Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: “Common Sense, Rights of Man, and other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine”

This book includes the entirety of Paine’s “Common Sense” and “Rights of Man”. It also includes selections from his series “The Crises” and the pamphlets “The Age of Reason” and “Agrarian Justice”.

There is a forward by Jack Fruchtman Jr. and an Introduction by Sidney Hook. These attempt to illustrate the importance of Paine’s writings in about 25 pages. It notes that Paine is one America’s Founding Fathers on account of having written “Common Sense” and “The Crises”. Paine wrote the “Rights of Man” in response to Burke’s pamphlet against the French Revolution. “The Age of Reason” was written when Paine expected to be executed in the Reign of Terror. It includes his thoughts on religion, which later led to his being regarded as an atheist. “Agrarian Justice” was written somewhat later. It seems to have been included more to add flavor than on account of its influence, as neither introduction refers to it.

From my perspective this book is more important as a collection of important historical documents than as a source of governing ideas for our times. Historically Paine was one of the more important popularizers of republican thought in the late 1700s. “Common Sense” helped to make the American Revolution a success. “The Crises” helped Washington maintain the morale of his troops. “Rights of Man” is one of the most important defenses of the French Revolution and includes the seeds of ideas that were and are tremendously important. “The Age of Reason” presents the case for the Deism that was so popular with the great figures of the Enlightenment.

“Agrarian Justice” seems to be of limited historical interest, but I would hope that by including it certain of those on the political right would be induced not to abuse his name. In it Paine advocates for a minimum income and property taxes that are distributed to the entire population that can own land.

Overall, this book is a must read for anyone with an interest in the thinking of European Republican thinking of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There are interesting complexities, such as the claim that republics (and democracies) are actually, not merely theoretically, incapable of using illegitimate force. He assumes that all constitutions must be written down. He describes England as being ruled by an absolute monarch because of the theoretical powers of the monarch while Revolutionary France.

These complexities mean there are few, if any, simple modern applications of Paine’s thinking.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Review: “Proteus in the Underworld” by Charles Sheffield

This is the third book in this series by Charles Sheffield. It is set in a world where technology allows humans to change their bodies in myriad ways. Some of those ways are stable and legal, others are unstable, and still others are illegal. Some forms die quickly, while others can last for centuries. This technology is so integral to human society that it defines whether an infant is human or not. Using this technology and advances in space flight Humanity has colonized the entire solar system, all the way out to the Oort Cloud (Cloudland).

The story opens on a problem. The “Humanity Test” has failed in the independent colonies of the Kuiper Belt. A creature was born to human parents, but it lacks the ability to think. More importantly it lacks the ability to interact with the form change technology. The problem has been assigned to Sondra Dearborn, it is her job to find out why feral forms passed the humanity test. She approaches her distant relative, Bey Wolf, for help with the problem.

He refuses to help her, but the visit alone disturbs the forces that caused the humanity test to fail. As Sondra visits the Kuiper Belt and sees several unique cultures that rely on form change technology, Bey is decoyed to Mars in a needless effort to distract him from Sondra’s problem. Ultimately the effort backfires, as Bey finds the motive for breaking the humanity test in the Underworld on Mars.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable book. There are occasional references to the previous books, but not so much that reading them is required to enjoy this one. The dialogue is enjoyable, the characters interesting, and the premise thoroughly intriguing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review: “Dinosaur Planet Survivors” by Anne McCaffrey

This is the sequel or, perhaps more accurately, the continuation of “Dinosaur Planet”. It picks up with Kai being woken up Tor, which follows naturally from the end of the last book. As the story advances the “light weight” crew sets out to figure out what has happened, how long they have been asleep, and generally picking up where they left of.

This book is rather better than the first book, in part because it follows fewer threads. It also doesn’t have the uncertainty that exists throughout “Dinosaur Planet”.

All in all it is a mildly interesting story detailing an episode too quickly passed through in Sassinak’s story.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: “Dinosaur Planet” by Anne McCaffrey

This short novel from the Universe of the Federated Sentient Planets by Anne McCaffrey follows the adventure of a group of explorers from the EEC as they explore a planet called Ireta. The planet has a noxious atmosphere, smelling like rotten eggs, and has dozens of anomalies. One of the most striking anomalies is the existence of creatures that look like dinosaurs.

The story is simple, easy reading. What plot there is combines exploration with mutiny. Overall it is a blandly, mild book of little interest except as setup for the next book and Sassinak’s story.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Review: “All the Weyrs of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey

This story takes place in the 9th pass with Lessa and F’lar as the Weyrleaders of Benden Weyr. It follows immediately on one of her other books, “Renegades of Pern” I think, where the AIVIS (Artificial Intelligence Voice Address System).

This story occasionally makes me think of the 60’s and 70’s in the US. There is the “Apollo” program that promises to get rid of Thread. There is the civil unrest because of changing circumstances, new “Aivis” devices in this case. There are the repeated attacks on important figures like Lord Jaxom and Masterharper Robinton.

All in all an enjoyable and epic story.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review: “Dragonseye” by Anne McCaffrey

This book by Anne McCaffrey is set on Pern just before the start of the Second Pass. A number of minor plotlines are woven together. Lord Chalkin of Bitra Hold doesn’t believe, and doesn’t want to believe that Thread is about to fall. Iantine is an aspiring artist looking to begin his career. Debera leaves her family to Impress a green dragon at Telgar Weyr, which is lead by K’vin and Zulaya. Clisser is leading the College into the new pass and trying to preserve what must be preserved. Lord Paulin of Fort heads the Council as most of Pern prepares to meet Thread.

By the end of the book Chalkin has been impeached and exiled. Iantine has gained a reputation as a skilled portraitist and won the heart of Debera. The Eye, Finger, and Star rocks have been designed, and their placement on each Weyr has been established. This quote from the end of the book pretty well sums up the emotion, “What a time to be alive…”

All in all the action is simple and the physical challenges rather easily overcome for the protagonists. The politicking and personal interactions on the other hand…

It is an enjoyable story with only one obvious anachronism. It is said that the AIVIS turned itself off, despite that event not happening for another 2000 Turns.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Review: “Murrow: his life and times” by A.M Specter

This 700 page book focuses on Edward Roscoe Murrow, the radio and tv newsman. It begins with a brief sketch of Murrow’s parents and grandparents. The book goes through his childhood, his years working for the International Institute of Education, and then through his many years working for CBS.

It’s a fascinating book full of interesting details, from the importance of his college speech prof, to the way McCarthy threatened him. I’d say more but then I’d be going on for quite a while.

Well worth reading.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Poem for the day

At bedtime

Weariness leans on tired eyes,
the soft bed hints on sweet delights,
the moon softly lights the way.

Dreams their perfumed smokes unfurl,
adding to the weight, whispering of joy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Poem for the day

Rainstorm

Sweet the soothing sound of rain
brushing, brushing across the wall
divine whisper of nature's shower,
making clean the trees.

Scent of clean washed grass,
mingled with watered stone,
speaks of newborn days
and the goodness of the morn.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Poem for the day

I'm going to see whether I can do a poem a day, and how long if I can at all. Here is the first poem.

Rainstorm

Down they fall,
Those soldiers grim and cold,
Giving no battle cry.
Lashing out against the foe before them

The dust and dirt against the surge
With knowing hope give way
And all can hear the thundering charge

The victory then comes with peace
And sweetened scents in train
Though soon, all too soon,
The foe returns again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: “Oathblood” by Mercedes Lackey

This book is a collection of short stories about the adventures of Tarma and Kethry. They aren’t in anything like a chronological order, nor are they in order of publishing. Two of them, Turnabout and Keys, are almost exactly the same as chapters in “Oathbound”. Each of the stories has an introduction briefly laying out why Mercedes Lackey wrote the story.

All in all it is an enjoyable anthology. It’s pretty standard 80s and 90s fantasy stories, but they’re well written, engaging, and the characters don’t take themselves too seriously.

Book Review: “Elvenborn” by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey

This is the third novel in the Halfblood Chronicles series. It is set in a realm where Elves came from another world and conquered the humans they found in their new world. The dragons also came from elsewhere, but they usually restricted themselves to spying and the occasional prank. This story follows a character that is new to the series, Kyrtian V’dyll Lord Prastaran. His family is unusual in the fact that they have never made the humans on their estate into slaves, and he is unusual because he studies tactics and military strategies. The story revolves around him as he gets pulled into the politics of the Elven Lords by his cousin, who hates Kyrtian, and his skill as a strategist and tactician. It ends with Kyrtian extricating himself, somewhat, from the dangers of political involvement, and assisting Leshana and the Wizards in their efforts to change the way humans are treated by most of the elves.

Leshana, the Elvenbane, and title character from the first book plays a significantly smaller role in this book. The same is true of Keman, Lorryn, Mero, and the others that were important in previous books.

This is a good book, and works just fine as a stand alone novel. It follows on the events in the previous novels, but the important points are all explained when they come up.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Review: “Oathbreakers” by Mercedes Lackey

This is the second novel Mercedes Lackey published about the mercenary pair, Tarma and Kethry. In the beginning… Warrl complains that Tarma even thinks in clich├ęs. The trio has joined a mercenary company called the Sunhawks, lead by Captain Idra former royal princess of Rethwellan. They’ve joined up for two reasons. Bard Leslac (that damned warbler as Tarma puts it) has composed many songs about them emphasizing and reemphasizing that they help women in distress. This is costing them serious money on account of jobs Need makes them take when the women can’t pay. Joining the company takes them out of that line of work. The other reason is to get them exposure to royals and other high nobility, so that they can get land and students for the schools they hope to open.

The story goes on from there with a couple of chapters introducing the major characters. Then the action starts. Captain Idra is missing and Sewen, her second in command, wants Tarma and Kethry to go to Rethwellan and find out what happened. Idra went to Rethwellan on account of needing to cast a vote to decide the line of succession. She did, then the last letter she sends hints that something serious complicated the issue and she needs to deal with it. Tarma, Kethry, and Warrl go to Rethwellan and begin their investigations. Along the way they pick up Stefan, the other heir to the throne, and decide they need to overthrow the King of Rethwellan, Raschar. When they find out that Raschar killed Idra, his sister, they bring in 600 Hawks and former Hawks to capture and kill him.

This is a good book. A real novel, unlike all the other tales of Tarma and Kethry, with plenty of action.

Book Review: “The Oathbound” by Mercedes Lackey

This book follows after the short story “Sword-sworn”, which was first published in Sword and Sorceress III. This is a rather episodic account of (some of) the adventures of Tarma and Kethry.

It begins with them making their way back to the Dhorisha Plains. After that Kethry insists on getting a familiar. Warrl, the “familiar”, decides that Kethry doesn’t need him, so he bonds with Tarma. Then they set off to work as mercenaries. They have a series of adventures, making money and a name for themselves. In particular they banish a demon and clear out a particularly vicious bandit infestation. Then the bandit has the demon summoned for round two. Along the way they learn, more and more, how to be a team.

Allowing for the episodic nature, rather like the short stories that make up most of the Tarma and Kethry tales, it is an excellent book.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Review: “Foundation” by Mercedes Lackey

This is the first book in a series by Mercedes Lackey. It is set in the Kingdom of Valdemar, which long term fans of Lackey’s work will remember. It occurs between 50 and 150 years after “Magic’s Price” and around 200 years before “Brightly Burning”.

The Kingdom has expanded considerably, and now Companions are bringing in many more Chosen. Some of whom, like Mags, the main character in this tale, are completely or almost completely uneducated. This has led the Heralds to create a Herald’s Collegium to replace the system of trainees with mentors. One of the threads of this story is the worry and unrest some of the Heralds are feeling because of that. Another, related to the expansion, comes from a diplomat, whose purposes are never clear.

This is rather an enjoyable tale, except for one weakness. It ends rather abruptly after moving from Mags making friends and watching the diplomat’s guards, to dealing with an assassin. Honestly, it feels like this is the first part of a longer tale cut off from the rest with a cheerful epilogue added just to make the story end on a cheerful note. From my perspective it either needed to be carried another couple hundred pages or stopped when they got everyone out of the killer storm.

The characters are what I’ve come to expect from Lackey; not terribly deep and mostly there to keep the story moving along. On the other hand they work quite nicely for moving the story along without distracting the reader from the action.

All in all an enjoyable story, one of Mercedes Lackey’s solid tales that I’ll reread from time to time.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: “The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights”

This unfinished work by John Steinbeck includes an appendix of letters, mostly from Steinbeck, regarding his work on this work. The work is intended to set Mallory’s Arthurian legend in more modern English, except for chapter titles. I think it largely succeeds at telling the stories in modern English while retaining the magic of the old legends.

It starts with the strange tale of Merlin, Uthar, and Igraine. The tale is strange enough that it will not be to everyone’s taste, though I enjoyed the magic in the tale. The work proceeds from a tale of a knight with two swords, set in the early part of Arthur’s reign, through the death of Merlin and Morgan Le Fey’s first treacheries, to a quartet of tales of Arthur’s knights.

As the reader advances through the book the work becomes more and more accessible. The tale of Merlin is steeped in magic and has great deeds set down shortly, while the tale of Gawain, Ewain, and Marhalt has very little magic and the deeds are set down at length. The first chapter of Lancelot’s tale is similar or even more so. It starts with Arthur noting weakness in the younger knights, who have not been tried in battle. It includes gossip and fears. The greatest “magic” it includes is a paltry affair of illusion and forboding.

This book is well worth reading, particularly if you liked Mallory’s “Morte d’Artur”.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Book Review: “Masters Library: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Celebrated Cases of Sherlock Holmes”

This collection of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries includes all of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”, “A Study in Scarlet”, “The Sign of Four”, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and two late adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The late adventures are “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge” and “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”.

Overall it is a fine and enjoyable collection. Some of the stories, like “A Study in Scarlet” are not very good, but others, such as “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”, are Holmes and Doyle at their best. In addition to providing such wonderful stories the volume is attractive. It is hardbound in some sort of leather with embossed gold colored lettering on the cover. Within all but the last two stories are displayed as they appeared in the “Strand” including a great many illustrations of the various mysteries.

It is not clear to me what the proper title of this collection is. On the front cover is the title I use above, but on the side the title is simply "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle" followed by a list of all the works in the collection.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: "Of Other Worlds"

This book is a collection of essays and stories written by C.S. Lewis. Over all it is a mildly interesting read. The reader should know that it does not contain any works of Christian Apologetics.

The bulk of the essays deal with the way literary critics approach stories, particularly fantasy and science fiction. C.S. Lewis argues that judging stories where the point of interest is the plot by the standard of stories where characters are the center of interest is a mistake. Each essay takes this and advances along particular avenues based on the reason the essay was written.

One of the other essays is very short, and is Lewis's attempt to describe how he gets ideas for stories. Another of the essays is a response to Haldane's essay "Auld Hornie FRS". There is also an "essay" that is actually a transcript of a casual meeting between Lewis, Brian Aldis, and Kingsley Amis where they talked about writing fantasy / sci-fi stories.

A final essay describes things Lewis felt he learned from reading critical reviews of his fiction. In this essay he references honesty briefly; he saw that some reviewers felt they couldn't be honest. He then talks about the problem of reading the work hastily, or incompletely, and then assuming that the author wrote what you think he would. He goes on to talk about the serious risk of hypothesizing about how the work was written; the reviewer is usually wrong. Lewis describes reviews written that focus on the presumed psychology of the author. These, while not necessarily wrong, are generally beside the point. He also talks about the problems arising from the assumption that all stories are allegories focused on the current political events.

There are three short stories and the first chapter or two of a novel that Lewis was working on before he died. The best of the short stories is probably "Ministering Angels". In it the government is convinced to send volunteers to serve as prostitutes for the men stationed on Mars. The only volunteers they get are a professor convinced of the "new" ethic and a prostitute that wouldn't get picked up by any but the most desperate.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Review: "Acorna"

"Acorna" is a book by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball. It contains a series of episodes following the discovery of an alien escape pod by three human asteroid miners. It is the first of the books in the series.

Over all it is an easy and enjoyable read. Acorna proves to be an interesting character, along with the three miners, Rafik, Callum, and Gill. The story ends setting the stage for the next book in the series, "Acorna's Quest".

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review: "Acorna's Quest"

This book by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball is the second book in the series dealing with Acorna, the unicorn girl. The foe changes as the story advances. Initially there isn't one. Then the Starfarers are the foe. These are defeated in a chapter or two and the main characters start cleaning up the mess that was created. Then the Kleevi show up as new enemies. They take a couple more chapters to drive off.

Over all it's an easy read. There are several interesting characters including Hafiz Harakamian, Johnny Greene, and Karina a fake psychic. The plot isn't terribly memorable, but it suffices to put the characters in a variety of situations. The overall writing is easy to read, easy to digest, and even the less interesting characters are pleasant to read.

Book Review: "Ezra Pound Early Poems"

This book, a Dover Thrift Edition of Ezra Pound's early poems, contains selections from "Personae", "Exultations", "Ripostes", all of "Cathay", and the first nine sections of "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly".

If you have never read any of Ezra Pound's poetry this could be an excellent book to find out with. It is inexpensive, contains 66 poems from his various early collections, and doesn't include much in the way of distractions. Indeed as I read this book I realized that I don't much care for the poetry of Ezra Pound. The best of the poems in this book, from my perspective, would be one of poems from "Cathay", perhaps the "Poem at the Bridge of Ten-Shin".

Book Review: "Acorna's People"

This book by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is the third in the series about Acorna, the unicorn girl. It is an easy read without being particularly noteworthy.

The plot, in brief, is that certain of the Piper's associates from the first book are looking for ways to get revenge on Acorna. They would also like to make a great deal of money using the healing powers of Linyaari horns. The Red Bracelet mercenaries, seen in the second book, are recruited to capture as many Linyaari as possible. They do so while posing as members of the Federations armed forces. This plot comes to light slowly as the book progresses, and Acorna learns what it is like to live with those Linyaari that would never normally go into space. Eventually she leaves the Linyaari homeworld in the company of Aari, a Linyaari that survived being tortured by the Kleevi, the insectoid race that likes to destroy worlds, and Joe Becker a salvage expert to go to the aid of Hafiz Harakamian, her "uncle". They arrive, save Uncle Hafiz, and learn of the larger plot. A chapter later a plan has been devised in put into motion allowing Acorna to turn the tables on the Red Bracelet mercenaries. Real Federation soldiers arrest the mercenaries and the universe is again made safe for the Linyaari.

As I said at the beginning it is an easy read. It's pleasantly written with several very memorable characters, notably Becker and the over the top, and underhanded, Hafiz. However the villains are hardly ever seen and they are so swiftly overcome they seem almost like an excuse to get Hafiz into space so that the reader can see him and his new bride being outrageous.

This was neither the most interesting book these authors have written, nor was it the most memorable, but it was a quick, easy, and pleasant read.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book Review: "The Abolition of Man"

This set of three lectures by C.S. Lewis begins with "Men Without Chests". This lecture or essay examines problems that he sees in a book for use in teaching English. In it the authors regularly debunk value statements as being statements about "mere" emotions. Lewis proceeds to demonstrate that some value statements are not merely statements of emotion. Some things are properly described as repulsive and others are properly described as noble. This act of debunking makes it harder for the students later because trained emotions, metaphorically seated in the heart or chest, are necessary for people to do the right thing. Hence the title "Men Without Chests", that is men who haven't got the trained emotions and are therefore made less able to behave morally.

The second lecture "The Way" takes the book that triggered the first lecture and generalizes to a philosophy of the time. Specifically, Lewis attacks the idea that morality can be based on something that admits of proof, and the idea that such a proof is required before a person ought to believe in an objective morality without proof. He demonstrates the problem with social utility and instincts, two things that some authors of the time used in their attempts to build new moral frameworks. Both run into the problem of moving from an "is" to an "ought". He then goes on to point out a difficulty in "seeing through" things. The point of "seeing through" is to see something on the other side. If you see through everything then everything is transparent and you are effectively blind. This difficulty serves as the justification of accepting the claim that people should accept the existence of an objective morality. Another way of making the claim: everyone acts like there is an objective morality; therefore they must believe that such exists.

The third and final lecture "The Abolition of Man" moves on to the broader interaction between Science and morality. It largely consists of an examination of the claim "Man is conquering Nature". Lewis uses radio, airplanes, and contraception as examples in his demonstration that the "conquest" is a matter of some people getting more power to impact the lives of other people. In the case of contraception it is power by people of "this" generation over those that would otherwise be in future generations. This concern moves into education and raises the problem of individuals that free themselves from the "Tao", the term used in these essays for objective morality, as humanity gains the knowledge to use unfailing conditioning to control and shape students. This interaction leads to an argument regarding the necessity of objective morality by scientists and those pursuing science.

The first essay is mostly of interest in education, particularly textbook reviews. After all English textbooks should teach the students how to write, not an amoral philosophy. The third is mostly irrelevant. After all science has yet to provide any reliable way of shaping students to be precisely what the powers that be want, and it seems unlikely to do so in the near future or even the not so near future. The second is of greater interest as it fits into the ongoing struggle over the foundation of ethics.

All in all this, along with "Mere Christianity" and "A Grief Observed", is one of C.S. Lewis' books that everyone ought to read at some point. For its lucidity, for the structure of his arguments, and for the conclusions it is a book well worth reading.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: "3001 The Final Odyssey"

This is the last of the books dealing with the Monoliths written by Clarke. Over all it is an easy and often pleasant read. However, in 250 pages there are only about 50 that actually advance the plot. There are also at least three chapters that were copied verbatim from prior Odyssey books by Clarke. The rest of the book is something of a Utopia by Clarke. Some would describe the society as rather dystopian rather than utopian, particularly given the way criminals are non-persons in 3001.

This is a fine book if you want something easily read and easily put down, so I recommend it for those traveling.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Review – "2061: Odyssey Three"

This book is rather boring. It reasonably well written, but the only point of interest that isn't dated is the very short insight into the nature of the monolith. For the rest, the interest lies in the real science and the engineering speculations from the late 1980s. The characters show little or no change over the course of the story, and there are only three or four major events.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review – 1635: The Cannon Law

"The Cannon Law" is the direct sequel to "1634: The Galileo Affair". It continues the story of the Frank Stone and the Venetian CoC, the story of Sharon Nicols and Ruy Sanchez Casador y Ortiz, and adds the youngest Cardinal Barbarini. Also how all of these are impacted by the mad plots of Cardinal Borja.

Of the novels in Eric Flint's alternative history this might be one of the easiest ones to start with. There are only a handful of important characters, the plot is tightly focused, and all the information the reader has to know is included in short asides.

I enjoyed this story as much for the action as for the outrageous character of Ruy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: "1634: The Bavarian Crisis"

This book begins with the death of the Duchess Elizabeth Renata, and the events making up the plot are influenced by this event.

This book starts off slowly, introducing the Austrian Habsburgs, Duke Maxamillian II of Bavaria, and Duke Ernst of Saxe-Weimar. It proceeds rather calmly for several hundred pages handling setup, and describing events that are of little interest later in the book. Things pick up after Veronica Dreeson and Mary Simpson are kidnapped by a panicked pair of amateur spies. They are then taken to Bavaria and become a catalyst for more trouble in Bavaria.

I enjoyed this book. It is significantly more focused then "1633" and includes several vibrant characters. Maria Anna is particularly vivid. The plots and politics are well described. This book is well worth reading if you find Eric Flint's project in alternate history fascinating. If you aren't interested this book is not as strong a stand alone novel as others in the series.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Book Review – Samuel Taylor Coleridge "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems" Dover Thrift Editions

This inexpensive edition includes 23 of Coleridges poems, including "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (with Coleridge's marginal glosses) and "Kubla Khan". Except for a one page note at the front of the book every word is Coleridge's poetry. The note talks about the criteria for selecting poems and mentions that they are arranged chronologically.

This collection is an interesting mix of types and styles of poetry. Some, such as "France: An Ode" and "Fears in Solitude" refer to the French Revolution. Others are long lyrical poems, such as "Christabel". Still others are short and pithy, such as "Cologne".

This is an excellent edition to get if you don't know whether you'll enjoy Coleridge's work. It's also something to consider for college students that need to get a printed copy of the major poems by Coleridge, as the marginalia I found in my copy when I bought it attests.

Personally I rather enjoyed reading some of these poems. "Cologne" was particularly amusing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Book Review -- "1633"

1633 by Eric Flint and David Weber is the sequel to the novel 1632. It continues the alternative history begun in the previous book.


It is a complicated book, particularly since it follows five distinct groups through the turmoil that ends the year 1633. It follows Rebecca Abrabanel and the delegation to France and the Netherlands, Rita Simpson with Melissa Mailey and the delegation to England, the beginning of the US Air Force, the new US Navy with their soon to be completed ironclads, and the political machinations of Mike Stearns. And that's just the major plotlines.


Another point of interest about 1633 is that it, unlike 1632, is explicitly imagined as part of an ongoing project involving far more authors then just Eric Flint and David Weber. That project has produced the "Ring of Fire" anthologies, as well as the continuing Grantville Gazette e-magazine. Occasionally that understanding leads to some interesting choices in this book. An example is the brief scene between Mike and Harry Lefferts, where Harry promises to get Anne into Amsterdam. Another example is the ironclads. By the end of the novel they still haven't been floated.


I enjoyed it tremendously. Its complex, as real history generally is, with a great many interesting and vivid characters. There are plenty of machinations to be considered. There are also several cases of Americans showing off the power of modern know-how and/or technology. In one case they chase off some pirates, in another they use a small fishing boat to sink a Spanish galleon.


This book, like 1632, can be read online at the Baen Free Library.