09/14/2016 by syrbal-labrys
Over at my other blog, Steel Kachinas, I’ve had occasion on my Gratitude Project posts, to twice gratefully post annoyed book reviews — being grateful to finally painfully finish a book that was more of a boil on my irreverent ass! I suppose it really isn’t in a true “gratitude” spirit to do so, but I WAS so grateful to end books that irritated me so badly. My last book review dump this year was here. It is apparent it is time to do another, instead of waiting to the end of the year – since the final little tome ignited my sadistic inner pedant and I simply cannot abuse the gratitude posts even once more. So, without further ado, a book review dump from books #23 thru 39 for 2016:
#23 On the Run: Deserters Through the Ages:by Graemn Kent is a history with a meticulous amount of research. It reveals that nationalism and patriotism do not always trump self-preservation or venal self-promotion. The book was spoilt for me by his rather sorry organizational and writing skills. The delivery of facts is not eloquent and mish-mashes together oddly at times. Proof-readers and editors (as I’ve too often said) apparently have been dispensed with — one notorious case the name of the deserter changes from Buckley to Buckfield so frequently that the reader cannot know which is correct! Three stars, barely.
#24 Unearthing Atlantis by Charles Pellegrino is a historical investigation of a long beloved legend — Atlantis. No “dolphin masters” here, relax! Instead Pellegrino tells a gripping tale of the destruction of the Minoan civilization by volcanic cataclysm of the island of Thera/Santorini in about 1630BC. The annoying 70 pages of “timeline” that I suspect he ripped from his book Time Gate could have better been served by a stricter condensation of the specific era under discussion. Aside from that, the book is very interesting, although polymath Pellegrino distracts himself and his readers with webs of connection between many disparate events. But never boring! Four stars.
#25 To Hell & Back – The Last Train From Hiroshima by Pellegrino, as well, grabs the reader by the throat and holds on tightly. This is among the most effective books I’ve EVER read on the topic of nuclear war. This is Pellegrino’s re-write of his original “Las Train from Hiroshima” which was flawed due to a source who blatantly lied about being part of the bomber flight crew. The research and time spent with survivors of America’s first and second nuclear acts of war both awe and shock the reader. The intensity of this re-telling makes it a slow read because the agony is nigh unendurable to any empathetic reader. It should be required reading in history and humanities courses, not to mention for any would be President of the US! Five stars!
#26 A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is a fantasy diversion to stop seeing nuclear holocaust visions. The back cover synopsis was seductive. The book is boring. You find yourself struggling to care about the characters. It works too hard to be a mysterious enigma — it made me want to shout, “Oh, spit it OUT, already!” A fantasy lover might find it enjoyable. Two and a half stars. Bearable, naught else.
#27 The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter is the long awaited final book of the Long Earth series, published posthumously after Sir Terry left us all alone here. It seemed to me to be a very long, confusing, and alas – boring – way to play with science’s new big idea: that consciousness is part of the universe(s) we inhabit. Some bits in the last pages left me thinking I missed something because I didn’t get what it was about – but I couldn’t make myself go re-read it to find whatever I presumably passed over. I miss Sir Terry and the Disk World snarky joys, but I won’t miss this book. Two stars, alas.
#28 Flying to Valhalla by Charles Pellegrino is a science fiction mind fuck. I LIKE Pellegrino, ok? This book makes me like him less; I hate when an author fucks with time (let alone with my mind). I get that sci-fi writers want to explore non-linear time, but giving the main character multiple lives/deaths/wake-ups without ANYU explanation to explain scrambling him brain(s?) merely confuses any honest reader. The book is still fascinatingly horrifying examination of the idea of relativistic space flight and/or planet destruction. Those who like science more than fiction would possibly enjoy the book more than I did. Four stars just for making me WISH we never discover or are discovered by aliens!
#29, 30, 31 — reviewed gratefully on Steel Kachinas.
#32 Backyard Medicine by Julie Brieton-Seal and Matthew Seal is a nice-little how to book on herbalism using common weeds from the back yard for minor ills and hurts. Only downside? Plants more common in Britain than America are often the ones used, go figure — from a pair of Brits! Three stars.
#33 Codetalker by Chester Nez is a marvelous book! It is a personal memoir of one of the original 29 Navaho “codetalkers” who actually saved the Pacific War for the US in WWII. Chester served with no R&R at all until his release from service just before Iwa Jima. No drama, no complaints — just an incredibly humble relating of a piece of American history too often overlooked entirely. Four stars.
P.S. Do NOT choose to watch the horrid “Windtalkers” film instead under the misappropriation that it is even remotely similar — it is a horrid white-centric peice of Nick Cage CRAP more about his issues with PTSD than about the Navahos barely allowed into the film.
#34 Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose is a history of our revolutionary past. The first third is boringly writeen, but it does get better. The “Culper Ring” was composed of surprisingly few people and to make it to film on the AMC TV series “Turn” it had to be very much more jazzed up. Three stars.
#35 Shift by Hugh Howley was a sci-fi novel that was the unexpected second of a trilogy. (The first was Wool, covered in my earlier book dump.) It is a bizarre twist on “how the democrats would end the world to save it” and as with most apocalyptic gambits, it entirely ignores how nuclear plants going rogue and melting down would affect the story line. But as this book explains, in “Wool” 50 deep “silos” of people forced, amidst a Democratic Nat’l Convention, to take cover from a sudden attack. Then they are dosed with drugs to forget and re-indoctrinated to live and survive. But all is not well, ’tis revealed that death is meant to consumer all but the few, the fools, the chosen….
Four stars of horror!
#36 Dust, the third in the trilogy by Howley finishes the deeply disturbing dystopian tale. But with some queries distressingly never answered:
Why the choice to kill 49 of 50 silo populations?
Why bother with 50 silos if all you want is one silo-full alive?
If “nano-tech” was the weapon, how was that eliminated in nature over the 200 year history of the silos?
Why didn’t nuke plants melt down?
Still — three and a half stars for novelty and effort!
#37 The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong was reviewed on Gratitude August 29.
#38 Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.Tiffany and J. Thorne is a fiction I am glad I got on sale. The only luster lent to this lackluster play is from the glow of J.K. Rowlings original novels. Perhaps it “plays” better than it reads? We are regaled with how lonely poor little Draco Malfoy was as a boy, without him seeming to recognize his own insipid evil as a cause?
#39 Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke is the snarky bit I promised at the outset of this post. Perhaps actors should act, not write? Certainly they should not attempt a trumped up fake “manuscript translated” from an alleged 15th century “letter” by a knight expecting death in battle. Because, if you are not educated enough in history to know:
- There was not “tea” in England at that date.
- Possibly no “black Irish” either, if you accredit the Spanish Armada wrecked in Elizabeth I’s reign as the genetic source of said dark Irish?
- No “coyotes” in England, nor tales of them in Pre-Columbian England!
- Unlikely a “knight” of that era even knew how to write more than his own name, if that.
- So, no. Just no. If Mr. Hawke thought himself capable of writing a parenting/self-help book then do so, call it so and quit trying to be so cutesy. And someone should break the news that literary knightly ideals are very different than actual knights in practice were — most were belligerant assholes and self-serving murderous louts. NO STARS for a bunch of mostly trite and often stolen bits of OTHER people’s wisdom.