that Collins was going to figure out a way to get Katniss back into the arena, but was worried it was going to be gimmicky. And it was, but in the way that the games themselves are gimmicky and the move made sense in context. She's also nicely moving the interest from the games to the outside world, and I'm eager to see how she wraps things up.
On the other hand, I've had about enough of the "Oooh Gale but oh Peeta" business. In the next book I predict they both die in the first chapter, Peeta from a kick in the side and Gale from complications of dreaminess, leaving Katniss to take over the world and officially declare the new national game is Parcheesi. Please nobody spoil it for me.
Hello swynn! I hope your day is going well.
>75 swynn: It was a fairly random selection and I've heard of, but not read Dickson's Dorsai series. Perhaps, I should read one of those.
>78 brodiew2: I don't want to put you off it, Brodie. I'm genuinely interested in your response to it. There are some nice things: ecological disaster, a mix of science and magic, and a telepathic wolverine. I had some issues with what I saw as holes in the plot, but other readers have liked it.
>77 swynn: *snork!* I love your predictions for Gale and Peeta! May the odds be in your favor, but also don't hold your breath...
>80 scaifea: Despite my flippancy about the love triangle, I'm really enjoying the series. I'd worried that the transition from fighting in the arena to fighting the power would be implausible, but it's working for me so far.
>82 swynn: I'm mostly just joshin' too, because I loved that series. First time in a LONG time that I stayed up until 2am to finish a book.
>84 scaifea: I read it as joshing, so no worries. I've been putting off the series for ages, and wish now I'd read it sooner. It was a recommendation from my nephew that made me finally pick it up. Wait, not a recommendation ... it was more like a command. He was right.
Guten Abend, Steve. Just stopping by to drop a star. I thought I recognized your name on Litsy when you started following me, but it wasn't until I was reading Roni's thread earlier this evening that it finally clicked! Looking forward to following your reading. And yes, the Hunger Games was a great series, but OMG, yes, enough with Gale and Peta already!
I like your idea of identifying your challenges with a letter - I think I will have to steal that for my thread, as it is tiresome to keep writing out the challenge each and every time. Don't know why that didn't occur to me before.
Herzlich Willkommen, Robin! You're welcome to have the code-letters; I added them because last year I'd count some category then months later couldn't re-count the same way. Not this year. (By which I mean, we'll see ... ) You're welcome to steal it, and I hope it helps!
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Freezer 5K (Amana, IA, Jan. 26)
Mileage last week: 19
Mileage this year: 49
Longest run: 5 miles
Target mileage this week: 21
Monday weigh-in: 252 lbs.
Soundtrack: Doppelherz/Iki Gönlüm (Herbert Grönemeyer with BRKN)
An introduction: Herbert Grönemeyer is a German singer-songwriter, arguably the most successful German-language singer of his generation. His latest (15th) album "Tumult" was released last November. It's terrific but mostly not the sort of thing you'd run to. Fortunately there is an exception in this tune, "Doppelherz/Iki Gönlüm," which Grönemeyer recorded with BRKN, a Turkish-German hip-hop star. (Yes, German hip-hop is a thing.) The lyrics celebrate making the world one's home. BRKN's bit goes:
I am at home on concrete and asphalt,
There, where the big city never sleeps,
At home on the beach under palms,
And there where my grandmother's heart beats.
Change the wallpaper, let your soul breathe,
At length every place becomes a cage.
More than your language, more than your color,
I do not fit into the red lines on your map.
It's a big cosmopolitan middle finger to the anti-immigrant crowd. And with a beat you can run to. Plus, the video is smile-making. Really, check it out; even if you don't speak German you'll get it.
10) Banned in Boston / Neil Miller
This is a popular history of Boston's Watch and Ward Society, a sort of animating force behind Boston's book bans during the early 20th century. Founded in 1878 as the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice, a branch of Anthony Comstock's New York society, the Watch and Ward Society was founded and supported by progressive-minded protestants, the cream of Boston society. It continued up to 1967 at various levels of strength and effectiveness. In its heyday the WWS had a gentleman's agreement with Boston booksellers whereby WWS agents would screen new novels and let the bookstores know which titles not to stock. The local bookstores all played along, because the alternative was awkward and expensive legal proceedings. By the middle of the century the WWS's pronouncements had become a national joke, with authors campaigining to have their books banned. One such campaigner was Upton Sinclair who said, "I'd rather be banned in Boston than read anywhere else. Because when you are banned in Boston, you are read everywhere else."
As usual, details make the story more complex. The WWS had a broader agenda than just stamping out trashy novels. They were also concerned about matters petty and profound, from back-alley poker games and prostitution to political corruption. And on the censorship front, the Watch and Ward was not the only actor; they would sometimes stay out of public controversies, and would sometimes recommend no action on a title but would subsequently be overruled. This happened with Sherwood Anderson's Dark Laughter, which Liz & I read last year:
[Boston Police Superintendent Michael] Crowley also overruled the Watch and Ward in the matter of Sherwood Anderson's bestselling novel Dark Laughter, banned in January 1928. .... Crowley and the Watch and Ward, which had stopped the sale of Anderson's Many Marriages earlier in the decade, both agreed that this novel should be banned. ... But the Watch and Ward argued that since it was more than two years old at this point, there was no sense proceeding against it. Crowley was determined to go his own way, however, and another work by a major American author disappeared from the shelves of Boston's bookstores.
It's quite interesting, and occasionally even funny -- as for example the story about the Watch and Ward president who was a public prude but wrote letters to his wife more salacious than anything he ever banned. (Miller includes short excerpts, and short is enough.) The letters were discovered posthumously -- to the family's horror, thinks Miller, but I prefer to imagine they were discovered to the family's surprised delight. Or how about this quote:
Major R.W. Pullman of the Washington, D.C. police told the officers that cleaning up a city was like polishing a brass rod. "When you have got the rod nice and bright, you must polish it every day to keep it shining," he said.
I wonder whether Freud was banned in D.C. Because that would explain that.
Hey, that's cheating! :D
Quite a number of the novels on our list are a few years old, in some cases because it's the American release of a British novel; but yeah, you do wonder at what point this sort of pursuit becomes futile---all the more because the list contains so many relative obscurities that (per Upton Sinclair) would have remained so otherwise.
>90 lyzard: I was hoping to cheat some more, actually. But there's very little per-title information, outside of a few high-profile cases. Miller doesn't even include a list of banned books, though he refers to a list of 70 titles. Most titles get a passing mention if at all. Russell's What I Believe gets mentioned twice. First mention is as one of several examples of banned books that later were recognized as "major works, if not classics, of American literature." (The others mentioned were in fact American.) Second mention is as an example of a book banned on grounds other than obscenity laws.
There are more extended discussions for some titles we haven't read yet: Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Elinor Glyn's Three Weeks, O'Neill's Strange Interlude (there is a curious relationship between Boston's ban on Strange Interlude and the Howard Johnson's restaurant chain), Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber, Erskine Caldwell's Tragic Ground (for which a ban was denied because the judge found the book "dull" and suggested there wasn't anything in it that wasn't in Gone With the Wind or Anthony Adverse), and probably some others I've already forgotten.
11) DAW #149: Swan Song / Brian M. Stableford
Tagline: In a new universe, is the first arrival its god?
Sixth and last in Stableford's "Hooded Swan" series featuring star pilot Grainger, a mental symbiote who shares Grainger's skull and whom he calls "the wind", and the "Hooded Swan" experimental spacecraft with a mind-machine interface. Since book one (The Halcyon Drift), Grainger has chafed at restrictions imposed upon him; at the close of book five (The Fenris Device) he was able to buy his way to freedom. But every time he thinks he's out ...
Grainger had no desire to fly the Hooded Swan ever again. But then he learns that his former crew took the Swan's sister ship (called the "Sister Swan" in case you didn't get it) into a mysterious nebula. They were following a far-out theory that the nebula was not just a nebula but a portal to another universe. Right or wrong, they haven't come back. And Grainger's old boss believes there is exactly one person and exactly one ship that can rescue them. Assuming of course that they're rescuable. So Grainger climbs into the Swan one last time and enters the nebula. It is indeed a portal, but to something a little weirder than a new universe.
It's a respectable close to the series: it has an interesting new world, it has Grainger's snark, and it gives the wind a satisfying close to its story. Grainger's story on the other hand feels wide open, and even has a couple of loose ends. I finished without a need for a book seven but ready to join in should Stableford have changed his mind. He didn't.
Why yes, the cover is by Kelly Freas. Whatever made you suspect it?
>88 swynn: I never imagined to meet someone who likes Herbert Grönemeyer on this list!
I know and like a few of his songs and have his cd "Was Muss Muss- best of Herbert Grönemeyer" :-)
>93 FAMeulstee: Yay for Grönemeyer love! If you haven't heard Tumult yet, I recommend it highly. There's a video on YouTube of a live performance of the album, and it's just brilliant: terrific music and a terrific performer:
I especially like "Sekundenglück" and "Fall der Fälle," but it's all good.
The reasons for those bans are fairly obvious; some more discussion of the unobvious ones would hve been more valuable, you'd think.
But jeez, if 'dull' is a reason NOT to ban... :D
ETA: I have a copy of Circus Parade on its way via ILL; that it has been recently reissued might suggest it has a bit more meat on its bones than some of our list items.
>94 swynn: Thank you, Steve!
I am watching other Grönemeyer videos now, and I planned to read a bit tonight ;-)
At least I know what I want for my birthday: Tumult!
>95 lyzard: Yeah, it's an is argument: all the sex and atheism you want so long as it's boring. I read the Russell today, so I'll talk about that soon. The Tully is available through my library visitors, so it shouldn't be a problem.
>96 FAMeulstee: Glad you liked it, Anita!
>97 richardderus: .Hope you like it at least as well as I did, Richard! found that the series has a few bunmps, but the last two entries especially were strong.
So, in the big Marie Kondo kerfuffle, I'm firmly Team Keep All The Books. Still I found this funny (warning: f-bombs and lots of 'em):
FWIW, WRT charges of racism, I haven't read any racism in the responses to Kondo that I've seen. But I know enough about racism to know that any public disagreement with a not-white person turns racist crazy fast and I'd be surprised if it wasn't happening. I could probably find plenty of examples if I spent more time on Facebook but who needs *that* negativity? We're little shits we humans.
`Ha! Ha! Love the Marie Kondo piece! And when she puts it like that....
Also, this caught my eye
>60 swynn: "Twig by Gordon R. Dickson
On a colony world, a young feral girl raised by an intelligent plant teams up with an old drunk to oppose destructive farming practices."
The other stories sound mildly interesting, but nothing I haven't read before. This one on the other hand!! Where do I get my copy?!
>101 alcottacre: Then I'm almost caught up to you! Looks like both have some readin' to do ... but I guess we're used to that.
Am I ever fatigued. I posted a TL;DR teaser for my review of The King's Evil on my thread. I'm still wrestling that bad boy to the ground. It was an intense read and I want to get all the way into it, wrench open the cupboard doors and saw the green logs into what *I* see as their proper form, but I know how MEGO-inducing that is for others. I still want to, but to avoid causing narcolepsy in all five of my readers I'm pausing and reflecting.
So I'm taking an hour off the romp among the threads.
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Freezer 5K (Amana, IA, Feb. 9)
Mileage last week: 21
Mileage this year: 70
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 23
Monday weigh-in: 250 lbs.
Soundtrack: Big Bad Wolf (In This Moment)
I'm not crazy about the video, but I love running to: "Even in these chains you can't stop me"
12) What I Believe / Bertrand Russell
Two-thirds of a lifetime ago I spent a year in West Germany. My host father was a Reformed minister in the Westphalian village of Heiden, where Sunday mornings he presided over services at a lovely church with a distinctive twisted steeple dating back to the 11th or 12th century. I think my American family was relieved that whatever else I might encounter I was in safe hands, religiously speaking.
Things turned out to be a bit more complicated, religiously speaking. The Christianity I encountered in Germany was quite different from the evangelicalism I'd been raised in: more open to criticism, more self-critical, more aware of history and scholarship and its place in it. It was appealing to a kid who loved debate, frightening to a kid raised to fear for his eternal soul, and altogether disorienting. The house of course was full of books, mostly academic works of history or theology, but for a kid who loved to read, it was a house full of books. Yes, most were out of my league both linguistically and theologically, but not all were theological and many were accessible -- juveniles like Astrid Lindgren and "Winnie der Puh", but also Karl May and a couple of Agatha Christies in translation. Then on the theological shelves was a slim volume, Warum ich kein Christ bin.
It's hard to imagine now failing to recognize the author's name, but I was a high school kid and swear I didn't recognize it beyond being the name of somebody famous. When I pulled it from the shelf I'd misread the title as "Why I am no Christ" and expected maybe a meditation on humility. Pedantically, "Why I am no Christ" would have been Warum ich kein Christus bin, but this book was Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian. Instead of a meditation on humility I found an attack on Christianity itself, and one so bold I wasn't sure what to do with it. Russell's arguments, at least against a certain simplistic sort of Christianity, were strong and so clearly presented that they demanded clear responses. I did not have clear responses but very much wished I had. It's among my regrets that I never talked to my host father about the book, but at the time I couldn't really even articulate my own thoughts. Anyway, it stuck with me. Russell cannot take credit for my loss of faith -- that was a work years in the making and had many authors -- but there is a sense in which he started it, and a sense in which the years-long process was an exercise in coming around to Russell's way of thinking.
Which is a long introduction to saying that What I Believe brought all of that back to me, and I find it difficult to respond dispassionately. What I Believe makes points rather different from Why I Am Not a Christian, and the voice is creakier than I remember. But it is still irreverent, direct, and fully convinced. He is sometimes wrong, as when he claims that the big questions of physics have all been solved, and sometimes has odd preoccupations, as with a digression on sexual ethics. But in broad terms I find his argument largely correct: that humans are a part of nature, that love and knowledge are essential, that ethics derive from human desires, and that the idea of personal salvation independent of social ethics is deeply flawed. And he often says it so well.
So Russell was banned in Boston. And for good reason: this kind of persuasive irreverence is more dangerous than the silly titillation the Watch and Ward so often targeted. The censors correctly recognized their enemy. This stuff really can change minds. It helped changed mine.
So why haven't I read even more of his stuff? I should fix that.
I still thumb through my copy of The History of Western Philosophy every now and then. He's irreverent and crotchety and fully convinced and sometimes wrong in that one too. But it's all said well.
>109 drneutron: Thanks for that rec. I have a collection of his shorter writings that I think I'll start working through but will keep that in mind.
And yes, Russell could be spectacularly wrong, even when he's quotable. In more recent years, I've mostly encountered him in discussions about his work on the Principia Mathematica with Alfred North Whitehead: a monumental work in foundations of mathematics, whose premise was largely undone by a 25-page paper of Gödel's. One must be careful ...
13) DAW #150: The Enchantress of World's End / Lin Carter
Second (or third, depending on how you count) in Carter's Dying Earth pastiche, "The Gondwane Epic." I read the first last year and found the plot busy and the world nonsensical but fun enough as a pulpy romp. Then I bounced hard off the next Lin Carter in the DAW project, and I think it's left a bad taste because I'm no longer inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The plot here is still busy, the world is still nonsensical, and I found myself impatient with the works.
In all fairness, this Gondwane entry is probably at least as good as the last. The plot is slightly more coherent, and there's a cute bit near the beginning in which our heroes are arrested for failing to break any laws. But when the Scarlet Enchantress kidnaps the giant-strongman-hero in order to make him her concubine and breed a race of super-sorceror-warriors I thought of the ick in As the Green Star Rises and figured, "Well of course she does." Besides that, I'm thumbing it down because there's just nothing sufficiently special about this entry to make me look forward to more.
On the other hand, I want to call your attention to the cover, which is the first cover by a young medical-student-turned-illustrator name of Michael Whelan -- not just his first for DAW, but his first for the American market. He starts strong, doesn't he? I predict we'll see more of him.
>108 swynn: A book that changed me, as well, though I was past teenage when I read it. I stopped arguing with my religious-nut mother (the pedophilic incestuous abuser) and left any hope of dialogue with believers forever abandoned as useless and irritating to all concerned. If a book like this can exist, and one still chooses fantasy over reality, nothing I can say will matter.
>112 richardderus: I've been very fortunate in my relationship with my parents -- I'm sure they have some idea that I'm going to Hell but our conversations lean toward things more pleasant. As you say, what's the point?
I've also been fortunate in having some Christian friends who have been open to mutually respectful dialogue, which is great, so I haven't abandoned hope altogether. After all, I learn things from them now and then. But yes, I'm cautious about whom I open up to.
14) Escape Attempt / Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Date: 1982 (English translation; original Russian stories 1962, 1974, and 1971)
This volume contains translations of three short novels set in the Strugatskys' "Noon Universe." I'm not even going to try to figure out the numeration on this series; it suffices for me that the volumes are only loosely connected and each stands on its own. The stories are thoughtful and deliberately paced. These three have a common theme of well-meaning characters intervening in situations they don't fully understand. My favorite is the third, which hit a sentimental nerve.
Escape Attempt. Three astronauts on vacation land on a planet supposed to be uninhabited. But they open the hatch to find a dead body. They soon find more, and stumble across a civilization that appears to consist of a ruling class and a suppressed and mistreated underclass. Although there are strict rules about establishing contact with new civilizations, the astronauts intervene on behalf of the laborers only to learn they've misinterpreted the situation.
The Kid From Hell. A young soldier on the planet Giganda is mortally wounded in combat. But instead of dying he wakes up on Earth inexplicably healed. It turns out that agents from Earth have been intervening on Giganda to steer it toward peace and progress. But the soldier cannot understand the strangers' motives and wants only to return home.
Space Mowgli. A crew of ecologists land on the planet Ark in order to prepare it for colonization. Ark is ideal for colonization because it has no native fauna -- or at least, it had none until the ecologists meet a feral boy with curious powers such as perfect recall and an uncanny talent for mimicry. It turns out that the boy is the sole survivor of crashed spaceship; but he was an infant at the time of the crash -- who or what raised him? And what else did they do?
>115 FAMeulstee: Happy Birthday, Anita! And thanks for mentioning Unheilig, a band that I was not familiar with but spent some time YouTubing last night. I quite like their sound, and their range from piano ballads to electronic rock.
15) Greenglass House / Kate Milford
This one is a YA mystery set around Christmas at a hotel that caters primarily to smugglers. Twelve-year old Milo lives at the hotel with his adoptive parents who run the place. Christmas is usually slow, so Milo is looking forward to a holiday with plenty of free time -- but then guests start arriving left and right, all with mysterious motives for visiting a remote inn under threat of a blizzard. Together with the cook's daughter Meddy, Milo play a live-action role-playing-game, which has them investigating the guests and, when things go missing, solving mysteries. The story straddles several borders: it seems to be set in contemporary times but also has a sort of pseudo-Victorian vibe, a la "Jamaica Inn". It seems to be a mystery, but the LARP theme gives it a fantasy feel, and the setting in an old inn brings a gothic atmosphere. The ambiguities are sometimes disorienting, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the effect -- is the story going in too many directions? Is the denouement appropriate for the buildup, and if not then where did the narrative go off the rails? In any case it's interesting, and I'd read another.
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Freezer 5K (Amana, IA, Feb. 9)
Mileage last week: 23
Mileage this year: 93
Longest run: 6 miles
Target mileage this week: 25
Monday weigh-in: 251 lbs.
Soundtrack: Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)
The tune needs no introduction, so I'll just mention that there's a conventional wisdom that says 180 steps per minute is the ideal stride rate for efficient running. That rate feels fast to me, but I've met runners who swear by it and build playlists out of nothing but songs at 180 beats per minute (or 90 BPM, which is equivalent at two steps per beat). By that measure, "Rock and Roll" is an even more perfect track than it already obviously is.
I like the sound of the Strugatsky novellas. I read Roadside Picnic a while back and thought it was amazing. I'm eager to see the film version too, which has a very good rep. My husband owns it but in a copy that doesn't have English subtitles. I might just give it a go anyway and see how I get on.
I'm kind of intrigued by the YA as well. That cover is very evocative somehow. And a hotel for smugglers... could be fun!
>119 HanGerg: I haven't read Roadside Picnic, but I'm hoping to work through the entire Strugatsky oeuvre, so maybe soon ...
I hope you give Greenglass House a try, just because I'm interested in your take on it.
>120 richardderus: I seem to be reading a lot of YA lately, and I'm not entirely sure why. Some of it is quite good, but I certainly don't prefer it as a genre to adult fiction.
We have not talked about The Doomed City, but I am all ears.
>122 richardderus: So I'm a newbie to the Strugatsky Brothers. Though I've been aware of them, my first taste was the DAW project's Hard To Be a God, on the basis of which I've been filling this significant gap in my generic education. From your review, The Doomed City sounds very special indeed, even in relation to the Strugatskys' other work. I'm going to put it off until I've filled out my experience of that other work. But I'm very much looking forward to it. Thanks!
And in the subject of thanks: I read The Lamb Shall Slaughter the Lion on a stay-home-because-of-the-ice-storm-or-something day. Thanks for the warble!
16) Das Lied von Bernadette / Franz Werfel
Date: 1941 (English translation 1942)
The bestselling book in the U.S. in 1942 was The Song of Bernadette, a historical novel about Bernadette Soubirous, a rural French girl who sees visions of beautiful woman with roses on her feet in a grotto near Lourdes. Word gets out about Bernadette's visions and she soon has champions and detractors. Among the detractors are local officials and clergy, who see Bernadette's visions as a threat to their authority and reputation and determine to put a stop to them. But all attempts to expose, embarrass, or intimidate her, not only fail, they tend to confirm the legitimacy of Bernadette's claims. Eventually and each in their own way, Bernadette's detractors wrestle with the problem of how to accommodate Bernadette's claims into their ideas about the world and how it works.
I expected to like this a lot less than I did. As I've mentioned once or twice I am irreligious and skeptical of most miraculous claims. The Lourdes miracles are no exception -- I expect there exist naturalistic explanations and distrust the Church's ability to determine otherwise. But I have myself grappled with the competing claims of science and religion, so Werfel's themes resonate with me: the clash between faith and modernity, and the struggle to adjust one's worldview to experiences that contradict it. Werfel explores this struggle through a variety of characters with a variety of motives -- not always plausibly, but I appreciate the attempt. For me Bernadette is a dull character, empty of self-doubt and uninterested in alternative explanations. But the reflection she provokes in others is intriguing. It does go on a bit long, and the last hundred pages could have been wrapped up in about twenty, but I found the middle 300 or so pages quite engaging.
I read this in original German, with heavy reference to Ludwig Lewisohn's 1942 translation. The vocabulary is large, and the sentences long, and Lewisohn was a big help. He does make one choice that I find puzzling. The book is divided into five sections, and Lewisohn translates the first section in present tense, and the other four in past tense. No such difference exists in the German text: all five sections are related in present tense. It's worth mentioning that German and English verb tenses aren't exactly one-to-one, and Germans often use present tense in contexts where English speakers would use past. So I think either present or past are creditable choices. But I don't sense anything in the German text to justify switching partway through. That said, Lewisohn is obviously a more adept reader of German than I, and I'd be very interested in an explanation for his choice. This was the only major oddity in a translation I think is excellent.
17) DAW #151: The Transition of Titus Crow / Brian Lumley
Tagline: A time-space chiller-thriller in the Lovecraft tradition
Second in Brian Lumley's Lovecraftian monster-hunter series featuring occultist Titus Crow.
Following the events of The Burrowers Beneath (DAW #91), Titus Crow has been cast adrift in space-time in a TARDIS-like grandfather clock that he's learning to steer as he rides. Crow's sidekick Henri de Marigny is stuck back on Earth, but eventually establishes a psychic link that helps Crow home in on Earth. When Crow arrives he tells fantastic stories of his adventures. It's fun for what it is, but it isn't Lovecraftian pastiche. Crow's adventures are more space fantasy than eldritch horror, as if Lumley forgot what genre he was writing.
There are more in the series, though this is the last volume published by DAW. The ending is unsatisfying to this one, and I'm tempted to seek out the third just to see if Lumley will patch it up. But the whole thing was sufficiently unsatisfying that I probably won't bother.
Well done! Reading a work that long in German is an amazing accomplishment. :)
Yes, Bernadette is a catalyst, not a character; the reactions of others to her is where the interest lies, and Werfel was wise to focus on that. In fact the book drags whenever it switches its perspective to her, including those last 100 pages, but overall I found it much easier to read than I expected.
And boy, did I get my wish about "something different" after three straight religion-themed novels! Word to the wise: you might want to spread out Strange Fruit and Circus Parade more than I did, unless you have a penchant for a peculiarly southern form of violence...
>126 richardderus: Careful, Richard: the next bestseller is Lloyd Douglas's The Robe. If you peak too early you won't have any deaths left to wish for.
>127 lyzard: Thanks for the heads up. I have some catching up to do, and I'm certainly not ready for another religious novel -- especially The Robe, which I am dreading based on the tedious Richard Burton/Jean Simmons film. Strange Fruit sounds like a good excuse to postpone it.
>76 swynn: I love Samantha Fish!
Have you seen her live? She's not around much anymore, but I try to catch her whenever she comes back to Kansas City.
I have to say that, like Bernadette, I found it a better and easier read than I anticipated; I also found it less annoying than Douglas's "pretending I'm not talking about religion" books.
Still 600 pages of piling on, though. :)
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: St. Patty's Day 5K (Kirksville, MO, March 17)
Mileage last week: 22
Mileage this year: 115
Longest run: 6 miles
Target mileage this week: 26
Monday weigh-in: 248 lbs.
Soundtrack: Maybelline (Hans Thessink and Terry Evans)
I'm very fond of this cover of the great Chuck Berry tune, performed by Dutch blues guitarist Hans Thessink and the late Mississippi bluesman Terry Evans, on their live album "True & Blue". This track is too fun for words, and that bit where Thessink plays a full minute on a single open and deliberately detuned string without losing a soul in the crowd -- it's a kick every time.
** RUNNING POST **
Race report: Amana Freezer 5K, Feb 9
The Freezer 5K was originally scheduled for January 26, but was postponed because of polar vortex. I half-expected the race to be postponed again since the forecast for starting time was in the single digits. The race organizers decided to hold it anyway and I'm glad to report the forecasters were wrong: it was a sunshiny ten degrees at the start. There were just over 150 runners, only about half of last year's crowd, judging from online results, but still an impressive field for a race in small-town rural Iowa. The race seems to attract a lot of runners from the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area and I suppose they don't have many choices in January and February. Even if there were more choices, the Freezer 5K would still be an excellent one with a flat fast course, chip timing, and enthusiastic volunteers. The course runs from Amana, one mile east to East Amana, around a block and back. This year it was covered with packed snow and ice, which I understand happens much less frequently than you might expect for a winter race in rural Iowa. Organizers had spread sand prior to the race, and I assume the sand helped because I didn't see anyone fall. Still, you can see in the picture how runners were hugging the shoulder and anywhere the ground had a little more texture. I was very glad I'd packed Yaktrax, and even with the extra traction the road felt pretty slick.
In such a case, goal number one is: "finish upright." (Success!) Besides that, I was hoping to finish in 32 minutes. I reckoned that goal reasonable since I've been training at a pace just under eleven minutes per mile and knew I'd race a little faster than I'd trained. So I was very pleased to have a chip time of 30:18, which means a sub-ten minute pace. That means it's reasonable aim to aim for sub-30 minutes in my next race, which will be my local St. Patrick's Day 5K on March 17.
Congrats on the good time in the Amana race, Steve. I think y'all are crazy for voluntarily subjecting yourselves to this weather, but I'm glad no one fell and you made it through safely. Come back in the summer to visit Prairie Lights — it will be summer eventually, right?
What you say tempts me. Summer sounds really great right now, as does Prairie Lights in any season. And by summer I hope to be ready for longer distances, so ... hm, have to see what's available.
18) A Bad Day for Mercy / Sophie Littlefield
This is the fourth entry in Littlefield's series featuring Stella Hardesty, a woman who once killed her abusive husband and who now rents her services to victims of domestic abuse who want their exes to behave or just to stay away. In this one Stella's sister calls her with news that her son (Stella's nephew) has gotten into debt with the mob, who have threatened to kill him and have mailed body parts to show they mean business. Stella drives to Wisconsin to investigate -- only to find her cousin sound in his own body but cutting up somebody else's for disposal. He didn't kill the guy, he assures Stella, but he can't afford to be caught with the corpse. Stella (inexplicably) believes her nephew and starts a search for the real killer, uncovering a plot involving the nephew, his Russian girlfriend, the girlfriend's husband, and a business opportunity in male undergarments.
It's light and moderately fun, though I'm in no hurry to read the next. I usually like the premise of this series more than its execution, but in this case it helps that the romancey bits are kept to a minimum while Stella is in Wisconsin and her romantic entanglements stay back in Missouri. I can't expect similar luck in the next entry, A Bad Day for Romance. So, probably sometime next year.
>137 swynn: ...so she's basically a thug for hire...um...not for me, no. It sounds like her series petered out after the fifth one, for which I might just be glad.
>139 richardderus: I've enjoyed many stories about thugs for hire, but there's a mismatch in tone in this series that always disappoints me. I want it to be more noir, but it always arrives more romantic-comedy. I'd rather the violence were featured in a context of moral ambiguity, than used as a foil to Stella's relationship with the hot sheriff.
And about once a year I think maybe I'll give it another chance. As you note, it has exactly one more chance.
>140 swynn: Have you ever read Lawrence Block's Hit Man series, Steve? It might be more up your alley — very little if any romance, at least. Although they are packaged as novels, they are really more like individual stories with not much threading them together, at least in the early books. The later books are more connected.
>141 rosalita: I think so: isn't that the one where the hit man is also a stamp collector? It's been a long time, but I read a volume that was either a collection or a fix-up, because I remember it being very episodic. I also remember liking it, but plot details obviously didn't stick with me. I probably should revisit it.
Yep, that's the one! Keller is the hit man's name. There are five books in the series, and a handful of short stories that were published as ebooks. I really liked the books, but I am a big Larry Block fan. He is amazingly prolific, having two other long-running series and a couple of shorter ones in addition to the Keller books.
>143 rosalita: I'm familiar with Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr series, all of which I read a *long* time ago, which means I'm probably not up-to-date. I haven't read anything by him in a long time, and probably ... oh, jeez, look at the size of that library stack. Still ....
19) Disruptor / Arwen Elys Dayton
Third and last in Dayton's "Seeker" trilogy, a YA fantasy/sf series featuring a group of teenagers who have trained to become "Seekers", teleporting super-soldiers who fight for justice. In the first book (Seeker) the kids learned that Seekers have become corrupted and fight for material gain; in the second (Traveler) they learned more about the history and deeply flawed administration of the Seekers and chose sides. This one sprints toward a big showdown and final reveal, tying up subplots on the way.
I wish I hadn't let so much time pass between books 2 and 3, because I'd forgotten many details and the text was less memory-joggy than I needed. So I probably missed finer plot points but still enjoyed the action, and was satisfied by the resolution and final big explanation.
Happy anniversary to Perry Rhodan, which publishes its 3,000th(!) issue today!
>145 swynn: "Memory-joggy" is an excellent adjective for that elusive quality that later books in series need to have for us readers that have been a while between instalments , and I'm stealing it for use in my own reviews!
20) Twilight of the Elves / Zack Loran Clark and Eliopulos
Second in the authors' "Adventurers Guild" series. In this one, an elven city has been overrun by zombies, and the surviving elves have fled to Freestone -- where our middle-grade heroes are training for careers as adventurers. For reasons of plot, our heroes-in-training are selected to help the elves take back their city.
The first volume was recommended to me by my nephew, and I liked the first well enough to read the second. The first was an okay dungeon crawl, but this second one takes on issues related to treatment of refugees that I found both well-handled and not overbearing: there's still plenty of action and it's still fun. Cliffhanger says another is coming, and I'll read it.
>147 swynn: THREE. THOUSANDTH. ISSUE!!!
I am truly impressed and pleased. It makes me happy that Perry Rhodan has such a following.
>151 richardderus: My awe-sense exactly. Also, I have a lot of catching up to do ...
21) Damsel / Elana K. Arnold
When the King dies, the Prince slays a dragon, rescues the damsel, and becomes King. The damsel bears the new King a son, who, when the King dies, slays a dragon and rescues a damsel and becomes King, repeat. So when Prince Emory's father dies, Emory defeats the dragon, rescues the damsel Ama, and returns to reign. But Ama's not so sure she likes this story. Why can't she remember her life before the rescue? Does she really have to spend the rest of her life shut up in a castle? With that creepy ass Emory?
Mixed feelings about this one. I love the subversion of the cliche, and love the message. But warning: there are multiple sexual assaults, and more references to genitalia than I've ever seen in YA fantasy. It's all part of a point about owning one's body and I get that, I'm just acknowledging that it challenges my ideas about what goes in a YA novel. Also there's a secondary character who seems underutilized, as if the author had another plan for him and backed off but couldn't cut him altogether.
I picked this up because the author will be a guest at an upcoming children's literature festival. Chances are, she'll talk in that context about her works for a younger audience but still I'm interested to see her presentation.
>152 swynn: Consider it the elixir of immortality. You can't even entertain the possibility of dying until you're caught up.
>114 swynn: I just got a copy of Far Rainbow in the other day. I have not read any of the Strugatsky brothers other books, but I have high hopes for this one. I will have to look up Escape Attempt if I enjoy my first adventure with them.
>117 swynn: Sounds fun! LARP in a book? I am in!
Adding others to the BlackHole too. Your thread is bad for me!
>154 richardderus: I hope it works! (It certainly sounds easier than Perry's method: solve the Galactic Riddle, find Wanderer the planet of immortality, and convince the disembodied collective consciousness of a race of superscientists to give me a life-sustaining cell bath. Sheesh, who has time for that?)
>155 alcottacre: Glad to help, Stasia! By an odd coincidence my next Strugatsky is an omnibus that includes Far Rainbow. I hope we both enjoy it!
Well, that makes me feel better about some of the series I'm trying to read!
22) The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion / Margaret Killjoy
Looking for reasons for a friend's suicide, Danielle Cain wanders into Freedom, Iowa, a sort of anarchist commune where her friend had last lived. She arrives just in time to see one of the locals killed in the street by a three-antlered demon deer. Then things get creepy. And political. Best is the diverse cast, who find in Freedom a place of mutual acceptance (though at some cost). The politics can get a bit heavy-handed, but the whole thing is a metaphor for bargaining over security and freedom so we're not going to avoid that. I'd have liked for Danielle to have had a little more agency, since it seems she mostly watches things happen. But that's probably the point: "peace beats aggression" is sort of the title after all.
Danielle and her surviving friends close the book with a decision to go looking for more demons. The conversation feels a little forced to me, but I enjoy this crew well enough that I'll follow them further. Thanks Richard for the warble!
>160 swynn: Oh I'm so pleased you enjoyed Margaret's odd, unclassifiable short novel.
23) Illuminae / Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
YA science fiction about survivors of an attack on a colony planet: the survivors are fleeing, the attackers pursuing. The AI on board the survivors' command seems to have been corrupted, ordering an attack on one of the survivors' own ships. They can't keep the AI active, but they can't defend themselves with it deactivated. And of course, their entire survival depends on a couple of teenagers. Because YA.
This has won a lot of awards and gotten a lot of love, and I think I get it, but it didn't click for me. The format is a series of computer logs and official reports which seems like a good idea until you realize that computer logs and official reports are *boring.* The authors also realize this, so they spice up the official reports with snark and creative writing. The documents don't *read* like documents, which for me killed the premise. And since I didn't buy the premise, everything else ... the "teenagers save the day" trope, the "computer wakes up with feeeelings" trope, the "kill a computer with an unsolvable problem" trope, all just felt tired. Not for me.
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: St. Pat's Day 5K (Kirksville, MO, March 17)
Mileage last week: 26
Mileage this year: 141
Longest run: 7 miles
Target mileage this week: 28
Monday weigh-in: 245 lbs.
Soundtrack: Tausend Mann und ein Befehl (="A Thousand Men and One Order") (Oomph!)
Oomph! is a German industrial/goth rock band who have been around since the early nineties and influenced acts like Rammstein and Megaherz (both likely to show up here eventually). This is the first track on their latest album Ritual. "Tausend Mann und ein Befehl" updates a pop hit from 1966, Freddy Quinn's Hundert Mann und ein Befehl. Follow the link and you'll recognize Quinn's tune as Sgt. Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets." Quinn's German lyrics translated Sadler's jingoism into a sort of vague elegy, making the song plausible as a antiwar protest, and it was interpreted as such in the 1960's. But it can also be read as an idealization of soldiers' sacrifice, as evidence the YouTube comments which tend toward nationalism at the mildest. No such ambiguity exists in the Oomph! song: they borrow phrases from Quinn -- "Irgendwo im fremden Land" ("Somewhere in a foreign country"), "Heute ich und morgen du" ("Me today, you tomorrow") -- but their hooks are "Nie wieder Krieg!" ("Never again war!") and "Stellt euch quer!" ("Resist!"). No doubt about the side they're taking, which can be a big deal for rock bands who sing auf Deutsch.
I don't know whether to be delighted that rock bands are still writing protest songs after all, or to despair that decades-old peace slogans still seem so timely. Either way, the song rocks and I run to it.
>165 fairywings: Welcome Adrienne!
Yeah, I've been reading a bunch of YA this year, and I'll be reading more for an upcoming Children's Lit Festival. I didn't set out to read so much YA, and my response to Illuminae makes me think I may be reaching a saturation point. But I'll definitely put both of those series on the list -- the Marsden series especially looks interesting.
>166 swynn: I read a lot of YA myself, I like the Dystopian and Fantasy genres the best. It's all rather hit or miss in my opinion, what works for one author just feels tired and overdone for another. There are definitely some really good stories out there, you just have to wade through the mediocre to find them.
Hopefully you find some gems while reading for the Children's Lit Festival.
24) The Girl from the Well / Rin Chupeco
Another recommendation from my nephew, this one's a YA horror story about the ghost of a murdered girl who stalks child-killers. Then she meets Tarquin, a teenage boy bound to an evil ghost who will kill everybody if she can ever get free. And she almost has. It's okay, but borrows heavily from Japanese horror movies.
25) Stillhouse Lake / Rachel Caine
Gina Royal's suburban paradise falls apart when her husband turns out to be a serial killer. She is suspected as an accomplice, and though she's cleared she continues to be harassed by the Internet looney fringe, so every so often she changes her location and identity, most recently to Stillhouse Lake. But just as she and her kids settle in, a body turns up in the lake. Soon her cover is blown and the old suspicions are back.
It's a pretty good thriller, though
26) The Steerswoman / Rosemary Kirstein
This is one Roni recommended a few years ago, which I'm finally getting around to. And it's terrific as promised. It reads like a high fantasy in which the "magic system" is the scientific method. The idea is great, the world is intriguing, the characters appealing, and I'll read more.
>170 swynn: I read your spoiler (because it's always difficult for me to pass those up) and I nearly did a spit-take. Too funny!
>171 swynn: I'm glad it was a successful read. When I joined LT ten years ago this was one of the first recs I encountered and I purchased the 2 book omnibus shortly thereafter. I started reading it and liked it but life got busy or something and I didn't get very far. Ten years later I am still planning to read it! I have it on my shelf of fiction to read this year, but there are over 30 books there. I'll try tho.
Well shucks, guys. If I wanted to be hated, I'd direct you over to my thread to see beach photos, rather than recommend "excellent" books. Actually, Ron, there are FOUR books, but the last two were written over 10 years later. If you want to see what the author is up to, check out
>175 ronincats: Thanks Roni. I'm surprised she published so few books - 4 - over the years (30 of them since 1989).
>172 scaifea: I sputtered at the book when it happened. It was if our hero had never read a thriller and didn't realize she was in one. What do you do with characters like that?
>173 richardderus: Roni is pretty amazing, I agree.
>174 RBeffa: I do have the next in the series loaded on my Kindle, but you know how it is ... it's anybody's guess when I'll get to it.
>175 ronincats: Roni! Thanks for the Steerswoman rec. Loved it!
>176 RBeffa: She was probably busy paying the mortgage or something.
27) A Perfect Evil / Alex Kava
I've mentioned several reads that were recommended by my nephew. He is not my only nephew, but his older brother is less interested in books, and usually tells me so when I ask what he's been reading. Recently, though, he tells me that he is so over fantasy stories but he has started reading serial-killer thrillers which he prefers because "they are stories that could really happen."
"Izzatafact?" I say, and do not add that I have read many fantasy novels and I have read many serial-killer thrillers and I've been impressed by realism in the former more frequently than realism in the later.
"Yes," he says, "I guess I've grown out of fantasy. There's this series by Alex Kava where it really gets into how serial killers think."
"I'll have to check it out," I say. And now I have. And it is a mess.
It involves a child-killer with a bizarre and rigid compulsion, who is nevertheless able to keep himself above all suspicion because he's Just That Smart. Except that he's not all that smart: he makes frequent mistakes, which authorities overlook because they don't really seem to be all that interested in catching him.
Enter FBI agent Maggie O'Dell, whose job description seems to be "Other duties as desired." She's sort of a profiler, but also sort of a field agent, and in one scene she claims to be a medical examiner though the text never mentions her medical qualifications. But mostly she's there to flirt with the local sheriff Nick Morelli, who is only happy to flirt back because his other option would be investigating child murders which, let's remember, aren't all that interesting. Maggie wrestles with husband issues, Nick with Daddy issues, and both of them with each other. That might sound like an opportunity to get away with murder, but fortunately the brilliant villain is such a klutz that all Maggie and Nick have to do is wait until he reveals himself through sheer clumsy. In the meantime Maggie and Nick throw hormones at each other, and you and I dear reader are treated to interludes inside the killer's mind that feature kidnapping, child rape, and murder.
Which, you know, is fine. One likes what one likes. I'm actually delighted that my nephew has found stories he enjoys after a long time thinking he'd grown out of reading altogether. I can't help but wish our tastes matched a little better though. For me, part of the problem is that Kava is going for romantic suspense, which I may have mentioned is not my thing. Also, this is Kava's first novel, and it shows in the haphazard plotting and confusion of subplots. One assumes the books get better, though I'm unlikely to find out, and in fairness to my nephew it was some of the later ones he said he'd read.
But this business about the series being more "realistic" than fantasy? It's just not. In fact it's just a different sort of "fantasy."
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: St. Pat's Day 5K (Kirksville, MO, March 17)
Mileage last week: 28
Mileage this year: 169
Longest run: 7 miles
Target mileage this week: 30
Monday weigh-in: 244 lbs.
Soundtrack: Help Me Mama (ZZ Ward)
28) DAW #152: Merlin's Mirror / Andre Norton
Retelling of the Arthur story from Merlin's perspective. Only in this case Merlin is an alien-human hybrid tasked with making the world safe for aliens to return to Earth and establish a new age of technological marvels. Arthur himself is a half-alien whose birth is arranged by Merlin with the intention of creating a leader who can unify the the world's warring nations. Opposing Merlin is the Lady of the Lake, who is an agent of an antagonistic alien race who want to keep humans isolated.
Norton is so focused on working out the structure of the alien plot that her characters don't have room to develop. The scene with Merlin arranging for Arthur's conception without the mother's consent or even knowledge is uncomfortable in a way that Norton probably didn't intend back in 1975. But there are things to like: the idea is appealing, and Norton works out interesting details. There's also an interesting bit near the end that calls into question which side is good and which bad. Cautiously recommended for Arthur buffs.
29) Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race / Renni Edo-Lodge
Renni Edo-Lodge discusses her experiences as a Black woman in Britain, learning about the ugly history of British race relations, and the frustration of trying to communicate simple facts and daily experiences to people who need to hear. Out of this frustration Edo-Lodge composed a blog post explaining why she no longer found it useful to talk to White people about race. Ironically, the post went viral and now she spends most of her time talking about race, including to a lot of White people. Which is both a damn shame, because she'd clearly rather be writing about something else; and very fortunate, because regardless of what she'd prefer to write Edo-Lodge makes this case well.
>185 swynn: I get it. As the life partner to a Black woman who has had experiences very much like the one Edo-Lodge describes, I know the experiences of confronting racial privilege are real and the anger is richly justified. I can imagine that dealing with other sorts of privilege is at least as frustrating.
30) The Calculating Stars / Mary Robinette Kowal
Dewey really did defeat Truman in 1948, and supported a national space program much earlier than it ever happened in our timeline. But then in 1952 a meteorite struck Earth just off the coast of Washington,D.C. Experts ran the numbers and realized that this was probably an extinction event. If humans want to survive past the next few years they'll have to establish colonies on the Moon and maybe Mars until Earth becomes habitable again. Enter the "Lady Astronauts," a group of women pilots who want to join the space program; but the barriers are significant. It's an alt-history feminist "The Right Stuff," and a pretty terrific escape after the painful reality of Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race. I enjoyed this and am looking forward to the next.
31) Boy's Life / Robert McCammon
It's a Bradburyish story about mid-twentieth century boyhood in rural America, with baseball and magic bicycles and Lessons Learned. It's fine for what it is, but sentimental and a bit long. Others have loved it and I didn't hate it -- probably a case of right book, wrong time.
32) All Systems Red / Martha Wells
Clear another spot on the bandwagon because I'm climbing on.
>187 swynn: Oh I read that quite a few years ago. I remember finding it surprisingly enjoyable, and got hold of some other books by the same author. It was not a classic, but was a good story, which I recall being in the coming of age category.
>189 sirfurboy: Expectations may be part of it. I've heard this called McCammon's "masterpiece"; and since I'd read and enjoyed a couple of his horror novels quite a few years ago, I expected to be blown away and wasn't. Maybe I'll give it another chance in a few years, knowing better what to expect.
>190 richardderus: ... well, sometimes it's personal ... because jeez ... *people* ...
The murderbot book was a case of exceeded expectations. I expected to be underwhelmed and fell in love instead.
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: St. Pat's Day 5K (Kirksville, MO, March 17)
Mileage last week: 30
Mileage this year: 197
Longest run: 8 miles
Target mileage this week: 32
Monday weigh-in: 243 lbs.
Soundtrack: Travelin Band (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
CCR is well represented in my running playlists, but this is one of my favorites. My only complaint is that it's so short.
"Seven Thirty Seven coming out of the sky
Won't you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride"
And that's how you start a rock and roll song.
>191 swynn: Yes, expectation may be key. I knew nothing about the author when I read the book, so I had no expectation that it was a masterpiece. I still think it was very good though.
>187 swynn: Right book, wrong time - I seem to be coming up against that quite a bit lately.
Have a great weekend.
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: St. Pat's Day 5K (Kirksville, MO, March 17)
Mileage last week: 15
Mileage this year: 212
Longest run: 8 miles
Target mileage this week: 32
Monday weigh-in: 241 lbs.
Soundtrack: Louella (Marcia Ball)
Well, this was a crap week, sidelined by hip pain that seemed to come out of nowhere, but likely provoked by a neglect of strength and flexibility training (because it's *boring*). So I took a few days off from running, but maintained cardio with some workouts in the pool and the stationary cycle. Still managed to come back on Sunday for the weekly long run -- which probably wasn't smart but it was the warmest day we've had in weeks and it just felt too good to stop early.
The soundtrack bit is from the terrific Louisiana blues pianist Marcia Ball, who ... well, follow the link and see. The track in my playlists is from her 2002 album "Presumed Innocent," but the link goes to a live recording at a music festival. Because that's more fun.
>195 PaulCranswick: Sorry to hear that you're having the same problem, Paul. That "Why don't I like this more?" feeling is a bummer.
33) Strange Fruit / Lillian Smith
Nonnie is a young black woman in rural Georgia, in love with a young white man. Despite a degree from Atlanta's Spelman College, Nonnie can only find domestic work. Which is fine with her as long as it keeps her near her love, the upper-class white boy Tracy Deen. Nonnie and Tracy have to keep their relationship a secret but of course it explodes: Nonnie becomes pregnant, and Tracy tries to break up when social and religious pressure to find a respectable white girl becomes too much for his very weak will. Things can only get worse, and they do. Tracy tries to treat Nonnie honorably -- which in this case means arranging for an abortion and/or paying some arbitrary black man to marry her, but Nonnie will listen neither to reason nor to cash. Worse, when Nonnie's brother Ed learns about the relationship and Tracy's handling of it, he takes matters into his own hands. I don't think it's a spoiler to say the book ends with a lynching. (It's sort of implied in the title, though the relationship between Smith's title and the Billie Holliday song is ambiguous.)
I approached this with some dread, because the thought of a 1940's book on race relations and lynching authored by a Southern white woman could go wrong in so many ways. On the other hand, it was banned in Boston which suggests that Smith got enough right to make the establishment nervous. And I'm somewhat relieved to report that the book is not awful, though its subject certainly is.
This isn't a tragic romance -- it's barely a romance at all, and it's hard not to want to knock some sense into both of the little lovebirds: Nonnie wants Tracy so badly even though he obviously isn't worth her time, and Tracy hasn't a clue what he wants at all. But jeez: they're kids, right? Anyone who didn't make stupid choices in your twenties ... well, keep it to yourself because I really want to believe it wasn't just me. Smith is only interested in the interracial romance as a catalyst to explore the whole social structure generated by racist segregation. Nonnie and Tracy are pieces on a much larger board that includes their families, their neighbors, their religious leaders, and the poor white folks determined to ensure that no matter how low their social rank they damn sure rank above anyone not white. This larger, even universal, subject is an ambitious one and Smith comes to it with a certain perspective, but it's a perspective very close to her subject and her insights are many.
Unlike some other "Banned in Boston" reads, Strange Fruit still packs a punch. It's not hard to see why the Boston censors suppressed it, except in the sense that one wonders which reasons they chose from among the many available: interracial sex, extramarital sex, talk of abortion, irreverence, lynching .... Or maybe obscenity, by which I don't mean "the N word" though that's ubiquitous. In an article in The Georgia Review, the author suggests that one reason she had been given for the ban was "the word", which I'm pretty sure from context refers to "fucken." I'm also pretty sure that she's right when she says:
The real motive can more surely be found in the reactions of the anti-Negro forces in Boston. The forces in Boston who banned the book are the same forces that fight democracy on all of its levels: anti-Negro, anti-Semitic, anti-union, anti-freedom of the press, etc.
Ah, but my dear, that isn't one of our 'Banned in Boston' books; that was America's best-seller of 1944, a point I'm having considerable trouble wrapping my head around.
Which is to say, it *was* banned - I'm tempted to add, "Of course" - but that's not why we're reading it now. :)
Lillian Smith was a lesbian and knew all about prejudice and discrimination, albeit from another angle. I suspect that the sister character is an oblique self-portrait, and wish she had carried it a bit further.
I assumed ...
Bad news is that I've read the bestsellers out of order, for which I submit to your castigation. Good news is, I'm suddenly less behind on bestsellers than I had thought!
The "Banned in Boston" list I get. I'm a little floored that Strange Fruit was also a bestseller since its subject is deeply divisive, there is no happy ending, few sympathetic characters, and little in the way of moral. It must surely have sold on its reputation as a bad book. Thanks, I guess, Boston!
I did not know about Smith's sexual orientation, but that does help explain her insight.
I know! Apparently America reacted exactly like *I* did to their best-sellers: "Enough with the religion, already!"
Spot the odd one out: The Keys Of The Kingdom, The Song Of Bernadette, The Robe, Strange Fruit... :D
And then Forever Amber, for goodness' sake!!
(Which, yeah, in some ways *is* the female Anthony Adverse, as I've heard said; not as bad as that, maybe, but you do spend most of its 1000 pages wondering, "I should care about this person, why?")
Anyway---don't worry about your ordering. I'm so far behind with reviews that there's plenty of time to get sorted. Jim Tully's Circus Parade is actually your next banned book; I managed to get that written up (my copy was due back), but I have a way to go to wrap up Strange Fruit.
And the banned book after that is an odd one, and I was frankly astonished to discover that our State Library holds a copy: American Caravan: A Yearbook Of American Literature, which I gather is an anthology of various American writers; it will be fun spotting who in particular set the censors off.
ETA: "This work contains several contributions by William Carlos Williams; includes contributions by Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Wilson, Archibald MacLeish, John Dos Passos, Haniel Long, Morley Callaghan, Hart Crane and Eugene O'Neill."
>201 lyzard: Every time I see Archibald MacLeish mentioned in a book context I do a double-take and think, "Wait, isn't that Cary Grant's real name? Did he write books, too?" But no, Cary Grant's real name is Archibald Leach, as I've just learned (again and hopefully for the last time) from Wikipedia.
>198 swynn: A four-star read for me last year, first time I'd encountered the book and since then I've recommended it to several people.
What a world we live in.
>201 lyzard: I had never heard of Forever Amber prior to Neil Miller's Banned in Boston, which made me want to read it never. So I'm dreading that a little. Actually, at the thought of Anthony-Adversish bulk I'm dreading it a lot. I am, on the other hand, looking forward to American Caravan. Not that that makes it all better.
>202 rosalita: As a professional hazard I think of Archibald MacLeish primarily as the Librarian of Congress. There is zero danger of my confusing him with Cary Grant. (Though Grant would have been a fine choice for a biopic about *that* story.)
>203 richardderus: It's certainly powerful, and hasn't left me yet.
I've read Forever Amber (because of course I have) and it's...interesting...but not *horrible.*
I haven't read it before, though I've seen the highly bowdlerised film version with Linda Darnell (who amusingly enough went from playing the Virgin Mary in The Song Of Bernadette to playing Amber). It's not Anthony Adverse bad, but it's another of these overlong narratives about a completely self-absorbed individual, so YMMV.
I've become something of an accidental expert on the Restoration via my blog, so I'm finding the surrounding historical material more interesting than the main plot.
I will need to do a read-in-the-library session(s) for American Caravan so it's a question of when I can slot it in.
34) DAW #153: The Book of Poul Anderson
Date: 1975 (Originally published 1974 as The Many Worlds of Poul Anderson)
Poul Anderson's work has always been a mixed bag to me: I love his pulpy adventure stories like the Time Patrol stories or those about Dominic Flandry, agent of the Terran Empire. And his story about medieval warriors versus alien invaders, The High Crusade, is one of my favorite science fiction novels. But I've rarely been a fan of Anderson's characters, his stiff dialog, or his sometimes-preachy libertarian politics. And occasionally he uses a sort of elevated prose in imitation of epic Scandinavian prosody. Or maybe Old English, or both. Sometimes this mock-epic works -- for me it works in "The Queen of Air and Darkness," which I still find enchanting and creepy. But mostly it doesn't, and unfortunately this collection is heavy with Anderson's denser prose. Happily, the collection wraps up with two more accessible pieces, one a Hoka story and a Polesotechnic League one.
Tomorrow's Children (1947)
Anderson's first published story is a talky postapocalyptic nothingfest about mutants and eugenics.
The Queen of Air and Darkness (1971)
A researcher's son goes missing on the colony world of Christmas Landing. It seems many colonists' children have gone missing, and there are unsettling stories about "Outlings," creatures native to the planet who resemble the faeries of Celtic legend. (Which aren't the Disney sort.) When her superiors dismiss her report, the researcher goes looking herself. This is easily my favorite in the collection.
Her Strong Enchantments Failing (Patrick McGuire)
McGuire explains "The Queen of Air and Darkness." Most of the things McGuire explains can just as easily be learned by reading the story attentively. But McGuire does provide a service in following connections from the story to Anderson's body of work. He identifies oblique references to other stories and novels, and also discusses how some of the story's themes are explored in other works.
A crew of humans return to Earth centuries after it has become unlivable and abandoned.. In the meantime, machine intelligences have evolved and made the Earth their own. And they aren't quite sure how to handle the newcomers.
The Longest Voyage (1957)
Vikings -- or something similar -- encounter a man who claims to be from an empire in the stars, and that they are in fact the descendants of space colonists. If they will only help him repair is space craft, the stranger will reunite them with the people from whom they descended.
Challenge and Response (Sandra Miesel) (1970)
Originally published in Riverside Quarterly, this is an introduction to Anderson and an overview of his works. Miesel discusses Anderson's major themes and his favorite techniques, and identifies a few weaknesses. Placement of this piece is odd, since it feels like it should belong in an Introduction or an appendix.
Journey's End (1957)
For a telepath, the constant sordid noise of other people's private thoughts is nearly unendurable -- until he detects the thoughts of another ,telepath who finds the constant sordid noise of other people's private thoughts nearly unendurable.
A World Named Cleopatra
Among Anderson's strengths is a talent for creating believable environments. He never starts a story on a planet without knowing the planet's mass, its distance from the sun, the length of its year, its geological composition, its atmospheric pressure and its evolutionary history, the odors of its atmosphere and the taste of its water. This piece describes one of Anderson's imaginary planets, and is interesting as a glimpse at Anderson's technique. But without a story, it's all setup and no payoff.
The Sheriff of Canyon Gulch (with Gordon R. Dickson) (1951)
The Hoka are teddy-bear-like creatures who imitate human cultures as experienced through literature and media. They feature in a series of comic stories by Anderson and Gordon Dickson. This one has the Hoka building their social structure on pulpy western novels left behind by a human visitor. It's cute and short, but also a bit creaky.
Day of Burning (1967)
David Falkayn of the Polesotechnic League helps natives of the planet Merseia protect their civilization from the effects of a distant supernova. (Much later, Merseia will grow to rival the Terran Empire in the Flandry stories.)
Cover is by Jack Gaughan. I believe the figures on the cover represent "The Queen of Air and Darkness" and "Epilogue."
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Pine Trail Run (Pine, AZ, May 4, 2019)
Mileage last week: 16
Mileage this year: 228
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 25
Monday weigh-in: 243 lbs.
Soundtrack: Head Like a Hole (Nine Inch Nails)
Still battling a weak hip. The stretching and strengthening seem to be helping, but it's a process. I skipped a long run this week to run Sunday's race as hard as my joints would let me; and the results left me pleased. I'd hoped for a sub-30 min. finish, but was going to settle for an upright finish, considering. So I started slow and eased in. By the second mile most of the pain was gone, I was able to make up some time, and I finished in 29:42. (Hooray! Though I may have celebrated more heartily than strictly necessary.)
I hope to start pilng the mileage back on soon, because I've an opportunity for an interesting run. Early in May I'll attend a library conference in Phoenix, and will leave a couple of days early in order to do the Pine Trail Run in Tonto National Forest. Looks like fun, though: 8.6 miles of trail through national forest, mostly uphill for the first three miles or so, then mostly downhill for a net elevation loss. Which means over the next six weeks I need to hit the hills and the trails in order not to embarrass myself too badly.
Hello swynn. I hope all is well.
It is possible that your sense of humor is broken. However, I would challenge listen to Dennis Leary's recent book of essays and anecdotes an keep from laughing. I didn't agree with some of the content, but laughed out loud plenty and actually busted a gut on one particular story. check it out to test the funny bone.
>210 brodiew2: Hi brodie! (And has it really been a week? Man, I've been bad about checking in.)
I'm not a big fan of Leary's so this hadn't been on my radar, but I'll give it a chance. I've requested Why We Don't Suck through my library system -- I assume this is the one you meant. I'll report how it goes!
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Pine Trail Run (Pine, AZ, May 4, 2019)
Mileage last week: 7
Mileage this year: 235
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: ??
Monday weigh-in: 244 lbs.
Soundtrack: Kopf hoch und Arsch in den Sattel (="Head High and Ass in the Saddle") by Jupiter Jones
Crap week. The hip had been improving, but on Tuesday turned worse to the extent that I couldn't run without limping -- which in the long term would probably have caused more problems. So I'm giving it a rest and trying to maintain cardio conditioning through stationary cycle and stairclimber. We'll see how it goes, but as of last night it was still a problem.
The soundtrack selection features the German band Jupiter Jones. Yes it's named for the hero of the juvenile mystery series, "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators." "The Three Investigators" was one of my first favorite series characters, and Jupiter Jones one of my first literary heroes, so for that they get many many points from me.
And yes-- the series is popular in Germany too, where it is published as "Die drei ???" (= "The Three ???" ) and Jupiter Jones becomes "Justus Jonas." Actually, you could argue that the series is *more* popular in Germany than in the U.S., considering that new adventures continue to appear in German, and there are even spinoff series: "Die drei ??? Kinder" (="The Three ??? Kids") for a younger audience; and "Die drei !!!" featuring a trio of girl investigators.
Anyway, the band Jupiter Jones was very popular in the early 2000's, until 2014 when their frontman Nicholas Müller began to suffer from severe anxiety attacks -- which for a rock star has to be worse than a bum hip is for a recreational runner. I've recently learned that Müller has written a book about his experiences, which I've gotten my grubby hands on, and which I'll probably talk more about soon. I have wondered whether this tune foreshadowed his illness, as it addresses depression and fear:
Zurück ins Licht, der Sonne entgegen.
Ist es kalt da wo Du stehst? Dann fang an Dich zu bewegen.
Halb so schlimm, damit lässt sich leben.
Vielleicht auch nicht, vielleicht auch gerade eben.
"Back into the light, toward the sun.
Is it cold there where you're standing? Then get yourself moving.
Half as bad, you can live with that.
But maybe not, maybe just now."
The version of "Kopf hoch" on my running playlist comes from their 2007 album "Raum um Raum." The version at the YouTube link is from the band's live performance on TV Noir. It's a little slower and less screamy than the album's track (which, at 87 BPM is pretty close to the "ideal pace"), but I find their performance genial and moving. The music starts around 1:25.
>212 swynn: I'm sorry your hip is giving you trouble, Steve. My main pain point is my left hip, which has no cartilage left at all; just bone on bone. I hope yours heals up quickly so you can get back on the road.
>213 rosalita: Thanks for the commiseration, Julia, and for the good wishes. I do recognize that as problems go it's a petty one in the sense that it would disappear if I'd just switch hobbies. Still, it's disappointing.
Have you seen the new Rammstein?
ETA: you can find the lyrics here: https://www.lyricsmode.com/rammstein-deutschland-1600935.html
>215 alcottacre: Glad you liked it, Stasia! Sounds like you'll get to the sequel before I do, so I look forward to your comments.
>216 FAMeulstee: I hadn't seen that, Anita, so thanks! I knew Rammstein was planning to release a new album this year, but was having mixed feelings. I wasn't a fan of Till Lindemann's solo projects; and Richard Kruspe's band Emigrate is okay but hasn't won me over really. I'm a little giddy to hear and see this early release, which is brilliant in every possible way. I'll definitely run to it.
For the curious non-speakers of German, the lyrics express mixed feelings about German history. One sympathizes.
Deutschland - mein Herz in Flammen
Will dich lieben und verdammen
Deutschland - dein Atem kalt
So jung, und doch so alt
"Germany - my heart in flames
wants to love you and to damn you
Germany - your cold breath
So young and yet so old
>216 FAMeulstee: Thanks from me too, Anita, I had not seen that. I like Rammstein a lot.
>218 sirfurboy: The album drops on May 17. Looking forward to it!
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Pine Trail Run (Pine, AZ, May 4, 2019)
Mileage last week: 6
Longest run: 3 miles
Mileage this year: 241
Target mileage this week: 15
Monday weigh-in: 245 lbs.
Soundtrack: She Caught the Katy (and Left Me a Mule to Ride) by Taj Mahal
Man, I love this song. The version in my playlist is from Taj Mahal's 1968 album The Natch'l Blues but the linked version, a live performance together with the also-terrific Keb' Mo is fun. (A running connection: the "Katy" of the title refers to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway = MKT = "Katy". One section of the Katy crossed the middle of Missouri east to west and has since been turned into 240 miles of scenic and flat recreational trail that is just lovely for easy running -- and I obviously haven't run it all, but someday ....
The hip is improving again; I've discovered that running on an incline helps.
35) iD / Madeline Ashby
Second in Ashby's Machine Dynasty series, set in a world with ubiquitous humanlike robots. The first volume (vN) was a hoot of a chase story with two robots Amy and Javier on the run from just about everybody, finding finally a measure of peace on a machine island far from the complications of human beings.
This second volume breaks the peace. A human visitor tricks Javier into killing Amy, and Javier goes back into humans' society looking for a way to resurrect her. This one is a lot darker than the first, diving more deeply into the ways humans use the robots to feed our darker impulses (trigger warnings for rape and child abuse). So not only isn't it as fun as the first, it's sometimes distinctly uncomfortable. But vN hinted at this bleak view of humanity, so even though the thrills are fewer the story does feel continuous. And it promises a confrontation in the next volume. Which was due in January.
>221 FAMeulstee: Listening party on this thread on May 17! Or, you know, whenever you make it.
36) DAW #154: The Birthgrave / Tanith Lee
A woman wakes up in a dead volcano with no idea of her identity or past. A voice whispers to her that she is ugly and cursed, and that if she flees she will carry destruction wherever she goes. She leaves, and sure enough the volcano erupts, threatening the village to which she escapes. The book follows her across a fantasy landscape as she wanders from one painful situation to another, looking for answers to questions of her identity and the secret of her magical powers.
I'm about 45 years late to the Tanith Lee party but I'm finally here. Lee's jacket copy always seemed right up my alley so I've tried her works multiple times but have always bounced off. So I'm happy to report that this one was finally the right book at the right time: I liked it a lot despite its length, its episodic narrative, and a resolution that goes on too long explaining things it shouldn't have to. What captured me were the surreal atmosphere, the rich prose, and the detailed setting. Looking forward to more.
And it's about time DAW found another woman author: the last was Marion Zimmer Bradley whom Wollheim added in 1972 (with "Darkover Landfall," DAW #36). The next addition is also a great one, but there's something to be said for quantity *and* quality. That too will come.
Cover art is by George Barr.
>224 swynn: Bounced off. good term. I had the same problem with a couple novels of hers I tried probably in the early 80's. I did find myself liking some of her shorter fiction that appeared in magazines and anthologies in later years. One that I read and liked in 2016, A Madonna of the Machine, appears in DAW#783, the 1989 Year's Best. I always liked her title "The Silver Metal Lover" but I never tried it.
>225 RBeffa: I stole the expression "bounced off" from someone else on here, don't remember who, so I can't take credit. I agree it's a good description of the feeling. Silver Metal Lover is one of the books I tried, but it's been decades ago, so I hope I'll have a better response when it comes up in the Project.
Today was my employer's annual Children's Literature Festival, so I got to have lunch with these creative people.
In the back row, that's Janet Fox, Elana K. Arnold, Jerry Craft, Don Tate, Wendy Shang and Hena Khan.
Front row is Geoff Rodkey, Christine Taylor-Butler, Tracey Baptiste, Tae Keller, and Donna Gephart.
I saw Taylor-Butler's and Craft's presentations, both of which were excellent. I really wanna read The Lost Tribes now.
37) The heretic / Joseph Nassise
Modern-day Templars fight supernatural monsters. It's okay for what it is: a straightforward action thriller (and Kindle special) featuring a tough-as-nails manly hero haunted by the memory of his wife's violent death. There are more in the series, and though I won't avoid them I won't seek them out either.
38) Flight or Fright
This is a pretty good collection of (mostly) horror stories about flying. Selection is good, with a nice mix of newer and older stories, though a few don't really seem to fit in this volume. For me the standout was Arthur Conan Doyle's The Horror of the Heights, whose ideas about the "jungles of the upper air" feel fresh and weird -- which they are, but they're also just unencumbered by one hundred years of aviation history.
Cargo (2008) by E. Michael Lewis
A cargo plane picks up a load of caskets from Jonestown, Guyana for transport to the U.S. In the air, the pilot hears a strange noise. I found this one creepy, but with an unjustifiably light ending.
The Horror of the Heights (1913) by Arthur Conan Doyle
An aviator's journal is discovered in a field. The notes detail the author's investigation into mysterious deaths among aviators who fly too high -- and the author's theories about the jungles of the upper air and the beasts that inhabit them.
Nightmare at 20,000 feet (1961) by Richard Matheson
A nervous passenger is convinced he sees a gremlin, and that the monster is sabotaging the plane. This was made into a terrific episode of The Twilight Zone starring William Shatner long before he became a parody of himself. The TZ episode is great television, but its source material is also a great short story and much more ambiguous about whether the passenger is a Cassandra or just crazy.
The Flying Machine (1899) by Ambrose Bierce
Less a short story than a cynical anecdote about human folly. This sort of thing is Ambrose Bierce's trademark, and it's effective for what it is but it's not horror and doesn't really belong here.
Lucifer! (1969) by E.C. Tubb
A man steals a ring that allows him to jump back in time a few moments -- not long enough to "time travel" really, but long enough to repeatedly attempt a difficult task (like seduction) until it works. He gets his comeuppance on a plane over the Atlantic. Effective.
The Fifth Category (2014) by Thomas Carlyle Bissell
John is an expert on torture and helped write the documents that informed the Bush administration's policies on interrogation. But that unpleasantness is all behind him until he wakes up alone on an abandoned plane. This one asks a hard question about the distance between a philosophical argument and a criminal application of the argument, and how that distance can be measured in guilt. It's a bit far-fetched but dark and thought-provoking.
Two Minutes Forty-Five Seconds (1988) by Dan Simmons
An engineer devises a way to exact revenge on careless colleagues and himself.
Diablitos (2017) by Cody Goodfellow
An art smuggler tries to sneak a tribal mask out of a South American country. The mask has other ideas.
Air Raid (1977) by John Varley
Visitors from a sterilized future beam aboard doomed jet planes and replace all the passengers with dummies. Varley later turned this story into a novel and then the screenplay Millennium. I haven't read the novel and didn't get the movie, but this short story focuses on one really good idea and executes it well.
You Are Released (2018) by Joe Hill
The first strikes of World War III, as experienced by various passengers on board a plane. This one didn't do much for me.
Warbirds (2007) by David J. Schow
An aging WWII bomber pilot tells about seeing something in the air during battles. I'm having a bit of amnesia on this one.
The Flying Machine (1953) by Ray Bradbury
The Chinese emperor receives news that one of his citizens has invented a flying machine. The inventor is a dreamer, but the emperor can see practical consequences of the dream. This one, like the Bierce, is a nice example of a thing the author does very well but it isn't a horror story and doesn't really belong here.
Zombies on a Plane (2010) by Bev Vincent
The story is just a longer version of the title.
They Shall Not Grow Old (1946) by Roald Dahl
In WWII a pilot goes missing for two days and is assumed dead. But then he returns as if nothing unusual has happened and he doesn't understand the fuss until he's told.
Murder in the Air (2000) by Peter Tremayne
Locked-room mystery set in an airplane toilet. Not bad, but not horror either.
The Turbulence Expert (2018) by Stephen King
Story about people employed by airlines to prevent plane crashes on flights scheduled to encounter severe turbulence.
Falling (1981) by James Dickey
Poem expressing the thoughts of a person falling out of the sky. Didn't do much for me, but Stephen King says it's a favorite.
39) Background to Danger / Eric Ambler
A freelance international journalist goes poking around pre-WWII Europe for exlusive stories and finds himself broke, and not only broke but in debt thanks to a gambling habit. On a train to Vienna he meets a stranger who offers him a little financial relief in exchange for smuggling a package across the border. The job appeals both to Kenton's pocket and his love of risk, so he accepts. Getting the package through Austrian customs is no problem, but when Kenton delivers the package to the agreed-upon hotel room he meets his friend from the train, dead on the floor. Excitement ensues as Kenton is chased by the dead man's friends and enemies, each of whom want the package for their own reasons. Also, the Austrian police figure Kenton is the prime suspect for the dead man's murder.
This was Ambler's second novel, and it's a marked improvement over the first, The Dark Frontier, a spy spoof that mistired. BtD is thrilling, with menacing villains, narrow escapes, a convoluted plot and, yes, explosions. Only a few things feel a bit off. Soviet spies are the goodguys, which is amusing considering the way the genre developed. But considering the way history developed, it also feels a little naive. Kenton's motivations aren't always plausible, but the chief villain's are even more suspect: in one scene the villain has means, motive, and opportunity to kill Kenton and instead leaves him imprisoned in an elaborate death trap. Because of course he does, I guess. One might say that Ambler has gone from ridiculing the genre's conventions to embracing them. Fine. It works, and I'm looking forward to more.
>229 swynn: I recognize some very good stories in there. Keeping to the DAW theme, EC Tubb's 'Lucifer' was one of the best stories I read in the DAW#13 horror collection (read it in 2016). Air Raid, Nightmare at 2000 feet. Bradbury's Flying machine I can't bring to mind even tho I re-read it in Golden Apples of the Sun a couple years ago. Looks like a good collection of new and old.
>229 swynn: This looks very interesting! I appreciate the individual story summaries as I would not have looked twice at this one otherwise.
>231 RBeffa: It is a good collection, and I very much appreciated the mix of older and newer stories. This one did pretty well commercially (probably in the strength of the editor's name and original contribution) and I hope it encourages imitators.
>232 rosalita: Happy to do it, Julia! I confess the summaries are for my own benefit too, because a few weeks after I finish an anthology I usually have only the sketchiest recollection of its contents.
Yes, I know that feeling all too well! Even with full-length books, to be honest, especially if the title isn't especially indicative of the contents.
I don't think I've ever read Ambler, but I've seen all the films based on these books. (Not that there's always that much resemblance.)
I'm reading them chronologically
God bless you, my son. :D
>237 lyzard: I think the only film I've seen based on an Ambler book is Topkapi. Which means I have some watching to do. Unfortunately the film version of Background to Danger isn't available in my library. Yet.
You may take the blessing back soon: I've just finished books 2 and 3 of a series without reading book 1. I feel like "But the first book hasn't been translated into a language I read" should be a valid excuse, but I feel a little guilty anyway.
"But the first book hasn't been translated into a language I read"
Ouch. That's a tough one. (Whether it really should be or not.)
I think I read some Eric Ambler years ago. My mom had some old paperbacks.
Doing any marathons in my neighborhood anytime soon?
>240 BLBera: No, no marathons soon and probably not til next year. The next major race is an 8-mile trail run next month near Phoenix, where I'm attending a library systems conference.
I really really want to do this race, but my hip problems have interrupted training enough that it's no longer a Good Idea, and might just be a Bad Idea. Whether I decide to attempt it or not, I'll probably stick to shorter distances for at least a few months, and ease into the marathons.
Speaking of which ...
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Pine Trail Run (Pine, AZ, May 4, 2019)
Mileage last week: 8
Longest run: 3 miles
Mileage this year: 249
Target mileage this week: 15
Monday weigh-in: 248 lbs.
Soundtrack: Black Sheep by Gin Wigmore
The hip continues to improve while I'm careful not to overdo it, and back off when it starts feeling hinky. It's frustrating and slow, but hopefully we can make this sustainable.
>241 swynn: I hope the hip continues to improve, Steve. Selfishly, I want you to get well enough to do the Amana run so we can have another LT Meet-up!
>244 BLBera: Well now, there's a thought! I guess we don't need to make Steve exert himself just to come visit. :-)
40) DAW #155: The Year's Best Horror Stories: Series III
Tagline: The chill-of-the-year book
"Year's best" is a puzzling claim. Usually these collections are selected from the previous year's publications, presumably some editor's favorite stories to which rights can be secured. But five of the thirteen stories here are original to this volume; and the eight others have original publication dates ranging from 1968 to 1974. So it's ambiguous just which "year" these stories are the "best" of.
Faithfulness to the theme aside, it's a pretty good collection. My favorites are the first two. The Ellison is an Edgar-winning bit of urban horror from his brilliant collection Deathbird Stories. I've read TWOWD several times and still find it creepy. The Campbell is new to me, and isn't perfect: it's told in the voice of an 11-year old girl and sometimes tips over into twee. But the mix of children and ancient gods is memorably unsettling.
One of the best things about the collection is of course the brilliant and garish cover by Michael Whelan.
The Whimper of Whipped Dogs by Harlan Ellison
An apartment dweller in New York City witnesses a murder in the street below. She finds herself powerless to act, even to scream; worse, when she looks upward she sees something else watching ...
The Man in the Underpass by J. Ramsey Campbell
In an underpass crossed by children en route to school, someone has painted a grotesque, obscene figure ... which somehow wants to be worshipped.
S.F. by T.E.D. Klein
The "snuffer" is a device for selectively erasing memories: you can, for example, erase the memory of a favorite book or movie and read it or see it for the first time all over again. Unintended consequences follow. The story is told in a letter from a grandmother to her grandchild, an idea that Klein overdoes with too-precious prose.
Uncle Vlad by Clive Sinclair
A young woman joins a family of vampires. Atmospheric but nearly plotless.
Judas Story by Brian M. Stableford
Tells the rise and sudden fall of rock demigod Jack Queen King through the eyes of King's drummer. Riffs on the idea of a performer feeding on his audience -- or is it the other way 'round?
The House of Cthulhu by Brian Lumley
Zar-Thule the Conqueror, Reaver of Reavers, finds the legendary House of Cthulhu which he assumes contains treasures beyond all imagination. Well, there's *something* beyond all imagination behind that door ...
Satanesque by Allan Weiss
A famous sculptor returns to his small boyhood town and erects his newest work in a park near the center of town. But at the opening ceremony, the townspeople are not pleased with the demonic figure unveiled.
Burger Creature by Steve Chapman
Sort of a gonzo romance between a fast-food worker and a pile of animated ground beef. (Literally. I understand that's not so uncommon figuratively speaking.) A little too loopy for me.
Wake Up Dead by Tim Stout
A psychiatrist at a prison for the criminally insane invents a "dream projector," allowing him to view the content of his patients' dreams. It works a little too well.
Forget-Me-Not by Bernard Taylor
A schoolteacher finds herself irresistibly drawn to the former home of a serial killer.
Halloween Story by Gregory Fitz Gerald
Surreal story about a woman living in a gingerbread house, visited by trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
Big, Wide, Wonderful World by Charles E. Fritch
This one is hard to describe without spoilers: it's four pages long, and the premise itself is the horror. So: necessarily cryptically, this one is about a group of boys who decide to have a nightmare.
The Taste of Your Love by Eddy C. Bertin
A serial killer chooses the wrong victim.
41) Qualityland / Marc-Uwe Kling
(Winner of the 2018 German Science Fiction Prize for best novel.)
Sometime in the near future, algorithms anticipate your needs and desires so accurately that you don't even have to click to order. The goods you need are delivered by drone conveniently to your door -- even the goods you don't realize you need. This is life in QualityLand, where everyone is happy and the answer to every question is "OK."
Every paradise has its discontents, and QualityLand has Peter Jobless. Peter's girlfriend recently left him when a workplace promotion made her algorithmically eligible for a better boyfriend. So Peter is in no receptive mood when a drone delivers just the device he needs: a sex toy. Which, actually and emphatically, Peter does *not* need, does not want, and is determined to return. But returning the thing turns out to be more difficult than expected: although the seller promises easy returns of "unwanted items," it refuses to acknowledge that the object in question is one.
Peter's quest is funny and frightening, and it speaks to my own worries about applications and misapplications of artificial intelligence. It's quite fun to see my anxieties played out as absurd humor, and I'm looking forward to an English translation so that I can give it to friends and say they have to read this.
There's good reason to expect an English translation will appear. Mike Judge is producing a series based on the novel for HBO, which one assumes would generate interest. I have no idea what "series production commitment" means, but I sure hope it's something like, "more likely than not."
42) The Robe / Lloyd Douglas
This was the bestselling novel in the U.S. for 1943. It's a conversion story about Marcellus, the Roman soldier who oversaw Jesus' crucifixion. Marcellus is a conscientious soldier and finds Jesus' execution a revolting miscarriage of justice. He gets through the crucifiction by getting drunk, in which state he gambles for and wins the Savior's robe. The robe has a curious, supernatural effect on Marcellus, who soon finds himself investigating the life of Jesus, growing closer to his followers, and eventually declaring himself a Christian.
For me the novel's strength is its setting. Douglas dresses a stage well, and even when the narrative gets boring it's hard not to admire some detail in the scene. But my goodness does the narrative get boring. The first 150 pages aren't so bad, as Douglas sets Marcellus' position in Gallilee with bits of court intrigue. Likewise the final 50 pages or so, where Marcellus' decisions meet their consequences. But goodness those 300 pages in between, where Marcellus talks Jesus with everyone he can find, drag like nobody's business. My reaction probably has something to do with my own religious history, which I'm pretty sure I've mentioned here: that middle part of the story feels like a series of Sunday School lessons hung on a very thin line, and I've already attended all the Sunday School I care to, thanks. I think Douglas is aware of this, and he tries to break it up with amusing or thrilling stories about Marcellus's slave Demetrius or updates on things happening back at court. But for me these interludes just felt like Douglas trying not to be too boring, and mostly failing.
Treatment of the Jews is interesting. Repeatedly through the story, Romans stereotype Jews as avaricious, penny-pinching scoundrels who would sell their mother for a pile of dirty rags. For clarity: Douglas portrays this stereotype as a Roman prejudice, which reveals more about his Roman than his Jewish characters. And while I know this harmful stereotype exists, it's my understanding that it originated in medieval Europe and so wouldn't have been current at the time the novel is supposed to take place. On the other hand, Douglas does assign the Jews one characteristic which I suspect is inaccurate. For Douglas, the Jewish religion is centered on the anticipated appearance of a messiah -- but it is my understanding that actual Jewish beliefs about "messiah" are (and were) more varied and nuanced. I am neither Jewish nor knowledgeable about Jewish history, so take that for what it's worth, but I can't help feeling that Douglas's Jews have less to do with historical accuracy than with his own historical moment and rhetorical goals.
I know that the book and the movie are both well-loved still. And that's fine, just one more entry on the list of things I guess I don't get.
I was dreading the next bestseller, Forever Amber, based on its reputation for content and length.
So I'm delighted to see that my library's copy is a mere 650 pages.
I'm still not looking forward to it, exactly, but 650 pages? Piffle. Anthony Adverse it ain't.
I got this.
(I reserve the right to change my tune by page 10.)
Qualityland does sound good. I hope it is translated. Great comments, Steve. Your description reminds me a bit of the story "What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky." In that, algorithms can solve all kinds of problems -- until they don't.
My own religious background was (so to speak) the extreme opposite from yours, and from that lack of perspective I found this fairly interesting. For me it raised questions Douglas may not have wanted, like the distance between faith-through-faith and faith-because-I-was-there-and-saw-it, which with this setting he cannot really really - and certainly does not - address.
I don't know enough about the Jewish situation to have a broad opinion about that, but I felt that there was a reasonable attempt to separate the Roman-collaborating, happy-with-the-status-quo subset from the majority---rather than a real "blame the Jews" mindset. But as you say, whether even that is historically accurate is debatable.
Only 650 pages!? How small is your font? Mine was about 850, but laid out in two columns, which did not make for an easy read.
I'll be interested to see if you do, in fact, got this. :D
>254 lyzard: I haven't fetched the book from the stacks yet, but from your description I suspect that either my library's copy has a teeny-tiny font, or is an abridged version. The bibliographic record doesn't indicate either one. Other libraries in my consortium have copies of what I assume is the first edition (Macmillan, 1944) and those have 972 pages. So the happy feeling is gone.
Back in 1987 during my year abroad I spent a day in Paris, and am now grateful that my visit included a generous amount of time at the Notre Dame cathedral, which was incredible from the outside and breathtaking from within.
I know everyone else is saying it today too but ... just ... fuck.
>253 BLBera: I must read What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. I thought I had, but I don't remember anything about it, and if it was about algorithms then I think I would remember it at least vaguely. It must be one of the books that made it home but didn't get read before it had to be given back to the library. Time for a do-over.
This topic was continued by swynn's thread for 2019: volume 2.
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