Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Club: April 2016 Reading List

Easy Hardwick is the beautiful star of "She Came From Beyond" a local cable access show with a similar concept to "Mystery Science Theater 3000". She's content living in a small Oregon town from where the show originates. Then she meets a guy in a science fiction chat room, has a physical affair with him and get pregnant. From there she has to contend with: her lover's crazy wife; new found wealth when her show gets picked up by the SyFi Channel; being pregnant (with twins no less); her fathers (the male gay couple who raised her) and their separation; and assorded other oddball things. Sometimes funny and sometimes sad, it's not the sort of book I normall read. But it was enjoyable.

This is the 17th book by Robert Crais and I'm sorry I didn't find him sooner. Most of them have been novels about private detectives Elvis Cole and his mysterious and seldom seen partner Joe Pike. Cole is hired to find a woman scientist who works for a munitions company. She's an expert in explosives. From the beginning the case doesn't seem right to Cole. The woman who hired him keeps their meetings and communications secret; a lead leads to an apparently abandoned house, which blows up 10 minutes after he leaves; somebody attempts to kill the police officer who had an explosives sniffing police dog associated with the case. The story was a bit convoluted but wrapped up well. Most Amazon reviews were positive but seemed to indicate this wasn't his best work. Since I liked it, I'm looking up his back catalog. I'm currently reading the first Elvis Cole novel from 1987.

This is the story of the great flu pandemic of 1918-1919. An older estimate of the deaths caused by this disease was 25 million, world wide. Current estimates range upward to 500 million. Believed by many to have originated in swine in Kansas, it struck during World War I, just as America was mobilizing to enter the war. It came in 3 waves, the worst being in the fall of 1918. How bad was it? In October, some 1400 people in Philadelphia died from it in one week. Bodies were being buried in mass graves. Barry spends the first part of the book describing the deplorable state of medicine in the US around 1900, and the singular doctors and scientists who, by the time of the pandemic, had brought American medicine to, at least, par with the best in the world. But even still, with back-breaking efforts of doctors and nurses, both on the hospital floor and in the research labs, the flu couldn't be stopped. Eventually it mutated and no longer affected potential human hosts. It took another 10 years to find the virus responsible. The author uses Philadelphia to describe many of the social effects of the pandemic.  This was of great interest to me as I and my wife grew up in Philadelphia. All of our great grandparents were young men and women in Philadelphia in 1918. This flu predominantly killed young adults. Obviously our great grandparents survived. I have never heard a single family story about the time.

This book presents the entire set of Star Trek trading cards that Topps issued in 1976. This was a good 7 years after the show had gone off television but Topps felt that such a set would sell because Star Trek was more popular then ever. The fronts and backs of each card are presented, at about actual size, with a short commentary about each card. The perfect gift for the hard core fan (given as a gift to me by my perceptive daughter. The dust jacked is a waxed paper very much like how original packs were wrapped. In fact, if you fold out the jacket, it looks just like a folded out pack wrapper.

In a day-after-tomorrow America, Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. They are living in their car, barely surviving on the scant wages Charmaine makes as a waitress. One day they hear about the Positron Project. Desperate for security they apply and get it. It seems ideal. They are given a house, food, clothes and a job in a small town where everyone is part of the Project. The catch, you only get to live in the house for a month, then you spend a month in the town prison where you live in a cell, get fed and work on various prison projects. There seems to be little difference between the two except you perhaps had a slight amount of freedom in the town, although you can't leave, can't access the Internet and can't make a phone call out side of town. They are happy there for months until Stan starts to suspect that Charmaine is having an affair with the man of the couple who lives in their house while they are in prison. She is, and it all starts to unravel for Stan and Charmaine and the Positron Project. Pretty good.

When I was in my teens, I loved Dick Van Dyke. "The Dick Van Dyke" show still brings smiles if I happen to run across it. I hadn't thought much about him recently until I saw this video last year featuring the then 89-year-old Dick Van Dyke and his wife (who is 46 years younger than he).

Then I saw this book in the library. It's full of stories about his career and how he has managed to survive all this time. A pretty light weight book but, if you're a fan, enjoyable.

1 comment:

Hackenbush said...

I'm a big fan of both Dick and his work. I read that one and if you run across his previous one, A Lucky Life (I think). it was entertaining as well.