I'm sorry Larry Niven, but what love I had for you (back in the 80s when I discovered science fiction) is rapidly disappearing. I read The Mote in GodI'm sorry Larry Niven, but what love I had for you (back in the 80s when I discovered science fiction) is rapidly disappearing. I read The Mote in God's Eye recently and wasn't nearly as thrilled with it as expected. I'm very tempted to go back and reread Lucifer's Hammer to see if it really is as good as I remember. I enjoyed that one when I read it. My memory tells me that it actually had a plot with a real story arc.
Ringworld doesn't really. Oh, yes...there's a plot of sorts. Let's have Louis Wu,our hero, team up with a Pierson Puppeteer (a two-headed, three-legged, horse-like [?] creature with it's real brain in a camel-like hump on its back), a Kzin (a huge, war-like, cat-like alien), and a human woman, Teela Brown, whose main purpose seems to be to love [and make love to] Louis...until she doesn't any more, to serve as a "good-luck charm" for the expedition, and to, occasionally, offer some fairly good insight into rather complex ideas [Hey, look, the woman has a brain! Why isn't she allowed to use it all the time?], and send them off to investigate an unexplored area of the universe in the hopes of finding a safe place for all the species when the radiation effects from explosions at the center of the galaxy reaches inhabited space. They discover this massive artificial structure shaped like (surprise!) a ring and orbiting a sun and make a pretty half-baked effort to investigate it. There you go. Sure, they meet people (really--very human-like people), but don't really interact with them much. They kindof, sortof explore--but not really.
Here is the plot in a nutshell: Long, lead-in where the Puppeteer convinces Louis and company to join the team. Smaller portion where the team is with the other Puppeteers getting ready to launch the trip. Long portion for travel to Ringworld. Another long portion traveling around on Ringworld. The End. There is no real goal--investigate and report back; conquer Ringworld; whatever. The story just really stops. I understand that this is part of a series and this was basically the book setting everything up--but 342 pages of setup? Add to that the fact that we really don't learn a whole lot about the characters and they don't seem to learn a whole heaping lot about themselves during this great grand adventure. Probably because there aren't many large problems for them to work through.
The science fiction conceit is brilliant. The idea of Ringworld itself is fabulous and was a major draw for me to read this story. But I really expected to be more engaged with the characters. To be honest--Louis and Teela didn't interest me much. Louis isn't very knowledgeable about space and exploration and seems more interested in making it with Teela than anything and Teela seems to be more decorative than anything else. The most interesting character is Speaker, the Kzin. I would love to have learned more about Speaker and his people. Both stars are for the basic idea and the potential that I can see for great stories--I certainly hope the rest of the series builds on this and ups the ante with some good story-telling. I'm not sure whether I'll be reading any more to find out, however.
Warning! If you have not yet read the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, then you will not want to read this book before doing so--unlessWarning! If you have not yet read the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, then you will not want to read this book before doing so--unless you want the plots spoiled. Robert Kuhn McGregor and Ethan Lewis have no compunction about giving away virtually every clue and unmasking every villain in the novels and (most) short stories of the well-known mystery writer while expounding the Conundrums for the Long Week-End: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey. They assume (rightly, I believe) that anyone plunging into their literary critique will be well-acquainted with the ins and outs of Sayers's works.
MacGregor and Lewis fully examine the plots of the Wimsey novels, tying them firmly to both the events in Britain and the world during the "Long Week-End"--the period between the two World Wars--and to the life of Dorothy L. Sayers. They find themes and events in the fictional life of Lord Peter, and later Harriet, and use them to understand Sayers's views on love, marriage, the evolving place of women, and the social changes which are rapidly shaping Sayers's world. They also reveal how each of the Wimsey novels play upon different mystery conventions--from the thriller to the time-table focused crime to the how-dunnit. Sayers worked hard at her craft and used it consciously to explore her own views as well as to comment on (and sometimes criticize) the methods and conventions of other Golden Age mystery practitioners.
For readers of Sayers's work, there may be little to surprise in the examination of the novels themselves, but the historical groundwork, social critique, and background on Sayers herself is interesting and useful for anyone who wants to understand her work better or see it in a different light.
The British Invasion by Barry Miles attempts to cover everything that was the British invasion of the 1960s. It wasn't just an influx of music--from TThe British Invasion by Barry Miles attempts to cover everything that was the British invasion of the 1960s. It wasn't just an influx of music--from The Beatles to the Dave Clark Five to the Kinks and the the Rolling Stones. British actors made their mark on Hollywood snagging Oscars and making Americans long for London. The Avengers invaded television to become a cult icon and hip and mod styles became the dream fashion of thousands of teenagers.
The book is filled with photographs that will bring back memories for those who lived through the period and will bring the era to life for those who came along too late to experience it first-hand. While Miles does make the effort to bring in music and pop culture beyond The Beatles, he still brings everything back to them. The focus is on the Fab Four and the many ways that their arrival in America in 1964 made everything else possible. An interesting look at the pop culture of the 1960s and especially of interest to Beatles and music fans. ★★★ and a half. (rounded up here)
Murder Past Due by Miranda James is a cozy cat mystery that isn't just "too much" as so many of them can be. Diesel is a Maine coon cat with a human naMurder Past Due by Miranda James is a cozy cat mystery that isn't just "too much" as so many of them can be. Diesel is a Maine coon cat with a human named Charlie Harris. Diesel doesn't solve mysteries--he's just a big, lovable cat whose most extraordinary habits is walking around town on a leash, warbling and chirping instead of meowing as other cats do. The mystery solver is Charlie--college librarian and first-time amateur sleuth. Since everyone in Athena, Mississippi knows Charlie, they are more apt to gossip with him than spill what they know to the law.
When former classmate, now bestselling novelist Godfrey Priest returns home for an honorary dinner and to donate his papers to his alma mater, he stirs up more trouble than good feelings and someone decides perform a killing review on the author and end his days on the bestseller list for good. There is no shortage of suspects--from Charlie's boss who lost his wife to Godfrey's womanizing ways to Godfrey's half-brother who could have used financial help in the worst way to a possible ghost writer to the bookshop owner who lost a great deal of business when the famous author cancelled a couple of book-signing to an old flame who wound up pregnant years ago and now it looks like Godfrey wants to steal her son's affection.
Charlie spends his time in the library's archives and it looks like he'll need to dig in the town's past history to find all the clues necessary to help the sheriff's office solve the mystery of the cancelled author.
This is a pleasant cozy mystery. There are a fair amount of clues and enough suspects to distract, although I did pick the culprit out. The plot was still enjoyable and it was interesting meeting the regulars for what looks to be a good series. It's nice to have a "cat mystery" where the the cat is just a cat. He doesn't find the clues; he doesn't point them out to his owner. But he is a lovely addition to the cast. Charlie is an interesting character, but I think I like Diesel even more.
The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana is gearing up for a highly anticipated football game. Baylor University, the country's preeminentThe University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana is gearing up for a highly anticipated football game. Baylor University, the country's preeminent Protestant college, will meet the Catholic football powerhouse for the first time. Game day, most ironically, falls on Reformation Day--the day recognizing the historic moment when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Schlosskirche (castle church) in Wittenberg in 1517. Off the field, scholars prepare a theological conference featuring participants from the rival schools that will address Catholic and Protestant history. And a female pastor (who seems to be a bit of a loose cannon) plans to protest the game as some sort of statement about Protestantism's superiority over Catholicism. She hopes to stir up a religious fervor to eclipse the football fanaticism.
Sparks seem to be flying everywhere. Even the campus event coordinator is stirring up trouble--she seems to believe it her duty to throw as many obstacles in the path of conference directors as possible. When she is found strangled shortly before the big day, there seems to be no shortage of candidates for the role of murderer. Roger (a professor) and Philip (a private eye) Knight use their various skills to help search for the killer. But there are no definite clues until Notre Dame's famed, brilliant, and troubled quarterback mysteriously disappears and evidence links him to the crime. But did he do it....or does he just know who did?
The Lack of the Irish is a fairly solid mystery offering from the late Ralph McInerny. Very light, cozy feel with the academic setting and most of the mystery-solving provided by the professor half of the brothers Knight rather than the private eye. Interesting characters and a realistic motive for the culprit. Not really in the fair-play tradition...either that or I was asleep at the wheel when it came to noticing clues, but it was a fun, quick read and I do enjoy Professor Knight and his brother.