A rather lackluster collection of stories. None stood out, though none were unreadable. If you have a favorite author among the collected, you'll probA rather lackluster collection of stories. None stood out, though none were unreadable. If you have a favorite author among the collected, you'll probably like their entry; otherwise, I didn't find anyone I'd seek out to read more of their work....more
I was in the mood for finding an easy-to-listen-to audiobook and picked this one while browsing one of my libraries’ shelves. The blurb sounded enoughI was in the mood for finding an easy-to-listen-to audiobook and picked this one while browsing one of my libraries’ shelves. The blurb sounded enough like the literary equivalent of a B-movie that I hoped to be mindlessly entertained.
Well, it certainly lived up to the “mindless” part; “entertaining,” not so much.
I itemize the things I found wrong with it:
1. It’s long winded. The info-dumps are excruciating. No real person talks the way these people do unless they’re reading from a script (or a poorly written thriller).
2. The xenophobia is rampant. Apparently, all Chinese graduate students in the U.S. – at least the ones in the sciences – are PRC moles, absorbing our knowledge so they can funnel it back to their masters in Beijing, where it will be used with evil intent. Even innocent Chinese tourists are described malevolently.
3. Related to #2, I had hoped that Fu Manchu was long buried but, alas, this is not the case. The Chinese bad guys are offensive stereotypes. It doesn’t help this impression when the narrator’s “Chinese” accent is atrocious – think Nute Gunray from the Star Wars prequels.
4. It’s a perennial request in relation to books like this from myself and others but can we please not have sex scenes or romantic entanglements.
5. And if I can return to the topic of stereotypes: While not as offensive, the good guys are as shallow and wooden and predictable as the bad. All the women are drop-dead gorgeous (except the Chinese general who masterminds the whole affair), and all the men are alpha males, with past tragedies meant to reveal their sensitive natures. Yikes!
I could only make it to disk six, and I would have chucked the hardcopy long before the equivalent spot in it.
I do have a desire to find out what all the fuss was about, however, but I can’t find a good, spoiler-rich review or synopsis to satisfy my curiosity. If anyone out there could enlighten me about how it ends, that would be great – I’m not going to suffer through six more disks to find out on my own....more
A collection of rather uneven synopses of most of Shakespeare's plays along with artwork. Some essays are rather insightful; others simply lay out theA collection of rather uneven synopses of most of Shakespeare's plays along with artwork. Some essays are rather insightful; others simply lay out the bare bones of the plot.
Truthfully, I would have preferred (and had hoped) for more art, less verbiage. Or at least more art if not fewer words....more
A couple of weeks ago, I was at one of my libraries to attend a JPL-sponsored talk about the search for extraterrestrial life. To kill time before theA couple of weeks ago, I was at one of my libraries to attend a JPL-sponsored talk about the search for extraterrestrial life. To kill time before the lecture began, I browsed the New Book shelf and came across this title. The jacket blurb was interesting enough that I grabbed it.
As it turned out, the JPL lecture disappointed; happily, however, Silver on the Road did not.
The novel is set in an alternate North America in the early 1800s. The Devil’s West (the Territory) is roughly speaking the Louisiana Purchase. To the east, lies the expansionist United States; to the south and west, lie the provinces of the equally rapacious Spanish Empire; and to the north lie the fractious domains of the British, French and natives.
The Old Man (aka, the Devil to those outside the Territory) exercises a mostly hands-off hegemony over the region’s inhabitants, who include European settlers, native tribes and supernatural beings, from a saloon in the town of Flood. Most people accept the Old Man’s rules and live their lives as best they can. Others, though, come to Flood to make a Bargain with the Devil. Isobel has been indentured to the Old Man since her parents left her when she was little. Now it’s her sixteenth birthday and she’s free to do what she wants. She doesn’t want to leave the life and friends she’s made in Flood but neither does she want to remain a barmaid all her life; she wants to do meaningful work for the Old Man. She makes a Bargain with him and becomes his Left Hand, “…the strength of the Territory, the quick knife in the darkness, the cold eye and the final word.” (p. 29)
Isobel is unseasoned, though. She’s never been outside of Flood and really only knows the Territory from the stories she’s heard working in the saloon. So the Devil pairs her with Gabriel Kasun, an advocate and traveler who knows the region well and will mentor Isobel until she’s capable of surviving on her own. (Gabriel’s made his own Bargain but in this first book the reader doesn’t learn much about the details.)
Isobel & Gabriel set forth without any specific plans but quickly learn that something bad has invaded the Territory and the rest of the novel follows them as they find out what it is and how to deal with it.
I’d recommend this book for a number of reasons. First, Johansen has created an interesting world with the Devil’s West; its inhabitants and how they all fit together is fascinating. Second, I enjoyed reading about Isobel and Gabriel. Both are strong, distinctive characters, and I wanted to know more about them so I’m looking forward to future volumes. And, third, I particularly liked the fact that there’s no romantic angle between Izzy and Gabriel, even implied, and I hope it continues in that vein. They become friends and respect each other’s abilities, and that’s it....more