bobquasit: (Sebastian)
Lost Race of MarsLost Race of Mars by Robert Silverberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A few days ago I was looking somewhat frantically through the books on the shelves in my closet (yes, I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my closet) for something to read to my son, Sebastian. Lost Race of Mars almost fell into my lap. I'd read it several times as a child myself, and remembered liking it quite a lot. I'd nearly forgotten about it, but I grabbed it and read it to him.

It was written by Robert Silverberg in 1960, and includes some charmingly albeit slightly crude illustrations. Sebastian loved the book, and chuckled over every drawing.

It's the story of a family who visits Mars for a year on that far-off date of 1991. The children, Jim and Sally, are the primary focus. But what grabbed Sebastian the most were the cats. First was the family cat, Chipper, who is left behind on Earth early on. Sebastian asked several times if we'd see Chipper again. A few illustrations later in the book showed Chipper, and he was particularly interested in those. He is a cat person (we're a cat family, in fact), so his interest was quite natural. Perhaps someone who doesn't like cats wouldn't enjoy the book as much as we did.

There was also Mitten, the Mars cat, in the later chapters. Again, Sebastian loved Mitten and chortled over the drawings of him.

The story is nicely paced, well-written, easy to read aloud, and has a very satisfying ending. The science is a little shaky, but not outrageously so (I'm still tempted to look up the temperatures on Mars). The prognostications are way off - a thriving Mars colony by 1991?!? - but that's not an insurmountable problem. The Martians themselves are, well, pedestrian by modern science fiction standards. But they work well for children, and that's who the book is written for. I'll also credit Silverberg with giving Sally, the younger girl in the book, a stronger-than-customary role for the time; she's not simply a stereotypical docile little sister, nor is she one of those cliched "spunky" girls.

Sebastian is nine and a half. He's a bit advanced when it comes to books, but I'd say we hit the sweet spot with this one - he's the perfect age to enjoy it. I think any child from say, eight to thirteen would be likely to enjoy the book, and many older children would too.

I'm giving the book four stars just because I can't classify it as a deathless classic that will last through the ages. But Sebastian gives it fives stars without reservation.



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Books

Mar. 21st, 2011 11:28 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
After we finished Cheaper by the Dozen, he asked me to get Belles On Their Toes. While we were waiting for the inter-library loan to come in, we started Robert Silverberg's Lost Race of Mars - I'd forgotten all about it, but it practically fell into my lap when I was looking through the books in my closet for something to read to Sebastian.

He likes it very much so far. It's better than I remembered, and the illustrations are engaging.

He also started reading (purely on his own initiative) the first Harry Potter book. I tried to explain that they're derivative and not particularly well-written, but he really wants to read it. He's been pretty diligent about it, too!

Other than that, we bought the old Turbo-Grafx Neutopia game for the Wii. He likes it quite a bit, but he's often having me play it while he watches. :D

Books

Mar. 21st, 2011 11:28 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
After we finished Cheaper by the Dozen, he asked me to get Belles On Their Toes. While we were waiting for the inter-library loan to come in, we started Robert Silverberg's Lost Race of Mars - I'd forgotten all about it, but it practically fell into my lap when I was looking through the books in my closet for something to read to Sebastian.

He likes it very much so far. It's better than I remembered, and the illustrations are engaging.

He also started reading (purely on his own initiative) the first Harry Potter book. I tried to explain that they're derivative and not particularly well-written, but he really wants to read it. He's been pretty diligent about it, too!

Other than that, we bought the old Turbo-Grafx Neutopia game for the Wii. He likes it quite a bit, but he's often having me play it while he watches. :D
bobquasit: (Default)
Belles on Their ToesBelles on Their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read Cheaper by the Dozen decades ago, and it stuck with me; the humor, and the deeply moving sadness at the end. I recently read to it to my nine-year-old son, who loved it (we watched the 1950 movie of the book immediately after; for his own sake, we are not watching the trashy and completely unrelated Steve Martin movie of the same name).

He wants to move on to the sequel, and so did I. Fortunately our library was able to obtain a copy. Just to be safe, I decided to read it through before deciding if it was appropriate to read to him.

It is. The humor isn't as rich as it was in Cheaper by the Dozen, but that's because this is the story of the family after Frank Gilbreth died, and he was apparently a font of humor. That said, I smiled, laughed, and chuckled many times throughout the book. It's as well-written as the first, and nearly as enjoyable. The ending isn't as moving as the ending of Cheaper by the Dozen, but it's both touching and thought-provoking. I liked this book, and I'm going to search out other books by the authors and about the Gilbreths as well.

There was one jarring point. Just as the family minstrel show suddenly brought home just how much time has passed since the events of Cheaper by the Dozen, in this case my jaw dropped when I read the following. The two oldest girls had taken up smoking, and were caught by their mother:
"I've been trying to think up some good arguments against smoking," Mother said, "but when you analyze them, they don't seem too convincing."

She started to enumerate the arguments, counting them off on her fingers.

...

"It's bad for your health. That's open to debate. Not so bad as overeating, or not getting enough sleep."

She ends up reluctantly giving them permission to smoke - quite a shock to a modern reader. Or at least it was to me! But then, I wasn't alive in the 1920s. Oh I knew, intellectually, that the attitude towards smoking was very different then, but after getting to know the Gilbreth family through their books it's strange to suddenly realize how long ago they lived.



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Belles on Their ToesBelles on Their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read Cheaper by the Dozen decades ago, and it stuck with me; the humor, and the deeply moving sadness at the end. I recently read to it to my nine-year-old son, who loved it (we watched the 1950 movie of the book immediately after; for his own sake, we are not watching the trashy and completely unrelated Steve Martin movie of the same name).

He wants to move on to the sequel, and so did I. Fortunately our library was able to obtain a copy. Just to be safe, I decided to read it through before deciding if it was appropriate to read to him.

It is. The humor isn't as rich as it was in Cheaper by the Dozen, but that's because this is the story of the family after Frank Gilbreth died, and he was apparently a font of humor. That said, I smiled, laughed, and chuckled many times throughout the book. It's as well-written as the first, and nearly as enjoyable. The ending isn't as moving as the ending of Cheaper by the Dozen, but it's both touching and thought-provoking. I liked this book, and I'm going to search out other books by the authors and about the Gilbreths as well.

There was one jarring point. Just as the family minstrel show suddenly brought home just how much time has passed since the events of Cheaper by the Dozen, in this case my jaw dropped when I read the following. The two oldest girls had taken up smoking, and were caught by their mother:
"I've been trying to think up some good arguments against smoking," Mother said, "but when you analyze them, they don't seem too convincing."

She started to enumerate the arguments, counting them off on her fingers.

...

"It's bad for your health. That's open to debate. Not so bad as overeating, or not getting enough sleep."

She ends up reluctantly giving them permission to smoke - quite a shock to a modern reader. Or at least it was to me! But then, I wasn't alive in the 1920s. Oh I knew, intellectually, that the attitude towards smoking was very different then, but after getting to know the Gilbreth family through their books it's strange to suddenly realize how long ago they lived.



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bobquasit: (Chris Elliot)
Sebastian asked me to read more of Cheaper By the Dozen this afternoon. I was happy to do it, since it meant that the TV wouldn't be on. So the three of us sat in the living room for several hours while I read. Teri slept for about two hours, but woke up in time to hear the last three chapters, as I hope she would.

It's a very fun book to read, but also physically challenging. The father, Frank Gilbreth, is a grand character, and I read him with a booming, hearty voice - it's really the only way to do it. After a while I started to feel as if I'd been lightly sandpapering my throat. But after a short break or two, I continued. I ended up reading the whole second half, and finished it.

He loves the book; he laughed and laughed. But I knew that the last three chapters would be tricky. While much of the rest of the book deals with the family members as children, in the two penultimate chapters the older girls have started to grow up. I knew that much of those chapters would go over his head.

And as for the last chapter...well, I don't want to spoil the book, so here's a spoiler warning. )
After that we watched the 1950 movie adaptation of Cheaper By the Dozen on Netflix - it was available to watch via instantly. If you don't know, let me say up front that the execrable Steve Martin movies that go under the same name have nothing whatever to do with the book - other than the title, and that they feature a family with twelve children. It's just another case of Hollywood taking something nice and crapping all over it, as they always do.

We'd all seen bits of the movie before, but never the whole thing. It was nice to all sit down together and watch it, particularly since we'd just finished the book. The movie was considerably more faithful to the book than any movie adaptation I've seen in the last twenty years; certainly far more faithful than Peter Jackson's inexcusably awful Lord of the Rings movies. The father was played by the slender and sprightly Clifton Webb, who was not a good physical match for the real Frank Gilbreth (he was tall and quite overweight, according to the book), but Webb played the part well enough. A romantic subplot was shoehorned in, but it's relatively minor and inoffensive. Likewise, a small running "suspense" plot was added too; it didn't really work, but didn't harm the movie much either.

The names of a few secondary characters were changed for no obvious reason, and much of the action in general was telescoped. The first half of the book was essentially cherry-picked and packed into the first quarter of the movie, with the more adult final sections being expanded quite a bit to fill in the remaining three-quarters of the film. Also, some lines were given to different characters than in the book, and a few key lines were slightly amended. But all in all, I was surprised by how faithful the movie was to the novel.

One annoying thing: our Wii's wifi connection completely failed with four minutes left to go in the movie, just after a very dramatic moment indeed. I had to run upstairs and pull the plug on both our cable modem and our router for 30 seconds. After that, we were able to finish watching the movie.

Sebastian liked both the book and the movie very much, and gave them both five stars. All in all, a very pleasant night for the family!

Our next step will be to read AND watch "Belles On Their Toes", the sequel to Cheaper By the Dozen. The movie can be ordered as a disc from Netflix; there's no streaming option, unfortunately. Our local library doesn't have a copy of the book, but the Rhode Island library network has many. I've requested a copy, and I imagine it should arrive soon. I'll put the movie at the top of our Netflix queue in time to have it just when I finish reading the book to Sebastian.
bobquasit: (Chris Elliot)
Sebastian asked me to read more of Cheaper By the Dozen this afternoon. I was happy to do it, since it meant that the TV wouldn't be on. So the three of us sat in the living room for several hours while I read. Teri slept for about two hours, but woke up in time to hear the last three chapters, as I hope she would.

It's a very fun book to read, but also physically challenging. The father, Frank Gilbreth, is a grand character, and I read him with a booming, hearty voice - it's really the only way to do it. After a while I started to feel as if I'd been lightly sandpapering my throat. But after a short break or two, I continued. I ended up reading the whole second half, and finished it.

He loves the book; he laughed and laughed. But I knew that the last three chapters would be tricky. While much of the rest of the book deals with the family members as children, in the two penultimate chapters the older girls have started to grow up. I knew that much of those chapters would go over his head.

And as for the last chapter...well, I don't want to spoil the book, so here's a spoiler warning. )
After that we watched the 1950 movie adaptation of Cheaper By the Dozen on Netflix - it was available to watch via instantly. If you don't know, let me say up front that the execrable Steve Martin movies that go under the same name have nothing whatever to do with the book - other than the title, and that they feature a family with twelve children. It's just another case of Hollywood taking something nice and crapping all over it, as they always do.

We'd all seen bits of the movie before, but never the whole thing. It was nice to all sit down together and watch it, particularly since we'd just finished the book. The movie was considerably more faithful to the book than any movie adaptation I've seen in the last twenty years; certainly far more faithful than Peter Jackson's inexcusably awful Lord of the Rings movies. The father was played by the slender and sprightly Clifton Webb, who was not a good physical match for the real Frank Gilbreth (he was tall and quite overweight, according to the book), but Webb played the part well enough. A romantic subplot was shoehorned in, but it's relatively minor and inoffensive. Likewise, a small running "suspense" plot was added too; it didn't really work, but didn't harm the movie much either.

The names of a few secondary characters were changed for no obvious reason, and much of the action in general was telescoped. The first half of the book was essentially cherry-picked and packed into the first quarter of the movie, with the more adult final sections being expanded quite a bit to fill in the remaining three-quarters of the film. Also, some lines were given to different characters than in the book, and a few key lines were slightly amended. But all in all, I was surprised by how faithful the movie was to the novel.

One annoying thing: our Wii's wifi connection completely failed with four minutes left to go in the movie, just after a very dramatic moment indeed. I had to run upstairs and pull the plug on both our cable modem and our router for 30 seconds. After that, we were able to finish watching the movie.

Sebastian liked both the book and the movie very much, and gave them both five stars. All in all, a very pleasant night for the family!

Our next step will be to read AND watch "Belles On Their Toes", the sequel to Cheaper By the Dozen. The movie can be ordered as a disc from Netflix; there's no streaming option, unfortunately. Our local library doesn't have a copy of the book, but the Rhode Island library network has many. I've requested a copy, and I imagine it should arrive soon. I'll put the movie at the top of our Netflix queue in time to have it just when I finish reading the book to Sebastian.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
Teri wasn't feeling well, so she went to bed early. Sebastian was good as gold, though. He asked for dessert, so I gave him three Oreos and a small glass of milk. No arguments when it was time for him to floss and brush; he even used mouthwash of his own volition.

I'd started reading Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Misenchanted Sword to him at bedtime yesterday, but he'd fallen asleep very quickly. This time I started reading it to him before we went upstairs to bed. I wasn't sure that he was old enough for it; it's not particularly inappropriate (I consider Watt-Evans to be a fundamentally nice writer, much like Gordon R. Dickson and James White in that respect although not in writing style) , but it's not written for children.

But so far Sebastian loves it. We left off with Valder and Fendel the Great lying in the marsh next to the burning hut.

After that we turned off the light and talked a bit. He told me about some of his dreams, with magic rooms accessible from secret panels in his room, leading to a wonderful-sounding waterslide. Then I sang some lullabies, and he said he wished he had a button so he could request me to sing particular songs. "You could always just tell me what you want me to sing" I said, and he did.

So I sang to him, and he fell asleep.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
Teri wasn't feeling well, so she went to bed early. Sebastian was good as gold, though. He asked for dessert, so I gave him three Oreos and a small glass of milk. No arguments when it was time for him to floss and brush; he even used mouthwash of his own volition.

I'd started reading Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Misenchanted Sword to him at bedtime yesterday, but he'd fallen asleep very quickly. This time I started reading it to him before we went upstairs to bed. I wasn't sure that he was old enough for it; it's not particularly inappropriate (I consider Watt-Evans to be a fundamentally nice writer, much like Gordon R. Dickson and James White in that respect although not in writing style) , but it's not written for children.

But so far Sebastian loves it. We left off with Valder and Fendel the Great lying in the marsh next to the burning hut.

After that we turned off the light and talked a bit. He told me about some of his dreams, with magic rooms accessible from secret panels in his room, leading to a wonderful-sounding waterslide. Then I sang some lullabies, and he said he wished he had a button so he could request me to sing particular songs. "You could always just tell me what you want me to sing" I said, and he did.

So I sang to him, and he fell asleep.
bobquasit: (Default)
The Blood of a Dragon (Legends of Ethshar)The Blood of a Dragon by Lawrence Watt-Evans

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's late, so this will be relatively brief (for me, that is - which means it will probably be one of the longer reviews here on GoodReads).

Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar books are the preeminent modern light fantasy series. They're eminently readable, and particularly enjoyable because most of them feature intelligent, reasonable, fundamentally decent protagonists who take sensible precautions, make intelligent choices, and cope with the unexpected logically - although not necessarily with superhuman perfection.

That's what makes the Ethshar books so refreshing: they're about people who are about as intelligent as most fantasy readers, I think. Or as intelligent as I am, anyway. :D

Whereas most modern genre fiction either features "heroes" who constantly miss the obvious in order to bloat the plot and page count to forest-killing proportions, or else have characters who are so annoyingly perfect and flawless that they have all the excitement of a particularly dull 1950s Superman comic.

It's nice to read books about people using their brains to deal with interesting problems that don't necessarily involve Saving the World. And it's a pleasure to read about people who make reasonable moral choices.

But the main protagonist in The Blood of a Dragon is something of an exception to that rule (as is Tabaea the Thief from The Spell of the Black Dagger). Dumery of Shiphaven is spoiled, paranoid, self-centered, doesn't think ahead, and repeatedly demonstrates both bad judgment and a surprisingly questionable morality. He only ends up succeeding because of pure luck (and, perhaps, stubbornness), and that's very unusual for an Ethshar protagonist.

To make up for that, we also have Teneria of Fishertown, a very sensible witch-apprentice. Her encounter with Adar the warlock is gripping, with fascinating implications for the world of Ethshar - implications which will, I suspect, be addressed in the forthcoming Ethshar novel The Unwelcome Warlock.

But Dumery? He's a jerk. Oh, there's a paragraph or two where he has a mild moral crisis over his behavior, and regrets his acts. But it felt to me as if Watt-Evans was almost forcing the character in that direction; it didn't ring quite true.

So although this is quite an enjoyable read, it's not the best of the Ethshar series - and it's definitely not a good introduction to Ethshar. I'd strongly suggest starting with The Misenchanted Sword and proceeding in order of publication, if you can.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: the book has a spriggan. It's one of the funnier spriggans, too - and they're all funny. I don't know what it is about spriggans, but they always make me laugh and tug my heartstrings!

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bobquasit: (Default)
The Blood of a Dragon (Legends of Ethshar)The Blood of a Dragon by Lawrence Watt-Evans

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's late, so this will be relatively brief (for me, that is - which means it will probably be one of the longer reviews here on GoodReads).

Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar books are the preeminent modern light fantasy series. They're eminently readable, and particularly enjoyable because most of them feature intelligent, reasonable, fundamentally decent protagonists who take sensible precautions, make intelligent choices, and cope with the unexpected logically - although not necessarily with superhuman perfection.

That's what makes the Ethshar books so refreshing: they're about people who are about as intelligent as most fantasy readers, I think. Or as intelligent as I am, anyway. :D

Whereas most modern genre fiction either features "heroes" who constantly miss the obvious in order to bloat the plot and page count to forest-killing proportions, or else have characters who are so annoyingly perfect and flawless that they have all the excitement of a particularly dull 1950s Superman comic.

It's nice to read books about people using their brains to deal with interesting problems that don't necessarily involve Saving the World. And it's a pleasure to read about people who make reasonable moral choices.

But the main protagonist in The Blood of a Dragon is something of an exception to that rule (as is Tabaea the Thief from The Spell of the Black Dagger). Dumery of Shiphaven is spoiled, paranoid, self-centered, doesn't think ahead, and repeatedly demonstrates both bad judgment and a surprisingly questionable morality. He only ends up succeeding because of pure luck (and, perhaps, stubbornness), and that's very unusual for an Ethshar protagonist.

To make up for that, we also have Teneria of Fishertown, a very sensible witch-apprentice. Her encounter with Adar the warlock is gripping, with fascinating implications for the world of Ethshar - implications which will, I suspect, be addressed in the forthcoming Ethshar novel The Unwelcome Warlock.

But Dumery? He's a jerk. Oh, there's a paragraph or two where he has a mild moral crisis over his behavior, and regrets his acts. But it felt to me as if Watt-Evans was almost forcing the character in that direction; it didn't ring quite true.

So although this is quite an enjoyable read, it's not the best of the Ethshar series - and it's definitely not a good introduction to Ethshar. I'd strongly suggest starting with The Misenchanted Sword and proceeding in order of publication, if you can.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: the book has a spriggan. It's one of the funnier spriggans, too - and they're all funny. I don't know what it is about spriggans, but they always make me laugh and tug my heartstrings!

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The Cyborg and the SorcerersThe Cyborg and the Sorcerers by Lawrence Watt-Evans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Lawrence Watt-Evans is the best light fantasy writer of the past twenty years. He's put out some serious, massive fantasy tomes lately, too - as if P.G. Wodehouse were forced to write Wagnerian operas. Not that his serious stuff is bad, mind you! It's just not as good as his light fantasy.

But once in a while he steps out of the fantasy field altogether, and the results are usually impressive. The Cyborg and the Sorcerers is a relatively early science fiction novel from Watt-Evans; I think it might be his first, but it's not easy to find a straightforward bibliography of his novels.

TCatS is actually a mixed-genre novel; Slant, a STL-traveling interstellar elite military cyborg scout, finds a planet where the inhabitants have developed the ability to use magic. This is cursorily explained as the product of mutation, originally, although the ability can apparently be developed in any human being by a trained sorcerer.

One of the most refreshing things about Watt-Evans is that he almost never resorts to the "missing the obvious" plot coupon. His protagonists are generally sensible, reasonable people, and most of them are intelligent. Even better, they use that intelligence...intelligently. This is an astonishingly rare event in modern science fiction and fantasy fiction. One common shtick that often comes up in SF-meets-fantasy books is a refusal by SF characters to believe that magic could possibly be real. Slant accepts the "magic" he sees (albeit within the context of the mutation theory) after witnessing a reasonable amount of evidence.

It's the ship's computer, which is in many ways Slant's master, that has more difficulty accepting the idea of magic - although it nonetheless manages to come up with some intelligent ideas of its own.

The novel chronicles Slant's attempts to cope with the demands of the computer, and finally to escape its control altogether. It's well-told and entertaining. It does feel a little bit sketchy, though. I can't help but feel that another fifty pages or so would have helped the book; Slant could frankly use a bit more depth, and apart from the computer the other characters in the book feel a bit empty. There's an emotional potential in Slant's psyche that isn't sufficiently addressed, to my way of thinking. His past has been partly erased from his memory, and his world has been destroyed; slower-than-light travel has made him a chronological castaway, forever cut off from his birthplace and time. His struggle to recover an important memory is just slightly too easy.

There's one slight anachronism in the book, one hardly worth mentioning - but since I brought it up, I will. It's mentioned at least twice that Slant's skeleton has been reinforced with steel. That strikes an odd note. I'm surprised that Watt-Evans didn't make up some sort of space-age alloy, such as the adamantium that Marvel used long before for Wolverine.

I also recently came up with a solution for one of Slant's problems. But since it involves a spoiler, and I don't want to have to hide the whole review, I'm going to put it in a separate comment on the review itself - if GoodReads will allow it.

Oh, one more thing: although I usually like the cover art for the Ethshar books, and this one seems to be by the same artist who did several of the early Ethshar entries, I think it was an unfortunate choice to make all the characters on the cover look like Biblical patriarchs. It probably hurt sales.

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My spoiler-comment is behind this cut:
Read more... )
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The Cyborg and the SorcerersThe Cyborg and the Sorcerers by Lawrence Watt-Evans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Lawrence Watt-Evans is the best light fantasy writer of the past twenty years. He's put out some serious, massive fantasy tomes lately, too - as if P.G. Wodehouse were forced to write Wagnerian operas. Not that his serious stuff is bad, mind you! It's just not as good as his light fantasy.

But once in a while he steps out of the fantasy field altogether, and the results are usually impressive. The Cyborg and the Sorcerers is a relatively early science fiction novel from Watt-Evans; I think it might be his first, but it's not easy to find a straightforward bibliography of his novels.

TCatS is actually a mixed-genre novel; Slant, a STL-traveling interstellar elite military cyborg scout, finds a planet where the inhabitants have developed the ability to use magic. This is cursorily explained as the product of mutation, originally, although the ability can apparently be developed in any human being by a trained sorcerer.

One of the most refreshing things about Watt-Evans is that he almost never resorts to the "missing the obvious" plot coupon. His protagonists are generally sensible, reasonable people, and most of them are intelligent. Even better, they use that intelligence...intelligently. This is an astonishingly rare event in modern science fiction and fantasy fiction. One common shtick that often comes up in SF-meets-fantasy books is a refusal by SF characters to believe that magic could possibly be real. Slant accepts the "magic" he sees (albeit within the context of the mutation theory) after witnessing a reasonable amount of evidence.

It's the ship's computer, which is in many ways Slant's master, that has more difficulty accepting the idea of magic - although it nonetheless manages to come up with some intelligent ideas of its own.

The novel chronicles Slant's attempts to cope with the demands of the computer, and finally to escape its control altogether. It's well-told and entertaining. It does feel a little bit sketchy, though. I can't help but feel that another fifty pages or so would have helped the book; Slant could frankly use a bit more depth, and apart from the computer the other characters in the book feel a bit empty. There's an emotional potential in Slant's psyche that isn't sufficiently addressed, to my way of thinking. His past has been partly erased from his memory, and his world has been destroyed; slower-than-light travel has made him a chronological castaway, forever cut off from his birthplace and time. His struggle to recover an important memory is just slightly too easy.

There's one slight anachronism in the book, one hardly worth mentioning - but since I brought it up, I will. It's mentioned at least twice that Slant's skeleton has been reinforced with steel. That strikes an odd note. I'm surprised that Watt-Evans didn't make up some sort of space-age alloy, such as the adamantium that Marvel used long before for Wolverine.

I also recently came up with a solution for one of Slant's problems. But since it involves a spoiler, and I don't want to have to hide the whole review, I'm going to put it in a separate comment on the review itself - if GoodReads will allow it.

Oh, one more thing: although I usually like the cover art for the Ethshar books, and this one seems to be by the same artist who did several of the early Ethshar entries, I think it was an unfortunate choice to make all the characters on the cover look like Biblical patriarchs. It probably hurt sales.

View all my reviews

My spoiler-comment is behind this cut:
Read more... )
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I installed the Google Books app on my phone today. Now that I've upgraded the Android OS from 1.5 to 2.1, it's working a lot better, and I can use a lot of apps that I couldn't before.

It's a cool app; it makes reading on that tiny screen pretty easy. Lots of flexibility. I just wish that it had an auto-page feature, to scroll at a steady pace from page to page. If it could be controlled by tilt, that would be really neat.

There are two reading options for most books: the original text format, and "flowing text". The original text is basically a scan of the original work, sized to fit the screen. Since the books are old, the text often has that old-fashioned, worn look. The flowing-text editions are in modern, resizeable and customizable fonts, sharper and easier to read - but so far, I've found quite a few transcription errors. In one case, a book that had a large initial letter to start off each story (i.e. "Charon leaned forward and rowed.") was totally screwed up, with the initial letter appearing somewhere in the middle of the story.

Another feature that would be useful would be recommendations: if it let you rate your books, and then recommended new ones for you based on your preferences. Basically what Netflix does with movies.

There are some wonderful free books available. I'm tempted to try to recommend a new one each day, but I don't know if that's possible. The problem is that a lot of books old enough to be copyright-free are also difficult for most modern readers to read comfortably. I'm used to older books, but even I find some older books tedious. That said, there are still some great ones that are very readable.

Here's one, Fifty-One Tales by Baron Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Dunsany - he who had so much influence on H.P. Lovecraft and many later authors. The first story, "The Assignation", is only 202 words long - but it's a gem. I hope you'll try it.

(Let's see if LJ can embed a Books listing.)

Edit: No, it can't. I'm getting increasingly annoyed with LJ.
bobquasit: (Default)
I installed the Google Books app on my phone today. Now that I've upgraded the Android OS from 1.5 to 2.1, it's working a lot better, and I can use a lot of apps that I couldn't before.

It's a cool app; it makes reading on that tiny screen pretty easy. Lots of flexibility. I just wish that it had an auto-page feature, to scroll at a steady pace from page to page. If it could be controlled by tilt, that would be really neat.

There are two reading options for most books: the original text format, and "flowing text". The original text is basically a scan of the original work, sized to fit the screen. Since the books are old, the text often has that old-fashioned, worn look. The flowing-text editions are in modern, resizeable and customizable fonts, sharper and easier to read - but so far, I've found quite a few transcription errors. In one case, a book that had a large initial letter to start off each story (i.e. "Charon leaned forward and rowed.") was totally screwed up, with the initial letter appearing somewhere in the middle of the story.

Another feature that would be useful would be recommendations: if it let you rate your books, and then recommended new ones for you based on your preferences. Basically what Netflix does with movies.

There are some wonderful free books available. I'm tempted to try to recommend a new one each day, but I don't know if that's possible. The problem is that a lot of books old enough to be copyright-free are also difficult for most modern readers to read comfortably. I'm used to older books, but even I find some older books tedious. That said, there are still some great ones that are very readable.

Here's one, Fifty-One Tales by Baron Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Dunsany - he who had so much influence on H.P. Lovecraft and many later authors. The first story, "The Assignation", is only 202 words long - but it's a gem. I hope you'll try it.

(Let's see if LJ can embed a Books listing.)

Edit: No, it can't. I'm getting increasingly annoyed with LJ.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
We started reading A Christmas Carol about two weeks ago; Sebastian had seen several films of it, and wanted to read it. So I took out a large illustrated (but not abridged) edition from the library.

He loved it. I kept expecting him to get bored; the language is a bit archaic, after all! But even though I asked if we should switch to something else, his interest never flagged.

Reading it was a startling experience for me. When Bob Cratchitt breaks down and sobs for his son, I teared up as well. It's strange, but I can really, really get into a part emotionally. I wish there was some practical use for that ability, other than just reading to Sebastian. Although, of course, there really isn't anything more important than that, for me!

Apparently my reading of the reformed Scrooge was very funny; Sebastian laughed and laughed. My reading was generally based on Albert Finney's portrayal in the 1970 movie Scrooge, incidentally. One of my favorite versions, along with the Mister Magoo one.

It was fun to see many odd little points that never made it into any of the movies. Dickens seems quite ravished by some of the female characters, for one thing. I enjoyed some of the odd little cultural references; I'd never heard of "Smoking Bishop" before, for example (it's a kind of mulled English punch with wine, baked orange juice, cloves, and port).

And it's quite interesting to note that Marley's Ghost specifically claims to have obtained this chance at redemption for Scrooge. Since it's spelled out just a page later that the spirits of the dead cannot interfere with the world of the living, I can't help but wonder how Marley gained the opportunity to do so, and why he did it for Scrooge; there's no explanation for it in the text. I also can't help but think that for saving Scrooge, Marley must have received some reward. He surely deserved it!

Anyway, Sebastian gave the book five out of five stars.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
We started reading A Christmas Carol about two weeks ago; Sebastian had seen several films of it, and wanted to read it. So I took out a large illustrated (but not abridged) edition from the library.

He loved it. I kept expecting him to get bored; the language is a bit archaic, after all! But even though I asked if we should switch to something else, his interest never flagged.

Reading it was a startling experience for me. When Bob Cratchitt breaks down and sobs for his son, I teared up as well. It's strange, but I can really, really get into a part emotionally. I wish there was some practical use for that ability, other than just reading to Sebastian. Although, of course, there really isn't anything more important than that, for me!

Apparently my reading of the reformed Scrooge was very funny; Sebastian laughed and laughed. My reading was generally based on Albert Finney's portrayal in the 1970 movie Scrooge, incidentally. One of my favorite versions, along with the Mister Magoo one.

It was fun to see many odd little points that never made it into any of the movies. Dickens seems quite ravished by some of the female characters, for one thing. I enjoyed some of the odd little cultural references; I'd never heard of "Smoking Bishop" before, for example (it's a kind of mulled English punch with wine, baked orange juice, cloves, and port).

And it's quite interesting to note that Marley's Ghost specifically claims to have obtained this chance at redemption for Scrooge. Since it's spelled out just a page later that the spirits of the dead cannot interfere with the world of the living, I can't help but wonder how Marley gained the opportunity to do so, and why he did it for Scrooge; there's no explanation for it in the text. I also can't help but think that for saving Scrooge, Marley must have received some reward. He surely deserved it!

Anyway, Sebastian gave the book five out of five stars.
bobquasit: (Default)

Mister Penny flyer Mister Penny flyer
The librarian at the library created this from scratch for the reading I'll be doing on February 25th. I like it, but it feels strange to be called a storyteller!

bobquasit: (Default)

Mister Penny flyer Mister Penny flyer
The librarian at the library created this from scratch for the reading I'll be doing on February 25th. I like it, but it feels strange to be called a storyteller!

bobquasit: (Hot day)
Lost Treasures: The Teddy Bear Habit - Book #3 (Lost Treasures)Lost Treasures: The Teddy Bear Habit - Book #3 by James Lincoln Collier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Teddy-Bear Habit is the story of the adventures of a twelve-year-old boy in Greenwich Village in the mid-1960s. George Stable is...not rebellious. No, he's more real than that. He simply tries to get what he wants in a world of adults who don't understand, and is not above stretching the truth or breaking some rules if that's what it takes. He doesn't glory in that, and at times almost feels a little guilty, but he does what he has to.

It's been a long time since I was his age. But to me, that attitude rings very true. Most kids, I think, do what they think they must to get what they really want. George, the first-person narrator, feels extremely real and modern - even though the book is now almost forty-five years old.

In fact, The Teddy-Bear Habit reminds me very strongly of another first-person story of a New York teen who lives somewhat outside the rules: Holden Caulfield. Truth to tell, the book really strongly reminds me of The Catcher In The Rye, so much so that at times the two books have been slightly merged in my memory. The Teddy-Bear Habit was written 16 years after Catcher, of course, but both books have a remarkably modern, timeless feeling. The city of New York plays a key role in both books, perhaps a bit more so in The Teddy-Bear Habit. George's inner voice is remarkably like Holden's, but younger and not as alienated.

George wants to be a rock and roll star, and to be on television. His father hates rock and roll, and won't allow a television in their house. He (the father) is, however, an extremely funny character; a modern painter who makes a living writing and drawing comic books. The passages about his heroes, Amorpho Man and Garbage Man, are simply hysterical. I could have read a whole book of that stuff!

George has another problem, too: he's a decent singer, and is learning to play the guitar secretly from a music-shop owner, but he has self-confidence issues. He is, simply, dependent on his teddy bear. When it's not around, he's a "loser".

Complications ensue, ones that you'll surely find very memorable. The book is at times quite thrilling. But between the humor and the thrills, it never loses that "real" feeling.

There are a few jarring moments when the Beatles or Murray the K are mentioned as examples of modern coolness. But then, the book was published in 1967.

Speaking of which, avoid the "Lost Treasures" edition if you possibly can. The original edition (and most later ones, until recently) featured wonderful illustrations by Lorenz, whose work also appeared often in The New Yorker, where he was art editor for many years. The illustrations are very funny, and should not be missed! I don't know why they were eliminated from the Lost Treasures edition, but eliminating them makes as much sense as eliminating the classic Tenniel illustrations from Alice.

I recently read the book to my son, age nine. He loved it, and demanded that we seek out the sequel. Unfortunately the sequel doesn't live up to The Teddy-Bear Habit, and isn't quite appropriate for my son - yet. But The Teddy-Bear Habit itself is firmly ensconced as a favorite for both of us.


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