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Gone With The Wind

Gone With The WindOrder this bookStory: Scarlett O’Hara, southern belle and resident of Georgia, has her life turned upside-down by the Civil War. She meets and eventually marries Rhett Butler, a southern gentleman and war-time blockade runner, all the while pining away for her “true love,” Ashley Wilkes. An excellent historical fiction detailing the lives and morals of pre-Civil War southerners and how it all changed afterward. Made into what has been commonly accepted as the Greatest Film of All Time.

Review: I feel kind of silly reviewing one of the greatest works of American literature. After all, millions have gone before me. But I would like to put my mere two cents’ worth in, because it is an achievement worthy of praise. I am grateful that Ms. Mitchell was properly lauded for this novel before her untimely death. By the way, “GWTW” was her first published book. Continue reading

Eaters Of The Dead

(reprinted under the title The Thirteenth Warrior)

Eaters Of The DeadOrder this bookStory: A fictionalized account taken from the manuscript of an Arabic ambassador to the court of the Caliph of Baghdad. Ahmad Ibn Fadlan was sent north as the ambassador to the King of the Bulgars but was diverted along the way. His account of his exploits with the Norsemen he encountered was published, lost, and then found again centuries later. Crichton’s retelling was eventually made into the film The Thirteenth Warrior.

Review: Crichton begins by explaining in excruciating detail about how and where he found this story, as well as his reasoning behind retelling it. He seems to have put a great deal of effort into researching the book, which always wins an author extra points with me. I enjoyed the film version, especially Antonio Banderas’ portrayal of Ibn Fadlan, but as usual the book is better. Continue reading

Carter Beats The Devil

Carter Beats The DevilOrder this bookStory: Carter the Great is showcasing his latest and greatest illusions, including the most complex of the show, “Carter Beats the Devil”. President Warren G. Harding is on a tour of America and attends Carter’s show – but is dead the next morning. Is Carter responsible for his death? And just who is Charles Carter anyway?

Review: This book is a complex mix of history and fiction, mostly fiction. Charles Carter really did exist, plying his trade from the vaudeville stage to the Orpheum shows to grand exhibitions of magic, rivaling magicians as famous as Harry Houdini. Glen David Gold takes historical fact and seamlessly blends it with fictional fancy that results in an excellent read. Continue reading

Cabal

Book titleOrder this bookStory: Boone believes he is responsible for several horrific deaths; at least, that’s what his psychiatrist says. But after he’s killed at a small Canadian cemetery in a confrontation with the police, he learns much more about his own nature and that of the Nightbreed of Midian.

Review: I was lucky enough to find the hardcover version of this book in some discount bin somewhere, and smart enough to purchase it. Barker made a film from this novella called Nightbreed. The film version was quite graphic, but the impact wasn’t nearly as strong as the book’s. Barker can flesh out characters like no other horror author, except perhaps Stephen King. It’s no wonder Steve professes to enjoy Clive Barker’s books over any other horror author’s. I found myself rooting for Boone even though I thought he was a mass murderer, and especially during his encounter with the nightbreed. The woman he loves, Lori, acts somewhat like the reader – always confused by Boone’s activities but sticking with him until the story comes to its amazing conclusion. When the story moves into the supernatural, one finds oneself drawn into a world fully imagined and matured by an author with a truly macabre point of view. Continue reading

Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom

Down And Out In The Magic KingdomOrder this bookStory: It’s the future, and the human race has given up the habit of dying, or, for that matter, the habit of killing over resources. Everything is plentiful because much of the human experience has shifted into the virtual realm; after death, people can be restored from their most recent backup brain-dump, their copied consciousness injected into a rapidly grown clone body. Money is a historical curiosity, replaced by “Whuffie,” a constantly-updated “feedback rating” given by others to reflect on one’s deeds and words. Julius, a resident of Disney’s Magic Kingdom (whose rides and attractions have each been taken up by “ad hoc” organizations who live or die by the popularity and collective Whuffie of their attraction), works on the Haunted Mansion and Hall of Presidents displays with his girlfriend Lil, who carries some weight in the “ad-hocracy.” When Julius’ old friend, an unconventional, somewhat rebellious sort named Dan, turns up with no Whuffie and talking about suicide – an unheard-of act in a world where people routinely “deadhead” until events are interesting enough for them to come out of cryogenic sleep – he insists than Dan move in with he and Lil and take a job at the Magic Kingdom to build up his Whuffie again. When Julius is murdered, however – also a very rare event – he is rebooted into a new clone body from his most recent backup, and his life and relationships begin to unravel as he obsesses over who killed him.

Review: Quite the heady futurist trip, “Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom” is very much a story of the Now. With Whuffie serving as a kind of eBay feedback rating of the soul, and a so-called meritocracy still boiling down to little more than a popularity contest, “Down And Out” takes plenty of “social networking” internet concepts and applies them to the bigger picture to show how these things might work – or might not. At times, it all almost feels like life-by-way-of-an-internet-message-board, with all of the attendant petty disagreements, blatant dramatic cries for attention or pity, back-biting and bitchiness. Continue reading

Star Trek: Mission To Horatius

Star Trek: Mission To HoratiusOrder this bookStory: The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is growing restless after months without shore leave. Unfortunately, a distress signal has been sent to Star Fleet from the Horatius system and Captain James T. Kirk and the Enterprise are given the mission to find out which of the distant planets of the system has sent the message and help if they can. When they arrive at the system in question they find three planets colonized by humans, all in various stages of stunted development. Travelling to each one by one, the crew of the Enterprise try to determine who is the victim and who is the aggressor.

Review: “Mission To Horatius” has the distinction of being the first original Star Trek novel, published two years before James Blish’s “Spock Must Die”. It is also the only one published during the show’s original run. Reflecting the view of the day that Science Fiction was meant for children, “Mission To Horatius” was printed in a hardcover format similar to the “Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew” novels (and proudly boasts of being an “Authorized TV Adventure” on the spine). Continue reading

Field Of Dishonor

Field Of DishonorField Of DishonorOrder this bookStory: Honor Harrington has known fellow starship captain Pavel Young for her entire career – going back to their academy days, where he used his family’s privelege to get out from under charges that he tried to rape her, and back to Basilisk Station, where he tried to hang her out to dry…and back to the battle for Hancock Station, where Young ordered his ship to flee formation during a critical moment, causing the loss of thousands of Manticoran lives. But just as Young has made a career of slipping through the fingers of justice, Honor has made a career of surviving, and when Young is court-martialed for fleeing, he tries to even the score one last time by hiring an assassin to force a duel with Honor’s lover, Captain Paul Tankersley – a duel Paul doesn’t stand a chance of winning. Already laying low to avoid the press during a political firestorm, Honor sets out for vengeance, even if it means destroying her career in the process.

Review: I didn’t really set out to review two consecutive Honor Harrington books, but “Field Of Dishonor” reads at a white heat and it’s hard to put down. With its own inevitable rhythm of a march into battle, “Field” takes on the issue of letting politics dictate military policy (and leaves no doubt that author David Weber thinks it’s a bad idea). Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneOrder this bookStory: Harry Potter, who is just about to celebrate his 11th birthday, lives a sad life with his nasty aunt, belligerent uncle and fat cousin on Privet Drive. But on that very fateful birthday, Harry learns that he’s a wizard and that he is now old enough to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry has no clue about what this means to his life, or how much it will change!

Review: There has been so much hype surrounding this book and the ones that have followed that there could be something lost in the mix. That something would be the fact that the Harry Potter series is some of the best children’s reading ever to see publication. Even though it is geared toward kids from about age 8 up, it is thoroughly entertaining reading for people of all ages. Continue reading

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful DriversOrder this bookStory: Freewheeling Dave Lister has ignored a great deal of advice in his time, but he may yet live to regret not following the advice of whoever told him never to go into space. After a few benders and a few misadventures, Lister winds up signing on to the mining ship Red Dwarf, where he lands a low-ranking technician job and bunks with an undeservedly snobby fellow technician named Rimmer. But then Lister gets busted for bringing an unquarantined animal aboard, is sentenced to stasis, and – in suspended animation – rides out a catastrophe that kills everyone else on Red Dwarf. The ship’s increasingly senile central computer, Holly, doesn’t awaken Lister until the radiation drops to a safe level – three million years or so, give or take a century – and that’s when things get really interesting.

Review: Obviously, the first Red Dwarf novel has to duplicate a lot of the TV series’ legwork in setting up the characters, though the book offers quite a treat to anyone who’s already seen the series by tracking events a lot further back than the pilot episode, following Lister’s slow descent into the shoes of a third-class technician aboard Red Dwarf. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor created the show and the characters, so they’ve got the voices of the characters down to perfection. Continue reading

Tales From The New Twilight Zone

Tales From The New Twilight Zone Order this bookStory: J. Michael Straczynski, head writer on the 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone, transforms several of his best-known scripts from that show’s brief run into prose.

Review: The late-80’s revival of The Twilight Zone, in all honestly, went completely unnoticed by yours truly. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about it until it was mentioned often in connection with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski’s past television works. Lo and behold (not necessarily in that order, mind you), I stumbled across a copy of Straczynski’s short-form novelizations of several of the New Twilight Zone episodes. I figured it would be interesting to see his writing style in a new venue – not Babylon 5, and not his excellent guide to scriptwriting. Wow, was I ever in for a surprise. Continue reading