On the nightstand

Book Blog

May 17, 2015

Venus of Dreams (Review)

efore heading out on vacation, I broke open one of my old boxes of yellowing paperbacks, to take a handful with me for my relaxing time off. In the coming weeks, I’ll be reviewing a number of older titles from the eighties. You’ve been warned. I wish someone had warned me about Venus of Dreams – why didn’t I write myself a note inside the cover, letting myself know what I was in for? It would be one of those time travel deals, where a past me could have let my current me know what I was getting myself into. […]
May 10, 2015

The Second-Class Passenger (Review)

first leaned of this, oddly enough, through an old radio serial (Escape). See, while I audit at work, I sometimes listen to old radio programs. I loved the idea of this story and when I heard it came from a book, I had to check. And yes, Project Gutenberg had it for free. Written in 1913? Hmmm. But it turns out I was pleasantly surprised – Perceval Gibbon is more of a modern author. In fact, I’d say he was one of the kings of the gotcha ending. The free eBook I found was a collection of fifteen of his […]
May 3, 2015

Embassytown (Review)

ou gotta really want it. That’s all I can say about this book. I love China Mieville – he always provides amazingly new ideas to his works. But this one you’re going to have to work at. I’m not sure if I even get all the points he was making (which sucks since I’m reviewing it, right?). His books are out there, but he invites you (with language and setting and beautiful writing) to join him. Okay, so, Embassytown is a strange place, a little town of ambassadors living on an alien world way out on the edge of known […]
April 19, 2015

Looking Backwards (Review)

ully titled Looking Backwards: 2000-1887, this utopian science fiction novel was a landslide blockbuster hit (only third behind Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben Hur). Published in 1888, it broke all sorts of records for sales. Hundreds of clubs formed to discuss the novel and its ideals, and its proposal for a better world. In a word. SOCIALISM! Yes, poor Julian West, suffering insomnia, has himself put to sleep by quackish means in a crypt-like basement, only to find out (through later evidence) that his house burned down, his servant died, and nobody was there to wake him. Locked in suspended […]
April 19, 2015

Tubitz and Mergenstein (Review)

heap shot here; I’m reviewing a book that I wrote, and that wasn’t ever published. So yes, this one will be tough to find. I think I have the only copy in existence. But maybe I can change all that. I’m preparing to rewrite this thing, to aim it at the adult/YA steampunk market. It’s a jolly little romp that has always warmed my heart. I think, reworked, it could have a chance of publication (of course, when is that ever not true? Why would I write them anyway?) Anyway, Tubitz and Mergenstein involve the pairing of a mismatched couple, […]
April 12, 2015

The Thin Man (Review)

‘ve read Hammett before, specifically his Maltese Falcon, which is a cracking good film because it stuck straight to the text. It was one of the best tough-guy novels I’d ever read. This this time around, Hammett is playing to the depression-era readers, giving them a hero they can dream themselves into. Nick Charles has it all. He’s managed to marry young and rich, so he can traipse around New York with pockets full of cash, offering quips while drinking (seemingly) nonstop and staying out all hours. But before all this, he was a detective and now he’s being pulled […]
April 5, 2015

Inverted World (Review)

here is something about a really good book. If you watch a really good movie, you want to go buy the DVD or something. With a book, you want to have the author’s baby, the feeling is so powerful. I’d have Priest’s children after reading through this 1974 classic about a colony settlement that’s in a horrific situation. See, they know they came from Earth. And they know the sun their new planet orbits is strange, shaped rather like a child’s top. And they know the ground beneath them is slowly sliding, a mile every ten days or so, down […]
March 29, 2015

A People’s History of the United States (Review)

know enough to be outraged by slavery. I don’t agree (i.e. I think it’s horseshit) to the droll explanation of economics and time and place that makes slavery in the U.S. into some understandable economic phase. It’s as if we consider that our country is a human being and the slavery phase was when it was rebelliously and petulantly thirteen. We had steam engines, telegraphs, and iron-working to the point where we could build metal ships. And still we had people in chains? I mean, WTF? So that didn’t surprise me. But everything else in Howard Zinn’s massive A People’s […]
March 22, 2015

What Money Can’t Buy (Review)

o I’m a socialist and my best friend is a libertarian. It makes for interesting weekly phone calls. However, What Money Can’t Buy, the new book by Michael Sandel, expresses everything I find wrong with the world (and can’t often articulate). Centrally – that market culture is replacing civil culture. Sandel tracks this across the last thirty years (and before), how often we allow money to determine what’s right and how goods will be distributed (strike that – right has nothing to do with it). Where theme parks used to have lines so everyone would join up in egalitarian fashion, […]
March 15, 2015

War of the Worlds, plus Blood, Guts and Zombies (Review)

his is a tough one to review. I’m feeling like the food reviewer who is assigned to check out the local greasy spoon, a favorite of the lowly locals. Is it proper to equate what you eat there to the finest of French restaurants? Or if it’s a favorite for its clientele, should you pursue it with that angle? Okay, for those who don’t know about this sort of thing, there is a sub-culture of literature (in this case, “Blood Enriched Classics”), which takes a classic and puts zombies or whatever into their story. I first heard about this with […]