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A family of wisecracking polymaths take a rocket ship to Mars and beyond.


The Rolling Stones

Charles Scribner, 1952, 276 pages



One of Heinlein's best-loved works, The Rolling Stones follows the rollicking adventures of the Stone family as they tour the solar system.

It doesn't seem likely for twins to have the same middle name. Even so, it's clear that Castor and Pollux Stone both have "Trouble" written in that spot on their birth certificates. Of course, anyone who's met their grandmother Hazel would know they came by it honestly.

Join the Stone twins as they connive, cajole, and bamboozle their way across the solar system in the company of the most high-spirited and hilarious family in all of science fiction.... It all starts when the twins decide that life on the lunar colony is too dull and buy their own spaceship to go into business for themselves. Before long they are headed for the furthest reaches of the stars, with stops on Mars, some asteroids, Titan, and beyond.

This lighthearted tale has some of Heinlein's sassiest dialogue - not to mention the famous flat cats incident. Oddly enough, it's also a true example of real family values, for when you're a Stone, your family is your highest priority.


Golden Age SF that shows its age.Collapse )


Also by Robert A. Heinlein: My reviews of Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Starman Jones, I Will Fear No Evil, Farnham's Freehold, Orphans of the Sky, and Double Star.




My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Maelstrom, by Taylor Anderson

The third book in the Destroyermen series continues the alt-Earth war.


Maelstrom

Roc, 2009, 400 pages



Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, along with the men and women of the U.S.S. Walker, are once again at war. Having sided with the peaceful Lemurians against the savage, reptilian Grik, they now find themselves scrambling to prepare for the attack that is sure to come, searching for resources to support their forces - even as they look for allies to join their struggle.

Meanwhile, the Japanese juggernaut Amagi, also trapped in this strange world, is under Grik control---with her fanatical commander approaching madness. And soon they will have amassed a force that no amount of firepower and technology will be able to stop.As the raging conflict approaches, Reddy, his crew, his allies, and his loved ones face annihilation. But if there is one thing they have learned about their new world, it is that hope - and help - may be just over the horizon.


Still a swashbuckler of a book, but three books in and the war has barely begun.Collapse )




Also by Taylor Anderson: My reviews of Into the Storm and Crusade.

My complete list of book reviews.
A hard-boiled detective story about gangsters, rich people, dames, drunks, adulterers, and writers.


The Long Goodbye

Vintage Crime, 1953, 379 pages



Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem: his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to his only friend in the world: Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. He's willing to help a man down on his luck, but later, Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty.

Marlowe finds himself drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA's Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn't kill his wife, but how many more stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?


Philip Marlowe learns the rich are not like us.Collapse )

Verdict: A classic detective story that holds up well if you liked hard-boiled noir. Few writers have really improved on the classics of the genre, and Raymond Chandler is fun to read, as Philip Marlowe hobnobs with the rich and crazy and spars verbally with cops and gangsters. The Long Goodbye is a good introduction to the character even if it isn't the first in the series. 9/10.




My complete list of book reviews.

AQATWA: So I wrote

A little. Not much, and it's literally been so long since I actually opened the document that it took me a while to remember where I was in the story. Yeah, I have been that blocked/distracted.

But I wrote a little bit, and I'm going to try to write some more. Small steps...

Book Review: NOS4A2, by Joe Hill

A crazy psychic child-abductor vs. a crazy psychic biker chick.


NOS4A2

William Morrow, 2013, 686 pages



Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn't tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself.

Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie's twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.

And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble...and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie's unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget.

But Charlie Manx hasn't stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won't slow down until he's taken his revenge. He's after something very special - something Vic can never replace.

As a life-and-death battle of wills builds her magic pitted against his - Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all...or die trying....


Joe Hill really is a chip off the old block.Collapse )




My complete list of book reviews.

Star Wars

Didn't suck. Was not great. I liked it, but it wouldn't become a blockbuster, or a classic, without 35 years of nostalgia and hype behind it. JJ Abrams does epic eye-candy well, and he's better at characterization than George Lucas (but who isn't?), but there wasn't a damn thing original in this film. It took no risks, did nothing new, and thus it's hard to see it as anything other than a cynical merchandising machine.

As a snobby serious science fiction fan, I have always been willing to suspend my disbelief for cinematic sci-fi, but Star Wars still has to offend with egregious stupidity. The first Death Star really made no sense, and a super-duper Death Star makes even less sense. Who the hell builds these things? Where did the "First Order" get the income to build planet-sized war machines when the Empire has fallen apart? So the Republic remains a useless collection of idealists who sit around drinking martinis until their planets are blown up, while a new Empire just pops up and is capable of wiping them off the map? What is the Rebellion rebelling against if the Republic is supposed to be the legitimate government now? The politics and economy are as incoherent as the science.

These are the things that bug me, not Kylo Ren's stupid cross-guard light saber or his being p0wned by two novices in a duel.
Looking at my archive of AQ images, I am inspired by how many talented people have drawn fan art for my stories. And despite the long hiatus in my writing, people are still creating new fan works for me.

rikchik came up with a currency symbol for Confederation Lions. It is much cooler than what I envisioned (which was basically just a stylized "L" with a hash mark or something).

WCL

Sajirah tumblr drew a picture of an older Alex.

Alex by Sajirah Tumblr

And agogobell wrote a short story: Anna Chu and the World Away.

So what about your writing?



A few people suggested I try writing something else, and I did take a stab at that. I began a new (original fiction) novel, but did not get very far. I still like the idea very much, and will pursue it later, but I just don't think I do very well working on multiple projects at once.

In the keep-your-fingers crossed department, after finding little interest with agents for my SF novel, I sent it off to the few publishers that still accept unagented manuscripts and forgot about it. And about six months later, one publisher - a fairly well known one - informed me that my manuscript had been selected from the slush pile for "further consideration."

Eight months on, and I am still waiting to hear from them. This publisher is rather notoriously slow about such things, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's a year or two from now before I finally get a rejection or acceptance. I am not going to get my hopes too high - I was told by someone familiar with said publisher's slush pile that I am already about one in a thousand by getting this far, but the odds of actually getting all the way to a thumbs up and a publishing contract are still probably at least ten to one. But it's cool.

I am mustering my energies, gathering my resolve, making New Year's resolutions, and all that stuff. I have a number of things I need to do in the coming year, not the least of which is getting back to writing. I'm not making any more promises or giving ETAs, but I have taken a long enough hiatus, I am missing the writing, and with a little work on time management and reassignment of priorities, I would like to get back to it.

I'll keep you posted. And thanks, as always, for your patience, and for those of you who haven't given up on seeing the AQ series completed.

Book Review: Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy

Tom Sawyer for the damned, or Ulysses in Tennessee.


Suttree

Vintage International, 1979, 471 pages



No discussion of great modern authors is complete without mention of Cormac McCarthy, whose rare and blazing talent makes his every work a true literary event. A grand addition to the American literary canon, Suttree introduces readers to Cornelius Suttree, a man who abandons his affluent family to live among a dissolute array of vagabonds along the Tennessee river.


The very witch of fuck.Collapse )

Verdict: Cormac McCarthy is an acquired taste that doesn't take much for me to get too much of. I loved Blood Meridian and hated The Road, and Suttree stands somewhere in the middle, but if you like thick, fetid Southern gothic fiction, like Faulkner with more melon-fucking and pig-killing, then you will probably like this book. 7/10.

Also by Cormac McCarthy: My reviews of Blood Meridian: or The Evening Redness in the West, No Country for Old Men, and The Road.




My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Corsair, by James Cambias

Captain Black the Space Pirate vs. an overly-ambitious Air Force officer and deprecated terrorists.


Corsair

Tor, 2015, 336 pages



In the early 2020s, two young, genius computer hackers, Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz, meet at MIT, where Schwartz is sneaking into classes, and have a brief affair. David is amoral and out for himself and soon disappears. Elizabeth dreams of technology and space travel and takes a military job after graduating.

Nearly 10 years later, David is setting himself up to become a billionaire by working in the shadows under a multiplicity of names for international thieves, and Elizabeth works in intelligence, preventing international space piracy. With robotic mining in space becoming a lucrative part of Earth's economy, shipments from space are dropped down the gravity well into the oceans.

David and Elizabeth fight for dominance of the computer systems controlling ore drop placement in international waters. If David can nudge a shipment 500 miles off its target, his employers can get there first and claim it legally in the open sea. Each one intuits that the other is their real competition but can't prove it. And when Elizabeth loses a major shipment, she leaves government employ to work for a private space company to find a better way to protect shipments. But international piracy has very high stakes and some very evil players. And both Elizabeth and David end up in a world of trouble. Space pirates and computer hackers...James L. Cambias' Corsair is a thrilling near-future adventure!


It almost reads like hard science fiction, unless you know a little bit of science.Collapse )

Also by James Cambias: My review of A Darkling Sea.




My complete list of book reviews.
The labyrinthine story of a troubled, disfigured creator of a play-by-mail game.


Wolf in White Van

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014, 208 pages



Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival! You may now make your first move. Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of 17, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in Southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian - a text-based, roleplaying game played through the mail - Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America. Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.

Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean’s life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle’s audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.


Loaded with pop culture, nostalgia, and angst, depression, and death.Collapse )




My complete list of book reviews.

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