Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bastard Out of Carolina

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Trade paperback, 309 pages
Plume, 1992
ISBN-13: 9780452269576
very highly recommended

Synopsis from cover:
Greenville County, South Carolina, is home to the Boatwright family - rough-hewn men who drink hard and shoot up each other's trucks, and indomitable women who marry young and age all too quickly. At the heart of this astonishing novel is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a South Carolina bastard with an annotated birth certificate to tell the tale. Observing everything with the mercilessly keen eye of a child, Bone finds herself caught in a family triangle that will test the loyalty of her mother, Anney. Her stepfather, Daddy Glen, calls Bone "cold as death, mean as a snake, and twice as twisty", yet Anney needs Glen "like a strong woman needs meat between her teeth". At first gentle with Bone, Daddy Glen becomes steadily colder and more furious - until their final, harrowing encounter, from which there can be no turning back.
My Thoughts:

Bastard Out of Carolina, a quasi-autobiographical novel by Dorothy Allison, opens up with a quote by James Baldwin: "People pay for what they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it simply: by the lives they lead." Through a first person narrative, Bone Boatwright tells her story about growing up as poor, white trash in South Carolina and suffering from child abuse at the hands of her stepfather. Bastard Out of Carolina has been made into a movie, and I'll admit that I have watched the movie. Both the book and the movie are unforgettable, but also relentlessly depressing and disturbing in their portrayal of a victim of child abuse.
Very Highly Recommended
- but not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.


I've been called Bone all my life, but my name's Ruth Anne. opening

My aunt Alma insists to this day that what happened was in no way Uncle Travis's fault, but I know that the first time I ever saw Uncle Travis sober was when I was seventeen and they had just removed half his stomach along with his liver. I cannot imagine that he hadn't been drinking. There's no question in my mind but that they had all been drinking... pg. 2

As for the name of the father, Granny refused to speak it after she had run him out of town for messing with her daughter, and Aunt Ruth had never been sure of his last name anyway. They tried to get away with just scribbling something down, but if the hospital didn't mind how a baby's middle name was spelled, they were definite about having a father's last name. So Granny gave one and Ruth gave another, the clerk got mad, and there I was - certified a bastard by the state of South Carolina. pg. 3

"Nothing else will ever hit you this hard," she promised.... "Now you look like a Boatwright," she said. "Now you got the look. You're as old as you're ever gonna get, girl. This is the way you'll look till you die." pg. 8

Greenville, South Carolina, in 1955 was the most beautiful place in the world. Black walnut trees dropped their green-black fuzzy bulbs on Aunt Ruth's matted lawn, past where their knotty roots rose up out of the ground like elbows and knees of dirty children suntanned dark and covered with scars. Weeping willows marched across the yard, following every wandering stream and ditch, their long whiplike fronds making tents that sheltered sweet-smelling beds of clover. pg. 17

People talked about Glen's temper and his hands. He didn't drink, didn't mess around, didn't even talk dirty, but the air around him seemed to hum with vibration and his hands were enormous. They hung like baseball mitts at the end of his short, tight-muscled arms. On his slender, small-boned frame, they were startling, incongruous, constantly in motion, and the only evidence of just how strong he was. pg. 35

Maybelle was not so generous. "Yeah, Glen loves Anney. He loved her like a gambler loves a fast racehorse or a desperate man loves whiskey. That kind of love eats a man up. I don't trust that boy, don't want our Anney marrying him."
"But Anney loves Glen," Alma told Maybelle impatiently. "That's the thing you ought to be thinking about. She needs him, needs him like a starving woman needs meat between her teeth, and I an't gonna let nobody take this away from her. Come on, Maybelle, you know there an't no way to say what's gonna happen between a man and a woman...." pg. 41

Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies. pg. 248

Saturday, January 30, 2010

In the Country of the Blind

In the Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn
Hardcover, 377 pages (not including notes)
Tor, 2001
ISBN-13: 9780312874445
Science Fiction
highly recommended

Set primarily in the present, with tantalizing flashbacks to the 1800s, In the Country of the Blind concerns a small group of American idealists who manage to actually build the Analytical Engine designed by Charles Babbage and use it to develop mathematical models that could chart the likely course of the future. When their calculations predicted a united Germany armed with unimaginably powerful bombs by 1939, the Charles Babbage Society kept it from ever happening. Soon they were working to alter history's course to their own liking in other ways. By the 1990s the Society has become the secret master of the world. But no secret can be kept forever, at least not without drastic measures. When her plans for some historic real estate lead developer and ex-reporter Sarah Beaumont to stumble across the Society's existence, it is just the first step into a baffling and deadly maze of conspiracies.

Originally published in the 1980s as a paperback original, In the Country of the Blind has been revised and updated for this new edition and now includes Flynn's article from Analog, "An Introduction to Cliology," about the ideas underlying the book.
My Thoughts:

In the Country of the Blind explores the existence of a secret group of people who have been using the science of Cliology to manipulate history. The discovery of the existence of the secret group makes Sarah Beaumont and several of her friends enemies of the group and puts targets on their backs. There is plenty of intrigue and double crosses as the existence of the secret group(s) is revealed. While an interesting story, In the Country of the Blind is more a philosophical argument concerning the use of Cliology and the study of human society. For serious students of science fiction, there is a large appendix, including charts, that discusses the mathematics and biology of history. highly recommended


Isaac shook his head. "Give it time, boy. Give it time. Rome weren't built in one day, neither.The society's too small yet to move the world by much; but it will grow, if we persevere." pg. 16

The papers on the floor caught her eye. A yellowed newspaper clipping. She picked it up and found a torn sheet of foolscap held to it by a rusty staple.
“What are those?” asked Dennis, brushing his hands and standing up.
“A list of dates. Looks like someone’s crib notes for a history test and…” She read the headline on the clipping. “An 1892 story from the old Denver Express.” She handed the foolscap to Dennis and read through the rest of the news story. “A gunfight,” she told him. “Two cowboys on Larimer Street. Neither one was scratched, but a bystander was killed. An old man named Brady Quinn.” pg 20

“That’s a big help. What’s ‘cliological’?”
She shrugged. “Beats me. I never heard the word before.”
“And the mixture of entries is odd, too. Famous events and obscure events all jumbled together. How does the nomination of Franklin Pierce, or the election of Rutherford Hayes, or Winfield Scott’s military appointments belong on the same list as the election of Abraham Lincoln or his assassination, or the sinking of the Lusitania? Or…Hello!”
“What?” She moved behind him and read over his shoulder. He pointed. “‘Brady Quinn murdered,’” she read.
“Yep, your friend Quinn is right in there with Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. And with von Kluck’s Turn, whatever that was. Nineteen-fourteen. Must have been World War One.”
“No kidding. And ‘Frederick W. Taylor, fl. ca. 1900.’ Who was he?”
Dennis shook his head. “There are a half dozen entries here that I never heard of.” pg. 21

"Oh, yes, your list. Now this is purely off the cuff, understand, but the items I am familiar with seem to be historical turning points of a rather subtle kind. The events themselves were small - few people were involved - but they had disproportionate consequences..." pg. 30

"Wait a minute! Nothing important happened because Quinn was killed."
He looked puzzled. "Well, yes. That is the problem."
"No. That's the answer! Nothing important happened because Quinn was killed." pg. 40

The thought rose unbidden in her mind, and it was a moment or two before she realized what it meant. When she did, the implication stunned her. They hadn't been trying to study history at all; they had been trying to control it! pg. 73

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Hundred Secret Senses

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
Hardcover, 358 pages
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1995
ISBN-13: 9780399141140
very highly recommended

Synopsis from Publisher:
The Hundred Secret Senses is an exultant novel about China and America, love and loyalty, the identities we invent and the true selves we discover along the way. Olivia Laguni is half-Chinese, but typically American in her uneasiness with her patchwork family. And no one in Olivia's family is more embarrassing to her than her half-sister, Kwan Li. For Kwan speaks mangled English, is cheerfully deaf to Olivia's sarcasm, and sees the dead with her "yin eyes."

Even as Olivia details the particulars of her decades-long grudge against her sister (who, among other things, is a source of infuriatingly good advice), Kwan Li is telling her own story, one that sweeps us into the splendor, squalor, and violence of Manchu China. And out of the friction between her narrators, Amy Tan creates a work that illuminates both the present and the past sweetly, sadly, hilariously, with searing and vivid prose.

My thoughts:

Amy Tan is a wonderful, gifted writer. She is also sometimes quite funny in The Hundred Secret Senses. Her dialogue is believable. Her gift of telling complex, compelling stories is outstanding. At first I had trouble getting interested in Kwan's Miss Banner stories but soon I was looking forward to what would happen next. The characters at the beginning are not the same as those at the end. To see such depth and progression in several characters is wonderful. This is a story about family, the living, the dead, and the connections they share. Very highly recommended


My sister Kwan believes she has yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin, ghosts who leave the mists just to visit her kitchen on Balboa Street in San Francisco.
"Libby-ah," she'll say to me. "Guess who I see yesterday, you guess." And I don't have to guess that she's talking about someone dead.
Actually, Kwan is my half sister, but I'm not suppose to mention that publicly. That would be an insult, as if she deserved only fifty percent of the love from our family. But just to set the genetic record straight, Kwan and I share a father, only that. opening

After my father died, my mother kept telling everyone how he had treated her "just like a Chinese empress." She made all sorts of grief stricken promises to God and my father's grave. According to Aunt Betty, at the funeral, my mother vowed never to remarry. She vowed to teach us children to honor the Yee family name. She vowed to find my father's first born child, Kwan, and bring her to the United States.
The last promise was the only one she kept. pg. 6

I learned to make things not matter, to put a seal on my hopes and place them on a high shelf, out of reach. And by telling myself that there was nothing inside those hopes anyway. I avoided the wounds of deep disappointment. The pain was no worse than the quick sting of a booster shot. And yet thinking about this makes me ache again. How is it that as a child I knew I should have been loved more? Is everyone born with a bottomless emotional reservoir? pg. 8

To mom, Kwan was a handy baby-sitter, willing, able, and free.....So everyday after school, Kwan would latch on to me and tag along wherever I went. By the first grade, I became an expert on public humiliation and shame. Kwan asked so many dumb questions that all the neighborhood kids thought she had come from Mars. She'd say: "What M&M?" "What ching gum?" "Who this Popeye Sailor Man? Why one eye gone? He bandit?" pg. 11

The next morning I went to my mother and did what I promised I'd never do: I told her about Kwan's yin eye. pg. 15

Yet the way I remember it is the way I have always felt - that I betrayed her and that's what made her insane, The shock treatments, I believed, were my fault as well. They released all her ghosts. pg. 17

To Kwan, there are no boundaries among family. Everything is open for gruesome and exhaustive dissection - how much you spent on your vacation, what's wrong with your complexion, the reason you look as doomed as a fish in a restaurant tank. And then she wonders why I don't make her a regular part of my social life. She, however, invites me to dinner once a week, as well as to every family gathering.... pg. 22

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Movie Dude Weekend: Brains and Clogs

Evil Brain From Outer Space (1956)
Starring: Ken Utsui
Director: Teruo Ishii;Akira

A monstrous evil brain from outer space leads his minions on a crusade to conquer the universe, and unleashes hideous monsters on Earth that spread deadly diseases. Superhero Starman must rescue Earth from the menace of the evil brain while battling armies of monsters the brain sends against him.(IMDb) Known as Super Giant in his native Japan, Starman's trademark is a blend of frantic action and primitive special effects.

The Brain From Planet Arous (1957)
John Agar, Joyce Meadows
Director: Nathan Juran
A powerful criminal brain from the planet Arous, Gor, assumes the body of scientist Steve March. Thru March he begins to control the world by threatening destruction to any country challenging his domination. Another brain, Val, works with Marchs future wife Sally to defeat Gor. Val explains that Gor will be vulnerable when he is forced to leave March at intervals to re-energize. Gors vulnerable spot, the Fissure of Rolando, is described in a note left by Sally in Steve's lab.(IMDb)

We had planned a long theme night of movies featuring brains (we were surprised to discover we have at least 6 movies featuring "brain" in the title) but an unfortunate incident cut our enthusiasm for brain movies short.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Bay of Love and Sorrows

The Bay of Love and Sorrows by David Adams Richards
Hardcover, 307 pages
Arcade Publishing, 1998
ISBN-13: 9781559706506
very highly recommended


The novel begins as the once-strong friendship between Michael Skid, the privileged young son of a judge from town, and farmhand Tommie Donnerel collapses under the weight of a bitter misunderstanding. As Michael sets out to prove something to himself and others, he becomes drawn into the company of the beautiful and determined Madonna Brassaurd and her brother, Silver. The three are soon seduced by the glamour of Everette Hutch, a charismatic but violent man, whose latest scheme appears certain to result in tragedy. Bridging the decent world of Tommie Donnerel and the darker realm of the Brassaurds and Everette Hutch is Karrie Smith. Home from college for the summer, Karrie's deep longing for a more exciting life makes her especially vulnerable to a world she does not completely understand.

My thoughts:

David Adams Richards' Mercy Among the Children was really my top book of 2009. It was so incredible that I hesitated over reading another one of Richards' books. The Bay of Love and Sorrows is the powerful tale of ambition and betrayal in a small New Brunswick town in the 1970s. Karrie Smith and Tom Donnerel are sweethearts who, after her first year of college, have a falling out. Karrie gives in to her attraction to Tom's former friend, Michael Skid who lures Karrie into a manipulative and loveless relationship. Michael, in turn, is manipulated by a drug dealer, Everette Hutch. Those who look to Michael to help and/or protect them are disappointed to learn how incapable he really is of taking a stand.

Richards's is simply an incredible writer. I know he's won awards in Canada, but, really, the man deserves a wider audience. The characters are well written but flawed; the plot is tightly defined. The intensity of the story was, at times overwhelming. You could see destruction coming, they could see it coming, and yet no one stopped it. Richards firm grasp of and insight to the human condition is, at times, heart breaking. I liked how one Amazon reviewer put it: "Although the reader will have affinity with the characters' very human flaws, Richards never allows us to get too close and I believe he does that deliberately; this fiction takes an in-depth look at the shallowness of living on the edge and the waste that it is."
Very Highly Recommended - but a book full of sorrow


The house was very warm, had a miserable quality permeating it, which Karrie herself had understood from early youth. It was not that the house, with its pink shutters and wainscoting, was a violent house. It was the absence of affection. pg. 6

And then suddenly a small flame of angry thought flickered inside him, as he turned towards Arron Brook. Because, having known Michael for three years, things remained unresolved between them. pg 13

Thinking of all of this, of Michael's cavalier attitude towards Karrie, of the pettiness of the article, of the meanness about the suit, Tom frowned, spat, and felt homesick even thought he was so near his home. pg. 17

The tree of them, at one time or another, had relied upon Tom for advice. But they had drifted away from him, each in their own way, and had come independently to the same conclusion - that Tom was too reasonable, too practical, and youth never had time to be reasonable. Still, he was the only man Madonna trusted. pg. 17-18

These discussions invariably worked their way around to the nature of power, and what made him, Everette, violent. He was fascinated by his own violence, and always held the belief that he would commit a great crime, that he was a man who didn't like to be violent, but could not help it, since so many people got in his way. Any other reasoning was beyond him. Everette's most telling trait was his conviction that everything else was beyond him. As if, lacking compassion, he proved himself. pg. 20

"Madonna and Silver - look up to you a awful lot. They are always talking about how good you are to them, and how you are helping them out.... so you are.... a real blessing to them. They had nothin in their lives - and look up to you. I mean it would be real good for them if you could help them see things the right way." pg. 25

Already his relationship with Everette Hutch had created problems for this young brother and sister, who had made a pact of loyalty with each other when they were left on their own. pg. 28

Tom felt that nothing would be askew now if he and Michael had remained friends. But unless they came to him, the three of them would not be able to stop until something desperate happened. pg. 31

What Michael did not understand, what Silver and Madonna and possibly Tom Donnerel did, was that Everette Hutch kept tapes on certain of those whom he considered his well-to-do friends - for future embezzlement and blackmail - such as the tape he was wearing at the moment, inside his left boot, as he smiled. pg. 40

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Book 1 in Twilight Series
Trade Paperback, 498 pages
Little, Brown and Company, 2005
ISBN-13: 9780316015844
Young Adult Novel

About three things I was absolutely positive:
First, Edward was a vampire.
Second, there was a part of him–and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be–that thirsted for my blood.
And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him. (pg 195)
My Thoughts:

Twilight is a young adult novel. It's target audience is young teenage girls.
Now, my inner 13 yr old is squealing with delight over Bella's relationship with the dangerous Edward, who sparkles. And he's dangerous, but not too dangerous because he tries to be good. He's not really a bad boy, out smoking and drinking in the school parking lot. But he does cut classes. And his skin sparkles like diamonds if he's in the sun. I can see where Twilight would have a large fan base in that young teen girl demographic. What I'm not understanding are the adult fans.

I agree with Stephen King. Meyers can't write.
While Twilight is poorly written, I will concede that Meyers is a story teller. She's not a good writer. My inner 13 yr old doesn't care because she's all caught up in the danger and the sparkles, but the lack of quality in the writing matters very much to me, a 50 yr old woman. The characters are flat and one dimensional. Bella is annoying and constantly whines. Edward comes across as a stalker, a stalker who's old enough to choose a more appealing victim and yet seemingly not smart enough. Their obsessive love for each other is creepy. The high school isn't like any high school out there - not even way back when I went to high school. It's like a cardboard cut-out of a high school.

I am glad that I finally read Twilight, though, so I can tell people exactly why I didn't like it and would not recommend it. I also understand the references to sparkling vampires.

I read Tw
ilight as a Critical Monkey selection, but technically it can't count as one of the official books because I had previously read Meyers The Host and should have learned my lesson.
I'll be counting Twilight as part of the Don't Be A-Hatin' Amendment


I'd never given much thought to how I would die - though I'd reason enough in the last few months - but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. opening

Forks High School had a frightening total of only three hundred and fifty-seven - now fifty-eight - students; there were more than seven hundred people in my junior class alone back home. All of the kids here had grown up together-their grandparents had been toddlers together. I would be the new girl from the big city, a curiosity, a freak. pg. 9

Facing my pallid reflection in the mirror, I was forced to admit that I was lying to myself. It wasn't just physically that I'd never fit in. And if I couldn't find a niche in a school with three thousand people, what were my chances here?
I didn't relate well to people my age. Maybe the truth was that I didn't relate well to people, period. Even my mother, who I was closer to than anyone else on the planet, was never in harmony with me, never on exactly the same page. Sometimes I wondered if I was seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Maybe there was a glitch in my brain. But the cause didn't matter. All that mattered was the effect. And tomorrow would be just the beginning. pg. 10-11

It was there, sitting in the lunchroom, trying to make conversation with seven curious strangers, that I first saw them.
They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where I sat as possible in the long room. There were five of them. They weren't talking, and they weren't eating, though they each had a tray of untouched food in front of them. pg. 18

And yet, they were all exactly alike. Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino. pg. 18

But all this is not why I couldn't look away.
I stared because their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful. They were faces you never expected to see except perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine. Or painted by an old master as the face of an angel. pg. 19

His fingers were ice-cold, like he'd been holding them in a snowdrift before class. But that wasn't why I jerked my hand away so quickly. When he touched me, it stung my hand as if an electric current had passed through us. pg 45

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
Trade Paperback, 401 pages, including notes and index
Ballantine Books, 2001
ISBN-13: 9780449005613
very highly recommended

Synopsis from cover:
He was a cultural icon. A world-class athlete. A champion who triumphed over terrible handicaps to become a legend of the racetrack. No other racehorse has rivaled Seabiscuit's fame or his sway over he nation's imagination. Now Laura Hilldenbrand unfolds the spellbinding story of this marvelous animal, the world he lived in, and the men who staked their lives and fortunes on his dazzling career. A riveting tale of grit, grace, luck, and an underdog's stubborn determination. Seabiscuit is an American classic.
My Thoughts:

I'm not sure why I haven't read Hillenbrand's book before this. It could be due to the fact that I watched a PBS show on Seabiscuit after her book came out and just never felt compelled to go ahead and read it. That was a mistake.... and Hillenbrand has the awards and accolades to back up any and all recommendations to read Seabiscuit. Let me make it clear that I have no interest in horse racing and I still enjoyed Seabiscuit very much. What Hillenbrand has given us in Seabiscuit is a slice of life during a certain period in American history, and the story of a group of misfits and an underdog. Hillenbrand does a wonderful job writing this nonfiction account in such a manner that it is just as compelling as any fictional novel. Very Highly Recommended - one of the best

On a personal note my Grandpa loved horses. He had models of horses lined up on top of the buffet in my grandparents dining room. I believe he even had a print of Seabiscuit among his horse pictures. I can remember playing games with him that involved rolling dice. While the specific game is lost to my memory, there is one thing that I will always remember. As he shook the dice, Grandpa always yelled "Come on, Seabiscuit!" That is where a true cultural icon is found, in the oral history of a family. My grandfather was born 3/18/1897 and passed away on 9/16/92. He served in WWI, in the navy. He gave me the scarf he wore with his Navy uniform, all of his Horatio Alger books, and the impulse to yell "Come on, Seabiscuit!" whenever I roll dice.


The subject of the most newspaper column inches in 1938 wasn't even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit.
In the latter half of the Depression, Seabiscuit was nothing short of a cultural icon in America, enjoying adulation so intense and broadbased that it transcended sport. pg. xviiii

They had come from nowhere. The horse, a smallish mud-colored animal with forelegs that didn't straighten out all the way, spent nearly two seasons floundering in the lowest ranks of racing, misunderstood and mishandled. His jockey, Red Pollard, was a tragic-faced young man who .... came to his partnership with Seabiscuit after years as a part-time prize fighter and failing jockey..... Seabiscuit's trainer, a mysterious, virtually mute mustang breaker named Tom Smith, was a refugee from the vanishing frontier, bearing with him generations of lost wisdom about the secrets of horses. Seabiscuits owner, a broad, beaming, former cavalryman named Charles Howard, had begun his career as a bicycle mechanic before parlaying 21 cents into an automotive empire. pg. xx

In the 1920s California was not the place to be for a man in a sinning frame of mind. The temperance folks had given America Prohibition, and had thrown in a ban on gambling while they were at it. A guy couldn't cavort with women, and thanks to the ban on cabaret dancing, he couldn't even watch women cavorting by themselves. If he was discovered in a hotel room with a woman not his wife, his name would appear in the section of the newspaper reserved for public shaming. pg. 12

In 1933 California agreed to legalize wagering on two conditions. First, tracks had to use the pari-mutual wagering machine instead of bookmakers.... Second, wagering would be heavily taxed. Racing was reborn. pg. 16

He [Tom Smith] had grown up in a world in which horsemanship was as essential as breathing. Born with a prodigy's intuitive understanding of the animals, he had devoted himself to them so wholeheartedly that he was incomplete without them. pg. 20

Howard was blessed with an uncanny ability to see potential in unlikely packages, and he had a cavalryman's eye for horsemen. He took one look at Smith and instincts rang in his head. He drove Smith to his barn and introduced his horses to their new trainer. pg. 29

The colt [Seabiscuit] was a descendant of the mighty Man o' War through his sire, the brilliantly fast, exceptionally handsome Hard Tack, but his stunted build reflected none of the beauty and breadth of his forebears. The colt's body was built low to the ground, had all the properties of a cinderblock. Where Hard Tack had been tall, sleek, tapered, every line suggesting motion, his son was blunt, coarse, rectangular, stationary. He had a sad little tail, barely long enough to brush his hocks. His stubby legs were a study in unsound construction, with squarish, asymmetrical "baseball glove" knees that didn't quite straighten all the way, leaving him in a permanent semi-crouch. Thanks to his unfortunate assembly, his walk was an odd, straddle-legged motion that was often mistaken for lameness. pg 33-34

The only thing Seabiscuit took seriously, aside from his beauty rest, was eating, which he did constantly, with great vigor. pg. 38

Writing this book has been a four-year lesson in how history hides in curious places.....
The story wasn't lost. It was scattered all over North America, tucked in back pockets and bottom drawers. A remarkable quantity of information came from an odd assortment of memorabilia...
My greatest source was living memory. acknowledgments, pg. 342

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Movie Dude Weekend, Contamination and Space Odyssey

Contamination (1980)
aka Alien Contamination
Actors: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn
Director: Luigi Cozzi

This Italian made science fiction exploitation film by director Luigi Cozzi freely borrows from Alien, but you can also see an influence of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and It came from Outerspace. Our version was dubbed in English. There are these extraterrestrial eggs that show up on a ghost ship in NYC. It turns out that these eggs can spray you with an acid-like goo, which in turn causes it's victims to explode. The eggs have come to Earth from Mars and are part of a plot to take over the world. A bizarre heavy breathing is played when the eggs begin to pulse and glow before they explode. Movie Dude made this heavy breathing even more odd as it was a sound effect he picked up on immediately and insisted on repeating. It's a bad movie. Trust us.

Star Od
yssey (1979)
originally called "Sette Uomini D'oro Nello Spazio"
r: Alfonso Brescia
Actors: Yanti Sommer, Gianni Garko, Richard Hatch, John Saxon

Star Odyssey is another Italian made film in which Earth is attacked by an intergalactic villain and his army of strangely Nordic looking robotic androids who all sport a bob-with-bangs haircut. This little gem wanted to be Star Wars. And oh how it tried to make that dream come true. We have aliens, who look different (think of the bar scene). There are annoying anthropomorphized robots with emotions, Tilk and Tilly. There's an evil guy wearing a black cape with a suspiciously force-like abilities. (There are several characters, who when their eyes glow, have mind control abilities.) They have light sabers, well, white shiny-sword like light sabers. Our version was dubbed in English.
Just Me and I loved Oliver's mustache. It looked like two false eyelashes glued on his upper lip at a rakish angle. We loved the fact that in our version they said "You-Foo" for UFO

Movie Dude: Why won't you give me warm fuzzies, Wonder Boy. You always give me cold pricklies.
Just me: What the...?
Movie Dude: Warm fuzzies are complements, nice things we do for people.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Noah's Compass

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
Hardcover, 277 pages
Knopf Doubleday, 2009 copyright
released Jan 5, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780307272409
Very highly recommended

From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life.

Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn't bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged.

His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is-well, something quite different.

We all know a Liam. In fact, there may be a little of Liam in each of us. Which is why Anne Tyler's lovely novel resonates so deeply.
My Thoughts:

Noah's Compass is a character study about life's missed opportunities. It basically covers a single summer, from the end of one school year to the beginning of the other in the life of Liam Pennywell, age 61 years old. Liam has been forced into early retirement from teaching. He decides to downsize and move to a new apartment. After he goes to bed on his first night in the new apartment, he wakes up in a hospital with no memory as to how he got there. Liam decides that he needs a "rememberer" - someone who can help him remember. Noah's Compass is also, in part a love story, but not the kind of love story you would anticipate.

Anne Tyler is a brilliant writer who has penned yet another winning, gentle tale that is at times bittersweet, humorous, and achingly realistic. Tyler excels at character studies that have the reader sympathizing with off-beat, awkward people and their families, who usually reside in Baltimore. Tyler has the ability to write a perfect description, dialogue, and thoughts as we follow Liam's reconciliation with the final part of his life. The title refers to the Biblical Noah, who had no compass. He was just trying to stay afloat, which is how Liam feels he has lived his life.
Very Highly Recommended


In the sixty-first year of his life, Liam Pennywell lost his job.It wasn't such a good job, anyhow. He'd been teaching fifth grade in a second-rate private boys' school. Fifth grade wasn't even what he'd been trained for. Teaching wasn't what he'd been trained for. His degree was in philosophy. Oh, don't ask. opening

Still, he would have to economize. The prospect of economizing interested him. He plunged into it with more enthusiasm than he'd felt in years - gave up his big old-fashioned apartment within the week and signed a lease on a smaller place, a one-bedroom-plus-den in a modern complex out toward the Baltimore Beltway. pg 3-4

This is it he thought. The end of the line. And he felt a mild stirring of curiosity.
Then he woke up in a hospital room with a helmet of gauze on his head. pg. 11

Any second now an explanation would occur to him. There had to be one. He had fallen down some stairs or he'd been in a car wreck. But when he searched his mind for his last available memory (which took a distressingly long moment), all he could find was the image of going to sleep in his new apartment. pg. 14

"A sixty-year-old man," Xanthe said, "who can still move all his belongings in the smallest size U-Haul."
"Next smallest," he murmured.
"Whose so-called car is a Geo Prizm. A used Geo Prizm. And who, when he gets hit on the head, nobody knows where his people are." pg. 19

The distressing thing about losing a memory, he thought, was that it felt like losing control. Something had happened, something significant, and he couldn't say how he'd comported himself. He didn't know if he'd been calm, or terrified. or angry. He didn't know if he'd acted cowardly or heroic. pg. 26

The smell of vinegar persisted. It seemed to emanate from his own skin. He asked Kitty over supper (canned asparagus soup and saltines), "Do I smell like vinegar to you?"
"I keep thinking I smell like vinegar."
She fixed him with a suspicious stare and said, "Do you know what year this is?"
"Stop asking me that!"
"Mom told me to. It's not my idea."
"Half the time I don't know what year it is anyhow," he said, "unless I take a minute to think. The years have started flying past so fast that I can't keep track. You'll see that for yourself, by and by." pg. 45

Lost - Season 5

LOST - Season 5

We've finished rewatching season five of Lost in preparation for the start of the sixth and final season.
What an incredible show!

Friday, January 8, 2010


Impact by Douglas Preston
hardcover, 364 pages
Forge, 2009 (released Jan. 5, 2010)
ISBN-13: 9780765317681
science fiction thriller
very highly recommended

Wyman Ford is tapped for a secret expedition to Cambodia... to locate the source of strangely beautiful gemstones that do not appear to be of this world.
A brilliant meteor lights up the Maine coast... and two young women borrow a boat and set out for a distant island to find the impact crater.
A scientist at the National Propulsion Facility discovers an inexplicable source of gamma rays in the outer Solar System. He is found decapitated, the data missing.
High resolution NASA images reveal an unnatural feature hidden in the depths of a crater on Mars... and it appears to have been activated.
Sixty hours and counting.
My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Impact, the new novel by Douglas Preston. It is an engaging thriller with science fiction elements. Impact is well written with great characterization and full of enough suspense to compel me to keep reading in order to find out what happens next. Wyman Ford is back, but it's okay if this is your first introduction to him. Impact is a complete story on it's own. I also enjoyed the characters of Abbey and her friend, Jackie, even as I shook my head over some of their actions. Belief is stretched a bit when Ford has 20 year old Abbey help him, but they made a great team. You can whip through the short chapters pretty quickly, following several storylines and the dangers Ford and Abbey face while trying to unravel what the meteorite really was. It's exciting when all the storylines come together at the end at the dramatic conclusion. This is a great thrill ride and the perfect way to spend a cold, miserable day!
Very Highly Recommended


The trick would be to slip in the side door and get the box up the back stairs without making a sound. opening

She rolled over in bed, gazing at the box. Sliding out her cell phone, she dialed. "Jackie?" she whispered. "Meet me down at the wharf at nine. I got a surprise."
Fifteen minutes later, cradling the telescope, Abbey cracked the bedroom door and listened. pg. 14

Abbey saw the sudden light before she saw the thing itself. It came from behind the church, the harbor instantly as bright as day; it streaked across the sky in utter silence, like a ghost, and then an immense sonic boom shook the pier, followed by a blast-furnace roar as the thing blazed over the ocean at incredible speed, disappearing behind Louds Island. There was a final flash of light followed by a cannonade of thunder, rolling over the ocean distances into silence. pg. 16

"....The meteorite is on one of those islands." Her fingers thumped on each one in turn as she named it: "Louds, Marsh, Ripp, Egg Rock, and Shark. We could search them in less than a week." pg. 20

"It's simple: go in, find the mine, get out. Do absolutely nothing. Don't touch the mine. We're still analyzing those gemstones - they might be extremely important."
"I have no interest in going back to Cambodia," said Ford, his hand resting on the doorknob." pg. 26-27

For a crazy moment Corso thought maybe Freeman wasn't dead after all, that the old reprobate had gone to Mexico or something, but then he noted the cancellation date, which was ten days old, and the Media Mail stamp on the box. Ten days... Freeman had mailed the package two days before his murder and it had been in transit ever since. pg. 30

Before he got rid of the drive, he'd just take a quick look at it - see what the hell Freeman was talking about. pg 33

(On a side note it seems that some of the ratings at Amazon are from people who are trying to "punish" Preston because they can't get the book on their Kindle's right away. Get a gripe, people. Don't publish bad ratings because you are having a temper tantrum. Having the book immediately available on the Kindle is not a right. It is also not fair to give a book bad ratings based on factors outside of the actual contents of the book. There also may be some people who seem to be determined to punish Preston because he's a successful author.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Price of Silence by Kate Wilhelm
Mass Market Paperback, 412 pages
Mira, 2005
ISBN-13: 9780778323389

In dire need of a job, Todd Fielding accepts the offer to work at The Brindle Times--even if she has to move to the lackluster town of Brindle. As she settles into her new home, Todd is fully prepared to adapt to the boredom of small-town life, but her preconceptions of Brindle are completely shattered when a local girl disappears. Even more shocking to Todd is the town's sheer indifference to the incident. No one--not even the police--appears particularly concerned.
When Todd looks deeper into the story, she discovers that five other girls have "run away" from Brindle under strange circumstances over the past twenty years. As she sets out to uncover the history of a town that has cloaked itself in secrecy for far too long, evidence of manipulation and cold-blooded murder begin to unravel. And Todd may be the next victim to pay the deadly price of silence.
My Thoughts:

The Price of Silence is a stand alone psychological mystery. The secret that needs to be uncovered to explain why girls are going missing in Brindle, Oregon, has roots going way back into the past and the founding of the town. While this is another solid novel by Wilhelm, I did know who the perpetrator was pretty early on. I also found it hard to believe that a small town would be so complacent about missing children. The plot did seem to drag on in a few places. There was also this inexplicable weird paranormal icy chill that occurred infrequently to some of the characters at night that played a major part of the story but then was just sort of dropped. Still, The Price of Silence was certainly good escapism. Highly Recommended


The Bend News, July, 1888
Four people perished in a fire that destroyed the Warden House last week in the town of Brindle. opening

I asked Ma who Janey was and she pinched my arm and said I must never mention that name again. pg. 9

Todd drove into the parking lot behind her town-house apartment building that sweltering afternoon in August and braced herself for the next few minutes. She knew Barney was already home; she had spotted his truck parked back in the separate section reserved for oversize vehicles. He would greet her, hope lightening his face, and she would shake her head. Then he would try to cheer her up. They spent a great deal of time trying to cheer each other up these days, and that was about as futile as her going out for yet another job interview. pg. 12

It was a long interview. Ruth Ann asked questions, and Todd answered in a straightforward way. When Ruth Ann asked what Barney’s dissertation was, Todd said, "The Cultural, Political and Religious Movements that Account for the Fluctuations in the Ascendancy of Rationalistic Belief Systems."
Ruth Ann laughed. "My God! That’s a mouthful. A philosopher, for goodness sake! I didn’t know anyone studied philosophy these days."
When Ruth Ann finally hung up, she regarded Johnny thoughtfully. "She’ll do," she said.
"Mother, be reasonable. You can’t hire someone you never even met on the basis of a phone call. And whose house are you offering a stranger?"
"As for the first part, I believe I just did," Ruth Ann said. pg 19

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Unbidden Truth

The Unbidden Truth by Kate Wilhelm
Barbara Holloway Series #8
Hardcover, 366 pages
Mira, 2004
ISBN-13: 9780778320814
highly recommended

Oregon lawyer Barbara Holloway has a reputation for taking on the most difficult cases--and winning them. But even she can't begin to anticipate the bizarre twists waiting ahead.
The large retainer offered by a client who asks for complete anonymity is not the only thing that intrigues Barbara Holloway. The defendant, Carol Fredricks, is a gifted young pianist charged with killing the manager of a piano bar. But Carol is as much of a mystery as the details of the murder for which she is accused. She can't remember anything about her life before the age of eight, and she has been having haunting nightmares about a woman she cannot identify.
Before long Barbara becomes convinced that her client is not only innocent, but is being framed by an enemy who will stop at nothing to keep the past buried. And as she unravels the stunning trail of deception, hatred and a remarkable abiding love that holds the key to the mystery of Carol Fredricks, Barbara discovers that the unbidden truth may just damn them both.

My Thoughts:

The Unbidden Truth was another excellent Wilhelm novel. This time Barbara Holloway has lost the annoying boyfriend. found in Defense for the Devil. That's a good thing. The writing is excellent and the story glides along as we follow the investigation. There are a few drawbacks to reading just two books in the series (number 4 and 8) because I can tell I'm missing some backstory that could have been helpful in puzzling out a couple relationships and characters, but that wasn't a huge speed bump because I had already been introduced to many of the main characters and it was easy to figure out the rest. While the plot had some twists, it wasn't too complex. Another great novel and a perfect book for a miserable, cold winter. I'm enjoying Wilhelm and regretting that I only have one left in my TBR stack. Highly Recommended


It was a lazy Friday afternoon, the kind of day that leads thoughts to hammocks and shade trees. Barbara Holloway stifled a yawn as she escorted her last client of the day at Martin's Restaurant to the door. August was always slow, and she had taken notes of four clients' complaints about neighbors, evil debt collectors, recalcitrant landlords. opening

Then, as Martin walked back to the kitchen, she turned to Barbara. "I know it's late and I'll be as succinct as I can. My name is Louise Braniff. I'm in the music department at the U of O, and I give private piano lessons to a few students. Also, I'm a member of a society of women. We call ourselves the Crones' Club, but officially we're the Benevolent Ladies Club. We sponsor various causes that we consider worthy. Sometimes surgery, sometimes a scholarship, or helping someone get a start in business, various things. All directed at girls or women. We want to retain you."
"To do what?"
"Defend Carol Frederick, who is accused of murdering Joe Wenzel." pg. 10

I don't think any of our group ever met Joe Wenzel. I don't know whether she killed him, but that's beside the point. She needs the best defense possible and we agreed that you could provide it, not a public defender, who is overworked and understaffed. She, of course, has no money." pg. 11

Tried and convicted by leaks, Barbara thought then. But any public defender, with a minimum of bargaining, would get her off with no more than involuntary manslaughter. And that would result in prison. Barbara shuddered to think of that magical piano player in prison, but she doubted very much if she or anyone else could do any better for her than that. pg 17

"I told them I'm your new defense attorney." She pointed to her briefcase, which had been searched. "My credentials," she said with a smile. "Of course, that can change if you kick me out, but as it stands now, that's why." pg 18

"Sure. But I have to tell you up front that I don't have any memories that go earlier than before age eight and a half...." pg. 27

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Skeletons by Kate Wilhelm
Mass Market Paperback, 2002
Mira, 378 pages
ISBN-13: 9781551667492
highly recommended

Lee Donne's family is gifted. Her mother has three doctorates, her father is an economics genius, and her grandfather is a world renowned Shakespearean scholar. Lee's own gift, if you could call it that, is an eidetic memory that seems to maintain a visual representation of everything she's ever seen. For the most part, this gift is useless; it certainly hasn't helped Lee in college, where she's just spent four years drifting from major to major, with no degree in sight.
Without a job or prospects, Lee is relieved to be housesitting her grandfather's isolated Oregon home. But her stay soon becomes a nightmare when she is tormented by strange and menacing noises at night. Emboldened by a visit from her friend Casey, Lee finds that the source of these haunting sounds is an all-too-human force--a young and well-respected man.
He knew that Lee's grandfather would be away, but what could he have been looking for? The search for answers takes Lee from the Pacific Northwest to the streets of New Orleans.
My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this mystery by Wilhelm. Yes, there were a few little details I could complain about and some unlikely events happened, but all in all it was a well written, easy to read, enjoyable novel - sheer escapism. The plot moved along quickly. If you can just sit back and not be too nit-picky while reading Skeletons for pleasure, you'll likely enjoy it. This would be a great airplane or vacation book. Highly Recommended


It was never easy being the daughter of Teresa and George Thomas Donne. That day it was harder than ever because I had to tell them I would not be graduating. I had put in my four years, but I had changed my major three times, and there weren't enough credits in any of my chosen and abandoned fields to warrant the magic piece of paper that said I was finished. Tess - she had insisted I call her that from the time I could speak - said bitterly that she had also changed her major three times but, on the other hand, had three doctorates. And Geo - George Thomas to the rest of the world - had a doctorate in economics and was adviser to presidents, kings, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and CEOs. My brother, Ben, would start his internship almost immediately after graduating from medical school in June. And my grandfather was a world-renowned Shakespearean scholar. I was an appendix in a family of brains. opening

"Tess said since I don't have anything better to do, and nowhere to go, I might as well house-sit for my grandfather." pg. 10

For the next week I assumed the role of dutiful daughter to Tess's dutiful-mother act. I listened to her lectures, to her description of my brother's graduation. I listened to exhortations about seeking professional help for my many "problems," with hints that she knew perfectly well what they were, but discretion compelled her to remain silent. pg. 17

My gift, if it could be labeled that, was an eidetic memory that seemed to retain a visual representation of things that I had seen. A glimpse of a butterfly landing on a sunflower ten years ago was like a snapshot that came to mind as if I'd just seen it. pg. 20

I slipped on a robe and started to walk through the hall, trying to locate where the noise was coming from. It kept stopping, then starting somewhere else, so faint at times that I had to hold my breath to hear it. .... I felt that someone was tracking my movements, doing something on the roof, or to it, then moving away when I got to that part of the house and starting somewhere else. Leading me by making noise. The pattering started again, but I stayed at the kitchen window. And I saw a shadow dart across one of the most dimly lit areas and vanish. pg. 34

Monday, January 4, 2010

Defense for the Devil

Defense for the Devil by Kate Wilhelm
Barbara Holloway Series #4
Mass Market Paperback, 443 pages
Mira, 1999
ISBN-13: 9781551666280
highly recommended

Attorney Barbara Holloway has taken on the sort of cases no one else wants - hopeless messes, all of them - and with the help of her father, Frank, she has pulled through each time. But even from the start, this new case is different. Mitch Arno always meant bad news for the coastal town of Folsum, Oregon. When they ran him out of town seventeen years ago, he left behind a wife with two daughters and a family that never wanted to see him again. When he returns, he brings trouble in the form of a lot of suspicious money. As Barbara attempts to counsel Mitch's wife about the money, a second form of trouble arrives: a corpse, Mitch's. And now Barbara is in a morass of conflicting interests, and the only way out could lead her straight into the arms of the devil.
My Thoughts:

This was a very satisfying legal thriller and, to my knowledge, my first Kate Wilhelm novel, or the first after many years. I'm looking forward to the next three Wilhelm books I have. (I designated January as the month to keep working through the stacks of mysteries given to me.) There were plenty of twists and turns and the plot was fairly complicated. Wilhelm is a skilled writer and I have no major quibbles there. There were a few minor details I could complain about but they hardly impacted the novel in any serious way. I would say this could be a great vacation book except the plot is full of details and people to keep track of so it's probably best read when you don't expect a lot of distractions. highly recommended


Eddie carries, you handle the paperwork. Have a shower, eat something, relax, just be sure to call this number exactly at one.
Using the name on the credit card and driver's license - R.M.Palmer - Mitch signed for two steaks, fries, beer. opening

It was four in the afternoon, muggy outside, and Barbara Holloway had been rushing for an hour and a half by the time she rang the bell at Martin's restaurant. pg. 19

"Thank you for seeing me on such short notice," the woman said. "I'm Maggie Folsum." She held out her hand. "And this is Laurence Thielman."
"Barbara Holloway," Barbara said, shaking hands first with her, then with him. pg. 21

Not hysterical, Barbara decided, studying Maggie Folsum, but either exhausted or ill. She had deep shadows under her eyes and the drawn appearance that came with sleeplessness. pg. 21

"....My house had been torn apart.
"He had ripped open mattresses, chairs, couches, dumped things out of drawers, torn clothes out of closets, broken things. Every room was a disaster." Her hands were clenched hard and her voice was vehement now. "That bastard destroyed everything he could get his hands on." pg. 25

"....When he didn't show on Monday, the company sent Trassi, the company lawyer, to get the papers and find out what was happening." pg. 27

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pirate Latitudes

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
Hardcover, 312 pages
HarperCollins, November 2009
ISBN-13: 9780061929373
highly recommended

The Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English Crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses.
In this steamy climate there's a living to be made, a living that can end swiftly by disease—or by dagger. For Captain Charles Hunter, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking, and the law of the land rests with those ruthless enough to make it.
Word in port is that the galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is awaiting repairs in a nearby harbor. Heavily fortified, the impregnable harbor is guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of the Spanish king himself. With backing from a powerful ally, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy outpost and commandeer El Trinidad, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloodiest tales of island legend, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he even sets foot on foreign shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure. . . .

My thoughts:

Pirate Latitudes is a rollicking, fun pirate story and a fast, easy read. No, it's not what you'd normally expect from Crichton, but it is a completely satisfying pirate novel that includes the historically accurate portrayal of the times that you would expect from him. A case could be made that Crichton never intended to publish this novel as is since it was found in his files after his death. Or one could speculate that perhaps he would have fleshed it out more in parts before publication. Admittedly it is not Crichton at his best. Setting all that aside, personally, I'm glad it was published. I found it immanently readable and enjoyable. Those who felt The Pirates of the Caribbean movies veered too far from reality will appreciate this pirate story of a privateer. Even when writing an entertaining pirate yarn Crichton is the standard others hope to reach. highly recommended


Sir James Almont, appointed by His Majesty Charles II Governor of Jamaica, was habitually an early riser. This was in part the tendency of an aging widower, in part a consequence of restless sleep from pains of the gout, and in part an accommodation to the climate of the Jamaica Colony, which turned hot and humid soon after sunrise. opening

As the former governor, Sir William Lytton, had warned him in London, Jamaica was "not a region burden by moral excesses." pg. 5

For a man with the gout, even a brief journey by coach over cobbled streets is agonizing. For this reason, if no other, Sir James loathed the ritual of attending each hanging. pg. 8

Undeniably, Port Royal was a wealthy town - some say it was the richest in the world - but that did not make it pleasant. Only a few roads had been paved in cobblestones, brought from England as ships' ballast. Most streets were narrow mud ruts, reeking of garbage and horse dung, buzzing with flies and mosquitoes. pg. 8

For the hundredth time, he thought to himself how much more hazardous life was in Jamaica when the commander of the garrison was a dandy and a fool, instead of a serious military man. pg. 10

"There are no pirates in Port Royal," Almont said. pg. 20

"...Therefore privateering is openly encouraged. But not piracy, Mr. Hacklett. And that is no mere quibble." pg. 22

"I have heard it," Hacklett said. "Furthermore, I have heard he is a murderer, scoundrel, whoremonger, and a pirate."
At the word "pirate" Hunter's arm flicked out across the table with extraordinary speed. It fastened in Hacklett's hair and plunged his face into his half-eaten mutton. Hunter held it there for a long moment.
"Dear me," Almont said. "I warned him about that earlier. You see, Mr. Hacklett, privateering is an honorable occupation. Pirates, on the other hand, are outlaws. Do you seriously suggest that Captain Hunter is an outlaw?" pg. 39-40

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Plague Zone

Plague Zone by Jeff Carlson
book 3 of Plague Year series
Mass Market Paperback, 318 pages
Penguin group, December 2009
ISBN-13: 9780441017997
science fiction

After surviving the machine plague and the world war that followed, nanotech researcher Ruth Goldman and ex-army ranger Cam Najarro discovered that a new contagion is about to be unleashed.

My Thoughts:

Plague Zone is the third and final book in Carlson's Plague Year series (Plague Year, Plague War). They were all released right to mass market paperback editions. Yet again, you need to suspend belief and just follow the action. (How, exactly, with all the devastation, war, and end of civialization, are they managing to continue to make nanotechnology when it was so difficult to make before the first nano-plague?) This was originally supposed to be released with the title "Mind Plague" and that's what it's about: a new nanotechnology plague is released that, rather than killing people outright, effects their minds. Plague Zone is sheer escapism. Rather than list the questionable science and numerous problems with this book - and all of Carlson's Plague Year books - let me just say it's a fine airplane book. Actually, it would probably make a better movie series than it does a book. No rating. I read it to finish up the series.


Cam Najarro pushed into the fallen greenhouse with one arm, struggling through the torn sheets of plastic. opening

Less than an hour ago, ten thousand fire ants had billowed into the grrenhouse, surging through the protected area like a cyclone. The weight of the frantic people inside was enough to topple one wall. Then someone crashed against a support beam. pg. 2

Most of the survivors called it Plague Year, restarting the calendar and forgetting everything else in human history. The machine plague killed more than five billion people and left thousands of animal species extinct. Now it was Year Three. In many ways, Earth had become a different planet. The microscopic nanotech disintegrated all warm-blooded life below ten thousand feet, where it self-destructed. What remained of the ecosystem was beyond repair. There were only reptiles, amphibians, and fish left to whittle down the exploding insect populations. pg. 7

The war had ended fifteen months ago, but the combatants on all sides were exhausted. There were shortages of fuel, medicine, and tools. They had to deal with the bugs and widespread crop death. pg. 9

Then someone screamed from Allison's direction, a high boyish shriek....
Jefferson was under attack. pg. 18

Nanotech, Ruth thought. Nothing else spread so fast. pg. 23
If they survived the night, even if they sealed this place in concrete and built a heavy fortress to contain her home, Ruth knew they could never stay. The villiage needed to be permanently abandoned. pg. 32