Friday, September 22, 2006


I leave this weekend for a two-week vacation in Europe, so I won’t be posting here (or elsewhere) for a couple weeks. The trip last month was an unexpected work trip; this trip has been planned for many months and is pure fun for the wife and me.

We fly into London and head strait to Bath for a few days. Next we have a bit of time in the Cotswolds and the North Wales – we stay in Conwy. After Wales, we hit Scotland and will be in Edinburgh for several days before heading south to York. After York, we finish the trip in London.

I’ve not been to Britain before, so I’m looking forward to some time off and that wonderful European experience. This will be my wife’s first time in Europe and I know she’ll love it.

Anyway, I’ll not bother with the internet while I’m on vacation, so expect no posts or reviews. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll take to read, but they will be relatively light reading and paperbacks that won’t bother me when they get travel worn. Right now I’m thinking it’ll be some Tad Williams, Terry Pratchett, and Charles de Lint. I may just take the chance to finish the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd

I finally finished the beast of a book!

Sarum doesn’t really fit with the typical books I review around here – it fits firmly in the historical fiction realm in the mold of a James Michener book. So, this review will be a bit shorter than I typically write (not that most particularly long).

Sarum is the story of the region around Salisbury in southern England – we begin with its initial settlement in the Stone Age. Following the decedents of the original settlers and newcomers through time in a series of short stories, we see the coming of the Bronze Age, the Celts, the Romans, the Saxons, and the Normans. We have stories set during important events throughout English history including the War of the Roses, the beginning of the Anglican Church, the black plague, wars with the French and the Spanish, the Napoleonic Wars, and more. It is a great way to tell the history of England through the eyes of one of its oldest settlements – Sarum.

This book plagued me with the same issues I’ve encountered with Michener – it was hard to get through. Not because it was badly written or uninteresting, but because it was long. I found when I got to about the half-way point (somewhere in the 1400's) I had to break it up by reading other books in between stories. I wish some areas had been covered more (the early history of the Picts and Celts – especially in terms of religion), but that would make a long book even longer.

If you’re a fan of Michener-style historical fiction, this is a good book for you, and it’s a great way to pick up some history for someone like me who has had little in the way of European history. Anyway, on my 10-point scale I give Sarum a 6.5 – it’s good, but I had to set it aside from time to time.

Monday, September 18, 2006

On-Line Reviews – The Endless Debate

Well Gabe Chouinard has brought up the rather common discussion/debate about the quality of on-line reviews versus true criticism of a book. This discussion has taken many forms that I’ve participated in the last few months, and Gabe has nothing to say I haven’t seen before. In fact, I agree with much of what he says, but defend myself by saying I’m not writing true critique here, nor do I want to. This post describes in more detail what I intend my reviews to be.

So, for some fun reading here are a few discussions on reviews worth reading.

EDIT: Rob Bedford at SFFWorld is brought into the discussion, Gabe reviews his review and then calls me out.

EDIT2: It keeps going - Pat ways in at the Fantasy Hotlist and Gabe adds a bit more. I ask people at wotmania OF what they want in a review.

EDIT3: Discussion at SFF World and Jay shows that he truly is The Bodhisattva.

EDIT4: Are we flogging a dead horse? Author Paul S. Kemp chimes in and some discussion at Fantasybookspot.

EDIT 5: Probably my final edit since I'm leaving for a vacation in a day, but here are the latest add-ons:Jason Lundberg with a lengthy response, John McCalmont, and Chekhov's Mistress.

FINAL EDIT (Oct. 18, 2006): In honor of Pat not letting go....

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Scalzi Bacons the Cat and Gets the Attention He Deserves

I’ve been very amused as I’ve followed the recent events over at John Scalzi’s blog, and I get to write a blog entry where the title uses bacon as a verb – excellent!

Anyway, if don’t read Scalzi’s blog, called Whatever, he posts pretty much every day on a wide variety of issues, often with a fair amount of humor. On Wednesday, he was in procrastination mode and he posted a to-do list that included taping bacon to the cat. So, he did get to that and he taped bacon to his cat. Then the story got picked up by Fark (comments here) and his normally very high readership became astronomical. This morning we learn that Ghlaghghee (the abused cat) has a blog all her own and relates her side of the story. This morning Scalzi tries to find out if he is indeed the first person to post a picture of a cat and bacon on the internet. Oh, and you can find the motivational poster here.

Anyway – very amusing and I felt I had to share. And for those who don’t know who John Scalzi is, he won this year’s John C. Campbell Award and is the author of Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigade and a few other books.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shadow Twin by Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin, and Daniel Abraham

A three-way collaboration on a novella sounds like something that won’t work well, despite having big names like those involved in Shadow Twin. However, in this case, it works – not perfectly, but quite well.

Ramon is an independent prospector on a remote, earth-like planet that has recently been colonized by humans. Down on his luck, he sets out to score ‘the big one’ in the distant mountains to the north where little prospecting has been done. He discovers a hidden alien race that attacks and destroys his camp. Ramon escapes.

The aliens, needing to remain hidden, hunt for Ramon. In order to properly do so, they create a clone to do the tracking – classic ‘set a thief to catch a thief’ thinking. Cloned Ramon struggles with his identity, having all the memories of real Ramon, and grudgingly aids an alien companion, secretly hoping for escape.

The above synopsis does not do justice to the Shadow Twin, which is a powerful story. Ramon is not a likeable guy – he angry, violent, self-destructive, and abusive towards women. Yet, Ramon shows a clear love and even respect for the environment, struggling with the consequences of discovering mineral wealth. The superb characterization actually allows for sympathy for this bastard of a man early in the story. It is also very refreshing to have a protagonist that is of a Latino descent.

The early experiences of cloned Ramon hit on some very primal fears of humanity – claustrophobia, injury, nakedness, despair; you fear for Ramon. His later struggles with self, especially as he is confronted with his real self, is powerfully written. Ramon sees what he is, what he is becoming, and strives to for change – but at what cost.

My only real complaints about the story are related to wanting more. The aliens are intriguing and utterly alien in thought and action, yet work as little more than a literary device. I want more – Martin asserts in the Afterward that Shadow Twin should be a full-length novel; I agree wholeheartedly. Here’s to hoping.

One of the most interesting aspects of Subterranean Press Limited Edition of Shadow Twin is the Afterward I mention above – a conversational back-and-forth between Duzois, Martin, and Abraham. Dozois and Martin reminisce about the origins of the novella in the late 1970s, when Dozois originally conceived the concept. Abraham occasionally quips about how old he wasn’t at the time. We see its resurrection after 20 years in limbo and here of the contrasts between the modernist style of Abraham and the old-school styles of Martin and Dozois. The collaboration comes together seamlessly, with different styles and voices blended.

On my 10-point rating scale, Shadow Twin rates a solid 8. I enjoyed this novella a lot and recommend it to all fans of SFF, not just the Martin fanboys (and fangirls). The only thing lacking is more – and there just might be hope for that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

To Read or Not To Read

While I am not a serious collector of books, in the past couple of years I would say that I’ve graduated to amateur status. I’ve got a handful of nice limited and special editions, a few first editions, and quite a few autographed books around the house. In the past I’ve generally paid the lowest price for a book, then I started to prefer hardbacks as I’ve seen my paperbacks start to fall apart and my income increase, now I see limited or special editions and my mouth waters a bit and I will even consider a purchase if it’s not too high in cost.

But, I still believe books are for reading. I don’t have the space or income to support buying two copies of books – 1 for reading and 1 for keeping nice, shiny, and new (not to mention the reaction that might provoke from my wife). So, I do read these nice books that no serious self-respecting collector would. Am I alone out there?

Of course I’m gentler with these books than I might be with others and I’m certainly not going to travel with one. But neither will I have books on my shelf that are untouchable and unreadable. My books are my trophies, and I have to read that book to earn the trophy.

Yeah, I know that this post was a bit pointless, and bit about me showing off a couple of the books I’ve got (I know that many reading this have much more impressive stuff), but the main point was to address comments that may come in light of some of the reviews I’ll be posting in the near future from limited or special editions.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jigsaw Nation - Edward J. McFadden and E. Sedia (eds.)

I just posted my review of Jigsaw Nation: Science Fiction Stories of Secession over at Fantastybookspot. Check it out if your interested. An interesting premise for an anthology that was pulled off reasonably well (6-6.5/10).

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Stack

From time to time you may see me reference The Stack – The Stack is simply the books I have at home waiting to be read. These are books that I have not read before – so it doesn’t include books that I’d like to reread. Also not included are a few nonfiction and similar books around that house that belong with The Stack but have a different geographical location, so they generally get excluded. Below is a tally of the 94 books that make up The Stack at the moment. With collections of short stories, various omnibus collections, and the exceptions mentioned above, this is just a rough count.

I typically read between 40 and 50 books in a given year, so you can see that I have a 2-year reading supply at home. Of course The Stack is ever growing as I obtain new books – there is what I like to call The Waiting List (my list of books to get) for The Stack. So happily, I have lots of reading to look forward to, though I’ll admit that there are books on The Stack that I may never get around to reading, though I intend to try.

The Stack has a strange dominance over my life – it never seems to get smaller (just a year ago I think it only had 60 or 70 books), and I often find myself staring at it as I choose my next book to read. My wife’s opinion of The Stack probably shouldn’t be mentioned.

Anyway, here it is for your enjoyment, The Stack:

Sarah Andrews – The Bone Hunter
Isaac Asimov – The Edge of Tomorrow
Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear
Stephen Barnes – The Cestus Deception
Richard Bowes – From the Files of the Time Rangers
Ray Bradbury – The Stories of Ray Bradbury (Alfred A. Knopf, ed.)
John Burdett – Bangkok 8
Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason – The Rule of Four
Jaqueline Carey – Kushiel’s Dart; Kushiel’s Chosen; Kushiel’s Avatar
Jonathan Carroll – Bones of the Moon
James Clavell – Shogun
A.C. Crispin – V
John Crowley – Little Big
Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprocs – Polar Split; Lost City
Charles de Lint – Moonlight and Vines; Tapping the Dream Tree; Trader; Into the Green; Somewhere to be Flying; Spirit Walk; Jack of Kinrowan
Philip K. Dick – The Minority Report and other stories
Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin, Daniel Abraham – Shadow Twin
Lord Dunsany – The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Umberto Eco – The Island of the Day Before; Foucault’s Pendulum

Harlan Ellison (ed.) – Again, Dangerous Visions
C.S. Friedman – This Alien Shore
Kinky Friedman – Guide to Texas Etiquette; Meanwhile Back at the Ranch
Carl Hiaasen – Basket Case; Double Whammy
Anne Harris – Inventing Memory
M. John Harrison – Viriconium
Robert Heinlein – A Stranger in a Strange Land
Howard Hendrix – The Labyrinth Key
Robin Hobb – Fool’s Fate; Fool’s Errand; Golden Fool
Alexander Irvine – A Scattering of Jade
Graham Joyce – Partial Eclipse and Other Stories
Guy Gavriel Kay – The Fionavar Tapestry
Stephen King – From a Buick 8; Dolores Claiborne; Desperation; Rose Madder
Ursula Le Guin – The Left Hand of Darkness; Rocannon’s World; Planet of Exile; City of Illusions, The Word for World is Forest
Kelly Link – Magic for Beginners
Morgan Llywelyn – The Elementals
Gregory Maguire – Mirror, Mirror
Gabriel García Márquez – One Hundred Years Solitude
George R.R. Martin – Fevre Dream
Ian McDonald – Tendeléo’s Story
David Mitchell – The Cloud Atlas
Michael Moorcock – Mother London
Christopher Moore – A Dirty Job
Mervyn Peake – The Gormenghast Novels
Ricardo Pinto – The Standing Dead
Terry Pratchett – Wyrd Sisters; Sourcery; Pyramids; Thief of Time; Reaper Man
Tom Robbins – Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
Kim Stanley Robinson – Green Mars; Blue Mars
James Rollins – Sandstorm
James Roscow – 800 Miles to Valdez
David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day
Dan Simmons – Fires of Eden; Hyperion; The Fall of Hyperion
Neil Stephenson – The Diamond Age
Jules Verne – Journey to the Center of the Earth
Randy Wayne White – North of Havana
Tad Williams – Stone of Farewell; To the Green Angel Tower; Otherland
Simon Winchester – Krakatoa; The Map that Changed the World
Paul Witcover – Tumbling After
Gene Wolfe – The Urth of the New Sun; Litany of the Long Sun
Tom Wolfe – I am Charlotte Simmons
John C. Wright – Orphans of Chaos
Timothy Zahn – Survivor’s Quest


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