October 8th, 2018



Book Review No. 26 is Clemson historian H. Roger Grant's Electric Interurbans and the American People.  I'm tempted to marvel simply that the product of an academic press (Indiana, in this instance) doesn't have a sub-title.  Yes, it has pictures, but no, it is not a Central Electric Railfans' Association style corporate history with rosters and notes on the disposition of cars.  It's closer in organization and scope to Frank Rowsome's old Trolley Car Treasury: there's the emergence of the cars, the prosperous years, the decline and fall, and the preservation, this time limited to the interurban (as opposed to the city and suburban) services.

It's the social history and political economy of the interurbans that give Grant's book its structure.  The electric car came along at an inopportune time: yes, it could overcome the inflexibility of the steam train with lighter construction, more frequent schedules, and the possibility of covering costs in more thinly settled areas.  Thus, between the electric cars and the introduction of rural telephones, rural folk could arrange the delivery of stuff or go into town for church or a social event or interact with a greater range of people or otherwise be spared the centuries-old idiocy of rural life.  Likewise, they could bring their goods to market, loading milk cans on the baggage section of the cars, or bringing the eggs into town and being home in time to make supper.

The timing was inopportune, though, as the private automobile, sometimes using the same electric technology, later with the Otto cycle engine, gave people even more freedom of movement (once the taxpayers started picking up the tab for improved roads, that is) and the private automobile provided courting couples with even more opportunities to escape eyes on the front porch as well as a safe space, if you will, for women who might otherwise be hit on on the electric cars.  Thus, although the interurbans made efforts to improve service and retain passengers, they "ran out of time."

There are probably additional research opportunities for people looking into how the extent of the market affects the division of labor.  As consumers used the cars (and later their flivvers) to comparison shop, creative destruction took place.  For instance, the merchants of Elyria, Ohio, complained that interurbans led to store closings: was that because shoppers could now discover lower prices in Lorain?  The beat goes on today.

Likewise, the contemporary light rail transportation lines have a lot in common with the lighter interurbans.  Heck, the Shaker Heights lines east of Cleveland and the Sharon Hill and Media lines west of Philadelphia are lighter interurbans.  Whether they provide "commuters and other riders alternatives to congested roadways, automobile wear-and-tear, parking costs, and gyrating fuel prices" (page 151) remains to be seen.  Perhaps, though, there will be a second interurban era.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
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Books 110-112

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 1 (Library Wars: Love & War, #1)Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 1 by Kiiro Yumi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one had interesting ideas but shaky world building and a bit too much of the shojo romance for me (well it IS Shojo so...) What I liked, the idea of a group of militant librarians guarding books from censorship but this is also where the world building is super shaky. the government is majorly into censoring books but the library is independent of the government and the government agents (shades of Fahrenheit 451) often bow down to them to avoid fighting. It's like so..why? Do they have any true authority? Why hasn't the government routed them? There's just not a lot there yet so it felt weak.

Our point of view character is Iku Kasahara, a young woman who was inspired by a librarian and wants to be one of them. she is very athletic and determined (and tall, she's quite tall) Her mentor is professor Atsushi Dojo who is quite hard on her, sensing her potential. (and he's quite short, and obviously the potential love interest).

Kasahara is the first woman to get on the elite team and is partnered with a straight A student who sees no use for her. He's not keen on her being a woman and he thinks she's stupid. I was not keen on this part at all. On one hand I've been the first woman to do certain jobs (first female surgical student at a hospital where they were forced to take me) so I both know how awful it can be but on the other hand I really want to see future stories that are less on the prejudiced side.

Kasahara actually isn't that bright in some respects (not making me happy there but she tries to improve) and she's very Tsundere especially with Dojo.

I think the story has potential but it needs pushed to get there.

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僕のヒーローアカデミア 2 [Boku No Hero Academia 2] (My Hero Academia, #2)僕のヒーローアカデミア 2 [Boku No Hero Academia 2] by Kohei Horikoshi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two major things happen in this one and both center over their training sessions. The first pits MIdoriya against Bakugo, the former as a hero and the latter as a villain along with Uraraka and Ida. Bakugo goes completely out of control. I'm very surprised none of the teachers really do anything about this. He seems almost truly a villain.

The second, and more important thing is the training session at the rescue scenarios (flood, fire etc) when a huge cadre of villains attack the kids who have barely begun training and only have two professors there. Worse, the professor the villains want to kill, All Might, isn't there and the kids have to fight or die.

It is a fun manga but there are so many characters and several I don't like, such as Bakugo (who I suspect I'm not meant to like) and Mineta who is a bit of a pervert (thankfully he's toned down in the anime which otherwise follows pretty closely). I like it but I'm also glad I can get it from the library.

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The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, A Rún, Volume 3 (The Girl from the Other Side, #3)The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, A Rún, Volume 3 by Nagabe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really want to like this one more than I actually do. I find it slow. Seriously the whole volume takes just one concept and stretches it. Don't get me wrong. It is good but it's just...slow. The art is very different and the storyline is very much like a fairy tale in the best way.

Shiva is taken from Teacher, the Outsider by soldiers and her elderly aunt. But Shiva's return to the hamlet she's from isn't necessarily a joyous thing. She misses Teacher, who is worried for her but the reader gets clued in to things the girl doesn't know, dark things that I don't want to spoil.

It's an interesting story. I just wish it moved a bit faster.

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