Mother Nature has a deathgrip on the Far West this week, with a forecast high of 112 deg. F. for my neck of the woods today, after 109 on sunday, 104 saturday, and 101 friday. The high school jazz camp closed out Friday evening with a gig at the local pizzeria, playing in an outdoor courtyard. Amazingly, only one kid got sick. The crowd plowed through about 20 gallons of ice water, along with lots of beer and 'za.
This miserable weather did not stop me from my appointed task, however. I know how much this post means to all of you...
So, yea, I finished a book this month. Actually, I finished two books: Last month's selection as well as this one's. Both just so happened to have been co-written by Larry Niven. I guess I'm on a kick.
This month's pick is one of the prequels to Niven's 1970 classic, Ringworld. Juggler of Worlds was the second of a sequence of prequels. Luckily, it did not matter. This book stands on its own as an entertaining, well-crafted and complete story, particularly if you have not read a number of Niven's prior Known Space works with which this one overlaps/intersects (for a decidedly less positive interpretation, see this capsule Kirkus review). I think we've pretty well established that I am easily entertained.
Anyway, I found the adventures of paranoid-schizophrenic genius superspy Sigmund Ausfaller to be quite entertaining. Earth, for not-well-explained reasons, suffers from what its world government regards as severe overcrowding and some fascistic governmental interference in individual liberties, despite possession of FTL technologies that enable interstellar colonization. Interspecies politics and machinations are the focal point of this volume, but it is not nearly so deadly dull as that might seem.
What are you reading?
The oldest trick in the literary book is to re-write somebody else's story. And of course, it helps to steal from really good stories.
This month's selection, James Lovegrove's The Age of Odin, is the third in his non-trilogy threesome of godpunk/military scifi retellings of ancient mythological stories. Here, it is Ragnarök with M16s and RPGs.
I was suckered into purchasing this number by the back-cover blurb from The Guardian (actually about another of the three books), "The kind of complex, action-oriented SF Dan Brown would write if Dan Brown could write."
Seriously. I was so amused that the publisher (Solaris Books) had the balls to take such a swipe at another writer on the cover of the book that I gave this one a chance. Now that I have, I will offer my own version of the plug: "The kind of pulpy, shallow action-oriented SF that Neil Gaiman would write if he were 15."
Ok, that's a bit harsh. I found this book mildly entertaining, if derivative (some of the ideas appear to be lifted from -- err, homages to -- Gaiman's fantastic American Gods; in both, the protagonists meet up with more-than-he-seems-to-be old man after a car accident; Gaiman's kills the protagonist's wife; Lovegrove's kills his ex-army buddy; etc. etc.). Lovegrove isn't overly interested in developing either story or character, but he seems to be pretty good at writing blood-and-gore fight scenes. Pretty much the whole book is fight scenes.
This is beach reading, perfect for a teenage boy who has already seen Thor and X-Men: First Class, waiting eagerly for Green Lantern to open. Disposable, largely devoid of any effort to raise Big Ideas, and somewhat hampered by a rather clumsily done development of the bad guy (Loki) as a thinly veiled Sarah Palin. Oooh, so topical! But it reads quickly for its 585 pages. And, perhaps most importantly, it got me in the mood to start George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Continue reading First Monday Book Day: The age of recycling
Programming Note: This is a Very Special Episode of First Monday, as it features contributions from both bS and Daneekas Ghost. Enjoy!
Man, these are tough times around the Nation. Tough times require tough action. Fortunately, I chose a book this month that fits the times -- a book about whiskey.
I picked up a hardback copy of Kate Hopkins' 2009 book, 99 Drams of Whiskey: The Accidental Hedonist's Quest for the Perfect Shot and the History of the Drink for a song at my local used book store recently.
What is whiskey, you ask? Why, whiskey is mediocre beer made over into nobility.
If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.
--Noah S. Sweat, Jr., 1952
I'd dare say that we need a song in our hearts right about now.
Continue reading First Monday Book Day: Dram-atic Adventures