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Book Reviews

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Allen, Gary
    None Dare Call It Conspiracy

Asimov, Isaac
    iRobot

*Review: A very dry read. It made shock waves in the early scifi world as it delved in to the phsycology of the the artificial brain and it's higherarchy of rules of behavior. It is really multiple short stories about androids who went nuts and why. Usually they would run into a logical paradox and go crazy. A couple of examples are ballet dancing mine working androids and androids who decided to take over human government to protect them from their own foolish decisions. While it is a very interesting book it is more like reading an auto manual than a scifi fantasy. I have heard the follow up books were much more enjoyable but the first book was neccessary to understand them. Perhaps one day I will try the next book.

Beaumarchais, Pierre de
    The Marriage of Figaro

Benchley, Peter
    Jaws

*Review: Two thirds brilliant and one third stupid and boring. I believe when Peter Benchley turned Jaws over to his publisher they said "Fatten it up and add some sex!" He then went and stuck several chapters of the most borring and meaningless narrative about an affair between Hooper and Brody's wife right in the middle of the book. You can rip those chapters out and it will not affect the rest of the story and will even improve it. Otherwise I love the character development of these three somewhat odd characters, the water logged sheriff who is afraid of the water, the crusty old shark fisherman who didn't escape his destiny only put it off, and the rich kid oceanographic biologist who battles boredom by swimming with sharks. And who ever thought a story about a shark could have such an intersting plot!

    The Deep
    The Island

Bradbury, Ray
    The Martian Chronicles
    Fahrenheit 451

Brooks, Terry
    The Sword of Shannara

*Review: It is probably unfair but I cannot help comparing other fantasy novels to The Lord of The Rings. Unfortunately most novels fall far short of the brilliant writing of JRR Tolkein including this one. That being said Terry Brooks has an enormous following and his books have been very popular. 
    I felt that reading TSOS was like watching a movie through a foggy window. He is not very descriptive. For example; a very important character in the first quarter of the story is a flying black thing that chases the protagonists and is the primary motivation for their flight. That's the description; A flying black thing. That's all I really know about it. The characters say and do things that you wouldn't expect with no explanation for the action or reaction. "he said angrily!" Huh, why was he angry? There would often be no rational for the anger. He over uses certain devices. "He put his hand on (somebody's) shoulder to reassure them." This action is performed again and again and again to the point where you're thinking all this hand on shoulder stuff is getting a bit tiresome. Terry does not delve very deeply into the personality of his characters although he does jump from first person somebody to first person somebody else to third person to first person again. He is also slow to develop the rules that define his world or perhaps there are no real rules. 
    Criticism aside there were things I did like about the story. The premise is interesting. It is a world that started as a magical place until the rule of man who developed technology and then destroyed himself with that technology after which the world has reverted to a medieval existence where magic has more sway than technology.

    I would surmise as an "epic" fantasy the only thing epic about it is its size. As a light fairy tale it is an easy read and a reasonably fun story. It lacks any real depth and it seemed to me that the author intended to write a large book very quickly and accomplished his goal. If you are looking for brilliant word smithing and deep concepts and well defined characters you will be gravely disappointed. If you are looking for a light read where attention to detail is not a factor and are a fantasy book fan you will probably enjoy it. All that being said I will confess that I did enjoy the read. I guess I'm just that shallow.

Burnett, Frances Hodgeson
    The Secret Garden

Cervantes, Miguel De
    Don Quixote

*Review: Genious, if I try to say more I will never stop writing.

Clancy, Tom
    Net Force

Clarke, Arthur C.
    2001 A Space Odyssey
    2010 Odyssey 2

Clavell, James
    Shogun
    Tai Pan

Dixon, Franklin W.
    Hardy Boys (I don't remember the specific books anymore but I will try to figure it out)

Donaldson, Stephen R.
    Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever (Trilogy)
        Lord Fouls Bane
        The Illearth War
        The Power That Preserves

Doyle, Sir Aurther Conan
    Hounds of the Baskervilles

    A Scandal in Bohemia
*Review: I was realy surprised in the intro to this story to read about how Sherlock Holmes would never engage in a relationship with a woman so as to not dull his brilliant powers of observation yet he was a cocain addict and would spend days locked in his apartment in a drug crazed stupor. This made no sense to me at all. I can only guess that Doyle was of the peculiar opinion some have incorrectly held that drug use enhances ones creativity.
    Otherwise the story perfectly sets Holmes up to be portrayed as the sluething genious his fame suggests except that his contrivances are exposed to the reader before he employes them. To be told what will happen before it does makes for a boring read. So while I like the premise of the super slueth and his amazing powers of observation and credit Doyle with the creation of the character I did not find this to be a particularly good read.

    The Lost World
*Review: The story starts out with some heavy British dialect that requires a little thinking in the translation. It was an overly ornate language that required a lot of unnecessary courtesies surrounding the point of each statement. I actually enjoyed that part of the story as it really took me to a foreign place.
    This ornate language disappeared, with the exception of strange expletives, such as "what what", as the journey beginss. It is replaced with simple english of a grade school reading level. Not that there is anything wrong with that except the opening chapters provide a deceptive expectation.
    The concept of an unscalable plateau isolated by the surrounding South American rain forrest hosting living dinosaurs and primitive humanoids is brilliant. Unfortunately Doyle fails to match his idea with a story as brilliantly written. It also seemed strange that the first instinct of his protagonist explorer, scientist, adventurers is to kill their discoveries including nearly completely wiping out the entire primitive humanoid race.
    In todays world of hyper sensitivity some people may be offended by Doyles reference to the half breed and negro servants employed as guides and baggage carriers. The half breeds, which I am guessing where half white European and half South American Indian, ended up being villianous although this trait was not especially associated with their breeding.
    Their black Brazillian servant, Zambo, is not portrayed as being especially intelligent and his name is not complimentary but he is a person of virtuous character and remains at the foot of the plateau providing what assistance he can while the expedition remains trapped there. I personally found nothing overtly offensive about it. At least no more so than the stereo typical Irish cop named Shamus, on the take, walking the beat and making extensive use of his night stick.
    It was a somewhat disapointing read. I'm not sorry to have read it. It just didn't live up to the expectation I had since it has been widely recognised as a great work of fiction. Like the concept of Sherlock Holmes it was brilliantly imaginative but Mr Doyles ability to deliver in full story form falls short.
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Einstein, Albert
    The Special Theory of Relativity
    The General Theory of Relativity
    Sidelights on Relativity

Farris, John
    The Fury

Gaskell, Elizabeth
    Mary Barton

*Review: This novel is, in my humble opinion, total crap. The author tries to generate pity for the downtrodden masses and hatred for the rich. To accomplish this she goes to ridiculous levels of abuse that nearly equate to Mary Barton being continually deficated on while being laughed at and poked with sticks. Instead of feeling pity for the downtrodden masses I felt disgust towards the author and anger at my professor for being so stupid as to consider this as being worthy of a college level history course. Can you believe that? This, so called, professor considered this work of crap fiction to be more important than actual history. Gee, no signs of a political agenda here.

Hardy, Thomas
    The Withered Arm
*Review: It is a tragic story about witchcraft and superstition, with a surprise plot twist. Set in 18th century Dorchester and written in 1888 the story makes extensive use of the language of that place and time which gives an appropriate atmosphere to the story. Gertrude, the primary character, is a very pitiable person. She is a pretty girl who marries a wealthy farmer but contracts an illness after about six months that causes her arm to wither and become disfigured and useless. This disgusts her husband who will no longer show her any affection. Gertrude wants so badly to please him she would do anything to be healed so their love can be rekindled. She is an innocent trapped in a pitiless existence. 
    It was an excellent short story although a sad one. Warning: don't read it if you prefer happy endings.

Jacobs, W.W.
    The Monkeys Paw

Kipling, Rudyard
    The Return of Imray

Koontz, Dean
    Phantoms

*Review: Good Read. The story is full of suspense. Strange things happen and the more clues that are revealed the less they make sense so you keep reading in anticipation of understanding whats going on. Character development is good too. You get a real sense of knowing these characters and Dean does a great job of endearing you to them.  For example one character, Lisa, is a recently orphaned teenage girl who is going to live with her estranged sister. Lisa is very sweet and it's cute the way she looks up to her older sister, Jenny, who is a doctor. She wants to be just like her and tries to emulate her. As the story progresses you come to realize inspite of the vulnerability you expect the harsh realities of her life have made her an emotionally strong person and you find yourself admiring that quality. Unfortunately the movie, which bears the same name, fails misrably to portray these characters in a way that is even remotely related to the book and fails to deliver the sense of suspense that made the book fun to read. I would recommend reading the book and avoiding the movie.

L'Engle, Madeleine
    A Wrinkle In Time

Lewis, C.S.
    Mere Christianity

*Review: Brilliant! C.S. Lewis has the ability to look at things at a level of detail that is far beyond the vast majority of people. He reminds me of Sherlock Holmes who can tell what kind of eggs you had for breakfast and what county the chicken came from. The only critisism I would have is although he seems to have a good sense of the mechanics of love he does not seem to have a good understanding of the mechanics of a marital relationship. Anybody who knows his history will probably understand why. For those who don't I will sumarize: He met a girl who was down on her luck. He took her and her children in and cared for them. He fell in love with the girl but she wouldn't marry him until many years later when she became fatally ill with cancer. She then realized how much he had truly loved her and she fell in love with him and they married, and she died. He raised the children as his own. The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe stories where written for those children to comfort them and they are the children in the story.

    The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe
    The Horse and His Boy
    Prince Caspian

MacDonald, John D.
    The Green Ripper
*Review: A great plot although I would have liked to see it worked more. I felt like there was a great deal more room for character development. It left me wanting more. The plot starts with the mysterious death of the primary character, Travis McGees', girl friend. This launches him on a journey to a terrorist training camp disguised as a religious cult. I won't tell you more as I don't want to spoil the story! 

    The Dreadful Lemon Sky
*Review: Not great. It was a light read but had a spagetti plot with very little character development. Travis McGee is a youthfully retired playboy who lives on a houseboat and often finds himself thrust into crime solving scenerios. In this story a girl was killed and then thrown in front of a moving car to make it look like an acciental death. Sorry, that is just way too dumb to qualify for suspension of disbelief.


Orwell, George (Eric Arthur Blair)

*A comment on the author: I once heard someone characterize George Orwell as a liberal. I laughed and thought how air headed one must be to confuse George, who has such an obviously grandious distrust of government power, with liberals. I think I have finally discovered why he might have thought that. Left and Right had such dramatically different meanings between WWII England and current day America. He is often referred to as a "leftist" in recounts of his life and literary impact. Besides the confusing label he also grew and changed during the course of life starting with a very socialist and pacifist viewpoint when younger to being a soldier fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War to later seeing the threats of the Russian/Chinese brand of Socialism spreading through Eurasia. What you really need to do is read and understand how the philosophy of these books of then fit with now.

    1984
    Animal Farm

Parker, Robert B.
    The Godwulf Manuscript
*Review: This is the first novel in the Spenser for hire series. Spenser is very much the stereo typical private eye in that he upsets everybody. Somebody hires him for a case and what they are really doing is letting him off his leash and there is no guarantees about who he is going to bring down including his client, the mob, cops, corporate executives and lets not forget bizzare cults.
    He also has sex with almost every woman he meets who cannot resist throwing themselves at him. Maybe its a generational divide but I found it funny that everybody smokes and drinks and commonly at work. No cop is without his flask and no executive would make the great cultural faux pas of neglecting to offer a guest a brandy or other alcoholic beverage.
    Strangely he has been endowed some characteristics that go against how the character is portrayed. For example: he is a gourmet chef and has a great knowledge of literature. "My name is S-p-e-n-s-e-r with an S like the English poet." How many people who have dedicated their lives to the military and police work and beating up mob thugs can claim such diverse interests?

    In spite of these minor criticisms it was an easy read with a likable protagonist and an enjoyable story. It's not Charles Dickens but it's good for light reading.

    Night Passage
*Review: This is the first book of the Jesse Stone series. Mr Parkers writing ability               improved slighly in the 25 or so years since the first of the Spencer for hire series of books. His characters are not quite so one dimensional. The Jesse character is a very likable             character and the series is set up well with Jesse travelling from California to Massachusets partly to get away from his ex wife, who he actually still loves, and partly because this upscale Boston suburb was the only city who was strangely interested in hiring a drunk for police chief.
     I found the first half of the book to be an easy and enjoyable read. Unfortunately the story line falls apart and becomes rather goofy after that. Often times there seems to be a total lack of continuity between his characters and their behavior. For example Hasty is a rich, wimpy banker who can't even get it on with his nympho wife but runs a militia group bent on taking over their small suburban town. What an absurd scenerio. I am also put off by his association of "white Christian" with crazy, hick, militia group, wackos who are justifiably ripped off by gay mobsters, another absurd scenerio, for their obvious bigotry. I get the strong sense that Robert Parker is a snob, himself a bigot, and liberal zealot.
    The books have been made into a series of made for TV movies. The story lines have been rewritten and vastly improved and all the stupidity stripped out of them. I would highly recommend the movies over the books which is a recommendation I would rarely make.

Tolkein, J.R.R.
    The Silmarillion
    Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth or the shaping of middle earth
    The Hobbit
    The Lord Of The Rings Trillogy
    The Children Of Hurin

Twain, Mark
    Huck Finn
    Tom Sawyer
    A Ghost Story

*Review: A story about the ghost of the Cardiff Giant. It starts out as a very scary and good ghost story but has a silly ending.


Unknown or various authors
    The Bible

*Review: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." I think it is very interesting that the bible uses the term "Word". In this phrase, a reference to Genesis, John could have just as easily used any one of dozens of other possible labels to represent the Christ, the Lamb for example, but doesn't. He uses a term that represents he who completes Gods plan and reveales it to mankind. The Bible is the written testimony of these events and God revealed to us through it.

    1001 Arabian Nights

*Review: Really a compilation of short stories framed in the larger story. These stories include the well known Aladins Lamp, Ali Baba, and Sinbad. The larger story in short is about a woman who tells fascinating storys to her paranoid ruler husband so that he will not kill her. She leaves the stories unfinished at the end of each night so that he will let her live to finish the tale. It sounds a little odd but will make more sense when you read it. I think it is brilliant and would highly recommend reading it.

Verne, Jules
    20,000 leauges Under The Sea

Zindal, Paul
    The Pigman

Books in the queue:

His Excellency George Washington - Joseph J. Ellis (In Process)
The 5000 Year Leap - W. Cleon Skousen (In Process)
Eregon - Christopher Paolini (In Process)
The Chronicles of Amber - Roger Zelazny (In Process)
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (In the queue)