This is a relatively late and inferior entry in the Three Investigators series. The series was created by Robert Arthur, a woefully neglected author wThis is a relatively late and inferior entry in the Three Investigators series. The series was created by Robert Arthur, a woefully neglected author who did a great deal of work with Alfred Hitchcock; Arthur wrote the first nine and the eleventh book in the series. Unfortunately M.V. Carey was no Robert Arthur!
I recently read the book to my son. We've read many of the books in the series together. In this one, there were several ways in which the book simply didn't work. Oh, Carey included the usual iconic elements of the series; Jupiter Jones' family, and the hidden Headquarters (a trailer buried under a pile of junk), and Pete, and Bob. But there are several false notes.
One that was particularly annoying was the use of Jupiter's name. Arthur usually referred to him as "Jupiter" or "Jupiter Jones". Once in a while his fellow Investigators, Pete or Bob, would refer to him as "Jupe". But in this book, he is almost always called "Jupe" - not just by other people, but by the narrator. I'm not that picky, but seeing "Jupe" repeated over and over in paragraph after paragraph just got weird! It started to become a meaningless sound - you know how some words get when you say them over and over? I ended up auto-correcting it to "Jupiter" when I read it aloud, except when it was said by Pete or Bob.
The mystery itself was just...okay. Nothing particularly clever or memorable about it. If anything, the resolution was rather anticlimactic. I won't bother to give it away, though.
But another thing that was quite irritating was a dramatic change in a long-standing supporting character, Police Chief Reynolds. In the early books in the series he was supportive and friendly to the Three Investigators, even going so far as to give them official cards identifying them as Junior Deputies or something like that. In Flaming Footprints, he has been completely changed. He's sneering, abusive, hostile, and sarcastic. The change was so extreme that my son remarked on it. Personally, I found the recasting of Chief Reynolds as a stereotypical negative adult authority figure so irksome that I couldn't resist editorializing: "'What do you want now, Jones?' snarled Chief Reynolds, while busily stomping on a cute kitten and simultaneously farting on a helpless old lady."
My son is more generous and/or uncritical than I am. He gave the book 4.5 stars. I feel I'm being generous in giving it three.
Oh, as always I should note that there are probably two different versions of the text extant. Older versions feature the character of Alfred Hitchcock. For legal reasons newer editions have been rewritten to replace Hitchcock with a lame-ass ersatz version. If you decide to pick this one up, try to go for an older edition. But if you're new to the series, I strongly recommend starting with the original nine books by Robert A. Arthur....more
It's amazing how Marvel was able to take brilliant source material like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner and produce such a remarIt's amazing how Marvel was able to take brilliant source material like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner and produce such a remarkably lame illustrated "novel". The art, the writing...just astonishingly bad. Do yourself a favor and go to the originals, not this churned-out piece of garbage....more
I don't like Orson Scott Card. There was a time when he was a gifted writer, but that was decades ago. And I'm rather glad of that, I must admit, becaI don't like Orson Scott Card. There was a time when he was a gifted writer, but that was decades ago. And I'm rather glad of that, I must admit, because his homophobia and religious bigotry offend me.
But Shadows In Flight isn't as bad as most of his recent books have been. Yes, it has the usual "genius" children talking to each other in "shocking" ways; Card seems to find them irresistible. There's even some of Card's trademark child-on-child violence, which makes me wonder just how badly screwed up his head is. But for once he doesn't take it too far.
First, a note: I will never try to use my Nook to write a book review again. I had written quite a long review - not easy on the Nook's touch-screen,First, a note: I will never try to use my Nook to write a book review again. I had written quite a long review - not easy on the Nook's touch-screen, which is not well-laid-out and lacks a number of conveniences which are standard on other Android devices - only to make the slightest mis-touch and lose EVERYTHING. That's incredibly annoying.
That said, The Horse Tamer is part of Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, and it's both charming and memorable. Bracketed by short passages featuring Alec, Henry, and the Black, it's actually a historical novel; Henry's story of his older brother, who tamed horses in the days when horses were the standard mode of transportation. Henry himself plays a small but substantial part in the tale.
Unlike most entries in the series, it's not a racing story. But the story of "problem" horses and how to help them is quite fascinating, as well as exciting. I first read this book as a boy, and it has stuck in my head ever since. I'm glad to be able to buy it for my own son, and for the chance to read it again. It includes the original black-and-white line drawings, which are charming. I strongly recommend this book. One caveat, however: the Nook edition has been formatted with HUGE margins. Even when the text is manually set to the smallest margin size, the margins are nearly as large as the text itself - which means that in portrait orientation, each line of text is only a few words wide. This is somewhat awkward.
I assume that the publisher did it because the book is SO short, only 100 pages. With reasonable formatting, it would have probably been closer to 70 pages long, even with the illustrations - and they may feel that it would be difficult to charge a full-novel price (even a low one) for what is probably only a novella. But it's a really fine story, and any fan of Walter Farley, the Black, or horses would be wise to pick it up. Strongly recommended!...more
Three young Englishmen decide to spend a fortnight boating on the Thames for their health.
A classic of English humor; I'm quite dismayed that I hadn'tThree young Englishmen decide to spend a fortnight boating on the Thames for their health.
A classic of English humor; I'm quite dismayed that I hadn't discovered it before now! It's one of the funniest books I've read in a long time (and I've read many funny books). I found myself laughing out loud quite often, and couldn't resist reading sections of it to my wife - even though I know it's not the sort of thing she cares for.
It's astonishing that a book written 123 years ago should feel so modern. I hadn't realized that such dark humor had been invented back in 1889!
The occasional turns into more somber and lyrical prose are a bit jarring at first (they're quite reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows, which was published 19 years later), but you soon get used to them. And the serious passages are quite brief, just sufficient to cleanse the palate (so to speak) before the next comic gem.
The illustrated EPUB edition at Project Gutenberg is excellent and, of course, free. The illustrations are well-formatted, clear, and enhance the text. If you appreciate humor, you have no excuse for missing this book!
Oh, I almost neglected to mention: there's an audio book of Three Men in a Boat, read by Hugh Laurie. A perfect choice, of course. It can be found in sections on YouTube, or, I presume, it can be purchased. But I must say that I laughed more when reading the book then while listening to it. I'm not quite sure why!...more
I picked this up used at the library's permanent book sale for a buck.
Add it to the very short list of books which aren't as good as their movie adaptI picked this up used at the library's permanent book sale for a buck.
Add it to the very short list of books which aren't as good as their movie adaptations. A lot of the speeches were improved by much pruning for the movie, and the plot was cleaned up a good bit, too.
The book is okay, and I can see that for some it might really "click". But to me it just doesn't quite work. The whole thing felt forced to me, a too-deliberate attempt to create a classic (not unlike The Polar Express, which was annoying as a book and loathsome as a movie). Peter S. Beagle is able to create a far more authentic magical feeling in his books; fans of Shoeless Joe might appreciate Beagle. They might like Jack Finney, too. Both are considerably more deft stylists than Kinsella.
I've enjoyed Grant Morrison's work in the past, but Final Crisis feels like an experiment gone wrong. It's incoherent...what the &*(# was that?!?
I've enjoyed Grant Morrison's work in the past, but Final Crisis feels like an experiment gone wrong. It's incoherent and lacks even one memorable scene. Call me stupid (you won't be the first), but I couldn't make any real sense of it at all. Reading it felt like work, but there was no payoff. All it did was make me feel that the entire superhero genre is tired and outmoded.
Basically, Grant seemed to feel it necessary to try to amp up the tired old "heroes save the universe" plot into "HEROES save the MULTIVERSE!!!!!!", but ended up creating a confusing mess. Maybe it's time to stop trying to save the universe, and move towards a storyline a little less full of s---. Something that relates a bit more to the human condition.
I mean...it seems to me that Final Crisis is a good example of a real problem with the comics industry, or at least with the Big Two. The stories just don't have any connection to the real world any more. It's just the same old stuPENDOUS, tiTANIC WORLD-SAVING!!! And seriously who gives a f--- any more?
The fantastic is integral to superhero comics, just as sugar is integral to ice cream. But a comic book that consists of nothing BUT the fantastic, with the same old fantastic plot that has been done to death a million times over, is like ice cream made of nothing but sugar.
It'll rot your teeth. And the only people who'll like it are those with very simple tastes. Since TV serves the simple-tastes market cheaper and better than comics can*, this isn't an approach that bodes well for the future of comics. And frankly, Grant Morrison is capable of better.
If there's nothing that connects a story to the reader, if there's no actual human element in the story, only rabid fanboys with undiscriminating tastes will buy your books. And where's the future in that? That's not an audience that's going to grow. It's not like fanboys have a high reproduction rate! And I should know - I was one.
If you've forgotten how incredibly awful comics were in the early-to-mid 1960s, this is the book for you! It's like a steaming turd, carefully gift-wrIf you've forgotten how incredibly awful comics were in the early-to-mid 1960s, this is the book for you! It's like a steaming turd, carefully gift-wrapped in shiny new paper so you'll open it not realizing just how painfully bad it really is.
Stupid minor characters who are so awful that it's actually hard to believe that anyone human actually made them up (like "The Fiddler", for example). No logic at all, no real stories in any sense of the word, just one pointless, stupid event after another. And the dialog...that painful, torturous dialog. Dick Cheney would love this book.
One thing that stuck in my mind was Dr. Fate trying magical atomic explosions on a colossal anti-matter creature. They didn't work, so Batman ran around it in a circle, Bat-punching it. Yes, many of the classic DC heroes are here, but they're warped out of all resemblance to the archetypes we know and love.
DC thoughtfully put a modern-looking cover on this collection, presumably so that some poor idiots would buy it without realizing that the contents suck in every way imaginable (including, of course, the art).
The stories were originally published from 1963-1966. The Code was in full flower. But even under the Code, it wasn't necessary to produce such utter and absolute crap....more
Ron Goulart is one of the four funniest science fiction writers in the world (the other three are Fredric Brown, Robert Sheckley, and Keith Laumer, ifRon Goulart is one of the four funniest science fiction writers in the world (the other three are Fredric Brown, Robert Sheckley, and Keith Laumer, if you were wondering). And in The Chameleon Corps and Other Shape Changers he's at his hysterical best. There are many lines here which have stayed in my head and amused me for over thirty years now. This book contributed quite a bit to the development of my admittedly quirky sense of humor.
The book itself is divided into two sections. The first five stories are about the adventures of Ben Jolson of the Chameleon Corps. Esoteric treatments applied at a young age have given Ben the power to alter his form at a moment's notice; he can impersonate anyone, as well as objects of his own general size, flawlessly. Problem: he'd rather sell pottery than be a secret agent. But you're not allowed to quit the Corps.
So Jolson finds himself being sent to one hot spot after another throughout the Barnum system of planets, carrying out odd, sometimes bizarre missions for a government that often seems a lot like ours - given to hypocrisy, greed, idiocy, and sudden tragic bursts of realpolitik.
In that, it's rather like the CDT of Keith Laumer's Retief series, albeit considerably less broad. But Goulart's style is much more modern-feeling than Laumer's, with more of a 1960s (and, oddly, 2010s) sensibility. And Jolson is not the superhuman figure that Retief is, for all his powers. Retief saves the world despite and in spite of its idiocy; Jolson can't be sure that what he's saving is better than the alternative, or even that he's necessarily saving anything. He's just trying to get the job done and survive.
But oh my god, the stories are funny. Jolson often has to impersonate eccentric characters, and Goulart gives them personalities and verbal quirks which are absolutely hysterical - mother of goats, would you question my word? When you reach the end of the fifth story, you'll wish there were more. And there are, I believe; there was at least one Chameleon Corps novel, I think, as well as (possibly) more stories. In any case, much of Goulart's work is of the same quality: just as funny and enjoyable.
The last six stories are not connected to each other, and tend to be a little darker. But they're still very funny and very memorable. This is one of those outstanding collections of clever, jewel-like short stories that's a real treasure for anyone who loves science fiction and/or humor.
A difficult book to judge. In large part, it seems to be one side of a battle over a broken relationship. Not knowing the other side, how am I to judgA difficult book to judge. In large part, it seems to be one side of a battle over a broken relationship. Not knowing the other side, how am I to judge who's right? And why should I bother?
In this particular case, the dispute is between the book's co-author, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and famed Wikileaks director Julian Assange. I'll credit Domscheit-Berg and/or his co-author Tina Klopp (who I presume is a ghost writer), with showing some restraint; they paint Assange as an arrogant and irresponsible egomaniac, but you can see them trying hard not to seem too obviously one-sided.
As for the truth of the details, how the hell am I to know? It's believable that Assange is an asshole. On the other hand, that's just if you go by Domscheit-Berg's word. Frankly, there are a million stories like this out there: a working relationship gone sour. I've had a few of them myself. Unfortunately this one isn't terribly more interesting than, well, any of mine for example! It's only the celebrity of Assange and Wikileaks that got this book into print.
There are two things that could have redeemed this book. One would have been great writing. I can't speak for the original German edition, but the translation in the English edition was merely workmanlike. Oh, it was handled well enough that it didn't jump out at me as a translation; whoever went over the translation did a good enough job, as far as that goes (and incidentally, I used to touch up and in some cases re-write poorly translated articles for a magazine myself, so I have some experience in this area). But the writing simply isn't anything special. Nor is there, for example, any particular humor to the book.
The other potentially redeeming factor would have been some really insightful details about the workings of Wikileaks. There's some of that here, and it is somewhat interesting. If it's credible (and I have no particular reason to doubt it) then Wikileaks is in a real technological pickle. But again, although I support openness and the stated principles of Wikileaks, technical issues don't mean a lot to me here.
The book is remarkably current. It's about issues that took place as recently as five or six months ago. That's a bit jarring! It gave me the feeling that I could have been reading the whole thing on some online forum.
I also have to say that I can't help but feel a little bit taken advantage of by Mr. Domscheit-Berg. His book seems to be little more than a veiled continuation of a running battle with Julian Assange. Okay, if his account is accurate, then Assange is an irresponsible egotist and bastard. But I wasn't involved in this battle, and why is Mr. Domscheit-Berg making money off of me in pursuit of his war? Apart from anything else, that seems a highly ironic act for someone who professes such high ideals.
Incidentally, the book was a birthday gift from my sister and her husband. I'm quite sure they hadn't read it themselves. It was a thoughtful gift - if you're reading this, sis, I hope this review doesn't hurt your feelings - because I am interested in openness, politics, and Wikileaks. I just wish Domscheit-Berg had produced something more worthwhile and in-depth....more
I'm not a Peter David fan. Oh, I've read a few of his books, but I consider him to be a workmanlike author rather than an artist. Of course, I also coI'm not a Peter David fan. Oh, I've read a few of his books, but I consider him to be a workmanlike author rather than an artist. Of course, I also consider him to be a newcomer, since I respect very few post-1980 authors (exactly three, in fact: Brust, Brin, and Watt-Evans).
But In the Beginning is surprisingly well-written. It was shot in the dark for me, quite literally; I don't remember where I'd originally picked it up, but I'm sure I didn't buy it new (the pencil marking inside says $2.95). It was late at night, I desperately needed something to read, and I'd just turned off the light in the den; it was pitch-black. So for a lark, I pushed aside the books in the outer layer of one of my bookshelves (I'm terribly short of shelf space), and pulled out a book at random from the row of books behind.
Now, I must admit up front that I was a big fan of Babylon 5. In fact, it was the last show that I would call myself a "fan" of; I think I got too old for the fan phenomenon after that. But from seasons 1-4 I was a big fan, and even wrote a one-shot zine for a Babylon 5 APA (amateur press association, a collection of zines on a topic).*
Anyway, I have to say that Peter David captured the voice of the narrator, Londo Mollari, extremely well. I could hear the voice just as Peter Jurasik performed it while I was reading it. I don't know if someone who isn't familiar with the show itself would get the same enjoyment out of the book, therefore.
In any case, I'd call it a successful novelization; it captured the plot and essence of the broadcast show extremely well. There was only one jarring note. On page 75, there's a line:
Indeed, the gravity on the Babylon 5 space station was achieved entirely through a steady rotation, the same as that on any planet.
Perhaps Peter David only meant to say that planets have a steady rotation, but it certainly seems as if he's saying that centrifugal (or is it centripetal?) force is the source of gravitation on planets - and of course, that's absolutely wrong! If planetary gravity was caused by rotation, everything not fastened to the planetary crust would be flung into space. Could a modern science fiction author really be that ignorant of basic physics? I have to wonder!
All in all, though, an enjoyable read. I was tempted to give it four stars. But if you're not a B5 fan, you're probably more likely to consider it a 3-star work.
A few days ago I was looking somewhat frantically through the books on the shelves in my closet (yes, I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my closetA few days ago I was looking somewhat frantically through the books on the shelves in my closet (yes, I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my closet) for something to read to my son, Sebastian. Lost Race of Mars almost fell into my lap. I'd read it several times as a child myself, and remembered liking it quite a lot. I'd nearly forgotten about it, but I grabbed it and read it to him.
It was written by Robert Silverberg in 1960, and includes some charmingly albeit slightly crude illustrations. Sebastian loved the book, and chuckled over every drawing.
It's the story of a family who visits Mars for a year on that far-off date of 1991. The children, Jim and Sally, are the primary focus. But what grabbed Sebastian the most were the cats. First was the family cat, Chipper, who is left behind on Earth early on. Sebastian asked several times if we'd see Chipper again. A few illustrations later in the book showed Chipper, and he was particularly interested in those. He is a cat person (we're a cat family, in fact), so his interest was quite natural. Perhaps someone who doesn't like cats wouldn't enjoy the book as much as we did.
There was also Mitten, the Mars cat, in the later chapters. Again, Sebastian loved Mitten and chortled over the drawings of him.
The story is nicely paced, well-written, easy to read aloud, and has a very satisfying ending. The science is a little shaky, but not outrageously so (I'm still tempted to look up the temperatures on Mars). The prognostications are way off - a thriving Mars colony by 1991?!? - but that's not an insurmountable problem. The Martians themselves are, well, pedestrian by modern science fiction standards. But they work well for children, and that's who the book is written for. I'll also credit Silverberg with giving Sally, the younger girl in the book, a stronger-than-customary role for the time; she's not simply a stereotypical docile little sister, nor is she one of those cliched "spunky" girls.
Sebastian is nine and a half. He's a bit advanced when it comes to books, but I'd say we hit the sweet spot with this one - he's the perfect age to enjoy it. I think any child from say, eight to thirteen would be likely to enjoy the book, and many older children would too.
I'm giving the book four stars just because I can't classify it as a deathless classic that will last through the ages. But Sebastian gives it fives stars without reservation....more
I read Cheaper by the Dozen decades ago, and it stuck with me; the humor, and the deeply moving sadness at the end. I recently read to it to my nine-yI read Cheaper by the Dozen decades ago, and it stuck with me; the humor, and the deeply moving sadness at the end. I recently read to it to my nine-year-old son, who loved it (we watched the 1950 movie of the book immediately after; for his own sake, we are not watching the trashy and completely unrelated Steve Martin movie of the same name).
He wants to move on to the sequel, and so did I. Fortunately our library was able to obtain a copy. Just to be safe, I decided to read it through before deciding if it was appropriate to read to him.
It is. The humor isn't as rich as it was in Cheaper by the Dozen, but that's because this is the story of the family after Frank Gilbreth died, and he was apparently a font of humor. That said, I smiled, laughed, and chuckled many times throughout the book. It's as well-written as the first, and nearly as enjoyable. The ending isn't as moving as the ending of Cheaper by the Dozen, but it's both touching and thought-provoking. I liked this book, and I'm going to search out other books by the authors and about the Gilbreths as well.
There was one jarring point. Just as the family minstrel show suddenly brought home just how much time has passed since the events of Cheaper by the Dozen, in this case my jaw dropped when I read the following. The two oldest girls had taken up smoking, and were caught by their mother:
"I've been trying to think up some good arguments against smoking," Mother said, "but when you analyze them, they don't seem too convincing."
She started to enumerate the arguments, counting them off on her fingers.
"It's bad for your health. That's open to debate. Not so bad as overeating, or not getting enough sleep."
She ends up reluctantly giving them permission to smoke - quite a shock to a modern reader. Or at least it was to me! But then, I wasn't alive in the 1920s. Oh I knew, intellectually, that the attitude towards smoking was very different then, but after getting to know the Gilbreth family through their books it's strange to suddenly realize how long ago they lived....more
The Teddy-Bear Habit is the story of the adventures of a twelve-year-old boy in Greenwich Village in the mid-1960s. George Stable is...not rebellious.The Teddy-Bear Habit is the story of the adventures of a twelve-year-old boy in Greenwich Village in the mid-1960s. George Stable is...not rebellious. No, he's more real than that. He simply tries to get what he wants in a world of adults who don't understand, and is not above stretching the truth or breaking some rules if that's what it takes. He doesn't glory in that, and at times almost feels a little guilty, but he does what he has to.
It's been a long time since I was his age. But to me, that attitude rings very true. Most kids, I think, do what they think they must to get what they really want. George, the first-person narrator, feels extremely real and modern - even though the book is now almost forty-five years old.
In fact, The Teddy-Bear Habit reminds me very strongly of another first-person story of a New York teen who lives somewhat outside the rules: Holden Caulfield. Truth to tell, the book really strongly reminds me of The Catcher In The Rye, so much so that at times the two books have been slightly merged in my memory. The Teddy-Bear Habit was written 16 years after Catcher, of course, but both books have a remarkably modern, timeless feeling. The city of New York plays a key role in both books, perhaps a bit more so in The Teddy-Bear Habit. George's inner voice is remarkably like Holden's, but younger and not as alienated.
George wants to be a rock and roll star, and to be on television. His father hates rock and roll, and won't allow a television in their house. He (the father) is, however, an extremely funny character; a modern painter who makes a living writing and drawing comic books. The passages about his heroes, Amorpho Man and Garbage Man, are simply hysterical. I could have read a whole book of that stuff!
George has another problem, too: he's a decent singer, and is learning to play the guitar secretly from a music-shop owner, but he has self-confidence issues. He is, simply, dependent on his teddy bear. When it's not around, he's a "loser".
Complications ensue, ones that you'll surely find very memorable. The book is at times quite thrilling. But between the humor and the thrills, it never loses that "real" feeling.
There are a few jarring moments when the Beatles or Murray the K are mentioned as examples of modern coolness. But then, the book was published in 1967.
Speaking of which, avoid the "Lost Treasures" edition if you possibly can. The original edition (and most later ones, until recently) featured wonderful illustrations by Lorenz, whose work also appeared often in The New Yorker, where he was art editor for many years. The illustrations are very funny, and should not be missed! I don't know why they were eliminated from the Lost Treasures edition, but eliminating them makes as much sense as eliminating the classic Tenniel illustrations from Alice.
I recently read the book to my son, age nine. He loved it, and demanded that we seek out the sequel. Unfortunately the sequel doesn't live up to The Teddy-Bear Habit, and isn't quite appropriate for my son - yet. But The Teddy-Bear Habit itself is firmly ensconced as a favorite for both of us....more
I picked this one up along with several other books by James Lincoln Collier at the library. I've long been a fan of his Lost Treasures: The Teddy BeaI picked this one up along with several other books by James Lincoln Collier at the library. I've long been a fan of his Lost Treasures: The Teddy Bear Habit - Book #3, and since I was thinking of that at the library one day, I picked up several more books of his on a whim.
But With Every Drop of Blood almost got returned to the library unread. I read another book of his first, Outside Looking in, and it had been rather disappointing. And despite the old maxim, the cover of With Every Drop of Blood was remarkably boring-looking, at least for me. Still, I hadn't gotten around to returning it before I ran out of reading material, so I ended up giving it a try.
I'm glad I did. It turned out to be one of those books that you can't put down; you have to know what comes next. Gripping, you know what I mean? It's the story of a Southern boy during the Civil War, but told in relatively modern language (albeit not irritatingly so).
There's a bit of synchronicity here, as it happens. The very first thing in the book is a statement by the authors about the language in the book, specifically - and I hate to mince words, but this review is going up on Facebook and I have young readers - the "N-word". They use it several times for historical accuracy, but use it less than the people at the time would have.
That said, the book is certainly appropriate for ages 12 and older, and probably appropriate for most children from 10 up. And it's certainly very readable, very compelling, and fascinating. The only criticism I can make is that it ends rather rapidly. And when I reached the end, I very much wanted to know what happened next!...more
An odd book. James Lincoln Collier is particularly gifted at first-person narratives of teenagers that feel very real. But this book feels a bit flat.An odd book. James Lincoln Collier is particularly gifted at first-person narratives of teenagers that feel very real. But this book feels a bit flat. Fergy has been traveling the country with his parents and sister; his father is a thoroughly unlikeable grifter and egomaniac. His mother inexplicably goes along with this, and his little sister is an out-of-control kleptomaniac. Fergy wants a "normal" life, and when a chance comes to try to escape life on the road, he makes the obvious choice.
The thing is...unlike other Collier books, this one seems oddly flat. It's not a bad book, but everything is a bit more two-dimensional than in most other Collier books; it doesn't seem as real, and the choices mostly seem obvious. I might even say that the plot is a bit simplistic and unbelievable. It's worth a read if you like Collier, but if you're not familiar with his work, try Lost Treasures: The Teddy Bear Habit - Book #3 first - and try to get one of the older editions, one with the illustrations by Lorenz! After that, I'd recommend his historical books over this oddly dated and somehow lifeless novel. He's a very good writer, but this simply isn't his best work.
Update: Looking back, I think I see what the problem is with Outside Looking In. A good story needs to have some point on which the reader can connect. I suspect that may be particularly true for first-person narratives. It's not necessary for the reader to have have the exact same experiences, of course, but in some way there has to be an element with which the reader can identify.
But in Outside Looking In, there's really not much to connect to! Fergy starts out living on the road with an abusive father - a man who is SO vile and one-sided that there's no conflict at all. You'd no more consider staying with him than you'd consider staying with a rabid tiger.
That flatness of character, incidentally, also has an impact on Fergy's mother. Why does she stay with such an obviously abusive man? One who is clearly destroying their children's lives, as well as hers? It makes no sense, so she immediately becomes an unsympathetic character.
Fergy's life has nothing in common with that of most readers, I think - unless you grew up constantly on the run in a van with a gang of con men, without schooling or friends. If so, this is the book for you. But for everyone else, I think that the book will leave you cold....more
Pohl won a Hugo and a Nebula for Gateway, deservedly so.
Frederik Pohl was, of course, one of the Golden Age writers of SF. But Gateway showed that hePohl won a Hugo and a Nebula for Gateway, deservedly so.
Frederik Pohl was, of course, one of the Golden Age writers of SF. But Gateway showed that he was hardly stuck in the 1950s. It was very innovative for its time. The general tone is quite modern. Much of the book is about the therapy of Robinette Broadhead, an ex-astronaut with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. The PTSD is understandable, since his spaceflights were taken in several alien spacecraft that no one knew how to operate; operating out of an abandoned alien base in the solar system, the "prospectors" of Gateway faced an extremely high casualty rate.
Robinette Broadhead is a complex character; unpleasant in some ways, and often not admirable. But since the story is told from his point of view, in first person, it's clear that we're not getting an objective picture of himself or, probably, his experiences.
Pohl also put whole-page inserts in the book, including conversational program read-outs from Robinette's therapist (a computer program), excerpts from science lectures, classified ads, and letters - all of them relevant to the story, of course, and many of them quite funny. The novel itself is not a comedy, I should note, but there are many very amusing moments.
I'll also quickly note that Pohl's representation of future society is dystopian and rather prescient. Desperate poverty is, apparently, the norm for most of the world's population. People sell organs and body parts to the rich in order to survive. Much of the environment is hideously despoiled, although there are domed enclaves where the elite live. Health care is more than ever a matter of life and death, priced beyond the ability of most to pay; but for the wealthy, life is comfortable and long. A look at current health care statistics makes the world of Gateway seem not very unlikely. Except that we're unlikely to find an alien base with FTL spacecraft in nearby space, of course.
The ending is rather touching. No spoilers, but one of the strongest and most likable characters in the book is Robinette's therapist; I've always found his final remark oddly moving. It's a pity that he (it) wasn't given more of a role in the sequels....more
A fairly large collection of science fiction short stories from Poul Anderson, weighted towards the earlier part of his career. Quite good, but not alA fairly large collection of science fiction short stories from Poul Anderson, weighted towards the earlier part of his career. Quite good, but not all of it is his best work; the older stories are a little simplistic. Still well worth reading, though....more
A good collection of science fiction mysteries, along with an explanation of that relatively obscure sub-genre from Isaac Asimov. I've read a fair numA good collection of science fiction mysteries, along with an explanation of that relatively obscure sub-genre from Isaac Asimov. I've read a fair number of SF mysteries, and had read most of the ones in the book; most of them are excellent examples of the form. The leading story, "The Detweiler Boy" by Tom Reamy, was not particularly good; putting a relatively weak story first in an anthology is an unfortunate flaw.
But there are a number of gems here, including Larry Niven's "Arm". "War Games" by Philip K. Dick, was simply not readable for me; I can take some PKD, but only in mild doses - and not a lot of it. I don't know if it was the mood I was in, or if the story was particularly Dick-ish (sorry, couldn't resist), but after a page or two I simply skipped that story altogether.
That said, the vast majority of the book is excellent and well worth reading....more
Not bad. Another overly-earnest story of a future Superman. The art's pretty good. It's a bit too worshipful of Superman - what wouldn't I give for aNot bad. Another overly-earnest story of a future Superman. The art's pretty good. It's a bit too worshipful of Superman - what wouldn't I give for a "The Man of Steel is an asshole" story line, does he EVER do something as human as fart? And if so, wouldn't the result be a super-fart that would destroy buildings and gas whole cities? I get the feeling that young authors who get to write Superman stories are either so intimidated or browbeaten that they act as if they're genuflecting before something holy. It gets kind of sickening.
But still, not too bad. The characters aren't abused or forced to act out of character, mostly. I'd read it again....more
One star might be a little brutal, but this book was definitely not "okay". It's muddled, bombastic, and almost unreadable, featuring some of the moreOne star might be a little brutal, but this book was definitely not "okay". It's muddled, bombastic, and almost unreadable, featuring some of the more uninteresting SF characters from the Marvel pantheon. There are one or two mildly interesting moments, but the art is mediocre at best, the dialog limps and is at times painfully juvenile...all in all, not worth the time or effort to read....more