Max Brooks has really done his homework in looking at exactly what can go wrong when a/many governments are faced with a terrifying "natural" disasterMax Brooks has really done his homework in looking at exactly what can go wrong when a/many governments are faced with a terrifying "natural" disaster - the undead walking the earth. They're basically Romero-style zombies: slow moving, no real intelligence, with a bite guaranteeing you'll soon be joining them.
He pulled in enough current pop-culture references to make it seem like the very near-future, without throwing out names and situations that will quickly become dated.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how Brooks went beyond the typical America-centricness of the horror genre and examined how different cultures faced the threat of the undead. Israel and North Korea were examples that seemed utterly realistic to me. I would have liked to see more "interviews" from the third world; although South Africa was both one of the first areas hit and one of the first to develop a successful (though heartbreaking) defense/offense plan.
He even "interviews" someone who was on the ISS during the majority of the infestation - keeping the communication satellites functioning was the only way to fight their otherwise utter helplessness.
IMHO, this book would make an excellent documentary-style movie; I think an independent filmmaker would do it much more justice than Hollywood - they'd have to slap on a romantic sub-plot and probably tone down some of the K9 Corps scenes. Admittedly some of the combat scenes would need some heavy CGI work to do them justice.
Recommended to anyone with an interest in the horror and/or post-apocalyptic genre. ...more
Stayed up much too late last night with this novel - wow!
Trying not to spoil it ... so will just say this: I could have used a "Medieval Germany forStayed up much too late last night with this novel - wow!
Trying not to spoil it ... so will just say this: I could have used a "Medieval Germany for Dummies" reference nearby at times, but muddled thru ok without it. The technology translations were just a bit precious at times - but the general feel of the encounter seemed to ring pretty true. ---------------------
The re-read was as enjoyable as the first time thru - I remembered the basics, but still found myself drawn into the unfolding of the plot and the interactions of Father Dietrich and the townspeople with Johann von Sterne and his companions. Arthur C Clarke hit it on the button: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - and I'm not sure our modern society would cope with the situation much better, to be quite honest.
While Dietrich's education (& the conclusions he came to) seemed a bit too convenient at times, I still enjoyed the novel immensely. The "Now" segments were entertaining as well, but aren't as compelling as the "Then" portion of the story. They weave together satisfactorily; tho I'd be interested in reading the original novella to make a comparison. ...more
Previously read June 2003 (among many other times)
Like many offbeat/outcast teens, I went through a Vonnegut phase - and am glad to say I never complPreviously read June 2003 (among many other times)
Like many offbeat/outcast teens, I went through a Vonnegut phase - and am glad to say I never completely recovered. I would heartily recommend Welcome to the Monkey House for anyone new to Vonnegut's body of work, as it covers basically the first two decades of his career (and IMHO, the best years)
It contains an honest-to-goodness love story - "Long Walk to Forever" that always makes me sniffle a little. Then there's the familiarly sardonic "Report on the Barnhouse Effect" and "The Euphio Question". "The Kid Nobody Could Handle" contains one of my (many) favorite KV quotes: "You are better than you think. A-one, a-two a-three."
Both comforting and chilling - this collection of stories, while a bit dated at times ("The Hyannis Port Story" and "Epicac", I'm looking at you) is still in my top 50 of favorite books and will continue to be a re-read for years to come....more
I used to have the audiobook version of Last Chance to See, but it disappeared sometime in a move & I finally broke down & got the book.
WonderI used to have the audiobook version of Last Chance to See, but it disappeared sometime in a move & I finally broke down & got the book.
Wonderful and heartbreaking - Douglas Adams discusses several trips to see animals that are on the brink of extinction: komodo dragons, white rhinos, the mountain gorilla, and several others. Mark Carwardine was Douglas' companion on most of the trips and contributes some marvelous photographs that are included in the center of the book.
Adams complains about the travel arrangements (and in a couple of cases, the travel companions) and marvels at the men & women who have made it their lives' work to rescue these creatures. He recognizes his tendency to anthropomorphize, but yet allows the readers to recognize and share in the poignant circumstances of his visits.
The story of the kakapo, a flightless and hapless parrot of New Zealand, is perhaps my favorite... even though it leaves me feeling rather depressed. The writing is definitely up to his usual high standard and is even better when read aloud - especially by the author.
Highly recommended to wildlife lovers with a sense of humour. FYI: Addresses for contributions towards the conservation works are included at the end of the book....more
I re-read through The Truth this cold, rainy afternoon. perhaps as a response to the election media blitz.
William de Worde, aPreviously read Oct 2004
I re-read through The Truth this cold, rainy afternoon. perhaps as a response to the election media blitz.
William de Worde, a second son of a noble family, has struck out to find his own fortune. He makes money as a scribe of sorts, composing letters for the illiterate of Ankh-Morpork and writing up newsworthy items to be sent to the rulers of nearby countries. His chance meeting with a group of dwarves with a printing press and movable type propels him into the news business. Not only does that make him an enemy of the Guild of Engravers, he becomes involved in one of the stories he's covering: The Patrician appears to have attempted to murder his clerk.
While humour is still an integral part of this novel, it may not be laugh-out-loud; rather, it leavens the serious examination of the power of the press. Terry Pratchett makes some shrewd observations: for example, when de Worde interviews Commander Vimes of the Watch, he indicates that he's writing down that fact that Vimes asked him not to write some things down. Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip (an homage to both Pulp Fiction and Diamonds are Forever?) provide the requisite evil, while Otto Chriek is introduced as a photographer with an unfortunate reaction to using a flash. I suppose this book is more of a stand-alone in the Discworld collection, although The Watch plays a fairly significant part.
Recommended to anyone interested in the nature of news, political intrigue and British humour....more
For fun last night, I re-read Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. (Didn't take long - it's only about 100 pages, at least half of which are illuFor fun last night, I re-read Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. (Didn't take long - it's only about 100 pages, at least half of which are illustrations.) Long before he was teaching us about The Way Things Work - Macaulay was subtly skewering pop culture.
A parody of the Egyptology of the late 19th/early 20th century, this short book posits that in 1985, North America was inundated with a flood of junk mail and condensed smog that buried the continent. Roughly two centuries later, excavations began. This is the story of Howard Carson's discovery of the Motel of the Mysteries ("Toot & C'mon") and the bizarre rituals practiced within, including chanting into the Sacred Urn, aligning the bodies of the dead towards the Great Altar so they may use the Sacred Communicator (marked with MovieA and MovieB).
The pen & ink drawings add immensely to the atmosphere and tone - the book was funny when I first encountered it about 20 years ago - now I see the satire as well. I recommend seeking it out, either in the local bookstore or the library and sharing it with your kids....more
Continuing in my Douglas Adams re-read, I checked out Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul from the library, as I seem to have misplaced my copy.
The storyContinuing in my Douglas Adams re-read, I checked out Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul from the library, as I seem to have misplaced my copy.
The story opens with Kate Schechter attempting to catch a flight to Oslo, even though Fate seems to be conspiring against her. An explosion, deemed an "act of God" confounds her plans. She becomes involved in the events around whom the god involved in the aforementioned act are developing.
Meanwhile, Dirk Gently, holistic detective, remembers that he has a client, with whom he was supposed to meet about five hours previous to his realization. He arrives a little too late to assist with the problem for which he is hired, but ends up doing some detective work anyways. The two protagonists eventually collide (literally) and the story proceeds from there.
This novel posits the question "What happens to the immortal gods once humanity is done with them?"; a theme also explored by Neil Gaiman's American Gods :: checks publication dates:: Yes, Douglas was first, by about 12 years, but both are very good, IMHO. Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul is, I believe, a better written book than its predecessor, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Adams seems to have a better grip on where he wants to go with the story.
Recommended to those who like their alternative universes well-leavened with humour. ...more
It was an enjoyable read, with some SF elements I'd seen other places; for example personality backups loaded into clones (John Varley) and being "onlIt was an enjoyable read, with some SF elements I'd seen other places; for example personality backups loaded into clones (John Varley) and being "online" 24/7 (Vernor Vinge); but Doctor wasn't so much plagiarizing as taking the concept and putting a different spin on it. Using the Magic Kingdom as a setting was intriguing to me - Doctorow seems to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with The Mouse - but the detail (especially regarding the Haunted Mansion) was very well-done.
I found it a little difficult to wrap my mind around the ad-hocracies and how "whuffie" (the equivalent of currency - basically other people's opinion of/respect for you) worked - a little more background/explanation along the way would have been useful. While it explored some interesting issues (power struggles, eternal life & what to do with it, cloning etc. ), the plot itself is somewhat hard to summarize. I would recommend it to skiffy and Disney fans. ...more
Previously read May 2007 Perhaps one of my favorite time travel novels, I picked up my copy of Time and Again for a re-read earlier this week .
Si MorPreviously read May 2007 Perhaps one of my favorite time travel novels, I picked up my copy of Time and Again for a re-read earlier this week .
Si Morley, an advertising illustrator who is living in New York & feeling somewhat unfulfilled in life, is approached by a mysterious man who asks him to commit to a secret project. Not having much else to look forward to (even his relationship is somewhat desultory), he agrees. The project, under the aegis of the US government, is time travel by means of self-hypnotism & surrounding one's self with the artifacts of that time. A mystery in the life of his girlfriend's adoptive parents gives him the impetus to travel to the New York of 1882.
The puzzle pieces that Finney puts together in this novel are amazing, with actual historical events fitting in almost seamlessly to the narrative, including sketches and photographs from the time. The unraveling of the mystery and the thrilling climax were as compelling on a re-read as the first time. As before, I found myself wondering just how much of the story was true. Finney does admit to changing some of the facts - the Dakota hotel (where Si does his "traveling") wasn't complete until 1885, for example. But other elements appear to be faithfully researched.
I'd recommend this novel to fans of time travel who also have an interest in the world of the turn of the 19th century.
------------- Thoughts after my Jan 2015 reread:
The more I think about it, this is really historical fiction with a thin SF wrapper. The 1882 portion of the story is still as gripping as the first time I read it, and holds up very well - not only the world building, but the plot and characters; however, the modern day elements feel a bit dated. That said, the idea that (at least an element of) the military wants to weaponize time travel is probably just as valid now as it was in 1970.
Speaking of which, while I am fascinated by the time travel mechanism; it really doesn't hold up, even in-universe. The return trip (keeping vague so as not to spoil) from 1882 mostly makes sense (with one major caveat), but I'm not so sure about the outbound trip - in terms of how quickly Si would have known of his success. ...more
Previously read multiple times, most recently in Jan 2004
I was given a hardcopy of A Wrinkle In Time by my aunt, probably around 1979, as that's thePreviously read multiple times, most recently in Jan 2004
I was given a hardcopy of A Wrinkle In Time by my aunt, probably around 1979, as that's the date of the cover illustration (which I like much better than the one Amazon is currently showing!) It became one of my favorite books, as I identified very much with Meg Murry.
Meg is a smart, rebellious teenage who doesn't fit in at school, mostly because of her family. Her mother is a beautiful scientist, her younger brother is commonly seen as a moron (but instead is amazingly intelligent) and her father has disappeared, presumably in government work. Charles Wallace (and yes, he always goes by his middle name) introduces Meg to Mrs. Whatsit one stormy night, when she blows into their kitchen.
A day or so later, Meg and Charles Wallace go out to visit Mrs. Whatsit and her two companions at their current abode (a local haunted house) and meet Calvin O'Keefe, an older boy, smart & athletic, but who also has trouble fitting in. The three children -- with the help of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who go on a grand and frightening adventure to save Mr. Murry from IT.
While this book was probably not my first exposure to science fiction - I'm sure it was instrumental in forming my love of that genre. Unfortunately, it's not quite as magical as I remember, but still a very worthwhile read (or re-read). The analogy of life being a sonnet is particularly creative, and the Happy Medium was a clever pun that it took me a few years to catch on to.
Recommended to all readers, young and old, who are looking for an imaginative adventure with a little philosophy thrown in for good measure.
I first read Good Omens while on an extended business trip in June 2001 & fell in love with this novel. It's been & will continue to be a favoI first read Good Omens while on an extended business trip in June 2001 & fell in love with this novel. It's been & will continue to be a favorite re-read every few years or so. (Re-read May 2004 & listening to audiobook Jun-Jul 2011)
The story involves the birth of the Antichrist (and subsequent mixup at the hospital), an unlikely friendship between Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel) and Anathema Device - the umpteenth-granddaughter of Agnes Nutter, a prophetess who got everything right, in a manner of speaking.
A sense of the absurd blends beautifully with an examination of good and evil - there's individual bits & pieces that are obviously Gaiman or Pratchett, but the overall effect is seamless - a combination of the best effort of both, IMHO.
Recommended to anyone who is a fan of either Pratchett or Gaiman - as well as those with a dry sense of humour about Armageddon.
The audiobook is also very well done - Crowley's voice is just PERFECT! ...more
Thoroughly enjoying the audiobook version as read by Lenny Henry - not only does he totally "get" Gaiman's writing style, his characterizations of FatThoroughly enjoying the audiobook version as read by Lenny Henry - not only does he totally "get" Gaiman's writing style, his characterizations of Fat Charlie and Spider, and even Rosie and Mrs. Higgler are spot-on.
------------------------------------ Apparently I was too busy to write a thorough review: [posted 22 Jan 2006] "Read thru Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - his latest novel & great fun to read. Will post a more cogent review later over in my reading LJ." ...more
I picked up a copy of The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts several months ago, about the same time I was re-listening to the show tapes. I finished rI picked up a copy of The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts several months ago, about the same time I was re-listening to the show tapes. I finished reading thru this just in time for the movie.
Arthur Dent, an unremarkable human on an unremarkable planet in an unremarkable part of the galaxy, is swept up in a wholly remarkable adventure when his planet is destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass. He is rescued by a writer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; they in turn are rescued by Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy who stole the ship Heart of Gold in order to search for a mythical planet. Things start getting complicated at this point.
Not only do the scripts replicate the radio shows, but some of the lines that were cut for time or other reasons have been restored. In addition, notes about each episode are included, as well as forewords by Adams and Geoffrey Perkins. Having first been introduced to the Hitchhiker universe via the novels, I found it quite interesting to see how the story evolved from this version to the novels, since a good chunk of the later episodes ended up in The Restaurant at the End of the Galaxy. If you're not used to reading scripts, sifting your way thru the directions can be a bit of a challenge at first, but worth the work.
Recommended to Adams fans, whether or not you already have the radio shows or not....more
LIB REQ 6/3 - Audiobook version. Started 11 Jun 2008 - Fisher Stevens is a good reader & apparently having a lot of fun with it!
-----------------LIB REQ 6/3 - Audiobook version. Started 11 Jun 2008 - Fisher Stevens is a good reader & apparently having a lot of fun with it!
-------------------------- Previously read 1 Sep 2003 Both irreverent and true to its source, Lamb is the Gospel of Levi (called Biff) - a young man who grew up with Jesus and accompanied him on his travels to find the Three Wise Men before he came back to preach in Israel. While I'm no biblical scholar, I could see the detail and research that went into the writing of this book, as well some of the places where history was bent to suit the plot.
The frame story is Biff writing his Gospel in a hotel room, having been brought back from the dead by an angel, who has very little understanding of the modern-day. Moore jumps back & forth between this frame & the actual story several times at the beginning, but then lets the plot take off on its own.
If you're expecting a laugh-a-minute satire on fundamental Christianity - you're looking in the wrong place. If on the other hand, you're willing to try a funny, yet thoughtful story, where Jesus studies Eastern philosophy as well as Jewish thought, spends most of his life unsure of what is expected of him, and has a not-entirely-comic sidekick, I think you'll enjoy this book....more
It's been a while since I've had to work so hard on a book, but Cryptonomicon was well worth it.
--------------- Previously read Aug 2003
It's been a while since I've had to work so hard on a book, but Cryptonomicon was well worth it.
Randy Waterhouse, a computer whiz and all around nebbish, is the grandson of Lawrence Waterhouse, a math whiz and all around nebbish; the book follows their semi-separate stories. Lawrence is recruited by the US Armed Forces to break various crypto codes during WWII, while Randy works for a company that is developing a secure data storage facility in the South Seas.
Their lives intersect at various points with members of the Shaftoe family - Bobby, the WWII marine who is either very good or damn lucky (or both!), and Amy, a marine recovery diver - as well as other characters, one of whom I'm slightly embarrassed I didn't see coming. I also wish I knew more about the activities in the Pacific theater during WWII - although I didn't feel it was required.
The two storylines are rollercoasters - looping, curving and soaring through somewhat parallel timelines, and somehow ending in more or less the same place. This book expects you to be smart, and rewards you accordingly. There is history, humour, horror and even a couple of love stories along the way. A definite recommendation to anyone who is looking for a challenging read and is willing to get lost in its 900+ pages for a while. I'll be putting this on my ReReads shelf.......more
Mary Roach investigates the world of the cadaver and how they are used in medical, military and safetyPreviously read July 2003 & Sep 10-19 2012
Mary Roach investigates the world of the cadaver and how they are used in medical, military and safety environments. She writes with both humour (at one point eschewing the word "maggots" and using "a pleasant sounding word, hacienda" instead) and sensitivity (thanking the cadavers themselves in her afterword) on the subject. Some of the descriptions get a bit graphic, but at the same time it was fascinating to read about the various purposes to which bodies donated to science are put.
For anyone interested in learning more about this subject - I highly recommend this book. ...more