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Book Blog

January 11, 2015

The U.P. Trail (Review)

‘ll always remember a class I took in junior high, one for reading. The idea was that you’d read a book and talk to the teacher about it. One time, I read a western. I’ll always remember the teacher frowning and saying, “I thought you read at a higher level than that.” Westerns are good fun. As mentioned elsewhere in my blogs, westerns define our American values. I’ve always loved them. So, The U.P. Trail deals with an engineer (civil, not train) who is working to drive the Union Pacific rails west on the transcontinental. Along the way, he and […]
January 4, 2015

The Martian (Review)

here are at least two other Lonely Astronauts out there. One was a short YouTube series about a guy left on the moon by the last Apollo mission, a bitter fellow who vents with streams of bleeped cussing (it’s actually pretty funny). The other is some sort of children’s book. Be that so, Andy Weir’s take on a man being left behind, this time on Mars, is a stunning, exciting, funny, sad, and vivid account of what happens when Astronaut Mark Watney, thought to be dead during a panicked mission abort in the face of a terrifying Martian sand storm, […]
December 28, 2014

Singularity Sky (Review)

ingularity Sky is another element of Charles Stross’s future universe, where computers underwent singularity (i.e. they turned the corner on human intelligence and streaked away), and in doing so, these now-godlike AIs teleported 90% of the human race to other planets, mostly in racial/regional blocks. So this one was a step backwards for me – having met Martin and Rachael in Iron Sunrise (and missing them in Accelerando), here we see them in their “courtship”, traveling to and enjoying the rustic pleasures of the New Republic. So it’s meaning within meaning here. The New Republic was originally force-settled by some […]
December 25, 2014

Phantom (Review)

hen I first cracked this brick-thick novel open, I wasn’t sure what I was reading. Was this some sort of parody? I was reminded of The Further Adventures of Captain Gregory Dangerfield, a novel about an English hero perfect beyond perfection. Rich, cunning, trained, handsome, and adventurous, that book was a lampoons of men’s adventure books. And when I first started reading Phantom, I thought it was the same sort of thing. My evidence? Lord Alex Hawke (yes, an English lord, complete with an estate and bazillions of dollars to play with), who is respected in society yet also an […]
December 20, 2014

To have and have not (Review)

his one’s been on the Hemingway stack for years, part of a wifey Christmas gift from long ago. Been meaning to read it. And then, tired of modern plot devices (and having seen the namesake movie with Bogart over at an outdoor showing), I decided I had to read it. Well, the movie was good. And the book was nothing like it. Yeah, better. Much better. To Have and Have Not is a collection of four short stories following the declining fortunes of Harry Morgan, an honest, pragmatic, and (at times) ruthless man who owns a boat and plies the […]
December 14, 2014

Accelerando (Review)

f I had to review this comment in a single line, I’d tell you this – it’s Snow Crash for a new century. Accelerando follows three generations of a family, from 2010 (or so) through the hundreds of years to follow. We start with Manfred Macx, a “venture altruist” (meaning he has great ideas, but because he thinks the economics of scarcity is a dying concept, he’s giving them away to make others rich and hasten the in the brave new world). He’s married to a business-blade dominatrix, a rocky on-again, off-again, divorce-and-hatred sort of thing (she rapes him and […]
December 7, 2014

The Kill List (Review)

his one was a tough one to review. Not because I had a difficult time with it or couldn’t find anything positive, but because I’ve got a sick wife. Five times, when I started the review, we had a crisis. The sixth was today. So now she’s settled. And now I can review. Drones. This is what the book is about. The liberal bugaboo, the conservative uncertainty. Drones. Yeah, so there is a fellow raising cain out in the Middle East somewhere, the Preacher. He’s calling for Jihad with untraceable internet speeches. All one needs to do to go to […]
November 30, 2014

City of Widows (review)

hat Western writers often miss in all the flying lead and howling Indians is that there is something in the western genre that goes beyond all this. There is the thing that makes a western a western, and not simply a historical fiction with guns. It’s the pragmatism of the western hero. It’s the saddle bum with nobility, the tramp with a strong sense of right and wrong. That’s what makes a western, and why the same story with Russians or Hawaiians or Eskimos does not work. And Page Murdock, hero of City of Widows, has it in spades. I […]
November 23, 2014

Iron Sunrise (review)

egardless of what you see in movies, stars don’t just explode, not without long years of warning. Which is why when the G2 star warming the planet Moscow just blows, sweeping everyone away, certain people (and AIs) take notice. And the worst thing? Moscow didn’t trust it’s neighbor New Dresden. And so its own failsafe devices (slow speed missiles that will take decades to reach their target but are now on the way) make this a true double-whammy. Iron Sunrise is a follow up book (I figure) to Accelerando, and interesting universe we see played out here. It seems that […]
November 16, 2014

The 5th Wave (review)

ver since HG Wells swept away England, scorching and red-weeding it to ruination by advancing Martian tripods, we’ve loved our alien invasion stories. And generally we win – what’s the point of the story unless we win? We’re plucky and ingenious, especially with our backs to the wall. Yeah, sure. In Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, that pretty much goes out the door. We’re losing, on our way to extinction. No alien race, as the author points out, is going to come down and dogfight with F-16s in some sort of even fight. With “intellects vast, cool, and unsympathetic” (Wells […]