Book Blog
The Lathe of Heaven (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 02 September 2018 00:00

have a dream.” A famous speech by the Martin Luthor King, Jr. But George Orr has dreams too. And his can, literally, in a wink, change the world.

You see, when George hits deep sleep and dreams, his “effective” dreams change reality. And let’s face it, reality in the 2002 (of this 1971 novel) is pretty sucky. Global warming. Overpopulation. A middle-eastern war spreading out of control (it’s not far off, so it seems). But then George, under the guidance of his government-assigned therapist, Dr Haber, begin to change things “for the better”.


In little tests, George can change a picture on the wall (and Haber, apparently in close proximity, can see it happen and witness the change). They give a nudge to the weather. But then, with his lawyer Heather Lelache in attendance, they go for the big one – overpopulation. And Haber and Lelache watch in horrored fascination as the Portland they know changes outside, the huge concrete towers vanishing, the suburbs receding, and thus they remember the plague that wiped out nearly 90% of the worlds population two decades before.

Perhaps this would have worked well. At Haber’s control, the world is getting better, the effects of global warming mitigated, the population more comfortable, less famished. Yet George cannot wonder what instructions Haber is given him, for each new version of the doctor has a bigger office, a grander title, more power. George begins to wonder how he can stop this power-hungry shrink, a man who controls his hypnotic sessions and his sleep patterns, and those dangerous “effective” dreams.

I gotta say I really liked this book. Ursula K. LeGuin was all over global warming and overpopulation while we were all sleeping in our own suburban dreams. And she nails it. And there is no dream, it seems, that will save us. It was a good read and I found myself hanging on the last few pages as it wrapped up, just to see how it could come out.

My rating: forty winks out of forty. If you see it in the used bookshop, pick up a copy.


King Rat (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 26 August 2018 00:00

n my non-writer side, I’ve been developing a game, StoreyMinus, a little dungeon crawl set in London, it its sewers and tube lines and cellars and ruins, where you can crawl about and try to survive and possibly find the surface once again. It takes a lot of time to code (which I don’t have these days) but it has wetted my interests in London and its below once again.

In thinking of this, of all possible scenarios, I remembered a China Miévillebook, King Rat, which I could only vaguely remember. So, because I keep all my old favorites, I tugged this off the shelf and began reading it again.

It’s the story of Saul, a young man at odds with his father, a member of the 1998’s London youth scene. He’s just returned home from vagabonding on the beach, slipping into his father’s home, disdainfully not waking the old man as he goes to bed. But the next morning, he wakes fitfully. As cops pull him out of his bed. And there is his father on the ground outside, amid the broken glass of a six storey (there is that spelling again) fall. Clearly Saul argued with and murdered his father. Clearly.

But Saul is broken out of jail by a wiry nasty man, ratlike in more ways that you can imagine. For he is King Rat, and Saul, the child of another rat/human, is a Prince. From here, Saul learns to be a rat, to embrace his rat, eating raw garbage, running through the sewers and along the abandoned tube lines, coming to grips with his new life.

And part of his new life is the return of an old enemy. The Piper of Hamlin, who once crushed King Rat’s army, has returned. With his flute, he will charm and destroy the various armies of London (the rats, the birds and the spiders) and Saul (being not man, not rat) is the only being who can stop him.

The usual disclaimer here. I love Miéville. I love his macabre writing. Nobody can describe urban nastiness like Miéville. The London I love, the touristy London, is not the London China writes about. For example, those barges on the Thames?

An ancient barge, one of the various hulks that littered the river, untended and ignored. It heaved gently to and fro in the current, little waves slapping its greasy boards like petulant children. The corpse of a boat, its black wood leprous and decaying, a vast tarpaulin slung across it like a shroud.

And that’s what you’ll get with this book, another London, one dark and dripping and nasty. A true delight. Four flicks of a rat’s tale, this one. Read it!


Falcon (review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 19 August 2018 00:00

got this 30-year old scifi from a great used-book shop in Sanford (Maya’s – go there!). Looked good – sharp name, cover art of a concerned looking guy looking up and to the right (into his own worrying future, perhaps) while climbing down from a small space ship. So since I was in the mood for space pilots fighting injustice (against a worrying future) I pushed it to the front of my queue.

Didn’t get that, not quite. This is the story of one Prince Nickolas, burned out from his royal duties and his uncle-the-king’s badgering. He’s just come back from months at a remote beach house, back to the primary city of his colony world, only to find things even more messed up and mismanaged before he left. His uncle is running things into the ground.

So Niki starts poking around the under-city, slowly gaining the trust of the downtrodden, righting wrongs and helping out when and where he can. And that’s great. But I was wondering, where is that space ship? Where is that worrying future?

About half-a-book later, suddenly it all comes to a head. While Niki is out riding there is a quiet little coup (I think it’s only one guy with a gun, after the guards are sent away). The old order is cleaned out and the nasty galactic empire thing will be sending in the “peacekeepers”. Niki only manages to get away with his life.

Five years later, he a gestalt pilot, the last of the experiment, actually. These are pilots bioengineered to be able to interact with their ships naturally, not through controls. The problem is that the drugs he takes to maintain this state are hopping him up and slowly killing him, so hey, the worrying future finally showed up. And Niki, transporting a young guy who needs him to break through the blockade over his own home planet, finds out that everything is not what it seems.

As a reviewer, I was getting tired of looking for that worrying future I’d been promised. I was really going to bust this one but finally, in the end, the entire first half of the book eventually made sense. I’d been thinking this was some sort of short magazine story that had been expanded into a full-length book with a version of The Little Prince welded on the front end. So I’ll go with it in its final form. Yes, it had a legitimate use of prequel. So, yes, a nice little book from long ago when scifi was longer and less sharp, and computers were things mounted to desks. If you find it, you might consider it, if only for the cover art.


Under Enemy Colors (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 12 August 2018 09:01

ccasionally the right book comes along at the right time. I was out of sorts at a family gathering without a book. Pull this off my late father’s shelf. Started to read. And sea stories, like cowboy stories, deliver a certain comfort. And I found this book very comforting.

In this, during the 1790s while the war with France wages, Lieutenant Charles Hayden, desperately seeking a ship, finds himself banished to the worst of the line, the Themis, with an unenviable task. Admiralty thinks Captain Hart is faint-of, i.e. shirking his job. And they want Hayden to secretly report on him. Nowadays, in this world of corporate backstabbing, this seems a sad norm. Back then, it was a traitorous act, a black stain. But Hayden, with no other choices, accepts.

And so the Themis sails with the captain indisposed (kidney stone, I feel for him) and mutiny murmured before the mast. Hart eventually recovers, just in time to prevent the crew from picking off a nice set of prizes (declaring the two frigates, even though they are hull down and have turned to run at the sight of the Themis’s topgallants). But Hayden, seeking to carry the war to the French and finding windows of command opportunity with Hart’s medical infirmities, takes a transport just under the port guns of Brest, a handy operation. But it’s too little, too late. Hart orders an innocent man flogged, the crew erupts into rebellion, the ship is taken, and now it’s up to Hayden (away on a prize ship) to run down the mutineers and bring them to justice (a justice that will entrap him, as well).

So, yes, great book, the first of a series. If you are a member of the Hornblower Book Club, this one’s for you.



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