August 21st, 2011

Dead Dog Cat

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Over the last couple of days, I finished reading two Osprey books:

First was Osprey Fortress #64: The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277 - 1307 - now, these are CASTLES! I mean, like the sort that one would imagine...

Next was Osprey Men-at-Arms #467: North American Indian Tribes of the Great Lakes - since this is where I spent nearly twenty years of my life, and still visit regularly, I was very interested in the information presented.

Books 11 and 12: Athletic Shorts and The Bible Salesman

11. Title: Athletic Shorts
Author: Chris Crutcher
Genre: YA Lit
Pages: 194

Synopsis: Basically a collection of six short stories, primarily culling characters from his previous novels. One story, A Day in the Life of Angus Bethune, did not fit this bill.

My take: I am now in the process of reading several more of Crutcher's work, having only read his book, Whale Talk, previously. None of the stories were a disappointment, and none of them did I find predictable. To anyone looking for a quick read that will make you think, and laugh hysterically at the same time, this is a prime candidate.

Grade: A

12. The Bible Salesman
Author: Clyde Edgerton
Genre: General Fiction
Pages: 241

Synopsis: Set mainly in the early 50s, but also augmented with plenty of back story regarding the main character's life, The Bible Salesman tells the tale of Henry, a traveling Bible Salesman who is picked up by a member of crime and car theft ring while hitchhiking. Raised in a very strict Fundamentalist Christian household, Henry is asked by Clearwater, the man who picks him up, to assist him with his "government job," assuming that his new passenger is gullible enough to believe it. In the meantime, being part of it gives Henry plenty of time to think about what he really believes, and even possibly find love with Marleen, a beautiful woman who writes poetry and runs a fruit stand.

My take: I picked this book up on a whim, totally not knowing what to expect. Then again, I may or may not have picked it up to balance out the serious stack of YA lit I was picking up the first time around, and how I definitely wanted to add some variety to what I was getting. The synopsis really was what sucked me in, as well as a great review on the front cover by David Sedaris, who is also pretty cool, too.

I loved how detailed the back story into Henry's growing up is, as well as how it plays into what goes on in the main portions of the story. I also hate a story that tells and doesn't show what's going on. The back story allows The Bible Salesman to show and not tell. The humor in this book is great as well, in addition to some of the ironies I find in how Henry is ademant on being a Christian, but then does some relatively immoral things on his own.

All in all, this was a great read. I would give the book an A, except for the fact that there were a couple of loose ends that weren't tied up that I thought should've been by the end.

Grade: A-

Progress: 12/50 books read
4004/15000
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Title:  The Foundation

Author: Isaac Asimov

Genre: Science-Fiction

Book #: 5

Details:  paperback, 296 pages


Back Excerpt:



For twelve thousand years the Galatic Empire has ruled supreme.  Now it is dying.  Only Hari Seldon, creator the revoluntary science of psychohistory, can see into the furuture - a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thrity thousand years.  To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire - both scientists and scholars - and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations.  He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.


But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy if corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire.  And mankind's last best hope is faced with agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and live as slaves - or take a stand for freedom and risk total destruction.



Comments/Review:


A cornerstone in the world of science fiction, Asimov's legendary Foundation series is one of the masterpieces of sciene-fiction.  I will concede that I see why it's one of the greats and why it's considered a keystone to the genre, it's not one of my favourites.  To be 100% honest, it took me four separate tries to finish this book, over the span of about three years.  And always, I stopped in roughly the same place, right at about the centre of the book, Chapter 5 of Part 2 in the political struggle of Hardin.  It's not that the book is dry, in fact it's quite the opposite, The Foundation is constantly changing with new characters, new plots, new details and that is one of the reasons I wasn't particularly fond it.  You spend so little time with the characters and their own plots, as compared with a traditionally written novel with about five characters and one plot line, that I never really felt that compelled to continue reading and see them through their plots and schemes.  That right there is a tribute to just how amazing a writer Asimov was, to be able to coherantly and consistently write that many characters and that many plot lines, that all ultimately tie back into the main plot line, is incredible.  However it's just not the book for me.  All in all, if I found the rest of the series at a used bookstore, I would likely pick it up, but I'm not going to run out searching for the rest of the story.  3/5





Title: A Canticle for Leibowitz

Author:  Walter M. Miller Jr.

Genre:  Science-Fiction - Dystopian

Book #: 6

Details: paperback, 338 pages


Back Excerpt:



In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of he Order of Saint Leibowitz as made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.


In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind's salvation.  But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfoldings, it is the search itself - for meaning, for truth, for love - that offers hope for humanitiy's rebirth from the ashes.



Comments/Review:


Instantly catapolted into one of my favourite books, A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the best books I've read in a long time.  Despite the fact that I disliked The Foundation, Miller does the same thing... the book is split into three separate parts with span nearly a millenium, each part following a different lead character witht their own sub-set of supporting characters.  However the difference here is that there is one main plot flowing forward through time.  All three parts tie into each other, and you will see little details crop up every so often as you skip forward through history.  Miller does a wonderful job in getting into the characters' mind's, and considering religion is a main theme in this novel and later life Miller left writing to join the church (if I remember that right), this makes sense and the reader can sense Miller's struggle with religion and science.  The reoccuring deep philsophical questions force you to think and consider the ramifications of our human actions both now and in the future, while the undertone of sarcasm throughout the book will make you laugh despite the seriousness of the final message and ending chapters.


I do feel the need to note this though, at a certain point in the novel the reader is introduced to scholars.  As one would with a judge, in English you refer to them as Your Honour, or similar to a clergymen, you would refer to them as Reverend, Father, etc.  (sorry, best examples I could think of at the moment), the scholars are refered to as Thon.  Thon is French for tuna, so the entire time I'm reading, if say the character Thon Taddeo was being spoken about, my internal voice is replacing it with tuna.  Consequently, I still refer to the characters as fish sometimes.  All in all, still an excellent read. 5/5


"He could think only of the girl and the child.  He was certain she had been ready to change her mind, had needed only the command, I, a priest of God, adjure thee, and the grace to hear it - if only they had not forced him to stop where she could witness "God's priest" summarily over-ruled by "Caesar's traffic cop.""