May 30th, 2010

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12. Tales of Known Space by Larry Niven

Tales of Known Space
Title: Tales of Known Space
Author: Larry Niven
Year: 1975
# of pages: 2010
Date read: 2/22/2010
Rating: 3*/5 = good


"Ranging from the 20th Century to the 31st, these interconnected stories trace man's expansion and colonization throughout the galaxy...completing an epic creation that stands beside Asimov's Foundation trilogy and Heinlein's popular Future History series.

A colossal vision of the future. . .by a super writer!

Becalmed in hell
Howie's spaceship had a malfunction...but it might be only psychosomatic!

Wait it out
He was trapped on Pluto...and all his assets were frozen!

The borderland of Sol
Forward possessed the ultimate weapon...but no one would ever see it!

The jigsaw man
The organ banks want!

Cloak of anarchy
They were free to be anything but violent...but that wasn't enough!

-- plus eight other great stories in Niven's spectacular cycle of the future...and, special for this volume, a complete Niven bibliography and a detailed chronology of all his Known Space stories!" -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this anthology of Known Space stories. I especially liked the stories "Wait it out," (set on Pluto), "At the Bottom of a Hole," (Muller discovers the truth behind the failure of a human settlement on Mars) and "The Borderland of Sol" (Julius Forward has a very dangerous weapon). I also like the timeline at the beginning of the book which sets the stories in context and the bibliography at the end.

Readers who like Niven's work may like Shaun Farrell's October 2007 interview with Larry Niven at the Conjecture convention. It aired on Farrell's podcast Adventures in SciFi Publishing:
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11. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

Bookseller of Kabul
Title: The Bookseller of Kabul
Author: Asne Seierstad
Year: 2003
# of pages: 288
Date read: 2/16/2010
Rating: 3*/5 = good


"This mesmerizing portrait of a proud man who, through three decades and successive repressive regimes, heroically braved persecution to bring books to the people of Kabul has elicited extraordinary praise throughout the world and become a phenomenal international bestseller. The Bookseller of Kabul is startling in its intimacy and its details - a revelation of the plight of Afghan women and a window into the surprising realities of daily life in today's Afghanistan." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was an interesting look at the lives of people in Afghanistan during and after the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the Taliban rule in the 1990s. One scene that has stayed with me is when the women in the burqas have to know what shoes each is wearing so they don't lose each other.

Burma Wind League; Revolutionary Captain Overdue

The Burma Chronicles, by Guy Delisle
Delisle has this thing he does where he goes to places where the government sucks (eg Pyongyang, Shenzen) and writes comics about them. But running parallel to the comics about that, or maybe intertwined with is more accurate, he writes these small, intimate stories about his day to day life. If that sounds like your thing, well, you should be reading his stuff. I think this is my favorite yet of his books, maybe because now he has a kid and a wife, which adds texture to the personal stuff and makes it a little less bleak than when he was just this struggling cartoonist living completely alone in the middle of North Korea...

The Injustice League, by Dwayne McDuffie et al.
Superpowered people of improbable anatomy and backstory smack each other around. With a reasonable and coherent plot as these things go. Exactly what I was hoping for when I started reading it.

In the Wind, by Barbara Fister
Everything I could want from a mystery novel (it rings the archetypal changes - Grafton - Paretsky - Bowen - Hillerman, even), the solid plotting and the never-quite-stock characters and the pervasive sense of humor and compassion leavening the darkness, and a goodly dash of social justice and anti-corruption rhetoric to boot, without ever crossing the line into didacticism. That sounds a bit flip, but what I mean to say is: I Really Really Really Like This Book. I'm looking forward to reading its sequel soon.

Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
This complication of writings by GLBTQ youth from ~2000 is for the most part kind of rough and awkward, but heartbreakingly sincere. There are a few bits that really stuck out as being more artful and mature (?) than the rest of the anthology, namely a poem called Affirmation, by Uchechi Kalu, that begins:

I be the one
momma always say
watch out for
be the reason my parents send me
to modeling school
make me a lady
who don't never want nothing
but a man

I be the one
who catch myself
looking at long black braids
and smelling apple perfume and you
I be the one not always lusting
after the big boys with beer bellies or biceps
'cause I be the one who like to choose

and some of the excerpts from Impossible Body, a performance piece by Lisa Lucero.

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake
This is an absolutely delightful kids' book that I would happily read to any of the small kids I know, and encourage you to check out from your local library if you have never seen it either. Also I am always surprised as an adult to realize how brilliant Quentin Blake actually is; as a child I took his energy and simplicity for granted. I did have a moment of sad, reading this book, to be reminded again that the plethora of such books with BOY heroes, and the dearth of such books with GIRL heroes, while I was growing up, was probably part of the reason I always wanted to be the fictional boys I read about, and almost never the fictional girls..... thank Bob for Anne and Matilda or I might've given up on girlhood as being completely not for maribous before I ever got to grade school. Anyway, it's a nifty book.

This Book Is Overdue, by Marilyn Johnson
Marilyn Johnson is writing about librarians and some of their recent innovations from the perspective of "your mom". Not YOUR mom (tell her I said hi), and probably not MY mom (who is a librarian herself), but that hypothetical mom whose existence Cory Doctorow both denies and wants to jailbreak. As such, yeah, I was frequently irritated by this book, in the "Oh, MOM" exasperated/mildly embarrassed/occasionally-remembering-why-it-was-so-urgent-that-I-move-out sense. But what sticks with me more is the "aw, mom does mostly get it" loved & appreciated feeling. She might not get it in every detail, and sometimes she might say things about my friends that piss me off ... but in the end, she sees good people doing things that matter, and celebrates them. Which is one of the most important lessons I've learned from my various moms over the years.
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Earlier today, I finished reading Firefly: Still Flying, a coffee table book about the TV series. The good points? Four very short stories set in the 'Verse. Bad things? It's a typical book of this genre, with lots of pictures, and "interviews" with cast with everyone saying how much fun they had making the show.