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Triumph of the WhimTriumph of the Whim by Adam Thrasher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Funny as hell. The balls-out, totally over-the-top collected comic strip (not a complete collection, mind you) of the adventures of Space Moose, the most perverted moose imaginable. How perverted, you ask? Well, when he gets his hands on a time machine, he -

No. I won't spoil it for you. Let's just say that if coprophagy, misogyny, abort-o-matic machines, feces, gore, sheer insanity, ----, and lots more ---- don't make you cringe, and if you don't hold anything sacred, you'll find this a hell of a funny read.

Or rather, you WOULD find it a hell of a funny read. But you can't read it. Because it was only available direct from the author, and he's not doing that stuff any more. I have my copy (and t-shirt), but you're out of luck!

But don't be sad. The online web archive of Space Moose was taken down when the author discovered that the grown-up world of employment and grants doesn't have much of a sense of humor. Luckily, I, personally, had cached a copy of most of the site. And I passed it on to a few select people. Google "Space Moose" and you should be able to find a copy.

They're all there because I saved that site. You're welcome!

But FYI, there are a couple of strips in the book that were never published online, including the soul-stirring sequel to "F-----io Barn". The humor! The tears! The nausea! The, um...

Never mind. You'll just have to imagine it.



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While re-reading the Harry Potter series and watching the movies, I was struck by the ways in which J.K. Rowling's style resembles that of Agatha Christie. They share an intensely English, insular outlook - and rather a nationalistic, even racist one.

This is most evident in Rowling's portrayal of the two "visitor" schools in the Triwizard Tournament. Beauxbatons is a caricature of the French, at least as many older Britons perceive them: superficially attractive, concerned mainly about appearance (although to her credit Rowling did make an exception to that point later in the series, when Fleur surprises Mrs. Weasley by not breaking her engagement after Bill is badly scarred), and ultimately light-weights in every way (except, perhaps, in the field of romance). The movie accentuates this by representing the Beauxbatons student body as almost entirely female, and throws in a gratuitous mass-ass-wiggling scene which is simply ridiculous.

Likewise, Durmstrang is a heavy-handed parody of Russians and East Europeans in general. Virtually all male, sullen, buzz-cut, large, taciturn, and given to violence; the personification of the racist fantasies of some angry, graying old Briton, and an old-fashioned one at that. If they weren't school-age, I'd imagine Rowling would have made them drunks, too!

I almost wish that Rowling had included Americans in her books. Dame Agatha would doubtless once again have provided the template: quaint accents out of a 1930s western movie, combined with exaggerated New England ones from the 1890s. Ridiculous Biblical names like "Hiram", "Ezekiel", and "Jedediah". Poor taste in virtually everything. Far too much money than is good for them, and a propensity to throw that money around thoughtlessly. Ignorance combined with overweening arrogance. And I'd bet there'd be at least a touch of over-reliance on technology or its magical equivalent, as well - with a good solid comeuppance in the end, as our plucky British heroes prove that old-fashioned spunk and stick-to-it-iveness are the qualities that really matter when the chips are down.
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While re-reading the Harry Potter series and watching the movies, I was struck by the ways in which J.K. Rowling's style resembles that of Agatha Christie. They share an intensely English, insular outlook - and rather a nationalistic, even racist one.

This is most evident in Rowling's portrayal of the two "visitor" schools in the Triwizard Tournament. Beauxbatons is a caricature of the French, at least as many older Britons perceive them: superficially attractive, concerned mainly about appearance (although to her credit Rowling did make an exception to that point later in the series, when Fleur surprises Mrs. Weasley by not breaking her engagement after Bill is badly scarred), and ultimately light-weights in every way (except, perhaps, in the field of romance). The movie accentuates this by representing the Beauxbatons student body as almost entirely female, and throws in a gratuitous mass-ass-wiggling scene which is simply ridiculous.

Likewise, Durmstrang is a heavy-handed parody of Russians and East Europeans in general. Virtually all male, sullen, buzz-cut, large, taciturn, and given to violence; the personification of the racist fantasies of some angry, graying old Briton, and an old-fashioned one at that. If they weren't school-age, I'd imagine Rowling would have made them drunks, too!

I almost wish that Rowling had included Americans in her books. Dame Agatha would doubtless once again have provided the template: quaint accents out of a 1930s western movie, combined with exaggerated New England ones from the 1890s. Ridiculous Biblical names like "Hiram", "Ezekiel", and "Jedediah". Poor taste in virtually everything. Far too much money than is good for them, and a propensity to throw that money around thoughtlessly. Ignorance combined with overweening arrogance. And I'd bet there'd be at least a touch of over-reliance on technology or its magical equivalent, as well - with a good solid comeuppance in the end, as our plucky British heroes prove that old-fashioned spunk and stick-to-it-iveness are the qualities that really matter when the chips are down.
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The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia, #6) The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again C.S. Lewis went beyond the borders of Narnia for another "Narnian" book - and once again, he came up with a new character with enormous humor and appeal for children.

In this case, the character is Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle. He guides Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb as they "follow the signs" on a quest given them by Aslan. They must rescue the lost Prince Rilian, son of Prince Caspian.

There are several points at which characters are irritatingly oblivious to the obvious, throughout the book. I'll give no spoilers, but they're rather obvious. And Aslan comes off as something of a nagging wanker; what's with the mysterious "signs"? Jerking people around with hints and confusing portents may represent some sort of divine test of their moral fiber, but in my book it's just irritating. As Lewis himself seems to realize, since Aslan says at the end "I shall not always be scolding."
Read more (Gayness and hooters!) )
I might also mention the BBC television adaptation of this book. It featured Tom Baker (best known as Doctor Who) in the role of Puddleglum, and he did his usual outstanding job. But some of his best lines were cut, which surprised me - particularly since my rendition of them while reading to my son earned me some very enthusiastic laughs.

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The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia, #6) The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again C.S. Lewis went beyond the borders of Narnia for another "Narnian" book - and once again, he came up with a new character with enormous humor and appeal for children.

In this case, the character is Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle. He guides Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb as they "follow the signs" on a quest given them by Aslan. They must rescue the lost Prince Rilian, son of Prince Caspian.

There are several points at which characters are irritatingly oblivious to the obvious, throughout the book. I'll give no spoilers, but they're rather obvious. And Aslan comes off as something of a nagging wanker; what's with the mysterious "signs"? Jerking people around with hints and confusing portents may represent some sort of divine test of their moral fiber, but in my book it's just irritating. As Lewis himself seems to realize, since Aslan says at the end "I shall not always be scolding."
Read more (Gayness and hooters!) )
I might also mention the BBC television adaptation of this book. It featured Tom Baker (best known as Doctor Who) in the role of Puddleglum, and he did his usual outstanding job. But some of his best lines were cut, which surprised me - particularly since my rendition of them while reading to my son earned me some very enthusiastic laughs.

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Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 03: 1941 Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 03: 1941 by Isaac Asimov


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cynic once said something like "The Golden Age of science fiction is about sixteen."

But they're wrong. 1941 was the heart of the Golden Age of science fiction. And this book is the proof.

If you've read a fair selection of classic SF, some of these stories will doubtless be familiar to you. Others probably won't be. In any case, these are some of the all-time classics of the genre.

Each story is introduced by Isaac Asimov, and he provides some interesting (and tantalizing) commentary. I can't help but wonder, for example, why he included Fredric Brown (one of my favorite writers) as an author whose personality was different from his stories (as opposed to authors who resembled their stories, some of whom he also lists). I was surprised and pleased to see that Asimov was, like me, a fan of Robert Arthur as well - although I have to admit that Arthur's story may be the weakest one in the book (though still worth reading!).

There are no stories by Robert Heinlein in this collection, apparently because he (or his wife) wouldn't allow it. Since this book was published in 1980 and Heinlein lived until 1988, Heinlein must have been aware of this. Nonetheless Asimov listed the titles of the Heinlein stories that he would have included in the book, and commented on them. I've often wondered about the relationship between Asimov and Heinlein, and this book only adds to the mystery.

There's a tendency to think of old science fiction as being corny and simplistic. In fact, the best authors of the Golden Age had a sophistication and brilliance which is rarely seen in modern genre authors. If you're not familiar with Golden Age SF, I recommend The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, volume I, which is the definitive collection. But if you get a chance to buy any of The Great SF Stories, grab them! I know I will.

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Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 03: 1941 Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 03: 1941 by Isaac Asimov


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cynic once said something like "The Golden Age of science fiction is about sixteen."

But they're wrong. 1941 was the heart of the Golden Age of science fiction. And this book is the proof.

If you've read a fair selection of classic SF, some of these stories will doubtless be familiar to you. Others probably won't be. In any case, these are some of the all-time classics of the genre.

Each story is introduced by Isaac Asimov, and he provides some interesting (and tantalizing) commentary. I can't help but wonder, for example, why he included Fredric Brown (one of my favorite writers) as an author whose personality was different from his stories (as opposed to authors who resembled their stories, some of whom he also lists). I was surprised and pleased to see that Asimov was, like me, a fan of Robert Arthur as well - although I have to admit that Arthur's story may be the weakest one in the book (though still worth reading!).

There are no stories by Robert Heinlein in this collection, apparently because he (or his wife) wouldn't allow it. Since this book was published in 1980 and Heinlein lived until 1988, Heinlein must have been aware of this. Nonetheless Asimov listed the titles of the Heinlein stories that he would have included in the book, and commented on them. I've often wondered about the relationship between Asimov and Heinlein, and this book only adds to the mystery.

There's a tendency to think of old science fiction as being corny and simplistic. In fact, the best authors of the Golden Age had a sophistication and brilliance which is rarely seen in modern genre authors. If you're not familiar with Golden Age SF, I recommend The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, volume I, which is the definitive collection. But if you get a chance to buy any of The Great SF Stories, grab them! I know I will.

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #5) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We enjoyed this one very much. Sebastian (my 7-year-old son) became an instant fan of Reepicheep the talking mouse, even though I never quite managed to develop a distinctive voice for him.

Placing the story primarily outside of Narnia was a good idea; the result is a considerably more imaginative book than the previous one (Prince Caspian).

As always, I must note that the numbering placed on modern editions of the books by the publisher is wrong. The books should be read in the order in which they were written; reading them in the "modern" order actually ruins many of the surprises.

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #5) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We enjoyed this one very much. Sebastian (my 7-year-old son) became an instant fan of Reepicheep the talking mouse, even though I never quite managed to develop a distinctive voice for him.

Placing the story primarily outside of Narnia was a good idea; the result is a considerably more imaginative book than the previous one (Prince Caspian).

As always, I must note that the numbering placed on modern editions of the books by the publisher is wrong. The books should be read in the order in which they were written; reading them in the "modern" order actually ruins many of the surprises.

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We finished reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last week. Sebastian enjoyed it very much. So we started right in on The Silver Chair. That has been going very well, too.

The library has a DVD of the British TV series of The Chronicles of Narnia, or at least the first three discs (which cover Lion, Caspian, Voyage, and Chair). We watched the first disc, and well...it was pretty silly. The special effects were awfully cheesy, but that was pretty much to be expected. The pacing was much slower than the movie, of course, and Teri was bored out of her mind; but that was to be expected too (Sebastian wasn't bored at all).

But what got to me was the terrible British overacting. When a British actor is good they're outstanding, but when they're bad they're terrible. And there were a lot of actors in The Lion who were just painfully bad. "Bellowing scene-chewers" seems the best way to describe them. The Witch, in particular, was like a black hole of bad acting. She kept trying to shout her lines louder and louder, and it was simply awful.

When I was in [livejournal.com profile] stairflight's production of Romeo and Juliet, some of the other actors urged me to shout more to show that I was angry. I refused. I knew damned well that you can often convey far more anger in a softer voice, and that constantly screaming your lines can be surprisingly ineffective.

Eventually the bad acting got to me. I cracked and started MSTing (that is, commenting on the action MST3K-style). When the Witch's face was on the scream, I dubbed for her "I need some more TOILET PAPER!!!" with the requisite hamminess and eye-rolling. Sebastian completely cracked up, and made me say it again and again for the next two days.

Aslan was quite amusing too. For one thing, he was obviously stuffed. His mouth movements weren't synchronized with his words. So when he was on his way to the Stone Table to be sacrificed by the Witch, and Lucy asked him what was going to happen, I emoted "She's going to cut out my STUFFING!!!". More wild laughter from Sebastian. Ah, the fun. :D

The show of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is far less silly. The sea-serpent actually scared Sebastian a little (lots of spiky teeth). The effects were better, as was the acting. In The Lion talking animals were played (painfully) by people wearing costumes, and other creatures were portrayed with quite amateurish cartoon effects; in Voyage there was only one talking animal, Reepicheep, and although he was played by a (little person? Is that the correct term?), he was relatively well-played and not too irritating.
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We finished reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last week. Sebastian enjoyed it very much. So we started right in on The Silver Chair. That has been going very well, too.

The library has a DVD of the British TV series of The Chronicles of Narnia, or at least the first three discs (which cover Lion, Caspian, Voyage, and Chair). We watched the first disc, and well...it was pretty silly. The special effects were awfully cheesy, but that was pretty much to be expected. The pacing was much slower than the movie, of course, and Teri was bored out of her mind; but that was to be expected too (Sebastian wasn't bored at all).

But what got to me was the terrible British overacting. When a British actor is good they're outstanding, but when they're bad they're terrible. And there were a lot of actors in The Lion who were just painfully bad. "Bellowing scene-chewers" seems the best way to describe them. The Witch, in particular, was like a black hole of bad acting. She kept trying to shout her lines louder and louder, and it was simply awful.

When I was in [livejournal.com profile] stairflight's production of Romeo and Juliet, some of the other actors urged me to shout more to show that I was angry. I refused. I knew damned well that you can often convey far more anger in a softer voice, and that constantly screaming your lines can be surprisingly ineffective.

Eventually the bad acting got to me. I cracked and started MSTing (that is, commenting on the action MST3K-style). When the Witch's face was on the scream, I dubbed for her "I need some more TOILET PAPER!!!" with the requisite hamminess and eye-rolling. Sebastian completely cracked up, and made me say it again and again for the next two days.

Aslan was quite amusing too. For one thing, he was obviously stuffed. His mouth movements weren't synchronized with his words. So when he was on his way to the Stone Table to be sacrificed by the Witch, and Lucy asked him what was going to happen, I emoted "She's going to cut out my STUFFING!!!". More wild laughter from Sebastian. Ah, the fun. :D

The show of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is far less silly. The sea-serpent actually scared Sebastian a little (lots of spiky teeth). The effects were better, as was the acting. In The Lion talking animals were played (painfully) by people wearing costumes, and other creatures were portrayed with quite amateurish cartoon effects; in Voyage there was only one talking animal, Reepicheep, and although he was played by a (little person? Is that the correct term?), he was relatively well-played and not too irritating.
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The Cat Who Walks Through Walls The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of Heinlein's last books, and not one of his best. It represents yet another installment in the "World As Myth" theme that he used so often later in life, and therefore includes many characters from his older, better works - including, inevitably, Lazarus Long, who continues his long (pun intended) degeneration from the original interesting protagonist of "Methuselah's Children" into an annoying incest-freak, Heinlein surrogate, self-parody (I suspect), and all-around jerk-who-must-be-worshiped-due-to-his-natural-moral-superiority.
Read more... )
Heinlein only wrote one more book after this; I've read it, but don't remember much of it (which is not very high praise, I must say). Unfortunately, that means that I don't remember if there was any mention of the outcome in that book. I suppose I'll have to re-read it to find out.

If it weren't for Heinlein's great skill as a storyteller, I'd have given this two stars at best. It's certainly among his weakest novels.

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The Cat Who Walks Through Walls The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of Heinlein's last books, and not one of his best. It represents yet another installment in the "World As Myth" theme that he used so often later in life, and therefore includes many characters from his older, better works - including, inevitably, Lazarus Long, who continues his long (pun intended) degeneration from the original interesting protagonist of "Methuselah's Children" into an annoying incest-freak, Heinlein surrogate, self-parody (I suspect), and all-around jerk-who-must-be-worshiped-due-to-his-natural-moral-superiority.
Read more... )
Heinlein only wrote one more book after this; I've read it, but don't remember much of it (which is not very high praise, I must say). Unfortunately, that means that I don't remember if there was any mention of the outcome in that book. I suppose I'll have to re-read it to find out.

If it weren't for Heinlein's great skill as a storyteller, I'd have given this two stars at best. It's certainly among his weakest novels.

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Day of the Giants Day of the Giants by Lester Del Rey



My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a mere 128 pages, Lester Del Rey tells a better story than most modern writers can in 500. Day of the Giants feels astonishingly slim next to the mammoth tomes which are de rigueur these days, but that slimness just points up the fact that most of those gargantuan books are simply padded.

The book is very strongly reminiscent of the Compleat Enchanter series by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. Both feature modern twentieth-century men who are unexpectedly faced with the world of Norse mythology. But while the situation was expertly played for laughs by de Camp and Pratt (the Compleat Enchanter series is rightfully considered a classic of the genre), in Day of the Giants del Rey plays it straight. Fimbulwinter has descended on the Earth, Ragnarok approaches, and two twin brothers - one a war hero, the other a farmer - have been taken up to Asgard by Loki and Thor to play a role in the final battle.

The interaction of modern science with magic and mythology is always interesting. I consider one of the failures of the Harry Potter series to be J.K. Rowling's relative neglect of that topic. For example, didn't witches care about the threat of nuclear war, or or ecological collapse? Surely witches who grew up as Muggles, as Harry did, must have been aware of those dangers - so why weren't they addressed? The idea of two societies existing side by side, with one unknown to the other, has all sorts of interesting possibilities...none of which were addressed by Rowling.

It's true that the issue of science vs. magic has become a cliche in modern genre fiction. But it certainly wasn't a cliche in 1959, when DotG was published.

In Day of the Giants, the interaction of science and mythology is handled in a much more satisfying way (I am tempted to compare the relative page counts of DotG with the Harry Potter series, just for laughs). del Rey's handling of the characters is never awkward or clumsy. By the end of the book, I found myself more satisfied than I've been at the end of many a weightier tome.

I suppose that there's no way that a 128-page novel is ever going to be reissued by a modern publisher, so Day of the Giants will remain a curiosity, only to be found in libraries and used book stores. That's a pity, because it deserves a wider readership. It's not a classic that will last for the ages, but it's a very well-written, entertaining book that many modern genre writers would do well to emulate.

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Day of the Giants Day of the Giants by Lester Del Rey



My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a mere 128 pages, Lester Del Rey tells a better story than most modern writers can in 500. Day of the Giants feels astonishingly slim next to the mammoth tomes which are de rigueur these days, but that slimness just points up the fact that most of those gargantuan books are simply padded.

The book is very strongly reminiscent of the Compleat Enchanter series by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. Both feature modern twentieth-century men who are unexpectedly faced with the world of Norse mythology. But while the situation was expertly played for laughs by de Camp and Pratt (the Compleat Enchanter series is rightfully considered a classic of the genre), in Day of the Giants del Rey plays it straight. Fimbulwinter has descended on the Earth, Ragnarok approaches, and two twin brothers - one a war hero, the other a farmer - have been taken up to Asgard by Loki and Thor to play a role in the final battle.

The interaction of modern science with magic and mythology is always interesting. I consider one of the failures of the Harry Potter series to be J.K. Rowling's relative neglect of that topic. For example, didn't witches care about the threat of nuclear war, or or ecological collapse? Surely witches who grew up as Muggles, as Harry did, must have been aware of those dangers - so why weren't they addressed? The idea of two societies existing side by side, with one unknown to the other, has all sorts of interesting possibilities...none of which were addressed by Rowling.

It's true that the issue of science vs. magic has become a cliche in modern genre fiction. But it certainly wasn't a cliche in 1959, when DotG was published.

In Day of the Giants, the interaction of science and mythology is handled in a much more satisfying way (I am tempted to compare the relative page counts of DotG with the Harry Potter series, just for laughs). del Rey's handling of the characters is never awkward or clumsy. By the end of the book, I found myself more satisfied than I've been at the end of many a weightier tome.

I suppose that there's no way that a 128-page novel is ever going to be reissued by a modern publisher, so Day of the Giants will remain a curiosity, only to be found in libraries and used book stores. That's a pity, because it deserves a wider readership. It's not a classic that will last for the ages, but it's a very well-written, entertaining book that many modern genre writers would do well to emulate.

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Heaven's Reach (Uplift Trilogy, Book 3) Heaven's Reach by David Brin



My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I consider David Brin one of the three best genre writers among those who started writing after 1970 (the other two are Lawrence Watt-Evans and Steven Brust; Barry Longyear might be on that list except I think he started writing before 1970, and I haven't seen anything new from him in quite a while. Barry Hughart would be on that list if he hadn't had to give up writing due to his idiotic publishers).

I'm a huge fan of a lot of his work. His original Uplift trilogy is a favorite of mine. But I was disappointed by the first two books in his second Uplift trilogy. Heaven's Reach represents a significant improvement on those books.

It might get a bit too cosmic (in the same way that his Kiln People did, towards the end), but it's a solid, intelligent, imaginative, and well-written book. Perhaps I like it more because the action takes place out on the space lanes, rather than being cooped up on the sooner planet of Jijo.

Many mysteries are explained, and the resolution, while by no means tying up all the threads of the Uplift series, is quite satisfying. I plan to go back to the first two books in the trilogy to see if I like them better in the light of this book.

And I'll be re-reading the entire first trilogy before too long, of course.

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Heaven's Reach (Uplift Trilogy, Book 3) Heaven's Reach by David Brin



My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I consider David Brin one of the three best genre writers among those who started writing after 1970 (the other two are Lawrence Watt-Evans and Steven Brust; Barry Longyear might be on that list except I think he started writing before 1970, and I haven't seen anything new from him in quite a while. Barry Hughart would be on that list if he hadn't had to give up writing due to his idiotic publishers).

I'm a huge fan of a lot of his work. His original Uplift trilogy is a favorite of mine. But I was disappointed by the first two books in his second Uplift trilogy. Heaven's Reach represents a significant improvement on those books.

It might get a bit too cosmic (in the same way that his Kiln People did, towards the end), but it's a solid, intelligent, imaginative, and well-written book. Perhaps I like it more because the action takes place out on the space lanes, rather than being cooped up on the sooner planet of Jijo.

Many mysteries are explained, and the resolution, while by no means tying up all the threads of the Uplift series, is quite satisfying. I plan to go back to the first two books in the trilogy to see if I like them better in the light of this book.

And I'll be re-reading the entire first trilogy before too long, of course.

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Batman: Dark Victory Batman: Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb


My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought long and hard before giving two stars to this one. It's possible that I should have given it three.

It was long, and a decent enough read. In many ways it resembles Frank Miller's acclaimed Batman: Year One miniseries. Much of the art closely resembles David Mazzucchelli's subdued, semi-realistic and oddly crumpled-looking style in Year One. That's not a style I particularly like, but I don't hate it either.

Many of the secondary characters from Year One appear in Dark Victory. But the storytelling style diverges more from Miller's, particularly in the latter half of the book.

In fact, that's the reason I ended up giving Dark Victory only two stars; it starts well, with a promising mystery that seems as if it might be a mystery - that is, that it might be a mystery which the reader could actually have a chance to figure out, rather than simply read and wait for a deus ex machina. The characters are interesting. But as the book progresses, it goes downhill.

I don't like the way that the various supervillains are drawn, for one thing. Semi-realism goes out the window for them, and the effect doesn't work. Two-Face looks as if he's half Mafioso, and half Red Skull - but with a strange-looking nose that manages to be both weirdly long and pug at the same time (and not just on one side, which might make sense, but on both). The Joker is drawn so unrealistically that he might as well be from another universe; his head is twice the size of anyone else's, and half of his face is giant teeth. Again, the effect doesn't work. Robin looks as if he's drifting towards an anime look, of the typical "cute/frightened little kid with a tiny mouth" type.

The writing goes downhill even faster than the art. A major plotline involving betrayal is resolved in an unsatisfying, off-hand manner. The mystery, which began with such promise, sputters out with a whimper; no matter how I try to connect the interesting clues to the resolution, I can't make sense of it. Batman makes more stupid mistakes than he should, throughout; this is NOT a character who should often miss the obvious, and it's annoying when an author plays that tired old card to extend the story.

The addition of Robin to the story doesn't work at all. This is the "dark" Batman, or purports to be, and adding a cutesy/spunky sidekick to that character is a tricky proposition at best. I don't consider Frank Miller to be infallible, but at least he handled the same issue far more skillfully in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In this book, Robin is just annoying. I can see what the author was going for, an attempt to make the sidekick issue work with the "dark lone avenger" theme, but he simply fails to carry it off successfully.

I think I might have given this book three stars if it hadn't resembled a far superior work so closely in the beginning, and then failed so completely to fulfil its promise.

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Batman: Dark Victory Batman: Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb


My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought long and hard before giving two stars to this one. It's possible that I should have given it three.

It was long, and a decent enough read. In many ways it resembles Frank Miller's acclaimed Batman: Year One miniseries. Much of the art closely resembles David Mazzucchelli's subdued, semi-realistic and oddly crumpled-looking style in Year One. That's not a style I particularly like, but I don't hate it either.

Many of the secondary characters from Year One appear in Dark Victory. But the storytelling style diverges more from Miller's, particularly in the latter half of the book.

In fact, that's the reason I ended up giving Dark Victory only two stars; it starts well, with a promising mystery that seems as if it might be a mystery - that is, that it might be a mystery which the reader could actually have a chance to figure out, rather than simply read and wait for a deus ex machina. The characters are interesting. But as the book progresses, it goes downhill.

I don't like the way that the various supervillains are drawn, for one thing. Semi-realism goes out the window for them, and the effect doesn't work. Two-Face looks as if he's half Mafioso, and half Red Skull - but with a strange-looking nose that manages to be both weirdly long and pug at the same time (and not just on one side, which might make sense, but on both). The Joker is drawn so unrealistically that he might as well be from another universe; his head is twice the size of anyone else's, and half of his face is giant teeth. Again, the effect doesn't work. Robin looks as if he's drifting towards an anime look, of the typical "cute/frightened little kid with a tiny mouth" type.

The writing goes downhill even faster than the art. A major plotline involving betrayal is resolved in an unsatisfying, off-hand manner. The mystery, which began with such promise, sputters out with a whimper; no matter how I try to connect the interesting clues to the resolution, I can't make sense of it. Batman makes more stupid mistakes than he should, throughout; this is NOT a character who should often miss the obvious, and it's annoying when an author plays that tired old card to extend the story.

The addition of Robin to the story doesn't work at all. This is the "dark" Batman, or purports to be, and adding a cutesy/spunky sidekick to that character is a tricky proposition at best. I don't consider Frank Miller to be infallible, but at least he handled the same issue far more skillfully in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In this book, Robin is just annoying. I can see what the author was going for, an attempt to make the sidekick issue work with the "dark lone avenger" theme, but he simply fails to carry it off successfully.

I think I might have given this book three stars if it hadn't resembled a far superior work so closely in the beginning, and then failed so completely to fulfil its promise.

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Tales From the White Hart Tales From the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely outstanding. I hadn't re-read this book for at least twenty years. Somehow it had gotten pigeonholed in my memory as a bit boring and dull.

But it's anything but dull or boring! Classic and funny science fiction stories using the classic bar-story format. Over and over I found myself coming across phrases and ideas which I'd incorporated into my personal lexicon, only to forget where they'd come from. "Oh, so this is where I first read that!" I kept saying.

It's a pity that Clarke wrote so few of these stories. They're wonderful.


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