2023-01-23

"Police Your Planet" Lester Del Rey (1915-1993)

 


Publisher: Del Rey Books
Copyright: 1956
ISBN: 0345298586

This book is quite dark in its portrayal of life on Mars, which is essentially an outlaw territory where citizens of Earth who are no longer welcome are sent. This plot detail obviously parallels the British use of Australia as a penal colony.

The protagonist Bruce Gordon is an ex-boxer, ex-gambler, ex-cop, and ex-reporter who is shipped off Earth for Mars with a one-way ticket, his alternative punishment being the mines on Mercury. Gangs run various parts of the city, graft is ever present, the police are corrupt, as are the politicians, and pretty much everybody else. While I can't be totally sure (as I was never exiled to Australia, not have I visited Mars), I think that the descriptions of how people would live in a penal colony are likely fairly accurate. 

Being that this book was written in 1956, the science is fairly incorrect based on what we now know of the solar system. The story itself is also quite confusing in a number of places, as there are a fair number of characters, and unfortunately for the most part they are very one dimensional. I have read very few of Mr. Del Rey's books, so I'm not overly sure how his other works stack up to this one, but he is a very famous author, so I will see what else I can read of his.

2023-01-16

"For Small Creatures Such as We: Ritual for Finding Meaning in our Unlikely World" by Sasha Sagan

 


Publisher:  G. P. Putnam's Sons
Copyright: 2019
ISBN: 9780593087541

This book is an examination of how we humans interact with the natural world, and with each other. It is the story of Ms. Sagan and her life as the daughter of the astronomer Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan. She was raised in a secular household, and this forms the basis of her outlook on the world, which is to say the least a very good one that demonstrates that science has revealed truths more impressive and amazing than any religion, myth or fable.

She reminisces about hr life with her parents, how she met her husband, and how they are now raising their daughter in the same manner. She examines how her life has been influenced by her relatives, and how she has taken some of the rituals and developed others to enhance her family's life.

An excellent book that gives not only a good overview of a secular life, but also some insight into what it means to be secular in a world that seems to be dominated in certain places by religion, mythology, fables, and much more - some of which are very detrimental to the person and society at large.

Highly recommended.

2023-01-09

"Brandyjack" by Augustine Funnell


 

Publisher: Laser Books
Copyright: 1976
ISBN: 0373720394

"Brandyjack" is an interesting novel that was written by a Canadian author by the name of Augustine Funnell. At the time according to the book he was a young but fairly experienced author, who published a couple of titles through the Laser Books in imprint. Unfortunately, the Laser Books line only last a little over a year (1975-1977) and consisted of 58 novels. The line included some big name authors such as Tim Powers, Piers Anthony,Dean R. Koontz, Jerry Pournelle, and more.

The story revolves around the character Brandyjack who is a wayfarer, traveler, etc. who links up with a merchant by the name of Thoruso who plans to leave Earth for Alpha Centauri. The story itself is set in the 55th century, and the Earth is essentially a waste land, it it is implied that science in general is to blame for this condition. However we learn later on that politics had a whole lot to do with it as well. There is a starship poised and ready to leave earth, but never got a chance, and that has been waiting for a crew since all the problems started, about 3000 years earlier.

There's a fair bit of violence, fighting, racism, etc. in the book but the story reads very well, and when the context of the plot is taken into account this is to be expected as the Earth itself is a fairly wild and nasty place, with what's left of civilization having to get by any way they can.

There is a second book, also published by Laser Books, but I have been unable to find it so far.

2023-01-02

"A Very British Murder: The Curious Story of How Crime Was Turned Into Art" by Lucy Worsley


 

Publisher: BBC Books
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 9781849906517

This book is the history of detective fiction, from its possible inception with the Ratcliffe Highway Murders in Regency England (1811) and how this essentially inspired both the public's love of mystery stories, a series of inspirational mystery authors, and subsequently the mystery genre.

In the first part, Ms. Worsley goes on to discuss the establishment of the police forces in England, how the Ratcliffe Murder scene was treated by both the public and those trying to solve the murder. The influence various executions etc. had on a French woman who brought her skills and exhibition to England as Madame Tussaud, which is still a fixture in modern day London. In closing out the first part of this book she also describes true crime, Charles Dickens as a crime writer, the murder of Maria Martin in 1828 and the major influence is it had both in the genre as well as on the stage, and the weather is spectacular Bermondsey horror which involved a love triangle amongst other things.

The second part of the book deals primarily with the establishment of the detective novel, and its love by readers. She also deals in this section with the establishment establishment of forensic sciences, the appearance of the lady detective. The third section of this book is entitled the golden age, and deals with the various authors who became quite famous in there production of numerous mystery stories such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Edgar Wallace, Arthur Conan Doyle, G. K. Chesterton, Ngaio Marsh.

This is an excellent book that gives a thorough history of detective fiction, and should be an inspiration to anyone looking to write in the detective/mystery genre.

A great read and very informative.

2022-12-26

"Mathematics" Margaret Ball

 


Publisher: Baen Books
Copyright: 1996
ISBN: 0671877550

This novel is a lot of fun to read. It concerns a former warrior woman Riva Konneva, who has taken refuge on Earth (or the Planet of the Paper-pushers as it is referred to) to help educate her daughter, and to stay away from the magician/wizard who is the father of her daughter, and not a nice person.

In the alternate reality that they came from magic is performed through the use of mathematics. This may seem a little odd to diehard fantasy readers, but it actually works very well in the way the novel is structured. It also doesn't hurt that Margaret Ball is a mathematician and computer scientist.

This novel is the second in a series, however there is no indication of this in the beginning of the book. It is listed on the cover as "A Chicks in Chainmail Novel" which does support this idea. Upon consulting the Internet Science fiction Data Base it turns out that the first book in the series is called "Career Day", well the third is called "Tales from the Slush Pile", and the fourth "Fun with Hieroglyphics". Unfortunately I haven't read any of these other three, but will definitely be keeping an eye out for them.

A very good read, With lots of humour and interesting sub-plots outside of the main one.

2022-12-19

"Shut Up and Write the Book: A Step-by-step Guide to Crafting Your Novel from Plan to Print" by Jenna Moreci


 

Publisher:  Jenna Moreci
Copyright:  2023
ISBN: 978-0-9997352-8-2 (paperback)
           978-0-9997352-7-5 (hardback) 
           978-0-9997352-9-9 (ebook) 

I had the good fortune to be chosen to review an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Ms. Moreci's new book and found it to be absolutely full of valuable information for both first time authors and well as those who may have been around a while, but who were quite never satisfied with how their novel turned out.

Ms. Moreci takes the future author's hand from the very beginning and guides them through the process of deciding what to write, basic structure, planning, character creation, world-building, outlining, the various things you need to have in your novel and so much more. It is a step-by-step guide from the very beginning to the completion of the manuscript.

For those of you who follow her YouTube channel her funny, and at times sarcastic wit is replicated in this book. Her no-nonsense way of telling the future writer how things really work is, In my opinion, something that is sorely needed. Most people have no concept of how much work needs to into a novel as this is not something that is routinely taught. There are so many potential authors out there that want to tell their stories, but are unable to do so, as they never learned the basics. This book should, I hope, solve this dilemma for them.

It is hoped that she will consider writing a sequel to this book which deals with the next multitude of steps in getting the manuscript published.

Highly recommended.

2022-12-12

"Rough Cut" by Derek Lambert (1929-2001)

 


Publisher: Bantam Books
Copyright: 1975 as "Touch the Lion's Paw"
ISBN: 0553027891

This novel was originally published as "Touch the Lion's Paw" but was rereleased as "Rough Cut" when the 1980 movie of that name was made starring Burt Reynolds, Leslie Ann Down, and David Niven.

The book is much darker than the movie is, and details the execution of the robbery of Hatton Garden in London of $13 million worth of uncut diamonds, during its transfer to Antwerp for cutting. The overall plot of movie does pretty much the same thing with the exception is much more lighthearted, as is typical with the majority of Burt Reynolds movies, and there is very little violence unlike the book. 

Unlike the most of reviews I do where I compare a movie and a book in this case I very much prefer the movie over the book. Unfortunately, the movie is next to impossible to find as a DVD or Blu-ray (and may not have ever even been released on anything other than VHS).

There were a fair number of changes with regard to the characters when comparing the book and the movie, but for the most part the book itself is very well written and the author obviously did a lot of research on the subject matter, which considering the subject could possibly have been quite difficult.

Both the book and movie are well worth reading/viewing. Enjoy them both.

2022-12-05

"First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human" by Jeremy DeSilva

 



Publisher: Harper Collins
Copyright: 2021
ISBN: 9780062938497

Dr. De Silvia's book is a well researched trip through time that looks at the development of the foot on various bipedal organisms, e.g., Us, as well as the great apes and a few other assorted beasties who walk on two legs (typically for short periods of time). It is easy to read and will be of great interest to both the layperson and high school as well as first year university students.

There have been many many changes since I graduated with an anthropology degree in the early 90s, and in fact some of the more fascinating things have happened in the last 10 to 15 years. If I was able, I would seriously consider going back and doing my masters so I can catch up on what's going on.

Dr. De Silva traces the development of the human, and other members of the genus Homo and its predecessors through the examination of fossil evidence, as wells as extent species of animals.

Well worth the read, highly recommended.

"Police Your Planet" Lester Del Rey (1915-1993)

  Publisher: Del Rey Books Copyright: 1956 ISBN: 0345298586 This book is quite dark in its portrayal of life on Mars, which is essentially a...