Monday, 25 January 2021

"We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)


Publisher: Citadel Press
Copyright: 1987
ISBN: 0806512091

This is an anthology of 27 of Philip K. Dick's short stories, all of which are well worth reading. The title story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" may be recognizable to many as it was the inspiration for the two movies entitled "Total Recall" the first starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1990, and the second starring Colin Ferrall in 2012. While neither of these movies followed the story too closely they were obviously influenced by elements in it.

Many of the other stories in this anthology deal with a post-apocalyptic world in which humans are trying to survive. One of the better ones being "Planet for Transients" in which the world has survived a nuclear war, but it has changed so much that humans are no longer the dominant life form. The first story in the collection "The Cookie Lady" I found to be a really great read, but I'm not going to spoil it for you as it isn't very long.

All in all this is a very good introduction to the late Mr. Dick's work, and I'm looking forward to reading more. I'm not sure why I'd never read any of his stories before, but it might be because I used to have a definite dislike for short fiction, as when I was young I had read some rather poor work, and this guided me towards only reading novel lengths work for many years. I have since come around.

I think you'll like this book.


Monday, 18 January 2021

"The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic moments, From the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses" by Dan Carlin


Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright Date:©2019

ISBN: 9780062868046 

Dan Carlin for those of you who don't know is the host of the "Hardcore History" Podcast which has been running for close to 15 years if I'm not mistaken. Mr. Carlin is a fantastic storyteller who blends real history, but not always the way you were told into both his podcasts, and now his first book. The podcast and now this book invites the listener and reader to think about what really happened in history, what people were thinking, and where we as supposedly rational humans might be headed.

"The End is Always Near" takes the reader on a journey that examines the Bronze Age collapse, the way children were raised historically, the fall of the Assyrian Empire, the Roman Empire vs. the Barbarians (everyone who wasn't Roman), the various epidemics and pandemics that have scourged the world over time (which as I am writing this we are in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic is rather frightening), the nuclear age and the attacks on Japan in 1945, the horrors of the wars in Europe and how they can be compared to what happened in Japan.

This book is absolutely full of fascinating information, but the information may at times be a little shocking, especially to people who have gone through the school system in the last 30 years when the material being taught has been sanitized.

This would make a fantastic text book for a high school or a 1st year University history class.

Monday, 11 January 2021

"Race Against Time" by Piers Anthony


Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates 
Copyright: 1973
ISBN: 0812531108

It's 1960, in a typical American town. Or is it? John Smith is your typical high school aged teenager, but he's discovered some things about his life are a little odd. For instance, he has a dog that can climb trees, he has a girlfriend he's never met but whom he is required to write to each week, and has been told that he has to marry. To top this all off his parents always seem to be taking notes about what he's doing.

The above is generally what is on the back of the book, and what got me interested in this story when I first bought it many years ago. The story follows John Smith's explorations into why his life is a little odd, after all even he knows dogs shouldn't be able to climb trees. Is it ventures lead him to meet other people who are in the same situation as him, and what they discover is rather startling.

I had read some of Piers Anthony's stories before, and always found them to be quite intriguing as he definitely likes his plot twists. He likely is best known for his Xanth series of 44 books (which I haven't read), but he has many other novels and series in genres such as fantasy, thriller, urban fantasy, and children's fiction.

It was a very good book, that is well-suited for teens, young adults and so on.


Monday, 4 January 2021

"Vulgar Tongues: An Alternative History of English Slang" by Max D├ęcharne


Publisher:New York : Pegasus Books, 2017.
Edition:First Pegasus Books hardcover edition.
Copyright Date:©2017
Characteristics:388 pages :,illustration

This is an extremely well researched book that gives the reader an excellent overview of how slang has developed over the ages, and how previous groups have influenced latter ones.

As can likely be appreciated a good deal of slang tends to originate with or be related to sex, and this is examined well in the first two chapters. The third chapter deals with the subject of Cockney Rhyming Slang, and the fourth looks at slang terms from the LGBTQ side.

The fifth and sixth chapters deal respectively with crime and drunkenness, while the seventh looks at the drug cultures slang words.
The next three chapters deal primarily with the music industry, and the way it has both adopted slang as well as influenced its use. The last chapters go on to look st slang in the military and police. Finally he looks at modern slang and the influence computers have had, but that's all geek to me (chickens not included). There are some good anecdotes throughout the book with regard to people using slang incorrectly, and either making fools of themselves, or getting in trouble because of it.

All in all this is a very interesting book that could be quite valuable to fiction writers, as well as those doing research on other cultures.


Monday, 28 December 2020

"Demon" by John Varley


Publisher:    Berkley
Copyright:   1984
ISBN:           0399129456

It has taken me a long time to get around to reading the third book in this trilogy. The reason for this hesitation was that I wasn't overly impressed with the second one (Wizard), but felt that I should at least try to finish the series despite my misgivings.

The first few pages of Demon were rather odd to say the least, but it began to get better as the story progressed (unfortunately this was but a brief respite). It wasn't as good as Titan (The first book in the trilogy), which had a well defined plot arc. Contrarily both Wizard and Demon seem to be books that didn't really need to be written, and you get the feeling they were simply done to fulfill the contract (or at least I did). Whether this is true or not I don't know, but it sure seems that way because they both ramble, and Demon rambles even more than Wizard.

In any case, it has been about 20 years since the end of Wizard, and in this book Gaea seems to be represented by a gigantic version of Marilyn Monroe. The Titandes are still around even though it seemed as if they were doomed at the end of Wizard. Robin the witch is back after leading the coven for a good portion of the 20 years, she is low disgraced. Her daughter is with her, and she seems to be ready to blame anything and everything for her misfortune.  Gaby is also back (from the dead?) But seems to be more of a ghost anything else.

To be honest I wasn't even able to finish this book, in fact I only got about a third of the way through it before I gave it up.

Sorry, Varley fans. Definitely not one of his best.

Monday, 21 December 2020

"Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation!" by Lynn Truss


Publisher: New York : Gotham Books
Copyright: 2003
ISBN: 9781592400874 

This book gives the reader a very good overview of grammar and punctuation (you know that stuff you were supposed to have learned about in English class). Now, while this might sound like a fairly dull subject. It isn’t, as Lynne Truss does it with a great sense of humour, and wonderful examples that will keep you enthralled (and laughing) to the very end.

Some of the examples cited in the text are ones you will commonly see now-a-days. I’m not sure why this is, as to the best of my knowledge English is still a core subject in school. The rules for grammar and punctuation are basically quite simple, but can seem difficult if you aren’t properly trained in them.

So go ahead, read this book, it’ll open your eyes and definitely give you something to think about.

Enjoy, and watch your commas.

Monday, 14 December 2020

"Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" by L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986)


Publisher: Bridge Publications, Inc.
Copyright: 1982
ISBN: 0884041557

There's absolutely no doubt that this book is a saga, as it is 1066 pages long. But even though it is extremely long the story is quite interesting, thorough and well written. It is also the only book of Mr. Hubbard's that I have ever finished.

My apologies to all the L. Ron Hubbard fans out there, but I honestly did try to read the "Mission Earth" series a long time ago, but didn't even make it through the first quarter of the first book which if I remember correctly was called "The Invaders Plan" (there are 10 in the series) but it was so mind numbingly boring I gave up. I have however not read any of his other works.

In any case "Battlefield Earth" is not like that series as it is a very good story that definitely keeps you in suspense with some very good twists and turns in the plotting. The characters themselves are memorable, some of them are very good people and a couple are really despicable. The culture of the Psychlos, is well portrayed and detailed which makes it quite interesting to read. In addition the Psychlos themselves seem to be quite well designed as well.

The story itself revolves around a small band of humans, led by Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Legends tell of monsters who live on the plains, and following the death of his father, Johnnie decides to investigate if the rumours are true, in hopes that he can move the people of his village to someplace healthier, as they are slowly wasting away.

The monsters however turn out to be true, and Johnny is captured by one of them an alien by the name of Terl. Later after learning more about Terl's plans Jonni, and another band of humans decide to fight back and retake the planet from the Psychlos.

While it is a long book, it is well worth the read, especially for the well developed world building, and characters.

On the other hand, they made a movie of this book in 2000 that was produced and starred John Travolta. It had the honour of being one of the worst movies that Hollywood has ever produced and was given such bad reviews by virtually every critic that is even hard to find the DVD in a library. The estimated budget was $73 million, and it made $8.25 Million, but who knows where it went?

While I've never actually seen the movie (something which I'm grateful for) after seeing some of the stills on IMDb, and reading some of the information on that same service it is obvious that good ol' Hollywood once again goofed, which seems pretty typical.

Monday, 7 December 2020

"Don't Put That In There: And 69 Other Sex Myths Debunked" by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman


Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Copyright: 2014
ISBN: 9781250042262

There are lots of books, websites, television shows and so on devoted to debunking myths, but myths about sex are probably one of the most critical, but also some of the most humourous to read.

A lot of it possibly comes from parent and child miscommunication (assuming of course there was any communication in the first place). But while the origin of some of these myths might be able to be explained to a point, a great deal of it is can be classified under 'absolutely beyond comprehension' as to how people come up with these silly ideas.

Examples of some of the topics covered in these little essays (average about 1 to 2 pages each) are: Part 1 (Men): Does penis size matter, racial penis profiling, whether you should have sex before the big game, Foreskin myths; Part 2 (Women): Women don’t really want sex, the bush vs. Brazilian, G-spots, Douching; Part 3 (Sex): aphrodisiacs, sex and exercise, piercing, television making you over sexed, watching porn, premature ejaculation, masturbation myths; Part 4 (Getting Pregnant): sex during menstruation, rape, birth control pills vs. antibiotics, IUDs; Part 5 (STDs): Condoms, Human-papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, HPV vaccine making girls want to have sex, and HIV. This is just a selection from the table of contents, but as you can see the scope is wide ranging.

This book goes a long way to dispelling a lot of these myths, and it does it in a very well written, humorous, and intelligent way. This would be a great books for every teacher, school councillor, school nurse, and many others to have on their book shelf.

I also enjoyed Drs. Carrol & Vreeman's other book "Don't Swallow You Gum: Myths, half-truths, and out right lies about your body and health" which I reviewed back in November 2020. I also reviewed Dr. Carrol's book "The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully" back in March 2020.


"We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)

  Publisher: Citadel Press Copyright: 1987 ISBN: 0806512091 This is an anthology of 27 of Philip K. Dick's short stories, all of which a...