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Book Reviews & Random Detritus

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The Nine Unknown
Talbot Mundy
A Handful of Dust
Evelyn Waugh
The Poems of Virgil, Translated into English Verse
James Rhoades

The Quiet American review

The Quiet American - Graham Greene, Robert Stone

I like complicated moral conundrums like the one in this book so I'll be reading the other Greene novels I have here at home. He apparently didn't think much of his own style but I'll have to respectfully disagree since I think his prose is just perfect for the kind of stories he tells. He reminds me of Thomas Harris in that he is both economical and fully descriptive at the same time. No wasted words, but they are all the right words. The story is told in mostly flashbacks and I've heard that is a bad way to do it but you wouldn't think so to read this. I also like the quiet way he indicts the United States and it's "will to power, cloaked in idealism", as the story is set in Vietnam just as we are preparing to take over from the French as the occupying colonial power. This would be a great intro to Graham Greene for any curious reader.

The Iron Wyrm Affair review

The Iron Wyrm Affair - Lilith Saintcrow

Very good, diverting read. I'm impressed at Ms. Saintcrow's alternate Britain, and how fully she immerses the reader therein. The plot is strong with the tension ratcheted up all the way to the end. Her characters are all memorable, though Ms. Bannon is a bit of a Mary Sue, with magical resources that seem to get more limitless are the book progresses, but her reliance on regular recharges of magic at "tideturn" mitigates this somewhat. Her male hero, Clare, thankfully has his own POV and is not just an extension of Saintcrow's heroine. In fact, all her characters seem fully realized, with one exception(sorry - spoilers) All in all a good read, highly recommended.

The Great God Pan review

The Great God Pan - Arthur Machen

Very well done, nice proto-Lovecraftian plot, tidily wrapped up at the end, though I don't relate well to the epistolary style of the novel, where much(including, annoyingly, the ending) is told in past-tense, undercutting the suspense. Still worth reading, though, and I've always wanted to read it.

The Big Sleep review

The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler

Wonderful book! A little rougher than Farewell, My Lovely, which I'd read first, but that's OK because Marlowe's supposed to be tough, and here he shows both the grit and the smarts he is famous for. As always with Chandler, the most beautiful metaphors and descriptive prose you could want. Highly recommended.

Farewell, My Lovely review

Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler

Excellent writing. Chandler had a gift for describing a scene and putting you right there, using very poetic language that was occasionally corny but still good except when it's great. I like how he's able to stretch a simple scene, like two guys driving down the street having a conversation, into a whole chapter in an entertaining way that dosen't bore me. I hope I can read all his books sooner or later.

Father Elijah review

Father Elijah: An Apocalypse - Michael D. O'Brien

This is a end-of-the-world novel told from a Catholic perspective, but don't let that scare you away. The writing favorably compares to Umberto Eco, and the writer is obvious a very cultured person with none of the ignorance and loathing of the world you sometimes see in the Christian Church. Plus it's an fast-moving,exciting story. I had to put everything else down to finish this and I hope you give it a chance.

Midnight at the Well of Souls review

Midnight at the Well of Souls - Jack L. Chalker

I've been seeing this book in the Sci-Fi section of bookstores forever, but only just got a copy and i wonder now why I've deprived myself this long. Chalker has always been to me an unsung hero of Sci-Fi, crafting entertaining stories without the accolades other Sci-Fi writers get. If you're looking for something a little different you can't go wrong with Chalker and I think this book is from his best-known series. Various characters are whisked away from their lives and land on a huge world that's divided up into thousands of different ecological environments, where they are changed into different species and become players in a game that could change the course of the universe.

The Daughter of Time review

The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

Here is one of the greatest mysteries ever written, told not with action, but with dialog. Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, laid up in hospital after falling down a manhole chasing after some baddies, becomes interested in what happened to the "princes in the tower", supposedly murdered by their reviled father Richard III shortly before his death in battle. Tey makes a very good case for Richard's innocence in the matter and I highly recommend this book for lovers of historical puzzles. My online review is featured on this episode of The Mind Keep podcast:


The Long Emergency review

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century - James Howard Kunstler

This is an eye-opening and scary book that will alert you to the peril our civilization is in right now. You might not know this, but sometime in the last few years we reached the half-way point in extracting all the oil there is on Earth to extract. This might not sound so bad, but that first half was the easy-to-get-at, easy-to-process, easier-on-the-environment half, and everything we get from here on will cost more to get out of the ground and be dirtier, like the tar sands in Canada which are getting so much bad press. Kunstler is a voice in the wilderness, denouncing our careless energy policies and proposed energy solutions. Natural gas, nuclear, shale oil and several other candidates are shown to be unrealistic pipe dreams, and Kunstler warns that we'd all better start learning some nineteenth-century skills if we want to survive and prosper. He lays it on pretty thick, and his obvious nostalgia for a simpler way of life justifies some skepticism about his arguments, but it's a good companion to his World Made By Hand novels. Here's his podcast URL for those who want more information:

World Made By Hand

World Made by Hand - James Howard Kunstler

This is a well-written dramatization of what the post-Peak-Oil-scenario world will be like according to James Howard Kunstler, the leading media crusader on this topic. It's set maybe a decade after western civilization began collapsing due to gas shortages, in a small town in upstate New York. Events force the residents to give up waiting for technological good times to come back, and start living again in a new world with new rules.

The Grand Chessboard review

The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives [Paperback] [1998] (Author) Zbigniew Brzezinski - Zbigniew Brzezinski

Good book, but already one can see how the author's dream for Eurasia is coming apart. Brzezinski is regarded by many people as "the enemy", a figurehead for the globalist, New World Order types that folks like Alex Jones love to rant about. It's worth reading, though since Brzezinski is an influence on President Barack Obama's foreign policy. Hear my online review in episode 7 of The Mind Keep podcast:


Alongside Night

Alongside Night - J. Neil Schulman

Excellent book! it will make an Libertarian Agorist out of you. Far from being a screed, though, it's also a first-class adventure thriller.

The Fair Rules of Evil

The Fair Rules of Evil - David C. Smith

This is a good book to read if you've ever been into 70s movies like The Norliss Tapes or the Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV series. This occult-themed adventure is suitably creepy, with a memorable villain.

Listening Woman review

Listening Woman  - Tony Hillerman

This is definitely my favorite of the Joe Leaphorn mysteries I've read. Great suspense, memorable villains, great descriptions of the desert canyon country that is the setting for the book.

Berlin Game review

Berlin Game - Len Deighton

Highly recommended! Deighton is slightly less terse than Thomas Harris but only in the right places. He really puts your senses into cold war-era Berlin and London. The character of Bernard Sampson is unforgettable, and the supporting cast is great too. You really start to take on the suspicious, world-weary attitude of Sampson by the end of this book, it's communicated that well.

SS-GB review

SS-GB - Len Deighton

Brilliant. This is definitely an author I will start following. The story, a murder mystery set in a German-occupied London during an alternate WWII, follows "Archer of the Yard" as he follows the trail through the German army, the SS, the British resistance and the dawn of the atomic age.