Zion's Fiction: A Treasury of Israeli Speculative Literature (2018) edited by Sheldon Teitelbaum and Emanuel Lottem is the first book of its kind to bZion's Fiction: A Treasury of Israeli Speculative Literature (2018) edited by Sheldon Teitelbaum and Emanuel Lottem is the first book of its kind to be published in English. As noted, it is a collection of Israeli science fiction. It also gives a brief history of the genre among Israelis--it was not generally accepted for quite a long time after it became popular in American and elsewhere. And, in fact, it was viewed with great disdain until the late 1970s. But, as is the case with most non-mainstream ideas, it had its followers and practitioners and we finally have a collection of works.
When I was in college (many moons ago), I read a collection of Jewish science fiction called Wandering Stars that provided stories by Jewish authors--primarily American--some with more obvious Jewish themes and enjoyed the stories written from a different perspective. So, when I saw this collection at the library I thought it would be interesting to read Jewish stories from a view different from American Jewish authors. I wasn't disappointed. These stories--more than any science fiction collection I can remember--provide (for this Gentile) a profound sense of other. The very first story, "The Smell of Orange Groves," drove this point home immediately. In fact, the experience was so different for me, that I must confess that I did not fully appreciate all of the nuances surrounding the ideas of memory and family connection that must relate to central Israeli ways of life that I do not understand properly.
The collection is, despite being so very other-worldly for me, a very powerful set of stories. I was particularly moved by "The Slows" (which has the shadow of the Holocaust hovering over it) and "A Good Place for the Night" which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where only a few have escaped the unnamed plague/weapon/what-have-you that has wiped out most of humanity. These stories speak to the strength of the human spirit and what qualities make us truly human. Other favorites are "Burn Alexandria" in which the non-human makes the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity and humanity's knowledge (echoes of the library at Alexandria also appeal to this book-lover) and "Possibilities" which talks about the power of story-making and makes connections to a well-known Ray Bradbury story. You can't go wrong with Bradbury. Overall, an excellent and intriguing collection that should appeal to all science fiction readers.
I Am Mr. Spock by Elizabeth Schaefer (2019): Another lovely children's book for young Star Trek fans and those of us who are older ST fans as well. ThI Am Mr. Spock by Elizabeth Schaefer (2019): Another lovely children's book for young Star Trek fans and those of us who are older ST fans as well. This one is more focused on Mr. Spock than the I Am Captain Kirk book is on Kirk and talks about what he does in the crew and his relationship with Kirk and McCoy. A good introduction to the character and his place in the Star Trek universe. Again, the illustrations are wonderfully done. An excellent, fun book....more
This is a lovely children's book for young Star Trek fans or Star Trek parents who want to introduce Start Trek to their children or older Star Trek fThis is a lovely children's book for young Star Trek fans or Star Trek parents who want to introduce Start Trek to their children or older Star Trek fans who just want a fun ST book to add to their collection (that would be me). The illustrations are wonderfully done and the only thing that prevents this from a full five-star rating is the fact that the author doesn't seem to know that Chekov exists and while he includes Nurse Chapel in one of the illustrations he doesn't mention her at all either. Also--the book really focuses more on the "world" of Star Trek (introducing the crew, spelling out their mission to "Boldly Go," etc.) than it does on Captain Kirk himself. Perhaps the book should have been called This Is Star Trek....more
Bill Bryson introduces the 2001 edition of W. E. Bowman's The Ascent of Rum Doodle (orig. pub. 1956) as "one of the funniest books you will ever read.Bill Bryson introduces the 2001 edition of W. E. Bowman's The Ascent of Rum Doodle (orig. pub. 1956) as "one of the funniest books you will ever read." He gives us great expectations of the delights that await us as we read Bowman's parody of the great mountain-climbing expeditions of the early 20th Century. "Binder" (as our narrator is code-named for the group's walkie-talkie usage) is the leader of this grand adventure and tells us the story of the eight brave men and 3,000 Yogistani porters who tackle the true highest peak in the Himalayas. The group is actually the greatest collection of misfits with misnomers ever assembled. Binder most certainly does not bind his group together. Burley is not the epitome of health and strength that one might expect. And so on... It a miracle that any of them ever reach the peak of anything...or do they? You'll have to read to find out.
Something tells me that reading this book is something like what I would experience if I were to decide to actually climb a large mountain...like Everest or that taller mountain, Rum Doodle. It would go something like this
~Boy, isn't this fun? I'm having a great time. ~Still enjoying myself. Nice scenery. Great adventure. ~What? Oh, yes, I am getting a little bit tired...but this is fun. I can totally do it. ~Hmmm. That bit of mountain ahead looks remarkably like that bit of mountain back there. Only steeper. ~Puff. Puff. It's getting a little difficult to get my bearings. And I'm getting a little light-headed. Why do I feel so tired? ~Goodness this is getting repetitive. And I'm really getting tired of climbing. When do we get to the peak? ~Seriously...are we there yet? ~I'm certain I thought this was a good idea when I started...but...does anyone know why? ~I don't think I can take another step...I mean it...Oh, wait. Is that the top? We're there? But I can't see anything with all those clouds in the way. Are you sure this was worth it?
I really enjoyed the first third or so. The British humor was humming along nicely and I was gently chuckling away to myself. But then just like the mountain bits that looked remarkably like other mountain bits only steeper...the humor was very repetitive and it got worse as we went along. Binder imposing himself on one of his men and forcing him to tell the "story" of his childhood...or his fiancee...or his broken heart just wasn't funny any more. And it was no longer funny that the reader knew that Binder's climbing buddies were leading him up the garden path and telling him the most incredible nonsense and yet Binder was taking it as the gospel truth. And Jungle getting lost for the 153rd time was no longer funny. And the fact that the number 153 was the magic number for everything. And the constant movement from Base Camp to Advance Camp 1 (and 2 and 3 and 4 and...) and back again became irritating nonsense instead of comical nonsense. And the fact that no matter what they did they couldn't lose Pong, the Yogistani cook with a knack for turning the most desirable delicacies into the most nauseating mush, for love or money.
This would have been a heck of a lot funnier if Bowman had had more strings to his bow (so to speak)--if he hadn't harped on the same exact jokes every step of the way up the mountain. ★★★ But there are several four- and five-star ratings out there on Goodreads, so your mileage may vary.
The heroine of Stratton-Porter's book is Elnora Comstock, a sixteen-year old girl who lives at the edge of Limberlost swamp in northern Indiana with hThe heroine of Stratton-Porter's book is Elnora Comstock, a sixteen-year old girl who lives at the edge of Limberlost swamp in northern Indiana with her widowed mother. Elnora is a bright, beautiful (both inside and out) girl who longs to make a better life for herself. She has gone as far as she can in the local school and makes plans to attend the city high school. Her mother is a depressed, embittered woman who has never shown Elnora a mother's love--in part because she blames the girl's birth for her husband's death. Elnora was born the night her father died in quicksand in the swamp and Katharine Comstock is certain she could have saved her beloved if she hadn't been in labor at the time. Despite Katharine's coldness, Elnora has grown to be a kind, compassionate girl who is wise beyond her years. This is partly due to her nature, but also to the loving kindness of their nearest neighbors, the Stintons.
Katharine begrudgingly tells her daughter that she may go to high school (provided all of her chores get done either before or after school) and that all has been arranged. But Elnora's dreams look to be dashed before she's even begun--she arrives at the school dressed (to the city kids' eyes) in outlandish clothing, with no books, and without having the out-of-city registration fees paid. Her mother knew the books and fees would be required but didn't tell Elnora and didn't bother to tell Elnora. In fact, she hoped the girl would be so disheartened that she'd refuse to go back. It's obvious that Katharine doesn't know her daughter. Elnora learns that there are those that will pay good money for natural specimens (moths, cocoons, and the like) as well as arrowheads and she sets about selling what she has and making plans to collect more. An even bigger break in family relations comes when Elnora needs just one more moth to complete a collection that will fund her college enrollment. How she and her mother reach an understanding and become a real family....as well as how Elnora wins over her city classmates and gains the love and admiration of a good man comprises the rest of this classic story.
I grew up reading and rereading one of Stratton-Porter's other classics, Laddie. It was, in fact, one of my all-time childhood favorites and it still resonated with me when I reread it just a few years ago (see review at linked title). Whether my continued love for the book was primarily from a sense of of nostalgia or that it is just a much better told story (Laddie was published four years later), I can't say for sure. But I do know that I did not enjoy Elnora's story nearly as much as I did Little Sister's. It's possible that part of my difficulty stems from my inability to understand Elnora's mother. I simply cannot understand how someone could spend 16 years (and more...since the events of the book take place over several years) blaming their child for something that was absolutely not their fault. How a mother could be so cold and unloving to their own daughter. It is also quite possible that I would have appreciated the story more if I had first read it near the time I first read Laddie.
There are many reasons to appreciate the book--its lessons on self-reliance and belief in oneself, for one. I certainly do appreciate Elnora's thirst for knowledge and the desire to better herself. It was very good to read a story about an intelligent young woman's whose sense of self and purpose was strong enough that she refused to let obstacles (like her mother's refusal to help) stand in her way. And she manages it without becoming bitter. A good solid story that I wanted to like much more than I did.