Recent Reading - 2015


Click the occasional spoiler buttons only if you wish to see plot-revealing material.



Die Trying
Lee Child

While I enjoyed the book, the second published in the Jack Reacher series, I think it has the shakiest premise of the Reacher novels that I've read. The plot turns on a kidnapping. The victim of the kidnapping is Holly Johnson. Who she "is" is the reason the plot is supposed to hold together. Looking back, I don't think it quite worked. Holly is a great character, the other people act logically in their characters up to a point. I just don't think Holly turns out to be important enough to ultimately warrant the reaction to her kidnapping. I liked Reacher, he revealed some new flaws to his character and added some good depth to it, too. Being the weakest Reacher does not diminish my recommendation that much. The book moves along with one disaster clambering to be on the heels of the problem just overcome. I think the plot would have bothered me more if I had read this book second. As it is, I am almost up to date with the whole series.



The Enemy
Lee Child

Reacher is a special unit MP major in the army. He's transferred to a new post suddenly just before the 1990 new year. The posting looks to be very quiet, but that doesn't happen. Dead bodies begin to pile up quickly and the army faces a new era with the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Jennifer Foehner Wells

When I read a book in a single day, it means I'm really enjoying it.

The main character is no "plain Jane." She reluctantly signs on to a mission to the asteroid belt beyond Mars as a linguist because there is an alien spacecraft there which may or may not be derelict.

Unlike some, well, being honest, MOST science fiction, this novel does not shy away from the tensions of a mixed gender crew as they travel for the seemingly endless months needed to reach the Target. The tension isn't handled in either a crude or a sappy way. It seemed "honest." The rest of the action is also very well written.

I am looking forward to the next book by Jennifer Wells. If it extends this story, all the better. Either way I'm eager to join the adventure.
Highly Recommended


East of Eden
John Steinbeck

Steinbeck tells the multi-generational story of the Hamiltons and Trasks who interact during the late 1800s and early 1900s in the Salinas Valley in California. The characters grabbed me, perhaps because Steinbeck, himself, is a member of the Hamilton family and knew at least some of the book's people while he was growing up. Steinbeck narrates, but barely appears in the pages of the novel. The people of the book were alive for Steinbeck and he makes them live for me, too.

Even so, there are no punches pulled. Some characters soar and others sink as humans are apt to do. Love and hate are frequently mixed and there are winners and losers at all sorts of levels.

I think my "favorite" character is that of Lee, the longtime servant of Adam Trask who is probably considered the central character of the book. Lee develops throughout the book, becoming a kind of cement, holding the elements of the story in his grasp and helping to guide the other characters through their trials and tribulations.

I was frequently washed over by emotion while reading. Triumphs and tragedies shared responsibility for that.

This book is among my all-time favorites.
Highly Recommended


The Romanov Prophesy
Steve Berry

The Russians have decided to find the closest relative of Tsar Nicholas II whose whole family was killed during the bolshevic revolution of 1918. A commission has been established to find the most suitable candidate to be crowned the new Tsar of all Russia. Miles Lord, a lawyer from Atlanta and his boss have been hired to provide international oversight of the process. Miles is searching the archives and comes across documents suggesting one or more children of Nicholas survived. When Miles is almost killed by gunmen, an international chase begins.


The Mote in God's Eye
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Humanity has spread across part of the galaxy. War has driven some systems into total isolation and drastic decline. Second round exploration is beginning to reconnect the far-flung outposts of human life. Lord Rod Blaine, captain of the Imperial ship McArthur, is ordered to deal with a fast-approaching ship from Murcheson's Eye. Is it an attacking human ship? No records of humanity show any colony located there. Could it be an alien ship?

Niven and Pournelle combine high quality space opera with very thoughtful exploration of what it means to try to communicate with aliens.
I re-read this book for the IBDoF reading group. I'm very glad I did.
Highly Recommended


Little Brother
Cory Doctorow

Marcus is a gamer, online and on the streets. He's prone to skip out of school to be somewhere else early. Mostly he gets away with it. But, while he and his team are out to play a round of Harajuku Fun Madness, a live action role-playing game, terrorists attack his city, San Francisco. Homeland Security rushes in. Nothing stays the same.

Privacy, security, citizen responsibility and some very clear explanations of technology are all positive elements of this all-too-realistic novel.

I read the hard cover, but Doctorow has also released the book in several free electronic formats by way of his website
Highly Recommended


Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
Lois McMaster Bujold

Ivan Xav Vorpatril, is safely out of the direct succession behind Emperor Gregor. He can concentrate on two things, work and picking up pretty girls. Cousin By drops in and causes work and pleasure to get uncomfortably mixed together.
Highly Recommended


A Calculated Life
Anne Charnock

Jayna isn't like her co-workers. She's much smarter. But she works hard to make them look good. She isn't unhappy, but not really "satisfied" either. Spare time gives her the chance to apply her exceptional analytical skills to finding out what would satisfy her.

This is Anne Charnock's first novel. I am looking forward to her next, and I do hope she will write more about the same late 21st century world.
Highly Recommended


A Wanted Man
Lee Child

Jack Reacher's broken nose does not keep him from trying to hitchhike out of Nebraska, and it only takes an hour and a half until he gets a ride heading east, with his eventual goal the state of Virginia. Unfortunately, the ride isn't what it looks like and Reacher gradually realizes he's in trouble. Eventually he's deeply involved with criminals, local county sherrifs, FBI agents, terrorists and Homeland Security.

As usual, Reacher novels do not need to be read in order. This one stands on its own very well.


The Computer Connection
Alfred Bester

Lots of intriguing ideas mix into the story of the main character, Grand Quignol (Guig), who is effectively immortal and part of a group of others who call themselves...the group. Membership includes lots of famous people from history from around the world, including H.G. Wells. It isn't easy to become a member. First, you have to die and then miraculously survive. My favorite group member is Hic-Haec-Hoc, the Neanderthal. The book is mostly about the events which surround a new member, one who establishes a connection to the largest of the computers in the world, the Extro computer, making the computer-human interface one of the book's topic to be explored in science fiction.

Other themes appear in the book, including time travel, the Internet of Things (the machine network), hovercraft, linear accelerators, personal helecopters, states/cities run by corporations, space freighters, a colony on the asteroid Ceres, the shift of language over time, and extraterrestrial life. They are all here, enough subjects to support a dozen books. Bester didn't write that many science fiction books, so he may have wanted to get his ideas out so others could explore them for him.


One Shot
Lee Child

If you have seen the movie, you should read the book. The story follows a similar sequence, but isn't the same story. The movie did credit to the book, but changed it effectively so Tom Cruise could play Jack Reacher, even though Reacher is 250 pounds and 6 feet five. The movie took place in Pittsburgh and used the features of that city. The book takes place in an unspecified city in southern Indiana. There are more differences you should enjoy uncovering.

It does not really seem to matter what order the books have, either for publication or for reading order. Child tells enclosed stories in the context of Reacher's life. Child can reveal a new piece of back story from Reacher's time in the army without having to refer to another book for support of his behavior. It isn't necessary to reuse pieces from his career, either. Reacher was in the army for a long time, effectively an endless source of new detail to use in more books.

I am looking forward to them.
Highly Recommended