On the nightstand

Book Blog

April 29, 2018

A Boy and his Tank (Review)

o New Kashubia is a real shithole – it’s pretty much been stripped down to nothing but a ball of melted metal when its sun went supernova a long time ago. And now its home to Bosnian refugees (Earth is now a gated community and all other races and people have been shipped off). These folks now live in slow-starvation squalor in deep tunnels, while even deeper in the bowels of their planet automated factories produce top-line battle tanks. Essentially they are fighting/teaching machines, fully loaded with AI and VR, very destructive and able to house their human tanker for […]
April 22, 2018

We Have Always Lived on Mars (Review)

o this was one a coworker handed me, a short piece of fiction of a failing Mars colony from Tor Books. Imagine a Mars colony totally cut off. Earth no longer communicates. Dust covers their sky – they’ve not seen the moons or stars or anything. The colony has no resources to expand. All they can do is carefully monitor life support, sending out old folks to die while replacing them with occasional births. Everything is dusty and worn and bleak. So Nina, one of the young women of Mars, turns out to be special. With her suit ripped in […]
April 15, 2018

The Lost City of the Templars (Review)

nother bookshop pluck – a strange novel that caught my eye with the grandiose title and a picture of a distant lost Amazon city with a crusader sword stuck in the ground. But now that I think about it, it really wasn’t a templar lost city, but a strange revelation about my favorite ancient race (anyone care to guess?) So I apparently walked in midway through the showing of this adventure yarn. Two-fisted ex-Ranger John Holiday apparently has been a thorn of the side of just about everyone – the American political system, a massive security corporation, the Vatican, and […]
April 8, 2018

Mark Twain for Cat Lovers (Review)

o here is the book that provoked me into traveling around the world with Mark Twain (i.e. Following the Equator) – a little collection of Twain’s essays and observations about a topic dear to me. Bikes? No, cats. Turns out the crusty ex-riverboat pilot was a lover of our feline friends, always having a couple about. He even kept a billiard table and allowed his kittens free-range across it, with a cat lurking in a hole and swatting at massing balls considered part of the game’s hazards. There are wonderful stories here, from his classics about a boy climbing out […]
April 1, 2018

Following the Equator (Review)

othing teaches us more about a person’s true self and soul than travel. I’ve had friendships end on long trips. Perhaps because we see how our acquaintances react to stress, or that we see them out of the context of their typical background, who knows? All that matters is that we’ll see them in a new light. Following the Equator was a travelogue by Mark Twain of his trip around the world in the late eighteen hundreds. The unwritten background is that he was in financial straits through bad investments, forced to go on a world-wide speaking tour (which he […]
March 25, 2018

The Great Time Machine Hoax (Review)

The Great Time Machine Hoax represents one of the reasons I love going to used book stores. It also represents the danger of going to used book stores. It was an early work of famed SF author Keith Laumer (1963). It came from a shorter work and was expanded into a longer novel (I think I know where the expansion was – pretty much a strange Kung-fu training section in the entire second half of the book). But I’m ahead of myself. So Chester W. Chester IV inherits a rundown mansion, the sole heir and sole responsible party for millions […]
March 18, 2018

Tricky Business (Review)

live in Central Florida, which means we’re always watching, in justified nervousness, the craziness of the Southern Coast (Miami and such places). Back in the eighties when I worked in a lumber yard down there, it was nothing to hear machine gun fire cutting the night (and not too far off).A house down the street from my apartment was dynamited by the mob. Miami Vice looked pretty tame to some of the things I saw. And now, that place isn’t just lurking criminal evilness – the entire city seems crazy. Carl Hiaasen was one of the first to take these […]
March 11, 2018

In the Orbit of Saturn (Review)

he problem with reading books off Project Gutenberg, and I’m talking really old books here, is that a lot of what you read was fresh and new and imaginative back then but now they’re old and stale. Okay, so our hero is aboard a liner off Saturn that gets jumped by pirates. He finds himself herded into a large cargo hold, trapped with the rest of the snivelers for ransom. But a sniveler he is not because he’s actually an undercover agent for some sort of galactic authority (forgive me – it’s been a while). And so he’s got to […]
March 4, 2018

Homeward Bound (Review)

uthor Harry Turtledove started his Game of Thrones-ish mega-series years back, the sprawling Worldwar/ Colonization series. In it, a hapless lizard race which takes everything in stride (including technological advancement) probes our world in the middle ages and decides that it will take humans thousands and thousands of years to get any sort of comparable technology. Taking their time (roughly twelve hundred years), they gradually assemble an invasion fleet (followed by a colonization fleet). And imagine their surprise when they arrive but instead of knights with white satin they find themselves in the screaming confusions of World War Two. The […]
February 25, 2018

Dark Matter (Review)

t’s been a while. I’ve read pointless SciFi, stale SciFi, and dated SciFi. After a while I was only reading SciFi to relax on the train. Nothing was challenging me. And then I read Dark Matter. The story starts out brilliantly. A middle-aged college professor is enjoying a “family night” with his wife and son. Going out to fetch ice cream from the shop a few blocks away, he sees an old acquaintance in a bar. In talking to this man, we get a glimpse of the purpose and gift our protagonist possessed, that is, before the day-to-day world sucked […]