Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Club - September 2016 Reading List

I've probably mentioned before that I keep a catalog of the books I own and have read on-line at I think you can find me there if you look for capewood. Every month they have a large selection of Advanced Reader Copies of new books. An ARC is a pre-publication version of a book. Usually a trade paperback sized. It may not be edited or lack a table of contents and acknowledgement pages, but otherwise is close to the final book. All you have to do is have a account and ask for one. They also ask you to provide a brief review of the book.  I've read two of them this month. Some of these books I've been posting I've also reviewed on Amazon. You can find me there as capewood as well.

My first ARC of the month, which was already published before I got it read. An American professor teaching in England becomes involved with a female Egyptian graduate student. She decides to keep the resulting baby but doesn't really want him in her life. He gets a new teaching gig back in New York City, where he had lived for years. But something isn't right. Why is he being followed? He gets a box delivered to his apartment which is a listing of what appears to be every web site he's visited for the past 5 years. More evidence of the continual observance of his life appears at his door every week or so. Is he going crazy? He's been sending money to the Egyptian woman, to support the child, is she a terrorist? Or linked to terrorists? The Professor pleads that he is no one. By the end of the book neither he or we find out the answers to these questions. It was an interesting book even if the story didn't get resolved. The author is a master of long, long sentences. Early in the book was a 192-word sentence describing a man's haircut.

I really enjoyed this. Meyer is probably mostly known for three movies, "The Seven Percent Solution", his first novel was the basis for the film; "Time After Time", which he directed;  and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", which he directed and and mostly wrote the screenplay although he was not credited. He also wrote the screenplay for Star Trek IV and is involved in the new Star Trek: Discovery television show. I love reading about the creative process and Meyer tells a good story about his career. An added bonus is his involvement with Star Trek. It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that, with Star Trek II, he saved the movie franchise.

This is a mostly failed attempt at hard military science fiction. Serengeti is the name of a space ship designed for war. It's also the name of the artificial intelligence who controls the ship. She has an almost unnecessary human crew. The bulk of the book takes place after a space battle, fought on both sides with no strategy other than to throw as much ammunition at each other as possible. Serengeti, although badly damaged, manages to escape, and sets out to save the reminder of her human crew. The author seemed to have given little thought to how things on a star ship might work (such as artificial gravity) and of the distances in galactic space. And her helper robots were just too cute. Maybe it was meant for a much younger audience than me. If so, it even did that audience a disservice. I got it for about a buck for my Kindle. It was entertaining enough to read while on the treadmill, although I almost gave up on it several times.

This is the squeal to "A Darker Shade of Magic" which I wrote about last March. Although I'm not much for fantasy books, I had liked that quite a lot. This is not only a sequel but the second book of a trilogy. It suffers from being the middle book of a story that wasn't long enough for 3 books. Hardly anything happens in the first 2/3 of the book. I'll admit that the final third was pretty good, but was just a set up for the third book.

I'm not going to get into an argument that 1971 was the best year in rock music. I read a book last year claiming 1965 was the best year. All I know is that 1971 was, considering my situation at the time, a great year and the music was a big part of my life. The author says that in 1971 he was a 20-year-old college student, living in London, who spent all his money of records. In 1971, I was a 19-year-old college student, living in Philadelphia, who spent all his money on records. Hepworth went on to become a music critic and journalist while I went on to become a chemical engineer but the music was and still is important to me. If you were, say 17-23 years old in 1971, I think you'll like this book.

It's hard to believe but this is the 17th book in Cherryh's "Foreigner" series. I think I've read them all. The series started some 200 years after a small group of human colonists, more or less crash landed on a alien world. By now the humans live on a island of their own while the aliens claim the rest of the planet. They are at peace, but a sometimes fragile peace. Bren Cameron, the blond-headed fellow above, starts his career as a translator of the alien language. By this book, he is a full human ambassador to the aliens, one of the alien's leader's chief advisor,s and the alien's representative to outer space, where a third and dangerous race has appeared. This series has become one of the best multi-book science fiction stories out there.

The second ARC of the month, which has also already been published. This post-apocalyptic story takes place in British Columbia some unknown years since the "Big Stupid" (apparently an exchange of nuclear weapons). The story is told in first person by 18-year-old Elka. She'd been raised by a backwoods trapper since he found her homeless when she was 7. He was a hard man but he taught her everything she would need to know about living in the world. It also turns out he was a mass murder (and worse) but she didn't know until she found out that the law (such as there was in the wild BC) was after him. At the beginning I 'bout thought what the backwoods sort a' writin' was going to drive me 'round the bend, but within a few pages I got the cadence and Elka's voice. If you can get past the first 10-20 pages, it's worth the effort. Elka escapes the Trapper and heads north to find her parents who left on a gold rush when she was a baby. My only real problem with the story was the post-apocalyptic story. It seems it could have as easily been set in 1880.

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