swynn's thread for 2019: volume 3
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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:
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: 31
Next up: The Land Leviathan by Michael Moorcock
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 have slowed the pace 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, but will catch up someday.
Bestsellers so far: 8
Next Up: The Cardinal (1950) by Henry Morton Robinson
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: 16/153 (10%)
(D) Not White: 24/153 (15%)
(E) Not Dudes: 74/153 (48%)
Other Good Intentions
(F) Read more off my shelves.
So far: 35
(G) Read more stuff recommended by friends and relatives.
So far: 10
Continue more series than I start. And finish one every now and then, sheesh.
- (H) Series started: 36
- (I) Series continued: 28
- (J) Series finished (or up-to-date): 8
The Band series by Nicholas Eames
Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen
Birthgrave series by Tanith lee
Cap Kennedy series by E.C. Tubb (writing as Gregory Kern)
Carve the Mark series by Veronica Roth
Cas Russell series by S.L. Huang
Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Colony series by Michaelbrent Collings
Danielle Cain series by Margaret Killjoy
Dead Remaining series by Vivian Barz
Dreamship series by Melissa Scott
Fu-Manchu series by Sax Rohmer
Girl from the Well series by Rin Chupeco
Girl with all the Gifts series by M.R. Carey
Greenglass House series by Kate Milford
Hidden Cities series by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
I Bring the Fire series by C. Gockel
Illuminae series by Annie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Interstellar Patrol series by Christopher Anvil
Jumbies series by Tracey Baptiste
Kalte Krieg series by Dirk Van Den Boom
Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
Maggie O'Dell series by Alex Kava
Maschinen-Trilogie by Carmen Capiti
Monsters of Verity series by Victoria Schwab
Murderbot series by Martha Wells
Pallahaxi series by Michael G. Coney
Persons Non Grata series by Cassandra Khaw
The Spark series by David Drake
Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein
Stillhouse Lake series by Rachel Caine
Templar knights series by Joseph Nassise
Tensorate series by J.Y. Yang
Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake
Whyborne & Griffin series by Jordan Hawk
Year's Best Fantasy Series
Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett
Cas Russell series by S.L. Huang
Danielle Cain series by Margaret Killjoy
Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Dray Prescot series by Kenneth Bulmer
Dumarest of Terra series by E.C. Tubb
Eyes trilogy by Stuart Gordon
Henry Rios series by Michael Nava
Hooded Swan series by Brian Stableford
Jumbies series by Tracey Baptiste
Kalte Krieg trilogy by Dirk Van Den Boom
Lynley & Havers series by Elizabeth George
Machine Dynasty series by Madeline Ashby
Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis
Monsters of Verity series by Victoria Schwab
Murderbot series by Martha Wells
Noon Universe series by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Rim Worlds/John Grimes series by A. Bertram Chandler
Seeker series by Arwen Elys Dayton
Setni series by Pierre Barbet
St. Mary's series by Jodi Taylor
Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein
Sephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
Stella Hardesty series by Sophie Littlefield
Titus Crow series by Brian Lumley
Whyborne & Griffin series by Jordan Hawk
World's End series by Lin Carter
Year's Best Horror Stories
Cas Russell series by S.L. Huang
Eyes trilogy by Stuart Gordon
Hooded Swan series by Brian Stableford
Jumbies series by Tracey Baptiste
Monsters of Verity series by Victoria Schwab
Seeker series by Arwen Elys Dayton
Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Kalte Krieg trilogy by Dirk Van Den Boom
Machine Dynasty series by Madeline Ashby
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
40) The Year's Best Horror Stories, Series III (AFI)
41) QualityLand by Marc-Uwe Kling
42) The Robe by Lloyd Douglas (B)
43) Becoming by Michelle Obama (DE)
44) America's Bank by Roger Lowenstein
45) Games Psyborgs Play by Pierre Barbet (F)
46) The Enchanted Planet by Pierre Barbet (AF)
47) Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (GH)
48) Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (H)
49) Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (H)
50) The Whenabouts of Burr by Michael Kurland (AF)
51) The Twilight of Briareus by Richard Cowper (AF)
52) The Jumbies / Tracey Baptiste (DEH)
53) Carve the Mark / Veronica Roth (EH)
54) Bladesman of Antares / Kenneth Bulmer (AFI)
55) A Twist at the End / Steven Saylor (CG)
56) Wolves / C. Gockel (EH)
57) I Am Watching You / Terea Driscoll (E)
58) Circus Parade / Jim Tully
59) Nightshade / Stanley R. Moore (F)
60) Genesis / Michaelbrent Collings (H)
61) Venus in Copper / Lindsey Davis (EI)
62) Undertaker's Moon / Ronald Kelly
63) Artemis / Andy Weir
64) Beyond the Galactic Rim / A. Bertram Chandler (I)
65) Heritage of Hastur / Marion Zimmer Bradley (AEFI)
66) Canopus / Dirk Van Den Boom (H)
67) Far Rainbow & The Second Invasion from Mars / Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (I)
68) The Star-Crowned Kings / Robert Chilson (AF)
69) How Town / Michael Nava (CI)
70) Total Eclipse / John Brunner (AF)
71) Epitaph for a Spy / Eric Ambler
72) Hammers on Bone / Cassandra Khaw (CDEH)
73) Eye of the Zodiac / E.C. Tubb (AFI)
74) Forever Amber / Kathleen Winsor (BE)
75) The Second Book of Fritz Leiber (AF)
76) Why We Don't Suck / Denis Leary (G)
77) Aume reist / Dirk Van Den Boom (I)
78) The Book of Andre Norton (AEF)
79) The Art of Logic in an Illogical World / Eugenia Cheng (DE)
80) The Year's Best Fantasy Stories (AF)
81) The Demon Breed / James H. Schmitz (G)
82) Rise of the Jumbies / Tracey Baptiste (DEI)
83) Star / C.I. Defontenay (AF)
84) Warlord's World / Christopher Anvil (AFH)
85) The Cuckoo's Calling / Robert Galbraith (E)
86) The Rule of One / Ashley & Leslie Saunders (E)
87) Time Slave / John Norman (AF)
88) A Trail Through Time / Jodi Taylor (E)
89) Rax / Michael G. Coney (AF)
90) Huon of the Horn / Andre Norton (EF)
91) The Black Tides of Heaven / J.Y. Yang (CDEH)
92) One-Eye / Stuart Gordon (F)
93) The King's General / Daphne du Maurier (BE)
94) Two-Eyes / Stuart Gordon (F)
95) Love & Courage / Jagmeet Singh (DG)
96) Lot / Bryan Washington (CD)
97) Three-Eyes / Stuart Godron (AFIJ)
98) Beggars of Life / Jim Tully
99) America's Women / Gail Collins (E)
100) New Suns : original speculative fiction by people of color (D)
101) Neverworld Wake / Marisha Pessl (E)
102) Soldier, Ask Not / Gordon R. Dickson (AFI)
103) The Girl with All the Gifts / M.R. Carey (H)
104) Avengers of Antares / Kenneth Bulmer (AFI)
105) The Miracle of the Bells / Russell Janney (B)
106) Arkad's World / James Cambias
107) This Savage Song / Victoria Schwab (EH)
108) Our Dark Duet / Victoria Schwab (EIJ)
109) The Prince Commands / Andre Norton (EF)
110) Maschinenwahn / Carmen Capiti (EH)
111) The Green Gene / Peter Dickinson (AF)
112) Cause for Alarm / Eric Ambler
113) Widdershins / Jordan Hawk (CEH)
114) Eve's Rib / Bryn Chandler (EF)
115) When the Waker Sleeps / Ron Goulart (AF)
116) Wasteland / W. Scott Poole
117) Ralestone Luck / Andre Norton (E)
118) Beyond the Galactic Lens / Gregory Kern (AFH)
119) Zero Sum Game / S.L. Huang (CDEH)
120) Senselessness / Horacio Castellanos Moya (DG)
121) 1177 B.C. / Eric H. Cline
122) Well-Schooled in Murder /Elizabeth George (EI)
123) Artificial Condition / Martha Wells (EI)
124) The Season of Styx Malone (DE)
125) Dreamships / Melissa Scott (CEFH)
126) Three Dark Crowns / Kendare Blake (DEFGH)
127) The Dungeoneers / John David Anderson (GH)
128) Forgotten Bones / Vivian Barz (EH)
129) Null Set / S.L. Huang (CDEI)
130) Sealed / Naomi Booth (E)
131) The Spark / David Drake (H)
132) The Tiger Flu / Larissa Lai (CDE)
133) Threshold / Jordan L. Hawk (CI)
134) The Big Fisherman / Lloyd C. Douglas (B)
135) High Five / Janet Evanovich (EI)
136) The Outskirter's Secret / Rosemary Kirstein (EI)
137) Anything But Typical / Nora Raleigh Baskin
138) The Making of a Manager / Julie Zhuo (DE)
139) Grace Will Lead Us Home / Jennifer Berry Hawes (E)
140) Waste Tide / Chen Qiufan (D)
141) Bookplate Special / Lorna Barrett (EI)
142) Seed / Ania Ahlborn (E)
143) The Lands of Passing Through / Alexandra Erin (CE)
144) Running with a Police Escort / Jill Grunenwald (E)
145) The Book of John Brunner / John Brunner (A)
146) The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu / Sax Rohmer (H)
147) The Revolving Boy / Gertrude Feinberg (E)
148) Scarface / Andre Norton (E)
149) The Barrow Will Send What It May / Margaret Killjoy (CEI)
150) Know My Name / Chanel Miller (DE)
151) The Egyptian / Mika Waltari (B)
152) Good Talk / Mira Jacob (DE)
153) My Time Among the Whites / Jeanine Capo Crucet (DE)
My diversity goals, on the other hand, will need some attention. I was aiming for 10% LGBTQ authors, 15% authors of color, and 50% women. Those percentages currently stand at 7%, 10%, and 40%, respectively, so work must be done.
I'd put off Perry Rhodan this year in order to read some longer German works. That has worked okay: I've read 4 novels auf Deutsch, but I'm missing PR so might get back into those. If I do, I almost certainly won't write the lengthy summaries: I'm well behind on those and find myself unmotivated to catch up.
And bestsellers. I feel I owe Liz an apology, because I started the year behind and have only fallen further. I've gotten a good start on The King's General, but Liz's warnings about the tedious religious novels that follow make me think my pace is not likely to pick up. I need to get back to the Boston challenge too.
88) A Trail Through Time by Jodi Taylor
Fourth in Jodi Taylor's "St Mary's" series, featuring disaster-prone time-traveling historians. In this one, um, let's skip all the timey-wimey complications and say that Max and Leon go on the run from the Time Police for actions taken earlier in the series. Chaos ensues.
My affection for this series continues to grow. Among the reasons I love it are now the looks Mrs. Swynn shot me as I read the bit about St. Mary's too-successful reenactment of Alexander's siege of Tyre, while Mrs. Swynn was trying to watch some psycho-of-the-week crime show. Which, I infer from her memorably irritated expression, was not as humorous as the St. Mary's activities. Or maybe not funny at all really.
89) DAW #170: Rax by Michael G. Coney
The author describes this in an introductory note as "a love story, and a war story, and a science fiction story, and more besides." The "more besides" includes an affecting coming-of-age story, featuring Aliki-Drove, a young man chafing at the officious irrelevance of his father, a mid-level government bureaucrat. Drove's family vacation at a beachside town, near which his father is supposed to inspect a new cannery. In his free time, Drove associates with people he oughtn't and sort of likes it, embraces an identity separate from his parents, and falls in love at least twice -- and around him civilization falls apart, first with an outbreak of war and then with planetary cataclysm.
I'm just saying: it's possible that following John Norman will make anyone a virtuoso just by comparison, but I'm calling this one a DAW gem, one that I'd never have read if not for this project.
Cover is by Josh Kirby.
You are in a room with a well-stocked library and a comfortable chair. There are two clearly marked exits. You have one hour to escape.
So ... if I admit defeat before I start, can I still spend the hour?
...I don't get it...escape from Heaven? Why ever?
Happy new thread, Stephen. Have a great weekend.
90) Huon of the Horn by Andre Norton
On his way to pay allegiance to Charlemagne, the young Huon Duke of Bordeaux is tricked into killing the King's son and heir. For penance Charlemagne sets Huon an impossible task: Huon must travel to the Saracen city of Babylon, whence he must retrieve a handful of the Emir Gaudy's beard and five of the Emir's teeth, kill the Emir's chief lord, and kiss the Emir's daughter. Silly Charlemagne. He only thinks the task impossible because he doesn't know how medieval romances work. Huon succeeds, of course, with the help of Oberon king of the fairies.
This is an "adaption" of a 16th-century English translation of a 13th-century French poem. It has weirdnesses associated with the age of its source: it's very episodic, squishy about time and continuity, and quirky about ethics. (In one passage the narrator refers to Huon as having a "humble and contrite heart" as he slaughters a roomful of Saracens, for example.) But there's enough incident and spectacle to keep things moving, plus it's short enough to run out of pages before it runs out of welcome. Of course you've got Norton's highly mannered prose -- the Wikipdeia article calls it "quasi-modern English" -- but it works in this case, adding atmosphere and also distance for the story's odder bits.
Saruman for wizard! You know, to appeal to moderate orc voters.
91) The Black Tides of Heaven / J.Y. Yang
Set in an alternate China ruled by a cruel empress with the help of "slackcraft," a sort of elemental magic that only elites can practice. Secretly in the unmagical multitude a revolution is rising of "machinists," rebels who build tools and weapons that can be used by anyone regardless of magical skill. The story follows a pair of twins, Akeha and Mokoya, children of the empress, who are given to a monastery as payment for services rendered. As the children grow, however, Mokoya shows a talent for prophecy, which makes the empress interested after all - but only for Mokoya. Akeha, on the other hand, finds his own way and joins the Machinists.
One of the central ideas is that children are born genderless, and remain so until they reach some realization of gender identity, after which point they choose "he" or "she" and there is some sort of slackcraft ritual to establish their sex. When Mokoya reaches her decision long before Akeha is ready it complicates the division between them -- a division further complicated when Akeha reaches his decision and deals with the fact that they are both in love with the same man.
It's a novella, so it's short, but it covers a good span of time, from the twins' infancy to adulthood. The novella's length just isn't up to doing the story and the worldbuilding justice. There are bits that are effective, but mostly it feels like a prequel to the story the author *really* wanted to write. I understand that the second book has tighter focus, and I'm intrigued enough to check it out.
Or, non-running post I should say, since achy ankles have kept me from the real thing. I've only put in 4 miles that I can honestly call "running," but have walked daily. Weigh-in is too scary to think about.
Mileage last week: 4 miles.
Mileage this year: 456 miles
Longest run: 2 miles
Target mileage this week: whatever I can convince my ankles to give me.
Monday weigh-in: ---
Soundtrack: Ohne Dich (schlaf' ich heut' nacht nicht ein) by Melarima
A not-running week deserves a not-running soundtrack, and this is the earworm that's been stuck in my head this week. It's a cover of a 1986 song from boy-band Münchener Freiheit, a cheesy overproduced synth-pop product that is a little embarrassing today. But in this cover Melanie Lochner's pensive, expressive voice over Amir Nasr's fingerstyle guitar are so appealing to make me wonder what I was ever embarrassed about. (This is why, for the record.) I could do without the overdubbing that starts around 3:15, which for me breaks the illusion of intimacy, but the arrangement is otherwise so right that I'll forgive 'em.
92) One Eye / Stuart Gordon
In a postapocalyptic future, the city fathers of Phadraig practice a eugenic religion which enforces "norm purity" and exiles or executes anyone with physically or psychically disfigurig genetic mutations. Things are not all well in Phadraig: an increasing number of new births face exile or death, and outside the city the warlord Khassam is gathering mutant troops to attack. And now one young mother's unclean baby boy is not just any mutant: he is the one-eyed "divine mutant" who is prophesied to bring chaos to the world. The child has a few allies, who help him escape from Phadraig with the help of a mechanical golem, confront a mad misshapen wizard in a wilderness tower, and then face Khassam -- all as a preface to, you know, disrupting the whole damn world.
First in Stuart Gordon's "Eyes" trilogy. This is a re-read in preparation for the third and last book, which is next up in the DAW project. I remembered few details of this volume, except that I remember liking it pretty well. I think I liked it even better this second time, being prepared for its excesses -- which are considerable. On to the second, which I remember liking less and which I hope improves on rereading and with volume 1 fresh in mind.
Cover is by Tim Kirk.
93) The King's General / Daphne DuMaurier
This was the bestselling novel in the U.S. in 1946. Honor Harris, in defiance of her family, falls in love with the disreputable Richard Grenvile. But before they can marry, Honor is injured in a riding accident and left without the use of her legs. She calls off the marriage, which transforms their love affair into a friendship which lasts longer than any marriage probably would have done. When war breaks out between the Crown and Parliament, Richard becomes the Royalists' most effective officer but also more disreputable than ever. Grenvile's faults go well beyond a disregard for social forms: he is abusive, cynically manipulative, and cruel even to his own son whom he unaffectionately calls "Spawn." Honor is not blind to Richard's faults but she also recognizes qualities of leadership and charm. As Parliamentary troops threaten Cornwall, Honor moves to her sister's country estate Menabilly -- whose mansion has a forbidden room, a secret passage, and a dark history, which together with the emotionally stunted hero make the novel as much a gothic anti-romance as historical fiction. I liked it, and probably would have finished much faster if not for the book slump.
Here are the winners that most interest me:
Best novel: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Best novella: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Best novelette: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" by Zen Cho
Best short story: "A witch's guide to escape" by Alix E. Harrow
Best series: Wayfarers by Becky Chambers
Best graphic story: Monstress, vol. 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu
Best young adult book ("Lodestar Award"): Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Best dramatic presentation, long form: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse"
I didn't participate in Hugo voting this year, and so didn't read all of the nominated works. I have, though, read Kowal's best-novel winner and think it's pretty damn deserving. Also a couple of years ago I saw Kowal do a reading at the Kansas City Worldcon and can report that she's also an engaging storyteller in person. Beside the point maybe, but my impression of her is very positive and I'm happy she's won.
I haven't read Artificial Condition, but I loved All Systems Red so I ought to fix that.
I think I've mentioned that I seem to be immune to the charms of Becky Chambers's Wayfarers series. But plenty of others aren't and that's okay.
Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone was the only book I've read from the YA nominees this year, but the others would have to be pretty spectacular to make it a bad choice.
Fortunately, the Harrow story is freely available online (), and can add it to the list of "excellent choice"s for this year's Hugos.
Yes: yay Murderbot! I've ILL'd book #2, so will get to it soonish.
>40 drneutron: I haven't much gotten into graphic lit in years, but will keep Monstress in mind when the mood strikes.
>41 RBeffa: The 2018 win for All Systems Red was one of the things that prompted me to pick it up.
The new trend for separately-published novellas intrigues me, and I'm curious to see how it develops. I did not think it would take off, so I'm surprised and pleased that Tor seems to have figured out how to make it work. I've wondered, though, whether publishers might use the new market for serialized novels rather than standalone works -- and if so, is a novella-length episode of a longer work really a "novella?" I don't have any strong feelings either way at this point, but I eagerly await the heated dispute.
Just for fun, I'm recommending a poem included in my latest ER book, Best of British Fantasy 2018. Most of the stories didn't do much for me, but the Godziliad, found here, is well worth it!
>44 ronincats: Yay for novellas! It seems like it wasn't that long ago I'd read arguments that we really didn't need three different categories for works less than novel length works: Who knows a novelette from a novella? they said. But everybody knows what a novella is now.
94) Two-Eyes by Stuart Gordon
Second in Gordon's "Eyes" series, and another re-read to prepare for book 3. In the first one, a group of adventurers helped the one-eyed "Divine Mutant" escape from the city of Phadraig, where it found an army and released chaos that would reshape the world. In this second entry, the Divine Mutant's madness is spreading like a plague; those who cach it have disturbing dreams, uncontrollable rage and destructive behaviors. Liam is one of the adventurers who helped One-Eye in book one. He is also a musician whose instrument is a sirena, an odd stringed thing he found in some ruins. He discovers that his sirena can be used to fight the madness in his audience ... or to exacerbate it.
As hoped, reading this immediately after One-Eye helped me appreciate it, though it's a less accessible story. Much of the action is surreal, and music drives the plot, so the prose is thick with purple abstractions. Still, it's a fun bonkers story and I think I'm ready for the conclusion.
Cover is by Peter Manesis
Ankle issues continued through early last week, but things started picking up by the weekend
Mileage last week: 6 miles.
Mileage this year: 462 miles
Longest run: 2 miles
Target mileage this week: 12 miles
Monday weigh-in: ---
Soundtrack: Serpents of Eden by Dawn of Ashes
I'm not generally a fan of death metal, but DOA's industrial version makes me want to run. In a good way.
In other news, Two Eyes sounds so much better in your review than in my few comps. Sad that he died so revoltingly young.
I'm quite enjoying the series. Three-Eyes will be the last of Gordon's works in the DAW project, but I might seek out some of his other works. "The Bikers" series, about "a group of monster-like motorcycle gangs that were terrorizing contemporary Britain," sounds like the kind of nuts that could be .... well, just about anything preceded by the phrase "over-the-top".
95) Love & courage by Jagmeet Singh
(Touchstones, ugh. Why is it that "Love & Courage" is the 44th suggestion for a touchstone to "Love & Courage"? Coming in 40 places behind "Masada"?)
Jagmeet Singh is the leader of Canada's New Democratic Party. He is also a son of immigrants and a Sikh. This is his memoir, and like so many political memoirs it's very short on politics, apparently designed to show that he's a good guy you'd want to vote for. And damn it, it works. He seems like a good guy. I want to vote for him. It's a good story, plainly told, about his experiences with harassment and abuse, his family's struggle with his father's alcoholism, and the ways his family has supported each other anyway. Resilience wins. Compassion wins. Love and courage win. I wonder if the Canadians would mind exporting some of this stuff southward?
96) Lot : Stories by Bryan Washington
Up in post number 5 of this thread, Richard recommended this collection of stories for my annual goals of reading more diversely. It fits two: "More not straight authors" and "More not white authors."
The stories are set in a working-class neighborhood in east Houston. Most of them follow the experiences of a young gay man as his family disintegrates: his parents' marriage falls apart, the family restaurant struggles to be sustainable, his homophobic older brother veers into drug dealing while his sister veers anywhere else but here. The neighborhood and Houston itself is in flux, in the aftermath of a hurricane (Harvey, one assumes), but also as a function of transient populations and just the ways Stuff Changes.
It's good. And it is exactly the sort of thing one hopes to discover when making resolutions to read more diversely: perspective and experience that one simply does not otherwise encounter. It's a delicious bonus that Washington writes so well: his style is deceptively plain with its short sentences and simple vocabulary, but then an image whacks you up the side of the head -- "Houston is molting. The city sheds all over the concrete." -- and you realize Washington has been sparring with you all along.
There are stories here that knock your breath out. For me, those were "Wayside," in which the narrator has a brief internship in drug running and learns harshly that being gay is more despised and dangerous; "Lot," in which the narrator's family loses the restaurant, illustrating that not only can't you go home again you can't even stay home if you try; and "Waugh," a story of unforgivable betrayal in a self-chosen family of street hustlers. Those were standouts for me but the others are very good, with only a single exception which seems to be trying to make a point I just don't get. Its point-making involves baseball, so no surprise I don't get it. Richard has done story-by-story commentary, so I'll point you to his thread for details. He dislikes the baseball story too so that's some consolation.
97) DAW #171: Three-Eyes by Stuart Gordon
Tagline: Confrontation at a world's end
The Divine Mutant is on the rise; his madness spreads like a contagion. But there is also a surprising resistance from a small group who have learned a Song to fight the Mutant's madness. The Mutant has numbers on his side but the resistance has some powerful allies like Cuyahogan, a giant golem who assisted the Mutant in his escape from Phadraig back in Book 1 but now has recalled that chi* hates the little tyrant and now has the single aim of killing him. (*Cuyahogan chooses hir own pronouns and goes by "chi, hir.") The Mutant's forces and those of the resistance converge on an underground bunker which holds the key to the Divine Mutant's power -- and also the secret history of the apocalypse.
This is the finale to Gordon's "Eyes" trilogy, a postapocalyptic fantasy full of Big Ideas. It does exactly what it needs to do. It brings together characters from the first two books and throws in a couple of new ones. It fills in the world's backstory, which is weirder than I'd guessed and a nice surprise. I do wish Gordon were a better prose stylist, but no complaints about the fun story.
Cover is by Michael Whelan.
Still haven't weighed in, but I feel like I'm finally getting the mileage back to where I can start calling myself training again.
Mileage last week: 12 miles.
Mileage this year: 474 miles
Longest run: 3 miles
Target mileage this week: 14 miles
Monday weigh-in: ---
Soundtrack: Shut Your Mouth by Garbage
98) Beggars of Life Jim Tully
Earlier this year Liz and I read Circus Parade, Tully's memoir of life as a circus roustabout. Before he joined the circus, Tully had been a hobo, crossing the country in empty boxcars, working odd jobs for spare change and bumming meals where he could find them. This is his account of those years and it has the same mix of nostalgia and casual violence. There is no child or animal abuse quite like those of CP, but there is a lynching scene even more disturbing than CP's. Despite the violence, Tully praises the freedom of a tramp's life. There's an appealing bit near the end where he describes how he found a literary education on the road, stealing books from public libraries.
"When whipt of life and snubbed of prudes I could talk to old Sam Johnson with his strange blending of the naive and the philosopher. I could still love Goldsmith. I could hear Chatterton saying-- 'I'm a poet, sir.' I walked with him through the streets of London, I cried when he took the poison. I could stroll down an English lane with Coleridge and meet John Keats. I could stop while Keats turned and said, 'Let me carry away the memory, Coleridge, of having held your hand.' And I could hear Coleridge say afterward, 'There's death in that hand.'"
I stole books from libraries. I stole them whenever I could. I would often carry two or three of them with me and hide them. It would not be wise for a bum to be caught with a library book. He would have to explain. Bums have so much to explain. It would be rather embarrassing."
Really nice, Steve!
I did a short review of the film supposedly based upon this a while back, but even then I gathered that it and the book had precious little in common (now I know!). It does deal with the tramp's life but it doesn't find much other than misery and violence in it. (Of course, in that case one of the tramps is a girl...)
>54 swynn: Poor prose was so much less a problem Back in the Day because there was so little pressure to produce anything but. Another way I'm glad to know things are different now.
>56 swynn: Oh dear, will nothing ever change for the poorest of the poor? Rachel Ingalls went there, too, in Theft from Something to Write Home About. Sad to say, there's never been a day when the poorest don't have a lot to answer for. Disgusts me.
Oh no there ain't.
My library has the film, so I'll get & watch it. From the Rotten Tomatoes description, though, I think Louise Brooks's part is based very loosely on an actual character in the book:
Jim (Richard Arlen), a wanderer, comes upon young Nancy (Louise Brooks), who has just killed the guardian who was trying to rape her.
There is no Nancy in the book, nor is there any girl-disguised-as-a-boy who takes up with Jim. But I think the character is derived from Edna, a prostitute first mentioned early in the book as "the prettiest little girl that ever sold her body in Rabbit Town." Much later we get her story, which is disturbing -- also one of the most memorable episodes in the book, so it would have been impossible for the screenwriters to ignore. And probably equally impossible to film as it was written. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I suspect a project intended simultaneously to shock the audience and to sanitize the text.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, Nancy was the very-near victim of a "guardian." But there was nothing very-near about Edna's experience, as she was routinely raped after her mother's death by her father and brother:
Edna was not quite eighteen. She had been seduced by her own father at fourteen and then an older brother carried on the work. She had a very low opinion of men.
Eventually, Edna became pregnant and had to leave town.
At fifteen she ran away to ----- in a delicate condition. She went to a hospital and told the head nurse of her condition, as she wanted to talk to a person of her own sex. That woman heard the story and said tersely, 'I'd shoot 'em both if it was me!'
Edna replied, 'I think I will!'
Edna's baby died only a few days after birth. The head nurse gave her a few dollars, with which Edna bought a gun. Stopping only briefly by her mother's grave to share her plans, Edna went home.
The father turned, in surprise at seeing her, and died the next moment. Two bullets ripped through his brain, and he fell across the hot stove and rolled on the floor.
The brother jumped and ran quickly through the door, a bullet flying after him and going through his left lung.
Edna walked quietly to the police station and said, 'I've killed my father and brother with this gun. I told my mother I would this afternoon!'
She was six months in jail, and was tried and acquitted. She told me this tale one evening when the lights burned low in Rabbit Town.
Yeah, you can just see the bare bones of it there. Very sanitised, although
I wrote it up here; the same post has a piece on the film adaptation of Black Oxen too.
Mileage last week: 14 miles.
Mileage this year: 488 miles
Longest run: 3 miles
Target mileage this week: 15 miles
Monday weigh-in: 253
Soundtrack: Backdoor Man Bernard Allison
I spent Sunday at the Bowlful of Blues festival in Newton, Iowa. The headliner was Savoy Brown -- who were terrific -- but the highlight for me was Bernard Allison's band. So here's one of their pieces at a tempo very close to the ideally runnable 90 BPM.
Sounds right. The film character suddenly gets twisted into a different person.
Really...what kind of person would rather look at Wallace Beery than Louise Brooks?? :D
99) America's Women / Gail Collins
Since 2017 or so, I've become a fan of Gail Collins's columns in the New York Times. I'm happy to report that Collins brings the same conversational tone, dry humor, and eye for interesting anecdotes to this volume of women's history. She covers the colonial era up to about 1970; a follow-up volume, When Everything Changed, covers the most recent half-century; and a forthcoming volume, No Stopping Us Now, promises to cover similar territory with a focus on ideas about women and aging.
Collins calls special attention to contradictions: the contrast, for example, in the antebellum American South (and elsewhere) between ideas about white women as fragile flowers and black women as sturdy workhorses. Or ideas about schoolteachers, which swiftly went from "necessarily single" to "what is wrong with you that you can't find a husband." Or women in "men's professions": in the 1940's women were considered too fragile and unsophisticated to fly airplanes -- but when they managed to do so anyway were given dangerous assignments for which male pilots were too valuable to risk. Which makes Mary Robinette Kowal's "Lady Astronaut" series sound just about right.
There are plenty of ironies and historical quaintnesses, many of which will be familiar or at least unsuprising to anyone who has read some historical fiction. But for me there were also some deeper insights into American history. For example, I had never realized how closely entangled the suffragist and temperance movements were, and I had the vague and mistaken idea that their respective activists moved in different circles.
Readers looking for an academic treatment may find the tone a bit light, though the content is thoroughly documented in endnotes. I found it sufficiently engaging and informative that I'd like to read the follow-up. Someday.
Spend a happy Wednesday reading.
100) New Suns : original speculative fiction by people of color edited by Nisi Shawl
This is the one that I'd been putting off to do properly with brief descriptions of and comments on each story. Never mind that now. But do mind the book: it's a solid collection of science fiction and fantasy by authors not (or not entirely) of European descent. My favorite was "The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations" by Minsoo Kang, a story about a peace treaty achieved through judicious misunderstandings, told in the form of an academic treatise discussing an historical painting of the event. It's artfully layered with storylines about communication and information and it's bang up my alley. Others are good too, and the collection is recommended.
101) Neverworld Wake / Marisha Pessl
A group of prep school kids reuniting after graduation get into a car accident. The following morning they are visited by a stranger who tells them that only one of them survived the accident, and it is up to them to decide who that survivor is. They must unanimously agree on the survivor, and until they reach a decision they will remain stuck in a world intermediary between life and death, reliving the same day over and over. Spooky premise, but execution gets a little wiggy and I didn't buy the resolution.
102) DAW #172: Soldier, Ask Not / Gordon R. Dickson (AFI)
Date: 1975 (reprint, originally published 1967)
Third (I think, though I also think it depends on how you count) in Dickson's "Childe Cycle" series, set in a distant future where humans have established colonies on other planets. The colonies have generally specialized in one thing or another; other volumes focus on the Dorsai, who specialize in military science. This volume has something a little more ambitious in mind than military-sf fun, though it seems a bit muddled to me.
Tam Olyn is an ambitious young man who sees journalism as a path to great power. (Yes, you read that right.) But while on Earth he visits the Final Encyclopedia project, and discovers that he can psychically "hear" the voices of collective humanity speaking to him from the project's data storage (or something). His ability earns him an offer to direct the project, but he turns it down because of the greater power he can achieve through journalism. (Yep, still reading it right.) The story follows his psychological journey as he follows his own ambition but also is nagged by the greater good that would be served by the Final Encyclopedia. As you've probably picked up I had some issues with the premise, and it doesn't help that the protagonist is an asshole.
Cover by Kelly Freas.
103) The Girl with All the Gifts / M.R. Carey
I'm way behind the bandwagon on this. There's even a movie, I understand, so you won't have heard about it first from me. I liked it pretty well, and found the resolution appropriate and unsettling.
104) DAW #173: Avenger of Antares / Kenneth Bulmer
Tenth in Bulmer's swords-and-planets series featuring Dray Prescott, seventeenth-century adventurer transplanted to the planet Kregen. Prescott's adopted country of Vallia is threatened by the superior flying-machine technology of Hamal. In the ninth volume and again in this tenth one, Prescott goes undercover in Hamal to steal the technology. This is not one of the better ones: progress is slow, and the series plot is not advanced much.
105) The Miracle of the Bells / Russell Janney
The young actress Olga Treskovna dies just as production wraps on her first major film. Her friend Bill Dunnigan, a down-on-his-luck publicity agent, accompanies her casket to Coaltown, Pennsylvania to arrange for her final requests. In Coaltown he meets Father Paul, a good-hearted priest overwhelmed by his church's debts and grand plans that never worked out. Dunnigan decides to apply his publicity skills, and begins by arranging to have all the church bells in town ring continuously for three full days.
It's painfully earnest -- you won't find a higher exclamation-point-to-sentence ratio outside of adolescent notes about who is popular and who is a stupidhead, or maybe outside of presidential tweets. But I repeat myself. Worse, all complications are resolved so quickly that Janney keeps having to deploy new complications for the miraculous-coincidence gristmill.
106) Arkad's World / James Cambias
Arkad is the only human living on a world populated by multiple alien species living among the artifacts of some ancient civilization. So when a ship of humans arrives, looking for the remains of an Earth ship that would have crashed on the planet years ago, Arkad sees an opportunity. He offers to lead the visitors to the ship though he only has the vaguest idea where it might be.
The multi-species setting is fun, though the story is episodic and leaves several threads unresolved. I'd definitely read a sequel, though it's unclear to me whether Cambias plans one.
109) The Prince Commands / Andre Norton
Andre Norton's first published novel is a Ruritanian adventure about an American boy who discovers he is really the next-in-line to the throne of an Eastern European country. Only problem is that the country has been taken over by Bad Guys, and a battle to restore the monarchy is in order.
It's mostly a fun adventure, but doesn't know when to quit. It's also overly fond of monarchy and overly full of white-dude characters, but that's probably just attributable to its genre and its time.
Thank you for the comforting thoughts. He was a really good Dad. We were fortunate to have him, and fortunate to able to say goodbye. Still, it stinks to lose him and I already miss him terribly.
Thank you for the condolences. It was cancer, so it wasn't easy or painless, but there were many blessings too: he was able to stay home until the last couple of weeks; the pain was not unbearable or at least he presented it to us as such; and my mother was with him when he passed. Her presence seemed to be a comfort to him, and was certainly one to her.
Wollheim and several of the Futurians were barred from the first Worldcon in New York in 1939 with the group running the event concerned that the Futurians, especially Wollheim and his friend John Michel, would try to take over the event to espouse pro-Communist talking points at the convention.
Which makes me like him a little bit more.
110) Maschinenwahn / Carmen Capiti
Sam is a black market surgeon specializing in cybernetic prosthetics. A shady customer offers him a ridiculous sum to perform multiple surgeries a on young woman. It's a bit concerning that the patient is delivered pre-sedated, and odd that she has never had any previous enhancements, but Sam's conscience is negotiable and the fee generous. But the patient wakes during the first surgery and flees the operating room. Her handler tells Sam that he'd better find the woman if he wants to keep breathing. So the surgeon becomes detective, then tangled up in a plot involving cyborg assassins and corporate villainy. It's fun.
So running the last few weeks has been less regular than large meals with family. Which is as it should be, but as life settles back to something resembling normal it's time to get back to this stuff.
Mileage since last check-in: 25 miles (estimate)
Mileage this year: 513 miles
Longest run: ---
Target mileage this week: 15 miles
Monday weigh-in: 258
Soundtrack: Morgen by Peter Maffay
Peter Maffay is a German pop/rock musician who has been a frequent presence on the German charts since his first hit in 1970 ("Du," a heavy-handed love song). Maffay turned 70 this year and celebrated by releasing a new album. (And damn if doesn't look even better than he did fifty years ago.) This is the first single from the album, a heavy-handed protest song.
When does the time come, when we finally understand
That planets are not immortal?
When does the time come, when we finally understand
That time runs through our hands?
Do we want to wait again until tomorrow comes?
But its heart is good, and the tempo is right for running.
111) DAW #174: The Green Gene / Peter Dickinson
Date: 1973 (reprint: DAW edition 1975)
Set in an alternate Britain where Celts (Irish, Scots, and Welsh) are frequently born with green skin and are second-class citizens. Well, more like third-class or worse because the novel imagines them restricted to Celtic ghettoes and to menial professions.
Our viewpoint character is P.P. "Pete" Humayan, an Indian biomathematician and computational genius. Despite his brown skin and foreign birth he is a guest of the government and officially a "Saxon" thanks to his research on the genetic basis of green skin. For Pete, his research is a pure-science puzzle he is eager to solve -- and if he could seduce his host's daughter in his spare time why that would be delightful. But corporations do not sponsor pure science without hope of material returns, and Pete's employers hope to leverage his research for ways to justify, control, and profit from the racist status quo. And when word gets out about about his work, dissident factions have their own interests in it.
It's a satire and is frequently funny, but frequently also left me feeling I'd missed a joke I might have gotten if only I know more about 1970's British politics. Some of it still felt spot-on, especially bits explaining how blatantly racist policies are not, in fact, racist at all. There's also some bureaucratic slapstick, both among the government and the opposition forces. And that hints at something deeper that left me uncomfortable: with victims as bumbling as their oppressors, I'm left with a sense that whatever apocalypse looms the whole society sort of has it coming. Which is an unconscionable point to make at the edge of a genocide. So while Dickinson scores some hits, and while I frequently laughed, I'm left conflicted about the whole.
Of course there's a better-than-even chance that, lacking knowledge about 1970's British politics, I'm missing the point entirely.
Cover art is by John and Anthony Gentile.
Happy weekend reads.
112) Cause for Alarm by Eric Ambler
Just as Nicky Marlow gets engaged he is laid off from his engineering job. The market for engineers in Britain is tight in the pre-dawn of WWII, but Nicky's language skills land him position with a munitions firm in Italy. Shortly after Nicky arrives, he learns that his predecessor supplemented the modest salary by supplying information to a foreign agent. Nicky is determined to stay out of such a mess, but two men -- one claiming to be a Yugoslav agent, the other claiming to be American -- are just as determined to draw him in. And the Italian police seem to have already decided that Nicky is guilty anyway. It culminates in a thrilling flight from police across the countryside of fascist Italy. It's fun, but not among my favorites of Ambler's: Marlow is too passive a hero.
113) Widdershins / Jordan Hawk
It's a historical paranormal romance with Lovecraftian menace. I'm not here for the romance (as I may have mentioned once or twice), and the "historical" is mostly decoration without any real sense of the period. But the Lovecraftian menace is fun, and feels like what Brian Lumley's "Titus Crow" series might have been if only it had a better sense of story and character. And despite what I say repeatedly about romance I did find the leads charming and I'd be fine hanging with them for another book or two.
114) Eve's Rib by Bryn Chandler
When pollution makes Earth unlivable, humans send expeditions to plant colonies on other worlds. The expeditions travel not only through space but also through a time-warp, apparently to discourage colonists' descendants from ever trying to locate the mother planet. Unfortunately, the time-warp has an unexpectedly high mortality rate: Eve is the lone survivor from a crew of one hundred. Fortunately, the colony was to be populated not only with the ship's crew but mostly by a cargo of vat-grown children who survived the voyage in embryo. But Eve's sole-survivor status shifts her responsibilities from scientific research to the care and development of the new colony. Eve is determined that her colony will not repeat the mistakes humans made on Earth so she launches a well-meant but wincingly naive program to raise her "children" as pacifists and environmentalists. (She seems to think that if she never tells them about war, then the idea will never occur to anybody.) This aim becomes increasingly difficult as her charges grow up and behave like human beings.
Chandler's thematic agenda is a bit overwhelming. The book is heavy with exposition, and for my taste much too short on suspense and conflict, which arise gradually but aren't significant until well into the second half of the book. I sympathize the point that avoiding one evil can lead to commission of another: in this case the old freedom vs. security dilemma as Eve lays the foundation for a police state in order to control toxic aggression. But the confrontation comes all too late, and the resolution is gimmicky. Still, despite its underexciting development, its overseriousness and its loose threads, the book held my attention. So, not awful.
So say I in my notebook entry from 1991.
112) DAW #175: When the Waker Sleeps by Ron Goulart
Philanderer and children's show host, Nat Kobean, is caught escaping from a lover's bedroom by the lover's husband. Too bad for Nat, the husband is a scientist whose pet project is a serum that allows patients to travel into the future by taking naps, during which the patients do not age. Nat becomes a guinea pig for the serum, and now every time he falls asleep he wakes up fifty years later. Hilarity ensues. Or one assumes: alas, Goulart's broad humor is mostly a miss for me, though I am happy to report a dramatic decline in boob jokes relative to Spacehawk, Inc. Perhaps Goulart's next book wil perform the same trick with the ethnic and gay jokes.
Cover is by Michael Whelan.
116) Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror by W. Scott Poole
This is an exploration of how the First World War influenced early-twentieth century horror literature and visual arts, mostly film. "Horror" here has a broad meaning, and includes artists like T.S. Eliot (for his "horror poem" that shares a title with this volume) and the surrealist painters, particularly Salvador Dali who turns out to be a wretched little fascist. But most of Poole's attention is on horror films, which make the best case for his thesis that WWI is the ur-parent of modern horror. After all, horror films were in their infancy in the early twentieth century so most of the seminal horror movies from German expressionist films (The Golem, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu) to Universal's monster franchises were developed by artists who had been deeply affected by the war. There are insightful stories here about Paul Leni, Fritz Lang, James Whale and many others -- how their experiences shaped their craft, and how the postwar Zeitgeist would have affected the films' reception.
I think Poole's thesis is weaker for horror literature, since so many seminal stories precede the war. But the war had its effects on horror prose as well as film. Poole pays especial attention to Lovecraft's and Robert E. Howard's perspectives on the war.
One especially disturbing chapter discusses how European nationalist and fascists dealt with horror films. They typically condemned the art (as "degenerate" for instance), but simultaneously appropriated the rhetoric of monsters and abominations for their own ends. And we know how *that* turned out. As if I needed another reminder that fascist rhetoric sounds reeeeally familiar lately.
The only complaint I have is a lack of organization. The first few chapters felt thematically indistinguishable, and the chapter on horror and fascist/nationalist movements felt tangential to his thesis, or at least his thesis as I understand it. Then again, that was a terrific chapter regardless of the thesis so maybe thank goodness for loose editing.
I think Richard recommended this to me originally. As usual with his recs, this one was rewarding. Thanks, Richard!
Still, we both enjoyed the survey, so let's call it good.
117) Ralestone Luck by Andre Norton
Norton's second published novel (after The Prince Commands, see Post 81 above), this one is a YA adventure about two brothers and a sister Ralestone whose once-wealthy family has fallen on hard times. The three retire to the Ralestone mansion in Louisiana, where they hope to discover something that will restore their fortunes. There are rumors that the mansion is haunted, but this isn't the sort of gothic that has actual ghosts. I mostly liked this one: it lacks the stilted prose I associate with Norton, and her lead characters have a chemistry that makes entertaining dialogue. Other characters, though, aren't as well developed. In particular the villain is such a stock character he might as well be twirling his mustachios. There's also some phonetically-rendered dialect that provoked some winces and an n-bomb out of nowhere, but maybe we can blame that on the time and the author's inexperience. After all, there's good evidence she got better.
With respect to the phonetic rendering, though: what in the world does it mean when an apostrophe is used to omit silent letters?
But Miss 'Chanda ain' a-goin' to tak' keer dis big hous' all by herself wit' her lil' han's dere.
How is tak' pronounced differently from take?
What is the phonetic difference between hous' and house?
Has everybody else been saying "takee" and "housee" all my life and I just haven't noticed?
Grumpily adding: it would make even more sense if the space separating the words were removed: tak'keer, hous'all. But in fairness I read the Project Gutenberg edition and it's very possible the original edition did just that.
118) DAW #176: Beyond the Galactic Lens by Gregory Kern
So you know that feeling of not realizing a book is in a series until you're already invested in it? Yeah, this book. Nothing on the cover copy indicates that this is volume 16 in the space melodrama "Cap Kennedy", and Cap doesn't show up until the second chapter. I suppose the byline "Gregory Kern" should have tipped me off, since that's the pseudonym E.C. Tubb used to write Cap Kennedy, but I'm afraid that clue was off my radar.
So my choices were to go ahead and finish this novella-length space romp and get over it, or track down the first fifteen volumes in the series. I (avert your eyes, Liz) did the former. (Well, I finished it anyway. I may have failed to get over it.)
The Cap Kennedy series was actually published by DAW, but with its own numeration outside the "Collectors' Series" numeration. Apparently the series never found its audience, which I infer from the fact that this volume hides its connection to the series. It is also the last volume DAW published in the series for several years, though a 17th volume Galactiad appeared in German translation ("Das kosmische Duell", which means what it looks like) in 1976. That volume was finally published in English in 1983 as DAW #539. The German translations of these volumes provided the basis for a German Heftroman series "Commander Scott" which ran to 42 volumes. The Science Fiction Club Deutschland, discussing the Commander Scott series, calls Cap Kennedy "The American answer to Perry Rhodan."
And it's not bad. Like Perry Rhodan it's light on character and thinky bits but the stakes are high and the plot does not lag. The peril here is an uncurable space virus which, because of plot developments, is contained within a small craft in intergalactic space. Cap Kennedy and crew race to find and neutralize the craft before archvillain Kaifeng can capture the virus for his own nefarious plans. It ends how you'd expect, with plenty of explosions along the way.
Cover is by Eddie Jones.
On a different note, Gateway sells the Kindle edition for $2.99 so...well...anyway, yeah.
A couple I have very mixed feelings about (The Heritage of Hastur, Star), and most of the rest ranged from okay to pretty good.
Also, there were two John Norman books which are in a class by themselves. And let's keep it that way.
AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!...but I guess if you're going to do it, a "novella-length space romp" might be the place. :D
119) Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
This one is a ridiculous and ridiculously fast-paced thriller in which math is a superpower and all implausibility is forgiven for the joy of ride. The second volume cannot reach me fast enough.
120) Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya
Here's a little story so full that I'm not quite sure how to unpack it. It's the story of a writer in some South- or Central-American country, in exile from his home country for some undescribed deed that pissed off powerful people. Strapped for cash and desperate for work he accepts a job working for the Catholic Church compiling and editing eyewitness reports of a genocide conducted by a military still in power. He despises the Church and experience should tell him not to risk offending the local authorities but he needs the cash. After all, he likes to eat and to drink and to copulate: a warrior of justice he is not. But he is unsettled by the eyewitness accounts. When he's away from work he'd like to forget the brutal facts of his project and enjoy a bit of booze and women, but he is haunted by the witnesses' unforgettable poetic phrasing. We watch as his already-fragile mental state descends in a cycle of indulgence and paranoia -- he goes a bit mad but perhaps not as mad as the world itself. We watch the descent from his first-person viewpoint, in long sentences that run for pages or seem to, in a flurry of words that hide nothing but are also not necessarily reliable. As unsettling as it is, it's also frequently exasperating and just as frequently funny.
I can't say I enjoyed it: it's an unpleasant story told from the viewpoint of an unpleasant person in a firehose of verbiage. But the craftsmanship is evident and the translation is terrific.
And you get a month to do some catch-ups! :D
On that note, meant to say before---well done on finishing up The Miracle Of The Bells. I found it just odd enough to keep me going but, my goodness, these people write their subject matter into the ground!
>140 lyzard: Good news! I do hope to get to Shoes of the Fisherman next month. October was mostly taken up trying to put a dent in the Tower of Due, which succeeded a little though the remains still teeter.
>141 ronincats: Yay for Dray Prescott! (And an interesting observation about "Gah" -- I'll be watching for that reference now.) The others, I'm embarrassed to say, are outside my experience. The Vance series I'll get to soon enough I expect, and I should seek out Leigh Brackett's work. I've had my fill of Lin Carter thanks to the last couple of Green Star Books and I'm ambivalent about the World of Tiers series, which Richard recently panned. Still, more stuff for the Swamp!
121) 1177 B.C. : the Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
The 13th and early 12th century B.C.E. saw a remarkably complex and cosmpolitan civilization, with the kind of trade relations and international diplomacy that we usually associate with much later times. Then it all collapsed. The collapse has been associated with "the Sea Peoples," a group of invaders that swept over the eastern Mediterranean until 1177, they were met and defeated in Egypt by the forces of Rameses III. Despite the Egyptian victory, the Sea Peoples' destruction brought an end to the Bronze Age. In this volume, Cline lays out what we know about the late Bronze Age, our reasons for thinking its civlization was so advanced, and the seeds that might have led to its destruction.
It's all very interesting but also academic: Cline is not so much a storyteller as an explicator of archaeological records. For me, the takeaway is how historical arguments are developed from artifacts. It's really remarkable how much we know, or can reasonably guess, from the artifacts left behind. Equally remarkable is how large are the gaps in our knowledge, so that a newly-unearthed bit of pottery or scattering of spearheads can argue for a dramatic shift in the narrative. It turns out that the collapse of Bronze Age civilization is probably complex, and it may be a stretch to lay all the blame on the Sea Peoples. After all, the region was dealing with natural disasters, climate change, wars and insurrections, not to mention the delicate art of keeping a complex civilization going. Cline goes into the archaeological evidence and the options for interpretation. Again, it's all very interesting but for the casual reader it's also very difficult to keep the arguments untangled. Bless him he tries -- he throws in an occasional bad joke or reference to Steve Martin's "King Tut" -- but he's a lecturer at heart.
122) Well-Schooled in Murder / Elizabeth George
Lynley and Havers investigate the death of a pupil at a posh boarding school. The case is brought to their attention by a housemaster at the school who is also an old schoolmate of Lynley's from his time at Eton. The working-class detective Havers has no illusions about the school and wonders -- with reason -- whether Lynley can see the case dispassionately. This is the third in the series and my favorite so far: I quite like the contrast and chemistry between the two lead detectives, and how George is willing to leave some tensions unresolved.
124) The Season of Styx Malone / Kekla Magoon
My employer sponsors a Children's Literature Festival every spring. Each year I intend to read at least one book by each of the guest authors. Each year I fail but start the following year with renewed good intentions. So here's book 1 for my 2020 CLF challenge.
CLF Challenge: 1 of 11 authors read.
Brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene have the summer ahead of them when they meet Styx Malone, the coolest kid ever, who has a plan for an Escalator Trade: trade a small thing for a slightly larger thing until you get the thing you want. Caleb and Bobby Gene have a bag of fireworks that is suddenly more than they can handle, and Styx promises to help them escalator-trade it into a moped -- which sounds great to Caleb who wants nothing more than to get out of the small town he's trapped in. But Styx isn't telling them everything and the brothers may get more than they bargain for.
There are a couple of plot points that seem dubious to me, but probably would be less bothersome to its intended audience. Despite the reservations I was completely won over by the characters and by Magoon's smooth prose. If the other CLF challenge books are half as good, I'll be very happy.
I've finished jotting up my notes over at my thread, including a list of which entries constitute The Good Bits, so of course you can follow up if you want; but if I were you I think I'd be satisfied with having discovered Jim Tully by these means.
125) Dreamships by Melissa Scott
A crew-for-hire sign on to a ship with custom-built driver software that just may have crossed the sentience barrier. That complicates things, because a powerful corporation wants to own the software, a movement for machine rights is looking for a cause, and a movement for human rights wants their own rights first. I loved the richly detailed setting here and the thoughtful take on AI even if I'm not convinced of the resolution.
Re: Snow Crash. Not ready for a re-read.
126) Three Dark Crowns / Kendare Blake
First in a fantasy YA series, this takes place on an island where each generation the queen gives birth to triplet girls. The three princesses are raised separately and trained with different magical skills. When the princesses turn 16 they battle to death and the survivor becomes the next queen (who gives birth to triplet girls, etc.) The story is told in alternating chapters from the princess's viewpoint as they prepare for their 16th birthday.
It's okay. The premise is implausibly intricate, the plot is heavy with angsty teen romances, and there's a twist at the end that I saw coming from very early in the book. More interesting is the politics among the princesses' camps, especially in those who realize that their champion's chances are not great. This is currently my nephew's favorite series. The same nephew also recommended the Hunger Games and the Throne of Glass series. This is not as good as Hunger Games but it's nowhere near as awful as Throne of Glass, so I'll continue with at least one more volume.
127) The Dungeoneers / John David Anderson
Middle-school book about a team of trainee dungeon crawlers. It's fun and sometimes funny but I don't know that it offers anything you couldn't get from any other Dungeons-and-Dragons-y book for middle schoolers.
128) Forgotten Bones / Vivian Barz
Unthrilling thriller about a cop and her new friend, a geology professor with schizophrenia. The cop investigates a case of child murders, which the professor has disturbing visions of dead children. Unfortunately, the narrative takes too much time on irrelevant background details; the dialogue is wooden; the principals' romance is charmless; the mystery is dull; and
Pretty sure I picked this up for free as a Kindle First Read.
Have a splendid weekend, nonetheless!
129) Null Set / S.L. Huang
Second (sort of) in S.L. Huang's series featuring superhuman math genius Cas Russell.
"Sort of" because Huang independently published four books in this series before it was picked up by Tor. Those original books are no longer available, and edited versions are being reissued by Tor -- how heavily edited I don't know because I wasn't aware of this series until a couple of months ago, but this "second" volume was originally volume 4.
The idea of the series is that Cas is so crazy good at math that she can calculate bullet, vehicle, and fist trajectories with such precision that she can dodge bullets, shoot like a marksman, drive like a stunt performer, and fight like Bruce Lee. (One might object that such performance requires skills other than math -- ultrafine motor skills, say, or inhumanly keen perception -- but hush, shh, stop, it's Super-Math aren't you paying attention? Oh you need something to think about? Fine, here are some explosions.)
In the first volume Cas battled Pythica, a secret society of telepaths who worked to improve the world but used murder and mind-control to do it. Now that the telepaths are gone (or more likely, regrouping) crime is spiking. Cas has a brilliant idea for reducing violent crime in L.A. (with math!), but it may be taking her down the same road as Pythica. Complicating matters, Cas has started to remember bits of her past which threaten her with super-PTSD; and she has started to think of her associates as "friends" -- a new experience for her.
Subtle it is not. It's kind of nuts, really. It won't be for everybody but for me it hits a sweet spot of engaging excess plus nerdy math puns ("I'm so smooth I'm infinitely differentiable.") that makes me eager for book five-I-mean-three or however you want to count it.
It's been five weeks since my last running post. I have continued to run, with a volume of 10-15 miles per week, so I'll just call it 50 miles for the interim. Besides continued distractions of family (which have been both welcome and stressful) I've also dealt with an odd health concern. (I won't share details because it gets TMI really fast.) To address this I cut sugar from my diet, which seems to have helped some -- and as a side effect shed about 20 pounds so far. I am talking to doctors and following orders, so we'll see how that progresses but I'm thinking that can only help my running.
Mileage this week: 13 miles
Mileage this year: 563 miles
Longest run: ---
Target mileage this week: 15 miles
Monday weigh-in: 236
Soundtrack: Augen auf by Oomph!
This is my second soundtrack selection by Oomph!, a German rock-punk-industrial band from Wolfsburg who have been around longer than Rammstein and arguably served as an inspiration. This is one of my favorite tracks from Oomph!, taken from their eighth (2004) album Wahrheit oder Pflicht? The hook line comes from a children's rhyme used in hide-and-go-seek: "Eckstein Eckstein alles muss versteckt sein," (literally, "Cornerstone cornerstone everything must be hidden"). Likewise the refrain: "Augen auf ich komme!" (="Watch out, here I come.") The chants from children's games make for a creepy tune. The music video plays well with that idea, with its imagery of a pied piper and children of the damned. I should have posted it back around Halloween.
I hope your health improves soon, loosing some pounds on the way could be a nice side effect.
We're a little puzzled about the health situation: tests have all come back negative (so it's almost certainly not cancer, thank all thankables), and major symptoms have abated since I cut sugar from my diet. It's very possible that's just a coincidence, but if not then ... well, I'll be talking to the doctor again soon about how worried I should be and what to do about it.
At my current weight, some loss is not unwelcome but the rate is a bit surprising and we'll watch it closely.
Bwaaa! Nearly snorted water all over my keyboard. 😀
I gotta find these...
130) Sealed by Naomi Booth
Set in a near-future Australia, where a new disease is spreading: Cutis, whose symptoms are that a victim's skin grows to cover eyes or orifices. Cutis is easy to treat surgically so nothing to worry about really. Assuming the condition is caught in time. Assuming the victim has access to surgeons.
Our narrator is Alice, a young pregnant woman who has been working for the state. Alice believes that Cutis is much more widespread than the government wants people to believe. That many deaths are actually misreported as heart attacks or suffocation or the like. She wants out of the city to protect herself and her baby. Alice and her partner Pete -- who thinks she's being a tad hysterical -- buy a house in a rural town far away from Sydney, an hour to the nearest hospital.
Silly characters. Never, ever move to the sticks when you're in a horror novel.
Of course Alice and Pete can't escape Cutis, whose prevalence is even worse than Alice expected, and of course they encounter additional complications. Suspense builds effectively into a -- fair warning -- bloody culmination. But even better: Booth has more on her mind than thrills and splatter. She uses Cutis as a metaphor to explore environmental and social crises in the same sly way that George Romero explored consumer culture with zombies. All wrapped up in a crafty unreliable-narrator package. This is a good one, check it out.
Re: Sydney. I'm sure the misspelling is mine. It's corrected. Thanks!
Good news is, it sure beats cancer or diabetes all to hell. Now I just have to learn to live without chocolate. See how long this lasts ...
131) The Spark by David Drake
Thirty-something years ago I bounced hard off one of Drake's "Hammer's Slammers" novels and hadn't picked up one of his books since. But recently a friend recommended The Storm, second in a series of retellings of King Arthur stories in a science-fiction setting of parallel universes and alien technology. Not that I'm eager for more King Arthur retellings but it does come highly recommended so ....
This is the first in the series, and I certainly liked it better than I did Hammer's Slammers. I did find the setting intriguing, and the unadorned prose appeals to me. But the hero's aw-shucks personality wears really thin really fast. And my opinion that the world already has far more Arthur retellings than it needs remains unchanged. Also,
So, flawed but not as bad as I've been thinking of Drake novels most of my life. I'll probably read the next, though I can't recommend the series to anyone else.
Mileage this week: 17 miles
Mileage this year: 580 miles
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 18 miles
Monday weigh-in: 238
Soundtrack: Bulletproof by Samantha Fish
Here's the first track from Fish's latest album, released in September. Sure feels a lot faster than 110 BPM.
132) Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai
Where to begin? Well, it's science fiction. With environmental apocalypse. With de-extinction bioengineering. Uploaded consciousness. Definitely dystopian. Also cyberpunk, so corporate malfeasance is a theme. And apocalyptic plague. A plague especially virulent to persons carrying a Y chromosome so gender relations is another theme. Oh, and a commune of asexually-reproducing lesbians. One thing missing is infodumps: Larissa Lai drops you right into the middle of this rich bewildering wilderness and challenges you to figure it all out.
Figure it all out I did not. But this is exactly the kind of experience I crave from science fiction, and I must read more from Larissa Lai.
The second not-bullet (Spoiler!) was supposed to be The Big Fisherman which continues to foil my expectations about when I might finish. Its pace is logarithmic, in the sense that the farther you get the slower you go. It will not be a wishlister. Not on my account anyway.
133) Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk
Second in Hawk's Victorian-era paranormal romance series featuring well-born scholar Whyborne and street-fighting ex-Pinkerton Griffin. In this one, Whyborne's father hires Griffin to investigate mysterious goings-on at a West Virginia mine. And by "mysterious goings-on" I mean
And I know I'm on record as being romance-averse, but I do appreciate that here in v.2 the romance is not just about physical attraction but about a developing relationship. Common tropes about misplaced jealousy and failures of communication, but at least it's not all racing heartbeats and placement of parts. It's story, and I find that less a nuisance. (Although even in that case, space-alien Frankensteins are not unwelcome.)
I read someone's response to the gayness of these characters at the time of the series being implausible. I beg to differ, and always point the doubters at Gay New York, City of Eros, and now When Brooklyn Was Queer (all three are excellent reads, if you're in the NF mood). The identity "gay" was established by the 1890s, when the series begins.
As an inducement to continue the reads, there's a *delightful* set of scenes with a Curved-Dash Oldsmobile in your future.
Mileage this week: 20 miles
Mileage this year: 600 miles
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 22 miles
Monday weigh-in: 235
Soundtrack: Wretched Little Deity by Bells into Machines
I spent my Thanksgiving with my mother and my younger brother's family, which was both lovely and entirely sufficient social engagement for the next week or two.
Mileage this week: 17 miles
Mileage this year: 617 miles
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 21 miles
Monday weigh-in: 231
Thanksgiving morning I raced in a Turkey Trot 5K in Clarksville, Iowa. It was a very low-key race: no bib numbers, the starting line was an uneven crack in the blacktop, and timing consisted of a guy standing at the finish line with a stopwatch calling out the seconds and you better remember it because if you ain't keeping track then nobody is. Suits me fine. The course was mostly on a recreational trail west of town, so the scenery was lovely.
I've been doing my daily runs at a pace between 10 and 11 minutes per mile, but haven't been pushing myself so I hoped to finish in less than 30 minutes and was very gratified with 28:32, my best 5K time of 2019. Yay!
Soundtrack: Black Sheep by Gin Wigmore
My favorite alternative -- reviving the singular second-person pronoun "thou" for contrast with "you" -- gets no mention at all. Sigh.
No, I'm not serious. I'm in camp "y'all."
And not -- ugh -- "ya'll."
Revival of second-person "thee/thou/thy" would suit me fine if we made it the default form of address. Only people whose sweat you've mingled your own with would be "you"able.
Not bloody likely, I guess.
134) The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas
This is a companion piece to Douglas's religious historical novel (and 1943's bestseller) The Robe. The title character is the apostle Simon/Peter who transforms from a rough and irreligious fisherman to a devout disciple of Jesus. It covers much of the same ground as The Robe: faithful recountings of Bible stories, only with more and longer words, for people who like that sort of thing. I don't, much, but there are enough who do that this and its predecessor have a strong fan base still today.
More interesting to me is the second viewpoint character Fara, a Jewish-Arab girl who is the estranged daughter of Herod Antipas. Herod's notorious treatment of Fara's mother makes him an enemy to the Arabs, and Fara sets out to assassinate him. She's followed by Voldi, who hopes to save her from her rash objective and win her heart. For me, Fara's story is the only thing that keeps this ponderosity moving at all. Unfortunately there's too little of this storyline in proportion to Peter's and it runs out of steam after Fara converts to the new religion. The curious thing is just what this story is doing here at all. It's hard not to read it as some sort of comment on contemporary troubles in the Middle East though it's hard to say what that comment is, and my Middle-East history is too sketchy to try to place it in a 1948 context. Alternatively, it might be some comment on romantic versus spiritual love but in that case it's ineffective since we're never convinced that Fara feels much for Voldi. In any case the storyline is a mess: Fara never really gets a chance to kill Herod, so her new ideals are never put to the test; Herod's fate happens offscreen with an overabundance of tidiness that avoids any questions about moral effects of vengeance; and a deus ex machina separates Fara and Voldi so that they never have to directly negotiate their feelings for one another. And this, y'all, is the good storyline.
Not recommended on my account, but then I'm not the target audience.
Even my Jesusy Mama thought Douglas was "prissy."
I spent that whole book going, "Lloyd, this is just THE SAME STORY FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE."
The infuriating thing about the Fara subplot is that, as worked out, there is no need for it to be there at all, it's just 300 pages of padding---which is just sadistic.
Contemporary implications aside, Fara's story is based on real history, though her story didn't remotely work out as Douglas tells it.
Anyway, well done you!
If the real history didn't remotely work out as Douglas tells it then there's a good chance it's a really interesting story. Do you recommend a good source for it?
Yes, you might be right about that. And God forbid that a post-WWII American novel *not* be >500 pages long...
No, I'm not that well-informed. I just know that the bit about Herod Antipas making a political marriage that ended in divorce because he wanted Herodias is true. But it was his ex-wife's father (or rather, his army) who attacked Herod in retaliation. As far as I know the whole vengeful daughter subplot is rubbish.
135) High Five / Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum's uncle has disappeared, leaving behind photos of dismembered body parts.
I find that Stephanie Plum novels are best enjoyed with a significant pause between them. It's been a couple of years since I read Four to Score, so bits that might have felt repetitive feel instead like old friends. Grandma Mazur is a hoot.
126) The Outskirter's Secret / Rosemary Kirstein
Second in Kirstein's "Steerswoman" series, set in a world with a high-fantasy atmosphere but where the magic system is the scientific method. In this one, Rowan continues her investigation of the fallen "guidestar", which she and we have figured out is actually an artificial satellite. Rowan has calculated that the satellite's crash site must be deep in the "Outskirts," a wilderness region populated by nomadic tribes. The story focuses on developing the Outskirters' culture but includes a satisfying amount of adventure, peril, and intrigue. The end is more open than I'd have liked, but fortunately book 3 is available and the story continues to be strong.
137) Anything but Typical / Nora Raleigh Baskin
Jason has social difficulty in school because of his autism, but he seems to fit in better on the online fanfic site, "Storyboard," where he meets a girl PhoenixBird through mutual critiques. When Jason's parents offer to take him to a Storyboard convention he is at first interested ... until he learns that PhoenixBird will also be there and that they just might meet.
The story is pretty light; the point seems to be imagining the interior life of a middle-schooler with autism. To this end it's narrated first-person by Jason, with many sharp observations about what does and doesn't make sense to him. I have limited understanding of the nuances of autism, but this mostly felt authentic to me, especially the ending which avoids any unrealistic transformation.
The author will be a guest at my employer's Children's Literature Festival next spring.
CLF Challenge: 2 of 11 authors read.
Mileage last week: 23 miles.
Mileage this year: 640 miles
Longest run: 5 miles
Target mileage this week: 24 miles
Monday weigh-in: 230
Soundtrack: Take It Back by the Temperance Society
Saturday I ran the Reindeer Romp, a Christmas-themed 4-mile run in my hometown. It was a lovely morning: clear and very light wind. Temp at the start was just under 30 degrees, the lower end of comfort for a compression shirt, long-sleeved T and shorts, but that's what I ran in and found it perfect. Finished in 37:38, so an average pace around 9:25, which means my speed is improving, so: win!
Thank you Santa!
138) The Making of a Manager / Julie Zhuo
Notes on managing teams, written by a manager at Facebook. Mildly recommended if you're interested in notes on managing teams. If not don't bother.
139) Grace Will Lead Us Home / Jennifer Berry Hawes
This is an account of the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC; its effects on survivors; and the trial of the racially-motivated perpetrator Dylan Roof. For me the highlight is the middle piece: Hawes's care for and attention to the lives of survivors, who come across as very human despite multiple opportunities for caricature. My only complaint is an occasional tendency to sensationalist prose where a more subdued touch would have been welcome.
140 Waste Tide / Chen Qiufan
Date: 2019 (Original Chinese publication 2013)
Near-future cyberpunkish thriller set on Silicon Island, a Chinese island where the world's trash is sorted and processed, mostly by a destitute underclass with a lousy life expectancy while corporations reap massive profits. Sounds about right. Enter Scott Brandle, representative of an American recycling company which promises to revolutionize Silicon Island's business to make it greener, more automated, and more profitable. But Scott arrives just as a series of improbable events complicate Silicon Island's social and economic status quo. There's this "waste girl," see, and some discarded-but-still potent tech trash, plus the irresistible pressure of social forces. Oh, and a typhoon. It's an excellent thriller with a strong ensemble cast, inventive tech, good pacing, and a satisfying denouement. Recommended.
I first saw this on Jim's thread, so thanks for the rec, Jim!
141) Bookplate Special / Lorna Barrett
Third in Barrett's "Booktown Mystery" series of cozies featuring bookstore owner Tricia Miles. As this one opens, Tricia has been playing host to Pammy, a down-on-her-luck college friend who has turned into a nuisance guest. Reaching the limit of her patience, Tricia kicks Pammy out, after which Pammy turns up dead in a dumpster. Suspects include a playboy-turned-philanthropist whom Pammy may have been trying to blackmail, a local freegan group, and really almost anybody who ever spoke to her.
It's okay though it overestimates its own cuteness. It has more subplots than necessary and introduces an eye-roll-y love triangle that promises even more unnecessary subplots in future installments.
Catching up on a couple of weeks here ...
Mileage last weeks: 24, 25 miles.
Mileage this year: 689 miles
Longest run: 5, 6 miles
Target mileage this week: 26 miles
Monday weigh-in: 228
Soundtrack: White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin
Because I feel obliged to provide a Christmas song here ... Not in regular rotation on my running playlist, but was a time when entire album, "Are You Ready for This?" was there. But yeah, easily a favorite Christmas song. It hits that uncomfortable territory straddling ambivalence about religion and affection for family. And the recurring line hits me hard this year: "I'll be seein my Dad."
142) Seed / Ania Ahlborn
Horror story about a guy, tormented by a demon during childhood, who thought he'd escaped, only to find the same demon targeting his daughter. It's okay, but kind of by-the-numbers.
143) The Lands of Passing Through / Alexandra Erin
Collection of mostly entertaining short stories. Mostly light on plot and strong on dialog. "The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant" was the standout for me.
A Matter of Appearances. A visitor to the City of Stars stumbles into a conflict between its two resident wizards.
I Do Not Fight Monsters. A grief counselor accidentally finds herself specializing in exorcisms, sort of.
Ghosts of Utah. A paleontologist visits a dig that may be haunted by the ghost of her former professor.
The Lands of Passing Through. The keeper of a waystation in a desert wilderness receives a visitor who might be his last.
The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant. Satire of bureaucracy featuring a worker in the Department of Redundant Acronyms -- also known as "DORA Department," which may soon be shortened to "DORAD" -- who meets a recruiter for the near-future's next growth industry: cannibalism.
Those Who Fail to Learn. Calvin has just failed a major history test -- he knew the material but froze up when it mattered. His friend Suzan is working on a project researching sending information through time. Maybe ...
To Live Forever. Monolog by an immortal, on immortality.
144) Running With a Police Escort / Jill Grunenwald
Context for the title's joke is that the last runners in a race are usually followed by personnel who clear the course: keep track of the last participants, pick up runners who've dropped out, release volunteers, and reopen closed roads. Often -- especially when road closures are involved -- law enforcement will help with these tasks. So someone at the back of the pack can joke that they are not in last place, they're running with a police escort.
The author is a proud back-of-the-packer, and gets a lot of mileage out of this joke.
There's much to love about this memoir: the author's affection for running (which I share); her message that every runner is a runner no matter how slow (yes yes); body-positivism (rock on); and race reports (which are better than mine, if you are in the audience for that sort of thing). Apparently, though, the text is compiled from a blog or podcast or both, I'm not clear which. It could use a stronger edit, because as it stands it's rambly, repetitive and chatty, sprinkled with random "whatever"s, "you know"s, and "amirite"s. It begins with Grunenwald's motivation for running, and continues episodically to whenever she submitted her manuscript, with very little sense of a story arc. Still, her voice is charming; I expect this would work better as an audiobook than it did for me in print.
145) DAW #177: The Book of John Brunner
This is a collection of Brunner's essays, short stories, filksongs, puns, limericks, translated poetry, and a crossword puzzle, mostly not collected elsewhere. I found several of the pieces thought-provoking, though the fiction pieces are not among Brunner's best; in fact, most of the short stories have more exposition than drama and consequently feel more like essays with dialogue.
I got a special kick out of the fact that the first essay references Mika Watari's The Egyptian, a book I didn't even know about until the Bestseller challenge. Now I happen to be reading it, and I stumble across an unexpected reference to it.
Featured pieces include:
A Different Kick, or How to Get High Without Actually Going Into Orbit. Text of a speech given at the World Science Fiction Convention in London 1965. Brunner discusses four aesthetic features of science fiction, and how the same features can appear in stories of other genres The features are: (1) The mood of huge impersonal forces at work; (2) exotic backgrounds; (3) the applicability of rules and systems to impersonal forces; and (4) wishful thinking.
Bloodstream. A scientist meets an old friend who has gone a bit cranky with a theory about cities being organisms, within which humans are merely corpuscles.
The Technological Folk Hero: Has He a Future? Comments on the idea of a science-fictional version of Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bil.
Who Steals My Purse An unidentified Asian nation, fed up with the United States' bad behavior, orders the expulsion of all Americans. The U.S., under the administration of a newly-elected populist demagogue, responds to the insult.
Them As Can, Does Writing advice.
When Gabriel ... Story about a magic trumpet.
The Educational Relevance of Science Fiction. Most questions about public policy have been addressed in science fiction stories; it seems reasonable to think that science fiction stories could be used to introduce or to inform conversations about these issues.
The Evolution of a Science Fiction Writer. Reflections on the author's career.
The New Thing. Set in the Hall of Registry, a sort of museum of galactic "firsts", where emissaries of various space colonies can file claims for the uniqueness of their homeworlds. However, galactic history has proceeded so far that there are few firsts left to claim.
The evil genius Dr. Fu-Manchu visits London to kill or kidnap various people in order to conquer the world for China. Or something. Fu-Manchu's motives are vague, but involve fiendish traps, poisons, creepy crawlies, and an adorable marmoset. It manages genuine pulpy thrills in a few spots, and would be a lot more fun if it weren't for the pervasive racism and the exasperatingly bumbling heroes. Also, more marmoset would be sweet.
147) The Revolving Boy / Gertrude Feinberg
Derv Nagy is a boy with an uncanny sense of direction. It firsts manifests in a need to balance out a day's changes in orientation: every turn to the right must be balanced with a turn to the left, etc. These compulsive directional corrections become increasingly complex, to the point where he ends every day with a series of spins and a flip (to correct for his rotation around the Earth's axis). Eventually, his parents offer a clue to the mystery: Derv was born in orbit, as part of an experimental space program. With this information, Derv realizes that his directional sense is oriented toward a specific point in the sky: what is there and how it is investigated form the bulk of the novel. It's the sort of old-fashioned sf story that takes an idea and pokes at it: short on character and light on plot, but having a premise interesting enough that I really didn't mind.
>236 swynn: *OW*OW*OW* Now you're just showing off.
>238 swynn: ...I thought I'd dreamed that book...and here it is...OMG
It was a Book Stall purchase in 1970, I devoured it in ~4 hours one Saturday, and never heard of that author ever again. The book didn't make it to the last move into Mama's house on Ceberry, but the story stuck with me for years and years. And now I know the title.
Your Kwanzaa observance of Ujamaa is poor, this being a mandatory purchase now, but your Boxing Day aim is *flawless*.
If you're not able to find it conveniently, please let me know and I would be delighted to send my copy to you.
Rammsteins "Deutschland" made it into the Top 2000 this year. The Top 2000 is a yearly radio event on Dutch radio since 1999. Listeners send in their all time favorite songs for the list and the most choosen are aired starting at Christmas and ending at New Years Eve.
The weight loss is mostly from diet; even over holidays I've continued to mostly avoid processed sugar. But running volume is building, and I hope that too will be a bigger factor soon.
Don't hold your breath.
About the racism OR the marmoset.
Though I meant the latter...
148) Scarface / Andre Norton
"Scarface" is a cabin boy on the pirate ship Naughty Lass. His parentage is mysterious, but he has been raised by the pirate captain John Cheap, who nurses a grudge against the British governor Robert Scarlett. Through a series of plot developments, Scarface escapes from the Naughty Lass to Governor Scarlett's protection in Barbados, where he has to make a series of decisions about his loyalty to his old crew and his trust in the British government.
It's an adventure story and moves right along, though it shows its age. There is some casual racism which may be accurate to the period, but which would keep me from recommending it without caveats. And there's Andre Norton's mannered prose, which kept me from enjoying her work back when I was in the target audience for her juvenile adventures.
You, conversely, have reminded me of yet another Series I Need To Get Back To.
149) The Barrow Will Send What It May / Margaret Killjoy
Second in the "Daniell Cain" series, which features a sort of anarchist Scooby-gang investigating weird stuff. In this one they wind up in a small Montana town where the dead are coming back to life. It's short, it's fun, and the team has great chemistry. I hope Killjoy continues.
150) Know My Name by Chanel Miller
You may remember a story about 5 years ago, about a Stanford University student who was interrupted in the act of assaulting an unconscious woman. The Internet had Opinions: the girl had been drinking (Shame! Shame!), did not remember details of the incident (Who's to say that she didn't consent?), and the suspect was a star student and Olympic hopeful swimmer (So much potential!). Brock Turner was convicted on all counts, and sentenced to a very serious slap on the wrist and tsk-tsking.
Chanel Miller is the survivor of the assault, and this memoir is her move to take back the narrative. She recounts her experience from the night of the crime to Turner's most recent (denied) appeal. It's a compelling story about her strength, her determination, and loyalty to family and herself in the face of a process designed to avoid offending affluence and privilege. It's well written, necessary, and recommended.
151) The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
Date: 1949 (Finnish original 1945)
This is a fictional memoir of Sinuhe, an Egyptian physician near the end of the 18th Dynasty and friend to Pharaohs Akhenaten and Horemheb. Following training as a physician, Sinuhe loses his family's wealth but also becomes friends with Prince Amenhotep (later Akhenaten) and the warrior Horemheb (also a Pharaoh, later). Sinuhe travels the world, meets and befriends the Canaanite ruler Aziru, makes and loses fortunes, and talks philosophy with Akhenaten and strategy with Horemheb. Whatever Sinuhe does, though, he always finds himself just shy of real happiness and ends his days in exile far from Thebes. It's all fascinating, rich with detail, which (I understand) is remarkable for it historical accuracy.
It is also cynical to an uncomfortable degree. It is full of unpleasant characters, and success is correlated with ruthless self-interest. The character with the highest ideals is also among the most pathetic. Pharoah Akhenaten establishes a religion and public policies that abolish slavery and class distinctions and prize international peace. But Akhenaten is also ridiculously impractical: he hopes to achieve peace by refusing to fight, or when that doesn't work by purchasing peace outright from the treasury. Meanwhile he retreats into the jungle where he can isolate himself from criticism and bad news. Akhenaten's philosophical opposite, the general Horemheb, defends the empire in spite of the Pharoah but eventually finds his own reward unsatisfying.
I first thought that Watari's treatment of Akhenaten might be a criticism of liberal democracy, and as such I find it unfair. But I think it's more likely that it's a criticism of policies of appeasement in the run-up to WWII; Waltari after all has the Hittites making arguments about Lebensraum in their attacks on Egypt. In which case, well still, it's pretty harsh.
So it's not always pleasant, but it's consistently *interesting* and I wish a complete English translation were available. As it happens, an unabridged German translation is available, and I am tempted. (Although daunted, since according to Amazon it's 1105 pages long, more than twice the length of the twice-abridged English translation which already felt ... not short.)
152) Good Talk / Mira Jacob
This is a graphic memoir (i.e., "graphic" in the sense of pictures and speech bubbles) covering an Indian-American's experience dealing with growing up different in America, post-9/11 hostility, the too-brief moment of possibility and hope during the Obama administration, followed by the ugliness of Trumpism. It's structured as a series of remembered conversations, prompted by questions from the author's inquisitive young son.
I don't read many graphic-lit titles, but I found the format ideally suited to the conversational structure, and appreciated this one very much.
153) My Time Among the Whites by Jennine Capó Crucet
This is a collection of personal essays by a first-generation Cuban-American author and professor. The essays cover issues of acceptance, assimilation, the Disney fantasy machine, weddings and funerals, racism in academia, Trumpism, and a deeply uncomfortable visit to a Nebraska dude ranch. Perceptive, well-written, and with enough humor to sugar the medicine.
Nice work! It's an uncomfortable book, isn't it? Certainly a war allegory but putting the allusions together correctly is something else.
I was surprised at how approachable it was and must commend the translator (particularly when you consider it's a double translation!). Of course it upset my OCD that the full work isn't available in English, though truthfully I'm not sure I really wanted any more. I shall look on with awe and admiration if you do tackle the German version.