Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Reading List

My third annual book list. Why do I do this? Because I can, I guess. Anywhere, here are the books I read in 2010. All 64 of them.

I got the year off to a good start with some 'hard' science fiction. This is actually the third book in Sheffield's "Heritage" series. It's about a bunch of interstellar adventurers who are looking for clues about an alien race which left puzzling and powerfull artifacts scattered about the galaxy.

This is the 12th book in the Alan Banks series by Peter Robinson. I've liked everyone of them. 5 young girls have disappeared, victims of a gristly sex-related killing.

This is the 6th in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. Reacher is an ex-military police officer, rank of Major, Ret. After leaving the service, Jack decided to just take it easy. He wanders around with no fixed address, no cell phone and no destination. But trouble always seems to find him and demand he take action. Apparently he can't help to get involved. Lots of action as Jack gets hired by the Secret Service to help them figure out how someone might try to kill the vice-president.

Among other things, Asimov is famous for inviting the "3 Rules of Robotics" in his novel "I, Robot". Forget the movie version, go read the book. Asimov died several years ago but his robot novels live on. This was an OK read. Basically, a locked door mystery, where a highly protected man is killed and all fingers point to Caliban, the only robot free of the 3 rules.

The 17th book of the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. Commodore Jack Aubrey and The Surprise are disrupting the slave trade off of Africa.

Another in the "Heritage" series. The crew is stuck on the planet Quake, which once every thousand years or so in it's orbit around it's three suns, gets practically pulled to pieces by the opposing gravity forces.

The next-to-last book of the 'Heritage' series. Thorough the use of alien technology, the gang manages to escape from their predicament in the last book. But where they escape to starts to take the series off the rails.

Three victims die in a fire. It's hard to figure out the relationship between the victims, if the fire was arson, and who might have done it. One of the things I like about Robinson's books is the attention to characterization, both the suspects and the main characters of the books, Inspector Alan Banks and his assistant (and former love interest) DI Annie Cabot.

The killer almost manages to kill Banks (actually burns his house down) but Banks survives.

As I said, this series started, in my opinion, to go off the rails in the last book. It was real hard to finish this one.

WWII was the most destructive war in history and caused the greatest dislocation of cultural artifacts. Hundreds of thousands of items remain missing. The main burden fell to a few hundred men and women, curators and archivists, artists and art historians from 13 nations. Their task was to save and preserve what they could of Europe's great art, and they were called the Monuments Men. A very interesting history of World War II told from a different perspective.

I had never heard of John Twelve Hawks before I read this book. If I had I wouldn't have picked it up. Mr. Twelve Hawks is a conspiracy theorist and this book is all based on his theories.

Banks is recovering from the trauma of almost being killed in the last book when he gets a cryptic note from his brother in London. He's on recovery leave so decides to visit his brother. His brother is nowhere to be found and the local police aren't much interested.

Although the title sounds like this is very anti-Google, it isn't really. But it certainly is an eye-opener. If you think that Google is just a very efficient search engine, think again.

I am getting near the end of Patrick O'Brian's seafaring novels so I'm trying to get interested in the Hornblower series. These stories are set at about the same time as the Jack Aubrey books. This book is actually a series of short stories that Forester wrote near the end of his career as a sort of prequel to the Hornblower stories.

An invisible, impenetrable dome drops over the town of Chester's Mills, Maine. People, on both sides of the dome, go nuts. At 1074 pages, this is an enormous book. As the air goes bad and the food starts to run out, the small-town Napoleon sheriff starts clamping down on the trapped townsfolk. I liked the book but was really disappointed by the explanation for the dome.

Looking at American in 2010, you can see that there are lots of problems. The economy is recovering very slowly from the biggest economic meltdown in the bast 80 years, we're fighting 2 wars, terrorism is a constant threat, and Lindsay Lohan is in rehab again. Health care costs are going through the roof and Social Security may be bankrupt. So what are things going to be like in 2050 when there are 100,000,000 more Americans? Joel Kotkin makes a good case that the country can overcome it's current difficulties and once again be a thriving dynamic nation. The most upbeat predictions about the future that I've ever read.

Today, a rock journalist is killed. A young woman is stabbed at a rick festival in 1969. What do these cases have in common? Something but Alan Banks takes forever figuring it out. I've generally liked the Alan Banks stories but this wasn't one of the best.

While the last book wasn't among the best of the Alan Banks stories, this one, from 2007, was pretty good. Like the last book, a lot of the story takes place in the past as old mysteries bear on present crimes. And for his reader's with long memories, Robinson, neatly ties this story in with the loose ends from his 2002 novel "Aftermath". I'd only read the book a few months ago so the story was still fresh for me.

There was a big gap between the last Bank's book and this one. I was afraid that the series was over. Now I'm all caught up and it will be 18-24 months between new books. This story deals with secrets the British secret service (MI6) would like to keep secret. And it ends in a cliffhanger, so I guess we can expect another book in the series.

Another massive King book (only 787 pages). This book is from 1994. It has all the usual King stuff and I liked it a lot.

This 2005 novel, is the 3rd in a series about National Park ranger Anna Pigeon. I'm looking for a new series to get interested in since several of the ones I'm currently reading are either at their end or I'm caught up on the books. Pigeon, a veteran ranger, is newly assigned as the head ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park. I actually camped there once. There are two girls missing in the park. When they are found, apparently unharmed, they are returned to their parents. Their parents live in a small community near the park dominated by a religious wacko.

My favorite reading material is science fiction but I haven't read much this year. Hamilton writes huge books (this one is 992 pages) which usually have 2 or 3 sequels. In this one, the human Commonwealth is threatened by a newly discovered alien race which sees itself as the be-all and end-all of intelligent life.

I've seen his books and finally picked one up. This 2009 collection of essays on pop-culture, rock music and football was pretty good.

The young lieutenant distinguishes himself in his first independent command early in the Napoleonic Wars.

The wife of a minor superhero gets murdered setting off turmoil amongst the DC stable of superheros.

A lot of this book takes place on land as Jack Aubrey tries to get his personal life in order. He's being sued by the slavers whose ships he captured in the last book, and he's fighting land developers in his town. Meanwhile, Napoleon has been captured and the war is over. Aubrey is still a Commodore. He's worked hard all his life to become an Admiral but now, with no war, he's afraid he'll become an Admiral without a command, a Yellow Admiral.

The assassination of John Kennedy is one of those moments I'll always remember where I was when I heard about it. I was in 7th grade and the news as delivered over the school PA system.

This book is not so much about the assassination itself (no speculations about the grassy knoll) but about the politics of the day and how, Lyndon Johnson, handled himself in the first hours after the event. Very interesting stuff.

The 14th book about poet-policeman Adam Dalgliesh. Another locked room mystery where a woman recovering from plastic surgery in an exclusive hospital, is murdered in her locked room.

Another graphic novel made from separate comic book issues. I'm a big fan of the DC comic book universe but I'll be frank. This book looks good with marvelous art work, but it made little sense to me.

This is the first in a series about Matthew Scudder, an ex-police detective turned private investigator with a drinking problem in New York. Scudder is asked by a young prostitute to protect her from her pimp. She gets killed anyway and between bouts of binge drinking, has to find her killer. This is a powerful story as Scudder tries to find the killer while coming to grips with his alcoholism.

This book was made into a terrible movie with Jeff Bridges. Virtually everything in the book was changed in the movie. Don't bother with it.

The third installment in the Scudder series. My library doesn't have the 2nd. Scudder is sober but his cases don't get any easier. An old acquaintance from his police days comes to Scudder with an envelope which he says Scudder is to open on the event of his death. Scudder accepts the retainer fee and then the guy turns up murdered. The cops have no leads. In the envelope, is a list of names. The dead guy is naming suspects in his own murder.

The first and best of the series of 'Crisis' books from DC comics. While being a fan of DC comics, I stopped reading them in the early '70s. Apparently, since then, the DC universe became the DC Mulitverse, with multiple earths and multiple versions of many of the superheros. This series of comic books took a pretty extreme path to fixing this problem. A really bad guy comes along a destroys all the multiple Earths, except one.

When we started seeing the previews for the movie, my daughter told me she had all the comic books the movie was based on. I managed to get the first in the series (of 6) read before I saw (and loved) the movie. This comic is goofy, and improbable but charming.

Elizabeth George's great character DI Thomas Lynley is back on the force after the murder of his wife. He's still not fully recovered but has come to realize that he needs to get back to work. Things have changed at Scotland Yard while he is away and his old unit is being commanded by the newly promoted Isabelle Ardery. Linley comes back as more of a team member than the boss so there is lots of opportunity for conflict between he and Ardery as they tackle a murder victim who can't even be identified.

Two guys come into possession of a device which allows them to jump around through time. Sounds potentially interesting but was not.

This blog is mainly about baseball card collecting, hence my interest in this book. Not a lot of wholly original stuff (much of material was covered in The Card, about the 1911 Honus Wagner card), but entertaining non the less.

A very low-key book about a future America where, not only has cloning become legal, a whole industry as sprung up to clone human beings to use them as spare parts. One of them escapes from the reservation and an underground anti-cloning organization smuggles him out of the country.

This book could have been about either the left-wing controlled media or the ring-wing noise machine but instead was about how the collection and delivery of news has changed since the author was a young reporter with the Chicago Tribune. A lot of neuroscience studies which show that people's expection of news delivery has changed because of the new media of the Internet.

Disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, hides out in rural Sweden investigating a decade's old murder while the heat dies down from his libel trial. Multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a life-long victim of the Swedish social services, but an intelligent computer hacker gets involved with Blomkvist and helps solve the mystery. But the killer is still around and a big danger to them both.

Kind of a fantasy story set in present day London. But not the London you may know. This London is filled with magic and much of it is dark magic. A giant preserved squid is somehow stolen from a museum and various underground sects in London see this as the first step toward whatever particular apocalypse then believe in.

Hannibal drives over the Alps and into Italy. At Cannae, he destroyed a Roman army with a battle strategy which is still studied today.

The 20th and last full-length Aubrey/Maturin novel. Jack Aubrey is bring his ship and crew back from Chile where they were semi-detached to the Chilean navy. They've been ordered home as new hostilities have broken out with Napoleon. There are 4 types of admirals in the British. Admirals of the Blue, White or Red are in command of ships. A Yellow Admiral has no command. When Aubrey rounds Cape Horn to meet with the British fleet he learns that he has been promoted and can fly his blue flag at the mizzen.

This is not really a religious book about Jesus, but a description of the time Jesus lived. Pretty interesting.

Patrick O'Brian died on January 2, 2000. He had started writing his 21st novel about the sea going adventures of Captain (now Admiral) Aubrey and his ships surgeon Stephen Maturin. O'Brian wrote his books in long-hand which someone at the publishing house translated (he had terrible handwriting) and typed out. The typewritten manuscript would go through several revisions and corrections before O'Brian was satisfied. He died while writing what came to be known as "21". The published book contains his hand-written draft and the typeset manuscript. It literally ends in the middle of a sentence.

The newest collection of his columns.

The 2008 novel about quadriplegic forensic expert Lincoln Rhyme. A killer is using knowledge he gains over the Internet to implacate innocent people in the murders he commits. He makes a mistake, however, when one of his patsies turns out to be Lincoln Rhyme's cousin.

This is the 12th book in a fantasy series that started about 20 years ago. Robert Jordan died a few years ago leaving the series no where near completion. Brandon Sanderson, a noted fantasy writer in his own right, stepped in the bring the series to a close. Working from Jordan's notes and plot plans, Sanderson has done a pretty good job here. This series got to be so long (and every volume is 700-1000 pages) long because, I think, Jordan had lost his way in the sprawling and complicated story. But Sanderson has tightened things up and supposedly, the series will end in 2 more books.

Kind of interesting. In a more depressing vision of America than "The Next 100 Million Americans", Detective Tom Wilner is trying to solve a killing he witnessed in a bar near the Miami Quarantine Zone. Florida has been virtually deserted due to problems such as global warming, a worldwide man-made epidemic (whose US victims are quarantined in Miami) and the 4 wars the US is involved in. Pretty much all crimes are punishable by compulsory military service, which is almost always fatal.

The sequel to the Human Problem. In addition to everything else going on, there is a second branch of humanity which have been living in secret among us. They are virtually immortal and are stronger than normal humans. A faction of them are trying to obtain a nuke to use on the the Miami Quarantine Zone. They figure the rest of Florida will be evacuated and they can move in.

There's also an alien space ship which has been edging closer to the Earth since the first book. I think I've lost interest.

The sequel to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". Blomkvist is back from his self-imposed exile. The magazine he publishes is planning a major story on the Swedish sex trade when the two young authors working on the story are brutally murdered. Due to circumstantial evidence, Lisbeth Salander is a suspect. She goes underground as Blomkvist attempts to find out what is going on and uncovers a secret about Salander's past which will have serious implications for the government.

I'm still waiting for the third (and last) book in the series to get to my library. In the meanwhile, my daughter, who is a big fan of the series as well, and I went to see the movie. You should see all three.

Last year, my daughter also published on her LiveJournal, a list of books she read in 2009. She suggested that we each choose 5 books from the others list and read them in 2010. Neither of us is going to complete this challenge as we waited too long in the year to start.

This is the first book I choose from her list. Tanith Lee is one of her favorite authors and this is her favorite Tanith Lee book. It's a science fiction fantasy about a world where nobody has to work for a living and childhood is prolonged until a person reaches 100 years. There is basically no illness or death in this world. But life which consists of parties, random acts of mischief, sex, and sightseeing can get boring and some begin to question this world. They escape to the wilderness outside the city and try to make a new life.

This is #19 of the Hamish Mcbeth series. Hamish is a copper in the far north Scottish town of Lochdubh. He's content to remain the "local bobby," but he keeps solving crimes that the big-city cops can't. There are a surprising number of murders in Lochdubh.

In this book, Hamish has been promoted to Sargent and is assigned a policewoman to work with him.

These books are very entertaining. They are also short (4-5 disks). I've only actually read on of the books, the rest I've read have been on CD. I love the Scottish accent of the reader.

The best-selling book by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. My wife got me this for my birthday. It's set up as a guide for visiting aliens after mankind manages to wipe itself out (how, take your pick of any number of suggestions made in the book). Most of it was pretty humorous. It's broad satire at it's broadest. It's mainly a picture book (think Dorling-Kinderlesy). It probably could have been shorter.

The second book from my daughter's 2009 reading list. Note that the author is the guy finishing the Wheel of Time series.

This is a fantasy with a complicated system of magic based on color and how much "Breath" a person has. A war is brewing between a small kingdom which doesn't believe that magic should be exploited and a much larger kingdom where the ruling elite have so much "Breath" they are as like gods.

Pretty good writing and surprising amount of politics. The book is aimed for a young adult audience (my daughter is an expert on YA literature) it was not at all boring for an old guy like me.

Here is a book I picked up at our local library used book sale. A science fiction tale of nanotechnology run wild. It has just about every nanotechnology cliche I've every read. The cover says "A nonstop thriller that will rock the world". It isn't and it didn't.

Private investigator V. I. Warshawski has been around in a number of books. A movie with Kathleen Turner was made in 1991. My library has a number of these titles on CD so I tried one.

This was an overly long story where Warshawski is trying to solve a murder when the cops think they already have a suspect. Such subjects as computer hacking, the war in Iraq, the role of large contractors in a war, and performance art are mixed together with Warshawski's constant worrying that maybe she's getting too old and slow for this business.

In a 3-night long fit of insomnia I finished the Scott Pilgrim series. This, the second book, gave it's title to the movie. Scott has a new girlfriend, Ramona Flowers but he has to fight her seven evil ex-boyfriends.

In addition to having to defeat Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends, Scott has to deal with his own ex, Envy Adams, who has made it famous with her own band and one of Ramona's ex-boyfriends, Todd Ingram. And to make matters worse, Todd has vegan superpowers.

Former, almost girlfriend, Julie, shows up and complicates Scott' s already complicated life. Important questions have to be answered. Does he truly love mysterious messenger Ramona? Will his band SexBobOmb play out? Can he pay the rent? Can he keep a job? And why is be being followed by two ninjas?

That's right, in the middle of finishing the Scott Pilgrim series, I finished this book. Donaldson started the Thomas Covenant series why back in the 1980s. Covenant, who has leprosy, is magically transported from our world to the Land, where health is everywhere and he begins to heal. But he's learned the lesson of leprosy, you always have to keep up your guard or a minor injury could kill you. The first series had 3 books. The second series had 3 books. This final series has 4 and this is the third. A lot has happened to Covenant and the Land. He has already defeated Lord Foul (the evil spirit trying to destroy the Land) twice but now he and his companions face the final battle with Lord Foul.

If you're into fantasy and you haven't read these books I strongly suggest that you do. And start with the first one and work your way through.

OK, back to Scott Pilgrim. Scott has the band together, has a job and is living with Ramona (although there are still a few evil ex-boyfriends out there). Now he has to learn how to live with happily ever after and finds that there is no such thing.

Ramona has disappeared. Scott's old girlfriend, Envy, shows up promoting her new solo album. Her current boyfriend, Gideon, is also in town to open a nightclub with Envy as the opening act. Gideon also happens to be the most evil of Ramona's ex-boyfriends and has in fact, been directing the League of Evil Ex-Boyfriends against Scott.

The 2009 Jack Reacher novel. I bought this and the 2010 novel at the library book sale. Jack, for reasons never explained, is riding a New York City subway at 2 AM. There are 5 other people on the train. One of them is a woman who is showing all the signs of being a suicide bomber. Did you know there are 13 things to look for when attempting to identify a suicide bomber? Neither did I.