On the nightstand

Book Blog

August 28, 2011

Snow Crash (review)

If you are going to nit-pick Snow Crash for anything, you can bag it for being 20 years old. Okay, so there are light pens, some of the computer stuff is dodgy, Hong Kong was still independent and there are a lot of people whose pops fought in WW2. So in that, yeah, it feels old. But even on the third reading, the story swept me up again. I can distinctly remember picking up a copy in a downtown bookstore and going to Pizza Unos for lunch (the brick-n-mortar store, the pizza chain, even the cutzy shopping district are as […]
July 18, 2011

The Potter legacy

The end of the world came and I didn’t notice it, what with the bike rides, the model train constructions, dinner with friends, work and wife. The last Harry Potter movie hit the screens. Facebook had rung like a gong when Casey Anthony got off. Now it was ringing against from all the Potter fans bellowing about what a wondrous thing this series was, how it taught their kids to read, about morals, ethics, the importance of good vs. evil, of fellowship, of commitment. Yadda yad. That the adult fans point to their children as the justification for their canonization […]
July 16, 2011

Rivers of grass (Review)

Imagine reading a dramatization of a cancer or degenerative disease that has been slowly spreading through your body, one you were not fully aware of. You read of the wonderful nature of each organ, their function and interplay, and cringe as you follow their demise. The whole is breaking down. And you realize it is probably too late to reverse the process. This is pretty much what reading this beautiful, painful book is all about. Rivers of Grass follows the history of the Florida Everglades, from its geological makeup, its biological processes, its discovery and settling by nomadic Indian tribes, […]
April 3, 2011

The Ragged Astronauts (review)

My Florida room looks out across green native foliage. Beneath its wide widows is the grande shelf, three decks straining with books, the “I might want to read this again” books. Many of them I’ve read in college or before. Many of them are yellowing. But they are (or were, to that younger self I was) great books. The Ragged Astronauts comes from a time before many Avatar / Potter fans were born, 1986. Back then, youth still cared about the environment (to the point they didn’t throw their plastic bottles all over it). We were still jazzed about the […]
March 26, 2011

The Egyptologist (Review)

The act of observing an event changes an event. And sometimes, the act of reviewing a book ruins it for the readers. This is true for Arthur Phillip’s novel, The Egyptologist – how can one review a book for curious readers yet put up spoiler alerts? Rest assured – I’ll do my best not to give away any of the succulent moments or the gripping ending. So here goes… The novel takes place directly in 1922, and indirectly in 1954. told entirely through correspondence. The primary writings are from the Egyptologist himself through his combination of his working journal and […]
March 12, 2011

Keen Prose 1

I’ve started the “Keen Prose” thread, where I’ll post phrases from authors whose pen’s I’m not fit to lick. It’s the word choices and phrases that bring smiles, and convey buckets of meaning in the tightest structure.   “On the following morning, whilst Major Sands was sulking, like Achilles, in his tent…” The Black Swan Rafael Sabatini Footnote: I’ve always loved Sabatini – next to Wells, he is the author who’s work comes across as poetry to me. And Major Sands in The Black Swan is the smoldering dufus who is being outwitted and outdone by the flashing hero, Charles […]
March 10, 2011

Metagame (review)

A friend of mine sent this to me with guarded praise. “It’s not great, but it’s interesting”. Quite a rave. And let’s just be clear that when I read, my editing light is lit. I love well-crafted prose, and the horn goes off when something jostles the story flow. For example, in Metagame, we have “R-shaped streetlights” (an issue of case, I think). A smiler: “Lily let go of D_Light’s hand, no longer needing him to guide her; he, however, did not let go of hers.” And this jolly description: “Even so, D_Light thought he could make out a large […]
January 23, 2011


A thought came to me while reading the second book of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” series. While I’m enjoying it, really enjoying it (I’ll review it sometime), I did find myself focusing on the prose. Yes, I understand it’s a juvenile series (at least I hope it is). I understand that the writing is pretty basic. No clever flow, no startling visual imagery, no insightful character development, no creative language use. The story (while good) is just shipped to us, a simple description of events. She’s not alone in this – consider top-selling general-audience authors and you have Clive […]
January 9, 2011

Kindle missionaries

D’ja see that new Kindle ad where cool looking people tote kindles about in bike baskets and the back pockets of stone-washed jeans? Young people all looking so active. And the only thing they aren’t shown doing? Reading. Because the thing about kindles is not quietly reading on it, it’s about bragging about how quickly you can get your books, how cheaply, how many books it holds. Ever had a kindle-ninny tell you what they were reading? No, its just about their device. Really, how many times do you have to say, “So, just what the fuck were you reading […]
December 14, 2010

Live Free or Die (review)

You know Iran can’t have a nuclear power plant. But did you know Disney could? This pissed me off a decade ago, so I wrote a scathing novel about theme parks growing into “duchies” with their own laws, courts, and (it turned out) armies. And as I wrote it, I found myself really chewing on those enablers of theme parks, the shambling middle class. With their annual passes and their comfortable entertainment expectations, my novel did everything it could to give them a wake-up slap, a cosmic black eye. One agent asked me, “So, if you piss off everyone, who’s […]