Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

(Three Stars)

“All the true things I’m about to tell you are shameless lies.”

Hardly science fiction, except for the MacGuffin: Ice-Nine. Humorous.

“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?” “Guilty as charged.”

Enjoyable interleaved stories of an improbably group of people saving or destroying the world. Vonnegut’s economical, cynical prose entertains and pushes for reflection. It worked better fifty years ago when it was fresh.

“Busy, busy, busy.”

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Book Review: Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci

(Three Stars)

“He allotted himself a quick second to jam his claw against the control panel and silence all alerts. He knew he was in deep trouble, again; he didn’t need a soundtrack.”

Fun. Popcorn for the SF reader.

“And what are you going to do?” she scoffed. “What I always do,” Cade sighed. “Something stupid.”

If imitation is the most sincere form of flatter, Lucas Films, Marvel, DreamWorks–not to mention J. R. R. Tolkien, should be very flattered. In fact, their legal departments may consider when imitation crosses over into plagiarism. Not so. The plot, characters, and even some of the action and dialogue were cribbed from Stars Wars, et al., but Continue reading

Book Review: “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells (Three Stars)

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Book Review: “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells

(Three Stars)

“One of those. Normally they wait until later in the conversation, when the fact that I’m not actually looking at them starts really getting on their nerves.”

Short. Entertaining romp with enough subtly and misdirection to engage any reader. Very short. Leavened with almost enough humor. Love the “cover” art.

“See you in a week, Nata.” “And I won’t see you, Kay-dee.”

Gratuitous profanity cost Wells a star. Lazy writers use expletives to establish character, but continually pouring in new Continue reading

Book Review: Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells

(Five Stars)

“I’m a SecUnit, not an engineer.”

This is what comes of giving five star ratings. When Wells writes an even better story, there’s no higher rating to give. Rats. This story reads as if Martha (sorry for the familiarity, but I feel I’ve been in her head; first names sound more appropriate) and her buds got together, popped a few brews, and discussed how they could improve on the already snarky, wonderful humor of her first three murderbot outings. Here it is! Better than ever.

“I was the only one here, so I braced myself and made the ultimate sacrifice. ‘Uh, you can hug me if you need to.’ She started to laugh, then her face did something complicated and she hugged me. I upped the temperature in my chest and told myself Continue reading

Book Review: The Four Million by O. Henry (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Four Million by O. Henry

(Four Stars)

“’Tis a weary thing to count your pleasures by summers instead of hours.”

First published in 1906, this collection still resonates with wit and insight. Each story ends with a twist, usually but not always pleasant. Even knowing its coming, the reader is rewarded with a surprise.

“The almanac lied and said spring had come. Spring comes when it comes.”

O. Henry loved New York City every bit as much as Walt Whitman, if not so poetically, though the NYC they heralded may be as distant as the hanging gardens of Babylon.

“Gabriel had played his trump; and those of us who couldn’t follow suit ….”

O. Henry loved words: big words, French words, slang words, puns. His stories are a verbal fuselage. Modern electronic readers will find themselves seeking help deciphering his prose.

“In Soapy’s opinion the law was more benign than Philanthropy.”

Over a hundred year old, this story reflects some attitudes now discarded. O. Henry seemed to love his neighbor, even if he expresses himself in a manner which might set modern teeth on edge. (You’ve been warned.)

“We can’t buy one minute with cash; if we could, rich people would live longer.”

Book Review: Rogue Protocols by Martha Wells (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Rogue Protocols (Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells

(Five Stars)

“The only smart way out of this was to kill all of them. I was going to have to take the dumb way out.”

Wells hits another home run. She hones the voice and character of her snarky rogue security unit, the titular murderbot. This plot is convoluted enough that any comments risks being a spoiler, so I won’t. Love the cover art.

“… and your SecUnit prayed for the sweet relief of a massive accidental explosive decompression, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.”

The stories are standalones but there is a background story arch which makes more sense if the stories are read in order.

“Or Miki was a bot who had never Continue reading

Book Review: The Robot Who Looked Like Me by Robert Sheckley (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Robot Who Looked Like Me by Robert Sheckley

(Three Stars)

“Incredulity is not an appropriate attitude in this age of Heisenbergian physics.”

A better-than-average collection of Sheckley’s short stories and novelettes from the early 70s. The title story is among the better. Some humor. The number co-written with Harlan Eislson is sick, as you’d expect.

“When you come right down to it, life was a disappointment and the best it has to offer was never quit good enough. I realize now that I can’t be happy by owning things.”

Book Review: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

(Four Stars)

“Travel is fatal to bigotry and prejudice and narrow-mindedness.”

In 1867 young Samuel Clemens joined one of the first cruises for an extended voyage from New York City to the Holy Land. He serialized his impressions as they went, then sold the aggregate as a book. It was his best-selling book during his lifetime.

“The impressible memento-seeker was pecking at the venerable sarcophagus [inside Cheop’s Pyramid] with his sacrilegious hammer.”

Regular readers of Twain will enjoy this cynical, but less bitter younger version. Despite distancing himself from the “pilgrims” (conservative New England Christians who were the bulk of the party), Twain betrays many of the prejudices of the day. He was particularly critical of the Americans defacing ruins, taking mementos.

“One must travel to learn. Every day now old Scripture phrases that never possessed any significance for me take to themselves a meaning.” (at Beth-El)

I affirm that many of his impressions of the Mediterranean and Levant are Continue reading

Book Review: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Artificial Condition (Murderbot Diaries #2) by Martha Wells

(Five Stars)

“You need to make better threats.” “I don’t make threats, and I’m just telling you what I’m going to do.”

Love the voice! For having no emotions, he’s so funny.

“Being asked to stay, with a please and an option for refusal, hit me almost as hard as a human asking for my opinion and actually listening to me.”

He’s not a murderous rogue robot; he’s a security unit who has hacked his control module. Self-controlled. An augmented human, human-killing machine construct, a cyborg perhaps. But not a murderbot. Just as comfort units are not Continue reading

Book Review: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

(Four Stars)

“You’re going to have to learn to lie.” “I feel like I’m here to tell the truth.” “Yeah, but not now.”

Hilarious. Sacrilegious, yes. Teen boy humor, yes. Speculative, yes. Historically unsupported, yes. What’s your point? It’s humor. Well-conceived and well-executed. The more familiar one is with the Bible, the more one will get the joke. Many subtle references.

“I don’t know the Torah as well as you, Joshua, but I don’t remember God having a sense of humor.” “He gave me you for a friend, didn’t he?”

Hidden among the slapstick is a sensitive, introspective look at religion in general and Christianity in particular. Moore borrows elements from Continue reading