Book Blog
Bicycle Diaries (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 09 April 2017 00:00

o if I tell you Bicycle Diaries was written by David Byrne, you're going to snap your fingers and say "Byrne, Byrne! Where have I heard that name before?"

Talking Heads. Okay, now remember? He was involved in that group.

So since the eighties, Byrne has been interested in traveling the world (as part of his work, and also part of his spirit). And over much of these travels, he brings a folding bike with him so he can explore and expand through these new cultures.

The book isn't a clear diary - it doesn’t follow his life day-by-day. Rather, it studies each city mostly from its ability to be a city, to move its people while not surrendering (as it is all too easy for cities to do) to the poisonous allure of the automobile. And while you might be thinking, Oh, that's just Robert - then you haven’t really looked at the world as Byrne has (and I have). You don't see the neighborhoods slashed wide open by eight lanes of elevated roaring mayhem. You haven't really noticed neighborhoods that wither and die as cities become rumbling fume-traps and whites flight to their spacious sprawl. Yes, for all the good it's given us in terms of freedom and flexibility, the car has robbed us of lives and communities. So think about that next time you yell at a cyclist to get on the sidewalk.

Byrne dosn't just logjam about cars for his entire book. He also looks at cultures, how they've changed in the last thirty years, their people and customs and such. Overall, it's very interesting reading. And for many of my tour-bus travels, it makes we wish I'd had a bike too, and wandered about cities and towns and lonely roads, looking for adventure amid the exotic backgrounds.

There is also a great deal about music here, many memories of small smoky clubs and dissections of musical cultures, sub-cultures, and even sub-sub-cultures. I hadn't given it much thought but when you consider it, every district in some city might have several bands playing whatever venue they can find, trying to get their music out. And these bands are trying to find their own sound, be it a mix of regional and international flair. So if you think all Latino music is Latino music, you'll find out otherwise here.

So overall, a very good book, one full of travel and insight, long enough to be worth it but not overly so. I'll give it a check-it-out rating, especially for musicians and cyclists in my readership.


Last Updated on Sunday, 02 April 2017 08:39
Space Boy (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 02 April 2017 00:00

've gone into comics in the past here. So now I'm putting you onto something really good, something that will make you happy and sad and yank those old heart strings around, a webcomic titled Space Boy, online and free for viewing.

So, Space Boy isn't really centered around a boy so much as it is a young girl named Amy in the 3300's-and-something. She lived in a deep space mining colony, her dad was scapegoated for an industrial accident, and her family has been "fired" (i.e. removed from service and sent back to Earth). Now, Amy has lived on this colony all her life - it's a thirty year frozen-trip each way. So, first item of interest - when she does get back to Earth, her best friend-gal back on-station is now 45. And Amy cannot bring herself to call her (she does once, and there is her friend! Wow! Wait, that's not her friend. It's her friend's daughter. Click!)

Thus we follow Amy as she fits into a dirt-side culture with her 30-year lag, looking over her shoulder as she discovers rain and snow (very sweet) and baby chickens (very, very cute). And while trying to find her place in her new high school, she notices Oliver, the quiet boy who drifts in and out of class when he wishes, and only really shows up for art lessons.

I'm going to tell you this - I really loved Space Boy (it is still ongoing - hasn't completed its run yet). The story is interesting and the artwork takes full advantage of its medium. The panels are stacked vertically and to read, you scroll with your mouse wheel. Here Stephen McCraine, the artist/writer behind this effort, really takes advantage of his form. As you scroll down, a white background slowly fades to blue, and suddenly you are looking at a sky, and houses, a perfect fade-in. He does this in many unique ways - in one shot, he stands his art sideways and gives you a wide panoramic of a parade marching past.

One interesting thing of note - while his artwork is Disney-sharp, he puts his own style into it. Women tend to have legs that come down, not to feet, but to sharp little points. Trust me, it actually works - it just causes a blink or two to get used to.

But, as said, the tale is moving and sad and thrilling and funny. You'll not find this sort of storytelling often, and I strongly recommend it. As promised, the link is below - click on it to get the splash page then hit the green button to the right to begin. Navigation is simple. If you can work a book, you can work this too. But check it out. Just read the first chapter and see if, dammit, you aren’t hooked.



Last Updated on Sunday, 26 March 2017 13:24
Out of their Minds (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 26 March 2017 00:00

rom out of the yellowing book box, another draw (this one happily not flaking into scraps). As usual for me (hey, I have my interests) another science fiction tale from Clifford D. Simak from 1970, a strange little story titled Out of their Minds.

So this one is strange - hero-guy Horton Smith is troubled. He's (I assume) burned out from his life as a globe-trotting journalist. Now he's in his car heading back to Pilot Knob, the tiny town way up in the hills (somewhere somewhat close to DC, but then again, in the 70's, the wilderness was a lot closer to DC, I suppose).

And Smith has a lot on his mind - namely the curious death of his friend who was killed when another car crashed into his. The weird thing - no trace of the other car was ever found. So he's mulling this over as the night grows more foul, the weather closing, the road confusing. He's about at the point of admitting he's lost when a triceratops charges out of the darkness, pounding towards his car.

He skids. He stops. He bolts. He pauses. He looks back. No dinosaur.

But now his car is stuck.

Finding a tiny farmhouse, he asks for shelter for the night from a Alleghany couple, a small ornery man and a huge woman. The man has a big black hat and smokes a corncob pipe. I'll cut to the chase here - it's Snuffy Smith (nice clues were dropped, I'll admit). Of course, most modern audiences won't know who I'm speaking of so I'll save you the trouble of a google search - go HERE.

Other strange things happen before he finally makes it to Pilot Knob and a dry hotel room, where a piece of mail has finally caught up. It's from his dead friend, and is a long explanation of evolution and how the next leap to another life form might be one of thought and human imagination. Turns out, of course, that it's true. And these ethereal beings are tied in enough to be like some rogue government agency, trying to kill anyone who knows about them.

Okay, so the story is fine - a bit weird with all aspects of human imagination coming into place (sea serpents, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Devil). But it's a little too pat. Why should these beings of an alternate reality care that humans know - it's not like they can do anything about it. It just didn't seem plausible (no, I'm okay with the general premise) that suddenly he's being hunted by the fantastic. Even the book cover throws us off - there is a whimsical devil smiling from the White House fence. In the story, he's breathing brimstone and is quite a nasty sight.

I can't speak for the author but I suspect that he thought it was a clever idea, that all our characters from all our imaginations have created this other world, and that they are pissed that we populate it not with the ogres and demons of the past but with characters like Dagwood Bumstead and Charlie Brown. But the plot seems a bit rigged with the character known as the "referee" claiming that Smith had to undergo three trials. Why three? Why not kill him? Drop a bomb on him or something. It was a shaky plot that was fine for a Sunday afternoon read but not for something more, like, say, a book review?

Funny, still, to reflect that if Simak's world was true, Horton Smith now lives in that netherworld with all our other creations, aimless and pointless. And pretty much forgotten other than the odd historic review.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 19:50
The Sirens of Titan (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 19 March 2017 00:00

o let's not start by talking about this book as a story or a metaphor or anything. Let's talk about it as a book. Been carrying this little paperback with me for 40 years or so. It was on my shelf in Drapers Meadows West in Blacksburg, it lingered in my huge shelves in my vault I lived in at York. And in the time between all these places, it sat in a book box waiting to be reread.

I can't even say why I'd have bought it. I did read some Vonnegut at University for classes and found him funny. Maybe that's why. Funny to look at a seventies art sci-fi cover, read the strange blurb on the back and wonder what drew me to it. Because, dammit, I still haven't gotten around to reading the Lensmen yet, and I promised!

But as I read it again (and didn't remember a thing) all these years later, I realized that time does take a toll on books. With a crack, the back split. Then big chunks began coming unglued. I actually held, not a book, but a collection of papers in my hand. I was just desperate to get to the end before the entire thing fell apart in a cloud of mummy dust (hey, the waitress at Juniors thought that was a funny comment - she laughed).

So, yes, Sirens.

Look, have you ever read Vonnegut? Have you ever read one of his stories that casually involk scifi just to make a point? It's not about technology, or logic, or even belivability - its about a social statement.

So that's this story. We start with Winston Niles Rumfoord, a rather domineering fellow who, with his dog, flew a spaceship into some sort of gravity crazy-thing between Earth and Mars and now exists in a strange state. He can see the future as easy as you can flip to the final page of a book (I didn't dare, here. It was falling apart in my hands!). The trouble is, he exists in an energy state strung between Earth and Betelgeuse, appearing every eighty-odd days at his own mansion to frown at the crowds and be ignored by his wife.

See? Kinda weird but interesting, right?

So into this comes Malachi Constant, a playboy riding on his daddy's estate, invited to meet the ghostly Rumfoord. And here he is delivered an odd prophesy, that he will birth a child with Rumfoord's wife on Mars, journey to Mercury, then finally (after a short stop on Earth) fly all the way out to Saturn's moon Titan where he will meet the three Sirens.

Yeah, so see?

That there is an army currently marshalling on Mars (under Rumfoord's orders) to invade Earth, that there is an alien trapped on Titan with a message from another galaxy and a busted ship, that there are creatures who eat music, a game called German batball, that Mars is made of iron, Mercury crystals and Titan heated to balmy summer by its interior; well, that's par for this book.

So yes, if you like your stories neat and tidy with heroic heroes and solid deeds and your basic Waldenbooks bullshit, this book will make you crazy. But if you like a story that hints at meanings, that moves sideways and doesn’t really come to a conclusion you would expect, try Sirens. I really loved it.

Even as it broke up in my hands.


Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 20:43

Page 8 of 78