On the nightstand

Book Blog

August 9, 2012

The Odyssey (Review)

Odysseus’ household is in trouble, worse than an upside down mortgage. See, this King of Ithaca has been away in the Trojan war for nine years, then missing for another decade. Convinced that he is dead, a hundred suitors for his wife Penelope’s hand have flooded his hall, working through the larder like cockroaches, threatening his son Telemacus. They are insistent to wed Penelope (not for her beauty, which appears to have held up well into her mid-thirties (if not later), but for Odysseus’ riches). She’s already started one gambit, claiming that she needs to finish sewing a funeral pall […]
August 7, 2012

The Riddle of the Sands (Review)

I‘d always wanted to read this book, the 1903 grandfather of the espionage genre. Found it at Slightly Foxed on Gloucester Road. So excited. Saved it for the perfect time, cracked it open, read it slow to savor it. It was undercooked. Look, I’ve read all sorts of books out of history, books hundreds of years old. I absolutely love everything H.G. Wells ever wrote. And the book starts off well, with lonely Carruthers kicking about London during the summer vacation month. He gets a strange invitation to help pilot a small yacht around the Baltic from a one-time friend, […]
August 5, 2012

Perdido Street Station (Review)

So you’re sitting around one night, poised in that indecisiveness readers occasionally flounder into. What next? Science Fiction? Steam Punk? Magic? Fantasy? Why not all of them, wrapped together in a plot which chafes so delightfully? China Miéville is a London author – it shows. His city of New Crobuzon is a sprawling, dangerous, vibrant, cruel place, a fun-house mirror image of London. Steam-technologies work. Magic (in a limited yet practical form) works. The city is a melting pot of story types and urban fears. Presumably New Crobuzon has a positive side, a side of decent people, quiet suburbs, theaters […]
July 29, 2012

Nausicaa (Review)

It happens sometimes, with work and class and trains and general malaise, that I don’t get a book read in a week (before I had a weekly column, I was even slower). I’m currently wending through the Odyssey, which is a pretty stiff read. However, I was interested to find a character in it with the unlikely name of Nausicaa, which was also the character of an amazing translated Japanese comic I’d read over the years. Turns out that’s where it’s author/artist, Miyazaki, got it from. It’s been a while since i read it (I’ve got them all here next […]
July 22, 2012

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Review)

Got this as a loaner from a friend. She didn’t tell me anything, so I went in cold. Quite a book. Hokay, imagine that a guy has a chromosome disorder, something that when he is stressed or upset or sometimes just random, he flushes, sweats, pukes, then jumps through time. And he always leaves his clothes behind. So first off, he’s good at mugging people. And picking locks. And running. But more important are the places and times he goes to – eras and locales that mean something to him. He watches his mother’s horrible death from every angle. He […]
July 15, 2012

Battle-Chasers (Review)

There are two types of fantasy: there is the fantasy where everything is so alien, you scratch your head trying to remember what a mulack is or what the heck a void-princess does. And there is the fantasy straight out of D&D, with all the character classes and all the races and beings and whatnot. Elves and orcs and wizards and fireballs, basically saving-throw fantasy. Battle-Chasers falls into the latter. Now don’t get me wrong – that’s not a bad thing. Tigana was a super book (reviewed HERE), but it was high-fantasy, certainly an effort (and well worth it). Battle-Chasers […]
July 1, 2012

The Point of Honor (Review)

We’ve all been through high school. And we’ve all experienced the bully who will just not leave us alone, who makes our lives living hells for no reason we can discern. Nothing will stop them it seems. Not avoiding them, not standing up to them, nothing. Being in a Navy family had its advantages – I just had to endure until we moved away. And so Lieutenant Armand D’Hubert, a staff officer assigned to the 7th Hussars in Strasbourg finds his nemesis, a fellow Lieutenant, Gabriel Feraud. Feraud has just gutted a native in a duel only this morning, an […]
June 24, 2012

Troy (Review)

I like the story of Troy. I liked the Iliad. I liked the recent movie (everything but the last 10 minutes – can’t Hollywood keep a you-go-girl moment out of a movie where it doesn’t belong?). I like Agamemnon’s political manipulations. I like Menelaus and Paris squaring off, with the latter’s failings. I like the sulking Achilles. I enjoy his opt-out strike, where the Greek king is nearly chopped off at the knees when his hubris gets the better of him. It’s a story with so many things to like. And Richard’s Matturro does a fine job with his Troy, […]
June 17, 2012

Casca, the Outlaw (Review)

Let me just say that this review has all sorts of tangles to it. I’ve reviewed the Casca series in total recently (HERE). I really liked them, not for their literary sake, but just for the blunt idea of the thing (an eternal mercenary that fights in every battle across history). I’d read up to #22 where I’d finally stopped, but mentioned they were up to #37. So at Oasis 25 (a scifi convention I attended as a dealer), my booth was right next to Michael Goodwin’s, who’s written two of these himself. It was one of those bookish-small-world moments, […]
June 10, 2012

The World Set Free (Review)

According the Wells, all it will take for world socialism and sunlit-fields-upon-high utopia are radioactive volcanoes. The World Set Free was written in 1913 (under the looming war). In its format, it’s very similar to In the Days of the Comet, another Wells’ book. We have a “Dickens” view of the world, bleak and unfair and evil (I agree with him on this). The middle act is the disaster, the events so amazing that it would take Hollywood in all its CGI to do them justice. And after that, the level world reexamines itself, sorts itself out, corrects itself (and […]