Book Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Four Stars)

Book Review: Neverwhere: Author’s Preferred Text by Neil Gaiman

Four Stars out of Five.

“Great, definitely dying here. Someone tell his mother he loved her.”

Outstanding parallel universe story. London Below is as close as an abandoned underground station or the nearest manhole cover. Richard Mayhew’s good deed does not go unpunished. In fact, he everything he thought he knew and counted on isn’t as he thought.

You know those stories where some inconsequential item picked up along the way turns out to be important? Well, this is one of those, except it’s told from the point of view of the inconsequential companion. And he’s increasingly not sure he’s going to survive tagging along, let alone contributing to the quest.

I never saw the television adaptation nor read any of the comic books. Coming at a story like this is best done cold. You benefit from the total immersion in Gaiman’s world as he sees it.

Excellent world building, excellent character development, excellent story telling. The attached map was unreadable in the ebook version, but you can find a London Underground map most anywhere. Lots of twists, reverses, betrayals, etc.

Quibble: Under Bangkok is apt to be under water. Floating markets and all that, you know.

A Cold Dark Oven


Since when is baked bacon part of Sticky Buns?

Not that there’s anything wrong with baked bacon.

Originally posted on Misty Midwest Mossiness:

I’m thankful for many things this Thanksgiving.  Oddly, I’m somewhat thankful even for my cold, dark oven.


I’m thankful that I won’t be on my feet for hours today prepping and baking for a family gathering.  For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I will not be basting and roasting a turkey.  I won’t be making more stuffing (I already succumbed last week and made a huge batch of stuffing because I couldn’t help myself). I might not escape baking entirely today, though, as I may break down and make Sticky Buns because it’s a TRADITION!

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Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur by Disney/Pixar (Five Stars)

Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur by Disney/Pixar

Five Stars out of Five

A speculative fiction based on the Chicxulub impactor missing the earth, therefore not killing the dinosaur 65 million years ago. In this tale the dinosaurs are the intelligent (some more than others) creatures, and the emerging cave men are language-challenged “critters.”

Good story, fantastic rendering of the background. The Yellowstone/Teton area obviously inspired the setting. The moving water and clouds are rendered better than photo-realistic. (The latter reminiscent of N. C. Wyeth’s best.)

Though apparently aimed at children and rated PG, the violence level shocked some of the little ones in the showing we attended. we heard screams and crying following some of the death and dismemberment scenes.

Poor John Ratzenberger. Included once as Pixar’s lucky charm; he’s reduced again to a character with the least lines.

Book Review: On the Accidental Wings of Dragons by Julie Wetzel (Two Stars)

Book Review: On the Accidental Wings of Dragons by Julie Wetzel

Two Stars out of Five.

Wetzel probably a good time writing this, but I’m not into urban fantasy soft porn—even among dragons. The plot and most “action” involved supposedly mature people who act like teens. Hormonally-challenged teens.

Nope, not much to recommend it. Why not one star? She’s actually a good writer. Judging from her website (only) I guess she specializes in hot romances. Apparently there are those who will appreciate this … stuff.

Why Don’t We Trust Our Government?

The Wall Street Journal reports, “President Obama set as one of his political goals the restoration of trust in government, so seven years later how’s that working out? Not good. Not even bad. We’re talking historically awful.” (citing a Pew Research survey) “Only 19% of Americans say they trust the government to do what is right “just about always” (16%) or “most of the time” (3%).”

This is the inevitable result of all the self-criticism and finger pointing for the last fifty years.

We as a people have done some amazing things during that time, but all we’ve heard is how screwed up everything is and how the world is about to explode, implode or burn up.

Are you surprised–Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN and FoxNews–that people read or heard you and believed?

It’s not just Clinton, Bush, Obama or Trump; look in the mirror.

Book Review: The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein

Four Stars out of Five.

“No one deserves their life. It is a gift, given to all.”

Reading the blurb a reader might think this book was another Jews and the Holocaust story, albeit with a fantastic twist. A casual reading of the opening chapters suggests it’s more about magic, Kabballah and Jewish folklore, but in fact it strikes me as a meditation on the relationship of superstition and religion with those others playing out in the foreground.

“He who saves a life, it is as though he saved the entire world.”

The precise reader may stumble over the fluid geography, language and history, but the author assures us of its antecedents. Regardless, Goldstein takes us to the intersection of history and mystery. Where what you believe may be more important than what is real. Simultaneously a disturbing and an affirming story. Good job.

“Touched by magic.”

Book Review: Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat (Two Stars)


Book Review: Aurorarama (The Mysteries of New Venice #1) by Jean-Christophe Valtat

Two Stars out of Five.

Non-steam steampunk? Jules Verne, almost by definition, invented steampunk. I believe Valtat calls his genre Teslapunk perhaps because so much depends on early and revolutionary use of electricity.

Would it be too gauche to suggest that the emperor has no clothes? Valtat is an award-winning French science fiction author. This story, written in English, is praised by all the right and right-minded people, but all I can think is “I can’t believe I read the whole thing.” Did they?

Undoubtedly Valtat had fun twisting the words and ideas. If he couldn’t find an obscure word or alliteration, he invented one. The plots are lost among the world building until last hundred pages. Many readers won’t survive the frozen first hundred. The principal antagonists’ inner voices sound alike. You can only tell them apart because one was always indulging in this or that drug or sexual liaison. No point in identifying technical errors; it’s all fantasy.

Quibble: Does Valtat realize that at longitude 90 degrees north, latitude becomes irrelevant?

Why not one star? Because it is a great concept. And Valtat has his funny moments. Some people apparently like it. But they probably insist the emperor was clothed.

Book Review: A Different Flesh by Harry Turtledove (Four Stars)

25691869Book Review: A Different Flesh by Harry Turtledove

Four Stars out of Five

Outstanding alternate history. In short stories Turtledove creates an alternative history populated by believable characters and events which also examine historic and current practices in our culture. The titular characters are Homo Erectus-like subhumans who inhabit the New World instead of the native humans actually found there. The altered natural and cultural impacts are explored.

Samuel Pepys is so well drawn that he was recognized, by one who’d read his diary, before revealed. His development of the transformational theory of life exemplifies ideas and technologies accelerated by the different conditions found in North America than in our timeline.

The reader is challenged (in a good way) to unravel Turtledove’s alternate names for North America cities and governmental titles. (Example, the Federated Commonwealths adopted Roman forms of governance and naming, resulting in Via LXVI.)

Having all critical plot points fall favorably gives the book a Mary Sue or Gary Stu quality. The short stories repeat much information because most were first published independently.

A more serious critique might be lodged against his uneven accelerated technology. For example, steam locomotives Continue reading

Book Review: AI Unbound by Nancy Kress (Three Stars)


Book Review: AI Unbound: Two Stories of Artificial Intelligence by Nancy Kress

Three Stars out of Five

Two short cautionary tales about human interactions with self-aware superintelligences which they created. Whether they end well depends on your point of view.

Well-told, straight-forward stories about the expectations and results of humans creating artificial intelligences.

Hint: not what they expected.