On the nightstand

Book Blog

August 19, 2018

Falcon (review)

got this 30-year old scifi from a great used-book shop in Sanford (Maya’s – go there!). Looked good – sharp name, cover art of a concerned looking guy looking up and to the right (into his own worrying future, perhaps) while climbing down from a small space ship. So since I was in the mood for space pilots fighting injustice (against a worrying future) I pushed it to the front of my queue. Didn’t get that, not quite. This is the story of one Prince Nickolas, burned out from his royal duties and his uncle-the-king’s badgering. He’s just come back […]
August 12, 2018

Under Enemy Colors (Review)

ccasionally the right book comes along at the right time. I was out of sorts at a family gathering without a book. Pull this off my late father’s shelf. Started to read. And sea stories, like cowboy stories, deliver a certain comfort. And I found this book very comforting. In this, during the 1790s while the war with France wages, Lieutenant Charles Hayden, desperately seeking a ship, finds himself banished to the worst of the line, the Themis, with an unenviable task. Admiralty thinks Captain Hart is faint-of, i.e. shirking his job. And they want Hayden to secretly report on […]
August 5, 2018

Tyre (Review)

’ll bet you know why I read this little informative book, no? Actually, this one came from a lady on my bus, a dynamic Vietnamese woman who got me to ride Critical Mass with her and her husband. I couldn’t place his nationality but when we saw each other on the bus again, she told me he was Lebanese. And that they were going to see his family soon. And with that, I started babbling about Tyre (see my books on the beg-link, below). Turns out she was going there. And she picked up this nice small reference book that […]
July 29, 2018

Reamde (Review)

his one comes from Neal Stephenson, they guy who swept me away with Snow Crash all those years ago. It’s a vast and glorious tale that runs a modest 1044 pages. Yeah, you gotta really wanna here. So Reamde is, in a nutshell, a fictional tale about a bit of Chinese malware that locks up your files and leaves you a “reamde” file that tells you how to pay them off to get your files unlocked. Of course the file is typoed because they are Chinese hackers and English is not their mother tongue. But the unique thing here is […]
July 22, 2018

Green Eggs and Ham (Review)

oke up this morning wondering what I could review. I’m still working through Reamde, all 1042 pages of it (you can use this book to chock the wheel of your car if you need to change a flat). And then this Seuss classic popped into my mind and I figured, “Why not?” So, Green Eggs and Ham is a story about choice and acceptance of new experiences, in this case the titular foods, both shown as nauseating and possibly dangerous to ingest. The protagonist, an unnamed sort of man/canine hybrid, seems to view himself as his own worldview center; he […]
July 15, 2018

The Carnivore (Review)

he one good thing about sites like Project Gutenberg – when for reasons too strange and distracting, if you find yourself tugging your Brompton folding bike by bus to a train station without the least expectation, without a book or a laptop, you can always hop into the site five minutes before go time and print off something really quick. And that’s how I ended up with The Carnivore, a very short tale out of Galaxy Science Fiction from 1953. In it, Earth is wiped out (pretty much as it usually is, not by meteors or sun-explosions but tin-plated ass-clowns […]
July 8, 2018

The Hollywood History of the World (Review)

eorge MacDonald Fraser of Flashman fame produced this fine little historian’s guide to movies in 1988 and happily revised in 1996 (which means Braveheart made it into the book (and, as a Scot, he slams it)). Has it really been that long since that awful movie? Regardless, this is a review of books, not movies. And this book, The Hollywood History of the World, is every bit as grand and wide-screen as the art it reviews (the pages measure 9”x9”). But Fraser sticks to his historical roots, moving chronologically (per history, not Hollywood) forward, from ancient times to the present. […]
July 1, 2018

A Man called Ove (Review)

think I’ve already got one of my “Books of the year” for 2018, even through my current read, Reamde, is pretty good too. This one was so wonderful that I was tearing up (and dabbing at my eyes with paper napkins) while reading in the beanhouse with my wife. So Ove is about a “man called”, a quiet fellow from an odd family (with a loving yet distant father, to whom Ove picks up a number of idiosyncrasies (being silent, being observant, being judgmental, and being a cranky old coot)). Ove has just been marginalized (i.e. downsized (i.e. fired)) from […]
July 1, 2018

Specters Anonymous (Review)

ometimes authors and readers just don’t couple up. Not sure why. But it happened here for me. My sister gave me Specters Anonymous for a birthday present during a complicated period of my life (with carpel tunnel surgery and a damn sling and all that). But I got the book and read it and it didn’t click for me. So Ralph starts the book dead. He’s a ghost. And ghosts, like humans, have weaknesses. For them, sunlight and bright illumination is like alcohol to them. Some of them can sip and be satisfied. Others need help. So in the basement […]
June 24, 2018

A Compendium of Model Railroad Operations (Review)

kay, for people who’ve never listened to my hobby-babble, model train operations means running your model train layout (your own or a club’s) like a real railroad. I’ve been doing this for years and have been blogging about it endlessly HERE. So this, like anything else; stamp collecting, slot cars, whatever, is total geekdom stuff. But, oh yeah, it’s cool. This book goes into how railroads work. What positions should you simulate. What do trains do. How do they make money. And how do they avoid crashing into one another. It’s actually a fascinating subject (trust me on this, or […]