“You could have bought my chances right then for a plugged two-bit piece and been ahead of the game. I felt like a limp deuce in an ace-high deck.”
I n“You could have bought my chances right then for a plugged two-bit piece and been ahead of the game. I felt like a limp deuce in an ace-high deck.”
I need to do some research and see if there exists a volume devoted to Louis L’Amour quotes. If so I’d light a shuck to get my hands on a copy. So much philosophical wisdom packed away in the guise of these western novels…
“The First Fast Draw” is a nice little story about a lone man named Cullen Baker who is forced to stand up to a bunch of bullies. It takes place just after the end of the Civil War and as the title implies, Cullen develops a new method of quick-drawing a pistol in order to stand a chance against multiple foes. A fairly good representation of L’Amour’s western fiction, I would say, although with a bit more of a romantic angle than he usually includes.
I always enjoy reading one of these westerns between larger novels, partly because it’s a good break, and partly because it’s a good stress reliever to read a book in which you know the good guys from the bad and you’re certain the good guys will emerge triumphant in the end. But on top of that, they are generally just good old fashioned storytelling....more
After the first two lengthy novels in Ken Follett’s Century trilogy (Fall of Giants, Winter of the World), I had a pretty good idea of what to expectAfter the first two lengthy novels in Ken Follett’s Century trilogy (Fall of Giants, Winter of the World), I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in this one. In many ways, he fulfilled my expectations but in a couple of ways I felt disappointed and a bit let down.
First the positive. Ken Follett continues to be adept at creating interesting fictional characters and let them interact with actual historical figures in a way that seems natural and logical while also providing a rich historical context for the reader to experience firsthand. The plot picks up in the early 1960’s covering such major historical events as the Kennedy presidency, the Civil Rights movement, the music (rock and roll) scene and drug culture, Vietnam, and of course the assassinations that occurred in the 1960’s in America. Simultaneously, we are treated to what’s happening in the Soviet Union at this time, including the inner circle of Nikita Khrushchev and the lead-up and resolution of the Cuban Missile crisis.
Chief among the major plot points of the entire book is the Berlin Wall, acting as bookends for the theme of the novel. We see it built in the early 60’s and its ultimate razing at the very end of the book. It’s the perfect symbol of what transpired in the second half of the 20th century, and Follett takes full advantage. And, as in the first two volumes, there is a lot of page space devoted to the characters’ love lives and romantic entanglements, sometimes leading to happiness and sometimes to heartbreak.
Now for the negative. It comes down to a question of balance. I completely understand that when an author attempts to cover forty-plus years of world history in a fictional, character-driven single volume, that author is forced to choose which events to include and which historical characters upon which to focus. Follett concentrates on the political climate of the times and how that changes through the years. While the 1960’s were obviously a key decade of turbulence and change, Follett chose to devote most of the book to that time. In fact, nearly the entire first half covers only the years 1961-1963. While those were certainly tumultuous years, at times the story felt bloated and in desperate need of an editor. I had a growing need to “get on with it” for surely there was interesting history in the 1970s-1990’s…right?
Not so much, it would appear. Other than the demise of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it would seem to be a very boring 30-year stretch. Nothing about technological change, the advent of computers, the Space Race, Middle Eastern conflict, etc. The Cold War is largely ignored with only a single, uninteresting character being used as a semi-spy. Nothing even about Desert Storm, etc. As I stated earlier, I understand not everything can be included, and in this kind of novel, for an event to be included, a fictional character from one of the five families would need to be involved somehow. But it would have been nice to at least acknowledge some of these things by having a couple of characters mention it. (i.e. “Did you see in the newspaper what so-and-so just did?) There are certainly many scenes like this throughout the book...just limited to certain focus subjects. It’s as if the main characters were not interested in anything except their own single issues. That in turn led to some flatness of many of the main characters. Perhaps there should have been a fourth novel and allow this third one to have been solely devoted to the 1960s.
The other issue I had with balance is one of political viewpoint. I never have a problem with a fictional character being left, right, or center, as long as they are realistic in their viewpoint. But throughout this novel, the author allows his own political views to intrude. And it gets worse and more intrusive the further one reads in this book. It gets so bad that it interferes with the story and makes the whole thing seem contrived. For example, democratic and liberal leaders such as JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. are all presented as actual characters, interacting with our fictional characters. That allows us to see them make mistakes, learn from them, and move on to better things. It makes them realistic and historically accurate (as far as we know). It makes them human. However, the Republican and conservative leaders such as Helmut Kohl, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and their ministers and cabinet secretaries are not allowed to have any “screen time” at all and are described as complete incompetent buffoons at best and mass murderers at worst. Margaret Thatcher isn’t even mentioned in the book. The collapse of the Soviet Union is, apparently, solely due to Mikhail Gorbachev and a drop in the price of oil. No credit is given to European and American leaders who brought financial and military pressure to bear, leading to a bankrupt Soviet Union. Again, I don’t mind my characters being of any particular political persuasion as long as they are presented appropriately and fairly. Otherwise the novel is much reduced in stature and risks being classified as alternate history. I might as well read something by Ann Coulter or Chris Matthews.
So overall, I generally enjoyed reading the book. I won’t go as far as other reviewers and describe it as revisionist history. But I will say the balance issues reduced my enjoyment considerably. I enjoyed the first two books immensely and I wonder if this one suffers in my mind because I lived through most of it and already have my own viewpoints on what transpired and why. I’m not sure. ...more
I received an unsolicited copy from the publisher of an ARC for this book which is really the only reason I read it. It’s just not the sort of thing tI received an unsolicited copy from the publisher of an ARC for this book which is really the only reason I read it. It’s just not the sort of thing that I would normally pick up on my own. It’s part memoir and part true crime and is essentially about the author’s cathartic coming-to-grips with her own traumatic childhood while also taking a deep dive into the life of Ricky Langley, a criminal who was on death row (now commuted to a life sentence on re-trial) for the murder of a young boy. I’m calling this a “stretch-read” for me, coming out of my reading comfort zone once again, something I try to do once in a while.
The topics here are not comfortable ones. Chief among them is child abuse. This is written in as tasteful a way as possible I suppose, and the actual events are left off screen for the most part. Examining this sort of behavior, its mental health aspects, the death penalty, etc. are all pursued but it is the author’s writing style that elevates this book and makes it an intriguing read. The author jumps back and forth through time as her story meshes with that of Ricky Langley, and it is fascinating to see how her attitude toward Ricky changes throughout. Even though Ricky committed unspeakable crimes, he still comes off as a very sympathetic person, based largely on his own traumatic past and seemingly genuine desire to not be who he is.
I’m glad I read this book but I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. It’s not exactly uplifting but it is an interesting look into the very personal lives of real people and how they cope with some of life’s most disturbing events....more
The third book of the Camel Club series is a direct continuation of book 2, The Collectors with the continuing plot line involving Annabelle and the aThe third book of the Camel Club series is a direct continuation of book 2, The Collectors with the continuing plot line involving Annabelle and the aftermath of her long con operation against Casino mogul Jerry Bagger. We also have a new plot line involving the one-after-another deaths of people from Oliver Stone’s shadowy past, which seems likely to catch up to Stone as well at some point. This time around we get a lot more information about Stone’s history and we get to see a side of him that he has kept hidden for many years.
As usual, David Baldacci does an excellent job of creating entertaining thriller fiction. His plots are not always completely original and this time around he seems to include more of the standard thriller tropes than usual. But his characters are always likeable or loathsome and it’s fun to take the ride with them, wherever it may lead. ...more
A nice little short story about an author named Jack Henry who is starting to enter has-been status as a crime fiction novelist and finds himself in dA nice little short story about an author named Jack Henry who is starting to enter has-been status as a crime fiction novelist and finds himself in debt but willing to do anything to get himself out of it. It's not a John Corey story but that character is mentioned as a detective that Jack Henry has consulted in the past about the best ways to commit a perfect crime. Nelson DeMille is a wonderful story teller with a great sense of humor and the ending of this story is no exception....more
The second novel in the “Saga of the First King” tetralogy (itself a prequel series to the larger “Corona” series) feels a bit like the first book inThe second novel in the “Saga of the First King” tetralogy (itself a prequel series to the larger “Corona” series) feels a bit like the first book in a trilogy. While the main story line still revolves around Bransen Garibond (The Highwayman) and the search for his destiny, he and his immediate companions only take up a portion of the chapters. Many other characters are introduced as well, and most of them seem to have major roles in the larger world that Salvatore is developing, with the titular Ancient mage of the Samhaists taking center stage.
While I have been a big fan of Salvatore’s Drizzt novels, especially at the beginning, and still regard the The Dark Elf Trilogy Collector's Edition among my favorite fantasy epics, I tend to list his earlier Corona novels among the very best of his work. Mortalis is my favorite Salvatore novel and, in fact, I once attended one of his book signings where he told me that it was his favorite as well, at least so far. But somehow, this earlier set isn’t quite connecting with me the way those did. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve since been exposed to a lot of extremely high-quality fantasy reads or if it’s some other reason. Nevertheless, I am interested to see how these turn out so will turn to the next one, The Dame, in due course....more
Just a short novella but this little side trip to Egypt seems to pack as much of a punch as the longer books in the regular series. It was a nice diveJust a short novella but this little side trip to Egypt seems to pack as much of a punch as the longer books in the regular series. It was a nice diversionary tale to read while stuck on a tour bus in poor weather....more
When a king of a small European country is murdered by conspirators, the grandson and heir is spirited away lest the same thing happen to him. ThroughWhen a king of a small European country is murdered by conspirators, the grandson and heir is spirited away lest the same thing happen to him. Through a series of misadventures, the boy is stranded alone in Africa and is befriended by a lion cub. They grow up together and eventually come into contact with human civilization in the form of Arab tribesman and then later on, a French camp.
But that’s not all. Those are only the even numbered chapters. The odd-numbered chapters deal with events back in the kingdom where the murdered king's brother Prince Otto, one of the conspirators, succeeds him. Otto and his spoiled son Prince Ferdinand are not well liked and their story is pretty compelling.
This stand-alone novel was written in 1914 and was originally published as a three-part serial in “All-Story Weekly” in 1917. But this paperback version has been expanded and updated in 1938 or so which explains why much of the political background exposition deals more with WW2-era issues and technology than WW1.
I really enjoyed this one, perhaps because it wasn’t just about the boy and the lion and Tarzan-like adventures. The political intrigue of Otto and Ferdinand was something unexpected for me and I liked the way the two story lines alternated but did not interact until the very last paragraph of the book.
If you’re looking for interesting, thought-provoking, hard science fiction, you could certainly do worse than this second novel in the “Uplift TrilogyIf you’re looking for interesting, thought-provoking, hard science fiction, you could certainly do worse than this second novel in the “Uplift Trilogy”. Even though it is the second book in a trilogy, it takes place more than 200 years after the events of book one (Sundiver) and has no connected story threads or characters so can easily be read without having first read book one. In fact, I recommend doing just that as I believe this novel is a much better introduction to this future universe.
The story takes place on the abandoned ocean world of Kithrup, in the year 2489 AD. The predominantly dolphin-crewed starship Streaker has found sanctuary deep underwater after having found a fleet of abandoned starships in a globular cluster that date back to the time of the fabled “Progenitors”. There is knowledge in this discovery and it turns out that there are races willing to commit murder and even genocide to learn more about the birth of intergalactic civilization. That is a particular problem for the crew of the Streaker because they have been pursued to the planet Kithrup by whole groups of alien starships with dozens of major galactic races now clashing overhead for the right to capture Streaker and her secrets. And just to make things even more interesting, the crew of the Streaker are themselves divided over which course of action to take and, indeed, the planet itself has its own secrets to be dealt with.
Try to ignore the fact that this is a novel about “dolphins in space” which, now that I type that, sounds like a silly children’s book title. In the hands of physicist/astrophysicist/futurist David Brin, there is nothing silly about this book. Rather, this is a huge concept novel that serves well to introduce the reader to the concept of “uplift” which is, essentially, the genetic altering of lower species, granting them intelligence, so they can enter Galactic civilization, and achieve star-faring status. Prior to the events of this trilogy, humans have uplifted both dolphins and chimpanzees. It can be a little confusing when reading about dolphins who can speak just as well as humans and I confess to frequently referencing the handy glossary in order to keep straight who’s a human and who’s a dolphin. (There is only one chimp aboard so that one was easy). Brin put a lot of effort into the dolphin society, organization, and language (the dolphins have a haiku-like way of speaking which bridges their primal language of squeaks, clicks and sonar and the human language, "Anglic") and it's extremely convincing.
I’ve always wanted to be one of those smart readers who enjoyed hard sci-fi, especially when I was young and tried to compete with my older brother. But usually when I tackled one, I would find my mind wandering off the plot and thinking about other things. It’s not so much that I was bored but I think they tended to be so science-heavy that important story-telling techniques such as relatable characters, intriguing plots, and proper pacing suffered. But I still keep trying once in a while even if I must work up my courage to do so. This novel suffered a little bit of that but my experience this time around was a generally positive one. The ideas were so intriguing, and I really enjoyed the little thought-provoking touches in the story like a dolphin that goes a little off the wire and thinks he is an orca, or the concept of the food chain as a religion. While the novel does feature a lot of science and “future-scientific terms”, in general it was easy enough to follow and the characters were memorable.