Book Blog
No Country for Old Men (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 27 January 2013 00:00

The movie for this book stuck with me - it has one of those critical moments (like Purple Rose of Cairo) where the screen-writer tells you "you think you know where this is going? Guess again."

I suppose it comes from our expectations of story-telling, that heroes always win and villainy is defeated. Occasionally its nice to see an author perform a public service of rocking us back on our heels.

I was happy to see (as I read the book) that this wasn't just a director decision - the author ran with it. I won't do a spoiler on this, but I'm just saying if you want a shocking surprise, a bit of cold-real-world splashed on you, read it. I'll even recommend this even though the author does the same trick I recall in The Road, where punctuation is largely ignored (making for a smoother story scan but making dialog exchanges rather like a blind person following a ping-pong game). You know there is a fierce exchange, but just who said what is a bit confusing.

While the movie follows the book faithfully, there are things a book always does better. Here, I'm not coasting on the visuals. The confusing scene at the end (where killer Chigurh gets T-boned) suddenly makes sense. And Sheriff Bell's quiet pause in a dark hotel room in the presence of a murderer slots into his early lifelong reflection on a less-than-heroic moment he suffered in World War Two. I've got more time, I'm following the story closer, its subtleties make sense.

Overall, a good book and a quick one. It might be called No book for casual readers. It's far more subtle than most books, delicious in its pacing and full of surprises. But worth it. Hey, if I'm wrong, you'll be through it quick enough and back to the comforts of Harry Potter.




Last Updated on Sunday, 27 January 2013 09:42
The Further Adventures of Captain Gregory Dangerfield (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 20 January 2013 00:00

How much did I love this book?

When it came out in the late 70’s, I read it then stole it from the local library. Never done that before (or since). In college, I vulched people who borrowed it from me (it made the rounds of our gaming group). Then I loaned it to a friend a year or so back and that was it for my book. Gone.

Fortunately I discovered that Amazon had a used copy for sale and I picked it up (see how karma works – I eventually paid for the book I stole). So now I have it. And I reread it. And loved it all over again.

I can associate with Mr. Henry Wordsworth Potts, a nebbish wanna-be writer who has great plans for his novel The game is up, Mr. Gates (as he’s got the title, the rest of the story should be easy). After losing his typewriter on the train, his landlady loans him an old banger used by P.W. Arnold, a recluse writer who’d passed away in the upstairs loft. Potts sits down to write his spuddy-spycraft yet finds his fingers writing further adventures not belonging to the aforesaid Mr. Gates, but to a dashing 1930’s adventurer, Captain Gregory Dangerfield.

Dangerfield is all that Mr. Potts is not. He’s more than the sum of all of us. He is rich, well dressed (suits by Wrottersly's of the Strand, shoes by Mirello of Milan), well loved (“Greeegoriee! Darlink!”), a man who has tossed a saddle across the world and ridden it through the universe. He knows the Kemelman Nerve Hold, can fly a Fokker transport, and owns a Bugatti Royale, given to him by King Zog of Albania after Dangerfield pushed aside the rifle of a would-be assassin and allowing the bullet to spend itself harmlessly in a passing peasant.

And as Mr. Potts writes, Mr. Potts experiences. Channeling for P.W. Arnold, Potts finds his new colorful adventures filled with people from his real life. The beautiful girl on the train? She’s now a famous botanist, Lady Geraldine Hornsby. The beautifully elusive fellow-tenant Ms. Martin? She’s Zola, buxom and beautiful and held in a South China Sea fortress. All the people from his drab 70’s world begin populating his dynamic 30’s one, in very colorful and unique ways. Mr. Potts is hopeful enough to tape a picture of Jane Fonda to his washstand.

Just when the book exhausts its dime-novel material, it takes a new jag when Potts fearfully punches out of a story. Sadly, P.W. bids Henry farewell, and Potts is then forced to prove himself to Arnold. He does, but the relationship between authors living and dead is not yet mended. When Potts attempts to take Dangerfield out on a bawdy left-bank drag through Paris, enjoying life as only Dangerfield can, P.W. reemerges, tossing wrenches and challenges to the point where both Dangerfield and Potts are fighting for their very existence against one-eyed Mad Jacques Le Beau and the evil Colonel John Beldon Fosdyke.

It’s a great tale of grand storytelling and personal limitations, witty and warm and funny. And well worth the effort I’ve taken to maintain it on my shelf. If you can find a copy, have a look!


Last Updated on Thursday, 17 January 2013 19:20
River of Doubt (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 13 January 2013 00:00

There is a common theme in disaster yarns. Usually you have a hint of what's coming by the very book subject (or its back-blurb). But as you read, the windup is a litany of ill-advised, poorly-considered and stupid choices made that lead to the fiasco. And the Roosevelt journey into the Amazon rain forest (a subject I knew nothing about) fits right into this theme.

After losing a bid for a third term of the White House (at the head of the doomed Progressive Party), our man Teddy decided he needed a final hurrah, something to do that would fit into the adventurous, trailblazing motif of his personality. The idea of a surveying sweep of Western Brazil seemed just the thing. With the backing of the American Museum of Natural History, he sat back and let a team coalesce around him. This resulted in perfect choices, like a reverend with dusting of Amazon familiarity and a guy who'd marooned his Artic (yes, Artic - what's that got to do with rain forests?) team on the ice for two years. Then there was the equipment - crates of luxury items, huge tents, Rhine wine, even books. Yes, they were set to go.

But then again, what's better than to change your route at the last second, to decide that instead of a moderately difficult sweep, why not go to the tail end of a river suitably named River of Doubt, a river nobody had ever mapped (much less been on) and follow it for hundreds of miles to the Amazon River, through the dangerous forest?

The components of disaster are all in place.

Candice Millard covers what becomes an endless recount of rapids-portage, rapids-portage, rapids-portage, all set against a backdrop of slow starvation. We see the two leaders of the expedition, Roosevelt and the Brazilian hero Rondon, tangle their two versions of brilliant leadership. There are days lost looking for pet dogs, days lost when a member commits a murder, just a bumbling ill-equipped effort into the dangerous unknown, a effort which brings Teddy nearly to his death (and likely pushed him closer to it, even though he survived).

There is also a lot of information about the times and the jungle itself. While a lot of the latter seems to be a bit of a filler (endless descriptions of how animals and plants compete in this Darwinian paradise), it's still pretty interesting stuff. You'll never look at that movie Fern Gully the same way again.

Anyway, good read - I got this one from my sister-in-law Kris from our Christmas book exchange and really enjoyed it.


Last Updated on Sunday, 13 January 2013 20:18
The Aftermath (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 06 January 2013 00:00

Got a special interest in this book - see, I'm working on a computer game, Solar Trader, and so I'm very hyped on solar system mechanics. With all this door-to-door hyperspace nonsense out there, it's easy to overlook just how much space there is between the sun and Pluto (yes, it's still a milepost by my standards).

The Aftermath is rather like The Real Story, a tale where a simple event in the begriming snowballs into system-wide repercussions and a growing cast of characters. Here, the Zacharius family (mom, dad, and two bickering kids) are just hoving in on a belt habitat when a intra-corporate raider storms in, demanding information on a political/economic fugitive. When the base doesn't cough him up (they don't have him), the ship destroys it. Then it turns its attention on the family's fleeing ore hauler. Desperate to draw them off, dad ejects in the control pod, leaving his family and their disabled ship on a long lonely arch to nowhere.

And this starts a number of storylines. Dad getting rescued and then being forced to work on the reconstruction of the destroyed habitat, desperate about his marooned family. And those samesaid, sailing out into nowhere, trying to keep the ship functioning as they coax it about. Meanwhile, the murderous raider has become a priest, an alien artifact has been discovered, the CEO of the system-spanning corporation is putting prices on various heads, and a shipload of grinning thugs are committing piracy wherever they can find it. Yes, things are busy.

I did like this story. Ben Bova does a great job (as always) making the solar system seem so big and cold and lonely. Ships take a while to get anywhere, the Earth is a fundamentalist backwater, and people are neither better (or worse) than they are now. While it doesn't groundbreak, it goes down easy and was an enjoyable read.

If I had one problem with it (don't I always say this) it would be with the idea of piracy in such a closed system. Really, humans have only expanded out to Jupiter. Everything inside this is pretty much under control. It's hard to think that piracy could even pay. In the end skirmish (which goes on perhaps a tad too long), when the pirates are at their most villainous, they are within an easy radio hail from Ceres. You'd think that if you still held your bridge and the pirates are investing your ship, you'd at least put out a call identifying their ship and their identities. Let's see you try to sell your swag now, once you've been fingered from one end of the system to the other. In that, it was like one of those movies where everyone is operating isolated, and nobody is using a cellphone. It just doesn't work.

But otherwise, it was a great book, evidently part of a set-piece universe. I think I'll have to check the rest of them out.


Last Updated on Sunday, 06 January 2013 07:55

Page 73 of 89