Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Club - May 2015 Reading List

I got a lot of books finished this month. There were some easy reads.

Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton
This was the best selling novel in the US in 1923. I got it for free for my Kindle afrom Amazon. In the early 1920s some doctor was pushing a treatment (the Steinach treatment) for reducing the effects aging which involved heavy doses of radiation to the sexual organs. This book is about a 58-year-old woman (Mary) who took the treatment in Europe and reduced her apparent age to about 20. She returns to New York after a many years absence and everyone thinks she is her own daughter. The book has a lot to say about growing old (when you're rich, as are all the characters in the book) and the irresponsibility of youth. Mary, who thought she was above such things, falls in love with a 30 something New York newspaper columnist. I thought the book was pretty good. It was made into a silent movie with a very young Clara Bow as one of the irresponsible youths. You can see it on YouTube if you want. The author apparently took the treatment and claimed it worked but Steinach and his treatment today, are barely a footnote in history.

The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson
A 'near future' novel which takes social networking a bit beyond FaceBook. A scientist discovers that people can be grouped into 12 categories, which he called Affinities. In order to join one you have to take a series of tests to determine which Affinity you belong to. If you get chosen, you find yourself aligned with a group of people who, while not exactly clones of you, are very much like you in ideas and how you feel about things,. Gradually the Affinities begin to mean more to the people in them than their own families or countries. It wasn't too bad.

How We Got to Now: Six Inventions That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson
Pretty interesting. The six inventions are glass, clocks, refrigeration, sound reproduction, cleanliness and standardized time. He makes a lot of connections between what seem to be unrelated events. For example, he traces how the invention of the printing press lead to the discovery of the moons around Jupiter. The printing press lead to cheaper books being printed, which lead to more people reading, which lead to the improvement in eyeglass technology to help people to read better, which lead the the development of better lens making equipment, which lead to the development of telescopes.

The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy
My daughter, who is in charge of the graphic novels section of our local library, got me to read this. The premise is that there are giant sea monsters (sort of like large scale mermen) who periodically rise up out of the ocean and destroy civilization. The art work was pretty good but the story was almost impossible to follow.

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter
Another 'near future' novel, maybe 75 years from now. Intellegent robots have just about taken over most jobs. Humans treat robots as slaves, paying them poorly, barely enough to buy the electricity they need to run themselves. The story concerns a guy (Eliot), a robot salesman, who falls in love with a female robot. Because she doesn't have a steady employer, and mostly works freelance, she has even less legal protection than most robots. One day she is grabbed and broken up for parts. Eliot spends the rest of the book trying to find her parts and put her back together. Long before the end of the book I lost interest in Eliot's quest but still read it to the end. It wasn't worth the effort.

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen
Gerritsen, who is a doctor, specializes in stories about women medical practitioners. This book is part of her Rizzoli & Isles series which was made into a TV show. I'd read a couple of them before but had forgotten about them. Rizolli is a woman detective in Boston and Isles is a medical examiner. She goes to a pathologist conference in Wyoming (sounds like a fun time), hooks up with an old college chum and his friends for a weekend ski trip after the conference. After stupidly taking some wrong turn on the way to the sky resort they break down on a back road during a blizzard (hence the title). The whole story is set up as some religious cult in the backwoods killing off it's followers and in the last chapter or so turns into something else. It wasn't a bad read (actually an audio CD) but the twist ending left me cold (so to speak).

The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack
This book, the Trichter book above and the next book, I read about on the science fiction website They sounded interesting and I even asked my library to buy a couple of them. All were disappointing. This started off interesting about a guy, a painter, who would get intensely detailed dreams about some past event and then paint beautiful pictures depicting the dreams. It turned into a preposterous book about reincarnation and four people who kept being born together over the past 10,000 years. Skip this one.

Impulse: Light Ship Chronicles Volume One by Dave Bara
 This looked like it would be a good military science fiction story. It wasn't as good as I hoped. The world building was hard to follow. Since the motivation of most of the characters depended on understanding how the space spanning civilization got to be the way it was, the story got hard to follow. Also, some of the main characters, who are supposed to be officers in the space navy, acted more like teenagers on a school trip. Maybe this was supposed to be a YA book but it wasn't identified as such. I don't know how many more volumes there will in this series but I won't be reading them.

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