On the nightstand

Book Blog

May 28, 2017

A Temporary Matter (Review)

hoba and Shukumar are a young Indian couple living somewhere in the west on their quiet street with their quiet lives, she an editor, he still a student. And in the mail comes an announcement that following the last snowstorm the power company wants to firm up their repairs so for the next five nights service will be cut from eight to nine PM. Sounds innocent enough. The couple continues on their lives, with reflections provided by Shukumar as he considers, without enthusiasm, the state of their marriage. It turns out that some time before Shoba had been pregnant with […]
May 21, 2017

Biketopia (Review)

ver since I became some sort of public bike advocate (hey, I just like to gush about riding them to and from work) everyone forwards me articles and stories about bikes. Well, Biketopia was a small collection of short stories combining alarming futures, feminism and bikes a friend sent me. I looked forward to seeing what they could do with the topic. Not much, I’m afraid. Maybe it was just me, but the stories all looked like tales put together by people who saw the call-for-submissions stuck to the bulletin board of the local coffee house. Yes, they talked about […]
May 14, 2017

Cloud Atlas (Review)

loud Altas – it’s not one book, it’s six! Actually, it is only one book, a set of six stories told from differing human epochs. All the characters share a distinctive birthmark, a blemish in the shape of a comet on their shoulder. And all their stories link together very distantly, but, like instruments in an orchestra, all of them taken together produce a message to the reader. And the message can be bittersweet, yes, but uplifting too. So, we have… ADAM EWING – A San Francisco attorney who, in 1849, is on his return journey to his home from […]
April 30, 2017

Arabella of Mars (Review)

kay, so the Napoleonic Wars are still taking place. There’s that. And there is colonialism. Again, a constant of the British Empire. But then there is the fact that space isn’t, well, space. It’s full of air. And with sailing ships that can lift on massive hot air balloons to low earth orbit, where they can set their sails and move about on interplanetary jet-streams and then, when they get to a planet, deploy heated chutes to come in for landing, yeah, so it’s rather a different 1813 than you could imagine. So young Arabella is a daughter of a […]
April 23, 2017

London Under (Review)

nyone who’s played a game within the last 40 years probably knows about D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). In its most basic form, players take the role of magic users and warriors and travel into the dungeon of a castle long swept away, to fight all the monsters who horde treasure therein. Economically, it makes no sense. Biologically, it makes no sense. Rationally, it’s a joke. But it’s still fun. But while a dungeon chock full of monsters who understand economic principles (and, seemingly, doorknobs) seems unlikely, equally unlikely are the places that exist beneath London. The remnants of old streets […]
April 16, 2017

We are Pirates (Review)

e are Pirates is a weird little book, and comes to us from Daniel Handler, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. And if you think this is another YA book, perfect for that “gateway” panacea drug you parents are always searching for your children to become readers… no. Not this one. Grownups only, here. Trust me. So Gwen Needle is the young, frustratedly confused daughter of Phil Needle, mid-life-crisis guy who is currently involved in television productions (and if there is any place where reality is shaped to meet popular demands, it is here). Gwen has just enacted her […]
April 9, 2017

Bicycle Diaries (Review)

o if I tell you Bicycle Diaries was written by David Byrne, you’re going to snap your fingers and say “Byrne, Byrne! Where have I heard that name before?” Talking Heads. Okay, now remember? He was involved in that group. So since the eighties, Byrne has been interested in traveling the world (as part of his work, and also part of his spirit). And over much of these travels, he brings a folding bike with him so he can explore and expand through these new cultures. The book isn’t a clear diary – it doesn’t follow his life day-by-day. Rather, […]
April 2, 2017

Space Boy (Review)

‘ve gone into comics in the past here. So now I’m putting you onto something really good, something that will make you happy and sad and yank those old heart strings around, a webcomic titled Space Boy, online and free for viewing. So, Space Boy isn’t really centered around a boy so much as it is a young girl named Amy in the 3300’s-and-something. She lived in a deep space mining colony, her dad was scapegoated for an industrial accident, and her family has been “fired” (i.e. removed from service and sent back to Earth). Now, Amy has lived on […]
March 26, 2017

Out of their Minds (Review)

rom out of the yellowing book box, another draw (this one happily not flaking into scraps). As usual for me (hey, I have my interests) another science fiction tale from Clifford D. Simak from 1970, a strange little story titled Out of their Minds. So this one is strange – hero-guy Horton Smith is troubled. He’s (I assume) burned out from his life as a globe-trotting journalist. Now he’s in his car heading back to Pilot Knob, the tiny town way up in the hills (somewhere somewhat close to DC, but then again, in the 70’s, the wilderness was a […]
March 19, 2017

The Sirens of Titan (Review)

o let’s not start by talking about this book as a story or a metaphor or anything. Let’s talk about it as a book. Been carrying this little paperback with me for 40 years or so. It was on my shelf in Drapers Meadows West in Blacksburg, it lingered in my huge shelves in my vault I lived in at York. And in the time between all these places, it sat in a book box waiting to be reread. I can’t even say why I’d have bought it. I did read some Vonnegut at University for classes and found him […]