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The Club Dumas (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 03 March 2013 00:00

The Club Dumas, by Arturo Perez-Reverte, is the second of my 3M reviews. Last week, if you'll remember, we looked at the original, The Three Musketeers. Now we look at this author's amazing spin on it.

I remember watching The Maltese Falcon and being shocked (and delighted) at what a cad Sam Spade (a.k.a Humphrey Bogart) was (including having the sign painter scrape his partner's name off their practice's door before his body was even cold). But Lucas Corso goes above and beyond. He's a ratty book-obtainer, some one you might employ if you wanted a hard-to-get copy of a book like THESE. He knows literature, knows book-making, knows all the sharks in the literary world. He practices his facial expressions so he looks like a friendly rabbit, but when he drops the act, he's more a mangy yet dangerous wolf. He'll appraise your most valuable book while casting an eye at your security arrangements. He's a gin-swilling bastard.

And he's got a job. A recently dead book-fetisher had a previously unknown original handwritten draft of the Anjou Wine chapter of The Three Musketeers. His assignment is to determine if it's legit. But then he also gets a second assignment, to take one of the three surviving copies of The Nine Doors, a book on Satan, and determine if it's true as well. And so he does, moving across Western Europe, visiting the other copies and comparing them. In this, he discovers some curious.... differences.

Somehow these two stories begin to blend, as one plays off the other. There is also elements of the supernatural and the fantastic (in that Milady and Rochefort, agents of the dreaded Cardinal, appear to be alive and in pursuit).

No, you don't need to be familiar with the original story of the 3M, anymore than you need to eat a desert cake off a plate. But why wouldn't you - the 3M is a great masterpiece and worth the read (as reported last week). And this story dovetails nicely from it. Trust me - it's worth it alone for the surprising critique of the actual musketeers, harshly delivered off the edge of an angry women's teeth. Like Wicked, it's another way to reexamine your assumptions.

I loved this thing, simply loved it. And if you read the classics like I do, the literary references alone will bring a smile to your face. Get it. Read it. Savor it.

Next week, a surprise - the first of my stand-in reviews, this one from my dear old Da. Have a look at someone's opinion other than my own. And if YOU'D like to review a book (favorite or otherwise), drop me three or four paragraphs about it and I'll pop it up and give you credit. Go on - don't you want to share? That's one of the best parts of reading...


Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 20:21
The Three Musketeers (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 24 February 2013 00:00

This is the perfect story. It's a foundation to the storytelling we know, crafting it so well that most stories of our era still don't come close.

Our tale begins in the classic sense; the young boy comes to town (in this case, Paris) to win fame, fortune and position. He's young, he's brash, and he's mounted on a remarkable yellow nag. And he's already encountered a dark stranger on the road (that sinister Man from Meung) who buffeted him, abused him, broke his father's sword and stole his letter of introduction. And that sinister agent was in the company of a beautiful woman, an angel of blonde, who will factor in so greatly across this tale...

Immediately in Paris, he'll toss out three duel challenges, one to each of the famed "three musketeers", brothers-in-arms, famous for their spirit (his schedule is tight - he's allowing an hour or two between each duel). And just as the three realize this popinjay had boldly challenged them all, the Cardinal's Guards show up, young d'Artagnan joins the fray, victory is theirs, and now they are "four". It is this union that will shake the chessboard of Europe over the coming months.

The perfect story.

I've read it twice before; here I learned how great a role translation plays. One version was pretty good. Another was dry as dust. But this one, newly printed under the "Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition" banner, was perfect, smooth as Anjou wine (without Milady's tampering, of course). I picked up up after a long conversation with the owner of Slightly Foxed, a bookstore we visited in London (LINK). Sure glad I did.

So this is the book. This is the one you should purchase and set aside time for. And not on a reader, mind. This big book should rest in your hands, heavy and thick, a reminder of the weight of issues being played out between its covers, of the four friends racing across France to recover the missing diamond tags, of Milady's slow corruption of Felton, of the manipulations of the Cardinal and the famous breakfast in La Rochelle. It is a book that should be read as a book, not an app.


As a side note, this is the start of a little literary tour I'm on. You might wish to follow my path on this one...


Last Updated on Saturday, 23 February 2013 09:23
Aircraft of World War 1 (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 16 February 2013 19:15

This is not so much a review of a book as much as a review of a sliver of my life.

When I was a kid, I had a full-freaking-infatuation with World War One aircraft. I drew them. I hung the models from my ceilings. I bought all the toys. I read the comic book Enemy Ace. I played Dogfight and, later, Richthofen's War to death. I saw the play Billy Bishop goes to War. And I read every pulp novel I could find about the fliers, the planes, and their war.

Sometime in the middle of all that, my mom gave me a little Christmas present, a thin book called Aircraft of World War 1 by Kenneth Munson. Munson's book was like the Holy Grail to me - every plane, every variation of every type, had a page to itself - photo, descriptions, and performance facts. I knew that Pfalz had a DIII (that crazy-tail chugger from the movie The Blue Max). And I knew about their Fokker DVII look-alike, the DXII. But their triplane? And all the other wacky ideas they had? Wow.

It's not the writing of the book I'm praising (through the research, performed in this pre-internet time, was staggering). What I'm marveling at is the true nature of a book, one found not in an internet search, but by my mom nosing through the bookshelves and encountering this gem. And how I savored it - if someone had to fly a Vickers Gunbus in a game and we didn't know what it was, off the shelf would come the book, flip flip flip, and there it was. In a sense, it was my 1970 computer tablet with the aircraft app running on it, a thing I could flip open and reference data quickly from. It was a companion, every bit as much as a dog. And its followed me, shelf to shelf, for almost forty-five years now.

While writing this review, moments ago, I started flipping through it again, seeing those images of those fliers from a century past, back when getting a machine gun to fire through a propeller was high-tech. In this, I capture just a bit of my lost childhood, savoring a past lost in this video-game, electronic-drunk era we now reside in.

Great book. Thanks, mom.


Last Updated on Saturday, 16 February 2013 20:17
Mirror to the Sky (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 10 February 2013 00:00

This book put me to sleep.

I liked it, but it just knocked me out.

I don't know why - the writing was good. The story was good. The idea was new. But I'd read it and my eyes would flutter and then I'd be in zonkland.

So aliens come, ostensibly to be our buddies, but mostly to search out a threat they've perceived. To show us their good intentions, they display cultural art, paintings they've done, ones so important that every fleet that goes out carries exact duplicates of them.

But their art is disturbing. When one looks at it, one is affected in ways we might be affected once before the oil (I felt that way for John Martin's apocalyptic monsterpieces). A picture of a beautiful alien woman might make the viewer horny. A picture of a night sky might fill the onlooker with dread. Of course, humans react to the new and strange as they always have, by hysteria, by mobs, and by bombing (oh, we love our bombs).

One gets the impression that humans have pretty much screwed our world up. This book, written in 1992, takes place in a world warmed by our activities, of dust and failed crops and changed climate. The gods (as we call the aliens) are our last hope (or the antichrist or whatever). When they stay, we're pissed. When they leave, we're pissed. When they come back, we're even more pissed.

I think what slowed it down were the long passages about art, and the viewer's reaction to the art. I'm not sure if it was calculated or simply the way Mark Geston writes, but I'd be reading and suddenly I was yawning. But don't get me wrong - it was a good story, one that opens ones eyes (just as art will) to the true beings we are, behind our civilized masks.

I'll recommend this to my more advanced readers, those most likely to nose around an old bookshop and find this. Let me know what you think.


Last Updated on Friday, 08 February 2013 21:51

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