Saturday, October 3, 2015


It been a while since I've read science fiction, it used to be the bulk of my reading when I was a teen, so I was in the library thinking of what to get and I came across the SciFi section and decided to pick something up. I don't know Jack McDevitt, and frankly I was a little worried that this would turn out to be a horror story, but I was pleasantly surprised. chindi is what I would call old school SciFi, tracking a space adventure with a group of explorers in a kind of Odyssey retelling. Jason and his Argonauts are replaced by Priscilla 'Hutch' Hutchins and a group of amateur adventurers who are set on making first contact with intelligent alien life and have hired Hutch to captain their ship.

Hutch is similar to Jason, in that Jason leads, or captains, the Argonauts on their adventures, but the Argonauts are not just a crew. They aren't the invisible minions of say, the crew of the Nautilus, the Argonauts are somebodys. They have their own histories, and they make their own adventures. Hutch is in a similar position, she's the captain, but also the hired help, so her role as leader is tenuous at best, and when the crew wants to answer the Siren call, the best she can do is advise against it. don't. stop. danger.

This is where the tension lies in the story. As a good person, you can only help those who'll help themselves. And when they don't... you do your best to rescue their asses.

chindi is a great odyssey story, and a fantastic 'wouldn't-it -be-great-if' story. Well written, easy and fun to read. And you can't help smiling a little (in your horror) when you say, Oo, that's gonna leave a mark.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

assassination bureau

The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. is an unfinished Jack London novel, completed by Robert Fish, using London's notes. In the hard cover I read, London completed 122 pages of the 179 page total. London's notes about the conclusion of the story are located in the end matter of the book. Its interesting to see them after reading Fish's ending, I have a feeling that Fish did a better job than to simply follow London's notes to closely. I get the feeling that London didn't finish this story because he wasn't real clear on how to end it. Fish basically iginores most of what London jotted down and created a pretty good ending on his own for the most part.

The Assassination Bureau was made into an English movie in 1969 starring Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, and Telly Savalas. Don't think I've ever seen that, but I found it while looking for a James McAvoy/Angelina Jolie movie with a similar theme that I thought might have been inspired by this book. Wanted isn't inspired by this book however, rather its based on a Mark Millar comics series of the same name. But who knows, maybe Millar was inspired by London?

The story follows the story of the founder of the Assassination Bureau, his niece, and her lover. These three make an odd triangle and the high-jinks soon ensues. The story revolves around whether or not the idea behind the Assassination Bureau is a net good or net bad for the world and society. The discussion becomes pretty philisophical, and I think that's really to point. Once London got to the point where he had established his view in teh dialog, I'm not sure he knew where to go from there.

An interesting literary bit of history, but little more than that in the end.

Sunday, September 27, 2015



Perched high above in velvet lair,
With stars like diamonds in her hair.
Glimm'ring dew drops, in hallowed lace,
Shimmer and shine about her face.

Her raiment dusky, luminous gray;
Edged with azure in light of day.
Delicate jacquard embroidered gown.
Our hope, and sight, when sun is down

Ever in eons; evermore!
A sign of love in ageless yore.
Longing pursuit of fiery mate,
Locked within our earth's embrace.

Glory, surely, in thy mien,
From oceans blue and forests green.
Ever there is turned her gaze,
But thoughts of Brightness fill her days.

Blissful is earth in his rapture,
Vies ever her love to capture.
But by our earth, her heart's not won,
Mate of her soul's within the sun.

Ever, anon, love pirouettes,
Just out of reach, and soon begets,
Tumult of fury, jealous rage,
Blinding earth for age upon age.

A plan is hatched in tortured mind,
Result of temper less than kind.
Reckless is he whom love has scorned.
Prudent thought now fettered and shorn.

"Attack!" he cries, with sundering seas,
"Lasting darkness, for thine and thee!"
Blackened veil o'er her face then crept.
In ageless exile then, she wept.

Only after foul deed was done,
Did she her warlike armor don.
Raiment gray was replaced in flood,
With wrathful, churning, tempest blood.

Silent screaming her battle cry,
Enraging champions from on high.
Fiercely they lit about her face,
Demanding redress for disgrace.

Her darkness trumpets their advance.
About her crown, formations dance.
If her honor they can't restore,
Gauntlet is thrown. They march to war.


Slowly moves the war of sky
In time not meant for men.
Fleeting crashes the tumults cry,
As men's eyes perceive heaven.

A thousand years within a day the mighty warriors lean.
A thousand more outside our time, with weapons yet unseen.
A moment more--the earth resigns--in black night calls "Parlay!"
A treaty drawn. A wrong redressed. Her face has won the day.

From her countenance, grudgingly,
The shadow slides away.
Retreating sad, but lovingly,
Earth has lost the day.

When battle gear has served its need
Blood then fades to gray.
Earth weeps now in insatiable greed,
Though she agrees to stay.

In dusky raiment again she's donned
More brilliant than afore.
Love's sparkling light upon her mons,
From he whom she adores.

Hung high above, in velvet lair
With diamonds in her crown.
Naught else on earth or in the air
More lovely than her gown.

Wisps of dew create hallowed lace,
Whilst stars shine about her face.
Glorious lantern in night's sky,
Who's love for sun will never die.

Verily now her vict'ry won,
Glory restored, her liege the sun.
With inert cruelty she now taunts
Her scorned lover, who's dreams she haunts.

A thousand, thousand years he'll grieve,
And about the sun a tapestry weave,
With endless streams of love's lost tears,
In avarice dance throughout the years.

-- --

I wrote this is October 2004 for the lunar eclipse then. Originally posted on Seemed like a good time to re-post. Enjoy the eclipse tonight everyone!

Monday, September 21, 2015

secondhand souls

I get a kick out of Christopher Moore. I've read a bunch of his books since my little sister gave me a copy of Lamb a number of years ago. But I haven't read everything. And that fact just bit me in the ass while reading his latest: Secondhand Souls. Why? Because it's a sequel to an earlier novel that predates my interest in Moore's work, namely A Dirty Job.

So do you have to have read A Dirty Job in order to enjoy this one? No, would it be more enjoyable if you did? I don't know. see above Would I recommend reading the first one first? you're really not paying attention here, are you? listen, I can't do this by myself

Christopher Moore is delight to read. You can read me gush about him in my previous book reviews, which you'll find links to in the body of this review if you're interested, but I'll spare you that pleasure now. As far as this story goes, it's a little creepy--macabre even--but in a funny way.* Moore has taken an interesting view of death and its machinations, it's very workings, which he has absurdly assigned to men, as if the whole enterprise was outsourced to private contractors, to save tax money or something. Almost as if God said, hey I gave you the Garden of Eden and you screwed it up, now we got this whole death thing, why don't you just take care of that yourself.

Who comes up with stuff like that? Okay, there are probably plenty of crazed lunatics and under-medicated conspiracy-theorists that come up with crap like that every day, but what kind of maniac turns it into a novel?

That's right. My hero.

Oh, and before we go, does the book jacket with the creepy skeleton-faced girl glow-in-the-dark and creep you out even more when you shut off your bedside lamp the first night you read this? Of course it does.

Read this book.

Yes, yes, read the other one first. I thought we covered that

* Funny 'ha-ha' or funny 'strange?' Yeah, both.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

fifth gospel

I didn't read Ian Caldwell's last book, The Rule of Four, but it apparently did very well. I tried to look it up in my library but they only have one copy and it was out. Presumably because they wanted to do what I wanted to do after finding his new book on the shelf; read the first one. But I checked with the librarian and there was no information about this book being a follow up or sequel to The Rule of Four.

Caldwell's latest book is called The Fifth Gospel, and it has apparently taken him something like 10 years to write. I think his previous publisher may have even given up on him, but this effort seems like it may have been worth the wait. I enjoyed it.

Caldwell takes a close look at the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, from a very interesting perspective; through the eyes of an Eastern Catholic priest, a religion that bridges the gap between the two faiths, which split about 1000 years ago. This Eastern or Greek Catholic, is the son of a Eastern Catholic father--this faith allows their priests to marry--is a priest himself, and his brother broke from the family tradition and has become a Roman Catholic Priest.

The kicker is; they grew up in, and still live in Vatican City, during the last years of John Paul II tenure as Pope.

At its core, this is a story of intrigue within Vatican City, and a mystery revolving around the split and current efforts to reunify the churches, ancient relics, and what it means to be Greek Orthodox vs. Roman Catholic, and how some of the higher ups in each of these traditions may still sting from the split a thousand years ago.

Its about family, brothers, marriage, love, church politics, friendship, faith, loyalty and betrayal, lost and redemption. You know, and murder.

This story swirls with activity, cloak and dagger, mystery about the churches and their histories, and is sprinkled with the fun and interest f what a day in the life of an inhabitant of one of the smallest countries in the world may be like. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Read this book.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

water knife

Paolo Bacigalupi's new book is called The Water Knife and I read this one while I was on vacation last week, just after reading Cloud Atlas. I was thinking about this story while I was writing about Cloud Atlas because they share some elements, so they made great back-to-back reads.

Bacigalupi's last book was also set in a future that isn't as warm and fuzzy as our current era, but it is certainly a possible future if we aren't more careful about global warming and natural resource management. Message received Paolo.

I wasn't sure what I was going to be reading about, as I didn't even read the jacket when I picked this up. I recognized the writer's name from The Wind-up Girl from a few years ago, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Water Knife didn't disappoint. I didn't put this one down very much and finished it pretty quickly.

Bacigalupi looks at the potential future of the western states after the water crisis has gotten so bad that states rights and water rights begin to trump federal mandates and the west gets wild again. Just like his last book, Bacigalupi has clearly spent some time thinking through his scenarios from all the angles so that the story he's built doesn't have any holes. From the violence people are willing to commit to get or just maintain their water supply, to the government mismanagement, to the day-to-day people who don't look at waste water the same any more, the desert takes on a new meaning, and the tragedy of an artificial desert oasis like Las Vegas or Phoenix takes on an ominous, if not perverse, aspect.

This book walks a careful line between novel and soft SciFi. My advice? Keep an eye on Paolo Bacigalupi. And read this book.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

cloud atlas

Cloud Atlas is probably fairly well known as a movie--I'm sure I've seen bits of it but after reading the book I'm sure I didn't see the movie. I'm also not sure how you'd make a movie from this story but I can see how some of the confusing parts might be simplified with the addition of visual clues.

Cloud Atlas is almost a short story collection, held together by more than a common theme. It's more of a story arc--maybe story loop is s better term--that runs though time connecting up various characters from each along the way. Characters that can almost feel these other characters from afar.

What was fun was Mitchell's shifts in style and language according to the time and place these segments occur, from the past out into the dystopian future. A future that I think helped lay the groundwork for The Bone Clocks. A future that I can see similarities in in Paolo Bacagalupi's work, incidentally. What I think they share is a keen awareness of the state we are currently in and they both are forecasting bleak futures of our own making. 30 years ago dystopian futures were made of nuclear winters or planetary subjugation by aliens. A younger breed of writers sees environmental disaster as our undoing. These two see more specific losses at the hands of corporate mismanagement of the environment and our natural resources.  Death by mega-corp, now with 100% less calories. I made a little joke

Cloud Atlas is an engaging blend of novel and soft-SF. It's not a lazy read, it takes some attention and I like that. A friend who's also read it suggested I see the movie now, so I'll look for it at the library.

I borrowed a few books fro the library for vacation this past week, so I have one or two more books coming up soon.

Monday, August 10, 2015


Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

I didn't read this when it was all the rage, and I may not have read it all if a copy hadn't showed up in the library book sale. I'm glad it did; this book was great. Funny, exciting, well thought out, and really entertaining.

The Wizard of Oz is such a huge part of pop culture now, that I wasn't sure where there was to go with a story like this, and then go on and write more of them. There are a few more of these stories Maguire wrote as follow ups to this, right? I think I heard on the radio some time in the last year or so that he's written the last one. Its called Get me out of here! or something,* which makes it pretty clear that he needs to write something else before he hangs himself.

What I loved about this story is how Maguire took the bombast from the movie and used it as a stepping off point. The characters are larger than life, and just packed with personality and personality traits--no one does, or thinks, anything thing small. They are all either in or out, and when they're in, they're in all the way. He also put a lot of thought into the little idiosyncrasies in the film, and gave them real, fully flushed-out reasons for being. They're so convincing that I found myself saying, oh, that's why.

Maguire also looks at what the definition of good and evil is; and what it means to different people. The right vs. wrong, good vs. evil plot line in the movie is taken apart and put back together through the eyes of various people in the story, and it quickly became evident that its not so black and white.

Illustrated by Douglas Smith.

Read this book.

* Its called Out of Oz

Sunday, August 9, 2015

bone clocks

The Bone Clocks is a novel by David Mitchell, the guy who wrote Cloud Atlas. I say that like I read Cloud Atlas, but I didn't. I think I saw the movie however, or maybe parts of it. This book was in the quick picks section at my library and it looked like it was right up my alley. Yeah, it was.

I liked this book from the first page, and I enjoyed right through. I stayed up at night reading; I stopped what I was doing on the weekends and took this book and a coffee out to the yard; I lingered over breakfast for too long each morning. I'm not a fast reader, and this is a dense book.

What I especially liked about it, is the in depth examinations of the characters. Many writers would give a few paragraphs, or even a few lines to set up a character and then plow ahead with the storyline, infilling bits about the character as they go. Good writers show us what the character is like, rather than tell us. Mitchell shows us by taking the time to write the story from each character's perspective, and through their eyes we see the multiple facets of the story as well as get a much better feel for that characters themselves, and in the end its what the story is about; these people.

There is a Fantastic aspect to this story, but its not overwhelming. Its the axis about which the plot revolves, but its just the axis, and not the entire storyline. Mitchell has take the time to think about what life would be like in a world like the one he's created, and we get to inhabit it with him. It runs parallel to are, and maybe just 20 feet to the left of us. Its like many stories of this ilk that imagine another world, or even a secret society within our own, that moves along with us without our knowledge. I'll keep my eye out for more David Mitchell.

Read this book.