On the nightstand

Book Blog

December 8, 2013

The war that killed Achilles (Review)

So, in a show of fair advertising, I’ll point out that this book’s sub-title, The True Story of the Iliad, is not entirely truthful. That’s why I bought this book when I found it at Slightly Foxed in London. But this isn’t about the war behind the Iliad. It’s about the Iliad. It’s nothing more than a complete breakdown of the elements of the epic, how they fit into the overall stream of storytelling, and how these elements relate to us in our modern world. There is nothing about the actual Trojan War except a map in the front and […]
December 1, 2013

The New World (Review)

I‘ve gone onto a different tack here. Originally I was trying to get a review for a full story a week. However, my Dad (a frequent contributor) passed away a while back and I’m having a hard time knocking down a book each week, especially monsters like Game of Thrones and Pillars of the Earth. With this in mind, I’ve used Dad’s eReader to search around Amazon and pull down free short fiction, a way I can honor my commitments here and not have to read every waking hour. So, this week, our first shortie – The New World , […]
November 24, 2013

The Count of Monte Cristo (review)

Ignore that recent movie adaptation (i.e. the same way thuggish joyriders adapt your car when they are done with it). This book isn’t about sword fighting. It’s about vengeance. And not vengeance just served cold – vengeance left to itself over a decade of being locked in a cell, of simmering about the people who profited from entombing you from the living sunlit world, and what you could do if you could ever got out. Such is the sad fate of Edmond Dantes, unjustly locked up on an island fortress during the pro- and anti-Bonaparte times following the Emperor’s exile […]
November 17, 2013

The City & The City (Review)

There have been divided cities in the past. Even in our lifetimes, there was Berlin and Jerusalem. Cities have quarterings: rich and poor, indigenous and immigrant. But no two cities have been divided as Beszel and Ul Qoma. Vaguely placed somewhere in our modern Balkans region, the two cites exist in the same geographic location but slightly different phases. Patches of each city are visible from the other. Some places are crosshatched, meaning you actually interact with pedestrians and traffic of the other. But they are as separated as if there was a wall between them. The Breach (or, strike […]
November 10, 2013

Pillars of the Earth (Review)

It’s a tale about the grandiose cathedrals that sprang up across Europe, massive stone buildings that pushed the bounds of architecture, finance and time. And it features all the people involved with the raising of one specific cathedral; the builder, the priest, the local earl, the bishop, a witch, and all the other characters who swarm across the novel’s 816 pages. By the time you finish it you’ll understand the complexities of vaulting a ceiling with stone, financing a gigantic project through wool trading, and traversing the complexities of church politics. And unlike my usual reviews, I’ll start with the minor […]
November 3, 2013

Fly by Night (Review)

Dekker Savage? Don’t tell me that back in 1954, writers were playing games with their names to promote sales. Probably. Googled him and a quick glance didn’t say. Whatever. So Fly by Night is a short story that appeared in If magazine four years before I was born, a tale of a spaceman and spacewoman who have never met but have trained for a rocket flight and will be coupled together (snicker) for the mission. Of course, the flight is about as uncomfortable as it can be – with her curling up on herself and him upset that he doesn’t […]
October 27, 2013

The Misplaced Battleship (Review)

Years back, I got to sit and listen to Harry Harrison speak. He was on of my favorite authors while in my teens and twenties, and while I really liked listening to him, he seemed to be slipping into irrelevance. Even his speech was a little choppy, and while I was happy to see him, I was faintly disappointed. Now I know why. Since I’ve gotten involved with all the wonderful books available in Project Gutenberg, I’ve been downloading old copyright-free books to read. Spotted this one, The Misplaced Battleship, a while back and snapped it up. What a title! […]
October 20, 2013

The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF (Review)

The mark of a really good science fiction collect isn’t that I read it and enjoy it. It’s that my wife reads a number of its stories. Without a gun to her head. Not that I have a gun. Still. Mike Ashley (with whom I’ve had a long review relationship over his Verne and Invasion novels) (I chuckled to myself when I saw it was my old friend again) assembles a goodly number of time travel yarns, dozens of short stories. And what pleasantly surprised me in this collection was the fact that they were all (with the exception of […]
October 13, 2013

The Diary of a Young Girl (Review)

For those who don’t know the story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl trapped in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, it’s a grim testimate to what people will do to cling to life. When Anne’s sister is summoned for deportation to a labor camp, her father envoked plans he’d been slowly assembling. He and others in his workplace had reconfigured the top floor (and attic) of his office building to a refuge, its entry masked by a fake bookshelf. Into this urban lifeboat go Anne, her sister, her parents, as well as a aquantaince of her fathers (and his […]
October 6, 2013

Trapped (Review)

My sister – doctor, professional speaker, businesswoman – reads bodice-rippers. She says it’s her guilty pleasure, these lurid tales of bare-chested men and women running (in nightdresses) from towers. She was so into one once that she read right through the boarding of her flight, looking up at chapter’s end to find her gate empty and plane gone. Myself, I always feel an obligation to read books that challenge my beliefs and views. I’ve read Mao’s Little Red Book. I’ve read a book on Intelligent Design. I’ve read the Gita. I’ve even gone against every progressive viewpoint I carry when […]