"Astronomy professor Aurora 'Rory' Bell gets a message from space that seems to portend
the arrival of extraterrestrial visitors. According to her calculations, whoever is coming
will arrive in three months - on New Year's Day, to be exact...
A crowded and poisoned Earth is moving toward the brink of the last world war - and is certainly
unprepared to face invasion of any kind. But the more Rory investigates, the more she doubts
the authenticity of the transmission. If the message is an elaborate hoax, who's behind it,
and why? Now that the impending 'visit' has taken on a media life of its own, no one cares anymore
what Dr. Bell has to say about it. And so the world waits. But the questions remains as to what,
exactly, everyone is waiting for."
Another easily read book by the gifted Joe Haldeman, however one that will not see listing on any
reading list not for 'adults only.' A clever technique author Haldeman employs is that all
chapters and sub-chapters are titled with name of each of the different characters. One chapter will end in the mind of a character, perhaps thinking about someone he or she sees, then the next chapter may begin in the mind of the person the previous one had been observing. My regular readers may recall I favor the genre of Science Fiction because usually
there is little romance or any sloppy sex. You can forget that when reading Joe's works, as not only
is sloppy sex a regular component of his writing, but in The Comingweird and sloppy sex takes up more than a few pages. One of the character's in this book is a female porn film star and another is (gosh! forbidden of forbiddens) a lapsed-homosexual Muslim. (The book was penned prior to our current man-in-the-street knowledge level of Islam and its so very harsh punishments for sinful behavior.) I'm wondering, if in a effort to appeal to more readers, Mr.Haldeman is not including more sex in his writing. However, this will probably be the last Haldeman book I purchase, because if I want to read about kinky sex, I'll just whip out my own diary. <grin> Being the book was published
in year 2000, the ending is easily guessed even by someone as naive as your Mr.Wonderful. Priced at
$21.95 for the slim two hundred and seventeen paged hard back, it's no wonder I was able to purchase it
from Hamilton.com for around six bucks.
Page 28 " ... you see though me like a window, ... "
Begun: 03/07/2006 Finished: 03/15/2006Purchased: January 2006
B&N Net Rank: NA
"With the expert eye or a longtime trusted observer of the Vatican and the skill of an investigative reporter intent on uncovering closely guarded secrets, John Allen finally separates the myths from the facts in Opus Dei. Granted unlimited access to the prelate who heads the organization and to Opus Dei centers throughout the world, Allen draws on a wealth of interviews with current members, as well as with highly critical ex-members, to create an unprecedented portrait of the activities, practices, and intentions behind its veil of secrecy . . . "
"All true followers of The Way wore this device--a leather strap, studded with sharp metal barbs that cut into the flesh as a perpetual reminder of Christ's suffering. The pain caused by the device also helped counteract the desires of the flesh."
Damn you Dan Brown! author of The Da Vinci Code. Not for the fact you wrote an average thriller, which was presented, more or less as based on fact, and then stuffed it with more purposeful distortions, half-truths and pure lies than a Bill Clinton or Stephen Frye memoir, and became a millionaire many times over by doing that. Not for slandering Jesus the Christ, all Christians in general and the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Not for attempting to establish a new religion. But damn you Dan Brown for the fact that after I read TDV, and then, Mr.Wonderful III, my youngest son, thought I might enjoy for Christmas a book 'exposing' Opus Dei, i.e., 'The Way', for a gift.
Opus Dei:An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church by John L. Allen, Jr., is likely to remain the most exhaustively researched writings ever on the Catholic spiritual organization, Opus Dei, founded in 1928 by then José María Julián Mariano now Saint Josemaría Escrivá. The Latin words, Opus Dei, are translated to 'the Work of God', hence comes Mr. Brown's thinly disguised reference above from The Da Vinci Code to 'The Way'. John L. Allen, Jr., is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and a Vatican analyst for both CNN and NPR and obviously a practicing Catholic. However, to produce such a monumental book on Opus Dei, one needs to be as familiar with the hierarchy, the workings, the pathology and the history of the Catholic Church as most of us are with our own Satellite-TV remote controls. Which, is one small fault I find in the book, that of the assumption of the author that the reader is himself or herself a Catholic. However, for this Bible-beating-kinda-Southern-Baptist reviewer, the added detail for non-Catholics would have made this already encyclopedic encyclical even longer. In actuality, on day nineteen of trudging through this tome, I facetiously told my son that I thought, while I was away at work, pages were being surreptitiously added to the back of the book. The relatively high Barnes and Nobel internet-sales-ranking indicates to me that many, many Catholics have purchased this book. However, I'll wager less than three percent of those buyers, Catholic or not, actually read the book all the way to its final page ... numbered three hundred and eighty-seven. As a matter of fact, my son revealed he purchased this pristine, untouched, and previously un-read hardback at Half-Price Books. During Christ's passing on The Cross, the six-inch thick curtain in The Temple, separating Man from God, was torn asunder (Matthew 27:51). Most non-Catholics and 'generic' Christians believe this meant that no longer did a priestly hierarchy stand between post-Crucifixion men and women and their Creator-God. However, the Roman Catholic Church soon enough re-wove the curtain with intertwined legions of church officials, who again stood between God and Man. And it is in attempting to explain why and how and where the organization known as Opus Dei fits into this millennia-thick strata of popes, priests, bishops, cardinals, cannons, Catechisms, etc., that takes up eighty percent of the pages of this hardback. As a Christian, I found it shocking that in a book about a religious organization, the first mention of a Bible verse (Matthew 18:15) is withheld until page three hundred seventeen, nearly eighty percent into the book. However, for those Roman Catholics, who are very deeply interested in the elaborate and arcane workings of their religion, and most particularly in Opus Dei (the only personal prelature in the Church) they, the few, the proud, will find Opus Dei:An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church fascinating.
"In this wry, paranoid vision of the future, overpopulation has turned cities into cramped industrial anthills. For those sick of this dystopian reality, one corporation, Trails of Hoffman, Inc., promises an alternative: Take a teleport to Whale's Mouth, a colonized planet billed as the supreme paradise. The only catch is that you can never come back. When a neurotic man named Rachmael ben Applebaum discovers that the promotional films of happy crowds cheering their newfound existence on Whale's Mouth are faked, he decides to pilot a spaceship on the eighteen-year journey there to see if anyone wants to return."
This book should have been buried with Phillip K. Dick. It should have been thrown in the eternity hole, covered with freshly-turned earth and forgotten. If he was cremated, the book should have been marinated in barbecue starter fluid for fifteen minutes, then placed in a ziplock bag which was then carefully ducttaped to the top of the coffin prior to its oven entry. (Why a 'ziplock bag?' Tape won't stick to BBQ starter fluid.) Containing only two hundred and two pages, including the 'Afterword to the Vintage Edition', I struggled with this goofy novel as if it were an eight hundred paged work of Ayn Rand. As explained in the 'Afterward', this book was originally a novelette titled The Unteleported Man, published in Amazing-Fantastic (magazines). As requested by his book publisher in the 1960s, it was then expanded by author Dick so that it might be published as a science fiction novel. The editor was not pleased and rejected Dick's expanded version. I concur with the editor. The expanded part of the book begins with Chapter 8 and ends at Chapter 15. Coincidentally from page 70, where Chapter 8 begins, to page 179 Where Chapter 15 ends, I had no idea what was going on, who was who or where they were. The nearest thing I can imagine is, since Lies, Inc. was written in the 1960s, an era when LSD was not illegal, Phillip K. Dick was attempting to put in writing what an LSD trip was like. Why does this book rank so relatively high in the Barnes & Noble.com ratings? I assume it is because the Estate of Phillip K. Dick, in an attempt to drum up income, commissioned new cover art and back cover copy, on all of Phillip K. Dick's works, knowing that once the reader's eye was drawn to the book, it would be purchased based on the author's credentials alone. Just an awful book, not representative at all of the person who wrote Minority Report, Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and The Man in the High Castle.
Begun: 01/24/2006 Finished: 02/03/2006Purchased: Nov. 28,2005
Where: Borders Books, Music & Cafe
B&N Net Rank: 51,591
"On a routine survey mission studying a neutron star, an Academy starship receives a transmission in an unknown language. Before leaving the area, the starship launches a series of satellites to find the signal - and perhaps discover its origins. "Five years later, a satellite finally encounters the signal - which is believed to be of extraterrestrial origin by the Contact Society, a wealthy group of enthusiasts who fund research into the existence of alien life. Providing a starship for the academy to be piloted by Captain Priscilla 'Hutch' Hutchins, the Contact Society embarks on a mission to find the source of the transmission."
chindi is a lovely 511 paged paperback to which I was drawn by its lovely cover art and how its texture and raised embossing felt when I ran my fingertips over it. You youngsters don't remember when all paperbacks were perfectly smooth and offered only drab colors with rudimentary cover art. I guess I will never get used to these new tactile tempting and visually pleasing paperbacks. Now, in the 21st Century, I often sit running my hands for hours over the countenance of a recently bought text. <Grin> I was fortunate, for the inside of chindi was just as lovely as its outside. And even though I was once again presented with the dreaded 'male writing as a female' quandary, author Jack McDevitt (whose photo should not be on the inside back cover) handled Hutch without a hitch. One reason this was so was that there were no intimate and sloppy intercourse leg-laced sex scenes. "The logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke." states Stephen King on the front. I cannot disagree with that assessment. While this fairly long book takes a few pages to get moving, I looked forward to picking it up every eventide to discover exactly what challenges the female Captain Hutch would be facing next. This work was originally scheduled as a bedtime book in which I would read a few pages prior to succumbing to my typical alcohol-fueled early evening stupor. However, chindi became so exciting, I purposely set aside sober hours (yes, that meant I was on-the-clock) to read this gem. One evening it had my heart racing so fast I could have been in the midst of a Michael Chrichton page burner. This would be a excellent tome to pack in your carry-on for a long airline journey where you wish to be wide awake when you arrive, because it will keep you reading and awake until the very end. Adventure follows adventure follows adventure, and like movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs insists (that in a good horror movie) "Anybody can, and usually does die." In chindi anybody can and often does die. This is a book in which everything is pretty much wrapped up and made clear by the Epilogue. I heartily recommend its addition to any Sci-Fi buff's library and congratulate Mr.McDevitt on producing an outstanding novel.
Originally Published 1982
Re-Issued March 2002
From the Publisher:
"A 'story of the near future' from a Hugo and Nebula Award winner--and one of the most prestigious science fiction writers ever. At the end of the 21st century, many people believe the only real hope for humanity lies in the Worlds: 41 orbiting satellites housing half a million people. Though the creation of cheap fusion has undermined the Worlds as a source of solar energy, they still welcome many tourists and offer plenty of raw materials for export. For example, New New York is almost pure steel. And, from that city comes Marianne O'Hara, a brilliant political-science student who has elected to spend a postgraduate year on Earth--where she unwittingly finds herself caught up in a group of fanatics looking to start another revolution in America. Even if it means the destruction of the planet."
"Three hundred years from now, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to a technological catastrophe known as the Nanocaust. Archaeologist Verity Auger specializes in the exploration of its surviving landscape. Now, her expertise is required for a far greater purpose. Something astonishing has been discovered at the far end of a wormhole: mid-twentieth century Earth, preserved like a fly in amber. Somewhere on this alternate planet is a device capable of destroying both worlds at either end of the wormhole. And Verity must find the device, and the man who plans to activate it, before it is too late - for the past and the future of two worlds."
I did not want this book to end, but dammit it did, as surely all must, and it ended in the way I like books to end. Vague. Uncertain. So persuasive and delightful is the fiction of Alastair Reynolds that he places you three hundred years in the future and then like a loving parent gently pushing a child on a swing, moves you back to a 1959 that never knew World War II and you're irretrievably hooked and flying high within his pair of fantasy worlds. This is high praise coming from a person who has been reading SciFi since 1961 at the age of ten. One reason I love science fiction is that while there is sometimes romance, there is little physical face-to-face lovemaking. As I began reading this five hundred and three paged hardback, thinking I missed something, some explanation of what was happening, or had happened, I kept retracing my steps to see what I had missed. But I had skimmed or skipped over no evidence. Mysteries tantalizingly exposed in the first pages of the book are slowly revealed as you float through the font covered leaves. Possibly because I did not wish this novel to end, I throttled down my reading velocity and let my mind's eye actually view the allusions while I allowed the fingers of my soul feel the richly painted tapestries author Reynolds created for his readers.
"The river flowing sluggishly under the Pont de la Concorde was flat and gray, like worn-out linoleum."
All this emphasis on speed-reading and such. Years ago, in less than an hour, I increased my speed from four hundred words per minute to eight hundred and retained the same level of comprehension. But what about enjoyment level? Surely speed reading techniques are only for those situations where only joyless information is needed to be taken in?
In Century Rain the Earth has been made uninhabitable due to ocean-sized swarms of nanobots (no doubt created by speed reading scientists) similar to those wrote about in Michael Chrichton's book Prey. Once again, Alastair's Ph.D. in astronomy comes shining through as he writes of a situation impossible for us to know, but plausible enough for someone as educated as your Mr.Wonderful, to buy into. How this gifted man arrives at these scenarios (as Stephen King told me) he probably does not even know. I recommend you read this book and I have given it the coveted Five Sun Must-oWn Award® from the MW Review of Books.
Page 481 " ... and close to they saw how its shape was distorted by the sphere's concavity."
"It was the original Survivor series, only without the omnipresent cameras, paramedics, and faux tribal rituals. Between the spring of 1947 and the summer of the year 2000, more than forty expeditions sought to sail the oceans of the world on rafts made from straw, from bamboo, and from the same kinds of wood that children use to make model airplanes. These audacious raft voyages began with the legendary Kon-Tiki expedition, under the leadership of the renowned Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl. The Kon-Tiki balsa-wood raft drifted more than four thousand miles from Peru to Polynesia, and remained afloat months after experts predicted it would sink to the bottom of the Pacific . . ."
"Willis was forced finally to run a rope through a block, tying one end around his ankles and stringing himself up to relieve the pressure on his abdominal muscles. After several hours of twisting and turning in an attempt to loosen the obstruction, the pain at last gave way . . . The pain from his hernia had Willis trussing himself upside down for hours a day, like a side of beef with a shrinking twenty-six inch waistline."
(Page 111, Sea Drift)
This is how tough many of the individuals who chose to raft between continents were. In his 294 paged book, including fifty-three pages of 'Rafting Facts and Figures', Acknowledgments, Notes and an Index, author P.J. Capelotti, tells the stories of the thirty-nine raft expeditions that came after Thor Heyerdahl's in 1947. Remembering the fascinating adventure Heyerdahl wrote about in his 1950 book Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft. I purchased Sea Drift. I was also seduced by the beautiful cover and the fact that it was on sale at a tremendous discount. The Barnes and Nobel internet sales ranking of 644,446 belies an actually decent book. Never did I feel I had to complete it, but then again, it did not hold a candle to the grandfather of all rafting adventures, which still generates wonder in my mind four decades later: Kon-Tiki. In Sea Drift each chapter begins with a quote or two from a rafter and then dives into that specific rafting voyage, its construction, passengers, motivations and results. We have about twenty-two illustrations, but sadly only three photos, (two on the outside slip-cover) in the entire book. I would have enjoyed more snapshots of these ocean-going rafts and sailboats, especially Spanish explorer, Vital Alsar's, 1970s raft using a mainsail painted especially for him by Salvador Dali. And painted for free. The book is littered with parenthetical text-notes: (after Danielson 1960), which I found annoying. It was kind of funny that as I read on and on the stories got shorter and shorter until some were less than a page and one-half long. Doing his best at being PC (while not being obnoxious about it) the author writes: "Like Heyerdahl, Buck selected a multinational crew, in this case three Chileans, a Bolivian, a Britisher, a Frenchman, and one other American". This 'We are the World' portrait, is fine and dandy until one considers that every single one of these rafting trips were attempts to duplicate pre-historic voyages made long before there were nations, and, presumably, any hatred <grin>. A decent book and worth reading, however, I think even now, in the 21st Century, most readers would find Thor Heyerdahl's mid-20th Century book Kon-Tiki a far better place to start.
Page 64 "... once the raft cross into the Gulf Stream ..."
Page 139 "... Leaving port, the reed deck of Ra II was only three feet about the surface of the sea."
Begun: 12/11/2005 Finished: 12/28/2005Purchased: September 2005
Where:Daedalus Books & Music
B&N Net Rank: 644,446
Frank Norris' graphic portrayal of the seamy side of survival in turn-of-the-century urban America remains shocking and powerful today -and its conclusion just as harrowing.
From the Introduction:
"Whatever their differences when defining the term, critics and historians agree that Naturalism has been a significant force in American literature during the past fifty years, and that McTeague was a pioneer American Naturalistic novel
. The book, which Norris began writing in 1892 or 1893 and published in 1899, has been called 'a landmark'; America's 'first important Naturalistic novel'; the work from which the 'last great break in American literary form can be dated.' Howells thought McTeague brought a new mode into American literature with the 'effect of a blizzard.' "
(Do not read the June 1950 'Introduction' by Carvel Collins, for it assumes you have previously read the book. Go figure.)
Stephen King told me I should read McTeague. So I did. Not possessing the four-year-drunk culminating with a university diploma, I don't know about all the high falutin' talk about symbols and the author, Frank Norris, borrowing from the works of Emile Zola and such, as he is charged with in the 'Introduction'. All I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. And it wasn't so much of a reading as it was being wrapped up in a comfortable blanket ... in the first chapters anyway. Facing the time pressure inherent as the Net's 123,045th most read reviewer, I never felt I had to finish this book. I looked forward to finishing it. Relishing in it. McTeague, A Story of San Francisco, begins with the dim-witted, likeable, Dr. McTeague in his 'Dental Parlors' on Polk Street, in San Francisco. With his beloved concertina, his caged parakeet and his Sunday pitcher of warm and cheap steam beer being his only enjoyments. This, yellow haired, moustached, NFL fullback-sized, self-educated dentist was so powerful as to be able to pull out decayed teeth using only his thumb and forefinger. Life kept getting better and better for the 'Doctor', until, many times due to happenings outside of his control, his existence began a dismal downward spiral that continues past the ending of the book on page 324. The Introduction explains that Naturalism refers to the late 19th Century philosophy that Man, left in his natural surroundings, i.e., outside of the industrialized cities of the time, was naturally 'good.' That the people of the countryside and the farms led a more wholesome and happy existence. (Sadly, all these Naturalists passed away long before my farm-bound teen cousin, in the 1960s, offered to take turns with me on top of his female cousin in the middle of a field and later hinted that barnyard animals were also portions of his sexual menu.) Even though I write this review in the early part of the 21st Century, and McTeague was published over one hundred years ago, I find very little distance between his world and life today. I enjoyed this same ambience while reading Phillip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle written over forty years ago, and am beginning to believe that great writing, focusing on people more than buildings, gadgets and governments, allows it to be read and delighted-in many decades later.
Suffering through year one of my divorce, I highlighted these words on pages 140 & 141, and end my review.
"... he was married and settled. The little animal comforts which for him constituted the enjoyment of life were ministered to at every turn, or when they were interfered with--as in the case of his Sunday afternoon's nap and beer--some agreeable substitute was found. In her attempts to improve McTeague--to raise him from the stupid animal life to which he had been accustomed in his bachelor days--Trina was tactful enough to move so cautiously and with such slowness that the dentist was unconscious of any process of change ... But most wonderful of all, McTeague began to have ambitions--very vague, very confused ideas of something better--ideas for the most part borrowed from Trina."
Begun: 11/26/2005 Finished: 12/11/2005Purchased: September 2005
Where:Powells.com B&N Net Rank: 102,683