Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 8 -- Cop Hater

by Ed McBain

Started: Jan. 29
Finished: Jan. 30

Notes: Even though I recently read another of McBain's 87th Precinct novels, I just finished a James Bond novel which left a bad taste in my mouth, so I'm once more returning to McBain and the guys and gals of the 87th to boost my spirits. Published in 1956, this was the very first of the 87th Precinct novels.

Mini review: Someone is killing cops, specifically detectives of the 87th Precinct. It's obvious right off the bat this is the first of the 87th Precinct novels, for one thing the fact a number of characters are unfamiliar and don't appear in any of the later books (SPOILER: They're cops who don't make it through this book alive). For another thing, McBain was obviously getting a feel for his particular 87th Precinct style with this novel, though he comes through pretty good by at least halfway through. This was also a good novel for setting up Carella as the main character for the series, though he's a little different than he is in later books, not so life-weary, though maybe it's the events of this book that bring him down to Earth a little more. Anyway, enjoyable, as always.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 7 -- Thunderball

by Ian Fleming

Started: Jan. 26
Finished: Jan. 29

Notes: Been decades since I've read a James Bond novel, so when I stumbled across a couple at a used books sale, I thought I'd snag them up. Funny thing, this one had a Moonraker wrap for a cover and I didn't realize it was actually Thunderball until I got it home. That isn't enough for me not to read it, though. :-)

Mini review: Bond, with the help of a CIA agent an a U.S. Navy submarine, seeks to thwart SPECTRE, a group of terrorists who have stolen 2 atomic missiles and are threatening to set the off unless the world pays them gabillions and gabillions of money. Honestly, I didn't care much for it. The action is minimal, most of the writing spending time on setup instead of actual action. For crying out loud, the first 40 pages is Bond spending time at a health spa!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 6 -- The Frumious Bandersnatch

by Ed McBain

Started: Jan. 23
Finished: Jan. 26

Notes: It's been far too long, nearly a year, since I've read any McBain, one of my favorite authors, so it's time to jump back into one of his 87th Precinct novels.

Mini review: A rock star is kidnapped from a yacht during a party and the gang of the 87th has to move on it along with the Feds. The first chapter threw me because it took quite a while to set up the plot, and such length for a one-chapter set-up is unusual for McBain, but soon after I got into the story. I have to say, of the dozens of 87th Precinct novels I've read, this one wasn't necessarily the best, but it was definitely the most sad with the saddest ending I've yet to read from this author. A shame he's not still with us and writing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 5 -- Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett

Started: Jan. 22
Finished: Jan. 23

Notes: I do not often read plays, but I turn to this famous one because I do like to stray from my typical genre roots in order to experience other authors, styles, etc. Such readings can help one not only in thinking, but as a writer as well.

Mini review: This is one of those tales which brings to mind words like "expressionistic" and "minimalism" and "search for meaning." In other words, it's full of shit. Full of allegory and archetypes, this play has been interpreted in so many different ways, from religious to political to social commentary, etc., etc. None of which is necessarily true, or any or all of it could be true. One can't tell. One can take away whatever they want, but what I took away was, "nothing happens." That's it. An easy read with some minor humor, but I didn't come away with any epiphanies or thoughts of high meaning. If anything, I came away thinking, "This is the type of overly nonsensical material which sometimes gives literature a bad name." I'm not saying it's a bad play. I'm saying it wasn't for me and that interpretations are up to the individual. I will add, it would likely be more enjoyable to see this performed than to simply read it on the page.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 4 -- Deryni Rising

by Katherine Kurtz

Started: Jan. 19
Finished: Jan. 22

Notes: This is yet another fantasy author whom I've not had the pleasure to experience, so I thought I'd check out the first book in her Deryni series, of which I've heard a lot over the years, almost always good.

Mini review: A pretty strong read. After the murder of his kingly father, a young prince finds he must avoid courtly, magical and even religious threats before he can gain the crown for himself. There are shades of A Game of Thrones here, though obviously decades before A Game of Thrones, but without all the sex and incest, being a fairly tame novel but worth reading.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 3 -- The Blue Hawk

by Peter Dickinson

Started: Jan. 15
Finished: Jan. 19

Notes: I don't believe I've read any of the works of this author, though I recognize the name, so I thought it time I give him a try.

Mini review: I'm always pleasantly surprised when I read an author unfamiliar to me and I go away enjoying the book. A young acolyte to a god finds himself embroiled in courtly intrigues between a king and several order of priests while war looms in the background from an approaching horde of barbarians. But that's just the basics of this tale. Really it comes down to the relationship of mankind with the gods. Who is really in control? Do the gods control men, or have men enslaved the gods? Or is it a bit of both? An interesting work and a pretty good read. I'll have to look for more from this writer.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 2 -- Cinema and Sorcery: The Comprehensive Guide to Fantasy Film

by Arnold T. Blumberg and Scott Alan Woodard

Started: Jan. 5
Finished: Jan. 15

Notes: I picked this one up last year at the 2017 Origins convention in Columbus, Ohio, and was quite excited to discover it. I've been meaning to get to it before too long before it might become outdated. I'm fully expecting to enjoy this.

Mini review: This was a fun read, but as might be expected, I do feel a number of films were left out of this book. As a general fantasy compendium, it's not bad, a good place for your typical D&D fans to start. However, the authors do state early on that this is meant to be a collection of Sword & Sorcery movies, and for Sword & Sorcery purists, there is much here left out. For instance, there's no mention of The 13th Warrior, which technically might not include any magic, but magic is alluded to by the existence of an oracle and talk of dragons (even if this tale is meant to be more historical and the magic isn't real); while some might not love The 13th Warrior, I do believe it is a film steeped in the S&S sub-genre of fantasy, more so than most of the movies listed in this book. And while many movies which do make the cut here are great fantasy movies, such as The Princess Bride, by no means would I call them S&S movies. But really, these are just quibbles on my part. This is a good, fun read, and while not totally inclusive, it does go over nearly 500 movies from the silent era up to just a couple of years ago, so it is a worthy read.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Books read in 2017: No. 51, Books read in 2018: No. 1 -- Conan the Rebel

by Poul Anderson

Started: Dec. 30, 2017
Finished: Jan. 4, 2018

Notes: I've never been a big reader of the non-Howard Conan books, but I'm trying to give more of them a chance, so here goes.

Mini review: This one was a mess for at least the first half of the book. Conan rarely appeared, an important side character then vanished for most of the rest of the book, various enemies worked together behind the scenes in some kind of vague plot against Conan that seemed to have no real force behind it other than some even vaguer prophecy ... just a mess. About halfway through, the story became more clear, but I found the writing rather drab, and there was little sense of urgency as there was never any real threats to Conan, at least none that lasted longer than a few paragraphs, though I suppose some of that could be expected for a serial character. All in all, not a good read, and I can only suggest it for hardcore Conan fans who feel they have to read everything about the barbarian.