The Floating Admiral is the result of a bit of amusement by a number of the leading detective story writers of the early '30s. Agatha Christie, G.K. CThe Floating Admiral is the result of a bit of amusement by a number of the leading detective story writers of the early '30s. Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers and others passed-on each succeeding chapter to the writer next on the list in a sort of writing relay without help of either overall outline or goal except that each succeeding chapter must advance the plot without ignoring the details of the preceding chapters. Of course, the final chapter must tie-up all that went before. All the writers are quite talented and the mechanics of the stories are at a high standard. No clue is left behind. But without an agreed-to outline, the story does meander a bit. The ending does tie-up loose ends, but the overall package is bit bulky and not very elegant. As a mystery novel, it is a bit ho-hum. But as a game, it is fun to follow the ingenuity of writers like Agatha Christie or Ronald Knox. A pretty good read....more
Larry McMurtry’s “Horseman, Pass By” is a western and a coming-of-age story set in Texas at a specific time: July 1954. Lonnie, a seventeen year-old,Larry McMurtry’s “Horseman, Pass By” is a western and a coming-of-age story set in Texas at a specific time: July 1954. Lonnie, a seventeen year-old, lives with his grand-father and step-grand-mother, and much older step-brother, Hud, on a large ranch. His grand-father is eighty-six and still actively working. He’s a cattleman of the old west: a man of great integrity and past. Hud is wild and grasping: a man whose behaviour presages an ominous future. Lonnie finds himself pulled between these two dominating men and the west they represent. He’s disposition is inclined to his grand-father but Hud’s world seems attractive. Within a month, a catastrophe strikes the ranch. Lonnie strikes out on his own, but where he goes is left uncertain....more
I was very much surprised how much I liked The Casual Vacancy. To say that it wasn't what I was expecting is dead on. I though it was going to be someI was very much surprised how much I liked The Casual Vacancy. To say that it wasn't what I was expecting is dead on. I though it was going to be some sort of cozy romance. Far from it. More like Coronation Street on steroids...or smack. Sort of a cross between Melvin Burgess' Junk and Peter Hedges' What's Eating Gilbert Grape, except it all takes place in a twee West Country village....more
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe is daft, silly and incredibly fun. The plot is absurd. The pirates are surreal. The diaboThe Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe is daft, silly and incredibly fun. The plot is absurd. The pirates are surreal. The diabolically minded Pirate Captain captures HMS Beagle in an erroneous attack. These things happen. Then it's Charles Darwin and the Pirates against Victorian society. Yes, it does seem odd but there it is. Really great read....more
The Mystery of the Invisible Thief by Enid Blyton had lots of funny moments as the Find-Outers were always one step ahead of Mr. Goon. The mystery wasThe Mystery of the Invisible Thief by Enid Blyton had lots of funny moments as the Find-Outers were always one step ahead of Mr. Goon. The mystery was good with some fine sleuthing. As usual, the motivation of the perp was lacking unless that fact that the perp was working class is motivation enough. For Blyton, this is often too true....more
Rangers Apprentice Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan is kind of like "Sword in the Stone": a nice kid does great things in a world touchedRangers Apprentice Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan is kind of like "Sword in the Stone": a nice kid does great things in a world touched by fantasy. The kid is Will, a 15 year old orphan, who is chosen for an apprenticeship with the mysterious and select group called the Rangers. Much of the story shows Will learning the skills of the Rangers. His major conflict is a boy his same age who is apprenticeing as a soldier. Once that is resolved, Will finds himself pitted against a greater danger: a magical creature that seems unstoppable. The story has a lot of momentum and Will comes across as a likeable protagonist. Good read....more
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince by Enid Blyton was a good mystery. The Find-Outers did a credible job in their sleuthing. However, the book bordersThe Mystery of the Vanished Prince by Enid Blyton was a good mystery. The Find-Outers did a credible job in their sleuthing. However, the book borders on being offensive in the description and treatment of the 'foreign' prince, the 'gypsies', and the working class boys Ern, Perce and Sid. I don't know if the text in this edition has been modified from the original. If so, it hasn't been modified enough. You don't have to be very sensitive to find a lot of cringe-worthy moments. Probably one of the better examples of Blyton at her worst....more
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton was a more clever mystery than some in the series. The Find-Outers came up with some good ideas inThe Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton was a more clever mystery than some in the series. The Find-Outers came up with some good ideas in their sleuthing. Unfortunately, the motivation of the culprit was lacking. It was not at all obvious why the perp sent the spiteful letters. All in all though, good fun....more
Anthill by E.O. Wilson was a disappointing story. Wilson is a great naturalist but a poor writer of fiction. The novel seems to have six disconnectedAnthill by E.O. Wilson was a disappointing story. Wilson is a great naturalist but a poor writer of fiction. The novel seems to have six disconnected sections. The first sections revolves around the adolescent naturalist Raff Cody and his cousin. But the novel jumps to a second section which details the back story of Cody's parents. We never hear about the cousin again. The third section sees an older Cody at university studying biology. From the second section onwards, the narrative is often taken over by a professor who sees himself as mentor to Cody. Oddly enough we never get to see Cody's point of view of this relationship. How the professor should know so much about Cody is inexplicable. Why Wilson didn't stick with Cody's view point becomes apparent in the fourth section. This is called the Anthill Chronicles and is a seventy page digression about ants written as a sort of ant-sized fable. Acccording to the narrative, the professor wrote the Anthill Chronicles from Cody's undergraduate thesis. Very bizarre inclusion of this digression that has no obvious place in the narrative. At the conclusion of the ant story, a fifth section follows with a flowery description of life at Harvard as Cody enters law school. An awkwardly written romance occurs but like the cousin in section one, the girlfriend all but disappears from the story as the section ends. Then the final sixth section begins which is over-the-top in its strangeness. For some reason which is never explained and seems to happen without motivation, Cody is kidnapped and will be murdered. He does escape death during the massacre of his kidnappers. The story then ends happily ever after. If nothing else, Anthill could prove useful as an exemplar of how-not-to-tell-a-story....more
"A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the novel where John Carter (of Earth) is introduced. Carter is transported from the Earth to Mars whe"A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the novel where John Carter (of Earth) is introduced. Carter is transported from the Earth to Mars where he becomes a warrior hero to its local inhabitants. The story is non-stop action: mostly sword-play. The plot is simple and much of the details is silly. Yet, as a whole, the novel is fun to read. I managed to read the novel on its 100th anniversary as it was first published in Feb of 1912....more
“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card was a novel that I initially had my suspicions of but grew to love as the story unfolded. Set in an unspecified fut“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card was a novel that I initially had my suspicions of but grew to love as the story unfolded. Set in an unspecified future where space travel and colonization are unremarkably part of human achievement, in the world of Ender’s Game, Earth has already repelled two alien invasions and is expecting a third. In preparation, the worldwide government seeks a great military strategist and tactician. A highly specialized selection and education system is established. The military monitors potential children for their first few years and send the most promising to ‘Battle School’ at about the age of six.
Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggins is one of those selected. A third child allowed to be born - in a world where strict population control restricts families to two children - because his two older siblings also showed promise, Ender meets all the intellectual and psychological requirements. He is sent to an orbiting space station with other young candidates and begins a training regimen that will last for years.
While a story of much action, twist, turns and physicality, Ender’s Game also confronts a number of themes. Ender is tormented about doing harm to others, about being passive in the control of authority figures, and about being driven to win above all else.
However, there are a few things that distracted me. First and foremost was the naked boys. I found this detail to be creepy. Why did they have to be naked? Why mention it?
Second, the dialogue disappointed me. The short prologues of Col. Graff's conversations in front of most chapters were stilted. The tone and style of the dialogue of the young children were off-kilter. And, the slang of the young children seemed badly rendered: was it supposed to be a parody of 'Ebonics'?
Third, the novel seemed to suggest a philosophy where killing without being personally aware was excusable. As long as Ender was kept from knowing, then he was beyond guilt. Was he?
A short novel, Ender’s Game nonetheless stays with you after the last page: a very good read. ...more
**spoiler alert** "Everything was Good-bye" was not bad but it wasn't great, either. A story with too little plot, it was a romance smothered in molas**spoiler alert** "Everything was Good-bye" was not bad but it wasn't great, either. A story with too little plot, it was a romance smothered in molasses: sickly sweet and slow moving. Even the death scene was ho-hum; a case of manslaughter and not murder. There are better and more lively reads than this novel....more
'The Invention of Hugo Cabret" is a story about a boy who finds himself abandoned and alone but through his imagination and perseverance ends up makin'The Invention of Hugo Cabret" is a story about a boy who finds himself abandoned and alone but through his imagination and perseverance ends up making a new life for himself. Orphaned after his father dies in a museum fire, Hugo spends his days keeping all the clocks running in a Parisian train station for his uncle who has taken him in. But his uncle too disappears, and Hugo lives on his own and maintains everything on his own. In the meantime, trying to understand why he has lost his father Hugo goes back to the blackened ruins of the museum to retrieve the last project his father was working on. It is an automaton: a mechanical man. Through blind faith that fixing the automaton will lead him to a message from his father, Hugo begins to 'borrow' the mechanical bits from toys he finds in the train station's toy booth. Why these mechanical bits should fit his broken automaton escapes him, but there is a connection which leads Hugo to not only to find friendship, to complete his father's project but to repair a man's broken spirit.
The book relies on many drawings to tell the story. These are really well done. The whole book is fantastically well done. (The movie version called Hugo stays fairly close to the novel but the two have many differences too....more
Although one of the longer of Charles Dickens' novels, David Copperfield is a highly readable and absorbing story of a boy who does grow up well...desAlthough one of the longer of Charles Dickens' novels, David Copperfield is a highly readable and absorbing story of a boy who does grow up well...despite the false starts of his childhood. We meet David when he is born. His father has died and his mother has the misfortune to marry a harsh man (who arrives in the household complete with an even harsher sister so that David gets the benefit of both an evil step-father and 'step-mother'). Things just keep getting worse. David is sent away to a school with a cruel headmaster. Then, his mother dies and his step-father sends him away to live by-himself in London to work in a warehouse. David - not even ten years old- escapes and sets out to seek his only living relative. The narrative hasn't even covered a quarter of the plot but in these early trials David meets all the -unlikely - people who end up showing him great kindness and help in life: his nurse Pegotty, Tommy Traddles, Mr. And Mrs. Micawber, and his formidable aunt.
Needless to say, much happens and David Copperfield ends well. A great novel and a great read....more