Book Blog
Frankenstein (review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 30 December 2012 00:00

I thought I knew this one. Jacob’s ladders with crackling electricity. Lighting flashing around dark turrets. Hunch-backed assistants. Stumbling, rambling, helpless monsters. And, of course, “IT’S ALLIIVVVEEE!”


My niece got me to read this, as detailed HERE. Never read it but if a kid demands you read a classic, you really need to follow up.

Okay, first misconception – that the monster is named “Frankenstein”. Actually, that I knew but most people don’t (technically, he might adapt the Victor Frankenstein’s surname, but I rather doubt it. Demon. Monster. Those are more appropriate).

So the book starts with letters from a whaler captain nosing through the northern ice. I read this for a bit then flipped back to the cover to check. Am I reading Moby Dick? Then, the mysterious dogsled pursuit, the passion-racked man recovered off a flow. How strange. How very, very strange.

And then the story wrenches into overdrive and nothing is the same.

The movie idea of Doctor Victor building his monster in his laboratory is a cliché. The book’s image of medical student Victor doing something not quite described in a loft at Ingolstadt, something in inanimate tissue, with chemicals and traces of alchemy, that is a thought that will stay with me. Image stepping through his door, the reek of chemicals, the arrangements of molded flesh, the harried, half-crazed student. You get the picture (I sure did).

And then the thing he builds, how ugly it is. And when he flees the laboratory when it flickers alive. And how it shambles after him in the moonlight; ugh, ugh, ugh. He escapes into the street and when he finally returns, the thing is gone.

Oh, we wish.

It isn’t gone. No, it’s out there, out in the woods, shambling around, lonely, rejected, and learning. Imagine an Alien that can read, one that can comprehend its human isolation, one that feels not only hunger but loneliness and denial. A creature fast and strong and hideous, who can track with equal ability through wastelands and urban areas, who cannot be shaken and cannot be denied.

And what does Victor do when the demand is for a companion, a mate?

The fact that this monster kills to make its point, slaying those Victor cares for (as well as an occasional innocent) has caused two long arguments between myself and my niece and my friend, long discussions of the justification of killing and the rejection of self. Me? I think the monster was just that, a creature of vast strength and vindictiveness that chose the atrocities it committed, and in that, is responsible for them. In the multiple wakes of all our deranged shootings, how can one justify the killing of innocents as a rage against isolation?

But that’s just my take on it. You should see what yours is. But for God’s sake (and for Victor’s, and his poor, abandoned monster) read this book. A real eye-popper.



Last Updated on Friday, 28 December 2012 22:33
The Marquis of Carabas (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 23 December 2012 00:00

Let's get the disclaimer out front - I love Rafael Sabatini. I've always enjoyed everything he's written.

And now let's talk about the Marquis of Carabas, which is in itself a will-o-wisp literary term for a fictional Count - it's appeared in Puss and Boots and in a handful of other places. It means "Marquis of Nowhere".

Most fitting for this young London fencing master, son of a Frenchwoman recently passed away who learns that he is actually a Count, that he owns extensive holdings in France, that he's a rich nobleman. The trouble with this is that the guillotine has been lopping off heads of people such as himself back home, that the land is now owned by the state and that he might not get his due. Worse, his cousins (a pair of deadly chuckleheads and, of course, a beautiful distant (distant enough to marry) one) oppose him (well, not her - she finds him very exciting). So over to France he goes with a shaky safe passage arranged by the Republicans in power. Yet what is safety in a topsy-tervy place like post-revolutionary France?

It is then he discovers the deadly game he is playing in his attempt to recover his birthright. Only his skill as a swordsman (and his equally flashing wits) keep him safe. Yet the kin continue to maneuver against him, their sister continues to be alluring, and the army (lead by a stable-boy turned general) tussles with an army of outlaws and woodsmen to the west, backed by the nobles who have fled yet returned (and, indirectly, the crown-concerned English). Eventually our hero Quentin finds himself drawn to the battlefield, where the two forces, Republican and Royalist, battle for the future of the country.

What really draws me to Sabatini are his characters and their dialogs. True, occasionally his villains and incompetents serve as straw men for his dashingly urbane heroes, and that's fine - nice to see that in my world of "should have said that", someone does. Even casual exchanges, such as when one of his cousins barge into a room...

"You'll forgive the intrusion, Monsieur de Morlaix."

Not readily," replied Quentin, cool and haughty.


Love it. It's like Pride and Prejudice with gunpowder and flashing blades. Certainly if you've not read Sabatini, think about cracking open on of his more famous works, Captain Blood or Scaramouche, And if you are a veteran reader, or one who'd like to learn a touch of history rather forgotten, have a look between the covers of this fine work.


Last Updated on Sunday, 23 December 2012 08:54
Game of Thrones (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 16 December 2012 00:00

A good thing in George RR Martin’s thick Game of Thrones (the first of a series) is the character list in the back. So many characters! It’s like Bleak House.

It would have been improved if it had a checkbox behind each one, so you could check them off as they died.

Characters die a lot on the various struggles for power.


A friend loaned me the first book (“Yeah, thanks,” I murmured as I hefted it). It was pretty standard stuff, guys on horses, guys with swords, a threat from the north, the uneasy lord, every bit of dialog sprinkled with “My lady” and “My liege”. Dada dada da. Nothing as exotic as Tigana.

And then I started to care. Like a car slowly cresting a long rise – no longer laboring but gradually accelerating, I found myself flipping a few more pages before going to bed every night. I wanted to know what the latest Lannister scheme was, how Lord Stark would deal with his latest domestic issue (like that crippled son of his). My interest kept growing as exiles sought favor with barbarian clans, courtiers schemed around the throne, and a bastard made a career upon the northern wall.

And as the action heated up, Martin started killing these characters off.

That’s what really caught me – the one’s he killed. First it was a second-tier character or two. Fine. But then main characters started to go. That rocked me back. And finally, a character I figured to be unkillable (not because of magic armor or prophecy or anything silly, but because he was central to the plot) got it. And no, no resurrection, no healing potion – that’s his head on that spike.

I’ll talk in a week or so about the literary charm of killing characters, but Martin’s got that, and a nod to him for carrying it through. I’ll be reading the other books (eventually) and hope that he can continue the solid storytelling and honest plot he’s followed so far. It took a while for me to heat up, but yes, I’ll admit, I’m hooked.

Damn it.




The Fantastic World War II (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 09 December 2012 00:00

The cover of this old paperback is a true eye-catcher: A Nazi officer and a Japanese solder whirl as a Corsair fighter flashes over them, guns blazing, against a backdrop of the crumpled Statue of Liberty.

This collection was released by Baen back in 1990, and quite the collection it was. Like all collections, it had its not-so-goods, and its goods. Some of my favorites:

Vengeance in her bones: An old tramp freighter hates U-boats so bad, it repeatedly wrenches the wheel out of the captain's grasp to ram subs, or sit over them until the destroyers get to the scene. Very cute.

Secret Unattainable: A strange break-through invention for the Germans that has consciences most unexpected. It took a long time to get to the punchline, though.

My name is Legion: What happens when some pseudo-Germans can mass-produce their leader, each copy one minute apart. Again, a tale of unexpected consciences, but usually that's a staple of short stories, right?

Barbarossa: We've all heard of Japanese stragglers on their flyspeck islands. But what if a German U-boat was biding its time over the long decades, waiting for the perfect moment.

Two Dooms: An objector at work on the atomic bomb gets a look at the world that might be. Okay, so it's time to rethink passiveness.

The Last Article: An old favorite of mine: Gandhi was able to turn the British strengths against them. Had the Germans pushed all the way to India, would such things have worked against the battle hardened generals of the Reich?

I like books like this - they are perfect airplane fodder (that's where I read this one). If you don't like a story, you can stick with it a few more pages or just dump it (as you see fit). And it also represents the reason I'm cool to eBooks - its another gem plucked out of a dusty used bookstore. Anyway, a great collection, and one worth amusing oneself with.


Last Updated on Friday, 07 December 2012 21:58

Page 73 of 88