Recent Reading - 2013
Gardens of the Moon
I am going to guess that this book is written to emulate the experience of Role Playing Games such as Dungeons and Dragons.
Guilds of assassins and thieves, High mages (and low?), eldring clans, former gods, ascendants, dragons and possessed mortals battle against or in defense of a city under attack by the Empire.
I wish I could have read this book with "swift alacrity" as the author wrote on page 185 of my paperback edition. Instead, I read in short bursts. Nonetheless, the book is finished a day ahead of time, and here are my thoughts delivered with brisk and cheerful readiness (alacrity), though perhaps with a fell intent.
The author used a rich slurry of language, but too often, words reached out from the page, gripping my thoughts enough to halt my reading. Erickson writes as if with a thesaurus at hand, but perhaps too hastily used.
"...brought him round with a swift alacrity..."
alacrity: brisk and cheerful readiness.
Is slow alacrity possible?
Why would the alchemist, Baruk, startled, having just finishing with a secret document spin around with cheerful readiness, especially when a Great Raven was the visitor tapping at the window, a window at which nobody could appear without warning...?
Then the raven, Crone, pushed against the glass pane and it first bulged before breaking.
How big would a pane of glass need to be in order to visibly bulge before breaking?
Later, in another scene, "light flowed through the window" --- as if anything moving 186,000 miles a SECOND could be seen as a flow. Well, this is a fantasy, so maybe light works differently in the Malazan Realm. And, I suppose, if you think of light as waves, well, that brings water to mind, and water does flow along, so...
Will Erickson have a more secure command of language in the later books of the series?
Will I read through the series to find out?
Recommendation: To each his own.
Noah's Rainy Day
Christmas Eve interrupted by kidnapping. Liv Bergen has finished the Quantico training and is getting good a working with Beulah who is a superb search dog. Nephew, Noah, though a victim of cerebral palsy, is a central figure and important player in this book.
Another Man's Moccasins
A young Vietnamese girl dead at the side of the road just outside a ghost town makes Longmire work hard to stay in the present as his own memories of the late 1960s Vietnam War nearly overwhelm him. Daughter Cady continues to improve.
I enjoyed this book best so far in the series of a Wyoming sherrif who still seems to have too many murders in the least populated state of the U.S.
Kim Stanley Robinson
The whole solar system is in this novel. Swan and Wahram travel from planet to planet by asteroids cleared out inside to make "terrarium" worldlets. Terraforming is the core effort, but dealing with emerging "quban" humanoid artificial intellegence is the challenge. Complex, full of ideas.
Liv Bergen has fallen for an FBI agent and is seriously considering becoming one, if they'll have her. The "Crooked Man" murders are an open wound in the FBI case files. Because a close friend may have been killed by the serial murderer, Liv gets deeper and deeper into FBI business and learns to be a dog handler as well.
I wonder when and IF Liv Bergen will get time to take a deep breath in this series.
Kindness Goes Unpunished
Walt heads to Philadelphia with Dog and Standing Bear who takes his collection of Mennonite photos to be displayed at a gallery there. He's also going to give some presentations. Walt is going to visit his daughter, Cady. Of course, the visit doesn't start off right.
Easy Rawlins is dead, or it feels that way to him. Pain, fatigue, bad dreams and resignation have him mired as this story begins. Duty, friendship, family and Mama Jo's potions drag him to his resurrection.
Mouse wants Easy to find Little Green and Easy works to find himself along the way. Easy mixes into the Los Angeles hippy culture along the way.
Death Without Company
There is no doubt in my mind that Walt Longmire lives in the busiest rural county in Wyoming. Death seems to surround him as much as the winter snows.
It does help to read these book in order. The references back to the preceding book would be confusing. I tried to jump ahead in the series and was somewhat lost. Johnson's writing style is a bit confusing, too. He writes the way people really talk, but not all of what they have said. It feels like stepping into a room of people and trying to pick up in the middle of their discussion.
And "Sancho" is "The Basco" and "Troop" and Santiago Saizarbitoria. You just have to figure out who Johnson is talking about sometimes.
The Puppet Masters
Heinlein's tightly written story of invasion by the title creatures was great when I read it as a kid. I still enjoyed it with this third or fourth reading of it over the years. But now I see it as a bit constrained by when it was written (1951). Technology hasn't moved beyond the book (there's even a phone like our current cell phone), but our understanding of the Solar system certainly has changed.
Sam, Mary and The Old Man are the only characters which get fully developed, but they are well done. Heinlein proved that good characters are the key to writing, even when the genre is science fiction.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Salander starts this third book of the "Millenium Trilogy" headed to the hospital. The book begins right where the second left off. I think that a person should read the trilogy in order. There's more gap between the first and second books, but understanding the characters might be less effective if trying to read only one of the books in the set.
I am going to miss Salander and her companions from the books. Maybe Larsson would have stopped writing about her, but we'll not know. Stieg Larsson died right after turning in the manuscripts for the trilogy according to Wikipedia.
Lot's Return to Sodom
Recovering isn't easy, even with the help of her family in her hometown because it is also time for the Motorcycle Rally in nearby Sturgis, South Dakota. The murder of her brother's girlfriend makes Liv Bergen's second story move right along with FBI agent Streeter Pierce involved in the investigation.
In the Belly of Jonah
Liv Bergen runs a limestone quarry. She has hired some summer interns from local colleges, athletes who get good workouts along with practical job experience and a decent paycheck to support college expenses. One intern is a college basketball player. She fits right into the quarry's usual crew, handling the rough work and earning their respect. Unfortunately, the intern is killed, in a spectacular fashion which brings in the FBI.
It turns out that one of the agents is a long-time friend, and Liv gets involved in the pursuit of the murderer.
Katniss Everdeen remains at the center of this final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, but is overshadowed by the effort of the rebels to unify the districts against the Capitol and take it down. It is difficult to see how she is much more than a figurehead, and the story suffers some in comparison to the first two books.
Sanford involves Lucas Davenport in the political campaign for a Minnesota US Senate seat when one candidate is accused of having child pornography on his campaign office computer. Davenport has to deal with both candidates and their security teams while murder joins the pornography as a potential campaign issue. Sometimes the good guys win.
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Jeff Kerwin tries to reconnect to his childhood in this story that tries to make psionic power into hard science. Bradley casts her hero into the mix of Darkover politics, clan loyalties and the threat of takeover by the Terran Empire.
I giggled when Jeff stepped out of the spaceship hatch and climbed down the rungs of a ladder to the spaceport surface. Given that the book is from 1964, it made perfect sense.
The Cold Dish
Walt Longmire is a county sherrif in Durant Wyoming. His small, staff face a quiet routine. An old bullet from an equally old rifle disrupts the general routine and Longmire must pull together more resources than he knows he has available to find the rifle before it gets used again.
The Cold Dish is the first of Crag Johnson's books in a series about Walter Longmire. It took me a little while to get used to the style of dialog. It may be even easier to follow as I continue with the series, something I will definitely do.
Bengal Station plays a big role in this interesting story. The station is huge, with millions of inhabitants, and bothered me as the story advanced. I wish the story had not depended so much on the huge tower.
Maine, the coast, early spring. Memories of the past invade the present and Reacher reviews mistakes from then and makes new ones.
Reacher's character gets more details added in every novel. He's the same person afterwards, but also more clear, better defined. Lee Child does a good job of preparing us readers for the next thing that Reacher must face.
Bad Boy Brawly Brown
Disfunctional families mirror the disfunction of race relations in Los Angles in the 1960s. Easy Rawlins re-enters the world of helping those who need help. Race, murder, revolutionary ideas and robbery all mix together in this fine book.
Fantasy is on the edges of every day. Some fantasy is like childrens' imaginary friends. Some happens at the margins of insanity. Some fantasy is even realized when imagination generates creativity.
This story is creepy from the first page. It doesn't stop.
Nothing to Lose
Small towns in Colorado greet Reacher as he travels west. He passes through Hope and stops to eat in Despair. He's immediately grabbed by the police and treated as a vagrant. Things get worse from there. Religion and extremism mix into this somewhat unusual Reacher story.
Space Opera with much bare flesh and some very uninhibited characters. I enjoyed it.
The key to unlimited space travel is some way to provide superluminal travel and a ready source of energy. Fergusite provides one and Plasma generators provide the other.
Good, likable heroine and a wide supporting cast with effective villains.
Bodies Left Behind
Rural Wisconsin, a couple of hours from the industrial bustle of Milwaukee and Lake Michigan becomes a grisly scene with two dead and two on the run from two killers. From there, it gets more complicated as a houseguest and county sherrif's deputy try to escape into the woods around the isolated house where two dead bodies remain
From one moment of panic to the next, this book tires out everybody but the reader. I was not tired. I was exhausted.
Riding a subway in New York City in the middle of the night should be a quiet event, but Reacher cannot help recognizing signs of impending trouble. Stepping up to help may turn out to be a very bad idea. It takes more than one day to be gone tomorrow. Bodies are left for others to clean up.
Reacher certainly isn't a "nice" guy, but his character is well developed in each book of the series. There doesn't seem to be any need to read them in order, either. It's nice to be retired so that when a book drives me forward, I can stay with it (inside 24 hours for the first time in a long time).
I'm a big fan of John Varley's work. I enjoyed this book, but felt it was not his best. The Apocalypse part of the title was true, but so was the "Slow." There was plenty of tense action and Los Angeles in the story will certainly take a l-o-o-ong time to recover. I thought way too much writing described the difficulty negotiating the streets, highways and interstates. Without a personal knowledge or a good map of the area, the geography will probably be lost on you as it was on me.
As to the apocalypse, a bit of trouble with getting any oil out of the ground starts things off, but then it is a big earthquake, a massive fire and civil breakdown that drives the Marshall family to find a safer place to survive.
Amy, a little von Neumann machine is in a kindergarten class. Graduation becomes very messy when Amy's grandmother shows up. Amy grows up fast and has to go on the run. She learns a lot about her background very quickly. Machine "life" is the theme of this engaging book.
Reacher leaves a bus and walks to a small Georgia town on a whim, looking for the story of Blind Blake, a musician who was said to die in the town. The overly beautiful town turns out to have many rotten residents. Reacher has to work his way through them and interrupt their plans while getting Blake's story.
The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas (père)
Long, enjoyable, though sometimes wandering and wordy tale of Edmund Dantes. Accused and thrown into jail, Dantes eventually escapes and inherits the fortune of the monk who befriended him in jail. The story is mainly about revenge and Dantes, as the count, works tirelessly to destroy the ones who harmed him along the way. Nobody gets spared.
[Though it took me two years, on and off, to finish, I recommend this book.
Jack Reacher, in 1997, was still in the US Army, still an MP. Murder in Mississippi, in a small town next to an Army base, needs an MP, but not in uniform. Jack gets the job and a warning that shakeup of staff is almost certain. It's his job, though, and Jack follows his code as a soldier. There are surprises as always, but not all of them are terrible. The midnight train that runs through town offers a special opportunity to Jack and the local sherrif who just happens to be a stunningly beautiful, unmarried woman.
These Reacher books really don't seem to need to be read in any particular order. I'm looking forward to my next visit to the library very much.
The Lions of Al-Rassan
Guy Gavrille Kay
Didn't finish this one. Good characters mired in too much detail about a substitute for Earth. Same places, same fundamental history, but everything with a different name: Iberian peninsula become Esperaña and Al-Rassan, close parallels with Spain and Al-Andalus (I'm told) with not-Arabs called Asharites, not-Christians called Jaddites and not-Jews called Kindaths. New names for real groups of people and there are two moons. I wish Kay had simply stuck with the story of the main characters instead of building so much false superstructure.
Not my cup of tea.
Worth Dying For
Nebraska in winter, sixty miles from the county police, Jack Reacher is passing through. Events delay his departure. The Duncan family is in charge and the farmers aren't doing well enough to take them on. The Duncans have hired former college football linemen to be their "muscle." Reacher doesn't get to leave right away and the Duncans make the mistake of treating him like a simple drifter.
What would you do if you could go back and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting President John Kennedy?
King explores the idea in a long book that benefits very well from a structure that seems more like a series of connected shorter works (novelettes or novellas, maybe). The hero can only enter the past in 1958, so he has to live through the intervening time to get close enough to the fateful date to connect with Oswald.
The most impressive thing about 11/22/63 is that King told me a fantastic love story, not John and Jackie, but Jake and Sadie.
I've read many books by Stephen King, starting way back with The Stand, but this one takes over as my favorite. It had the biggest impact on me, for sure.
The year began with a book in progress:
At only about 10% into the book, it had me hooked in. Kids (young adults) with geek skills capture some disturbing video. It's like a snuff film, but first person POV. Worse, it doesn't seem at all like acting. The video is like looking through the eyes of a murderer.
The story ramps up from there with goons and emerging connections to events from the hero's past. This is the first novel of the author. I think he's worth watching, even though the climax structure seems a bit contrived.