Monthly Archives: January 2013

Review: Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

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Earth Abides

Most of the time when Stephen King cites a book as an influence or recommends it, I’ll give it a whirl. Over the years, I’d say I’ve enjoyed at least 90% of what King recommends — either on the pages of Entertainment Weekly or in the forwards or afterwards of his various novels.

One of those recommended reads is Earth Abides which King cites as an influence for one of my favorite works by him, The Stand. And so it was that I scoured a couple of used book stores to find a copy of George R. Stewart’s influential, post-apocalyptic novel. And then, it sat on the to be read pile for a while, collecting dust. For a while I just wasn’t in the mood for the end of the world as we know it and rebuilding humanity again. But finally, I got into a place where I wanted to read about the world ending and so I finally got around to reading the story of Isherwood Williams (Ish), who survives a mutated strain of the measles thanks to a rattlesnake bite. Isolated in a cabin in the woods (but not the one used in the Joss Whedon movie, mind you), Ish rides out the poison and the disease to find he’s one of the last surviving human beings on the planet. He also finds a hammer, which will become pretty important in the days to come — not only to break into various establishments to gain supplies, but also as a symbol to the community that Ish helps establish.

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Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day

On the surface, the premise of David Levithan’s One Day sounds like it’s borrowed from one of my favorite TV shows, Quantum Leap.

Every morning, A wakes up inside a different body of someone close to A’s age. For A, this is a normal thing that has been happening since he/she was born. While A can access the memories of the boy or girl that A’s leapt into that day, it’s rare that A will make a significant connection or plan for the future beyond the 24 hour period inhabiting another person’s life. That is, until the day, that A leaps into the body of Justin and meets Rhiannon. A falls in love with Rhiannon and becomes obsessed with finding a way to maintain the connection to her and make her aware of his/her existence and fate.

One issue facing A is that while he/she will leap into someone in the same geographic region, it could be someone five minutes or five hours away. Also, A has to consider the impact that contacting and finding Rhiannon each day will have on the life on the person being inhabited for that day.

On the surface, it’s an interesting premise and Levithan sells it well for the first third of the book. The loneliness that A feels as he/she leaps about from body to body comes across well on the page.

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Review: Flood by Stephen Baxter

FloodI picked up Flood a few years ago, just days before real-life flooding took place in Nashville. And while my family was spared any major damage or direct impact from the flooding, I still knew a lot of people whose lives were impacted by it.

And so it was that this novel languished on my to-be-read shelf for what a couple of years. Finally, a few weeks, it rose to the top of my to-be-read pile and I decided enough time had passed that I decided to pick it up and give it a try.

As with all Stephen Baxter novels, there are some fascinating ideas here. There’s a lot of solid, hard science and the story about water levels rising on the planet and the consequences of that are told without too much political hay made about climate change or global warming.

It’s just too bad that Baxter couldn’t create any characters quite as compelling as the situation and the science unfolding on the page. (It’s why I’m uncertain of just how exactly his tie-in Doctor Who novel, set in the second Doctor era will go. It could be utterly fantastic or a complete train wreck). The big issue I have with these characters is they’re all archetypes and little else. And their story arcs tend to follow a fairly routine and at times predictable path. There aren’t enough surprises from a character standpoint. It’s not quite as bad as other apocalyptic genre novels (I’m looking at you Lucifer’s Hammer) where I wanted the cataclysmic event to occur simply to kill off the characters, but it was close at times.

However, Baxter does create enough of an interesting mystery as the book closes that, dang it, I will probably pick up the sequel to this one (a library check-out, probably not a purchase) sooner rather than later.

Ironically, as I finished this novel, the local forecast calls for heavy rains this weekend with possible flooding….

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Booking Through Thursday — Gift Ideas

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It’s my Dad’s birthday today, which makes me wonder … do you like to give books as gifts?

I’m usually torn. I love giving and sharing books, but it can be hard. The giftee can be difficult to please, or you don’t know what they’ve read (or what they thought of books they have read). Even people who love to read and love to get books can be hard to gift books to … so, does that make you pause and reach for the neckties or DVDs or sweaters … anything BUT a book at gift-giving time? How do you feel about getting books yourself? Are you picky or easy? (For the record, I’m told I’m VERY hard to buy for, even though I’ll read just about anything … go figure.

I love getting and receiving books as present, especially for the younger generation in my family.  We try to give a book to each niece and nephew for their birthday and Christmas each year and we have a lot of fun trying to pick out things that the younger set will like or be interested in.  As for the older generation, we give books as well based on previous interest.  And if all else fails there’s always a gift card to a book store to allow the person to pick our the book for themselves.

As for me, I love getting books.  And since my birthday is coming up next week (I celebrate the first anniversary of my 39th birthday….just taking inspiration from Jack Benny!) I hope I get a book or two to add to the ever growing pile of TBR books.   

 

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Looking Back on 2012: Favorites, Not So Favorites and Everything In Between

With 2013 upon us, it’s time to look back on 2012.  I read a lot of books last year, loving some, enjoying most of them and then there were a few that, quite frankly, I just didn’t care for.  Here’s my list of the best and worst of what I read last year.

The best:

1.  The Man from Primrose Lane by James Renner
A locked room mystery that morphs into a sci-fi novel.  To say more would be to give away the twists and turns.  I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as Renner poured on twist after twist, each of them compelling.  One of the few books I read this year that I wanted to re-read as soon as I was done with it.

2.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Another book that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  If you’ve read it, you know why.  If you haven’t and you’re wondering if it lives up to the hype–yes, it does.  I read it as the wave of adoration was beginning to build and that may have helped me love it that much more.

3.  The Fault In Our Stars by John Greene
If you’re dismissing this one because it’s a young adult novel, you’re missing out.   A prime example of why books should not be judged by where they’re shelved in the store or library.

4.  What’s the Least I Can Believe And Still Be a Christian
Ten things that Christians shouldn’t believe and ten bedrocks we should, all Biblically based.  Read it if you haven’t already.

5.  Age of Miracles by Karen Walker Thompson
An end of the world book, but it’s so much more.  I’ve read a lot books about the apocalypse and this is one of the best.  It’s different.  Try it, you’ll like it.

6.  Redshirts by John Scalzi
I was so looking forward to this one, I wasn’t sure it could live up to my expectations. It exceeded them.  Read it. You will love it.

7.  A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Audio versions read by Derek Jacobi.  Reminded me why I love the Holmes stories.

8.  The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume I edited by Robert Silverberg
A great collection of classic genre stories.  If you want to see why the genre is so good and get a good sample of some of the great authors and their stories, this is the only collection you need.

9. Call the Shots by Don Calame
A couple of years ago, Swim the Fly had me in stitches.  This year, I caught up on the next two installments.  Of the two, Call the Shots was the best, reminded of me what I loved about the original.   If you’re looking for a book to get teenage guys to read, this is worth it. Think American Pie, only toned down to PG-13.  But be warned–these are told by guys who think and talk like typical teenage guys.

10.   Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good by Kevin Smith
If you’ve listened to his podcasts or commentaries, odds are you’ve heard many of the stories Smith relates about his life and career here.  It doesn’t matter.  Smith’s natural storytelling ability shines here and he may even insprire you a bit.  I listened to the audio version of this one and loved it.

My Least Favorites:
Batman: A Death in the Family  — The worst of 90’s comic storytelling.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I think this one was overhyped.  It had potential, but I never could quite connect with it.  Felt overwritten in some places.
The Secret Soldier by Alex Berenson.   Not nearly as great the cover blurb made it out to be.  I plowed through it but guessed most of the twists long before our hero did.

And if you’re curious, I’ve got the full list of what I read last year below.   It’s a long list, broken down into categories.

Now, onward to 2013 and let’s see what’s out there….

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