Book Review: Imager’s Intrigue by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Three Stars)

8652388

Book Review: Imager’s Intrigue (Imager Portfolio #3) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

(Three Stars)

“I may be a powerful imager, but that doesn’t mean I can save people from their own weaknesses and stupidity. I have enough trouble trying not to do stupid things myself.”

A complex, slow-developing end to the first three stories in the Imager series. (The next book is a prequel.) The protagonist keeps telling us he doesn’t get it–and reviews the disjointed puzzle pieces he does have ad nauseam–then he gets it and acts. And the reader is left to connect the dots.

“What we know and what we feel, deep inside, aren’t the same. People are like that. Sometimes it’s the ones closest to you–especially close friends and family–who hurt you the most.”

Modesitt is a master storyteller. Plan to get sucked in and dragged along. Plan to enjoy it. But don’t Continue reading

Advertisements

Book Review: The Age of Eisenhower by William I. Hitchcock (Three Stars)

36200705

Book Review: The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s by William I. Hitchcock

(Three Stars)

“Eisenhower had that rarest of gifts in politics: he brought America together.”

Damns Eisenhower with faint praise. Following the rising tide of academic and popular reappraisal of Ike, Hancock tries to hew to the old bumbling amateur angle, even as he says he rejects it.

“These first years of his presidency, Eisenhower laid down a blueprint for the warfare state–an official plan to mobilize the nation and put it on a permanent war footing. The military-industrial complex had begun to take shape.”

“Eisenhower, [Garry] Wills believed, ‘had the true professional’s instinct for making things look easy. He appeared to be performing less work than he actually did. And he wanted it that way. An air of ease inspires confidence.”

Shoddy scholarship. Adds his snarky quips at the end of paragraphs, then sets the footnote after it, implying that the cited source (often in the 1950s) is to blame. “That suited Eisenhower fine.” “Middle-class paradise on a presidential scale.” “The comparatively glamorous and graceful Jacqueline Kennedy.

“The central paradox of the Eisenhower presidency: that a man so successful at the ballot box and so overwhelmingly popular among voters could have been given such poor marks by the political class. His critics never grasped the profound appeal of the man and never appreciated the depths of his political talent.”

Other, better modern investigations into this most-underrated president of the twentieth century–for example, try any David A. Nichols work.

“Dwight Eisenhower must be counted among the most consequential presidents in modern American history.”

Book Review: Imager’s Challenge by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Four Stars)

6407550

Book Review: Imager’s Challenge (Imager’s Portfolio #2) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

(Four Stars)

“I’m being pushed into doing things I’d rather not do because the alternatives are worse.” “Sometimes, that’s life.”

Better than the first Imager story. First person point of view makes for a decidedly linear plot, but the action moves better in this second episode. This volume lacks the epigrams which headed each chapter in Imager.

“What we do … is not all that we are, nor all that we could be. Reading opens one’s eyes to the possibilities.”

Modesitt takes us into the musings of someone who follows the tenets of a religion he doubts, defends a country he’s sure isn’t perfect, loves people who are flawed, and represents a body of people even as he disagrees with its leaders.

“No matter what you do, someone’s unhappy. And the better you do it, Continue reading

Book Review: The Fremantle Diary: A Journal of the Confederacy by James Fremantle (Four Stars)

42658550

Book Review: The Fremantle Diary: A Journal of the Confederacy by James Fremantle

(Four Stars)

“Nowhere is the ignorance of what is passing in the South more profound than it is in the Northern States.” Fremantle 1864

A fascinating primary document from the height of the Civil War: An English officer traverses the Confederacy, interviewing the leaders and soldiers. His assessment: even after Gettysburg the South could have won. Granted, by that time he had Stockholm Syndrome symptoms. His northern contacts didn’t enlighten him otherwise.

“All these [sectional] interests disappeared when the war ended. People wanted only to forget, and the diary was buried with the past. Today, the national mood has changed. Sectional bitterness has given way to a common pride in the glory and courage of both sides.” Walter Lord, 1954

On the other hand, as the preceding quote indicates the 1954 editor missed the mark entirely.

“A people in which all ranks and both sexes display a unanimity and a heroism which can never have been surpassed in the history of the world is destined, sooner or later, to become a great and independent nation.” Fremantle

Fremantle’s journey and journal were equally amazing. Landing in Mexico, he traveled across the south, sharing public transportation and accommodations with common travelers, connecting with Confederate leaders whenever possible, who usually welcomed him into their confidences and occasionally their staff, all the time understanding he had no official standing (but perhaps still hoped England might save them). to return home, he traversed the North as far as New York City and shared passage to England with Northern partisans.

“But the mass of respectable Northerners, although they may be willing to pay, do not very naturally feel themselves called upon to give their blood in a war of aggression, ambition, and conquest.” Fremantle

Book Review: Imager: Imager Portfolio #1, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (Three Stars)

4643301

Book Review: Imager: Imager Portfolio #1, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

(Three Stars)

“Hope is always an expectation beyond anticipated reality.”

A steampunk Harry Potter for young adult readers. Excellent world building, despite the lazy two-moons trope. Time, money, foods, and geography map steam-age world–a welcome change from the routine medieval realm.

“So you’re saying. Master, that if I want to be impartial, I should not be a protraiturist, but an imager?”

In the obvious comparison with J. K. Rowling’s wizard, Modesitt has better world building, more believable magic and a more human protagonist. He slows his story with Continue reading

Book Review: One and Wonder: Piers Anthony’s Remembered Stories (Three Stars)

23124930

Book Review: One and Wonder: Piers Anthony’s Remembered Stories, Evan Filipek, Editor

Three Stars

An eclectic collection of early science fiction works selected for their seminal impact on Anthony. Some good science fiction: some good stories; some neither. Don’t read the Introduction by Piers Anthony: spoilers. Not all strictly SF, some stray into urban fantasy aor horror.

“Equalizer” by Jack Williamson (1947) “Man lives at the mercy of blind chance, surviving only through a peculiar combination of improbable factors.” Utopian twaddle we all sighed over. Well written and daring for that day. No, cold fusion (or whatever) is not the answer to world peace.

“Breaking Point” by James Gunn (1953) A psychological thriller. “For man’s sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things; on the contrary, all the perceptions, both of the senses and of the mind, bear reference to man and not to the universe; and the human mind resembles those uneven mirrors which impart their own properties to different objects … and distorts and disfigures them …. For every one … has a cave or den of his own which refracts and discolors the light of nature.” Francis Bacon (1561-1626) “Reality is what it is, and not what it seems to be.” “… using a game whose rules he knew to relate to the one whose rules he didn’t know,”

“Vengeance for Nikolai” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. 1957. Urgh.

“Wherever You May be.” James Gunn 1957. “There was something about machines and the things they made which was basically alien to the human spirit. They might disguise themselves for a time as willing slaves, but eventually, inevitably, they turned against their masters. At the psychological moment, they rebelled.”

The only one I recommend skipping is “Ground Leave Incident” by Rog Phillips. It involves a rape and many of the archaic and offensive attitudes toward it of the twentieth century.

Book Review: Fresh Watercolour by Ray Campbell Smith Four Stars

611989

Book Review: Fresh Watercolour: Bring Light to Your Painting by Ray Campbell Smith

Four Stars

Sorry, no quotable quotes. Smith writes well, but it’s a lot like reading assembly directions–they only make sense to one doing the assembling.

The pictures, on the other hand. Should be enjoyable to anyone who likes art, and watercolor in particular. Smith demonstrates how to get luminescent skies and depth with a minimum of busyness in paintings. (I can’t insert illustrations without violating his ownership rights, of course. See cover art.)

Book Review: Dragon and Slave by Timothy Zahn (Three Stars)

38335685

Book Review: Dragon and Slave (Dragonback #3) by Timothy Zahn

(Three Stars)

“They were slaves, and she was a slave, and the only place to hide from that reality was inside herself.”

I liked it; it’s a good read but the series is becoming formulaic. (See previous reviews here and here for the good news.)

“He wasn’t going off the deep end of the pool like some junior K’da warrior. All he was doing was paying back a debt. He probably would have felt better if he’d believed that.”

Book Review: Dragon and Soldier by Timothy Zahn (Three Stars)

39662804

Book Review: Dragon and Soldier (Dragonback #2) by Timothy Zahn

(Three Stars)

“You’re innocent until they absolutely prove otherwise. And for ten minutes after that, too.”

Good story, consistent with the high tone set in the series opener, Dragon and Thief. Jack makes bone-headed decisions typical of a fourteen year old. Zahn, having saved the reader the apparently-mandatory Hogwarts school experience in the first tale, lays it on us now.

“You know, Darycos, for being such a clever poet-warrior, you’re kind of slow on the uptake sometimes.”

(Sorry I don’t have more quotes: read the ebook version on a trip. Highlighted quotable sentences, but my cell phone has done the u-boat routine since.)

Book Review: Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn (Four Stars)

39316634

Book Review: Dragon and Thief (Dragonback #1) by Timothy Zahn

(Four Stars)

“Jack muttered a word that had once cost him a week of desserts.”

Entertaining science fiction for young readers that harks back to the early days of SF, before we got all cynical and crude. Not that our fourteen-year-old protagonist isn’t a cynic, but that’s part of the fun. Thinking smarter you know everything at that age is such a burden, and a delight to those around you.

“It is interesting, is it not, that people so often turn out to be different than we expect.” “Don’t fool yourself, kiddo.”

Lots of typos which appeared to be OCR scanning errors. Someone at Open Road flunked proofreading. Still, we appreciate their making these books available.

(Ship named Essenay? Pig Latin (Es-See-Nay) for Nessie, perhaps, as in Loch Ness’ Nessie?)