The Blight arose from nowhere. It swept across the bickering nations like the End of Times and spared only those with a single fortuitous blood type.Hot headed religion and territorial savagery ruled the cities now. Somewhere amidst the chaos a damaged man received a signal, and with it the tiniest flicker of hope. The chance to rediscover the humanity he lost, long ago, in the blood and filth and horror of The Cull.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Synopsis from back cover:
In this intimate portrait of an island lobstering community and an eccentric band of renegade biologists, journalist Trevor Corson escorts the reader onto the slippery decks of fishing boats, through danger-filled scuba dives, and deep into the churning currents of the Gulf of Maine to learn about the secret undersea lives of lobsters.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
At Barnes & Noble; from the publisher:
It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat - smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book.
Inspired by their own fantasies, fears, and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and the otherworldy Mistress of the Night, Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. The golden age of comic books has begun, even as the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a stunning novel of endless comic invention and unforgettable characters, written in the exhilarating prose that has led critics to compare Michael Chabon to Cheever and Nabokov. In Joe Kavalier, Chabon, writing "like a magical spider, effortlessly spinning out elaborate webs of words that ensnare the reader" (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times), has created a hero for the century.
IN LATER YEARS, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini.pg. 1
Friday, March 21, 2008
I know, I know… Those of you who know me personally are shocked that it is even possible that I was ever a disobedient child. As an adult, when I recall this particular Easter Sunday morning, I do believe it is a miracle that I am alive today because I was old enough to know better. Most certainly I deserved a punishment that was as memorable as my actions.
When I was around 7 years old, which would make my older brother 9 and my younger sister 5, we were visiting a large church on Easter Sunday. I believe it was the church of an extended family member. I know we were guests. We were all dressed up for Easter Sunday and just happened to be seated in the front row of a balcony. This was a resplendent, celebratory Easter service and they had a large choir singing… with a choir director.
Normally I was not the child whose behavior caused my parents concern. I was usually quiet, well behaved, and obedient. My older brother would cause trouble. My younger sister would be noisy. I, however, was the quintessential model child. But, sitting up in the front row of that balcony on that particular Easter Sunday unleashed something wild in me. My parents didn’t know what hit them. I blame the choir director.
Now, I don’t know if I had never seen a choir director use their arms to direct before or if it was the sugar from too much chocolate, but once I saw that choir, I was beyond control. First, I started to giggle. I tried to hold it in, but it just kept bubbling out and became uncontrollable. Then I simple had to start swinging my chubby little arms like that choir director. As I giggled and “directed” I looked at my brother and sister. They started to giggle. My parents now had a full-blown incident of misbehavior on their hands.
My mom reached over my sister, grabbed my hands, and gave me a look. I momentarily stopped and then started up again. My dad gave me the stern look of “I am deadly serious” that I can now see in my own adult face. It should have stopped me dead in my tracks and had me trembling in anticipation of the trouble I was now in. I couldn’t stop. My mom grabbed my arm and whispered some threat. It didn’t matter. I was a choir directing, giggling heretic sitting up in the front row of the balcony for everyone to turn around and see. I was the laughing, whirling dervish of child choir directors. Simple put, I was the bad girl poster child.
All I remember now is the feeling of uncontrollable glee as I laughed and the sheer delight I felt while swinging my arms like that choir director. It still brings a smile to my face thinking about it. It was the best feeling. It was freeing. It was delightful. It was great fun. Unfortunately, it was also during an Easter Sunday church service.
Eventually I calmed down, probably because the choir stopped singing and the sermon began. My parents looked unnaturally still and their faces looked tired and under great strain. At that point it occurred to me that my performance might result in my time on earth to be considerably shortened. The obedient child that I normally was came back and I sat quietly for the rest of church.
I don’t remember what my punishment was for my actions. I vaguely recall being severely chastised. There might even have been a spanking… and I was not a child who normally received spankings. Very likely both of these happened. All I can remember is my laughter and the feeling of great and perfect joy as I sat up in the balcony, looking down at the choir, and directing them.
Synopsis from cover:
“I suppose I ought to warn you at the outset that my present circumstances are puzzling, even to me. Nevertheless, I am sure of this much: My little story has become your history. You won’t really understand your times until you understand mine.”
So begins the account of Agnes Shanklin, the charmingly diffident narrator of Mary Doria Russell’s compelling new novel, Dreamers of the Day. And what is Miss Shanklin’s “little story?” Nothing less than the creation of the modern Middle East at the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, where Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence, and Lady Gertrude Bell met to decide the fate of the Arab world–and of our own.
A forty-year-old schoolteacher from Ohio still reeling from the tragedies of the Great War and the influenza epidemic, Agnes has come into a modest inheritance that allows her to take the trip of a lifetime to Egypt and the Holy Land. Arriving at the Semiramis Hotel just as the Peace Conference convenes, Agnes, with her plainspoken American opinions–and a small, noisy dachshund named Rosie–enters into the company of the historic luminaries who will, in the space of a few days at a hotel in Cairo, invent the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.
Neither a pawn nor a participant at the conference, Agnes is ostensibly insignificant, and that makes her a welcome sounding board for Churchill, Lawrence, and Bell. It also makes her unexpectedly attractive to the charismatic German spy Karl Weilbacher. As Agnes observes the tumultuous inner workings of nation-building, she is drawn more and more deeply into geopolitical intrigue and toward a personal awakening.
With prose as graceful and effortless as a seductive float down the Nile, Mary Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East with a story that brilliantly elucidates today’s headlines. As enlightening as it is entertaining, Dreamers of the Day is a memorable, passionate, gorgeously written novel.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
At Amazon, From Publishers Weekly
The world is menaced in true cataclysmic fashion in this epic of the near future, the conclusion to Flynn's previous books, Firestar, Rogue Star and Lodestar. The premise of the novel is exciting enough, and Flynn handles a vast number of characters reasonably well (there's a four-page list of names at the beginning), but the overall effect is exhausting. In the year 2017 certain asteroids have changed their orbit and are on a collision course with Earth. There's a global financial crash, and politics--including the quasi-fascistic machinations of a Huey Long-like politico--force the principals from Flynn's other novels to band together and voyage to an asteroid in a desperate, if not suicidal, attempt to save the world. Some of the... techno-babble is irritatingly obtuse.... Still, for readers hungry for a politically astute, crisis-laden SF novel in a well-imagined future, this is adequate fare. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Lodestar by Michael Flynn is books three in the Firestar series. It was originally published in 2000. My hardcover copy is 365 pages long. My first comment is that Lodestar is definitely part of a series. If you are interested in the series at all, you need to start with Firestar. On top of this, it is a transitional book in the series. Flynn moves away from the hard sci fi element of the story, but puts everything in place for the conclusion of the series in the fourth book. Flynn remains an intelligent, literary writer, which I appreciate. While the second and third books have seemed to drag out a bit longer than I would have liked, I'm looking forward to the conclusion. After investing all this time reading the series, I hope we find out who the aliens are/were and more importantly can stop the asteroids heading toward earth. Rating: 3.5
At Amazon, From Booklist:
Older and wiser, the fierce Mariesa van Huyten returns in this sequel to Firestar (1996) and Rogue Star (1998). She has no more luck than before in persuading presidents of the threat asteroids pose and must humbly ask her successor at Van Huyten Industries for money to keep the sky watch alive. The book darts about Earth and near-space to chart the politics of mounting a defense against the possible end of the world. Then, through the crusading efforts of Phil Albright, the world learns that a rock big enough to obliterate Manhattan is six years from impact. Interestingly, this rock hasn't wobbled off from the Asteroid Belt but seems to have been aimed. And there may be more rocks behind it. Hope lies with black chemist Leland Hobart, whose advanced experiments with high-temperature semiconductors point to the possibility of antigravity devices. Flynn's is a good series, though so intricately plotted and beset with characters that readers may be better off starting at the beginning. John Mort
"And cheeshead borderlined rude when flatskulls said it. Holes in your head for the I/O jacks. Swiss cheese. Jack cheese. Someday she would learn the identity of the person who had coined that particular slangt, and he would suffer terribly." pg. 22
"Don't come across so high and mighty, Mr. Scientist. If the news doesn't entertain, it doesn't get watched. Maybe it was different back when people actually had to read newspapers or listen to whatever factoids got read to them on the tube. They couldn't surf-'n'-choose which bytes to 'act with; but that was then and this is now. " pg. 41
"Look dude, people aren't just faces. They're habits, preferences, turns of phrases, mannerisms." pg. 86
"They said that the worst part of fear was dread. Remove the waiting, remove the uncertainity, and the fear vanished with it. So as she had grown more certain, she had grown less terrified. Unless she had only grown old and tired." pg. 104
"Red handled his imago awkwardly. The lips moved when he spoke, though not always in synch with the words; sometimes an arm performed a wooden gesture - what virtchuosos called an algore..." pg. 111
"You want to understand some template you've created in your head. You want to know why so many of 'us' are 'off the norm'? I'll tell you why! Because in there... no one knows you're a dog. No one can judge you on superficial appearances..." pg. 206
Friday, March 14, 2008
Picoult has a gift for writing believable characters and having them interact in realistic ways during stressful situations. I agree with other reviewers who have wished she had taken more care in developing all of her characters and spent less time on the exploration of religious doctrine and trying to establish Shay Bourne as a Christ figure. Although, if you actually finish the book you are going to realize that she's not being blasphemous, she does dance close to the line for most of the book. This is potentially disturbing for some readers. I would also like to entreat some reviewers, however, to please finish a book before you review it. This is the second book that I know for a fact that some reviewers on Amazon did not finish it before posting negative reviews.
While this novel did feel rushed in some places, I did enjoy it and would recommend it, especially for Picoult fans. Rating: 4
Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy's dying wish?
One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family, and the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart. Now her life is a waiting game. Waiting for time to heal her wounds, waiting for justice. In short, waiting for a miracle to happen.
For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises. The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world. In a heartbeat, though, something happens that changes everything for him. Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June's eleven-year-old daughter, Claire. But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child.
Can we save ourselves, or do we rely on others to do it? Is what we believe always the truth?
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Rogue Star by Michael Flynn (2nd in the Firestar series) was originally published in 1998. My hardcover copy is 570 pages. This is a sequel and has all the benefits and drawbacks of a sequel The story continues, but it definitely feels like you are in the middle of the story. There were a few errors that could have been corrected with a careful editor and proof reading. (For example, a character drives to an estate but then talks about having someone call her a cab so she could leave.) I'm looking forward to seeing where the story finally ends up and am rating it a 3.5.
Mariesa van Huyten's fear for the safety of Earth triggers a crisis that plays out on the dual battlefields of the halls of corporate politics and the darkness of Low Earth Orbit. This sequel to Firestar (Tor, 1996) brings together familiar characters in a taut, suspense-filled sf novel that mixes personal drama with action-adventure and high intrigue. Flynn's excellently choreographed alternating of Earth and space scenes impels the action, while his characters provide a vivid cross-section of 21st century Earth. Highly recommended for most sf collections.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
In South Africa, whose civil administration is collapsing under the pressure of years of civil strife, an obscure young gardener named Michael K decides to take his mother on a long march away from the guns towards a new life in the abandoned countryside. Everywhere he goes however, the war follows him. Tracked down and locked up as a collaborator with the rural guerrillas, he embarks on a fast that angers, baffles, and finally awes his captors. The story of Michael K is the story of a man caught up in a war beyond his understanding, but determined to live his life, however minimally, on his own terms. J.M. Coetzee has produced a masterpiece which has the astonishing power to make the wilderness boom.
"But he did not shirk any aspect of what he saw as his duty. The problem that had exercised him years ago... namely why he had been brought into the world, had received its answer: he had been brought into the world to look after his mother." pg. 7
"Lying in her bed in her airless room through the winter afternoons with rain dripping from the steps outside, she dreamed of escaping from the careless violence, the packed buses, the food queues, arrogant shopkeepers, thieves and beggars, sirens in the night, the curfew, the cold and wet, and returning to a countryside where, if she was going to die, she would at least die under blue skies." pg. 8
"There was a cord of tenderness that stretched from him to the patch of earth beside that dam and must be cut. It seemed to him that one could cut a cord like that only so many times before it would not grow again." pg. 66
"No papers, no money; no family, no friends, no sense of who you are. The obscurest of the obscure, so obscure as to be a prodigy." pg. 142
"In fact his life was a mistake from the beginning to end. It's a cruel thing to say, but I will say it; he is someone who should never have been born into a world like this. It would have been better if his mother had quietly suffocated him when she saw what he was, and put him in the trash can." pg. 155
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Firestar by Michael Flynn was originally published in 1996. My hardcover copy has 573 pages; 573 densely packed pages with narrow margins and small type. This is a hard science fiction story, so it's appeal will be limited to fans of that genre. It's basically a space jockey story but with a woman as a central character. I'm a fan of hard SF and rate Flynn's Firestar, the first in a series, with a 4 for the vision and the sheer depth of the storyline. There are a few minor quibbles I have with Firestar. Flynn used dates, and as my son, Wonder Boy, has pointed out, "There's nothing you'll regret more in SF than setting it in the near future - and giving real dates." Flynn could have got away without using the dates. There were also a few editing mistakes - a couple typos in one case and something else I can't recall right off hand. I actually found the conservative politics in this book refreshing, especially when compared to the normal liberal slant I have to tolerate in author after author. Flynn continues to be an intelligent writer.
From Publishers Weekly at Amazon:
By 1999, well-meaning but misguided liberals, environmentalists and feminists have brought the U.S. economy to a near standstill. The space program is suffocating in red tape. The schools are collapsing. Technological innovation is virtually dead. All of this will change, however, because of one woman with vision, a capitalist with a heart of gold who has dedicated her life to reforming America's schools and to returning humanity to outer space. Over the past three years, a number of talented, politically conservative SF writers have turned their hands to scenarios much like this, among them Poul Anderson, Charles Sheffield and Larry Niven. Now Flynn (In the Country of the Blind, 1990) has produced one of the better books in this budding subgenre. His plot is complex, but it stays on track. His large cast of characters, particularly industrialist Mariesa van Huyten, are generally well drawn; even the villains have depth. Flynn's detailed description of new space technologies is entirely believable, too, though his solutions to current educational problems seem naive. This amalgam of ambitious SF and political agenda, the first in a projected series, may annoy some left-leaning readers, but it's likely to please most fans of thoughtful hard SF.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc
Monday, March 3, 2008
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Saturday, March 1, 2008
three random bags of crap from a Woot-off. Let's look, shall we?