Book Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

Four Stars

“Tell just enough of the truth, but never lie.”

Is there anything Tom Hanks can’t do … and do well? Add writing fiction to the list. His prose is compelling, if pedestrian. Great stories, with a lot of heart.

“Every day in Gotham is a little like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and a little like Baggage Claim after a long, crowded flight.”

Somewhere in each story is a cameo (at least) by an old typewriter. Hanks collects them. Occasionally their presence is an intrusion, but mostly they fit right in. At least once it serves as the McGuffin. While some are contemporary stories, many are set mid-twentieth century.

“In a flash as well defined as that from a Speed Graphic camera ringside at a prize fight …”

Best story is “These are the Meditations of my Heart.”

“… as nutty as a can of Planters.”

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Book Review: Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorthy L. Sayers (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Lord Peter Views the Body (Lord Peter Wimsey #4) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Two Stars.

“Built noticin’–improved with practice.”

This anthology of early Wimsey shorts reminds me why I hate anthologies. Authors (or, more likely, publishers) sweep up all the bits and pieces of a successful author or authors and foist it on the public as great literature. The resulting collection is often–as in this case–mediocre at best.

“Nobody minds coarseness, but one must draw the line at cruelty.”

Especially avoid the novelette: “The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention.” Dreadful. “The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will” will enthrall crossword puzzle enthusiasts, without leaving the rest of us clueless.

“Bunter likes me to know my place.”

Sayers wrote for different readers. She assumes a level of French and Latin literacy rare among Americans today. Wonder how contemporary (1920s) English did.

“It is … dangerous to have a theory.”

Book Review: Unbound, Shawn Speakman, editor (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Unbound: Tales by the Masters of Fantasy, Shawn Speakman, editor

Three Stars

“The world conspires to take everything from us in the end.”

Like most anthologies the junk outweighs the jewels, but in this case the good stories are very good: worth the price of the whole collection. I’ll ignore the garbage and review the gems. Skip the first two, they’re trash. If there’s a theme to this collection, other than raising money for authors with medical bills, is that these are stories about story.

“To cling to common wisdom, no matter the evidence right in front of one’s nose, was an affliction as old as love.”

By far the best story in the set is “The Game” by Michael J. Sullivan. If you read no other, read this one. It’s the best take on “Dial ‘F’ for Frankenstein” I’ve seen in decades.

“Ignore it the way all rational men ignore all irrational things.”

“Jury Duty” by Jim Butcher is great if you like Dresden Files, which I do.

“No man’s an island. Not even the ones that think they are. Especially not them.”

“Uncharming” by Delilah S. Dawson started so bad, I almost quit. But it got better–much better.

Nice cover art. I don’t see a credit for it, but it’s good.

“Stories brought relief, comfort, and hope.”

Book Review: Blackguards, J. M. Martin, Editor (Three Stars)

Book Review: Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries and Rogues, by J. M. Martin (Editor)

Three Stars

“Stories have power. And shared stories grow with the telling.”

Skip the introduction. Seriously.

“Being distrustful keeps me alive.”

A self-referential collection of twenty-seven short stories promoting the various authors’ greater corpus of works: a literary infomercial. That admitted, this is a better-than-average anthology of stories about nearly famous (in their reality) lowlifes, many of whom aren’t so black as grey. A few only slightly tarnished. A bit of humor here and there leavens the batch.

“There isn’t much in life that counts for less than fair and should.”

One author complains that most fantasies are Medieval Europe. That’s not my experience, but Continue reading

Book Review: War Stories from the Future, edited by August Cole (Three Stars)

Book Review: War Stories from the Future, edited by August Cole

Three Stars

“There will be an end to war, but there will always be a need for heroes.”

A collection science fiction tales focusing on warfare in the near future. Not all are traditional space operas. Better than most anthologies, but variable quality.

“Nobody wanted to be responsible for the carnage that everyone constantly felt was imminent.”

My favorite is “Codename: Delphi”, though several try to explore how remote command and control and crowd-sourcing battle field analysis impacts combat. Some unintentionally funny.

“Just because the enemy is dead doesn’t mean you’re alive. Reality is simpler than games.”

Better than most SF/F anthologies perhaps because it’s more focused. Even the “Best of…” books tend toward diffuse and drivel.

“The trouble with foreign policy is that foreigners are so unpredictable.”

Book Review: The Riyria Sampler by Michael Sullivan (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Riyria Sampler by Michael Sullivan

Four Stars out of Five

For Riyria aficionados this collection of short stories includes only seven pages of new material, but it is an excellent introduction to Royce and Hadrian (or Hadrian and Royce, depending on your proclivities). The byplay between this pair is the leitmotif of every Riyria book. (They are Riyria; it means “two” in the elfish tongue of their world.)

Never fear, each Riyria novel has a genuine plot and a basso continuo of the struggle of good versus evil in their world. As thieves, they would automatically seem enlisted on the dark side. Not so. (That shouldn’t be a spoiler.) But telling you why not and how it works out would be telling. So … I won’t.

If you’re intrigued, read this. It’s short, obvious, and fun. The price is right: free. (For a limited time.)

Enjoy.

Book Review: “Lights in the Deep” by Brad R. Torgersen (Fiver Stars)

Book Review: Lights in the Deep by Brad R. Torgersen

(Five of five stars)

“What I think fiction … ought to do, more than anything else [,is]: Illuminate the way, shine a spiritual beacon, tell us that there is a bright point in the darkness, a light to guide the way, when all other paths are cast in shadow. If our stories can’t do that for us … what’s the point?”

In his essay “On the Growth of Fantasy and the Waning of Science Fiction” author Brad R. Torgersen notes that modern science fiction has become a nihilistic exercise in pessimism (my terminology) while fantasy has retained the buoyant optimism of the last century. A notable except is the science fiction of Torgersen himself.

This anthology of the break out stories of a fresh new voice of hard science fiction is proof that Continue reading